Archive for the ‘funny’ Category

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?

Obvious signs of Vampire infiltration of the South Korean populace

August 20, 2012

Today, in a grocery store, I finally put the pieces together and felt like a dummy for not seeing it earlier. Korea has a huge number of vampires and they have infiltrated the government to hide the fact.  It’s so obvious!

Was this a documentary?


1) In most of eastern Asia, there is a common implement that would be a useful tool for defense against vampires.  Here it…exists, but is belittled and few homes have them in handy locations.  I am talking about wooden chopsticks.  Wooden chopsticks can be found here but everyone extolls the virtues of metal chopsticks.  Government and university officials claim they improve computer game, archery and experimental manipulation skills and even connect metal chopsticks to holding the Olympics here.  They are also useless against vampires.  Not a coincidence.

1b) In a similar way, young students are weaned away from wood-framed pencils and to mechanical pencils as quickly as possible.  Even when the mechanical pencils suck and mainly seem to be used in class to explain why students haven’t started the assignments.

2) The Korean burkha and super expensive sunblock.  Why is sunblock so expensive in Korea?  Because it is strong enough to protect even vampires!  For extra cautious Korean vampires, wearing head-to-toe clothing everywhere, even swimming and hiking has become a cultural norm.

3) Constant application of make up to appear life-like.  Notice how many Korean women are reapplying make up in public places?  They have to to remain life-like.

There is at least one confounding variable.  Kimchi contains a lot of garlic.  It is so much a part of Korean culture that even the secret vampire conspiracy cannot decrease it’s prevalence.  Wait, perhaps this is why Chinese kimchi has received a bad rap: is it even more potent garlic-wise?

Meteor shower this weekend

July 25, 2012

Yesterday evening, I hiked up a hill looking for a location with a good view of sky and not too much light pollution.  I am tired of looking at the sky and exclaiming, “Look at the stars.  There must be dozens of them.”

I think the word ‘peak’ is too grandiose but at the top, I had a good view of the Nakdonggang and the west. Before it was dark, I took these pictures:


It’s interesting how the fortress-like cloud on the right remained over more than 20 minutes.

Anyway, just after 8:00, I saw my first star and over ten minutes, I discerned several more, but no falling stars.

Oh, a link for you: meteor showers this weekend and in two weeks. The link describes this weekend’s shower as being best viewed in the southern hemisphere which I don’t recall reading the first time I checked that page.

While up there, I was cooled by a gentle breeze but also visited by a few mosquitoes.  When I began my descent, I used a flashlight.  I heard some strange rustling in the woods and a lot of cicadas.  I jumped and flailed quite vigorously  when I discovered they were attracted to the headlight!

I completed my descent without the light and was able to recognize rocky dirt from trees and brush.

I hiked in the dark comfortably but I don’t think my son would be so relaxed.  In the woods, out of the breeze, I was sweating again and I am not eager to carry my son: I may have to consider other places.  Perhaps the cicada population will have decreased by then.

personalization can be too personal: ESL experiences

February 15, 2012

In almost every unit of almost every ESL textbook, there is a part where students use the grammar or vocabulary to describe themselves or their experiences.  Even without a textbook, teachers quite properly, try to elicit personal statements from their students.  Usually, this is a good idea.

On his blog, “An A-Z of ELT, Thornbury discusses where these discussions could take you:

In his novel, The Folding Star, Alan Hollinghurst (1994) recounts how the protagonist, a young Englishman recently arrived in a Belgian town, sets himself up as a private English tutor. One of his pupils suffers from asthma, and our hero idly asks him if he knows how he got it.

“I didn’t quite make the story out at first, I was chivvying him and making him repeat words without knowing I was taking him back, like some kinder and wiser analyst, to the scene of a childhood tragedy” (p. 20)


Most of the most personal things I have learned from my students have come from Exam questions and particularly from speaking exams.  At least this is more private for the student.

However it works out, it is often information I don’t really want to know.

“Surprises [no, my students don’t really call me that], my girlfriend and I learned everything about each other’s body that it is possible to know.”

“My boyfriend and I have an intimate relationship.”

“I play Maple Story after school.”

“One goal is to make fantastic love.”

“I like Super Junior.”

Granted, some of these points are not as titillating as others, but none of them do I want to know – and some I disapprove of – fandom of Super Junior, especially!


Back to Thornbury:

When I first encountered personalization it was of the type: “Write 5 or more true sentences about yourself, friends or relations, using the word ago“.

This is taken verbatim from Kernel Lessons (O’Neill et al. 1971), one of the first coursebooks I taught from. The fact that the sentences had to be ‘true’ was regularly ignored or overlooked by both teacher and students. The point was not to be ‘truthful’ but creative. Creative and accurate.

This little personalization task invariably came at the tail end of a sequence of activities whose rationale was the learning and practice of a pre-selected item of grammar. The personalization was really just a pretext for a little bit of creative practice, as well as serving as a first, tentative step towards translating the language of the classroom into the language of ‘real life’.

It’s hard to explain to a student that the truth is not required, only that English production is.  And even when that may be understood, sometimes the english is a little off, so you need to ask questions to clear up the meaning of words and phrases.  Now, I am requiring the student to continue and complicate their possibly made up story.  Is this english or interrogation class?

Thornbury makes only a limited conclusion and finishes with a question:

…Arguably, by foregrounding ‘what really matters to a person’, personalization both motivates and scaffolds these adaptive processes.

So, how do we accommodate the need for personalization into our classes? And – more importantly – how do we deal with learner resistance to it?

Perhaps we need to encourage and explain the option of creating a story.  Instead of, “What does your home look like?”, we should ask the student to “Describe a home that you would like to live in.” or ask students in the dorms -which we already have some knowledge of – to describe them.


rats and badminton

January 1, 2012

Happy New Year, Everyone!

My post today isn’t about the New Year, but about two events that occurred this past week.  They have a surprising number of parallels.

First, on Wednesday night I played badminton for the first time in ages.  My friend Tom invited me to play.  I am a terrible badminton player (indeed, this is true for most team sports) but thought a friendly game would be fun.

It turned out I had an edge, a wonderful advantage.  Tom’s shoes just didn’t agree with the gym floor.  For whatever reason, he had almost no traction and I did.  To win a point against him, all I needed to do was to shoot to one side then the other, or anyway to shoot where he was not and he would be unable to get into position.

Sounds simple, right?  It did work a few times despite Tom’s long arms.  There were a few occasions where I did get him to the left side then forced him to run unsuccessfully to the other side chasing (shuttle)cock.

For the most part though, I just kept returning the shuttlecock to the middle of the court.  Sometimes this was because I was reaching a distant or fast shuttlecock and didn’t have time to aim.  Even when I did have time to aim, and tried to deliberately choose to angle the racket, it still somehow went to the middle.  Many times I just couldn’t avoid placing the shuttlecock right where Tom was standing.

Two nights later, I received a phone call from Tom.  He was standing at the stairwell on the third floor and saw a rat on the stairs.  He wanted my help getting rid of the rat.

He was surprised when I asked if we were going to trap and stomp on it. He advocated a more humane approach. Hey, I’ve been working on a farm all summer; killing a nuisance rat made sense to me.

His plan turned out to be much more fun and I’m glad we kinda followed it.

I collected some broom, a long-handled mop and a box to hold the rat.  I remained on the third floor while Tom went out a fire escape to the the ground floor and re-entered the building.  His plan was to climb the stairs so we could trap the rat between us and somehow get it into the box.

While Tom was gone though, the rat made a run for it down the stairs.  I closed the doors at the top of the stairwell and followed it.  At the second floor, I had a problem.  Did I search out the second floor or keep descending? Tom still had not reappeared.

Splitting the difference, I closed the doors at the stairwell and continued down.  Upon meeting Tom I explained things and looked for the rat.  On the second floor, we opened the doors, entered, then reclosed the doors.  We followed the hall to the right to the end and saw nothing.  Heading to the left, we checked under a sofa in the hallway.  I have to say Tom jumped quite amusingly when loose fabric fluttered out from under the sofa.

As we walked, the motion sensor lights turned on so we could see where we were but not far ahead.  Tom saw a shadow and had time to question if that was the rat before we saw that it was.

Tom bravely advanced with the box while I remained a distance behind him with the mop.  My job was to keep the rat from passing us in the corridor.

The rat did everything right.  In seeing that the hallway ended and there was no escape, it ran back at us, keeping to the wall.  It did not attack but did unhesitatingly try for freedom.

It passed Tom and I had to stop it.  I shoved the mop head at the rat and knocked it flying back to the end of the corridor: a perfect move!

The same thing happened again, but just as I was unable to aim that shuttlecock, I was unable to aim this rat.  I knocked it toward the wall, but centred it, right to where Tom was standing.  It struck Tom’s legs and he danced trying to get away in the narrow corridor but also place himself to drop the box.

This happened many times.  The rat escaped Tom and I knocked it back, usually into Tom’s legs.  He danced and skittered trying to keep his distance but also to slam the box down.  I was quite comfortable and the rat never got closer than a meter and a half to me.  I lined up the mop and knocked that rat back.  There was no sense of impact and I think the mop was cushioned enough that the rat wasn’t injured by being pushed back.

The whole melee lasted a minute or less, but each iteration was only a few seconds long so I’m describing ten or more repetitions.  Finally, Tom got the box on the rat, we found a second piece of cardboard to slip under and provide a floor to the trap and Tom carried out the rat some distance to release it.  While he was away, I relived the events and tried to stop laughing.

As a great ending to the story, Tom received a phone call -his phone was in his pant pocket and on vibrate- and he nearly freaked out.

I am tempted to catch a rat now and bring it back so Tom and I can play some more.

A Treasure Hunt at DongKung Elementary School

October 19, 2011

I had been away for a weekend and didn’t properly prepare for my elementary school class.  Luckily, I’ve been in this biz for a while and when I saw we would be reading about a treasure hunt in Let’s Go 4, I put fifteen minutes to good use.

First, I decided there would be two teams and chose mascots.

Both teams went to the same places but in different orders.  Although the clue above for the Rabbit team was for a map, below is the next clue for the Dinosaur team.

It was a short bit of fun for the students -there were only four clues and the room wasn’t very big.  It could have been more exciting if more than two students had shown up.  Here they are, suitably anonymized:

The clues each contained one large letter that could be combined to form a word.  Trickily, the two words were almost identical: T-E-A-S and E-A-T-S.  I am not sure if they are smiling from the game or the silly pose I required.


Added later:

The Let’s Go text (#4) has a continuing story of a treasure hunt so I repeated the game.  This time, I took a little more time into organizing it and the game was much expanded.




Why I don’t bring my son to Costco

August 23, 2011

He’s not a member.


Typos: not limited to my blog

August 19, 2011

On occasion, I’ve joined the ex-pat chorus in commenting on interesting English spelling on Korean signs.  Usually, at the same time, I would offer a disclaimer of sorts for the interesting spelling in this very blog.

Such typos have now been codified: Muphry’s Law

Muphry’s Law is the editorial application of the better-known Murphy’s Law. Muphry’s Law dictates that:

  1. if you write anything criticising editing or proofreading, there will be a fault in what you have written;
  2. if an author thanks you in a book for your editing or proofreading, there will be mistakes in the book;
  3. the stronger the sentiment in (a) and (b), the greater the fault; and
  4. any book devoted to editing or style will be internally inconsistent.
From Canberra Society via Boingboing

Indian gang accused of witchcraft

May 23, 2011

From the Herald:

Gang blinds Indian woman, accused of witchcraft

That’s the right way to read that comma, correct?  I think a semi-colon would strengthen the connection of Gang to “accused of witchcraft”.

Hmm.  Better check carefully: OK, these 40-odd words don’t seem to have any new errors in them.

Ordinary April Fools Day Prank

April 3, 2011

A coworker and friend of mine is a skilled violinist and I recently noticed he sometimes leaves his violin at work.  I also noticed it is about the same size as my son’s toy guitar.  A little before April 1st, I moved the violin to the office manager’s desk and left the toy and a note.


The text reads:


I though you might want to go the electric violin route, like Linzi Sheppard.




P.S. I gave my kids the old wooden violin I found in this case.


My name isn’t ‘Andy’ by the way.  Andy is another great guy I know in Busan who used to work with us.

This was the scariest prank I have pulled, chiefly because the violin was probably very expensive.  i closed that case and zipped it up fully before taking it slowly to the office manager’s desk.  There, I set it carefully on the middle of the desk -but earlier had ensured the desk was clean and dry – and made sure no one would accidentally hit an edge and knock it off.

He saw me later that day and casually said hello.  Working hard to remove any smile, I coldly returned his greeting and walked past.  Sadly, as soon as he spoke to continue the conversation I broke and couldn’t keep a straight face.  And he was all set to blame another co-worker!  I could’ve been free and clear!

Anyway, he laughed as was a good sport as seen by his attempt to play the new ‘violin’.