Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Techtastrophe Day....

So, first the stupid USB stick-drive goes total failo before my class.... Can't even be re-formatted.

Then, the LCD projector keeps randomly turning off during the highly entertaining climax to "High Plains Drifter." Yeah, I managed to squeeze that in to my Culture class!

As I'm puttering away on my laptop (whilst the kiddies are watching the show), the keyboard stops working (This is a symptom it came up with after I dropped it onto a tile floor a few years ago - I can't blame this one on anyone but me).

Neat, so I decide I'll pull the battery and give it a nice lobotomy. Get out a 500 won coin, turn the lock switch, and it crumbles right out of the computer (Note - next time get a metal body).

As it turns out, this means the slender aluminum reed that holds the battery in is now unmoored and I can't move the thing around without the battery falling out and resetting all settings to 1904, or whatever the baseline date is for this thing....

I will shortly be starting the "You Could Give Your Money to Some Stupid Poor Kids Who Would only Spend it on Crack, Or You Could Give the Money to me For a New Computer" fund.

I know my sister will be down - after all, I paid for her successful candidacy.

MAF is off the hook for the care package she sent me.

MSM missed my birthday and xmas while I toted several heavy gifts from Korea to East Mexico. So that's probably a grand (factoring in the pain and suffering) right there

BKF is also off the hook, for a gift he gave me in the US and another he is trotting across the sea.

I can't ask my God-daughter for any gift-money back, so I will trust in the good will and love of her mother.

Lessee.. who else?

Anyone who I friended on Facebook?

That'll be $15 (AMERICAN!)

And if I can figure out how to get my students to pay for grades, I should just about be able to afford..

  • 2.93Ghz Intel Core 2 Duo
  • 4GB 1066MHz DDR3 SDRAM - 2x2GB
  • 320GB Serial ATA @ 7200
  • SuperDrive 8x (DVD±R DL/DVD±RW/CD-RW)
  • Backlit Keyboard (English) / User's Guide
  • AppleCare Protection Plan for MacBook Pro (w/or w/o Display) - Auto-enroll
  • Apple Remote

To be fair to all of you I opted not to get the Apple LED Cinema Display (24” flat panel) [Add $899.00], or any of the additional pre-installable software.

So in totall ya'll need to kick in, in ballpark figures, $2,868.00.

Then my long personal technological nightmare will be done.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Monday, Monday..

It hurts me to skip over the MT experience on the weekend, but there is one more picture I need to take in order to sum it up. With the BKF showing up in Korea either today or tomorrow (depending on which calendar he was using when he emailed me) that post might never get posted!

So, two things...

First, at the MT two students approached me and gave me pretty frank analyses of my classes. Generally good, thank HNA! But also with pointers as to how I could do better for students with less English acuity (this may be an "only in Korea" thing - the students who get it standing up for the ones who don't). I rolled some of that into the auditory classes today and had two students come up and thank me for the new lecture style and content. That's either a stinging indictment of my previous teaching style, or a ringing endorsement of my new style.

Well, if you're some kind of Manichean asshole. ;-)

For me it's just a small bit of good news in my ongoing work to get the classes to that kick-ass point I know they can achieve.

Second there's the wrasslin the house into my place. I went by the plant-place and everything was either shite, or clad in a 50,000 won representation of some famous Korean defeat at the hands of the Mongolians/Japanese (I keed, I keed. A little). Instead, I went home and made two delicious grilled-cheese sandwiches, as just today I found a store that sells actual SHARP cheddar cheese.

Then I decided I'd head back down the road to look at plants again, or buy some new pillows for the guest room. Just as I turned the corner from my steep and windy road to the semi-main one, the "best plant evar!" truck pulled away from the other side of the road and drove away down it.

Mega bummer!

Fortunately for me, the innate Korean ability to take one car, a taxi, a truck, a motorcycle, two scooters, a pedestrian, and an imaginary bean, and then turn them all into a traffic jam?

It came through!

The truck got as far as the next Y-intersection (READERS NOTE: Many of you might understand this "Y thing" if you think, metaphorically, of all the y-front underwear you've pulled down. Pretty congested under all that, eh?). There the truck was stalled by the aforementioned other eight participants.

I waddled as fast as my wattles could do, and caught up with the truck. Nice stuff on the truck. But my Korean is poor and I was conservative. I pointed at some modestly leafy thing and asked the price. Three chun won (about 2 bucks) for this fluffy thing and it's nice pot.

So, the same price I paid, last week, for an empty plastic pot.

More proof I am a dangerous retard.

I purchased two lovely plants.

I picture them here since photos of plants seem to be the only thing I do that get comments.

And I'm a whore that way. ;-)

OK, really anyway you slice it I'm a whore.

But this is today's soul-crushing selling of my crushed soul.

And more tomorrow!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Are Geraniums Weapons of Mass Construction?

Since I still believe my expiring plant is a geranium, I post this picture for the two horticulturalists, in the hope it will lead them to some kind of thought....

I hope clickology will result in a picture more suited for scientific analysis.

Also, the OAF and I wandered Seoul in random and seldomly related local concentric circles that, had they been tracked, would have resembled the death march of someone 8 cans of sterno into it, or a naked man expiring on the harsh deserts of the ironically named "Livermore."

In fact, what we really did was walk along the river (I purchased a tripod and the OAF, after saving me about 30 bucks on the deal, rewarded herself by buying a couple of books) and have this remarkably odd lunch.

It was advertised as a "Bagel with Salmon and Cream Cheese." It was actually a BLUEBERRY bagel with salmon, one slice of American Cheese, some kind of cream (it's doing that bukkake thing on the front of the bagel), bacon, lettuce, tomato and cucumber.

Oh, yeah, and a toothpick embedded in each half, except the toothpick was too short to go through the entire sandwich, so they apparently compressed the sandwich, stuck the toothpick in, then uncompressed the thing.

Result.. 4 cleverly hidden toothpicks between the two of our sandwiches.

Fortunately I figured that out when I picked mine up and despite it's odd stack of gooey ingredients discovered that it was remarkably structurally sound. I took a look and discovered the interior toothpick.

Despite the bizarre contents of the thing, and the wooden death concealed therein, it tasted pretty damned good.

Even the OAF, who is a talented deconstructor of Korean food, just pulled out one or two leaves of limp lettuce, and ate the whole thing.

Weird, I'd have never thought of such a combination. And beyond that I'd never have imagined it might taste good. It was like a BLT with American Cheese and Blueberry Bagel. American as Candy-Apple-Grey Pie.

Then I got home and to avoid grading, set up a mattress for the BKF and JAE when they arrive. I also worked more (in my role as 'Improviso Man!') on the sound/light-proofing.

The previous tenant had left some packing tape, I had a bunch of old newspapers (pink) and so I sealed the edges of some of the cut styrofoam (so that little bits would stop flaking off) and taped a matte of newspaper to the bigger pieces of styrofoam in the window by my bed..

Theoretically this will make it darker and cleaner in the bedroom.

Tommorow morning will tell about the first bit, and time will tell about the other.

And then forget it entirely as it kill us in succession, and then turns to those who have succeeded us.


Colonel Percy Harrison Fawcett Writes

After a a long and at least colorful career attempting to find the lost city of "Z" in the Amazon (and I know you swine won't believe me, so here's a link) Colonel Percy Harrison Fawcett staged his own disappearance and then moved, with his son Jack, to the Philippines*.

Years later, Jack had come into reduced circumstance and, in a brief period of sobriety, tried a quick succession of jobs, none of which panned out.

The following is from his attempt to be the commentary-page poet (a position that as far as Google research can determine, only exists in the Philippine Islands) for the Manila Times-Picayune.

Going to the Philippines
And renting me a shack
With a corrugated tin-roof
A rusty sink over at the back

I’ll need a three-legged dog
An old Ford stuck up on blocks
A creaky metal spring bed
With a mattress up on top

I’ll rent a part time wife
Buy me a full time bottle
Get me a sometimes friend
Do things I shouldn’t oughta

Two dirty half-full glasses
On the table by the bed
Lipstick on the glasses’ rims
A thunderstorm in my head.

Going to the Philippines
And renting me a shack
Where nobody wants to know me
And I won’t be coming back.

It didn't work out, of course, and Jack resumed the only position he had ever been successful at - the prone one.

Two years later, the work of rum concluded, he was consigned to the land of the permanently prone.

A cautionary tale, indeed, in these difficult times

*In 1927 the New York Times reported a rumor that Fawcett had been found alive and well, living in a "veritable paradise," a bountiful land "that has no owner." That was before the US got their hands on it.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Dude! I can't see out of one eye!

Unfairly cropped from an article at SFGate.

But can we all get together on the argument that white guys with dreads are douchebags?

In this case, of course, he's redeemed by the granny glasses, puka-shell necklace (tres 70's!) bizarre semi-camo do-rag, and liver spots.


Home Improvement

With a handle (I think - I'll blog about it soon) on the teaching chores, and with Management Training (The dreaded MT!) looming tomorrow, I decided to come home, do dishes, and work on the Bohemian Love Pad just a little bit.

First thing I did was put this cool map of China, Korea, and Japan on the wall. It's all in Chinese and it was given to me by a Chinese student at Solbridge International Business School. I said I'd put it up once I had a decent place, so here it is.

That raggedy-ass geranium is the only of the four plants I purchase that is struggling and I wonder if that is because it is the only one I haven't replanted. Strangely, the flash on my camera renders the hideous flourescent lighting here (yeah, yeah, I know it's more environmentally sensitive, but get me some incandescent bulbs and I promise to stop killing small animals for fun, ok?) as something approaching homey.

Trust me. It isn't.

The other picture lacks a certain aesthetic, but it is the three hearty plants from my initial snagology. I want plenty of plants up here in the hizzy, since the air in Seoul is about to take a turn for the worse.

The OAF turned up a pretty good presentation at TED (a really useful website) about what you can do to clean oxygen with plants. But until I can find those badboys, I'm just going to fill my house with what is locally available. Big plants, like dirt, apparently require heading to the outskirts of Seoul, and a car to bring back.

I'm sure I'll do a bit more googling on this, perhaps even (pace MAF) visit the wikipedia.

Anyway, it's a small step toward personalizing the pad.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Path Taken More Times Than Jenna Jameson


Today is my weekly day off and it started well, lolling about in bed and IMing The Reprobate, the OAF, and MAF at the same time. I felt such a 21st century boy! If only some of you other "friends" and "family" were more certain IMsters. After all, I now have a personal best to beat.

Then it was off to get the last bit of my difficulties with immigration ironed out. Simple things are often good things (explaining why I dated Kim Vickery) and I had a breakfast of Kimbap and Coffee which is both simple and good.

As a bonus, I got to Immigration, got my ticket out of the machine and was called within three minutes. So now, at the cost of 700 dollars, I'm clean with Korea. Looking at the passport I'm not sure that I have the paperwork I need for multiple entry (which reminds me of an experience I once had in a men's room at the bus station in New York, but perhaps that is for another post?) status, but when BKF lands I'll have him look at it.

This has been, as my first lovely picture of Namsan over there indicates, an uphill struggle.

Still, I'm quite happy it is over and despite initially getting on the subway in the direction of outer nowhere (Somewhere between Alameda, California and anywhere in the semi-autonomous English posession of Scotland) I was home by 1:30 or so.


Since I had purchased some new headphones last week on my trip to Yansang, and wanted to use the mighty Ipod, I thought a trip up towards Seoul Tower would be a darned good thing. I grabbed the camera and headed up.

Spring is very slowly beginning to sprung. I could see some color - those yellow bushes along the road have bloomed in the last week, and when I looked closely at the bushes and trees I could see buds everywhere. The buds were pretty obvious on some of the flowers - the only exception were the Mugungwha (Rose of Sharon) which have been so tightly pruned that they seem to be in a state of shock. That might not be all bad, since although some plants have been fooled by last week's Spring-like weather, it went back to about freezing the last few days and last night, as I went to dinner at a Nepali restaurant, it snowed a bit.

But spring is coming, as even the trees are starting to bud. Most of the hill is still pretty ochre, but some spots have dashes of color and, after Spring last year in Daejeon, I'm looking forward to see what's going to happen on the mountain.

I didn't include pictures here of the lilly pond on the Itaewon side of the mountain, but by change of the season, or by the hands of man, it is starting to get substantially less cloudly and it also looks ready to start blooming into something cool.


The hiking behavior of older Koreans is unlike anything I ran into in The Empire, so I also took a few emblematic snaps of them. The first thing I noticed in Korea (on the trails that is) is that older Koreans have a very characteristic walking style. They either carry a walking stick, in which case their hands are free, or they clasp their hands behind their backs and walk slightly leaned forward. Spookily, this walking style is exactly that of the OAF (this might explain her love for kimchee - shared genetics) and it has always reminded me of old WWII pictures I saw of Hitler reviewing the troops. At any rate, it is very typical.

The second thing, that I think I've mentioned before, is that for people going out "into nature" Koreans do everything they can to cover themselves from it, and many Ajumma look only a plane ticket to Nepal and three Sherpa short of an attempt on Everest.

It was a bit chilly today.. 45 degrees in that savage measurement system that many of you use back in The Empire ... but not that chilly, and this style of dress is as strictly adhered to when it is 90 degrees and 90 percent relative humidity as it is when ice-storms are blowing through. Anyway, I include a snap of each style. That picture of the couple, particularly spooks me out, because .... because... THEY HAVE NO FACES!!!

Ahem, I'm better now.


Last week I also went on search of pots for plants, potting soil, and fertilizer. Only one of these things exist in Seoul (pots - a culture so good with ceramics is likely to have a lot of pots about). Some quick confabs with my lovely students returned a uniform response, "you have to go outside Seoul." But all the classes were also uniform in suspecting I was some kind of dangerous retard for wanting to pay for dirt.

I took great pains to explain that while I was some kind of dangerous retard, it was for not this reason. Also, after my explanation of what I needed, a student in each class finally said some version of, "Professor, why pay for dirt? Our school is next to a mountain."

And so it was that today, on my trip to Namsan Mountain, I took a little tupperware container and stole some dirt from beneath a newly planted tree.

This went against everything the Sierra Club ever taught me, but when in Rome, I suppose, I must do as the Romans propose.

Then, maybe 100 meters past the site of my dirt theft, The Universe either taunted me, offered me an answer, or is trying to get me arrested. Maybe all three.

As a dangerous retard I have no way of judging.

But there, to the left of the trail, was a tarped stack of of 20 kilo bags of dirt that the park gardeners apparently use for planting things.

I'm not sure what to do about this, but If I call any of you for bail money, I damned well expect you cough up. Got it?

Ah.. a good day in the land of always tomorrow...

This weekend may be MT, which should be a raft, if not an actual cruise-ship (since who knows where we are going), of entertaining stories.

For now, it may be time to toddle down to the regular and have a delicious Gin and Tonic.

After all, days off only come around three times a week.

My Walk To Work: Being the First Part.

So.. as I walked home over Namsan yesterday I noticed that small, almost infinitesimal bits of rambunctious Spring were starting to break out.

Last week, as I walked home from BPU2, I took the photos embedded here. At that time little on Namsan was green except the tops of the evergreens. That little green patch on the ground is on account of some kind of granite culvert, but elsewhere even the small buds on the ends of branches and shoots were a scruffy brown.

With the smog and yellow dust, it was a semi-apocalyptic sepia-toned world. Except for the ajumma and ajeoshi hiking everywhere. Who, when you think about it, are relatively sepia-toned themselves. Not that you can tell, because when older Koreans hike, they nearly cover themselves from head to toe in layers of clothing, masks, gloves, and some things I'm not sure I could ever really identify.

Still, on that day, there was a rather muted palette of colors, and the first signs of the watercolor explosions to come are just now creeping out.

Some Kind of purple flower has burst out on the East side of the hill, and you can see slight green-buds everywhere (Well, you'll be able to see them when I photograph them tomorrow).

The last picture at the bottom looks rather crap right now, but I bet it becomes pretty impressive when the three-week long Spring really hits. It is a patch of Mugungwha bushes, and I plan to stop by every so often and take a picture as the look changes.

Then, the pollution, dust and sand will come, and photography will become impossible.

It will be impossible, I say!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Noted With Some Reservations

First, the City of Seoul thinks this is scenic:

Dudes.. that's a ROAD!

Second, only in Seoul do trees get intensive care, in this case some kind of restorative drip. This was in the area of Bukchon and I hoped the sign would give me some help, but it's just a request that the cultured citizens of Seoul not leave trash in front of a gallery.


But, I should say, the trees looked splendid and thus the medical care is probably warranted. ;-)

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Fame but no fortune..

A letter from semi-prestigious magazine:

Dear Charles,

Congratulations on your new position. Even though I work on Japan, I have a special interest in Korea and am happy that you are in Seoul. I am also attracted to your idea of a photo spread for the fall 2010 Asian Religions special section. The deadline for that issue is May 10, 2010. Please plan on a photo essay of about the same length as your first one.

I am also keenly interested in you doing a second photo essay that, if accepted, will be published in the spring 2010 issue with a deadline of December 10, 2009.

....A bunch of detail excised....

Charles, thank you so much for your interest in working with us again. I look forward to hearing from you about both of these potential topics.

name redacted

sweet! Of course planning so far ahead means that I will be hit by a bus or catch the cancer. ;-)

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Addenda --

Korea beats the Japs 4-1

there is also far less (still way to much) spitting in Seoul...


1) Taxi drivers in Seoul seem much less garrulous than the ones in Daejeon.

2) It is much more likely that they will have working seatbelts in their cabs.

3) The students here primp and preen at about 33% the rate that they did at BPU, where every shiny wall in an elevater was an excuse to fidget with hair, adjust collar and do makeup.

4) This stinking cold I picked up in the US just keeps hanging on. I'm not sure the Yellow Dust yesterday did it any good at all.

5) Korea currently leads Japan 3-0 (first inning) in the WBC semis

That will be all. ;-)

Monday, March 16, 2009


Just because I'm working on various instruction related things (and the fact that BPU2 has STILL not got me the documents I need to be clean with immigration) I will only note that..

"the cowboy meets the company"


"A tragedy in five comic acts" ("three" either, but then I got bored checking)

are things not yet found on Google.

Until this post is spidered.

I live to serve. ;-)

Saturday, March 14, 2009

After an evening of unsteady sleep (perhaps getting home and finishing the bottle of soju on the kitchen counter was a bad idea?) I was unaccountably awoken at 7:30 by the OAF. I spent two fruitless hours trying to get back to sleep but finally had to give it up as a bad go.

I was cranky and out of sorts. A shower helped a bit, but what really helped was a trip to the Waffle House.

It was a freezing morning; that face-peeling cold that keeps my skin young. The Waffle House opened about 10 minutes late, so we got to stand in the cold for a bit just to appreciate how cold it freaking was. Still, the place was really good. The eggs weren’t great (mixed with water for beating, I think?) and the slice of ham had some unusual spice (Bay leaf?) on it, but the syrup was grand, with little berries of some sort in it, the potatoes were cooked not greased and fried, and the two pancakes were grand. And who in their right mind ever complains about bacon?

Vegans, that’s who.

Vegans and communists.

And child abusers.

But no one else.

Add a cup of coffee, and all of a sudden I was feeling ready to head downtown to see the second to last day of the Rubens exhibition down at the Sejong Cultural Center.

We hopped the subway and headed up (down? over? through? Pi divided by negative infinity? I’m still getting the geography right (left? straight? asymptotic? I can never tell)) to the Gwangwhamun station which dropped us off at the back of the Sejong Cultural Center. So we took a quick moment to check out the Art Garden, which had some stainless steel sculptures and benches. Not a ton of stuff, but nice enough. There, I snapped that picture of the OAF with the reading statue. Shortly thereafter, the OAF whispered something to the statue and sprained a finger trying to go in under its brass sweater.

After about 15 minutes of this, we headed around to the front to see the exhibit, and I was thrilled to see that there weren’t horribly long lines.

Oddly, the ticket booth was shuttered.

But, on the positive tip, there were no lines - Since lines require two points (See! I didn’t sleep through all of calculus!), and there wasn’t even one person in line. There are normally Koreans everywhere in Seoul, and here you couldn’t find two to rub together.

Confused, we walked over to the big stairs, but they didn’t lead to the exhibit. Stumped, we looked at the site map and realized the ticket booth was right in front of the exhibition.

Which, it turns out, ended yesterday! Thus the picture of the OAF in front of the shuttered box office.

We had FAIL! And tons of it!

Instead of implementing our (failed) brilliant plan, we ambled. We walked down past Admiral Yi Sun-sin to another museum that the OAF had spotted on a previous trip. It had some kind of incomprehensible exhibition called “The Scene of Criticism.” Part of it was incomprehensible because there was no English translation of some of the text-heavy work (which I think is quite sensible – I’m not sure why the Korean have always been so obsessed with English – still I miss the ease that English translations give). But part of it was just incomprehensible due to, well.. incomprehensibility. A lot of the work was crap, but a couple of things were quite good. Amongst the crap was this aquarium presented as art (after all, it has Roman ruins AND a pirate. Perhaps it is the lack of actual fish that makes it art?). I thought I’d include a photo of it for SIS, who once at SFMOMA nearly expired of laughter (and had to be hauled out of the place down the stairs) after realizing some “artist’ had created a circle of white-painted gravel as art, whereas in Tuscon it would have been the front-yard equivalent of a lawn.

To be fair to SIS, she had just seen Art Arneson’s sculpture of Michael Jackson with a monkey, so was already on edge.

And Art is funny, I guess.

But some was good, including a display of pop culture artifacts that could only be seen through a cut in a wall (the picture at the start of all this gibberish) – no entry was possible. There was also another piece of which I include several photos. It is nearly indescribable as you enter past a scene of a white bird which has beheaded itself flying into a window, and then you enter an office which has a reassuring conservative look (reinforced by technology on the desk, in a useful configuration, from an old Bell phone, through a typewriter and up to a Dell computer – so still a few years behind Apple). When you turn around you see the other side of the avicidal window, and over that a projected video plays.

Like I said, difficult to put to bits and bytes. But it was good. Someone had put together an arresting (particularly for the poor bird) external image, but then gone on to figure out what lay on the other side of it.

Then it was on to Cheonggye stream where there was a three tent “festival” celebrating strawberries, if the half limp inflata-berry yawing in the wind was any indication. Ennui washed over us as we approached the sagging tents, and the dispirited folks inside them didn’t even get out of their chairs to try to sell us their wares. We turned around and headed back to the main street.

As we walked further, we came across a little palace that we had never visited. Deoksugung is also the home of an art museum, so we wandered in to find an exhibit on art and modernism in Korea. Pretty good, although the first gallery was incredibly poorly lit. I think this was to protect the older works it held, but it made the art pretty difficult to take in. One highlight was near the end; a room that showed the necessity for the ‘restoration’ of modern works. During the Japanese interregnum, and probably during the post civil war period, artists had no money and materials. Of course they didn’t stop working, but they worked with flawed media and thus, today, even recent works need the kind of restorative effort that the West associates with resuscitation of works in the Vatican. It was kind of cool to see.

We were a couple hours into the random walking, so we decided to catch the subway back to home turf (As I often make fun of the OAF’s stunning ability to get lost, I have to mention that I resolutely ignored her correct argument that we needed to board a train headed in the.. oh… right direction … and I got us going the wrong way). We stopped at an Italian restaurant (pic over there somewhere) that we had tried to hit a couple of times. This time it was open, and worth the stop. The proprietess is a quiet, meticulous and fastidious woman who makes excellent thin-crust pizza from her own dough. While we ate, we watched her make dough for the next day. The pizza was great, but the wine was, while from the West, Korean in nature – sweet as syrup. I’ll go back, but it will be for the traditional pizza and beer.

It being White Day here in the land of tomorrowness, when we got home we exchanged gifts, I got 80% done on the sound and light proofification of the bedroom, and the OAF slumbers away as I type this. While I was doing the insulation, I had the windows open and the OAF responded in the way you see in the picture below.

We are currently baking some chicken and potatoes.

Just another day that stinking San Jose would never have offered. ;-)

Friday, March 13, 2009

Forced March!

Two exciting things from the annals of BPU2

1) The conversation class I am teaching does turn out to have a syllabus. It's a total piece of shit, full of cultural hooie and good intentions. It is also written by a guy who, well.. let's just say this is your last chance to drop my a note about getting a meanmail, cause it goes out this weekend. But the sad news is I will have to tell my class we do have this shitty syllabus and have to use it.

2) The Translation kids are such little monsters that in one day (ONE DAY!) they maxed out the transfer level on my bigger server. This meant that I had to take a crash course in how to use the BPU2 site which has unlimited transfer. It was a couple of hours of grunting over diagrams, but it will be much easier to use in the long run, so I suppose it was worth it.

Tonight is some kind of impromptu drinking exhibition for the department and I am invited (semi-ordered) to go. So I will head off to wherever it is and break this little dry spell that the ague has brought upon me.

And not moment to soon!

It is a no-spouse type of event, so I will have an excuse to leave early in that the OAF is coming up from Daejeon.

All around, good time.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009


all the time spent at immigration did not add up to a Visa as BPU2's theory that a letter saying I was hired would be considered to be equivalent to a contract was, well, a flawed theory.

Still, this news back to BPU2 got them on the stick and I should have contract tomorrow, so I'll know the real terms of my deal. I went shopping this afternoon, to drown the sorrow, and purchased a lovely stainless steel pot to replace the aluminum-coated Alzenheimer-inducing piece of crap I left behind in South Central. I also started to buy the pieces for sound and light-proofing the bedroom and discovered a big patch of mold in the window roof that I'll need to nuke out.

Still, starting to settle in is nice and I'm still completely in love with the stove and washing machine.

oh, I also joined the gym which, I suppose, means I should grab out my goals from last year, see how I did on them, and set the next set.

Sittin' Here in Immigration, Waitin for My Reservation

After getting my documents, late, from BPU2, I had gone to the immigration center in the middle of the enormous rush at the end of the contract year. This nice guy there said I had a 30 day grace-period and I should go home and make an internet appointment. Today was that appointment (is that appointment, actually)

Being stupid I forgot to print out my immigration appointment which was on my computer at work. Being smart, I went up to work to print it out. Good thing I did that rather than trying a PC bang, since the “check your appointment” feature of the website was down for administration – most likely as the result of trauma or information resulting from the big rush around the end of last month. Being stupid, I left my passport at home. A quick set of cab trips and I was down in immigration early, hoping that my paperwork is ok. I have the paperwork filled out as best I can, but I’m sure it will have to be binned and redone, since there is sometimes no telling what a bureaucracy will want.

The online appointment, however, is the way to go, as even today there seems to be a substantial wait.


So I get up there and they can only go so far before telling me I’m at the wrong office for my new address and apparently there was no grace period, alas. At least I bought my stamp and got the first steps done. The nice woman, of course, kept referring to the “large” fine I’d have to pay for being late. But, of course, she could’t tell me how much it is. So I have tubed over here with the fear of the necessity of a midnight run to Incheon, and the re-creation of my career in the United States.

Now, with only 29 customers between me and service, I sit and wait.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Getting the Reins

Walked home from work last night and had a brief, but convincing, bout of the Bubonic Plague. The walk home was pretty boring, I was briefly surprised that the route that goes over the top had been walled off with big sheets of metal. Several Ajummas were ignoring that wall (which was pretty easy as you could walk right around it), but I wasn't taking chances with my limited Korean on any kind of kerfuffle.

So I walked a different path and other than a torturous roundabout (the Castle Wall Walk) that lifted my high, high in the sky and then deposited me back about 200 meters above where I had originally been, it was a breeze. About 45-50 minutes, including my partial ascension to heaven.

Got home, started working on some classes, and my bones started to melt. This melting was a direct result of my joints achieving temperatures found in steel mills, burning tungsten, and journeys to the center of the sun.

I drank as much water as I could, gobbled half a pain pill, and turned the Ondol up to a zillion. I rolled sadly on the floor for about an hour, then headed into the bedroom and crawled into bed with the window open. I had a series of weird dreams about attempting, in various ways, to smuggle packets of heat.

But sometime in the early AM, I woke up and felt a lot better - even as if the cough that has been dogging me since the US would go away. Well enough, in fact, that I walked to work. With the advantage of not getting lost this only took 40 minutes and I'm still confused why my landlady-ajumma and Mrs. Kim were so astonished when I told them I planned to walk to or from work at least once a day. I suspect their fear is on account of my Western corpulence.

But got to work early and worked more on the classes. I've found the cafe, so now it's coffee powered as well. Got to a point I think I'm ok in all the classes and also think I've connected with the students. There were a few days there, where that did not seem to be happening, but now I've more or less figured out the room, and adopted a couple of strategies for the less English-savvy student. Primary among these is that I'm letting students take their questions home, and I'm posting all the sound files and videos to my website. That way the slower students can play and replay them as often as they want.

As a bonus, in my convo class a worried student came up to me to discuss how he would do in the class. I gave him my usual rah-rah and reminded him that a Conversation Class includes the possibility that he ask for clarification, repeats, slower speed, etc.

Somehow this mini-conference turned into a conversation (nearly unheard of in a conversation class but, to be fair, this did happen afterwards) and I discovered that he is a big fan of filming and photography. He showed me the world's most awesome video camera and we talked a bit about lenses. We walked to the subway together and discussed possible plans for film projects.

Plans, it is certain, that will fall through!

But he also mentioned he has a bottle of bourbon, so there's a plan that might well work out.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

MeanMail Re-instated

Anyone interested in a meanmail update, can contact me by email...

Saturday, March 07, 2009

It comes with an echo...

This is looking from in front of my desk towards my office door (Note sink and mirror - all I need is a cot and I've got an Officetel!)

And this here other one is looking from the other side of the table..

Friday, March 06, 2009

Week One, down..

A pretty crazy week, all things considered.

With one class still hanging around over 60 students, it was a busy time. The students are a bit more frantic here, as well. They have to make all their schedule changes by Saturday, so they were all running around, like whirling dervishes, shopping classes.

Still, the classes seemed to have sorted out, and despite my disorganized beginning, my course numbers seem to have held (that could also be a bad thing!). I'm still working on content and a website - BPU2 has an excellent and completely integrated website for students, professor, and classes, but it is all in Hangul, and there's no way I'm ready for that yet.

I took pictures of my office today.. just to demonstrate that it is at least a furlong.. if not several furs long.. but posting must wait until tomorrow..

Tonight is relaxio.. I'm at The Library (a lovely name for the nearest bar) having a drink, waiting for the OAF, and watching the Korean baseball team beat the living shit our of the team from Taiwan.

Now that's entertainment!

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Officially Put to Bed, or Officially Put Down

It all feels the same at this moment, 1:20 am in the land of the morning nightmare.
The editing has gone away, at last.

Gone away to my poor colleague/boss, who know has to make some sense of the hashed commentary I've given her. And who had to do all the final translation of the new text as it came in. She not only has mad skills as a translator, but she's wicked fast. Which is why I could still go out and get a drink.

If I wasn't too tired.

So, like.. from 8:30 am one day to 1:20 am the next day... does that count as work?

Can't tell, I'm too tired to count. ;-)

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Dear Korea, Yes, "plan" is a four letter word. But so are "work," "soju," and "smog"

and you don't seem to have any problem with them.

So why is the "plan" so antithetical to your nature..

I ask, because I have been working for a solid day now, on a translation for grant.

A grant that needs to be turned in by 9 am tomorrow (an awfully weird deadline - I suspect someone has made this up). And not just any grant, a big old nano-technology grant that will spend oodles of money (it is going to pay for foreign and Korean scholars to do big important things).

But, really, this deadline couldn't have been a surprise, could it? And even if it was, why would you have us translate a version of a document that was already being tossed out in favor of the next rev (which we would receive 12 hours later)? And to give it to us with 1.5 days to go and to hand the translation bit to a professor who is teaching three classes the day before the thing is due.

How did we end up here? With a dart and a printout of employees glued to the opposing wall?

It is weird, and every foreigner in Korea has a score of these kind of stories (Nota bene: This is probably partly related to the fact that so many foreigners in Korea are involved in education, and even back in the States, things tended to get done on a last minute and ad hoc basis. But still, Korea, in this area, truly is sparkling).

  • In the slightly over a year since I've been here, I've not once seen a timestable for any endeavor (yet the buses and trains meet their timestables with a vengeance, so go figure)
  • When it snows, all of Korea acts like they have never seen it before and have no idea how to deal with it
  • Required paperwork is routinely handed to you the day before you are to turn it in, if not on the day itself (like my uni finally getting me some proof they have hired me on the day before my Visa expired)
  • Random closures/cancellations are announced on the day that they happen (to be fair, this falls disproportionately on foreigners because many of these closures are tied to traditional activities - like class cancellations for MT)
  • Korean drivers (it always ends up with that, doesn't it?) and walkers seem to be making their navigational decisions based on some local Magic-8 ball for which I have provided the translations (that is, how Koreans interpret the answers of the magic ball):

  • As I see it, yes - Yes, additional speed is required
  • It is certain - That if I honk the old lady in the wheelchair will get out of my way
  • It is decidedly so - so veer, VEER, VEEEEEEEER!!
  • Most likely - I will randomly stop, and with great abruptness
  • Outlook good - so look out!
  • Signs point to yes - but since I don't read any signs, particularly traffic ones..
  • Without a doubt - it is perfectly legal to drive a motorcycle on the sidewalk
  • Yes - the crosswalk does confer double points for a kill
  • You may rely on it - that the car stopped in the right lane at the stoplight will sloooowly run it eventually
  • Reply hazy, try again - I am unable to see the lane stripes
  • Ask again later - right now I'm busy trying to drive while texting, smoking and watching a video
  • Better not tell you now - which direction I plan to turn
  • Cannot predict now - which way I will turn
  • Concentrate and ask again - while toss a lit cigarette out my window
  • Don't count on it - that there actually will be a sidewalk on many streets
  • My reply is no - I will not stop for the red-light
  • My sources say no - you may not park where I have put out three five-gallon water cans
  • Outlook not so good - I'd use the underground walkway, not the crosswalk
  • Very doubtful - you will live through this taxi ride
whoops.. just got the rest of the last minute file....

gotta run.... erratically!

Monday, March 02, 2009

Things get off to a Smashing Start!

Except for that one t hing that was pretty smashed (me!).

I'm in my office and it is absolutely gigantic: a desk, a 10 foot by 7 foot bookcase, a conference table with four chairs, and a sink and mirror. And there's still probably space to play a turn (round? go?) of crickeet. The computer is now hooked up to the intarwebs, though I have no printer yet.

I did receive a phone call at about 11 asking, "don't you have a class now?" As it turns out, this was kind of a trick question as I did have a class at that time, it was just a class that wasn't on the schedule they sent me. Oh well, I suppose that means one class down, with no work at all on my part.

My classes are relatively small except for the auditory ones, one of which has 60 (!) students and the other only 26. I might have arranged that a bit differently. ;-)

Still, everything seems to be on track - I think the kids will like me for not requiring a textbook, but we shall see.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Bohemian Love Pad

It was a long and cool weekend (If a bit smoggy. Welcome to Seoul to me!). The OAF and I crawled up Namsan to Seoul Tower, and then descended on the other side to BPU2. This was a handy thing for me to do, as it is part of my upcoming health scheme - to walk home from work - and now I have the route sussed out. I will be fit or expire, as there are countless steps (until I go all OCD and count them) on the BPU2 side. Itaewon (as the climb out of the subway station might have suggested, had I been paying more attention) is at a pretty high elevation for Seoul, and BPU2 is not. Seoul Tower was also a really nice joint, and we didn't even go up in the tower to get in the spinning restaurant. I'll be going back to film a truly awesome cultural display they did of "traditional" martial arts. It was flash, with the requisite slaughter of bamboo poles before the onslaught of Korean swords and also featured some really good staged Taekwondo/Hapkido. But the highlight was a dance/sword performance by a guy who probably could have been in the ballet or the Light Brigade had he gone a different way. Both the OAF and I were kind of shut up by how pretty the thing was.

Today, it was off to the Seoul National War Memorial Museum, about which I hope I will have much more to say, soon. The short version is that any foreigner in Korea who whines about cultural "deformities" needs to go and see what that culture has been through to get where it is today. I'm as prone as anyone else to go off on things about Korea that seem willfully stupid, but, hey, it's not like I come from a country that *didn't* invade Iran and *didn't* watch happily as national debt increased geometrically, while national income increased linearly. Just saying that a quick graphic (in both senses) reprise of Korean history is a tonic that the expatriate troops should remember to take, now and then. And the museum has that in spades.

Which is only to say we all have our problems and that Korea, at least, has some defensible reasons.

The museum has some amusing things (including the annoying Konglish on the "English" bits of things. Really, can't they give me a fucking phone call? Honestly, I 'm a decent editor, and as everyone knows, I'll work for Soju) and some of the lovely dioramas are, well, actually, quite lovely.

But that, my little kitties, is not why we are here today. Oh no. Today we are here to see pictures of the Bohemian Love Pad and, later, discuss a bit its neighborhood's amusing international flavor (for instance - the percentage of douchebag near-beards being earnestly grown by scrawny little white dudes around here. It is at least triple the rate I saw in the US, and I was in the SF Bay Area, where this kind of faux-hipster facial hair was de riguer).

The pad is cool. It has a bedroom, an office that will soon have a bed (so ya'll better come and visit!), and a separated kitchen and living room. The pictures, like love in a Mary Tyler Moore episode, are all around. The kitchen may be the best thing ever. The refrigerator is vast (you will note from the picture that I could kill several OAFs and stuff them in the refrigerator without even having to dismember them!), the stove/oven is grand and gas-based, and the kitchen comes with a hot-cold water dispenser. This may seem a nugatory thing to all you people in the land of healthy tapwater and economic collapse, but here in the land of economic malaise and iffy tap-water, this thing is a boon. It saves me from having to purchase (it costs me about 8 bucks for two big water-cooler bottles per month) individual bottles of water and then hump them up the pretty substantial hill I live on.

Also as I am on the top floor of a villa, the office and bedroom have that cool slightly-gabled interior. The lovely MAF will note that the green fan, having not yet killed me, has followed me to Seoul with, no doubt, homicidal intent.

The only crappy thing is the shower... this place was redone to be western (the "office" even has western electrical plugs) and this went all wrong in the bathroom. The shower has a tub, but it is the puniest thing in the history of mankind. If I stand facing the long way, my feet are trapped by the sides of the tub and each drop of water threatens to toss me astern. If I face the short way, my toes are jammed against the side, and the slightest breeze will toss me to the floor. That floor with is about a foot lower than the tub level, solely to ensure that should I fall, my skull will not remain intact. My scheme is to pull the shower head out into the bathroom proper and take a shower the way any sensible person in Korea would.

I can use the bathtub to make Gin, or something.

The Ondol is splendid, having a washer is splendid, and as always when I move, I feel splendid.

also, classes begin tomorrow and I could either prepare for them or write an lengthy and non-sensical blog post.

As a far greater man than me once posited our role in the universe, "a man's got to know his limitations."

Words to live by.

My limit is three bottles of Soju, and I'm off to accomplish it..