Baseball Thoughts

After posting yesterday about the great weather we’ve been having lately, of course it’s been raining all day. According to the KMA (see South Korea links on the sidebar to the right), we’ve been blessed (!?) with almost 3 inches of rain, so far, with a bit more predicted to fall from now through tomorrow. I gave a tour of parts of Yeosu today to one of the new teachers, who has a car, but, tonight, with the rain still coming down, my thoughts have turned to the upcoming baseball season.

Yesterday, spring training games bloomed in Florida and Arizona, harbingers of the baseball season to come. The Yanks seem to have been shut out in the free agent market this past winter, but they picked up a few bargains. The starting rotation appears fragile, but youngsters, such as Ivan Nova (one of my former students at the Yankee baseball academy in the Dominican Republic), and aged veterans, like former Cy Young Award winner Bartolo Colon, may yet salvage the starting five. The bullpen, however, is deep, and Mo (Mariano Rivera), the best closer in history, is back to nail down the late inning wins.

The offense is still one of the best in baseball, led by Alex Rodriguez, Robinson Cano, Mark Teixeira, Jorge Posada and, hopefully, a resurgent Derek Jeter returning to form. Many baseball pundits predict that the Yanks won’t make it to the World Series, but I have high hopes.

Here’s a shot of young Mr. Super Nova that I took when some of the players gave a workshop on a visit to a Santo Domingo, D.R., orphanage. You can read my comments about that visit in November of 2007 in this post that I wrote at the time.

I usually subscribe to MLB TV to watch the Yanks play either live or at my leisure. It’s a pretty good deal if you live outside the country and can’t watch the games on local TV.

Another big baseball event, for me and other fans of computer text simulation baseball games, is the impending release, sometime in April, of version 12 of Out of the Park Baseball (OOTPB), an incredible simulation that lets you become the manager or general manager of a fictional or real baseball team. It’s very engrossing and realistic, and, if you’re a dyed-in-the-wool baseball fan, you’ll find yourself playing (wasting?) hours on the game. Until its release date, you can get it for $29.99 ($39.99 after it’s released). I already reserved my copy. You can download a free version, OOTPB8, to try it out. Click on the link in the side bar for more information about this great game.

See ya at the (virtual) ballpark.

Out of the Cave

We’ve been experiencing some glorious spring-like weather lately, so I decided to step out of my cave a few days ago and head on down to the Expo 2012 site to see what kind of progress is being made in preparation for next summer’s big event. The day started out overcast, but ended in some nice sunshine, so the earlier photos I took that day are a bit drab.

First, here’s a look at what the site is supposed to look like when it’s finished. As always, click on the images to get a larger version, especially this one in order to be able to read the map legend.

So, let’s start walking down the hill toward the site, near Odong Island. The first photo looks down on the site from just below the bizarre “whale” church. You remember the whale church, don’t you? Here’s a shot of it I took last year, in case you forgot what it looks like.

Here’s a photo of the area showing where we’re at in relation to the site.

We’re way up in the left corner, near the white structure with the thumb-like appendage sticking up. So, what does the site look like from there?

You can see Odong Island in the background with all the construction cranes working on the site. I counted a total of 18 cranes in operation, so work is proceeding apace, although only a few buildings are going up right now. The new hotel is at the far right and the green construction area just to the hotel’s left must be the aquarium, according to the map. If you enlarged the map, were standing a ways above number 9. So, let’s walk down to the site and go out to the island, just for the heck of it. We’ll climb up Jasan Park later and get some better shots of the site.

A new extension onto the jetty, with lighthouse, has been constructed, but it’s still being worked on and not yet open to the public. Here’s a couple of shots of it.

The airplane propellers at the top of the poles are wind-driven generators that provide electricity for the lighting. Here’s a closer view of the lighthouse.

Okay, let’s walk back and climb the steps to Jasan Park. On the way, from the causeway, we can see the new hotel going up (number 19 on the map).

Halfway up the steps, we get a better view of the site.

Now at the top of Jasan, here’s another view. Compare it to one taken last year, which follows the first one below.

There are a few noticeable differences–the new road snaking its way farther toward the site, a new building in the foreground, and other spot-the-difference details.

Well, now, as long as we’re here, let’s hike over to the other side of the park and see if the new bridge has been completed. Here’s a map of the park, by the way.

The previous two photos were taken from the path above number 12 on the map, the statue of the legendary Korean Admiral Yi Sun-shin.

Let’s continue along the path . . . whoa, what the heck’s that?

Ahhh, it’s one of the several monuments to Korean and international military veterans of the Korean War. This particular one, seen in silhouette against the sun, is number 5 on the map.

Alright, here’s a somewhat clear shot of the new bridge from Dolsan Island to the mainland. Hurray, it’s finished and the engineers got the two extensions to meet up in the middle! 🙂 It’s not open yet, since there’s no sign of a road going anywhere on this side.

Well, I hope you enjoyed our little walk. I’ll continue to post more photos of the ongoing construction of the Expo 2012 site, so stayed tuned for more later.

One more shot, though, to show the potential of HDR photos, about which I posted here. You can get some pretty surreal effects from HDR photography, but the photo below shows a more normal use. It’s of the hotel taken from inside the pagoda, number 13 on the Jasan Park map. If I had exposed optimally for the interior details, the background highlights would have been “blown out (overexposed);” if I had exposed for the highlights, the interior details wouldn’t have been visible (underexposed). My camera’s dynamic range could not take in both the shadow details and the background sky details in the same shot, though my eyes could easily see both. HDR (high dynamic range) to the rescue.

Dancing House

I just finished phoning my friend Nai in Laos and he breathlessly reported that Vientiane experienced an earthquake last night. I had trouble understanding him at first, but he told me, with his sometimes-bad pronunciation and his humorous, but creative, fracturing of English, that:

Last night we have same-same NieuwZhelind (it took a few repetitions for me to understand he was talking about the recent earthquake in New Zealand) and my house dancing (shaking) too much.

So, I searched the Internet, and, sure enough, there was a 4.6 magnitude ‘quake in the region last night. Fortunately, no one was hurt, but he said, in so many words, that some buildings had been damaged in the capital.

Strange and unusual, I thought, but a more powerful, 6.1 temblor struck in May of 2007 that rattled windows as far south as Bangkok, and again, fortunately, no deaths were reported. I’ve never thought of Laos as an earthquake-prone area, but I guess it happens every so often.

PeaceBomb Bracelet

Wow, talk about an oxymoron. Peace – Bomb. They don’t quite go together. But, in a great example of making lemonade when life gives you lemons, there is an organization in Laos that is doing just that. They are making bracelets of the scrap metal of unexploded bombs left over from the incredibly intense and atrocious (and probably illegal) U.S. bombing of the country during the Vietnam War. The peaceBOMB project is selling the bracelets, which are made by local artisans in Laos.

Here’s a description from the website:

All sorts of amazing products give back, but the peaceBOMB bracelet is in a category of its own. Crafted by local artisans in Laos—the world’s most-bombarded country—these beautiful bracelets are made out of bomb materials and scrap metal from America’s secret war in Laos, which was waged alongside the conflict in Vietnam. A product of the peaceBOMB Project, each purchase supports the artisan families in Naphia Village where the bracelets are made. Your purchase also includes a donation to the locally run Village Development Fund, which provides loans to poor families.

Be sure to watch the video.

When I go back to Laos this summer, I’m going to see if I can buy a bracelet there. If not, I’ll order one. It would make a great gift (hint, hint). Please try to support this worthy project.

Time Off and New Schedule

Whew, the previous seven-week session finally finished yesterday and none too soon, what with all the kids’ and other classes. Lots of overtime, so I’m not griping too much. Still, most of us foreign teachers have a very welcome eleven day break until the spring semester begins.

Usually, the spring semester begins on March 1st, but that date is also a holiday in Korea, Independence Movement Day, when Korea announced, in 1919, its independence from the imperial Japanese occupation of the peninsula. So, classes begin on March 2nd this year.

My scheduled classes, along with the other teachers’ classes, have been cut drastically. No more large amounts of overtime, unfortunately. Although I might gripe about how much work I have to do, when overtime payment rolls around (later this week), I’m pretty satisfied. Anyway, the Language Center has hired three new teachers, two ladies from the U.S. and one guy from Ireland. We usually have 6 instructors; now, we have nine. Fewer hours for everyone. One of the new teachers, by the way, was a graduate student at the University of Montana. She got her Master’s degree in Forestry there, and she and I have been emailing each other quite a bit, so I look forward to meeting her in person. Small world, eh?

The reason for the new teachers is that an older program has been revamped. We had some special classes for English students the last couple of years, the classes in which we took field trips, about which you can read in this post. The classes used to be held at 8 and 9 a.m., Monday through Thursday, and students had to attend them for both the spring and fall semesters. So, what could the students possibly have against such a wonderful schedule? The early hours, of course; some of them dropped out. So the Powers-That-Be decided to change the time and reduce the attendance requirement. Now, classes will be held from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m., Monday through Thursday, but students only have to attend for one semester. More hours per week will be taught, so there is the need for more teachers.

I was chosen to be one of the teachers, so I’ll be working those 3 hours per day, Monday through Thursday, and I’ll be teaching regular freshman English classes 3 days a week on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. That’s a pretty nice schedule, 21 contact hours per week, but, as I said, fewer hours than I’m used to and less overtime. However, I’ll be getting a bit extra pay per month, since my boss asked me to be the coordinator of the special classes. And, we’ll still get the field trips, which I really like.

Anyway, here’s to my first day of vacation. More (days) later.

Record Snowfall in South Korea

I was just listening to CNN on TV when they reported that the northeastern part of South Korea received the heaviest snowfall in the country in over a century, with a single-day record of 31 inches falling over the weekend. Wow! This is the first that I’d heard of the event. Here’s some links to various articles from Al Jazeera, the Voice of America and the Yonhap (Korea) News Agency.
Here’s a photo from the Yonhap Agency.

Korean Snowfall Feb_12_2011

We didn’t get anything down here–just the usual wind and near freezing temperatures. Coincidentally, a delegation from the International Olympic Committee is visiting to determine the suitability of South Korea to host the 2018 Winter Olympics. Great timing!

Frank Nitti is Dead

I know I’m REALLY dating myself here, but when I was a bit younger (ok, a LOT younger), my favorite weekly TV program was The Untouchables, which aired from 1959-1963. It starred Robert Stack as Eliot Ness, the Prohibition Era federal agent who helped put Al Capone behind bars, and was narrated by Walter Winchell, a popular and controversial gossip columnist of the ’30s, ’40s, and ’50s. The series was very popular at the time and was a kind of film-noir of televison. It featured many great actors of that time and future stars, also. One of my favorite characters was the villain, Frank Nitti, Capone’s henchman, who was portrayed by Bruce Gordon.

I was recently able to get a copy of the series, and I just watched the first episode, The Empty Chair. Very nostalgic. The Nelson Riddle theme music, Winchell’s narration, the action and the atmospheric sets brought back many memories. While I was watching the episode, I kept interrupting it to look on the Internet Movie Database (IMDB) for information on the stars and for other tidbits. According to the IMDB, Gordon, surprisingly, died only recently, on January 20th, in Santa Fe, New Mexico. He was 94, a couple weeks shy of 95. I was surprised that he had still been alive as recently as last month. RIP Mr. Gordon, a.k.a. Frank Nitti.

Red Beans and Rice For Supper

Yummm, what better than a big pot of red beans served over rice! Yeah, I’ve got some cooking right now. Here’s my recipe, sort of.

First, soak a pound, more or less, of medium red beans in water overnight.

At the moment, I’m sautĂ©ing a couple of links from a package of American-made Polish sausage (expensive) that I managed to find at E-Mart. Unfortunately, it’s not anything like that favorite of Cajun cooking, (my father’s side of the family is Cajun), Andouille sausage, but it’ll have to do. Added to that is a small, chopped ham steak and a couple of strips of chopped, Korean-made hickory-smoked bacon (supposedly) for that smoky, salty flavor. All in all, these three meats work pretty well.

When that’s about ready, I’m gonna throw in a couple of small chopped onions, a green, red and/or yellow bell pepper or two and cook until tender. Then I need to put in some garlic — I like lots — some Korean red pepper powder to taste, (cayenne is also good, but I don’t have any) and some Tabasco sauce, which is fairly prevalent here. Use your own judgment on that; I mainly add it for the special taste it provides, not especially for the heat factor. I also like to add a few chopped jalapenos (also easily found) for some extra kick — probably not really kosher Cajun, but to each his or her own. 🙂

Now, drain the beans (I’ve read that draining the soak water cuts down on the flatulence factor) and add to the mixture, cover with fresh water, add some bay leaves and thyme or what-not, and simmer the whole mess for several days . . . ummm, . . . well, for a few hours, at least. Serve over freshly-cooked rice garnished with some parsley and you’ve got a real treat.

Anyway, it’s cooking now, and you should smell it! Can you smell it? Heaven. Enjoy.

Cajun red beans and rice

P.S. If you’re ever in Bangkok, Thailand, and you’re hankerin’ for some real Cajun food, be sure to pop in to Bourbon Street, a superb Louisiana-style restaurant serving great Cajun cuisine.

Chinese New Year Holiday

Well, I survived the kids’ classes, which finished last Friday, and now, just in time, we’re getting a nice 5-day holiday in celebration of the Chinese New Year, called Seollal (pronounced suh-lahl) in Korea. The holiday itself is only three days, but this year it happens to fall on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday; thus, we get a really long weekend, so to speak. The New Year (based on the lunisolar calendar) is celebrated in China, of course, but is also a major holiday in Korea, Vietnam and a few other countries.

Also just in time is some much nicer weather, with temperatures sneaking into the 40s F. today and creeping up to 50 by the beginning of next week. Finally, I can go jogging outside, which I did in bright sunshine today. I hadn’t jogged in quite a while, due mainly to teaching most of the day, but also due to the cold, windy weather we had been experiencing for most of January. Hopefully (but doubtfully), it’ll stay this way until spring gets here. More later.