I came across this short video (with interesting contents) tonight whilst idly working my way through a swath of student lesson plans. An (apparently) American gentleman is inspecting the Western Australian Government’s web site and online documents, and…

… so CoVid vaccines fall under Australian Poison Schedules?

More Wisdom from the Late Mr. McKenna

Always interesting to hear from the late Mr. M. … shame he’s not with us any more!

Brought to you by YouTube via our dear friend, Mr. D. Icke (for it was he).

Alternative Social Networks to Try… 1: MeWe

With all the little issues and niggles I am having lately with our first official online session, it has been hard to do much of my own online stuff, so I decided to do a series of brief introductions to alternative social network platforms.

Hi again everyone,

My attention was grabbed today by a link on Gab (of which more in a later article) to a piece over on ZDNet about MeWe, so that’s as good a place to start as any… I have been on MeWe for a couple of years now and it really seems to be a place where anything goes, which is fine with me.

It has a typical three-column interface which (in its basic form) is rather bright, but the good news is that they will sell you a different skin for a couple of dollars. I don’t often spend money on social web sites, but after a few months on MeWe, it seemed like a good idea, and I have never looked back.

You have completely free speech here plus 8Gb free storage. They are constantly asking you to upgrade when you log in, but I am ignoring this (for now).

A point to be made here is that many of the people you know from FB are already on here, “just in case”. If not, perhaps you could persuade them?

You are invited to MeWe:

You can also see MeWe on FB:


Amazingly, this simple posting – a few lines long – could not be posted on FB.

I wanted to show where the wallpaper graphics on my desktop came from, but it (apparently) caused a hiccup and went against their (unknown by anyone, probably including themselves) “community guidelines” so I am posting it here. The character is called “Washuu-chan” (Little Washuu).

When the Haemo-Globbin Comes Throb-Throb-Throbbin’ Along…

With immaculate timing the current Coronavirus panic set in just as I was due to have another colonoscopy. Predictably, things did not proceed as planned…

It had been expected to just happen as normal: first the purge, then the laying prone on the gurney, unconscious, while the medics did the dirty work; usually a short and painless procedure, but alas, it was not to be! First I screwed up with the purgative, and then, on the day, my blood pressure was too high. Again. And again. The nurse in charge decided that the colonoscopy could not proceed because of the danger of accidental bleeding resulting from any internal injury during the procedure and decided that it had to be postponed (!) until my blood pressure had been stabilised at a more “normal” reading, and I ended up discussing it with a cardiologist, who put me on Norvasc (calcium channel inhibitor) for fourteen days and gave me a little book to write my daily readings in. Readings that I would take with my little Panasonic BP meter that I bought back in 2008 and appears to still be going strong. Alas!

Now, when it comes to the reading of blood pressure, I personally have a few gripes. When I went back into education in 1985 (because the job situation in the UK was so atrocious), one of the first things we studied was physiology, and we were trained in how to use an actual sphygmomanometer in combination with an actual stethoscope to listen for the Korot’koff Sounds and measure blood pressure, so I already have a very good idea about how to do this with the most basic equipment… but when the new regulations about annual health checks for foreign employees in South Korea kicked in at the end of 2007 (immediately after Lee Myung-bak was elected – remember?), I decided to get my own dumb-bell set plus my own BP meter (as the local Hi-Mart in the centre of Changwon had a range of different models available at the time). I also paid close attention to the technique required in order to avoid systematic errors when taking my BP each day. What I discovered was:

Posture was very important: Whereas the use of the sphygmomanometer/stethoscope pair allowed a range of body positions so that an optimum body posture could be employed (and most specifically, avoiding abdominal compression which would render misleading pressures), not only my own wrist BP meter but also a lot of the ones commonly available in public places involved a position in which the user has to sit down and lean forward. When the patient is overweight, this results in the abdominal fat deposits being compressed, increasing abdominal pressure and giving an elevated reading, so care is needed to find a posture which avoids this error. At home, I now take care to sit with my back straight and no pressure on the abdomen, and abdominal muscles relaxed, measuring elbow on the desk and supported by the other arm, as recommended in the device’s operating instructions.

Muscular exercise (for example, with weight training or more aerobic forms of exercise) causes the muscles to absorb fluid from the rest of the body, lowering the overall blood pressure. This can be seen by monitoring your BP some time after exercise.

Blood pressure taken in the early morning after awakening is usually the lowest (except actually during sleeping) because all body muscles have been relaxed during the night and have yet to tighten up due to normal diurnal body movement. BP peaks during the afternoon and evening and then begins to decline again. At one point (about eleven or twelve years ago) I would get up in the morning and measure my BP and get results like 50/30 (!). A normal (or more accurately, nominal) reading should be approximately 120/80 and even moderate daily exercise should maintain this. Again, measuring your BP some time after a long walk (for example, but allowing time for your body to relax first) should give a reading very close to normal.

My gripe with the typical automatic BP monitor seen in many public places in Korea is precisely this: that they encourage a bad body posture by forcing patients to be slumped forward, increasing abdominal pressure. To this I would add that in Korea, one is not allowed time to rest before taking a seat and being expected to take a measurement. The result is that (again) readings are too high and in the wrong posture to isolate the readings that you are trying to take. I have lost count now of how often – going back at least ten years – I have had to move rapidly between hospital departments for things like routine medical exams. Ridiculous!

Now obviously, with training in biomedical science and having twenty-four-hour Internet access, I do a lot of research online. Norvasc (which was prescribed in the first instance) is supposed to reduce ambient BP by up to 12/6 (systolic/diastolic), but so also is beetroot juice because it contains a lot of nitrate, which the body reduces first to nitrite and then to nitrogen (II) oxide, a potent agent for several processes including the relaxation of the artery wall muscles. I bought a liquidiser but unfortunately it wasn’t powerful enough to cope with raw beetroot, so whilst shopping at Lotte the other day I noticed that they sold at least two beetroot/apple juice combinations (one more expensive than the other). As it happened, after only nine days the Norvasc took my BP down to normal levels, but laboratory blood tests on sample taken concurrently with the initial consultation indicated that I was hyperlipidaemic (i.e. had a level of blood lipids deemed above normal range) and the consultant has now put me on Atacand and Lipitor. The actual blood pressure medication was therefore changed, although I was instructed to finish the last of the Norvasc pills (one per day) before changing to the new prescription.

Although this might seem a rather negative outcome, we have to remember that a lot of what has been observed is the result of an enforcedly static lifestyle. The walking distance between either work and home or home and wherever I would buy food and drink is very short and not likely to result in sufficient exercise; likewise, there is a great shortage of entertainment around here, so the result is an oversupply of food, boredom and a sedentary lifestyle. The human body did not evolve for the urban environment. Also – of course – people are being asked to stay at home while the Coronavirus issue is current, further compounding the problem. The consultant said that I should get at least thirty minutes of walking exercise per day, something which used to be normal until about two years ago because there could often be a long distance between home and work (or, at least, the nearest bus stop). If it had been possible to return to the area here where I used to live – in the north of the city, thirty to forty minutes’ commuting time – this would have been less of a problem, but last year, my manager was very insistent that she wanted me to be living as close as possible to the office in case of the need for a sudden interview. We have had no “sudden interviews” since I returned here, so that seems to have been a waste of time; now we discover that it has been deleterious to my health too.

Happily, at least according to the cardiologist yesterday, this is not an irreversible situation but it does involve a number of lifestyle changes which – to some extent – had already been in place. My alcohol consumption has generally been low recently as I have tended to want to hit the sack rather than stay up; the only trouble being that what I have been drinking has tended to be two or three cans of foreign cider on special offer, the issue here being not just the minimal alcohol input but also the deleterious effects of the sugar – fructose – which is a natural component of cider. My online research seems to suggest that this should also be avoided, but the trouble here is that it is a sweetener added on a truly industrial scale to a whole range of foods and beverages; very difficult to avoid. However, the cardiologist said that for a person my age, this should perhaps be expected, but could be mitigated eventually by diet and sufficient exercise. Now, if it would just stop raining…

Latest Check-up: November 4th 2019

Just this Saturday, the hospital’s automated messaging system texted me to let me know that it was time to see Prof. Kim again, and perhaps also render blood samples!

It’s hard to believe that it is now twenty-two months since part of my colon was excised and the two ends stitched together again; hard to believe that in that time I have actually had three jobs (although two of them are the same one) and gone from here to Jinju and back. As it happens, when asked by manager Jamie recently whether I wanted to stay, I gave her a “maybe” answer – until I remembered that too many students really want to teach kids, and this is something that no longer interests me. So later, the answer was “no”… probably because yes, it has been stressful. No kidding!

Another thing that hit me kinda hard – ouch! – was when I wondered if I could find my old domicile, back in the north of Miryang, on Google Street View (yes, unfortunately I still have uses for Google). That was back in March 2009 – ten years ago! – when I finally left Changwon, where I had been for my first six years in Korea, to take on my first public school job, and looking back, I now think that was a major error, especially considering that after I left the KDLI in 2014, I ended up working at the same place in Changwon again, although not for long, as Mr. Lee’s customer base was already shrinking.

Lo! and Behold! – it was still there, and although there had clearly been some more building in the area since I was living there; remarkably the unoccupied plot in front of the entrance was still rough ground with someone’s veggies growing on it. Some things never change!

Anyway, it’s been a long time, and I have been working in so many places around the country, but I still think that Changwon was the best place for actually living, largely I suspect because it has a more “human” scale than bigger places like Busan and Daegu, and actually walking to where you want to go physically rather than taking public transport, for example, is often not unrealistic, not to mention healthier. Miryang was also not actually bad – in fact, getting out of bed early and walking from my place across the island to the school, and walking back again afterwards, was by no means a drawback. Likewise, Changwon is a place where routine exercise (in the sense of getting plenty of walking in) is both easy and pleasurable.

Other changes to my Lost Geography have taken place within the last ten years – relatives, including, alas, my own mother – have passed on in that time and even returning to my own country appears extremely unpalatable; it’s unclear at the moment what the best option might be.

Now we return to today, and my latest conflab with Professor Kim. Since I last saw him, one interesting change has taken place: recently, I came off the generic Lopmin (Imodium) capsules that were prescribed for me as an antidiarrhoeal because I was finding that they were perhaps somewhat too effective (i.e. a bit too powerful for my own sensitive and residual gut); it was at times difficult to pass stools because they were so dry and stiff, so I experimented several times until I felt that I could be confident not to shit my pants at an inopportune moment, such as, for example, when shopping or in the middle of a lesson.

At first it was a bit dodgy, but I think it may have been helped by a couple of things: firstly, the fact that I tend not to drink a lot of water on work days, and secondly that when I do drink on work days, it tends to be quite strong coffee, especially for “breakfast”, which otherwise I normally leave out. On one hand, therefore, there is reduced water intake coupled with a strong diuretic (high-strength, “shoot-me-to-the-Moon” coffee), and on the other, there is the prevention of the gastrocolic reaction by, er, not eating. I think that this combination is assisting my truncated gut to perform its natural dehydration function more normally, as less digested food is passing through it, and secondly my body is running lean on water anyway. The result is mainly stools with normal colour and consistency, although exactly when they demand to be released still tends to be rather random like, say, two or three a.m. Generally, however, it is no longer so bad; I think the main thing is avoiding a large meal to prevent the gastrocolic reaction taking place at an unhelpful moment… I need hardly repeat Professor Kim’s admonition to lose weight.

He and I discussed this and the main problem is getting enough sunlight exposure for my skin to manufacture sufficient Vitamin D naturally. I take a number of supplements for this regularly but obviously, natural is better and my little “issue” here is that normally I have little exposure to sunlight due to the desk-bound work that I often perform (and also spending much of a working day indoors in any case), so getting enough daylight input is rather difficult.

Clearly, this means that the job itself (and the associated work) is therefore something of an “issue”. Another is the preponderance of mainly female prospective students who want to teach kids, something I lost interest in a long time ago. So the adverts are out and I am looking for something new (which I also mentioned to Professor Kim, as this would make routine checks more difficult). Some might complain that perhaps I protest too much and should just suck it up, but the fact remains that after all this time in Korea, some disillusionment has long since set in and the general teaching environment is demotivating for someone like myself. I need something more relevant and appropriate to find my mojo again. I used to teach kids for the purpose of survival, and not because I enjoyed it.

Shortly after my contract ends, I will have to go to the Gu Hospital again to have my colon inspected with a large and fearsome tool, and as I have elected not to re-sign before that time, I don’t know quite where I will be at that exact moment, but as always, I remain optimistic. Time and again a job has come along (sometimes almost too late) and I have been here for another year. I had hoped to have transitioned to something else a long time ago, but unfortunately circumstances have prevented this. Perhaps that is where I should be focusing for the remainder of my time in Korea.

Colonoscopy… Finally…

At long last, I finally arranged my colonoscopy, which was way overdue and should have been done about five months ago… you’re probably not surprised by now…

What follows is an expanded (slightly) version of a recent FB update, a couple of days later.

So… having surfaced on time with the cell phone alarm too early on a Friday morning (“Fishing Junks at Sunset” by Jean Michel Jarre at literally 4:00am local time), and my sore a-hole having recovered somewhat from yesterday’s probing, I made my way to work and I’m sitting at the front desk now on the last Saturday morning of the current session, with the weekend class sweating away at their Final Exam.

Previously, back in Professor Kim’s consultation room, I had explained that it was not possible to do the colonoscopy that day because of that disgusting “CoolPrep” purgative which had returned whence it came poste-haste, not just because it was retch-inducing in its own right, but also because it was lemon flavoured. I’m allergic to lemon and although on prior occasions I had managed to scarf it all down pretty much as required, this final time my stomach’s reaction couldn’t be prevented.

When the Prof. pointed out that I had apparently taken it with no problems before, I went into “That was then, this is now” mode. Repeated exposure had sensitised me to it, and the result was on the living room floor… he should be grateful; he didn’t have to clean it up afterwards…

I remember waking up Friday morning after the colonoscopy, on the hospital gurney, lying on my back and thinking: “That was over very quickly!”, and indeed it was… beforehand, Dr. Song had told me that it would only take about ten minutes, and it certainly seemed that way; one injection and I was out like a light.

After I came around, a couple of nurses walked me (somewhat unsteadily) back to Doctor Song’s consulting room and he gave me the low-down: they had gone all the way through the remaining colon as far as my appendix, and there were no signs of polyps, no signs of any return of the cancer, really the only visible thing was the healed scar of the anastomosis (the point where Professor Kim had re-joined the severed ends of my colon after the tumour had been removed) could be seen. He showed me the photos taken during the procedure and I have to admit, it did look good. If you can call the appearance of your gut lining “good”, that is…

With that, he told me that I could go, and after changing back into my usual duds, I walked out of the consulting room. As I passed the lobby desk, they handed me a small bottle of Pocari Sweat to help restore lost electrolytes. They had given me a new type of purgative which is taken as discrete pills rather than being drunk as a liquid, the two main disadvantages of which seemed to be – firstly – that you had to (try to) take fourteen (!!!) of them with copious liquid within about fifteen minutes, once the night before and once again very early the next morning before going to the hospital, and – secondly – that these pills were new and not actually covered by the national health insurance, although at KRW35,000 I didn’t feel too put out by the unexpected cost. Thankfully, they were not needed… and I didn’t sleep much… got back home about noon and went to sleep PDQ…

Again, previous experience when I was still learning how to moderate the function of my dysfunctional colon with the Lopmin (an antidiarrhoeal preparation available in discrete capsules) made me take the precaution of packing some diapers (large size of course) in my bag before setting out, with some added inner pads (in case a double diaper was necessary). As it happened, the hot summer weather and the dehydration that accompanies it together have a habit of mimicking the effects of the Lopmin to some extent, so I was able to go to the hospital and back again, by public transport, without any, er, embarrassment… Thankfully, then, they were not needed… and I didn’t sleep much… got back home about noon and went to sleep PDQ…

I have to say that the hospital department seemed to be run as a tight ship and all the patients seemed to be processed quickly and efficiently; the only little “problem” we seemed to have was that the young nurse couldn’t find a suitable arm vein for the Ringer’s solution drip and had to ask for assistance from another nurse after three botched attempts (ouch!), but we got there in the end… ( and two days later, as I sit here editing this, I can still see the bruises).

So now I am sitting in on a quiet Final Exam for the current weekend class. Tonight I will be busy marking their papers, and tomorrow they will graduate… and do you know something? I am looking forward to sleeping on Sunday night…

Great Stuff!

Had to add this once I saw it. A whole load of stuff at Ill Will Press.

Handle your shit:

Alas! Poor Vic!

Alas! Poor Vic! 🙁

Final Quarterly Check and the Future

Regular readers of this pointless screed – all two of you – may have noticed that the due date of the fourth and final quarterly check has come and gone with little from myself by way of the usual commentary, and indeed, you would be quite correct. That, however, is down to my erstwhile employer deciding to let me go when I had expected to re-sign (and even had a two-year apartment contract to prove it). This turned out to be another minor disaster, but we are now close to some kind of resolution, so, blogging time again…

Long-term readers will also recall that when I first set foot on Korean soil, I had signed up for a hagwon job and proceeded to stay in that job for almost six years; it was, in fact, only some shenanigans on the part of my then-boss relating to national pension payments that finally caused me to throw up my arms in despair and transition to my first public school job.

Looking back, that was something of a mistake, and the adventure of transitioning from one employer to another virtually every year since then has been both unwelcome and expensive; before hitting Jinju, I had had the luxury of being able to remain in Daegu for two years, but only because I was fortunate enough to have two successive employers. Hopefully I can put all of that behind me now, but it is curious to observe firstly that Oneself is still somehow considered a desirable foreign employee even when knocking on the doors of 57 (and having had medical treatment for bowel cancer, no less), and secondly that I can return to a previous position with something approaching nonchalance.

As it happened, the last employer had someone else in mind (male, British and younger) who had worked there previously and they therefore had no intention of re-signing me, but had (I heard, don’t ask me how) been given instructions to “go through the motions”. They also had a student feedback system but for some bizarre reason, my co-teacher (who was also the officer in charge) decided not to pass any of it on to me, which would have been quite helpful; in fact, he hardly ever told me anything at all for his remaining time there, leading to a situation (as my Canadian co-worker would probably confirm) in which I was basically flying blind, and spending a lot of my time sitting there with apparently nothing to do. Important information often came to me from his Korean co-worker, something which I gather she also found irritating, to say the least. The final straw for me was when I was handed my annual teacher evaluation (which both of us foreigners actually failed) and one of the students’ comments was: “Please teacher, no more homework!” – which was insane because the speaking classes had no homework. Can you spell “lying, lazy little toerags”?

Thankfully, I received that evaluation the week I left, promptly replaced it in its envelope and forgot about it; after all, my Canadian co-worker, who is a professionally qualified teacher with mucho experience of all kinds of teaching, but ended up sitting next to me having become disenchanted with the outcome of ten years spent teaching at the local university, himself complained about how we were faced with the impossibility of changing our style to be more suitable on account of the fact that at no time had we actually been briefed on the criteria for evaluation. One’s working life in Korea is littered with these scintillating samples of silliness, but looking back, I can vouch for the fact that my experience of similar work in Taiwan was little better.

So… the time came when the final quarterly check was due, and this meant a blood sample (ouch), CT scans and a final poke of the endoscope up one’s nether hole, but alas, it was not all to be: the purgative, this time, was extremely difficult to get down and I ended up with a load of it coming back up from my stomach all over the living room floor of the new apartment, as I made a dizzy dash to the bathroom, early on a Monday morning. That meant that the final endoscopic examination would eventually have to be performed at another hospital where they didn’t use lemon-flavoured (aaarrrghhh) CoolPrep polyethylene glycol plus minerals to push it all out in a matter of hours (it really leaves you drained, in more ways than one, believe me). The following Monday I went to get the results from Professor Kim and he told me that there were no visible signs of the spread of cancer, and I wouldn’t have to go there again for a couple of years, apart from the endoscopy, which would eventually be arranged at another hospital locally. Sounds positive to me!

When we come to the transition back to Daegu from Jinju, alas, it was not so straightforward, although by returning to my usual removal guy, Mr. Cho, I was able to save about ₩500,000 over the previous year’s removal company and, indeed, ₩200,000 from his own quote the previous year! Alas, confusion about where he was supposed to go to and from where meant that I got stung for another ₩100,000 to cover the cost of driving back to Jinju from Daegu before we could finally set off. Then the usual temporary chaos of everything dumped in any open space in the new place (I’m still slowly shoehorning everything into place even now) and the inevitable need to clean up a second time due to the mess this process generates.

Alas again, having already had a prolonged and awkward transition to Jinju from Daegu, I then had the same from Jinju transitioning back to Daegu, but worse – I was not able to get my expensive deposit back immediately because of the particular position of the property – in the north of the town, in a downtown barzydown area full of coffee shops, eateries and noraebangs, away from the “action” which would have been some distance away, around the university – and lost much of my final salary and severance paying the deposit on the new place. Thankfully there has been some minimal cash flow in the interim and at the time of writing, the Jinju landlord has found a new occupant, but I had to take a trip back to the apartment last Monday, as the latter person seemed to think it wasn’t clean enough! I travelled there, spent five or six hours scrubbing the place, then came back to Daegu… to wake up the next morning as stiff as a board, thanks to all that muscular exertion. The good news is that it seems that I may get my deposit (minus costs) back this coming Saturday. So that’s positive, too.

The downside has been that of the two normal sessions which we would have in a week (three weekdays for one course and the weekend days for the other) will not be fully operative until next month (May) as student recruitment is somewhat down again (and hence so is the salary), but the reduced workload has a benefit in the sense that there is an appreciable extent of lesson planning and material preparation and this needs some time to complete. Now, if I can just get enough sleep (yawwwnnn…), I can get it all done.

The other little issue I have been finding is that the combination of downtime and excess effort, on top of being notionally still a cancer patient, has all been very demotivating; everything has seemed to be a drag and this is not “me” at all. When confronted with impending mortality in the shape of a gut tumour, then the operation and sharing a very small cancer ward with others clearly in rather worse shape than myself, and then heartlessly being told that I was being released from my job and everything else that followed on it… you have no idea the levels of stress I have had to cope with at the same time as having to handle all these other things; the FDD had literally only just been removed and I had returned to my old Daegu home on a January afternoon when the phone call came, telling me that I would need to find something new! You have no idea what strength I have had to pull together, and from how deep within myself this has had to come; unbelievable. My mind has been greatly changed by this experience; I have no patience any more – none at all. If anyone gives me any hassle of any description, I will be triggered because I just cannot stand being messed around or held up any more. As Beethoven discovered before he wrote his Heiligenstadt Testament, Fate has knocked at the door, and one emerges from the experience transformed, although not in a way that many people would consider positive because one now takes a very negative view of a lot of one’s environment, society, politics etc. Zero tolerance from now on. No more bullshit. Everything I see is stupid, and disgusts me.

To conclude, when we ask the question of what happens next, I will be remaining in this position for some time to come, unless something dire happens. The new apartment is great-ish, being of very stable temperature when the weather is cold (and it was surprisingly cold until the middle of April) and having a small blessing in the form of an actual wardrobe next to the bedroom, something I have not been fortunate to have before. It is easy to keep clean (although I am still trying to rid the place of the odour of the previous occupant’s dog food) and there are marts and convenience stores a-plenty here, although there is not much in the way of entertainments, but I dare say I will find something eventually (as I don’t have a good cash flow right now, maybe staying home and getting the paperwork done is preferable).

Hopefully, as the financial situation improves, I will be able to get about a bit more, especially as one advantage of working weekends is that your own “weekend” is a couple of weekdays, so you can actually get shit done. Likewise, things which have broken down/worn out/disappeared in the last year or so should be replaced fairly swiftly (and I have been rather put out by how things have been suddenly becoming non-functional). The bottom line in my experience, however, remains true: that when the going gets rough, you have to make a decision. When faced with possible premature mortality in the form of cancer, and having never needed major surgery before, I decided that the reward was worth the risk. When ousted from my still-new job because of the need for treatment, I found a new job and relocated; and so it goes on. Life remains a series of decisions, and one surely discovers oneself, in the most literal understanding of the expression, when the decisions you are faced with relate directly to your survival.