Less Than A Mazing

What a day.

I had planned to get so many things done: brewing, mazing (meadmaking), shifting the sauerkrat to its new container, cleaning up, grading.

Well, the power went out about 10:00am, and I called the office to see whether it was campus-wide. The girls in the office noted the Net wasn’t working, but they had power… and then realized that the new building (where most of my classes are, along with the office) has its own generator. They called the Facilities office around 11:30am… but didn’t call me back. I called after lunch, and was told they’d been told power would be restored by noon.

So I waited some more. Now, newer Korean buildings, if they’re well built, let in sunlight. But the building I’m in–or rather, the extension of the building I’m in–was built a while ago. Less than a decade, I think, but a while ago. (And by people who seem to have been less interested in designing living spaces than slapping this and that here and there.) The result is that it’s dark, dark, dark even in the daytime, too dark to grade unless one is right up against the window. And the kitchen has no window (brilliant, I know), so it was impossible to do brewing without the lights.

Sometime in the afternoon, the water was also shut off. I discovered this after going to the bathroom. Now, why stay home? Two reasons: I was hoping to get a bunch of stuff done, and a lot of that stuff required me to be home to do it. Also, I hadn’t had a shower, and the water was cut off, and I don’t go out without a shower. It’s just not pretty.

Also, I was marginally worried that the Facilities guys would go home, declaring the power-outage unfixable, and leave it till the next day. This might sound like I was assuming the worst, but the thing is that their whole approach to the on-campus housing for foreign faculty is predicated on one simple maxim:

Well, I don’t have to live there, so who gives a &*#(^#?

No, really. And if you don’t believe me, talk to anyone in the building. Well, there are a few people in the building who’d say otherwise, but most of them are the same people who shrug and look away when the school does something unethical and everyone else is mumbling about it, horrified. What I mean is, even if nobody is doing anything actively about a given problem, there’s still a kind of human decency–minimal and pointless as it might seem, even if one has limited power or opportunity to do something–to being angry, horrified, enraged, disgusted, or even just plain put off by something.

Anyway, by 4pm I called the office again. It was getting too dark to read, too cold to stay home any longer, and I was thinking about going and renewing my gym membership so I could shower. I was also beginning to wonder whether I’d have to make other arrangements for a place to stay tonight. This time, the explanation was a lot clearer: “Oh, since classes were canceled in all buildings except the new one today, they had another problem to fix and they decided to do that first. They said maybe the heat and light and water will be on by 5pm or 5:30pm. It was a bird that caused the power-outage.”

Now, I don’t know. Maybe there was a serious, serious problem that needed handling. But I also know that the fridges of everyone in the building sat with no power all day. I know there were people who were trying to do their laundry, or hang out with their kids, or cook dinner, and who had no lights until very close to sunset. I know my bloody day was wasted because it took seven (or more) hours to deal with the kind of outage that, when I google it online, usually takes between 40 minutes and a two hours to fix.

Ah, the joys of living on campus.

Anyway, to make my day perfect, the dishes weren’t done so I decided not to brew any beer. I’ll just make mead, I figured. So I dissolved seven kilos of honey (which ain’t cheap) into some hot water, added the yeast nutrient, and then mixed with cold water. The must (the pre-fermented honey-water) was still too hot for me to put the yeast into it, so I hauled the whole five liters outside. And then the handle on the plastic fermenter broke off, the fermenter fell, and all the must spilled out in about one second flat.

The only positive thing I can say about today (besides that the spill was outside, instead of inside) is that I discovered my immersion heater works very well. Which will be nice when I brew some beer tomorrow night. I’ll need to source some more honey if I’m going to make mead, and that’s probably going to take until sometime next week, realistically. (I don’t want to buy it retail, as the prices are silly and as I have a sort of connection with an apiarist.)

Oh, and I guess the new fermentation vessel for my sauerkraut is working alright. And the ‘kraut is slowly souring just as it is supposed to. Because we couldn’t wash dishes in the dark this morning, I fried up some sausages and sauerkraut with prunes and onions this morning for breakfast. It was pretty damned good, even if the sauerkraut definitely has a long way to go.

The vessel works this way: one tupperware container fits tightly into the other, with the bottom of the one above having been perforated with a bunch of holes. The brine comes up through the small holes, but the cabbage mostly doesn’t, which means this effectively works as a pickle press. Not only that, but the top of the upper container can be opened and rifled through, for able in the interests of pulling out cabbage that got through, skimming off molds that might form, and so on. (IU haven’t seen any yet, but some may develop.) If the upper compartment needs to be cleaned, the lower one can have the lid put on (or the spare lid left over from construction.

The one glitch is that when you put the top container into the bottom, if the cabbage is cut too small (as it was in this batch) a little will climb up the sides in the brine. You can fish it out with a thin-bladed knife, though, as I did this afternoon. I’m thinking this is going to be a lot more effective than the big container I was using before. (And more space effective, too.)

So, my day wasn’t totally wasted. But I think I’ll go work out my anger by doing the dishes and vacuuming. I’m an angry cleaner: I clean when I’m grouchy, and when I clean, I get grouchy. Not good, but that’s how it is for now.

5 thoughts on “Less Than A Mazing

  1. Of course, the brilliant university administrators didn’t tell anyone the classes were cancelled (I checked with my TA), so everyone held their classes anyway.

  2. They did? Hahaha. Yeah, my TA was telling me classes were canceled by about 1pm. Gotta love that efficiency.

    By the way, is this common knowledge among the Korean profs you know? The foreign profs have mostly heard and most are, well, perturbed is a gentle word.

    Even more so by the case I was told of regarding a girl in the dorm who posted critically, and anonymously, about it on the uni website. She was called personally (so much for anonymity!) and “asked” to take her posting down, says the student who talked to me.

  3. As far as I know, most of the Korean professors are unaware. This is a type of incident that universities tend to hush up. (On the other hand, I am not the most sociable of professors). However, especially for older professors, I doubt if you will get much sympathy for the gay student. Korea is still a long way off, even from “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.

    I also remembeer, when I was taking the physicals for the military draft (mid 1990s), some guys (who wanted to avoid the draft) came in dressed as ladyboys and acted “gay.” Apparently if the authorities could confirm that the guy was gay, he would get rejected from the draft.

    1. Hey,

      Rumors are flying that this is the reason for the major internet outage on campus the last few days on campus. Given how the computers are somehow (how curiously!) working in most prof/department offices, but the wifi networks are all (so curiously!) out and have been since yesterday, and how even Wibro seems to be blocked on campus — no, really — I can see why this rumor would be circulating. But it does paint a picture of Admin and the Regime that I doubt they’d appreciate. Of course, it’s their own paintbrush I suppose, if the outages (and specific page blockages) are as strategic as they are, ahem, rumored to be.

  4. Junsok,

    Oh, yes, I know most older profs won’t sympathize. Which is a whole ‘nother barrel of off-putting, if you ask me.

    People who willingly participate in the oppressions of the present get zero sympathy from me when complaining about the oppressions of the past.

    Happily, I can say it’s widely known, in a secret way, among students, and some of them are edging towards doing something about it. I don’t quite expect to see anything too overt–asking a Korean college kid to stand up to authority the way this 14-year-old American kid did would be unrealistic, as they mostly seem scared they’ll get kicked out too–but there was talk of a few careful actions.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *