Thursday, November 23, 2006


I was rear-ended at a stoplight on a rainy evening; August 24, 2005 The impact was severe enough to cave in the "battle bumper" on my car and drive it into the bumper of the car. It felt something like this looks (but not as funny).

The next day, I had some pain I attributed to the same kind of pain I used to feel back in my high school football days after a good hard hit. A few days later when the pain did not go away as I thought it would, my wife insisted I go to the doctor. I was x-rayed and MRI'd. It was discovered that i had some cervical straightening and the MRI showed what looked like some slightly herniated discs. I was advised to check into the hospital. BAD IDEA! I actually felt WORSE after 5 days in the hospital than when i checked in. So for 6 months, I was barbecued, electrocuted, injected into my shoulder and back muscles (probably the most painful thing I ever felt), massaged by a vibrating table (reminded me of a few cheap motels in the states), poked with accupuncture needles, laid out on a table and neck-stretched and name it...i have probably done it.
Now, more than 1 year later, I still have almost daily pain. It feels about like someone has the short end of a baseballbat pressed against my shoulderblade and spine. I get headaches about once a week and about once a month I get a doosey of a headache that usually forces me to bed for a few hours. I have been taking pain medication now since the beginning of the year. The pain is not debilitating it is just annoying (How would you feel if somone were walking around behind you with a bad stuck in your back) but the worst thing is the numbness in my left arm and fingers. It comes and goes and it is worst at night when I lie down or when I am working at the computer (something do often for my job as well as for this blog) Sometimes it is a tingling or slight numbness and sometimes it feels like someone is sticking needles in my hands.
So the doctor says that I have an "Internal Disc Disruption" which is sort of like a cracked head gasket. The stuff inside the disc leaks out during certain movements and apparently, that fluid somehow causes the pain (More on IDD here). This condition is not visible on either X-Ray or MRI (not yet) and is apparently not as bad as it could be so I guess I should be thankful since some people have this problem and can't even move. On the Oswestry Scale I hit about a 23-25 most of the time which is a "moderate disability." I can't even imagine what it must be like to have a score above 40. So, when the pain is worse than usual, I take pain medications for pain; right now Zydone, which is really too mild to be much help so I take them with a couple of Tylenol ER and together that seems to help on the bad days.
The doctor told me that with this type of IDD case, 33% of people get better, 33% get worse and 33% stay the same...this doesn't seem too good to me because that means a 66% chance that I could have this pain or worse for the rest of my life and surgery is not recommended in this situation unless it gets worse (Oswestry close to 50)...So basically, I just have to bear it and hope it goes away.
There is one thing that really seems to relieve the pain long enough to make sleeping easier. At the recommendation of my doctor to apply "moist heat" to the effected area. A nighttime trip to the local public bath and a nice long turn in the jacuzzi bath does the trick. I am a regular at the local 'sauna' (which is how Koreans refer to certain kinds of public baths)and use every opportunity I can get to visit area Hot Springs for a bit of relief. Hooray for Balneotherapy! Unfortunately, I can't sit in a bath all day at work so it is only temporary relief.

Friday, November 17, 2006

K-pop onstage seizure

Check out this I-Film link for a vid of a k-pop performance where one of the 'backdancers' collapses and has some sort of seizure and the other dancers and singers just keep on new meaning to the expression "the show must go on"
Fortunately, someone does remove the afflicted dancer from the stage while the others are performing.
If anyone knows anything about when this happened...please let me know.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Free Speech vs. Dokdo (A blogger is censored)

hattip to Marmot

A teacher writing in his blog called Occidentalism has been asked by the president of his university to cease writing about the Dokdo issue.

I had planned to write two more pieces for my series on Dokdo/Takeshima, but the president of the university I work for in Incheon has asked me not to post anymore about “Dokdo” on the Internet. He told me that it was a sensitive issue in Korea and that he had been contacted by individuals complaining of my postings on the subject. He said that he was worried about the school’s reputation.

The president suggested that if I have strong opinions on the subject, I should write about it in an academic paper or hold a seminar rather than broadcasting it over the Internet. I agreed to do that even though I do not think anyone would take a non-historian seriously. Therefore, I will not be posting anymore about “Dokdo” on this site. People who would like to continue to exchange information on the subject can still contact me through my email address.

I am dissappointed that he agreed not to post on the subject though I understand that he may fear the possibility of losing his job if he does not do what the president asks. A couple of good suggestions have been made and one has not. One poster over at Marmot's Hole suggested that he start a sock puppet blog under a different name and continue blogging under an alias. One suggestion that could stir up much needed debate and international attention to the issue would be for him to continue blooging about the issue as he pleases. Let the crazy netizens go after him again and see if the president has the balls to fire him. I think there are enough people on the K-blogs who support free speech enough whether we agree with him or not. If he continued blogging and they fired him then the K-blog community would do as they are doing now, showing outrage at the censorship. Eventually, one of the wire services might pick up the story and before you know it, the issue would be on CNN. Of course, he could then hire a lawyer to sue the university for wrongful termination and make a bundle of money and then he could go on blogging about Dokdo from a beach in Thailand where the netizens couldn't do squat to him.
One more idea, what if in protest, the K-blog community (and anyone else that wants to join in) cut and pasted the articles from his site onto our blogs for everyone to see en masse. Now THAT would get some attention!

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

English classes in English by 2015, and I'll be a monkey's uncle.

From the Korea Times

Many Korean English-language teachers are nervous about Seoul’s plan to change the nation’s English education system as many of them would face forcible premature retirement unless they can conduct classes in English by 2015.

As well they should be nervous since too many will be out of a job.
The reaction came after Deputy Prime Minister and Education Minister Kim Shin-il unveiled plans to upgrade the English skills of students through the intensive training of teachers. The minister is ambitious enough to mandate all English teachers to conduct classes in English by 2015.

Does anyone besides me wonder if Minister Kim can speak a lick of English?
The plan is a tall order for Korean English teachers and many CEOs say the direction is right but question whether the plan can stick to its schedule without causing resistance from teachers.

"tall order" I hate to be the pessimist here but that doesn't even begin to describe the cluster@#@#$ this is going to be if it even gets off the ground. And can anything be done without resistance from the teachers? More specifically the Teacher's Union? Experience says flatly "NO"

``If the government wants to change English teachers, the change should come from English teachers themselves. We teachers will never accept these oppressive changes,’’
said Song Jae-hyeok, an English teacher at MunChang Middle School in downtown Seoul.

See what I mean? I can see the English teachers out on the street now with signs like this that say "No English Do Korean"
Some policy makers criticize the plan for being lacking in detail.

And anyone is suprised by this?
``In this age of globalization, it sounds plausible, but the unrealistic plan gives me a bitter smile,’’ said Rep. Chung Moon-hun of the main opposition Grand National Party (GNP)

What the heck does that mean? Did he say that in English or did someone just show us how well they learned English in school.
The minister calls for increasing by 10 times the budget for upgrading English-language education between now and 2008.

Somebody was going to mention money sooner or later. Is anyone besides me feeling any similarity between this and Former Seoul Mayor Lee's plan to build a canal through Korea?
Kim Chon-hong, director of the team for in charge of the minister’s program, said the government is responding to public calls for improvements in English language education. In addition, Korean companies, he said, demand a high level of English language skills.

Translation: We have to tell them something and make it look good, so we are going to make this overblown proposal that has absolutely no chance of being accepted by the teachers or the budget makers and then we can at least say that we tried and blame it on them.
He said right now Korea is in the middle level in English education skills of the 227 countries evaluated by the U.S. Education Testing Service, but aims to improve its ranking through the new plan.

This actually IS worse than it looks....Did somebody forget that Koreans spend MORE on English education than any other nation in the world? (couldn't find the link but I think it was in the Korea Herald some time ago, help anyone) So that middle level ranking is right alongside of countries that have almost NO access to English education.
He said to date, Korea’s English-language education has been out of balance, focusing too much on reading comprehension and grammar and not enough on listening and speaking skills.

That's the first thing he said that makes sense.
The plan seeks to upgrade the skills of English teachers through improved training, with the government running immersion-training courses for teachers. One thousand English teachers will participate in a 6-month course every year, including a one-month stay overseas.

Sounds great! that's 1000 out of how many? Will they be crammed into a dorm on some college campus in BFAmerica where they will speak Korean to each other when they are not being forced to speak English? And which 1000 will they send? The ones who can already speak English the best? or will they take the ones who need it the most...the low scorers?
`` The year 2015 would be the last year for English teachers who cannot conduct classes in English. We expect social pressure to force out `incompetent’ teachers,’’ said Kim.

Something that should have happened years ago...let's just hope its not too little too late.
Many teachers are skeptical over whether a 6-month immersion course would work. They say that the current English teachers training program doesn’t function well.

Again...look for the teachers to complain about the program and kill it before it even gets off the ground.
``Many senior teachers are reluctant to attend the training programs.

I've taught some of these teacher training programs. The 'senior' teachers have been using Korean to teach English for so long that they just can't imagine any other way. That coupled with the fact that many of them can't make a single error free utterence in the target language makes it unlikely that they would be interested in embarrasing themselves in front of their juniors at a teacher training program.
Most trainees of the courses are young teachers and they regard the courses as wiling away time. Do you think this is useful?’’ said an English teacher who requested anonymity.

This is, of course, one person's opinion but I would venture to say that most of the teachers who feel they are 'wiling' are the one's who can't and don't really want to speak English.
The plan also calls for changes in educating English-language teachers, requiring colleges to teach English teachers in English. It also calls for every middle school to have a native English-speaking teacher by 2010.

If all of the Korean teacher are going to conduct classes totally in English, I don't see exactly why you would even need to hire more barbarian, unqualified, miscreant foreigner teachers (smell that....sarcasm...yum) to cover your proverbial ass. OH...maybe they just want to hire them until 2015 and then let them go?
The government also wants to change the curriculum to include new textbooks, teaching English only in English and changing testing techniques to give more weight to listening and speaking skills.

Good idea...the current texts are crap!!in dire need of revision.
It also wants to reduce the gap in English proficiency between children of the rich and the poor. Under the plan, English-only zones _ similar to English villages _ will be established in rural schools to offer poorer children more opportunities, including courses and materials using satellite TV and the Internet.

A noble plan worthy of exploring...of course by the time they implement all of this country schools will need to start teaching courses in Vietnamese, Tagalog and Chinese.
The plan also calls for gradually increasing the recruitment of native English-speaking teachers. Starting next year with 1,300, it will increase the number of foreign teachers by 500 every year up to a maximum of 2,900 by 2010.

However some question how well the Korean teachers and foreign teachers will cooperate. ``Native English-speaking teachers are not only for the benefit of students but also Korean teachers. But the reality is different when the foreign teachers attend the classes, many Korean teachers stay out of class and take a rest,’’ said Park Won-young, president of Korea Secondary English Teacher’s Association

Translation: Many Korean teachers feel embarassed by their lack of English skills and anyway don't want to deal with the strange behavior of the barbarian in their class so they just prefer to let the foreigner teach the class alone and take a much needed rest.
Rep. Chung pointed out that the English Program In Korea (EPIK) for native English-speaking teachers is unrealistic.
``I question how many foreign teachers who can satisfy EPIK requirements, would come to Korea,’’ he said.

That depends on a lot of factors like how well they are treated, paid, housed and respected as well as how well their 'handlers' keep their promises (e.g. contract).
Overall, I think this program is just a lot of smokescreen to make some politician look good and it has little chance of coming to fruition under the current Teacher's Union Educational environment where it will be met with chest beating, air sucking and weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Transportation in Korea, Competitive but Still Dangerous

According to this article in the Korea Times, Korea is near the top of the list of OECD countries for affordable transportation.

South Korea’s transportation costs are the sixth cheapest in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), according to a report.

Congratulations to Korea in maintaining affordable buses and subways and making it so affordable for people to own and maintain a car. And although the cost of taxis is not near the top of the cheapest list, it is still darned cheap to take a taxi in Korea (even cheaper if you live in the provinces like I do).

One expert even quipped the following:

Korea’s overall transportation cost is relatively low, the sixth cheapest. If we lower fuel prices and keep the low public transportation fares and car maintenance costs, Korea will become the most competitive country in terms of transportation expenses,’’ a researcher of the institute said.

Someone should remind this researcher where Korea stands on the OECD list of traffic accidents. Now, lets factor in the financial costs of the accident rate. THEN it doesn't look so pretty, does it?

As the victim of 5 motor vehicle accidents during my time in Korea; all of which were someone else's fault (REALLY!! and legally) I can tell you that although it may seem like a good thing that Korea's public transportation is cheap and it is easy to own and maintain a car these two concepts are at odds with each other. Why offer cheap public transportation AND cheap driving? Maybe if Korea took a hint from Japan and other small countries and made driving financially burdensome for most of the population, then MORE people would have to take public transportation and there would be a few less idiots on the road making the accidents. Of course, one would then have to address the problem of aggressive and outright dangerous taxi and bus drivers; but I digress.

It's great that the cost of transportation is low here. I definately benefit from the low costs as a driver. My wife often takes taxi's and public transportation so I am happy for those low costs. But if we are going to be a hornblower about our transportation system then we should also factor in the loss of life and limb and the financial, emotional and personal costs associated with that; for example, the loss of man hours at work due to accidents and traffic gridlock. Perhaps it would be better for the government to focus on reducing the number of drivers and improving the overall public transportation infrastructure. Now, THAT would be something to brag about!

Thursday, November 09, 2006

On Jesus and Driving

I don't know if anyone actually reads this blog. I would like to have some regular readers but if I don't I'll probably do it anyway just to get a few things off my it Blog therapy if you like. If anyone out there is reading, be forewarned that although I am Christian (Missouri-Synod Lutheran) I don't consider myself to be overtly evangelistic and this site is not necessarily for that purpose. So the following falls into the category I'm going to call "Moments of Epiphany" to which I am going to devote the occaisional blog entry whenever the spirit moves me.

Recently, I have been experiencing what I can only call a 'redneck crisis' I was raised in the South and accept that I have a redneck side and even though I rebelled against country music in my youth, I find that in mid-life I'm getting moments when I just want to listen to that Nashville sound. It just feels good to listen to and belt out a country song from time to time. But I have come across couple of songs that I just can't seem to sing.
Those who know me well know that there are few songs that I can't sing. God gave me a fine instrument to work with. My father has frequently admonished me for not using that gift to the glory of God and benefit of myself. Well, American Idol winner Carrie Underwood released a song that I can't sing. A song that has won critical acclaim and become a number one hit from a woman who recently won big at the Country Music Association Awards. The song is called "Jesus Take the Wheel" (click link for the lyrics, Click below to watch the video)

Why can't I sing this song? It's not musically difficult for me, I have the range to take it. But every time, I sing it or even hear it I get choked up, tears well up and then I just laugh at myself because I can't understand the reason that this song moves me so much.
Is it Carrie's voice? No, the emotion she puts it might to tug at the heart strings a little and she has a beautiful voice that is perfect for singing this kind of music, she will go far in Nashville.
Is it the music? I don't think so, it starts off in C...a lot of C...G/B...Am7...etc...nothing spectacularly moving or different from any other country song.
Is it the words? Yes! The words. The words of a woman who thinks she is about to die on an icy road asking the Lord to take over and save her and her baby and ultimately lamenting the fact that she has not been as faithful as she should have been in her increasingly difficult life. I hear her singing about looking at her sleeping baby after the car comes to a stop and I see my own son sleeping in the back seat. That is a moment of raw emotion. But I suppose the real reason that the song moves me so is that I lament my own lack of faith and the song reminds me of that. I realize daily that I have struggles and things in my life that I sometimes feel are overwhelming and I frequently feel that am spinning out of control and on a collision course with destiny. The song reminds me that I don't pray enough. It calls me out on my complacency and lack of devotion to the Lord. It makes me remember that I too haven’t stopped and 'bowed my head to pray' in a long time and as a makes me do just that.
Today, I started talking to my daughter about Jesus for the first time and I'm going to talk to my wife about getting our son baptized (something LONG overdue). Maybe I'm a little nuts for letting a song get me all worked up like that or maybe Jesus is trying to tell me something. What's he saying to you?

The land of delayed Idol

Living in Korea usually means that I either miss completely most of the stateside TV programming or I get it greatly delayed while whatever episode of whatever show gets purchaced and translated. Some shows get on fairly quickly but others are take forever. One of the shows that I wish I could see in real time is Amercian Idol. I am not much for the commercialism of it all and most of the singers don't really impress me that much (just call me Simon) but occaisionally, something comes from that show that I really like. I havn't seen the fifth season of Idol yet but I just heard some clips of some songs by Chris Daughtry and I have to say...If he didn't win, the others must have been awesome...of course, they passed up on Bo Bice in season 4 so I'm thinking that a real rocker can't win. Maybe because many of the people who would appreciate his and Daughtry's style of singing and music are not the kind of people who would watch Idol and even less likely the kind who would actually pick up the phone and vote for him. But he made it and his new album comes out November 21. If you are interested in hearing a real rocker in the making listen to this.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

New Template

Thought i'd try out the new beta version of blogger. Seems like it has some cool features but it's kind of a pain to have to redo my links and such with the new blog.

The worlds funniest commercial

This might not be work safe. It depends on how far your boss (and coworkers) sat down on the stick.

I can't wait for the Korean Version advertising for Dagoda or Horrald English Hagwon.
This reminds me of the time I was walking through the local Emart and heard the 20 Fingers song "You Got To Lick It." As I was walking through the store with my 3 year old and my wife I couldn't help but wonder if anyone else but me had any idea how inappropriate this song was for a family supermarket. Other songs I have heard in stores include "Baby Got Back.", and Limp Bizkit "N 2 Gether Now" Definately NOT family fair! If anybody else has some stories like this I would sure like to hear them.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

High-Rise Death Trap

The Stars and Stripes reports about the death of a Korean family who was trapped in their home during a high-rise apartment fire in Yangju and decided to jump to their death. A tragic story that raises some serious questions about fire safety in large apartment buildings and reminds me of a fire in my apartment building just a couple of months ago.
I was awakened at about 6am by someone ringing the front door of our 12th floor apartment. I was sleeping so it took me a few seconds to realize that it was the front door. Before I got to the door, someone was outside the door and I could hear them yelling that the apartment was on fire. It was the apartment across the hallway from mine. I grabbed my daughter and my wife grabbed our son. We were in a bit of a panic and did not know how bad the fire was. At home were an ill elderly woman and her college age daughter. When we went outside, the daughter asked me if she could use my cellphone to call her father (who is a local police officer). At that time, the fire didn't look that bad, there was some acrid smelling smoke and I was worried about poison gas so I handed her my phone and put my daughters face into my shirt and started down the stairs, once we got a little down the stairs, I noticed that no one else seemed to be evacuating and it didn't seem to be effecting any other part of the building, so I took the elevator from about the 7th floor, my wife opted to go all the way down on the stairs. To my relief, the firefighters arrived at about the same time we arrived on the first floor. We watched the smoke pour out of the apartment and wondered if the fire or smoke would damage anything in our apartment. As it turns out, the fire was pretty bad but was contained mostly in the one apartment. The fire was started by a rice pressure cooker that literally exploded (according to the daughter) and caught fire. The kitchen burned quickly and nearly completely (see pix below) and smoke damaged the living room ceiling and walls. The quick response of the firefighters surely saved the day and possibly a lot more damage to our apartment. The worst we got was a smelly house for a day or so and the hallway smelled of smoke for about a week. But the neighbors wound up completely redoing their apartment.

The thing about the way the apartments are constructed here out of concrete, it would take a pretty hot fire to start burning the concrete so it is difficult for a fire to spread from one apartment to another but the smoke damage can be dangerous even in a small fire. One thing you want to make sure about in your apartment is that the door has the proper gaskets to keep out the smoke and that you can close your windows completely if necessary.

Hat tip to Lost Nomad

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Potential Teachers Boycott Teachers' Exam

This just doesn't make any sense from either side of the fence:

University students studying education said Friday that they would boycott the employment test on Nov. 19 to protest the government’s decision to reduce the number of new teachers hired for elementary schools.

It seems to me that these teachers are doing nothing except helping out the education department by making the numbers of potential teachers smaller and therefore and easier choice. These potential teachers need to get out there and ace the tests and show the education authorities that they are making a big mistake.

Why are they making a big mistake you ask? Because the way I see it (and I do see it every other week) 30 to 40 students in a classroom is less like education and more like cattle rustling. The education authorities need to find ways to create more schools and hire more teachers in order to reduce the teacher:student ratio. The creation of more schools and teachers is good for everyone...period. More schools and more teachers means the students get more attention and more chance to learn and succeed. How is it that the education authorities don't seem to seek that as well?

But on the other hand, what do I know? I'm just a foreigner, I couldn't possibly understand the Korean education system and situation, right?

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Indecent exposure now legal?

According to this article, some interesting laws have been changed including the laws on indecent exposure.

I remember when I came here in 1996, women showing their navels were subject to receiving a ticket. Even short skirts were considered socially deviant. My! How times have changed (He says with a big smile). I didn't realize these laws were still technically in effect but evidently they are soon to be abolished along with some other interesting laws. Check it out for your self and if you can, please explain to me what "abandoning night soils" means.

Yonhap defends criminals

GIKorea (ROKDrop) caught this one from Yonhap about how Koreans are receiving "unnecessarily" heavy sentences for crimes committed overseas. GI called into question the Korean systems failure to punish crimes against foreigners in Korea (If you haven't heard about the 10 month sentence for rape, you should), I have to go a different direction on the indignation scale though.

In the United States, more than half of the 197 South Korean inmates were serving prison terms of 10 years or longer....

The punishments are very harsh compared to those in South Korea where those convicted on such charges (ed. as fraud and drug related offences) face maximum sentences of 10 years of imprisonment, he claimed.

Actually, the article does not go into detail about the crimes that were committed by the 197 South Koreans in US prisons. So we really have little information to go on in considering whether the punishment received is fair or not. I guess we just have to take Yonhap's word for it that the punishment received is more severe than here in Korea for the same offense.

If Yonhap really wants to impress upon us the inequity of the punishment given to Korean citizens overseas then perhaps they should publish some statistics that show us that Koreans are somehow being punished more severely than citizens of those countries rather than simply convincing us that Korean courts do not punish crime with due severity. How do the punishments in other countries compare to those doled out in Korea?

Maybe the Editors should off themselves.

Lost Nomad has a posting with the usual lively comments on a Korea Times article about a girl who was arrested for failing to stop 3 others from completing a suicide pact that they made over the internet. Now the Times has posted another article on the subject that borders on the incoherent. Here's a taste:

The online Web sites related to suicide are being used as means to look for a partner to die with in suicide pact, sell and buy poison, provide various ways to commit suicides. These days, video files in which teenagers act dying have increasingly been going around on online as acting dying has become a popular form of game amid teenagers.

Believe it or not, it gets worse! Check it out here if you can bear it?

BTW...on the subject of suicide in Korean culture. With increasing societal pressures suicide is on the rise in Korea. Whether people are making suicide pacts on the internet, wrestling with subway trains or taking the tried and true express elevator off the apartment roof, the governments attempts to curb suicide will have little effect until concrete steps are taken to not only educate the public on the alternatives that are available but also to address the social stigma associated with seeking the essential psychiatric medical advice related to depression and other mental conditions that can exascerbate the feelings that lead to thoughts of suicide. If the only way that most people will seek therapy is by being forced to after an attempted suicide, then the people who most need the help will not get it in this life. May God have mercy on their souls.