Alas! Poor Vic!

Alas! Poor Vic! ūüôĀ

Final Quarterly Check and the Future

Regular readers of this pointless screed Рall two of you Рmay 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‚Ķ 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 ‚ā©500,000 over the previous year’s removal company and, indeed, ‚ā©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 ‚ā©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‚Ķ 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‚Ķ 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.

The Majority Drools

Good stuff. I listen to TFM a lot, too, and he says basically the same. I think people are so addicted to their tiny smidgen of power in the voting booth that they suffer serious cognitive dissonance when the idea of democracy as a failure is floated, yet they complain about everything every day and it was their own dumb voting decisions that put them into that situation. It is the lack of criticism which makes “democracy” so inherently self-destructive.

Well said, Styx!

I absolutely had to post this LOL ūüėÄ

It Pays to Be Solitary

This article from was so close to the mark, I had to link it here:

Interesting article and I agree wholeheartedly with the comment by Spaghetti_Monster_02 below… shame about the TEDx vid (someone feels a suicidal need to associate themselves with arbitrary authority), but hey, there y’go…

Swings and Roundabouts

So here’s the thing‚Ķ the Air Force had their interview session at the end of last month, and decided not to re-sign me, and to some extent, I am actually sympathetic to their POV. However, that meant that I had to start looking for something new (which has evolved into a continuous process over the years; it merely becomes more intense at certain points).

As part of this, I approached my previous employer on the off-chance that they might reconsider and take me on (bearing in mind that they always seem to have some kind of retention problem). My old manager seems to want me back also, and she said that she would try to find some arrangement with the senior management…

Fast-forward to today, and I had already set up a couple of online conflabs with recruiters (one in the morning, one in the afternoon). The first was a pre-interview discussion with the recruiter before going to see a place in Daegu tomorrow afternoon (and I am going to do that, so off to bed early-ish tonight), and wouldn’t you believe it, Skype settings were out and we had to use the cell phone instead‚Ķ the second was with another recruiter discussing what I was looking for, optimally, by which time I had sorted the sound out on Skype, but he didn’t have a camera‚Ķ

Anyway, as this meant another brief jaunt to Daegu, I let my previous manager know about it. She in turn took this as a cue to contact Head Office in Gangnam re the “Andrew Situation” and apparently, the latter think that I should go to Seomyeon (literally around the corner from my old employer, YBM) in Busan for training at the end of the month before resuming duties in March.

Ahhh, but there will be a fly in the ointment: there was much bad feeling between myself and the upper echelons last time, firstly because I already had accommodation, was happy with it and did not like the size or state of what they were offering me, refused to move out and expected them to pay for it; and they did‚Ķ because, of course, it was actually part of their contract. Secondly, however, they surveyed me regarding the perceived efficacy of their “training”, and I gave them rather low scores; I gather that they were not pleased‚Ķ whatever.

This time, of course, the situation is very different. The accommodation offered by the Air Force last year was basically a single high-schooler’s room with a (very small and rather shitty) ensuite bathroom; I arrived with little less than a house full of furniture and a pile of books and other stuff to follow, and there was no way that it would all fit in, even though it might otherwise have been possible. Why? Essentially because each room was allocated fixed furniture (i.e. was intended to be permanently resident there until replaced) and this had to stay in the room. However, I had – only a short time before – purchased both a new (large) desk and a very new bed; and I was not prepared to part with any of my stuff, so I had to find a place in town. Luckily the Air Force has its own coaches, and one of these does regular rounds each day ferrying people to and from the town with a set route. That part wasn’t too bad, but it did cost me ‚ā©400,000/month plus utilities. Hint: the AF doesn’t offer any financial assistance for external accommodation‚Ķ

Now if I go back to Daegu, I will have the same problem again if I go back to my old employer; Chris, the Canadian who came up from Seomyeon to take my place, finishes his contract soon and you can bet he doesn’t have any of his own furniture. At the same time, another possible job in the centre of town would require me to find a new (unfurnished ) place thereabouts, which is unlikely to be as cheap (!) as its predecessor there. This situation arose because (in the course of my travels around the country) accommodation would alternately be unfurnished (and therefore a right pain) and then furnished, then unfurnished, etc., until I decided that I had to be obstinate and insist upon places being unfurnished to avoid forever having to buy stuff and then get rid of it, again and again, despite the fact that it was new because the next place did not have sufficient space.

This all got real old, real fast…

I hate to refuse an offered job which is actually what I want, but because of everything that has gone before, I am likely to blow a gasket tomorrow. It was because of all of this shit that I learned to say “no” in Korea; and so there is also a Plan D in the back of my mind which involves a D-10 visa and staying put in Jinju for a couple of extra months. Just sayin’‚Ķ

The final point of attrition is this: this same company released me early last year (they said that I had agreed to it, but I hadn’t), so I lost my final month’s salary payment, my severance pay, had to pay another month’s rent and utilities on the old apartment because I couldn’t move out immediately, had to lay down five million deposit on the new place plus the first month’s rent on the new place, and of course, all of this went down at the most expensive time of year for moving, which cost me another 1.3 million‚Ķ oh, and I also had to pay for my operation in the University Hospital‚Ķ do the math (as they say). In addition, as they have proven quite incapable of recruiting sufficient students for a quorum for both their weekday and weekend courses, for five of the ten months I was actually working there, I only received half salary (as payments depend on lessons, right).

What kind of mood would you be in at this point?

There is a whole set of issues relating to the employment of foreigners to teach English here. Long-term readers (all two of you) will recall my previous remarks, long, long ago, of my co-worker whose (American) friend decided to leave because every employer here seemed to expect new employers to be twenty-something graduates with two suitcases and a drink problem, yada yada yada, and that is certainly demonstrated as fact by experience, but another is that many outfits consider bean-counting to be good business practice rather than efficient operation and profitability, resulting in the kind of race to the bottom more characteristic of the average App Store. That means that very often, the foreign teacher is accommodated in something rather reminiscent of an English shoe box, and if you are the kind of person who likes to study, learn by tinkering with shit and collect books and things, it’s not conducive to comfortable life. That’s the issue.

So tomorrow may be fraught. Frankly, I am not in the mood to do anything remotely involving “negotiation” and you can bet your last <insert financial units of choice here> that the management of the company have decided what they want, and that’s not what I want.

Watch this space…

The Next Day…

What a surprise! It seems that the company is now solvent and confident enough to offer the full assistance to the employee to help pay for their independent accommodation; the only snag being that the previous incumbent will still be there until he leaves, and therefore my manager will have to help me find a new place (and it will have to be unfurnished, of course‚Ķ). This is because‚Ķ he has to familiarise me with the materials, which have been simplified (and one probably altered completely). I will then have to go to the company’s offices in Busan, where he used to work (and come to think of it, so did I, but‚Ķ different company) for some pertinent training.

Before all of that transpired, there was the appointment at the adult hagwon that had been arranged by a recruiter the previous day. I had located the place in a side road close to the Banwoldang subway station and went in but, oh dear‚Ķ clearly a good place, but wanting me to do things that I don’t have either experience or interest in. Debate, IELTS, movies, no thank you, and I said so. Apparently they were expecting me to just walk in and sign up; but I didn’t, not least because I had to go to the other place possibly also to discuss signing up. Embarrassing; but this has been a regular occurrence with recruiter-mediated interviews over the last few years.

Something odd has happened in the recruitment process in Korea‚Ķ I’ve been having more joy sometimes doing the whole thing myself. I kid you not. Increasingly I am being told about possible positions but being oversold in some way‚Ķ I had already been thinking that despite efforts on my part to avoid it, people looking at my resume were seeing things that weren’t there, as if reading between the lines and filling in the white space with what they were looking for. This will never work, because it means they are making assumptions without discussing things properly with me beforehand, possibly also misrepresenting me to the customer, and wasting everyone’s time. Might I also suggest that the recruiter should have been asking about whether I had anything else under consideration (which I did).

So now I have to pack everything up again and get ready to go back to where I have been before… but hey, look on the bright side: you get the full salary and they give you a monthly wedge for your digs, and with that kind of remuneration, you can afford somewhere decent, even in Daegu.

Edited February 9th, 2019

Cancer Update: Third Quarterly Check

Things seem to be proceeding in a satisfactory fashion… but once I sat down and started writing, this blog suddenly became unexpectedly long!

After visiting Daegu again last Tuesday, I made sure to text Professor Kim on the Friday morning reminding him about letting me know the results as soon as possible – and reminded him again by text the following Monday morning (just in case, you understand). He very kindly obliged a short while later with his usual reassuring “nothing to worry about” response.

However, as if a mere text message (from the Male Professor Kim) were not enough, his locum last Tuesday, (the female) Professor Kim actually called me yesterday (Tuesday) lunch time to pass on the news. Which surprised me, firstly because I tend to receive very few calls on my cell phone at any time, and secondly precisely because of that exact time, as it would otherwise (probably) be one of those annoying advertorial-type robotised calls from the phone service provider (in this case, LG), which has been a regular irritation ever since I first signed up with them. Unfortunately I have (after fifteen long years here) still not learned enough Korean to understand what their automated calls are actually about, so they remain a noisy, jangling and rather pointless mystery. I realise that this is Korea (where English is not the native language), but surely, by now, there is a sufficient quorum of native English speakers to justify at least a minimal English language service?

We might now ask the question: where to from here on? As this is the third of four quarterly blood tests, the last will be in February and will include a (hopefully final) CT scan to give a visualisation of any otherwise undetected neoplasms. Not sure right now how frequently after that it will be necessary to keep checking, but rest assured that despite a constant feeling of tiredness (due to having to hit the bathroom several times each night), I am feeling well, with only the odd twinge of still-unsettled fatty tissues resulting from the operation itself to remind me that it ever happened… and starting to think about what I will be doing next year.

Looking back over the previous twelve or thirteen months, the remarkable thing has been how painless the detection, treatment, removal and convalescence have been in the course of all this. Using the robot for a laparoscopic procedure avoided a lot of the tissue damage that would have resulted from a more conventional (i.e. open) abdominal technique, and hence faster recovery and much less post-operative pain. There is no doubt in my mind, however, that I would have been much happier remaining in my previous job than having to find and secure a new one. This would have made the immediate post-operative period much less stressful – not to mention less expensive.

Something does need to be said, however, about the reactions of other people to the process, as my rapid recovery may have made them think that everything was normal. I assure you that this is not the case; although I may appear to be walking around in my typical manner, it is simply not possible to lose a foot of irreplaceable large intestine and not experience adverse effects. That part of the body is largely responsible for the removal of water from your solid wastes (as digestion is largely focused in the stomach and small intestine), and removing it compromises this function. This means that you need some kind of pharmaceutical intervention – the Lopmin capsules – to slow down the natural process of peristalsis and increase the residence time of food in the gut, thereby allowing it to remove water to a more normal consistency of stools. Alas, perhaps, my gut seems to be quite sensitive to Lopmin and the result of this is that I have made a habit of coming off the treatment temporarily at weekends to allow it all to pass out, as even the most minimal daily quantity still seems to be slightly too much, resulting in a regular ‘plug’ of drier material which is difficult to void at first. Having said that, the feeling afterwards is wonderful, but you do start to feel somewhat bloated by the mid-week…

Part of the reason for this is that the differing lumen diameters at the two joined ends make voiding (and retention) more difficult than they were originally. The part of the gut removed was that which (under normal circumstances) is perhaps less involved with desiccation and more with storage prior to voiding. This meant that semi-liquid digested food would otherwise be difficult to contain until at least some of the storage function could be restored – but to achieve that, the narrow lumen in the upper part of the anastomosis (the point where the upper and lower ends were joined) has to expand sufficiently, and the simplest way to achieve that, it seems, is to relax the smooth muscle in the gut wall so that the wall itself can expand to accomodate what needs to be, er, retained. It is no exaggeration to say that without Lopmin, retention would be impossible and I would always have to be a short dash from the nearest rest room; I kid you not. So that bloated feeling does at least give some reassurance that you are not going to shed a stinky load in a public place at five seconds’ notice, which was much how it was immediately after the operation. For this reason, I am also hanging on to my small supply of adult diapers…

All of which has meant that another regime of health management has had to be incorporated into my lifestyle. It is not hugely taxing, as in reality it amounts to little more than acquiring a few additional minor habits, but one’s social life is affected by all of this, and diet also. For example, I would not wish to be out every Friday or Saturday night because nowadays I am using this time to allow the release of several days’ stools, meaning that I have to stay at home for convenience; likewise, it is not a good idea to eat too much because what goes down must, eventually, come out, and one may become rather bloated by midweek without some attention to what one is eating. Finally, it is worth remembering that there is something of a moratorium on alcohol consumption with a view to avoiding the retardation of the healing process, at least for the first post-operative year.

The impression has come upon me that my apparent wellness has demonstrably been misleading to onlookers, who think that I am fully recovered and able to resume everything one hundred per cent. right now, but this is far from the truth. For example, I have been told that it would be helpful to lose weight, and I cannot do this if people constantly insist on offering me food. Sugar in particular is known as the primary fuel of cancer, and it has been proving difficult to transition to a more suitably ketogenic diet; the environment here does not seem to support it – indeed, from a sugar-avoidance point of view, Korea is getting worse due to a rise in the presence of franchised, Westernised-style restaurants, coffee shops and other places like the Paris Baguette and Tous les Jours-style bakeries. Professor Kim’s original admonition to avoid carbohydrate and err towards more animal protein has one unfortunate aspect, in that it requires spending more on food at a time when my salary is being squeezed by things like paying for my own accommodation, and repayment of the operation (and other associated) costs. Whic I think is also slowly tapping this job on the head!

At work, the offerings at the restaurants are essentially for younger people who need a lot of energy for their daily exercise, and hence there is a lot of carbohydrate available in the form mainly of rice. I am not saying that there is anything bad about the rice, as it makes the other food easier to eat, but it is a kind of food to avoid most of the time if a recurrence of the cancer is to be avoided, for reasons which have been discussed here previously. Anything alcoholic (other than, say, wine) necessarily tends to have associated sugar components if only to make the alcohol more palatable, so this should really be avoided, too. Even the beverages we have in our office are essentially laced with sugar and sweet creamers, as they come in sticks and the ones without sugar are virtually undrinkable. It is for this reason that I recently purchased a new coffee maker (as the old one was truly dying the death), as strong black coffee is actually a good thing – especially when you stagger out of bed of a weekday morning. Maintaining a low-carbohydrate diet is proving unexpectedly difficult, however.

All of which is making me think that a situation like last year would be much better – same style of employment, housing and diet – but that would mean losing this job and (probably) relocating to a new city, too. The bottom line, however, is that the expense of changing my diet (and other elements of lifestyle) would be far easier if I did not have to lose so much each month on renting my apartment, something which is almost unheard of among foreign English teachers in Korea. So we come to the run-up to Christmas this year with something of a quandary – stay in the current job and lose money on rent which would otherwise be helpful for my diet, or give it up and find something more suitable.

Decisions, decisions…

Third Quarterly Check: November

Here we go again…

A brief(ish) mention of my overnight trip back to Daegu for the third quarterly blood sampling to check that I am still non-cancerous… and how time flies! After some confusion about exactly when my (ahem) employer was going to permit me to take a day off, I got permission for Tuesday (today) and so went to work yesterday morning with a sports bag (black, of course) packed with bed wear and a second set of everything, made my way by taxi to the local train station, and… had to wait two hours because I was too late for the 6:15 train to East Daegu Station. What a surprise. Not.

Some time later (over two hours later, in fact) I was finally able to board the waiting Mugunghwa [1] train and make my leisurely way to my destination. Alas! The arrival time was 10:40 p.m. and I had been out of bed at 6:00 a.m., so the evening was to pass by slowly with me trying not to drop off, as I first had to make my way to my now-customary doss close to the University Dental School (and I knew about this because I stayed there the first time I wentto Daegu, because the new apartment, just across the road, was standing vacant), then went to see if my favourite small watering-hole-cum-eaterie was still closed, as it had been the last time I was there…

Imagine my surprise to discover that it had actually changed ownership, and the new incumbent had installed a huge, stainless steel booze dispenser with taps for not only Guinness and Indica, but also Lindemann’s Kriek (cherry ale)! A customer could simply refill their glass at a rate of 340 won for each liquid ounce. But I stuck resolutely to a small amount of vodka and tonic, which cost a mere 4,000 won and did not appear to be the cheapest (because the cheapest vodkas available in Korea resemble battery acid all too closely…). This was used to wash down a small plate of cheesy potato fries with a hot chili sauce, after which I went back to my room, thinking that 12:30 a.m. was still a bit late considering that an early awakening was necessary (even on a day off work) due to having a 9:30 a.m. appointment.

Back to the room, picked up two cans of Somersby and drank part of one after a shower… and woke up in agony later that morning, having absent-mindedly allowed myself to have a quick stretch, and forgetting that this usually results in a painful Achilles tendon… I lay on the bed cursing in agony until the pain subsided, but thereafter was hobbling around (I can still feel it now that I am back home). Morning ablutions and packing completed, I handed the room key back and wandered out into the morning sunlight.

I made my way to the hospital via the subway and didn’t have long to wait before seeing “another” Professor Kim (female this time) and she asked me how things have been, and I responded that there seemed to be no problems other than occasional twinges from the robot’s entry wounds, and she said that this was normal. They also said that some time before the end of the first post-operative year, they would like me to a second CT scan, and of course, this immediately creates issues, as I have a job that I am expected to do and have to travel between towns each time there is a check-up, and the cost of this also adds up. So I will have to get back to my original Prof. Kim about that to arrange a time.

Interview concluded, I paid for my tests, got the receipt and went to the open phlebotomy parlour, waited my turn and put out my left arm for the attentions of Dracula (actually a young female phlebotomist). I had to strip off a number of items of clothing beforehand, as the November weather had been getting to me and I was now wearing an extra layer or two, then put them back on again a few minutes later. There must be a more efficient way of doing this!

Then I paid another visit to Jamie, my former manager, who was in attendance in her office down the road even though there were no lessons on a Tuesday, and gave her an update about how things were going in Jinju over a small cup of warm tangerine tea. The university buildings were very quiet, as usual, and our conversation was punctuated only by the brief presence of a maintenance technician (I would never refer to such a person as an ‘engineer’ like they do here) to reload the photocopier with a new toner cartridge, plus a small number of phone calls. Then I said goodbye, and returned to the subway to get back to East Daegu Station.

As luck would have it, there was a KTX going south and due to arrive in only a few minutes. The problem? The girl behind the ticket counter had quite a strong accent and I had difficulty hearing her over the counter, but we eventually understood each other and I grabbed my ticket and quickly made my way down to platform 7, and was soon on my way. Without even time to grab anything to eat or drink. But I got back to Jinju, grabbed a taxi home, picked up some more allergy pills on the way and made my way back to the apartment.

Anyway, I arrived back feeling rather tired – not a lot of sleep the last couple of days – but lessons are basically finished for the duration and much of what remains is merely paperwork, which will occupy the rest of my time this week. The second CT scan will have to wait until next month. Perhaps. Possibly. Maybe. We’ll see what happens – the results of the blood tests should be available soon.

1: “Mugunghwa” meaning, we are told, “Rose of Sharon”. Sounds a strange name for a flower for a country in East Asia, but who am I to comment?

The Love (and Lack) of Reading

With space dwindling on all my drives, I lost it this weekend and ordered a new 2TB hard drive for my main machine.

The fact that my new KT Internet keeps flipping out every morning is hardly pleasing me, either…

It seems to be one of those things these days… when I was younger and didn’t have the level of personal technology that I have now, you would routinely find me with my nose in a book or a magazine novels by Michael Moorcock, Fortean Times, that kind of thing. Alas, my needs these days, where moving between cities has been costing an arm, a leg and perhaps several other limbs over the years, things have contracted. I am not buying books routinely, not because I dislike books or even that I cannot afford them; no.

The trouble has been that I have encountered a number of impediments to relaxed and undisturbed reading. Many of the apartments have been unfurnished and without a bed to sleep on, never mind a comfortable reading chair; and when I got my last pair of glasses, the lenses (courtesy of Carl Zeiss, would you believe) came with a varifocal profile and two reading dimples placed in a position for an upright (rather than comfortably recumbent) head position. In addition, the kind of central room lighting here is terrible for extended sessions of reading, but I never seem to move between apartments without losing more appropriate reading lamps. My own personal preference is low-intensity ambient lighting, especially for reading, ideally from proper bulbs and not from LED shit, which is enriched in blue-wavelength emissions known to damage human eyesight [1]. So my actual domestic environment for reading has not been good for a long time. I really want to change that, and with a little reaasonable effort, that’s precisely what I aim to do over this coming winter.

In the meantime, however… ironically, the oldest working HD that I have is the original 80Gb drive I used to build my first machine in Korea back in 2004. The only reason I don’t use it any more is because all the new mobos I’ve seen don’t have IDE interfaces any more – only SATA.

If not for that, I’d still be using all my IDE drives because – so many years after I bought them – they are all still working. The biggest are 500Gb and they are now idle due to a preference on the part of the mobo manufacturers for SATA; go to Gmarket and, likewise, you will see that IDE drives are rarely new. This is the way the technology has gone since I arrived here.

Contrast that with the stupid 1Tb Western Digital drive I bought the other year. Never worked. Until I came to Korea, WD drives never failed. I still have a ten-year-old WD 160Gb portable that works, even though the USB situation has changed since then. And back at home in the UK, I always bought WD and never. had. any. issues. with them.

That last one, however, I refused to exchange at the time because hey, if it fails you have to send it to their office in Malaysia (!!!) at your own expense (by which they mean by international courier, of course). Which meant that to get a replacement would cost more than buying the original, and when confronted by that and having therefore wasted the money on a dead loss, I ordered a replacement from Seagate and WTF, no. trouble. ever.

So this time it will be another Seagate, at a fair price, twice the size of the previous one, which has filled up to about 85% in the space of three years. Well, I can’t imagine why, of course, it’s another great Mystery of Asia… but in particular, I really think it’s about time to drain my fifteen-plus years of e-mails from Yahoo, which seems to have gone so far downhill (and seems to have become some kind of disgusting NWO shill, if much of its so-called “news” is anything to go by). That, however, is currently just under 290Gb in size, and it will have to be dumped somewhere, and if I decide to dump my Facebook, too… well, you can see where this is leading.

As for the cancer front, unbelievably (for an English bod like me) the next blood test is scheduled for Guy Fawkes’ Night – November 5th! The day when a pre-Elizabethan crowd failed to blow up the old Houses of Parliament with King James actually in attendance. That’s on a Monday, too; time to book a day off in advance! But as always, I’ll let all two of my readers know what happens…


The Censors! The Censors! … Er, Please Hold My Beer While I Platform Myself…

I’m not going to spend much time on this because I have had a surprisingly tiring week even though we had a day off on Wednesday for Independence Day (1). I have four new bookcases due for delivery about midday tomorrow (which is thankfully a Saturday) and would like to spend as much time between now and then examining the backs of my eyelids, because a big cleanup and rearrangement of my apartment plus necessary job-related work will be keeping me busy.

Having said all of that…

We find ourselves in the middle of what appears to be a Silicon-Valley-sanctioned take-down of a number of personalities online. The reasons we are being given are clearly spurious, and the results may be catastrophic for those taken down. However, I feel that there is an important point to be made here; several points, possibly.

The first point is that accounts are being taken down from what appear to be (in their most basic forms) free sites for which (at the beginning) no levy was made by the service provider and which the account owners may eventually have developed into something lucrative as it became possible for them to receive remuneration. Names such as Facebook, Twitter etc. are being mentioned. More advanced arrangements are different, of course, because of their scale (the particular case of Alex Jones springs to mind here).

Second point… quite apart from the fact that many of these platforms are on the skids anyway, why is everyone complaining about being suspended or banned from their services? Have you not done some research and found other platforms like MeWe, BitChute and Steemit? Even more importantly, have you not examined the options for self-platforming, the better to avoid these things if you are not looking for remuneration but just want to express yourself? I’ve been doing this for five years now. The cost is not great and there are plenty of free add-ons that you can use. Why worry about whether FB and the like approve of your viewpoint when you could have a platform of your own? I pay sixty Singapore Dollars per annum for the right to express myself, with other add-ons like free fora and chat rooms for no extra cost. The sad part? Despite repeatedly stating that I have made these private spaces available for people to use, and from which (at least within reason) they are far less likely to be cast out on their ear, they don’t make use of them. There seems to be an element of psychological dependency involved here. Or is narcissism for free more important to you?

If you don’t agree with your chosen platform’s attitude, you’re a fool to stay with them when other free or paid alternatives are available, and since those alternatives are available, what is it that keeps you there like a frog in a hot cooking pan? What are you afraid of? You could start up your own blog, fora and social web site as well as e-mail, chat site etc.

Hint: go beyond your comfort zone, look for your own platform. You could start at a place like They have everything you need. Just choose a nice-looking WordPress site template (like I did), pay your annual subscription (about ‚ā§40.00/year) and start blogging. Look at the services available in your cPanel and add them. But don’t complain about the cost. If you like to go out regularly for a drink, if you waste a lot of the food you buy and then do not eat or if you drive a lot, those can only be false economies at best and you have better things to do with your time and money. You also get private e-mail and all kinds of other things at no extra cost (unless you decide that you want more).

I express my attitude here at (among others). I also have presences at (for example) the Vivaldi browser community (again, a free platform, better than its predecessor at Opera, and 5Gb of free e-mail account!!!). Dig into my blog to see my involvement with both of them historically. My personal blog there costs me money but I could have five times as much server space and not bat an eyelid, financially, each year as one year’s subscription to a 5Gb disk space (and unlimited bandwidth) would still be less than one month’s winter gas bill here in Korea. I kid you not. Do not complain about false economies!

Understand that there are elements of both false economy and hypocrisy involved not only in the deplatforming of established users but also in not voting with your feet because you are too cheap and lazy to platform yourself and tell your existing platforms to go take a hike. There, I said it.

Remember, as long as you stay with them, they own your opinion and control it.

What are you afraid of? I’ve done it, and so can you, so bite the bullet.

1: Independence from Japan at the end of WWII, that is…

Cancer Diary: Update 2018-08-08

As it happens, I made my way to Daegu yesterday evening, happening to be at the station shortly before the KTX departed from Jinju, which is turning out to be something of a pain for travel, as I live in the extreme north of the town, whereas the train station is some distance out to the south in an area which is currently being developed; somewhere in between is the bus station, but every time I go there, the buses are already fully booked. This is what happens when you cannot afford a car!!!

It turned out to be an evening of minor pleasures and pains: I got down to the Kyeongbuk National University Hospital area and decided for practical reasons to book in to the Mellow Yellow motel first, and here was a pleasant surprise: cheaper rooms available for ‚ā©40,000 a night. I didn’t stay in for long because I was hungry, and made my way across to where the Pasta & Burger restaurant was – or rather, used to be; it was locked up!

Thereafter, I thought: “Hmm, what about the WaBar?” – so I made my way there, but even using Google Maps on the cell phone, it couldn’t be located, because it, too, was no more.

Finally, I thought: “Well, the sausages and chips at the Brewer’s Brothers are not amazing, but I do know that it’s still there.” – and it was. So I ordered said sausies and chips, and washed them down with three bottles of Chat Noir French cider (I shouldn’t, but…). Then made my way back to the motel, which by this time was quite a way.

That was when the fun began: very often, since my body started settling down in the post-operative phase, the urge to let it all out falls late at night rather than preferentially during an earlier hour of the day. It kept me up until about 2:00 a.m., so I didn’t get a lot of sleep before the alarm got me up, but in the morning I had plenty of time to complete relieving myself before hitting the subway to the hospital.

I actually had to wait about an hour before being dragged into the Professor’s consulting room, but we had a fairly lengthy discussion about how I had been feeling and the fact that I had been experiencing a quite strong reaction to the Lopmin muscle relaxant, so that I had to reduce dosage to a virtual minimum to avoid shitting dry, fossilised wood… he in turn told me that the only real concern based upon the previous set of test results was that my Vitamin D level was very low. I pointed out to him that I was taking some quite strong Canadian oil capsules for the Vitamin D, but he said that sunlight exposure would be more important (as Vitamin D is synthesised in the skin when exposed to sunlight).

Food-wise, red meats are apparently no longer frowned upon (as according to him, newer research has cast doubt upon their presumed link to carcinogenesis) and as these are a good source of cholesterol (which is very important, because Vitamin D is also synthesised from cholesterol), and I was definitely doing the right thing abstaining mostly from the stodgy work meals and taking vitamin supplements. I need to get more exercise, more sunlight and eat, therefore, food containing more Vitamin D precursors to make them available in the skin; and lose more weight.

The next test appointment was made for November, and the Professor apologised for not forwarding materials to me for his proposed review of the surgical method, but excused himself due to the recent death of an elderly relative. I again reminded him that I need some materials such as photos, diagrams, and information before I could do as promised, then bade him goodbye until the next time, and stepped out to get my blood samples taken…

The next port of call was my former office up the road and getting them up to date on what I had been up to, what had been happening and what they also had been doing. Not surprisingly, they were only running a weekday course as there had not been enough prospective students for any of the weekend courses; one student was unable to do her video presentation due to some unspecified illness. Again, I bid my ex-manager Jamie goodbye until November and made my way back to the subway, and thence to the East Daegu train station for the journey home.

Alas, the minor pleasures and pains had not ceased yet: I was too early and the next KTX to Jinju was not for another three hours!!! So I got the ticket and then walked down the concourse to see where I could sit comfortably while I was waiting. Holly’s was the place, so I got a coffee and dug out my charger to keep the phone going while I hit Facebook on a dodgy wifi link.

After returning to Jinju, I got a taxi back to the local Top Mart and bought some meat, yoghurt and other stuff, and then picked up some more cider on the way. My intention was certainly to hit the sack early tonight, but make sure that I was going to sleep!

Next week, I will be back in work, trying to avoid falling asleep because there will probably be no lessons until the end of the month and a lot of the “work” therefore involves sitting down at my desk; no doubt co-worker Jonathan will have some pithy observations about the period of my absence. Results from the latest batch of tests will be due soon, who knows, maybe by Friday. So now, I’m waiting.