Friday, September 28, 2007

Lesson 12 - Comics & Cartoons: South Park

Lesson 12 - Comics & Cartoons: South Park is published over at waygook.org.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Lesson 11 - Comics & Cartoons

Lesson 11 - Comics & Cartoons is published over at waygook.org.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

B & P 헤어클럽

If you do spend a year in Mokpo you'll have to plan for your hair. Sooner or later you'll have to get a hair cut and since most people like me are either utterly incompetent with the Korean language or have completely foreign hair, the prospect is downright scary scary.

Fortunately there are enough foreigners in Korea to pool their collective knowledge and provide hope. One of the first things that you learn is the barber pole system. One barber pole means barber. Two barber poles means naked barber.

A doubled barber's pole with red, white, and blue is a common sign that a building contains a brothel or a massage parlor that offers sexual services.
In Mokpo, some of the foreigners go to B & P Hair Club (B & P 헤어클럽 aka B & P heeo keulleop), a single pole, unisex, and multi age salon. From the foreigner collective I learned that that the salon is run (maybe owned or managed) by a pair of fairly stylish sisters and one of them remembers enough English from high school to meet you half way in your communication adventure. But of course it always help to come prepared with a couple of reference photos or whatever.

In the end I managed to get a simple cut (which includes a cool shampoo scalp massage) for 7,000₩. It's an average price around here and seems like it's on par with with the rest of the country. The staff was friendly, the atmosphere was nice, and there were enough people to walking in and out and just hanging around to create a real Barbershop atmosphere. Well, a Korean version at least.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Korean Computer Monoculture

Pandora.tv is an amazing site that hosts South Park videos subtitled in Korean and it's a high school native speaker's dream.

But there's one problem. It doesn't work for me. In fact a lot of Korean website simply do not work for me and as I was trying to figure out why I stumbled across this blog post from Mozilla in Asia that links Technology & Monoculture together. The post tells me that practically all Korean sites are made for Internet Explorer running on Windows circa 2000 and any other kind of configuration (like a FireFox running on a Mac circa 2007) is blatantly ignored. There's a couple follow-ups describing some hope and progress and there's even some valid change, but 6 months after most of these stories broke, Korean computer monoculture is still annoying westerners.

So I go back to pandora.tv, this time with Internet Explorer running on Windows (courtesy of my school) and it does indeed work, but not before the site installed a collection of ActiveX Controls, something that the blog post predicted and warned about.

Now in the grand scheme of things, being forced to watch Korean subtitled videos on a windows machine isn't really a big deal. But it's frustrating when this computer monoculture creeps into other aspects of my online world. For example:

Each Korean citizen is issued a nation ID number. This is embedded into the certificate issued by the Korean CA. Thus non-Koreans in Korea (such as US military in Korea) cannot make secure transactions like online banking or online commerce. The ‘package’ (including SEED, the national ID, and the Active-X cert.) that the CA’s distribute is Active-X based, and thus only works in Windows and IE.
There's a lot of geek words in that paragraph but you can see this as an explanation for why foreigners can't buy stuff on the Korean Internets, especially escape tickets.

It also explains why Internet Banking is such a needless complication. My banking package, like the kind offered free of charge by Shinhan Bank, only works on Windows machines running Internet Explorer. Seems simple enough, but this certificate that they're talking about is an actual file. And it's a file that I have to present every time I log into my account, which means if I try to access my account from another computer I must somehow materialize, via a floppy disk or whatever, this file to be examined. After that, I also need to install a third party program (Inisafe by Initech—no, not this Initech) to process this certificate and ensure that whatever transactions do occur are secure. Only then, after I've got
  1. Windows
  2. Internet Explorer
  3. Certificate File
  4. Inisafe
  5. Password
can I look at my bank balance. By comparison all of these extra steps are needless hoops that I have to jump through and they end up elevating the North American system of a simple userid & password to a something akin of universal access.

This computer monoculture reveals some aspect of the Korean psyche that I'm failing to understand and unfortunately I can't quite describe it. It's a narcissism or nationalism that drives them to spend so much effort in developing their own way of doing things that they fail to see the easier, cheaper or more efficient path. I could see it from a perspective of competition or even going after a niche market but why then be so exclusive? It's probably another facet of the culture difference that I'm failing to grasp, but it's strong enough to make me doubt validity of any Korean high tech idea that exist solely in Korea.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Oral Exam Rubric

An oral exam rubric is published over at waygook.org.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Lesson 10 - Geography II

Lesson 10 - Geography II is published over at waygook.org.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Naver Local

In a previous post I talked about Korea's apparent isolationism in the online mapping community. For some reason Google or Yahoo provide map data for everybody but Korea and we're are stuck with the homegrown alternatives: Congnamul & Naver.

At first I was all about Congnamul. It looked prettier and had important things, like Starbucks, already iconified on the map. From a consumerist tourist's point of view it's incredible helpful; however after trying to deal with Mokpo specifics I'm starting to swing back towards Naver, largely thanks to Naver Local.

The Paradigm Shift

I automatically plug in street addresses for any mapping systems but, here in Korea, only the losers in the post office use street addresses; real Mokponians remember locations by their names. In fact the whole notion of street address is still a fairly fresh idea in this relatively small city;. Luckily the folks at Naver handle both. Take, for example again, everybody's favorite high school where we can use:

  1. 전남제일고등학교
  2. 전라남도 목포시 용당동 937-1 번지
as the map's input. Both will get you this map but the location name will snag you the bonus of an entry in the Naver Local directory (which usually includes the phone number, embedded map, and other tidbits of useful information). Before I favoured Congnamul over Naver because Congnamul allowed you to link to maps but Naver Local's information is linkable and completely surpasses that of Congnamul.

Channy Yun Revisited

This too was previously mentioned, but I'm digging his magic enough to post about it again: Channy Yun is the guy who did the Naver & Google Map Mashup that gives you the Naver street map on top of the Google satellite view. I used this for my school maps and it really helped. The only problem to the site is that lacks any of Naver's search functionality. I had to scroll around, zoom in, and find the school myself.

I can make up for the Mashup's short comings by taking advantage of the its usage of Naver's coordinate system. Using the example of 에베레스트 (our favorite Nepalese restaurant in Seoul) we first find the Naver Local entry and get the Naver Map map url:
http://maps.naver.com/? x=31296500 & y=55271800 & title=Everest
We cull the X & Y parameters from the url (removing, for some reason, the last two digits) and create our own Mashup link.
http://map.creation.net/getMap? x=312965 & y=552718 & title=Everest & z=2
Giving us the all of the business information, maps, and satellite imagery that complete strangers would need to find the restaurant.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Mokpo Foreigner's Basketball Court

Just across the street from the Mokpo Bus Station there is a decent half court in the middle of a fairly decent city park. The park is fairly new (the satelittle photos still show it's former glory as a dirt patch) and is one of the best location for basketball and completely foregin idea of street hockey.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Pizza in Mokpo

Pizza is slightly different here. It's still edible but Korea has taken the traditional American dish and added its own signature flavors:


And yes, Mokpo has a Pizza Hut; it's scaringly international. Even though some may see it a small reminder of food back home I (and others) continue to see Pizza Hut as nothing less then everything that is wrong with America.

Fortunately there's tons of competition around Mokpo in both the franchise and mom & pop pizza shops. The Internet provides some informative reviews along with a lot of blog entries but so far my favorite is 시장피자 (aka Sijang Pizza). It is a chain but it's got a few things going for it:
  1. It's run by a mom and pop.
  2. Mom and pop make pretty good vegetarian pizza.
  3. It's within walking distance from my apartment.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Escape Mokpo by Boat

The Mokpo Ferry Terminal (목포여객터미널 aka Mokpo Yeogaek Terminal) is the only exit point for escaping Mokpo by boat.

The terminal itself is a multi-building complex and the important buildings to remember are the domestic terminal (previously used for Oedaldo and other local adventures) and the international terminal. All taxis usually recognize a foreigner asking "Yo-gek-sun" as a request for the domestic terminal; you can specify the international terminal by saying 목포국제여객터미널 (aka Mokpo Gukjae Yeogaek Terminal).

The domestic terminal connects Mokpo to a range of Korean islands; practically all of the tourist sites suggest that you depart via Mokpo for the southern islands.Tour2Korea has a nice summary of these destinations, although it tends to focus on the more popular destinaton, like Jejudo & Hongdo, and ignore Mokpo's local islands. The most complete information, in Korean is listed on the terminal's official page, organised by the companies that operate the routes.

Mokpo is also one of South Korea's international terminals, connecting (it seems) to Shanghai via the Korea-China Bridge.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Lesson 09 - Paralanguage

Lesson 09 - Paralanguage is published over at waygook.org.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

1330

Not be confused with 1337, Korea Travel Phone 1330 is the Tourist's 411. The Jeollanam-do hotline is 061-1337 and it provides live bilingual operators fluent in English, Japanese, and Chinese; more details are available. Pretty useful when interpreting bus, train and ferry schedules.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Teaching with Online Videos

Thanks to YouTube et al, creating a lesson around a video is one of the easiest and popular ways to teach kids esl. But getting the videos from the Internet into a more presentable form, like a Power Point file, requires a little bit of extra work, especially when your class room is state of the art, circa 1980. In some previous lessons I've used downloaded videos and figured out a process of getting videos from my home Internets into my classroom presentations.

Downloading Videos

If your school trusts you with a live Internet connection that directly spews into your classroom, you're in luck. Others end up with either no Internet or a crippling firewall that does not allow any fun at all. Downloading the videos to a CD (or whatever) at home and bringing it into the school side steps this problem completely.

Finding the video is straight forward but while some sites let you download the video directly, others aren't as generous. So far the easiest and most fail-safe way that I've found to download videos from the Internet is through DownloadHelper, an extension to FireFox. I'm already using FireFox and its other extensions so I'm partial to DownloadHelper in a keep it in the family kind of way, but there are some valid alternatives, like the web-based VideoDownloader site. But so far DownloadHelper has proven the most reliable thanks to the massive list of video sites that it has been tested against.

Playing Videos

Most of the videos on the net are in the flash video format (*.flv files) and there are tons of options for playing these files and you'll have to convince your school that it's okay to install at least one of them. I convinced my school to install K-lite by simply installing myself and not telling anybody about it. So far nobody has complained.

Now, K-lite is a Swiss army knife of video manipulation and is really intended for people who know about encoding and codecs and other computer geekness but it's super easy to install and use. There are multiple versions of K-Lite and the standard is a good entry point since it'll install the the FLV codec as well as Media Player Classic, a simple movie player that is free the bells and whistles featured in other applications.

Embedding Videos into Power Point Slides

Embedding flash videos in Power Point files creates a nice smooth transition from slide to video and back to slide. Embedding videos into Power Point slides is fairly common problem and easily solved by other people. Unfortunately most versions of Power Point do not support the *.flv file; they do, however, support embedding Windows media video format (*.wmv files). And quite fortunately, you can convert between one and the other thanks to the good people at media-convert.com.

Videos in Power Point are not really embedded, but linked. This means that if you want to share your presentation you'll need to be sure that you also share the video files and that they are placed in the same folder as the Power Point file.

Alternatives
There are some alternative methods to using videos but so far my favourite ones are the video tutorials done by reponzo01:

Connected to the Internet:




Not Connected to the Internet:

Monday, September 3, 2007

비금도

비금도 (Bigeumdo) is a fairly large vacation island that lies just outside of Mokpo in Sinan county's archipelago. Even though it is largely ignored by Mokponians who prefer Oedaldo, the island is arguably better thanks to its two large sand beaches 원평해수욕장 (Wonpyeong Beach) and 하누넘해수욕장 (Hanuneom Beach); the latter is used as a shooting location for the television show Spring Waltz while the former has a...

...falling sunset beyond the horizon is so beautiful that it makes you feel like fantasy melting into the sea.
A 50 minute high-speed ferry is available from Mokpo's Yeogaekseon ferry terminal to Bigeum's Sudae-ri (Sudae Wharf) and is operated by Namhae Express. If you can handle Korean credit card transactions you can also buy tickets online via Seomticket; if you can't, there's always the ticket counter inside the terminal. Regardless, a Mokpo to Bigemdo ticket will cost you 14900₩ and the return ticket (purchased locally at Sudae-ri) is 13350₩.
Mokpo to BigeumdoBigeumdo to Mokpo
07:5011:50
13:2017:30
There is an alternative ferry that's cheaper at 6300₩, stops at Gasan-ri (the other wharf), but takes over 2 hours.

The island is large enough to have it's own fleet of taxis, bank branches and seaside resorts. On the Internet, the island is popular enough to have a slighted outdated official page in English, an entry on Tour2Korea, a nice map and, of course, the various blog entries and the photos.