Mike Map

View Mike Map in a larger map

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Electronics, Big Buddhas, Spartans

Looks like it's been a few weeks since my last entry. Work has been dang busy and even a tad stressful lately. The 3rd week of the month is generally the roughest for me because it's when I have to do report cards for each of the 50-or-so students. The report cards consist of giving the kids scores 1-5 in 10 different categories (speaking, pronunciation, reading comprehension, listening comprehension, diary writing, writing, homework, attitude, and 2 more that I don't remember off the top of my head). Each student has either 2 or 3 teachers, each of whom has to do this scoring for his or her own class. Then we all have to write a 2-4 line progress report at the bottom of the thing. It's hard enough to figure out exactly where a kid fits on the 1-5 scale in all of these categories and how you should weight it. For example, if a kid is young and not that great, do you give him a score indicating that in absolute terms he has a lot of room for improvement, or do you give him a grade indicating that for his age he's doing pretty well? Plus, the legend says 3 is average, 5 excellent, 1 unsatisfactory. So if the kids all perform very well or very poorly, aren't they all average? And if one kid in the class is simply terrible, then all the others are above average, but it's not really fair to say that their English is good just because someone else's isn't.

And then, when you're doing 50 of them, it's just about impossible to be at all consistent. This wouldn't be too frustrating if the kids didn't share their scores with each other, but of course they do. And if you have two brothers in the same level but in different classes, their scores really ought to be different (given the whole averaging process and the varying abilities of their classmates), but if you give them different scores, one of them will get chewed out at home.

Lastly, it's impossible to be consistent across time. I have no idea what scores I gave all these kids a month ago, so chances are that I've lowered some of their grades for no good reason at all. Maybe I was just in a nice and generous mood last time I was doing evaluations.

There shouldn't be anymore, since I said lastly, but: it's really boring to try to make up so many different comments when all the kids are pretty much the same. That is, some are better than others, but for 95% of the students something like "X completes all assignments well but still isn't comfortable conversationally and would do well to focus more while in class" would be a fitting comment.

So, given all these doubts and confusions, I'm not sure how I make it through the process each time.

Anyway, you probably didn't tune in to read about classroom evaluations...

I don't exactly recall right now (remember, no internet access at home), but I think the last thing I wrote about was the locker room populated with throngs of naked Koreans. That was the weekend before the weekend before this one. I was going to go back there yesterday (Sunday) - to play squash, not just to hang out in the locker room, though there is a tv there and there are people who just sit around naked (sometimes with a tiny towel covering the crotch) watching it - but the canadian dude who invited me and who was planning to drive hurt his knee somehow while walking his dog. So, squash was cancelled, but we still went out.

As you may or may not have heard, my laptop hard drive died earlier this week. In fact, I know that it was on the 21st that it died, because from the 22nd until now I've had to keep all my expenditure records manually. Quite a chore. On the dell website, replacement parts were $200 and I couldn't even tell if they would ship to Korea. On ebay, they were much cheaper (on the order of $100 or so), but shipping would have been $120 or so. I was prepared to spring for it when I realized that I hadn't actually looked at the hard drive yet, so I figured I had better check it out before ordering any parts. On Saturday night - sorry for the lack of chronology here - I disassembled my whole laptop looking for the hard drive. I opened up a few panels on the underside but found only RAM and the processor, and I didn't bother opening up the fan unit or the piece with the audio jacks, since I figured the HDD wouldn't be there. Not finding it anywhere else, I decided to just take the whole thing apart. Within about an hour I had laptop pieces scattered about my bed. LCD screen here, screws there, keyboards, little pieces of plastic, you name it. But I still couldn't find the hard drive. I finally decided to try the completely senseless idea of opening up the audio port, and, lo and behold, there was the hard drive, right next to the microphone and headphone jack. I had undone about 30 screws and risked ruining the entire computer (especially taking off the LCD - that qas quite scary) because I hadn't guessed the completely counterintuitive location of the hard drive.

Anyway, I took the little sucker out, inspected it, and figured I'd just order on Monday. This was about 11 pm or so on Saturday, and the Canadian guy called to say he wanted to go to a gigantic electronics store on Sunday before squash. So, I figured I'd have a go at finding the disk drive there. We went the next morning, and since he was a little confused about where it was, we ended up first at some huge convention center with all sorts of displays about household goods. Most of them were pretty boring (curtains, bricks, blah blah blah) but we did stop at one pretty interesting stand where they were selling these objects that look sort of like fancy analog scales. There's a pad for your feet at the bottom, and then running vertically there's a bar that eventually has some handles on top. The pad at the bottom, though, shakes really quickly, so the idea is that if you stand on top of this device in various positions and let it jiggle you around, it will loosen up your muscles or develop them or something. You can lean and stoop and squat in various ways to isolate certain muscles, and you can even put your arms on the pad as if you were doing pushups. I asked the lady how much is was and she said "baek sa ship pal man won" which means "one hundred-four-ten-eight-ten thousand won," which is the way you say one million, four hundred and eighty thousand in korean.1480000. The "four-ten" means forty, so you can break down what she said into "one hundred forty eight - ten thousand won." They count their big numbers in multiples of 10k (which is roughly equal to $10), so it can be pretty tough to figure out bg numbers. Especially if you've got a massive machine jiggling you while you try to do so.

After that, we went managed to find the massive home electronics/computer part/buffet/wedding store (different things on each of the 5 floors), and I successfully managed to ask "notebook hard dribul odiso sal su issoyo" (where can one buy a notebook hard drive), and I managed to understand the answer, and I managed to find the right stall, and I managed to discuss different models and prices with the guys, and so I bought a new 80gb seagate (good brand) harddrive for only sevententhousandfivethousand won. I've already given you a lesson in numerals, so figure it out for yourself. It was a really good deal - far better than ebay, and I didn't have to pay the shipping.

Then we went to eat at Subway. They were incredibly slow and would certanily lose in a competition to even the lousiest of American "sandiwch artists." Plus they cut the bread in the old way (V at the top), and only had American cheese. Nonetheless it was still pretty good. Then we went home, walked his dog, and went our separate ways.

This was all before 5pm. At 5:30 or so, I met a lady from my adult class at the store and then she took me to some place, the name of which I can't remember. It was a mountain with some ridiculously awesome buddhist temples. I didn't know we were going to go there - I thought we were just going to eat or that she was going to ask me to give her daughter private lessons - so I didn't bring my camera. You'll have to wait until my next visit to see pictures of the 7-story tall Buddha. And pictures of temples themselves, and of monks walking around, and people doing their kowtowing, and if you're lucky, you'll get some videos of chants and gongs in action.

Anyway, I saw all that stuff, and it was baller.

Then we left the temple/mountain at apparently a really bad time and got stuck in traffif for about 90 minutes. Oh yeah, did I mention that she doesn't speak much English? If not, well, she doesn't speak much English. However, between her bad English and my bad Korean, we managed to pass the time griping about the traffic and talking about who knows what. When we finally got out of the traffic we went to a ginormous department store, where we ate at a TGIFriday's on the 9th floor before watching a movie on the 10th. I can't say I recall going to a TGIF in America anytime recently, but I have the impression where it's the sort of restaurant where a hamburger should cost maybe $7.50. Here it was 14300 won, which works out to 15 bucks or so. Everything on the menu was similarly (i.e. ridiculously) priced. Let's remember that I generally eat kimbap (seaweed wrap with rice and veggies inside, $1 per roll0 mandu (dumplings, at most $3 a serving), and various rice dishes costing 3500 won. I am pretty sure that the nachos, salad, and fajitas we shared there cost more than an entire week of my normal eating. Even after she used her numerous discount cards. Nonetheless, tasting mexican food again was fantastic. I swear to never again go without lime and cilantro for 4 months.

After dinner we watched the movie "300." Having seen the original movie "300 spartans" at some point in high school, I vaguely knew what it was about, though I hadn't seen any previews (remember, no TV in my apartment), so I didn't know anything about the movie's style or how they were pitching it. I had high hopes though, because Nietzsche likes the spartans for reasons that would probably bore you all even more than my hard drive story. Turned out that the movie was more like a grizzly mythical comic book than anything else, with an occasional (generally melodramatic and inaccurate) line or two about spartan ideology. The fight scenes were pretty cool, though, especially when they all got into their Phalanx formation. Still, I find it really hard to take what the film says about spartan values seriously when it spends 90% of the time on slow-mo decapitations and impalings.

I've got to go, as I've been writing this at home and I'm supposed to be at school in about 30 minutes to meet the new teacher and show her how stuff works. I'll just direct her to the blog for advice on the student evaluation card.