An English teacher's blog about his travels and his digital art.

Month: February 2012 (page 1 of 2)

International Bowling in Daejeon, South Korea

If you know me well, you know that before I became a dashing, international English teacher, I was involved in ten-pin bowling for many, many years–25, to be exact. My main occupation was pin-spotting machine mechanic (and quite a good one, if I may so humbly say), and I also worked as manager (briefly) and co-owner of a 12-lane center in the small, but friendly town of Glendive, on the eastern prairie of Montana. Due to the circumstances of the occupation, I also became quite a good bowler, but I eventually tired of the job and decided to pursue what I’m doing now.

All-time Great Bowler Dick Weber

My Favorite All-time Bowler, Dick Weber

Although the only time I bowl nowadays is when I go back to Laos and Thailand (because I introduced my friend Nai to bowling), I still keep up an interest in the activity. So, I was quite attracted to the information that my friend and former bowling buddy, (let’s call him, umm, . . . Ken) from Great Falls, Montana, a member of the Montana Bowling Hall of Fame, (despite being left-handed) sent me this news about international bowling.

Go ahead and click on the link to get the details, but international bowling is coming to Daejeon, South Korea on June 16th this summer. “Ken” indicated that if I were interested in taking in the event, he might try to come to Korea (he’s been here before) to see it also (and to visit with me). Unfortunately, that’s the same day I start my summer vacation, and I’m flying back to Thailand on that very day. “Ken,” if it’s still gonna be here in 2013, I’ll definitely make arrangements to see it with you.

But, for everyone else, if you’re going to be attending the 2012 Expo here in Yeosu around that time, you might consider taking in the Daejeon international pro bowling tournament. More later.

First Sleep and Second Sleep

I finished a previous post, Korea’s Online Gaming Woes, by stating that other things wake me in the middle of the night or morning. Actually, I think I have something that’s called sleep maintenance insomnia, wherein I wake up at the same time every morning, usually between 2 and 3 o’clock. Most of time, I fall back asleep in 10 or 15 minutes. Some nights, I toss and turn for half an hour to an hour before being able to sleep again. Then, there are the times, especially on weekend nights, that I finally decide that I’m wide awake and won’t be able to get back to sleep immediately, so I get up around 3 a.m., brew a pot of coffee and surf the Internet for an hour or two before going back to bed. This mainly happens on weekend nights (Friday and Saturday) because I know that I can sleep in later. It occasionally happens on a school night, too, but, so far, my work hasn’t been affected by this nocturnal oddity. I really cannot remember a night in at least the past several years where I have not awoken in the wee hours.

Should I see a doctor about this? Luckily, no. This may actually be a throwback, so to speak, to pre-Industrial sleep habits, when people would have segmented sleep, a first sleep, followed by a waking period or one or two hours, and then a second sleep until time to get up for the day. The BBC News Magazine has an informative article about History Professor A. Roger Ekirch‘s research on the subject of segmented sleep.

 In 2001, historian Roger Ekirch of Virginia Tech published a seminal paper, drawn from 16 years of research, revealing a wealth of historical evidence that humans used to sleep in two distinct chunks.

His book At Day’s Close: Night in Times Past, published four years later, unearths more than 500 references to a segmented sleeping pattern – in diaries, court records, medical books and literature, from Homer’s Odyssey to an anthropological account of modern tribes in Nigeria

. . . these references describe a first sleep which began about two hours after dusk, followed by waking period of one or two hours and then a second sleep.

“It’s not just the number of references – it is the way they refer to it, as if it was common knowledge,” Ekirch says.

During this waking period people were quite active. They often got up, went to the toilet or smoked tobacco and some even visited neighbours. Most people stayed in bed, read, wrote and often prayed. Countless prayer manuals from the late 15th Century offered special prayers for the hours in between sleeps.

And these hours weren’t entirely solitary – people often chatted to bed-fellows or had sex.

Ekirch found that references to the first and second sleep started to disappear during the late 17th Century. This started among the urban upper classes in northern Europe and over the course of the next 200 years filtered down to the rest of Western society.

By the 1920s the idea of a first and second sleep had receded entirely from our social consciousness.

He attributes the initial shift to improvements in street lighting, domestic lighting and a surge in coffee houses – which were sometimes open all night. As the night became a place for legitimate activity and as that activity increased, the length of time people could dedicate to rest dwindled.

If you want to read more, Prof. Ekirch has a rather long, scholarly, but very interesting article on The American Historical Review.

So, I guess I’m experiencing an anachronistic type of sleep behavior. Should I get some medication for this, like sleeping pills? For me, that’s not an option–I hate medicine and I don’t even have aspirin in my apartment. And in another article written for the NY Times, entitled “Dreams Deferred,” Ekirch writes:

Remarkably, then, our pattern of consolidated sleep has been a relatively recent development, another product of the industrial age, while segmented sleep was long the natural form of our slumber, having a provenance as old as humankind. (Homer even invoked the term “first sleep” in “The Odyssey.”) For experts like Dr. Thomas Wehr, who conducted the experiments at the National Institute of Mental Health, some common sleep disorders may be nothing more than sleep’s older, primal pattern trying to reassert itself — “breaking through,” as Dr. Wehr has put it, into today’s “artificial world.”

That theory, of course, remains to be proved. In the meantime, rather than resort to excessive medication, Americans might try to remember that though they’re sleeping less, they’re sleeping better and more seamlessly than humans ever have in the past. We might, on occasion, even choose to emulate our ancestors, for whom the dead of night, rather than being a source of dread, often afforded a welcome refuge from the regimen of daily life.

So, waking up in the wee hours following a first sleep doesn’t seem to be a problem for me, at least. Unfortunately, though, many of my students seem to go into second sleep as soon as English class begins.

Expo 2012–How Many Visitors?

Here’s an article entitled “Yeosu Expo struggles with signage in other languages” from the Korea JoonAng Daily newspaper. The main premise of the article is that there are not enough directional signs in Chinese and Japanese to help visitors from those countries to find their way around Yeosu during the Expo. OK, valid supposition–I’ve seen no signs in those languages in Yeosu, but I haven’t really been looking for them either, so there may be some. However, the main point of this article to me is that it states:

About 250,000 Chinese and 150,000 Japanese are expected to attend the Yeosu expo. Organizers estimate they will make up approximately 73 percent of all foreign participants in the event.

Excuse me? This seems to be so typical of the misinformation going around about the Expo. Let’s see, 250,000 Chinese visitors and 150,000 Japanese? According to most of the other information I’ve read, there will be an estimated 8 million visitors to the Expo during its three-month run. That works out to about 85,000 visitors a day, something I find incredibly difficult to believe. I sincerely cannot imagine that there will be that many people coming into Yeosu every day, on average. Where the heck will every one stay? The weekends will be horrible. I just don’t believe the “official” estimates. I’ll find out this summer, and if I’m wrong, I’ll let you know. However, if there are going to be that many visitors, why is it that, according to the article, there will be such a small amount of Japanese and Chinese attendees, countries that are just a hop, skip, and a jump from Yeosu? Hmmmm. Another piece of info about which I am skeptical. Out of a supposed 8 million visitors, there will only be 400,000 from China and Japan? I’d say the reporting about the attendance in that article is completely wrong.

Beautiful Evening Sky

If you have clear skies this evening (Feb. 26th), look towards the west after the sun sets, when the sky is just starting to darken. You’ll see a beautiful formation of Jupiter, Venus and the crescent Moon. Here’s what it looked like from Yeosu just a short while ago. Definitely click on the photo a couple of times to get the large view. Not one of my better shots, but I hope you enjoy anyway.

Moon, Venus and Jupiter

Moon, Venus and Jupiter

World’s Most Dangerous Golf Course

So, you say you want to play golf in Korea and you’d like a challenging course? Well, the course across from the university, the Yeosu City Park Golf Course, is located on the side of a steep hill.

Yeosu City Park golf course

Yeosu City Park Golf Course

According to one of my students who often golfs there, it costs 90,000 won for 18 holes, but you also have to pay for a mandatory caddy, which costs another 90,000 won; however you can split the caddy fee between the other three people if you’re playing in a foursome. So, you’d pay about 112,000 won, $100 at the current exchange rate. That’s way too steep for me.

It also looks a little tame. If I were going to play, I’d want something more edgy, something with a little danger involved, like alligators or piranhas in the water hazards. Well, here’s a course for me and for you, if you’re up to it. According to the Total Pro Sports website, this layout is

 a golf course that has just one hole, live mine fields surrounding it on all sides, a sniper tower just past the green, and is located on the boarder [sic] between two countries that have a history of fighting between them. If this sounds like your “cup of tea,” you may want to consider taking a trip to Camp Bonifas’ golf course in Panmunjom, South Korea.


It’s a 192-yard, par-3 hole located on the DMZ between North and South Korea. On this course, if you shank a shot out of bounds, definitely don’t go looking for your ball! The website doesn’t indicate if life insurance is included with the green fee.

Korea’s Online Gaming Woes

First, let me state that “gaming” in the post title does not refer to online gambling, like poker or other card games or virtual slot machines. Here it refers to online computer or video game playing.

Let me also state that I enjoy playing computer games, even in my somewhat advanced state of decrepitude . . . err, I mean in my wise, mature years. I mostly still play quite a few of the old classic simulation games, like the Civilization and Railroad Tycoon series, both debuting in the early ’90s. Also on my computer are strategy games, such as Panzer General and role-playing games (RPGs), my favorite being Baldur’s Gate. Most of the games on my computer, and I have many, originated in the early or mid 1990s, and you can still buy them very cheaply at various Internet sites. I get many of these classics from GOG (Good Old Games).

About the only new (modern) title that I regularly indulge in is my favorite baseball simulation (not a video game), Out of the Park Baseball (OOTPB). OOTPB 13 is due to be released in early April, just in time for the start of the new baseball season. I mainly play within a fictional major league against the computer. I am, of course, the General Manager and Manager of the New York Yankees. Unfortunately, I’ve finished under .500 the past three seasons–I’m sure I wouldn’t last 3 months under “The Boss,” legendary Yankees owner George Steinbrenner.

I’ve also been known to play some of the classic games ’round the clock. I distinctly remember playing Civilization I, when I first got my copy of it, from about 4 in the afternoon until 10 the next morning (it was a weekend, luckily). Mind you, now, these were (and are) games on my computer that I played against the computer, not head-to-head online.

That brings us to Korea’s present perceived problem of too many people getting addicted to online computer games, like World of Warcraft, Starcraft and others. These games are big business over here, with, even, professional gaming leagues and gaming stars pulling in big bucks.

It’s become such an addiction for some people, that incidences of domestic violence, bullying, murder, deaths due to exhaustion and deep vein thrombosis, and other consequences have been reported. In one very tragic case, a young couple let their 3-month child starve while they took care of a “virtual” child in an online game, spending most of their time in an Internet Cafe, rather than taking care of their real child. The Korean government estimates that their are 2 million Internet addicts in the country. So, they are trying to do something about it.

The government is proposing a new law that will allow people to play online games for only two hours, then the game will shut down. There will be a 10-minute cooling off period before users can login again, and then they can only login once more in a 24-hour period. This goes with a law passed last year that makes it illegal for young gamers to play certain games between the hours of midnight and 6 a.m.

Whew! It seems that on line gaming can be quite a problem. I know that some of my university students own up to staying awake into the wee hours of the morning and then coming to class barely able to keep their eyes open. Let’s hope something can be done about the problem. Of course, that raises the issue of WHO should do something. Should the government step in or should parents, relatives and friends, and/or the game companies take care of such matters? In the U.S., alcohol is regulated by the government, but if an adult wants to drink him or herself to death, the government can’t stop them. There are AA meetings, so how about IAA (Internet Addicts Anon.)? A complex, difficult issue for sure.

As for me, I only play a couple hours a day for at most a few days a week, if I even have that much time. Of course, I’m no longer a spring chicken. I have other things that wake me in the wee hours. I’ll write about THAT soon.

Other Sources: South Korea Introduces Yet Another Law to Curb Gamings Ills South Korea May Limit Young Online Gamers to 2 Hours a Day…to Prevent Bullying South Korea Targets Internet Addicts Video game addicts in South Korea could be limited to playing online for just four hours per day

Laos Kids

One of the fun subjects of travel photos is taking shots of kids. Children everywhere are ingenuous and innocent, and don’t seem to mind when some strange, old foreigner sticks a camera in their face. Most of the time, I’ve found, they like to ham it up for the lens. As usual when visiting Nai and his family in Laos, I had plenty of opportunities to take some shots of all the kids in the family area–sons and daughters of Nai’s brothers and sisters, cousins, nieces and nephews, as well as assorted neighborhood children.

While I was there, a couple of the families had birthday parties for their young daughters. Some of the photos, then, are from the parties.

Here, everyone’s getting ready for one of the parties, blowing up the balloons, preparing some of the food, with the bamboo baskets filled with sticky rice.

Children's Birthday Party

Laos Birthday Party

Earlier, the wife of Won (Wahn), one of Nai’s brothers, prepared the sticky rice. Sticky rice is eaten with your hands, generally out of a bamboo basket, and can be dipped into a hot (spicy) sauce, or can be used to grab a handful of really hot papaya salad.

Preparing Sticky Rice

Preparing the Sticky Rice

Some of the kids chowed down on a few appetizers.

Lao Kids Birthday Party

Chowing Down on a Few Appetizers

So, what exactly are they eating? Deep fried chicken feet, of course. (Never tried ’em myself)

Deep Fried Chicken Feet

Deep Fried Chicken Feet

Here’s one of the birthday girls, Took, who was 8 year old, if I’m not mistaken. Notice the money wrapped around her wrists with string–birthday gifts from the people attending the party. Most of it will probably go to her parents, to help with the party expenses, but she’ll get some of it, I’m sure.

Laos Birthday Girl

Birthday Girl, Took

Here’s Nai with his brother Guay’s (Gway) daughter.

Nai with baby

Nai with baby

Here’s a few shots of one of Won’s kids, just a cute, adorable little guy. I’d guess he’s about 4.

Lao Child

Cute Guy

Cute Lao Kid

Cute Young Guy

Hey, let’s see what those shades look like on you. Cool!

Young Lao boy with sunglasses

Cool Kid

And a few more shots. Looks like somebody got banged up. Guay’s daughter with Nui, one of Nai’s sisters.

Lao baby with slight injury.

Banged Up

Nap time?

Nap time for young girl

Nap Time

And finally, here’s Kim, never camera shy, the son of Nai’s sister Lot.

Lao Boy


I’ll try to get the final photos of my trip posted soon, so, as always, more later.

Temporal Distortion Video

Being a sci-fi fan, I find the io9(We Come From the Future) blog to be particularly interesting. Recently, they posted a beautiful time-lapse video entitled “Temporal Distortion,” by Randy Halverson.

According to Halverson,

It is the result of 20-30 second exposures edited together over many hours to produce the timelapse. This allows you to see the Milky Way, Aurora and other phenomena, in ways you wouldn’t normally see them.

You can click on the video below to watch it. Be sure to play it in full screen mode and turn up your sound. The music was written by Bear McCreary, who also wrote the stunning music for the Sci-Fi channel’s much-acclaimed remake of “Battlestar Galactica,” my favorite science fiction TV series. Watching this brought back fond memories of many nights spent looking through my telescopes under the amazingly dark skies of the eastern Montana prairie. Enjoy.

Temporal Distortion from Randy Halverson on Vimeo.

Laos-Thailand Trip Report: Nong Khai

So, if you read my previous posts about Wat Traimit and Bangkok, you probably know that I took the overnight train to Nong Khai, in northeast Thailand, just across the Mekong River from Laos. If I recall, this train used to run, more or less, on time; perhaps it was late, but usually no more than 30 minutes or so. However, the last couple of times I’ve taken it, it’s been 2 HOURS late pulling into Nong Khai. It departs from Bangkok’s Hualamphong Station at 8:30 p.m., but this trip, it didn’t pull into Nong Khai until 10:30 a.m. Hmmm, don’t know why it was so late, but perhaps the railway authorities were being cautious and slowed the train down because of possible damage done to the tracks due to the widespread flooding a few weeks before.

Anyway, I made it to Nong Khai OK and was met at the station by Nai. We checked into the Pantawee Hotel and stayed a few days there. The Pantawee had hung some new, attractive lanterns in the trees at the hotel since I’d last been there. I don’t know if they’ll be permanent decorations or if they were only seasonal, but they added a nice ambience to the property.

Pantawee Hotel Lantersn, Nong Khai, Thailand

Christmas Lanterns at Pantawee Hotel

Detracting from the usual peaceful ambience, however, was street construction going on right in front of the hotel. I usually like to sit at the outdoor patio in the morning to eat breakfast or just have a cup of coffee or two. The extreme noise and dust made it impossible to enjoy a quiet morning outside; sitting inside wasn’t too bad, though, and, occasionally work would halt for a short while, with the temporary silence standing in sharp contrast to the noise.

Nong Khai Street Construction

Street construction in front of the Pantawee Hotel

Another peaceful spot in Nong Khai is the promenade along the Mekong River. It’s quite pleasant to take a stroll, to sit in the shade of one of the gazebos, or to eat in one of the many restaurants. We usually have lunch and/or supper along here. Below are a few food photos of tom yam (tohm yahm), a spicy and sour soup, with fish, and fried rice with chicken. Nai and I shared the tom yam, and I had the fried rice. Both were delicious and cheap.

Tom Yam Thai Soup

Tom yam with fish

Thai Fried Rice with Chicken

Thai fried rice with chicken

You could also take a short excursion on the Mekong. Below are a couple of photos of boating leisure. The first was taken in Nong Khai and the second was taken last summer in Yeosu, looking down from the Dolsan Bridge. Which one would you prefer? I like both of them.

Taking a boat ride on the Mekong River

Taking a boat ride on the Mekong River

Lazy Day Fishing in Yeosu, South Korea

Lazy Day Fishing in Yeosu, South Korea

Probably the biggest highlight of the whole vacation was the chance to attend a live concert of Isaan music. Nai and I did just that on the evening of December 23rd. We enjoyed a 3 to 3 1/2 hour concert featuring traditional and modern Isaan music. Isaan is a region of northeast Thailand that features various aspects of Lao and Thai culture, including language, music and cuisine. I didn’t take any photos, but I did take about 50 minutes of video with my point-and-shoot camera. (I didn’t take the big DSLR with me on this trip.) The area in front of the stage was too crowded to get close, and I was handholding the camera in low light, so the videos aren’t all that great. But, I’m going to try to piece together the best bits into one video and get it posted here eventually. So, tune in for that and for a few photos of my visit to Laos. More later.

Expo 2012: The Official Blog in English

If you’re looking for more information about the Expo, and about Yeosu and South Korea, I just discovered an English-language website calling itself The Official Blog in English. It’s very informative, with topics like Are the Beaches of Yeosu so Beautiful? and Experiencing the Taste of Various Foods in Yeosu, a couple of articles written by students at one of the local high schools. Take a look at it when you get a chance.

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