March 5, 2009
I am writing this post from my new (old) notebook computer! I decided to splurge today and get a notebook computer. I had been pondering this thought for a while ever since I saw an ad for a notebook in the window of a store for a mere 200,000 won ($129).

I figured that I already spend some money going to PC bangs to do things I cannot do on my home computer, like using the Wimba Voice Board software for JPN 101. So for things like that, right there, that could be $29. I figure that the remaining $100, although not saving me money in the short run, will save me a great deal of time in the long run because my old computer was so slow and there were so many things it couldn't do (like run the message boards on NOVA's site). With this computer, I will be more equipped to do these things, and the ajumma will also notice her electric bill going down, because I can finally power down that desktop (which I leave on all the time because getting it started back up again is such a hassle).

Here are the specs on my new (old) notebook computer:

  • 1.2 GHz Celeron
  • 352 megabytes of RAM
  • 32 megabyte video card
  • CD-RW drive with DVD-ROM capability
  • VGA monitor or LCD projector port, LAN jack, phone jack, PCMCIA slot, and 2 USB ports
  • A battery that, according to Windows, will last 57 minutes on this charge

    So in summary, I got a web book for about $129 and the battery lasts long enough for emergency use. Here are the ways in which my life and the lives of the people around me will improve:

  • I will be more efficient.
  • I will save on internet cafe fees.
  • I would have had to buy a new computer when I arrived in China anyway, this way, I took advantage of the poor Korean exchange rate to get myself an acceptable computer for $129. This way, I arrive in China with a computer.
  • The ajumma will watch her power bill fall because my big computer will no longer be constantly powered on.
  • I will have more sanity because I can discard the big computer, which was taking up a ton of real estate.
  • I can sleep better because that thing won't be humming all night.
  • I can use it for presentations, especially when teaching English in China. This will make my lessons better.
  • I can take it with me for emergency use, something I can't do with the current desktop.

    I could probably think of more ways in which it will enhance my life, but I think the aforementioned reasons are sufficient, don't you? Anyways, I guess I should use this thing to do my Japanese homework now!

    March 4, 2009
    Basically my only significant goal for today is getting my room clean. It was SICK how dirty it was. I mean, it would make any mother completely ashamed. There were dozens of dirty dishes, yes, dozens, so many that some had mold on them. The floor is still disgusting. I will work on that before I go to bed. The whole place was worse than a pigsty.

    I wonder how, in the future, I can keep my room from becoming so messy. It's not easy. Sure, 10 minutes of cleanup a day can remedy the problem, but it's so hard to stay disciplined and do that, considering few people but me ever actually see my room. I guess maybe I should start hosting a movie night in here or something. Like, every Wednesday night, me and Hwangdae and Yamamoto drink makgeolli and eat pajeon and watch a movie. If I had friends in here once a week, it would be incentive to keep the room clean.

    The dishes were by far the worst part. I am truly ashamed, both of how dirty they were, and of the fact that I probably held the majority of the goshiwon's dishes (and the goshiwon has dozens of people). I think that to combat this, I need to have some sort of personal regulation on dish use. Here's what I've noticed:

    1. I don't really need to use more than one dish or piece of tupperware per day. So in theory, that means I could finish all my dish washing in three minutes per day.
    2. However, the problem is that I often take out way more than that, because a new dish will get confused with an old dish, and I don't want to risk eating off an old, unwashed dish, so I get a new dish. This can happen three, four, five, who knows how many times in a day. This can easily result in five times as much dish washing work per day.
    3. To combat this problem, I need to pick out one dish per day and one dish only, and make sure it's elevated so nothing gross, like body hair, falls into it. I need to have a new dish receptacle on top of the desk to store it in between meals. The dirty dishes need to go into a bag next to my tiny fridge. This way, they will not be confused, and I will not take out new dishes. If I do this, maybe I can keep dirty dishes (and hence work and clutter) down to a minimum.
    As for other news, I have been accepted into the American TESOL Institute in China, but am not sure whether I want to pay the $500 initial deposit. I can't find much information on them besides their advertisements which are EVERYWHERE (or accounts on their program full of praise that could easily just be ATI propaganda). All I've found referring to ATI China, basically, is a reference in an MSNBC article to Frank Dong from American TESOL Institute (okay, MSNBC is a well-known source) and one critical review I read by an English teacher who seemed like kind of a doofus -- was promised 150 RMB an hour and although he expected this to apply to breaks, too, he was shocked to find out he was only paid for the time he was actually teaching. Big surprise there. So it seems that ATI exists in China, but I still don't know if they're any good or not. I wish I could find some more reviews. I guess for only $750, it doesn't matter if they're good, I get a guaranteed job paying at least 5,000 RMB and my stay in Beijing is included in the price. I guess I just wish there were more information.

    March 1, 2009: UPDATE 2
    I just want to update my readers and say that I have now spun off the "Programming" part of this site as a stand-alone site of its own (it has its own main page and uses IFrames and has multiple sub pages). Now, when you click "Programs," the new programming site, titled "Charles Wetzel's Programming Web Site," opens in a new window. Unlike before, when everything was all on one page, the TI-83 and PC files have been separated onto separate pages, and the games and utilities have been separated onto their own pages.

    In other programming news, yesterday, Mijung Song memorized all 46 katakana using my NihonGO! Japanese quiz program (she emulated it on her PC with TI-83 Plus Flash Debugger). I'm not kidding, in just a few hours, the 41-year-old Korean businesswoman learned 46 Japanese symbols that she had not learned before. Although this is a testament to the usefulness of the program I wrote, I cannot take all the credit -- she knows approximately 3,500 Chinese characters, and therefore has a very good memory and the katakana, in many cases, look similar to Chinese characters (for example, her mnemonic for learning chi in hiragana is that it looks like the character cheon, or 1,000, in Chinese characters).

    March 1, 2009
    I've made my first significant step towards leaving Korea and getting set up elsewhere. I applied to the American TESOL Institute in China today. Let me explain what the American TESOL Institute is:
    The American TESOL Institute is headquartered in the US. It's a program in which you pay $750, they train you both in how to teach adults (which I already had though CELTA) and kids (which I have not had through CELTA). Then they place you in a job by the second week of class, and your teacher training takes place at an actual school. At this point, they have provided your work visa. So basically, the $750 supposedly covers three weeks of intensive training, lodging in Beijing, and a guaranteed job instead of having to go through the tedium of finding one one's self (which has driven me near stark-raving mad as I have dealt with my recruiters' smoke and mirrors tactics).

    Some people have already suggested that this is a ripoff, that I could just find a job in China with the same or better wages, and that I'm handing someone my money for a useless TEFL certification (especially since I have CELTA). However, I think my idea makes sense, because I still do not really have a clue how to teach children, which this course will offer. Plus, if I went to China and job hunted for a month, I bet my expenses would be several hundred dollars -- this program saves me those expenses by guaranteeing me a job. So if you combine the training in teaching kids, the included lodging in Beijing, and the removal of the hassle of having to find a job myself, it actually seems like a decent deal.

    If I do this, I will enter China on approximately June 14. Though this stint in Korea will have lasted just a few days short of three years, I actually spent more than two years here when I was a kid, and so the sum is still over five years.

    I think this plan is safer than going to Ireland right now. I will leave Korea with a guaranteed job in the next country. If I go to Ireland, who knows, with the bad economy, I might not be able to find enough work. I think it's better to save going to Ireland until I can be sure that I have enough money to take a big financial risk like that. Maybe in a year and a half, the economy will be better there, and I can find more work than if I went this summer. So for that reason, I'd prefer to shuffle China around to being first, then fit Ireland in with whatever time's left.

    The American TESOL Institute, it seems, will place me in Beijing. Really, my goals are just to make money and finish most of my university courses. I may take a semester off from my university courses to study Chinese, because I would like to bring my Chinese to an "activatable" level. In other words, I have no interest in becoming anything more than intermediate-low in Chinese right now, but I would like to be a step ahead of the pack, just in case.

    February 28, 2009
    This will be an interesting cultural post. I am currently consuming squid with my makgeolli as I watch the new "Planet of the Apes" movie, a loaner from Hwangdae. I now own a Japanese region DVD player, thanks to a bartering agreement I made with Hwangdae -- he gets six of my old Super Famicom cartridges I bought in '06, I get his Japanese DVD player. So I'm watching "Planet of the Apes," drinking, and eating squid.

    The squid is entertainingly labeled in Korean in the following fashion: the first pack is called "Short Legs Squid" (ٸ ¡) and is a sort of moist, not-too-chewy variety, and the second pack is called "¡ " ("Squid Love Peanuts") and is of the more traditional dried variety.

    I finally solved a mystery today. A third grader that I know, Nahyeon, got eyelid surgery, and I was like "What the hell, I knew Koreans had tons of plastic surgery, but isn't third grade a bit too young?" Her mother insisted it was for health reasons, but I'm so cynical about this country, I figured those were just excuses. However, fortunately, my Korean teacher backed up Nahyeon's mother -- apparently some Koreans have lower eyelids that protrude too much and it can somehow actually "stab" part of the eye, and cause infection! Therefore, according to Mrs. Jeon, my Korean teacher, this procedure is actually fully covered by Korean health insurance. Some women have the procedure in conjunction with upper eyelid beautification surgery, but the latter part is not covered by insurance, at least in theory. However, some women will make up excuses about how their upper eyelid is "so uncomfortable" and so forth to get the insurance to cover the beautification surgery as well, although this is often illegitimate. Anyways, this helps explain why Korea's eyelid surgery level is extremely high -- there is actually a very legitimate health reason for the surgery, making this type of surgery, in my mind, equivalent to circumcision -- a theoretically unnecassary procedure, but one that makes certain functional aspects of life QUITE A BIT easier.

    February 26, 2009
    I'm going to take a nap, I think. When I wake up, I'm going to try to do a huge blitz of C++ and finish the work I meant to finish by yesterday. Then I'll basically be on track again.

    Today in class, we watched "Ƴ ȥߴ" ("My Wife Got Married"). I really didn't like it very much, it put me in a bad mood, but I can't say it was that bad, because it brought up issues of paternal rights and the crumbling institution of marriage that were quite valid. What an awful wife -- she has an affair before and during the marriage, somehow convinces her husband to allow her to marry this other man in a different locality illegally (so she has two husbands) and they have her on different nights of the week. And then when her original husband has a paternity test to see if their new baby is his, she flips out and runs away to Spain. What a terrible wife, seriously.

    However, when I got home, my mood improved, because Yeongju was in the kitchen, and we chatted for a while, and she's an amusing person and at the end she said "thanks to talking to you, I feel that I have gotten brighter and warmer" (translated from Korean). She used to be a piano instructor, but injured her hand and can now only play as a hobby, not professionally. She apparently is having a feud with her mom and moved into this goshiwon because of it. She said she hadn't really been able to talk to anyone about this, which is a small wonder. You can't talk about problems with your parents with other Koreans, because Koreans see poor parent-child relationships and think "poor filial daughter" or "poor filial son," and assume it's the kid's fault. So that she could talk to me and get a weight off her chest without all the criticism was nice for her, obviously. She talks REALLY REALLY fast. I think she's kind of nervous. I actually don't have too much of a problem understanding her, even though she talks at a mile a minute, she doesn't have a weird dialect or anything, so it's actually not that hard.

    Anyways, I should take a nap now. I am tired. When I wake up, I'm going to start a C++ blitz.

    February 23, 2009
    Well, I just got my student visa. However, as it turns out, due to an obscure restriction, I will still not be allowed to work part time. Even though the law states that D-4 students who have lived in Korea for six months on a D-4 may work, I cannot. This is because my D-4 residence periods were non-consecutive. I lived in this place on a D-4 for a year, then got another visa type, and now have another D-4. This stupid bureaucratic technicality means that even when I have lived in Korea for five years of my life (this June, I believe), I will still not be able to legally work. If I wanted to work at all, I would have to wait until August 16 when my visa is six months old.

    Personally, I don't think Korea's immigration service gives Americans any respect. America allows mass immigration of Koreans, Koreans can work in the US, and they can become permanent residents just by living in the US for a while and taking a test. Meanwhile, Korea strings me along with false hopes of the right to work for nearly five years, then again tells me "Sorry, faceless foreigner, you can't do that."

    Personally, I think America should suspend immigration of Koreans to America until Korea begins to give Americans some of the same freedoms that America has given Koreans for years. I'm all for Koreans coming to America and working and living there, it's just that I think there should be some reciprocity. Why is it okay for Koreans to come to America and get green cards and jobs, and when an American wants to do the same thing in Korea, that's not okay? Plus, you'd think America liberating South Korea from both the Japanese and the North Koreans would count for something. I guess not. So I guess we should respond in kind and treat incoming Koreans the way they already treat us. I'll probably get some angry e-mail from someone, but hey, it's my opinion, and it's pretty hard to argue that Koreans should have some special entitlement to work in America when Americans will not have these kinds of privileges in Korea in 1,000 years.

    So go ahead Korea, deny me the ability to work in your country even after my fifth year is finished, let me leave your country angry. That way, I can hold forth to people in other countries about how racist Korea is, I can vote for anti-immigration presidential candidates and congressmen in American elections, and act like a big old bigot towards Koreans in the US. That's what you get for having the most closed immigration system in the whole OECD!

    This is the NihonGO! Japanese Kana Learning Program in operation, quizzing on the character "ra" in hiragana.

    This is the program's built-in katakana reference table, generated from in-program fonts.

    February 22, 2009
    I just finished a program that I've been working on for about eight years! I'm not kidding.

    Do any of my readers remember back in freshman year of high school, when I was programming a Japanese quiz program called NihonGO!? Well, I had abandoned it for years, but today, I rediscovered it on one of my old web drives, and I downloaded it and FINISHED it! What was my secret to finishing it? Well, I just cut out some of the overambitious features. It's now simply a quiz program bundled with a hiragana and katakana file. It's as simple as that. It's less than 11K, but believe me, it took months, if not years, of work to complete, because I meticulously copied each kana character out of a Game Boy game I had (since that game used nice 8x8 kana, suitable for a calculator screen). Anyways, I highly recommend anyone learning Japanese who does not yet know the kana well download this program.

    February 20, 2009: UPDATE 2
    I'm on a roll. I got fed up with waiting, so I took the C++ Module II midterm this afternoon instead of the evening as originally planned, and got an 80%, which is higher than any midterm or final I've gotten so far at the Game Institute -- in fact, 80%, in these tough courses, is completely acceptable! Maybe this is a new ray of hope, maybe my C++ skills are increasing faster than the course is ramping up its difficulty. In any event, I am ON TRACK with C++ -- I finished Unit 5 in less than five days, and at this rate, I should finish the course well within the time frame of the "Great Leap Forward."

    The Great Leap Forward campaign for February 15 - March 15 is going great. So far, I am staying on track with Korean class, C++ Module II, Japanese, Web Page Design, and have even done some studying for the western history CLEP test, though I'd like to do a bit more studying for that just in case. I hope to finish Machiavelli's The Prince and maybe read a certain western history textbook in the Yonsei library. I haven't started on the American history CLEP stuff yet, but I haven't scheduled myself to do that yet, so that's okay.

    So I'm on track with my goals, and it's looking like I could easily claim a total of 75+ ACKNOWLEDGED credits when I take all these tests in March.

    Although I've technically written Windows GUI-based C++ programs before, this is my first foray into doing it seriously -- I created three windows, with their own background colors, implemented horizontal and vertical scrollbars and there's even a custom cross hair cursor.
    February 20, 2009
    Today, I completed the Chapter 14 exercises (except giving my C++ program a custom icon, because that works a little bit differently in Visual C++ 2008 Express Edition from the methods described in the book). This is a significant first for me, but it's hard to describe why it's a first without using a bunch of qualifiers.

    Technically, it's not my first GUI Windows program, technically not even my first C++ GUI Windows program.

    However, it is the first Windows program I've ever written that displays multiple windows simultaneously, changes the cursor in the main window to a crosshair, has background colors, etc. It's my first substantial Windows C++ GUI program. Technically, the first time I ever wrote a tiny program that required Windows to run was in sixth grade, and I actually did write some fairly complex Java programs that ran in Windows (like "Secret Toad" during high school), but I've never written a Windows C++ GUI program with multiple windows before. This is one result of the "Great Leap Forward" campaign that I have begun for February 15 - March 15. I hope this campaign keeps producing such productive results!

    February 19, 2009
    Guess what, I just got invited to join an American fraternity! It's called Phi Theta Kappa. It's an EXCLUSIVE special club that is only for community college (or other two-year college) students who successfully maintain a 3.50 GPA or above. I have a GPA which exceeds this! Therefore, they invited me to join.

    I don't know if I can join without being present in person, but apparently it's multi-national, so I highly doubt there's some required paddling or beer bong activity that I must partake in before joining.

    Anyways, I'm flattered (and somewhat relieved) that someone has finally recognized my academic efforts -- I realize a 3.5 in a community college isn't the hardest thing in the world, but it didn't come for free. And maybe I can join this fraternity and when people ask me "Charles, were you a frat boy once?" I can proudly reply "YES!"

    February 18, 2009
    Man, I'll tell you, the Korean Immigration Bureau sure has a sense of humor. For years, I live here, unable to do any job whatsoever, and then, just when I'm planning to leave, they allow two-year degrees for teaching in public schools. Then they say "We're going to give Americans working holiday visas." And today, I found out about another thing they've just instituted this year -- D-4 LANGUAGE STUDENTS CAN NOW WORK.

    I'm not kidding, this pisses me off so much, I really could have used that privilege say, two or two and a half years ago! However, they waited around until Charles Wetzel was about to leave Korea and said "Okay, now you can work."

    Basically, Korea waited until Charles Wetzel decided to move to another country, and then said "Okay, now we're going to make our immigration system much easier for students like Charles -- just not Charles." Damn.

    However, unlike the working holiday visa (a 1.5-year once-only visa), which I would never dream of wasting on just a few petty months, this is unlimited, so I plan to exploit this.

    After my "Great Leap Forward" campaign, I'm only going to have about 2.5 months left in Korea, but I plan to use them to do lots of temporary English teaching jobs. I'll get contracts, bring them to the immigration bureau, and get my S-3 work permission for them. Maybe I can net myself an extra $2,000 or $3,000 and some experience to put on my resume. Even though this would have benefited me in the extreme two years or even a year ago, I can still use it to get a little bit of money before gallivanting off to Ireland. Plus, even if I only work for 2.5 months as an English substitute teacher, it'll give me advanced standing in China because instead of saying "I have no provable English teaching experience" I can say "I had a few months of legal English teaching experience in South Korea, here's my work permit and you can call the places if you want references." Maybe that'll allow me to get a better job when I hit China, who knows.

    It irks me that Korea waited to release all these awesome new visa laws until I gave up on Korea, but at least with this one, unlike the other reforms, I still have a couple of months to cash in on it. I guess after my Great Leap Forward campaign, I should hit Work and Play and find a bunch of temporary English teaching jobs and hit up the immigration office!

    February 16, 2009
    Wow. Today (this waking period, actually, I woke up at 3:59 PM yesterday), I got so much done, I ACTUALLY MET ALL MY GOALS FOR THE DAY, FOR ONCE! Well, that is, except for a couple of things that teachers had blocked access to, but I did everything I could possibly do.

  • I wrote up a newspaper article for Korean class.
  • I had an appointment near SNU.
  • I went on a date with Tanya, the Siberian woman. We saw "Seven Pounds" at the movie theater. What a sad movie.
  • I re-read Chapter 13 of C++ Module II, viewed all the slide presentations, and took the exam, with a score of 100% in spite of having done none of the exercises for Chapter 13.
  • I watched the presentations, did miscellaneous acitivities, and did the lab activities for Japanese. I also contacted Shigehisa Sensei about some technological issues and when the next class meeting is.
  • I downloaded both CLEP study guides. For the American history one, I tried 10 sample questions and got 90%. For the world history one, I tried 10 sample questions and got 80%. So chances are, I could take both those CLEP tests today and do just fine on each one, +6 credit hours! However, maybe if I study a little bit, I can get great scores on both, which will transfer to great Excelsior College grades.
  • I made this update on my website.
  • I plan to play some Dragon Quest VI briefly before I go to bed. And in spite of having been so busy today, I will still be able to get seven hours of sleep! YAY!

    I'm invigorated at having had such a productive day, I hope I can keep on track with my schedule.

    February 15, 2009
    I'm designating February 15 - March 15 "The Great Leap Forward." It's going to be totally different from Mao's Great Leap Forward -- unlike his, mine is actually going to be, well, a great leap forward!

    The goal: at absolute minimum, get 8 credits through tests, though with extreme luck, this may end up as high as 30 credits.

    The method: Take the New York University test for Korean (up to 16 credit hours), the Game Institute proctored exams at a Laser Grade testing center (up to 8 credit hours), and two CLEP tests (up to 6 credit hours). Theoretically, supposing I pass all the latter tests and get the highest score on the Korean exam, this would be 30 credit hours, though I'm imagining I'll fail one or more tests and/or get a less-than-perfect score on the Korean test. Still, I think 20 credits is more than reasonable to expect. As long as I hit at least 8, I'll get my associate's degree, and the closer I get to 30, the more electives will be shaved off of my bachelor's degree (possibly opening up the possibility of a spring '10 graduation).

    The detailed calendar:

  • By or On February 15: Finish Chapter 13 of C++ Module II. Download the study guides for the following two CLEP exams via pay-per-download: History of the United States I: Early Colonization to 1877, and Western Civilization I: Ancient Near East to 1648.
  • By or On February 20: Finish C++ Module II, Chapter 14.
  • By or On February 25: Finish C++ Module II, Chapter 15.
  • By or On March 1: Finish C++ Module II, Chapter 16.
  • By or On March 5: Finish C++ Module II, Chapter 17. Additionally, have the entire study guide completed for CLEP's world history test.
  • By or On March 10: Finish C++ Module II, Chapter 18.
  • By March 15: Finish a major C++ Windows project that incorporates all chapters. Additionally, finish the study guide for CLEP's American history test.
  • While doing these things: Keep my Korean up-to-spec for the NYU exam and keep up with my NOVA courses. Doing this, I can theoretically have 82 credit hours of RECOGNIZED credit under my belt by the end of spring (though I'll be fairly happy with just 70+). At that point, I'll have three full semesters left to complete approximately 50 credit hours, which averages out to 16 or 17 credit hours per semester, definitely manageable!

    Ready, set, GO!!!

    February 12, 2009

    I. Simply. Cannot. Tolerate. Chapter. 13. Of. My. C++. Course. Any. Longer.

    It is driving me absolutely fucking crazy. I simply can't take it anymore. I'm just going to skip it. I have never skipped all the exercises in a chapter before for C++ Programming for Game Developers, but these assignments in Chapter 13 are so obviously from the depths of hell itself, they are completely derailing my learning experience.

    The exercises expect me to write code to define data structures like linked lists, which are already defined in the C++ standard library. While this may sound like busywork, I guess that in theory, it gets us to practice our C++ skills, but the sheer size of the exercises (each one would take literally hundreds of lines of code, on average) and the complexity make it a serious road block to finishing this course, and if I keep obsessing over it (I've been stuck on it since early January, over a month ago), I will never finish this course, I'm afraid. So I have no choice but to abandon this hellish chapter. A doctor doesn't want to amputate a patient's hand, either, but sometimes the rest of the patient won't survive unless this is done, and similarly, while I really don't want to "amputate" an entire chapter, if I don't do it, the rest of the course might not get completed.

    So this is what I'm going to do -- I'm going to freshly re-read all of Chapter 12 and Chapter 13, then just go onto the Chapter 12 and 13 exam without completing the exercises. I understand the theory of linked lists and other data structures, it's just that implementing them on my own would take FOREVER, especially with overloaded operators, overloaded copy constructors, and other stupid features they want us to add in.

    I think I can do just fine on the exams for Chapter 12 and 13 without completing the Chapter 13 exams, the problem with skipping these exercises is that I skip valuable C++ programming experience that I might not otherwise get (I'm definitely not planning to practice operator overloading or templates on my own time).

    I barely passed C++ Programming for Game Developers - Module I with a score in the low 70s, I'm afraid that if I cut corners, I'll get even less in C++ Module II. However, if I don't cut loose these demonic, straight-from-the-depths-of-hell Chapter 13 exercises and never complete the course, that'll be even worse.


    February 10, 2009: UPDATE 2
    Five Fun Facts about Siberia and Russia in General:

  • Lake Baikal, in Irkutsk, is not only the deepest lake in the world, but if every human being on earth used only Lake Baikal water and used 50 liters per person, the water in the lake would support the entire earth's population for 25 years.
  • The Byryat (possibly spelled Buryat, she wasn't sure) people are ethnic Mongols who are citizens of Russia.
  • In Russia, one's middle name comes from one's father.
  • Krasaviza is the Russian word for "pretty girl."
  • Krasaviz is the Russian word for "handsome man."

    We're going to see a movie on Sunday night. Her suggestion.

    February 10, 2009
    In less than five hours, I'll be in Nakseongdae, on a date with Tanya, a 33-year-old Siberian woman that I met at a night club when me and Hwan-dae hit the Tin Pan club after midnight on Saturday. I don't know how the date will go, but hey, it'll be a new experience. I'm only going to get three hours of sleep right now, at this point, my schedule is completely messed up.

    As for other news, I came up with a good academic strategy -- just to make sure I finish my associate's degree on time (by June 21, the last day of spring), I'm planning to take some CLEP tests. They're expensive little buggers, at $70 plus the $75 administrative fee charged by the test center, but still. I think I should take College Algebra and some other easy subject that I already know. That way, worst case scenario, I'll get my associate's, and if all goes well, I'll have my associate's plus six credit hours. I guess I should buy the downloadable PDF study guides for those exams and get started.

    By the way, here's an interesting anecdote, courtesy of Teacher Jeon: Kimbap Cheonguk, my favorite Korean chain restaurant, is owned by the Jehovah's Witnesses (Yeo-ho-wa-eui Jeung-in). On some restaurants where the manager is a Jehovah's witness, there is a Muslim-style onion dome logo, and on Kimbap Cheonguk restaurants that aren't Jehovah's Witness-run, there is an empty space on the sign where the dome has either been covered, removed, or just never placed on the empty space. Interesting, I have eaten there for almost three years and never knew that. Still, great food, and I don't care if some cult operates it, the food is great.

    February 7, 2009
    One thing in life that really annoys me is that whenever you know a girl who seems fairly innocent, she always has a bunch of megaslut friends who corrupt her. I hate it.

    A long time ago, when I went out with Chung-hee, she seemed like a fairly average, non-slutty girl, but as soon as I met her friend Hyeon-jin, a hot little thing with five-inch heels, I *KNEW* Hyeon-jin would not give me a positive recommendation (since hot bitches with 5" heels never give a poor, non-hot guy a positive recommendation) and would corrupt Chung-hee. And I was right. Right after meeting Hyeon-jin, Chung-hee text messaged me and informed me that our relationship would not move forward until I got a regular salaried job at a public school. I am absolutely sure it was because of Hyeon-jin's influence.

    EVERY seemingly sweet, decent Korean girl is like this. The girl you like might go to church, volunteer at an orphanage, and work 60 hours a week, but she's always got some demi-prostitute friend who exerts enormous influence on her to go for the gold and has the philosophy of "girls, girls, get that cash."

    Just now, I met Tae-hee (the girl who works for the goshiwon)'s friend. Now, I want to specify that I had no interest in going after Tae-hee because she's too young and I'm leaving Korea anyway, but this friend some how managed to annoy me while being fairly cordial at the same time.

    Tae-hee's friend is one of those girls who is physically perfect and has that little diamond stud in the tragus of her ear, the mark of a doenjangnyeo, a playgirl who has at least one boyfriend at all times and extorts money from him to buy brand-name fashions and other such things (until he runs out of money, then she cheats on him and dumps him). When I asked her where she worked she said Yongsan, in a cafe. Gee, I wonder what kind of cafe. What a slut!

    So she actually didn't say or do anything mean to me, but by her mere presence, she really annoyed me. It's just another instance of finding out that any girl who you know to be decent has friends who will corrupt her, turn her into a greedy little bitch.

    I'm not trying to sound like Eminem or anything, it's just that I see this SO often. You know a girl with seemingly no hidden agenda, but her prostitute friends always influence her to "go for more." Call me misogynstic if you like, it's so irritating. Girls like these are so powerful and persuasive, they can take a fundamentalist Christian, volunteers-for-AIDS-orphans-in-Africa, has-never-cheated-in-her-life farm girl into a porn star in just 24 hours.

    February 6, 2009
    Well, today's going to be really busy because I have five different engagements in the next 24 hours. I've gotten my newspaper article done on legal brokers who rip off college students who have been arrested on copyright infringement charges (I had no idea Korea was even arresting them, but the newspaper says it is). Apparently a university student found guilty of piracy faces a fine of 1,000,000 won.

    I finished the book Chung Hyo Ye, basically a collection of translated Korean stories of devotion, filial piety, and fraternity that some ajummas in the Global Lounge gave to me for free, and I figured I'd read it just to heighten my knowledge of Korea. It was a semi-interesting read. One of the most interesting values that I found in the story was that we should be humane to animals -- try telling this to the butchers who beat dogs and pigs to death because they think the adrenaline makes the meat tastier. Believe it or not, in old Korea, many stories showed great rewards came to those who were kind to animals. For instance, a goose swallows a pearl and a man takes the blame for the incident so another man won't cut open the goose to find the pearl (the goose shits the pearl out the next morning). In Hungbu and Nolbu, Nolbu's house is destroyed by goblins and he and his wife are beaten, because they broke the leg of a bird on purpose (which ended up surviving, anyway). There were some other instances of this, too. I just found that sort of interesting.

    Another value is that leaders should dress as economically as possible and not show off with their clothing. King Sejong apparently is known as a king of 100 patches because he had so many patches on his clothes, and another famous Korean leader had only one set of clothing, period, which he had to wash quite frequently. One time, he was called up by the state during the night when the cotton was drying, so he just wore the outer clothes, and got found out for doing this. One other Korean ruler had just one set of winter clothes. So interestingly enough, the modern ideal of dressing well was the complete opposite for much of Korean history -- great rulers lived in straw houses and wore patched clothing that they rarely changed, to show their humility.

    However, some of the "hyo" (filial piety) stories were just sheerly ridiculous, like the girl who sold herself to sailors to become a human sacrifice so her father would have 300 sacks of rice to donate to the temple, so he could see again. That story was kind of dumb -- the girl drowned, the father had no daughter anymore, and we can presume he didn't regain his vision since merely donating sacks of grain to a temple is not exactly an effective treatment for blindness!

    Aside from that, lately, I've just been hanging around with Yamamoto and Hwan-dae. They want me to go cruising with them. I've always heard that guys from Korea never want to take westerners cruising because of hidden resentment towards whites stealing their women, but that guys from Japan have less of a problem with this, and it appears what I've heard is right. So I don't know where we're going to go, but Yamamoto-san says he knows a place. This will be interesting.

    As for other news, I got word that my $5,500 Stafford Loan has been approved, so by the beginning of March, I should have more than enough money to carry me all the way to the end of my associate's degree progress. YES!

    I should get to bed now. I have to wake up in six hours to write a handout for a presentation I'm giving in front of my Level 7 class. It doesn't need to be good, but still, I bet it'll take about an hour. Anyways, that's what has been up lately.

    February 3, 2009
    This is a rather dangerous time to be living in Korea. The regime in North Korea is changing and it's not looking good. They're preparing a Taepodong 2 for launch (a satellite spotted a truck moving a missile in preparation to launch, and according to one North Korean escapee professor, this might actually be a successor to the Taepodong 2), the head of state is changing to one of Kim Jong-il's sons, and North Korea is threatening to invade. On top of that, a South Korean group is going to launch a ton of balloons with propaganda fliers attached to North Korean bank notes to North Korea to incite a revolt, and so far the government hasn't overridden it, but it has been thought that this might further destabilize things.

    After spending over 4.5 years of my life here, the thought of an invasion seems pretty absurd, and this is probably just more northern saber-rattling, except that the new head of state is kind of worrisome -- could he be another Kim Il-sung? Unlike Kim Jong-il's endless empty threats, we don't know what the new dictator will do.

    I learned some interesting information about North Korea's economy via the Korea Times and some internet research. In North Korea, 2 kilograms of rice costs 5,000 North Korean won (which is, interestingly enough, about what you'd pay in South Korean won). 5,000 won will also buy a kilogram of pork in North Korea -- roughly the same as in South Korea. So it appears that the buying power of North Korean won (at least in terms of food) is about the same as South Korean won, but the problem is that according to my calculations, while the average South Korean makes about 20,000,000 won per year, the average North Korean only makes about 156,000 won per year (since the nominal GDP per capita is about $1,114 per year and the exchange rate is 140 DPRK won to the dollar, I'm assuming the aforementioned figure). So assuming that a North Korean buys only rice and receives no handouts from the communist government, that would be about 62 kilograms of dry rice per year. Now, assuming that rice expands in weight and volume by a factor of three when cooked, that's 186 kilograms of cooked white rice (approximately 1,000 cups of cooked rice). That's approximately 663 calories per day assuming 242 calories per cup. I don't think it's even possible to live on 663 calories (I know North Koreans often starve, but if 663 calories isn't just occasional starvation or malnourishment, it's a very short-term route to death). This is probably why rice is actually considered luxurious in North Korea, and they tend to eat more barley. Supposing that barley is half as expensive as rice, a North Korean could eat 1,326 calories of barley per day (probably survivable). However, I suspect that they get some additional food from communes, since it is a communist country after all. This probably means that someone who is very careful with their money, gets some food from the commune, and whose other needs are furnished by the state (like housing) can probably eat enough low quality food to sustain one's body, but it would go through all that person's money. Not a fun way to live life.

    February 2, 2009: UPDATE 2
    Well, I just finished Rising Sun by Michael Crichton. Overall, I'd say it was all right, but I had expected a little bit more, since I figured that Michael Crichton (my favorite author) plus Japan (the country that I want to move to next year) would make a killer combination. However, they didn't. The story just wasn't as much of a thriller as some of his others.

    The predictions in his book were laughably wrong, too. In the book, Connor, the Japanese liaison to the LAPD, is supposed to be an authority on Japan, and while I mostly agree that the character was well portrayed, it's obvious that the United States greatly feared Japan's rise in the early 1990s (the book was written in '92), and blew the threat way out of proportion. For example, Connor predicts that soon, the United States will have a smaller economy than the EU or Japan. This has obviously not become reality, as a quick check on Wikipedia shows Japan's economy at under 5 trillion dollars, whereas the US economy is worth over 14 trillion dollars. So the Japan guru in the book was making an economic prediction that simply didn't come true, not even by a long shot. I guess I'm kind of glad. Perhaps the book, by reaching #1 on the New York Times bestseller list, encouraged America to change its self-defeating policies and prevent Japan from further taking over the US economically.

    That said, Michael Crichton does make a few very good points in favor of protectionism. It is true that America lets people walk all over the United States and help out other countries, often ignoring its own interests. I have no doubt that what Rising Sun said about it being basically impossible to do business in Japan is true. It's just like an Asian country to have everything theoretically possible on paper (like owning a Japanese business) but in reality, conflicting laws and extreme racism to prevent any foreigner from every succeeding. Just look at Korea -- they have a five-year permanent residency scheme for foreigners -- how generous! Except that when you live here for several years, you notice that not a single foreigner actually has gotten it that way. This is called yu-myeong-mu-shil (nominality).

    Anyways, I'm glad Japan does not have the power over America that the book predicted, and maybe the book helped shift American opinion in favor of protecting US interests. I think that Michael Crichton got quite a few things right.

    As for other news, that bottle of Goryangju (or maybe it was the hastily-cooked tonkatsu I was eating, because I was rushing to watch House Season 2) got to my stomach and I barfed. I strongly doubt it was alcohol poisoning because I slept a night of sleep, then woke up and had a stomach ache for several hours, and THEN puked. Now I feel better, but I haven't tried eating anything yet.

    February 2, 2009
    I just woke up and I feel a little like the 80 proof Goryangju I drank last night killed all the bacteria in my stomach! Actually, I'm feeling better now, but not great. Anyways, this post will just be random thoughts, nothing particularly important.

    I'm watching the Superbowl right now. No, I'm not a football fan. In fact, I don't even know the specific rules (just the rough gist), and I dislike watching sports. It's just that I want to see the ads. I sure hope SBS doesn't cut out the ads and replace it with their own ads. Like that one where they pan a sparkling clean kitchen and the narrator woman asks (in Korean) "Where did the refrigerator go?" and then a moment later exclaims "Ah! It is hidden in the wall."

    I don't know if the Superbowl even normally makes it to SBS (I'm not a big Superbowl fan, so I normally wouldn't watch it, but I woke up early hung over, so why not). Heinz Ward is playing this time, though, so Koreans MUST watch it. After all, he's part Korean. They have his vital information on the screen right now -- born March 8, 1976, went to Jo-ji-a University, and plays for the Picheubeogeu Seutilleojeu team.

    Anyways, I really want to take an oceanography class. I had previously believed this to be impossible (NOVA only offers oceanography as an on-site course), but then I discovered one community college in Virginia that offers an oceanography course that's actually slightly cheaper per-credit than NOVA! I don't remember the name of the school, but I could find it again easily. Imagine the instructor's surprise when I log in and say "Like the other students, I live near the ocean, which is how I plan to complete this course. Except that my ocean is different from your ocean. Professor, is it okay if I take this course next to the Yellow Sea?" Anyways, there's no reason I can't register for this other community college and take a course there, because it's also a Virginia school, and since I'm a Virginia resident (by extreme technicality, I haven't actually lived there in years, but it's where I file my tax return and I haven't lived in any other states since leaving Virginia), I pay lower tuition (in the case of this school, less than $90 per credit hour).

    Today I plan to finish Michael Crichton's Rising Sun. Anyways, that's all.

    January 30, 2009: UPDATE 2
    It's increasingly coming to my attention that the CELTA English teacher training course I took in 2007 is not going to help me teach children. While it was useful for getting started on teaching adults who often already possess a high level of English, its grammar- and conversation-focused material is not going to help in front of a class of five-year-olds. I'd love to be able to land a position teaching just adults, but those generally require a master's degree or years of experience. Therefore, I've been thinking about taking the CELTYL extension course (like CELTA, but for young learners).

    If I take CELTYL, there will honestly be no financial benefit whatsoever, it'll be strictly for me and my students. I will actually lose money when I do the certification, but at least at the end of each teaching day, for the remainder of the time that I teach English, I can go home knowing "I knew what I was doing" regardless of whether the principal compliments my job performance or not.

    I'm trying to decide the following two things:
    1. Should I do Cambridge CELTYL, or should I do a non-Cambridge University course?
    2. In which country should I do the certification?

    Let's first go over the advantages of a CELTYL versus another certificate. If I get CELTYL, I will have Cambridge's name standing behind my work as I teach young kids in the future in China or Japan. On the off chance that an employer has heard of the certification, it'll hold a little bit more prestige.

    Now let's go over the advantages of a non-CELTYL certificate over CELTYL:

  • It may offer job placement. So for example, I could do a certificate in China and have a job on graduation.
  • Since non-CELTYL certificates are generally not regulated by a central body like CELTYL is, I would learn country-specific skills (how to teach English to young learners in CHINA or JAPAN, not "every country on earth from Vietnam to Northern Europe"). This might help me learn how to effectively teach in the target country, whereas it's possible that some of CELTYL's methods might be unrealistic in East Asia where students are different from ESL students in the UK.
  • It's cheaper, probably by a matter of several hundred dollars.

    So a non-CELTYL certificate seems like a better idea, from the looks of it. I wonder which one I should do? Where should I do it? I guess I should get researching. I just want to make sure I know what I'm doing when I inevitably teach kids in China or Japan, and feel that CELTA will not help much with this.

    January 30, 2009
    Well, it's almost the end of both the week and the month (the first month in which I've been able to keep to a 3,000 won a day food budget for the whole month, including restaurant meals) -- it's Friday the 30th. My goals for this week have gone basically all right overall -- I have completed all realistically possible Japanese 101 work, all realistically possible Web Page Design 116 through Week 4 (it's only Week 3 right now), and I have dissected a Korean newspaper article for tomorrow and memorized all the words. The only goal that I'm not keeping up well on is C++ for Game Developers - Module II. The Linked List class is really becoming a huge thorn in my side. You know how every time you start an assignment and get lost and call it quits for the day, it becomes exponentially harder to return to the same assignment? That's happening with this. I'm hoping that a blitz of activity on Saturday can finish off the chapter, allowing me to start the Win32 programming chapter, which will be more fun than a barrel of monkeys (I'll probably complete that whole unit in a day or two, it'll be so much fun).

    As for other news, Hwan-dae invited me to go with him to some sort of international exchange place in Shinchon which is mostly populated by Koreans and Japanese to have cultural exchanges, but he thinks that an American in there would be a huge hit, and said that I can meet plenty of Japanese people there (which is good for my language skills, and let's admit it, I'll be cruising too). So I'm meeting Hwan-dae in the kitchen of the Sky Goshitel at 7:45 PM to go there. I wonder what it'll be like.

    I might comment that so far, the Web Page Design course has been RIDICULOUSLY easy. Like, in week four, the topic is resizing images, something I've known how to do for at least 10 years. Another week was spent learning how to upload documents with FTP. I guess it's a little bit disappointing how little web page design I'm learning, but on the other hand, it's REALLY easy and is going to allow me to reclaim 3.00cr with minimal effort. I guess that towards the end of the course, it covers style sheets and stuff I may not necessarily know, so maybe there's still a chance to learn something. Even if I don't, +3 credit hours!

    Today's Newspaper Article
    January 29, 2009
    It's just after midnight, and I'm at the PC bang. I just met the most interesting fellow at the goshiwon.

    His name is Hwang-dae. It's hard to say what country he's from, because he's part American, and part Korean, and yet, his native culture is Japan since his mother is a Zainichi Korean (Korean who lives permanently in Japan). So he speaks native Japanese and Korean as a second language, and does not appear to speak English, yet we think he may be able to get a US passport because his father, who is in America, is an American. Hwang-dae is very interested in America, and when he was 18 and finished school, he started working very hard to save up the money, and bought a Chevy Camaro. He apparently has a great love for US automobiles and the one time he went to the US (Los Angeles), one of his favorite activities was checking out numerous American cars.

    Being a multiracial person, he thinks America is a place he could really succeed, unlike Korea or Japan, but is worried that not being able to speak English would be a barrier to this. It's true, Americans tend to expect people in America to speak English, even if the person in question is an American who is returning to explore his roots and learn about his country. Still, it'll be interesting to get to know Hwang-dae, I can't say I've ever met someone in my life in Asia who has exactly the same story as him.

    As for other news, my Korean teacher and I talked some, and we were trying to figure out how I could force myself to read Korean newspaper articles to prepare specially for the TOPIK, and she suggested I bring in an article every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, write an analysis before coming, and show it to her. I said "but if we do that, I'll just not do it, and then what?" So then I asked her "How about every time I DON'T bring in an article, you take 2% off my grade? That way, I'll do it." She agreed. To the left is today's article. If I can learn a dozen words per day through these newspaper articles for the next nine months, I am fairly certain my vocabulary would be large enough to pass the TOPIK or KLPT at Level 5. In fact, Teacher Jeon thinks I'm setting my sites too low, and insists I have a chance at passing the Level 6, but I think she's overestimating my Korean level because my speaking is so far ahead of my other skills. So I'll just be happy with a Level 5.

    January 28, 2009
    It's -6 degrees right now. Bitter cold. When I wake up, the day will be a success if I accomplish the following:

  • For ART 116, respond to as many other posters as possible and/or necessary, and do as much work for the next week as I can.
  • Take the Speaking Quiz for Japanese. Once that is finished, there will be no more work to do in JPN 101, since the teacher only gives us our assignments one week in advance, and I'll be finished.
  • Implement five methods on my C++ course's Linked List program from hell.
  • Buy another copy of that book with 6,000 Korean words, since Navin has my copy. Do as much as possible towards converting my visa to a D-4, as well.
  • Walk at least 10,000 steps, which is inevitable since I'll be walking to school and probably going to the Immigration Office, as well.

    If I accomplish all these things, it will have been a very productive day. Then I can sit back and revel in how productive I was.

    January 25, 2009
    The Six-Week Plan

    - Do one unit of C++ Programming for Game Developers each week until Module II is finished.
    - Finish ALL of ART 116.
    - This way, two courses will be out of the way, and I can sign up for two more for the second half of the spring semester (along with one Excelsior College course). So my load will be barely any heavier.
    - For Korean, my goal is to feed the C-level words into a word list and review 250 each week (I should know the majority of these). I will continue doing this past the end of six weeks, eventually finishing the C-level words by the day of the TOPIK or KLPT, whichever comes first. I'm going to take both language tests aiming for a Level 5 in Korean, though I don't know if I'll make Level 5 the first time -- I'll allow until next testing (probably in the early fall) for that. I might be out of Korea by then, but at least the stuff will still be fresh in my mind. Anyways, after taking the initial tests this spring, I can set a new goal to get myself to Level 5 (probably dissection and memorization of a certain number of newspaper and other realia articles).
    - Since JPN 101 is not a self-paced course, just keep up with the course and get an A. So far, with about two weeks' work graded, I have a 99%, so I don't think this will be that hard.
    - As long as I do that stuff and keep up with administrative stuff (making sure to sign up for courses for the second half of the spring, etc) I should be fine.

    January 21, 2009
    I'm in the Global Lounge right now. I just had class.

    I asked Teacher Jeon what we are supposed to study for Level 7's exams. She said that the stuff we study in class is not directly related to the test, that the test is just a general test that can be prepared for in a multitude of ways. So I asked her, in Korean, "What if I don't study any of the stuff we learn in class, and instead study Joseon Ilbo (a Korean newspaper) articles? Would the effect be about the same?" She said it would be. I can study whatever I want, basically. And of course, if I fail, it won't really matter, I've already graduated and I get the student visa either way, plus I will retake Level 7 next term whether I fail or pass, just to extend my visa.

    However, I do have a sense of personal pride in my work, and would hate to just take a class and do nothing but sit there. So I'd like to set some kind of Korean goal -- a list of words to memorize, or that sort of thing. So I have been thinking about studying specifically for the TOPIK (Test of Proficiency in Korean) exam.

    The thing is, right now, my resume has KLPT Level 3 on it, but that's not very good -- I took that test nearly two years ago, so obviously the score is much lower than what I would get now. I'm pretty sure I could manage at least a Level 4 (intermediate high), probably even a Level 5 (advanced) on the TOPIK. I need to take the TOPIK and get credit for what I know. Who knows, maybe if I passed the TOPIK Level 5 (or, with an amazing stroke of luck, the Level 6), I could get some kind of internet-based translation job. And even if just got a Level 5, it would allow me to enter higher institutes of learning in Korea other than Yonsei. Not that I actually ever want to do that, but I might as well get it on my resume, you know?

    I took a book of 6,000 frequently-used Korean words and cross-referenced it with some old TOPIK questions. Almost none of the correct answers on the practice questions appear in the book, so it looks like that book would be pretty useless for studying for the TOPIK. The thing that annoys me about the TOPIK is that the list of words they use is a secret, so you could learn 20,000 useless words in the process of acquiring the 5,000 words useful to pass the Level 5, or 10,000 words necessary to pass the Level 6. That's so frustrating. I wish they'd just have a standardized, publicly-available list like the Japanese Language Proficiency Test.

    I just want to get an advanced score on the TOPIK before I leave Korea this summer (probably this summer), because there will never be another opportunity this efficient to pass the KLPT at a high level. The problem is that I don't know what to study to pass at a high level -- maybe I could already do it, or maybe I'm thousands of words away. I just don't know!

    In regard to other news, I applied for another Stafford Loan last night. If Korea's exchange rate continues to be horrible, and if the loan comes through, I will suddenly have TONS of buying power in Korea with that money.

    January 17, 2009
    I just did my grocery shopping, which is fun when you're on a really low budget (so far this year, I have kept myself on track with 3,000 won of food money a day). Eating on just over $2 a day isn't easy, but there are some guidelines that can make it more bearable:

  • Every week, have something special that the previous week didn't include. This will keep the selection from becoming too boring, which can lead to abandoning a budget and binging. For example, for the first week this year, I had tonkatsu (pork cutlets) for my "special item." I ate a whole bunch of pork cutlets. Then, the week after that, I tried out fish fillets by buying 22 fish fillets for that week. This week, the "special" is breakfast sandwiches. I bought eggs, ham, and a half loaf of whole grain bread. So I can toast the bread, fry up an egg, fry up some sausage, and combine them into something new that I didn't have last week.
  • Buy enough "staple items" to last the entire week. In my case, rice and kimchi are free, so all I need to do is augment that with some meat. I bought around 20 tonkatsu patties and two cans of tuna.
  • With my 3,000 won budget, there isn't a whole lot of room for alcohol, and quite frankly, I shouldn't drink nearly as much as I drank last year. So this year, I'm trying to limit myself to one bottle per week. So today, I picked up a bottle of makgeolli for 1,350 won (about $0.99).

    So here's the full list of everything I got:

  • 1 bottle of makgeolli
  • 2 cans of tuna
  • 6 eggs
  • 170 grams of sausage, which I will divide five-way so I can start off five days this week with a breakfast sandwich
  • 10 slices of whole grain bread
  • 20 tonkatsu patties
  • 1 tray of buchu (Korean leeks) for making pajeon (Korean pizza)

    I also have some steak sauce for the tonkatsu left over from a previous week, and some keunpa (a large wild onion) left over from last week, as well as some western cabbage. Using these items, this will be the meal line-up next week (I may deviate slightly): 20 pork cutlet with cabbage and kimchi meals, 6 breakfast sandwich meals, five pajeon-based meals, five chamchi deopbap (tuna with rice meals), and one day's worth of kimchi jjigae meals. That should allow me five small meals per day, which I prefer to eating three meals a day. Experts seem to agree that my system of five small meals a day is better than three meals, anyway. Anyways, I have all the food I need for the next week except flour (and I still have some won left over to buy that). So I should be fine and able to stick to the 3,000 won a day budget for food.

    As for other news, I got Dreamweaver set up, so I can really begin my web graphics (ART 116) course now. I will still hand-code this website until I have proof that I can accomplish more in Dreamweaver, though. Keep in mind, I've been making HTML pages without Dreamweaver for over ten years.

    January 15, 2009

    Deleted because I don't want to offend a certain person who may look at this site


    January 11, 2009
    I don't know why, but I have this strange feeling that something's wrong. Today was a pretty ordinary bum around the house day, with only a few *MINOR* setbacks (and I mean MINOR, like having trouble with a C++ exercise and someone canceling an appointment on me), but I have this feeling like something's really wrong. It's almost like a feeling of guilt, like you get when you stay home from school when you know you were healthy enough to go. This is very strange indeed. Though I've done some things in my life I should feel guilty about, I didn't seriously wrong anyone today, or even recently, that I'm aware of.

    What an odd feeling. It's like a premonition that something really bad is going to happen. Could it just be 48 hours of near-continuous isolation going to my head? If something bad happens tomorrow, you read it here on this site first.

    January 10, 2009: UPDATE 2
    I just took a long walk to the supermarket at the other end of the Geumhwa Tunnel in the freezing weather. It was really cold, and the supermarket wasn't particularly cheap. I'll probably just shop at Grandmart next time I do my grocery shopping, but still, I got some good stuff, and should be able to continue eating on 3,000 won a day like I have been doing since the new year.

    One thing I learned (from the ajumma behind me in line) is that you can make your own pajeongaru (powder for making Korean pajeon) from regular flour and 1/3 of a tablespoon of salt. This is useful information because when I leave Korea, I may not be able to buy pajeongaru anymore, but that shouldn't stop me from making pajeon.

    Another useful thing I learned (from the clerk ajumma) is that you can substitute a western-style round onion with what is called a "keunpa" when you make kimchi stew -- these keunpa are REALLY cheap, and produce a kimchi stew that isn't as sweet. I'm serious, a bundle of these keunpa (that look like large wild onions) is like literally the size of a house plant, and yet is only 500 won!

    I bought 22 fish fillets, as well, for 8,600 won. Now I can make a home version of saedaekdoshirak (a lunch box from Hansot) -- just fry up a fish patty, have some rice, some kimchi, and some seaweed (which I bought on this trip, too). So it should be a week of delicious eating -- I plan to eat saedaekdoshirak (fish-katsu patty with rice and seaweed and kimchi), pajeon (Korean pizza), kimchi jjigae (kimchi stew), and chamchi deopbap (tuna [and kimchi] with rice), all this week. Culinarily a great week indeed!

    Right now I'm watching "Narnia" on OCN. I remember those books from elementary school, they were all right.

    Today I studied all the stuff we covered in Korean class on Friday. It's so easy to memorize new words these days.

    January 10, 2009
    I had to sign up for at least six credit hours to get a $5,500 loan (that I really need), and I need to move my education forward as well, so I killed two birds with one stone and registered for two NOVA courses. Here they are:

  • JPN 101 (Beginning Japanese I) with Shigehisa Takako -- 5.00cr.
    The reason I signed up for this course is not to learn Japanese (this is probably way below my level), but simply to reclaim the credits that are rightfully mine. Since US schools won't acknowledge my 1.5 years of Yonsei study, I'll counteract that by taking boatloads of courses in subjects I already know, to reclaim the credit with a minimum of effort. I've already passed the Japanese Language Proficiency Test Level 4, so there's NO reason I can't breeze through JPN 101.
  • ART 116 (Design for the Web I) -- 3.00cr.
    The reasons I signed up for this course are: I think it'll be easy (more credit reclamation) and I can use the graphics I learn to create in this site, any future entrepreneurial endeavors, and maybe even as 2D art in games. So it'll both be low-stress, because it's an art course (perhaps even relaxing), and since I could use more skill in graphics, I think it'll be helpful.

    So those were my course choices. I'd actually wanted to sign up for Chinese 102 (because I already own the textbook, so one less thing to pay for and have shipped), but it appears the course was canceled.

    So expect this site to get prettier as I apply the stuff used in ART 116. My Japanese probably won't get any better because JPN 101 will be mostly stuff I already know, but at least I'll reclaim 5 credit hours that are rightfully mine.

    Oh, one more thing -- when my goal is 55 credits this year, how does just signing up for 8 credit hours (plus 4 for the Game Institute) make enough to stay on track? Well, I intend to register for 10 more credits slightly later this term, maybe around February or March.

    January 9, 2009
    Well, today was the first day of "Level 7."

    I'd say it was a pretty good first day. It boosted my self esteem, and the teacher, Jeon Ji-in, is a teacher I have already had (in Level 6, for reading class), so she walked into the classroom and said "Charles!" and it was cool because I already know she's an acceptable teacher.

    Unfortunately, I don't know any of my classmates from previous levels (the result of taking a six-month break before enrolling, I guess), but they seem reasonably nice and outgoing, especially a couple of those Chinese girls who seem very curious about me right now (like one who came up to me, asked me some questions, and then asked if I was a soldier, because of my camo pants), but will probably be much less curious in a few days when my novelty wears off.

    We mainly just had a group discussion about advertisements. The class only meets for one hour and 40 minutes of actual class time. Overall, it was a positive and unintimidating first day. Unlike every other level, there is no need to get the shit scared out of me -- I've already graduated, what do I care about my grades?

    I also have good news on the financial front. I'm sworn to secrecy on exactly how, but my financial situation has suddenly gotten much better thanks to a certain factor about which I am sworn to secrecy! So all in all, it's been a decent day. This morning, I watched some cheesy teen movie about high school girls that are actually witches, obviously aimed at an adolescent female audience and not me, and then I watched "The Lost World." Obviously the latter was much better than the former, except for Malcolm's annoying gymnastics-doing daughter. Before that, I had been playing Civilization II, for the first time in a LONG time. I played it on the easiest difficulty level and quickly conquered the world, then I set out to do what I had originally planned to do -- once ruling the world all by myself, I set out to create a perfect civilization. My civilization, over the course of over 10,000 years after conquering the world, grew to over 150,000,000 people. For those of you who play Civilization II, you will know that you generally need to have LOTS of cities and city improvements and farmland to reach that level. Perhaps I could have pushed the total number of people on the globe to twice or three times that if I continued to play, but it got boring. My approval rating for running such a good civilization was so high, I maxed out everything in the throne room (best throne, statues, renaissance art in the background, etc). It was really cool. I even converted the entire north pole to grassland and farmland, and built a number of cities right on the north pole, some of which grew to Size 20 or higher! I'm not kidding, cities on the north pole with millions of people! My best city (not on the north pole, but situated near rivers, which are very fertile), reached Size 40, or over 8 million people. Basically, as long as you build a Supermarket (increases yield of farmland), a Harbor (increases yield of ocean catches), an Aqueduct (allows the city to grow past Size 8), and a Sewer System (allows the city to grow even more), you're good to go. Oh, and be sure to install a Mass Transit system, or there will be constant pollution to deal with (which decreases edible food and can cause a very large city to experience a famine very quickly).

    I've got some appointments today, as well, that I'd rather not talk about. Anyways, just remember for today's post that my financial situation has seemingly gotten better, the first day of classes was good, and I did some quality Civ2 time and watched some movies on cable. So there you go.

    January 8, 2009
    Well, I just saw the class assignments for Yonsei KLI Level 7 -- literally 80% (12 / 15) people in my class are Chinese. Not kidding.

    I just found that kind of funny. As for the remaining three people, there's me, a Japanese person, and a person who appears to be Indian (their name is "Suratta," and a Google search shows that Suratta is a province in India). Anyways, just thought I'd update on that.

    By the way, for those of you who are wondering why I'm taking Level 7 when I've already graduated and when Yonsei screwed me so badly (you must not read my site very frequently), Level 7 is actually not part of the certificate program from which I graduated, it's a course for graduates and people with high Korean ability only. It's only half the price of regular courses, only two hours a day, and basically designed to allow students from poor countries (like China) to extend their visas for low cost. I'm taking it because I simply don't want to risk an eighth consecutive tourist visa re-entry.

    The course starts tomorrow. I think there will be very little pressure, because the course is apparently meant to be easy, I've already graduated so it doesn't matter, and I know it won't transfer, so my college career is not at issue. Basically, as long as I just attend 80 of the 100 hours of the class, I can keep extending my student visa whether I pass the course or not. So I plan to just come to class, and maybe do 30 minutes of homework prior to coming to keep sort of caught up, and that'll be about it.

    January 7, 2009
    Sometimes funding my life in Asia can be problematic, as would be expected for someone who funds his own education and has yet no official source of income! Recently, I have been staring into the gaping maw of total, all-out pennilessness (presuming that I pay spring term's tuition at Northern Virginia Community College Extended Learning Institute). HOWEVER, I have just found out some good news: I've been pre-approved for another Stafford Loan. Well, due to my status as a "freshman," I thought I could only borrow $3,500, which isn't enough to bring me to safety (even though I have earned 74 credits in my college career, but Yonsei's lies prevented most of those from being recognized). However, the financial aid counselor at Northern Virginia Community College just informed me that the limit has been raised to $5,500 for "freshmen" like myself! YES!

    So what this means is that I can go ahead and fulfill one of my new year's resolutions within about two months -- pay off my credit cards. I get that loan, pay off my credit card debt (most of which was originally used to pay for education), and still have thousands left over to spend on education. Sure, I'll have a whopping debt, still, but at least it'll all be with one creditor (Sallie Mae) and at a very low interest rate of 7% per year. Plus I don't have to make any payments on it until I drop below half time, and at the rate things are going, I'll be at least a half-time student for years more.

    I think I can swing my next round of courses even without the loan, but I need a safety net. So this will be a nice safety net, and will give me some startup capital to go job hunting in China when the summer comes.

    By the way, I want to mention that Rie Naka has left Korea and gone back to Japan, seemingly for good. She couldn't get her visa extended. There goes another one to Korea's visa fascism. Because, you know, why bother giving a visa to a dental nurse? I mean, sure dental nurse is a helpful profession to society, but she's a foreigner, so heaven forbid that they give her a visa to do something that would allow her to contribute to Korea's overall health. Anyways, I kind of knew it would happen, all true foreigners eventually succumb to Korea's harsh visa laws and leave, and hopefully this year, I'll be one of them (remember, one of my goals for this year is to get out of this country). I think I'll see Rie again someday, since I plan to move to Japan, and since she says she plans to stay there indefinitely.

    January 6, 2009
    Well, we never did find out what happened to my other shoe. I had a pair of shoes I bought not too long ago for 10,000 won, and one day, I looked on the shelf in the main area where I put them, and one of them was gone. So I don't think it was stolen (who would steal a single dirty, cheap shoe), but I think some drunk person probably knocked it down the stairs (after which it was found and thrown away), or something like that. It pissed me off, because I'm really, really strapped for cash right now and the last thing I need is to have to go out and spend more money on a pair of shoes.

    I realize the shoes were cheap, but I don't know if I could find them at that price again. This was more of a pride issue.

    I asked the ajumma about checking the surveillance camera to find out who knocked them down the stairs. She asked me how much the shoes had cost, and I told her that while they were only 10,000 won, I doubted I could find a comparable pair again for the same price because I had bought them from a man selling shoes on a street corner. She said she couldn't see on the film who had done it, but then said she'd knock 20,000 won off my rent to cover the cost of new shoes. I told her that it wasn't necessary, that I was okay, and that it wasn't her fault, so she didn't need to do it. Then she feigned anger and said "YOU HAVE TO SAY 'UNDERSTOOD' FOR ME TO GO [BACK] DOWNSTAIRS!" Well, I didn't want to piss her off, so I said, "understood, thank you." Then she started smiling again, so I know she wasn't actually pissed off, she was just trying to make it easier for me to accept her offer.

    I am thankful to the ajumma for being willing to sacrifice 20,000 won of her own money in these tough economic times when it wasn't even her fault. I guess I'm a little bit relieved now because I won't be out any money, but still, it feels mildly bad that the ajumma ends up paying for some drunkard's mistake. Why should a nice, friendly person like the ajumma have to foot the bill for some moron like the person who lost one of my shoes? Oh well, it's only a small problem, overall, I guess I shouldn't stress about it. Maybe if I ever get out of this economic blackhole that I'm in right now, I can secretly slip her the 20,000 won back, with a note attached, or something like that.

    In terms of other news, I finished up TWO chapters of C++ yesterday, so yesterday was very productive. Today, I read the entire chapter on the Standard Template Library, and I'm really starting to get tired of all these C++ theory chapters, BUT it's the last one.

    The chapter covers things like linked lists, stacks, queues, deques, and maps. BORING. I mean, some of these things can lead to better speed and efficiency in my programs if implemented correctly, but do not allow me to do anything I could not technically do before.

    Unfortunately, the exercises at the end of the chapter look like KILLER exercises. I mean, the first one expects me to create a linked list class myself, in which I have to work with pointers for the previous and subsequent element, have to conform to a class definition file that THEY give me, and the icing on the evil cake is that I have to even do some operator overloading. I seriously think that assignment alone could take me five or ten hours!

    However, once I'm done with this Chapter (Chapter 13) things should get MUCH better, because the next chapter is on Windows programming, something I've wanted to learn for literally a decade. Then the chapter headings get progressively more interesting. I just have to stick it out and finish these last tedious exercises, and then it's pure fun.

    January 4, 2009
    Well, I finally shelled out the cash and paid for C++ Programming for Game Developers - Module II. I've learned how to program in C++ for the Win32 console, and I signed up for this course hoping to learn how to make Windows programs (complete with graphical user interfaces, graphics, animation, double buffering, mouse input, etc).

    In the fifth chapter of the course, we will finally get into Windows programming, but first, they're going to bore us to tears for four more chapters of questionably useful Win32 console crap. This chapter that I started and finished today, called "Introduction to Templates," is probably one of the least rewarding chapters I've ever covered in our C++ textbooks. A template is a way that a programmer can define a function or class for many different types (ints, floats, strings, user-defined types [objects]), etc. Personally I don't see much use for this in game programming. Perhaps it would be more useful in, say, spreadsheeting, in which what kind of data the user will input is not certain, and the functions in the program need to deal with whether the user puts a number into a cell, a floating point number, or types out a label instead of a number. In a case like that, a function could benefit from being made a template function, because then it could deal with several different types of input without having to rewrite much code. However, a game is not a spreadsheet, and I don't know of any games that needed to bubble sort an unsorted list (without knowing the type of list). Sure, bubble sorting is useful, but is the program really not going to know what kind of input is going to come?

    I guess in theory, I can find an application for this. Let's say a programmer is writing a game, and the game has many inventory types for items. One inventory holds items usable in combat (an object type called "item"), and one inventory holds key items that don't have any use properties (an object called "keyItem"). The programmer only wants to write one sort algorithm, instead of retyping most of the same sort function code over and over again. Then I could see a use for templates, but it seems templates are completely unnecessary unless the platform you're programming for is so limited, it has extremely little memory and cannot hold two functions that do roughly the same thing. I can't think of any platform this limited. Plus, compilers often have difficulty with templates. For instance, Microsoft Visual C++ 2008 Express Edition has difficulty with template classes that are in separate files from their implementations.

    So long story short, I found this chapter pretty useless. I also had trouble with the exercises and gave up on two of three of them (because in the first one, it required using a previous exercise from Module I that I had been unable to get work without a runtime error due to erroneous instruction from the textbook), and in the last activity, I couldn't get it to work because there was an undefined variable _m in the header file, which I've never heard of, and it appears to have been a typo. So I only did one of the exercises for the chapter, so I theoretically know the basics of templates, but have a feeling not having done two of those exercises will hurt me on the exam I have to take next chapter. I don't care. I hate templates. I just want to rush and get to Windows programming, this other stuff is so damn tedious.

    Haeundae Beach, one of the topics covered in my photo essay
    January 2, 2009
    I have finally gotten my pictures from the November sightseeing trip in Busan developed! I have written a photo essay to encompass them. You can access it here or by clicking on "Photo Essays" and "My Ninth Trip to Busan."

    By the way, until Saturday, I am having a moratorium on visiting the sites Dave's ESL Cafe and Yahoo! Answers. Those two sites are wasting so many hours of my life, and inevitably, some rude poster or troll puts me in a bad mood. Since I don't really get much from those sites, I think it's time to quit them. So I'm going to try to go without them for a week. I've gotten Zach to sponsor me. If I sign on to one of them even once, I have to pay him $50. Since I'm poor right now, I hope this means I won't sign in.

    January 1, 2009
    For those of you in the United States, greetings from the year 2009! Last night I went over to Mijung's and we watched the folks in Jong-gak ringing the bell to welcome in the new year on television (even though the event was a mere 10-minute walk away, it would have been cold and crowded, and Margaret reports not even being able to see the bell). Here are some snapshots of why last year was memorable:

    The "Basketball Dragon" from Bongwonsa

    Bongsudae, a Signal Post I Visited in '08 with Yumi, My Language Exchange Partner (on Ansan)

    Shinchon, the Place I Moved Back to in '08 (from Hyehwa)

    The Goshiwon that I Began Inhabiting in '08

    Admittedly, the reason for the slim pickings on the pictures is that my camera is still in the shop, and the shop is closed today because of New Year's. I'll post some much better pictures that haven't been sitting for ages in a back directory of my website soon enough (maybe tomorrow).

    What important things happened to Charles in 2008?

    Education: Educationally-speaking, it was a productive and challenging year. I completed 32 credit hours -- 6 of those at Yonsei University Korean Language Institute, 22 of those at Northern Virginia Community College (through the Extended Learning Institute, obviously I didn't take a plane to Northern Virginia every day), and 4 of those through the Game Institute.

    In 2008, I graduated from Yonsei University Korean Language Institute, one of the proudest moments of my life, and theoretically assembled enough credits to get my associate's degree. However, tragedy struck when ECE, the agency in charge of importing foreign credits to the US, stated that it would not accept ANY credits from Yonsei University Korean Language Institute, setting my university progress back by nearly 1.5 years, in theory. I am determined not to let this set me back by this much, but it was still a severe blow and made me very angry at both the Korean Language Institute (for lying and saying it was university-level credit when the Korean government does not recognize it as such) and ECE.

    Educationally-speaking, I also crammed a ton of Japanese and passed the JLPT Level 4. Here is my official score report (remember that my listening score was extremely low because I did not understand the format of the test, but I still passed the JLPT):

    Finances: I sunk further in debt in '08, but found a certain way to significantly offset the cost of living. I was originally concerned about not having enough money to graduate from Yonsei KLI, but managed to scrape the funds together. Still, a goal for 2009 should be better financial health.

    Hardships: Obviously a big hardship was not being able to work legally. I have now lived in Korea for over 4.5 years of my life, and still do not have a working visa. I was going to get a job at a public school, but the accreditation catastrophe made this impossible. Other hardships included breaking up with girlfriends twice, as well as the accreditation crisis. Toby, my dog, also died. So it was not an easy year, but I pulled through in spite of it. I hope '09 is a happier year.

    Girls: I dated two women long-term in '08 (not at the same time), the first I'm sure wouldn't want me to go into detail on my website, and the second, although she might object, I don't care about her opinion and she can't read English anyway. Chung-hee was my first experience dating a Korean female anywhere near my same age for more than a couple of days. I learned an important lesson -- that young Korean girls cannot generally satisfy western men, and that western men cannot generally satisfy Korean girls. Therefore, I have decided not to pursue Korean women as obsessively from now on. Sure, they look great, but I generally cannot meet their expectations, and they generally cannot meet mine.

    Travel: I traveled to Japan no fewer than four times in '08. Twice, I went to Tsushima, I went to Osaka once, and I went to Fukuoka once (for the second time). Despite a few negative experiences in Osaka (realizing the place was a little bit too similar to Korea), I still plan to move to Japan within a couple of years. The other three trips were good, and the Osaka trip wasn't bad, it just wasn't great and had some eye-openers that Japan has its racists, too.

    Books: I read a number of books cover-to-cover in '08. Here is the list:

  • The Abs Diet by David Zinczenko
  • The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger
  • Contemporary Chinese Women Writers: Lapse of Time by Wang Anyi
  • C++ Programming for Games: Module I by Frank Luna
  • Old Dominion New Commonwealth: A History of Virginia: 1607 - 2007 by four different authors who I don't care to list
  • Star Trek: The Lost Years by J. M. Dillard

    Games:Unfortunately, I only finished one video game in '08 (I need to keep more current with the industry because I want to become a game programmer, so this is bad). It was Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings -- a mediocre Nintendo DS RPG trying to be an RTS. Someone stole my Nintendo DS, so I was never able to complete Hoshigami.

    Programming: Programming is worthy of mention because I want to become a professional programmer someday. The last three months of '08 were very fruitful for my programming. I learned C++ by starting and finishing a course at the Game Institute, starting in October and ending in December. I also wrote a game, available in the Programming section of this website, which is a Borland C++ 5.5 remake of my old graphical TI-83 role-playing game, Dungeon!.

    So overall, the year was filled with ups and downs, but was productive overall. More pictures from '08 will follow tomorrow when I get my camera back.

    Copyright (C) 2009 Charles Wetzel. All rights reserved.