Thursday, June 30, 2005

The Tour de France starts on July 2nd. That's this Saturday. I need to ask someone in South Africa to record it for me...


Another very sweaty day. Lots of moisture hanging in the air like a blanket. Computer switches itself off just before my Star Wars game launches. Then says has recovered from a serious error, due to ATI technology. Need sleep zzzzz.

High Oil Prices Causing Worries for Asia

By KELLY OLSEN, AP Business Writer Wed Jun 29, 4:27 AM ET

SEOUL, South Korea - Surging oil prices could curb Asia's economies, with some analysts predicting the fast-growing region — heavily dependent on oil imports — could slip into a recession if prices don't recede.

With oil prices about 50 percent higher than a year ago, the warnings are starting to mount.

South Korea's central bank said higher crude prices could shave 0.7 percentage points off economic growth this year and raise consumer prices. The Philippines has warned of a "heavy toll." Officials in Japan, the world's No. 1 oil importer, and Malaysia are voicing concerns.

"High oil prices are already weighing on growth in Asian economies," Andy Xie, economist at Morgan Stanley in Hong Kong, wrote in a report this week. "If oil prices do not recede, Asia could slide into recession in the short term."

After rising to a record close of $60.54 a barrel on Monday, crude oil prices fell back some, granting the region's importers a reprieve. In Asian trading Wednesday, light, sweet crude for August delivery was down a cent at $58.19 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, but traders said prices could easily test the $60 mark again.

Full article here:

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Explaining how tall I was when I last won a triathlon.

Ilsan Triathlon Team

Look at this nice bunch of people I went to Sokcho with. Unfortunately one of the greatest characters isn;t here, Mr Lee (work commitments)

The Cast:

The bus driver, far left, who possibly sold his house to buy a ridiculously expensive carbon bike, Pete beside him (who I went skiing with last year, and is basically my translator and closest buddy on these trips because just about no one understands me), and far left in the front row, a guy who did his first triathlon last year (great photo of him too) and is going strong now. He passed me on the run, looking good.
The two ladies came 2nd and 3rd in the Jeju Superman, no mean feat.

In the race itself, Sehwe unfortunately got a kick in the knee which was bad enbough to send her to hospital and out of the race.

Look at my great tan and muscle definition...

What a hunk. I'm not that keen on putting this picture here. I mean, the guy behind me is thinking, "Once that guy dives into the sea, all the water is gonna jump out." Or he is thinking, "There is no way that small wetsuit is ever going to stretch around this whale." It's good for me to see this picture, because it makes me uncomfortable enough to start doing something about it. This blog is partly about being accountable to here I am saying, "Nick, this is the fattest you've ever been in your life. Do something about it."

These Are My Goals

Yes, I have used this picture before, but that's because these STILL are my goals:

1) Lose weight (5kg in 10 weeks). At present I have gained .75kg in the first week, despite making some modifications and doing a triathlon in oven like conditions. Moral, when at first you try to succeed, you'll feel like giving up. Don't. It takes a while to develop momentum, and after you get through the uphill, things get level, and then they flow downhill.

2) Prepare for Cheolwon (Half Ironman on 24 July). I have 4 weeks to turn a fat slug into a not that fat slug.

3) Save (*) per month.

4) Travel to Australia, China, Singapore, the Philippines or Malaysian Borneo during Chuseok, unless I decide to do the Jeju Ironman.

5) Do something creative, and by the end of the week, specify what it is and when it has to be done by.

6) Get a cellphone

7) Fix the damn CD Rom drive or figure out what is wrong with it

(* Sorry, but I think it's best that only I know the magic number).

For The Record

Swim 3km
Time: 1:10
20 x 25m on 1 minute
20 x 25m on 1 minute pull
10 x 25m x 4 on 30 seconds, with the last set mixed up, some underwater swimming. 1 or 2 minutes rest between major sets.

Ok here is the shocker. Weighed myself and I weighed in at an elephantine 81.25kg. I think that is .75kg heavier than the last time i weighed myself. The amazing thing is that today, because my mouth was sore, I hardly ate anything. Had half a sandwich for breakfast, a few of those miniature thumb sized bananas for lunch, and a bun later in the afternoon.

The swim though was a great motivator. At least 6 or 7 of the Ilsan club members were there, and without saying anything, they basically followed my lead, and swam every 2nd or 3rd unit of the sets with me. That's great, because, since they are either following me or waiting for me, I never have to fight my way through other swimmers, or wait for other swimmers who push off just as I approach the wall. Towards the end Pete tranlated what we were doing and everyone went with it. I suggested to Pete that we start Nick&Pete's Swimming Academy (or Triathlon School).

I may have had a slow swim in Sokcho, but I was doing the 50's on or just under 40 seconds, which is alright.
I'd like to make this a regular thing, this evening swim on Wednesdays. And then also do it at 7pm on Saturday. Will be a nice way to keep me out of the beer halls of Itaewon and prevent me from sitting around and eating food as something to do with other foreingers who are bored over weekends.

One of the guys asked if I was doing the Ironman. It's 2 months away, and I couldf always approach it like the SA one. To just do it and see how it goes. Not to try to break any records. After todays swim, I feel like anything is possible.

Break In The Weather

After last night's movie I tried again to burn the digital video I made using Nero. It looked like I was 80% there when I got another error message. What is the deal!
At GnB this morning they had a Birthday Day, with 4 students celebrating birthdays. So from 11am onwards it was just getting chairs, giving gifts, taking photos, singing songs and yippee, not working. I was annoyed at myself for forgetting my HOW I BECAME A PIRATE book, but didn't need it at all. Will use it tomorrow.
Just come from the KT Plaza across the road where I paid my phone bill.
Newcore, accroding to Vanita, has a grocery store downstairs. Pretty damn close and convenient.

Weight Traget This Week: 79.5kg

I'm swimming tonight, so I will verify exactly where I am weightwise. I have some yucky sores in my mouth, but they have the unexpected benefit of preventing me from eating much in general, and sweet and spicy foot in particular. It may be a sign that my immunity is hanging by a thread. It may also be the result of eating very spicy food all weekend. I tried to avoid one or two meals, and tucked into toasted peanut butter, but it is a bit rude to be hanging with Koreans and not eat with them. The food is good but I have my doubts on how healthy it is when it just burns away the membranes of your mouth and stomach.

Soundtrack for the End of an Empire

It's not with any glee that we see the American empire crumble. It has given us some of the most fun and freedoms and stuff. The world became intelligent, and simultaneously, very dumb, dulled and distracted.

This song, despite the words, is a folky, upbeat melody. The words though ring true, and one can't help feeling a sense of the parting being sweetly sorrowful...

For America (Red Box)

deviate to contemplate
this audio visual opiate

one hundred years from now
title fights and human rights
we're satellites - you're parasites
hey yah ya!
now I've got to tell you
that I've been down
down so low that I bit the ground
let's hear it from the heart of America
ya da dee yeh - yeh ee oh
in America
urelei USA
for America

where's the peace and understanding?
go drum go dance sound on sound
all this peace and understanding
go drum go dance round and round
in America yeeooo ay da yeeooo ah

a pocket full of posies
and cheap scented roses
every house should have it's hat on

so in and out and round and round,
up and down and lost and found

hey ah ha!

magazines and gasoline
and made-in-Taiwan western scenes
will you hear us in the heart of America?
ya da dee yeh - yeh ee oh
in America
urelei USA
for America

where's the peace and understanding?
go drum go dance sound on sound
all this peace and understanding
go drum go dance round and round
in America yeeooo ay da yeeooo ah

na na ne na ne na na
all this peace and understanding

where's the peace and understanding?
go drum go dance sound on sound
all this peace and understanding
go drum go dance round and round
in America yeeooo ay da yeeooo ah

all this peace and understanding

My Review of Sahara

Simply great quality escapism. Fun, fun, fun. If that's what you're after it's a 4 out of 5 star affair. I really enjoyed the landscapes and sheer freshness of the movie footage. The actors were also interesting, and the humor kind've offbeat. The story is mad, but it's part of the movie's charm, and the fact that it pulled it off is no small compliment to the filmmaker.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

46/2 19:48:40 NR

Another new record home. The blue 707 bus got through a lot of traffic lights that would have caught other dopey drivers. Funny thing is I wasn't in the mood for a race home. I left school and casually strolled to the bus stop. I guess it was destiny. The 707 was waiting for me, and then shot through to Madu once I got on. Nice. Did a bit of a run when I got off, so this might be my best time for a while.

The director came in late today, Sumin didn't come in at all (I think she is moving house today) and the secretary quit. So the school seemed emptier. And, as I said earlier, about 50% of the students are off on some camp somewhere. Suits me, I need some extra simplicity and a bit of an easing after Sunday. Hands are very red from sunburn. Note to myself: don't forget to put sunblock on your hands!

The director mopped up the school and is playing the role of secretary. I think he is feeling very sorry for himself. Maybe he needs to wonder what he might be doing wrong since his staff don't seem to hang around. I have written him a letter, and today gave him an email Michael sent me, and he hasn't even asked me about it.
Since I'm going to start at GnB2 I see myself making an exit out of here on December 10. Since he's playing hardball, I am not going to give it a second thought when I pack my bags.

New words today: katshe - together
ultaree - fence

Going to watch Sahara now with two South African friends.

Petrol price horror (from South African website

Jun 28 2005 07:24:13:003AM
By: Helena Wasserman
More new highs for oil
Oil closing in on $61
More airlines raise prices

Cape Town - The pump price of petrol is expected to rise by one of the biggest margins ever next Wednesday as world oil prices continued to scale record highs.
Crude oil prices reached record highs for the third trade day in a row and local petrol prices are expected to increase by between 30c and 45c a litre.

The price of diesel is expected to rise by between 45c and 50c per litre and diesel will probably become more expensive than petrol, Colin McClelland, director of the South Africa Petrol Industry Association (Sapia), said.

Government does not regulate the retail price of diesel.

McClelland said a number of factors contributed to the current oil problem. World demand for oil is about 83 million barrels a day and with the international economy growing between 3% and 4% a year, supply can simply not keep up.
Oil fields in areas such as the North Sea are drying up and upcoming oil producers like Angola (that is only producing 1m barrels a day) cannot meet the increased demand.

McClelland believes there are only two solutions to the crisis. "Economic growth must slow down or people must become more economical in their use of fuel."

The record high oil prices have seen several international markets react negatively.

In South Africa, higher fuel prices could lead to an increase in the prices of most consumer goods. Transport makes up a substantial part of input costs of products. And higher prices mean higher inflation, which could force the Reserve Bank to think twice before dropping interest rates.

Sahara Movie Review

BY ROGER EBERT / April 8, 2005

Clive Cussler, who wrote the novel that inspired "Sahara," is said to have rejected untold drafts of the screenplay and sued Paramount over this one. One wonders not so much what Cussler would have left out as what else could have gone in. "Sahara" obviously contains everything that could possibly be included in such a screenplay, and more. It's like a fire sale at the action movie discount outlet.

Do not assume I mean to be negative. I treasure the movie's preposterous plot. It's so completely over the top, it can see reality only in its rear-view mirror. What can you say about a movie based on the premise that a Confederate ironclad ship from the Civil War is buried beneath the sands of the Sahara, having ventured there 150 years ago when the region was, obviously, damper than it is now?

Matthew McConaughey plays Dirk Pitt, the movie's hero, who is searching for the legendary ship. Dirk Pitt. Now that is a name. Dirk Pitt. Or Pitt, Dirk. Makes Brad Pitt sound like William Pitt. Dirk has a thing about long-lost ships; readers may recall that he was also the hero of "Raise the Titanic" (1980), a movie so expensive that its producer, Lord Lew Grade, observed, "It would have been cheaper to lower the ocean."

Dirk has a sidekick named Al Giordino, played by Steve Zahn in the time-honored Movie Sidekick mode. Was it Walter Huston who explained that movie heroes need sidekicks "because somebody has to do the dance." You know, the dance where the sidekick throws his hat down on the ground and stomps on it in joy or anger? You can't have your hero losing his cool like that.

The two men arrive in Africa to find that a dangerous plague is spreading. The plague is being battled by the beautiful Dr. Eva Rojas (Penelope Cruz), and it turns out that Dirk and Eva share mutual interests, since if the plague spreads down rivers and "interacts with salt water," there is a danger that "all ocean life will be destroyed." Actually, I am not sure why that is only a mutual interest; it's more of a universal interest, you would think, although General Kazim (Lennie James), the African dictator, and an evil French zillionaire (Lambert Wilson) don't seem much disturbed. That's because they're getting rich in a way I will not reveal, although there is something grimly amusing about converting pollutants into other pollutants.

The movie directed by Breck Eisner, son of Michael, is essentially a laundry line for absurd but entertaining action sequences. Dirk, Eva and Al have an amazing series of close calls in the desert, while Admiral Sandecker (ret.) (William H. Macy) keeps in touch with them by radio and remains steadfast in his course, whatever it is. There are chases involving planes, trains, automobiles, helicopters, dune buggies, wind-propelled airplane carcasses, and camels. The heroes somewhat improbably conceal themselves inside a tank car on a train going toward a secret desert plant (improbably, since the car going in that direction should have been full), and then find themselves one of those James Bondian vantage points inside the plant, from where they can observe uniformed clones carrying out obscure tasks.

There is a race against time before everything explodes, of course, and some bizarre science involving directing the sun's rays, and then what do you suppose turns up? If you slapped yourself up alongside the head and shouted out, "The long-lost Civil War ironclad?," you could not be more correct. Gee, I wonder if its cannons will still fire after this length of time?

I enjoyed this movie on its own dumb level, which must mean (I am forced to conclude) in my own dumb way. I perceive that I have supplied mostly a description of what happens in the film, filtered through my own skewed amusement. Does that make this a real review?

Funny you should ask. As it happens, I happened to be glancing at Gore Vidal's article about the critic Edmund Wilson in a 1993 issue of the New York Review of Books. There Vidal writes: "Great critics do not explicate a text; they describe it and then report on what they have described, if the description itself is not the criticism." In this case, I think the description itself is the criticism. Yes, I'm almost sure of it.

News from the Jobfront

The director of GNB came into Penguin class and said Michael had called and that I should call him back.

Hmmmm. A few thoughts flasahed through my consciousness:
1) E2 Visa application process commencing - trip to Uijongbu coming up
2) I'm being fired for my letter to the director
3) I'm packing up and leaving Korea
4) Eeeek
5) None of the above

It turns out the GNB want to make this temporary job permanent. Michael said the director wants me working there fulltime. Kindy isn't really my thing. I can get the kids to like me, but it is an incredible drain of energy and one I am not sure I can keep up for more than a few months. The upside is that it will add at least R5000 extra to my montly paycheck, and that's something of a priority. I feel like I have wiped out a lot of savings over the last 3-4 months and want to work hard to be back on top of a small cashpile. And this will accelerate my parole date: the exit out of Korea by December will be a lot more realistic and financially viable if I take this job. I'll let Michael know by Friday.

Kunstler Update

June 27, 2005
The east coast is a steambath, the Dow Jones is tanking, oil has crossed the $60 barrier, and Don Rumsfeld says the Iraq insurgency could run for twelve years.
Taking these things in reverse order -- why twelve years? Why not forever? Actually, twelve years might as well be forever. What Rummy seems to be saying to the US public is: better be prepared to keep Fort Apache going indefinitely. The part he left out was. . . "if you want to keep making that eighty-mile round trip commute from Cherokee County to Peachtree Street."

Even that simple equation assumes a lot. For instance, that Mr. Suburban Atlanta Commuter will still have that job in the office tower on Peachtree. Or that he can continue to make a monthly payment of $3200 on a 4000-square-foot house in Hickory Flat. Or that the Fox TV News fans will maintain their enthusiasm for a war of attrition lacking in cineplex quality battles, while their property taxes are being jacked out of sight to cover the rising cost of maintaining senior parking privileges in the centralized school districts.

The public indeed may be losing its appetite for the Iraq project, but not for Nascar racing, fried chicken buckets, car trips to Six Flags, and round-the-clock air conditioning. What shock of recognition will flash across the TV screens when the connection is finally made that keeping all these things going is why we're in Iraq? War is the answer. Sooner or later even the folks making those jitney trips to East Hampton are going to get it.

Oil's remorseless up-ratcheting past $60 is as much a symptom of a weak dollar as a strained global energy allocation system, and the dollar is weakening because the way of life it represents is becoming more and more unreal. The harsh truth is that we've reached the limit of our ability to expand our suburban sprawl economy and there is no alternative US economy in the background ready to take its place. The world can't fail to notice this weakness. The inability to generate even fake wealth, in the form of ever more WalMarts, will take its toll on the consensus that the American Dream has enduring value.

The stock market contraction ought to reflect this reality -- apart from desperate attempts by US government proxies to levitate share prices -- and it is hard to imagine a rally in the face of $60 oil. I'm inclined to predict a gruesome journey down for the Dow Jones into the 4000 range by the end of the year. Until now the dollars created by the Federal Reserve's supernaturally loose credit policy have sought shelter in the "hard assets" of houses? A meltdown of the stock markets will translate into vanishing leverage in all other areas of finance, especially in real estate (as well as a swath of destruction through hedge funds, retirement accounts and, eventually, the entire creaking superstructure of the hallucinated mortgage industry). A few Americans are actually going to get the message that this is not a good time to buy an overpriced raised ranch house. A lot of real estate geniuses are going to witness their own ruin with wonder and nausea.

The striking aspect in all this is that the US appears to be reaching a breaking point in the absence of any precipitating disaster. Apart from the daily meat-grinder in Iraq, the geo-political scene is temporarily placid. The potential for disaster is huge, of course. Five pounds of Semtex in a crucial spot could crater the global economy. Sooner or later something will blow. But the US slide is commencing without a big shove. Phase change is a curious condition. Things just slip. Lahar rules.

Monday, June 27, 2005

The Heat Is On

Sokcho - An Impressive Performance

If you think my New Record for getting from school to my apartment is impressive, my performance at the race this weekend was even more impressive. For how bad it was. I have done this distance in exactly 2 hours previously, at a South African Championship event where I came, tra la la, 6th overall in my age group. That was on a very average bike, with no special wheels or gadgets, just legs doing the work. I ran the 10km in 37 minutes. That was then, and a lot has changed.

Last year I won the Tongyeong race, and was thinking about revisiting Tongyeong explicitly to defend the 'title' during the run up to Ironman. Obviously having trained in the summer and coming over to Korea's spring fresh and strong would give me a great platform to build a powerful start to the season. It was not to be, as I fell ill at least twice, and possibly worse, felt extremely depressed over the first few weeks, which was something I didn't really expect.

And Now The Race:

Crappy sleep, but that's to be expected, and it's a miracle I got any sleep really.

I had one of the best starts I've ever had in triathlon. Was a leap ahead of the whole field (I'd started my watch about 30 seconds earlier, on a whim) and once I dived over the first wave was well ahead in the water. Good feeling. My lead lasted about 50 metres. No, probably half that.
The lack of conditioning began to tell then, and I felt myself wheezing, and struggling to put single armlengths into the water. I felt like a crab, arms to tired to even straighten them out, my form felt and probably looked awful. I glanced at my heart rate around the second buoy at about 10 minutes and it 160, about my threshold in the water. But I was surrounded by Koreans in the water. The horror! It's the first time I did a triathlon here and was in the middle of all that splashing. The same amount in front of me as behind. I did the swim in about 30 minutes (best time is under 20 minutes!), getting a little bit of rhythm towards the end (didn't even warm up for the swim as I figured it would tire me out too much!)

Cycle: Oh woe. My Zipps probably prevented me from really crawling along, especially on the testers up the bridge, which we had to scale 10 times over the 5 lap circuit. I am not only fat, but very unfit. I thought I may have some residual strength left from the Ironman, but the two back to back illnesses completely wiped that out, and all there is now is a much heavier load to lug all over the place. I averaged 30km/h for 40km and was irritated to see guys passing me. Was I taking it easy. My heart rate was on 156 most of the cycle, which is fair, not all out effort, but just about right since my legs were pretty tired to start off with, more tired than my lungs, but not by much. I'm not sure if I did 6 laps, because I seemed to come nowhere in the cycle. But it seems reasonable I did 5 in about 1hour 20 minutes. (I've done a sub 1 hour before)

Run: I thought I'd really come undone here, but I guess those runs to the bus really paid off!!! I plodded along, feeling pretty pooped but determined not to walk (yes, was feeling like I wanted to walk a lot) until after 5km I began to feel dizzy. Tough to call, as it was bliksems hot, but I think it was a touch of heatstroke. Felt a bit dizzy and could feel the sun burning me (but didn't think it was sunburn) so stopped at a hose and just showered for half a minute. Walked an odd 100metres and could feel I wasn't 100%. At the next Aid Station I banned water, and drank Amino Up (kind've orange Isotonic drink like Game) and two bean paste bars, grabbed some sponges and water and walked on. Pete saw me walking and urged me on. I walked on until I saw an American lady and said, "Keep going." Once she went by, I said to myself, "Get going yourself," and from then on ran the rest of the way, and the dizziness disappeared. May have been a lack of glucose because by then I'd been in the race for 2h30 or more, and I'd allocated just enough energy for about that time (in terms of breakfast, and eats and drinks before hand).

My HRM stopped on route, so I don't know exactly what my time was. A guy I met who works for Tescoes in Korea, John, said his time was 2:59, and Ee Sung Hee came in just before me, and she did a 2:57 or something. That means, horror, I might well have gone over 3 hours. That's about an hour slower than my best time.


Last year I did a 2:10, with a 1:01:51 cycle (36.2km/h which is a fair to middling time, especially because the course was flat and only 37km long. I've gone under 1 hour over full 40km courses), and a 44 minute run. My swim last year was abouty 23 minutes, about 7 minutes slower this year. Oooooch.
HR Average last year 158 (fairly low)
This year: 156 but the muscles couldn't have taken me a heck of a lot faster and it wouldn't have made much of a difference to go much faster.
I started training in March last year, and got into a good pattern and did 2 races before this one. This year, no training from March onwards. It makes a difference.

So the race was not my best. It's accurate to say probably my worst triathlon ever. I felt a bit down for a bit, a bit depressed and disappointed,but there is a great high that triathlon gives you. You have this total body fatigue, you've swum in the water of a place, run and cycled through its streets (just about naked), and you and some other guys have played with your expensive toys and challenged yourselves together. That's fun.


Before the race, I leafed through the race booklet and saw they had listed my guy called Bernard's time. He won the 30 year age group last year in 2:01:30 (a bit of a suspiciously rounded off time though), and his NZ countryman (who I shadowed until about 1km on the run) won his age group in 2:03:34. Neither of these times seemed particularly impressive to me last year. This was because the course is fairly fast, I suppose, and I was arrogant after winning in Tongyeong to be a bit dismissive of races after that, deciding not to even taper for Sorak but to save that for Cheolwon. I didn't mind doing 'not so well' in Sorak if I could do well in Cheolwon. I was in 2nd, fairly far ahead of the guys 3rd etc, but they all passed me by about 3km of the run and that wasn't a great result. I'd love a top 3 in Cheolwon, and believe I can do it. Not this year though. Perhaps Cheolwon is a race I might especially fly to Korea to do if I find myself in July at stellar fitness again.
The point is that after the race, when I saw how hard I had to work and still went over 3 hours, I realised how much training does help, and how strong I was last year, in all three events. I'd like to have, and earn that respect again.

SLIP slops

When I arrived back after this whole weekend was done, at about 1am, and dead tired, the area in front of the doors was a puddle of water. I was wearing my slip slops, and walking with my bags slung over my shoulder to wear the driver had left my bike, out of the rain. I waved him goodbye, then stepped onto the marble floor and whooop. My legs went higher than my ears and I landed like a sack of potaotes. It was so sudden that I lay on the ground and just packed out laughing.

My mission from here is to get fit fast for Cheolwon (4 weeks away), and it's more than double all the distances I did yesterday (except for the swim): 2km swim, 90km bike, 21km run.

Psst. This is a secret. Ssssh. Don't tell anyone. I'm going to see if I can win the Ulgin race in September to make up for this one. Ssssh.

46/1 19:51:55 (NR)

NR stands for new record. After school I ran to catch the bus and found the 9700 hovering at the traffic lights. I was lucky the guy let me on. Foreigner status probably earned me a spot, or should I say 'dumb foreigner'. The 9700 also takes the most direct route and is possibly the fastest bus back, maybe the 1000 is quicker.
It made at least 2 stops at traffic lights that a slightly faster driver would have gotten through, and I didn't run from the last pedestrian crossing, so I reckon I can still take 3-7 minutes off this time. This is the world of the triathlete. Time driven! Efficiency seeking!

I expected today to be a horror movie in slow motion, but you know, I've had days that were a lot harder to get through, and where I felt a lot more tired. The sunburn on my shoulders wasn't too bad, and since I got the aircons blasting from early on, managed to refrigerate the classrooms enough to make it quite pleasant. On top of it, most classes had at least 25-50% students absent (on camping trips), and my last class, usually a nightmare with 12 hyperactive students, was just little old Louis, (well, he isn't so little, but if it is just him and me, he seems to shrink a bit). Yes, just 1 student instead of 12. Bonus!

One of the reasons I think people like me do triathlon is that we find our lives a little less fulfilling than we'd like. We are seeking a challenge, some fun, some way to express ourselves that is fresh and exciting and can't be called work. Triathlon though, is hard work. My training for this one basically boiled down to the few runs I did from the bus to school and the bus home, and the cycle I did with Fransa. I barely touched my bike since the Ironman, except to get it from Corneli's apartment to mine, and I swam a few times, but always in waters boiling with arms and legs, so I never got going. The interesting thing is that, although my body is tired and sore, my spirit is refreshed and feeling a new sense of challenge and urgency, and this is the core, the dymanic, that we seek in triathlon. I arrived earlier for school, unintentionally of course, than I have done in weeks, and also made it back in the fastest time ever. That seems to suggest the fuse has definitely been lit.

On the bus I noticed a Korean guy studying English from a textbook. He was about my age or older. I pulled out one of my business cards/name card/miniature photo albums, and gave it to him, saying, "If you need help studying English, I can help you." He later introduced himself as Cheh.
That may be the first time I've explicitly used those cards for their primary function. They also perform the optional service of advertising my blogsite. I'd like to know that a few people are reading what I am writing, although I have to admit, sometimes I don't realise that people are and wish they weren't.

The World Is Flat is proving to be a useful and educational read, despite the fact that I have some reservations of globalisation hitting some huge speedbumps in the near future. While in Sokcho I felt an important sense to believe more in dreams than in memories (be more future than past orientated). While this seems necessary, I can't help thinking that all the faith, motivation, good will, intentions and strength just cannot hold when the centre falls apart. If the context changes, and an Energy Crisis is a MOER of a context, no matter how religiously you've put all your ducks in a row, the waves are going to turns it all into debris and flotsam. Even so, we still need to move forward with confidence and consciousness, and that's where the focus of our concentration should be. We should not look at things continuously so that we end up paralysed. What we look at should instantly give us some rationale or purpose towards an impulse, an action.

Today has been incredibly humid, with pregnant clouds holding the noxious car created pollution hostage. The air feels full of vapour, like the feeling you get when you burp but hold it in your mouth, and you can taste it afterwards. Yeah, it's somewhat like a fart's breath under the clouds.

Going to make spaghetti now for dinner and set my watch for midnight. Not going to sleep a minute after that. You can hold me to my oath...

Missing You and Calling Mr Kunstler Again

Missing you!

When I got home from the race, I was so tired, but there was no one to ask me how the race went or anything. Boo hoo! Was really missing Fransa then, so called her. She was having lunch at her brother's place, and the whole family were watching a movie I recommended to them (and also sent to my father for his birthday) called Lost In Translation. It paints a fairly accurate picture of the comedy and tragedy that is life out here in the Far Far East.

I sent an email to Mr Kunstler earlier and here's the question and response (which I tend to agree with):

I originally intended buying a house or property in South Africa (which is
currently growing in value probably fastest in the world) - do
you suggest I do that given the upcoming prognosis?

I imagine SA will become a rather isolated and difficult place, with an extraordinary level of racial conflict. This is a lousy time to buy real estate just about anywhere, really. Stay in cash for the moment, if you can.
Triathlon! Wow. Impressive.

There goes the bride (and groom) to Dubai...

Here's a picture of a friend of mine who got married on the 19th of March in Bloemfontein. Ane Visagie, now Ane Theron. Right behind the beer glass (wearing a grey beard) is my dad.

Pantech and Curitel is a cellphone supplier here. Not sure who Eugene is.

The red carpet for those who dare to try this sport.

They call it the Seorak International Triathlon but there weren't that many international athletes. USA 2, RSA 1 (me) and I guess this flag was for me, Singapore 4, Japan 5 (only 5 from Japan - Japan also has it's own Ironman - what's going on), Ireland 1, Great Britain 2, France 2 (though I didn't see Arnaud), Czechs 4 (the guy won the elite men's race) and 1 Canadian. 718 Koreans. International? Thanks for trying though. This is one of the best races of its kind on Korea, well organised, and worth attending if you're close by. Not sure if I would fly here from a foreign country though...


The aerobars in this picture are way WAY too far apart. It couldn't be helped because the handlebars in the centre area are just too wide so you can't get the aerobars to clip round close to the centre.
I actually remember asking Hannes at Cyclotech to put on other handlebars. It's not a big deal, because I still have my Syntace Red Wings. I did feel a bit silly though, like I knew nothing about triathlon. Based on my performance though, these bars were fairly appropriate.
My Zipp wheels said to me through the wind at one point, "This is it? This is as fast as we're going to go today?" I didn't asnwer them, and they grumbled one more time, something about being 'embarassed'. Sorry guys. Will make it up to you (watch this space).


Extracting the bikes. Careful, I swapped my house for that one...

View from our hotel room on the 6th floor. I used the railing to dry my wetsuit (initially wrote 'website' dry my website) and towel after 'warming up' (cooling down) in the very jellyfishy sea around the swim buoys.

The bus driver's bike is er...a carbon copy of this one. B. E. A. Yewtiful.

Registration. My number was 345.


Approaching Kumho resort, which is where we stayed last year. I must mention that the 7 hour trip back is only 300km or so, and the reason it takes so long is not because only 50km is tarred roads, or that monsoons flood the low lying roads, or because falling trees land all over the roads, or North Korean sniper helicopoters force traffic to crouch in the many tunnels en route. No, there are just TOO MANY CARS IN KOREA. Korea, are you listening: STOP MAKING CARS! You don't have enough land and a traffic jam that starts 200km from the city is just no fun. Build a subway, or a bicycle track or another train track but stop selling so many Sorrentos here. Our average speed back was around 45km/h, which is less than the Tour De France guys average on flat stages.

Getting to Sokcho was the easy part. Getting back (and get this!) took over 7 hours. That's no fun after a hard race. We got into the car at 5pm and got home after midnight. That's a terrible feeling when you're tired and you know howling school children are going to remind you how much sleep you need, and a nagging cough reminds you that too little sleep = yast (yet another sore throat).

The beach is somewhere behind there...

Here's a role play for an intermediate student: Did you bring your surfboard? No. Don't worry it doesn't matter. Let's build something on the beach instead. Okay, good plan.

Let's go rollerblading along the beachfront boulevard...or should we?

The beaches here are nothing like the beaches we South Africans are used to. For one many are fenced off. For another it often seems to be hazy and miserable looking, and the sand is coarse. There never seem to be much in the way of waves, and the sea just seems a bit dank and dead. The area around the beach es are often kind've crummy. The one exception was the Hyatt, a beautiful western hotel built on a hillside and a cliff, with forest on all sides and a nice beach below where you can do some of the only surfing on the Korean peninsula. The reason they fence this off is to prevent North Korean spies from getting into the country. Quite a premium to pay (for their mutual aggression), fenced off beaches over the entire peninsula, which has a LOT of coastline. I mentioned to one of the triathletes, from the Kumho resort balcony, that in South Africa we're used to definite coastlines, booming surface, soft white sand and sun, and blue skies and surf. Here it's kind indefinite and hard to access. The sea just doesn't seem to be the same old sea here. Toy Story Dinosaur Voiceover: Sobbing.