bookmark_borderPost-198: Ukraine Flag Wearer

On Sunday, February 23rd, 2014, the smoke over Ukraine seemed to be clearing, after a wild week.

Some Ukrainians far off in Washington D.C. were apparently celebrating the revolution, in the typical manner people celebrate World Cup victories:

A woman wearing a Ukraine flag with four men / Sun. Feb 23, 2014 /
New York Ave. & 13th St. NW / Three blocks from the White House

These (presumably-pro-revolution) Ukrainians were walking past one of those new “bikeshare” stands.

PictureOur lesson preparation session

I was in downtown Washington, D.C. to collaborate with my “teaching partner” for our lesson on Monday. I was to teach the first half, and he (M.H.) taught the second half of (what we made as) one long lesson. (We collaborated closely and created quite a great one. I was highly satisfied with the way it turned out.)

I walked around the streets of downtown Washington D.C. (eerily empty on the weekend) after leaving M.H.  It was then that I saw the “flag wearer” above. I got on the Metro and rode off to join my father and some of the church people for dinner (D.L. and the J.D. family).

It was a busy day, in which I entered and exited the District of Columbia twice, a rare thing for me. I seemed to be zipping around all the time the whole day. That very morning — about dawn — I’d gone to the train station to help my mother with her train ride to Connecticut. She will be there helping her sister for a few weeks, at least….

bookmark_borderPost-197: “Right Sector”, the Men Behind Ukraine’s Revolution [Video]

News of the Ukrainian Revolution of February 2014 continues to capture much of what free time I have these days.

To those who read my post-193 (“Ukrainian Insurgent Army, 1940s and 2010s”) and doubted that they were actually looking at the flag of the WWII-era, anti-Soviet, wildly-anti-Communist, pro-German [“collaborationist”] nationalist-paramilitary group called the Ukrainian Insurgent Army [UIA], see here:

I saw today a video put out by “Right Sector” which essentially names the UIA as a forerunner of its own group. Right Sector uses the UIA flag, actually, which explains why it showed up atop Kiev’s anti-government barricades.

I’d never heard of “Right Sector” before last week. It is a Ukrainian street-gang-style nationalist group, and seems to be a kind of armed wing of a political party (Svoboda) that got 11% of the vote two years ago. Russian media, in their typical form, calls them “neo-Nazis” (a term that the Russian media also applies to the meek Estonians).

Reading between the lines, Right Sector does seem to have instigated the major fighting in Kiev last week. They charged the police lines, killed several police, took scores more “hostage”at one point, and provoked the huge counter-attack. Some of their units, meanwhile, had ‘liberated’ a large armory in Lvov (western Ukraine). The weapons began to move towards Kiev. Seeing a determined, disciplined, now-better-armed, fanatical foe, for whom fear of death was not a strong deterrent, the kleptocrats of the Ukrainian government folded; the kleptocrat-in-chief disappeared. As of this writing, headlines are saying that President Yanukovich’s “whereabouts are unknown”.

Here is the video released three days ago by Right Sector, featuring one of its “commanders” [2:19, w/English subtitles]. The video seems to be an introduction to Right Sector, explaining what its goals and views are.


As this video may likely one day disappear, here is my attempt to describe it and transcribe the provided subtitles:
[Bold is what is spoken/subtitled]   [Bracketed: My description of what is happening on screen]

“Textual Transliteration” of the Right Sector Video
[Title of the video; a serious-sounding voice narrates] The Great Ukrainian Reconquista….

What is Right Sector fighting for?

[The camera cuts to a grizzled, tough-looking man, about 40, who sits at a desk, his hands on the table in non-clenched fists. He wears a wedding band on his finger and a brown, militaryesque shirt. Behind him there is a red-and-black flag with the words “Right Sector” (in Cyrilic) across the middle, with a sword emblem between the two words. When he begins to speak, he maintans a steady gaze at the camera. He speaks in a serious and official tone, as one would expect an actual military commander to speak]

[The man speaks] “We are the fighters and commanders of Right Sector. We remember the heroic struggles of Svyatoslav Khorobry and Danyl Halytsky, Bohdan Khmelnytsky, and the fighters of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army. We stand for the right of the people to revolt against injustice. We are conscious of the responsibility to the dead and disabled heroes of Maidan [the large Kiev square which was the site of the anti-government protests of November 2013 to February 2014, and the epicenter of the Ukrainian revolution of Feb. 2014].

We fight!”
[Video footage of street fighting is shown without narration; one scene shows a masked man throwing a firebomb; hundreds of police in anti-riot gear are shown; another scene shows masked men (RS members?) pushing a policeman to the ground and beating him]

[Narration returns] We stand for the right of every Ukrainian citizen to be treated with human dignity.

We demand that the “Berkut” (Ukrainian riot police) by criminally prosecuted for their repression of the movement. We stand against the humiliation and the impoverishment of the Ukrainian people. [A man without a shirt on shown amid light snow; he is a prisoner; he is hit on the head and beaten by a masked “Berkut” policeman; other scenes of the “Berkut” in armored vehicles follow.]

We stand against the state’s war against its own people. We stand for the direct election of judges. We stand against corrupt “phony democracy”. We stand against degeneracy and against “totalitarian liberalism”.

We stand for traditional national morality and family values
[images of young couples embracing, and young children smiling are shown].
We stand for large Ukrainian families, and for a physically and spiritually healthy youth. [Images of young male RS members, masked and in combat pose, are shown].  We stand against the “cult of corruption” and against moral depravity. [Footage of scantilty-dressed singers at a concert is shown].

We stand against any multinational integration plans that would dictate to Ukraine what to do. [A short video clip of Putin is shown during the preceding line; then, immediately afterward, of EU officials under an EU flag].

[A huge nighttime rally with large numbers of Ukrainian flags waving] We stand for unity; for the greatness of the Ukrainian nation. We are for a Ukrainian, and a European, “Reconquista”! [Images of RS fighters with shields bearing the “Black Sun” emblem are shown; a “Celtic Cross” is briefly shown.]

[The intense-looking man from the early part of the clip returns on screen] “Now is just the beginning. The beginning of the revival of the Kyivska Rus.

The revival of Europe starts —
with our Maidan!
[End of Video]


A still from the Right Sector video described above


A still of the unnamed commander of Right Sector

bookmark_borderPost-196: Pessimism in the USA

I feel more personally optimistic today than I did in the mid-2000s. The overall mood in the post-2008 world, though, is a lot more pessimistic.

It’s all about falling expectations, isn’t it. Ukraine is a case of this, I think. As of this writing (Saturday, Feb. 22nd, 2014), it seems that Ukraine has just undergone a nationalistic “revolution”, with echoes of 1989. Ukraine wasn’t doing so well in the 1980s, but, incredibly, in 2014 it has a substantially lower GDP-per-capita than it did in 1989! (See post-194).

I saw a poll showing that an incredible five-out-of-six White-Americans say that they are dissatisfied “with the way things are going” in the USA. Here is the breakdown by the various listed demographic groupings:

Demographic Groups that Think the USA is Going in the WRONG Direction:
          Overall: 32-to-10 [say that the USA is going in the wrong direction]
          Men: 40-to-10
          Women: 27-to-10

          Whites: 48-to-10
          Hispanics: 19-to-10

          Republicans: 133-to-10
          Independents: 46-to-10
          Democrats: 12-to-10

Demographic Groups that Think the USA is Going in the RIGHT Direction:

          Blacks: 11-to-10 [say that the USA is going in the right direction]

Here is the relevant excerpt from the poll:

Polling of 2,692 registered voters (+/-1.9% margin of error), From December 3-9, 2013 / Quinnipiac University [Link]

Gallup also asks this question in polls. It has “mood of the country” polling data for 1979-2014 online. Gallup corroborates the Quinnipiac poll, as it also finds the “mood of the country” today to be about 32-to-10 pessimistic.

This reminds me of a nice song, a lively song of nostalgic-lament, from the mid-2000s, by Guy Forsyth (b.1968):

It’s Been a Long Long Time
[Guy Forsyth]

It’s been a long, long, long, […..] time.
It’s been a long, long, long, […..] time.

When I was a kid I used to draw airplanes
with stars and bars shooting down airplanes
adorned with hammers and sickles.
I bought a hundred water guns
so I could save the world, saving my lunch money
and stealing my father’s quarters, dimes, and nickels.
I discovered religion watching
Luke Skywalker rescue Princess Leia
and destroying the Death Star by letting go and closing his eyes.
And I devoured comic books,
Three-color mythologies taught me right and wrong,
and if you believe,
you can fly.

It’s been a long, long, long, […..] time.
It’s been a long, long, long, […..] time.

I remember listening to songs about trains
and feeling the rush of wonder at the possibility
that the world was infinite and accessible all at the same time.
And then it was songs about highways
and born to be wild
and little red corvette
and the road went on forever in my mind.
But now it’s clogged bumper to bumper with stinking SUVs
and two-story pickup trucks that can drive over anything
except the two-story pickup truck right in front of it.
Not even the highways look the same,
Starbucks and 711s and Walmarts jam the feeder roads.
We don’t live around this mess, we live under it.

It’s been a long, long, long, […..] time.
It’s been a long, long, long, […..] time.
Since I felt fine.

Now all the songs are about gangsters and guns
and the TV speeds by at 100 deaths an hour
and everyone wants to pull off the crime of the century.
Steal two hundred gazillion dollars,
enough to buy myself an island
and build a real honest-to-God train on it
for no one but me.
And get away with it.
Get away with it.
We Americans are freedom-loving people
and nothing says “freedom” like getting away with it.
We went from Billy the Kid
to Richard Nixon, Enron, Exxon, O.J. Simpson…
We used to dream about heroes,
but now it’s just how to beat the system.

So where to we go to dream now?
Up on the roof of the projects,
straining through the city lights
to see if they’ve built golden arches on the Moon yet?
trying our best to stay distracted,
living life according to the TV set.
owning nations,
telling us “don’t change the station–
It’s the only safe way to win the human race.”

I wonder how the world sees us:
Rich beyond compare,
powerful without equal,
a spoiled, drunk, 15-year-old waving a gun in their face.

It’s been a long, long, long, […..] time.
It’s been a long, long, long, […..] time.
It’s been a long, long, long, […..] time.
It’s been a long, long, long, […..] time.
Since I felt fine.

I first heard this song in 2006. It really “spoke” to me at that time. It still does.

On the
line “we used to dream about heroes”: At one point in early 2012, when I was working in Bucheon, Korea, I found and played the Davey Crockett song. An American coworker/friend, C.H. from California (now in China), commented to the effect that the song comes from “a totally different nation” than the USA that exists today.

It’s a “road-goes-on-forever-in-my-mind” kind of song:

Davey Crockett — King of the Wild Frontier
Born on a mountaintop in Tennessee,
Greenest state in the land of the free.
Raised in the woods so’s he knew every tree,
Killed him a bear, when he was only three.

Davey, Davey Crockett!
King of the Wild Frontier

Fought single-handed through the Injun war,
Till the Creeks was whipped and the peace was restored.
While he was handling this risky chore,
Made himself a legend, forevermore.

Davey, Davey Crockett!
The man who don’t know fear

He went off to Congress and served a spell
Fixin’ up the government and laws as well.
Took over Washington, so I heard tell,
And patched up the crack in the Liberty Bell.

Davey, Davey Crockett!
Seein’ his duty clear

When he come home, his politickin’ was done,
Why, the Western March had just begun.
So he packed his gear, and his trusty gun
And lit out a-grinnin’ to follow the Sun!

Davey, Davey Crockett,
Leadin’ the Pioneer

bookmark_borderPost-195: Tragedy for a Classmate

We got bad news on Thursday.

I walked out of the elevator and into the institute at 8:50 AM, to find the main room deserted. Where is everybody? I put my bag down. Something felt “off”. Down the hallway
appeared A.F. (an effervescent veteran of musical theater, and one of the six CELTA candidates in our group). She said something that truly stunned me:

“[S.R.]’s brother was killed!”

“What!?” I said. 

A.F., for the first time ever, looked sad to me as she spoke those words. She beckoned for me to follow. I followed. Down the hallway, I soon saw S.R. The others were huddled around. (I was the last to arrive this day).

S.R. is a kind, talkative, motherly type, in her late 30s, from Indiana. She’d b(r)ought me coffee the day before. I’d asked for “just coffee”, but she’d insisted on “caramel chocolate latte” (which I’d never had). She went out, paid for it, brought it back up, handed it to me, smiling. That is the kind of person she is. “Christian-Charity” ought to be her middle name.

For about twenty minutes, we stood around, listening, and trying to console S.R., as she talked about her murdered brother (age 21, the youngest of S.R.’s eight siblings). At that time, he’d been dead for only seven or so hours. As she was leaving, she informed us that we could “look it up on google” using the keywords of his name and the town. It seems surreal that news of a death, including all the full names, would already be online so soon.

Thus, S.R. had to abruptly leave our month-long intensive course. By our lunch break, she was on an airplane. She will deal with the funeral and all. She won’t finish the course with us. I hope they let her finish at some later time. She has done so much work for it so far… She was actually due to teach that day. She and I, in fact, shared a lesson. I would cover the grammar part, and she would come on after and do the “productive task” (speaking/writing).

In the moments after A.F. gave the news, my mind jumped to Ukraine. As it happens, S.R. has spent a few years in Ukraine. She had to leave in late November 2013 to escape the political crisis. She has been teaching, as part of a church mission organization, in the eastern (pro-Russian) part of Ukraine, but she told me that the anti-government side is totally in the right, in her view. She loves Ukraine.  I can only wonder if I will ever see her again.

bookmark_borderPost-194: Ukraine, 1989 vs. 2014

These numbers are amazing to me:

          Ukraine, 1989 vs. 2013
            When 1989’s figures are 100

            Ukraine’s Population
             1989: 100
             2013: 88

            Ukraine’s GDP [adjusted for inflation]
            1989: 100
            2013: 67

             Ukraine’s Per-capita GDP [adjusted for inflation]
             1989: 100
             2013: 76
Ukrainians under age 35 have no memory of (sustained) good times, and even those in their 40s today have no experience of sustained good times during which they were in the labor market. Falling expectations lead to this:


Maidan Square, Kiev, “Before and After” [Link]

Population: Ukraine had 51.5 million people in its 1989 census; today, it has 45.5 million. This is all because of low birth rates. The World Bank predicts it will further decline to 36 million by 2050.

GDP: According to this graph (and this one from the World Bank), Ukraine’s real-GDP today is only 67% of its 1989 level. If it had remained exactly the same on a per-capita basis, we would expect Ukraine’s real GDP (“real” meaning adjusted for inflation) to also be 88%of the 1989 level, but it’s a lot lower.

If the average Ukrainian in 1989 made 100 units of money, today (adjusted for inflation) he makes only 76. (=.669/.88).

Everyone knows about the major contraction in the ex-Communist-bloc in the 1990s: I see from the historical data that Ukraine’s economy by 1999 had sunk to a pathetic 39% of its 1989 level. Then there was a period of growth (2000-2007), but the 2008-to-Present worldwide economic problems have caused zero GDP growth since 2007 for that country. In terms of Ukraine’s GDP, 2014’s is about equal to 2006’s. (This is true of a lot of countries.)

bookmark_borderPost-193: Ukrainian Insurgent Army (1940s and 2010s)

An anti-government barricade, in Kiev, in one the past few wild days in that city:

Anti-government barricade, Kiev, Feb. 2014

This is a still from the 2:05 mark in this video (graphic content), from the Russia Today world-news service. If you look closely at the video footage, you see a red-and-black flag, flying high and clear, at the center. A closer shot (top left):

Close-up shot of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army flag

What is this red-and-black flag? I wondered. I searched. I found it:

It belonged to the
The Ukrainian Insurgent Army [UIA]. The UIA was a radically-anti-Communist, nationalistic paramilitary group in the 1940s, whose goal was the elimination of Communism and the overthrow of Soviet rule. The UIA was the “military wing” of a Ukrainian nationalist political party. They were actively pro-German in WWII.

It’s an oddly-untold story, which I first learned when in Estonia in 2007: An enormous number of non-German Europeans volunteered to serve, under arms, “with the Germans” in WWII (i.e., to fight against the USSR). There were entire Ukrainian divisions in the field, outfitted and supplied by the Germans. (Most European nations had at least one full regiment (thousands of men), I’ve learned; there were even a couple of Norwegian regiments; Norwegians formed the core of a division nicknamed Nordland . In my time in Berlin, I came across the dramatic history of Nordland’s last stand in the April 1945 Battle of Berlin.

Half a million non-Germans served in foreign divisions to fight in the East. “Better dead than Red”, they said.

These thoughts occur to me, as I hear news that seems very much like war coverage:


Ukrainian anti-government paramilitaries carrying a man injured by a government sniper


Anti-government protestor-paramilitaries in Maidan Square(?)


Maidan Square, Kiev, Ukraine, Feb. 20th(?) 2014

Spotting the flag of this “Ukrainian Insurgent Army” suggests that things are not quite as the U.S. media wants/is-able-to report. The hard-core of the anti-government side probably doesn’t want some kind of soft-bellied, free-market, “gay-rights” liberal-democracy. No; no. They don’t want that, at all, I’m thinking.

bookmark_borderPost-192: George Washington Day


Today is the holiday commonly known as “Presidents’ Day” (a confusing holiday). I still go in to “work”.

A funny thing about Presidents’ Day is that more than one presidential birthday is being celebrated, i.e. Washington’s (Feb. 22) and Lincoln’s (Feb. 12) — formerly two separate holidays in many states.



However, states have all different names for this day, including the formerly-Southern state of Virginia. (Formerly because in the mid-2010s here, with Northern Virginia’s millions of people, Virginia is tipping into being something else.)

Virginia calls it “George Washington Day”, excluding old Honest Abe.

Virginia also celebrates “Lee-Jackson Day” (two Confederate generals), instead of “Martin Luther King Jr. Day”.

That was a Richmond decision, though. Typical Northern Virginians of the 2010s here would cringe at “Lee-Jackson Day”. I remember when I was at college in Northern Virginia, the local college authorities had to decide to give only one Monday off in the spring semester and axe the other: MLK Day or Presidents’ Day (i.e., “George Washington Day”). They decided to retain MLK Day and have classes as-normal on Presidents’ Day. (I remember Arlington Public Schools similarly refusing to touch MLK Day when snow-days called for one holiday to be cancelled.) The move by the college prompted a professor of Geography, one of my favorites, a part-AmericanIndian from Oklahoma, to criticize their PC decision: If you’re deciding who is more important to the history of the USA, how can MLK possibly take precedence over George Washington?

bookmark_borderPost-191: Let’s Monitor Our Mothers at the Store! (Or, Why U.S. Beef is Hard to Find in Korea)

The excellent Korean politics and history blog, Popular Gusts, found this image from 1990:


Student: I should stop my mother from buying imported food.
Teacher: Hmm… That is a good idea.
Teacher: Why don’t we all follow our mothers to the market and monitor them?
Everybody: O.K.!!!   [The last Korean word might better be translated as “Yes, Sir!!”]

This attitude remains strong in South Korea even into the mid-2010s.

The entire Left and much of the Right (except its leadership) share this attitude. It may be the most-vigorous strand of Korean political thought that I noticed. It may “come from” the left-wing, but as its real appeal is on nationalistic-racialistic grounds, the right-wing “doth not protest too much”. There thus being little opposition, conformism takes care of any stragglers who didn’t get the memo (the apolitical, not-particularly-racialistic bloc).
There are so many examples I could cite, from my time in Korea. One is the U.S. Beef Ban. Many may not remember this, but American beef was banned for years in Korea, and it is still, in some ways, defacto banned, after a phony “crisis” was manufactured a few years ago about American beef allegedly being tainted.

In reaction to that crisis”, they passed a law requiring that all restaurants and markets post their meat-products’ countries of origin. In my time in Korea, from 2009 to 2014 (not all consecutive), never once did I ever see any restaurant selling a beef-product from the USA, from the cheap “분식” [minute-food] places to the “meat buffets” to even American chain restaurants like “T.G.I. Friday’s”. Some had American pork, but none ever had American beef.

I saw this at a Lotteria fast-food restaurant:


“Australian Beef, Clean and Safe” / Burger wrapper from Lotteria (a fast-food chain), Gwangju, Korea, Fall 2013.

On the wrapper is an official-seeming seal certifying that this burger has Australian beef, which is “clean and safe”

The full phrase in Korean is “호주청정우”. I recognize the first word as “Australia”, and the last word as [an abbreviated way to say] “Beef”. My dictionary translates the middle word, “청정”, as “pure, immaculate, clean, spotless, stainless, unsullied, undefiled, unpolluted.” By implication, U.S. beef is the opposite of those things.

Korean-grown beef is way too expensive to be economical. Lotteria now sells a “Hanwoo burger” — Hanwoo means “Korean-grown beef”. It’s far-and-away their most-expensive menu item.

Here is another part of the 1990 cartoon distributed to students:

This cartoon’s pictures are self-explanatory. “If we open our market to foreign foods, all the Korean farms will fail, farm babies will starve, and we will be dependent on foreigners for food”. The last box features a man in a traditional Korean outfit pleading for “A bit of rice, please”. The White man in the boat (who is smoking a pipe in the style of the famous photos of General MacArthur) mockingly glowers down at him. “How much ya got?”

White Man: [Scheming] “Let’s make it expensive”.
Korean: [In Panic and Despair] “How can we survive if it costs so much?”
White Man: [Haughtily] “If you think it’s expensive, then don’t buy it!” [Whistles]

(But thanks, anyway, for the trillions in net aid [in today’s dollars] you’ve given us, for your ongoing military protection, for liberating us from Japan, and for saving us from Communism….)

bookmark_borderPost-190: From Yuletide to Yuletyde(.com)

I’m happy to announce that you will be able to find this at, from now on. The cumbersome and clumsy URL of is hereby laid to rest.

Nobody had registered A search reveals only 5,470 results for “Yuletyde”, and none of any significance:

Google search for ‘Yuletyde’ / Feb. 16th, 2014
The top result is somebody’s E-Bay profile. Number two seems to be the nickname of a deceased poodle!

bookmark_borderPost-189: Six Balloons and a Piece of Cake

It snowed a lot in Washington, D.C. and shut down most things on Feb. 13th in 2014 (see post-188) and also on one of the Feb. 13ths in the 1980s. The snowstorm notwithstanding, that Feb. 13th back in the ’80s was my most active day in life up to that point….as it was my very first.


I don’t know how, but someone in the CELTA group found out that Thursday was my birthday. They insisted on having a ‘party’. Pictured at left are J.F. (standing; going to Japan in March), A.F. (blue striped shirt), and S.R. (semi-hidden). In the center are bottles of orange and apple juice presented as gifts, which we shared. (In the background is the white board. Nametags of “practice students” are to the right of it. Lot of chairs, with those impossibly-small foldable-desks attached, are all around.)

The balloons were yet to come:


On Friday, Feb. 14th, back came the “practice students”, adult foreigners of an “upper-intermediate” English ability (they had not come on the 13th, see the very end of post-188). To my surprise, they, too, had presents for me, in the form of six or seven balloons and a small cake (at left). Also, a card signed in various languages by most students.

I’ve only seen these students for two weeks, and I’ve only taught them five times, but they seem to really like me.

The cake was excellent.

Four of the balloons survive, as I write this.

I got good wishes from many people via Facebook, though as I avoid logging into Facebook, I haven’t acknowledged them. I also got a book-collection of Washington Post newspaper front pages from the 1940s, an excellent present, from my mother.

bookmark_borderPost-188: The Big Feb. 13th Snowstorm

February 13th, 2014’s big snowstorm in Washington cancelled most things, but not my thing. Out I went.

I was delighted, in a way, to be able to walk along the roads (note the vantage point of the photo below).

The two human figures above are firefighters. One is using a snowblower. The other is by the door. I heard the snowblower tell the other guy that he could “go back in and watch the [Olympic] hockey”.

I arrived around 8:30 AM and descended into an empty subway station:

Empty Subway Station / Arlington, Va. / Morning / Feb. 13th 2014

The station was almost empty, at a time when the platform is usually teeming with people. I heard the statistic later that AM ridership was at 6% of the normal weekday morning level. There normally are around a hundred people in one subway car during rush hour; on Thursday Feb. 13, mine had eight (I counted). Here was my subway car:

Orange Line Subway Car / Arlington, Va. / Morning / Feb. 13th 2014

By late morning, the temperature got above freezing and the roads looked passable in downtown Washington:

Overlooking Franklin Square / Washington D.C. / Feb. 13th 2014

Only three of the six of us studying for the CELTA certificate made it in on time by 9 AM. One other (J.F.) did make it in, but well past 11 AM. He was stuck in New Carollton after several cars skidded and crashed ahead of him. Those behind (J.F. included), now stranded, spent a long while trying to extricate the stuck cars to open the road again. The other two (M.H. and K.T.) didn’t come at all, despite being told they must. Their vehicles were wedged-in by ice.

The lessons here are two:
(1) It’s a better idea to not rely on a personal automobile in very many cases, and this is one. The three who made it on time [myself included] relied only on their two feet and on the subway (to its credit, the subway ran normally, at least the Orange Line did– however, all local buses were cancelled). The three who didn’t make it all had cars involved in their commutes (all drive to, or are driven to, subway stations) to come downtown.

(2) Things are cancelled for a reason during inclement weather! (Look at what happened to J.F., as described above).

We couldn’t do our afternoon practice teaching, because of the sixteen “practice students”, only the Slovak and two Russians said they would come, an insufficient number. Being unaccustomed to snow, every last one of the many Latin people “threw in the towel” (as well as the Japanese woman). We went home early.

bookmark_borderPost-187: General Sherman’s Conformity Problem

I found General Sherman’s memoir in the library.

Here is what he says of his time at West Point (Summer 1836 to Spring 1840, graduating at age 20):

[I graduated] in June, 1840, number six in a class of forty-three. These forty-three were all that remained of more than one hundred which originally constituted the class. At the Academy I was not considered a good soldier, for at no time was I selected for any office, but remained a private throughout the whole four years. Then, as now, neatness in dress and form, with a strict conformity to the rules, were the qualifications required for office, and I suppose I was found not to excel in any of these. [….] My average demerits, per annum, were about one hundred and fifty, which reduced my final class standing from number four to six.


PictureGeneral Sherman

It was Sherman’s campaigns in Tennessee and Georgia that were decisive in that war, I think, i.e. “Sherman won the war”. Historians say that Sherman’s capture of Atlanta ensured Lincoln’s reelection (besides giving the setting to “Gone With the Wind”). A weak, ineffectual Union general commanding in the West in 1864, who had not gotten anything done, may have cost Lincoln the election. Lincoln’s opponent was in favor of negotiating terms of peace with the CSA government.

Sherman — one of the Civil War’s greatest generals —  having had a non-stellar performance as a cadet at West Point (“I was not considered a good soldier”), suggests that it’s hard to predict real-life performance based on academic performance. Consider the following West Point class rankings of Civil War generals:

  • Lee: 2nd of 46 graduating cadets [Class of 1829]
  • Sherman: 6th of 43 [Class of 1840]
  • Longstreet: 54th out of 56 [Class of 1842]
  • Grant: 21st of 39 [Class of 1843]
  • McClellan: 2nd out of 59 [Class of 1846]
  • Stonewall Jackson: 17th out of 59 [Class of 1846]
  • Pickett: 59th of 59 [Class of 1846]

I see no relation between skill as a general and class-rank at West Point; McClellan and Lee were both second in their classes, but McClellan is widely considered a total failure. He was humiliated repeatedly be Lee, till Lincoln fired him. Grant, with only an average performance, turned out to be a military genius. Longstreet was one of Lee’s best subordinate commanders, but was at the bottom of his class.

Note that the cadet who ranked first in the Class of 1846 never made it higher than colonel during the Civil War!

See Post-166 for an account of my unplanned “visit” to the General Sherman Statue in Manhattan in 2013.

bookmark_borderPost-186: Bus Riding Futility

Executive Summary: Public transportation in the USA still can’t get its act together. It took me 30 mins to get home from the bus’ scheduled departure time. Plain-old walking would’ve taken under 20 mins.


You ascend out of the subway station at 6:04 PM. Back to the bus waiting area: Fenced in by towering buildings, a gaggle of loiterers, mostly appearing to be fuddy-duddy federal-government office-worker types, huddle under and around a bus shelter. They, like you, want to get home as soon as possible. Decision time: Do you walk the twenty-minutes home, or do you ride the bus, listed to leave at 6:05 PM? It has certainly not departed yet, as a lot of people are standing in its designated waiting area. It drops-off five minutes’ walk from your home.

As you may guess, this is not a hypothetical, but the beginning of a personal anecdote, which continues right here:

Around the bus-stop, an African madman paces around, muttering to himself, occasionally exclaiming things — also to himself. His unintelligible diatribe is partly in accented-English and partly in some language unknown to me. The rest of the loiterers stay away. The clock ticks, minute after minute, with no sign of the bus. Now it’s nearly 6:10, and still no bus. Ah, there it is. The bus pulls up. 6:10. Out tumbles the obese Black driverwoman. With nary a word, she waddles away into one of the towering buildings, for reasons unknown to us.

At least she leaves the door open. The bus fills up.
Okay, it’s only a five-minute-or-so delay, the loiterers-turned-passengers think. I get a seat near the back door. The madman, still diatribing away to himself, sits way at the back. I suddenly wonder if there’s a hands-free cellphone attached to him somewhere that I hadn’t seen. I don’t want to look too closely.

This possible-madman notwithstanding, the
caliber of passenger, I notice, is much “higher” than I remember from when I regularly rode this very bus very often in 2008. The inner-core of the Washington D.C. area has noticeably changed in these six years. It’s gotten more expensive, and has impelled the moving-out of a good many of the more-unsavory characters who accompanied me on those 2008 bus trips.

My mind wanders to
the changes in Washington, D.C. itself (which I must point out to those unfamiliar, has borders unchanged from 1790 or so; it has only 700,000 people in it, while another 5,000,000 or so live in nearby counties). The way things are going, Washington D.C. may be a White-majority city by the 2020s. Hardly anyone remembers now, but it was a White city around the Korean War era. (The city of Washington DC flipped from 70-75% White in 1940 to 70-75% Black by 1970. When my father showed up here in the early 1970s, although he wouldn’t have realized it at the time, he saw a city only-recently dramatically-transformed by White Flight. He himself finally settled across the river in Arlington, Virginia.
In my boyhood, it was called the Murder Capital, and it famously elected a crack-cocaine-using mayor.)

Back on the bus, any German passengers would be appalled at the disregard for Pünktlichkeit. The enormous bus driver, already running late, remains absent. The minutes drag on. Should I have just walked? Maybe I’m not the only one thinking that. Of course, I’m already down $1.10 for this. (The normal Washington DC Metrobus fare these days is $1.60 [Up from the $1.25 I remember from the mid-2000s], and if transferring from the subway, one gets a piddling 50-cent discount [I think it used to be free to transfer from rail to bus].) Finally, the driver reappears. She tumbles into the driver’s seat and we start rolling. She takes a strange and inefficient route, doing a series of right turns to make an eventual left.

I decided to note down some times in this little affair. Here they are:

6:04 PM I exit the subway station
[6:05 PM, The bus is scheduled to depart]
6:10 PM, Bus arrives; driver disappears
6:18 PM, Bus departs, in no particular hurry
6:26 PM, Bus arrives at my bus stop, I get off and begin to walk home
6:32 PM,
I arrive at home

If I’d just ignored the bus and walked straight away, I’d have made it home around 6:22 if I’d pushed it a little, i.e. ten minutes earlier. Even the leisureliest of strolls would’ve beaten the bus. A waste of time; a waste of money.

ome may say that I’m being too harsh here. “This is only one experience”. True, but the thing is, those saying that have probably never ridden Washington-DC-area mass transportation on any regular basis.These kinds of sub-standard experiences with buses and trains in the USA are a regular feature of my experience and many others’. The system is simply not reliable. The best I can say is that it is usually not terrible.

bookmark_borderPost-185: CELTA Time

 February 2014 for me involves an intensive “CELTA certificate” course. Intensive does not mean “bad”. I quite enjoy it.

CELTA is a TESOL (“Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages”) certificate. It opens up doors for (better) jobs around the planet and in the USA, though not in public schools. It is the most “prestigious” of the TESOL certificates by reputation. It is designed  by Cambridge University.

The course takes place in downtown Washington DC, 9 AM to 5 PM weekdays every day this month. A great location. And that’s not the only reason the course is great:


There are six of us “trainees”. Each of the others is a nice, interesting person. Though we were all brand-new to each other last Monday, it already felt like we are old friends by Wednesday or maybe even Tuesday. This is the “jeong” feeling Koreans refer to, I think (see post-50, section entitled “the effect of hew-shik”, and post-65).

In the morning, the six of us are students, studying this or that about what Cambridge says is right (some of which I am slightly skeptical of to be honest), and other general good things to know. For example, one lesson was on “a” phonetic alphabet (“a” because there are many).

It’s an exciting time.

bookmark_borderPost-184: Koren Class Final Project, “Trip to White Cloud Mountain”

As I previously mentioned, my Korean course in January was a success. I feel that my final project was especially successful. We had to come up with a five-minute “speech” to deliver to the class, and all in Korean of course. Some students used powerpoint slides. I did.

The speech and slides are below, in Korean (with an English translation I have done just now; it was not part of the assignment). Be not deceived by its simplicity! This speech took me many, many painstaking hours — About eight hours in a coffee shop, then several more revisions, and helpful suggestions from many along the way. Others in the class told me that they enjoyed my presentation a lot. Here it is:


백운산 여행
“Up White Cloud Mountain
[Presentation delivered by this writer in a Korean class, Seoul, Jan. 2014]


제 이름 피터입니다. 미국에서왔어요.

무슨 운동 좋아해요? 저는 등산을 좋아하는데요. 저는 오늘 한국 등산여행에 대해 이야기 할 거예요.
Hello! My name is Peter. I am from the USA.

What kind of outdoor activities do you like? I like hiking. Today I will tell you about a hiking trip I did in Korea.


작년 구월 중산부터 십월 삼십일까지 등산 했어요. “백두대간”은 남한남쪽에 있는, 지리산부터 강원도설악산까지 이어진 길이에요. 저는 지리산에서 월악산까지 걸어 갔어요. 그런데, 오늘 저는 백두대간여행 이야기 중에 하나를 이야기 할 거예요.
__________________________________________ Last year, from mid-September to October 31st, I completed hiking trip. It was on the “Baekdu-Daegan Trail” in South Korea, which extends from the Jiri Mountains in the south to Gangwon Province’s Seorak Mountain in the north. I walked from the Jiri Mountains to the Worak Mountains [halfway across trail]. Anyway, I will tell you today about one part of this trip.


제가 간 산중, 이름이 “백운산” 이라는 산이 있어요. 백운산은 영어로 “White Cloud Mountain” 이에요. 이산은 아름다웠어요! 이 산은 경상남도 함양군에 있어요.

오, 나는 이 사진들 찍었어요. [학생들: 우와!]
One of the mountains along this trail is called “Baek-Un-San”. In English, it means “White Cloud Mountain”. This mountain was beautiful! It is in Gyeongsang Province, Hamyang County.

[While changing slides: “I took all these pictures”. Class: “Oh, wow!”]


산옆에 “중기마을” 있어요. 중기마을은 조요하고 평화로워요.

백운산에 어떻게 올라갔을까요? 중기마을에서 “중재”로 갔어요. 그 등산길은 힘들어서 피곤했어요!
Below the mountain is “Jungi Village”. It is quiet and peaceful.

How did I get to the top of Baekunsan? From Jungi Village, I walked to Jung-Jae Pass. The mountain trail became difficult, which tired me out a lot.


중기마을은 해발 오백미터쯤에 있지만, 백운산정상은 천삼백미터쯤! 그러니까, 힘들어요. 네 시간 동안 등산 했어요. 그래서, 땀이 많이 났어요. 마침내, 정상에 도착해서 행복했어요!
Jungi Village’s altitude is about 500 meters above sea level, but the summit of Baekunsan Mountain is about 1,300 meters above sea level! As a result, it an arduous hike. It took four hours of hiking. There was a lot of sweat. Finally, when I arrived at the top I became very happy!


정상에서 모든 것을 볼 수 있었어요. 아름다웠어요. 백운산 보고, 저는 기분이 너무 좋았어요. 백운산정상은 다른 세계 같았어요.
From the summit, it was possible to see all things below. It was so beautiful. It really made me feel great. Being on Baekunsan’s summit seemed like a different world.


천 개의 구름을 볼 수 있었어요.

백운산 정상에……
It was possible to see thousands of clouds. [I pointed out the clouds].

Also on the summit was……


……..비석이 있었어요.

비석 앞에서, 야영해도 됐어요.
……..was the Baekunsan Stele. [I point to the stone].

In the area around this stone marker, camping is allowed.


거기에서, 야영했어요. 다음날 아침 여섯시에 일어났어요. 아침에, 정말 너무 추워서, 기분이 안 좋았어요.

하지만! 아침에 천 개 구름을 볼 수 있어서, ….
I camped there. The next morning I woke up at 6 AM. That morning it was truly cold, which made me not feel too good.

But! That morning the thousands of clouds were visible….


…내 기분이 좋았어요. 저는 “하늘에” 있었어요. 아름다운 해돋이를 볼 수 있었어요. 아침식사 했지만 아직도 추웠어요.

저는 거기에 혼자 있었어요. 오전 여덟시쯤에, 한 아저씨가 왔어요. 우리는 십분쯤 이야기했어요. 한국말으로 하고 영어로 말했어요. 그 후에, 아저씨는 갔어요. 이십분 후에, 저도 출발했어요. 덕유산으로 걸어서 갔어요.

작년 구월 하고 십월에 산을 많이 봤지만, “백운산”은 특별했어요.
which made me feel good anyway. I was “in the sky”. A beautiful sunrise was soon visible. I ate breakfast but it was still very cold up there.

I was alone. At about 8 AM, a middle-aged man arrived. We chatted for about ten minutes. We used Korean and English. Soon the man left [to continue hiking]. Twenty minutes later, I also departed. I began my hike again, towards Deogyusan National Park.

Last year in September and October I saw a lot of mountains, but “Baekunsan” was particularly special.


백운산 또 보고 싶어요!

여러분, 등산이나 자연을 좋아하면, 백운산에 가세요~!!

[질문 있었어요. “Tent-cover 어디엤어요?”]
I want to see that mountain again!

If you like mountain hiking or nature, I recommend all of you go to Baekunsan!

[Q and A]
    S.B.: “You said it was so cold! Where’s your tent cover?”
    Me (flipping back to the proper slide): “It is on the stone, there. See?” (pointing)
    S.B.: “Aha”.
    Others: “Ahh.”

백운산 비디오 보고 싶어요? [안됐어요].

Do you want to see my Baekunsan video? [Not able; We had run out of time and were nearly late for the “all-level completion pizza party” in the other building, so were not able].

[End of Speech]

That “video” link, on the last slide, led to a video of my descent from Baekunsan (“White Cloud Mountain”). Here it is:

This is one of a series of videos from my “trek” that I posted to Youtube.

I’ve posted
other videos from that journey, here:

  • Post-162 (“On a Foggy Mountain Top”), and
  • Post-158 (“Peering Over the Ledge”), and
  • Post-157 (“Where Three Provinces Meet”).

Let me here echo what many Korean students lamely-but-cutely write at the ends of essays: “Thank you for reading.”

My Full Speech in Korean:

백운산 여행

[Slide One] 안녕하세요~! 제 이름 피터입니다. 미국에서왔어요.

무슨 운동 좋아해요? 저는 등산을 좋아하는데요. 저는 오늘 한국 등산여행에 대해 이야기 할 거예요.

[Slide Two]  작년 구월 중산부터 십월 삼십일까지 등산 했어요. “백두대간”은 남한남쪽에 있는, 지리산부터 강원도설악산까지 이어진 길이에요. 저는 지리산에서 월악산까지 걸어 갔어요. 그런데, 오늘 저는 백두대간여행 이야기 중에 하나를 이야기 할 거예요.

[Slide Three] 제가 간 산중, 이름이 “백운산” 이라는 산이 있어요. 백운산은 영어로 “White Cloud Mountain” 이에요. 이산은 아름다웠어요! 이 산은 경상남도 함양군에 있어요. [Slide Four] “나는 이 사진들 찍었어요.”

산옆에 “중기마을” 있어요. 중기마을은 조요하고 평화로워요.

백운산에 어떻게 올라갔을까요? 중기마을에서 “중재”로 갔어요. 그 등산길은 힘들어서 피곤했어요! [Slide Five] 중기마을은 해발 오백미터쯤에 있지만, 백운산정상은 천삼백미터쯤! 그러니까, 힘들어요. 네 시간 동안 등산 했어요. 그래서, 땀이 많이 났어요. 마침내, 정상에 도착해서 행복했어요! [Slide Six, three clicks to reveal yellow circle and name]

정상에서 모든 것을 볼 수 있었어요. 아름다웠어요. 백운산 보고, 저는 기분이 너무 좋았어요. 백운산정상은 다른 세계 같았어요.

[Slide Seven] 천 개의 구름을 볼 수 있었어요. 백운산 정상에 [Slide Eight] 비석이 있었어요. 비석 앞에서, 야영해도 됐어요. [Slide Nine]. 거기에서, 야영했어요. 다음날 아침 여섯시에 일어났어요. 아침에, 정말 너무 추워서, 기분이 안 좋았어요.

하지만! 아침에 천 개 구름을 볼 수 있어서, [Slide Ten] 내 기분이 좋았어요. 저는 “하늘에” 있었어요. 아름다운 해돋이를 볼 수 있었어요. 아침식사 했지만 아직도 추웠어요.

저는 거기에 혼자 있었어요. 오전 여덟시쯤에, 한 아저씨가 왔어요. 우리는 십분쯤 이야기했어요. 한국말으로 하고 영어로 말했어요. 그 후에, 아저씨는 갔어요. 이십분 후에, 저도 출발했어요. 덕유산으로 걸어서 갔어요.

작년 구월 하고 십월에 산을 많이 봤지만, “백운산”은 특별했어요. [Slide Eleven] 백운산 또 보고 싶어요!

여러분, 등산이나 자연을 좋아하면, 백운산에 가세요!

[질문 about tent-cover; answer that it was on the stone].

백운산 비디오 보고 싶어요? [안됐어요. 시간이 없었어요.]

bookmark_borderPost-183: Korean Course Success

The designation one of the best decisions I’ve made in years”  is one I have happily applied, these last few weeks, to my decision to complete an intensive Korean course in Seoul. It’s over now. It took place in January 2014.

I write this a week after I returned to the USA on “Chinese New Year’s Day”, Friday Jan. 31st 2014. (What I’m doing now — I will explain in a future post — is even more intensive and is another good decision, and for similar reasons.)


Why was the intensive Korean course a good decision?
The simplest answer is that the class left my satisfied and optimistic at the end of each day, despite its difficulty. Every day of the Korean course was fun; the teachers were great and professional; I feel the course improved my Korean (it was my first-ever formal class; all my previous knowledge was just picked up “somehow” from living there); it gave me the opportunity to be a student again and in the unique context of a half-EastAsian/half-White class (six Whites [three USA, three Europe] and six East-Asians) which was interesting to observe; it let me met many interesting/fun people from all over the world; it gave me a window into Korean university life. I’m really glad I did it.

It left me wishing it were not ending. Alas, it ended. The future is wide open.

Note: I labelled this post under several categories, including (naturally) “Korean language” and “Korea“, and also, less self-evidently, “Purpose of Life“. One could criticize my decision to go back and do this course as a  “waste of time”, or something. But….Well, to spare this entry from becoming bloated by hundreds more words, I’ll say that I disagree, and the reader of these words, if inclined, can make his own conclusions about my use of that category here!