Monday, May 2, 2016

Computers Make Our Lives Easier

HOLY CRAP!!! I will likely spend two hours or so typing this blog post and then hit the "publish" button and receive some sort of warning in numeric code that basically means, "Sorry, Bill Gates wants to force you to use more of his increasingly incompatible crap. We won't tell you what, but here's a meaningless error number. By the way, that error was yours, not ours. AND... you can't blog until you figure all this out."

Let's see, how did this begin... Oh yes, I just got home from work. Yesterday at about 9:30. I had a little spag and decided I had better get down to the business of upgrading resumes, work histories, self-introductions and all that jazz. I don't know if yesterday was the straw that broke the camel's back but after totally shafting me on my contractual 10 days of vacation just a couple of weeks ago, I got screwed out of a 4-day weekend this week. You see, May 5th is Children's Day here in Korea. May 6th is a Friday. Since it's a sandwich day the government of Korea has officially made it a national holiday. I asked if I will get the 4 day weekend and got the usual, "Well if it's an emergency, we can cover your classes." Ask any teacher, taking a break from teaching? Yes! Emergency! But just a few minutes later, the REAL boss barges into my classroom and in her fake baby talk sweet voice says, "You will need to teach on Friday. Not elementary school kids but middle school kids. Because if you don't they will be confused." That night I taught the classes that will be "confused" without me on Friday and most of them said they most likely won't even show up on Friday.

So, I am being kept around to teach 3 classes that will have only a few students each, if that. And one happens to be the class with my nemesis, Frank. What do you want to bet HE shows up?

Anyway, rather than start new documents for my resume and self-intro, which is what I should have done, I went into the old files I had created on my Indonesian computer on Microsoft Word. I did this because some prospective employers were telling me that they couldn't read the Open Office files I was sending them. NOW I remember this! I updated my home address and visa type on my resume and I took a children's camp intro and converted it into a general self-introduction. Part of doing so was deleting three pictures I had included from past children's camps. It took a couple of hours but I was satisfied that I had explained my work history and current situation. I added a more recent picture and sent the resume and self-intro to Gangneung Wonju National University, which is nearby and would be a convenient new job.

Sometimes I like to check important emails right away, and this was important so I immediately went into the "sent mail" area of Gmail to see what GWNU had received. I was shocked! The changes I had made to the resume were not saved. The resume I sent says I am currently living in Icheon on a Canadian visitor's visa. And when I looked at the self-intro, it was worse! The pictures I had deleted had somehow, ghostly reappeared in the background of my new self-introduction. I re-opened the file on my computer - no ghost pics! What the frig?

So, I get to thinking. These documents were written on my old computer, which I think I bought with Windows 10 on it. The computer I have now has been sitting in Canada for two years without being upgraded. It's running Windows 8.1. I check and find it's also running Open Office 4.0 and there's a new 4.1 available. So I figure this is a good place to start. Oh yeah, AND, now when I try to start a brand new file in Open Office 4.0, absolutely nothing happens. So I look for Open Office 4.1 and it's easily enough found. I start the download and it works. I start the installation and it stalls. "Could not complete installation. Check if there are Open Office files running." Or something like that. I figure out the Windows 8.1 Task Manager and see that there are a dozen Open Office 4.0 files running and I can't close them or find them. I go into Windows 8.1 Control Panel and figure THAT out. Not easy, but I finally find the way to add/remove programs. Open Office doesn't appear on the list. I have it - but I don't have it. What the friggin' frig?

So I do a Google query and find out that many of my fellow netizens had trouble getting Open Office 4.1 on Windows 8.1. Not compatible, you see. So the obvious solution is to just bite the bullet and get Windows 10. So I do. By now it's almost 2 in the morning and I am actually BEHIND where I was at 9:30. I forgot how tedious Windows 10 installation is. It starts and I go to bed. I wake up in the middle of the night and hit install and go back to bed. By morning I have a new wallpaper, a new browser, a whole new icon for just about everything and a new layout. I make a cup of tea and heave a huge sigh, and grab the mouse, hoping that it will work. By a remarkable stroke of luck, it DOES! Although I am positive I will need to disable the touch screen again.

The first thing I need to do is change my wallpaper. Easy enough. Go into internet options. So I swipe to the side. I swipe to the side. Yeah it usually takes a few swipes, I swipe to the to the, I swi, I fucking swipe to the what the HELL, MAN??!! Not that I like it, but I had gotten used to the power options being in the bottom right corner. Where are they now? And WHY? Guess I'll have to go to Google and find out how to find the internet options on Windows 10. Ludicrous! It's something I use all the time. It's gotta be easier to find! Come on, Gates! So I click the Internet Explorer "e" on the bottom of my screen, which looks a bit different in Windows 10. Up comes the MSN webpage in a completely user HATEFUL format. There's no File Edit View Favorites Tools Help. So I can't click on Tools and get to internet options THAT way. And now I need it to change TWO things! Where the shit is it?

Eventually it dawns on me that this is not Internet Explorer. This is Microsoft Edge. The new and shyte web browser Microsoft is trying to push. So I find in the dot dot dot area a way to display the page in Internet Explorer. It works. I find internet options and change my wallpaper and my homepage. I click on the "e" again and it doesn't go to the chosen homepage and it doesn't come up in internet explorer. I get this friggin' Edge again. Back to Google. How to get internet explorer to start in internet explorer. I had to type internet explorer into the search area, after bypassing the 1500, "Hello, my name is Calgon or whatever, and here's what I can do for you!!!" messages. Then I pinned it to the bottom of the screen bar. I then UNpinned The Edge. Sorry Edge, U2 crappy.

SO, now I go back into Gmail and start apologizing for the messed up application package. While I'm typing I notice a message at the top of the screen. Error #007. I now can't reply to emails on Gmail for some reason. So I just start a new email. I apologize for the messed up application package and tell them I really am not computer illiterate. Then I press send and get Error #007.

Back to Google.

It seems I'm not the first to have THIS problem either. The suggestions for troubleshooting this problem seem to all include NOT using Internet Explorer. So Gmail works with internet explorer on Windows 8.1. I had no problem sending the fucked up email at all. But Gmail doesn't work on internet explorer on Windows 10. What the frigging frigging FRIG???!!!

Am I going to be forced into using Google Chrome now, which I have tried and hate?

Why can't these software and search engine companies just get along?

I just want to send out some resumes.

Waaaaaaaaaaaahaaahaahaaaaa! GRRRRRRRrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!

Addendum: I got Windows 10 and Open Office 4.1 working and tried to update and save my resume again. And again. And again. It says the existing resume will be replaced by the new one but it isn't. Also my printer, which was super easy to plug and play with Windows 8, is not recognized by Windows 10. It reads it, but the installation went on and on and on... I had to give up.

So the resume I tried to send and the lesson I wrote for today, after about 8 hours of fucking around on my computer, absolutely no good. In fact the resume will likely hurt my chances.

Computers make our lives easier...

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Mayday, Mayday!

It's the first of May. This marks the 1/3 point in my current contract. Four months of a year. I have to say it is awesome not worrying about finances! I have a big fridge full of groceries; I have a good computer, (with a really nice, big screen!); I have clothes that fit me and Itaewon just a few hours away in case I need more; and I have some friends close by. People who I can subject to a little of my whinging and then do something fun together to make me forget what I'm whinging about. I have to go to work tomorrow, and, as always, work could be better, but I will be paid for that work and because of that I will be able to claw my way outta this quicksand I'm in. I don't have family but as the man said, "A guy can't have everything."

Now where was I a year ago? I had increasing, instead of decreasing debt; didn't have a place or a fridge of my own; had a little rip-off laptop from Indonesia; I had only summer clothing I had brought to Indonesia, and it was pretty much worn out, but I had some good friends and I had just arrived in Korea with new hope that I could make some dough here like I had before and maybe find a good, long term place to work.

Well I'm making dough!

I am not sure how much I should slag the place I work at or the people who own it and run it, but I had high hopes that this was a different hagwon. This was not going to be a mickey mouse cram school where a good teacher would feel like the walk to work every day was a sentence to Azkaban and the students were all joy-sucking Dementors. I was told all the good things about the place and the people who run it and for the most part they have been true. But, me and my cursed positivity, I didn't shift into skeptic mode and ask all the questions that should have been asked before signing the contract because I didn't want to ruffle any feathers and, frankly, I was desperate to get back to work. So I didn't ask what EXACTLY was meant by 10 vacation days per year. This is what comes from experience. In any business engagement with Koreans I have had, (and I have heard this is quite common even outside of the ESL racket), there are obvious scams. Things they don't tell you about and hope you don't ask about. And despite all the good things the previous worker and the owners were piling onto me during the courting period before the contracts were signed, I knew there were a few areas that I didn't want to ask about.

Through the years I have been ripped off by so many Koreans that it has left a scar on me. I try very hard not to think of all the other soulless scumbags who have taken me for the proverbial ride when I start talking to a new employer about salary or vacation or teaching philosophy because I believe that holding other Koreans' actions against this new employer would be racist. But try as I do, when the new employer starts mealy mouthing about some important, (and bad... always bad), information that was left out of the contract, all the old memories start rising up and Lewis Black's little red character from "Inside Out" mans the controls of my brain. At first it's a snide smile and comments dripping with sarcasm like, "Oh, wonderful! YOU choose the days of my vacation! That's so much better for me! Takes the pressure off me. It's so hard for me to decide my vacation on my own!"

Then it gets a little more smirky and to the point, "Usually taken during April and September when the middle school kids have vacation. Okay, that's good. I want to do what's most convenient for YOU."

Then my mouth gets cottony and every word I say is accompanied by a tongue smacking that makes it plain I am suffering from desert mouth, which adds embarrassment to the anger, thereby increasing the rage, the dry mouth and the smacking noises. "Oh, I see. The two weeks in April are already spoken for by other teachers. And YOU have 10 days vacation in September leaving me with the five days you are showing me on the calendar now hoping I won't notice that two of those days are a weekend. Yes, I can see how you FORGOT to tell me about the previous two times I inquired about it."

I was told not to worry and assured that I will be paid in lieu of vacation time for the 7 of 10 days vacation I won't get. And another thing I have learned, and it's a ceaseless frustration for myself and other's here in Korea is this bullshit myth of "chaemyun." "Face," is the highly inaccurate term used for it amongst English speakers, but I find most people really don't understand how entirely loathsome and obviously upper cast-spawned this crippling tradition really is! It's simply a way for rich and powerful people to maintain their riches and power. I have used the example of "jung," before. It's a mythical "love" that only Koreans can have for one another. Really it's just an excuse for powerful people to treat the less powerful like shit then say, "But I have JUNG for you!" A fellow blogger gave an example from a Korean drama, (ugh), that comes more to bear on my situation. It's from the drama called, "Eun-Hee." It's one of those Korean dramas that they have on TV showing how things were before and after the Korean War in Korea. Well... showing how all Koreans WISH they were.

Eun Hee works at a tofu factory. One day the good-for-nothing nephew of the owner of the tofu factory embezzles money from the company and tries to blame it on Eun-hee, the lead character of the show. Amid rampant rumors among the factory staff, it gradually comes to light who the real perpetrator is and the characters are left figuring out how to deal with the situation.

Several options are considered and attempted. Since the guilty party is the nephew of the president, it would really reflect badly on the good owner to announce the truth to the factory workers, but the president can't let the issue slide either (that would look bad too). Somebody has to take the fall for the crime and Eun-hee is about to get fired. However, before this happens, a friend of Eun-hee borrows money and gives it to the company management saying he'll take responsibility for the crime, and then quit his job. Eventually, another friend of Eun-hee's sells his camera equipment to get some money, which he then takes to the nephew, telling him to return it to his aunt (the owner), explain it was an oversight and apologize for an honest mistake. This is what ends up happening.

So a good person loses his job and another good person loses his camera equipment and the asshole, who, let's face it, doesn't give the money back to president, his uncle or aunt, but keeps it, essentially doubling his reward for embezzlement, gets off Scott free! Come on!!! NObody thinks this is the right way of doing things! I don't care how Korean you are! And honestly, Koreans don't want to, nor do they really do this horseshit. They just tell tales of doing it. And when they achieve positions of power, they require this sort of behaviour from their underlings.

So I just have to pretend like my boss was not TOTALLY busted for scamming me out of the bare minimum 10 days of vacation promised in the contract. In non-Asian countries, where we deal more in honesty and less in mythology, we call this eating shit. But I know if I take even a slightly accusatory tone, the whole thing will be turned around on me and I will be the bad guy for pointing out the sins of the true bad guy. Lesson learned from both situations? In Korea, it's good to be the bad guy. That's why business here will never lose its base of corruption. Not until this chaemyun is exposed for the fraud it actually is. And I doubt I'll see it in my lifetime.

There is a growing list of things the hagwon owners "forgot" to tell me before I signed. The very first was the apartment. Several things, in fact, about this apartment weren't told to me and will be met with, "Well! I never! How can you foreigners be so rude?!" if I point them out. First, it's not the apartment I looked at and agreed upon. It's one that was arranged for me while I was 3 hours away in Seoul. Then on moving day I was told of the sight unseen apartment I'd be given. When I arrived it was mostly okay, but there were a few things. Again, it was my proper place to reply, "No, everything's fine!" when asked if the apartment was okay. And wear my smirky smirk again. But I have a single electric burner. I was promised a double before I moved in but it has yet to materialize. The bathroom sink was clogged and taken apart when I moved in. The landlord put the fixture back together, but never fixed the clog. It gets worse all the time. I have tried plunging, baking soda and vinegar, water and Saran Wrap, but nothing has worked. The sink drains at a trickle and will soon not drain at all. Asking the landlord to fix it might result in another confrontation. The BIG thing, however, was the thoroughly black mold infested bathroom. The landlord wore a mask while he fixed the sink, I assure you. But get it professionally cleaned before the foreigner moves in? That would have been too much. It was just left for me to do. Which I did. And have had 3 "colds" in the first 3 months here.

I've used bleach, vinegar, a dozen different cleaners, and just heavy scrubbing, but from what I've read about black mold, there's no way I'll ever have a mold-free apartment here. And I have the chest congestion to prove it. But to suggest to the landlord or hagwon boss that they were in any way complicit? Bad form! The skeptic in me has to believe that the landlord looked into professional cleaning and just didn't want to pay that much. The last dude who lived here was probably sick. He LOOKED sick the one time I saw him. They probably had a helluva time trying to offload this apartment onto a Korean! But dump it onto a foreigner sight unseen! Genius! I was told by my boss that the landlord doesn't like having foreigners living in his place. But if it's in the moldy death trap, well okay then.

Then there's the boss's position in this. I'm sure this place was a sweetheart of a deal! And he's actually TOLD me I'm paying taxes on 400,000 won a month. That's right, the "FREE" apartment in the contract, that is a government mandated part of the contract by the way, is not really free. Whether he is paying 400,000 a month rent or he's really paying less but claiming 400,000, or maybe he just lied and is claiming 500,000... I don't know. But I am boosted into a higher tax bracket because of this and will take a big hit at tax time. Didn't tell me that until the squabble about the pay.

Oh, yes, the pay. I met several times with the bosses here before signing the contract and was quoted a number several times. It was in the ad and on the contract. Never did anyone remember to tell me that 300,000 won a month would be deducted from that amount. 3.3% is what's in the contract. That's about 75 bucks a month. That's what I expected. Nope. I pay over 300 bucks a month tax. Forgot, I was told. Smirky smirk.

When I started teaching, I found a lot of the things I hate most about teaching in Korea even though they too had been "forgotten" about when the hagwon was explained to me. Team teaching. Never liked it, never will. I am a bit obsessive about planning well in advance. This is one reason why I loved the college and university programs. Everything is planned for the entire 17-week program before it even starts. I mentioned several times that I wanted to do this here so needed texts to get to work. Never occurred to anyone to mention that I won't be able to plan ANYthing in advance because I'll be teaching the same texts as the Korean teachers. And even if you find that elusive method of informing the other teacher what you did, that still gives them a day's notice at best. It wasn't until the middle of my fourth month here that I actually was told who my co-teacher was for every class. Slipped their minds.

Another thing that will hamper my efforts at advanced planning is the bizarre schedule. I STILL haven't really figured it out and get surprise classes showing up. "I thought I had the phonics class at this time," I say smirky smirkily. "No, because of the holiday last week and due to the middle school picnic week, elementary school classes are getting more of the time here so we decided to swap the classes." And, you know it is not my place to say, "Sure! Without telling me!"

The textbooks we were using took me a month and a half to finish. Then I was told the other teachers were going to review before we could move to the next book in the series. So I reviewed too. For ANOTHER month and a half! 4 topics per book! It's pretty hard to pull that many lessons on 4 topics out of my, ahem, bag of tricks. Then, at the three month point, I was told that this is normal. A month or two of review is normal after finishing the texts. The very next day, (I'm not kidding!), I was told I have to use the texts more.

This brings up possibly the most annoying of the things I wasn't told. I heard on several occasions that management will just let me do my own thing. I love that. Full classroom autonomy. But at the three month point I have been told to use the text for 30 minutes, homework check 10 minutes, something else like maybe a game 10 minutes, do three pages of this book per day... and I have to give 10 to 15 minutes of homework to every class at the end of every class by rule. I had heard that one of the owners likes homework so I was giving some, against my educational principals. But I understand how Korean parents like the useless homework so I was assigning it. Some students and some parents started saying David doesn't give homework and that, I think, is what brought on this monumental micromanagement. I have now been handicapped by rules down to the minute of class time and the number of textbook pages. As far from full classroom autonomy as you can get.

The whole time I'm being kimchi-slapped in the face with all of these things, (and more), I am wearing a plastic smile and saying things like, "Well good! Now I know," or, "I'm glad we had this meeting. We should have more communication like this." The reason is, with all of this hardship, I can honestly say, hey, I'm working at a hagwon! These things have to be expected. And when you sit down and think about it, yeah I'm sacrificing many of the educational principals that have nurtured me, lo, these many years, but I'm making money. I'm doing MUCH better than I was at this point last year. Or two years ago. Or three or four or... Things have been much worse. And while I'm working at Azkaban Hagwon, I can always throw resumes around to other places that might, (or, sigh, might not), be better. I'm only sentenced to a year. And there really are some very good kids at this place. They're not all Dementors. In fact the majority are really nice, cute kids.

But people are constantly asking me how things are going. If you are not Korean I will say, "Work is a bit of a bowl of suck at the moment." Or something like that. If you are Korean, I will lie to you and tell you that things are fine and give you a fake smirky smirk. Don't blame me, that is what your culture demands. And that statement in itself demands a show of anger from the Korean who has been totally busted. See? This face thing, or "chaemyun," really isn't so hard to figure out. Just a bit hard to live with sometimes. But at least I'm making dough.

So I got that goin' for me.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Miracle on Yeoreum?

Here's a story I'm following.

It seems the Korean national hockey team, which is allowed to participate in the 2018 Olympic tournament only by virtue of the Korean cities of Pyeongchang and Gangneung being the host cities of said Olympics, has fast tracked some Canadian hockey players' citizenship applications so that they can represent Korea. I've been to a game in Seoul and I have seen some of these guys play for the Anyang Halla team. The hockey is not nearly as exciting as watching NHL or Olympics, but it's fun. And even if these guys and some other North Americans are on the Korean team, I have little doubt that Korea will get pummelled like a rented mule. And I will have a Cass beer and a pretty good laugh while watching it. In fact I can't wait!!!

But what if the unthinkable happened? What if Matt Dalton stands on his head, and Eric Regan blocks as many shots as Matt, and somehow Brock Radunske and Michael Swift combine for a goal assisted by other Canadian defenseman, Bryan Young and American, Mike Testwuide or however you spell that? What if this goal stands up and they beat, I dunno, Uzbekistan? A Korean hockey victory at the Olympic games! That would be outstanding! I sincerely hope it happens! I do! Because THEN Korea would invest more time and money into the hockey program here. Kids would be more likely to understand that hockey is infinitely cooler than the soccer they all think is cool because of the Korean performance in World Cup 2002, which they co-hosted with Japan.

I'd love to see hockey explode here! But having lived for so long in the land of the morning calm, I question whether Koreans would be satisfied with only one win. I wonder if they would even be satisfied with a miracle on ice like the 1980 American team made up of some mediocre hockey players beating the most extraordinary hockey force maybe ever, the Soviet team. Every time I look at the sheer unlikeliness of THAT miracle, I think it wasn't just a little, but a LOT too unlikely to have actually happened. And I really DON'T want to investigate any further lest I lose my faith in the sanctity of Olympic hockey. Because the only plausible way that could have happened was a legitimate, Almighty God assisted miracle or a fix. Money changed hands. It was the cold war era and Russia needed money and America needed victory. I don't want to EVER find out that the Russians took a dive, but come on! Look at the players! Men against boys!

At any rate, it is without a doubt the upset of all time in sports. Even if the Washington Generals beat the Harlem Globetrotters, it wouldn't be as unlikely a victory. Not even close. But if Korea were to win a few games in 2018... How big would this be? The cheerer for the underdog in me dearly hopes it happens and I am here to see it! The skeptic in me thinks, "Does Korea have enough dough to pay off an Olympic hockey team or two? And would it be worth it for them?" The answer to that is most likely, YES! Korea would gain a great deal from being the mouse that roared! Look what the soccer World Cup of 2002 did for the country! It put Korea on the world soccer map, but more than that, it put Korea on the world map in the minds of a lot of its citizens who maintained to that point, a sort of small country humility. I am certainly not saying being as yet the only Asian country to reach the World Cup semis is the only thing that caused this, what, is "haughtiness" too strong a word? And I'm not saying it was good. But I have witnessed Korea develop a swagger since I first came here in 1997, and the World Cup was a HUGE contributor to it.

Again, the skeptic in me must be heard. Guus Hiddink was the coach of that Korean team. He was the first person to be given honourary Korean citizenship for his contribution to the shocking success in World Cup 2002. He's still a hero here. I have seen more than one restaurant/bar named after him! But the minds of all soccer fans, (which I am not, as you can tell by my use of the word, "soccer"), and all skeptics, (which I am), think back to the officiating of the tournament. Again, I'm not saying the refs were bought but, 2 red cards against Portugal and 2 disallowed goals in their match against Spain were bigger reasons than any that Korea did so well. Who's to say that a couple of World Cup officials weren't the second and third people to receive honourary citizenship?

I have already heard some buzzing in the comments posted by the locals when this article was featured on an expat website about how the refs in the Olympic hockey tournament will be bought and the Korean hockey team will benefit. I HATE to think that the purity of my national sport could be sullied like that! Sport is one of the few remaining things that hasn't been ruined yet by money. Well, amateur sport, that is. Which is what the Olympics is supposed to be. Which brings up the question of whether the pros will participate or not. If the pros are disallowed from the Olympic hockey tournament for Pyeongchang then none of the listed players would be allowed to play. And none of the pros on the other teams would be allowed to play. But would the amateur players of Canada, Russia, Finland, Sweden, etc. not make a bigger punching bag of an amateur Korean club? They most certainly would! So I think Korea is counting on the pros remaining. I think they will. And with the pros playing, and the pros officiating, (that is, players and referees who are paid to play hockey and officiate it), they are USED to being paid off! How much easier will it be to fix this tournament? That's what the skeptic in me is thinking.

I also wonder other things. Like if this "miracle" were to happen, what would the general feeling be throughout Korea? Would they feel as proud as they did for their 2002 soccer team, even with all these ringers on the team? I have a feeling they would. Another part of that swagger development in Korea has been the gradual change from grateful thanks to the nations that assisted during the Korean war to "We really kicked some ass in that war didn't we?" And I know that countries like Turkey, the U.K. countries and Australia figured largely and I recall the U.S. having some say in that skirmish, but Canada's contribution to the Korean war is all but forgotten. So eventually the contribution of these Canadian hockey players to any success in 2018 would likely be forgotten as well.

And from the standpoint of an ESL teacher in Korea, imported from the more educationally experienced, refined and forward thinking country of Canada, who has consistently been encouraged, micromanaged, demanded and even forced to abandon the sophisticated teaching philosophy and methodology that took many years of study and experience to acquire and force myself into antiquated but popular 1950's training in Korea, I wonder if this won't happen with the hockey team. Will the Korean team coach, Jimmy Paek, use the sophisticated, well honed, hockey methodology of the hockey playing nations of the world that he was exposed to during his days as an NHL player, or will some Koreans pay HIM off to employ their ingenious KOREAN strategies, which include no forward passing, no curved sticks, line-changes only on whistles, and getting rid of those pussy helmets?

I guess it'll all be part of the colourful tapestry that is the Olympic winter games. Just one more thing to be excited about!

Friday, April 22, 2016

We All Have Our Judiths

Like all good comedy, in my opinion, this made me laugh and then it made me go, "Hmmmm..." By Golly, he's right! What is up with that? Germany! Ya gotta give them props! They're like Lex Luthor. Or Moriarty. Or Reverse Flash. Or Voldemort. Or Hitler. Or Gargamel. Or Dr. Claw. Or Eric Cartman. Or Cancer. Or the Giant Chicken. Or even Satan himself.

They were bad. But they brought it! They had game! And if they hadn't hurt our heroes, made them feel hopeless and forced them to rise above that feeling, their heroism would have suffered. In some cases, been downgraded to ambiguity.

Don't just look at Hitler, look at Max Planck, Einstein, Haber, Benz, Heinrich Goebel, Wilhelm Rontgen, how about Charles M. Schultz? No, he wasn't born in Germany, but his Dad was, and ask yourself this: if not for Peanuts, would you recognize the name Manfred von Richtofen? I wouldn't. The Red Baron. He brought it too! 80 air combat victories! Unheard of! Add to that the countless times he shot Snoopy down. He was and is a national hero in Germany and was widely respected even by his enemies!

Then you look at all the scientific names I dropped. Rontgen, even though Edison never corrected anyone who said HE invented the x-ray, it was Rontgen. The light bulb is the same way. Edison didn't invent it. Not even close. But it's one of many things we don't exactly know who invented. Goebel is one of the inventors who may have. Like 25 years earlier than Edison. This we know because Edison decided to sue a few manufacturers who were making light bulbs like the ones he claimed to invent. The companies contested that Edison's patent was fraudulent because Goebel had invented the incandescent light bulb before him. Edison ended up, (somehow), winning the cases and getting even richer, but many still contend that Goebel legitimately invented the light bulbs Edison stole, then patented. Edison was a dick!

The car is another invention like this. It's hard to say exactly what a car is. There were steam powered automobiles in France before Karl Benz made his car. It certainly wasn't Henry Ford who invented the automobile though. That much is for sure. He didn't invent the production line either. That's just plain silly. But speaking of Germany... Ford was well loved by Germany. Ford motors powered their WWII army. He got a medal from Hitler. The highest honour a non-German could receive. He was the only foreigner mentioned in "Mein Kampf." I've even heard Hitler had a life sized portrait of Ford in his office. See? Zee Germans...

I'm looking forward to the upcoming movie about Nikola Tesla. Perhaps this will knock the falsely respected Thomas Edison down to his proper place as just one of these really bad people who bring out the best in the good people. He told the world direct current was superior and put up 50,000 dollars to anyone who could improve upon it. Tesla gave him alternating current. It was better. Edison basically said, "Aw, shucks, Tessie, old chap, I was just joshin' ya!" And, like so many other inventions he hijacked, went on to make loads of money from it while the REAL genius didn't. He never gave Tesla his 50 grand. And this is back when 50 grand was like a million. There's no telling how many inventions we'd have now if Edison was a man of his word! You know all those chords hanging off everything electric you own? Especially the snarl of them behind your computer table and your living room entertainment center. Tesla said he could eliminate them for everybody and I believe he could have. We will never know. You can thank Edison for THAT. For all we know he may have been a better invention suppressor than inventor.

Every time I think of Edison, I think of that song, "Judith," by A Perfect Circle. The first line is catchy: "You're such an inspiration for the ways that I'll never ever choose to be!" It's a song about someone named Judith who believes she is doing good when she's really doing bad. I suppose we all have our Judiths in this life and we can hate them and give up or we can use them as inspiration and heroically rise above. I believe that along with the arch-enemies, we need some heroes too. The negative inspiration is good, but we need to see people who have succeeded against these formidable foes. Come to think of it, every U.S. presidential campaign needs a theme song. How 'bout "Judith" for Her Strumphmeister, (Donaldo Trump)? I just can't take him seriously enough to write his proper name.

Fritz Haber, a brilliant mind reduced by the war to figuring out a better way to kill people. Haber's chlorine gas was just abominable! Yet his Nobel Prize winning method of producing nitrogen fertilizers is probably used for half the world's food production.

Max Planck, the father of quantum theory, also won a Nobel Prize for a theories on atoms and sub-atomic matter. He was a supporter of Einstein's theories of relativity. And, oh yeah, Einstein. This guy was a SUPERSTAR! Known all over the world. If you find any list of the most famous people in history, behind Jesus, Muhammed, Hitler and maybe Michael Jackson, Buddha or Muhammed Ali, you will find Einstein. Even more well known than Lady Diana, Marilyn Munroe, Ghandi, Elvis, Leonardo da Vinci or Newton, his own hero, Einstein was a regular phenomenon in his time!

But there is an awful lot we don't know about Einstein! Like many men, his public, sort of cleaned up, personna is what we all learn about in school. But did you know he didn't win his Nobel Prize for his general theory of relativity? No, that theory is just what made him a household name. He won it for something that he worked on years before he became famous, wasn't considered for the Nobel Prize, then after he became a superstar, it got the Nobel Prize. It was a paper on the "photoelectric effect" that he had written in 1905, 17 YEARS before he got his Nobel Prize in 1922.

Sort of like Leo winning the Oscar this year for like his ninth best movie role. The BEAR deserved an Oscar more than Leo. But the academy just figured the time had come to give such a famous actor an Oscar. That or it was the beard. Grow a beard, win an Oscar.

How about this: Einstein wasn't even responsible for the theory of relativity at all! It's pretty well accepted that Henri Poincare's work in that area was "borrowed," by Einstein and should have at least been footnoted. Many others can make that claim. But amongst them, science could find none with the package they were looking for, I suppose. Someone who LOOKED smart. Someone who had some character. Someone GERMAN!

There's a story of Nikola Tesla setting up an experiment in which he sent electrical, (of course), pulses over very long distances in opposite directions such that the ones going in the direction of the Earth's rotation should have shown an observable fraction of a second difference in speed from the ones going against it. There was no observable difference, which showed that these pulses were travelling faster than the agreed upon speed of light. Einstein was convinced. He actually gave a speeches in which he admitted his theory of relativity was wrong.

This was back around the turn of the 20th century when I believe the ruination of science began. When science chose the remarkably UN-scientific path it still follows today, in certain aspects of science. Like quantum theory. In fact there was a fellow named Lorentz who had great respect for Einstein's general theory of relativity, but preferred his own ether-based theory of electrons, which had the identical empirical consequences. Difference was it required an experimentally undetectable, "ether," as the carrier of the electromagnetic field. The math was the same, it was the philosophy that differed.

Einstein expressed his views on the emerging quantum theories of his time as "fashion," and even as a JOKE! Very much as the Emperor's new clothes.

"Einstein: A new fashion has arisen in physics, which declares that certain things cannot be observed and therefore should not be ascribed reality.
His friend Philipp Frank: But the fashion you speak of was invented by you in 1905!"
Einstein: A good joke should not be repeated too often."

But rather than admit the validity of Lorentz's (1904) theory as being more plausible, Einstein enjoyed his celebrity and got a huge kick out of Heisenberg and all ensuing scientific minds that contributed to the development of this false quantum theory.

Ha ha ha ha ha! Schwachkopfs!!! (idiots!)

Heisenberg wrote about a conversation with Einstein:

"Einstein: But you don't seriously believe that only observable quantities should be considered in a physical theory?!
Heisenberg: I thought that was the very idea that your relativity theory is based on!
E: Perhaps I used this kind of reasoning, but it is nonsense nevertheless. In reality the opposite is true: only the theory decides what can be observed."

Light, folks, is not made of particles, as Einstein incorrectly theorized and the whole world believes today, it is made of waves in an ether, which is what Lorentz believed and Tesla SHOWED Einstein. But this is contrary to the path of abject secularization science has long-since hacked out, to, I believe, its immeasurable detriment. A "boson" is a particle that has no mass, therefore should not be ascribed reality, yet passes through a field that is everywhere and by definition cannot, therefore, be passed through. Indeed the very idea of movement requires existence, which something without mass does not have, so the boson MOVING through anything is absurd. Then it pops into existence for an immeasurable amount of time, then pops out of existence when it leaves the unleavable field. We know this because we believe this. That is all. Science has even gone so far as to change the meanings of words. For instance, "theory." This stuff about bosons and a Higgs field is not just theory. It's the new and improved "scientifically PROVEN theory." Yes, scientific journals are actually printing this verbatim. Theories can now be proven. This is what I refer to when I speak of the ruination of science.

So this particle with no mass must be said to exist because science desperately needs it to exist or over 100 years of work and many, many Nobel prizes would be total fraud. THIS is what we are left with. It IS hilarious, isn't it? Or maybe, my mind just isn't sophisticated enough to appreciate the finery of Science's new clothes. Now you know why Einstein was always laughing.

The Ether, you see, sounds too much like God. But this weak borscht that Einstein and I find laughable, is, to most, an acceptably scientific sounding alternative, even though it's still all based on belief rather than that old school factual scientific tool called observation. Admittedly the Ether is unobservable, but it might have yielded much more beneficial results upon closer scientific scrutiny than the years and years of science fiction that are all founded upon the false theory of a smiling German scientist.

Is this a world war zee Germans have WON?

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Hardships and Hard-to-Ship Shipments: My 20 Bucks Worth

Well I just ate a big meal and virtually forced myself to stay up for 5 or 6 more hours so that I can sleep without getting wicked reflux. So, what can I whine and complain about tonight?

I know, my shipment! Yup, the same shipment that has been mentioned in several of these blog posts for almost the last two years. STILL not even on a boat to Asia yet. It's all paid for. Has been for two weeks. The hold-up is something almost as unbelievable as the unbelievable history of this shipment and its hold-ups. You see, there was a 20-dollar charge added to my last payment to the freight company. This payment has boosted the total for this shipment to well over the thousand dollar mark and a 20 dollar arbitrary bank fee has stalled my shipment for another 2 weeks.

I paid a certain amount, have the receipt to show it, sent the receipt to the shipping company, at their request, TWICE, and STILL I'm getting messages from them telling me they received 20 dollars less than the amount I sent. Saying that it was my bank that must have added a charge so I should pay them 20 bucks to cover it. Well, I don't think it WAS my bank that charged THEIR account. In fact I'm pretty sure that can't happen. THEIR bank charged them 20 bucks for the Korean bank transfer for whatever made-up reason. Now they want me to cover it.

When I got my criminal record check done here I tried to pay using all kinds of methods and couldn't do it. I ended up asking Heather, my American friend, to do it with her American Paypal account. She did so and lo and behold, a 20-dollar fee was tacked onto it. The document service told me they had received 20 bucks too little and had the same initial reaction as the freight company: Are you trying to rip us off here? I can't remember but I think the document and all the nonsense that they had to do to certify it all came to a few hundred bucks. They realized that if I tried to send the 20 bucks to pay for the shortage, the same 20-dollar deduction would happen again, so they ate the 20 bucks and chalked it up to the price of doing business overseas. (In Korea to be exact.)

The two people I'm dealing with at the freight company are not so quick on the uptake and are insistant upon my paying them the 20 bucks I, or MY bank, shorted them. Almost as if it's coming out of their salaries or something. They sent me a Paypal receipt and I explained the Paypal situation here in Korea to them. They said I should wire them the 20 bucks and I said that there is no reason to believe the same 20 dollar surcharge wouldn't be added. Leaving them still 20 bucks short, me another 20 bucks poorer and the banks UP 40! God it must be good to be a bank!

So they suggested I do direct deposit from my Canadian account. That SHOULD work but the address they gave me is not recognized on my bank's e-banking payee list. For two weeks I've been receiving new emails with the identical information in them. "We gave you a bill of this and we received this". Like there is ANYthing I can DO about it! 20 dollars. I'd pay it if there was any way to do so.

I've posted about it on Facebook too and I love it when people in the friendly confines of North America try to help. My cousin, Shawna, though it sounded more like a criticism than an attempt to help, messages, "You don't need a Paypal account to pay a Paypal receipt." Nothing more by way of explanation, just a verbal eye-roll at my ignorance. My buddy Roger, (and I KNOW HIS heart was in the right place), sends, "It's free to start a Paypal account. Easy breezy."

I was reminded of the movie, "Good Morning Vietnam," when the Adrian Kronaur comedy routine included a message from the president of the United States telling the soldiers in Nam that if their skin gets irritated from shaving, why, they oughta try using some cold water. Though I am a veteran of Kangnam, not Vietnam, I am still aware that cold water was not so easy to come by in Nam during the war. But it's easy for the POTUS to just transfer the creature comforts that he's used to and mentally construct a highly inaccurate representation of the situation for the fighting forces in Vietnam. It's the same for people who I know back home. They really don't have much of an idea of how things are over here. Even though I blog, write letters and have told a story or two to a friend or family member or two, I am always surprised when I find how similar people think things are over here to things back home. I mean just simple little things.

For instance, I HATE these posts about how to make really great casseroles or cookies or pizza or pies or just about any recipe with a succulent picture there to taunt and tease me. It taunts and teases me because when I look at the list of ingredients, usually half of them are all but unavailable to me. I say "ALL BUT" because they can be found on base, but it's illegal to ask a U.S. military friend to purchase any products for me at the commissary and I would never do anything unlawful as that. Ahem.

Seriously! I would pay 20 bucks for a bowl of Kraft Dinner and a couple Shake n' Bake pork chops! No Shake n' Bake, and I dare you to find a proper pork chop. Oh they have pork and they chop it, but it's not the same. And then you will need an oven to bake it in. They are not nearly as hard to come by as they once were but still haven't caught on over here. And if you buy one, hooking it up might be harder than just taking it right back to where you bought it. See, they don't have the proper hook-ups here. And everything's gas. No electric. And the kitchens are designed for a 1950's 5 foot nothing, stay-at-home wife. There's no room for anything that makes kitchen bitchin' easier for her. And if you DO find an electric oven, find a good place for it in your kitchen, you might run into the problems I have with my electric burner. I have one burner. The boss promised me he'd get a two burner gas stove from the previous teacher's house and hook it up right away here. Two months ago. He's most likely not moving on that because the gas hook-up will be difficult, and I don't have room in my stove area for the two burners. I've been making do with this thing but it sucks. The usual problems. Korean's don't know what slow cooking means. NOTHING is cooked on low. They don't need low. In fact, if they made Spinal Tap stoves that crank up to 11 here I'm POSITIVE they'd be huge! So my little hot plate gets RED hot on one. Half way between zero and one! And anywhere up to 10. Don't be surprised if your newly purchased electric oven has the same feature.

Hah! I just noticed that my crappy, little burner has the word, "luxury" on it! I have found, along with other friends, that "luxury" is one of those opposite words. "De Luxe" too. Most things with these words on them are crapzola! The thing has a timer that is the on switch. You can't turn it on without the timer. And sometimes this timer has a mind of its own. I swear I am not making this up, sometimes my little burner turns itself on! And sometimes it doesn't turn itself off. Even on ZERO the stupid thing gets hot. It's a fire hazard and an engineering abortion. All things considered though, it's better than some set-ups I've had. Funnily enough my nuclear burner is right beside my Indonesian toaster, which is the exact opposite. In fact, it's so slow, it'd be more accurate to call it an Indonesian bread cooker. So things like bacon, (there again, not as hard as it once was to find, but still a chore. Though nowhere near as expensive as Indo so I got that goin' for me), if I don't want it charred, yet undercooked, I turn on the toaster and hang my bacon pieces down into the slots. You know, I'm kidding but it's not a bad idear....

Paypal is a nightmare in Korea! I've heard more than enough stories to steer clear. Because of the paranoia Korea has that people will do to them what they have become so good at doing to other countries, they won't allow you to take your money out of Korea. So if you're moving, you have to spend your Korean won from your Paypal account or give it away. They won't allow you to exchange it into another currency. I'm not saying I know that to be true, just that I've heard it and it sounds believable to me. It's just not convenient for foreigners. Like many other things.

I can't play Facebook games. I can't tell you how many Facebook friends are STILL sending me game requests and it bugs me because I miss those games. Can't play them. And then there's the Korean KCSC warning any time you go to a porn site, or a site some Korean censor has mistaken for a porn site. I have had sports highlights blocked, lessons for my kids, it's not very accurate. Oddly, it never seems to work in reverse. They don't seem to mistake any of the porn for pure, clean websites that won't harm the pristine collective consciousness of the great Korean people. I always laugh when I say I live in Korea and people ask, "North or South?" But sometimes it's like when a student's parents come into the hagwon to pay or give a gift or maybe I see them grocery shopping at E-Mart. The resemblance is very easy to see. It's very rare to see kids that look nothing like their parents. MUCH rarer than in Canada, I'd say.

Because of the hated undol heating, every day I take a shower that I pay quite handsomely for. The gas bills are 120 bucks a month here. Just for heating. And if you know me, you know I like a cold house. I'm not using the stupid undol that much. But every day I heat up my shower water for awhile. I find an hour is necessary if I want a good shower. And when I say "good," that is relative. If I don't heat the water for an hour I get a blast of freezing cold at first. And, by the way, like most undol heating, the pipes don't go into the bathroom, so it's as cold as ice in there already, floor to ceiling. But I don't mind that much. It's just not nice when you get a blast of freezing water. I don't stand under it, but it splashes on my legs and that's not pleasant. Then almost immediately I get the scalding hot, Starbucks coffee temperature water for half a minute. So almost a minute of pre-shower water goes down the drain. Then it gets to a point where I can get under the water. If I heat the water for less than an hour, the time I can STAY under the shower, adjusting the tap hotter and hotter until it's all the way to the hot side, will be roughly 3 minutes. Then it'll go back to the cold. I find if you run the water past the scalding hot, rinse off in the warm and quickly turn it off, lather up and turn it back on again, you can extend your warm water time by a good two minutes! But sometimes that just gets you another blast of the scalding. It's hit or miss. I've tried putting the beginning minute of extreme temperature water into a big container and using it later but it's a hassle and it never seems to be quite the right temperature.

And THEN, when you want to turn it on or off you have to deal with this diabolical device:

It's the garden variety thermostat for the undol heating. It reads 20 right now because it's morning and I'm heating up water for my shower. Or, maybe 20 bucks is what I'll pay for that shower. Not sure. And, yes that's an intercom phone beside it. I have an INTERCOM! Wooooh! It's 6 feet from my door. I'm sure if anyone called me on it I'd be better able to talk through the door. And most likely would. In fact the cable guy was the only guy to ring me and I just answered the door. I wish someone had used the money for that useless piece of tech. to invest in a thermostat that works. THIS thing is like my burner: possessed! It too turns itself on once in a while. Or just doesn't turn off when the off button is pressed. I doubt I have even once pressed that power button just once. You have to hit it with a barrage of carefully off-set taps that will randomly result in the setting you desire. If you can read the Korean and understand the setting you desire. Grrrr!

And while we're on the bathroom, toilets. I mean sit upon toilets. STILL something that can't be taken for granted in this country. I have my schedule pretty much down to where I never have to, but twice in the time I've been working at the hagwon, for reasons of overindulgence, (not liquid but food, kimchi being the most likely culprit), I have been forced to brave the one sit-down toilet in the bathroom at the end of the hall. The hagwan is in a long building. It takes a good minute to walk to the end of the hall to the bathroom. More than once I've felt like Danny in the Overlook hotel walking that hall. It wouldn't have looked very professional to ride a Big Wheel I don't reckon.

The bathroom is just a treat! It smells of urine unless someone who works or studies at one of the other businesses on the same floor has done us the favour of adding tobacco to the urine smell. There are five or six mops hanging on the wall by the sink but no mop buckets and the musty smell of those mops gives one some idea of the decade in which they were purchased and probably last used. The sink has a yellow-brown stain from the almost constantly running trickle of water from the one tap. To keep the lines from freezing. A common tactic here. The urinals are not bad but there are three stalls, two of which have squat toilets in them. The centre stall, to my relief, has a sit-down toilet. The seat is dirty. Someone has pissed with the seat down and someone has flicked a butt into the toilet at some point since its last cleaning. So with the door open, I use part of my partial roll of TP to wipe the seat, blaming both the urine and the tobacco ashes on the same person under my breath as I do so. There is little I can do about the liquid on the floor surrounding the toilet. The grouting around the base of the fixture leaks water. I am hopeful that it is ONLY water on the floor. So I squeeze all the way into the stall, close the door and try to sit on the toilet. I can't. My head bounces off the door and sends me backward just enough so my bare ass touches the sweating reservoir and again I am hoping that the shocking chill I got was from water and not some other toilet liquid. I steady myself and begin to concoct a strategy for the use of this toilet. My first thought is to spin 180 degrees and sit down facing the reservoir. That won't work. The zipper in my pants makes a sound that sends a shot of panic down my spine and into my now acrobatic stomach. I thought my pants had ripped. I hadn't even taught my first class yet! I had six hours to go in these pants. I can't rip them!

But luckily they weren't ripped. The pressure on the zipper, though was a clue that if I pursued this strategy any further, my pants might rip. So I spun back around and said, "Screw it!" I opened up the door, and sat down on the toilet. Anyone in there, sorry, but it's gotta be done. Any of my students who were in there... ugh. I'm so glad there was nobody in there!

So I get seated and managed, (just), to close the door. It's actually necessary for me to spread my legs uncomfortably wide and STILL they are right up against the door! But the payload is delivered cleanly much to my pleasure and palliation. But the relief was short-lived. Wiping! What the hell? I turn one way and my shoulder hits the stall wall. Same the other way. Forward, up, down, nothing is helping. I see if pulling the pants right down to the ankles helps. It doesn't. I might try taking one leg out but not without removing a shoe and with the floor so wet, I'm not about to try that. So finally again I say, "Ahh screw it!" I open the door and in full view of any who might be sharing the building's facilities, I wipe my arse. Good GOD, Magnum, I'm glad there was nobody sharing the facilities!

Getting dressed again was a struggle back inside the stall. Facing the toilet with an anchor hand against the wall behind I pulled up my gotch and pants mostly with one hand. Luckily there's a mirror above the sink with the running tap. I looked at the job I did and it looked like I had pulled up my pants with one hand. So since there still wasn't anyone in the bathroom with me, I dropped trou and started all over. When I finally got myself pulled together and left the bathroom feeling like a conquering adventurer I noticed that half way up my left pantleg my pants were darker in colour. Yup, wet from the liquid on the leaky toilet floor. I taught an entire class hoping against hope that my students just assumed I had been slushed by a passing car or stepped in a puddle.

Folks, I have but scratched the surface. There are reasons why people still get hardship pay working here in Korea.

But to end on a positive note, I should be okay to hit the sack now. It's 2 AM. But not to worry, I can sleep in tomorrow. I never have to wake up early. One of the sweet things about my job. I don't start till 3:30 PM. And despite my complaining, I'm sort of used to the hardships of Korea and am willing to make the sacrifices and accept the not quite so good substitutions for the real things. I could go for some Korean Shrimp and Seaweed Doritos or a pizza with corn and ketchup sauce right about now. Heh heh.

*** Update: Just after finishing this I checked my email and there were messages from BOTH of the parties dealing with my shipment. They both asked me for about the 9th copy of the packing list. I've updated the list twice in Canada, a few times in Indonesia and a few times here in Korea. I had sent a photo of the latest rendition of the packing list and asked if it would be okay but got no response. I couldn't scan it because my scanner is part of the shipment. I have bought a really cheap printer since coming to Korea but it required complicated driver downloads and such in order to get the scanner to work. In the emails I received today they said they weren't sure why I have been ignoring them. Ha ha ha. Probably because in my last email I said I wasn't sure why they couldn't understand why I can't pay them that 20 bucks. The one girl is a Russian named Katherine whose first language isn't English. Trust me, I'm an expert on this. She's the one making all the accusations and not being very tactful. She just tells me to do another packing list. Nothing more. The OTHER guy, Saba, has been the voice of reason. He explained that I needed to scan the packing list because the shipping company couldn't read the print-out of the photo I sent them. So I figured out how to use my scanner, scanned the packing list and sent it to both Katherine and Saba. Interestingly, neither mentioned the 20 bucks. However, Saba DID leave that open. Clever guy! He said that any further applicable charges will be on the shipper's account. So likely "Shipco," who is the shipper, will charge me for the storage while they waited for the scan instead of the photo. Please. I'm going to pay 50 bucks a day of storage on the docks because they don't have the technology to print out a photo? I'm HOPING it's as low as 50 bucks! And I have no doubt old Saba told them to add an extra 20 bucks as a "service charge" or whatever creative words they will use to label it.

Why are people such assholes?

Thursday, February 25, 2016

A New Korean Movie

Here we go again. A new movie about the trials and tribulations of Korean comfort women has just come out. And on and on go the expats on expat sites in Korea debating about the whole thing. One girl posts, "Every time this issue comes up, people mention that Korea has had their own comfort women and haven't apologized or made reparation payments. Like that totally negates the suffering of these poor women!" Then goes on to make the all too common giant leap to the Nazis saying that if the Jews mistreated people, that wouldn't discount the whole holocaust. Reasoning that, let's be Frank, (Frank is very honest), may be the purpose of the endless reminders there are about the comfort women. Koreans want fellow Koreans to espouse the suffering and personalize it before it disappears. "Let's suffer along with the comfort women!" is the message I can't seem to avoid.

There are 46 of them left. Whether they are the genuine article or not, is moot. They're food for worms. Soon-to-be cabbage fertilizer. And maybe this is why the apparent urgency. I've heard more recently about this issue than ever before.

Before I go much deeper, I'll sum up the issue for those outside Korea who aren't bombarded with reminders about comfort women and Dokdo on a daily basis. During Japanese occupation in Korea there were an estimated 200,000 women who were forced into positions in which they provided sexual services for Japanese men. Not all of these were Korean. Lots were from the Philippines, Indonesia (Dutch East Indies back then), China, Burma, Thailand, Viet Nam, Malaysia, Taiwan, East Timor and other Japanese occupied territories. This is something a lot of people don't really mention, if they even know it, when they're bringing up that number of 200k. This statue 100 feet from the Japanese embassy in Seoul doesn't say that all 200,000 were Korean but it would be SO much better for the cause if that's what people were led to believe, wouldn't it?

The story goes that the women were mistreated, raped, beaten and so on. And if you know the Japanese record of human rights violations and atrocities during war time, this isn't hard to believe. HERE'S the part that's hard to believe: After the end of WWII, when Japan left Korea for good, none of the women said anything. The theory is that they were embarrassed by their ordeals, deeply truamatized into silence. From 1945 until 1991, nobody heard of any 'comfort women." It wasn't even a thing. For 46 years, almost to the day, they were all silent about this? Korean women? Missing a golden opportunity to complain about mistreatment? To whine, cry and moan? Maybe they were different back then, but I can't see it. Here in Korea, the older a woman gets, the more pride she takes in this skill. Ajummas are spectacular weepers and whingers and moaners! If you are having a funeral, you can HIRE one, that's right, PAY an ajumma to cry and moan at the funeral! I'm not making this up! It's not something unique to Korea, but in this country of professional mourners, a few hundred of them just kept silent for half a decade? Kept silent about rape, beatings, and who knows what? I'm sorry, but it's hard for me to swallow.

What makes it worse is what has happened SINCE 1991 in the way of comfort women demands. The old joke always comes to mind for me: How do you make a hormone? You don't pay her." (Whore moan) Ar ar.

Correct me if I'm wrong but comfort women demanding reparation payments is moaning over unpaid sex. At its essence. Probably not the best way to make their case as innocent, pure victims of the evil Japanese war machine. Just my opinion. And when I hear words that legitimately appear to be coming from the mouth of one of the few surviving comfort women, THEY are not the ones asking for the money. They ask for apologies and promises that this stuff won't happen again.

Anyway, Kim Hak Sun came out and told her story. Since then over two hundred more have identified themselves as former comfort women. Or at least, and this is my skeptical side coming out, the organization or organizations to which they had become affiliated registered them for their shares in the huge profits to come. The Korean Council for Women Drafted Into Sexual Slavery by Japan, and some other non government organizations, like the DDR rooms that sprang up when that game was popular, like the PC rooms that filled every available commercial site in Korea at the height of Starcraft's popularity, like the singing rooms that are STILL everywhere taking advantage of the most enduring trend to hit Korea, some people saw a notorious Korean wave and they paddled for it. Do you have to be a genius to see the anti-foreigner sentiment and take monetary advantage of it? I don't think so. And it has paid off, I have no doubt. Not just from the eventual reparation payments the Japanese have made. Those are probably pretty measley in comparison to public support and donations from Korean people.

Have you ever met a Korean woman who doesn't LIKE to haggle? No you haven't. One who isn't ready to go down with the ship in a heated negotiation over a 500 won piece of fruit? This is a skill that FAR eclipses their mourning abilities and it is impossible to find a Korean girl who doesn't possess it. I admit to taking full advantage of it too! If I want a good price on a big purchase like a movie camera, I'll bring a female Korean friend camera shopping with me.

So if you're saying to yourself, why was that movie made? In every war EVER there are "comfort women." What makes Korea so special? Or as my favourite blogger worded it, "Pillage doesn't happen without rape." And if you're thinking that the Korean comfort women who were the worst treated are most likely all dead by now largely because of that treatment. The ones who remain are in all liklihood some of the Korean gals who saw the Japanese soldiers carrying more money in their wallets than they'd ever see in a lifetime and decided to raise themselves out of poverty by the only means available to them. If they were embarrassed about anything for a half century, THAT was what it was. And if these women spent their earnings wisely, they have been very well off since the end of WWII and still are. So they don't need the money from Japanese reparation payments. And I've read that very little of the Japanese money actually went to the comfort women, but ended up furthering the comfort women organizations. Most, if not all of this is just speculation.

There's no way we will ever know the truth. And if there is, and I am wrong, I'm an asshole. But I believe that this is the more realistic way of viewing the whole comfort woman situation.

Either way, I'm sure it'll be an entertaining movie. Moreso if you believe it's a documentary and not a work of fiction. I don't happen to think that way. And finally, in response to that expat gal above, I think there were Korean comfort women. I believe there was mistreatment, rape and such. It shouldn't be ignored, but I have a hard time with people who are trying to inspire new anger, hatred and discrimination from it, especially in this country where all of that is on the rise. The Korean victims of this tragedy are mostly dead, and can't really be helped. Korea, despite this sad history, did the identical things to other comfort women from other countries such as Viet Nam. This doesn't negate the Korean victims, it just makes Korea look incredibly hypocritical. Especially since a lot of the Vietnamese victims of Korean atrocities are still alive and could be helped. This certainly detracts from any belief or support I could have in the Korean comfort woman cause, though I agree it shouldn't detract from the sorrow felt for legitimate Korean victims.

Friday, February 19, 2016

The Middle School Child

I don't want to complain but...

Okay, I do.

I want to complain. I feel that even though there may be many hundreds of others doing so, I need to complain a little bit about the state of affairs I have gotten myself into here in Korea for another one-year contract. If I'm not totally mistaken or blowing things out of proportion or overgeneralizing, the middle school kids here have gotten worse and the elementary school kids have gotten better!

So I guess this'll be a complaint along with a non-complaint. The little kiddies have been WAY better behaved than I thought they would be! Aside from one or two, who are nightmares incarnate and there's nothing you can do about them, so far so good! SO FAR! And if I ever feel like I just can't deal with their fighting and noise, I just give them some colouring to do! It's been awesome! SO FAR.

As for the older kids... The ones I had high hopes for... the middle school kids who I had always had such great results with in the past here in Korea and the age group from which MANY of my favourite all time students come from, correct me if I'm wrong but most of them have turned into spoiled little brats.

I remember the good ole days here in Korea when these kids had the whole world of pressure and weight on their shoulders and they treated their foreign teachers with much the same respect that was required to appease their Korean teachers. Gone are those days, my friends! Half way anyway. They still give the fake respect owed to their Korean teachers. I see a lot of Korean teachers who absolutely live for that! But to be fair, the Korean teachers are probably only that way to get SOMETHING out of their jobs. They certainly don't get very well paid!

The kids just know now the distinction between the foreign and the Korean teachers. They may even know the wage differences and that we get BOTH days of the weekend off when the Korean teachers don't. And they take total advantage of that distinction. Maybe the kids know that if we, the foreign teachers, use many of the discipline tactics that are popular here, we'll be doing things that will get us fired in our home countries. Who knows?

Whatever it is, I have noticed a distinct lack of effort on the part of the previously accomodating, maybe OVER-accomodating Korean middle school kids! What has lead to this? In such a short time?

I was told before I got here that there has been a new ruling made that delivers the middle school student from the highly stressful high school entrance examinations. These have been done away with although the even more stressful college entrance examinations remain. I was all for the elimination in that it releases these poor, overburdened kids from the stress and high expectations that probably should not be heaped upon such youngsters just to get into a slightly better, (supposedly), high school.

But now that I have seen the results, I'm not so sure...

I know it may be hard to believe but, maybe taking away the harsh and overburdening schedules these kids have had for decades, has simply made them lazy. Rather than have them take the high road and continue on in a responsibly dedicated study mode, most of these kids have fully exercised their freedom. I used to think I would have LOVED to see that! But I don't think I ever pictured myself as their teacher in that freedom scenario. It's not fun. Lemme tell you!

And much like the bosses I have worked beneath, the kids have all kinds of tactics they believe are clever and they can use to outsmart the foreign teacher, but really, in most cases, the foreign teacher has seen this a zillion times in his/her less socially repressed society and is very aware of what is happening. They are just not comfortable letting the other party know it. Because that could jeopardize a pretty sweet set of working conditions compared to the crap job the teacher can get in his/her own country. So we, the teachers, ignore the jeuvenile tactics, leading these amateurs to believe they are outsmarting us, and we try to act like we are not aware of every little trick being played on us.

Just tonight I had a whole class of people, the boys mostly, (and this is just one of many wrenches they throw into the works that I have overcome countless times in countless classes, the boy/girl thing like 16 year olds are all crippled by their shyness toward the opposite sex so you can't partner boys with girls or they feel like they don't have to talk), who wouldn't do an incredibly simple assignment hoping that I would allow them time to do it based on my wrongful perception of their English ignorance. They wouldn't fill out a form of two things they like to do for each of the four seasons. I gave them WAY more than ample time to do so. They stonewalled me. So I just switched to a reading assignment and told them that the previous page would just be homework. AMAZINGLY even while engaged in the reading, many of the students who were having so much trouble deciding what activities they liked doing in each of the four seasons, instantaneously thought of answers when this assignment became homework!

It sounds like I won a victory there but, no, I really resent being forced to resort to tactical battles with my students. The nicest classes are those in which my students assume I have earned the grey hairs I have and am not a drooling idiot. My youngsters! Those who I thought I'd be battling with to establish limits, have inexplicably given me the benefit of the doubt, something they shouldn't even comprehend yet, and they trust me to be the wizened old coot that I am and impervious to any of their feeble attempts at chicanery. I consider that a great victory! Now if I can only get the older kids to concede that victory!

It's coming, I know, but the long, long road trying all the OH SO TEDIOUS, bubble gum, video game, jeuvenile strategies and having them fail with me, is just making my 6-hour days seem just that much longer. I wish I could just grab them all individually by the scruff of their necks, (which would get me fired for violence or sexual harassment in my own country), and yell to them, "HEY HEY HHHHHEEEEYYYY! Look at my hair! Do you think I came by this naturally? NO! It's because of many, MANY little pukes like you trying the same shit you are trying to pull on me right now. Do you honestly think you are clever enough to be the FIRST who will fool me? Check your ego at the door when you enter this classroom and spare us all the bother! Let's just have a student/teacher relationship of trust, shall we?"

I am one to maybe get a little dramatic when it comes to Korea. Because it's a pretty dramatic country! So I think of the Korean people. I wonder if the Korean people are feeling the same bump in the educational road that we foreigners are. So I wonder if Koreans sit around like those of us from other cultures and just rap about old stuff. I told my young class how lucky they were the other day to have the internet to help them with research reports. I told them I had to go to the library, get on the computer, then the microfiche or the card catalogue then find a book in the stacks then page my way through it, actually reading pages and pages of information I didn't NEED TO, until I got the information I had come for. They just have to Google. And, as usual, their reaction was, meh.

I imagine a Korean elder, hopped up on soju, talking about the days before remote control air con and telling how they all feared the dreaded fan death by leaving the fans on to keep them from sweating too much on a hot summer's night. I'm the same. I have dialled a phone, used a floppy disk, eaten eggs and butter when they were dangerous, done a lot of things these kids don't recognize. Yet the tricks they are trying to get away with on me are exactly the same ones the previous generation tried, (unsuccessfully), to fool me with.

I have no doubt that they'll realize I'm no amateur and they'll stop the crap and just do what I want them to, and they'll learn more efficiently for doing so. But it still bugs me that THEY don't know that yet. I wish I could do something that would make them all realize I'm someone to be reckoned with, like take them all out to an ice rink and teach them the fine art of body checking. One at a time rattle their fillings and pound some respect into them. I'm sure that would work!

I guess what I am saying is these kids, not the younger ones, but the older ones, are really insulting my intelligence and my professional pride by not trusting me.

And I didn't have this problem the last time I taught Korean kiddies. When was that? Hmmmmm.... I guess we're going back a bit. Not including camps, where the kids don't have enough time to try their deviousness on you, wow!, I suppose it's been a long time! Maybe that's why... I haven't really taught Korean kids for more than a few weeks at a time for 10 years! But I still have a hard time thinking that things have changed so dramatically in that short a time. It's a sad reflection on this country if they have! And I'd say they have.

In a year, let's come back and see if I have any students who don't trust me. Shall we? That said, it's a lot harder to get these kids to trust you. And I'm not even saying that's bad! I'm just saying it's a pain in the arse for a guy like me trying to teach 6 hours a day, a workload that is hard enough with cooperative students.

I'd be interested in finding out what other long time teachers in Korea think. Are Korean kids worse or better? Are they less trusting? And is that a bad thing? As a teacher I will tell you it's a double edged sword. I like the new freedom afforded the Korean people. I do! I wished it upon them for so many years! But at the same time, I begrudge them the freedom that allows them to make my job much MUCH harder!

There have been many levels of change in the world over the years. Best illustrated by

Imagine the changes like this in Korea! Used to be the younger kid had to get quarters to play the video games that give him the vicarious experience the old war vet lived through. In Korea these days the kids have enough spare cash to BUY their own video games. Most of them. I see kids in my classes open their wallets and they have more inside them than I have in mine!

So last week I created a lesson that would out this group once and for all. I used an old stress test I made for my students in the 90's and 2000's here. Same questions and everything. It wasn't something I made up though. It was an officially recognized stress test by some magazine or psychological entity. I don't know what. But legitimate. Then I put a reading assignment on the back and told them that if they faked like they couldn't finish the stress test in English, they'd have the reading assignment to do AND it came with a page of homework questions. BOOM! A whole 30 minutes of English conversation!

All my students took the test as did their counterparts 15 years earliear. The results were magnificent! This year's batch had stress in the low numbers to negatives. Aside from the few who had moderate stress levels and these, (NO coincidence), happened to be my best students. As for the olden days? EVERY student had HUGE stress levels and most were absolutely wonderful to deal with in class. The few who had lower stress levels were the students who had behavioural problems.

This year the norm was low stress level and behavioral problems. In the good old days it was high levels of stress and little to no behavioral problems. SO what I concluded was simple. Low stress in the Korean middle school student is the gateway to behavioral problems. Maybe the older generation knew what they were doing!

I got other interesting info from the sustained English conversation too. I found that I have students who don't go to bed until 6 or 7 in the morning!!! And they don't wake up till 3 PM! There were other gobsmacking realizations about this incredibly coddled, spoiled, younger generation of Koreans as well! No chores. NONE! They get money for nothing. NOTHING! And they get a good amount of money! The minimum wage here is an unbelievable 6030 won per hour. That's like 7 Canadian bucks an hour. These kids get more than that in allowance! So NObody has a part time job! NOBODY!

I have read articles written by foreigners who were high up in big companies here like Samsung and spoke fluent Korean and worked here for many years. They say that the biggest problem in Korea is the men have no work experience in their teens, then they have a couple years in the military, and you get them applying to work at companies like Samsung in their mid twenties with absolutely NO work experience. Unless you have an airline and you're looking for pilots. Then I guess flying in the military will be good work experience. But most military experience is not all that transferable to the work force. No part time jobs, no work in their teens or early twenties. You get a person green as green can be at an age much older than such inexperience is found in most other countries.

At least in the old days they went to all kinds of classes after school and applied themselves in them. Nowadays they don't even do that! They just take up space in the classroom, chat with their friends in Korean and mess around. They have plenty of cash to spend, video games to play and no jobs or chores or responsibilities except showing up for classes. The studying doesn't seem as big a responsibility. One of my cohorts over here had a student hand in a writing assignment that was illegible. She commented that he had obviously not even put in enough effort to make the thing readable so he should do it again. The parent got angry about that comment and complained to the school. You hear of that happening quite a bit.

So it appears that a lot of the parents are actually guilty of contributing to the delinquency of their children. If they could see their kids in my classroom sometimes they might think about lowering their allowances or giving them chores or maybe letting them get a part time job. I used to just come up with a fairly interesting lesson and the kids would love it and repay my efforts by giving some of their own. The new princes and princesses I seem to have in my classes have to be tricked into doing what they all know they should be doing. I'm getting to a point where I'm about to give up putting in the effort. I could more easily just give them boring, simple lessons. It's what they deserve.

But I'm not quite there yet. Like I say, I have hope that they will eventually smarten up and just play along. But right now they are making my job a challenge. It's weird. I was worried about the younger kids. I guess you just never know.