Thursday, April 30, 2009

English Names, Korean Names...

Here's an interesting trend this Chinese American guy picked up on upon moving back to China. The Texas legislator mentioned got hosed for suggesting Asian minorities in the USA adopt "American" names. But while I agree her remarks were insensitive and ignorant, I also found it completely ironic that such a suggestion would be acceptable, normal, or even trendy to do such a thing in Asia.

Like the author in China, I too noticed a similar trend here in Korea, as I have several students who insist upon me calling them by some generic English or vaguely Western name. While I don't think the trend is quite so out of control in the Korean Peninsula as the author suggests things are in China, like him I puzzled about it for a bit.

To my supreme bewilderment at work one day, a co-worker begged me several times to give her an appropriate "English" name. I eventually dubbed her Tiffany. I've other friends, students and acquaintances who go by everything from Tony, Sonny, Carrie, Steve, Ivy, Amy, Jack, etc.

Only fair then, that I should have a Korean name! So I ran across this dumb facebook application that tells you your Korean name. My Korean name is now: Shin Il. I think it suits me quite nicely. Comments?

The Name's Du Xiao Hua, But Call Me Steve by Huan Tsu.

What to Do For the Holidays

No, I'm not thinking about what to do for Christmas and New Years (yet), rather I'm stuck. There is a 5 day weekend here in Korea very similar to Golden Week (for those of you familiar with that).

Trouble is, I didn't plan any foreign excursions to a faraway distant land. I had made plans to go visit an old friend in China, but unfortunately, by the time I'd heard he'd be in Shanghai no time remained to complete a visa application. So instead, I'm staying around here, thinking about saving for RTW. I'm going to stick around here for the most part, and perhaps do some hiking and exploring in this area as well.

I'm going hiking with Bo Hwe on Sunday, and have another hiking trip planned with some teachers from Annam MS the following Sunday. I need to get outside Changwon though, and see some sights and places in this area.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Colleen Wainwright on Friendship

From Japan Highlights

" Being friendless taught me how to be a friend. Funny how that works." -- Colleen Wainwright

Korean Class, Round 2

Well, I've finally think I'm motivated enough to buckle down and start learning this new language. I've just about wrapped my head around the Hangul script, and with the exception of a few consonants and vowels that are totally alien to me, I can just about cobble together sounds, syllables, and simple words (although I don't know any of the words, and can hardly do any of the above in any sort of timely fashion).

I'd put off learning Korean for a little while for a number of reasons. Chief among them: I wanted to spend some time listening and hearing sounds for a little while, before I "jumped in" and started trying to spit them all out. While Japanese has some phonemes that are difficult (although nothing I found unmanageable) several of the consonants and vowels in Korean are completely foreign to me and quite intimidating. My Korean tutor even admitted he has trouble distinguishing the sound difference between a few of the vowels at times!

Naturally, this makes Romanization of the Korean script more difficult as well, whose Romanization is notoriously inconsistent (for political as well as linguistic reasons, as I understand it). So while the Korean script is well known for its ease of use, many of the sounds don't easily correspond to English/Romanized equivalents. So in that brief period before I know the script and the sounds that go with them, I wanted to make sure I was learning the sounds that go with the Hangeul script correctly. I thought spending time with a tutor and some time listening would prove useful.

Realizing all of this, I thought it possibly quite easy to fall into bad habits I would then have to unlearn and correct for months (or years?) to come. I must also ashamedly admit I'd forgotten how much work learning a foreign language required, and I have been procrastinating as well. While I've learned volumes about how to pick up a new language, it still remains a lot of work! No more laziness though!

I'm meeting a whole bunch of potential new friends there and having a good time with it all. Hopefully my new Korean friends will be patient enough with me while I stumble and trip my way into their tongue. Soon as well, I hope to be writing and typing parts of this blog in Korean. hopefully within a few weeks as well. We'll see.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

James Dean on Living

From Japan Highlights

"Dream as if you'll live forever. Live as if you'll die today." -- James Dean

Japan, Back in the Day

Here's my Japan Highlights album I finally got around to uploading. These all take place from around July 2004 until about July 2007, when I left the island archipelago.

Akermann Middle School Delegation

As schools and cities around the world often do, Annam Middle School in Changwon, South Korea recently formed a "sister-school" relationship with Ackermann Middle School, in Central Oregon. Annam recently sent a group of 15-20 students to Oregon in January, and last week, Ackermann returned the favor and sent a delegation here to Korea, along with a small cadre of teachers and parents.

Turns out, the American kids all had a great time in Korea and the whole event went relatively well, thanks to all the hard work from teachers and parents on both sides of the pond. They invited me to join them for a celebratory dinner event held in the library, where I met most of the kids, teachers and parents from Oregon.

I also got a chance to speak with some of the teachers and principals, who were understandably quite excited about everything the American kids were learning about Korea, Korean culture, and their own country as well. The Korean hosts also had a wonderful time, from everything I heard as well, all of whom were super eager for the chance to practice their English. Annam and Ackermann: Sister Schools Forever. Here's some pictures: This Annam MS student shows off his really cool, Taekwondo robot. The robot actually does a few cool moves. Ackermann MS students lead everyone in a medley of American songs.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Intervals, Laps & Sprints, Oh Man!

Lately, I've been frustrated by my lack of progress, fitness-wise, and I've decided to finally mix things up and try some new things. I've known I've been needing to do some of these things for awhile, but I haven't had a real good chance to try it out yet. But, I finally located a park with a nice running track, and started racing down the rubberized red ring with a football field in the middle.

I've known for a while now from friends near and far about the need for sprints if I want to better my times and speeds on longer runs, but just haven't quite been able to get out of that bubble. But then I read recently about a new study (will try to find the link soon) that claims sprinting proved better for increasing metabolism, burning fat, and muscle definition. The last benefit was particularly attractive to me, as I hope to resemble Greco-Roman sculptures the next time I hit the beach. It makes sense I suppose. If you look at champion marathon runners, they're all sticks. But the Olympic track stars look like Greek Gods.

I won't kid you though, sprinting proved tough. Its easy to fool myself into thinking I'm fit and athletic if I can run at a decent respectable pace for an hour or more. But after getting thrashed doing 400 and 800 meter dashes for 15 minutes, my lungs carefully explained that I am in fact, a complete and total sissy.

The second day I ran here (Sunday), I never felt so out of shape in years. But what can I expect really? I haven't run sprints or done THIS sort of exersize since my PE class in high school. More and more, I'm finding that your body and muscles quickly adjust to the types of demands that you put on it (half marathons in my case). My body just isn't accustomed to this sort of thing just yet. The question is: can I stick with it long enough to GET ACCUSTOMED?

Time will tell. The track is a 30 minute bike ride from my house, so I don't think I'll make it down there more than 2 times during the weekdays, and perhaps once on the weekends (perhaps the long ride down is one reason I get tired so easily?) I probably won't be able to follow any of the stringent half marathon and marathon regimens I'm reading about from this guy, but if I can get to the track once on a weekend and twice during the weekdays, I'll be happy with myself. Fortunately, there is a free shower facility there (Yay Changwon!) so I can clean up right before I head to my Korean class Tuesday night. I should probably just look for a closer place to do this stuff, but the track is just too soft and makes measuring distances too easy.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Wisdom & Life Lessons from He-Man

Sometimes I need motivation to work out and get buff. Lately, I've been inspired by He-Man, Prince of Eternia! He's currently the desktop background on my computer and his sculpted physique nags me to head to the gym when I'd rather sit around on my duff.

But He-Man was more than just a muscle-bound warrior. He and his friends also had a lot of wisdom and good advice to share with kids and adults alike. I couldn't help but chuckle coming across this one! The second lesson is particularly relevant to the guy who stole my money! I've been meaning to post it for quite some time, but haven't had the chance.

And just in case you've forgotten:

I had almost forgotten how cool He-man was. And with these little public ser, ahem... life lessons, I'm wondering if the DVD box set would make a good gift for my nephew, now that he's almost old enough to follow it. Bonus: It would go great with the She-Rah box set for my new niece! Why didn't I think of this before??

Ivan Turgenev on Nature

From Japan Highlights

"Nature cares nothing for logic, our human logic: she has her own, which we do not recognize and do not acknowledge until we are crushed under its wheel." --Ivan Turgenev

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

An Uncle Again!

For the last few days, I've been worried about my grandfather, in the hospital. Turns out that he's had a nasty run in with pneumonia, but was moved out of ICU and his prognosis looks good.

My father evidently flew out to Arizona to see him and my new niece, Daisy, could not have picked a better time to come into the world. She was born yesterday in Tuscon, 7 lbs, 7 oz., just in time for my dad to make it down from Prescott only hours later.

The biggest regret I have about being overseas is missing out on these important family events. Such are the choices I've made and the the path I've taken.

From Noam Chomsky

From Australia

We shouldn't be looking for heroes, we should be looking for good ideas." -- Noam Chomsky

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Witchhunts in the Congo Today

An interesting article from Slate Magazine about witch hunts in the Congo today and two books on the subject that I'd like to read someday.

Like the witch crazes that plagued Europe 400-500 years ago, the same causal factors emerge on the top of the list: Stress and societal upheaval, trauma, loss of control, and chaos force societies seek out a scapegoat, projecting blame for all their unexplainable problems onto women, particularly outcast women who occupy a marginalized place in their community.

In the Congo today, for example, the concept of witches didn't exist until the chaos and and tragedy of their war took 6 million lives. Like conspiracy theorists in the modern world, witchhunters seek an easy, simple explanation for their troubles, a narrative that they can understand, a story they can play a part in and control. Like a conspiracy theory in developed democratic states, blaming a witch or a conspirator for the turmoil in one's life is always more appealing to humans than understanding and accepting the bewildering complexities of the universe.

Whether it be Salem, Germany, or the Congo, the author summarizes the process quite nicely:

"The process, then and now, follows a strikingly similar arc of discovery. There is an unexplained death. A woman is blamed. Some local Jack Bauer is at hand to make her "confess." She is forced to name other "guilty" women. (Clarice's grandmother was accused; Anna's daughter was roped in.) And, lo, a conspiracy is discovered. The conspiracy spreads like a bloodstain outward ever further."

We humans are very curious creatures, outlandish and bizarre, yet dreadfully predictable.

Why the Wicked Witch Isn't Dead, by Johann Hari

Seneca on Crime

From Phillippines Highlighs
He who does not prevent a crime when he can, encourages it. -- Seneca

Monday, April 20, 2009

Abrose Bierce in the Devil's Dictionary

From Diamond Down 2003

"Politics, n.: Strife of interests masquarading as a contest of principles." - Ambrose Bierce, from the Devil's Dictionary

Why I Fired My Broker

Jeffrey Goldberg wrote this great piece in the Atlantic Monthly: Why I Fired My Broker. Humorously written, I was dithering on weather to inundate my followers with more of the drivel I peruse in my free time, but after they mentioned a staple figure of Prescott Arizona, Desert Survival Guru Cody Lundin, I figured it was worth mentioning.

For the East Coast city slickin' author, Lundin is kinda weird, but according to him, the man has the best investment advice. I vaguely recall meeting Lundin one time. He teaches (or used to anyways) desert and wilderness survival skills at Yavapai College. He features occasionally in the local newspaper and is a prominent figure in the Prescott area outdoor and environmental community. He's the only teacher I've ever known who doesn't wear any shoes.

If it's too long you can watch the video instead.

Why I Fired My Broker, by Jeffrey Goldberg

Also from the Atlantic,
The Quiet Coup, by Simon Johnson


I woke up early this morning to get some things ready for an extra-curricular class I'm teaching at Annam MS before school starts. When I went to look for my wallet (on the night stand) I didn't find it where it was supposed to be.

Where was it? On the floor, with 130,000 to 150,000 Won (100-120 USD) missing and the reciepts strewn about nearby. So much for finishing the month under budget!

And what's the very expensive lesson to be learned from all this? Lock your door at night when you go to sleep! I've do this sometimes, but have to concede I often forget. Who would ever rob my home when I'm there right? I'm always on my guard against pickpockets and I like to think I could thwart even the stickiest of fingers in an Italian train station. But I have to admit I let my guard down a bit when I'm at home. This being Korea and Asia and all, I never figured on something like this.

Because I didn't lock my door, my colleagues recommended that it wouldn't be worthwhile to file a police report, as the crime would be viewed as my own fault. I guess that's how things are done around here. And at the end of the day, I guess I can't argue too much with that logic, as I have to concede my own carelessness played a role in this. They're insisting I change my locks, however.

So anyways, I'm trying to remain good humored about the whole thing. Whoever got my money, I sure hope you need it more than I do! Don't go waste it on smack and whiskey or some such nonsense!

More Gaya Festival Pictures

Here's a few more pictures from the Gaya Festival.
From South Korea Highlights 2009 ~
A inscription in wood. Ancient Buddhist sutras written in a circular pattern. Etched in wood with a hot iron. According to the man displaying it, there are only a few craftsmen in Korea capable of making these.
From South Korea Highlights 2009 ~
Sonny and Tina fight with long, pole weapons similar to a voulge, glaive. All had single edged, curved or crescent shaped blades, some with barbed curves at the ends. Perhaps remeniscent of a Chinese Guandao? It's too bad I'm not familiar enough with these weapons to speak more authoritatively. Nevertheless, we had fun playing around with them. (Don't try this at home!)
From South Korea Highlights 2009 ~
A shorter double edged sword in its wooden sheath. It had a nice wood inscription on the exterior.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Everything's Amazing, Nobody's Happy

Here's a guy who has the right perspective on life. Comedian Louis CK, appearing on Conan O'Brien's show reminds everyone how amazing and wonderful everything is in the 21st century and wonders why so many people are so unhappy with it all.

Quote from Louis D Brandeis

From Chicago Basin

"Behind every Argument is someone's ignorance." -- Louis D Brandeis

Gaya Festival with new Class Members

I joined some new acquaintances from my Korean class for the Gaya Festival in a nearby town known as Gimhae. The leader of our class, who goes by the name Sonny drove Tina, Chantalle, and myself down to see the festivities.
From South Korea Highlights 2009 ~
Gaya, an ancient kingdom that occupied the Southern portion of the Korean Peninsula nearly 2000 years ago is remembered today in an annual spring folk festival. Many people in this part of Korea feel a connection to the ancient culture and society that once existed here. Every spring, the people of Gimhae celebrate this history for 2 weeks.

Unfortunately, we had arrived on the second to last day of the festival, and found that the main king's tomb and most of all the best festivities ran their course long before our arrival. Nevertheless, we had a good time looking around at what remained. One exhibit area showed off several different aspects of Gaya material cultures and artifacts from that era, showing everything from musical instruments of the time, to weapons, art, and ancient iron smelting techniques.

We met and spoke with this man for some time, who was selling numerous musical instruments.
From South Korea Highlights 2009 ~
Here's Tina and Sonny playing a duet together!
From South Korea Highlights 2009 ~
We also found this interesting torture device from ancient Korea. Perfect for CIA enhanced interrogation techniques!
From South Korea Highlights 2009 ~

Anyways, we had a great time, and I hope to have more pictures up later. Sonny, Tina, Chantalle: you can click on the pictures to see the rest of the photos I've uploaded. Check back later as I might put more up as I edit the worst of them.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

From Francois Fenelon

From White Mountain Peak, California 14er
If we were faultless we should not be so much annoyed by the defects of those with whom we associate. -- Francois Fenelon

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Another One from Dale Carnegie

From Phillippines Highlighs
"There are four ways, and only four ways, in which we have contact with the world. We are evaluated and classified by these four contacts: what we do, how we look, what we say, and how we say it." -- Dale Carnegie

First Korean Class

Went to my first Korean class on Tuesday night. My new pal Carlos showed me the place, in a community center in the central business district in Changwon. Numerous foreigners were there, each working with a Korean volunteer. It reminded me a quite a bit of my language class in Motomiya-Machi that I started attending my third year in Japan.

What did I learn you ask? Well, some of the vowels and consonants in the Korean Hangul Alphabet! Korean, it seems, has several consonants that don't exist in English, and hearing the differences between them proved quite a challenge. I'd sort of picked up on this just listening to people tell me names and things, but I'd never had it formally explained before. We'll see.

They all seem like nice friendly people, and they seem to be quite an active group that does a lot of different events. Hopefully I can make some friends here. Perhaps they'll motivate me to start learning Korean!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Another Quote

I've been getting into the quotes again. Here's another one. And a picture from Wupatki National Monument in Arizona.
From Northern Arizona, 2002

"Any fool can criticize, condemn, and complain. And most fools do." -- Dale Carnegie

My Indoor Corner Fireplace

Here's a design for an indoor corner fireplace that will find its way into several rooms in my house. Contemporary design, curved, stone. What's not to like?

Monday, April 13, 2009

Editorial on Somali Piracy

A different perspective on Somali piracy that hasn't been brought to the attention of the world the same way the actions of pirates have.

Johann Hari: You Are Being Lied to About Pirates

Cold Noodles for Lunch

On our hike through town back to the car, we ran across a little home that looked like it was inspired by the Smurfs TV show. The balloon shaped mushroom roof hung over an entrance that descended underground.

I wasn't sure what they served, but the cool basement was a welcome relief from the early afternoon sun. Korean style soba noodles in soup was on the menu! Yay! In the heat, soba can't be beat!

Hike East of Changwon with Bo Hwe.

From South Korea Highlights 2009 ~
Went hiking early this morning with my new friend Bo Hwe. She had one particular mountain in mind, Bieum San, which is locally known as the place to see the blooming purple Jindalrae blossoms (Korean for Azaleas). But the government evidently closed that trail due to forest fire danger.

So we explored the long, rugged ridge line that goes North and South, flanking the Eastern side of Changwon. Instead of tracing our steps back the way we came, we descended another trail to make a loop back to her car through town. This brought us right up next to a big sprawling shooting range (don't worry, there was never any danger).

Having long been popular in Korea, the local shooters were all out at the firing range with a good number of the folks shooting skeet. We looked into shooting ourselves, as you can evidently rent guns and buy ammunition (gun rental was surprisingly cheap, but the ammunition was pretty outrageous). I was also a bit offended that they had the nerve to charge foreigners more, so we decided to hold off on shooting till another day.

The whole place also appeared to be busy with some sort of international women's shooting competition! Dozens of vendors were hawking overpriced shooting accessories to uniformed teams from as near as China and Japan. Other teams journeyed from as far as Bahrain and Germany. Later on in the week, I heard many of the teams were here to prepare for the Olympics.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Daily Quote for Your Enlightenment

From Northern Arizona, 2003
Good people can't out think evil, because evil thinks of things good folks can't think of." -- Orson Scott Card, from Homebody

Kanpei Hazama Runs & Sails Around the World

Here's a guy who inspired me recently. I recently learned through my friend the Brenden the Pittmeister and his wife, Kozue, that this famous Japanese comedian, Kanpei Hazama, has been racing and sailing around the world and not too long ago passed through Flagstaff and Northern Arizona! After my failed bid on the Colorado Trail, I can only imagine the stamina this guy must have (although being bankrolled by wealthy sponsors and aided by overwhelming logistics probably helps!)

The guy is trying to promote Tokyo's bid for the 2016 Summer Olympics. As of this writing, he appears to be headed up the US 160, just east of Kayenta bound for the four corners area. He's running 50 kilometers a day, everyday. (about 30 miles) In this video, some cops pull over and he thinks he's in big trouble. Fortunately for him the officer is a fan and just wants a picture!After hearing he'd be in the Flagstaff area, Kozue evidently searched for him for a few days without success. Then by chance, she ran into him outside the Flagstaff mall! After finding this picture on her facebook, I found this link to his blog and learned about the incredible journey he must be having. If you look at the youtube links on his blog, he's having all sorts of wonderful encounters with friends, fans, and strangers alike.

He's making quite an incredible journey, and I encourage you all to stop in and read about him.
Earth Marathon

Kanpei Earth In English

Mount Whitney & White Mountain Peak

I've been slowly trying to add new albums to my Picasa photo albums. Below are two sets from my time in California's Owen's Valley area, where I climbed Mount Whitney and White Mountain Peak.

This is Mount Whitney from Whitney Portal. At 14,490 feet, Mount Whitney is the high point of California and the Lower 48 states. In the USA, only Alaska has higher mountains. I climbed it alone in May 2002.

This is the album from White Mountain Peak, another California 14er. I climbed this one just a few days after Whitney. Being in the rain shadow of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, it is as dry as death valley but as cold as any alpine peak. The result is a stunning eerie moonscape at the top of California. There are only 13 or 14 peaks in California that rise above 14,000 feet.

Guide to My 3D Designs

If you came here looking for my architectural designs in Google's 3D Warehouse, this is the place. Bookmark this page/post if you wish to return and see what I've added & updated. I'm also adding this page to the list of links at the side, so if you already have Daily Belly Button Lint bookmarked you can find it there.

If you're following my designs, you know I'm developing a design for a very large, luxury log home. The final layout of the house is incomplete. At this point I've completed several different elements that will ultimately be incorporated into the final design.

The links below take you to descriptions of the particular elements you are interested in. The pictures take you to the designs themselves, but you need Google Sketchup to view them.

Office Concept, April 2009. The home office being incorporated into the basement floor of the house. Will connect to an indoor fireplace, and other walls and doors that already exist in the design. Big enough for 3 or 4 to work comfortably. 5 workers maximum.Deck & Patio Concept, March 2009. This is the main deck and patio that will be at the back of the house and overlook sweeping mountain vistas. Notice the spaces left for outdoor fireplaces and colums.Log staircase. A freestanding outdoor round timber staircase I designed for my deck/patio. I'm particularly proud of this one, esp. considering how much work I put into it.Outdoor fireplace. An outdoor fireplace made from sandstone bricks. I think the color would do very well in a location like Colorado or New Mexico. There are two of these on the backyard patio.Door with Window Design. This is an indoor/outdoor two way/double door with windows.Large, Cherry framed, sliding glass window. There will be many of these in several places all throughout the house. The window has two glass panes for energy efficiency.Slightly larger sliding glass window. Almost the same window, but this one is a little bit larger.Outdoor Kitchen Concept. I'm really proud of this one, especially considering I designed everything in it except the refrigerator (Thanks Jenn-Air!*). It has a gas grill on one side, an outdoor sink, and a BBQ smoker on the other side. The BBQ smoker took hours.COMING SOON!!

My contemporary indoor corner fireplace. This fireplace will be in at least 4 locations throughout the home and neatly fits into almost any corner of a home. I like the curved wooden mantlepieces. Click on the picture.

Slightly Smaller Outdoor Fireplace. It's difficult to explain the rationale for the design without showing the final layout of the home, but this outdoor fireplace will be very similar to the first design, only slightly smaller.

Cherry framed, indoor folding glass door with windows & shelves. This will be the entrance door from the downstairs den to the ultimate home office shown above. It is already finished, but I need to make a better picture of it first.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Dinner with Bae Sang-Im & Family

Had dinner last night with Bae Sang-Im and her family last night. While I had previously met her two children, it was nice to finally meet her husband. They were gracious enough to host me for a delicious dinner on Saturday night.

They have two energetic children, an 11 year old girl and a four year old boy, whose energy and curiosity know no bounds.

Thank you so much for a wonderful evening!

Luxury Home Office Design Concept

For those of you interested in my designs and architecture, I can assure you I haven't completely shelved the project I'm working on. After much work and revisions, here is the home office concept I created for what will eventually be the ultimate log home, and the office below should be enough to secure the title.All wood and stone masonry, the office features work spaces for a maximum of 5 people, although it would be a little bit cramped and impractical for that many. It would be very nice for 3 or perhaps 4 people. The office features dark cherry wood desks, paneling and shelves. 30 filing drawers leave plenty of room for all those leftover bank statements and W-2 forms. There are also 3 glass cabinets to fit PC towers.

But then I got to thinking, why not just put a whole server rack in the house?? With a dedicated server I could just run USB ports and monitors to every room in the estate. I think I'm gonna put the server rack in a basement or utility room though, as I think it would cramp the style of the ultimate luxury office.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Samgyeopsal With the Health Club Guys

I'm meeting some folks and making some friends at my local health club/gym place. I'm slowly starting to connect names to faces and learn a little bit about my new circle of friends and aquaintences. A bunch of them often go out on Friday night for Samgyeopsal, (grilled or fried strips of pork bacon served in the same manner as Galbi). For the second time, i joined them this evening. While Samgyeopsal probably isn't the healthiest fare, it sure tastes delicious.

One of the guys spoke Japanese fairly well, so I was able to communicate with him and get the translations when I didn't understand the Korean being spoken. The conversation was all pretty light though, so I don't think I missed much.

I had a good time though. It did however, highlight my slow progress in studying and learning Korean, something I intend to remedy fairly soon. I just recently learned of a Korean class in Changwon this week, and hopefully I'll be able to join them this coming Tuesday night.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Will Israel Bomb Iranian Nuclear Facilities?

Here's an interesting article explaining why an Israeli attack on Iranian nuclear reactors is a very real possibility from the standpoint of Israel's self interests and historical record.

Its a fascinating analysis that provides good insight into why the US support Israel (almost none of which are the tired and oft-repeated sound bites used to justify the alliance).

Why Israel Will Bomb Iran by David Samuels

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

OK, One More Quote

Never refuse any advance of friendship, for if nine out of ten bring you nothing, one alone may repay you. - Madame de Tencin

A Quote for the Day

“The true triumph of reason is that it enables us to get along with those who do not possess it.” - Voltaire

Monday, April 06, 2009

Sunburn on My Head

Being shortsighted and in a hurry on an early morning is never a good thing. I forgot to wear sunscreen all day during the Jinhae Cherry Blossom Festival! Needless to say, I got burned, and didn't even notice the problem until it was already 3 in the afternoon.

Now I'm in AGONY!

Sunday, April 05, 2009

My New Career in the ROK Navy

Ahoy! Well, I've decided that teaching English isn't for me and I'm giving it all up for a radical new career: I'm joining the Navy of the Republic of Korea! That's right folks! With my extensive sailing experience to ports near and far, they gave me command of a lightly armored transport ship! Here's me at the helm on the vessel!Seriously though, the Jinhae Cherry Blossom festival draws people near and far to hear military bands and see the cherry blossoms on the base's grounds. The ROK Navy is gracious enough to let people tour some of their ships during this time. Carlos and I lined up for a look at this really cool armored transport ship. It had a really wicked looking gun at the forward and what looked to be two anti-aircraft guns at the aft. (I guess I should study up if I'm gonna be in the Korean Navy).
I wanted to get a chance to tour what looked to be a really imposing guided missile cruiser, but the line was too long. Oh well, there's always next year!

Korean Navy, New & Old

As the Cherry blossom festival in Jinhae has as much to do with the ROK navy base as it does flowers, it was only fitting that they display one of Korea's beloved "Turtle Ships, or Geobukseon, as the Koreans call them.

Designed by Korean admiral Yi Sun Sin, the innovative design proved so effective they served in various forms into the early 19th century. This particular ship was equipped with small cannons. The Koreans credit the innovative design and the unique vessels for several naval victories against invading Japanese forces in the late 1500's, ultimately thwarting Hideyoshi Toyotomi's failed attempt at conquering the peninsula.The obvious unique feature of the ship is it's armored roof with metal spikes, which existed to prevent Japanese soldiers from boarding the ships. Like a turtle's shell. However, the ships have several other interesting military innovations that I'm going to describe in more detail later on.

I was lucky enough to tour the ship and had a great time looking around. I'd previously seen a large scale model of a similar design in Seoul's Korean War Memorial Museum, although I never had the chance to tour one. Inside the ship, across the bay, I could see a modern, guided missile cruiser, probably entertaining other festival goers. While the cruiser could undoubtedly blast most anything to kingdom come, it didn't have the really cool, scary looking dragon head!

Jinhae's Cherry Blossom Festival

To the South of Changwon, on the other side of a rugged line of mountains, lies the coastal port city of Jinhae, which is nationally famous for its annual springtime Cherry Blossom Festival. Like the Japanese, the Koreans love their Cherry Blossoms. Jinhae, blessed with more Cherry Blossoms than any other city I've ever seen, (they line every street and avenue) puts on a big show near the local South Korean Navy Base.

The grounds and surrounding hills and islands of the naval base also possess a very enviable number of the celebrated arboreal symbol of spring. So during this festival, they open the grounds to the public for picnics and tours. This year, they also hosted a military band from New Zealand, although I didn't stop to listen in for very long.

Carlos, whom I'd met the day before, was kind enough to invite me to join him and his girlfriend for the day. We went hiking on the mountain ridge between the two cities for spectacular vistas, blooming azaleas and then descended into town for food and festivities.

My Big Guns

My big Guns.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Saturday Class a 'Piece of Cake'

My employers offered me the chance to earn some extra money on the weekends teaching kids at an elementary school nearby. Despite the pressure put on me, I tried to stall and delay the decision, being apprehensive to commit 2 Saturdays a month for the foreseeable future. A healthy work-life balance is one of the keys, I think, to happiness and health. However, the credit crunch, economy, and the necessary funds for RTW weigh on my mind as well. After they told me I wouldn't have to prepare materials or lesson plans, I decided to take the plunge.

My first day turned out surprisingly enjoyable. I was evidently teaching the class with a Korean English Teacher and another American guy named Carlos. The kids proved quite endearing as well. I can scarcely recall a greater bunch of spunky 9 and 10 year-olds! Not one rotten apple in the whole group!

We learned vocabulary about emotions (happy, sad, angry, etc), made some related crafts, and decorated cakes! The kids decorated cakes, we just showed them how and took care of the mess!

Friday, April 03, 2009

Korean Photographs at Changwon's Art Museum

My colleague Bae Sang Im, graciously took me to a photography exhibit showing at Changwon's art museum.

The photo exhibit currently on display until June is quite a sprawling collection of mostly black and white photographs by Korean photographers depicting a wide variety of themes and subjects. While the whole assemblage seemed somewhat lacking in direction, I found many of the photographs themselves very fascinating, especially with my interest in history and Korean culture. Despite some shortcomings, I found many wonderful photographs and it seems Korea is blessed with a great many talented photographers, artists, and photo-journalists This one particular photograph of a war orphan in 1950 proved particularly haunting.

I was also quite taken aback by photographs taken of the Changwon area and Gyeongsangnamdo Province. It seems not 30 years ago Changwon was little more than a small farming town with hardly a trace of concrete and steel. Pictures in the exhibit showed no trace of the endless towering rows of 30 floor apartments laid out in perfectly ordered rows between parks and commercial zones teeming with traffic and shoppers. Endless rice fields at the end of long dirt roads preceded the expansive, ambitious grid of industrial complexes making everything from semi-conductors and commercial marine engines to automobiles and cell phones for consumer markets around the globe.

Bae Sang Im was also kind enough to treat me out to dinner at a restaurant specializing in dubu (tofu as you may know it). I've never had it flavored with spinach before. And its actually a lot more delicious than it sounds!

Photo note: This brochure scan of the 1950 original doesn't do the photograph justice. The haunting look in his eyes in the real photograph remined me of that Afghani girl on the cover of National Geographic. I've never seen a black an white shot with such a variety of striking textures either. You can't see it in the scan so much, but his skin is dry and cracked, with skin and tattered clothing contrasting sharply with a smooth, grimy, almost oily look to most of the fabric. This was the best shot in the whole exhibit. I intend to come up with the name of the photographer ASAP. Mrs. Bae is too kind, and scanned this photo from a brochure and I won't have a chance to see her again until Wednesday.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Jay Cutler & Bronco Drama

From Korean Lint
Normally I don't write about football, but I'm a Broncos fan and I actually got asked about this by a guy here in Korea. So here's my authoritatively comprehensive and indisputably correct assessment of the whole mess.

Well, NFL fans know that Denver & the Broncos have had a pretty rough ride lately (pun intended). First, they fire their head coach Mike Shanahan, a guy whose been with the Broncos organization for the bulk of his NFL career. A lot of people saw this coming so its not really news.
Now they have some new guy named McDaniels.

Apparently, if I'm reading things correctly, McDaniels claims he was approached by some two-bit Florida team about a trade for Denver's (former?) star quarterback, Jay Cutler. He apparently briefly entertained the idea before turning the offer down, only to have Cutler get wind of the conversation and throw a big tantrum about the whole thing.

Now I don't really get why Cutler acts so upset. Is McDaniels just not feeding his ego enough, like Shanahan did or something? He throws a hissy fit apparently because the new coach doesn't think he's valuable enough to the team to not get approached by someone else about a trade? Dude, you're one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL. People probably ask about trading you all the time! I'm not a football expert or anything, but seriously... HUH???

After that, the coach and the Bronco's managers can't get ahold of him for weeks. Apparently nobody can. He takes the role of some scorned prima donna and doesn't show up for the training camp (as though he's better than anyone else and doesn't have to be a team player). Then he shows up on Fox Sports and acts all stunned and surprised that they're trading him? Well duh! You've been acting like a spoiled rotten toddler! I'd trade you away too!

The logical gaps in Cutler's behavior along with the weird, he-said-she-said nature of the whole thing leads me to believe there's a lot more going on here than we're privy too. And after reading more about Cutler's agent, Bus Cook, this whole thing definitely looks kinda fishy. I suspect Cutler hasn't been very happy for awhile and is using this to get out of Denver now that his bud Mike is gone. But seriously, if he is so hurt and offended about something that amounts to nothing, does he seriously think its going to be any better in another place?

Anyways, Denver's enviable quarterback situation appears to be over. They might be OK if they get a couple good first round draft picks out of this, but still, it looks like things might cost the Broncos. Could be worse I guess. We could be as messed up as the Raiders!

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Test Day, Field Day, Science Day

Tuesday is a test day. Wednesday, the kids take off for a field trip and I'm not invited. Thursday, Daebang Middle School holds a Science Fair. What does all this mean for me? A slow week!

I seriously don't mind so much, as I know that next week will probably be orders of magnitude busier for a variety of reasons. Most of the time they keep me very busy around here, and I don't mind so much after 6 months without a job. And I honestly feel like I'm doing some good around here. Feeling good about one's job makes the day go by quickly.

Anyways, here's an old picture I took back in the day. I'll give a special prize to anyone who can pinpoint this location to within a 6 mile radius.