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Monday, January 30, 2006

Busy Weekend

My parents will be here on Wednesday, two days from now [tomorrow actually, as I have taken a long time to put this post together]. Are we ready? Well, we've reserved a hotel room for them so they don't have to sleep on the street, so I guess the answer is yes, we're ready.

This weekend was a bit crazy. Actually, Saturday was OK. We took Maxine for a walk to buy groceries for Sunday. Sunday was the first day of the Lunar (also known as the Chinese) New Year (in Korean, Solnar). You've probably seen the shots on TV with the dragon costume worn by 10 people, dancing around festively, and all the fireworks, and the streets crowded with thousands of people dancing around like some kind of fully-clothed Mardi Gras. Well, that's China. Here it's just an opportunity to hang out with family you only see once a year and bow to the ones who are older.

(Actually, this is not a picture taken during the Solnal holiday, but it captures the feeling nicely.)

The whole thing is pretty cool if you're a kid, because when you bow to your elders they give you sage advice (e.g. "be healthy", "study hard", "your baby sure is cute" (I know that's not advice, but I'm pretty sure I heard it.)) and MONEY!!! For the younger kids, around $10 per relative. And when you're in the bottom bracket, you can really rake it in. Apparently it continues right up until you get married, which is when I joined the game, of course. My in-laws were kind enough to actually give me money when I bowed the first few years, but this year they stopped. Completely understandable, given the situation.

Horyon and I still have to give money to the younger relatives, though. About $100 worth this year, between four cousins and her brother. (Sorry, Chaeryon, but having you stay in America saves me about $30 every Solnal! It's the ONLY time I don't miss you!)

(We were given Maxine's bowing money, for safe keeping. And doesn't she look nice in her best outfit?)

On the other hand, there's food. Good food. Mandu (like Chinese dumplings) soup is a favorite, and for the past few years, my Sookmo has been making the soup and letting us help make the mandu.

(Again, not the Solnal food. These pics are actually from a memorial service a couple of weeks previously, but many of the dishes are the same during Solnal. Just different food.)

Oh, Sookmo. Yeah. "Sookmo" is a Korean relative word. You see, English doesn't really have that many words for different relatives. "Aunt", for example, can mean your father's sister, or his brother's wife, or your mother's sister or her brother's wife. In Korean, there are different words for all of those, along with some distinctions based on age. So "sookmo" means my wife's father's younger brother's wife.

It may mean other things, too, but that's what they came up with when I asked what to call her. And I needed something to call her, because she's a wonderful woman, who has been unfailingly kind to me, despite knowing less English than I know Korean.

So my Sookmo brings the dough and filling for the dumplings, and we (usually myself, Sookmo, her husband and her kids) spend an hour or so folding spoonfuls of stuff into little circles of dough. It's very satisfying, and not just because later we eat them. It makes us a more substantial part of the festivities. And I believe it will instill in her son, Tae-ho, some inkling of a sense that the men should also produce, rather than just consume, at these little get-togethers.

Whew. Sorry about getting all soap-boxy there.

So we made mandu, and then I took the kids, Tae-ho and his sister Jung-won, outside. They had brought kites, and so we walked to the beach and flew kites for an hour or so, just like at the end of Mary Poppins. Except that the wind was a bit gusty, and we spent a lot of time yelling "NO NO NO DON'T FALL YOU STUPID KITE!!!"

Then I bought ice cream for the kids. When we got home, Sookmo said (in Korean) "Why are you eating ice cream! It's cold outside!" I, striving to fill the role of the cool older cousin, apologized, deflecting all wrath and making Sookmo laugh with my Korean and excuse that were both quite lame. Me (in Korean): "I said eat ice cream, they said it looks delicious!"

There's no way for me to judge, but Horyon says that I am very cute when I speak Korean. But not as cute as this!
(Maxine enjoys sitting on my belly. It's soft, and gives her a good vantage point to talk to me.)

It was Sunday yesterday, so we also went to church. And we were packing Maxine with us the whole time. I think that for her it was a very tiring day. By the time we got home she cried a lot before going to sleep, and today she took some extra long naps. But she is such an agreeable baby. It doesn't seem to bother her to be passed around like some kind of live, 3D photo album of herself. She takes a firm grip on any finger offered to her. She doesn't smile much for strangers, but she doesn't cry much either. She took a real liking to Tae-ho. His level of humor seemed to work very well for her--some peekaboo with a wide variety of silly noises.

This year I did something for Solnar that I should have done a long time ago: I made food for everyone. I made spaghetti and meat sauce with garlic bread, and it went over quite well. I was almost disappointed when Sookmo took home the leftovers, but it's such a compliment that I couldn't feel bad. I've decided that I should make food for any of these occasions on which it would be appropriate. After all, my conversational skills simply don't work in Korean, so I have very little else to offer. I felt much more like a part of the family this way.

I would like to close with a cute Maxine shot. She likes to be held up with her feet touching the ground, the bed, my lap, whatever. She has no interest at all in being on her own belly, though she likes mine well enough. When I hold her up, she often seems to dance, which is fun for both of us.

Happy New Year!


So we're driving around the other day, and I have to wait extra long at a crosswalk for a couple of people who started walking at the end of their green light and were still in the street long after my light had turned green. I say to Horyon, "I hate having to wait for people like that. D'oh! They're foreigners! How embarassing! Now I know how you feel."

Horyon came back very quickly: "Don't feel bad. They were probably Canadians."

That one's for you, Earl!



Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Getting a bit behind

Well, we're halfway through this week and I didn't post anything last week, and it's time to sit down and explain myself.

Back in November, one of my former Kosin University students called me and asked me to do a sermon for her church. This wasn't just out of the blue. Though I left Kosin three years ago, Jung-hyun and one of her classmates and I have met a couple of times a year for dinner and conversation.

Actually, she wants me to give a sermon in English while she translates into Korean. I've never done anything like that before, and am not sure how it will go, but I'm willing to give it a shot. We agreed that it would be sometime in January or February.

You might be thinking that maybe she is trying to show off in front of her church, but I believe that her motives are mostly pure. You see, Jung-hyun was raised in an orphanage supported by the church she attends. She just graduated from Kosin University this year with a degree in English, and she wants to show her congregation that the education they gave her was not wasted. I'm sure there is some element of pride involved in this, having the connection to make the project happen and the ability to do it are fairly impressive, but as I said, I think that her main reason for doing this is to say "Thank You" to her congregation.

So I've had two or three months to work on this sermon. Quite a bit of lead time, I'm sure you'll agree. I asked Jung-hyun to choose a scripture, and she chose Revelation 3:15-16. As you can see, it's a bit harsh at first glance. And then you read it again, with a small window into the Greek, and it gets worse. The Greek for "spit out" is much closer to "vomit", a verb close to my heart these days. So I backed up, and decided to use a bit more context: the first three chapters of Revelation. That didn't work, because we would spend too much time just reading the scripture. So I settled for just the letter Jesus dictates to John to send to the church at Laodicea.

Can you tell that I am enjoying my powers of linking?

Back to the story. Two Saturdays ago I attended an evening worship service for the leaders of our church, and asked the pastor if I could give a sermon to practice for this one I have coming up. He said sure, and that the following Saturday would be best. I silently gasped, and as my brain screamed "NO! NO! BAD ROB! DOWN BOY!", I nodded my head, shook his hand, and said that would be fine.

So I spent last week writing a sermon.

I used to write a sermon about once a month. I counted up the sermons on my hard drive here, and found about 45. Not too shabby. Of course, I've looked at some of the early ones, and they're pretty lame. Like anything else, the more I did it, the better I got at it. That's why I excel at putting my foot in my mouth.

However, the last sermon I gave was almost a year ago. Since then, I have not had the opportunity to give a sermon, and writing a sermon is not something I do without the pressure of knowing that I will be standing in front of a crowd with some expectations. So I was a bit worried about putting together this one after such a long hiatus.

By Tuesday I had made some progress, and had gone by the church to drop off some stuff for our new co-pastor, Esther. Wonderful woman, I'll have to write another entry about her. I picked up a couple of commentaries, and spent the rest of the week writing. Friday night around 1:30 I stopped, pretty much satisfied. I actually didn't make any changes the next day, and delivered it on time to an audience of around 15-20 people. My pastors, Benjamin and Esther, both agreed that it was a good sermon, and gave me some pointers for improving it the next time around. This time I video recorded myself, because Horyon couldn't come. She and I watched it the next day, and she told me it was one of my best sermons.

And let me make this clear: Horyon doesn't pull punches with me on sermon critiques. She has handed me my head when it deserved to be lopped off in the past, as well as beaming with pride when I've done well. So I feel pretty good about it.

And that's why you didn't hear from me last week. This week my excuse is that I need to get a 23 minute sermon (I know, that's on the long side, but there's a lot of material there!) cut down to around 10-12 minutes. Because with a simultaneous translation, I figure it will take more than twice as long as it takes me to deliver it by myself. And if any of you have ever written stuff, you know that the hardest thing is cutting away your own stuff.

It will be all the more difficult because I originally wrote it as an outline, and need to give Jung-hyun a manuscript. I promised her a manuscript by this weekend, so don't expect to hear from me until then. And when you do, it will likely be the same manuscript that I'm sending to her.

Ha! I'm going to preach to you from the internet!

Yea, verily I say unto you, read Roblog, dudes!



Monday, January 16, 2006

Got it!

I got the link to work in my post, Ol' Pink Eye. It had been bugging me for some time, and right now I have important things to do, so I went back and messed with it until it worked.

And I got another one to work here, too! Score!

From now on you're going to be seeing links to all kinds of stupid stuff on my blog, and if you ask me, I'll link to your stupid website, too!

Wednesday, January 11, 2006


For Christmas, Maxine's Uncle Younghwan bought her the latest thing in baby stuff: a blanket with a stuffed animal sewn on as part of the blanket. This one is particularly cute, and I caught Maxine in a good mood, so she smiled for me a few times.

I decided to throw in a picture with our living room as a back drop, to give you some idea of how much time we spend cleaning now that Maxine is here. On the left is the entertainment center, behind Maxine is the verandah, complete with my "garden", and out of sight on the right is the sofa.
And while I was at it, I took a couple of pictures out the window of the verandah. The first is the view to the right, roughly south-east, and the other picture is to the left. The road that continues up the mountain is the same as the main road in the other picture. We do command quite a view from the 19th floor in a 25 story building.
As you can see, we are surrounded by container yards. This makes for a lot of noise and pollution, but someday they will be replaced by other apartment buildings, so we won't have to look at those pesky trees anymore.
In this picture , the collection of buildings in the background is the Tongmyung Institute of Technology campus. I kid you not, their initials, which can be found on their front gates and posters, are T.I.T. Twice a year they have a T.I.T. festival. Somehow I doubt it lives up to the promise of its name.

The buildings in the right part of the background, surrounded by trees, are a Buddhist temple. It's a pretty nice little set up.

It's really a beautiful area to live in. Our only problem is that there is a cement yard on the other side of the complex, and a paint factory beyond that. In one day we get enough air pollution that leaving the windows open leaves a layer of grime on everything. Seriously, you can drag your finger across the floor and come up with black stuff. Nasty. And we're breathing that stuff. The best thing about winter here is that we keep the windows closed.

That's all for now. I need to go get a shower while the opportunity presents itself.



Tuesday, January 10, 2006


So my baby slobbers a lot.

Before Maxine was born, Horyon bought a lot of fabric and made it into handkerchiefs for the baby. Very thin material, all cotton, about 10 inches square. She must have made 20 or 30 of 'em, and I had no idea why.

Now I know. At first, they were used mostly for spitting up. Spitting up is an expression that means vomiting, except only for babies. But if I have too many beers and spit up, no one calls it that. One of those little ironies in life. Anyway, they were mostly tied around her neck and used for spitting up, but for the last week or two, they have been mopping up drool pretty much constantly.

And so, the first picture with today's post represents an activity that Maxine and I both enjoy a lot, though there is an element of danger in it for me. You see, if one considers this activity to be "Flying" (holding my baby in the air), Maxine's role would have to be "Bombadier" (Fraeulein Slobbermeister), and my role would be "Target" (wet t-shirt contestant). I still do it every day with her, because the opening to the "Bomb Bay" (a.k.a. Mumbai) is this huge grin. Fr. Slobbermeister holds her legs, arms and head up, and looks around at the world from this amazing perspective. She doesn't see targets, just wonderful sights. I almost wish that someone would pick me up like that to have a look around. Perhaps I'll join the WWF.

I know it's a bit late, but didn't figure anyone out there would complain if I wrote a bit about our New Year's Eve celebration. We invited three friends and one stranger to our home for dinner. The stranger didn't come. Seriously. He said he would, but he must have found something out. Horyon ordered a turkey for me to cook. 5 kg worth of bird, about 11 pounds. Freshly killed and mailed to me. Korea is a small enough country that you can send meat through the mail, you know.

Anyway, this is my fourth or fifth turkey, and it came out quite well, I thought. As did my guests. (Excuse me? My guests came out well?) Unfortunately, after taking a picture of the turkey, the camera got put down and never picked up again. However, you can take my word for it that D.A., Jay and Kalai all looked at least as good as the bird, if not as hot.

I splurged on a wintertime treat that my own mother makes quite often when it's cold outside: corn casserole. It's so easy that I can tell you how to make it right here and now without even going to look up the recipe. And I'm sure that if I get it wrong my Mom will post a comment to set the record straight:

1. Melt a whole stick of margarine in a casserole dish.
2. Cut an onion into little bits and cook them in the butter till they're soft and a bit clear. (The word for that is saute, but I didn't use saute because my dictionary says that saute means "in a small amount of fat", saute uses one of those ` marks above the e and I can't figure out how to do that, and it's a French word and true Americans no longer do French stuff.)
3. Throw in a box of corn muffin mix, a cup of grated cheddar cheese, a can of creamed corn, and a can of regular corn. I like a dash of freshly ground pepper in it, but that's not on the officially sanctioned ingredients list.
4. Mix it up real good.
5. Cook it in the oven for 45 minutes at 177 degrees Celsius. I leave the temperature conversion to you, because without it this recipe is not challenging at all.

Unfortunately, when my timer went off, I turned off the oven and decided to leave the corn casserole in there for a few minutes while I made space for it elsewhere. Fifteen minutes later, I slapped my forehead and muttered "corn casserole!", and took it out of the oven. It had burned to the dish, but the Visions cookware stuff cleans up real nice after a little soaking, and some people like it a little crunchy on the bottom.

I also made mashed potatoes and gravy. It was one of the best batches of gravy ever, in the entire history of gravy. If I had served my guests nothing but bowls of gravy, they would have gone home satisfied and raving about my cooking skills. It was that good. And I didn't take a picture of it. Curses! I will not tell you how to make it, because some secrets are better hidden away and lost forever.

Our guests all cleared out by 10 p.m. The five of us made a huge dent in the turkey, and ate all but one serving of the potatoes and a couple of cups of gravy that didn't look as good as it did when it was hot. We drank cranberry juice to make up for not having a can of cranberry jelly, and we drank almost two bottles of wine to make up for not having our families to be with.

At midnight, to bring in the new year, Horyon and I were cleaning up after putting Maxine to bed. Happy New Year!



Saturday, January 07, 2006

Quick Update

I changed the way comments are done here, so you don't have to do that picture stuff. However, they are now moderated by me, so any comment you write won't actually appear until I OK it. That will avoid blogspam, which hit my very first post.

Also, I'm thinking of finding an alternative to Notifylist. A few people have told me that they have had trouble signing up for it. And, of course, I haven't used it much.

And today Horyon spent a lot of money at the dentist. I sincerely hope that Maxine has Horyon's orthodontic structure and my enamel, because if it's the other way around, her teeth will cost more than her college.

That is all. You may go back to your business.


Thursday, January 05, 2006

Next Blog

So the last time I wrote on here, I republished the blog and took a look at it. Then, out of curiosity, I hit the "Next Blog" button at the top right of this page. I got someone's blog. I can't remember what it was about, for reasons you will soon understand.

Next I hit the back button on my browser, and hit that "Next Blog" button again. And again. And again. And again. I must have looked at 30 or 40 blogs. Many of them in foreign languages, many in English, and many obviously written by people for whom English is not their first language. And of the ones I could read, I found a few trends:

1. ppl hu rite w/net splling usually post crap. They write about what movie stars are doing. They write about hanging out with their friends. They write things so poorly that after reading them my brain purges them completely in a sort of mental-poisoning vomit reflex.

2. Some people write normally (albeit with poor grammar and spelling) and also post crap. This is better than the first category, because it takes less time to figure out that I am reading crap.

3. Some people are writing about their struggle to lose weight. I wasn't counting, but it seemed like a trend.

4. Some people write about their hobbies/obsessions. My Dad has started his own blog about decks. So far it has an introduction. When he has more, I'll add a link to it on my blog. The interesting factor on these depends very much on the subject material.

5. Some people vomit poetry. Sorry, I meant write poetry. Some of it is actually readable, some of it makes my brain strain to reach out through my ears and nose to simultaneously hit ctrl+alt+delete on my keyboard.

6. A very few people write stuff that is actually entertaining. A few travelogues, some people with interesting points of view, and some people who just spout entertaining things. I sorta wish I had been keeping track of these, but not enough to go back and check my browser history for them. Because I would still have to sort through all the crap. And even if I did have access to them, I don't really have time to read them.

Sort of leaves me wondering where my blog falls. Of course I assume it is in category #6, but I presume that everyone out there believes that they are writing something interesting. I mean, surely even the kids who write total crap think that it is interesting to someone, right?

I also sort of wonder what the difference is between putting my thoughts out there in a blog and putting them in an email that I send to everyone I know. This, adding my thoughts to this giant sea of ideas (and crap) feels different, though it's hard to put my finger on. It's partly ego. I mean, maybe someone who has never heard of me is reading this right now, and thinking, "Hey, this guy's pretty entertaining!" Just the thought of it makes me feel a bit proud.

It also feels a bit more permanent than the old emails. I mean, the old files I sent to everyone are still on my hard drive, with many of them backed up on CD-ROM, but this way if my apartment building collapses when Youngary (the Korean version of Godzilla) tears through Pusan, my entries will still be up there, floating around on the internet somewhere.

And this should be more accessible when Maxine is old enough to be interested. Which is a bit of a scary thought.

That's it for now. I'm curious to hear any thought you might have on this issue. Also, please note that I mentioned vomit twice in this posting without actually getting any on myself.



Tuesday, January 03, 2006

2005 in Review

What a year it was. It started with a grand tour of Korea. Well, we went to Taegu and Seoul. For us, that's a grand tour. The most notable activity of this tour was the creation of Maxine, which I am not allowed to discuss in detail.

Then came the morning sickness. Not much fun, so I'll skip ahead to summer vacation. I went to America and bought a house. By the time I got back, Horyon was larger than I remembered her being. No matter, on October 5th she lost a lot of weight all at once.

My girls spent a couple of weeks in the post-natal recovery room at the hospital, being pampered and properly taken care of, then a couple of weeks at the in-laws home, being well taken care of. Then they came home, and the real fun began.

I've gotten more sleep than most new fathers, I believe. Maxine usually sleeps well at night. Her bedtime has been 11 or 12 p.m., but last night she went to sleep at 9:30, and didn't wake up until about six a.m. Of course, this was after I had spent a half hour trying to feed her through tears and wailing, mine and hers. Horyon and her breasts finally came to the rescue, after which I was allowed to hold Maxine until she drifted off to dream land. I held her for almost an hour, then carried her to her crib. We both expected her to wake up, but she didn't, so we sat in bed and talked for a while, still expecting her to wake up. We figure that if she makes a habit of sleeping like that, we will be the best-rested parents ever.

In Korea, they have a big celebration on a baby's 100th day of being out in the real world. The parents put on special new clothes, take pictures, feed their freeloading friends, and a bunch of other stuff you'll find out about when we hit day 100, which is coming up this month. But for 60 days, it's a modern tradition to get pictures taken. We got ours taken at a studio that has some talent for taking pictures of children. This is one of the pictures they took. It has been scanned, and the name of the studio blurred out.

Horyon made the dress and hat that Maxine is wearing while she was still pregnant. Good thing Maxine wasn't a boy, huh? She had to enlarge the hat just before the picture because it didn't fit. Apparently my daughter has a very large brain. This is one of our favorite pictures. We had copies made for some family members, but the studio charged us $5 apiece for each five by eight photo. Yeah, they're on good heavy stock, and the quality is good, but each picture has their logo on it, and it pisses me off to pay $5 for someone else's advertisement.

Especially when we manage to get some pretty cute pictures ourselves.

Is this not adorable? Our pink princess, hat casually thrown to one side, enjoys a nap.

In other news, Horyon is not teaching vacation classes this month, so we will both be staying home for all of January. I have to admit, I was kind of looking forward to having a big chunk of time alone with Maxine every day. I thought it would be good father training for me. Still, I will have February, as Horyon goes back to work the second week of the second month.

In addition, my parents will be visiting us here during the first couple of weeks of February. They are very much looking forward to meeting Maxine, as well as having kimchi again.

And last, today finished the grade changing period. This semester I had six students come to me with problems, a bit of a record for me. The first was a name-switch mistake on my part. Accidentally gave an "F" to an "A" student. Big time red-faced Rob.

The second was a mistake on the part of the guy who enters grades into the computer, but she was from the same class. Also embarrassing. The third was a Junior theology student (in a class full of Freshmen), who is also a husband, father and worship leader at a local church. Of course, he didn't tell me any of this until the end of the semester at his final interview. His total grade was 39%, and that was after I had adjusted his entire class up 6% to make them fit the curve better. I ended up giving him a "D" because I didn't really want to inflict him on another teacher.

I didn't want to inflict him on another, because I've had that backfire on me. This year I had a couple of students majoring in church music. They were juniors, taking this class again because I failed them the first time they took my class. Understand, they could have taken anyone's English class. Why they took mine, again, is anybody's guess. Gluttons for punishment? Masochists? Rob Fans? Only they know, and they're not telling me. Because their English isn't good enough. They came close to failing again, but actually managed to get by on their own merits, much to my relief. Because I probably would have passed them if they had scraped together anything more than 50% in my class. Back to the list.

Number four was a nice girl who was 4 minutes late for her 8 minute final interview. That 50% was subtracted from her interview grade, leaving her a "D". She was very polite, and came to visit me from a town two hours away, so I bumped her clear up to a "C+". I'm becoming soft in my old age, I guess.

Number five was a girl calling from Seoul. She had missed her final interview appointment completely, giving her an "F" in my class. She told me she was sick, but it somehow didn't occur to her to come to my office after getting well. Instead she waited to call until almost three weeks later, at the very last minute. She didn't even call for herself, she got a friend to call for her. I made her talk to me, and gave her 50% of her interview grade, bumping her up to a "D". Once again, why inflict her on some other poor teacher? And besides, there was already a huge crowd of "F"s in her class, which makes me look pretty bad and shovels a big load of doo-doo on some future teacher. Hopefully not me.

And number six had a "B", and wanted an "A". She couldn't explain why in English, but she was from that same class full of "F"s, and she was a hard worker. I bumped her up the 1% she needed to get a "B+". Soft, soft, soft. I don't know whether it is being a daddy, or that I am just getting tired of dealing with the hassle, but I was much nicer this semester than I have been in the past.

Oh well. One thing that influenced me is that next semester I will have a completely different set of majors, so there should be no repercussions of my grading in preparing marks next year.

Famous last words.

So in closing, I would like to wish all eleven of you the most abundant blessings that God can give you for the coming year. May there always be a chicken in your pot, a fire in your hearth, and something good on your t.v.



A Brief Introduction

Roblog is my writing lab. It is my goal to not let seven days pass without a new post. I welcome your criticism, as I cannot improve on my own.

Here is a link to my cung post, which remains the only word which I have ever invented, and which has not, as far as I know, caught on. Yet.