Monday, January 30, 2012

End of first Korean Class and off to Vacation!

Today was the final in my first completed Korean class. It was actually the second class, because they thought I'd picked up enough Korean in my previous failed attempts to learn the language to skip the beginner's class.

I think I did ok in the reading and the part that requires you to detect errors, but man, I need to work on the rules for adding the verb stems to the verb roots. I'd be surprised if I got 20% of that stuff right, partly because they focussed on irregular verbs, but still.

Now, a couple more classes in the third course, and then Yvonne and I are off to Hong Kong for 5 nights and 4-days. Should be fun, since I have also made friends with the editors from "Asia Review" (who hooked up with me through my blog, and were just here in Korea to work with LTI Korea on an upcoming edition that will be all about Korean fiction - it should be awesome).

Anyway, they're based in Hong Kong and should help us acclimatize a bit.

Friday, January 27, 2012

"Cheap Holidays in Other People's Misery!" Ague and Away!

A last memory of the most horrible ague ever. On Wednesday night as I was returning from the 10 Magazine podcast (which I have to go to as I am the recordist and engineerator) I was still fevered as hell and thus the -9 temperature was giving me the chills, shakes, and teefs-bumps. So, having to pick up something for the wife, I thought I'd hop into the 7-11 at the bottom of the hill, and get warm and shop.


I'm not angry, my finger just slipped onto the "All Caps" key and I can't be arsed to go back and change anything.


Ok, maybe a bit angry....

The good news? 여행 is just around the corner!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Weekis Horribilis

LOL.. Last Friday I had my annual pratfall.... cleaning the kitchen and stepping out onto the veranda where wet foot met met laundry soap and created one of those super-cooled frictionless interactions in which an object (me) finds no purchase, spins and eventually submits to the indignities of gravity.

Said indignities manifesting as my fat buttockal region hitting the doorjamb at obesity-velocity [terminal velocity*(.33BMI)/BAC)]. No permanent damage done, but it did jar loose the ague particles which had previously been in dormancy amongst the adipose tissue.

Accordingly, by 5pm on Saturday I was prostrate in bed (interrupted by occasional thrashing and groaning) with a fever, headache, chills, body-aches and a bit of whatnot. I remained in that state, and in bed, for 60 hours. This was Seollal holiday, so I had Monday and Tuesday to recover, but was still so slaughtered that I missed my first Korean class on Wednesday.

Here it is on Thursday night and I think that I will be able to make my class tomorrow.

Definitely the worst flu/cold/thing I've had in decades....

But.. holidays hover near!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Worst Ague in 20 Years?

Must be farking Dengue fever... spent the last 60 hours writhing in bed. Now, a little bit better, I've got a blanket on the floor and plan to let the ondol do its healing work..

Thank god this hit on Seollal, so I had nothing better to do than groan.^^

Thursday, January 19, 2012


Me! (Excellent photo taken by self with iPhone at Chans Bros Coffee in Gyungnidan)

It just takes me and me to make a meme....

Can we all just agree the "Shit (this kind of people) Say to (this other kind of people)" is totally worn out?

Or get the hell on board with -

• Shit live people say to corpses
• Shit multiracial people say to transexuals
• Shit short tall Indonesian women say to dwarfs
• Shit NBA players say to older white women with perms
• Shit albinos yell at the sun
• Shit composters say to compost
• Shit shitheads say to other shitheads

Repeat as totally unnecessary

If you don't understand what I'm posting about, good for you.

Farking internet memes

Wednesday, January 18, 2012


The KTLIT site is down for the SOPA protest, so I spent today without purpose.^^

Went to Korean lessons in the morning. I'm actually kind of into the Johnny Lunchpail feeling of getting up and catching the bus in the morning. The class continues to be fun, and to aid my scattered memory I take picture of the board. Normally the 선생님 runs like hell to get out of the picture, but today I caught her hard at teaching:

Then I met the wife for banking and some 갈비살 for 점심 식사 (Barbequed beef for lunch).

You can tell by this picture of Yvonne after clearing off the entire grill:

Then into the office for some pre-term cleaning and to pop my syllabi onto UDrims, our super-computer-system for academics. After three years here I've finally got my classes semi-organized, so the two that will run as they are were just cut and pasted into various boxes. I'm going to revisit the other two classes tonight, and smack them up tomorrow.

Tell the women in the office what textbooks to order and I should be set for the semester...

Tonight, some students whose names I don't recognize have invited me out, so I'll probably have to drink and eat some anju.

Oh well, it's been quite a while since I've done that, so it should be new again.^^

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

If you've been missing my voice..

I am now the podcaster-master of the 10 Magazine Korean Culture Podcast... which used to just be the Korean Culture Report.. but now..

well.. go here..

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Note to Self about Shopping on Seollal - DON'T

Being essentially retards, we chose to drop 180,000 won at Costco on the weekend before Seollal, the Korean New Year. This was a horrible mistake, as every one in Seoul was doing the same thing so they could be stocked up for the 4-day holiday and the inevitable onslaught of relatives.

This cattle call was the line for receipts

And it became so crowded that at the entrance, staff members were barricading aisles with shopping carts to force people to follow a kind of clockwise, maze approach to traffic.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Self Study?

My acquaintance Shanna, over at Hangukdrama, asked for a piece on self-studying versus structured studying. So this morning I whipped out the following piece detailing my hideous failures as a self-studier...

One of the remarkable things about Shanna is that she is using (well, til last semester) primarily self-study to learn Korean. I, on the other hand, am the living example of how self-study can be a failure. Which is odd, because in most other arenas, I am a complete self-studier. When I was a webmaster I learned to code all alone in my office. When it came to literature, I just sat in my office, coffee shops, bars and at home, and read. But with language? I am not a self-studier.

I came to Korea over three years ago, and my Korean is still shameful. Prior to leaving I took a few months of Korean at a hagwon in Sunnyvale California, but its classes were inconveniently scheduled, and I had a more than fulltime job. So when I got to Korea, I could say ‘hello’ and ‘thank you’ and that was about it.

I did quickly learn to say “Cass오백 씨씨 세요!” but that was about it. So, I bought a Korean textbook and brought it to my little apartment. I opened it once, diligently worked away at the first chapter, memorized about 15 words, then tossed the book on my desk until “the next time.”

The next time was about 10 days later, I could remember none of the vocabulary I had ‘memorized,’ and the work I had done looked like hieroglyphics. So, I plunged in once more, and with three phrases memorized (“nice to meet you for the first time”/ 만나서 반갑습니다 and “goodbye” in two forms depending on who was departing 안녕히 계세요/ 안녕히 가세요). I then marched out into the world and tried to practice my exciting new knowledge.

Alas, this turned out to be harder than I thought. As it turned out, I worked primarily with English speakers (except in the classroom) and even when I met Koreans, it was incredibly artificial to try to force my phrases into conversation. I mean, how often did I really meet someone for the first time? So I might learn a few phrases, but I could rarely use them, practice pronunciation, or learn what the responses to them might be.

I was also in Daejeon, which I will just say, trying to be polite, is not that cosmopolitan, and the natives seemed to have no interest at all in my cruddy Korean. So, I buckled down to reading translated Korean literature, which became my little window on the culture (did I mention my blog at is all about modern Korean literature? Well, now I have.^^)

Next year, I moved to Seoul and repeated the textbook/desk/real-world cycle about three times.

Even when I did sit down with the textbook, I found that I was easily dis--- hey, did you know that you can find streaming NFL games on the internet? And I wonder what my friend Martin is doing right now? Hmmm… do I want a snack? --- tracted.

And when I went out to practice my Korean, I ran into several problems. The first was that I still only had this list of artificial phrases to use, and they were rarely relevant to events in life. I could scarcely use them in real situations. The second problem was where I worked, in the English Interpretation and Translation Department at Dongguk University. The professors and students I worked with were all effusive in offers to help me, but their English was simply too good for this to work out. Everyone in my division is an excellent English speaker and when my Korean faltered, they would just code-switch and, bang(!), we’d be back in English.

As it turned out, cabbies and restaurants DID want to engage me (the lure of easy !) so like many expats, I did self-learn taxi-Korean and some restaurant-Korean.

On occasion I took a tutor, but fitting them into my schedule was difficult and they were expensive. In addition, many of them didn’t really seem to have taught before, and this meant a lot of time was wasted.

I met Steve Revere, whose Korean is brilliant, and he gave me copies of his two “how to learn Korean” books. I repeated the textbook/desk/real-world cycle yet again. And got distracted. And got busy in the translation area. And traveled. And drank. And generally just passed my Korean textbooks as I whisked myself out the door.

I also looked at the many resources on the internet, but as my interest in one waned I would just skip to another, and I couldn’t settle down with any one (or two, or three, or four…..) site and make any progress.

I made one abortive attempt at doing Korean pen-pal with my best friend back in the States (he’s Korean by birth, and bilingual), but as soon as he returned my first email, I just let it sit there, with other emails to answer, and in a language I’m OK at.

As it turns out, I am not a self-learner. The mighty intarwebs (via Wikipedia) says self-learners have these characteristics.

  1. self-observation (monitoring one's activities);
  2. self-judgment (self-evaluation of one's performance) and
  3. self-reactions (reactions to performance outcomes).

To me that first one is all about discipline… watching what you do and scheduling what you do. Let’s just say that I suck at that.

The second one is also problematic for me. Language-learning takes time, and I’m a short-attention-span-theater person. If I study something and don’t see immediate progress? I move to something else that has an immediate payoff, like a popsicle, beer, or watching downloaded episodes of Trailer Park Boys. So in the short term I judged progress (which is the improper scale) as insufficient, and lost the will to continue.

The reaction? I’ve described it above: on to pursuits with quicker results; putting down the textbooks.

Sure, in three years I did learn something’s, but as last semester ended I re-indulged in step 2, and realized that my silly expectations and lack of discipline had conspired to pretty much halt me in my tracks.

Twice, I had entered formal classes in Korean, and in the three weeks that I had stuck with that (Yeah, I know, lame), I had achieved most of my progress. My university did not have me teach a winter-session class this break, and that gave me the opportunity I had been evading. As I type this I am halfway through my first month of formal classes. That is, the first month of formal classes that I will complete. The formal classes impose upon me the discipline I lack, and the instructor’s responses are based on rational calculation of how anyone would be doing two weeks in. If she says I’m doing well, I can ignore the evidence of my lying eyes.^^ This means that steps 1 and 2 of the “self-learning” characteristics are (thankfully) being imposed on me.

In that two weeks I have learned more Korean language (as opposed to vocabulary, a surprising amount of which it turns out I have picked up along the way) than I did in the previous three years combined. Even better? I’m enthusiastic about the process and intend to take two classes next month. In the Spring semester my schedule is a blessing – I will be able to continue my lessons if I choose to.

For the moment, I choose to!

So, while I give mad props to the folks like Ms. Tan, who can buckle down and teach themselves, I have to say that it is bricks and mortar for me.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Books I will not be purchasing...

I hope this one isn't a dirty book:

This sounds like a book about party games for children...

(Should be "Twisted" for those not au courant on Korean literature)

Will not purchase!^^

Thursday, January 12, 2012

More Writing..

With Freda Payne belting out "Band of Gold" in the background (does that song rock or what?), the last of today's writing efforts is on the Digital Pigeon on its way to Yonhap.

Tidy day... edited an piece for The Translator, wrote a letter of recommendation for one of my awesome students, and finished cranking out 1,200 words of high-velocity puppy chow. Coffee is almost done, however, so this calm and happy state is threatened.^^

And it should give us all hope, that Freda could still crank it out as recently as 2008.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

More things that might make you say, "Whaaaaa?"

Hmmmm..... maybe that's a "cure" I should take?

And then, there is this rare opportunity, if I could only figure out what the heck that opportunity is:

Life remains reading, writing, and studying Korean (with a bit of cleaning tossed in), which is just how it should be.

Oh, and coffee.... more than usual.^^

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Aaaah... days off

Sluggardized my way about the house randomly cleaning things and 빨래 하기 (doing laundry), then a quick trip down the road to the coffee shop an Americano and working on another piece for Yonhap News. 400,000원 if I finish it. Fortunately I have a previous paper which I can cannibalize, so it shouldn't be hard graft.

Later today I may do my new favorite thing and get on some random bus and see where it takes me.

Heh.. save the Korean study for later...^^

Monday, January 09, 2012

Walking home from Korean lessons today, I see this banner on the side of Namsan

It seems to say

Hundreds of thousand massacres, Kim Il-sung, Kim Jong Il, Father and son are heroes
A brave man cries at the start of war.

I'm guessing that's sarcastic, or I've done something hideously wrong in guessing the translation?

Anyway, it was a lovely 90 minute walk and the slight morning snowfall was nowhere to be seen.

Friday, January 06, 2012

Walking home from 하국말 수업

When it isn't too wind-whipped the walk home is rather nice.. a bit over an hour with a stop for 김밥과 코피. As I set out I saw something I think I've posted here before, but it always makes me laugh.. the "BS" tour company.

On the way, passed City Hall where the annual ice-skating rink has been set up and Koreans ice-skate with the same ferocity they attack any sport/exercise - heads down, looks of grim determination, and a certain amount of laps to complete. Fighting! The picture also has a cute mascot - skating Haechi (해치) a mythical creature which protects cities from fires.

Finally, as I wended my way down from the Namsan hillside, through Haebangchon, I spotted this sign advertising pizza, which may not exactly convey the intended message, at least it didn't for me.

Then to ChansBros coffee to download the last Trailer Park Boys special. I love the series as a white-trash buddy comedy, but I'm kind of scared to watch this one. The final official episode ended happily for the idiots involved and I know this one doesn't.

Hmmmm... should I leave my happy memories where they delusionally rest, or plow through to see the inevitable horrible ending?

Anyway, Yvonne's best friend is landing late this evening, so it should be a weekend full of hijinks, capers, and other whatnots..^^

Thursday, January 05, 2012

The Life of the House-Husband

Now that I have no fixed responsibilities other than my Korean lessons (alas, only 6 hours a week, MWF from 10-12 - though that will double next month), I have been able to settle in to domestic bliss.

Today the "encleanening" continued, finishing up the kitchen and attacking the living room. Also, debulking the office. We had baked chicken last night, so it was also time to start a lovely chicken-stock, which is still simmering as I type. Then a quick ride to the office to drop off some small things that were cluttering up the living room, shopping, and a trip home to make rice, some unidentifiable meat/rice concoction, lightly pickled carrots and cucumbers, and sauteed zucchini.

How domestic was today? I even opened the drapes and moved the plants to the floor, then following the sunbeams so they would stay photosynthesizing.

Now, listening to sports podcasts interspersed with more studying. LOL, if I don't know a substantially greater amount of Korean after this month? I may just move to the United States and learn English!^^

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Winter Vacation!

Now this is one of the reasons I love my job. Other than the standard email complaints from students about grades, I have fully transitioned to vacation mode.

This means, get up in the morning (well, after 10) walk down to drop Yvonne off at her taxi (she is still working), grab a cup of coffee and come back up to the homestead. Actually, stopped at the store to pick up some vegetables as well.

Now, it's puttering about cleaning, studying Korean, listening to podcasts, and a bit of reading and writing.

May even take a walk up Namsan later.

And what are you (solo reader) doing today?^^

Monday, January 02, 2012

New Year's "Whuts?"

Mainly calm New Year.... some drinking, chocolate eclair and then sleep. Well, for me. The lovely wife was caffeinated and sugarized, so she stayed up til 4am!

Cleaning the computer I found some photos of odd things.

this one actually makes sense, I guess, since in many bathrooms you are expected to place your toilet paper in a bin.

However -

This makes no sense at all. The Korean merely says "danger" and then "electrical shock danger." Where the bedspread came from is a mystery to me.

And just to prove no one knows anything about anything, I found these two adjacent books at What the Book in Itaewon.