Archive for May, 2010

The innocence of vaccine concerns here.

May 23, 2010

I follow science and pseudo-science news and am concerned by the increase these days of pseudo-science.

I recently saw an article title, “Inoculation fever for young children rising” and feared that the anti-vaxxer crazies had gotten a foothold in Korea (second link is to an anti-anti-vaxxer website).

No, the Korean article is about where people are choosing to get their children inoculated.  It seems people are going to private clinics rather than public health centres.  Both places use the same vaccine and the only difference is the price -free at the public location.

Indeed, there are no concerns about the safety of the vaccines themselves (the first link):

A mother of a 21-month-old daughter said, “Over the last six months, I spent more than 300,000 won (252 dollars) on vaccinations,” adding, “I went only to private hospitals since I didn’t have much knowledge of vaccinations.”One expert says, however, “Vaccinations cause no harm. If the chance of getting a disease is low, however, children don’t necessarily need to be inoculated against the disease.”

The North American vaccines =  autism people, by contrast, are all about the dangers of the vaccines (from the second link).

These are some of the ingredients antivaxxers claim are in vaccines:

  • anti-freeze(ethylene glycol): NO. There is no anti-freeze in vaccines. There is a compound in vaccines, however, with an awfully long name that starts with polyethylene glycol p blahblahblah. This is what confused them. But as the error has been pointed out to them, time and time again, they persist in wilfully misleading the public with the scary ANTI-FREEZE!
  • aborted fetal tissue: No. Vaccines do not contain aborted fetal tissue. A long, long time ago (the 1960’s) some cell lines were cultured from aborted fetuses. That much is true. What is not true, and once again has been pointed out to the antivax liars, TIME AND TIME AGAIN, is that vaccines do not (in fact, cannot) contain human tissue in any way, shape or form! Ask any blood donor recipient or transplant patient about that.
  • Thimerosol(mercury): this toxic substance, harmful in any amount, causes autism and a host of other disorders (according to antivaxxers). The truth is, however, a lot more encouraging. Mercury is not in all vaccines, and if present, is in minute traces of the less toxic variety. You get more mercury from a single can of tuna than in all vaccines combined. Relax. And still eat tuna.

UPDATED TWO MINUTES LATER: Tall guy writes has a webcomic describing some of the history of the anti vaccine movement (one page below – total comic is 15 ‘pages’ -one scrollable webpage).

2 MMR Vaccination Scandal Story


Boating on Buddha’s Birthday

May 22, 2010

This year, we didn’t visit temples or eat the free temple lunch.  I don’t know much about the western and lunar calendars or if Buddha’s Birthday is determined by a yet a third calendar, but at least this time, my wife’s eldest uncle’s birthday was on the same day and, having moved to Busan, we were now close enough to visit him on his birthday.  Unlike the Buddha,he is actually able to appreciate our visit.

It could have been a boring time at the farm for the kids, but my brother-in-law told us an activity he used to do with his brother: Boating down the irrigation ditch.

Carrying the boat to the ditch – I wish I could convince my son to stop making this pose for photos.  Still, it’s probably better than my strained, unnatural smile in photos.

Time to climb in.

My nephew was the first crewman.

Soon, both boys were ready, sorta.  The boat wobbled a lot and the trip was very short.  I had to rush to take these pictures.

My brother-in-law aground.  I was similarly unable to cruise down the ‘canal’.

The boys didn’t like actually drifting and wobbling so the boating part was a bust.  Still, the preparation and setup were a bit of an adventure for them.

Yes, it’s for the students. But, really?

May 16, 2010

THe Joongang Ilbo has a photo and short accompanying caption of middle and high school teachers washing their student’s feet as a “token of their affection”.

I, on the other hand, repeated my prank of 2008.  I have a picture on my phone but connecting it to the computer is chancy.

Anyway, I feel teaching is important and do it for more than the money.  I have taught as a volunteer and frequently spend my own money on supplements for class.  Still, it’ll be a while before I wash my student’s feet.  I don’t know, it just seems weird.  I will show my affection by doing my job well.

A beautiful song about teachers

May 14, 2010

Well, it is a song about teachers, however beautiful.

becoming or staying slim

May 12, 2010

When I visit my hometown, I see giant people climb out of giant cars (or SUVS, mostly).  Here, in Busan, but also in Korea generally, I see slim people and the younger they are – to young adulthood – the taller they are.

While I don’t have any news about how or why the generation entering the workforce is the tallest I’ve seen in Korea (I figure it is the increased amount of protein in their diets), I just read an interesting post about land-use in cities correlated to obesity.  The results aren’t startling, but until a test or two are done, it isn’t really known.

In “Walking and Obesity: the City Life and the Country Life“, Sci reports on a journal article that tracked 10,000 people in and around Atlanta, Georgia.

The people living in areas with maximally diverse land-use (residential, commercial and etc) were most likely to be slim, while those in single-use areas (think suburban residential) were more likely to be obese.

1) The more the land use is mixed where you are, the less of a probability you have of being obese. This is presumably related to walking more, but the correlation was only effective for African-American females.

2) The more you walk, the less probability you have of being obese.

3) The more time you spend in a car, the MORE probability you have of being obese.

Sounds pretty simple, don’t it? But this isn’t the easiest thing. Many people HAVE to drive to work, and often do not have enough leisure time outside of it to make up the car time with other physical activity. In addition, many people will walk more when they have somewhere to go, and suburban residential neighborhoods don’t really go in for that kind of thing. But it DOES provide some interesting data for people looking to plan new residential communities. If you make things more walkable (especially work and necessities), maybe people will walk more, and maybe that will translate to smaller probabilities of obesity and improvements in health. Maybe those people planning those overly picturesque walkable communities are on to something.

As I understand it, in suburban places where it is safe to walk, there is little nearby to walk to.  I don’t know if the neighborhood I grew up in on Muskoka Road 14 could be called suburban, but if we wanted to go to the convenience store, we had to drive.

And yet, we were fairly serious walkers.  Some studies show that families that eat together are closest, that sharing meal time means having good discussion time.  I don’t know, but walking to Finch’s gravelpit and to Sharp’s Creek was what I remember most about being together as a family (we also had nearly every dinner together).  Did I complain about how boring it was, I wonder?  Certainly, there was usually nothing on the TV, on the two channels we received.

Hmm, more stream-of-semi-consciousness.  Perhaps that’s what separates this blog from Gangwon Notes.

Anyway, everything is walking distance in Korea.  I now have a car and use it nearly everyday, but I really don’t need to.  A lot of the time, not driving is more convenient – no parking problems.

I guess it’s time to leave the car at home.  Well, tomorrow; it’s bedtime now.

dokdoisours on Samsung’s lawsuit

May 10, 2010

Samsung is suing Michael Breen, a reporter, for his description of the company and it’s leadership.  I don’t know what the article was about, but now I want to.

Dokdoisours comments:

Hey everybody reading this. You should go buy Samsung products. They sure are great. Let me tell you. I use a Samsung phone. I’d write this blog on my Samsung phone if I could afford a cool enough Samsung phone. ‘Cause Samsung sure is great. I wish my blog’s address were “” but Samsung already owned that URL, so I had to settle for Dokdo Is Ours.

Parents, teachers and students.

May 9, 2010

We all want to help the students learn and grow as human beings.

How are teachers doing?  How do college students describe great teachers?

However much one may abhor the idea of teaching being a popularity contest, in some facets, popularity should be sought not for popularity itself, but as a medium to inspire and encourage students. Indeed, students themselves assert they prefer a teacher who cares that they learn, gets to know students, and is personable; such teachers help students achieve their goals of focusing in class, understanding the material, and developing a personal relationship with the teacher. These are but intermediary goals which help students enhance their grades, improve their careers, and increase their salary — ultimately achieving happiness, financial success, and a sense of accomplishment. Though it may not be surprising that students also prefer teachers who communicate well and provide dynamic lectures, the strong evidence supporting this notion may help instructors commit to clarity and variety in the classroom.

For teachers who are struggling to acquire the approval of their students, this study points to a few suggestions which are, fortunately, relatively easy to execute. Getting to know students personally, demonstrating a concern for student learning, and exhibiting personable character traits are simple notions that do not require an overhaul of a course structure, nor do they require a change in teaching style. Yet, these simple notions are among the most important characteristics when students describe great teachers.

Instructors of large classes should not bemoan the importance students place on getting to know the students. Discovering creative ways of connecting to students in a large class demonstrate more powerfully the instructor’s desire for personal connections. One of the authors teaches a large class and begins each lecture with a Know Your Classmates activity, where one student is singled out (based on a student information sheet completed by the student) for discussion. The student’s career interest is discussed and used to show how the impending lecture can be used in their desired occupation. This activity demonstrates a desire to know the students, and by demonstrating the usefulness of the course content it relays a sincere concern for student learning and gives them the

motivation to commit to the class—recall that committing to the class is a consequence of getting to 20know students, which helps compensate for the inability to personally know each student in a large class. Know Your Classmates is a wildly popular activity, one that students promptly note if the instructor fails to do at the start of class.

Meanwhile, this really isn’t the way for a parent to help any child.  It seems a mother checked out all the ‘Gossip Girl’ books from a local library and has kept them for two years so youth couldn’t read them.  Oh, ‘checked out’ doesn’t mean ‘looked at’ in this case- you got that, right?

From the article:

A Longwood mom who refused to return four Gossip Girl-inspired library books because she objected to their content took them back to the public library Thursday. …

After an article about Harden appeared in Thursday’s Orlando Sentinel, a man donated replacement books to the library and several others told the library they planned to send checks or books to replace the ones Harden was keeping. …

Harden owes $85 in fines but hasn’t paid them. She said she is hoping the library will waive the fines.

“It’s not that I lost the books or I didn’t feel like turning them in,” she said. “I want us to work together. Hopefully they have the same goals as I do.”

I have misplaced library books and eventually returned them.  I wouldn’t want to be charged with theft.  Still, her intent was quite different from mine – are such charges impossible? Yes, she has finally returned them, so perhaps she doesn’t need jail time or even a fine, but she would still get that criminal record.  That would be worth the $85, I think.

Both links courtesy of Marginal Revolution.

Planting rice -the early stages.

May 9, 2010

I have now seen a significant fraction of rice’s life cycle.  Well, I’ve seen rice in fields, and been involved in the second planting and the final harvest.  Today, and last Sunday, I helped out a little with the first planting.

My brother-in-law is posing for the camera and my father-in-law is in the paddy.  In the fore-ground are many shallow trays.  Each tray gets a fine pad of what looks like chip-board then goes into the water.
Then we spread seed over the chipboard.  The seed has to be spread very thickly but shouldn’t be piled.  I am not very good at it but I figure I helped a little.

My footprint.

My monster-sized feet (size 12 or 300mm) are beyond what any Korean rubber boot can contain so I end up going barefoot.  This is fine, mostly, except for…

Leeches and other critters.  I’ve had to remove leeches from my own legs, and from other’s legs in Canada and in Nepal, but I don’t like it.  There were a lot of snails around, too.  Now, snails may seem innocuous, but only to those who haven’t studied parasite biology.

Anyway, going forward in time, we see the rice after one week.  Okay, this is what I helped with last week. This rice looks a little sickly but will look much better in a few more weeks after we add soil; which is carefully shaken onto the trays.  I think the cover keeps other stuff from growing amongst the rice and wicks up water from the surrounding area.

We are about ready to return to the house on the kyeong-oong-ki.

My mother-in-law and I don’t always see eye-to-eye, but that is on trivial, cultural things.  She does her best to take care of me.  No one in the family drinks much, almost none of that is beer.  Still, she tries to offer me a beer when I visit, even though she doesn’t know what to look for or how long beer keeps.  We can see this beer passed the best-before date more than a year ago and has some awful stuff floating in it.  It was a kind offer, but I drove home soon after returning to the farmhouse, so I shouldn’t have drank it anyway.

In a month, we’ll take the trays out and remove the rice -which looks a lot like sod for a yard – and load up a planting tractor, which will do most of the work in the second planting.

Pirates of the Caribbean (I have to write something!)

May 7, 2010

It’s been so long that I feel I have to write something.  I have let several news stories go by, so that whatever I write about has to be really big or insignificant.  I chose the latter.

I was a big fan of the original Pirates of the Caribbean and enjoyed the two sequels.  I am really looking forward to the upcoming Pirates movie because it is somehow based on Tim Powers’ book, “On Stranger Tides”.  The two are a good match: both include piracy, magic and some humour.  Indeed, all I really need in the movie is the following exchange:

Voodoo magician: I’m a deaf.  I can’t hear.

Clerk: Oh my God; he’s going to defecate here!

The rest of the book is not so funny, but completely enjoyable; should I buy a new copy?

The movie’s budget is being cut, so I hope it gets made.  As a Powers’ fan, I’ll be there even if it is poorly rendered – I hope that’s not the case, naturally.