Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Nothing to Write Home About

(This blog post was written on multiple dates, so don’t expect the time sequence to make sense. Deal with it.)
So, before I get to the post, two items of business:

1) I’m taking this statistics course this semester and I fucking hate it. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I have anything against statistics. Far me it from me to hate on an entire discipline of mathematical analysis. What I can’t stand is the course and, by extension, the instructor. Instead of having a normal course with normal homework assignments, normal quizzes and a normal exam at the end, this course has “practice” homework assignments that are ungraded, an extra set of “quiz preparation” questions, and then a weekly quiz, with the weekly quizzes comprising 65% of the total grade. So basically I have to perform a raft of complicated statistics problems which counts for nothing but generally needs to be completed to understand the quiz, followed by another raft of complicated statistics problems which absolutely must be completed to understand the quiz, followed by a timed quiz that’s mostly trick questions or questions that aren’t really directly related to the “practice” homework or quiz preparation problems. The other 35% of the grade is this special long-term mystery project which, as we near the halfway point of the course, we’ve only received one segment of to work on. This course is ruining my life. I can’t leave town on the weekends (although I still do) and I can only just barely complete the work for my other much more important course during the week once I complete the work for this fucking statistics course, and it’s not like I can even blow off a week’s homework and hand in half-completed work because the homework isn’t graded. Since my name isn’t on this blog (granted, it wouldn’t take a genius to figure out who’s writing it) I’m really tempted to end this paragraph with a statement like “Professor Realname, who teaches a Business Statistics course for UCLA Extension, drips rusty razor blades from her perforated asshole,” so that when anyone Googles Professor Realname’s name they might be forewarned what a lousy experience her garbage shitstain class is. But that would be immature, so I won’t.

2) I am consistently amazed what a guy can do to a Korean cop and get away with. More than once I have seen some guy, usually shitfaced, arguing with a Korean cop and getting physically violent (not throwing punches but definitely pushing and shoving and resisting direct orders) and not getting the shit beat out of him with batons, walkie-talkies, Tasers or flashlights, which, as an American, astounds me. Case in point: tonight when I came down to the train platform to wait for my train I saw a police officer wrestling with a drunk, yelling guy with a backpack. Fifteen minutes later – and after the platform had become much more crowded - I see the same guy, still inebriated and apparently unincarcerated, knock over a trash can, pull off the giant metal ring at the top and start throwing it, ring-toss style, at an overhead lighting fixture, repeatedly. As my train was leaving some guy in a suit was scolding him and asking him to sit down. That’s it. I guess part of the chummy, monocultural thing they’ve got going on here means everyone is supposed to have each others’ backs and let the small stuff slide, but regardless, I’m amazed how people really have absolutely no respect for the police here, and the police have absolutely no compulsion to throw down and bust heads. Maybe it’s the whole Confucian hierarchy thing – peace officers must be further down the chain from drunk yahoos. You don’t have to do much to a cop in the US to wind up face down on the ground in handcuffs and in a shitload of trouble. I don’t blame the police for that – their job is basically to deal with assholes all day; I don’t envy it. But stuff that would get you twenty cops, a weekend in jail and a couple broken ribs back home gets a scolding here. To each his own, I guess.

I think the job has officially reached that point where it’s become routine. The exoticism has worn off. Now it’s just another gig with an apartment to take care of and weekends to try to fill and a check at the end of the month to throw after a pile of bills. Not that I mind. After years of underemployment it’s relieving just to have a steady job where I might actually make a difference in someone’s day. (I’ve probably said that before, but fuck it, I’m not going to start re-reading my own blog to keep from repeating myself.) In a way this job is kind of like that part of the Joseph Campbell monomyth where the hero finds a quiet place to settle down and forgets about his overarching raison d’être for a while. I don’t know if I’m really on some quest to do something else. Has anyone ever written a story like that, where a dude sets out to do something great or kill something really big, and halfway through he discovers it’s not worth it and settles down to raise goats and he’s never the worse for it? Somebody should write that book. I guess it would be a little boring, but who said life had to be exciting, really?

So what was the last thing I blogged about? Jeju? I probably said I was going on some trip after that, right? Probably didn’t happen. I think I had planned to do something for the long Chuseok (a.k.a. Korean Thanksgiving) holiday in the middle of September, but I think I ended up spending most of the week in my apartment playing video games instead. Money was tight and I was kind of exhausted. I went to Seoul at some point to meet up with an old college friend of mine and his girlfriend. We went to some club. Secretly I hate clubs because I hate dance music (for real, Mister Deejay, am I supposed to get excited when you play the same goddamn beat for four hours and every once in a while you throw in some Casio fill and flash the par cans over the stage?) but I didn’t want to be impolite by suggesting we go somewhere else and you know how it is with those places, you always end up going now and again in the hope that you’ll actually discover something to enjoy about it or actually get laid or something. (Where did my peaceful farm with my goats go?) But it was good to see them. I went to Andong for the annual Maskdance festival the next week. (I think it was the next week, I don’t remember.) It was all right. There were masks. There was dancing. There were plenty of mildly grotesque things to take pictures of. There were Korean children in Swiss outfits yodeling and playing cowbells. I was supposed to meet up with one of the new foreign teachers and his friends but they went to the traditional village in Andong for a fireworks display that never happened (it was raining) and I missed the last bus. I ran into some other foreign teachers I know from orientation but they were in a state in which they probably wouldn’t have remembered that I joined them, and I wasn’t really in the mood for that sort of scene. I also accidentally ordered and ate half of a roughly $17 dinner of fried squid. (When you ask for a price and a Korean holds up two fingers and says something, pay close attention to whether he or she says “ee man” (twenty thousand) or “ee chun” (two thousand).) I had planned to spend the night but I ended up catching a late bus home. Best to cut your losses in that sort of situation. This weekend I ended up back in the Andong area with one of my co-teachers and his family to check out a nearby apple festival. It was actually really nice. I needed the break from my coursework (despite the fact that I’m going to have to complete it tonight when I get home because of the trip) and I’m starting to get to that age where spending time with someone else’s family is actually kind of nice instead of being kind of a drag.

There’s some new co-teachers in town. We’ve got another guy from South Africa, a couple girls from Michigan, a dude from Vancouver and a girl from Toronto. We’ve gotten together a couple times for drinks and conversation. They’re all fine people.

I’m back in Korean class. Apparently the equivalent class this summer to the class I took this spring covered more of the textbook than we covered in spring, so I had a little catching up to do. Still haven’t really caught up. The last class was mostly very basic grammar and vocabulary, and this class is using a little more vocabulary than the last one (I’m expected to know a few more verbs than “to be,” “there is,” “to do” and “to go” this time around) so I’m having a little trouble keeping up on it. I don’t really have enough time to get serious about studying Korean, and I’m not 100% sure I would if I had it. Once you figure out how many situations you can deal with using “Hello,” “thank you” and gestures, the impetus to learn a language greatly decreases. I just plain don’t understand this language. In many ways it’s completely upside down and backwards from English. I’ve gotten to the point where, when I hear people speaking, I recognize sounds and my brain says “hey, those noises are a language, they mean something” and sometimes some of the sounds seem like words I’ve heard before and ought to know, but other than numbers I don’t really understand any of it. Some days Korean class is like trying to read James Joyce while someone kicks you in the balls. I guess now I can appreciate what my students are going through a little more keenly.

By the way (speaking of Joyce) if I ever write another blog post more rambling and disconnected than this one please send someone to test me for drugs. Sorry, I ain’t slept much.

Several key boredom indexes have definitely hit high water marks. A lot more of my dishes in that Café World game on Facebook are on gold plates. I also finally hit level 79 in World of Warcraft. I’ve been trying to finally get a character up to 80 (the top level) before the next expansion comes out in December but with my current course schedule I’m not sure that’s going to happen. I’m feeling some trepidation about hitting top level. Part of it might have to do with the fact that I feel like a fucking loser even admitting I play. (It’s a great game if you don’t take it too seriously. Really, it is.) Leveling up in WoW is pretty easy – jump through the hoops and enjoy the false sense of achievement and the fancy graphics. (People who have been playing the game for years and ground their way up through levels as fast as possible might not remember the sensation they got the first time they walked into Darnassas or Thousand Needles, or flew into Icecrown. It’s a really stunning, immense game in terms of design and graphics.) Once you hit 80 there seems to be this expectation that you take the game seriously and you should actually possess some sort of skill at it. There’s also a lot of emphasis on collecting better gear at the top levels, which typically involves a lot of time-consuming group quests and daily quests. Me, I play when I have nothing better to do. Originally a couple New York friends of mine who are into role-playing games and things got me to try out a free trial and got me hooked. (Never trust a product where the first taste is free.) Unfortunately they were about 15-26 levels in at the time and therefore I couldn’t play with them until I leveled up. Which I what I did. I think I even started another character to be a better match with their group. So I reached their level and then found out they had both quit because they didn’t feel like paying the monthly fee and/or they had better things to care about (like careers and families). But I liked the game so I kept playing. Sometimes one of my friends who got me into the game would get a free trial offer and come back for a month or two, but in the meantime I messed around with other character classes and explored the game. At some point (maybe already in the beginning) I found out that my roommate at the time, miraculously, played on the same server I did, except all my characters were low level and Alliance and he had a top-level Horde ‘toon. So I started leveling up a Horde character. Of course my roommate also quit before I got anywhere near his level – something about not wanting spend 2-3 hours a night or more on the game anymore, I think. Later I found out that some other friends of mine in New York played on a different server. Same story – started a couple new ‘toons, people lost interest or quit, I moved on. So all told, three years after starting the game, I have about twelve characters spread across two servers and none of them are at top level. I suppose maybe that shows a lack of focus or conviction or something. I talked to my old roommate about signing back up when the next expansion comes out, but he said something along the lines of “I’m not sure I want to do that with my life again,” like if you invited a recovering alcoholic to a wild party or a recovering coke addict to do a couple rails with you for old time’s sake. Honestly I don’t blame him. Would you? Regardless, I’m not sure this whole top level thing agrees with me. It’s like when you run into someone who plays fantasy baseball and they know stats on everyone in the league and you’re sitting there like “I’m a baseball fan but I just like to watch it when it’s on, does that make me less of a fan?” But it’s a fun game and I’m in a small town in Korea so it’s not like I have a whole bunch of other stuff to do with my free time. When I had free time, that is.

Speaking of the World Series, I'd like to congratulate the New York Yankees and the Philadelphia Phillies for not going to the Series and ruining another year of my life. Keep it up, boys.

So the US congressional elections were tonight. Looks like the Democrats are so inept they can’t do anything with a super-majority, and the Republicans are so inept they can’t manage to ride their self-created “wave of populist anger” into a victory in both houses. So, two more years of gridlock, then? Is that the master plan? I guess that’s okay because “government can’t do anything right,” right, conservatives? (World War II would have been so much nicer as a private enterprise…) The ship is sinking, why bail water when we could just resort to cannibalism…

Some other stuff probably happened in the last two months but I can’t remember which stuff was the good stuff right now and I want to get this blog post finished before I decide to do some other stupid thing instead, like sleep. I’ll throw it into the next post, which at this rate will probably come in mid to late December. I guess the only other momentous things are that I bought the second half of my plane ticket to visit home in January, and today I signed my official notice to renew. So it looks like I’ll be here for at least another year. Fuck the kraken, I just want to spend a little more time with my goats. They still haven’t learned the difference between “tired” and “tiring”…

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