Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Computer still broken, but now I have a PC on loan!

I was using the computer in the lobby today and Tim asked me why. Upon learning that my computer was broken, he offered to let me use his other computer. The one that I'm using now is the one that he brought with him, but it got a virus or something and so he started using another one, and put this one in a drawer. Anyway, now he let me use it! What an answer to prayer. Thanks Tim!

I also got a much needed haircut today, along with Chris. We wandered around Yukgurri looking for a barbershop someone had told us about, and later settled on one that looked decent enough even though it wasn't the one we were looking for. I picked the least offensive hairstyle of the Kids Menu and now I have a Korean hairstyle, which is much better than the homeless person hairstyle I was sporting only this morning. Here's a picture of the new me, complete with a goldfish growing from my shoulder.

Come to think of it, this picture doesn't really show the new hair, as I've messed it up already. Oh well, Mom will like it anyway. Ignore the grungy shirt, it's an old work shirt.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Quick computer issue update

There apparently is no longer an Acer service depot in Korea, so it looks like I will have to wait until I get back before I can do anything about it, which means:
A: No computer for the rest of the semester
B: No computer for the beginning of next semester(while it's being fixed)

Darn it.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Computer issues, election re-do, monopoly

The first issue here is that my computer has issues. Serious issues. Something is seriously wrong- it was making funny noises through the speakers just as I was going to sleep last night so I reached up from my bed and shut it off with the power button. After I came back from class yesterday (and praying, having suspected issues), I tried to start it again- after some varied results, it now does nothing. It won't POST, it won't do anything. The screen won't come on, it won't boot, nothing works at all. Occasionally some static will come from the speakers. I died inside a little bit. I only bought this PC this spring, so I'm a bit peeved. I'm hoping it's under warranty- I could have sworn it only had a 90 day warranty, but I looked up Acer's warranty on a similar model and it came back as one year. I'm not sure what to make of it, but please pray! I have no computer to use for anything, and I'm fairly sure that I can't just fix this problem. I may have to wait until I get back to the US to have it repaired.

Also, avid readers of my blog will remember that I made a fit about not being able to vote in the election. It turns out that me pitching a fit to the election people did actually make a difference! Between the exchange student voting issue and someone exposing a flaw in their system(someone voted with someone else's ID) , the election was called null. They have to fix these issues before they can hold another, so it may work out that the election is actually put off until next year. Hooray for change.

Also, I'm still playing a ton of Monopoly. With my computer the way it is, I may be playing a lot more. I really like Monopoly. A lot.

Please pray for my PC to be under warranty, and that the Acer depot in Korea will be able to fix it quickly.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Monopoly rules, taxation without representation, and I ate dog soup

Last week I spotted Monopoly in Young's office. Since then I think I've played 7 games. I forgot how great monopoly is. I won't let this launch into a tirade about how people these days can't appreciate a board game because they've been playing Halo for so long. Really, board games (especially Monopoly) are serious fun. I wish I had a miniature Monopoly set so I could play with the person next to me on the way back to the US(11 hours out of a 22 hour trip). It'd probably be easier to play Monopoly on a laptop instead of a board (OK, playing on a board would be impossible in economy class). Too bad my laptop doesn't last that long. I've won 3 of the last 4 games I played. Buying and building up Boardwalk and Park Place takes some luck and certainly some risk, but it almost always pays off. This last game I didn't get them and lost. There's a lot of chance involved, but skill is required also.

I've been getting involved in the student politics of Handong as of late. HGU has some very deficient areas in their global program that some international students are trying to fix- a International Student Union has been founded, a consitution ratified, etc- people are serious about this. I want to do everything I can to make the Handong experience good for the exchange students coming after me, and for the international students remaining here long term. Handong may call itself Handong Global University, but the attitudes on campus as very Korean, not global. Handong tends to like to think that they're global when in fact their school isn't as international-friendly as they'd like you to believe. I won't say it's bad, but it definitely needs change. A common Korean attitude is that one will automatically defer one's desires and needs to the convenience or whims of someone older or sitting in an office chair. This works fine if you were raised to think of someone a day older than you as infinitely superior to yourself and don't see any problem in giving up and dropping everything to suit someone's most unimportant detail. It's a very "do as you're told" system. Don't let this discourage you if you're thinking of coming to Handong, this really won't affect you that much unless you're trying to buck the trend as I am.

Anyway- Today was round two of student government voting here at Handong. There were originally four candidates and the winner must get 51% of the vote. Four candidates. 51% required. This makes no sense, but whatever. The first election just served to have the two losingest candidates concede the election, even though it's not intended as an elimination round. Fortunately the two awful candidates conceded and we were left with one candidate who actually cared(#2) and one who looks good on a poster and promised everyone everything under the sun(#1). I went to a debate aimed at international issues and between the two it seemed to me like #1 just wanted to figure out what people wanted to hear and say it, while #2 actually got it that the 'G' in 'HGU' means nothing right now(in the context of either "God's" or "Global") and was sincerely committed to doing everything to change that. Obviously all the international students were gunning for #2 because he's very much in favor of helping out the international students. I went to vote at both the elimination round and the sudden death round and both times I was refused. The first time I didn't really know what was going on, and when I got a second chance with the sudden death round I actually knew I was going to be refused and what I was going to say about it. I won't include all the details here, but essentially it amounted to the people running the election telling me that it didn't have voting rights because I was and exchange student and I didn't matter.

Now here's the thing- I paid 50 kilowon in various student government fees. It's not the money- the vote is worth more to me than the 50 kilowon going to Korean student government or to ISU. What matters is the legitimacy that taking my money implies. What they're saying is that I'm legitimate enough for them to take my money, but not legitimate enough for them to give them anything in return. That, my friends, is bull. I continued to get the runaround from student government people who were awed that I wasn't automatically willing to be screwed over and smile about it. It hasn't amounted to anything yet. The guy I spoke with last took my email(and to his credit, did empathize a bit with me that I was getting hosed) and promised to look into it for me. He was clear, though, that there was nothing he could do for me at that moment or in the near future. I was equally clear that the only future I had at Handong was the near future- but I can't expect the guy to change the whole system overnight. So what you can take away from this story is that the student government took my fees, refused to let me vote, and isn't going to do anything about it.

Things brings us to the most controversial issue of this blog post, and one that I'm sure will make some people think less of me. I ate some dog. Yes, I did. I know you like your dog. I like your dog too. Dogs are wonderful and can be great companions and pets. At the end of the day, though- I'm sorry, but dogs are still animals. Americans and much of the world may think of dogs as something more, but let this be perfectly clear: a commonly held ideal does not constitute a natural law regardless of how passionately people feel about it. People in the western world are passionate about dogs, and that's fine. Many people in Asia simply do not adhere to western ideals, specifically this one. It's not a matter of right or wrong- there is no absolute right or wrong in the decision of which animals are good to eat and which are not. To fill this gap, we have only a giant clump of emotion. While you're thinking how inconsiderate/inhumane/sickening/wrong it is to eat dog, have you ever though about how a Hindu would feel about you eating beef? A delicious cow to you is a sacred being to them. And do you know what? Neither you nor the Hindu is more right than the other. It's just a matter of personal and cultural convictions, not absolute truth. So yes, I ate dog. I know that many will think this is 'just plain wrong', but well- the truth is that this is governed only by feelings and faraway wishes. Do you know what you get when you govern only by feelings and faraway wishes? France.

Anyway, 12 of us went to a local restaurant in lieu of a traditional American Thanksgiving meal and we all agreed to stretch our boundaries and have something we'd not had before. It was a fun time and we all enjoyed it. Here's a pic of the group:

Monday, November 19, 2007

This was going to be a really happy blog post

This was going to be a really happy blog post.... until I went to take my laundry out of the washing machine. I put it in before I went to the gym and I came back to find it sopping wet, and sitting in a shallow pool of rinse water. Awesome. This isn't the first time I'm come to blows with the washing machines here, nearly every time I go to wash my clothes something craps out or screws up. I had to wring all of my dripping wet clothes out over the drain in the floor before I could attempt to dry them. Korea has these pre-drier spinner dealies- they spin most of the water out of your laundry. If you've ever been to a pool with a swimsuit centrifuge you'll know what I'm talking about. Interestingly enough, Koreans don't use driers. They just hang their clothes up. How we're supposed to do this with 41 square feet of floor space each, I don't know. Each dorm has only one dryer, even Dorm 2 which is something like 500 students. I-house, which is only half Korean, still only gets one dryer. Everyone is always fighting for some dryer time. I'm waiting for it to free up even this minute.
Anyway, the spinner dealie on my floor stopped working 2 minutes into the first of 8 spin cycles(takes 1/4 of a load, must be cycled twice to be effective). So I have to cart all my damp clothes downstairs and spin them there. That's where the dryer is, so I would have had to taken my clothes there eventually anyway. Each cycle takes 5 minutes, so I wasted spent one hour walking back and forth between Young's office while I waited for the spinner to be done so I could set it going again. It hops and crawls around the room as it spins. This might be entertaining if it didn't drain to the floor, and this activity didn't cause the entire floor to be covered in a slurry of spilled laundry detergent and water, just waiting for an errant garment to be dropped and instantly gross-ified.

Anyway, enough about laundry. I got my second test back for statics, it was an 80%. Yay! A vast improvement over my first test, on which I received a 13%. Dr. Henk the Merciful is going to let me retake that one in light of my recent improvement. I'm confident I'll make the grade now. What was the other thing I was happy about? I got so ticked off about the laundry issues here that I forgot. Let's see. I'm going to the gym more or less every day. I'm floating around 122kg, which is rather unsettling after becoming accustomed to rapid weight loss. I'm fairly sure it's because of the additional muscle I'm gaining(which unfortunately is still concealed by subcutaneous lipids).

Hrm... I finished Without Remorse for the second time and I am again more than contented with Clancy's authorial proficiency. Honestly, I wasn't sure that authorial was a real word until spellcheck accepted it. What is our world coming to? Spellcheck is going to run the world someday.

Also, I'm now responsible for selling 20 Handong shirts. International Student Union got some shirts printed up and nobody voted for the design I liked. I pestered Young about it enough(and walked into his office right as he was ordering) so I was able to get 20 of them printed even though only 3 people voted for them from Ihouse. I was happy 'cause I'd get my cool-design shirt and all would be well. They decided later that since I pushed for them to be printed that I'd be responsible for making sure they sell. Fair enough. Normally I'd be a bit irked at having the task thrust upon me without consent, but I'm not really worried about being able to sell 20 shirts on a campus of 3000. Also, I get to keep any profit from the deal. Works for me. (Shirts are cheap here, I'll probably be able to sell them for around 5 kilowon each, which is a steal compared to US shirt prices. No, I don't have a link to the design. Just imagine that Samsung owns Korea and has their logo plastered everywhere. Then imagine that Young changes their logo to say Handong instead. Ta-da!

I'm also happy because I've also come to terms with not doing certain things that I felt obliged to before but in reality are pretty dumb. That is: wearing indoor slippers on certain surfaces indoors(Koreans hate going barefoot.. I don't.) and attending pointless team meetings. LU has an orientation class for the first half of everyone's first semester. Great. Handong does the same thing, only it's everyone, every semester, compulsory attendance. Fortunately as exchange students we're not bound by this rule, so about half of us skip. I'd go if it wasn't stupid and didn't involve public humiliation. I'd feel bad about this if every upperclassman/Handong vet didn't agree with me. Also: eating Korean food.

So all in all, things are going well, save for laundry annoyances. In four weeks I'll be glad to get back to the States and its familiarity, but I'll miss certain things about Handong also.

Friday, November 16, 2007

I made banana nut bread.

And it is delicious. I was sitting in Marriage and Enrichment last week and the thought popped into my head: "banana nut bread is delectable". I wanted to make some, or at least eat some. I later mentioned this to the I-house director (Young), and it clicked- I-house was having an event (Open Mic Night) and had to make some baked goods. I volunteered to make some banana nut bread. So last night I helped Young and Mary make some confectionery- in addition to banana nut bread we made some cookies that ended up being topped with a a fudge project gone wrong. I used a recipe off of the internet which turned out fairly well. Walnuts were expensive so I had one of my minions pick nuts out of some trail mix that Young had instead.

I made 3 loaves, which turned out to be a lot more than I anticipated. This took 10 cups of flour, 15, bananas, lots of sugar and other stuff. There's only one real oven on campus(in the faculty apartments laundry room) because Korea loves cooktops instead of ranges because they're more compact. It was graduated in Celsius rather than Fahrenheit, and even knowing the conversion I think I had it turned up to hot. The edges of the loaves were slightly burnt, and somewhat dry. All in all, I was quite happy with how they turned out.

The event went pretty well- it was an open mic night and the International Cafe was packed out. A good time was had by all.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Fire Drill hilarity

I know I only posted yesterday, but this is too good to pass up. We've been warned for the last week or so about an impending fire drill. I talk frequently with Young(the dorm director) and he told me(and everyone) that the fire exits do not work, so do not try them. Due to that, the fact that this is a concrete building, and it's only happening now with 4 weeks left in the semester- this whole thing is a big joke. Tonight I came back from the gym a few minutes after 11(curfew, announcement time) and saw people walking around with jackets on. I learned that they were prepared for the minutes-away fire drill in which everyone would have to deal with the cold outdoors for a few minutes. I was mildly annoyed, as I had been planning to take a shower just then. After a few minutes of joking around about how pathetic this fire drill is, I remember to unplug my electronics(they kill the lights and power to the whole building). Just in time, I hear this very faint ringing sound from down the hall, and then the lights go out. Soon thereafter this announcement comes over the PA: "Just in case you were wondering, yes, that IS the fire alarm- remember what we went over in the safety lecture. Don't try to use the fire exits, they're locked so go out the front door. Yes, this really is the fire alarm."

I proceed to run to the fire exit and pound on the door yelling "OH NO! THE FIRE EXITS DON'T WORK! WE'RE ALL GOING TO DIE!". That got boring quickly(especially in the dark) so I remembered my nefarious plan and returned to my room to grab my towel, which I apply over my shorts. My shirt was already quite damp from exercising, so it was quite plausible to an onlooker that I had just stepped out of the shower(should have wetted my hair, hindsight is 20/20). I exit the building among some double-takes and join the assembly outside. A certain person who shall remain nameless lit off some fireworks, and the people from the dorm next to ours had a sparkler party. Every so often people would ask if I'd just gotten out of the shower, and I gave a vague answer. As things started to quiet down and get boring, the same nameless jokester points at me and yells "NED! PUT ON SOME CLOTHES! WHAT ARE YOU DOING OUTSIDE IN A TOWEL? ARE YOU CRAZY?!" I play along for a bit and this of course has everyone looking at me(interestingly enough, people saw fit to give me about 10 feet of clearance about that time). In due course I make an act of grabbing at my towel and yell "OH NO!" just before I rip it off. Of course I still had my shorts on underneath. The crowd was much amused.

After that Young exposed people who had been killed (stayed in the building after the alarm went off) using an anemic megaphone and we shuffled back inside. We all got complementary ramen for our trouble, which was nice.

So yeah, that's the short story made long but it was seriously hilarious. All in all, the fire drill was more of a brief social event than a safety procedure.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Startling job offer refusal pays off

This actually is old news(late October) but I never got around to posting it. If you recall my startling job offer from way back in August, I was contemplating working and living off campus, in the employ of a slightly-shady English school. I decided against it, as you probably surmised. A few weeks ago, I got an email starting like this:

Dear international students,

Currently, few international students in our school were fined for teaching in private academies with D-2 visa (student status). Moreover, Pohang Police start investigating private English academies (Hak-Won) and other place to find illegal working employees."

So yeah. If I had taken that job, I'd probably have been deported, fined, and barred from entering Korea in the future. Good judgment kicks butt.

Not much is new since I returned from Japan. Statics is more of a pain than ever. Last night we had been working on it for 9 hours off and on and we all just decided that it wasn't worth it- we were going to tell the prof that he really needs to think about the problems he assigns us, because when no one in the class can finish more than 2 problems after that long, there is something wrong. Also, we decided to wear towels to class on Thursday(over shorts, naturally) just for fun.

Also, we got the assignment we've been dreading in Literature today- we have to do a 15 minute skit for 15% of our grade. I'm not a fan of that policy.

I've been exercising more regularly, and I'm around 122.5 kg now, or 270lbs. Woot!

Monday, November 5, 2007

The post-Japan trip post

Normally I'm fairly quick at posting info on here, but I didn't feel like doing much after I got back from Japan on Sunday afternoon.

We left from school around 11AM on Wednesday, a two hour bus ride took us to the Busan seaport. We waited, went through customs/security etc and boarded the ship, departing at/around four. None of use knew how long the boat ride was, only that it was overnight and we'd set foot on Japan the next morning. We didn't know that the route actually took us to the other side of Japan- so we left Korea, crossed the Sea of Japan, went between the two biggest islands of Japan, did a 180, and docked in Osaka. It turned out to be a much longer trip than we anticipated- we thought we'd wake up in the morning already docked and ready to disembark- but actually we were still underway and got to see the whole deal of coming into port and docking, which was rather neat.

The boat was really big- not a full-blown cruise ship, but certainly big- total 8 decks, much of which was cargo. The passenger luxuries were on the upper 3/4 decks. It was a RORO(Roll On, Roll Off) ship which meant that it had a big ramp it would let down when it docked and trucks/forklifts/whatever could drive right onto the ship to load/unload cargo.

Being the nerd that I am, I was most excited to see and take pictures of the industrial aspects of the seaport, especially the container ships. As an engineer(ing student) I just have to give respect to the well-oiled, finely tuned, efficient machine that is sea shipping. Did you know that as recently as the 70's, it took 184 men 84 hours to unload a ship? Then some genius came up with the standard container system, and now it takes 42 men 13 hours to do the same thing. Booya. I secretly plan to see the world by building a house inside a 40' shipping container and covertly shipping myself(and my house) around the world on ships and trains. How cool would that be? Anyway.

We got off of the ship around 10AM on Thursday and went through security/customs again before boarding a minibus to see some sights. Japan drives on the left side of the road, like Australia. We first went to a Korean restaurant for lunch. Strange that we went to Japan and ate Korean food first- also strange that it was the best Korean food I've ever had. The people in that restaurant sure know how to season chicken. We then spent some time in an outdoor mall type place, where we learned that everything in Japan is overpriced. It was adjacent to a small amusement park/permacarnival that was having a slow day due to the overcast weather. Joe and Tim took advantage of the opportunity to ride an electric panda- think giant powerwheels shaped like a panda, covered in fur, and with an 'insert coin' slot. I took some video of that:

Panda Riding In Osaka

After the shopping mall/panda experience, we went on a walk down the Kobe shoreline and I saw the coolest thing ever: a container museum. Not a museum displaying containers, but a museum made of containers:
Apparently this is a portable art exhibit that can be set up anywhere. Maybe it's permanent- I didn't get the chance to go inside and see how exactly they made the two narrow containers into one wider structure. Neat, though! At the other end of this exhibit is portion of the damaged harbor structure that was cordoned off as an exhibit and memorial of the 1995 earthquake that decimated Osaka. Most of the buildings in Osaka are new because so many were destroyed or critically damaged and required renovation. This little section is what most of the city looked like after the quake.
We walked a few city blocks to get to our next destination, which gave me the opportunity to snap a few pictures of Japanese cars.
Then we arrived at our next destination, which was the largest Chinatown anywhere(except for, you know, China).

After a bit of wandering around in Chinatown, we boarded the minibus to go to our next stop. I kept hitting my head on the minichandelier.
Our next destination was a Japanese bathhouse that's been open for 100o years(or something like that). A few opted not to do the whole communal bathing experience, and they were bored. Most of us took the plunge. It was interesting, and as you can imagine involved being comfortable in a room full of naked Japanese strangers. (Yes, it was separated by sex) You'll understand that I didn't bring my camera in, hence no pictures. The water was opaque due to the mineral additives(some kind of red mud) and it was quite nice, and refreshing. It was 42 deg C, or 107 deg F. Doesn't sound all that hot- I've stood outside all day in 115 deg F heat and lived- but being immersed in water that temperature is quite, er, stimulating. After that, the next stop was dinner. I think dinner was a Chinese buffet, I have trouble keeping this mess of experience in order chronologically. The buffet had an elevated seating platform with the tables situated over holes so that people wishing to sit normally could, and people wishing to sit cross-legged Japanese style could too.

(I'll put a pic here when I can find Chris and steal one from him)

We went back to the hotel and tried sorting out plugging in our laptops and various electrical stuff into Japanese outlets, which are just like old-school American outlets, two prong with no ground pin, meaning anything with a ground pin won't work. We had one adapter to go around, which made things fun. The night was young and we watched movies. The next morning we had breakfast at the hotel, which was some kind of mixture between Japanese and several other styles. They had eggs, but they were cold and sliced from one big cooked slap. Sausages in both Korea and Japan are strange, but edible. There was soup and toast and thin yogurt, and a bunch of weirder items that I don't remember. We then all piled into the bus and set off for the Deer Park.

While in route, we saw how Japan does gas stations. Note that the entire area is free of gas pumps on the ground. One simply pulls up most anywhere, and an attendant comes over and fills your car from one of the fuel hoses that drops from the ceiling. This system is infinitely neat, though it sort of rules out self-service.
The Deer Park is a combination of a Buddhist temple and.. deer. There is a really massive Buddha inside, made of gold and bronze. I think it's the biggest metal Buddha anywhere, but I could be wrong.
This picture doesn't give you a decent sense of size- those red pillars on either side are about 4-5 feet diameter.
This is a big wooden statue of a warrior, which is also very tall. Again the wooden pillars are 4-5 feet thick! There were other attractions as well, such as a miniature.. something, some angry heads, and yet another giant statue:

At all of the temples we visited, there were various activities to be done, such as washing at a special fountain or rubbing some certain special statue's knees to supposedly get healing. I opted not to partake of any of these, the idea of it doesn't sit well with me. Some of our group did do these things, though. 1 Corintians 8, I suppose.

Outside of the main temple area there was the deer park, but to get there one had to wade through a ocean of Japanese schoolchildren. The deer have some special attribute, and are considered sacred.

Note my sweet new sandals in the pic above. Tyrell bought a package of deer crackers and was soon assaulted by hungry deer. Probably not hungry, actually, just desirous of crackers. They crackers don't taste very good, but I suppose a deer doesn't have it much better.
I stole one of Tyrell's crackers and fed a deer also.
After the deer park/temple, we headed to another temple. Temples were a popular place to visit on this trip, but not particularly exciting. This one again employed very thick columns to support the massive ornate roof, which you can see in this picture. Also, there's us. Yes, Tyrell is on my back.

They wouldn't let us take pictures inside, so here's a picture of the outside.
The temple has an attached museum. Back when this temple was built many moons ago, rope was poor quality, unable to support the weight of the massive trees that Buddhist temple builders seem to love so much. So they made ropes out of human hair. Here is one such rope, of a dozen or so total. I think the plaque said this one weighs 600lbs. That's a lot of hair!

This is a monument for a war in which Japan invaded Korea some centuries ago. The Japanese commander ordered that the ears of the people he conquered be cut off and brought back to Japan. This is where those ears now lie.
We had a traditional Japanese lunch, with short little tables that you sit on the floor to eat from. One theory goes that Japan had the first floor heating system, so the floor was always the warmest thing around- this made sitting on the floor advantageous, and now it's a cultural icon. Not sure if that's true or not, but I do know that floor heating is popular here. My feet are sweating.

Here's a tiny cement truck. All the trucks are smaller here, and their small trucks are truly matchbox-sized. I want one.

Here I am in the big Japanese market. If I ever get around to printing off pictures to send as postcards, I'll use this picture.

This area was also covered with Japanese schoolchildren. The market was situated on a street up a big hill which led up to... a temple.

Apparently saying a prayer to this dude helps to make you famous. I'll pass, thanks.

Here's a view from one of the giant porches that they had- you can see the other one off to the side. It was a good view of the city, but I don't remember which city exactly.

Again, giant trees to the rescue. I'm not sure why there's such an affinity for giant trees, but these ones helped the big porch last 400 years. Also, these porches used to be a place where people would wish for something, then jump. The theory went that if you survived, you'd get what you wished for. Seems like a raw deal to me.

Here is some of our group mingling with some more Japanese schoolchildren, though I think these particular ones are a big angsty. Uniforms are big business here.

A lady cooking up something rectangular. Not sure what they are, but the form things are neat.

You can't see it well, but that rectangular dealie behind the cat is a solar panel, and it provides the power to keep that cat's tail moving. It didn't occur to me at the time that a cat's wagging tail means that it's annoyed. I suppose it didn't occur to the people who made it either. There was another sort of cat that I actually wanted to get, but it was more than $30, not worth it. Maybe I'll buy one on eBay for big savings, and just tell people that I bought in Japan. It all amounts to the same thing, just skipping the middleman's wallet. You probably have seen them in Chinese restaurants, they look like this.

Here's Leo with some Japanese schoolchildren. They asked us to sign their worksheet for school, and gave us each an oragami crane. Neat.

One rule in Japan(and all of Asia) is that anything written in English isn't allowed to make any sense. This is especially true for stickers and apparel.
We never did figure out what exactly this machine was designed to do. If it was designed to get tourist's attention, then mission accomplished. I hope it had some other use also; if all they wanted to go was get tourist's attention, then a window full of cheaper prices would have done the trick.

This old shopkeeper lady had inexplicable blue hair. Not like typical old lady blue hair- more like punk rocker blue hair.

These poor girls in traditional Kimonos couldn't walk 15 feet without someone stopping them to take a picture. If they'd asked for 100 yen per picture, they could have made a lot of money.

Tyrell bought a bunch of stuff, and I'm pretty sure he would of ticked off a few people if he went out in public dressed like this. They sold the Japanese flag headbands, but for some reason I don't see your typical Japanese person being happy about a tourist wearing it around.

We visited a massive outdoor mall with all sorts of ridiculous displays, most of which were similar to this drunken dragon, jubilant gangster with giant earlobes, or giant animitronic crab.

We ate some okonomiyaki. I'm not sure what okonomiyaki is really- they have these giant pancake things made of (what looks like) egg, potato, imitation crab, snot, and bacon. Then they fry an egg, put it on top, cover it in mayonnaise, fish flakes, barbeque sauce flavored roofing tar, and I don't even know what else. It was interesting, and edible. This picture is of the guy vigorously spraying lots of mayo onto the okonomiyaki and anything close to them.

A bit blurry, but this is a Japanese book, which opens the opposite way. Japanese text(in books) reads top to bottom and right to left. On signs and short things, it's the opposite way.

Bikes are super-popular in Japan. It's not unusual to see a businessman in a fancy suit riding down the sidewalk on a bicycle- there's no wealth/status/age connotation for bicycle riding, it's just a cheap and easy way of getting around.

Joe and Tina and I. Tina is the person in charge of OICA(Office of International Community Advancement) and is the one who was semi-in-charge of the trip. It was all organized by another guy, but he had to go on another trip at the last minute and Tina filled in.

I can now officially say that I've been on a crowded Japanese subway. We went at an off-peak time, I'm told that during rush hour they have people employed to shove people in the cars so that the doors will close. It's not just a myth!

Some neat Japanese architecture. More offices get window space, but less offices total. A cool looking building, though. Speaking of buildings, those crazy folk in Dubai have taken over the record for the world's tallest freestanding structure with a skyscraper that isn't even done yet. It's going to be 818 meters tall when it's done! If you work near the top, half of your commute will be the elevator ride up! God help you if there's ever a fire and you need to take the stairs down- I hope they install spiral slides instead.
More Japanese architecture- but a few centuries prior this time. This is a big moat around the Osaka castle.

There's some legend about a Japanese famous guy who said that in order for a bird to be a bird, it must cry, and so to make it cry, we should hurt it. I'm not sure I follow, but that's why Tina is pretending to hold that bird at gunpoint. Tim apparently does not subscribe to that way of thinking.

I'm not sure why there was a lady dressed up in plastic samurai armor, but we opted to take a picture with her. She spoke decent English, too.

The one crossing of the inner moat. Earlier, I had told Tyrell that this castle would make a great place to hole up in case of a zombie invasion. I thought one could easily enough destroy the bridge, but unfortunately for any future zombie invasion escapees, this one is hewn from rock and not easily destroyed.

This is the Osaka Castle. It's tall- 8 stories to be precise. Not too bad for centuries ago. I bought a glass cube with the castle lasered into it- not bad for 525 yen. Well, not bad compared to the prices of everything else. There were about 114 yen to the dollar when we went.

The view from the top of the castle. Neat, eh? Naturally, the view from Osaka castle is Osaka. Neat how the city development just stops at the edge of the castle preserve.

This is me with Osaka as the backdrop. Note the chickenwire fence. It's ostensibly to prevent people from jumping off. Windows in Japan don't open all the way unless they're marked specifically for fire escape. Japan is called 'The Kingdom of the Suicide' because it has the highest suicide rate in the world. Spiritually, it's a pretty dark place. Japan has everything that any nation could want, yet more people in Japan can't stand to live than any other place. Less than 1% of the population is Christian. It's sad when a nation has to take significant measures to prevent its population from killing themselves.

This is the last picture I took before my camera batteries died. Luckily it didn't happen earlier, this was the last major event of the last day in Japan. I didn't bring my AA charger 1) because I didn't think I'd need it, as my AAs are pretty energetic 2) because I didn't think it'd work in Japan. Ironically, if I'd brought it it would have been the only thing that would have worked. Japan uses 100v with two prongs and no grounding. My AA charger is the only thing I have with no grounding prong- nothing else can plug in because the ground prong interferes. Hindsight: ALWAYS bring the charger.

The rest of the trip was good. After the castle tour we had bento for lunch in one of the surrounding restaurants. Bento is a Japanese box lunch, there's a special lunchbox with compartments for rice and whatever else. It's a neat system for 'brown-bagging', and commonly used in Japan. After lunch we reassembled and headed to the port again to head back to Korea. The trip back is much the same as the trip to, with the exception that a faculty person who shall remain nameless threatened to sign the whole group up to sing 'Amazing Grace' publicly in a Karaoke contest. Not cool. Tyrell, Greg, and I camped out on the deck of the ship with Tyrells laptop and watched a movie. We watched American Gangster before it actually was released in the US. Its plot is semi-related to the book I'm rereading right now(Without Remorse, Tom Clancy). It's a decent movie, but not for family viewing. While we were watching, some Korean girls came by and got excited at meeting some white boys. Tyrell had taken some pictures with them earlier. They were kind of like an assault team. They had some sparklers, which they gave to us in way of inviting us to, er, frolic with them. We obliged(kind of hard to refuse somebody handing you a lit sparkler, especially when it's being held over a laptop). We took pictures with them(much to their excitement) and went back to watching heroin dealers have a turf war.

We arrived in the morning and were back at Handong around 2PM.

That's Japan. These pictures are all from my Canon A75, which was a great camera 3 years ago when I got it. Today its megapixel count is looking rather anemic and it's always been a bit bulky in the pocket. I'm looking into getting a new camera soon, though it will probably be later rather than sooner. I'll likely go with another Canon, perhaps the SD1000. I'd like to get a thin, pocket-friendly camera- however, I often use some of the advanced-ish features for manual exposure that most pocket-sized cameras lack.

I'm catching up in Statics, we did homework tonight and I did most of it myself. I still need error checking from Joe on a regular basis, though. That's a habit I need to kick, because Joe won't be available on tests, and of course, the real world. Reinforced Concrete Engineering is looking like it will end up being an audit. All my other classes are going well enough, I wrote a hugely long series of essays for my Intercultural Studies class- take-home midterm. It ended up being 16 pages 1.5 spaced. I got a 90% on it, which is good enough. Some people got away with writing only 3 pages, but I don't regret going overboard because I learned more because of it, and I don't mind writing anyway.

Hrm, it's later than I though. Goodnight.