Caveat: Looking for ghosts, finding spicy chicken stew

Last night I went out to dinner with my friend Mr Kim, the engineer from the power plant who I like to go hiking with, although lately I haven't done much hiking, mostly due to the neverending flu thing I have.  We also invited Haewon, my bilingual coteacher from work, who Mr Kim calls Ms An – she teaches an evening class at the power plant, and it was through her that I originally met him.

Because he doesn't get off work until after 6, I went home first and waited.  He called at around 715 and picked me up at my apartment.  It was extremely foggy.  Driving was strange – the regular Korean highway chaos, but in slow motion.  We went to this "middle of nowhere" restaurant (near the turn-off to Bulgapsa along highway 23, a few km south of town) and had a very spicy chicken stew. 

It was a night that would make a good setting for a ghost story.  When trying to find the turn-off to the restaurant, we ended up at some dead-end on someone's farm, with barking dogs and decrepit, broken, ceramic toilet fixtures and a mossy tile roof.  There were trees hovering off the ground through the dismbodying headlamps of the car.  The restaurant had this weird electric rainbow neon flashing outline going, and in the fog it looked like we'd stepped into a zombie video game setting. 

Talking with Mr Kim is different when someone like Haewon is around to provide translation.  It's more communicative, but less direct.  Of course.  It's good to have a reminder – for both of us, I'm sure – that we are not blithering idiots, which is what our respective language skills might lead each of us to believe about the other.

Caveat: Race in America in 2010

Ta-Nehisi Coates of The Atlantic is talking about the bizarrely numerous people who still celebrate the Confederacy in the contemporary South. He writes, “I think we need to be absolutely clear that 150 years after the defeat of one of the Confederacy, there are still creationists who seek to celebrate the treasonous attempt to raise an entire country based on the ownership of people.”  He quotes at length from the incriminating document the founders of the Confederacy used to found their secession.  My addendum: these “creationists” that Coates makes reference to are the same demographic who have allowed the Republican Party to conquer the South over the last several decades. Their most recent incarnation seems to be deeply entagled with the Tea Party movement and the Palinists (Paleoists?). This is the ultimate proof of the moral bankruptcy of the Republican Party.

Caveat: Passing Notes – 메롱x3

P1060003 Kids pass notes.  I’m fascinated to see the contents of such notes, when I occasionally run across discarded scraps of paper in my classroom.  Mostly, it’s because it can help me to learn snippets of colloquial Korean.  The note pictured at left helped me to do that – my student Wendy uses the phrase “뭔소리?” (mweon-so-ri = what noise = wtf?) at the bottom of the paper.  I successfully used this phrase to make my coteacher laugh only 30 minutes later.

But, as an English teacher, I was also amazingly gratified to find that the two third-graders in dialogue in this note were happily trading insults in English, too!  The words “me lung,” by the way, represent Mihoe’s effort to romanize “메롱” (me-rong = nyah nyah).

Caveat: 15) 내 이웃과 주위에있는 모든 인연들의 감사함을 잊고 살아 온 죄를 참회하며 절합니다

This is #15 out of a series of 108 daily Buddhist affirmations that I am attempting to translate with my hands tied behind my back (well not really that, but I’m deliberately not seeking out translations on the internet, using only dictionary and grammar).

13. 입을 수있게 해 준 모든 인연 공덕을 잊고 살아 온 죄를 참회하며 절합니다.
       “I bow in repentance of any misdeeds lived, forgetting the public virtues of – and my ties to – all those things that I am able to wear.”

14. 이 세상이 곳에 머물 수있게 해 준 모든 인연들의 귀중함을 잊고 살아 온 죄를 참회하며 절합니다.
       “I bow in repentance of any misdeeds lived, forgetting the preciousness of all my ties to the things that allow me to stay here in this world.”

15. 내 이웃과 주위에있는 모든 인연들의 감사함을 잊고 살아 온 죄를 참회하며 절합니다.

I would read this fifteenth affirmation as:  “I bow in repentance of any misdeeds lived, forgetting my gratitude for all my ties to my neighborhood and surroundings.”

Wow – what a downer, coming so close after Thanksgiving day.  I’m not sure how I feel about being urged to forget gratitude.  It’s certainly a point of divergence in comparison to Christian thought, wherein gratitude is, at least for some, profoundly central to worldview.  The concept of grace, and the consequent gratitude, is an aspect of Christianity with which I have often felt some resonance, despite my extreme discomfort with some other aspects of Christian cosmology and even ethics.

There may be some irrationality to this sympathy for Christian notions of Thanksgiving – rooted in the oddly central role that the American Thanksgiving holiday played during my notably un-Christian childhood.  Thanksgiving was always my favorite holiday, by far:  more so than Christmas, which seemed slightly alien to me, even as a fairly young child – not because of some rejection of gift-giving (I was all for that, like any child) – but because as soon as I realized the reason for Christmas, I sensed immediately that our own celebration of it was slightly ironic or even vaguely inappropriate.  I think I understood, the moment I realized there was no Santa (and, in fact, my parents made zero effort to perpetuate such a fantasy, being the rationalists that they were – so I was only maybe 4 years old), that we were “borrowing” some else’s holiday.

But, although Thanksgiving has some roots in Protestant (and specifically Puritan) ideas of grace and gratitude, it stands more elegantly – from a cosmological perspective – on its own as a secular holiday.  In fact, perhas the reason I’m comfortable with grace and gratitude is that they don’t, per se, require the existence of any higher power to “work.”  So it’s striking to me that another belief system (ie. Buddhism) that manages to (mostly) stay standing despite the elimination of a concept of a higher power, nevertheless seems to be setting itself in opposition to a concept of gratitude.

I have no idea where I’m trying to go with this.  Or even if it makes sense.  I’m just thinking “out loud.”  I feel inclined to read this affirmation as a sort of reminder to not to get attached to the sangha – despite the fact that sangha is one of the refuges.  ….which is hard to wrap my mind around.

Caveat: … the vast Libyan dessert

… or, catching the internet with its pants down. 

It's pretty hard to capture the ephemerality of hilarious spelling mistakes and typos on well-maintained websites.  But I did it.  And with only a little bit of guilt, I post the result here.  I mean no disrespect to Max Fisher of The Atlantic, where I found the error – in this age of automatic spell checking, errors of this sort are easily made and missed – I'm guilty of much worse ones, myself. But I do find a delicious irony in the specific error made, given that he used to be a food writer.

So having said that, the absolute best part of his article about last year's secret nuclear standoff between the US, Russia and Libya was the serendiptous typo that allowed him to write, "U.S. officials worried about the security of the casks. It would have been easy for anyone with a gun and a truck to drive up, overpower the guard, use the crane to load the casks onto the truck, and drive off into the vast Libyan dessert."

I so enjoyed the poetic image of a gang of terrorists driving truckloads of enriched uranium around a Candylandified Sahara.

Sadly, the error was very rapidly corrected.  In the time I took to write this post, the delightful dessert was Orwellianly transmogrified into a workaday desert.  But I had the amazing fortuity to have done the page "refresh" in a different window, and hadn't closed the original.  Consequently, I am able to present, with great pride, exceedingly rare "before and after" screenshots of the error in question, below.  [Click thru images to view original full size]

Before:

Beforeafter_html_4539d42

After:

Beforeafter_html_2de050b8

Caveat: “Sorry, we can not accept your idea”

I opened a help-desk ticket with my blog host (TypePad) just now.  Normally, I wouldn't publicize it, but the specific problem is intriguingly humorous.  It's exactly the sort of computer error that an itinerant epistemologist such as myself deserves.  Here's the ticket as currently stands (slightly redacted).  I'll post updates on this blog post – I'm betting something vaguely Kafkaesque will unfold – but who knows?

On Nov 28, 2010 10:37 AM, you (caveatdumptruck) said:

A friend of mine tried to post a comment to my blog, and says he received the error message "Sorry, we can not accept your idea". This is a pretty weird error message. Is Typepad doing semantic analysis of comments to determine philosophical viability? I hope not.

I trust that my friend isn't making this up.

Can you please tell me if your code, somewhere, is programmed to output such an error message? If so, could you please explain what sort of context such an uninformative error message might be acceptable? Or alternately, recognize some kind of easter egg or deny the existence of such program code?

Thank you
~jared

NOTA
Here is a copy, pasted after the "======", of my facebook conversation with my friend, in which he told me about the error. It also summarizes some steps I took to try to replicate the problem.

=======
Tony – hi Jared, tried to post a response on your blog and received the message, "Sorry, we can not accept your idea". Sadly, I wasted a half hour on it 🙁

o
Jared Way –
Damn! I hate that kind of thing. I will try to investigate: my best guess – the blog host has some kind of length-limitation on comments, and doesn't have a very user-friendly response to overly long ones.

I will also post your comment to… my blog host's help forum. That's a very strange wording for an error message – did it really say "cannot accept your idea"? How does it know what your idea was? Definitely weird.

o
Tony – Yes, that was the message. Sorry to be the bringer of bad news

o
Jared Way –
Argh. Well, I think I ruled out the "length-limitation" idea – I posted a cut-n-paste of a 20 page article as a test comment and it went thru fine.

I tried making mistakes with the "captcha" and that didn't give that error, either.

I will see if my blog host has anything to say. Not optimistic, however.

o
Jared Way – One more error test: I pasted a vast document of nonsense and URLs (simulated spam) into a comment box. No complaint – with the correct catcha, it didn't error out. The blog host simply ignored the whole thing. Typical "black hole" database consistency error.

 

Caveat: The Glass Brain

I have adopted the term "glass brain" for the increasingly common phenomenon of living one's life quite publicly on the internet.  Perhaps this is parallel to the idea of living in a glass house, but without the house – just a brain that anyone can look into. See also, "el licenciado vidriera" – one of my favorite of Cervantes' short stories, which deals with a man who came to believe he was made of glass.

Actually, one can manage one's transparency fairly effectively, for the most part.  If one is careful, which I try to be.  Thus, a great deal of "me" is "out there" in the online world, but it's a pretty-carefully-managed "me" (seasoned with equal doses of sly circumspection and passive-aggressive snarkiness).  I can hide a great deal behind a façade of abstruse vocabulary and sheer volume of apparently random, pseudo-academic, semi-autobiographical blather.

Nevertheless, I've taken what feels like a big step further in the direction of this "managed transparency," recently:  I've submitted this blog to a list called the Korean Blog List.  Apparently the link "went live" sometime in the last 24 hours, because already I've noticed several incoming links.

…And so, behold, after blogging for 5 years (and intensively – daily – for 3 years), I've suddenly made a move which may render this blog much less of a "just for friends and family" than it has been, to date.  We'll see.

Regardless… To my friends and family:  I still view you as my primary audience.  If others are "listening in" that's great.  Perhaps they'll derive some entertainment or insight.  To those listening in:  this is not an effort at journalism.  It's only journaling.  I reserve the right to make stuff up and leave stuff out.  I exist at the center of my own subjectivity, fully aware of that limitation.

Caveat lector:  read at your own risk.   Remember the line at the top:  "재미없으면 보상해드립니다!" ("If it's not fun, we give a refund!") – this is clearly meant ironically, since there's no charge to read this.  Guaranteed refunds on free blogs consist solely in the readers' ability to deftly navigate away from said blogs.  If it's not fun, stop looking.

Caveat: 14) 이 세상이 곳에 머물 수있게 해 준 모든 인연들의 귀중함을 잊고 살아 온 죄를 참회하며 절합니다

This is #14 out of a series of 108 daily Buddhist affirmations that I am attempting to translate with my hands tied behind my back (well not really that, but I’m deliberately not seeking out translations on the internet, using only dictionary and grammar).

12. 먹을 수있게 해 준 모든 인연들을 잊고 살아 온 죄를 참회하며 절합니다.
       “I bow in repentance of any misdeeds lived, forgetting my ties to all those things that I am able to eat.”

13. 입을 수있게 해 준 모든 인연 공덕을 잊고 살아 온 죄를 참회하며 절합니다.
       “I bow in repentance of any misdeeds lived, forgetting the public virtues of – and my ties to – all those things that I am able to wear.”

14. 이 세상이 곳에 머물 수있게 해 준 모든 인연들의 귀중함을 잊고 살아 온 죄를 참회하며 절합니다.

I would read this fourteenth affirmation as:  “I bow in repentance of any misdeeds lived, forgetting the preciousness of all my ties to the things that allow me to stay here in this world.”

This translation is a little less literal that some previous efforts.  The best I could make out, literally, of the first clause (which is more comfortably the second clause in the English), is something like:  “forgetting the preciousness of all ties that are able to stay here in this world.”  And that probably means: “forgetting the preciousness of all ties [such] that [I am] able to stay in this world.”  But using “…to the things that allow me…” seems to work better in English, if I’ve understood it correctly.

The roles attached to Korean verbs often seem quite oblique to me, not attaching to clear semantic notions of subject/object (is this the dreaded ergativity at work, maybe?).   Consequently, although the grammatical subject of the verb “머무르다” (“stay”) seems to me to be “모둔 인연들” (“all ties”), which is relativized by the suffix -ㄴon the periphrastic “-ㄹ 수있게 해 주다” (lit. something scarily like “BeAbleTo-ly do give” (and oh, I love those serialized verbs!) which is to say, “be able to”), I nevertheless suspect the semantic subject is the elided speaker “I,” and the “all ties” drops into an oblique role represented by “things that allow…”

Caveat: Black Friday

Booga_html_788b98cb Having been teaching some of my students about Thanksgiving over the last several days, today we inadvertently recreated black Friday.

We've been giving out "alligator bucks" – kind of a classroom currency based on an idea I'd piloted during my summer camps classes – as rewards to students for good behavior, etc.  And we've been opening an "English Store" every few weeks on Fridays to sell them things using the currency:  some candy, some stationery and school supplies. 

Up through the last time we opened the store, it wasn't that popular.  But a lot of alligator bucks have dropped into circulation, and the consequence was that today, during lunchtime recess, our English classroom was mobbed by students desiring to purchase things from our store.  It was exactly like pictures you see of Black Friday shoppers in the US mobbing stores with sales.  It was very funny.

Here are some pictures of the mob.  It was friendly but impatient.  There was a lot of good-natured pushing and shoving.  One small first grader, who had alligator bucks that had been given to him by his older sister, was allowed through unharmed.  I worked crowd control, feeling like a bouncer at a night club, so the tables with the merchandise wouldn't be overrun.

P1050964

P1050969

P1050971

And here's a picture a student took of me with my camera the other day when we were practicing a dialogue memorization for a test.

P1050956

Caveat: Apocalypsis

When I emerged from my apartment yesterday morning, the sky was heavy and dark with clouds, what is described as black, but in reality they seemed a grayish-bronze color, but fractally textured, with highlights of silver and pink, and even flashes of blue and gold. The clouds seemed to possess infinite mass. It was the sort of sky that in Minnesota or Kansas seems to promise tornado warning sirens and airborne mobile homes. But Korea doesn't seem to get many tornadoes. Looking at the sky was like looking at a passage from the Book of Revelation, and, with the war hovering off the northern horizon in the back of my brain, I found myself imagining I could smell a hint of gunpowder in the air.

Caveat: 13) 입을 수있게 해 준 모든 인연 공덕을 잊고 살아 온 죄를 참회하며 절합니다

This is #13 out of a series of 108 daily Buddhist affirmations that I am attempting to translate with my hands tied behind my back (well not really that, but I’m deliberately not seeking out translations on the internet, using only dictionary and grammar).

11. 배울 수있게 해 준 세상의 모든 인연들을 잊고 살아 온 죄를 참회하며 절합니다.
       “I bow in repentance of any misdeeds lived, forgetting any of all the origins of the world that can be learned.”

12. 먹을 수있게 해 준 모든 인연들을 잊고 살아 온 죄를 참회하며 절합니다.
       “I bow in repentance of any misdeeds lived, forgetting my ties to all those things that I am able to eat.”

13. 입을 수있게 해 준 모든 인연 공덕을 잊고 살아 온 죄를 참회하며 절합니다.

I would read this thirteenth affirmation as:  “I bow in repentance of any misdeeds lived, forgetting the public virtues of – and my ties to – all those things that I am able to wear.”

Humility.  Humility.

Caveat: Closet Koreanophile

I think one reason I don't always enjoy hanging out with "fellow foreigners," in my current life, is because of the unshakable feeling that I'm "in the closet."  In the closet about what?  In the closet about really liking Korea.  Most of the time, in my experience, groups of foreigners hanging out in Korea devolve into complainfests, during which nothing more is uttered than unending condemnations of some abstract Korean "way of doing things" and gross negative cultural stereotyping.

For me, it's all-too-easy to fall in with this style of talking and thinking, too.  Of course there are things that are frustrating or annoying about my life here.  But my perspective is that American ways of doing things, or Mexican ways of doing things (to name the two cultures which are most familiar to me, outside of the Korean one), are just as annoying or frustrating, and in some instances more so, in their own divergent ways. 

My problem is that as a sort of social chameleon, I just go along with it.  All the complaining is compelling.  But then I regret having done so later.  Negativity is kind of like alcoholism or something – you know it's bad, but social pressure drives you to drink, anyway, and then you regret it later.

When I try to buck this complaining-about-Korea trend – when I try to say something that focuses on the positive or points out the shortcomings of other cultures vis-a-vis the standards they're failing to enunciate – I end up feeling like a gay person in crowd of polite homophobes, or an agnostic at a Florida church meeting:  there's no open vitriol, but there's a sort of "uh oh, what's wrong with this guy?" with lots shaking of heads and snarky asides, as the other foreigners I'm hanging out with come to the realization they're in the company of a closet Koreanophile.

Hanging out with Koreans has drawbacks too – not least is that I tend to miss the ability to have deep, intellectual converstations, due to the generally lacking language proficiency.  But the negativity trap (and I'm openly admitting that I fall far too easily into this trap myself – it's not like I'm trying to blame others for my problem) is a dangerous one, for me.  I need to stay out of it.

Caveat: up to page 9 – empirical syntax?

Twice before, I've referenced my efforts to read a recently-acquired book entitled Understanding Minimalism (Hornstein, et al.).  In my last entry about it, I'd made it up to page 5, and I was making some initial complaints. 

Hornsteinetal Now I've progressed to page 9, and I'm regaining some positivity about why it is I decided to try to undertake reading this book.  I have long felt that the "traditional" Chomskyan approach to syntax theory is epistemologically naive.  It relies far too much on a sort of ideologically blinkered introspection with respect to the "syntactic evidence," and thus disregards the real linguistic production that's out there in the "real world" – with all its strange, un-sentence-like constructions, incompletions, ellipses, mispronunciations (or typos, in text-based communication), etc., ad nauseum.

All these things are fully understandable, and "typical," unsophisticated native-speakers rarely are able to enunciate, much less elucidate, judgments of "grammaticality" such as abound in most linguists' efforts at syntactic theory (as I discover, almost daily, when trying to get Koreans to help me understand their language, in my own efforts to acquire it).

So this "minimalist project" is appealing to me because it promises a return to empiricism.  Here is a quote from page 9, spanning the end of one paragraph and the beginning of another, that expresses something I've wished I could do myself, before (if I was actually a linguist and not just a dilettante):

…one minimalist project would be to show that all levels other than LF [Logical Form = representation of meaning in the brain] and PF [Phonological/Phonetic Form = actual spoken language passing through the air] can be dispensed with, without empirical prejudice.  More concretely, in the context of a GB [Government and Binding]-style theory, for example, this would amount to showing that D-Structure (DS) and S-Structure (SS) [DS and SS are components of "traditional" Chomskyan syntax, e.g. Government and Binding and antecedent theories] are in principle eliminable without any empirical loss.

I remain suspicious about what level of empiricism will be achieved – there still is a reliance on "introspective judgments of grammaticality" which I always have disliked.  And worse, there is the mere fact of labeling the "internal representation" end of any linguistic faculty as a "Logical Form."  The problem with this conception is that it flies in the face of most of what we understand from neurology or empirical psychology:  human brains don't do much logic, on the inside.  "Logic" such as is used in LF engines in syntactic theory is artificial, external, mathematicized, philosophical.  It's precious Montague semantics and beloved lambda calculus.  Such things may have some "real" correlates in neuronal/synaptic architecture, but I don't think we're going to make much progress with the "brain as logic engine" model – if we were going to make such progress, we'd also be making progress with artificial intelligence (which is simply the inversion:  "logic engine as brain") – which we're most definitely not.

I would prefer a more neutral conception of the "internal representation," that doesn't betray such preconceptions – as the term "Logical Form" does – about how it might actually work.  Semantics strikes me as by far the shakiest of the foundations of contemporary linguistic theory – we really don't seem to know a lot about how semantics work.

What is meaning?  In passing, I will return to pointing at Taylor's important work, Linguistic Categorization – which addresses the important intersection between semantics and what one might call meta-syntax – what do we really know (as unreflective speakers, not as epistemologically well-grounded linguists) about the grammaticality of what we are saying?

Caveat: The War Goes On

The Korean War entered a new, slightly more volatile phase earlier today.  Yes, the Korean War never ended.  Did you know that?

It was only ever a cease-fire.  So… to those who are worried about me:  I'm fine.  Life in this prosperous and amazingly peaceful nation-at-war goes on as normal.  It happens like this, sometimes.  It's just the way things go.  ^_^

Caveat: Why I’m Not Vegan

I should be vegan. But I'm not vegan.

At core, I am entirely sympathetic with both the ethical and health-based arguments in favor of a vegan diet.

RE Ethics:
I'm not even thinking in terms of the animal-cruelty / infliction-of-suffering issues. Those are concerning, but for me, they don't really offer a compelling case in and of themselves, because I suspect that, in the broader scheme of things, suffering on the part of individuals is inevitable – it's a part of existence. Do animals raised for food suffer more than animals in the wild? Yes, certainly, many times – especially in factory farming that is so common nowadays.  But animals suffer more in nature, too, sometimes. If we pursue this ethic to it's logical end point, we end up banning carnivorism from nature, and throwing tigers or eagles in prison.   Silly.

No, for me, the ethical argument is about sustainability, carbon-footprint, environmental impact. I'm one of those who believes the eliminating meat from the human diet would probably have more impact on global CO2 emissions than eliminating the automobile. Seriously – this is very likely true. If we want to have an environmentally sustainable future, we must, as a species, move toward a sustainable diet, and such a diet really can't include meat for 6~7 billion plus humans.

RE Health:
When I was losing my 60+ pounds (25 kilos) in 2006~2007, I did so, mostly, while consuming a vegan diet. I felt healthier, and it was much easier to keep within the calorie rules I'd set for myself. But several things favored that approach, at that time, including leading an almost entirely solitary lifestyle (not going out with friends, not having an out-of-home job e.g. I was working from home, etc) and living across the street from a very well-stocked and progressive grocery store (the Lunds in Minnapolis's Uptown).

The fact is, however, when it comes to actually practicing veganism, there are two contravening factors: my laziness and my character.

RE Laziness:
I am stunningly lazy. And being vegan in Korea (where everything you eat, when eating out, in infused with animal product; and where meat-eating is fetishized to an even greater degree than in the US – really!). Also, my laziness affects my ability to resist cravings and habit, too. I have a craving for, and a habit for, things like dairy products, especially. I just simply like them, and not eating them is hard. Kind of like jogging every day is hard. And so, because of my laziness, I don't do it. I buy cheese, and eat it. I keep butter, because I like it. I have tuna, because it's easier than making sure I've complemented my grains and legumes properly in every meal so as to get the right dosage of protein. Laziness.

RE Character:
I am socially a chameleon. I'm timid, in a way. I don't like to "make waves" when socializing with people, and socializing with people is often done over food. I prefer seek out moderation, and seek out the path of least resistance in social situations. And especially in Korea, declaring one can't eat or drink anything (anything!) leads to a lot of difficult excuses, white lies and justifications, for Koreans take near-personal offense if one doesn't eat or drink something on offer. Some in younger generations or who have lived abroad will keep their mouths shut about this, but the offense and confusion, even in those cases, is still there. Trust me.

It's very difficult for Koreans to understand NOT eating something.  Perhaps it's the fact that only 2 generations ago, starvation was common, even in South Korea. Starving people rarely make judgments about the suitability of different types of food. And I feel uncomfortable coming across like I'm judging other people, which any declaration of dietary rule-following tends to come across as – it's not my place. Character.

So I'm an opportunitarian. I never buy meat for at home, because I don't actually like meat, so not eating meat is easy for me. But I am unable to kick the dairy-products habit, and I keep eggs and fish, sometimes, too. And when I'm out, I'll eat whatever is given to me:  strange Korean things… raw flesh of animals and sea monsters, blood sausages, barely dead creatures, etc. I'm just trying to be polite. It creates a lot of goodwill in my hosts. That goodwill is important.

Caveat: 12) 먹을 수있게 해 준 모든 인연들을 잊고 살아 온 죄를 참회하며 절합니다

This is #12 out of a series of 108 daily Buddhist affirmations that I am attempting to translate with my hands tied behind my back (well not really that, but I’m deliberately not seeking out translations on the internet, using only dictionary and grammar).

10. 일가 친척들의 공덕을 잊고 살아 온 죄를 참회하며 절합니다.
        “I bow in repentance of any misdeeds lived, forgetting any of the pious acts of my kin.”

11. 배울 수있게 해 준 세상의 모든 인연들을 잊고 살아 온 죄를 참회하며 절합니다.
       “I bow in repentance of any misdeeds lived, forgetting any of all the origins of the world that can be learned.”

12. 먹을 수있게 해 준 모든 인연들을 잊고 살아 온 죄를 참회하며 절합니다.

I would read this twelfth affirmation as:  “I bow in repentance of any misdeeds lived, forgetting my ties to all those things that I am able to eat.”

This is not a call to fast, nor a commitment to disregard starvation.  It’s a call to renounce one’s ties to food – not to renounce food.  It’s a hard distinction.   Perhaps easier to understand at a philosphical level than at a pragmatic one.  And since my personal interest in Buddhism lies more at the pragmatics than in any type of abstraction, this is an important puzzle to solve.

Caveat: Fever

Sick and tired of being sick and tired. 

You know… not necessarily anyone's interest, to hear the utter banality of how I feel.  But, so… just a general update of where I'm at.  Ever since the food poisoning, I haven't felt healthy, and this weekend it's transformed into a full-blown, very unpleasant but highly conventional flu.  At least it's not food poisoning, right?

I've done a lot of reading, anyway.

Caveat: this kind of devaluation

"You don't get prosperity through this kind of devaluation" – some talking head (not sure who) overheard on NPR, commenting on the Fed's recent further loosening of money supply, vis-a-vis the perpetually undervalued RMB (Chinese Yuan), etc., etc.

Well… from where I sit, I beg to differ.  South Korea has successfully ridden an undervalued currency right through this recent "Great Recession" as if there were only a minor blip on the economic radar.   More broadly, over the longer term, South Korea has leveraged an undervalued currency (among other macroeconomic wizardry) into a seat on the G20.  As long as people want to buy your stuff (and people want to buy South Korean stuff, from cell phones to cars to cargo ships to nuclear power plants to engineering services for building the world's tallest buildings), you can keep selling. 

And so… the US not only should be content to let Bernanke manipulate the dollar lower… I would argue that it really has no choice, in the current global economic context.  And it won't necessarily be a bad thing – for the US.  It will alleviate federal debt, it will help close the trade deficit.

The bad part will be that it will antagonize countries like South Korea or China that have relied, for so long, on an over-valued US dollar.  Could the US (re-)achieve prosperity through "this kind of devaluation"?  It depends a great deal on how intelligently (or unintelligently) other countries react.  The Chinese and South Korean economies have other strengths that could see them through the inevitable crisis a dollar devaluation could provoke – not least their infrastructure spending and booming domestic consumer markets – but things could still get ugly. 

I'm curious how this will play out.  Check back at this blog, in 20 years – I'll provide an update.

Somewhat relatedly, from Derek Decloet at the Globe and Mail:

[1] WE, THE LEADERS OF THE G20, are united in our conviction that by working together we can secure a more prosperous future for the citizens of all countries.

[2] However, empty platitudes aside, if presented with an opportunity to make the citizens of our own country more prosperous at the expense of someone else’s country, 20 out of 20 of us will take it, most of the time.