Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Sunday's jjong-party (7/28/13)

This past Sunday, I hosted my two private students and threw a jjong-party for them. The term "jjong-party" normally refers to end-of-term parties; such parties are a way for overstressed students to let off some steam after final exams. In my case, the party was to celebrate the end of six months of private tutoring. These two Korean kids, Amy and Sam, have been in the US for a few years, but their parents felt that they needed extra help with their English skills. Their mother used to work at the barbershop that I go to every six weeks to "get my ears lowered" (as my father used to say); I showed her my private-tutoring website, and she signed her kids on. They were the only two students I actually acquired through that website, but they were enough: the monthly income I got through tutoring was sufficient to help me over many of the financial obstacles that lay across my path. (I did snag some proofreading work thanks to the site, but that's another story.)

So I left my place around 10AM and drove over to Fairfax, which is about an hour away. Traffic was bad, as usual, right around Exit 60 on Route 66; God only knows why there's a bottleneck on Sundays. I arrived at the kids' apartment about two minutes late, and saw that they were already out on the front steps, waiting for me. The look on their faces was absolutely priceless: they were obviously so ready to have a good time. They had told me sad stories of their parents' general inability to cook, and because I had spent six months torturing them with cell-phone images of my own cooking (much of which I've blogged here), they were primed for some good eating. Once we were all in the car, I asked Sam and Amy whether they wanted a quick snack before we drove out to Appalachia. "We're good," Sam said. "We want to be hungry for lunch." I started the car, and we were off.

I'm a jokey teacher. It's a faculty that's hard to turn off, but in this sort of situation, there's actually an advantage to having a sense of humor: it makes a long drive more lively. So I joked about the poop smells that often wafted down from the farms along 66; I joked about skunks (Amy said she'd never smelled one); I joked about slow-witted drivers. I drove safely, of course: with kids in the car, there was no way I was going to be my usual speed-demon self.

We pulled into my town, which I suppose I can finally reveal (since I'm moving in a few days) is Front Royal, Virginia. Front Royal sits at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains; from my apartment on the edge of town, it's a five- or seven-minute ride to the entrance of Skyline Drive, a 105-mile stretch of road that snakes along the top of one part of the Blue Ridge mountain range before plunging into the George Washington National Forest. The area that Skyline Drive runs through is known as Shenandoah National Park. It's both deer and bear country; we've got plenty of black bears in the area.

Amy and Sam marveled at how small, cute, and quiet Front Royal was—a far cry from their crowded, noisy apartment complex in bustling, expensive, self-important Fairfax. They took to the ambiance immediately, and in truth, Front Royal does have much in common with Tolkien's notion of Hobbiton: it's a quiet town full of rotund, apple-cheeked folk who bustle about their parochial affairs and enjoy any opportunity to celebrate. We stopped at the local Food Lion first (I made the joke about how "Food Lion," rendered in Korean as eumshik saja, can mean either "food lion" or "let's buy food!") because I needed to buy one last batch of food and drink for the jjong-party. Amy and Sam gamely waited in the car while I quickly picked up some pico de gallo, a 12-pack of Coke, some sour cream, and one or two other items.

We drove back to my apartment and tromped upstairs to the third floor. My apartment number is 301; I joked about the Korean movie "301/302," a thriller about a cannibalistic neighbor. The joke fell flat: neither kid had seen the movie. We went in; I started working in the kitchen while the kids explored my place. Sam took an interest in my pullup bar, and blasted out six pullups in a row. He's considering joining the US Army, a choice that will likely produce mixed feelings in his parents, who will doubtless weigh the potential dangers of army training and active duty against the fact that Uncle Sam will pay for Sam's training and—if he so chooses—his further education.

There was little for the kids to do but wait for the food to arrive, and they let me know in no uncertain terms that they were hungry. I asked them to help me set the table while I worked on lunch: pulled-pork barbecue quesadillas. Stealing a technique from Wolfgang Puck, I coated one side of two tortillas with mayonnaise, then built the quesadillas while the bottom tortilla slowly roasted: American cheese on the bottom, then pork, then a bit more BBQ sauce and sriracha, some jalapeños, and a sprinkling of shredded Mexican-style cheese, followed by the top tortilla. The first quesadilla was a bit over-browned; I claimed that one for myself, then reduced the heat and built the next two quesadillas perfectly. I slapped all three onto plates, served them up with a side of homemade oi-kimchi, and waited for a reaction.

Sam closed his eyes as he chewed, and seemed to be in heaven. Amy had stopped talking and was concentrating on her food. "So good," Sam crooned. Amy nodded. "I want to cry," she said. I was delighted. The kids took out their digital cameras and lovingly snapped pictures of their food—probably so they could taunt their parents later on. Here are my two kids (click on this and all successive images to enlarge):

I must say that, after hearing Sam and Amy's war stories about their parents' botched attempts at cooking, I found it hard to swallow the notion that Korean people could be incompetent chefs. I can thank my mom for that stereotype: because of her, I thought all Korean women possessed innate culinary skills, just as cats all naturally land on their feet after tumbling through the air.

We ate at a leisurely pace, talking but also just enjoying the silence. Once we were done, I apologized to the kids for the small lunch (we all had one quesadilla each), but I promised them a much larger dinner. They gamely nodded. Once we were done, we put away the dishes and headed out to Skyline Drive. I reminded my charges that we were in deer and bear country; I paid for a one-week pass at the gate (my yearly pass had expired sometime before), and away we went. As we cruised along at the mandated 35 miles per hour, I peppered Sam and Amy with questions, and found out that both of them were of age to drive, but that only Sam (who's the elder sibling) had a learner's permit. As I did with Mike and his family, I drove out to Mile 20, there to visit my scary tree, a terrifying, skeletal thing that stands alone, just off the road, and looks as if it belongs in a horror movie. When we got to the tree, it became obvious that I wasn't the only one creeped out by it: a couple other carfuls of tourists had stopped, and people were taking turns photographing the gnarled timber. Here are two pics of the kids in front of my evil tree:

We turned around at Mile 20, stopping at overlooks along the way, and Sam—to whom I had offered the chance to drive—finally gathered up his courage and asked if he could get behind the wheel. So I let him, despite the fact that he hadn't brought his learner's permit with him. We pulled off at an overlook; Sam got into the driver's seat, wrestled with the seat adjustment, checked his mirrors, and got us under way. I didn't get a picture of Sam driving, but I did snap one of the kids at an overlook, snapping their own pictures of the great Shenandoah Valley:

Sam told me that he wasn't a very good driver, and that he'd almost gotten into an accident once (I assume this happened while an adult was seated next to him). His sister seemed rather nervous that he was the one in charge, but I felt relaxed: little could go wrong on Skyline Drive, with its sparse traffic, single lane in one direction of travel, and low-low speed limit. Sam himself was a bit nervous and timid with the accelerator; he drove us along at about 30, well below the speed limit. I kept telling him to speed up, but he would always fall back to 30. After a few miles, we stopped at an empty overlook and switched seats, with me regaining the wheel. I humorously groused about how short Sam was while I readjusted the seat to accommodate my massive proportions.

Somewhere along the way back downhill, Sam and Amy caught sight of a bear. I completely missed it. Later on, Amy said she'd only caught sight of the bear's big, fat butt. Sam got out of the car and climbed up the forested berm, looking for where the bear had gone, but he was unable to spot it. We drove on. I was glad the kids had seen a bear; I had been afraid that we would have left Skyline Drive without seeing any wildlife whatsoever.

While we drove, it became obvious that both Sam and Amy were so taken with Front Royal and Skyline Drive that they had conceived a desire to move here. This enchantment with the area became, I think, the subtext for the rest of our day. We drove back to my apartment and decided to watch a movie before having dinner. I had suggested this order of events to give the siblings time to digest their lunch before they had to tackle dinner. Ultimately, I think this was a wise choice.

So we watched "Chronicle" on my Mac, which I brought out into the living room, as I often do when Dr. Steve comes over. I had hoped the kids would get into the movie, despite the lack of subtitles. Their spoken English skills are good enough that they're able to catch about 60-70% of the dialogue, although I'm sure they miss all the subtle jokes, the difficult slang, and the not-so-obvious cultural references. "Chronicle" is one of several quirky superhero movies that I really enjoy, and since it's about teens who gain special powers, I thought that my kids might catch, on some level, the film's metaphorical import.

I had promised the kids dinner by 7PM but, as happened when David and Patricia came over on July 4th, I enlisted Sam and Amy's aid in helping me prep the food. Below, you see I've put the kids on salad duty:

Both siblings were timid about slicing things. I had given Amy my mandolin, which she was supposed to use to slice some onions for the salad. She did so, but worked painfully slowly, perhaps worried (wisely) about cutting her fingers on the mandolin's sharp blade. I got Sam to cut up the crispy bacon and green onions; once Amy finished with her onion-slicing, I put her on cheese-shredding duty, and she did a beautiful job of ripping apart a block of Kirkland Bleu with two forks.

I, meanwhile, worked on prepping the warm elements: salmon steak with honey-mustard glaze, and my rather ambitious "Bleufredo" pasta, which contained fettuccine, "Bleufredo" cream sauce, bacon, portobello mushrooms, chicken, shrimp, baby spinach, and green onions. I regret not having prepped any garlic bread, but the kids didn't notice and didn't care. They stared, fascinated, while I made the cream sauce the traditional Italian way, i.e., by putting the sauce ingredients in separately (butter, heavy cream, and bleu cheese), then stirring everything together until the sauce just magically... appeared.*

Once everything was ready and the table was set, I plated the salmon and pasta and served it. As before, the kids were in heaven. The following images speak for themselves:

Amy slaughtered her dish, except for the mushrooms, because as she told me, she hates mushrooms. Sam did his best to master his meal, but in the end he had to stop before he became too overstuffed. I doggy-bagged his portion along with some extra pasta and salmon, and made another doggy-bag for Amy to take home as well. Both kids were full at that point, but I told them to wait a little while and we'd have dessert—my final gift before I'd have to take them back home.

We farted around on my computer a bit. I showed the kids images of tigers swimming underwater, of Batman using a lightsaber to stab a shark, and of a nun punching a shark while a robot looked on. After about thirty minutes had passed, I lumbered back into the kitchen and prepped dessert: Round One was to be Dr. Oetker's chocolate mousse with homemade whipped cream and raspberry sauce on top; Round Two was to be my version of a strawberry shortcake: French-vanilla cake with fresh Costco blackberries, raspberry sauce, and my whipped cream. Behold:

As happened with lunch and dinner, the kids fell silent while they concentrated on their food. Their focus was almost laughably intense, and I had to suppress the urge to giggle girlishly. I've never had such an appreciative audience for my food before—no other guest has ever paid me the high compliment of saying that my cooking almost made them cry. Watching my kids eat with such gusto was truly touching.

All too soon, it was time to drive the teens home. The ride back to Fairfax was largely quiet as the kids absorbed and processed the jjong-party while their stomachs were hard at work digesting. They told me that, come morning, they were off to Niagara Falls—the American side—for a few days. It promised to be a long trip. "After all that you ate today," I joked, "you'll probably have to hit the restrooms about once an hour while you're on the road tomorrow!" Sam and Amy laughed, then thought a bit... then one of them said in an awed voice, "Hey, you're right!"

Sam did something interesting before we left Front Royal for the final drive back to Fairfax: while we were in the third-floor corridor of my building, Sam gently placed his palms on the hallway wall of my apartment and bowed his head as if offering a reverent goodbye. I understood his gesture as a promise that he would return to Front Royal; he had told me that he hoped to move here when he was older. Front Royal has much to offer an athletic kid like Sam: hiking, biking, gyms, tennis courts, canoeing—this region has it all. And both kids enjoyed the relative peace and quiet of my town; I think Front Royal, with all of its quaint Hobbiton charm, has imprinted itself quite firmly in their consciousness.

We rolled into the parking lot of my kids' apartment building. Sam and Amy had very kindly given me a parting gift when I had first met up with them on Sunday morning: a bottle of wine and a $10 Starbucks gift card. Now, on the sidewalk in front of their place, we hugged and said our goodbyes. Amy promised to email me after her family came back from Niagara Falls. We told each other "I'll miss you." And that was it. My drive home was long and silent, but I was happy the day had gone so well, and had furnished me with so many wonderful memories. Amy and Sam are good kids; if I ever become a parent, I hope to have kids who are just as studious, well-behaved, good-humored, and curious about the world as they are.

*Iron Chef Mario Batali, that culinary wizard, did a masterful version of this during one competition. That moment has now been enshrined as one of the "Ten Greatest Moments" in Iron Chef history. In that contest, Batali made a cream sauce by setting some grappa on fire inside a crater dug into a giant wheel of Parmigiano-Reggiano.


fan death

Twice, now, I've had the same type of insect invade my car. The first time was this past Sunday, when I was on my way to Fairfax to pick up my two private students for our jjong-party (yes—photos pending). The invader looked, at first, like a wasp: long, mean body, gossamer wings, and dangling legs. I saw it in the rear view; the insect settled menacingly on the upper edge of the back seat, daring me to do something. I stopped the car at a local Exxon gas station, popped the hatchback, stalked around to the back of the car, opened the hatchback, took a good look at the insect, then killed it with a roll of paper towels. The insect turned out not to be a wasp at all, but was instead the distant relative of a fly—it had a long, yellow body with wasp-like coloration, but a fly's head, compound eyes and all. It looked more ready to bite than to sting, so I did away with it, smashing it hard with the paper-towel roll, wrapping it in one towel, and tossing it unceremoniously in the gas station's garbage can.

Today, once again, I had the same sort of passenger on board, although this specimen was much smaller. As I was pulling out of a Wegmans parking lot not far from YB Near, the fly-thing quietly floated into view against the passenger-side window. I slowed the car down, leaned over, and smacked the little bastard hard with my right hand. Unfortunately, I didn't kill it—I merely stunned it. It flopped to the floor and lay there a few moments before suddenly reanimating and flying up onto my dashboard. I lost track of it for a few moments, then saw it again, wedged cleverly in that tight angle between my dashboard and my windshield. I thought quickly: what sort of long, flat object could I use to kill that thing? I didn't have a ruler handy... but I did have my old Korean hand fan from 1988. I use that fan at work whenever the office ladies get stingy with the air conditioning. Instead of complaining about the heat and forcing everyone else to suffer the cold, I simply break out my fan and fan myself.

Watching the traffic on Lee Highway with one eye, I again leaned over and rummaged, one-handed, through my go-bag until I found the fan. Its flat edge would be a perfect fit. Holding the fan like a sword, I thrust it viciously forward into the windshield/dashboard crevice, right at my quarry.

A hit! A most palpable hit!

I struck a second time, inadvertently dragging the fly-thing out of its hiding place and back onto my dashboard. It lay there, stunned and crumpled, one or two legs struggling feebly... then it stopped moving. That's when the thought popped into my head and I cried:


I threw back my head and laughed loudly at my own cleverness.

Alas, that was not the end of the story. I drove a few more miles on Lee Highway, heading toward 66 West, and after a few minutes the fly-thing had un-stunned itself and was crawling drunkenly toward its hiding place again.

"I should've killed you when I had the chance, you little shit!" I yelled. I saw, though, that the thing could no longer fly; it was effectively doomed. I had broken it. It dragged itself into one of the defrost vents and disappeared. I turned my A/C on full, dialed over to the defrost setting, and attempted to blow the thing back into view. No luck. The insect had found a secure spot; it would likely die there. It didn't bother me for the rest of my drive to Appalachia.


Tuesday, July 30, 2013

T minus 9

We're in the single digits! Nine days to go before the end of my time at YB. This makes me both happy and sad. I've enjoyed working at YB, but I know it's time to move on to bigger and better. A university professorship is calling (Professor Kim still sounds strange to me).

Today and tomorrow, I work only four hours. Much packing to do once I'm home, and more boxes to collect from the local Wal-mart.


more YB pics

Meet Lohan (not his real name):

Lohan's a relatively new student; I met him only a few weeks ago. He seems smart and apt, and has a very good sense of humor—an important quality for getting through life sane.

Up next is Killian (again, a pseudonym):

Killian is also a new recruit to YB; I've taught him perhaps twice. (Students often make the rounds, getting handed from teacher to teacher.) Unlike Lohan, Killian is of a more serious bent, although he at least has the virtue of appreciating my jokes. We've got one new student, whom I shall not name and whose picture I shall not display here, who has absolutely no sense of humor. In fact, I've started to wonder whether the kid is autistic. His demeanor is deadpan and, well, starey. He laughs at nothing, and barely ever cracks a smile. There's something of the mass-murderer about him—a creepy, focused vibe that would be unnerving were I not so persistently jokey.

Next are the two office ladies, the lovely J and K (respectively, L to R):

J is taking (economics?) courses at George Mason University; K has been taking over center-director duties from our previous center director, D. K's calm, low-key style reminds me a bit of the style of my first center director, H, who was gone before I had taught for even a year at YB. J is likely to take over Korean-teaching duties for me once I leave; I'm going to need to give her a template on which to base lessons.

Finally, here are the outside and inside of the goodbye card that Naughty made for me on his final day with me. The outside first:

Ever the imp, Naughty noted that the Korean he had written on the front of the card (basically, it says "Good luck, Mr. Kevin!") was from a translation program (probably Google Translate).

And here's the inside of the card:

He's a thoughtful kid, and as I noted before, he's already given me plenty of gifts. I'll miss him.

So there we have it: a few more YB-related photos for your perusal. Sometime tomorrow, I'll put up the pics of this past Sunday's marvelous jjong-party with Sam and Amy.


Monday, July 29, 2013

T minus 10

Today's July 29—just another two days until the end of the month, then we cross the border into August. I woke up a bit earlier than usual this morning and was greeted by a crick in my neck. Must've slept uncomfortably last night. With the extra time, I decided to do the massive number of dishes that had accumulated after yesterday's orgy of food. I had done the dishes after lunch, but dinner was larger by far, and dessert was a two-round affair that used up a pile of dishes and bowls.

I'm now done with my major commitments, aside from my commitment to my day job. From here on in, I can focus purely on packing boxes and readying everything for either storage or friendly donation to my brother David and to my buddy Mike.

En avant!


calling it a night

What a day! I had a lot of fun with my two private students, Amy and Sam, and I'll be blogging about them soon, along with displaying more pics from YB, but for now, I'm way too tired to do any serious blogging. Suffice it to say that Sunday went beautifully—perhaps the first time I had ever properly choreographed all my food and event prep such that there were no serious delays or major schedule changes. We went from activity to activity like clockwork, and the kids enjoyed my food even more than I had hoped they would.

This coming work week is going to be depressingly sparse: my schedule includes two six-hour days and two four-hour days, with not a single eight-hour day in sight. I'm gonna be hurtin' by the time I leave the country, and it'll be a month or so after I'm installed at Catholic U. Daegu that I'll be back on my feet again, financially speaking. The absence of an onerous rent will be the main factor contributing to my relief. On a more positive note, the lack of work will mean more time for blogging.

Righto—more later. Gotta rest.


Sunday, July 28, 2013

big day!

Today is jjong-party day for my two private kids. It promises to be fun... or at least I hope it'll be fun. I have only four items on our party agenda:

1. lunch

2. a drive along Skyline Drive

3. a movie, and

4. dinner

I've tortured my kids with vivid, glistening cell-phone pics of my cooking for twenty-five weeks—almost half a year, so I felt it was my duty to finally introduce them to some real cuisine. They had a sample of my cooking recently, when I gifted their family with about four pounds of Western- and Korean-style ribs. I got rave reviews.

So today, we expand on the sampler and do a full lunch and a full dinner.


Pulled-pork quesdillas with oi-kimchi side.


Salmon steak (with honey-mustard glaze), fettuccine "Bleufredo" with chicken, shrimp, portobello, and bacon; insalata mista with homemade raspberry vinaigrette.


Chocolate mousse (courtesy of Dr. Oetker, alas), and moist French-vanilla cake with homemade cream, raspberry sauce, and fresh blackberries.

I'm aiming to show the kids the movie "Chronicle," which I'm gambling they haven't seen. If they have seen it, I'll show them my modest collection of iTune movies and DVDs, and we'll go from there. If nothing from my stash floats their boat, I'll either order another iTunes movie or we'll go out and see something (preferably not "Pacific Rim").

So that's the plan. Gonna be pooped by the end of the day, but it'll be worth it.


Ave, Joe!

Joe D., a buddy of mine from college (not to mention my freshman-year roommate), has been on an incredible road trip with his wife Kelly and their squirmy not-so-younglings. Their trip blog, One Van Motorcade, is here, and it's got plenty of beautiful photos. Their most recent post, about I-84, the Oregon Trail, and the high desert in the Pacific Northwest, brought back memories of my own walk out in that region (see here and here, for example).

Go read about Joe and Kelly's adventures!


ha ha!

If this video doesn't make your day, you're beyond saving.

The audio-free images, from a CCTV camera, show a man attempting to steal a cell phone from a much smaller woman. What the man didn't count on was that the woman would fight back—and fight back with actual technique.

The article labels her fighting style as "Systema," about which I know nothing. Read about Systema, which is apparently a Russian martial art, here.

All credit goes to a tweet from Dave Trowbridge.

ADDENDUM: OK, OK—many of the comments beneath the video claim the video's fake. I'll let you decide. Fake or not, it's great TV, and compared to the technique I saw from the fight I broke up last month, the woman actually looks as if she knows what she's doing.


from my brother

My brother Sean sends me this link: Possum Eating Strawberry.

My emailed reaction to Sean's link:

What did you think of this video? I've seen possums in the wild, including one playing dead, and I thought they were ugly, revolting creatures—long, evil snout, beady raccoon eyes, rat's tail, mean disposition, and creepy, humanoid hands. With that mindset, I watched this video and was grossed out by the possum's awful chewing noises. Then, incredibly, the woman (an older woman, judging by the wrinkles on her hand) started stroking(!!) the possum, and I just waited for the damn thing to bite her.

I hate to say this, but if I ever caught a possum in my house, I'd either figure out how to eject it or kill it outright. Call me racist against opossums.

Your thoughts on playing (with) possum?


today's agenda

It's Saturday! In store for today:

1. Hit Costco for jjong-party material.

2. Hit the local Martin's for the remaining jjong-party material.

3. Do a bunch of prep-cooking: chicken, shrimp, salmon (marinate), pulled pork (slow-cook), shrooms, and bacon. Prep salad ingredients for easy assembly.

4. Do laundry.

5. Clean the floor.

6. Print out box labels for my moving boxes (the idea is to slap five labels on each box; each label is numbered with a "zone," based on "zone" photos I've taken of my apartment).

7. Move packing boxes to various rooms. Go to Wal-mart in search of more boxes. Stow them away, too, so they're not obtrusive for tomorrow's guests.

8. Plan Korean lessons for da goyles next week.


Saturday, July 27, 2013

T minus 13: victory is mine!

Behold, ye mortals! The E-1 professor's visa:

I did a lot of driving today (Friday). My first errand was to Alexandria, where I met my brother Sean and we did the "assumption of liability" changeover with Verizon. Sean is now the primary account-holder; my phone line is secondary, and I can deactivate it at any time for no penalty because (and this was news to me) I'm not under contract. I'll deactivate my account on August 12, the day I move out.

My second errand was to the Korean Consulate, to pick up my passport with its new visa. I once again parked on Decatur and walked over to the consulate. There were several people in there this time, but the place wasn't crowded, and the Visa window had no line. I strolled over to the window, saw that nobody was there, and waited. In a few minutes, a different gentleman from the one I had encountered last week appeared. I handed him my yellow pick-up tag; he looked inside a shoebox full of passports for mine, asked me in Korean if this truly was my passport and, when I said yes, handed it over to me through the slot at the bottom of the bulletproof shield. Never asked me for ID. Strange.

And that was it. I thanked the man, exited the consulate, got back into my car, took a moment to marvel at my passport's spanking-new visa, and drove back along a traffic-jammed Route 66 to Appalachia. Before I left, I asked the man whether the "M" on the visa did indeed mean "Multiple Reentry." It did. That made me even happier: I had thought that, in paying only $45 for the visa, I hadn't paid enough to receive an "M" status.

So with thirteen days to go until the end of my job, I'm technically ready to leave the country this very instant: I've got my plane ticket, I've got my visa; all that remains is to store my possessions and pack my bags. It's still unbelievable to me that this is really happening. From CUD, I hope to find out (1) my residential status, as there's still some doubt as to what sort of studio I'll be lodged in; and (2) who my driver from East Daegu Bus Station will be.

On August 13, I start my new life.


"Skyfall": the two-paragraph review

"Skyfall" is the twenty-third James Bond film, and also marks Bond's 50th filmic anniversary. The movie begins with a vehicular chase through the streets of Istanbul; Bond (Daniel Craig) gets shot with a depleted-uranium bullet by his quarry, then gets shot again by his female partner (Naomie Harris as an otherwise fearless and competent agent who turns out to be none other than Eve Moneypenny—worlds away from being a mere desk jockey). Bond falls off a bridge and is presumed dead. Life goes on. Meanwhile, British Intelligence (MI6) is being attacked by a terrorist who appears to know everything about the agency's inner workings: information on undercover agents—contained on the disk that Bond and Moneypenny had been trying to recover in Istanbul—is being released at a rate of five agents per week. MI6 leader "M" (Dame Judy Dench) witnesses an explosion at MI6 HQ, which hastily relocates to William Churchill's old, rat-infested bunker-and-tunnel network (rats are a recurrent image in this film). Bond, fresh from "enjoying death" during an alcohol-soaked island hiatus, reappears in the beleaguered M's domicile and offers to help. Before he can return to duty, though, he must undergo a series of tests (marksmanship, physical, psychological); he fails them but is told he is reactivated. Bond's investigation of the depleted-uranium shooter, a man named Patrice, leads him to Shanghai and Macau, where he encounters Sévérine (Bérénice Marlohe), who leads Bond to his true target. Owlishly watching MI6's struggles is Gareth Mallory (Ralph Fiennes—Lord Voldemort himself), Chairman of the British Intelligence and Security Committee. Mallory is viewed dimly by much of MI6; Bond sees him primarily as a useless bureaucrat, but Mallory, a war veteran, gets the chance to prove his mettle in a firefight that interrupts a hearing during which M is being grilled for her supposed incompetence. The film's antagonist isn't revealed until the movie is at least half over: Raoul Silva (Javier Bardem), a former Double-O himself. Silva, now a rogue operator known for getting what he wants, sees M as a mother-figure who betrayed him, and he wants revenge. Also in the mix is Bond's young, cheeky new quartermaster, or "Q," played by Ben Whishaw, recently of "Cloud Atlas" fame. Bond does what he can to protect M; the chase eventually leads to Bond's gloomy childhood estate, a Scottish property called Skyfall. At this phase of the movie, acting god Albert Finney makes a sudden, belated appearance as Kincade, Skyfall's gamekeeper and the man who taught a young Bond the fundamentals of firearms. M, Kincade, and Bond make a last stand against Silva on the Skyfall property. Who survives? I don't want to spoil the ending here, but it should come as no surprise that the ending credits finish with "James Bond Will Return."

Casting Daniel Craig as James Bond was controversial at first: many Connery, Moore, and Dalton loyalists couldn't get over the notion of a blond Bond. But I felt, upon watching 2006's "Casino Royale," that Craig fit the role quite well. "Casino Royale" gave us a grittier Bond, one who was simultaneously less urbane, more vicious, and more vulnerable. The casting of Craig meant a fundamental reboot of the James Bond franchise and marked a new phase of Bondsmanship—one in which the new Bond films often seemed to be in revolt against the previous ones. "Skyfall" continues this tradition but takes it in a not-quite-desirable direction: this is a brooding film whose glacial pace is most un-Bond-like. Much time is spent driving through dismal Scottish scenery or panning reverently across the London cityscape. Action set pieces are few and far between, a fact I found disappointing (remember the intense parkour opening chase in "Casino Royale"? more of that, please). Because this film was directed by Sam Mendes, a director who likes to focus on the interiority of his characters, "Skyfall" is more about haunted looks and weird, lingering facial expressions than it is about action or a keen sense of mission. This Bond is a psychodrama—no two ways about it—and not even Albert Finney or a random komodo dragon can save the film from being a drag. (Finney's "Welcome to Scotland!" is, however, one of the best quotes in the movie.) It didn't help matters that the music, scored by Thomas Newman ("The Shawshank Redemption"), felt like a warmed-over version of scores by both Richard Gibbs (the 2003 "Battlestar Galactica" miniseries) and Michael Giacchino (most recently, "Star Trek Into Darkness"). All in all, "Skyfall" is a somewhat watchable film—sort of a Bond for older folks, given its slow pace and its brooding sensibility. It certainly doesn't rank as high as "Casino Royale" in my book. Ladies will enjoy Daniel Craig's combination of strength and vulnerability. Dudes, alas, will have less to rave about, although they might find themselves snickering at Sévérine's bizarre raccoon makeup during the Macau scene.

to-do list: partially completed

I had a few things on my to-do list today:

•Visit my brother Sean and do that AOL thing.

•Visit the Korean Consulate and retrieve my passport and visa.

•Visit the local County Government Center and do a change-of-address procedure.

•Visit Springleaf Financial and see about pulling out a second loan.

•Visit Costco and buy Sunday jjong-party material for my two private students.

Thus far today, I've accomplished the first three items. I know I won't be visiting Springleaf; despite my best intentions, I wound up running behind schedule; it's 4:10PM now, and Springleaf closes at 5PM. I'll try them next week. Meanwhile, I'm going to rest a bit, then head out to Costco this evening. Perhaps later tonight, I'll hit up Wal-mart again for yet more empty cardboard boxes. Wal-mart has turned out to be a surprisingly good source for containers, especially compared to the local Food Lion, which gave me all of six apple boxes when I came a-callin'. Rather parsimonious, they.

I've also got more photos of kids and coworkers to slap up on the blog, a short review of "Skyfall" to write, and a copy of my new E-1 professor visa to display. Stay thou tunèd.


Friday, July 26, 2013

asshole neighbor

I live in Apartment 301. This evening, I met my across-the-hall neighbor, from 302, as I was getting ready to slap new stickers on my car's license plates. Ms. 302, a woman in her late 50s or early 60s, is wearing a neck brace because she recently had C-spine surgery. We got to chatting about her neck brace and about the fact that I'm moving; conversation then shifted to the neighbors who live directly below me, in 201, and that's when I learned something.

"Those people are so noisy!" said Ms. 302. "And the ladies below them [in 101] have called the office to complain. So you know what [the 201 lady] said? She said you were the one making all that noise!"

I was rather taken aback to learn that I'd been a pawn in someone else's mind game, but I merely raised my eyebrows and smiled upon hearing this bit of news.

Since I'm leaving soon, though, there seems little point in confronting Ms. 201 with her lies. I think I may just leave her a special gift on the day I move out.

Ssshhhhh. It's a surprise.


ma bagnole défectueuse

I just received a notice from Honda that my 2008 Fit is, unfortunately, part of a massive recall because of a defective power-window master switch. Apparently, the switch can short out in extremely rainy conditions, which can result in smoke and even fire. I've been advised to take the car in for a free inspection; if the switch is currently undamaged, it will still need to be replaced later this year, when Honda will send out a second notice providing more specifics on the requisite repairs. Since my Honda is going down to my buddy Mike (I'll still be paying the loan and the insurance; Mike will handle fuel, property tax, and maintenance), I have to fill out a change-of-address form so that Honda's second notice reaches the proper pair of eyes.

The notice gives me some insight into what "recall" means. I had thought that a recall meant simply returning the car to the manufacturer, possibly in exchange for a spanking-new vehicle. Not so, it seems: in truth, a recall is simply a warning that a car possesses a serious defect and is in need of immediate repair.

So that's one more thing to worry about before I skedaddle.


Thursday, July 25, 2013

the rewards of teaching

Some of my students at YB can be very thoughtful. This morning, a student gave me a "goodbye" care package consisting of (1) a "Skyfall" DVD, (2) a "Life of Pi" DVD, (3) a goodbye card with a very kind handwritten message, and (4) a huge sampler bag of Lindor chocolate truffles—my favorite. My student wrote:

Good luck! Have a great time in Korea. I hope you come back and visit or I'll drop by whenever I'm in Korea. I had a great time over the last year with you, and I wouldn't have learned as much if you weren't here.

(The best part of [YB] is when we had a random side conversation.)

This same student ("Naughty" from this post) has given me gifts before: a pencil sharpener from Bermuda, a divided tray for storing pencils, paper clips, file cards, and other kickknacks, and a stylized wooden shark from the Bahamas.

And how cool is that?


due to vs. because of

Based on a headline I just saw on my blog's news feed:

Korean Families Remain Separated ______ North Korea

a. Due to
b. Because of

Which is correct? The above example is similar to

The baseball game has been canceled ______ bad weather.

a. due to
b. because of


electricity no more

I stopped by my town's admin office today to ask about my electric bill and my property tax. In true bureaucratic style, the office told me it didn't handle property tax. That was another office: the County Government Center, right next to the post office. All that remained, then, was the question of my electric bill, which the admin office could handle.

The situation: I'm moving out on August 12, and there's no reason for me to be billed beyond that date. I told the admin lady this; she asked me for ID, and I handed her my driver's license. I also apologized for the fact that my move-out date was right in the middle of the billing cycle. She said not to worry about it. She asked me for my forwarding address; I gave her my brother David's address in Alexandria, which I suppose means he'll be receiving the final electric bill. Eventually, she printed out two sheets; I had to sign the one labeled "MOVE OUT." The other sheet, the one labeled "MOVE IN," was stapled to the first and filed away, presumably for the next occupant of my apartment.

And that was it. I've now taken care of my electric bill situation. Service will stop after August 12. I'll have to tell David that my town will be sending him my bill; in anticipation of that day, I'll give him a signed check to send back to Appalachia with the appropriate amount.


Wednesday, July 24, 2013

T minus 15

Along with my unforgotten promise to write reviews for "Oldboy" and "The Hobbit" (those posts are sitting in my draft queue), I've got a few other posts in mind, to wit:

1. What makes "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan" the greatest of the Trek films?

2. Why watch "Battlestar Galactica"?

3. Reflections on my 2.5 years at YB

Here's hoping I have the time and energy to write these posts in the near future. And, hey: if I don't have time to write these posts before I leave on August 13, I'll write them when I have the time once I'm in Korea. My new job will afford me plenty of free time: the equivalent of three-day weekends, every week, and four months' vacation per year. Insane. And my pay will be about the same as what I currently receive. Doubly insane!


mOr kidZ

As promised, some more pics of kids I'll be losing soon. First up is AJ, who's been a solid Summer Intensive student. His SAT scores have improved significantly during his time in our program, much to his parents' delight.

Next, we've got EK, below:

EK is a lastborn—cheerful and sociable, per the stereotype given in birth-order psychology. She's also quite smart and has, along with AJ, shown very good improvement in her SAT performance.

Below is my first try at getting a pic of YJ, who felt unready when I got my phone camera out:

She eventually uncoiled herself, though, and presented her best face to the world:

YJ's a proud resident of Maine, and she'll be leaving our humble center in a few days to return to New England. She is, however, in love with Washington, DC, and wants to go to Georgetown—a desire that I wholeheartedly encourage. The world needs more Hoyas. Like AJ and EK, YJ is smart and motivated. I think she'll have no trouble getting into GU and, once there, she'll make far better use of her time in college than I did of my time (I didn't really wake up until grad school, eight years after graduating from undergrad). YJ wants to enroll in GU SFS (School of Foreign Service); I've tried to put her in contact with some SFS and Ling-Lang (Faculty of Languages and Linguistics) friends of mine. One friend has risen to the occasion; another friend is on a road trip with his family; the third friend works for the State Department and is currently in Germany, where she's hard to reach.

I wish the best of luck to all these fine students.

A special note: YJ, once she learned I had a blog, was determined to find it. She found my LinkedIn profile first, then used that info to track down this blog. God help us all. Then again, I thought, she's old enough not to be bowled over by all the shit, fuck, piss, diddle (as my Kiwi buddy John Williamson might say) content. So what the hell. And since I'm leaving YB in a couple weeks, anyway, it's not a big deal for a student to find my blog. My hope is that she'll just get bored of trying to read all these thousands of entries (almost 8000, at last count).

So them's mah kidz. May they all succeed in life—whatever success may mean for them.

(Even more student pics to follow.)


3, then 4, then 2

I had originally been scheduled for three sessions tomorrow (Wednesday): no first session, so I would come in late and teach the second, third, and fourth sessions. While I was at work today, however, one of my supervisors told me that I would have to come in for the first session, after all. So—four sessions, then (i.e., eight hours' teaching). Later today, my supervisor told me that the head office said to cut my hours back and to give some to a coworker; I was now down to only two sessions. Why? Apparently, it's because I'm leaving soon. That makes no sense to me: as far as I'm concerned, I need to work as many hours as I can so as to build up a decent cash reserve before I take the big trans-Pacific plunge.

Whatever. I get my marching orders, and then I march.


Tuesday, July 23, 2013

T minus 16

We're creeping close to the two-week mark. I need to get a bunch of apple boxes.



The great Dennis Farina has died of a pulmonary embolism at 69.

I know Farina best from his work in two gangster-related films: the quirky, hilarious "Get Shorty" and the dark, gritty "Goodfellas." The man had a great sense of comic timing and a very natural, memorable screen presence. Like Joe Pesci, he could go from jovial to mean in an instant. In reading around, I just discovered that Farina used to be a cop. Imagine that.

RIP, Mr. Farina. You will be missed.


Monday, July 22, 2013

more than I thought

The original advert for my upcoming CUD job had stipulated a salary of 29.4 million won. My contract arrived recently, and it said I'd be paid a flat 30 million won, which is a welcome surprise (even though, over twelve months, the extra W600,000 amounts to only W50,000 extra per month before taxes). Here's hoping that other welcome surprises will be in store...


T minus 18

Each successive week shaves off another Gruyère-shaped chunk of time between me and the end of my job. Eighteen more days to go, as of today; we're close to the two-week mark. This afternoon, I'll tutor my private kids for the last time; next week, the kids and I are doing a jjong-party to celebrate the end of our association: there'll be a homemade lunch, followed by a movie and perhaps some driving around Skyline Drive, followed by a homemade dinner—my gift to the kids for having been such excellent students. This week, I need to plan out my menu and shop for ingredients; I'm already pretty much decided on pulled-pork quesadillas for lunch (plus some Korean-style banchan on the side) and a dinner like the one I did for my brother David und seine Frau Patricia: salmon steak, shrimp-and-chicken Alfredo, garlic bread, and a light salad—with a luscious combo dessert of mousse and shortcake as the coda.

The only problem, of course, is that I can't afford to overeat: I've got work on Monday, and I don't want to be pooping during work hours. I know my digestive system well enough to understand that, if I'm still eating after, oh, 7PM, I'll be fucked the following day. But at least I'll have some kick-ass leftovers for lunch throughout the week!


Sunday, July 21, 2013

Ave, Joe!

Joe McPherson writes an impassioned post arguing that Korean makgeolli should never be thought of as a rice wine: it is, instead, a rice beer.

Joe's polemical post stands in contrast to this cooler-headed post to which I linked long ago.

So—makgeolli! Rice wine or rice beer?


family gathering

Today, I taught three siblings from the H. family. The eldest, Cool Hand, is a quiet, studious teen; the middle child, Naughty, is a not-quite-as-studious little booger who's about to enter the seventh grade; the last child, Cutie, is an adorable (albeit overly distractable) dollop of charm who will join the second grade come September.

I've enjoyed teaching the members of this family. It's not just these three siblings who come to YB: there are also a few cousins who attend as well. Cutie is one of my two Korean-language students; the other is her tween cousin.

It occurred to me that I'd like to snap pics of most of my students as a way of remembering them. Don't be surprised if you see more young faces on this blog over the next few weeks.


Saturday, July 20, 2013

when I arrive in Korea

I've been told that, when I arrive at Incheon International Airport on August 14, I can take an express bus straight from the airport and all the way down to East Daegu. From there, I'll be picked up by a runner from the university, and he'll drive me and my bags to my lodgings. So I guess that's the plan: I won't even be lingering in Seoul to say hi to friends and relatives; instead, I'll motor straight down to my new job. I'm glad there's an express bus at the airport: I had thought I might have to lug my bags into Seoul, then take a train down to East Daegu, followed by another train over to Gyeongsan City.

All in all, I've been impressed by the way my new employer has thought out the details of the incoming profs' arrivals. The CUD team has been very quick to respond to my various emails requesting this or that clarification, and while the quality of the English in those staffers' emails has been a bit shaky, the staffers' earnest nature has come through loud and clear. I have a feeling I'm going to like my new job a lot. Here's hoping.


what was accomplished today

Today saw me driving a long, long time in piss-poor traffic. I trusted my phone's GPS to find me a decent route to the Korean Consulate in DC, and it did: Route 66 to Rock Creek Parkway, and thence to Massachusetts Avenue (a.k.a. Embassy Row), from which it would be a straight shot to the consulate. Traffic was horribly backed up on 66 close to Exit 60, and again close to Route 495, and again just after 495. But once I hit the Rock Creek Parkway, it was fairly smooth (if slow) sailing, and Mass Avenue was a breeze. I left Appalachia around 3PM and got to the consulate around 4:20PM, at which point it was a matter of finding parking. Parking on that part of Embassy Row always sucks; I did my usual thing and parked semi-legally on Decatur, about 200 yards up the street from the Korean Consulate.

The consulate itself was quiet, as has always been my experience. I've never once, in all my years of going to and coming from Korea, had to stand on line. I stepped through a metal detector (which didn't ding, despite my pocketknife) and was directed to the window, which stood a bit off to the side. A salt-and-pepper-haired bureaucrat was tucked behind the bulletproofed counter; our conversation was entirely in Korean. The process went smoothly, except for when the man started asking me questions about my mother. For some reason, he was fixated on her citizenship status: "Was she a Korean citizen when you were born?" he asked. I really couldn't remember, but I gave him a tentative "yes" on the assumption that she became a US citizen soon after my birth. My "yes" must have been the wrong answer, because the man paused a long time, brows furrowed, and seemed on the verge of saying something—something likely to derail the entire E-1 visa application process. I added that mom had passed away over three years ago; he looked briefly sympathetic, and that news seemed to dispel whatever it was he had intended to say. We were back on track with the E-1 process.*

I had prepped pretty thoroughly, having checked the Korean Embassy's visa app webpage to see what documents I needed to bring. The bureaucrat gave me no complaints and demanded nothing extra (a problem I had experienced in the 1990s, at Seoul's then-Byzantine Immigration Office), but he did do a weird, bureaucrat-y thing: when he asked for the $45 processing fee, I gave him three twenties. He took the twenties, changed one of them into four fives, then gave me two twenties and four fives, and told me to give him the exact $45. I had to fight hard to stifle an insane grin: the guy could simply have handed me $15 in change! What was his obsession with my handing him exactly $45? As surreptitiously as I could manage, I shook my head in wonder at this minor waste of time.

The whole thing was over in minutes, then I was back out in the oppressive summer heat and humidity. I realized, about a hundred yards away from the consulate, that I had to piss like a racehorse. Should I go back into the consulate and use its restroom? I wondered. My ego answered: Nah. Drive to Georgetown University and piss there. So that's what I did. My alma mater isn't that far away from Embassy Row: just go uphill along Mass Avenue, turn left on Wisconsin, and go downhill to either Reservoir road (which takes you to the back of campus) or to O Street (which takes you to the front of campus). Just one minor problem: as any DC veteran can tell you, you can't turn left onto Wisconsin from Mass Avenue. So I crossed Wisconsin, turned around, and turned right onto it. The rest was gravy. I parked near St. Mary's dorm (there's more construction happening there), walked briskly to the nearby Leavey Center, and drained my bloated dragon.

I got back into my car, gratefully turned on the air conditioning, and started back home. Route 66 westbound was even worse than eastbound, and it was that time of day when a short spur of 66 was exclusively reserved for HOV-2s (High Occupancy Vehicle, minimum 2 people). Cops pull people over for being alone in the car while driving in an HOV-2 lane; as the flashing overhead marquees remind us, the fine for that violation can be up to $1000. I didn't know what else to do, though: Route 66 is right fucking there when leaving Georgetown, and it seemed ridiculous to divert all the way to 495 so as to take the "safe" 66 exit. So I risked getting caught and leaped onto 66 right away.

I very nearly was caught: as I crawled along with the rest of the traffic and got close to the 495 junction, a crouching state police cruiser suddenly turned on its lights, leaped briefly into the stream of vehicles, and pulled over a car with a lone driver inside. From my perspective, a mere eighty yards back, the event looked like a wolf's plucking a sheep out of the herd. Then, to my dawning horror, I realized that I was going to crawl right past the police car. I had nowhere to go: the cars in the left lane were jammed too tightly for me to dodge away from Statey. The cars ahead of me and behind me were packed in too close for me to effect an escape. I had no choice but to roll right by the policeman, like a float in a goddamn parade, my aloneness in full view. Lamely, I pulled my interior sun visor down, knowing full well that that would do no good. My brain chanted at the policeman's back, These aren't the droids you're looking for... move along... these aren't the droids you're looking for... Luckily for me, the state trooper was totally focused on his prey, leaning into the driver's window and doubtless asking all the standard questions: Do you know why I pulled you over? Do you understand that this is an HOV-2 zone? Are you aware that it's a maximum $1000 fine for being in this zone illegally? Do you realize that your sister is a close Facebook friend of mine? I started breathing again only after I was two football fields away from the trooper. That was close. Had I not lagged eighty yards behind, that would have been my ass.

The ride home was long and tedious, but 66 cleared up after Haymarket, and with an empty road ahead, I was back to my evil, lead-footed ways. Once I was in town, I went to a local Verizon branch to discuss the matter of my cell-phone account. I'm currently the primary holder of a two-person account; my brother Sean shares the expense with me as a way of paying a cheaper monthly fee (more precisely, we both pay a cheaper fee thanks to the shared plan). Once I leave the US, however, there will be no need for me to have a Verizon account, so I had to find out how I could transfer responsibility fully over to Sean. I spoke with a very, very cute blonde lady, who told me that I needed to perform an AOL (Assumption of Liability—see here). An AOL can be done over the phone, she said; Sean and I have to be in the same room, talking to the Verizon rep, to make this work. The bad news: (1) Sean, as a single account owner of a now-unshared account, would have to pay an extra $10/month, and (2) I would have to pay an early-termination penalty. Shite. The lady also said that I should wait until just before my departure to perform the AOL. The good news: I can still use my phone's Wi-Fi function in Korea, even after it's been disconnected from the Verizon account.

I had hoped to leave early for the consulate, and to get back in time to visit our town's central admin office to discuss the handling of my electric bill (my move-out day is August 12, so I shouldn't be billed beyond that date) and my property taxes, half of which I've already paid this year. For all I know, the town may ask me to pay any residual taxes right away, before I move. Unfortunately, because I left rather late in the afternoon, there was no way for me to get back in time. That's an errand I'll have to save for next Friday.

I had also hoped to get over to a Lowe's or a Home Depot hardware store to grab a few dozen packing boxes, but that didn't work out, either. What I may do, in fact, is terrorize the local grocery stores in the hopes of cadging a few dozen cast-off apple boxes. Those cardboard bastards are durable as hell; you can store anything in them for a million years, if need be.

In all, I got a good bit done today, but had I started a few hours earlier, I might have gotten more accomplished. The US Army apparently likes to boast that "We get more done by 9AM than you do all day." Today, that boast applies to me and my lame, sluggish, civilian ass.

*Now that I think about it, I think the man was wondering whether I couldn't just apply for an F-4 visa—the visa given to gyopos. My mother and I actually did try to set me up with an F-4 once, years ago, but the Immigration Office told us that we needed a crucial document that Mom didn't remember ever having filled out back when she was living in Korea (Mom left Korea in her early twenties).


Friday, July 19, 2013

dos (tipos de) sánguches

On Thursday, I had some rainbow hot dogs (click image to engorge):

The previous day, Wednesday, I had some BLTs (click image to inflame):

Those BLTs were marvelous, and they didn't last long. They were made with leftover hamburger buns, crispy microwaved bacon, iceberg lettuce, dill pickles, tomatoes, leftover mushrooms (courtesy of Dr. Steve, who cooked them under my supervision), mayo, and black pepper. I showed one of my students a picture of the BLTs on my phone; she declared them delicious-looking except for the mushrooms, since she hates shrooms.


off to see the wizard

Tomorrow morning or early afternoon, I'll be visiting the South Korean Consulate to apply for my E-1 visa. I've received a PDF copy of my employment contract from CUD; I also have a visa confirmation number. Along with those items, I'll need to take along my passport, a passport photo, the completed visa application form, and $45 for the processing fee. (Information here. The website doesn't say how long processing will take. I'd love it if processing were instantaneous, but Murphy's Law suggests that I'll have to come back to the consulate in a week, as I'm free only on Fridays.)

One thing I don't get about the employment contract: in the English version, it says I'll be teaching 12 hours, and then it says that "8 hours... is mandatory." Are they saying I have to teach 8 extra hours (i.e., 20 hours per week), or are they simply describing the absolute minimum number of weekly teaching hours? Here's the English text:

Teaching Responsibilities

1) The employee is responsible for teaching 12 hours (credit hour) per week during semester and teaching 8 hours (credit hour) in department is mandatory. If the professor fails to teach the said lecture hours, they can be replaced by providing conducting English education program, club guidance and English Cafe activities.

For speakers and readers of Korean, here's the Korean-language version of that same section of the contract:

과목담당시수 및 강의장소

① 피임용자의 책임시수는 학기별 주당 12시간(실제수업시수)이며, 학기별 최소 8시간은 학과 수업을 담당하여야 한다. 책임시수 미 충족 시 영어교육프로그램, 동아리 지도, English Cafe 활동 등으로 대체할 수 있다.

I'm sure my reading of the Korean version is off, but it seems to me that the chwae-so 8 shigan phrase ("최소 8시간") is saying I have to teach a minimum of 8 mandatory hours per week. Chwae-so means "smallest," after all. I'll probably email my CUD contact to confirm this interpretation, but I'm not too worried: my other contact at CUD, that taciturn guy named P., said that CUD teachers teach 12 hours per week. I just wish the English version of the contract had been worded more like the Korean version.


eventful day

I could have been pulled over by a policeman this morning. Didn't happen, and I'm still not entirely sure why, although I do have a theory. The guy had me dead to rights. I was tearing down Route 66 at 80 miles an hour (that's about 130 kph for you metric-heads) when I saw two cars up ahead—one in the left lane and one in the right. The one in the left lane was behind the one on the right, but was gaining slowly. If I planned to get ahead of the dude on the left, I'd have to gun the engine, race past, and dodge in front of him before there was no space left for me to pass. I was in the right lane. As I got near the car on the left—a weatherbeaten Dodge sedan with no hubcaps—it started to accelerate, which was an asshole thing to do. I gunned it harder and blew past the car at close to 90 (145 kph), at which point it honked its horn, right before I passed it and dodged in front of it. Once in front of it, however, I looked in the rear view and saw to my horror that the car had flipped on what initially looked like police lights.

I immediately slid back over to the right lane (passing the right-hand car in doing so), but kept going 80, mainly because I wasn't sure whether the guy was really a policeman. I had my doubts. My non-American readers may not know this, but in the Commonwealth of Virginia, police-car roof lights are invariably blue, emergency-vehicle roof lights are red, and maintenance-vehicle roof lights are yellow. The lights I saw in my rear-view mirror were red and white—emergency vehicle colors, not police colors. Still tearing along at over 80, I saw that the guy made no move to pull me over; he simply pulled ahead of me again and held his position in the left lane. Thus we drove, holding our relative positions at over 80 miles an hour, both of us in flagrant violation of the 70 mph speed limit. Tentative conclusion: this was a dominance game, not law enforcement. That's my theory, anyway: the guy was more of an angry paramedic than an actual cop. He honked, which is not something your typical policeman does when pulling you over (never in my experience, anyway). He failed to pull me over despite the fact that I was speeding right next to him. Finally, his lights weren't police lights. In retrospect, I don't think that dickhead could have pulled me over.

YB's office tricked me: I had expected to have only two classes today, but instead I was given three: six hours' work instead of four hours'. This turned the rest of my day upside-down: I had hoped to have plenty of time to box things up once I got back home early, but since I've gotten back at a more or less "normal" time, I'm tired and less motivated to do any boxing. On top of this, I found out that my two Korean-language girls will be coming in again for a lesson on Monday, instead of the expected Wednesday. This puts pressure on me to crank out more material for the girls, and to do so much sooner than I had expected.

So how's your day been?


Thursday, July 18, 2013

T minus 21

Unbelievable. Just three weeks to go.

This has been a tiring week, and it's not over yet. I've had two full eight-hour days of teaching and one six-hour day. I'll also be teaching a full eight-hour day this Saturday as a favor to a coworker who's taking Saturday off. (I had thought I was done with Saturdays, but this "subbing" request suddenly came down the pipe, and it would have been churlish of me to say no.) I've got a ton of packing yet to do: boxes to buy, labels to slap on—you know the drill. Today's a short day (only four hours of teaching), so I'll be able to come home early and get right to it. Tomorrow I'm off, so I'll have to take advantage of the free time. (I'll also be traveling to the Korean Consulate tomorrow, come to think of it.)

Yesterday's Korean session went well. The two girls I taught were cousins; the older one is a rising seventh-grader; the younger one is an unbearably cute rising second-grader. Older Cuz caught on pretty quickly as we plowed through the basics of writing and pronouncing hangeul and rudimentary Korean syllables. Little Cuz struggled to keep up. At several points she marveled, "How can R. [older Cuz] go so fast?" as Older Cuz blazed through her writing practice sheets. Little Cuz is no slouch, though: she's got a great ear, and yesterday she imitated the pronunciation I modeled almost flawlessly. Little Cuz's problem, though, is that she's so distractable that I don't think she memorized a single hangeul letter. She's going to have to work on that; if she doesn't, she's going to find herself falling way, way behind.

Anyway, au boulot.


Wednesday, July 17, 2013

got my number

The Catholic University of Daegu has emailed me my E-1 visa confirmation number. Armed with this, plus any requisite forms and documents, I can drive over to the South Korean Consulate and apply for my visa.

Everything's going as planned.


today, I teach Korean

I've been given two Korean-language students to whom I'll be teaching the rudiments of Korean. I was told by my boss that the students—two ethnically Korean girls—are starting at zero. I didn't realize how young the girls would be, however, so I'm now regretting my choice of textbook. Even though the title of the textbook is Korean for Beginners, the books are designed for older students, high school and above.

Still, it's sort of exciting to be teaching Korean. I feel a bit naughty doing it: my own Korean skills hover in the high-intermediate range, so my right to teach the language is questionable at best. Still, I know I've got enough of a handle on the basics to be able to teach the fundamentals more or less competently.

Disdaining the textbook for now, I've been making up my own worksheets, beginning with alphabet practice (Korean, like English and other European languages, uses an alphabet; in this case, it's one that was invented by King Sejong and his team of scholars in the early 1440s; the modern Korean alphabet has 24 letters: 14 consonants and 10 vowels). After going through the alphabet's basics and teaching my kids how to pronounce the letters properly, I'll take the girls through the wild world of syllable formation: how to "stack" Korean consonants and vowels to make syllabic clusters. After that, I've mapped a route that will lead the girls through various vocabulary lists, subject/topic/object markers, and prepositions. By then, they'll have enough of a lexicon for us to begin forming sentences, at which point the real work will begin.

The girls are coming for Korean lessons only once a week. That's too little instruction, in my opinion, but I don't control the girls' schedules. The other problem, though, is that I'll be gone as of August 8, which means someone else will have to take up the mantle and continue the lessons. One of my coworkers, Samuel (not his real name), is a native-speaker Korean, but he isn't keen on teaching language: he'd rather concentrate on teaching math and science. Personally, I think Samuel is a logical enough guy, and a good enough teacher, to figure out a way to instruct the girls, but he's got confidence problems when it comes to teaching outside his comfort zone, despite the fact that Korean is his first language (Samuel is, by the way, a fluent speaker of English). So... who will take over for me once I'm gone? Another person in the office, one of my supervisors, might be able to teach the girls, but in her case there are scheduling issues to resolve.

I guess we'll just have to wait and see whether our attempt at a Korean-language curriculum can survive my departure from YB Near.


Charles's galling adventure

My buddy Charles talks about his recent adventure under the knife: he had to get his gall bladder removed after it turned out not to belong to him. An excerpt from his entry:

I woke up, briefly, in the middle of surgery. Instinctively, I looked down at my abdomen, which yawned wide in a bloody grin. I could see my pulsating insides—slick with blood and so alive—and the sight filled me with horror. My brain gibbered, and it took me a moment to realize that the nurses had abandoned my side and were running toward one of the surgeons; he was in the corner of the operating room, desperately wrestling with something large, glistening, tentacled, and aggressive.

"Kill it! Kill it!" screamed a nurse. I saw one of those great tentacles coil itself firmly around the surgeon's neck. I heard the sickening pop of cervical vertebrae giving way under murderous pressure.

That came from me? I thought wildly. And then a flash of pride: I'm a mom!

At that point, I fainted.


Tuesday, July 16, 2013

a little something I whipped up

What do you do when you've got leftover chicken tits?

Behold: chicken-salad sandwich, Hominid-style (click image to engrossify):

Italian kaiser rolls. Diced chicken breast meat with mayonnaise, relish, dried onion, pizza-style chili flakes, chopped dill pickles (for chunkiness), provolone, baby spinach, and homemade Cajun remoulade. Oh, and bacon.


Monday, July 15, 2013

spot the error

One too many commas!

The legacy of this case will be that the media never gets it right, and worse, that a group of lawyers, with the aid of a public relations team, who had a financial stake in the outcome of pending and anticipated civil litigation, were allowed to commandeer control of Florida’s criminal justice system, in pursuit of a divisive, personal agenda.

Which comma should definitely go? There are seven to choose from. One or two other commas might be stylistically iffy, but one comma is clearly unnecessary.



the George Zimmerman roundup

Some thoughts on the acquittal of Neighborhood Watch captain George Zimmerman, recently on trial for the shooting death of Trayvon Martin.

Malcolm Pollack.

John Pepple.

Bill Vallicella.



"Glee" star Cory Monteith, who played Finn Hudson, died on Saturday, July 13, while staying at the Fairmont Pacific Rim Hotel in Vancouver, Canada. He was a very young 31.

I've been a fairly faithful follower of "Glee" since its inception. The show has been unabashedly liberal from the beginning, tackling all manner of social issues ranging from sex to sexual orientation, to larger themes about difference, individuality, fitting in, and making something of oneself through a combination of talent and raw effort. At times hokey, often overly preachy, "Glee" has nonetheless distinguished itself as one of the wittiest, funniest comedies on TV. Think of it as an extended musical/sitcom with a rotating cast.

Monteith's Finn Hudson was a natural leader and solid performer, but was also haunted by a lack of direction. In the most recent season, Finn finds himself struggling to figure out what he wants to study in college, and he settles on studying to be a teacher. With Monteith's death, that storyline has been closed. I wonder how his tragic passing will be written into the show, if it's written in at all. Different shows handle this sort of situation differently.

I recall that "Sesame Street," of all shows, faced the brute fact of death head-on in late 1983 when Will Lee, the actor who played the gruff but genial Mr. Hooper, passed away. The show took Lee's death as an opportunity to meditate, for a moment, on the permanence of death and the permissibility of grief, and some of the human (i.e., non-muppet) cast members became emotional in that episode. I can only hope that "Glee" remains just as unflinching in the face of Monteith's passing, and finds a tasteful, perceptive way to address the loss of a cherished character and real-life person. Monteith was a well-loved cast member; I'm sure that it won't take much acting ability for fellow cast members to express their sadness over the death of Finn/Cory.

RIP, Mr. Monteith. "Glee" is diminished without you, but I trust the show will go on. You'd have wanted that.


Maqz vs. Penny

Background: my brother Sean is trying to sell his condo in Alexandria. Whenever prospective buyers come, everyone needs to be out of the house, including the dog. For that reason, Maqz the chihuahua and I had to go this morning, and Sean proposed that I drop Maqz off at my other brother David's place, since I couldn't drive around all day with Maqz in the car. Sean, who was away in New York City, said he would pick Maqz up a few hours later, once he had gotten back to northern Virginia. (David also lives in Alexandria, not far from where our parents used to live.)

I arrived around 11:30AM at David's place, but David's wife Patricia and their dog Penny were out at the local dog park to allow Penny to have a good, tiring run around the field. Maqz, glad to be out of my freezing car (I love my A/C), trotted into David's place unchallenged, and immediately tried to take over by assuming a dominant position on top of David's living room couch. David said that Penny wasn't allowed on any of the furniture, so every time Maqz tried to hop on the couch, I shooed him away. Maqz leaped off the furniture, growling, but would often try getting back onto his perch. He can be a stubborn little bastard.

Penny finally came in with Patricia in tow, and Maqz immediately started yapping at her. Penny halfheartedly barked in reply, tail wagging, perhaps not noting how serious Maqz was in staking out his territory. Maqz is a much older dog than Penny; he's a gray-muzzled seven or eight years old, while Penny, at around six months old, is still a pup learning the ropes. Penny's problem is that she's growing so fast: she's already pretty large, just shy of forty pounds (18.2kg, 2.86 stone). Maqz is tiny by comparison, and chihuahuas are a naturally nervous, high-strung breed. Penny is the incarnation of all of Maqz's canine insecurities.

Things quieted down after a few minutes. Penny playfully chased Maqz around and around a living room table; I regretted not getting video of that activity. Penny also spent a minute leaning against my leg; she had done that when she visited me at my place in Appalachia. Like most dogs, she has a hierarchical instinct for who among the humans is the eldest. By the time I left David's place to go tutor in Fairfax, Penny and Maqz were no longer squabbling or play-fighting, but I have no idea whether the détente held after I left. (Ah—David just texted to say that all was peaceful.)

Sean's arrival back from New York was delayed by awful traffic; he picked Maqz up around 7:40PM instead of the anticipated 4PM. Thus ended the Maqz and Penny Show. Here's hoping that, as Maqz and Penny continue to interact, they'll eventually get used to each other. They are, after all, in-laws.


Sunday, July 14, 2013

T minus 25

First: C'est le Quatorze juillet! Bonne fête à la France et aux Français!

Next: I'm off in a few hours to drop Sean's dog, Maqz the chihuahua, at my brother David's place. Both of my brothers live in Alexandria, so this won't be a long drive. Sean tells me that Maqz won't poop or pee in the car. We'll see. I plan to allow Maqz a few minutes to do any business on the grass near Sean's apartment, just to be safe. This is a pick-your-shit-up neighborhood, though, so I'll also have to be armed with paper towels and a Ziploc bag for Maqz's warm, steaming little Lincoln Logs.

Then: After dropping the dog off, and perhaps hanging a bit to watch Maqz interact with the lovable Penny, I'm off to tutor from 2PM to 4PM—my second-to-last session with my adorable kids. Two weeks from now, we'll be having that jjong-party. Haven't settled on a menu yet.

Finally: I'll drive home from tutoring, swing by a Staples or Office Depot to buy some printer labels, and will spend a few hours just packing stuff into boxes and labeling everything. It's gonna be sad to see it all boxed, but the moving process has to begin sometime.


Saturday, July 13, 2013

"Pacific Rim": the one-paragraph review

There I was in Alexandria, dog-sitting for my brother Sean on Friday evening, when I got a text from my other brother, David, at 6:42PM: "Yew wanna see Pacific Rimjob tewnite at 10:40?" Well, how could I say no to a rimjob? So I drove over to the AMC Hoffman Center multiplex (22 theaters!) and cadged a ticket from David for the IMAX 3-D version of the film. Having seen 3-D films before, I have to agree with the late, great Roger Ebert that adding a third dimension to the viewing experience adds nothing to one's enjoyment. It didn't help that "Pacific Rim" could be described in a single, not-very-flattering word: ponderous. I've seen positive reviews of the film that describe it as simultaneously smart and dumb; I'd have to say that the film was just dumb, and certainly not the best work I've seen from director Guillermo del Toro. "Pacific Rim" is the love child of "Cloverfield" and "Transformers," but with more phosphorescent snot and blood. The massive creatures attacking Earth, called kaiju in the Japanese monster-movie idiom, emerge from a rift deep in the Pacific Ocean, but are actually being portalled in from another universe by a malevolent hive mind that wants our planet for itself. Monster after monster appears, first singly, then in pairs, then in threes. In response to this building-stomping threat, humanity initiates the Jaeger program (Jaeger is German for "hunter"): giant, kaiju-sized robots that must be piloted by a pair of neurally connected ("drifting") crew members. Most of the movie depicts the various slugfests between the Jaeger and the kaiju; the battles start to run together after a while. The human drama, while scripted better than it was in the 1989 laugh riot "Robot Jox," doesn't offer much to chew on. And all the predictable tropes are in place: the dying leader who must sally forth one final time, the nerdy scientists who stumble upon a horrifying truth, etc. Aside from that, the movie seems to have an unhealthy fixation on nosebleeds, which signify too much mental strain. As with other blockbuster wannabes, "Pacific Rim" relies on nonsensical Hollywood physics (see my "Man of Steel" review), including the tried-and-true favorite: miraculously outrunning a nuclear blast. The story contains plenty of elements seen recently elsewhere: the alternate-universe setting from "The Avengers," the drop-a-nuke-in-the-hive plot (and the let's-mind-meld-with-aliens plot) from "Independence Day," the creatures reminiscent of the mad, doomed forest god from del Toro's own "Hellboy 2." View this film at your own risk. Its central, warm-fuzzy theme is supposedly about how we only succeed if we work together, but I think the Star Trek films teach that particular lesson in a more palatable, interesting way.


Friday, July 12, 2013

little bro

I went out to dinner with my little brother Sean last night. We met in Centreville, Virginia, where my job at YB Near is located, since Sean had been teaching back-to-back lessons in Vienna. I had given Sean a choice of restaurants in the area to try; he chose Copper Canyon Grill, texting that CCG's menu appealed to him. I'd never been to the Canyon before, so I thought it might be worth a reconnoiter. Since I had a few hours to kill (my job ended around 3PM yesterday, but Sean wasn't to arrive in Centreville until 8PM), I followed the suggestion of a coworker and went to the second floor of a local Wegmans, there to enjoy the free Wi-Fi service and the constantly wafting scent of food drifting upward from the self-service food court below.

Around 7:45PM, I drove over to Copper Canyon Grill to meet Sean, who told me he was stuck in traffic. I arrived at 8PM on the dot and grabbed us a booth. Sean arrived at the restaurant around 8:20PM, and we ordered. I got a crab-dip appetizer and CCG's "Rattlesnake Pasta," which featured rotisserie chicken, not rattlesnake, as the meat. Sean got a salad instead of an appetizer and a rib-eye steak that turned out to be perfectly cooked to the degree of rareness that Sean treasures in his steaks. Sean actually gave an interesting disquisition on good rib-eyes, and talked about how disappointed he had been when, a few years back, he had ordered a rib-eye at Cut, a San Francisco grill-restaurant owned by Wolfgang Puck. Puck's rib-eye was a neat little rectangle of flesh from which all the delightfully marbled meat on the end had been trimmed away. "But that's the point of having a rib-eye!" Sean averred. He therefore took great delight in Copper Canyon Grill's rib-eye, which was fatty and done up perfectly. I tried a bite of Sean's steak and regretted having ordered chicken pasta.

Dinner was great, and we were both stuffed. Sean gallantly treated me to the meal; Copper Canyon isn't easy on the wallet: all of its menu items are about $3 to $5 more expensive than they should be.

My little brother is heading out to New York this morning, so he needs me to house- and dog-sit for him for two nights. I'll be at his pad from late this afternoon until Sunday morning. Sean warned that, on Sunday, there might be visitors: he's been trying to sell his condo (possibly for a move back to Boston, where he did his graduate work), so there's a chance that some prospective purchasers will want to come over to take a look at his place that day. I'm supposed to be out of the house when such visits occur, so I might have to grab Maqz the chihuahua and drive him over to my other brother's place, there to drop the dog off.

This weekend, I also need to start packing up my belongings and getting them ready for storage. At some point soon, I also have to talk to my buddy Mike about what's happening with my car. Lots to think about, lots to arrange.


crowdsourcing a math problem

I was stumped while trying to help a student with the following math problem. I suspect the solution is easier and more obvious than my conscious mind will allow. First, I'll describe the problem. Next, I'll talk about about how I fumbled around with it. Finally, I'll open the floor to any savvy commenters who can show me a better approach and give me the proper answer. I know what the answer to the problem is; I've seen the answer key. But I won't publish the answer here: this way, any commenter who hits upon the right answer will have done so legitimately, without the post hoc reverse-engineering of his reasoning.

The problem:

Each player on a basketball team attempts 30 foul shots in one practice. The average number of baskets made per player is 20. If the players with the highest and lowest number of baskets are removed from the group, the average is 19. If the team has 6 players, what is the lowest possible number of baskets made by a player?

My fumbling reasoning:

Let's label the basketball players, from worst to best, as A, B, C, D, E, and F.

What we know:

1. There are six players.
2. All six players take 30 shots, for a total of 180 shots.
3. If "baskets" means "successful shots," then the following equation expresses the average listed in the problem:

(A + B + C + D + E + F)/6 = 20

—which means that

A + B + C + D + E + F = 120.

If the worst and best players are A and F respectively, then the average (19 baskets) for the remaining four players can be expressed as

(B + C + D + E)/4 = 19

—which means that

B + C + D + E = 76

—which further means that, if we subtract 76 from 120, then

A + F = 120 - 76 = 44.

This is where I come unglued. How do I figure out the minimum number of shots made by a player? Despite having all the above data, I have no idea how to proceed. Let's see what I can come up with.

If Player A is the worst player, then A is the one making the lowest possible number of baskets. If we assume the other players all make an equal number of shots (an assumption that may not be warranted, especially since we know there's a best player), then perhaps we can try calculating A by seeing what value of A satisfies the following equation:

(A + 5X)/6 = 20

—which leads us to

A + 5X = 120

—at which point we start plugging in numbers.

If X = 24 (i.e., the other five players all get 24 baskets each), then A = 0. It would seem that "0 baskets" would be the answer to the question, but according to the answer key, it's not. I therefore assume my reasoning is faulty at one or more links in my logical chain.

Insights welcome.

UPDATE: And then a flash of satori came to me, and I figured out the answer. No need for comments, folks; I've got it. Obviously, A can't be 0, because one of the conditions to be satisfied is that A + F = 44. If A were 0, then F would be 44. But since each player took 30 shots, no player can have a score higher than 30. This means that if F = 30, the maximum possible number of successful baskets for any one player, then A must equal 14 (30 + 14 =44), and that's the answer in the book's answer key.

God, I love thinking out loud on a blog.