Archive for August, 2010

“Dokdo is ours” is unhappy with the Korea Times

August 30, 2010

He is shooting at an easy target, but also one in clear need of shooting.

The Korea Times has a short article about Jennifer Aniston.  A quote:

They move down to Atlanta, Georgia, and have become a hippi couple. The couple who want to be free from the world, the cloth will be handcuffs for them.

Dokdo Is Ours interviews the copy editor to try to find an explanation for the remarkable English.  He is right to do so, but if things change at the Times, his own job will become that much tougher.

Oh, he also includes a screenshot of the article which is wise because it should be pulled soon.  I noticed it this morning and am surprised it is still up nine hours later.


Worried that I’m not worried

August 29, 2010

I’ve been a teacher for a some time now, and a fairly serious athlete before that.  The two have something in common for me; my need to reach a specific stress level to perform at my best.

As I was an athlete first, let me start with that.  In my first swim meet, I was mostly worried that I would follow the rules properly. Soon after that, I needed to control my worries about how much an event would hurt.  The two hundreds in any stroke, or in the Medley, are just long enough to completely use up your sugar reserves and fill your muscles with lactic acid but in any distance or stroke there were ways to hurt yourself.

Soon, I learned to worry about how I would do in an event.  Would my coach be upset?  Would I beat  that guy I beat at the last meet?  Would I finish absolutely last?

As I became more experienced, I learned to control my tension and stress.  Stress sharpened my reflexes*.  At the same time, if I began to think too much about how much a part of an event would hurt, I would deliberately steer my mind away and to other subjects.

Everybody understands the stress and fear of a new teacher – most know it as stage fright.  Even now, I can teach a class of students but have trouble speaking before a group of teachers.

This is my eighth year of teaching at university in Korea.  Tomorrow, I will start my 16th first class week.  I’m so relaxed I worry that I will wake up early enough in the morning.

I have reason to be confident.  I just finished a great set of summer classes in which the Korean co-teachers begged me to return in September.  I can say this with some humility because the classes were only three weeks in duration and preparing for six classes per group is much easier than for a full semester of 35+ classes.  I was a good teacher and the students learned and had fun, but that’s no guarantee that I could maintain that level for 15 more weeks.

I have reason to be nervous.  I will start a writing class tomorrow that will run four days a week through the semester and I have only taught writing to middle school students in the past – and that, infrequently.  I don’t know how many students and I don’t know what level they are.  What am I going to do for 50+ classes?**

I’m sure I will be worried enough tomorrow morning.


*and my reflexes needed sharpening.My starts were the slowest of all my friends.  You know that ‘slaps’ game where you put your hands out and the other guy tries to slap them before you pull away?  I always lost those games.  I never pulled away in time.

**We will play mad-libs tomorrow.  I will learn their knowledge of grammar terms.

Unification tax could be used to reforest North Korea

August 27, 2010

President Lee’s government recently tested the idea of a re-unifictation tax and many wondered what it was for and why it was being suggested now.

I suppose people are right to be suspicious, but I like the idea of a government planning for the future. The US (and probably my homeland, Canada) are infamous for reducing tax and increasing various programs that voters won’t have to pay for but their children will.  I can’t say that’s crazy, but I can say it’s a pretty cold thing to do to your descendants.

Anyway, in today’s Korea Times I see a discussion about reforesting North Korea after unification.  Again, a great idea, but why now?  What bad action has taken place domestically that they want to hide or what do they know about KJI’s health?

From the article:

Traditionally, the mountainous North had more forests than the South. But reckless logging denuded the mountains of the former, while the latter has put forth great efforts for forestation.

As a result, the South has become the world’s fourth most forested country among members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development in terms of size compared to territory.

“Currently, mankind is facing the three major threats of climate change, reduced bio-diversity and fast desertification. Trees hold the solution to all three problems,” the 56-year-old said.

“The world is also well aware of the fact as demonstrated by the United Nations, which declared 2011 as the International Year of Forests.”

Chung said the so-called “Miracle of the Han River” was not only about the fast economic growth of South Korea but also about the successful forestation over the past few decades.

I want one: more on risky swimming

August 27, 2010

A Nevada Family has an underwater fort.  They place a tightly woven net over a vinyl sheet, anchor it firmly and inflate it.

They take the structure down after each visit and it is only something to play in, but it is a step in the right direction.

Some people don’t like swimming within the buoy-line

August 27, 2010

Let me redact the location reference in this quote from The Economist:

You have to stay inside the dinky little waist-deep swimming areas, with their bobbing lines of white buoys. There you are, under a deep blue …. summer sky, the lake laid out like a mirror in front of you and the rocks on the far shore gleaming under a bristling comb of red pine; you plunge in, strike out across the water, and tweet! A parks official blows his whistle and shouts after you. “Sir! Sir! Get back inside the swimming area!” What is this, summer camp? Henry David Thoreau never had to put up with this. It offends the dignity of man and nature. You want to shout, with Andy Samberg: “I’m an adult!”

I feel the same way. Well, I don’t really know if I’m a Thoreau fan, but the rest; yes.  I just want some open water to actually swim in.

Oh, the location is any Massachusetts state park.

The reason for the restriction appears well-intentioned, I must admit. And it might be.  Reducing drowning deaths is hard to argue against.  However, at least part of the reason is financial- to reduce liability costs.  This is also good, but bean-counting our way to a nanny state doesn’t appeal to me.

The park officials in Massachusetts aren’t really trying to minimise the risk that you might drown. They’re trying to minimise the risk that you might sue. The problem here, as Mr Howard says, isn’t simply over-regulation as such. It’s a culture of litigiousness and a refusal to accept personal responsibility. When some of the public behave like children, we all get a nanny state.

Yeah, nobody wanted the Aqua Assault RoboFighters to be recalled.

The Economist article contains many links, including one to a TED Talk on fixing the legal system.

Before looking -very superficially- at Korea, let me check out drowning deaths in Canada.

At least 237 people have drowned this year in Canada. That’s an increase of nine per cent from the same time last year, according to the Lifesaving Society, a group committed to water safety.

Many of the deaths have occurred in Ontario….

She [Lifesaving Society spokesperson Barbara Byers] said parents need to keep a close watch on their young children around pools.

“If you’re not within arms reach, you have gone too far,” said Byers. “And you have to have your eyes absolutely locked on the child. I think some people think they will have lots of time (to react).”

Rivers and beaches have also been the sites of several deaths this year….

The Ontario Coroner’s Office says it will look at all the drowning deaths between May and the end of August, to see if any recommendations can be made to make the province’s pools, rivers and lakes safer for swimming.

Quick public service announcement:  Drowning doesn’t look like drowning!

Briefly, drowning people don’t and can’t  call for help, nor can they wave for help.  They are too focused on getting their mouth high enough to breathe.  They can’t get their arms out of the water to wave them.

The warning comes from Dr. Frank Pia, who has been in the biz for a long time.  I learned how to do the Pia carry twenty-five years ago.

Next Public Service Announcement: Be leery of the advice coming from Busan eFM!

I like eFM.  I want Busan’s English radio station to do well.  However, a month ago, I listened in horror to one of their PSAs.  One bit of advice for beachgoers was, “If you go into deep water, bring a tube or inflatable to protect yourself.”

No, no, no!  If you can’t swim, don’t go into deep water! Fer Cryin’ Out Loud!  If your child can’t swim, don’t let him/her go into the water at all unless you are nearby!

Okay, back to Canada:

…a study released Thursday suggests immigrants are four times more likely to be unable to swim than native-born Canadians.

The study, conducted by the Lifesaving Society, found that about one in five newcomers don’t know how to swim, compared to one in 20 people born in Canada. The research is being billed as the first in Canada to examine the links between ethnicity and the ability to swim. …

Drowning is the second leading cause of preventable death in Canada for children under the age of 10. …

The report’s release comes amid a spate of drowning deaths across the country, including 10 in a recent 10-day period in Ontario from the end of June to the beginning of July. …

Byers said that during heat waves, people are often more inclined to go to swimming pools to cool off. In a normal year, about one of every 10 drowning deaths happens in a pool. This year, 28 per cent of deaths have occurred at pools, including five of the 10 in Ontario.

It is hard to discuss Korean drowning rates.  I can only imagine they must be high because of the great restrictions imposed on those who want to swim here.  I do recall in Sokcho a few years ago, a school group on a class trip went to Sokcho beach and returned to their dorm rooms, there to discover they were one short.  Again, better observation of the young should be common sense.

Pools in Korea typically have a ‘rest period’ of ten minutes per hour.  This allows the guards to be sure the pool is clear and the patrons to regain their strength so they are safer.  And too bad to the patron who is on a tight schedule and ends up losing ten minutes of their swimming time.

The water level at the beautiful pool at Sajik Sports Complex is deliberately  kept at 60%.*  The depth should be around two metres, but instead is 1.3 metres.  This is a great depth for standing but it feels weird to be in a pit, with walls rising high above you.  It would be hard to drown, though.

Okay, it is difficult to search for Korean drowning deaths but I did learn that North Korea is not waving, it is drowning.

In 2006, seventy-six teenagers drowned.


*I don’t know what that means for the filter system.  The water looks clear and clean, but normally most contaminants are on the water surface and the skimmers, in this case, are a metre above the surface.

Driving in China

August 25, 2010

The news is full of both reports of a 100 km long traffic jam and a futuristic way to prevent such jams.


A traffic jam stretching more than 60 miles in China has entered its ninth day with no end in sight, state media reported.

Cars and trucks have been slowed to a crawl since August 14 on the National Expressway 110, which is also known as the G110, the major route from Beijing to Zhangjiakou, Xinhua News reported.

I must admit I first thought the drivers and their vehicles had not moved for nine days.  I suppose that is possible, but it seems more likely that the trip only feels like nine days induration.  Individual drivers have not been stuck for nine days but the stretch of parkway (get it?  Parkway?  Ha, ha, ha, ha!) has been congested for nine days.

UPDATED: I might have been too hasty.  From Yahoo News (with my bolding):

BEIJING, China – A massive traffic jam in north China that stretches for dozens of kilometres and hit its 10-day mark Tuesday stems from road construction in Beijing that won’t be finished until the middle of next month, an official said.

Bumper-to-bumper gridlock spanning 100 kilometres with vehicles moving little more than a kilometre a day at one point has improved since this weekend, said Zhang Minghai, director of Zhangjiakou city’s Traffic Management Bureau general office.

Some drivers have been stuck in the jam for five days, China Central Television reported Tuesday. But Zhang said he wasn’t sure when the situation along the Beijing-Zhangjiakou highway would return to normal.

Original post resumes:

Although the people might not be stuck for nine days, they are stuck for long enough to want to eat and be entertained.  As in Korea, locals are willing to deliver those services:

Residents from communities alongside the expressway have seen opportunity in the traffic slowdown, setting up food and drink kiosks for the drivers.

Some drivers have complained of price gouging. One truck driver, identified by his last name Huang, told the Global Times that “instant noodles are sold at four times the original price while I wait in the congestion.

With the poor quality food and forced inactivity, I guess driving does cause obesity.

So, what could reduce traffic and make these jams either a thing of the past or a part of the scenery?

How about a bus that straddles traffic (photo from this link)?  This monster, a train in all but name, can hold over a thousand passengers

Though it is called the “straddling bus,” Huashi’s invention resembles a train in many respects — but it requires neither elevated tracks nor extensive tunneling. Its passenger compartment spans the width of two traffic lanes and sits high above the road surface, on a pair of fencelike stilts that leave the road clear for ordinary cars to pass underneath. It runs along a fixed route.

Huashi Future Parking’s outsize invention — six meters, or about 20 feet, wide — is to be powered by a combination of municipal electricity and solar power derived from panels mounted on the roofs of the vehicles and at bus stops.

I don’t know if the ‘solar power’ link will work after being cut-n-pasted from another site.  Here it is again.  Still, as with the new Prius, solar panels on the vehicle will probably never be more than a gimmick.  In the Prius, the solar panel powers a fan so you can keep cool with the engine off.  I would not expect better from the Chinese bus, even with the approving report of China’s solar panel production found in the former link.  I guess the solar panels aren’t a bad idea, it is merely so very limited.

However it is powered, I would travel to China just to ride such a bus.

A recurring message this year

August 20, 2010

That message is that the most important factor in a child’s education is the teacher.  Having a good teacher is far more important than a high-tech classroom, for example.

The LA Times gets specific and names names.  Some teachers have egg on their face.  One of the examples given is for ‘John Smith’ which sounds like a pseudonym, but apparently is not.

From my new blog-crush, Marginal Revolution:

After a single year with teachers who ranked in the top 10% in effectiveness, students scored an average of 17 percentile points higher in English and 25 points higher in math than students whose teachers ranked in the bottom 10%. Students often backslid significantly in the classrooms of ineffective teachers, and thousands of students in the study had two or more ineffective teachers in a row…

I don’t blame the unions for being up in arms and I feel for the teachers, for some of them this is going to be a shock and an embarrassment. We cannot simultaneously claim, however, that teachers are vitally important for the future of our children and also that their effectiveness should not be measured.  As systems like this become more common students will benefit enormously and so will teachers.

iMac help, please. Shift “i” not working

August 19, 2010

really hope this is an easy fix. – Notice there is no capital “i” at the beginning of the first sentence?  The problem is weird in ways that makes me think there is some hidden ‘Number lock’ function key that i inadvertently pressed.  Or that my son did.

Have a look as i type the keys in order:





ZXCVBNM<> All okay!

Holding the left-side shift key





Holding the right-side shift key




ZXCVBNM> No “*”, “I”, “K”, “<“

Free (No shift or capslock)




zxcvbnm,. All okay!

i will try to visit the Frisbee store tomorrow with the keyboard.  i think the keyboard is fine, but perhaps by showing them the problem – i printed out the list above and determining if the keyboard is at fault, they can suggest something.

Of course, you could suggest something.  That’d be great!


Added later:

I don’t know how or why, but I can type “I” again!

Let’s see: *IK<

Yep, that’s all of them back. Woo-hoo!

Vampires in Peru -they don’t sparkle

August 18, 2010

When I read in the Korea Herald that four Peruvian children had died from vampire bat attacks, I figured it was another example of bad reporting.  However, it appears the report is correct although the bats are not the ultimate cause of death:

Rabid vampire bats have attacked more than 500 indigenous people in Peru’s Amazon, according to foreign news reports.

At least four children are believed to have died in an outbreak of the disease, the Peruvian Health Ministry said Sunday.

Rabies.  Those poor bastards.

From CBS News:

The authorities are trying to battle an outbreak of rabies spread by the bat bites, and have given vaccines to more than 500 people attacked by the bloodsucking mammals.

I gotta say, I learned a lot in preparing this short post. Mostly, I learned, once again, not to jump to conclusions.  Much to my surprise, I might not, in fact, be smarter than everyone writing this story.

As my second example, I thought vaccines only work if given before infection.  In this case, if given before being bitten.  Apparently not (From the CDC):

Rabies vaccine is given to people at high risk of rabies to protect them if they are exposed. It can also prevent the disease if it is given to a person after they have been exposed.

I was also surprised that a vaccine actually existed for rabies.  I had thought treatment was entirely post-infection.

Pay parking is good

August 16, 2010

Or so claims Tyler Cowan at Marginal Revolution.  He writes an economics column for the New York Times. In a recent post, he discussed free parking and who actually pays for it…everyone but the motorist.

If most parking were pay parking, people would think more carefully about where they were going.  This is true for me, at least.  If I am going into downtown Busan, I much prefer public transit.

Indeed, this is an area where Busan, and Korea in general, might be said to be ahead of the US.  Or at least be seen as a location where the experiment is being carried out.

And the results are … mixed to negative.  Well, one thing that is required with pay parking is an functioning and active police presence.  In Korea, if you can’t find a parking space and will only take, oh, say, twenty minutes, most drivers opt to park in the bus lane or otherwise in the rightmost lane.  Hey, it’s free!  There are tow trucks to collect damaged cars but none to seize illegally parked cars to free up driving space.

I try to restrict my driving -and I’m not doing as well as I would like – and I usually use pay parking when I do drive.

I think increasing the percentage of pay parking spaces is wise but it is ineffective on it’s own.


Oh, if you are going into downtown Busan, the Busan English Library near Buam Subway Station has a great free parking area.  I don’t know if they want you to use it, but it is usually empty.  Check out a book and you’re fine.


To see videos of bad driving in Korea, visit Repatriate Me. I think everyone who drives will be familiar with the driving they see there.



I see Marginal Revolution can’t let the subject go.  There are two new posts on the subject: 1, 2.