Tuesday, July 24, 2012

On Mormons

Today while doing an errand I came across two Mormons on a foot bridge.  They were passing out pamphlets to all the Koreans, but I walked by without being noticed.

On my way back home I was going to pass them again.  So, I tried to stay within a group of Koreans.  I was going to try to be out of the Mormons` reach when I crossed the bridge.  Then suddenly just as I reached the bridge, the Koreans just disappeared and I was just alone with the Mormons.

I came to the first guy.  He politely with a little nod said, `Hi!`

I said, `Hey!`

I came to the second guy.  He said with a polite smile, `What`s up?`

I said, `Nothing much!`

I reached the end of the bridge both relieved and insulted that I hadn`t received one of their pamphlets.  There wasn`t even a body language hint of them wanting to ask if I wanted to join their little incestuous cult.

Apparently, I have been cast into the outer darkness of Mormonism.  Oh my!

Monday, July 23, 2012

On Air

Last week, the principal came in to the English classroom.  He seemed a little bit annoyed about something.

He pointed to the fan I had running in the room.

"Blah, blah, blah (something about if students are not in the room), 절전."

I wasn't exactly sure what "절전" was, but nonetheless, I dutifully said, "네. 알겠습니다." (Yes.  I understand.)

After he left, I looked up "절전" in my cell phone's English-Korean dictionary.

"절전...save electricity, economize power"

This last month it has been hovering about 32 Celsius (90 F).  So, I am not really in the mood to save electricity.  But, I can move to the main teacher's office.  They sometimes turn the air conditioner on.

So, today they did turn the air conditioner on in the teacher's office.  Everyone is saying, "더워!" (It's hot!).

However, half of the windows are open.  And when I have been watching the classrooms more closely after the principal said that we needed to save electricity...the air conditioner has been on with the windows open.

Whatever 절전 means, I guess it doesn't mean save logically.

Friday, July 20, 2012

On Perception

I totally found the India Indian Doppelganger of my brother and sister-in-law.

But, I couldn't copy it from the web page and then I forgot to grab the link and, well...now it is on some Korean language blog that I was randomly shown on a Naver.com page, but now I can't find it.

But, it was funny as hell.

Now, it has me wondering if I can find the Indian doppelgangers of other people.  This my next mission...

Thursday, July 19, 2012

On A Common Conversation

The following video depicts a conversation that every foreign teacher in Korea has had multiple, multiple times.

Yes, I have been left sitting in the corner eating lettuce by myself...and, damn it...I am a chopstick Kung-fu master...

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

On Obama's Love of South Korea's Education

Here, here, and here you can read about Obama praising South Korea's Education system.  South Koreans, who normally have an extremely high amount of national pride, love these articles.  Obama has called for the U.S. to emulate the South Korean educational system.

Hold on one sec.  This is the same educational system that I work in?  To be honest, I don't know exactly what parts of the South Korean system Obama wants the U.S. to emulate, but here are some thoughts on why that is a bad idea.

1)  Creativity (or a lack thereof)

"Why" is kryptonite for most Korean kids.  Almost the entirety of the testing system in Korean is focused on multiple choice answers.  The rote memorization of facts are the sole way in which students are supposed to better themselves.  There is no space for kids with poorer memories.  There is no space for kids to discover new answers for themselves.  With the exception of my conversation class, almost all classes are centered almost exclusively on the teachers.  The teachers are the sole source of useful information.  Even when the Korean English teachers make a writing question for the exam, they constantly ask me to make sure that the number of possible answers are as limited as possible.  When there are more than about five possible answers, they do their best to limit those possibilities.

2)  Uniformity

Everyone should be treated equally.  This means that every child should go to all the same classes as his peers.  This means that little Min-ho and Min-ji will be in the same leveled classes and they will continue to graduate together.  This is despite the fact that Min-ho may be mentally handicapped and may need a little more time with the material before he moves on to the next grade.  Or even if Min-ji learned all this material in her after school program a year ago, she should still sit in her chair like a good little student until the next year comes and all the rest of her classmates move on to the next grade with her.

3)  Corruption

Korean teachers routinely give bribes to principals and vice-principals for a variety of favors.  These bribes can run up to about $1000 in value.

4)  Job Performance Reviews

Job performance reviews can, of course, be affected by the bribes mentioned above.  The job performance reviews, though, have almost no meaning.  Jobs for Korean teachers are known to be almost impossible to lose.  This goes for the most incompetent managers as well.  Vice-principals can be the bane of many a school.  When asked how an incompetent or just down right evil vice-principal can be gotten rid of, Korean teachers have told me they have to keep giving him good evaluations.  Hopefully, he will be promoted to principal because he can not be demoted to a regular teacher or be fired.

5)  Sports/Leisure

I recently watched a middle school basketball round-robin tournament.  Of the 1224 students in my school, I can count on one hand the number of boys and girls that could play against a middle school team in the U.S. This is mostly to do with the fact that Korean kids have very little leisure time.  They have to study for 7 hours at school, 3 or 4 more hours at an after school program, and then finish any homework or whatever at night.  They have no activities outside of school except for the occasional Starcraft binge that they play at 2 to 3 in the morning.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

On M.S.

This video is related to the previous post.  But, she looks at the food situation from the viewpoint of a multiple sclerosis victim, but she also touches on diabetes and other problems.  I think her perspective is interesting.  And, by the way, seaweed and organ meats are absolutely delicious.  So, even if she is wrong.  Eat it.  And, kale is a bit bitter to me, but it isn't terrible.

Monday, July 16, 2012

What if...? (Food)

What if every bit of the carbohydrates that you eat are broken down into sugar (glucose) in your body?

What if all the breads, potatoes, rice, fruits, sweets, soft drinks become extra blood sugar for your body to process?

What if when you limit your intake of cake, but replace it with a bigger piece of whole wheat bread, you have just replaced one handful of sugar for another?

What if glucose is quite helpful when needed by muscles or the liver for fuel, but with excess amounts it is stored as fat in your own body?

What if this storing of fat is perfectly rational for societies that will experience lean times in the future, but, if you're reading this, you probably don't live in one of those societies?

What if after the cells that require glucose have enough the bloodstream starts to get filled even more with sugar?

What if in response to dangerous levels of blood sugar, the pancreas pumps out more insulin to try to get rid of the blood sugar?

What if high levels of insulin are also dangerous?

What if after trying to pump out more and more insulin because of all the excess sugar, the pancreas basically becomes tapped out?

What if this is the sign that you have just become a Type 2 diabetic?

What if you took a look at the government's food pyramid?

What if you replaced most of the bottom half's labels (Bread, Cereal, Rice, Pasta, Fruits) with the word glucose (sugar), would you wonder why the U.S. and many other countries following the same basic diet scheme are seeing an explosion in the rates of obesity and Type 2 diabetes?

What if I recommended two things for you would you be interested?

What if number 2 is Mark's Daily Apple (a paleo diet blog) where you should start with this page which is where I got most of the ideas for this post?

Note:  The blog is not just for diabetics.  It is for people who want to be healthy, which is most of you.  I think.

Friday, July 13, 2012

On Numbers

365--The number of days in one of my contracts.

30--The average number of lessons I finish with each class each year.

33--The number of classes in my school.

3--The number of grades in my school.

70--About the number of teachers in my school.

5--The number of floors in the school.

6--The number of different partner teachers that I have.

2--The number of partner teachers who significantly help in classes.

2--The number of partner teachers who pay attention, but rarely do anything in class.

1--The number of partner teachers who are hopefully reforming into a better category of partner teacher.

1--The number of partner teachers who read books or do paper work almost all the time in class.

12--The number of tests that I have to edit for grammar and native speakerness.

1--The number of tests that I have to write about the movie, Shrek.

3.33--The number of English classes, on average, that each class from each grade has each week.

0.667--The average number of English conversation classes (i.e. my class) that each class from each grade has each week.

22--The number of classes that I am supposed to teach each week before getting overtime.

21.5--The average number of classes that I am scheduled for each week.

0--The number of times you are supposed to talk about overtime when you do, in fact, go over 22 hours a week.

1--The number of vice-principals in the school.

1--The number of principals in the school.

1224--The number of students in the school.

1224--The number of my students in the school.

9--The number of in-school managers above me, depending on various situations.

24--The average number of minutes it takes to get to school from walking out my front door to entering the school's front door.

4--The average number of students that say, "Hello, teacher.  Nice to meet you!"...after knowing me for the last 3 years.

2.33--The number of years I have been at this school.

37.5--The average number of students in each class.

2.5--The average number of special needs students in each class (I am not talking about ADHD), but not completely drooling either.

60--The score out of a hundred that can still be considered a good score on an English test.

35--About the number of students in the whole school that I believe could actually hold a conversation with a normal foreign English speaker (i.e. not an ESL teacher) past "Hi, how are you?  Where's the bathroom?".

3--The number of articles (a, an, the) that are almost never used properly and I have frankly just given up on.

3--The number of kids that I play cards with every day to practice English and relax.

1--The number of kids that have committed suicide in the past year.

3--The number of times that I have met the mayor.

313,413--The number of people in the city.

4--The number of summer and winter English camps that I do each year.

5--The number of days for each of those camps.

15--The number of days until I get to go home for vacation.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

On Grammar (2)

I was going to post this picture and comment about the grammar...

I know the sign has some grammar problems, but I felt like I was just poking fun at a small issue when in reality it is completely readable and why should I waste my time with it.  Caffe Bene is a major chain of coffee shops in Korea.  And, besides why should I make fun of them when they make such good drinks?

But, then in researching about the topic (yes, I do research about my posts...).  I ran across their website which emphasized their shop located in Times Square, New York...

Here is the picture...

It may be a little hard to see, but take a look between the two Caffe Bene signs:

"Parking: Open to the 24 Hours"

At first I wanted to make a new title for this post: "Caffe Bene: Bringing Konglish to the World"

But, then I was still doing more research so I went to Google Maps and tried to find this exact shot just to see if it still looked like this.

The most recent shot of this area from Google Maps is from June 2011.  The same building used in the Caffe Bene promotion pictures can be seen on Google Maps.  Just search for "Caffe Bene, Times Square, New York".  Here is another shot from July 2010 from here.

Both the most recent Google Maps shot and this picture do not show Caffe Bene in the picture.  Although the Google Maps shot does show empty space where Charley O's is in this picture.

I finally did the smart thing and just googled "Caffe Bene Times Square".

Here you can see Caffe Bene as it can be seen from at least January 30th, 2012.

Now, I realize that the street signs were blocking the word, "public", in the original image on Caffe Bene's website.

So, now I have just one piece of advice for myself.

When I assume, I make an "ass" out of "me" and a "Korean" company.  Which actually makes these combinations:




Okay, I am finished.  Today, officially, I mekoreanassed.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

On Force (3)

Here is a much more pragmatic argument against Obamacare.


These last few posts on force versus choice have reminded me of a common political philosophy argument that one of the skills of government is to legitimately control a monopoly of the use of force in a certain geographical district.

But, if you look back at the history of man, it was never serial killers who have struck any real fear into any large group of people.

Here are the top 3 serial killers (and the number of proven victims):

Harold Shipman (218)
Luis Alfredo Garavito (138)
Pedro Alonso Lopez (110)

While here are the top 3 governmental killing groups (and number of victims):

Soviet Russia (61,911,000)
Communist China (35,236,000)
Nazi Germany (20,946,000)

*Note: These numbers are talking about people killed by their own government, not on a battlefield.

Parsing the numbers, it would take 283,995 Harold Shipman copycats to accomplish what Soviet Russia did.

As Sheppard Book quoted from Captain Malcolm Reynolds and I would add to, "A government is a body of people, usually notably ungoverned" in their ability to kill large numbers of people.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

On Force (2)

Recently, the U.S. Supreme Court decided that Obamacare was constitutional.  Republicans are justifiably angry about it.  How can the federal government force us to buy a service that we may or may not want to buy?

But, have my Republican friends looked at their payroll statements lately?  Here's a few of the major deductions you'll find there:

1) Social Security:

    When did I decide I wanted to receive this "service" provided by the federal government?  Never.  Now, you may argue that:

     a)  But, Matt, it is a good idea for people to save for retirement.  This is, of course, true.  But, I have still been forced to join this "service" which makes it immoral.  And, I will never in a million years receive the same value when I am old that I put in when I was young, which makes it an impractical choice for me to choose even if I were inclined to.

     b)  But, Matt, Social Security was a system designed and implemented by Democrats.  Don't blame us.  That is true.  It was started by Democrats, but show me any Republican who is committed to demolishing Social Security.  I don't mean just "putting Social Security on a sound fiscal basis" like it says in the GOP platform.   So, if you are unwilling to demolish it then what is the difference between you and the Democrats?  They started it and you just keep going along with it?

2) Medicare Taxes:

      Again, why would I agree to the services provided by these taxes?  I will stand by basically the same arguments I made for the two objections to Social Security.  With one additional point:

      In 2003, President George W. Bush and a willing Congress (Republican majority in the House and the Senate) passed the Medicare Modernization Act which implemented Medicare Part D (the prescription drug program).  If I remember correctly, George W. Bush was a Republican.

3) Federal & State Taxes:

     Now, this one is a bigger one.  Because we pay for a whole lot of "services" with just one payment.  It is kind of like when you buy your TV, phone, and internet service all from the same provider.  Without the possibility of naked people...which is a good thing...can you imagine Nancy Pelosi...naked:


Anyways, here is the breakdown of the budget by departments, according to wikipedia:

Department of Health and Human Services--$940,900,000,000

Social Security Administration--$882,700,000,000

Department of Defense--$672,900,000,000

Here is a Republican favorite.  But, why would I pay for this "service"?  When was the last time the United States was actually attacked by those countries where the United States is engaged?  North Korea never actually attacked the United States (except when the United States got itself in the middle of a fight), but the U.S. is still here after 60 years.  Japan attacked the United States about 70 years ago, but the military is still there.  How long do I have to wait before the occupation of another country becomes oppressive of the other country and a worthless "service" for me to pay for?

Net Interest--$246,000,000,000

One of the most popular Republican proposals for balancing the budget, the Ryan Plan, would not balance the budget until 2035.  And, from what I can see, he doesn't plan to end federal deficits for at least a few more years.  So, how are you going to balance the whole budget after 23 years, if you don't even plan on balancing the yearly budget this year?

Department of Agriculture--$154,500,000,000

Why the hell do I have to pay farmers for soybeans, wheat, rice (Really?  Who is growing rice in the U.S.?), cotton, peanuts, dairy before I pay them at the grocery store?  And, considering I try to avoid eating soybeans, wheat, rice, peanuts and dairy in my diet.  Why am I forced to pay for them?

Department of Veterans Affairs--$139,700,000,000

I feel a little sympathetic for veterans who were forced to join the military.  They should be compensated for their slavery.  However, those people who willingly joined to go kill people in Somolia, Iraq, Kosovo, and any other U.S. military conflict that involved attacking a country that never threatened the U.S.'s actual borders should have considered more carefully who they were fighting for.  The decision making process about the morality of an invasion should not just be undertaken by the commanders on top, but by each an every soldier participating in the conflict.  If this happened, there would be far less conflicts in the world.

Department of the Treasury--$110,300,000,000

Why does a department that is basically about balancing the books have such a large budget?  I don't know. But, I have 3 little letters that should make everyone hate this department.  IRS.

Department of Labor--$101,700,000,000

     1) Unemployment Benefits--Why should I be forced to pay for unemployment benefits?  They may be a good idea.  But, if I choose not to pay for the "service" because of any number of reasons, I should have every right to say...go away.

    2) Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA)--If I want to work in a job where I have to balance a pot of molten iron on my head while driving a forklift lifting a rickety tower with a chicken on top, who is the government to tell me I can't.  It is my life, I will do with it whatever the hell I please.

And, those are just the parts of the budget that are over $100,000,000,000.  Within the federal budget, there are tons of "services" that I am forced to pay for.  Which one of them did Republicans cut when they were in power?

Until they show some moral backbone, I wouldn't be throwing stones at Obamacare from within your glass house.

Monday, July 9, 2012

On Force (1)

What is the difference between these situations?

1)  A man takes medicine.
     A man is held down by psychologists and "given" medicine.

2)  A man receives a TV as a gift from his neighbor.
     A man steals a TV from his neighbor's house.

3)  A man engages in a boxing match.
     A man starts a fight with someone else.

4)  A man receives help from a doctor to end his life.
     A man randomly receives a hollow point bullet to the head.

5)  A man has sex with a woman.
     A man rapes a woman.

The difference is force.

Is anyone willing to stand up and argue that the second example from each pair is justifiable?

Here is a simple and relatively entertaining video about the nature of liberty, ethics, and the failure of almost every government mandate that exists:

Thursday, July 5, 2012

On Friendships

You know it is difficult to maintain friendships with people that you have "abandoned" on the other side of the ocean. I never really felt like I abandoned anyone, but leaving with the purpose of returning and leaving without the purpose of returning looks pretty much the same to those that have been left behind.

I am not one to write a Christmas letter to all of my friends and family. And, I don't feel put off because only a few people have sent me their Christmas letters.

 I do feel bad that I miss out on birth announcements, family losses, and changes in everyone's lives. But, I am proud that I have grown in ways that others may not ever attain. When you move to the other side of the world, you supposedly abandon your "life". But, I never felt like I abandoned my life. Instead, I feel like I "unabandoned" the new parts of my life.

 In obtaining a new part of my life and especially a wife, I realized what it really means to "leave your father and mother and cleave to your wife." We have all had the chance to recognize what happens when friends get married. They pull away even more because cleaving takes time. When that happens on the other side of the ocean, the rare times, when communication is possible between separated family and friends, become even rarer.

 Today, I was reading a blog, The Altucher Confidential, that I really enjoy. The writer does an excellent job of speaking to my soul for some reason.  Here is the snippet about friendship that I was reading today:

"It’s ok to not return an email. Sometimes people get offended. But once you get back in touch with them, all is quickly well. It’s hard to keep in touch with everyone. Even good friends. But they are good friends because once you get back in touch again then all is well. One time I didn’t get back in touch with someone. I felt really bad about it. And the worse I felt about it, the harder it was for me to return phone calls and emails. I lost touch then for five years. But then I got back in touch with him and we got together. Now he is, once again, one of my closest friends. That’s how friendship often works. Those people are your real family as you climb through this life."        --James Altucher

I surely hope this is true because it is still my intention to move back to the U.S. someday and I don't want to have to "unabandon" all new friendships in the U.S.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

What if...? (Education)

What if you never really studied anything in college?

What if you just listened to your professor?

What if all you ever did was accept what the professor had to say?

What if you woke up one day and realized that most people around you don't do anything related to their major?

What if that worthless piece of paper you got at college did not really prepare you for your job more than the training your employer gave you at the beginning of your job?

What if to get that piece of paper you have to take out a $80,000 loan at 5% interest during your four year stay at college?

What if the average person without that piece of paper can make $120,000 in the same time period?

What if the difference between plus $120,000 and minus $80,000 is $200,000?

What if that difference is not counting the interest payments that will be required to repay that loan?

What if by the time computer science majors are out of college, their professors' information is so out of date, the students have to be retrained by their employers?

What if this was also true for doctors, nurses, scientists and others?

What if we were to change this paradigm?

What if companies were to introduce more apprenticeships?

What if instead of veterinary-interested students being forced to sit through art appreciation classes, they were shown the ropes with on the job training?

What if instead of archaeology students learning about Schliemann's Troy, they actually did what they wanted ...get their hands dirty in Troy?

What if all of the extra crap at college is just another way for the government to indoctrinate students in the "proper" way to think?

What if this idea applies to earlier incarnation of schooling as well?

What if almost no one uses the math that we used past the 6th grade?

What if the only education that is every really important is the education that is important to you?

What if any other kind of education should be considered no more than it really is: slavery, theft-of-desire, prison, torture...?

Monday, July 2, 2012

On Good Things in Korea (Music)

You may being asking what is the best music in Korea (You also may not being asking, but then you are on my blog and so I obviously lead the discussion).  So, here are my favorites from various coherently (at least in my mind) organized  awards:

Best Song:

"I Am the Best" by 2ne1


It is catchy and the whole independent dirty girl thing doesn't happen often enough here.

Best Teaching Song:

"I Don't Care" by 2ne1


It is really easy to remember (i.e. it is catchy again) and, when my students are being whining little brats, I can say, "I don't ca-a-a-are."

Best Girl Group:


Okay, so I am partial to 2ne1.

Best Use of Harmonica in a K-Pop Song:

"Lalala" by SG Wannabe

Best Song to Make Your Students Dance to If They Are Annoying:

"Sorry, Sorry" by Super Junior


Because they have to apologize somehow and every Korean student knows this dance, but not as well as they think...

Best Song to Make Students Sing or Dance to if You Really Want to Humiliate Them:

"The Three Bears Song" by I don't know (not the real name...I just really don't know)


Because humiliating students is sometimes very important and I know this song well enough to know if they are trying to bullshit me...


Best Use of Star Wars/Taps/2001 Style Music in a National Pledge

Note: This is not the anthem.  It is just the pledge of allegiance...Korean style.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

On Korean Fashion

Usually, Koreans are very fashionable, but this is the latest in women`s fashion here:

Rain boots: I always knew they were functional, but now they're fashionable, too!!!