29 August 2008

Palin? Really?

McCain has picked a first-term female governor from Alaska, with almost no experience or credentials and with no name recognition and whose positions are almost entirely unknown, and who is incredibly young? Few other VP picks could have surprised me as much. I discount the already-rampant theory that this is an attempt to appeal to disaffected Clinton Democrats; that's way too transparent for the seasoned McCain. Is it really just an incredibly cynical ploy to try to grab the female vote with one of the few Republican female politicians? There are so many unknown factors here, and she has no national presence... what does McCain know that the rest of the nation doesn't?

UPDATE: Palin is currently under investigation for firing a state official, who has alleged that she fired him because he wouldn't fire a state trooper who had just messily divorced and beat on Palin's sister. That's right, McCain picked someone who is right now be examined for misconduct. That seems stupid, but think about it: will strongly GOP Alaska now torpedo this chance? She is undoubtedly either innocent or they have no evidence, and so what we will soon see is a revelation that she has been cleared of wrongdoing. That exoneration will probably be timed well. There's no way McCain would have picked her if there was any chance of this turning out otherwise.

FURTHER UPDATE: Wow, she has a five-month-old baby with Down's. The surprises just keep rolling in.

FURTHER FURTHER UPDATE: I have heard some folks on Fox talking about how no one should attack her for inexperience, given Obama's own inexperience. But it is worth noting that Obama was a U.S. Senator three years ago, passing legislation like the Obama-Lugar bill to stop nuclear proliferation, while Palin was the mayor of a town of 5,000 people total three years ago. Doesn't quite compare.

22 August 2008

Plans

This weekend I was going to head out to the islands to the south, but it is raining. It's only the second time it has rained during the day since I have been here, but it is supposed to drizzle again tomorrow. So it looks like that's shot.

On the plus side, I believe I will spend next week in Seoul. I have the week off before the school year begins - the last of my "summer vacation" that I have mostly spent working - and that seems the best place to go for my first trip.

I think that I will go hiking on Saturday. And bring my camera, of course. I forgot it this morning so I have no pictures from this week's class. No help for it, alas, but I'll soon have more.

19 August 2008

Bah

Having a week coming up with no work or whatnot, I decided it might be fun to try a new MMO. I decided against WoW without consideration; that nonsense is a done deal. I have since tried out the free trials for a few more.
  • Dungeons and Dragons Online - Wow, this is a really boring damn game. There are only a few options for characters, the quests are choppy and poorly-designed, and every minor task takes several seconds (which is really frustrating when it includes things like opening doors). A crappy attempt to port over D&D to a game that resulted in lousy D&D and a lousy game.
  • World War 2 Online - The first "MMOFPS," or Massively Multiplayer Online First Person Shooter. And if this is any indication of quality, it will be the last. I don't mind the graphics, even though they're very rudimentary. And I admit it's cool that they use a proprietary set of software to analyze every ballistic trajectory and calculate shrapnel and spall. It's very realistic. And it has made me realize this: being a soldier in WW2 must have been boring as hell. Run ten minutes to find a fight, get shot by an AI at a machine gun, wait a minute to respawn, and repeat. You need to advance in rank before you can do anything, and in two hours of playing I advanced 7% from "Rifleman" to "Rifleman with a Shinier Hat."
  • EVE Online - I had tried this before, but thought I'd give it another brief shot. Sure enough: still boring. It's a space game, and you fly around and mine rocks or try to kill pirates or whatever. It's highly mercantile game, and exactly like playing the stock market except you use massive nerd money instead of real money. Pretty lousy.
  • Everquest 2 - Hard to install. Crashes when I try to play, even after trying it in admin and in XP compatibility mode. Won't uninstall from Windows interface, and its own uninstall doesn't work. Yup, I'm just pleased as punch with Sony.
  • Lord of the Rings Online - The elves did me in. I'm sorry, but the pointy-eared sons-of-bitches never shut up. Whine, whine, whine. The dialog was like having my thumb removed with a Ford Pinto. Unpleasant.

18 August 2008

Watchmen

If the movie is not good, I will pillage California.

I'm serious. I'm going to get some guys together, get some bats and chains, and go over there and just mug the whole state. I'm sick of their absurd state constitutional amendment system anyway, so this would just be the final straw.

08 August 2008

End of Second Week


Here's me with all the students who were active and who weren't too shy. Notice how it's all the girls. The three boys in the class were the worst students, and never bothered to do any of the work.
At the end of the day today, the last day of English camp at Sangam, I let them spend the last forty-five minutes on a little party. The active students were so happy about it they ran outside and down the block to a small store, each bought a little bag of chips, and then came back with drinks and set up a little snack thing.
Worst. Student.
Four of the little girls gave me letters thanking me for teaching them this past week. Their composition skills need work, but very impressive as a whole and very sweet.

07 August 2008

Sunshine

Enormous leap forward for solar energy. MIT researchers have developed a simple, cheap, and non-toxic catalyzing process to store solar energy. As I have been saying for years: solar is the way.

06 August 2008

Map of Yeosu

Here's a map for y'all to take a look at. You can see about where I live, and the three schools I work at. The closest school to my home is my main one, Ssangbong. It's where I will be working most of the time. The other two are Sangam and Buk schools, where I am teaching English camp over the next couple of weeks and where I will be teaching one day every week during the regular school year each.

Notice how the city is shaped like a butterfly! Along the right coast are the great beaches of black sand. To the south are a lot of vacation-spot islands, with different ferries traveling around. I live in the center of the most populous area, down the street from city hall and the city stadium.

04 August 2008

Eating in Korea

At every meal in Korea, no matter the style, you are closer to the food. The marketplace style of eating here is a sharp contrast to the American food culture, which in comparison seems more like a factory than anything else.

The difference is most clear when it comes to dining out. At a typical meal, you have set before you not just your main dish, but a half-dozen small side dishes as well. The side dishes vary widely, but they contain small amounts of potent consumables – dried squid, red bean paste, seasoned shredded spinach, pickled radish, and so on. Chief among these side dishes is the ubiquitous kimchi: fermented Chinese vegetables. All of these side dishes are there for sampling and combining with your main dish.

The main course, additionally, is often prepared by you at the table. Many tables come with inset gas grills, upon which the diner places their strips of pork or chicken or mushrooms. On other occasions, a large bowl of water will be put to boil on a grill, with herbs and spices inside, and you will place chunks of seafood into it for a few moments to cook (and later, the water becomes a soup from which many will sample).

Other main dishes involve taking pre-cooked ingredients and assembling them together into handheld bundles to eat. Vaguely similar to fajitas, meals like samgyupsal have you taking pieces of cooked meat, garlic, vegetables, and other items and wrapping them with different kinds of lettuce leaves.

There are many other examples, but the common element is that when dining out, the diner is always a large part in the preparation of the meal.

Less dramatic but still significant is the way in which food is prepared in homes. While supermarkets exist, they are nowhere near as frequented as the streetside markets that offer a wide variety of vegetables, meats, and spices. These items are incredibly fresh, usually gathered only a few hours ago and prepared right there for purchase. Produced from the many small farms and gardens that are carefully tended in the misty mornings, the marketplace goods are astonishingly vibrant and rich. Some of them are much larger than their American cousins: Korean pears and leeks are easily three times the size to which I am accustomed. Some of them are much smaller, like the scallions, but possess a potent flavor that belies their size.

Given the price difference between the market foods and the supermarket foods (a markup of 100% or more), it is not surprising that almost all people get their meat and vegetables from the street vendors. In preparing a batch of kimchi chigae (kimchi soup) this evening, I was able to obtain all of the fresh ingredients for under a dollar. An enormous leek was ten cents, a big handful of scallions were twenty cents, an onion was a nickel, and a large sack of kimchi was fifty cents. Add in the price of red pepper, some sesame oil, salt, and some tofu (all of which I already had) and an enormous pot of thick and spicy soup cost me three dollars. And the ingredients were fresh and tasty and obtained literally right downstairs from some smiling women who gave me a handful of peeled garlic gratis.

The food isn’t sealed in plastic and set on a shelf, or stocked in metal bins to be sprinkled with tap water every half hour. When I’m done cooking, I don’t have handfuls of Styrofoam or empty wrappers, from which I have pried the food. The sacrifices made by American supermarkets to ensure consistent mediocrity have turned American food preparation into just another factory enterprise. It’s not necessarily a bad thing – there is much to be said for the resulting cleanliness and safety, and some people value the convenience above all else. There certainly is no “solution” to the matter... such productions as the laboriously staged “farmer’s markets” of many cities are not the way back to an intimate connection with our daily bread. But it is wonderful to me now to be close to the food. There is something visceral and necessary about dark-eyed prawns coming to the table pinkly piled on the platter, when you must pull off the heads and watch the faint blush of blood on your thumb before you eat them.

It is valuable to reconnect with the first and best of luxuries so deeply.