Friday, November 30, 2007

jjong party pics

Some pictures from Wednesday and today (Friday). Not pictured, alas: the four intrepid students of my CNN English class, and the two students in my French class (one of whom is visible later on; her name is Hans0l).

The first pic was taken after I realized that we had completely forgotten to get shots of the chefs who delivered the food (Jean-Pierre and Laurent) and the food itself: salmon, hard-boiled eggs with salmon caviar, ham, salami, asparagus salad, and other goodies. Along with this, we had a whole baguette, butter, and a lovely dessert whose name escapes me.

Below, my ever-faithful 7:40AM class, the Magnificent Eight. They really were amazing, and quite a contrast to the attendance patterns of most top-of-the-morning classes.

I asked the students for one "normal" shot and one "crazy" shot. Below is my students' rather tame notion of "crazy." I couldn't help noticing that only Hans0l put any real effort into making the moment dramatic.

Below, a shot of the food, which was wildly successful in all classes, except for one student who, it turns out, hates mushrooms.

Hans0l again-- this time, helping me by scooping the pasta out of the boiling water.

[I should note that the cost of prepping food for six classes was over W150,000, and the office surprised me today by electing to reimburse all my expenses. I knew there was a reason I liked working here.]

The 7:40 class went dead quiet when I started prepping the food. I laughed and called them on their behavior; that broke the trance and they laughed, too. Below, you see the students chowing down on some deliciousness. The boeuf bourguignon was a real risk: I'd never made it before. As it turns out, the prep is ridiculously easy, but the cooking time is extremely long, bordering on two hours just for the simmering that leads to sauce reduction.

Next, you see Nari and Y3on-hui from my 8:50AM class. We were having so much fun talking and eating (I got blamed for ruining one girl's diet) that I inadvertently took us into overtime. Our class finishes at 9:50AM, but we were still jabbering when 10AM rolled around and the next class' students were staring forlornly into the classroom. I apologized profusely to the Korean teacher (her charges are primarily Chinese), but I think some students were miffed.

The 8:50AM class actually has three students: Nari, Y3on-hui, and Y3ong-ji. Below, you see all three:

My Fridays-only pronunciation class boasted only three people today. Below you see S0yi, the student whose pronunciation showed the most improvement.

Ji-s3on, pictured below, is also a very good student. She's in my 7:40AM class. Scroll back up and you'll see her there.

Below is Mr. Kim, who attended three of my classes and two or three of Tom's classes as well. The man's a nice guy, but he's insane: there's no way in hell I'd spend my free time sitting in on language class after language class.

Mr Kim was in my 1:10PM Level 2 class along with the following two students, Ky3ong-3un (KE) and Ja3-hwa (JH), visible in the following picture. KE was right for Level 2; her attendance was a bit shaky, though. JH was initially very quiet and her English skills were far more suited to Level 1, but she stuck with the course and attended almost every single class (except for the day she moved).

Here, too, I asked for a "crazy" pic, but all I got was giggling, as you see.

The following picture pretty much says it all.

Finally, you see how the students attempted to compensate for the unhealthiness of my food by bringing veggies and such to class.

In all, a very good, but very tiring, day. I've been running on a single hour of sleep and am about to go home (yes, it's 11:45PM and I'm still settling affairs in the office) and hit the hay. Much to do before I depart for Europe on Tuesday.


a few meals back...

I'm prepping photos of the jjong-parties we had on Wednesday (French class, which meets only M-W), Thursday (CCN English, which meets only T-R), and Friday (fookin' everything else). In the meantime, enjoy some extra pics from the camera.


the 97% man

I had a look at my evaluations this time around and they were something of a mixed bag, resulting in lower grade inflation than usual. Depending on how one calculates the final average, I have either a 96.8% (office's calculation) or a 97.14% (my calculation, which is only rarely in my favor). Both scores, when rounded, come to 97%, hence the title of this humble post.


status report 2

The spaghetti sauce is done and quite kick-ass. The beef burgundy... well, it's 2:20AM as I type this, and the beef's got to simmer until about 3:15AM. I'm thinking of simply pulling an all-nighter. And why not? I still need to finish grading those final exams. I have only five left, but grading takes me a while because it's one of my least favorite activities (surprise, surprise).

Back to the food. The beef burgundy looks and smells the way it should; I followed online recipe suggestions to stick with a dry wine like a Cabernet Sauvignon, and the result is something that looks and smells remarkably like, well, beef burgundy. Being the onion hater that I am, I did engage in some sacrilege: I used onion powder in lieu of actual onions. Another reason for this, however, is that I want my buddy Tom to be able to sample some of the food. Tom refuses to eat vegetables, you see, and for whatever reason, his body seems to think this rather significant dietary omission is perfectly fine: Tom remains in perfect health despite decades of vegetable-avoidance. "It's not the taste; it's the texture," he tells me by way of explaining his longstanding hatred of all things plantlike. Actually, strike that: there are certain vegetabular entities Tom will eat, such as potatoes (which, according to Tom, only barely qualify as vegetables). Anyway, I'm hoping he'll sample some of the beef. I know for a fact that he'll avoid my spaghetti sauce like the plague: too many veggies. No big loss: I was hoping to save the spaghetti sauce for my students, anyway.

UPDATE: It's almost 4AM now. Time for a quick nap, then up at 6 to trek on over to class early and prep for four parties. Oy.


Thursday, November 29, 2007

status report

You're going to have to wait for tomorrow to see food pics, I'm afraid. I'm back from one shopping errand and about to head off on another, and won't have time to lumber up to the school to get my camera. I decided against going to Costco because I was running late, so I did Hannam Market. As luck would have it, this was the one night that Hannam was out of ground beef, which fuckin' figures. So now I'm off to Lotte Mart to grab beef and a couple other items for tomorrow.

There might be another update or two this evening. Stay thou tunèd.


the gamble

I'm gambling that I can finish grading my students' final exams by 4PM today, at which point I plan to schlep over to Costco and do some bulk purchasing for the four jjong-parties we'll be having tomorrow. Bizarre as it may sound, I'll be doing pasta dishes all day long. It'll seem odd to the 7:40AM and 8:50AM classes to be eating food associated with lunch and dinner, but I can't see myself cooking breakfast for two classes and then prepping lunch-- an entirely different menu-- for the other two. Better simply to take a One Size Fits All approach and force-feed the same grub to everyone.

What grub? you belch. Simple enough: I'll be doing my usual Americanized riff off spaghetti bolognese, and will be trying an experiment as well: thinly sliced beef and mushrooms in red wine sauce over pasta-- my own take on boeuf bourguignon. I'm more of a "thin slice" person than a "chunk" person, and I want to be sure the wine is nicely infused throughout the meat. The pasta will be an assortment from a Costco six-pack that is surprisingly cheap. I hope the students won't mind the absence of spaghetti.

I might foodblog the craziness this evening if I remember to grab my camera (then again, I've foodblogged the spaghetti before... do you really need to see it again?). Ah, yes: I also need to write about the French meal my students and I enjoyed yesterday, courtesy of the Cordon Bleu and absolutely free-- a savings of around $100.

More later. Papers to grade now.


Wednesday, November 28, 2007

the turd I turded

Sometime late last night, I took a rather gargantuan shit and did the typical male thing: I stood up after wiping and looked into the bowl to see my turd off into the swirling netherworld.

What I saw gave me pause: not only did the turd look as huge as it had felt when I was birthing it, but it had also come out in two distinct segments-- one extremely long, the other almost spherical. It was as though I had shat out a baseball and a bat.

Or maybe it was a living exclamation point. God's punctuation.

It was therefore with some sadness that I hit the flush lever and bid my wriggling children farewell.

Perfect Edward James Olmos impression here.



Quite possibly the most life-affirming video I've seen on YouTube. It would be no exaggeration to say I was profoundly touched.


understatement of the day

Regarding the riots in France:

[Police officer] Ribeiro warned that the police, who have struggled to avoid excessive force, would not be fired upon indefinitely without responding.

Who knew the French police were so damn nice?


Tuesday, November 27, 2007

l'effondrement de la Corée du Nord?

The claim:

Intelligence sources and other observers both here in the capital of the PRC and elsewhere in Asia are stating that they project a possible collapse of the North Korean regime within six months time.

Bitch, please. I'll believe it when I see it.

(Found through Instapundit. By the way, did you spot the punctuation error in the blockquote? Hint: it occurs somewhere after the word "collapse.")



When people ask me where I'm from, I often say I'm from DC, because DC is literally walking distance from my previous home in Alexandria, Virginia.

But maybe I'll have to stop saying I'm from DC.


gettin' mushy

We're nearing the end of the semester and, as occasionally happens, some of the students are becoming a bit sentimental as we make ready to part ways. Today one of the more bubbly girls in my 7:40AM class said, "I've been to many different English classes with many different teachers, but you are the best!"


I thanked her for the sentiment and told her that I wished it were true that I had something to do with how well things had turned out for the 7:40 class, but the fact of the matter is that I've had a very good crop of students this time around. My second class of the day, the 8:50AM class, has dwindled to only three dedicated students after starting out with ten.* I teach the same way in all my classes, which means there's more going on than just my dubious charm. If the same Kevin gets such different results in two back-to-back morning classes, it's hard to attribute student satisfaction to the teacher. In my opinion, anyway.

I appreciated the remark all the same, and will bask in it for the rest of the day... or at least until I receive my evals.

*There were ten on the list, but I only had ten students in my class twice. Over the first two weeks, we were averaging about seven or eight students.


yowza-- red wine!

I'm not a drinker, but I don't skimp on the alcohol when I cook. Riffing off a type of stuffing I encountered two Thanksgivings ago, I doused the stuffing I had made with red wine and let that puppy soak a full day. Tonight, once I got home, I grabbed the stuffing, some greens, the remains of my amazing mashed potatoes, and some gravy.

When I opened the large plastic container that held the stuffing, I was treated not to a blast of wine scent, but to a gentle breeze of it. Somehow, I had managed to pour just enough devil brew into the stuffing to keep it from skewing too obnoxious or too timid. I have a sinking feeling that I won't be able to replicate that trick, so it's incumbent upon me to enjoy the moment.

On a whim, I took a large plastic Nutella lid and crammed some stuffing into it to make a patty. Then I did it again. I poured a wee bit of oil into a griddle and fried those patties up. In the end, they ended up looking a lot like the sausage patties they might have been had I not added any bread. I sprinkled some leafy greens onto my waiting plate, reverently placed the patties in the plate's center, added my mashed potatoes* and gravy, and sat down to eat.

Holy shit, that kicked ass. I doubt I'll ever eat wine-free stuffing again. Amazing.

*Readers who saw the meal I made know that, technically, they're whipped potatoes, not mashed.


Monday, November 26, 2007

Ave, Nathan!

I'm late and I know this story has already faded from the ever-tightening spiral of the modern world's up-to-the-minute news cycle, but Nathan has written a very thoughtful (and outraged) post about the October tasering death of a Polish citizen, Robert Dziekanski, who was held at a Canadian airport for ten hours. The tasering video is available on YouTube; Nathan's post is here.

It's hard to deny that the Vancouver International Airport authorities could have handled the situation more delicately. At the same time, Mr. Dziekanski wasn't doing himself any favors by turning belligerent. My own feeling is that the airport should have come to the man sooner with a Polish interpreter (how could they not have one on hand for a man who was being detained?); had they taken that simple measure, things wouldn't have become as messy as they finally did.


bigger and bigger

I hadn't really looked at my Gmail storage capacity until today, and today I saw that we Gmailiens now have over FIVE gigabytes of storage available to us. FIVE! That's crazy!

But in a good way.


Sunday, November 25, 2007

Ave, ZK!

Special thanks to ZenKimchi Korean Food Journal for the recent writeup of my Thanksgiving meal.


final week approaching

The final week of term starts tomorrow; we finish on Friday the 30th. It's great that I don't have to create yet another 25-page packet this week, though I do still have to compose two final exams and finish checking and grading student journals. This promises to be a much more relaxed week for me than all previous weeks; grading tests on my own time is no big deal, and we'll be finishing the term with the traditional jjong-parties (i.e., end-of-term parties). I don't think I'll be cooking this time around, but I will be doing a Costco run for party supplies. Costco will probably be my savior for future jjong-parties-- of which I have only one or two left in my career at Smoo.

Stepping back and looking at the big picture, I can say it's been a tough, tiring, but good semester. Attendance for my classes has been better than expected for the fall term, which is traditionally the laziest term for my department. I'm happy that my classes quickly boiled themselves down to a proportionately large* core of faithful students early in the semester, and that that faithful core has remained both consistent and loyal all this time. I'll also be curious to see my evals this coming week; students filled them out last week.

Then, starting Saturday, December 1st, I'll be prepping for my Tuesday trip out to Europe. I've got gifts to buy and personal effects to prepare. We'll see how it goes.

Ah, yes: it's highly doubtful I'll be blogging while in Europe, so I'll be preparing a little something to release, bit by bit, during my absence. Maybe a series of short essays, maybe some nasty poetry, maybe some 100 Belows, or maybe even some comics. You'll soon know.

I hope to come back from Europe with photos of my French and Swiss families, and if it's cold enough, I hope to take pictures of two of my favorite Swiss locales-- les Gorges du Götteron in Fribourg (where my brother David and I met a deep-voiced dwarf), and Interlaken, my favorite place on the planet.

I've never seen Interlaken in any season but early summer, but I've gone hiking through the Götteron many, many times. It starts way down in the Altstadt, the Old City, by the River Sarine, and the gorge narrows until you have no choice but to hike some steep paths back up to Fribourg proper, or to Bourguillon, or to nearby Marly.

As you walk the lower portion of the path, the part inside the gorge, you pass houses and gardens and huge, barking dogs-- a neighborhood that, thanks to the gorge, sees only a small slice of sunlight every day. I've often wondered what it'd be like to live in such a locale; the overall feeling is very sylvan, very eldritch, very Lord of the Rings.

Oh, yes: I'm looking forward to my brief time in Europe.

*For example, my CNN class started off with 6 students but dwindled to 4. By our normally lame standards, that's pretty good. The same goes for a class that began with 2, increased to 5, then settled at 3. My worst class, though, my 8:50AM class, started so optimistically with 10, then dwindled to 3. My first class, in the meantime, still averages 6-8 people, which is not bad, especially compared to previous early-morning classes that shrank to only 1 or 2 people.



Long before PDA came to mean "personal digital assistant," it meant "public display(s) of affection" to those of us who went through junior high and high school in the 1980s. "No PDA!" was the much-mocked war cry of harried faculty trying to enforce what many saw as a silly and unjust rule.

I've been teaching a content-based syllabus to my students that uses "Three's Company" as the jumping-off point for grammar, vocabulary, and discussion. Students have a daily homework assignment, which is twofold: (1) they must use five expressions learned in class in sentences, and (2) they must write 1-2 paragraphs (4-5 sentences long) on an assigned topic directly related to the material covered in class. The writing topic this past Monday, based on Episode 7 of "Three's Company," was:

Mrs. Roper is inspired when she sees a young couple kissing. How do you feel when you see such a thing? Are you inspired? Disgusted? Why? Also: how do you feel about public displays of affection?

What follows is a sample of some student thoughts on this topic.

1. (a woman in her 50s)
It depends on the couple's appearance and actions. If they look beautiful, I'm also happy. If not, I'm disgusted.

It's not good for me to see couples who display deep affection like a French kiss. I also think those things should be done in private, not in public space.

2. (a man in his late 20s or early 30s)
Public displays of affection interrupt other people. They can display their affection in private. Such behaviors may have a bad influence on children. I can't understand why people might do that in public. Nobody needs to know how deep their love is. Serious expressions of love make them ugly.

3. (a female undergrad)
In my case, it depends on how intensive their acting. If I saw a young couple who kissed each other very quickly and afterward was so shy, I would think they are so cute, so young. But if a couple kissed very deep in the public place like a museum or something, I think that couple is really rude, impolite, stupid people. Because public places are bad place to do something except their's original intention. Namely, I don't care a young couple kissing anywhere except public places.

However, when I was in Europe, I saw many people kissing their's lover anywhere. In the park, in the museum, in the theater, in the bookstore... It is curious to say, I never felt sickening, embarrassing. I don't know why I didn't feel those feelings, but I thought maybe I was pressed Korea's ideas or fixed ideas.

4. (a female undergrad)
I'm not inspired or disgusted when I see a young couple kissing. It's no concept for me. The kissing of couple is not strange, but public displays of affection is not good if that things give others unpleasant feelings. And it's not free in Korean public emotion not yet. So I think it's not good about excess public displays of affection.

5. (a female undergrad)
If I see a couple kissing in the public place, I'll be disgusted. Because I can't concentrate on my partner in front of me. Unless I eat food with boyfriend, I and my partner might feel awkward mood. And it is not good for children. They might imitate adult's action even though they don't know what they do. So, I think if a couple consider around people, they have to express their love in private place.

6. (a female undergrad)
In Korea, we often say, "If we are kissing our lover, it's romance, but if others are kissing, it's wrong." I also agree. So, I don't like it when I see a young couple kissing. If I see affection of public displays, I will feel disgusted, and shamed. I have some stereotype a little, so I disagree.

7. (a male in his late 30s)
As long as it is not a hardcore one, I think kissing in public is okay to me. However, in front of children, it could be uneducational. Some cafes have somewhat tall couches, for the sake of private kisses between lovers. People don't have to care others' comments or peeping since you cannot be distracted by other people. I suspect displays of affection should be done by people's appropriate discretion.

I sometimes wonder why I feel as though I'm in some straitlaced Muslim country. I do think, however, that things are slowly changing here, especially when I think back to public conduct in the 1990s. What's always amazed me is that Koreans see nothing wrong with making complete asses of themselves while drunk-- no one feels disgusted, embarrassed, or ashamed. Get into brawls, scream in the streets, engage in some gleeful projectile vomiting-- but kissing!? Heaven forfend! It's a major accomplishment that kissing can now be seen on Korean soap operas. Meanwhile, in the States, we're wondering how much ass crack and cleavage we can show, and off to the side is Europe, a continent that long ago approved of TV nudity, laughing hysterically at us and our over-puritanical ways.

Speaking of straitlaced Muslim countries, did you hear that Syria just cut off access to Facebook? The claim is that it's being done for political reasons, but I'm pretty sure the Syrian government is also worried about things hormonal.


Saturday, November 24, 2007

cri de coeur

I want to thank the folks who appended their cheerful comments to my "yesterday's meal" post, but I also want to draw special attention to the most recent comment, from reader "John from Daejeon," regarding a horrifying and tragic event that occurred right in front of the school where he teaches: a little girl, one of his students, was struck and killed by a school bus. Go read John's story, then please leave him some expression of sympathy or solidarity or compassion. I agree with John: it's impossible to know what that little child's family is going through.

John, I don't know what to say except that you have my deepest sympathy. Now is the time for mourning; don't try to make sense of things-- at least, not yet. Instead, join your friends and your school community in a circle of comfort: be there for each other. At a time like this, presence is vitally important. Don't worry about the slithering franchise owners; save that problem for another day when righteous anger might have its use. For now, just grieve, just be there as both comforter and comforted.



a little box of care

FedEx-- speaking on behalf of that Mafia-like entity, Korean Customs-- tried harassing me yet again when my care package from the parents landed in Korea. I received a call a couple days ago from a woman at the FedEx office asking me whether the goods in the package meant for me were used or not. Immediately cautious, I replied that I didn't know the exact contents of the package (which was technically true, though I was aware of the used/new status of some of the items inside it). The lady then asked me how long I had been in Korea.

"About seven years," I said.

She gave one of those dramatic little gasps, the kind that Korean women often give before relaying bad news, and said, "Oh, no! If you've been in the country more than six months, then there is tax and duty, because the value of the goods you are receiving is over W150,000! It's Korean law!" (Dad had listed the value of the package as over $360.00)

I was furious, as always happens when FedEx once again pulls some obscure rule out of its ass. "The law doesn't make sense," I grated. "Why do I always have trouble with FedEx?"

Not missing a beat, the lady said, "But there may be a solution! When were you last out of the country?" I told her I had been to the States in June. "Oh, then maybe you are OK! Fax us a copy of your passport's front page along with the arrival stamp showing when you came back to Korea." She gave me the fax number; I asked for her name, and then I hung up.

At the risk of repeating myself, I'll say that I truly resent having to go through this mess every damn time a package is sent to me. I don't resent my parents, who can't possibly be expected to know Korean law, but I do resent FedEx and Korean Customs for constantly playing what Mark Salzman calls the "Let's Make a Regulation" game, a phenomenon he encountered while living and teaching in China. Not to say that US bureaucracy is smooth and problem-free-- it isn't-- but the fact that I encounter problems every single time here strikes me as beyond absurd. I'll have to look around and see whether Korean Customs or FedEx Korea has an English-language list of shipping rules, but I'm not optimistic.

So, grumbling, I photocopied and faxed over the requisite information; the photocopier in our main office doubles as a fax, and my supervisor was kind enough to show me how it worked. It took two tries to send the fax, but it eventually went through.

Then I heard nothing from FedEx.

The package arrived without fanfare yesterday, and no extra fee was paid. The fact that I had to waste my time on bureaucratic nonsense, though, still sticks in my craw. No worries; I'll be happy again soon. It's a bright day outside, and I'm looking forward to the end of the semester, which had been good but extremely tiring, what with the amount of work I've been doing. (I've had a constant nosebleed for the past several weeks-- not gushing by any means, but my Kleenex is bloody every time I blow my nose. I'm assuming this is the result of lack of sleep and a slightly higher-than-normal level of stress caused by the workload.)

As for the contents of the package: I had been told to expect my Seiko watch, which has been repaired by what I hope is a reputable establishment (we'll find out the moment I do a Namsan hike and sweat all over the watch), and sure enough, there it was. I also got the usual complement of Lindt blue label chocolate truffles (my favorite), a mess of mail, another huge container of Metamucil (Allah be praised), and a lovely new Calvin Klein winter coat.

Thanks, Mom and Dad!

And Happy post-Thanksgiving to the rest of you.


Friday, November 23, 2007

yesterday's meal

Without further ado...

And yes, in case you were wondering: I did drain the grease from the sausage. Not all of it, though; it tastes too good.