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Keeping secrets and how to thwart those efforts Lessons in

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JoongAng Daily
CROSSWINDS
Friday, January 16, 2004
BOOK REVIEW
NEW BOOKS
Keeping secrets and how to thwart those efforts
By John Hoog
Deputy Editor
The glamour of code-making and
code-breaking is probably more in the
retelling and in the effects that breaking a code can have more than in the
actual work itself. As Simon Singh
recounts it, both disciplines have
been marked by slogs, punctuated by
occasional flashes of brilliance that
lead to a breakthrough.
But codes and ciphers have been
around for as long as mankind has
wanted to keep secrets, and Singh
does a brilliant job at tracing the evolution of cryptography.
He begins with an account of the
cipher of Mary, Queen of Scots, who
was beheaded by her cousin, Queen
Elizabeth I for attempting to usurp
her. After describing the history of
cryptography to that point, he returns
to the efforts by the English court to
break a cipher used by Mary to communicate with a group plotting a
rebellion against the English
monarch.
That chapter, with basic information on the history of codes and
The Code Book
By Simon Singh
Anchor Books, 2000
(First copyright 1999)
21,130 won at Kyobo Book Centre
ciphers, is important, but the pace is
plodding. By then end of the chapter,
I was impatient for Mary to lose her
head and be done with it.
From then on, the book becomes
steadily more engrossing. With the
bare minimum of mathematics and
technical detail, it describes the fundamental breakthroughs in cryptography that have brought us today to the
prospects for quantum cryptography,
a bizarre exploitation of even more
bizarre concepts. The most dramatic
passages describe the British success
at cracking the German Enigma code
of World War II.
Singh has a gift for simplifying
concepts that in less skillful hands
could be opaque. He patiently and
skillfully feeds the reader information
in small enough chunks as to be
digestible, but keeps the narrative
moving along briskly. Only after
reading this book did I understand
the methodology of Pretty Good Privacy, a modern publicly available
encryption program that has some
interesting lore connected with its
development.
With the cryptanalysis basics laid
out, Singh digresses a bit in a chapter
on attempts to translate lost languages
— most famously, the Rosetta stone
that allowed archaeologists to read
Egyptian hieroglyphics. That chapter
is a digression because those scripts
were not created to keep secrets from
anyone, but when the languages were
lost, so were the keys to deciphering
them. Singh mixes historical facts
nicely with descriptions of the codebreaking techniques used.
Even for someone without a preexisting interest in the subject matter,
“The Code Book” serves as an interesting introduction to a subject that
will become more important as digital commerce expands. It is also at the
center of tension between civil libertarians concerned about governmental Big Brothers and law enforcement
and security officials who fear being
hobbled by the use of ciphers they
cannot break. In addition to the aura
of glamour, codes and ciphers also are
an issue with important policy
dimensions for all of us.
hogyu@joongang.co.kr
ANOTHER VIEW
Contributing Writer
“Lotto: The Secret of Numbers”
Lotto-mania hit the nation last year, as the game
promising untold riches for the average Korean player. The game’s popularity also spawned a series of
how-to books on the magic behind the winning numbers.
The title of Yeo Seol-ha’s book is a bit misleading.
“Lotto: Secret of Numbers” doesn’t offer tips on how
to win; instead, it shows how winning doesn’t always
bring joy, but can also cause problems.
The book is partly based on the author’s interviews with people who were heavily addicted to gambling in the past. The
author provides some disturbing details from interviews with snipers, gamblers, prostitutes and real estate agents.
The book sells for 9,000 won.
Lessons in compromise over winter break
By Mark Russell
Contributing Writer
to glean even a hint of poetry
from its murky depths.
I have to report that I saw
nothing approaching even a
limerick, let alone a haiku.
But I did see tasty, albeit lopsided chunks of vegetables
and tofu. No, doenjang is not
made to please the eye but to
please the palate and buttress
the body. It’s a stubborn
dish that says to the world: I
am what I am, I am good for
you and that is my strength
and beauty. The beauty of
doenjang is indeed inside.
It’s possible to carry a
metaphor to the point where
it loses relevance, but perhaps this is what my Korean
female friend meant when
she said I was so “doenjang;”
that I exuded the inner qualities of Koreanness.
The next puzzle is why
she broke up with me, me
with all my wonderful doenjangness.
promoson2001@yahoo.com
Among English teaching jobs in Korea,
perhaps the most desirable is the university
position. University jobs are not only
respectable, they provide a great opportunity to interact with young minds. Oh, and
they offer oodles of vacation time — 16 to 18
weeks a year.
At least they used to. Over the years, university bigwigs figured there was extra money to be made during intersession. I was
teaching at a university during this transition
period, when the idea of adding extra classes over break first dawned upon the department head. Needless to say, we all loved him
about as much as a jar of overripe kimchi.
The extra pay was nice. But, if I wanted
to work hard at a job I didn’t like, I would’ve
stayed home and been a banker. We raised
a fuss, but the boss benignly told us it was
necessary to compromise sometimes. That,
and we had no choice.
As it turned out, we were going to teach
teachers over intersession. A better grasp of
English was one route to promotions and pay
raises in the local schools. The classes were
arranged by ability, so young, female teachers were the overwhelming majority in the
class. But for the sake of evening out the sex
ratio, the college required at least two middle-aged men in these classes.
The ajeossi’s English paled next to the
women’s. So, filled with notions of hierarchy and pride, they usually sat quietly, arms
folded, but with a serious don’t-pick-me,
don’t-embarrass-me-in-front-of-theseyoung-girls look on their faces. As a sensitive teacher, I did not pick them and did my
HOROSCOPE
Illustration by Baek Bo-hyeun
A few years back, a Korean female friend told me that
I was very “doenjang.” Since
Korean doenjang is a strong,
musty soup made from soybeans with a diluted muddy
appearance, I thought this an
overly frank and needlessly
cruel description. I never
asked her just what exactly
she meant by this, and years
later I am still wondering
where my particular affinity
to Korea’s popular soup lies.
Doenjang is a Korean staple because it is inexpensive,
nutritious, easy to make and
aids in digestion. It is served
so ubiquitously that Koreans
have it almost as often as they
have rice. Doenjang is perfect for reviving the taste
buds after they have been
assaulted by thick slabs of
Korean pork, washed down
with strong soju.
I’ve seen construction
workers scooping up large
spoonfuls of doenjang mixed
with rice, bibim style, from
large metal bowls. Even in
more elaborate settings,
doenjang occupies a less
prominent place, making
way for other favorite side
dishes. But it is still present,
serving as a sort of anchor
upon which the palate
returns no matter where it
may explore on its culinary
journey.
Every country has its representative soup. The Russians have schi or cabbage
soup. The Japanese have
miso, which, while also made
from soybeans, is more delicate in appearance and lacks
the hardy medicinal qualities
of Korean doenjang. The
Vietnamese have pho and
Americans have their New
England clam chowder.
French and Japanese cuisine are often praised for
their polished and poetic
presentation, but the origin
of soup itself is far removed
from art. Soup has been
around ever since humans
realized that they could stave
off the chill of winter with
bits of leftover vegetables
and some chicken bones.
Wanting to discover
something lyrical in doenjang, I recently peered deeply
into a steaming potful, trying
Bae Su-a is something of a celebrity in Korean literature. She has written several best-selling novels
and short stories on twisted relationships that are
viewed as provocative by Korean readers. Not bad for
a government clerk.
Her new book, “The Desk of an Essayist,” is a story about language and music in a mixed style of essays
and novels by a female writer who enters a love affair
with her private language tutor in Germany. The
author explains that she has chosen this style so that
she could explore a form of writing that borrows from
the idea of a novel while compensating for what she saw was lacking in a conventional essay. Bae also includes short reviews of books and music, obscuring even more who the “real” author is. The book sells for 8,000 won.
LEARNING CURVE
Finding meaning
in a bowl of doenjang
By Stephen Son
“The Desk of an Essayist”
best not to embarrass them.
For the exam, I had everyone pair up for
an oral interview. This strategy, known as “I
don’t want to exert a single neuron of brain
activity more than I have to,” is endorsed by
the Coalition of Registered English Education Professionals (CREEP). Really.
When it was the men’s turn, they asked
each other a few stilted questions. But before
they left, they gave me a dose of Korean poetry and a note that said: “Dear Teacher, thank
you for this class. We cannot speak English
well. But those young girls are single and
live with their families. We are married and
have children. We need good grades to get
promotions.”
Hmm. A moral dilemma. The class
would be graded on a curve, so boosting the
men’s grades would lower someone else’s.
There was no good, moral reason I could
think of to fix my grades and screw over the
other teachers in the class. So I raised them
from a D-minus to a B-plus. We all must
compromise, after all. mrussell@kornet.net
Got something to say for Page 6? Another
View deals with cross-cultural experiences
related to Korea, while Learning Curve is
about teaching English in Korea. Send a query
or submission to: eweek@joongang.co.kr.
TV GUIDE
RAT
Patience and serenity won’t be prominent traits
in your character. You’ll have the impression that
all things are conspiring against you so as to
delay your projects and complicate your life.
OX
Don’t lose heart; everything will turn out well!
Eat more fresh vegetables and use vegetable oil
instead of animal fats. In your career, you will
take a serious leap forward.
TIGER
Drink a lot of water. Resist the desire to give
advice if people don’t ask for it. You’ll risk being
confronted with family problems. Adhere to a
routine of discipline to preserve your balance.
RABBIT
Professional luck will certainly be with you, but
you’ll hesitate before the opportunities that will
be offered to you. You’ll have more than one
occasion to meet a sister soul.
DRAGON
It’ll be necessary to watch over your kidneys and
intestines. Relationships with your family circle
will be very tense; draw in your horns! Beware
of domestic accidents, notably in the bathroom.
SNAKE
You’ll be exposed to the hostility of certain coworkers or superiors; violent conflicts may arise.
Be careful in all your financial transactions, for
there will be cheating in the air.
HORSE
Many projects that you attach much importance
to will come into existence as if by magic. Your
love affairs will be flourishing. And you can
expect some money to come in.
GOAT
You’ve until now had much difficulty making real
friends. But this time you’ll spare no effort to
know true friendship; preserve it very carefully
because it will double your joy.
MONKEY
Nothing will stop you because you’ll be so motivated to reach your professional objectives. Your
temperament will be more fiery than ever. You
will not hesitate to take financial risks.
ROOSTER
Use all of your physical assets in order to seduce
the person whom you love Change your hairdo.
Do not refuse the confidences of a friend: Your
attentive ear will do him or her much good.
DOG
Good nervous resistance, remarkable tonus and
recuperative power. In your work, resist the
temptation to resort to unorthodox means in
order to reach your objectives.
PIG
Good news concerning your family circle. Be
careful in the management of your money; avoid
doing financial transactions today. In the professional field, you may face some difficulties.
Programs are subject to change.
AFN Korea
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www.afnkorea.com
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