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Sun-drying Grains Equals Causing Harm, or, Stupid Things My Employer’s Administrative Officers Say

Making beer involves extracting sugars from grain. This means you end up with a lot of grain that you have no use for, since everything tasty has been extracted, but which needs to be disposed of somehow.

I’ve been happy that a friend in the building, after starting a worm farm, ended up finding my spent grain useful, since that means one less wasteful outcome for the stuff. I tend to leave the grain out for him, and he dries it in the sun. Drying stuff in the sun is so common in Korea that one expects to see it: mats of hot peppers, of leafy greens, of fish — all manner of things are left in the sun to dry, all over the place, and nobody thinks anything of it.

Well, except where I work, anyway. Today we got an email — addressed to everyone in our building — saying the following, yes, all in caps, because the admins where I work think it’s normal to write that way:

According to the Rules and Regulations (International House & Guest House at XXXXXX Univ.), Residents will be expelled in case they cause harm to other people. (Article 11)Some uncertain smell is causing much damage ‘continually’ to all parts of the International House especially on the 3rd floor. Please remove any materials that affect other neighbors even in each resident’s room.

Your cooperation and understanding will be greatly appreciated in these matters.

         ◆Pictures on the spot (Since last semester) <= See attached files

-Management Office-

This apparently “uncertain smell” that is “causing much damage” is not in evidence at present, and the photos that were attached to the email are from last summer, meaning it’s apparently not such an urgent issue.

But getting this email, I can’t help but laugh. For one thing, the area where the grain is dried is definitely home to a noxious smell — but the stink is produced by the chemical treatment facility that is housed about fifteen feet from our parking lot and maybe thirty or forty feet from out fire escape — a stink so horrible that we often have to hold our breaths to walk home from the library! Besides that, I had recently just talked to my worm-farming friend about drying the grains elsewhere, since we were getting fruit-fly problems in the summer because of the grain being dried on the fire-escape.

I used to get really angry about these missives from on high, but the idiocy makes it hard not to laugh: what the hell do these people think is going to happen? I’d like to see them start trying to inspect our homes for “dangerous” things that could “harm others,” and I wonder if they think they can hold us to our contracts while taking away our housing? (Unlike most universities in Seoul, we are not given any kind of housing stipend option: you get housing on campus, or you get nothing.) So, they boot me and my worm-farming friend out of the building in mid-semester, and they get irate Department Heads descending upon them from on high, chewing them out for being idiots and forcing foreign professors to resign halfway through a bunch of courses? Because, if I was kicked out of my housing today, I would be resigning on the spot — and that would be leaving my department short a professor in the middle of the spring semester.

As for materials that affect other neighbors — so, can I demand that whoever lives downstairs from me and always has his TV going full blast have his TV removed? You know, because it affects me. I’m sure someone would be excited to tell me, “You need to stop smoking meat and grain on your balcony, because the smoke affects other people — but the communal barbecue is at the foot of the fire escape, right below my apartment, and in the summer when it’s being used, the smoke comes up into the hall, and into my place. That affects me.

If I had a complaint, I would have voiced it to the people in our building doing the barbecuing — and I’m pretty sure, since nobody uses that fire escape, that nobody made any complaints about the grain drying there. (Well, except me, because of the fruit flies, and I expressed those directly to my worm-farming friend.)

So what we have is a case of a twit in an office who is bored and looking for something to do. Maybe it’s time to get that water analysis done that I’ve been thinking about. I’d be far from surprised if there were pollutants and toxins, given the reek of the chemical treatment plant nearby, which I mentioned, and the fact there is a workman in there, with the door open, far more often than would inspire faith in the quality of the plumbing. (And given what I’ve seen of how they handle plumbing on campus, what would shock me is the lack of a leak!)

Maybe this is a new leaf I’ve turned, or something: when dealing with clowns, don’t get pissed off1 — just treat them with the respect they deserve (none) and laugh at their ridiculous antics. It’s a game for them, so it might as well be  game for you, too.

Yes, I think it’s time to get onto that water survey. Since I seem to have the worst water in the building, that should throw them for a loop. Hopefully we can find a Korean lab to do it, so they can explain just how far below safety standards the water is! Sounds like something to keep the adminiclowns busy, if not to use as leverage in some upcoming fight.

Ah, and I’ve decided I will be getting a new desk from the facilities office. I’ve made do with a tiny, cramped little desk for years now, but have just realized every professor on my floor — including people who have just started at the uni, but even including foreign profs who have just started at the uni — has a proper desk, and that it’s easier to do work in the office with one. where you can spread out your work.

That should be a fun argument to have. I’ve asked enough times through the secretary, and now it’s time to get the head of my department in on it. I’ll ask nicely at first, but, if they still refuse, then it’s no office hours, no exams, no grading, and no class preparation until I get one.

1. Caveat: not getting angry is wise until they really cross the line, like coming into your home without knocking. This has happened to me, and when it happens, you need to make sure they know it’s not acceptable, and you’re mad as hell. But it’s better to do that in front of their superiors, so that they get shamed into behaving in a civilized manner next time.

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