Stuff I Know

Just stuff by me about me and my life, such as it is.

Monday, November 08, 2004

I know it is going to be darn cold this winter.

OK, I am all for saving energy and a little money now and then, but doesn't this sound a bit draconian to you?

The heater will work for 5 and a half hours (8:00 - 11:00, 13:30 - 16:00) from the 26th of November to middle of next March, only when it is below zero degrees C outside.

This is my first year at this university, but they seem to be sticklers when it comes to certain things. If you have never been to Korea, you need to know a few things about the place to know why I am concerned. First of all, Korea can get pretty darn cold in the winter. Forget all those M*A*S*H episodes you've seen. Those were shot in California.

Second, many of the older institutional type buildings, including the one I work in, are massive concrete sinks. They just take the ambient temperature and concentrate it. If it is hot outside, it will be anywhere form 2 to 10 degrees hotter inside. If it is cold outside, well, yes, then it is a lot colder inside.

Which means that the temperature could hover around 1 degree outside, yet it would likely be below freezing inside. And still, according to the official pronouncement, the heating will never come on. Let's forget the fact that I am not allowed to have a space heater in my office- thank you to some previous teacher who accidentally left his on and melted his office chair into a smoking, toxic lump, causing the administration to ban personal space heaters from the offices. (Hmm, does that extend to the rest of the campus, or is it just us foreigners who are thought of as incompetent?) Being on the north side of the building means it will be at least an additional few degrees colder, but in my office I can always throw on an extra coat or two. But the classrooms will still be dang cold.
Even with those extra 15 or so bodies, students will likely still be shivering, or at least complaining about the cold. I don't know if you have ever tried it before, but it is hard enough to get them to speak English. It is even harder if their teeth are chattering.

Third, OK, let's say it does get down to zero. Glory and hallelujah, the heating will come on. Of course it will take those first two hours to warm up the classrooms from the night before. I have yet to experience it, but I am told when the heat comes on, it really comes on! Which means the rest of the day, people will probably be complaining about the heat. And seeing as the common way to do something about the heat here is to open the window (summer or winter), I am sure students will be opening the windows. Of course this just means the heating will get wasted to the outdoors and the system will consequently have to work harder, leading to more heat, more complaints, more open windows, etc., etc., etc,. Things rarely work the way they should. They way you think they would.

Korea is not alone in poor temperature control idiosyncrasies. I have seen my fair share of energy wasters at home and abroad. I, myself, in my formative years, was told many a time, "Shut the door. I am not paying to cool the outdoors." (I grew up in the desert.) It is just too bad all the knowledge learned by one individual, group, or culture seems to take so long to get passed on to the next. A lot of mistakes could be avoided if we, we meaning everyone, would just open ourselves to learning about the good and the bad from others. Too often people and cultures take from other people and cultures by just skimming the good things from the top, and never go through the learning process of what made those things good and other things bad.

That men do not learn very much from the lessons of history is the most important of all the lessons of history.
- Aldous Huxley

Fortunately, Koreans are now starting to put centralized, thermostatically controlled heating and cooling into buildings; unfortunately, it is only in new buildings, and I won't be in them.


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