March 1, 2008
This is where it gets critical. It's March 1st.

Including today, I have exactly 30 days until my Yonsei classes start. Depending on how I spend them, I can either be well-prepared or caught completely off guard. It's up to me!

By the 30th of this month, I hope to have done the following:

  • Reviewed all my Korean material -- ALL levels.
  • Gotten up to Task 40 in Calculus with Analytic Geometry.
  • Stayed afloat otherwise, if you know what I mean.
  • Finished HIS 253.
  • Signed up for a class starting on March 3. I'm thinking Human Anatomy and Physiology 1 (4.00cr) would work the best. I can do three humanities classes in one month at the end of my associate's degree plan, but the science course is the curve ball, so I should sign up for that earlier than the other three. If I keep up with my work, that will give me about three months to complete it, which I'll probably need with a raging Level 6.

    So what am I going to do today to succeed in my goal? Here's what:

  • 7:00 - 8:00 PM: Korean study. Today, I aim to look up two days of work, feed in two days of work, drill two days of work, and review everything. They don't all have to be from the same days. If I do this everyday, I will have completely reviewed Level 5 by the 20th of this month.
  • 8:00 - 9:30 PM: Do half a Calculus with Analytic Geometry assignment.
  • 9:30 - 10:00 PM: Take a walk. I need to get out.
  • 10:00 - 11:00 PM: Study Korean some more.
  • 11:00 PM - 12:30 AM: Finish my Calculus task.
  • 12:30 - 1:30 AM: Do all HIS 253 work through Week 8.

    February 26, 2008
    After the grinding mathematical insanity that was yesterday, I have finally just called it quits, sent in what I have completed of that Calculus assignment, and hope all goes well. I think I only completed about 80% of the assignment, though I'd say I did that pretty competently and got at least 80% of those right. So 80% x 80% = 64% -- that's passing. It's time to just send in this damn thing before I go crazy.

    If I fail this class or decide to withdraw with a "W" on my report card, it won't be the end of the world. This isn't high school where it's "YOU MUST FINISH THIS OR YOU'RE NOTHING." I can also qualify for an associate's degree just by taking Pre-Calculus, which is also a five credit course. So if I fail this or need to withdraw, the worst that can happen is that I take Pre-Calculus, which will no doubt make Calculus a whole lot easier the next time I take it. This will bust up my goal of getting my associate's degree by June 30, but probably won't derail my bachelor's degree by October 23, 2009 ambition. It'll waste some money too, probably (both the approximately $400 I paid for it and any extra wages I could make by having an associate's degree). Oh well, it's just money and time.

    There isn't really any other news, because that's pretty much all I've been doing. Sorry to bore you with non-Korean-related things!


    This is just one page from an assignment that will probably take up 10 of these. The assignment is only one of 56.
    February 25, 2008
    Man, this Calculus with Analytic Geometry class is really, really wiping me out. I have been spending pretty much all my free time lately doing assignments for it. I missed the drop date for Task 11. However, Dr. Semmler said I could have an extension.

    I have worked my ass off, and yet, Task 11 isn't done yet, and I'm really at his mercy for whether or not he drops me. When I look back at the wording of his e-mail, I'm not sure if he gave me a week-long extension, or an extension until the next drop date (in March). So I guess I'd better turn in my work tonight!

    In order to make the deadline, I'm doing the assignment and sending him the pages as I do it. I figure that I HAVE submitted the assignment to him in some form, now -- just not the whole thing. There's still a lot to go.

    I really, really hate math. It's easy to remember why high school was such hell for me, because every single year, we had a tough math class, and I was ill-prepared for it, and especially in my junior year, I barely survived it. I was so happy when I was finally done with high school math, and knew I had enough math to survive in the real world, and nobody could ever say to me "by law, you have to go to school, and if you go to school, you must be studying math." Well, I made it, just barely, with a D in Trigonometry and a D+ in Math Analysis.

    However, I couldn't leave good enough alone. I had to take Calculus with Analytic Geometry. Why? Because I want to get a major in Information Technology, and my degree requires it. I can already tell this class is going to be a real killer. I have spent so many hours online with tutors. Pray for me!

    The good news is, once I'm done with this class (or should I say "if I finish this class"), this is the last real math class I need for my bachelor's degree. Well, technically I have to take Discrete Math, too, which is what comes after Calculus and Analytic Geometry. Fortunately, though, Excelsior College lets me take this through the Game Institute. At the Game Institute, their Discrete Math course is specially designed to be relevant to game programming. So I think that'll be a little more bearable. Until then, I must suffer.


    One hallmark of Korean farms (perhaps this is a hallmark of all farms, but I don't recall seeing this much in the States) is a ton of tubular-looking green houses all lined up next to each other.


    I walked past a trailer home vendor. Didn't ask how much for this one, though I'm curious now. I guess if I get too curious, I can just call the number in this photo! They also have steel cargo containers that are furnished as tiny dwellings for sale, complete with the standard Korean yellow linoleum floor and a fan and everything. Very cool. Word on the street has it that a small, used, furnished cargo container is about three million won.


    In this field (which I believe belongs to Hanshin University's agricultural department), you can see a cluster of high rises on the horizon.

    February 22, 2008
    Well, let's see, what did I do today? Not nearly enough, because I was tired and didn't feel like doing much, except for going to Byeongjeom in Gyeonggi Province south of Seoul. I took a few pictures. It was kind of just another blah area that is only slightly less urban than Seoul. Except it had some farms (as well as Hanshin University's school of agriculture), and a trailer home vendor. Yes, Koreans use trailer homes, too. Oh, and I finally downloaded some pictures from my camera phone onto the computer. I hadn't been able to set up the software, but I went to SK, and the guy did it in a flash. It turns out I was installing one too many programs. You don't need to install the individual device driver for your Anycall phone, just the PC Manager software. So I used the PC at SK and downloaded some of my Byeongjeom, Gyeonggi Province photos and uploaded them to this site. I downloaded other photos, too, which I will add to the site later, when I'm having an image drought.

    February 20, 2008
    Today is the first day in what I call "Charles' INSANE Plan to Get an Associate's Degree by June 30." It is made possible by the sudden realization that I'm actually 65% of the way to my associate's degree right now, not 62% as I had earlier thought. This tiny amount makes a HUGE difference. So I am now able to put an INSANE plan into effect. It's insane because it literally requires me to earn 31 credits in less than six months. That's normally a little more than a year's work, compressed into less than half a year! However, I think it can be done if I work nearly constantly, have little social life, and keep my goal in mind (and let's not reiterate what that is).

    Basically, it relies on me pretty much finishing off History of Asian Civilizations and Calculus with Analytic Geometry BEFORE my Yonsei term starts. Not only that, I'm going to register for ANOTHER course before Yonsei starts -- ENG 111, starting on March 3. Presuming that I can juggle ENG 111 and finish it in six weeks and pass the midterms at Yonsei, I will be in the clear at Yonsei and be ready for THE FINAL ONSLAUGHT. I will then sign up for a four-credit science course, a three-credit social science course, and a three-credit history course, all of which will begin on May 19. I will almost completely ignore them until finals are done. Then, in early June, as soon as the finals end, I will go into HYPERDRIVE, working night and day, doing simply nothing except finishing those courses.

    The end result will be that I will have finished my entire associate's degree within Korea, before my tourist visa expires. Now, when Excelsior College (to which I have to transfer the NOVA credits) will actually grant me the associate's degree, mail it to me, and when I receive it, I don't know, but that's beyond my control, so I won't worry about it. Unless some of my credits don't transfer (and Excelsior claims they all will), I should have a shiny new diploma in-hand by July, 2008.

    With this realization in mind, last night, I planned out today to get a HUGE amount done. Today has been an extremely busy but very productive day. Here is a list of things that happened today, from the time I woke up until now:

  • I woke up and rushed to Charles' Barbershop to get a "morning cut" -- a cheap, 5,000 won haircut, because it's in the morning, when they don't have much business. I actually arrived too late to start in the morning, but they hooked me up anyway, so I got my cheap (and good) haircut.
  • Then I went to the supermarket. Bought some donggaseu and some sauce.
  • I cooked some donggaseu twice: once for breakfast, once for lunch. I also made a pot of rice the old fashioned way, in the pot.
  • I entered two days' worth of Level 5 vocabulary into my computer.
  • I had a language exchange with Yumi. She brought her friend, Go-un. We went to a coffee shop. I showed them the importance of a firm handshake in western society.
  • I came back and completed the reading for History of Asian Civilizations for this week, and did a post to the discussion on Medieval India. So basically I did one week's worth of history homework.
  • Somewhere in there, I checked my NOVA e-mail and saw a message from Dr. Clevenger (History of Asian Civilizations professor). He said he'd graded my paper. So I went and checked on the grade on my paper on the Bhagavad-Gita, which I had read and written a meticulous report on (including online editing through a professional service). Grade: 94%! YES! Plus, Dr. Clevenger likes my discussion posts so much, he has given me 70% of my total term's participation grade already, even though I had only completed 1/3 of the posts at that time. So obviously each one must count at least double in his opinion. Isn't that cool how that works?
  • I'm working on this update to my website. Final word count on this post: 815 words.
  • Now I'm going to do an entire task for Calculus and Analytic Geometry. That's going to be my biggest challenge until Level 6 at Yonsei comes along. I'm going to need a lot of online tutoring for this course. However, my online community college subscribes to an unlimited free tutoring service, so I'm very fortunate in this respect!

    So basically, extremely busy, but the prospect of being a degree holder by the beginning of the summer is EXHILERATING. I mean, just imagine being 21 years old and living in the tropics with a semi-professional, middle class job. That's why I'm prepared to suffer for the next four months! ;-)


    The Namdaemun Area's Skyline, Including a Burned Namdaemun on the Lower Right
    You can zoom by clicking.


    A temporary wall has been erected around Namdaemun to keep out people who would interfere with the construction, and crazies like the arsonist.


    The Charred Ruins of Namdaemun, from the 20th Floor of the Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry Building

    February 19, 2008
    Well, as readers of this site (or consumers of any kind of media about Korea whatsoever) will know, Namdaemun (Great South Gate), Korea's #1 national treasure, has been burned to the ground, and the suspect (who has supposedly confessed) is a 69-year-old disgruntled man who allegedly says he burned it because he was mad because the government took his land and didn't give him enough money for it. He had apparently tried to burn down Changgyeonggung (one of the palaces in Seoul) earlier, but failed. However, he succeeded this time, and the Koreans aren't happy!

    Can you imagine why they aren't happy? Well, my fellow Americans, try to imagine how people would feel if Mount Vernon or Monticello were burned to the ground -- that's why Koreans are so angry. Some say he should be executed.

    The Korean government has decided to reconstruct Namdaemun. I have verified this with my own eyes. Today, I went to "Ground Zero" and got some photos, three of which I have uploaded, showing the reconstruction effort.

    The trouble is, a temporary wall has been erected around the ruins, so you can only see the topmost portion and two cranes (at present) from ground level. So I began a mission to find a high building from which to take a picture of what lay inside those temporary, police-guarded walls.

    It wasn't easy. I bet I went into five different tall buildings before I found one where a decent picture was possible. Usually the only windows facing Namdaemun were offices. I think this is intentional, because normally Namdaemun is beautiful, and they'd probably put the offices on the Namdaemun side for the normally good view. So it was tough enough to find any windows that even faced Namdaemun (that I could take a picture from). One kind woman at a bank building let me go into an office and take a picture, but since she was only on the second floor, I couldn't really get any good pictures -- little better than ground level.

    Finally, I reached the Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry building. I was just about to call it quits, but I decided to try to access the roof. I took the elevator up to the 19th floor, and took the stairs to the 20th, and sure enough, there was a roof, but the doors were locked. However, one of the office workers smoking a cigarette on the roof was kind enough to let me out there, even though I didn't have a key card. So I got a couple of pictures from above, as well.

    Anyways, as you look at the pictures, realize the enormity of the burning of Korea's #1 national treasure! Some people think the arsonist should be executed. Do you agree?

    February 18, 2008
    Admittedly, the new layout had been bugging me. I have now fixed it, at least to some degree.

    First of all, I eliminated the frame in the middle of the page that was taking up a whopping 15% of the page. This allowed me to expand the upper and lower frames, so now it's a 50/50 split between two frames.

    Where does the detailed navigation go? Well, click and see! Isn't that cool? It replaces the main logo with a darkened version, and the detailed navigation stands out in bright white!

    So now you can see a more acceptable amount of information in the lower frame (increase from 37% of the page to 50%), and the darkness effect is, in my opinion, so much more aesthetically pleasing. So even if I'm behind in other aspects of my life, my website just got a major upgrade!

    February 16, 2008
    Today, I'm going to give the reader of this site some home economics tips for foreigners living in Asia. They are:

  • How to make rice WITHOUT a rice cooker
  • An acceptable $1 meal that you can prepare in Korea

    First of all, the rice. Many of us already know how to make rice in a rice cooker -- that's easy. You just rinse the rice, put it in the rice cooker with the proper amount of water (often measurable with a little cup), close the lid, and press cook. However, what if you don't have a rice cooker, either because you can't afford to buy one, or because you're on vacation, or simply because you feel you don't need one? Well, I learned not too long ago how to make it with just a regular pot, and it's not that tough, so here are the directions:

    1. Put rice into a pot. The quantity of the rice doesn't really matter, as long as you've got a couple of inches of space between the rice and the top of the pot (because you don't want it to overflow).

    2. Rinse the rice. You'd have to do this with a rice cooker, too. Basically you just put water in with the rice, whirl it around with your hand about 60 times, and the water should look like milk. Do this about three times, or until the rinse water is coming out more or less clear. This is ESSENTIAL to making good rice, apparently (I've never dared to make it without doing this, so I don't know if this is true or not).

    3. Okay, this is where the recipe starts to differ from the rice cooker recipe. You will want to pour in enough water that there's about an inch of water over the rice -- this is slightly more than you'd use for a rice cooker, although you could probably get away with using slightly less. I say an inch, and it makes slightly watery rice, but that's good in my opinion, because very little rice sticks to the pot after cooking. The Koreans like to make it with less water and scrape the stuff off, and use it to make a soup, but I think that soup is pretty tasteless, so I prefer to do it this way, to waste as little rice as possible.

    4. Put the lid on the pot.

    5. Turn the heat up pretty high -- like, almost on its highest setting. Wait until the water boils and the lid starts bouncing up and down.

    6. As soon as the lid starts bouncing up and down, turn the heat WAY down until it stops bouncing up and down. Then just let it keep cooking like this for a few minutes (until the smell changes, or you can just peek in occasionally and see if the rice looks ready).

    7. It should look ready after a few minutes. Turn off the heat and fluff it up with a rice spatula, a spoon, or whatever you prefer to use. Congratulations, you have rice, and the only tools you used were a pot, a source of heat, and whatever you used to fluff it up!

    Now that you have your rice, here's the $1 recipe that includes your veggies, your rice, and your protein. Fry up some kimchi with margarine. Trust me, it'll taste pretty good if you do a couple of minutes on each side, and use plenty of margarine. I think the fat is what gives it its flavor. Slice some tofu (available from Core Mart for 550 won) so you have enough slices to match the pieces of kimchi. Then serve it with the rice, and you'll have tofu, friend kimchi, and rice. This is apparently a meal that goes well with booze, says the Korean who taught it to me!

    So there you go -- two ways to economize when you're on vacation, when you're strapped for cash, or for any other reason you might need to economize.

    February 14, 2008
    Even though it's Valentine's Day (not my favorite holiday), I have accomplished something today, so I am in a good mood right now. I finished my LBR 105 (Library Skills/Research) class. It was a 1cr. easy class, but hey, now I'm approximately 1% closer to my bachelor's degree and approximately 2% closer to my associate's degree. So that's awesome.

    What did I get out of the class? Well, not a whole lot. Basically the whole point of the class was to teach you how to find research sources, evaluate them to see if they're acceptable, and then cite them if they are (using MLA or APA). So basically, not a whole lot of use to it, except that it gave me some MLA templates which I may use again someday. Heck, I already used them to cite the Bhagavad-Gita.

    However, something good did come out of the class. I came up with nine sources about the Toba eruption (an event that occurred 70,000 years ago that nearly wiped out the human race, for real). This is good, because I picked the topic on purpose because someday, I want to program an RPG about that cataclysmic event. Good idea for a game, eh? Why am I telling you this? Well, ideas are a dime a dozen, so I doubt you'd steal mine. :-)

    So for my associate's degree, I've got about 23 credits left, eight of which are in progress right now. I'm seeing it creep closer and closer, and it's exhilarating, because having an associate's degree is one gateway to becoming lower middle class -- no more crappy jobs like 7-Eleven once I have that degree in-hand!

    As for other things that have been going on lately, Namdaemun burned down. They think it was arson, and they caught a guy. He's 69, and burned the gate because he was disgruntled about the government not giving him enough money when they took his land. Mijung thinks he should be executed.

    February 8, 2008: UPDATE 2
    Well, here's the new layout for my website. While I think it looks more visually appealing (especially on computers running under 1024x768), I don't know if I can keep the design like this. It just has too many flaws. Most notably, the scrollable area where you spend 95% or more of your surfing time, probably, is only 37% of the screen, because I made the logo at the top WAY too big. I don't know how to fix this. That logo was hard to make, and you've got to admit, it's prettier than the old one that I'd drawn with markers and scanned.

    Last time I did a redesign, I somewhat regretted it, too, but found ways to overcome the problems both by tweaking the HTML/JavaScript and by just getting used to the new appearance.

    Why did I make the change? Well, I wanted my site to look less like a blog and more like a website. Because it is a true website, not just a blog. I reorganized things to make more sense, as well, like putting the photo essays under one heading (they had previously been mixed under "Photos" and "Documents." So now everything's nice and organized. I'm just worried that people may not be smart enough to figure out how to open the photo essays, etc. in a larger window by RIGHT-clicking and selecting "Open in New Window." I mean, I have a pop-up when the page loads that says this in both English and Korean, and it says it in the center frame, but I don't know if people are smart enough to know how to do it, or if they will bother to read these things.

    Well, if the new layout turns out to be unbearable, I will save the vast majority of the code for the old layout, in case a reversion is necessary. I'll only delete a little bit of code. So if a week passes and people still can't get used to the new design, maybe I can revert back.

    Interfaces often have special names. Mac OS X's interface was called "Aqua." Windows XP's is called "Luna." Mijung jokingly referred to my old layout at "Widower" ("홀아비"). From now on, I'm calling this particular layout "Inside the Beehive!"


    Table Set for the Charye at Yesterday's Seollal Celebration
    February 8, 2008
    Yesterday, I attended my first REAL Seollal celebration, at Yumi's house. I've celebrated Seollal before in Korea, but to get the true experience, you must partake in the charye at the house of the eldest son in a family, because the observance of the charye (ritual for remembering the ancestors followed by a big feast) is patrilinear.

    It was a lot of fun, and I got to meet Yumi's parents, who are nice and interesting people. Yumi's father is a master of all kinds of engineering, and has studied under a German ship-building master, knows nuclear engineering, etc. They were both very generous and bestowed upon me much food, as well as giving me nokcha, yakgwa, bananas, and sebaetdon (New Year's money) to bring home. So thanks to Yumi and her parents for doing this. It was a nice thing to do.

    Anyways, I wrote a photo essay on it.

    Click here to read my photo essay on Seollal and the charye ritual in Korea!

    February 5, 2008
    Oh man, a bunch of cultural "misunderstandings" happened last night that nearly got me into a fist fight, twice. However, it wasn't me being insensitive to Korean culture -- it was the Japanese musical group's leader acting like an asshole that led into the whole thing. He was drunk, and just kept on repeatedly yelling at Mijung and swearing at her in Japanese because there wasn't any warm water in the showers and the rooms were apparently too cold. He just kept on doing it, and we were like "okay, what do you want us to do about it, we already have work scheduled" and he just KEPT ON yelling and swearing. I could hear some very impolite words like "baka" ("idiot"), "shiro" ("white"), and "omae" (very impolite version of "you") that he was using towards me and Mijung. Finally, I started yelling at him. I yelled at him in English to be quiet and stop talking like that. Then he started using omae towards me, which is a pretty bad word, as Jeongho, who has lived in Japan for a long time, later confirmed to me (although I had already known this). So I yelled at him in Korean "야, 내가 경찰을 부르면 너 같은 [욕]가 감옥에 간다!" ("HEY, IF I CALL THE POLICE, A [J-word] LIKE YOU GOES TO PRISON!"). I didn't mean it in a racist way, I really didn't. I didn't say it in a language he could understand. Believe me, I've been to Japan multiple times, know quite a bit of Japanese, have Japanese friends, etc., but my reason for using that word was more like "do you think the cops will give one iota about your freedom when they don't like you here, after your country brutally occupied theirs for 35 years?" I mean, this guy was drunk as hell, threatening me and my manager with his door slamming, loud yelling and swearing, and I was going to put him in his place. None of the Japanese people understood Korean, so none of them were aware that I'd used an insult in Korean for Japanese people. However, one of them managed to mishear and think I said the word "fucking Jap" IN ENGLISH. Wow, that's quite a mishearing! However, for the moment, people were pulling him away from me and me away from him, so no fight broke out. Then we waited for a while while talking to the more reasonable female manager, who was willing to talk about things. However, her English sucked, even though she was nice, so we couldn't really get through to her, and she didn't speak Korean. About 40 or 50 minutes later, the translators came.

    We got some translation going, and things were looking pretty good, when I really threw a match on the gunpowder -- I wrote a note to Mijung and passed it to her. BIG MISTAKE. It was a joke saying "anyways, let's talk about Dokdo." It was in Korean so the Japanese couldn't understand it. That's a joke in very bad taste, because Dokdo is a disputed island between Japan and Korea. It's like writing "anyways, let's talk about evolution" after a heated argument with Christian evangelists about some other topic. FORTUNATELY, when the Japanese guy seized the paper (thanks for asking), the translator lied for me, saying it meant "anyways, let's talk about another subject." However, the damage had already been done. One of the young Japanese guys got SUPER mad at me and started yelling at me and started bolting towards me. I was really incensed at that bastard, because really, I was not trying to start a fight -- I had been trying to deflect some of the group leader's flak away from poor Mijung, when he'd been drunken and swearing, but I'd turned a lot of them against me. They held him back -- and held me back, too, because I was ready to fight the bastard who had tried to land a punch on me. I yelled "SOTO NI IKITAI DESU KA?" ("DO YOU WANT TO GO OUTSIDE?"). He did. I yelled "YARUNOKA?" ("DO YOU WANT TO FIGHT?"). He did. However, people kept us from tearing each other apart.

    In the end, a settlement of sorts was reached, after I got the hell out of there, because the Koreans were worried about my safety. They agreed that the Japanese were out of line, and my timing was horrible (I apologized heavily to Mijung later). According to the settlement, supposedly they will continue to stay here (because they signed a contract), but Mijung will have to install a new heater, which, quite honestly, was badly needed at this place. I am not to set foot in the guest house while they're there -- not that I would want to. I mean, I have this certain sense of self-preservation, you know? If we can just avoid Mr. Hothead Manager and the guy who thinks I said "fucking Jap" in English when I actually didn't, I think we can wait it out in our little apartment. Man, that was stressful. Jeongho was there, and he said if this had been one year ago, he would have kicked that guy's ass, because he was way out of line.

    Afterwards, we went to Bong House (Bongdo's guest house, so named to better attract stoner backpackers) and kept on saying "let's not talk about the incident" while talking about it anyway and drinking beer. Our moods improved, and we went back to the apartment and slept. I'm staying the fuck away from the guesthouse for the next few weeks, probably, and I'm going to be careful about even going near it.

    I love the idea that you can just go to a foreign country, not know any of the language, and just scream at the manager and swear at her in Japanese because the place isn't up to almighty Japanese spec. Geez, if I go to China, I'm not going to scream at a hotel manager because there's dust, or because there isn't a shower. Solve your own problem, buddy, or go back to Japan where things are apparently so great. You've got to lower your expectations for the country that your country enslaved for 35 years!

    However, there is good news. I will be going over to Yumi's house for Seollal (Yumi is Korean, LOL). She asked me to learn the jeol (bow) and the words that accompany it before meeting her on 2/7 at Shinchon Station. I'm going to meet her mom and everything. Actually, inviting me was her mom's idea. How about that?

    I also got my camera phone set up with SK Telecom. So now I can take 1152 x 864 pictures of things, as well as take videos WITH SOUND. So basically I could film a crappy movie on this thing. I fully intend to capture the Seollal festivities and upload them to this site.

    However, despite the good news, I'm worried. I've been in Korea for about a year and a half now, and violent situations are so hard to avoid. I've been in two actual fist fights here, and last night almost became one. I'm a peaceful guy -- I don't go around screaming and swearing at people unless they are either screaming and swearing at me, or someone that I know who is right next to me. I don't understand why people are so aggressive. I didn't even know Japanese people were regularly capable of this! I guess that I'm 21 and white just causes me to aggravate people. It's distressing, because I want to live in Asia, but even one fist fight a year is too damn many. They aren't really avoidable, though. One of these days, I'm going to end up deported, injured, or dead. Even if these things never happen, fighting, or just about fighting, isn't fun. Maybe I should just carry a stun gun with me everywhere I go.

    February 2, 2008
    I just went to the bathroom at Golden Pond Guest House, which is currently booked by a troupe of performers in a musical from Japan, and got quite a good laugh.

    Basically, in Korea, unlike Japan, you throw toilet paper into the wastebasket, not the toilet, so the toilet doesn't clog (pipes here are quite narrow).

    Now, everyone knows that the Japanese are more sanitary than the Koreans. Japanese people probably do not enjoy an open wastebasket full of used toilet paper next to the toilet. So, in the case of the Japanese people staying at our guest house, they fashioned a lid. This isn't just some thrown-together lid, like a newspaper placed over the trash can or something, but something very, very elaborate, which I'd imagine took some time and some thought to fashion. I'm going to show you...


    This is the top view of the lid. Notice that it has been made from cardboard scavenged from a box of canola oil. Notice the carefully written kanji and katakana on the label, and notice how everything is framed very carefully by white tape. Most importantly, notice the cute little handle.

    The elaborateness of the Japanese lid does not end there, though. Notice how it hinges, and part of it is affixed to the side of the trash can. They didn't skimp on quality here. No, you don't just pick it up and put it back on -- you open it like a little door, on its hinge! The hinge is affixed to the side of the container with more white tape.

    This is the lid when the container is open -- the lid is designed to protect users of the bathroom, probably from smells and having to handle something unsanitary. Fascinating.

    This only makes me more intrigued by Japan. Japanese things ooze quality. Even makeshift lids for trash cans made by travelers from Japan in Korea.


    Sherley (from zKorean), Tak (from zKorean), and Me
    February 1, 2008
    Well, not much to report today. It's been an overwhelming social week, with all these language partners and all, and then today, I met Sherley and Tak, two fellow posters on zKorean. Sherley is Malaysian and learning Korean, and she knows Tak (who I had talked with online before). We had samgyeopsal near Hongik University. It was a nice evening, but I have a lot to do now, so I'd better make this short!

    Oh, some trivia: do you know the etymology of "samgyeopsal?" Well, as Jaeheui told me one time, samgyeopsal is, literally, sam (three) + gyeop (overlapping) + sal (flesh or fat). So literally, it's "three overlapping [layers of] fat." Sometimes, you order samgyeopsal, but if you count the layers, you might end up with sagyeopsal (four layers) or ogyeopsal (five layers), or even more. If this is the case, consider yourself VERY lucky.

    Sorry if everyone but me already knew that. I had noticed the numbers sam and o, but didn't realize the gyeop was the same gyeop found in 겹치다 (to overlap) and 겹받침 (combination batchim in hangeul).

    Anways, better get to work! Bye!

    January 31, 2008: UPDATE 2
    After doing some research over the last couple of days, I am now strongly considering moving to Taiwan in the summer after finishing up Level 6 at Yonsei. I know it seems stupid to get to that level of language proficiency, and then just leave the country without employing the language to do something great, but I'm not the only person with quarter life crises, am I? Before you even ask, NO, I DO NOT WANT TO RESIDE IN TAIWAN LONG TERM, JUST ONE YEAR. I want to teach English there for one year, enjoy that year, and then head off to Japan where I hope to find what I've been looking for in my life. Anyways, here are the reasons I want to teach in Taiwan starting this summer:

  • I've been wanting to live on a tropical island where I can learn to scuba dive and surf. Taiwan is indeed tropical. Apparently the low temperature for a year is typically 18 degrees (64 degrees Fahrenheit, roughly). So none of these nasty Siberian winters like you get in Korea!
  • The wages are pretty good, and starting this summer, I will be LEGAL to teach in Taiwan. While the requirement to get the visa is normally a bachelor's degree, this can be substituted with a TEFL certificate (which I got last summer) and an associate's degree (which I will have this summer). Teaching 30.5 hours per week, this is what my salary would be at Hess, the largest English academy chain in Taiwan: $27,501 a year. WOW! That's like Korea, except that unfortunately, an apartment isn't included in that. However, it's still nearly three times as much as I'd make in Yanbian in the same amount of time, working nearly as many hours per week.
  • I can practice the limited Mandarin I learned through my NOVA course without exposing myself to God-knows-how-many carcinogens.

    I'm getting really psyched. I need to rush and work hard and get my associate's degree so this can be possible! If I work hard there for one year and conserve my money, I may end up with a bachelor's degree and no debt whatsoever -- after living expenses, I estimate I'd be saving about $15,000 a year.

    So why didn't I think of this brilliant plan earlier? Well, for one, I didn't realize Taiwan was tropical and had all these awesome ocean-oriented things to do until I researched it. I also didn't realize that I was eligible to teach there -- but they're flexible on visa requirements, so pretty soon, I'll qualify. Yay!

    As for other good news, I've worked out a good deal with Mijung in which I pay her 150,000 won a month and rent a room in her apartment, with the condition that I teach her English about four or five times a month. She was willing to do it for free, but I think it's better if I pay something. It's just better to treat this as a matter of business -- I'd rather have a cheap room that I'm entitled to as a customer than feel more and more in-debt to Mijung. If you live in Seoul, you're no doubt aware that 150,000 won a month is still a stellar deal (they're generally about 250,000 won a month), but I'm making up some of the difference.

    January 31, 2008
    Man, I'll tell you, young Korean women are fascinating! I mean, I simply cannot understand what power causes them to be so self-absorbed and princessy, but whatever it is, surely we must harness this power and use it as an alternative to coal and nuclear power!

    One of my new language exchange partners managed to irritate me a little bit today. Basically, we'd agreed to meet at the Global Lounge at 2:00 PM today to do a language exchange. I waited about 20 minutes, and she didn't show up. The batteries in my phone were dead, so I went down to the basement to stick my phone into a charger and contact her.

    It turns out she sent a message at 1:39 PM telling me the following (translated from Korean): "I'm outside, but if you are on the road coming from Shinchon, if we meet at Shinchon Station, would it be okay?" So I wrote a message back, saying (in Korean) "As far as I knew, it was the Global Lounge [that we were meeting at]." Then I wrote "So shall we meet at the Global Lounge?" I mean, I felt like we should meet in the original place. She had changed the meeting place without my permission, and I hadn't gotten her message because my phone was off. Because that happens with an old phone.

    Then she comes back with a message that makes me say "man, what nerve!" Here it is (translated from Korean): "I contacted you early, but now your reply comes! Sorry, but in the future, I'm busy, so it looks like I won't be able to do it (possibly these language exchanges)." Whew, babe, so you change the meeting place, expect me to get your message, and when I don't, you blame me when I showed up at the originally-agreed place and wait 20 minutes for you?

    This is where I made the biggest mistake: I apologized. Because with women, I'm a weak, spineless bastard and a doormat. I said (translated from Korean): "Understood. Sorry."

    Then it occurred to me that this was her fault, not mine -- in changing the meeting place without my permission or knowledge, she had, in fact, wasted MY time and MY money (for the subway over). So I fired back with the following, in a series of three messages (translated from Korean): "I waited for 20 minutes at the promised Global Lounge. My cell phone didn't have batteries. So why do you get mad at me? Isn't changing the meeting place your fault? My God, you are serious princess disease. You change the promised place without mutual agreement and get mad at me!"

    Well, at least I told her off. Korean girls are fascinating. Before they hit 30, they think the world owes them everything -- and for some reason, Korean men put up with this, and do, indeed, tolerate them and buy them everything and act like weenies because it's the only way to pass on their genes. After they hit 30, it's a completely different ballgame, one where they are about 100 times nicer. Because no one is moving mountains to meet them anymore, and they actually have to do things for themselves (besides studying) for a change.

    I don't need to move mountains, though. My two language exchange ads got replies from SEVEN people. So I can just dump her language exchange and reply to one of the five people I haven't met with, yet, or continue exchanging with my other partner, Yumi, who is way better than she is! Seonyeong (today's bitchy girl) doesn't seem to realize that my English is a far scarcer quantity around these parts than her Korean, and she'll have a harder time finding another language exchange partner. Oh well, not my problem, I'm a reasonable guy, but if you want to play princess, I happen to have enough language exchange options to dump you nice and quickly.

    As for other news, this Japanese musical troupe staying at the guesthouse is rather fascinating. They appear to be quite a motley crew. They pretty much just keep to themselves and speak Japanese, but there's a dude with a Mohawk, and this little tiny midget Japanese woman (who makes the other Japanese women look tall). And she has a nose ring. Fascinating. I could tell from a mile away that these folks ain't Korean!

    January 29, 2008
    Starting last night, our guesthouse became solely inhabited by a traveling musical troupe from Japan. They reserved the entire guesthouse, apparently for some vast, unfathomable amount of money.

    This is great for pretty much everyone. Mijung makes quite the profit, and basically gets another vacation, since the Japanese people are renting the house and taking care of everything for themselves, pretty much.

    It's good for me, because I'm also freed of having to sub for Mijung when she's gone. However, yesterday, we had to do a lot of preparation -- we emptied the whole big refrigerator and the cupboards of all food (including the food of former guests). So we got some nice stuff that I usually don't buy, like Swiss cheese singles! Yay! I made myself a Swiss cheese and donggaseu sandwich this morning, in addition to a PBJ with peanut butter and jelly brought back by Mijung from the Philippines, which apparently has a lot more US food available than Korea.

    In the cleaning, I discovered this ancient Korean DOS RPG called "Protocoss" in the heaps of DVDs that were sitting on the public shelf. I have no idea who left the game there. Ancient games fascinate me. I'm not sure when this one was made, but I'm guessing around 1993, because that's when the DOS4GW (memory extender) that comes with it is dated. It still has that old copy protection scheme based on looking something up in the manual. Its system requirements are a 386 with 4 megabytes of RAM. So it MUST be old. The trouble is, even under DOSBox, I can't get it to run. It claims I'm running a program that interferes with its running, like EMM386.EXE. How should I go about running this game? Given that there isn't even a Wikipedia entry on it, it must be pretty obscure, and by extension, very cool.

    January 27, 2008
    Well, once again, not too much personal time, as Gyeongseok finds ways to avoid the guesthouse and leave me in charge. Actually, she departed on some very important business, but I bet at the end, she'll pad her time off with a visit to the coffee shop, etc. I hate it how she's always like "just hold down the guesthouse for an hour or two" and it's ALWAYS more than that.

    However, today was a very interesting day in some ways. I did something that very, very few white foreigners have done before, and I ought to write it up so I don't forget any detail.

    Today, I was an interpreter at the reunion of an adopted Korean girl and her family, who had not seen each other face-to-face in 18 years! What an honor!

    Basically, this girl (who I will leave anonymous because I don't know if she'd want herself linked to this story) had been adopted at the age of five by French parents when her parents had separated and been unable to care for her (according to this half of the family, not that they're biased or anything, he was a drunk and had an affair with another woman, and this girl was born out of wedlock because the aforementioned had occurred before the wedding). So basically, she was adopted at the age of five, and raised as a Frenchwoman.

    The trouble is that she can't really speak Korean. That's where I came in. Gyeongseok strongly urged me to help with the interpretation between this girl (who speaks decent English) and her family (who only speaks Korean). Wow! No pressure!

    Well, Gyeongseok was there too, and she ended up doing most of the interpretation, because most of the speech was this girl's family talking to her -- not the other way around, which would be where I'd be more skilled as an interpreter. So Gyeongseok did most of the interpreting, but I did some.

    The family was really grateful to me for helping with the interpretation. They invited me out to dinner, along with the young woman and Gyeongseok! Unfortunately, somebody needed to hold down the guesthouse, so I stayed behind, figuring Gyeongseok would probably be more useful to them, since most of the conversation was Korean -> English and not this young, adopted woman talking to her family (she's understandably shy). Tears were shed both by this young Frenchwoman and her grandmother, and they were pleased that she had "grown up so prettily" and were "too, too thankful to her parents" for raising her, especially raising her Catholic, since apparently they, too, are Catholics.

    It was a fascinating thing to participate in, and it's pretty amazing when you're dealing with Koreans being reunited with other Koreans, and you've broken into the circle enough that they actually want you along to help, even though you're a foreigner, to the point that they invite you to go with them to a nice restaurant! I consider this a major milestone, comparable to being offered a job at 7-Eleven in Seoul -- it's one of those things where you completely transcend being a foreigner, which is pretty damn rare here. Strange things can happen in Korea, though!

    As for other news, I have so far gotten responses from five different people regarding language exchanges. I have corresponded with all of them to varying degrees -- met the first responder, Yumi, twice, which has gone well so far. The first time, we got to know each other at Posco Hall on Ewha Women's University campus, and the second time, we went to a Japanese restaurant. I'm meeting another language exchange partner tomorrow. Basically, I don't have enough time to meet everyone who contacts me, so I'm just meeting the people who are most pro-active about it. In this case, the most pro-active person is Choe Seonyeong, a young woman who is either 20 or 21 (22 in Korean years, she said) and wants to meet me tomorrow at Global Lounge at 2:00 PM. So I guess I'll go there tomorrow. Maybe I can schedule another language exchange or two for that afternoon (right after the one with her) so I can efficiently meet like two, three, or four people on one day (good networking) without wasting a bunch of time and money commuting separately for a bunch of people.

    Mijung's coming back tonight from the Philippines, as well. It'll be nice to have her back.

    January 26, 2008
    I'm kind of pissed off right now. Since Mijung's in the Philippines, and since Gyeongseok is busy today, I'm running the guesthouse (for free, but I guess my free room at Mijung's place is my payment). People just keep on fucking talking to me, and really, I just want to concentrate. I want to do some homework, or some Korean study, or stuff like that, but every five minutes, people keep talking to me. So why am I so pissed? I mean, this is what I do in exchange for a free crash pad, which is, indeed, what I really need right now.

    Well, there are two reasons. First of all, I didn't go to bed last night until like 2 or 3 AM, because some customer who had originally booked for 10:00 PM was late, and kept on calling and postponing when he would arrive. That got me pissed off from the get-go, because I had to stay up real late, and when he finally came and rang the doorbell, I had JUST drifted off to sleep on the bench. Fuck.

    Then, today, nobody seems to be able to carry out their basic, day-to-day functions without my tutelage. It's ridiculous. People ask me all kinds of basic things at five-minute intervals (I especially love the question "Do you know any good restaurants?"), making it impossible to get any work done (except this post -- temporary lull).

    I really need to move out. Really. If I am careful with my money, I think it is possible to move out as early as February 2. I'm really, really hoping...


    The Poster I'm Posting Today to Look for Language Exchange Partners
    January 23, 2008
    I need a new language exchange partner. Junhyeong kept on being busy with trying to get a job, and kept on moving appointments, then moving the moved appointments, then ultimately saying things like "I'll contact you when I'm available." Well, a language exchange partner who can only meet every month or two isn't that useful to me, so I need to find a new one!

    Sure, I've got Mijung and Gyeongseok and Jaeheui, but it is really beneficial to have an actual language exchange agreement -- we meet for this amount of time per week, and only talk about language. With people who are just friends, language exchanges always take a back seat to real life because if you're too busy, the other person will "understand," so you put it off, and put it off again. You know what I mean?

    Of course, there are lots of side benefits of posting these fliers, too. If you're smart, you can probably imagine a few of them. ^^

    January 21, 2008
    Well, look at what a lazy writer I've become! It's been more than a week since the last update!

    There's been stuff going on in my life, but not stuff I really want to post on this website for everyone to read about. I'm still in Hyehwa, living off the generosity of Mijung (thank you, Mijung). I had guesthouse duty today -- I had to watch over the guesthouse in case guests came, which they never did. I was still of use to someone, though. I mean, these guests sure need me for their survival -- everyone's coming up to me and asking me things like "Which subway station is the COEX?" or "How do I get to Insadong?" or "Do you have an empty bed for Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday?" or some other stuff like that. I don't mind it too much -- I mean, Mijung is helping me out, and I'll help her out by guiding her customers. It's just, you'd think these customers couldn't get dressed in the morning without my help. I guess that when I go traveling, I generally don't talk to the staff at youth hostels or hotels very much. I fix my own problems.

    As for productivity, well, I wish I'd been more productive, but it's far harder to spend eight hours a day studying/doing the things you need to do on paper than it is in real life. I mean, theoretically, you sleep for eight hours, and you're awake for 16 hours, so that means that using only 50% of your day, you can accomplish everything you need to -- except it isn't that way at all. You get tired or working, or feel lazy, keep on putting things off, you've got to eat (which requires going out and getting the ingredients, then cooking them), you've got to take showers, make good on obligations to people (like when I help out around here with the guests or that kind of thing), etc. Life is just one big nexus and it's much easier to go into work and work for eight hours under the eye of a supervisor (with the supervisor not allowing you to be distracted too much) than to say "nobody's watching me, I'm going to get eight hours of stuff done today." For this reason, I really don't know if I could ever be self-employed. I used to fantasize about how wonderful it'd be, but if I actually did that, I'd sit home in front of the computer all day, every day, and only do about 16 hours of actual work a week, so I'd earn no money, but feel like all this time had gone out the window.

    I have accomplished a few things, though, in the last week. I read The Catcher in the Rye, a classic American novel that I should have read in middle or high school, but never did, because the curriculum never required it. Well, now I've read it. I have done all my HIS 253 (History of Asian Civilizations I) work up through Week 3 (except the paper on the Bhagavad-Gita [Hindu epic], although I did manage to wade through the whole Gita -- now I just need to finish the paper). Man, the Bhagavad-Gita, that was hard to understand. I told Gyeongseok about how I had trouble understanding it, and she was like "when you get older, you will come to understand it better." Gee, thanks Gyeongseok, but you're wrong. You see, in the India of 2,500 years ago when it was written, people didn't live to be much older, on average, than I am right now! They didn't have as much education on average, either. So it's absurd that you say something like "you'll understand it when you get older." You know why I didn't understand it? Because I wasn't brought up in the Indian cultural sphere, and I haven't the slightest clue about Hinduism. That's why. Don't try to inject your Confucianism with its "only people over 25 can understand anything deep" mentality into something that did not come from a Confucian culture! I'll tell you, Confucianism is one of my biggest gripes with Korea, because I'm always the youngest, and unlike some countries where you become an adult at 21 (hell, the US Foreign Service lets you apply to become a Foreign Service Officer if you're 20), Korea doesn't consider you an almighty "eoreun" until you're, well, 30 and married, pretty much.

    Well, I guess I can't complain too much about Confucianism, seeing as it's actually benefiting me a lot, too. I mean, the elders are giving me a free place to sleep, and they buy all my meals for me whenever we all go out, and refuse to let me pay for myself. They joke about how it's a retirement plan, but we all know that I'll probably be tending to my own parents in a couple of decades, not the elders in Korea. I can't be in two places at once.

    I really need to start working harder, and cut some non-essential things out of my schedule. Like, I'd love to get fit before the summer so I can go to the beach and have a six-pack, but you know, it isn't really necessary, and probably neither is taking Japanese at the hagwon. I'd love to be able to do all these things, but the last thing I want to be doing is taking Calculus with Analytic Geometry while taking Level 6 at Yonsei -- that would be insane. I need to finish Calculus up as soon as possible to avoid fighting an intense war on two fronts! So from now until the end of February, it's going to be eat, sleep, Calculus, Korean review, and miscellaneous required things. I'd much rather have to do my history class and Library Skills & Research side-by-side with Yonsei Level 6 than have to endure Calculus while enduring Level 6. That'd just be a recipe to fail everything!

    Click here for 11 more pictures of the Jongno Ice Sculpture Festival!

    January 14, 2008
    I'm in Global Lounge right now, at Yonsei. I'm on a secret mission. Why I'm here may be a secret, but I can tell you that I plan to just hang around in here for four hours -- possibly repeating these four-hour marathons for several days, or even weeks! Trust me, I have a good reason for doing this.

    Anyways, the main reason for the update is that I stumbled upon the Jongno Ice Sculpture Festival today, and just thought it would be a good photo opportunity, so I took 12 pictures and added a page to the site with these pictures on it. I don't have much info on the sculptures themselves at this time -- when I go back through that area, I'll take some notes and update the page. I was going to do this earlier, but I was distracted by something. ^^

    January 13, 2008
    Well, today has been a very ordinary day for me, but like any day in the life of a Yonsei student in Korea, it's had its interesting points.

    I went grocery shopping, which was kind of boring. Got to cut out the restaurant food for the moment. I'd say the best new grocery item that I got today was a 1,050 won pouch of yukgaejang. It's great -- you just soak the it in boiling water for three minutes, and there you have it -- edible yukgaejang! If you eat it with plenty of rice and a few nearly-free side dishes, that's dinner for just over $1.

    I went walking in the woods today, in an effort to climb up the mountain and use some exercise equipment, because I need to get fitter. Of course, as usual, there were too many people up there, and I didn't exercise because I hate people watching me exercise. This is why I need to get a goshiwon, so I can close the door and do what I need to do. Anyways, I saw and heard some weird things. First of all, there were all these SKULLS strewn around. Like, I don't know what kind of animal they came from. Maybe they were deer skulls? Or perhaps they were dog skulls? I really don't know, it's just weird when you see all these skulls lying around, without any other bones (like rib cages or anything). I wonder what the story is on that?

    As I ascended the mountain, I saw a nice bathroom. It was one of those modern ones in which it was a clean little bathroom house with two urinals and two regular, western-style toilets, all with sensors. I went into the stall, and then heard this WEIRDO ajeosshi panting really, really heavily like he was having sex with an invisible partner! WEIRD! I figured "he'll stop, he's probably just been exercising," but he continued! I thought "what the hell is going on, do I really want to leave the safety of my stall, now?" I just stood there. The wild panting continued. Then he started trying to open the door. I love it when people do that. Let's forget using words and such, just try to GET IN, yeah, that's very refined, buddy. However, this is not just a phenomenon limited to Korea -- I can think of a million times this has happened to me in the US, as well. Anyways, I just opened it up and figured "whatever, this is so weird, I'm getting out of this bathroom. As I left, I heard some little kid say "엄마! 허리가 아픈 사람!" ("Mommy! A person whose waist hurts!"). I don't know, maybe the panting guy had some kind of sudden illness or something. It was pretty weird.

    I came to Yonsei to use the Global Lounge, only to find it closed. I don't know why. This sucks. I had great plans for Global Lounge. Oh well.

    January 7, 2008
    Well, the first half of this new year is going to be VERY busy. I've just signed up for nine credits at NOVA (to be done online), plus I'm planning to add in five more once I've completed those initial nine. So that's 14 credits in about three months, on top of reviewing vast amounts of Korean material and doing the thing that I need to do to stay in Korea (and maybe you know what that is ^^).

    These are three significant things I've done over the past 24 hours:

  • I registered and paid for my NOVA classes. It came out to between $700 and $800 (cheap for that many credits, but ouch). Here's the list:
    HIS 253: History of Asian Civilizations I (3cr.)
    LBR 105: Library Skills for Research (1cr.)
    MTH 173: Calculus with Analytic Geometry I (5cr.)
    In March, if I have finished these three classes, I plan to add Calculus with Analytic Geometry II to the list (tough math class, ouch).
  • I got Im Bang-ul at Yonsei to postpone my tuition until March. This way, I have time to buffer and do the things I need to do to stay in Korea and stay successful. It was pretty funny -- we hadn't talked in about a month, and I called her, and she recognized my accent and voice and was like "you're Charles, aren't you?" I found that humorous because the KLI topped 1,000 students last term, and she was able to tell that it was me!
  • I opened an online account for my Citi credit card, which involved dealing with this aggravating dude in India who kept on trying to market these things to me that I didn't need, even though I kept saying "not interested." Finally, to this pushy guy, I was like "look, I'm trying to be nice, but I don't want to be advertised to. I'm really not interested." He was just being so pushy. However, now I can monitor my bill online and pay my bill, because I linked it to my bank account. Yay!

    January 6, 2008
    Sorry there hasn't been much Korea-related news lately. I know that's what most people want to read about when they come to my site. I will get some photos of Korea and get some good updates in a few days.

    For now, all I have to report is that I just finished the recent release Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings, after many trials and tribulations.

    I've got to say, it was one not one of Square's finest. That company makes a lot of great games, but this wasn't one of them.

    The game was tweaked for the English release to be harder than the Japanese version, since it's essentially a real-time strategy game, and since Square figured "Americans have a lot of experience with those." The problem is, it is now pretty damn hard. Although RPGamer claims in their review that it takes 20-25 hours, I think the reviewer was just showing off -- I think it takes around 50 hours to complete. You just have to keep grinding levels over and over and over again, every few battles.

    The play system is infuriating. It doesn't have creative character-building systems like we've seen before in Final Fantasy games (like the class system, the junction/GF system, or the materia system). Instead, characters just learn (mostly lame and useless) spells as they level up. This removes pretty much any addictive quality from the battles, and makes the constant, required level grinding a real chore.

    The battle system is so infuriating, it breaks the game. Characters have horrible AI. If you give a character a destination to reach, there is nothing in their AI programming to keep them from taking a path that goes through a gaggle of difficult enemies rather than taking an enemy-free path. Sometimes, characters just plain disobey and get in fights with groups of monsters that wouldn't be able to kill them if they simply ran. One of the most frustrating things about the battle system is how you only get two healers. When I finished the game, I only had one character who could use the cure spell and two who could revive dead characters. Therefore, if both of them fell, that was pretty much it. You can't even use items in battle (a MAJOR handicap) so you can't use potions, phoenix downs, or things you're normally able to use in nearly every other RPG. Somehow, in the final battle, I was down to only one character, and he wasn't a healer, and I just figured "I'm screwed," but Mateus, one of my summons, bailed me out in time. The stylus action is pretty poor, too. You often accidentally click next to some enemies instead of on them, so instead of fighting them, you stand next to them and wait to be preemptively attacked.

    The music is pretty good, except wait, I think I've heard most of it before. Because I have. It is mostly ripped off from Final Fantasy XII (original), rather than a new creation with its own new sound. Can you believe they didn't even design a new final boss battle theme? Can you believe we were ripped off this way?

    So basically, not a particularly fun game, and I don't really recommend it. Square has made loads of other great games, and I'm sure you haven't finished them all, so try one of the other Square games. It has its fun moments, but towards the end, constantly increasing boss difficulty just means you keep on returning to the Glabados Ruins to fight EVEN MORE zombies and wyrms and gain levels. I finally beat the game, so I gave it a fair chance. Usually, when I've just beaten a game, I forgive a lot of its flaws, but Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings had too many to forgive or forget!

    As for other news, I plan to register for my online NOVA (Northern Virginia Community College) courses today or tomorrow. I will take these online as I continue to live in Korea. I'm planning to take the following classes in the Spring term: History of Asian Civilizations I (HIS 253, 3cr.), Calculus with Analytic Geometry I (MTH 173, 5cr.), and Library Skills for Research (LBR 105, 1cr.). If I register for these classes and pass them, I will be a mere 15 credit hours away from my associate's degree, which I can take care of during the summer. I doubt this will increase my employment options in Asia very much, but it will be a nice stepping stone. Then when people ask if I have a degree, I can say "yes, I have an associate's degree," and I won't have to feel like such an uneducated kid!

    Anything else I need to be doing? Yeah, but most of it is too boring to cover on this site. Basically just some financial things and continuing to study Korean.

    Once again, sorry everything's been so lame on this site lately. I'll work hard to get the site back up to its usual, pretty picture-filled existence as soon as possible.

    Copyright (C) 2008 Charles Wetzel. All rights reserved.