FBI CBC = pain in the ass

Getting a criminal background check is a pain in the ass, and without my dad helping me out with mailing it would be even more of a pain (thanks Dad!).

I’m posting this mainly so I can refer back to it later. The FBI phone number for checking the status of a criminal background check is (304) 625-2000 (I got it from this guy).

The first time I did this, it took a long time. This most recent one is taking even longer. The FBI got my fingerprints around December 3 and now, my dad tells me, he just got them back on March 27. In other words, it took them FOUR MONTHS to process and return the prints. Next step is the apostille. Luckily I didn’t need the background check when I thought I would, so I’ll have it for August when I’ll almost certainly be needing it.

Also for future reference…

Form FD-258 is the fingerprint card. I printed it here in Korea since they probably don’t want one that is written in Korean, and I just took it to a police station with a “CSI” department and they fingerprinted me for free! It was easy. The Naperville police department charged me something like $20 for fingerprinting.

Form I-783 is needed for requesting the background check.

Form DS-4194 is for the apostille

The links above will probably be dead at some point because the FBI seems to feel the need to constantly move shit around, so here are the forms I saved to Google Drive:

FD-258 (fingerprint card)
I-783 (CBC request)
DS-4194 (apostille request)

posted by Michael in Whatever on 3/29/2015 | Comment (1)

Week 3 homework

My class on teaching writing is kind of silly. The homework is sort of challenging, but the classroom exercises seem designed to help the mostly-Korean students improve their own writing skills, so the professor is, in effect, teaching showing us how to teach. I guess the idea is sound, but for the three or four native English speakers in the class it’s laughably easy.

Teaching Writing: Writing Assignment 3 – Letter of Complaint. We were supposed to write a fictional letter of complaint to someone so I went with the Nigerian prince who failed to make me a millionaire. Also, I just now figured out that my $3.3 million share isn’t 20% of the fake money involved. Good thing I’m not a math teacher.

March 24, 2015

His Royal Highness Prince Abu Salami
Noble Defender and Great Steward of Nigeria
1600 Royal Nigerian Way
Lagos, Nigeria

Your Royal Highness,

I am writing to you in reference to a mutual agreement between your son, Mr. Tahmi Salami, and myself, a US citizen residing in Seoul, South Korea. On January 1, 2015, your son and Royal Finance Advisor, Mr. Salami, informed me via email that Your Royal Highness was seeking an overseas partner to assist in releasing US$31.5 million in royal tribute funds that were being held by the National Bank of Nigeria and that my assistance was desperately needed.

Because, as Mr. Salami explained, the release of the funds required the assistance of an overseas trustee as mandated by Nigerian banking laws, I would be entitled to 20% of said funds in return for my cooperation (US$3.3 million). He assured me that I would receive my portion of the funds within 10 business days of wiring the US$5,000 bank processing fee to your royal bank account. I wired those funds on January 2, 2015 yet, despite dozens of attempts to contact him, I have not heard from Mr. Salami since.

Your Royal Highness Prince Salami, Noble Defender and Great Steward of Nigeria, please forgive my insolence but I should have received my $3.3 million long ago. This transaction has dragged on for far too long and I hereby request that Your Royal Highness transfer my share of the funds immediately to my U.S. bank account. Please hurry. Your honor as a Nigerian prince is at stake.

Humbly Yours,


Read more…

posted by Michael in Back to School on 3/29/2015 | No Comments

Week 2 homework

I’ll put my Teaching Writing homework first because it’s less boring than my Brain Class homework. Human Learning & Cognition, a.k.a. Brain Class, by the way, really pissed me off. We were supposed to answer four questions based on chapter 2 of some book, and then five questions on chapter 3. Well guess what? Three of the five chapter 3 questions weren’t in chapter 3. Um, hey professor, WHAT THE FUCK??!! That’s not cool. At least I got to write a scholarly account of how I called my brother a nigger at Prince of Peace Sunday School (highlighted in blue, for your convenience). Hey chill out, I was like six years old at the time.

The assignment was to write a descriptive paragraph about a desert island. I wrote it as a paragraph as assigned, but just to show how incredibly sensitive and sentimental I am, I’m going to format my paragraph here as a poem. Hopefully this will get me laid someday.

A Faraway Place Called Someday

When Ordinary People speak of the impossible
When they speak of what spectacular things they would do
with untold riches
They speak of escaping to this white sand
and the peaceful solitude
that embraces it
They speak of clear turquoise waters
that glisten in the sun
They speak of an endless blue sky
carelessly smeared
with thin
wispy clouds
that seem to echo
the blissful laziness of island life
Ordinary People speak of plucking mangoes
and papayas
from the lush greenery
that the island provides
And dining on freshly caught fish
as the sun descends
on the horizon
And then
when paradise is bathed
in moonlight
and the only sounds to be heard
are the gentle lapping of waves
on the shore
and the quiet rustling
of palm fronds
Ordinary People speak longingly
of a faraway place

Read more…

posted by Michael in Back to School on 3/21/2015 | No Comments

First homework for Teaching Writing

1. Read a book (200+ pages) and write an essay focusing on one or two chapters that were somehow interesting or something

2. Answer a couple of questions based on reading an 11 page chapter

Waaaayyy less work than my brain class. Except we also have to write in this online journal thing every day of the week (except weekends). That’s gonna be a chore, but at least we’re only expected to write a paragraph or so, and it’s very casual. No academic nonsense with all that citing of references and whatnot.

Here’s #1:

The Subtle Significance of Hedging

In my short and not-quite-yet illustrious career as an educator, I have taught precisely one class on academic writing. It was, to put it mildly, challenging. The textbook was designed in the most intimidating way imaginable with long, complex passages interspersed with word charts and sidebars and bullet lists and all manner of distractions that culminated in a universal sense of fear and loathing on the part of my students each time the class bell rang. Unlike most other classes at the English academy where I teach, this particular class was not tied to a rigid schedule where X number of pages were required to be completed on X date. Hence, I seized this opportunity to toss most of the book aside and attempt to teach academic writing in a way that I thought would be more effective and, indeed, more palatable to the seven young writers seated before me. Suffice it to say that, while I (and the entire class) was relieved at the removal of the book’s unforgiving structure, I quickly found out how difficult it is to teach others to write within the stiffly starched confines of EAP. I struggled to produce lessons that were clear and focused and I also found great difficulty with teaching my students how to use the proper tone that academic writing demands. Reid and her counterparts touch on the importance and subtlety of tone in several chapters of Writing Myths (2008), but Ken Hyland’s chapter on the myth of making academic writing “assertive and certain” (p. 70) struck a chord with me in particular. The notion of hedging rarely ever crosses the fringes of my mind as a writer and, now that I see its versatility of purpose and how directly it can affect the tone of a written passage, I feel that I have gained something useful that I can research further and pass on to future academic writing classes. Read more…

posted by Michael in Back to School on 3/12/2015 | No Comments

My first homework assignments for Human Learning and Cognition

1. Read a 400+ page book and write an essay about it that answers the professor’s five questions (this was assigned before class began)

2. Answer five more questions based on reading two other chapters from other authors.

The good news is that my Teaching Writing class is a lot less work (so far… it’s only Week 2).

Here’s #1:

Winter Reading Project: A User’s Guide to the Brain

Despite medical and technological advances that have greatly advanced the study of the brain in recent decades, what we know about how it functions still pales in comparison to what is unknown. To attempt to understand an organ that has “more possible ways to connect…neurons than there are atoms in the universe” (Ratey, 2001, p. 26) is a tall order indeed, and attempting to explain brain function in lay terms, as Ratey has done in A User’s Guide to the Brain, could arguably be viewed as an equally herculean task.

As the human brain is “the most complex system known to science” (Ratey, 2001, p. 397), Ratey chooses to frame its function and development within two core metaphors, the first being that, “like a set of muscles, it responds to use and disuse by either growing and remaining vital or decaying” (p. 11). Ratey applies this metaphor to the brain in several ways; he begins by explaining that the very structure of our brains can be changed through experiences, thoughts, actions, and emotions, and that “by viewing the brain as a muscle that can be weakened or strengthened” we can take an active role in choosing who we become (p. 24). He goes on to support his “use it or lose it” (p. 56) view of brain development in the story of Martha Curtis, the musical virtuoso who maintained her mastery of the violin even after surrendering 20 percent of her right temporal lobe to surgeries aimed at putting a stop to her severe epileptic seizures. Ratey concludes this story of triumph by asserting that our memories, like Martha’s memory of her violin skills, can be strengthened with exercise, “just as weight-training strengthens our muscles” (p. 213).

Read more…

posted by Michael in Back to School on 3/12/2015 | No Comments

Some of my kindergarten students

Dancing to Youtube videos at the end of class

posted by Michael in Whatever on 2/8/2015 | No Comments

Well this should be fun

Phase two of Plan Z is in effect. After getting rejected last year I applied again to the MA program and this time I’m in.

I’m not at all surprised that there’s homework due on the very first day of class, but it looks like that homework entails reading two books “in (their) entirety” and then writing an essay about each. Yaaayyy. Time to start skimming! I’m told that’s pretty much the only way to survive Sookmyung’s MA TESOL program.

posted by Michael in Back to School on 2/2/2015 | No Comments

The delicate tastebuds of Korean ladies

Came across this on Reddit. I also found a video of Americans eating Korean snacks but it’s not quite as entertaining.

posted by Michael in Whatever on 1/19/2015 | No Comments

Hmm it kind of looks like us…

This is what happens when I wander around Itaewon with Terry after a few too many beers.

I spotted this guy sitting in front of the Hamilton Hotel with his easel and decided it was worth $30 to see what he could do. Terry and I sat for probably 30-40 minutes before he was finished, and I’m pretty sure it would have taken a little longer if he hadn’t had to pee really bad. Actually, he and I both had to go, so I was glad he finished when he did.

And what’s up with the way Koreans write numbers? The date should be “10/5″ but it somehow looks like 10/9 which, the way some Koreans write their nines, could be mistaken for 10/P.

Anyway, I think the guy did ok. He drew a younger, more chiseled me. I’ll take it. Not sure how Terry feels about his portrait, though. If Terry could talk, he’d probably complain that he doesn’t look vicious enough.

posted by Michael in Walking Terry on 10/13/2014 | Comment (1)

Korean girls don’t have asses…

…and I’m totally ok with that

posted by Michael in Music Videos on 7/17/2014 | No Comments

I am Try-Lingual… I try to speak Korean and get blank stares in return

So yeah, I’m studying Korean these days. It’s mostly because every day at work I eat lunch by myself. Believe it or not, this is by choice. My co-workers aren’t bad people, but I want nothing to do with most of them! We work together. We’re not lunch buddies. (If you look closely, you can almost watch me transform into a more and more antisocial jerk with each passing day.) Point being, lunchtime is a good time to whip out the iPad and run through some flash cards. Even studying for just 10-15 minutes makes a huge difference.

My recent studying kick is also tied to the fact that there’s a free two-hour Korean class every Saturday from 3-5 pm, and it takes me less than 10 minutes to walk there at a leisurely pace. And remember, I live right behind the campus of Sookmyung Women’s University. Wink wink. What I’m trying to say is, the teachers are all women. That’s what “wink wink” means. I’d honestly still go to class every Saturday if the teachers were all dudes (hey it’s free) but they’re not and I have no complaints.

So back to the point: I’m studying Korean. Up until very recently I was attending yet another free Korean class (at a nearby community center on Thursday nights) but I’m taking an indefinite break from it because it’s kind of below my already-low level.

My Sookmyung Korean class went on a little “Membership Training” thing about a month ago so I’ll post some pics from that when I feel motivated. Membership Training is just a “Konglish” word for a grown-up field trip that usually entails socializing, games, booze, and sleeping on the floor of a pension (a motel-ish place). It was mostly fun and certainly worth going on since I met some other students and got to know some of the teachers and other volunteers who run the free class program.

I’ll end this with a snapshot from my Level 3 Korean book from when I was doing the intensive program at Hongik back in 2003. I just dug this book out of my closet a few minutes ago and all I can say is NO WONDER I DROPPED OUT! Jesus. Yeah I made it through levels 1-2 just fine, but level 3 kicked me in the nuts pretty hard. No English translations in this book, which is a big part of why I couldn’t handle it. My book scribbles make it look like I survived most of the class but I distinctly recall throwing in the towel somewhere near the middle of the 35 chapters. Still, I’m glad I saved the books. There’s an outside chance I might still be able to get something out of them.


posted by Michael in Whatever on 7/15/2014 | No Comments

Head, shoulders, knees, and toes

Just realized that I only know how to say one of those words in Korean and I’m about to teach this stuff in English to a bunch of 6 year olds. Since I’ve been studying Korean lately it seems like a good idea to finally learn everything in this pic. I know most of them, but a few of these words are new. I guess I just don’t need to talk about my shoulders, knees, and toes all that often.


posted by Michael in Whatever on 6/15/2014 | No Comments

Terry doing his job

I just happened to have a bag of chicken that was given to me by the kebab guy, so Terry was very cooperative when some ladies wanted his attention.


(Yes that’s my finger in the frame, whoops)

posted by Michael in Walking Terry on 4/25/2014 | No Comments



I’m not writing this because I want to be a journalist, I’m just writing it down so I can remember when this happened.

A ferry called the Sewol was carrying passengers, mostly high school students, to Jeju Island and it somehow capsized on April 16th. The last count I saw, about seven days after the incident as of now, was 174 rescued and 302 either confirmed dead or missing out of 476 total passengers. 325 of the 476 were high school students. Two of the big items in the news cycle have been how the captain and crew were among the first to abandon ship after instructing everyone to stay in their rooms (wtf), and the shockingly incompetent response of the Korean government when the news broke. A lot of people probably could have been saved but weren’t and now, of course, fingers are being pointed.

I hate to admit this, but I’m really not shocked by the death toll which could have (should have) been much lower. For some hard-to-explain reason, it just seems so… “Korea”. I vaguely remember the 2003 Daegu subway fire (arson) that killed nearly 200 people where the conductor of one of the trains involved grabbed the master key and ran for his life. Weird coincidence that the Sewol captain did basically the same thing. The subway trains in Daegu were also ill-equipped for fire emergencies; apparently there weren’t any fire extinguishers onboard. The good news is that subway trains and buses now appear to be equipped for fires and, starting now, Korean passenger boats will probably be a lot safer as well. Are two similar but unrelated disasters enough to conclude that Korea is a place where the norm is reaction, not prevention? I dunno but, yeah probably.

For those interested, this Seoul National University professor sums up the Sewol disaster pretty well in an honest and heartbreaking essay.

posted by Michael in News on 4/23/2014 | No Comments

It’s the cat’s meow

This Snapseed app on my iPhone is the cat’s meow



posted by Michael in Walking Terry on 3/30/2014 | No Comments