Tuesday, May 27, 2008


The Lonely Editor

Hope you’ve arrived safely in Korea. Working at home is wearing me down. I suppose I just don’t have the forditude for life at home. So how are you doing. I want you to know that I admire you for traveling like you have been. You’re got a lot of moxy. Keep in touch.

An Old Friend.

Dear Old Friend,
I’m fine. Life in a foreign country is really exciting, and I’m getting used to teaching English. I certainly will keep in touch as often as I can.


PS-It’s “fortitude,” “and moxie,” just so you know.

Hello Son,
I’m off to visit your sister and take care of her kids. I know they need someone to look after them, but it’s hard to keep a 5-year-old and a 7-year-old intertained for a whole weekend. Anyway, there’s not much more that’s happening right now. Take care and I’ll write more tomorrow.

Your Parent of the Complementary Gender

Dear Parent,
Yes, I certainly hope you can “entertain” them for a week. Are they learning how to write emails and use the spell check while they do so? It’s never too early for that sort of thing. Anyway, have a good weekend and get back home safely.


Hi Rob!
I’ve seem some of the pictures you’ve posted online and read some of the articles on your blog. It looks like you’re having a great time! Over here, I just finished summer classes. *Sigh* I wish the word “summer classes” had never been invented.

Talk later,
A Female Friend

Dear Female Friend,
I’m glad you like the site. I don’t have a lot of time, but more will be on the way soon. I’ll talk to you again as soon as I can.


PS-And, by the way, “summer classes” is actually a two-word phrase.

Dude, do you enjoy the city that you’re teaching in now? They moved me into Seoul and my institute is located right beside one of the biggest universities in Korea. It’s amazing how fast my schedule fills up. It’s exciting, but sometimes I wish my life was simple again. Anyway, hope you’re not working too hard.

A Fellow Teacher

Fellow Teacher,
Actually, I really like it here. I can’t complain too much about the schedule, and the staff here is really nice. I suppose there is one thing I would change, though; I wish more of my friends “were” able to use the “being” verb in the appropriate way.

I mean, seriously. I’m in Korea trying to teach this stuff, and my language is being torn apart by those sworn to uphold its standards.


Dear Son,
I was sorry to hear that you hurt your ankle. Was it just a sprain or did you brake it? A sprain can be worse than a brake because they may not bandage it as much. Just some rest and don’t overuse it and you’ll be fine again soon I’m sure.

Love ya!
Your Parent of the Complementary Gender

Dear Parent,
Yes … I’m certainly glad I didn’t “brake” my ankle. Even if it is severely sprained it should still be allowed to roam freely. Anyway, because of my ankle I won’t be going into work tomorrow. I’ll take the day off and just hope it recovers. I’m not sure what I’ll do, though. Maybe I’ll pick up a copy of the local English newspaper and look for typos.


Rob!!! Hello!!!
I was your student. How have you been doing?
I'm fine but I'm very miss you. Today weather is very cloudy day.
It's seems like a raining soon, so I haven't strong power.
Take care,
I'll write a mail again. or I'll again write a mail. (Which sentence is right?)

Dear Jennifer,
I’m fine, thank you for asking … try saying “I’ll send a letter again soon.” I’m sure I’ll see you again before too long. Keep studying and don’t give up!


Dear Parent of the Complementary Gender,
One of my students emailed me today. Having read the message, it appears that I’ve completely failed as a teacher. But, then again, how can I expect her, a student, to learn to use the language appropriately when 95 percent of native speakers don’t seem to care? Also, sometimes my motivation is lacking because, based on how some of my co-workers talk, the next person who teaches her could show her something completely wrong!

Why does it seem like I’m the only one who cares about these things?

Your son

Dear Parent,
You haven’t written much lately. Come to think of it, nobody has written to me very much in the past few days. You know I love to hear from you, right?

Was it something I said?




Wimbledon is planning to add a retractable roof next year.

After today, one can only wonder when or if all other Grand Slam events will follow suit. There's really no good reason for fans, especially those who've bought tickets, to have to endure this kind of delay.

It's also bad for players, particularly those like Rafael Nadal, who barely even got to start playing today. Given Nadal's overtly-physical style of play, he may require more recovery time in between matches than Roger Federer or Novak Djokovic.

Eventually the fans/players will demand a roof at Roland Garros. Why don't they think proactively and start planning it now?

Monday, May 26, 2008


Call Now for Yours

Voice Actor: Do you have a job? If you answered yes, then that means you probably have a boss. And if you have a boss, that means you need ImmunoJob!

You see, if you’ve ever worked for a manager, supervisor, or perhaps the Secretary of Defense, then that means you’ve probably had a disagreement in which you weren’t actually allowed to disagree. Like this:

Man in a Suit with Imperious Demeanor Pointing at Hapless Employer: You’re lazy, you need to lose some weight, and I bet you picked the Celtics to win the NBA finals.

Voice Actor: Of course, the boss is allowed to say such things as frequently as he wants. In this situation, the employee is probably thinking that the boss doesn’t exactly seem to be breaking a sweat in the corner office, that the boss is ugly and he, the employee, can diet, or maybe that the Lakers embody all that is over-commercialized about professional sports today. Of course, he may think it, but he can’t say it, because he might be putting his job in danger if he did.

Even if he said such things and got to keep his job, perhaps every time the company’s employees received a free buffet dinner at Arty’s Artery-Busting Bar & Grill, the boss would “forget” to inform him of the event.

That’s why we at The Gift of Sincerity, Inc., the creators of products such as ImmunoMarriage and ImmunoElection, now offer ImmunoJob, the product that will allow disgruntled employees everywhere the chance to speak their minds!

ImmunoJob is the fast-acting topical cream which releases pheromones causing all listeners in the immediate vicinity to understand the value of your opinions, even if they don’t share them. Maybe your boss won’t care for the points you have to make about his management style, and maybe your supervisor has a very good reason for allowing her teenage daughter to monopolize company phone lines during her summer vacation.

However, whether your remarks be caustically accurate or an illogical diatribe, ImmunoJob guarantees that your boss won’t react to them with spite! And, as long as you reapply the cream every four hours, ImmunoJob will keep you from being repressed all day long! Listen to the following testimonials:

Man in a hard hat: “I been workin’ in construction for 17 years. It used to seem like all the time I’d be liftin’ a beam and the foreman’d come by and tell me I needed to put my back into it. Well, last week, after I used ImmunoJob, I told him that since he became foreman and started spending all of his time in a trailer looking at blueprints and eatin’ Krispy Kremes, he mighta forgotten that beams’re pretty hard on my back. He just started laughin’ and told me that I’d made a dang good point. Thanks, ImmunoJob!”

Woman in Pinstripe Suit: “I’m the campaign manager for a woman who’s been seeking the presidency of the United States. Since her first campaign manager had been dismissed a little while earlier, lots of us were afraid to say anything that might set her off. Then, I started taking ImmunoJob, and well, wouldn’t you know it, but about a month ago she came into our office complaining about how women can’t get any respect on the campaign trail.

I looked her right in the eye and said, ‘As a woman, I wish you wouldn’t group all of us together with you on this. Maybe if you’d held a single principled position in your entire eight-year senate career, and maybe if the way you laugh when you’re on television didn’t suggest that you’d come to harvest our organs for use on your home planet, then maybe you’d get some respect.’ At first I though she was going to flip out, but then she kind of hung her head and said she’d try harder. I feel a lot better about working here now. I mean, she’s still going to lose, but I certainly feel better about it. Thanks, ImmunoJob!”

Voice Actor: So what are you waiting for? Contact us at the Gift of Sincerity, Inc. to order your supply of ImmunoJob! For only $39.99, you can receive ImmunoJob Basic, which will allow you to make thoughtful, rational criticisms of your supervisor’s work performance without any fear of reprisal.

Those of you in special work environments can try ImmunoJob, Brutal Honesty Strength Edition for $59.99. With Brutal Honesty, you need not limit yourself to criticisms of your higher-up’s work performance. Feel free to warn them that their horrendous choice of wardrobe, intolerably corny jokes and the insufferable way they snort when they laugh may one day prompt you to choke them with a phone cord!

Also, those who order in the next 24 hours will receive an extra supply of ImmunoJob, Brown-Noser Edition absolutely free! Feel free to tell your boss’ personal office pet in graphic detail about the nausea he or she prompts in you every time he or she opens that obsequious mouth of his/hers!

Call now at the number you see on the screen, or you can visit our web sit at www.DontYouWishThisProductReallyExisted.com.


Four More Days

Counting today, I will only work four more days at the SDA Language Institute. I've worked in three different locations since I came here (eight months in Suncheon, eight months in Chuncheon, and 15 in Seoul) but, all-together, it's the longest I've worked for one company.

On Sunday I'm set to start working at the Korea Herald. It's one of the biggest English-language newspapers in South Korea, and this opportunity to work there as a copy editor has pretty much fallen into my lap. I knew I wanted to return to journalism one day, but I wasn't sure how I'd achieve that. Most teaches at the SDA institute have to go to grad school or get a different job teaching English somewhere else in Korea, because it's hard to transition from this job to another one in your home country.

I know I am blessed, but my feelings are mixed. My fellow employees at the textbook office are sad. Many of my former students and fellow teachers will be when they hear the news.

I've had a very cozy, practically boss-free environment to work in for the past three years, and I'm about to re-enter that jaded, crusty newsroom environment. Also, though Catherine and I will be married in August as planned, we will not be able to live together, perhaps for several months after the wedding.

Many new challenges are ahead, and I hope I'm up to them. However, God has led me this far, and I believe He'll carry me the rest of the way.

He knows what's best for me. I just have to keep knowing Him.

Sunday, May 25, 2008


Coming Soon: Job-Hunting in Korea

To the board of directors at Rockstar Games,

You are the developers of such popular, if controversial, titles such as Grand Theft Auto III, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas and the more socially-conscious Grand Theft Hybrid Vehicle. It is because of your past innovations that I'm writing to you with a proposal for a new game.

It would be titled Job-Switching in Korea, and while it might not sound particularly exciting, I can promise that it will provide gamers with a lifetime of challenges.

Each player would start by choosing their identity: he or she would have to be a non-Korean living in Seoul and holding a decent job, though not one they'd be interested in retiring with.

The game would begin with them seeing an advertisement for a new job, one that would have to be considered a step up in his/her career path. After they've prepared their résumé and set up the job interview, their natural job-hunting instincts should be able to take it from here: they probably already know to pick out their best two-piece suit and matching tie/pantsuit and matching heels and prepare their portfolio.

If they've gone job hunting before, they probably know that they'll have to wear this outfit to their current job, because they lack the time it would take to go home after work, change into their best non-gender specific suit and then head across town to their interview.

They should then know how to deflect questions at their current job about why their wearing a suit. Options include: "I have a date," "Tonight's a special night for my fringe religious sect," and, "I just felt like wearing this today." (The last one may result in bonus points since it is not, technically, a lie.)

Then, certainly, they should know how make a good impression with the potential employer, be it through their punctuality, their admirably good posture, or perhaps their encyclopedic knowledge of The Office (British edition).

If the gamer knows how to execute each of these tasks proficiently, the game would then send them notice that they've been offered the job. Now, as the developers and distributors of Job-Switching, it'd be of critical importance that you keep this next part under wraps.

Once the job offer has been received, the gamer will probably be expecting to see their high score on the screen, plus a congratulatory message to appear on screen, possibly alongside some pixilated beauties in bikinis holding a trophy.

Imagine how surprised they will be when they find out that, in fact, they haven't "beaten" the game; in fact, it's hardly begun. Next, their new employer will send over a list of demands (which they will call "procedures," but even the former president Clinton would struggle to differentiate between the two on the witness stand) he/she must meet in order to have their visa status changed.

If the gamer is unfamiliar with what it's like to be a non-Korean working in Seoul, the concept of "visa status" might have never occurred to them. However, like all non-Koreans working in the world's third-largest city (some say second) a change in visa status is required to switch jobs. Without the change in status, the gamer won't be able to a) get paid, or b) stay in Korea.

The list of demands/procedures will include one's resume, their diploma, two pictures with a precise measurement in centimeters, and a "certificate of employment" from one's current and possibly previous job.

In order to make it really, really challenging, you should place one of the character's previous jobs in America, where the concept of "certificate of employment" doesn't exist. If the gamer's new employer wants them to start in two weeks, it will take some truly creative reasoning (if not outright forgery or black magic) to acquire one from their former stateside job.

Then there's the matter of diplomas: since they have been working in Korea for, let's say, two-and-a-half years, this means they sent their university diploma to their current employer about three years ago when they applied for the job. Give them a list of offices at their current employer (such as International Affairs, Human Resources, Employee Relations, Office for the Misplacing of Important University Papers, etc.), all of which seem like a place where such a document may be stores, and send them on the hunt.

No matter which office the gamer chooses to go to first, they should be informed once they arrive that it's actually the office next door that should have it. This search can continue as long as you, the manufacturers, wish to inflict confusion upon the gamer. It would be a really nice touch if, during the search, the new employer would send the character regular emails inquiring as to why the diploma/certificate of employment hasn't been sent in yet.

As time ticks on, and it's nearly time for the character to start their new job, the gamers might choose to supply the gamers with one or more "cheat codes." One of these would enable the gamer to leave the country and come back on a "tourist visa" long enough for his/her university to send a new copy of the diploma and for their previous American employer to conjure a certificate of employment out of nothingness.

Another cheat code would enable the gamer's character to simply marry a Korean citizen, thus allowing them to change their visa on their own, and not require any university documents at all.

You would then have all the elements in place for successful game. However, where most of the games you have developed in the past have been rated "M" for "mature," I feel this game ought to be rated "CG," for "college graduates only."

The strictness of this rating is not due to any graphic violence or superfluous sexual content, but because any gamer younger than college age would likely not want to work in a foreign country after that. In fact, they might choose to live in their parents' house for the rest of their lives and pick a workplace no more complicated than the Pizza Hut around the corner as their life's work.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008


Sports Injuries: Un-invention is the Only Answer

There are some things that ought to be un-invented. Now, before I go on, I should point out that there is a critical difference between “un-invented” and “abolished”: the latter means that an existing thing should be done away with and no longer allowed.

The former, on the other hand, means that the thing, concept or institution which had been on some prior occasion been invented should be — perhaps via time travel or mass hypnosis — erased from existence and memory. For certain things, like American Idol and possibly the Electoral College, un-invention is the preferable method because it would sidestep the resistance that would certainly occur were we to attempt abolishment.

What would happen if, for example, we attempted to abolish sports? (“Sports” should be defined as engaging in a physical activity for the purpose of defeating an opponent or opponents. This would set it apart from “exercise,” which is engaging in physical activity for the purpose of looking just that little bit more like a person who could be on the cover of People.)

Attempting to outlaw them would certainly prompt most men and many women to complain that young people need activities such as these, that they are an integral part of the American way of life, and that anyone who disagreed probably burns flags and/or votes for Ralph Nader.

Also, if sports were simply taken away, what would we do with the hole that remained in our lifestyles? Many of us would, out of habit, spend all of Sunday afternoon on the couch staring vacantly at a medium which no longer offers athletic diversions. Others would have to seek our energy releases elsewhere and from even more harmful sources, like Eli Roth movies.

However, if sports were simply un-invented and our lives filled with other wholesome activities, think of the benefits that all of society might enjoy! Un-athletic teenagers would no longer need to feel like second-class citizens in their high schools. Wives and girlfriends would no longer feel the need to decipher the meanings of random phrases (including: “Check your swing!” and "How is that not a foul?!") emanating from the living room outside of their proper context.

Even their male significant others might see the benefits when they realize that they no longer have to explain to said wives and girlfriends why it is that the quarterback has to put his hands there.

Most importantly, if there had never been sports, my ankle would probably not bear such a striking resemblance to a purple volleyball right now.

As children, most males take a liking to sports such as basketball, baseball and soccer, all of which are best practiced in a group of those similar to you in size, age and gender. Most of them actively pursue this sport as a hobby until a certain age, at which point it becomes apparent that they lack talent and/or motivation to continue.

After that point, it simply becomes too hard to organize a group of those who are more or less equal in terms of maturity, anatomical dimensions and chromosomal allotment.

Coincidentally, this time in their lives usually transpires before they will become especially prone to pulling their hamstrings, fracturing their tibias, and tearing their ACL’s. As a result, they will then be content to live out their lives watching other men on TV pull, fracture or tear their various features, all-the-while unbothered, unless that injured man happens to figure prominently into their online fantasy league.

Tennis players such as myself have no such reality-related factors to restrain them. Though we have a much lesser occurrence of injuries related to tackling or being stuck by a five-ounce piece of rubber and leather, tennis players need only a handful of (and sometimes only one) additional players to continue their joint-and-ligament violating ways until well after they’ve become senior citizens.

Continuing to play past our primes is a risk we share with golfers, and tennis carries with it the additional danger of being a real sport.

This year, the second Monday of May was a national holiday in Korea, where I work. If tennis and all other real sports had never been invented, I probably would have spent this particular Monday sleeping in, rather than waking up early to join friends and coworkers at the courts.

My competitive instincts probably wouldn’t have gotten the better of me on that particular Monday, prompting me to leap at a ball just outside my natural wingspan. I probably wouldn’t have landed in such a way that would’ve caused my foot to bend inwards, despite the fact that my shin bone had already called dibs on that direction.

If sports had never existed, I probably wouldn’t have spent that afternoon being carried from the doctor’s office to the x-ray room and back in a wheelchair. I probably wouldn’t have had to spend every night since then undoing the wrapping-and-brace on my left leg so that I could then shower, change into the pants I want to wear the next day, then taking a pain pill and going to sleep.

I most certainly wouldn’t currently be taking my usual rounds in my leg brace, with the toes on my left foot exposed to all the world, having to explain to each and every passer-by what happened.

If sports could be un-invented, I wouldn’t currently be thinking about that day, one or two weeks from now, when the brace can come off for good and I can play again.

So, as you can see, it’s too late for me, just as it’s too late for many other men all around the world. If we have a chance to un-invent this madness, we obviously should go for it.

It’s a slam-dunk.

Sunday, May 11, 2008


The Downside of Successful Job-Hunting

A lot can happen in five years. An indecisive person can finish college, one can buy five or six new John Grisham books, and a president who’d previously had the support of everyone in the nation he governed save the Dixie Chicks can find himself with nearly 70 percent of the nation against him.

Also, skills that one had previously practiced to a great extent can fall into a state of disuse. This includes the art of applying for a new job. In the period of time from 2001-2003, my job application skills were peaking. They had to be: such was the climate of the times.

It’s true that gas prices had not yet exceeded $3 per gallon, far fewer people cared about what a sub-prime mortgage was, and the occasional defective toy seemed the scariest things coming out of China.

However, those who had graduated or were about to knew the reality of the situation: there were a certain number of desirable jobs available, and a considerably greater amount of recent or soon to be graduates who wanted them.

Thusly, those of us scouring the job market probably spent more time perfecting application techniques than we did in class.

At the time, universities were hosting a countless number of résumé-writing workshops designed to make our credentials more pleasing to the eye of prospective employers. They did so by teaching us to excise all unnecessary information, such as references, career objectives, and more than three of our previous employers. They also to remove all things that were simply detrimental, such as ornate fonts, lists of hobbies and email accounts like kegdrainer66@yahoo.com.

Having a lean, professional résumé was meant to aid those of us who did not yet have any meaningful experiences to tout. The techniques we learned in these workshops were not terribly useful when compared to a prospective employer who actually had qualifications, but would be effective when compared with an equally-untried prospect whose résumé was bloated and turgid.

If this carefully-crafted piece of paper actually caught favorable attention from a prospective employer, then there was another set of skills to apply: those used at the job interview.

We learned what clothes to wear, how to respond to the interviewer’s questions in such a way that made you appear eager but not desperate, and just the exact amount of eye contact (hint: it’s the amount that makes the interviewer think you’re focused, but not trying to seduce him/her). We also learned the correct responses to most questions an employer might pose and the right inquiries we could ask them (hint: nothing about pay, hours, or how the interviewer’s eyes got to be such a dreamy shade of brown).

The great thing about the job market in the early part of this decade was that those of us who only got about 90 percent of the application process right on the first try would have many, many more opportunities to perfect it. We also got to collect and compare a wide variety of responses from these prospective employers when we followed up on our interviews.

Some of the best responses heard in those days included: “It was a tough call between you and several other candidates”; “Actually, we’ve decided to eliminate that position”; and “It turns that the person who was going to leave our office changed her mind. She didn’t want to risk it in this economy.”

My part-time job-hunting had been at places where the interview was a mere formality and nearly every applicant was hired. After so many metaphorical silver medals and moral victories at job interviews, I was actually rather stunned when I was chosen after applying at The Paris Post-Intelligencer in 2003. When the interviewer called back and said, “I’d like to thank you for applying” I was certain that a classic comedown was in store.

Instead, his next words were: “I’m prepared to offer you the job.”

From that moment on, my employment-hunting skills would never operate at the same level. Granted, I’d have more substance to promote, but never again would I be able to flex my résumé-writing rhetoric with job descriptions like this one, taken from my time as an in-store worker at Papa Johns: “From Aug. 1998 to Aug. 1999 I supervised the production of pizza.”

Since I started teaching English at the SDA Language Institute in Korea, I feared that my job application skills had further atrophied. Once they had proof that I had graduated from a university in a not-excessively-indecisive four-and-a-half years, the interview process there was also a mere formality (especially since it was done over the phone, making overzealous eye-contact impossible).

So, when I learned that The Korea Herald, one of this nation’s three major English-newspapers had an opening, I had doubts as whether or not my application skills were up to the task. Not only had John Grisham written a half-dozen books since my last interview, I would be performing it in a different culture.

Who knows, I thought, making even a moment of eye-contact in this country might be a sign of disrespect. Then again, anything less than a laser-like focus on his irises might be like saying that I think his eyes are unworthy of getting lost in.

Then I realized that there was no point in over-thinking it, because I already had a job and there was no reason to be concerned. There was, in fact, probably no reason to worry, but I didn’t let that stop me from doing so. During the day of the interview, one of the first sensations I recalled was that feeling of constantly needing both something to drink and to know where the lavatorical room of my gender was, despite the fact that I’d just drank a bottle of water/come out of said gender’s room.

I also recognized the sensation of utter relief that comes when the interview is over, you know you’ve done your best, and you don’t have to think about it for awhile. At least, not until the next day, when the employer calls or writes you back and tells you you’ve got the job.

Then you have lots to think about. Among the many questions I’ve had circulating in my head since I got the congratulatory message is whether my job application skills will ever be what they once were.

I guess they probably won’t, because I don’t plan on using them for awhile.

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