Finally argued enough to get them to take my blood.

September 16, 2015

It took a surprising amount of work to get the staff in the blood bus to take my blood.

blood take it

Image from here.  All other mine.

I asked some medical students to assist me and they spoke to the staff but were quickly convinced that I wouldn’t be able to give blood and they were unable to translate the form correctly.  I want to thank them for trying.


I took the survey to our office assistants and one was able to help me through it.  Once back at the bus, I showed them the completed form and told them I’d given blood before.  That finally made them interested and seemed to start the process.  Sitting in the waiting area, I, and four students, could hear them discussing the Wae-guk-in (foreigner) in what I felt was a breach of privacy but finally I met the nurse for an interview…and they showed me a fully translated form of the sort they had demanded I find translation assistance for! Jerks!


Some photos of the process.
blood donation (3 a)


Above my head were a set of posters.  I think the one below lists suggestions in case I feel dizzy.  It might just as well be ways to exercise to get a real good head rush after donation.  ‘Feeling dizzy? Don’t waste it.  Do some V-sits!”

blood donation (1 a)


Really, I was treated well.  After all, I was a hero! At home I shared the cookies, which I described to my son as the most expensive in the world.  Nobody can buy many cookies as 400ml per box. None for the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

blood donation (5 a)



After I gave blood, I asked the guides if I could take their picture.  They made jokes about the sashes and a Miss Korea contest. Then they told me I could give blood if I wanted to.  I guess I had snuck in and out behind themblood donation (6 a)

Two hopefully gone medical conditions

July 19, 2015

I’m going to say ten years ago, I had a weird fuzziness in part of my eye. It was like a hair on my lens making everything I looked at out-of-focus. I could see to navigate but often held my head or eye at an angle to try to read through a clear portion of my field of view. Closing the eye didn’t help and it didn’t feel like something was physically touching my eye. After half an hour it would go away for days or weeks or months or several years now. I can’t remember the last time I had the problem but I did have it often enough to start recording when it happened and how I felt. Those notes are gone. It was annoying but strangely not terrifying. Was I just fatalistic, resigned?
I don’t think the next condition I had was at exactly the same time but the two overlapped. This condition started, I think, during a bout of food poisoning. between races to the toilet, I would relax and fall asleep. The dream would get weird and very realistic and I felt strong dejavu. Then my stomach would tighten and I would awaken trying to remember the dream.
But trying to remember also seemed like a trigger. For the next few years, I would be daydreaming and sometimes my train of thought would take me to a buried memory and as I tried to recall it, suddenly my stoamch would cramp, I would feel weak and have trouble standing – just too tired. Then it would go away. I would get maybe five episodes over a day or a day and half and those episodes would start very intense but fade. I distinctly remember two things. 1) being afraid to remember something for fear it would trigger another attack and 2) trying to remember the scene or event that tantalized just before the attack.
I think the last attack was a year ago, while at a sports camp.
Sometimes, I was unusually tired or sick when either of these attacks occured but for some of them I can’t think of any specific trigger. I don’t recall having both things happen at the same time.
I think the descriptions I gave above are vague and a little scary and I have never been able to make them clearer. The frequency was just too low for me to note any connections between them.
I’m feeling pretty good these days, aside from the entirely understandable pain and stiffness in my legs from all the running. I am eleven kg lighter than last year now. From around 2000 to 2013 or 2014, I was over 90kg and maxed out at 95._kg in the winter of 2014. Could being slimmer and healthier be the difference?
Well, I now wear progressive lens glasses, with the top third being for long distance and the bottom bit for closeups so age is still taking its toll on me.

15 km run

July 16, 2015

I’ll go swimming this afternoon and see if that relaxes my legs.

humble brag

The course was 2.8 km out and back, followed by 1.35 km out and back on the same route times three and 0.65 km and back at the end.  I had planned for a little further but needed to get home and wake up my son for school.

Although I started ten minutes later than I wanted, I am pleased with my planning.  I got up at 4:20 AM and walked around the apartment and got dressed: Vaseline various places where clothes rub and bandages on my ankles for the same reason, standard running clothes and two extra bandannas packed with my Gatorade so I could replace them as they filled with sweat.  I also packed an extra shirt but chose not to make that exchange during the run.  I needed to walk around the apartment before the run to loosen up.  As a middle-aged runner, it takes a while before I can walk comfortably in the morning.

I am not sure how the GPS device in my phone works.  The course was 2.8, 1.35 or .65 km in one direction, followed by a 180-degree turn.  I feel I ran 15km and Mapmywalk recorded 15.89km so maybe at each turn, it pretends I made it to the edge of the error bar, giving me twenty-ish metres extra on each leg.  That doesn’t quite add up.  It also shows a thirty metre change in altitude while the course varied by perhaps five metres.

Anyway, I am proud of the run and will definitely attempt a half marathon in the Fall, when it is cooler.


Unfamiliar with the ocean, not stupid

July 9, 2015

In my years as a lifeguard in Canada, I rescued maybe three or four people.  Here in Korea, as a capable citizen who happened to be in the right place, I’ve rescued around ten.

In neither case am I describing technically demanding rescues.  My frequent training at in-services and yearly testing in rescues involving spinal injuries has never been tested nor has my CPR know-how.

To be honest, I do remember rescuing a few people in Canada but the details were so minor that I don’t remember what they were.  Here in Korea, all ten people were riding inner tubes or inflatables when the wind blew away from shore with greater power than the rider could paddle against and so were carried out to sea.

I must admit I  thought the inflatable riders were stupid to put themselves at risk if they couldn’t swim.  An incident in Canada, involving an Ontario man pulled to sea by ocean tides and currents in Nova Scotia has made me consider otherwise.

Despite the callous online comments on last week’s story about an Ontario man luckily rescued after being swept to sea at Peggys Cove, the meme of the “friendly” Nova Scotian is not a myth.

Visitors might be forgiven for thinking otherwise after reading the often heartless remarks that met a Toronto man’s call for more to be done to ensure people’s safety at the iconic location after his friend had nearly drowned when a large wave pulled him from the rocks last Thursday afternoon.

Some examples: You can’t fix stupid. Darwinism. Idiots without common sense. And so on.

As if it’s not possible for someone with no experience of the ocean to be simply completely unfamiliar with the danger presented by the powerful, unpredictable Atlantic Ocean. People who didn’t grow up here and don’t live here, and who may not have seen — yes, they do get missed by some visitors — any of the warning signs, but who, according to the above “logic,” somehow deserve whatever they get.

There is at least one big difference.  Nova Scotia is famous for the largest tides in the world.  The Bay of Fundy is quite a distance from Peggy’s Cove but still runs two metres.

I don’t think I would blame a Korean an encounter with poison ivy because he or she would have no reason to be wary of it.  As a measure of my own (lack of) intelligence, I had poison ivy rashes three times in one year and not as a child, either.

I still think water is a universal.  It’s everywhere.  I don’t think all Koreans get swimming lessons in grade four as Ontario school children do, but they take baths.  I cannot fully excuse a Korean that gets in trouble in the water but I will be a little more tolerant from now on.


The power of off-hand comments

July 2, 2015

Never read the comments section.  Never read the comments sect…..

Ah, no.  Not that kind of comment.

About twenty-five years ago, as captain of my university’s swim team, I added a few jokes to my talk to my teammates before our provincial championships.  In addition to sound advice like getting enough sleep and the proper food, I suggested they needed to be more on edge, more antsy, more alert and so for the next few days before the swim meet, no sex.

Two days later, a member of the women’s swim team complained about this, about being shut down with her boyfriend blaming me.

About ten years ago, I made an ESL game that worked pretty well for students at my university.  A coworker who used the game complimented me with, “You’re so creative.”  For the last ten years, I have been researching creativity and productivity.

Four years ago, I went to Chuck Sandy’s talks at the International KOTESOL Conference, mostly liked them but felt that the process of condensing years of work into a forty-five minute bundle made it “a lot of feathers and not much chicken“.  In a recent Twitter conversation, I learned that Sandy has that quote on his desk.

What will he say when he learns the quote is from Kim Mitchell?

Summer plans

July 1, 2015

This summer I appear to have a lot of free time.  I hope to work an ESL camp in August and have a few other commitments but essentially I have time to work on my own projects.  Most of these projects deal with writing.

Writing Plans and Goals:

  • 13 blogposts for 6,500 words.  Why 13?  I can’t recall why I chose this number.  Somewhat more than two a week, I guess.
  • 3 short stories: Working titles are 1) Ants, 2) Vampire on a boat and 3) Hyperbaric Chamber.  I’m figuring 2,000 words each
  • Push forward one or all three of the books I have started and let sit.  30,000 words is the goal and I don’t mind jumping from book to book as seems fit. Working titles are 1) Return of the Haloed Hunter, 2) the Distancing Engine and 3) Creationism’s worst arguments
  • 2 letters per week to friends.  Around ten letters and 2,000 words.
  • Perform research and planning for future “Crowded Sky” story. As much as 5,000 words.

To keep the writing interesting, I have made further goals.

  • I want to write over the course of a full day.  That is, at least once in the month write from 12:00 to 1:00 AM, once from 1:00 to 2:00AM …
  • I want to write in a variety of locations.  The local mountaintop has a good table. There are some nice libraries to write in.  I’ll talk about coffee shops in a moment.  Eulsookdo Eco Centre might be a nice place to work in for an afternoon.
  • Soundtrack: I may use Ommwriter which has its own soundtrack but otherwise it will be autoplayed classical music starting with some Janecek and letting Youtube suggest from there. Away from Internet connections, Doug and the Slugs and other 80’s music would work; the tunes are so familiar that they can be white noise or a fun background as needed.

Snacks: I bought snacks for my Nanowrimo writing and I will definitely eat in front of the computer but I need to show restraint here.  My weight is slowly dropping and I want to keep it going in that direction.  Controlling my weight is my greatest concern this summer.


  • 18 runs with an average of 7.0 km.  I hope to attempt a solo half-marathon this summer late one evening and have been working out the course and where to place energy drinks along the way.  I am currently at 96 runs over the past six months so only the weather could prevent reaching this goal.
  • Run faster than a subway train.  The local subway stations Seo-dae-shin and Dong-dae-shin are about 500 meters apart and the train takes 2:35 seconds from doors open at Seo- to doors closed at Dong-.  Further, this route is slightly downhill.  I can easily run this fast on a level surface but Seo-dae-shin is deep underground. I have no qualms or conscience problems about using the escalators but even with that assistance, there is a big climb at the start of the run.
  • Swim 2km at a time. Korean pools are crowded with conversationalists and it is hard to get an unbroken swim in.  I am likely to need to stop a the end of a lane a few times.  Today, I did 1250m, with breaks and could have gone farther.
  • Find 3 snorkeling places in and near Busan
  • For at least 6 days, eat three meals, plus one snack plus one sweet drink.  I snack a lot and plan to spend a lot of time in front of a computer so this will be a challenge.

Education:  I am enrolled in 3 MOOCS.

  • The Bilingual Brain
  • Modern Korean History
  • Archaeology of Portus


  • Teach my son to swim.
  • Go on a weekend trip with the family. I would prefer a swimming site but that is negotiable.
  • Read two books with my son.  I don’t want this to be a purely teaching experience but one we both enjoy.  Tintin is a good contender here.
  • Work on the farm.


Brian is an active blogger

June 30, 2015

I gave a presentation at the Jeju KOTESOL Regional Conference on creativity and in the bio I wrote for their program, I described myself as an active blogger and gave this address.

I still think I am an active blogger but the most recent post before this one on this blog is from …2014, maybe?

I am active at and my presentation slides can be found here.

I do want to re-awaken this blog and some posts in mind.  I just needed to start by allowing any visitors from the conference to find my slides.

See you in a few hours at this address…

Looking for news about English clubs or cafes at universities in Korea

December 16, 2014

I am the programs manager at the English Cafe on campus.  The programs have struggled and thrived and stumbled and are about to go through some big changes.  I’d like to know what people at other universities do to create extra-curricular content, fun content, voluntary content, at their universities.  I will post this link on the Facebook pages of KOTESOL and Gyeongsang branch – KOTESOL and a few other places.  I am desperate for some ideas and suggestions.

First, I should share what we did during the semester just finishing now.

The Cafe was independently run, so far as food, drink, and management were concerned.  Part of the Cafe manager’s contract was that we could run programs in there and she was wonderfully willing to help out.

1) There were daily games hours.  Each day, at an appointed time, students could play a board game with the teacher (or shut the teacher out and play among themselves).  We have English games like Scrabble and Boggle but also chess, Clue, Othello and others, ranging down in difficulty to Uno.  The winner of each day’s game a won 5,000won gift certificate for food and drinks at the Cafe.

2) In previous semesters, we had a daily Simpsons screening.  Students could watch, then answer questions with one student a week winning another 5,000won gift certificate for the Cafe.  Upper management found The Simpsons too low-brow and we were told to switch to documentaries this year and they didn’t go so well.  There were also some technical difficulties – the idea seemed a little boring but each doc should have generated some interest.

3) Once a semester, we ran a Scavenger Hunt.  There were four prizes: 20,000, 15,000, 10,000 and 5,000 won in Cultural gift certificates – these certificates are recognized at bookstores and, I think, movie theaters around the country.

4) Posters: Every two weeks, there was a new series of five posters, all on a theme and each with a question.  At the end of two weeks, the answers were judged and a student would win a 10,000 won Cultural gift certificate.

In previous semesters, teachers could count student attendance at Cafe events as part of their participation grade.  This year, that was no longer allowed and student participation dried up.  Really.  A few students did very well for themselves as there were few others to compete for the prizes.

Next year, the Cafe will run perhaps two events a semester and we may assist an English Club if one forms.  I want to know if your university has an English club, what the students do and what foreign staff are asked to do.  I will post further details at this blog and provide links to the Facebook pages mentioned above and summarize the responses I get.

Hope to hear your details!


three week goal setting.

October 25, 2014

I wrote this at Fitocracy and reference the site a few times. With that heads-up, I think the post makes sense.

From 2009 to around 2012, my weight was stable at around 92 kg. In 2012 and 2013, I saw 94 and even 95 kg. In 2013, I was home in Canada, eating the comfort food I had grown up with. Man, cheese and oven-cooked food are great.
Since around 2010, I thought about losing weight. Several times, I put some effort into a diet, cutting some of the worst food I eat and trying to eat better.
Exercise has never been a problem. Through high school and university, I was a competitive swimmer and even though those days are around twenty years past, I still exercise frequently.
Still, this year, I have had a nearly perfect storm of exercise and diet opportunities and hope to see continued progress. This being Fitocracy, I will discuss how I exercised but to be honest, getting a dog has probably made the most difference.
I typically sit in front of my computer for several hours a day. We got a puppy in April and I made sure to walk it three times a day, totaling more than an hour each day. The dog ambled and investigated and I wanted to walk faster but the thing is, I was standing and walking for an hour more and sitting for an hour less every day. When I sat in front of the computer and was consuming rather than creating (reading not typing), I normally have a snack nearby to munch on. One hour less snacking is a big deal.

Back to Fitocracy-relevant content. For as long as I can remember, I ate ice cream every day. Now, we don’t keep ice cream at home and I have to go out and buy it. This is the biggest, most obvious change that I’ve made. Nearly no junk food at home. Now, I typically eat ice cream twice a week (my wife thinks its closer to once a week) and chocolate two or three times a week.
My son was curious about the beer I drank and my wife is a teetotaler. Under their prodding, I now drink four beer a week (down from a hardly alcoholic seven or eight a week).
For the past twelve years, I have worked summer and winter at an ESL camp (Korean parents send their kids to academic camps during school breaks – something that I have both felt horrified by and profited by). The camp had been for four weeks and I lived on campus, near a running track. So, every year, I have worked toward 25 km a week on the track. This summer, the camp was shortened to three weeks.

And three weeks is a very manageable time period. I set a goal of 75 km, and made 77km. Upon returning home, I set a three week goal of 80 km and made 80.3km.

At this time, I had some setbacks. Mostly, I was trying to run too fast and had hurt my quads and Achilles tendons. With the advice of friends, I eased off on the speed and suddenly found longer runs comfortable. The third three week goal was 85km and I managed 97 km. I have just finished my fourth three week set; the goal was 100 km and I ran 102 km.

It may seem I just made it, but that is only true due to life events. I had 102 km three days early and if, well, life hand’t gotten in the way, I could have managed 110 km. This is my next goal, although I have an official run on Nov 9 so doing well at that is a possibly-competing goal.
In the just past three week, set I also added some pushups, situps and back arches. I may buy a chin up bar for a doorway in my apartment. I am not yet doing significant amounts of calisthenics but the numbers will improve, I’m sure.  And, my running speed is improving again.

85 kg, here I come – probably in February.

155 km in six weeks. I’m taking a break.

September 7, 2014

If you love the content here, you’ll find, well, different content, but also by me and more frequently, at Creativiti Project.


Through the spring, I hiked pretty consistently on the hill- locally called a mountain, but tiny – with my dog and pumped a little iron along the way.  I love the little ‘health clubs’ on the paths.  I got my chin up reps up to more than 20 in four sets.  Not great, but a great improvement.

In the summer, I went to Gangwondo and met some friends and taught some biology.  I also took advantage of the surprisingly cool temps and great running track to work on 75 km in three weeks.  When I returned home, I set a new goal – 80 km in three weeks – and have just completed it.

I like the time frame.  It is easy to see the end point and stay motivated.  I can also, and definitely will this time, take a break between three-week periods.  I need the break.  At halfway of the second set, I was ahead of schedule but as the second week finished, I experienced great cramps in my right leg.  As they eased, I had cramps in my left leg.  Throughout the six weeks, my right Achilles tendon has been aching.

There was a point in the fourth week that I felt great.  A stoplight would change and I was a distance away from the crosswalk and I would float effortlessly to the crosswalk and across.  It felt wonderful.

For the last ten days, though, the only feeling has been grim determination to finish in any way.  At the beginning, I watched my stats as my time decreased even as the distance increased.  Greater distances felt better and better. At the end, I have had to restrain myself.  Late last week, I went a little too fast -not fast at all, but too fast, and had to stop at 2.7 km of what should have been 5.4 or more kilometres.  This week, I have managed a steady 8-9 kph while in the second week (of six) I was faster than 10 kph.

This is Sunday of a long weekend.  Chuseok.  After Chuseok, I will set a new three week goal. The three days off should allow me to recover.  I hope.



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