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The Most Dangerous Thing I Do

I usually ride my motorbike to and from work, 25 kilometers each way, six days a week, and five of those rides are at night, Monday through Friday. This is the most dangerous thing that I do, and it is, without a doubt, the most consistently risky thing that I’ve ever done. It’s been said that this is one South East Asia experience that you can live without. I’ll vouch for that, since I’ve had a fair number of close calls. I’ve been at times incredibly aware and careful and, to tell the truth, very, very lucky. Some other riders, though, have not been so lucky.

This is from a recent article on Yahoo! News, dated Aug. 28, 2016:

“Look at me, stay with us,” the paramedics shout as a barely conscious motorcyclist is bundled into a volunteer ambulance in the Laotian capital Vientiane, where rampant drink driving brings nightly carnage to the roads.

It is a grim scene familiar the world over.

But in Laos, an impoverished and authoritarian communist country with almost no state-funded medical services, these kind of vital lifesavers are volunteers and entirely funded by donations. . .

And they have never been more in demand.

Poorly maintained roads, dilapidated vehicles, an increase in motorcycle use and the widespread prevalence of drink driving makes Vientiane one of Asia’s most precarious capitals for road deaths.

I’ve seen two terrible accidents in the last couple of weeks on my ride back to the village, both of which occurred at night (rather than my Saturday afternoon return ride from Vientiane).

The first involved two motorbikes and a pick up truck. It looked like the two bikes had smashed into the back of the truck, putting quite a large dent in the tailgate. I came upon the accident, which happened in the lanes leading into town, and saw the pickup had pulled into the lanes leading out of town and had parked half on the road and half on the sidewalk. The two motorbikes were down on the other side of the road, looking pretty torn up. A couple of motorbike helmets lay in the road. As I drove slowly past, I noticed a large crowd of people surrounding the area, but ambulances and police hadn’t yet arrived, so this had just taken place. Then, I noticed a young lady, perhaps in her early-twenties, sprawled in the middle of the pavement. Her head was turned away from me, with her right cheek on the road, lying on her right arm with her left one behind her back. She looked pretty, from what I could tell, but, unfortunately, she looked quite dead. Usually at least a few people will be trying to help these accident victims, checking to see if they’re OK, comforting them while waiting for the ambulance, applying some makeshift first aid, or, sometimes, checking for a pulse. No one was near this victim, but many were looking at her from a respectful distance. I’ve ridden past a number of accident scenes in the last couple of years, but this is the first one that brought tears to my eyes. The victim looked so very much alone, lying in the middle of the pavement under a harsh street light. I can only imagine what her parents must have felt. With any luck, perhaps she was just knocked unconscious.

The other accident happened about a week later only a few kilometers down the road. Again, two motorbikes were involved, and it looked like they had smashed into each other. As I came upon the scene, I saw one guy, wearing a helmet, limping heavily to the side of the road with the aid of a bystander. Another man lay face down on the pavement, no helmet on, and a man was checking for his pulse on the side of his neck. The bystander stood up and walked away. I don’t know if the victim was dead or just unconscious, but I think the former. I went slowly and carefully on my way, though I don’t take time to dilly-dally and gawk, like many other people do. Again, this had just happened, probably no more than a minute before I passed through the area, which is right across the road from a karaoke bar that is usually very crowded. Of course, many motorbikes and cars are parked there, and, of course, many people get quite drunk there. I’m always extremely careful when I drive through the area because of the number of cars and motorbikes entering and leaving, and because of the number of drunks I’ve seen staggering down the middle of the road.

So, the conclusion is that I will continue to drive my bike with the utmost care and attention. It’s usually fun and a bit exhilarating, but it’s certainly no time to take risks. Wish me well.

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.

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:
ingame.msnbc.msn.com South Korea Introduces Yet Another Law to Curb Gamings Ills

Forbes.com South Korea May Limit Young Online Gamers to 2 Hours a Day…to Prevent Bullying

msnbc.msn.com South Korea Targets Internet Addicts

dailymail.co.uk Video game addicts in South Korea could be limited to playing online for just four hours per day

Spring Fever

In more ways than one. First, I apologize to all my Loyal Readers for not posting in such a long time. I suppose it’s partly my fault for being so lazy, but the main reason is that I’ve been fighting a ferocious cold for about a week and a half now. I haven’t really felt like doing much of anything except staying in bed. There were a few days that I thought about canceling my classes, but I got through them OK. Most of the other teachers and quite a few of the students have also had the same malady, so my misery had its company.

The last few days, though, I’ve been feeling much better, and just in time, too. We’re at the mid-semester break, with a whole week off–no more classes until April 25th. Very nice. I did manage to get out last Sunday morning and snap off a few photos of the spring blossoms around campus, so I’ll get some of those posted ASAP. Hopefully, then, I’ll be adding entries to the blog at a better rate than I have in the past few weeks. Stay tuned.

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.

Eating Healthy

What with all the teaching hours I’ve been doing, I don’t really have time to go to my dorm apartment and eat lunch. I’m off from noon until 2 p.m., but I use most of that time to do lesson plans. Still, because I eat only a small breakfast every day, I’m pretty hungry by lunch time. Luckily, one of the school cafeterias is just a short walk from my office, so I go there for a quick bite.

Like many institution eateries, the food isn’t all that great. It is, however, cheap (3,000 Korean won) and it’s pretty healthy. These 4 weeks of kids’ classes is about the only time I eat Korean food regularly. I’m glad it’s healthy, ‘cuz I’m not getting much exercise, except for on the weekends. Here’s a typical lunch.

From the top left, it’s tofu (or a variation thereof), the ubiquitous National Dish, kimchi (which is usually spicy fermented cabbage), a pasta of some kind, also spicy (I think it’s a rice-based pasta and very chewy), soup or broth, and rice. Not deliciously inviting, but, really, not all that bad, either. And, like I mentioned, healthy. Hasn’t stopped the weight from going up, though. Gotta get some regular exercise. One more week of kids’ classes to go, then back to the treadmill or outdoors, if the weather isn’t too cold or windy.

Colds . . . and Colder

I mentioned in a previous post that I was feeling a bit under the weather, but whatever the minor ailment was, it has passed. I didn’t do anything special, so I feel lucky that I didn’t get an early season cold. However, I was looking around for non-medicinal cold remedies, just in case. (I hate taking medicine, like pills, cough syrups and the like.)

One treatment that I’ve tried before with mixed results is using Korean citron “marmalade” and using it in hot water with a generous tablespoon of honey. It may not always work, but it sure tastes delicious and is quite soothing on cold winter days.

A not-so-appetizing treatment I found on ezinearticles.com consists of this:

Pour a little warm water into a dish and add a level teaspoon of your sodium bicarbonate. Stir it well and then immerse your nose and surrounding parts of your face into it. Slowly breathe the water up your nose until it reaches the point where it begins to overflow into your mouth. Then expel it and rinse your mouth out.

Be careful not to add more than a teaspoonful to the water, and that the dish is of a size that enables you to fit your face into. If the mixture is too strong it will sting your nose for a while. A little trial and error will tell you how warm the water should be, which is warm enough but not hot.

Do this three times a day, and it should see off even the heaviest of colds well ahead of time.

No doubt. It’ll probably cure hiccups, snoring, and leprosy, too.

From a website entitled grandpapencil.net comes this one:

Place your hat on the table and drink well from a large bottle of whisky until you see two hats.
Get into bed and stay there.

He also lists some Texas Cold Remedies that involve cow dung and weasel skins. Take a gander if you dare.

And how about cough drops. From associatedcontent.com comes this: Most interesting about the evolution of cough drops was the fact that by the 19th century drugs were added to the candies. Among the first such drugs were opiates such as morphine and heroin . It might not have fixed what ailed them, but users of the candy were probably so buzzed high they didn’t care. The cough drop manufacturers eventually turned to slightly less narcotized ingredients such as codeine, the staple of most cough medicine today.

Have you got an unusual cold remedy? Leave a comment to let everyone know what kind of winter cure you use.

On another “cold” note, the temperatures in Montana are getting cold early, it seems. Great Falls has a forecast of -5 F. (about -20 C.) for Monday. Have fun, global warming deniers. (Even though Dr. Jeff Masters on his Weather Underground blog points out that the year to date is the warmest on record.) 😎 More later.

Clear, But Not Dry

I woke up real early this morning, like, at 3:30, and looked out my window to see a beautiful, clear sky, the first time I’ve been able to see the morning stars in what seems like weeks. Some of the recent evenings have been mostly clear, but we’ve had mainly overcast morning skies for quite a while. This morning, there was a beautiful, waning crescent moon rising in the east, preceded by Capella, Aldebaran and the Pleiades.

Of course, just because it was clear doesn’t mean it wasn’t humid. Again, like it’s been every morning for the last month, the humidity was over 90% (95 today, according to the KMA website). Jogging is a real chore when there’s that much moisture in the air. It’s stamina-sapping, and by the time I’m finished, I’m drenched. Anyone who sees me jogging back to my apartment might think that I’ve been for an early morning swim. I managed to get in 67 minutes today, but my pace was oh, so sloowwwww. One positive aspect of losing all that water is that when I weigh myself after jogging, it looks like I’ve shed a couple of kilos!

Now, I’m going to watch the opening game of a 4-game set between the Yanks and the Red Sox. Yeah, I re-subscribed to MLB-TV in order to watch the teams struggle through the dog days of August and head down the stretch in September. The Red Sox have been devastated by injuries all season and are 6 1/2 games behind the Yanks. Hopefully, the New York squad can win 3 of 4 or even sweep the series; that would pretty much leave the Sox dead in the water as far as getting a spot in the playoffs.

Excuse me now while I go chug another liter of water. More later.

Still Here

Lest anyone think I’ve fallen off the face of the earth, I’m still kickin’. I returned from Thailand last weekend, and Language Center classes for the public-at-large began on Monday. I’m teaching 4 classes a day until children’s classes start in a few more weeks, when I’ll have one additional afternoon class. Right now I have classes from 9-12 and 7-8 in the evening. Thus, I’m off from noon until around 6, when I go to the office to prep for the next day’s classes. I also go in around 7:30 or 8 in the morning for more prep work.

I’ve been starting up my jogging program early in the morning–I mean EARLY; I go to the soccer field around 5:30 a.m. and jog for about an hour, then back to the apartment for breakfast and a shower, then up to the office. Around noon, I go to the gym weight room a few days a week for more punishment (well, at least I will be going–I just started yesterday and Thursday, and, geez, am I sore today). I finish the weights about 1 o’clock, then it’s time for lunch and . . . ummmm . . . time for . . . errrr . . . being lazy. Nap time, reading, watching TV, playing OOTP Baseball on the computer. Whatever. But, I haven’t been working on the blog. I’ve corrected that today. I’ve also been processing the photos today that I took on vacation, so I’ll be posting some of those soon. (Fingers crossed :smile:) Anyway, stay tuned for more later.

Out and About in Yeosu

I haven’t been out and about lately on my bicycle on Saturdays because I’ve been doing some long runs in the morning, (well, long runs for me, anyway–see my post of last Saturday), so sacrificing my legs for the morning run kind of cancels out any trips over the ubiquitous steep hills of Yeosu later in the day. :roll: I don’t know which I prefer doing more–jogging for an hour-and-a-half or riding my bicycle all over the place. Anyway, I HAVE done some rides on Sunday, so here are a few photos from some of those trips.

First up is a visit to the west side of the Yeosu peninsula. This is about 5 miles from the university, and it looks like a beautiful area to take a motorbike ride some weekend. The road snakes its way up and down the coast, but it’s far too distant too enjoy on a bicycle (not to mention steep.) Unfortunately, my motorbike has a flat tire right now, but I hope to spend some more time in this area later in the summer.

Yeosu_WestCoast1

Yeosu is famous (or infamous, depending on your economic or environmental leanings) for it’s gargantuan petro-chemical industrial area on the north coast of the peninsula. Taking the bus out of town, heading toward Seoul, this area is spectacular at night, with all of the lighting and steam and what-not. That’s not necessarily a good thing, of course, but it would make for some great photo ops. I hope to get out there some summer evening (not all that far on the bicycle) and get some shots. Here’s a couple of daytime photos of a VERY small part of the area; believe me, it’s huge.

Yeosu_Petro2

Yeosu_Petro1

Korea’s “bullet” train, the KTX, is being extended to Yeosu in time for the 2012 Expo. Right now, the journey to Seoul by bus takes about 5 hours, but the KTX line should cut the trip time in half. Here’s a look at how the construction’s going so far (not too far from the petro-chem area).

KTX_Construction1

I’ve got a few more shots of my bicycle trips out and about in Yeosu, so I’ll post more of them later.