A Long Break

I spent the time during the holiday break studying Korean.  The department was kind enough to let me work one-on-one with two instructors who came into work during the break.  It helped me substantially improve my Korean conversation.  I wasn’t able study outside of class as much as I would have liked, but at least on Monday when classes start again I’ll be better prepared.  I have one month to polish up this infernal language, and after four days of tutoring I feel much better about my ability to meet the language requirement.  I’ll never complain about learning German, Spanish, or Chinese again (until I start learning Chinese characters again).

The death toll from the tsunamis rose to 116,000 after Indonesia reported that over 80,000 people had perished.  What a tragedy!  This is the single worst event in world history since the 1976 earthquake in southern China that killed more than 500,000 people.  I’m my American mind these events are unfortunately measured by numbers of casualties; in reality the situation is much, much worse than merely the death toll.  This will have substantial repercussions for years to come throughout the Indian Ocean Rim–devastated families, lost livelihoods, destroyed villages and towns, ruined local economies, international economic recession, a huge debt burden for donor and recipient nations.  The prospects just don’t look good.  This event does not impact the average American like 9/11 did because it didn’t hit so close to home, but in the coming years it will have just as much impact on the world as 9/11 did.  What a tragedy.

I’ve been following the Washington State Gubernatorial race very closely.  The Secretary of State Sam Reed (R) just certified Christine Gregoire (D) as governor over Dino Rossi (R).  Gregoire won the second recount, a hand recount, by just 130 votes out of 2.8 million cast.  Rossi won the initial machine count and machine recount by 261 and 42 votes respectively.  It’s been 8 weeks since the election, and this may continue to drag out in the courts for weeks or months.  The GOP is now calling for a revote.  Based on all the potential irregularities, a run-off may be the best option.  Most countries mandate run-off elections when a candidate garners less than a majority vote.  Most Washington voters agree that a revote is the best option based on a recent Elway poll.  It’s a tainted race, and no one can know for certain who won regardless of who becomes governor.  I suspect Gregoire will be governor because Washington State is heavily Democratic, but she will carry a burden that President Bush carried for four years after the 2000 Presidential Election–she will have won the governorship based on state supreme court rulings.  It will be interesting to see what the Republicans do in the coming weeks.  This was the GOP’s best chance in decades to win the governorship, but if they aren’t careful they will come off as spoilers.  The Dems were spoilers when they insisted on a second hand recount, a method that is inherently less accurate than a machine recount and prone to divination to determine voter intent.  The Dems took a risk and won–so far.  It’s politics at its worst, unfortunately.  A run-off is definitely the better course of action than conceding in a tainted race or dragging the fight out in court.  The best results are that it will shine a spotlight on the Washington State electoral process and hopefully improve it before the 2006 election.

A New Chapter

My in-laws left yesterday and returned to their home in China.  They have lived with us for over two years.  Before they arrived in 2002, I mentioned to my wife that it was the start of a new chapter in our lives.  Now the page has turned and yet another new chapter has started for us.  They lived with us since our son was born–they have always been a part of his life.  Now as we prepare to head to Korea, we are again a family of three.  Life has been very hectic for us with our impending move, but I can already tell that life feels a bit more settled now that we’re together as a smaller family.  My in-laws were a big help to us.  They were always around to help take care of our son, and for that I am very grateful.  I know that my son already misses them very much because he’s old enough to be aware of their move, but he has been very well behaved the past couple of days.  I hope it continues until we finally arrive in Seoul.  Living together as an extended family has brought blessing, tension, happiness, and frustration–all the human emotions that rise up with family members living together.  I will look back at the last two years fondly and wax nostalgic, but at present I am happy that a new chapter has started.  For me this is the start of our transition to Korea.  We have been in limbo here in the Washington, D.C. area since we arrived in early 2004, and now within 2 months we will be in Korea, our new home for years.  Korea is yet another chapter to be experienced, and this is page one.

The death toll from the tsunamis in southeast Asia and eastern Africa has risen to 77,000+.  What a tragedy.  I am happy that the U.S. and other nations have pledged millions of dollars and logistical aid to combat the ensuing humanitarian crisis.  The tragedy seems so distant to many of us, but it has touched us nevertheless.  Out of this tragedy comes the opportunity for the world to come together to show support just as it did when the Twin Towers were attacked in 2001.  I’m planning to contact World Vision to see what I can do.

I downloaded and tried the new Mozilla Firefox browser.  It’s the new open source browser that is competing with Microsoft’s Internet Explorer.  Over 12 million copies have been downloaded.  Most people download it because they either don’t like IE or are concerned about security issues with Microsoft’s browser.  Hackers and virus makers have designed nasties around the IE browser because over 90% of Internet users use IE to access the Web (mass audience).  I had to check it out for myself.  I have tested the Firefox browser, and so far I have not been very impressed.  If it will boost my PC’s security I will use it, but I may have to sacrifice some speed and functionality.  Pages appear to load more slowly in Firefox, and you have to manually load some add-ins such as Flash that boost the Web’s functionality.  Still, I will continue to test Firefox and use it for the time being.  I was happy to see that Google is Firefox’ default search engine.  Google appears on the Firefox home page and as a built-in browser toolbar.  If Firefox takes off in 2005, then the Firefox-Google alliance bodes well for Google.  Google impresses more every day.