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Pirates in the Republic of Korea

On Wednesday we visited the doctor, and Tae once again had rather high blood pressure. They did some other tests and it seems like she has preeclampsia. Our doctor has referred us to a nearby hospital that has a specialist in high-risk pregnancies. Reading things on the web, it seems possible that the doctor will want to induce labor very soon, or hospitalize Tae for a while, or…well, we don’t know. But we’re seeing the area experts tomorrow, so I guess everything is under control.

But it does seem that Tae’s easy, problem-free pregnancy is over.

Update...thanks for the comments. Tae visited the hospital and it's a mild case with everything under control. We'll keep you updated.

Pirates in the Republic of Korea
28 December 2010 @ 05:28 pm

It seems like the entire northern hemisphere (and, for that matter, parts of the southern hemisphere too) is getting lots of snow. In addition to all the snow in the US and western Europe, here in Korea we’ve been getting lots of snow. We’ve been getting heavy snow on and off all day today, and in the nearby city of Jeonju, where we spent Christmas with friends, we got about 4 or 5 inches of snow on Christmas.

Usually we get snow about three or four times over the winter, about an inch or so at a time, and it almost always melts the next day. This December, we’ve had three or four big snowfalls (big for Korea, of course) and here it is, still snowing. Crazy.

Pirates in the Republic of Korea
17 December 2010 @ 09:01 am

Sometime last week we got a nice snowfall — it was enough snow to last the entire day, which is a bit unusual here. (Usually it melts by mid-afternoon.) Today we are getting snow again. The roads and sidewalks are already white and the grass is getting covered up too. Two decent snowfalls before Christmas!?

Pirates in the Republic of Korea
15 November 2010 @ 10:51 am

Wow. The 2010 Human Development Index just came out, and South Korea is number 12 — between Japan and Switzerland. That’s amazing. In 1988, this place was still thought of as a poor, almost third-world country, and now 22 years later, it’s keeping the company of Japan, Western Europe, and Scandinavia.

Via The Atlantic. One should also, whenever working with global health and development statistics, watch Hans Rosling explain how to think about them.

Current Mood: developed
Pirates in the Republic of Korea
01 October 2010 @ 08:36 pm

Here’s a New York Times article on Seoul. It’s a good portrait of the city:

If “the Miracle on the Han” is a tribute to the rise of South Korea (whose gross domestic product is now the 15th largest in the world), it is also a study in urban development gone awry. To survey Seoul from above, from the wan, smoggy sky to the grim, phalanx-like clusters of apartment towers down to the malls, streets and sidewalks, is to countenance a world of endless grays without respite. The creation of so much housing and functional infrastructure is no doubt a stunning technological accomplishment. But it also can feel suffocating, devoid of green, of spiritual egress, of uplift or creative expression of any sort. As Cho remarks, “It’s the complete failure of urbanism.”

There are a bunch of little points in the article I don’t entirely agree with (they seem to like the new City Hall; I think it’s ridiculous), the author does seem to mostly “get” the Seoul of today.

Pirates in the Republic of Korea
01 October 2010 @ 08:16 pm

So I was reading a blog post about why Koreans like buffets so much at the excellent Ask A Korean blog and he linked to this page:


It’s a page of pictures from South Jeolla province in the 1960s. It’s fascinating. I know that Korea has changed a lot since the Korean War, and that it’s still changing very rapidly — but it’s easy to forget.

The children in those photos are now in late middle age; the young adults are the gray-haired, bent-backed elderly that I see around my neighborhood.

I wonder if any of the children in this photo currently own an iPhone or Android phone. Such phones are everywhere nowadays. Think about growing up in those conditions and now being able to afford an iPhone.

On the everyoung.ne.kr page, scroll down to the picture of the train. The train is passing under a banner celebrating the opening of a new train line from Suncheon to Gwangyang. I’ve been through Suncheon several times — it’s on the way to Yeosu, a small city on the south coast where we have some friends. By 2012, there will be a KTX line going through Suncheon. KTX trains are Korea’s high speed trains that go 310 kph (193 mph). In 1967, they were still opening basic train lines in that area; in 2012, trains going 310 kilometers an hour will pass through.

The rate of change here is utterly dizzying.

Pirates in the Republic of Korea
21 June 2010 @ 12:46 pm

If you look at this photo and no part of you, however small, wants to play in a vat of tomatoes with the same pure, unfettered joy as that kid…well, then, you have no soul.

Pirates in the Republic of Korea
15 June 2010 @ 09:20 pm

It’s that time of the quadrennium again…a time to spend hours watching teams from countries I can barely find on a map play soccer football. Right now I’m watching New Zealand and Slovakia.

  • The games here are at 8:30 pm, 11:00 pm, and 3:30 am, which are pretty reasonable times, as such things go. Fortunately, two of South Korea’s first round games are at 8:30.
  • The theme of the media saturation campaign is “Shouting Korea”.
  • Samsung, Hyundai, and the other huge corporations are all running commercials in which the other team is rendered utterly unable to even play by the enormous and forceful sound of the Korean fans shouting. This, of course, is quite ironic since those stupid vuvuzuelas drown out any and all shouting.
  • Other than the “Korea Shouting”, the commericials feature either Park Ji-sung or Kim Yu-na. Park Ji-sung is understandable, since he’s undoubtedly the best soccer player in Korea, but Kim Yu-na? She won the women’s figure skating gold medal in February, and seems to have been co-opted to be a generic Famous Korean. In one commercial, she literally just sits on a piano bench and sings. I wonder if they put her in the commercials just because she’s far better looking than Park Ji-sung.

  • Watching sports on tv is much nicer when you don’t understand much of what the announcers are saying. In Korean, they just use the English word “heading” for any kind of head shot, and they yell “SHOOT!!!” for any shot on goal.

  • Last weekend we went to a textile festival and stayed in a little place out in the countryside on Saturday night, during the first Korea game. This place had several little cabins, and the owners lived in a big house. The owners let everyone into their living room to watch the game. It was Tae and I, along with our friends Carol, Tracy, and Ginny — and about fifteen Korean guys. It was really fun watching the game with them (more so since Korea won) and a unique experience for us.

OKay, it’s halftime now for New Zealand and Slovakia. Still scoreless, but New Zealand is not playing well. After Australia’s game, this does not seem to be the Antipodean’s World Cup.

Pirates in the Republic of Korea
18 May 2010 @ 01:03 pm

Ah, a summer vacation — we’re going to Sweden to visit my aunt, and then going to Italy for some relaxing, and for me to attend a conference. Should be great, right?

Well, we’re flying to Sweden on Thai Airlines, and our flight goes through Bangkok. We only have a layover, but things are not good in Bangkok right now. And in Europe, there’s that Icelandic volcano which may or may not be continuing to screw things up (although flights from Asia into Stockholm shouldn’t be too affected).

On the bright side, the economic problems in Europe means that the Euro is weak against the won and the dollar, so we’ll have lots of money to spend — last summer, when I was in Austria, it was about 1750 won to a Euro, but right now it’s about 1420 won to a Euro and steadily declining.

Pirates in the Republic of Korea
10 March 2010 @ 10:29 am

Yesterday afternoon it rained a bit, and as night fell, the rain turned into snow. We got a couple centimeters of thick, wet snow on top of a bit of ice. It’s the kind of snow that makes everything look very beautiful; every tree branch is painted with a lovely white layer of snow and the landscape is bright and beautiful.

All that is familiar to those of you native to the Midwest, but here there’s something new: there’s a lot of bamboo growing on campus here, and the ice and wet snow caused many of the tops of the bamboo to bend over and break off. All around campus, wherever there’s bamboo growing, the plants are all bent over under the snow, and the ground is littered with bamboo branches that broke off under the weight of the ice and snow.

Some of the stronger or more flexible bamboo plants are bent completely over to the ground. I admired the beauty of the snow and the strength of the plant that didn’t break, and then started wondering what shape the bent-over plant forms. Maybe I’ll ask my differential equations students to develop a model.