Kindergarten prowess

I wrote earlier on immersion learning in preschoolers, and how the benefit of English-themed kindergarten doesn't actually teach them English so much as it primes them to learn it in school/hagwon throughout their lives. But there's a great deal more to kindergarten here than the English. Elementary school in Korea begins in the first grade, when kids are "8" years old. That deserves a bit of clarification, so to start, school here goes from the beginning of March to the end of November. That means that on January 1st, each child's age for school purposes is considered the age they turn during the school year. So a kid whose birthday is on December 31st will start school a full year younger than a kid with a January 1st birthday. In addition, Koreans consider the gestation period to be the child's first year of life, so the day a Korean child is born is his or her first birthday. When I say they start school at 8, well, most of them are really 6.

So preschool, or kindergarten, is a private enterprise (there are general kindergartens, not just language-themed ones) that not all kids use. I wonder sometimes how far behind the kids who can't afford it are than their peers in the first grade...

But that's beside the point. I really want to compare Korean kindy kids to their American counterparts. We start kindergarten at 5 years old (effectively 3, in some cases), but my class is the oldest, the 7-year-olds. However, I have the lower-level 7s, so due to crowding in the 6yo class, I have three kids that will have another year of kindergarten before they start school. Here are the textbooks we use in class:
Spectrum Math - Grade 1 -- A book intented for first grade students. All of my students can add and subtract with ease and most of this book isn't challenging for most of them, even in English.
Super Easy Reading 1 -- I can't find much about this book, so I think it's used mostly for SLA. Very simple, but certainly very similar in structure and difficulty to some US kindergarten materials I've seen.
Master Skills Thinking Skills Grade 1 -- Again, a textbook for first graders. This one is more of a challenge from the language barrier standpoint. There were definitely some problems with sequence, but they were all because of not knowing what "last" means, not because they truly don't know. Still, most of my kids do an excellent job with this book.
Modern Curriculum Press Phonics Level K -- This one is intended for kindergartners, as to be expected.

But that's in English. In Korean, every single one of my kids can read and write (as can the age group below us) in Korean. In this, they are ahead of the majority of American kindergartners, unless there have been some dramatic changes since my siblings and I were in those grades (of my siblings, I was the only one who was reading when I entered school).

Further, I would put three of my fifteen kids into any US kindergarten right now and be completely confident that they would have no trouble with any of the material. Three more would probably be ok. And the teacher of the other 7yo class thinks all of her kids could do it.

What's the difference? Why can my Koreans read and write in Korean far better than most American kids can at the same age? I don't have an answer, but perhaps there is an expectation that kids will already be able to read, write and be proficient in basic arithmetic here when they begin school when in the US, there is a pressure for the same but perhaps not an outright expectation. Another possibility is that hangul (the Korean writing system) is easier to learn. It's certainly easier to spell, but I don't see how matching sounds to symbols is really going to be different in Korean than in English. I certainly don't think Korean children are intrinsically smarter, but perhaps the expecatations do make all the difference. The testing begins the minute they enter school, so perhaps parents make sure their kids know the basics -- even before starting kindergarten.



Googlebomb the election. From A Blog Around the Clock...Go here and copy the text into your blog.

--AZ-Sen: Jon Kyl
--AZ-01: Rick Renzi
--AZ-05: J.D. Hayworth
--CA-04: John Doolittle
--CA-11: Richard Pombo
--CA-50: Brian Bilbray
--CO-04: Marilyn Musgrave
--CO-05: Doug Lamborn
--CO-07: Rick O'Donnell
--CT-04: Christopher Shays
--FL-13: Vernon Buchanan
--FL-16: Joe Negron
--FL-22: Clay Shaw
--ID-01: Bill Sali
--IL-06: Peter Roskam
--IL-10: Mark Kirk
--IL-14: Dennis Hastert
--IN-02: Chris Chocola
--IN-08: John Hostettler
--IA-01: Mike Whalen
--KS-02: Jim Ryun
--KY-03: Anne Northup
--KY-04: Geoff Davis
--MD-Sen: Michael Steele
--MN-01: Gil Gutknecht
--MN-06: Michele Bachmann
--MO-Sen: Jim Talent
--MT-Sen: Conrad Burns
--NV-03: Jon Porter
--NH-02: Charlie Bass
--NJ-07: Mike Ferguson
--NM-01: Heather Wilson
--NY-03: Peter King
--NY-20: John Sweeney
--NY-26: Tom Reynolds
--NY-29: Randy Kuhl
--NC-08: Robin Hayes
--NC-11: Charles Taylor
--OH-01: Steve Chabot
--OH-02: Jean Schmidt
--OH-15: Deborah Pryce
--OH-18: Joy Padgett
--PA-04: Melissa Hart
--PA-07: Curt Weldon
--PA-08: Mike Fitzpatrick
--PA-10: Don Sherwood
--RI-Sen: Lincoln Chafee
--TN-Sen: Bob Corker
--VA-Sen: George Allen
--VA-10: Frank Wolf
--WA-Sen: Mike McGavick
--WA-08: Dave Reichert


This Week in Southern Hockey

Atlanta 7-1-1 1st in the Southeast
Three games, three wins. The Thrash defeated Washington once and Florida twice in the past seven days, giving them a six-point cushion in the Southeast. Yes, it's early, but luckily the ol' "points count the same in October or February" adage comes true, and doubly so when most of those points are against SE opponents. The blazing start has been mostly attributed to Kari Lehtonen and rightly so. The kid's been outstanding and the extremely capable Johan Hedberg has seen exactly two seconds of ice time in 9 games. Look for him to play Thursday against Philadelphia, however, giving Kari a much-deserved rest before Atlanta heads up to Buffalo to take on the league's top team. Oh, yeah, and Kovalchuk's on track. His hat trick to beat the Cats came after saying in an intermission interview: "I'm doing my job. I'm plus-four!" On deck: Four road games should really put the Thrashers' early hype to the test. Carolina's looking better, Philly will still have a pathetically slow defense but might be fired up with their sudden overhaul, Buffalo's 9-0-0 and Toronto is never an easy place to play. 6 out of 8 would be an excellent week.

Carolina 3-4-2 T-3rd in the Southeast
Only two games, and the sole point came in an OT loss to the New York Islanders. However, they're still 3-1-1 in their last five, and the loss was to Buffalo, which isn't anything to be particularly ashamed of. They aren't getting shut out, either -- they put up four against the Sabres. Carolina's still got some significant injuries: Letowski and Stillman aren't ready, Andrew Ladd should be back for the Atlanta game and Wesley and Wallin are maybes. On deck: Atlanta will be a tough game, with the Thrashers looking to avenge the last-second loss back on Friday the 13th. Carolina follows up the Wednesday game with a home-and-home against the Bolts. They need four points.

Florida 4-5-1 2nd in the Southeast
Not such a good week for Florida, though they maintain their second-place spot by a point over the Canes and Bolts. They did defeat the Flyers 3-2 (but really, who hasn't), but fell to SE rivals Washington once and Atlanta twice in the meantime. Captain Jokinen continues to lead the team with four goals and 11 points, with Stephen Weiss just behind at 3-5-8. Mike Van Ryn leads the team with 8 assists. On deck: The schedule doesn't get any lighter. The Cats have another four-game week on tap, including the first three on the road at the Rangers, Devils and Isles, before returning home to host San Jose. And 1-3 isn't going to keep them from falling to double digits behind Atlanta.

Nashville 4-3-1 1st in the Central
A prolific week for the Preds! Wins over the Rangers and Devils and a point gained in an overtime loss to Vancouver vaulted Nashville from fifth to first in the West's Central division. Sure, it's a one-point lead and nobody else is better than .500, but take what you can get, and all. On deck: Hosting the Sharks before it's out west to face Calgary and the Canucks. Four points would be a good way to enter November.

Tampa Bay 4-4-0 T-3rd in the Southeast
Two games and two wins over Philadelphia and Washington bring the Bolts back to .500 and into a tie with the Canes behind Florida at third in the division. On deck: After a five-day break, Tampa plays three games in four days. Home-and-home with Carolina and then San Jose continues their southern tour. I don't see them taking more than two points this week.

I write less and less as I go along. It's because as I type, I'm thinking of how I have to get up at 6 a.m. for a 14.5-hour day, nine of which are spent teaching.


Weekend Links

Not it! Mass. elementary school bans tag - Yahoo! News
First kickball, now tag...I have studied and understand the need for inclusive and safe games in gym class, but limiting what kids do in free play? If tag is too dangerous, you may as well never let your kid out of the house.

Congressman dies, surviving spouse denied benefits for first time in U.S. history
A bit of politics.

A pretty damn addictive game. I only got to level 6 because I suck, but it's a good game.

After Pat’s Birthday
Via Deadspin. A scathing commentary from Kevin Tillman.

50 States - Presented by Addicting Games
And it is addictive! Try to put state cutouts in their place. I played five times and my best score was 96% with an average error of 4 miles. Part of it's luck of the draw...if you get a lot of border states first you do much better, if your first state is, say, Colorado, it's like impossible to get it exactly right.


Carnival of Education

My post Immersion learning? is part of the 89th Carnival of Education at Poor, Starving College Student.

On tap, hopefully this weekend:

Cooking ramen
Dominance in preschoolers


This Week in Southern Hockey

Atlanta 4-1-1, 1st in the Southeast
Atlanta played three games in three days this week and didn't show signs of slowing. They beat Boston at home 4-1 and lost a tough 4-3 game to Carolina on Saturday night, but bounced right back to defeat the Caps in Washington in OT. Lehtonen continues to be outstanding. I'm a bit concerned that this early in the season Hartley has him playing back-to-back, but perhaps it was a confidence booster for the last-second goal against the Canes. Yes, Carolina scored with a second on the clock to send the Thrash to their only regulation defeat so far, but the bright spot in this game was that Atlanta battled back from 3-0 down. Last year, they'd have lost 5-1. Even more importantly, they went into Washington and came away with a tough victory on the road and Kovalchuk finally put one in the net. He's been playing outstanding hockey to start the season and it's about time one went in for him: and no better time than overtime! On deck: More SE. Home against the Caps Thursday night and then home-and-home with the Panthers Saturday and Monday nights. They have to be looking for 6 points this week.

Carolina 3-3-1, T-2nd in the Southeast
The defending champs look to be back on track with three straight wins this week. The Thrashers proved to be their only test, requiring a last-second goal by Ray Whitney of "Where's Whitney" fame (a million points if you get this reference) after blowing a 3-0 lead in the last two periods, but two straight 5-1 wins over Pittsburgh and Tampa were just what the doctor ordered. The Pittsburgh game had its price: for the second straight match against the Pens, a Cane left the game on a stretcher. Trevor Letowski was knocked out cold by a seemingly clean, if fluky, open-ice hit from Colby Armstrong. I'm sure he'll miss some significant time, but luckily it wasn't a broken neck. Cam Ward's looking strong, with 25 saves against the Caps and 34 on the Pens. They seem to be spreading out the scoring, too, the league lead in goals is 7; the team lead is 3 and shared by Scott Walker, Eric Staal and Justin Williams (who tallied all three in the Pittsburgh game). But that's par for the course for the Canes. On deck: The final two games of this long road trip, at Buffalo and on the Island, back to back on Friday and Saturday nights.

Florida 3-2-1, T-2nd in the Southeast
It was a good week for the supposed worst in the southeast. The Cats ran their home record to 4-0 by doubling up Carolina 6-3 and then beating the Bolts 3-2. They lost the second game of the back-to-back with Tampa by a 4-1 score, but four out of six points is certainly a good week for this team. It's probably not a coincidence that the loss was with Belfour in net. It took approximately no time at all for Auld to solidify himself as the starter. He's playing good hockey. Captain Olli Jokinen and young Stephen Weiss currently lead the team with 3 goals apiece and Weiss is also a +3 on the year. On deck: Four games this week: at Washington and home against Philly before the home and home with the Thrash.

Nashville 2-3-0, 5th in the Central
The rematch with the Blackhawks didn't go so well for Nashville, as Chicago handed them a third straight loss, but the Preds did pick up a couple of wins against Phoenix and the Islanders. Tomas Vokoun has continued to play well and seems to be the key to their team, not that that's news. Perhaps I was overenthuastic in my preview, but I'm not quite admitting it yet. Yes, they're in last place in the division, but it's only five games in, and they've won the last two. Scoring might be an issue: Steve Sullivan leads the team with 3 goals and Paul Kariya only has one. But again. It's early. On deck: We're off to face the East...Rangers and Devils on the road, then home against the Canucks.

Tampa Bay 2-4-0, T-4th in the Southeast
Another 1-and-2 week for the Bolts sinks them into a tie with Washington for last in the division. They split a home-and-home with the Panthers -- though the second game was against Belfour, which should be an automatic win for everyone -- and then were blown out by Carolina. Ryan Craig leads the team with 4 goals and 5 points, though he won't be the only one scoring for long. A great deal of the problem is that neither the power play nor the penalty kill have been effective: the Bolts are in the bottom third of the league in both. On deck: A light week in volume and opponents. Home against the Flyers on Thursday, at Washington Saturday.

(South) Korea: No inline this week on account of low numbers. No ice for me on account of my damn alarm didn't go off.

I'm in a book!

I heard about the release of The Man Watching: A Biography of Anson Dorrance, the Unlikely Architect of the Greatest College Sports Dynasty Ever by Tim Crothers from a friend on Livejournal who posted a couple excerpts from the first chapter. It already looked like a fascinating book for a Tar Heel and sports fan, but I got a heads-up today that I'm actually in the book!

I frequented Carolina soccer games as an undergraduate, usually standing at the bottom of the bleachers, leaning on the fence, at field level. The book has a picture section, one of which is a shot of the team singing the Alma Mater after a game from behind, so that you can see the student section. Front and center is me and one of my best friends! He's now a manager for the team, so it was taken during my sophomore year. He says you can definitely tell it's us, so I hope I can get my hands on a copy somehow...


Saturday Links

Video - World on Fire by Sarah McLachlan
I'm sure this has made the blog rounds, but I just discovered it, so if anyone else is behind the curve, here you are. A lovely song and better sentiment.

It isn't bigotry when it's true

A Republican state lawmaker is criticizing Gov. Brian Schweitzer for comments he made to a newspaper here about the lawmaker‘s belief that the planet is not millions of years old.

I've also seen this around, but the stupidity of the "anything I don't agree with is bigotry" worldview astounds me.

Tar Heel Baseball - Fall WS draft
Woodard and Steed arrived with three sheets of paper, one of them meticulously printed on a computer, listing their draft board. The Blue Steel braintrust, meanwhile, decided they needed a piece of paper at 2:17--the draft was slated to begin at 2:15.

This is why I love college baseball, and this team in particular.

Jesus and Mo on atheism
This is rapidly becoming my favorite comic.


This Week in Southern Hockey

Or TWISH, for short. I think I'll do this every week. That's right, I'm going to do a weekly hockey post from Korea. Should be fun!

Atlanta - 2-0-1, 1st in the Southeast Lost a shootout to the Lightning at home and beat them 1-0 at Tampa, shutting out Florida in the middle. As predicted, Lehtonen has been outstanding. He was challenged only mildly in the game against the Panthers, but was flat-out outstanding against Tampa on Monday night, especially during a full two-minute five-on-three advantage for the Bolts in the second period. The defense is showing marked improvement early and overall team defense is significantly better -- both of these things are predominantly a case of additon-by-subtraction. Both Kari and the D led to the Thrashers posting the league's best goals against early. The tight-checking Tampa game is one that they'd never have won last year and is a good marker of where the team could be. Kovalchuk's lack of a goal so far is troubling, but not overly so. He's showing responsibility in all three zones, is on the ice in the last minute of a game and is leading the team in shots. He just needs a center. The Thrashers are also tops in the league in penalty kill and 5-on-5 scoring ratio. On deck: Atlanta's up against the Swiss cheese defense of Boston and then have the hapless Canes at home, so their perch atop the Southeast could easily continue. They'll also take on the Caps in Washington, and Kovalchuk-Ovechkin games are always fun. Plus, of course, Alexander Semin's leading the league in goals.

Carolina - 0-2-1, 5th in the Southeast Losses to New Jersey and Buffalo with the lone point gained in an opening-night shootout loss to Buffalo. It seems the summer was a bit short for the holders of the Cup. They've started slooowly and things came to a head at practice Monday with Kevyn Adams and Bret Hedican getting into a fight. They haven't played since, so we'll see if they're able to get back together as a team and back on track. Scoring is a problem: they're in the basement of the league in goals per game as well goals against, which naturally isn't going to get you very far. Actually, the only statistic in which they're at the top of the league is faceoff wins. On deck: The Canes are in the midst of a long road trip, and they'll be playing four games in six days against Pittsburgh and three division rivals: Atlanta, Florida and Tampa. If they can't turn it around here they'll be making up a lot of ground.

Nashville - 0-2-0, 5th in the Central The Preds only had two games in the opening week, but they weren't pretty. Despite being second in the NHL in goals per game, Nashville has exactly 0 points to show for it. Opening night was a shootout at home against the Blackhawks, but Vokoun looked shaky and gave up 7 goals on 32 shots as they fell 8-6. The prolific scoring continued against the Wild, but the Predators seemed disjointed and a number of odd-man rushes hung a stronger Vokoun out to dry. All but the GWG came on special teams, and I'm not sure how far the Preds are going to last at 30th in the NHL in PK... On deck: Nashville's up three times this week, a rematch in Chicago against the 'Hawks, at home against Phoenix and a showdown against the league's other pointless (that's "without points" rather than "irrelevant") team on the Island. Taking less penalties should be a good goal for the week.

Florida - 1-1-1, 2nd in the Southeast Florida opened with an impressive offensive outpouring in an 8-3 victory over Boston, then turned around to be shutout by Atlanta 6-0 the next night. They finished off the week in Toronto with a 2-1 shootout loss. Alex Auld played extremely well against the Leafs, something that he'll have to continue to do if they're going to play with any sort of consistency at all. It could be a wild year for the Cats, but I'm not overly impressed with the offense since Boston has no defense to speak of and that score is unlikely to translate to the rest of the league. On deck: All-southeast this week. They host the frustrated and potentially dangerous Hurricanes Wednesday night and play a home-and-home with Tampa on the weekend. Auld is going to have an awfully long season if he's forced to relieve Crazy Eddie Belfour in the second game of every back-to-back this year.

Tampa Bay - 1-2-0, 4th in the Southeast Marc Denis has had an excellent start in Tampa, but unfortunately for him, the offense hasn't seemed to come to life. After a shootout victory over Atlanta on opening night, they couldn't overcome the Bruins (at 5 goals against a game) for a 3-2 loss and then were shutout by the Thrashers. The 1-0 game was a pretty good hockey game, but as a friend of mine put it, "They kinda look like shit." So there you are. On deck: Three games this week, the home and home with Florida and then Carolina comes to town. Could be a chance to gain some ground in the division and start their offense.

Korea: No hockey in Korea this week, as it was Thanksgiving.


Here we go...

I'm not an expert on politics. I'm an amateur, an informed voter who's done a bit of volunteer campaigning, but I'm not an expert.

So I can't really say what the consequences of this nuclear test are, but here's what I know. I think.

1) The won will plummet, won't it? That's not really good for me. That actually sucks.
2) The US doesn't have the resources to actually do anything in North Korea.
3) North Korea is less likely to bomb South Korea than lots of other places.
4) The US will evacuate American citizens if it gets dangerous. I think.
5) My parents will totally recommend I come home.

There's a bit of panic starting up, but I'm not really sure it's time to panic yet. Or time to leave.

Immersion learning?

As I'm currently working as an immersion teacher with the Korean vocabulary to tell my students to sit down, it seems like the whole issue of immersion learning is one I've had ample opportunity to consider. There are three scenarios of immersion with which I have experience, so I'll talk a bit about those.

First, as a student:

I was the recipient of an immersion education, albeit later in my educational career and actually in the target language's country. As I'd already had two years of instruction in college, immersion was not a sink-or-swim enterprise. I knew plenty of words, could work out what I didn't and could make it clear what I could and couldn't understand to my professors, most of whom spoke very little English (or at least, very little English that I didn't already know in Russian). I benefited greatly and can still consider myself an advanced, nonfluent speaker of Russian.

Currently, I live in Korea. I have never formally studied the Korean language and before I came I had the time really to only learn the alphabet. In two months my vocabularly is at about 50 words. It's easy to memorize the words -- I find uses for all 50 almost every day, whether I'm buying food, teaching or in a taxi. However, I find that it is extremely difficult to get a handle on the structure and grammar of the language without formal study, and I can't imagine sitting in a class with a teacher speaking only Korean.

As an observer:

I had a sibling experience the wonders of language immersion as an elementary school student. The school, in fact, forbade those who taught German to speak to the students in English and required that all students speak to those teachers in German, even outside of class. The program, unique in its district, drew rave reviews, record fundraising efforts from parents, and produced proficient fifth-grade speakers, every now and then even a fluent one. However, these students encountered problems in middle school. The public middle school for which the students were districted drew from a wider area and thus had to establish a special German program just for these incoming sixth graders. Additionally, a good number of fifth graders from these suburban Atlanta neighborhoods went on to private school in the sixth grade, schools that didn't teach German. My sister was one of those -- she studied Latin in the sixth grade and French in the seventh and forgot most of what she knew about German, though the early exposure to another language undoubtedly helped her.

As a teacher:

As I've mentioned, I teach several different age groups and ability levels.

Adults: These students are similar to me as a Russian immersion student. They've all received formal training from a Korean teacher in the past and understand the structure and grammar of English well enough to understand my lessons. They also have a high enough vocabularly to a) tell me what they don't understand and b) figure out with context clues the meanings of words they don't know in my speech.

Kindergartners: Kindergarten is interesting. There are three age groups at my hagwon, and I teach the oldest, kids that will enter elementary school next year. We do reading, phonics, math and reasoning (like opposites and synonyms) every week entirely in English. Don't get me wrong, the don't speak English. They can't construct a sentence or understand most of what I say. But they do know a lot of words, and because they're starting to hear the sounds so early, many will find erasing their accent as they get older easier.

Elementary: I teach one high-level class of 7 and 8-year-olds. They, I think, benefit a great deal from hearing a native speaker every day, because they have very high vocabularies, some have spent time in English-speaking countries and many have parents that speak English. They're well on their way to fluency and they are able to transfer what they hear me say grammar-wise to their own speaking and writing. I also teach TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) listening classes, but again, about half these kids are effectively fluent and the rest are advanced speakers, so while they have things to learn, they can communicate fairly easily with a native speaker.

It's the beginner classes that are the problem. I have four classes of kids who quite simply do not know enough English to be taught in English. Many have no understanding of phonics and can't read aloud, even looking to me for help pronouncing the words "a," the," and "and." They don't understand the word "homework" or even commands like "read" and "repeat". It's frustrating for them to have a teacher who speaks no Korean and a textbook with no Korean in it, it's frustrating for me and I feel like I don't get anywhere with them. Don't get me wrong, I have some great kids in those classes, smart kids, but they are not ready for immersion classes.

So, the verdict, or at least mine.

I feel that the real benefit of English kindergarten is not producing fluent six-year-olds. It's making these kids that much more receptive to the English classes they'll have in schools (and probably hagwons) for the rest of their academic lives. I like the idea of language-themed kindergarten, actually, and I like teaching it.

Immersion classes for advanced elementary students is also helpful. It improves their accents, forces them to be creative to be understood, increases their vocabularly every day and requires them to process in English to a greater extent rather than just translating in their head. The children I teach will be TOEFL students by middle school easily.

However. Immersion classes with beginners is counterproductive. I'm not saying beginners shouldn't have a native speaker as a teacher, but the difference between being taught by a native speaker and being in an immersion class is shown in the difference between my elementary class with a Korean co-teacher and the two without. The class with the co-teacher is excellent. They're coming along nicely, learning their vocabulary, already recognizing sight words, showing excellent progress with phonics and the alphabet and generally learning well and eagerly. This is because exercise directions are explained in Korean. The simple sentences we use for reading are translated and the grammar is explained in Korean. Questions are answered in Korean. Yet they still hear English pronunciation, English grammar and English intonation from me. However, in the two classes that change, with me one day and their Korean teacher the next, my class is a joke. We get through a page, maybe two a day, it involves a lot of miming and drawing poor explanations for words. Part of the problem is that the school isn't treating the kids like beginners and thus the books we use are too advanced for them. Most of the problem is that I can't explain enough for them to understand what we're doing.

Because I don't speak Korean.

So what's the difference between my immersion classes with beginners and my sister's German class? I would guess... 1) those teachers and licensed and trained, they aren't just native speakers and 2) the curriculum is likely far better. Here they don't ask us about book recommendations, or I could've said what was too hard.

But there isn't a lot I can do, aside from keep drawing pictures. We'll see how the next two months go.


Oh, Fox News

Thanks to a buddy via AIM, I heard that FoxNews had on a broadcast yesterday shown that Mark Foley was a Democrat. Here's a screenshot:

...seriously, just...fuck you, Fox News. What kind of amateur bullshit is that?


Sports Post!

Well, the baseball playoffs have started, so I'm behind in my predictions, but here you are anyway:

National League
Padres-Cardinals: Cards in 4
Dodgers-Mets: LA in 5
Dodgers over Mets in 7

American League
Yankees-Tigers: Yanks in 4
Twins-A's: A's in 3
A's over Yanks in 6

A's over Dodgers in 5

The problem I have with predicting the outcome of things like "the playoffs" is that I then look back and see that I picked Oakland to win the World Series and that's just ridiculous.

Also ridiculous: Andrew Miller not on the Tigers postseason roster. Who cares if he's given up 7 ERs in 9 innings of work! He went to the CWS this year! He's 6'6"! He's left-handed! I need fewer exclamation points! Seriously, though I hope Detroit pulls it out against the Yanks and he gets added. Some of the most fun I have as a sports fan is watching the kids (I say that like I'm not the same age or younger) I cheered for as Tar Heels make the big leagues: my (other) boy Chris Iannetta made his debut with Colorado this year.

It's nearly hockey season and I'm psyched. I'm disappointed not to be in Atlanta, for the Thrashers WILL make the playoffs this year, but what can you do. I say Lehtonen stays healthy, Kovalchuk's in the race for the scoring title and Hossa could be an MVP candidate. So the outlook for Southern hockey:

Carolina Hurricanes: It's not the same lineup that won the Cup, with Recchi and Weight back to Pittsburgh and St. Louis, respectively, but I don't see any reason Staal won't equal last season's production and with Cole healthy again and Walker wearing red and white, the offense isn't going to be a problem. Ward and Tverdovsky have departed, but Wesley-Hedican-Kaberle-Wallin is a solid top-4 and Carolina has always been about defense as a unit. The biggest question mark for this team, I think, is Cam Ward. He was outstanding in the playoffs, but he's untested in a full season, and I'm not sure Grahame is the answer if Ward falters. Still, they should take the Southeast.

Nashville Predators: They have an outstanding, proven goalie in Tomas Vokoun and he can take them a long way. Proven scoring up front with Kariya, Hartnell, Erat, Legwand and a strong defensive corps. Jordin Tootoo and Scottie Upshall add a chippy presence (Tootoo already had a run-in with Atlanta's Kovalchuk in the preseason) and the fans in Nashville seem to have come to life. They have a good mix of youth and leadership and their team speed is excellent. I think they compete for tops in the West.

Atlanta Thrashers: Ahh, the Thrashers. An excellent deal this summer dropped some dead weight by sending appalling bad defenseman Jaroslav Modry and original Thrasher Patrick Stefan to Dallas (where true to form, he'll start the season on the IR). Aubin, Petrovicky and Vigier are easily replaceable players, so the only big losses Atlanta suffered in the offseason were Marc Savard and his 100 points and the team's third-leading scorer Peter Bondra. As I don't see Steve Rucchin stepping in for Bondra numbers-wise, it'll have to be a group affair to replace the two centers. Are Ilya Kovalchuk and Marian Hossa up to the task? If Bob Hartley can find the right mix of linemates for his stars, I'd say yes. The good news is that Rucchin and Niko Kapanen, who came over from Dallas, are strong defensive centermen and should help a slightly-better Thrashers D -- with the addition of Vitaly Vishnevski -- rise from the bottom of the NHL in goals-against. Atlanta's biggest signings, however, were probably in goal. While the playoff fate of the team likely rests on Kari Lehtonen's somewhat skinny shoulders and hopefully no-longer-fragile groin, Johan Hedberg is a more than capable backup and Fred Braithwaite is a solid third option. There should be no ECHL goalie sightings at Philips this year. I say second in the SE, sixth in the conference.

Tampa Bay Lightning: Hopefully Marc Denis solves their goaltending issues, but I'm not terribly convinced of that. They're a fast and dynamic team well-suited to the new NHL, with a well-meshed defense and high-flying offense. I can't say I share John Buccigross's optimism that they'll win the entire East, but Vinny Lecavalier and Mary St. Louis could sneak a third SE team into the playoffs this year.

Florida Panthers: I think the Cats are one big question mark. How will Bertuzzi fare in Miami? I'd guess that the change of scenary could only be good for him, hell, half of the Panther fans probably don't even remember Steve Moore. Some of the best young players in the league are down there too -- Jay Bouwmeester, Nathan Horton, Stephen Weiss. Mix them up with Gary Roberts, Marty Gelinas, Joe Nieuwendyk and Ruslan Salei with Olli Jokinen's leadership and I guess anything can happen. But their goalie is Ed Belfour. So I'm going with 10th in the East.

Four out of five playoff-caliber teams. We're coming along nicely, my fellow southerners.


My Korean Medical Adventure

There's a lot to be said for socialized medicine and a national healthcare system. Certainly there's a lot of agreement that everyone should have access to such care. I found out today that this system has its downsides as well. Of course, I'm sure it isn't this way everywhere. It could easily just be Korea...

The story starts on Saturday, when my hockey team ended up at Bone Hospital for x-rays on our defenseman's leg. We'd played a three-game inline tournament in Gwangju, about an hour and a half away, and at the end of our last game a PP situation had gotten a little ugly and led to a fight. Our d-man had someone fall on his leg in the chaos and it was swelling up pretty badly. We didn't want to search for a hospital in Gwangju, so we brought him home to Jeonju. Sure enough, he had a broken fibula. He was x-rayed, diagnosed and casted in under half an hour. I was shocked -- that would take hours at home, especially on a Saturday night! As we were heading to the van, I noticed he had started hopping, keeping his casted leg (just a soft cast, for a couple days because they hadn't determined yet if he needed surgery with all the swelling) above the ground. I inquired about the whereabouts of his crutches. "Oh," said our club president -- a medical student -- matter-of-factly, "the store with the crutches is closed."

So yes, it only takes 30 minutes for your x-rays and the cast on your broken leg, but...come back Monday for the crutches!

So today I reluctantly informed the director at my hagwon that I probably needed to the see the doctor. My knee hadn't shown any improvement in the week I'd had pain (yes, playing three hockey games probably wasn't helpful) and I was afraid that if it got any worse I wouldn't be able to see a doctor over the holiday this week. My director took me to the same hospital - Bone - at around noon. I presented my resident alien card and she told the receptionsist I needed to see the orthopedist. We were told the wait was two or three hours, so I, used to the American referral system, suggested I just see the internist, the general MD, to see if this even warranted an orthopedist. They said no, I should go straight to the specialist. So I went home, and she brought me back later in the afternoon. We were told the wait was 20 or 30 minutes, so while I sat in the reception area, she went back to the hagwon, promising to return (to translate!). Naturally, I was called in 15 minutes later and...no director. (interesting sidenote: Korean names are three syllables. My first name is three syallables. At the hospital, they disregarded my family name entirely and just called me by my first name, Korean-style)

I entered the office and was directed to sit by a nurse. I call her a nurse, but they didn't seem to do any nurse-like things that I'd get at home. I observed other patients while I was waiting, too, and I saw no nurses taking vitals or history. The doctors seemed to do everything. Apparently they aren't quite as qualified here, though of course I don't know what their jobs are up for those who are admitted. The doctor came in, and luckily spoke some English, so we didn't have to wait on my director. Again, no history, no vitals. He did a routine ortho exam on my knee and found no pain except for some tenderness medially and started to tell me it was an MCL sprain, but I gave him history unsolicited and said there'd been no improvement in a week and a half and that it was sharp, medial and anterior pain and that it was acute up and down steps and standing up and sitting down. I have no idea if he understood, but he nodded and sent me to x-ray.

X-ray was also pretty interesting. Now, it's been a couple years since I last had an x-ray, but I don't remember it being quite like this. First of all, the tech stayed in the room and held the machine for two or three shots. Also, I didn't get the lead jacket thingy, which I'm pretty sure I got even for ankle x-rays. But they were very efficient.

I waited another 15 minutes or so and an orthopedic surgeon called me in. My director was back, so I had a sort-of translator, though naturally she doesn't know any remotely medical English words. Again, no history. Another ortho exam where he didn't produce pain, so I had to show him afterwards that it was flexion and extension with resistance that was the problem, and yes there was clicking. But my x-rays were clear, so he said I needed to "strengthen my anterior muscles". This is undoubtedly true, but I told him I'd been diagnosed with patellofemoral syndrome several years ago. I know my knees, they hurt a lot. This is different pain, in a different place, for a longer period of time, and I thought it was a meniscus issue. I was kind of brushed off and told that it was in the patellofemoral joint and "articular cartilage". He also threw the word "lesions" in there, said he'd write a prescription and did I have any questions? ...I didn't. I had no idea what to say at this point.

Now remember, without a history or asking about drug allergies (I don't have any), he gave me a prescription and sent me on my way. This cost 35,000 won -- less than $40. The five-day, three-pill regiment was 7,000 won. Of course, I'm doing my best to look up the pills now and here's what I've found:

MUSKEL: chlorphensin carbamate 250mg - used as a skeletal muscle relaxant. So I guess he did think it was a ligament and was just humoring me? Why else would I get something for strains and sprains?
PRONAGEN: pronase 133mg - anti-inflammatory, although the Google translation of the Korean druginfo page seemed to indicate that it's mainly used for bronchitis, asthma and tuberculosis.
GATT F: aluminum hydroxide 250mg, magnesium carbonate 160mg - this...seems to be an antacid. I am decidedly not a doctor, just an undergraduate human performance major, but reading the Korean druginfo page coupled with another page about the active ingredients really leads me to wonder why I'm on this for a knee problem.

So. Quick and efficient, cheap as hell. No nurse-like people in the ER. Little concern for x-ray radiation. No history, no questions about drug allergies or current conditions. And no explanation of the medication, since he told me he was putting me on only anti-inflammatories. It's true, I'm not a doctor. Maybe it's stupid for me to try to tell the real orthopedist that I think it's a cartilage issue, but then again, it's my knee.

All-in-all, the most frustrating thing about the whole affair, and what gives me a lot more sympathy for American immigrants, is the communication problem. I couldn't tell him exactly was wrong because he didn't understand. I didn't understand what he thought was wrong. So all I really got out of the whole affair was knowledge that my x-rays were clear. Which...for $40 is, I guess, something.