UCTSWLM. According to a graph being shared by business blogger Derek Thompson (at the Atlantic), there is some measure of economic"dispersion" – I'm not sure what that term really means in economic terms – according to which the countries in the Eurozone have a higher "dispersion" than a hypothetical Union of Countries That Start With the Letter M. And supposedly, this "dispersion" is a bad thing, if one is considering undertaking a monetary union – e.g. the Eurozone.
Better candidates for monetary union – besides the UCTSWLM – include the Market Economies of Latin America (who is being excluded, there? – Venezuala? Cuba? it doesn't say) and the Asian Tigers, among others.
Well, anyway. I like the idea of a UCTSWLM. We could just call it the M's, for short. Or maybe… Mmmmmmm. Imagine the headline: "Mmmmmmmm economy in crisis again! Will Malawi and Mongolia ever work out their differences?"
Starting on the first of May, I started keeping a "daily log" in this blog of how much I'm walking and/or running (aka jogging). Each day on the last entry for that day I put the daily log in square brackets at the bottom of the entry – see below for today's. I'm trying to increase my motivation and consistency. So I'm keeping data, here in this blog, the same way as I keep other sorts of daily banalities. Living the public, transparent lifestyle, out there on the internets.
The results are "just in time": today, I learned I'm borderline hypertensive, because of my blood pressure, which was taken during my drug screening / health checkup that I had to get for the provincial education office (which I'd been procrastinating on).
I found it depressing – I walked 120 kilometers in the month of May, and jogged another 49, for a total 169. Combine that with the fact that I spend most of my working day on my feet (in the classroom) and that I almost always use the stairs (7 floors at home, 5 floors at work), and I don't think I'm really that sedentary.
And yet… and yet… my weight is frozen with the extra "Yeonggwang 5 kilos" I picked up in 2010, and here I find I have high blood pressure. What's going on? What am I doing wrong? I don't think my diet is that irresponsible, either – I'm semi-vegetarian, I'm mostly avoiding alcohol… Well, just plain arghh.
Here's a graph of my data. You can see how I get lazy each weekend – I knew this, and even accept it – it's part of the routine I'm trying to establish for myself.
Here's the data, in summary. Can you tell I used to work as a data analyst?
제 눈에 안경 my eye-LOC glasses […like] glasses on my eyes.
"Through rose-colored glasses," basically. Looks good, as I see it.
This is simple, and useful. I will sometime use it.
I slept very strangely last night. Longer than usual. I don't remember anything after lying down, though I know I must have read for a while. And now I feel hollow, strangely not-fully-present. What's up?
… Thusly a certain blogger named Chris Sims characterizes that most beloved of the "Saturday Morning Cartoons" from my childhood – Scooby Doo: "the lopsided rhombus of unrequited love orbiting a talking dog."
He's writing about the philosophical underpinnings of the original series, vis-a-vis complaints (valid, in his opinion – and mine, too) about the introduction of "real" ghosts and "real" paranormal events in later incarnations of the series. He explains that this later derationalization of the series and of its iconic characters is utterly against what the series originally "meant."
He says it was originally about teaching kids to think. I very much agree. Look back on it, I almost wonder if it had some kind of marxian agenda(remember, marxian is not marxist – it's about the philosophical methodology of the dialectic, not about politics, per se). I recall a graduate seminar in which we were discussing liberation theology, and about the possible ways to leverage pop culture in a project of "conscientization." This is it, a priori.
Near the conclusion, Sims states:
To paraphrase G.K. Chesterton, Scooby Doo has value not because it shows us that there are monsters, but because it shows us that those monsters are just the products of evil people who want to make us too afraid to see through their lies, and goes a step further by giving us a blueprint that shows exactly how to defeat them.
Amen. Or as Scooby might say, rrAmen. I'm so glad people out there are writing at this level about these kinds of things.
So after all the procrastination associated with renewing my visa, I thought I'd have a break from the procrastination-guilt after it finally got renewed.
Unfortunately, I've found a new thing to procrastinate on – I have to go get a medical check-up / drug-screening, now – it's a requirement for the provincial education office for all hagwon teachers (not just foreign ones). I have to go to a hospital and get the screening, but I keep not going to do it. This morning, I had resolved to finally go and get it done, but then I woke up, and in my blurry morning routine, immediately consumed two cups of coffee and a bowl of rice. Unfortunately, you're supposed to fast for the screening. Um. Oops. Was that a freudian avoidance-thing going on?
My friend Bob sent me a link to a Lego movie on the Lego website. He has son who is fascinated by these things, which is why he sent me the link. I watched Lego movies – I'd embed one here, but they don't let you embed their movies (which is poor marketing, in my opinion). But here's the link.
I like the episode where the prisoners escape by jumping into the prison toilet with scuba gear on. The prison administrators try to get the prisoners back using a toilet plunger. See screenshots.
I think these videos would be extremely usuful in an elementary language classroom, because there's something salient about them – they're produced without any dialogue whatsoever. Thus they could be used as prompts for story-writing, similarly to wordless comic-strips.
Today is Buddha-Came-Along-Day (부처님 오신 날). So, THAT man came around – as opposed to the other man who didn't come around. A holiday. As is my usual behavior on most Korean holidays, I'm just going to stay home – I hate battling crowds in public transport, as everyone seems to want to go somewhere on holidays.
It matches up with U.S. Memorial Day, this year. That's just coincidence – Buddha's birthday follows the lunar calendar, and seems to fall kind of late, this year.
Now that I've renewed my contract, I've embarked on an apartment-improvement spree. I bought some soft mosquito-netting type stuff and I've rigged it over my window. The problem with this is that when the window is closed, the handle wants to push through where the netting wants to go. This has been solved because this netting is removable – it's velcroed the window frame and when I want to close the window, I peel back the netting. It works. I'm happy – there are a lot of mosquitoes breeding in the swamp in the alley down below, and worse, there is a disgusting pigeon infestation on the side of my building somewhere, and they have a lot of flies, which fly through my open windows most discourteously. Now, problem solved – I can keep my window open without inviting in the small-brained denizens of the building's exterior.
Some Dalits in India are making a new "Goddess of English" according to something I saw at BBC. She's not a Goddess of English people, but English as a subject of study – because Dalits (who are India's "untouchable" caste) feel they need Engish even more than other Indian people. I think, actually, she should be called GOEFL – Goddess of English as a Foreign Language. This suits our language's current affinity for acronyms.
Wouldn't it be funny if, hundreds of years from now, anthropologists were trying to figure out how, exactly, GOEFL arose? I think if there's a Goddess, there needs to be some holy literature to go with her – I mean, seriously, if there was going to be a new "religion of the Book," this is the candidate. It should be a dictionary, maybe? Or a grammar textbook. That would be awesome.
I think the GOEFL could be serious candidate for FSM-type status. (FSM stands for Flying Spaghetti Monster.) I won't try to explain – but I recall the anecdote of the Kansas science teacher who tried to get the "FSM creation myth" into the classroom, based on challenging the vague wording of a new pro-creationist education law in that retrograde state. Properly, the religion is called Pastafarianism. I do not make this comparison this to mock GOEFL – I genuinely and sincerely hope she's a successful and widely adopted goddess.
To celebrate GOEFL Advent, I met my friend Basil who was up from Gwangju visiting, and we went out to that Indian Restaurant in the LaFesta shopping center (about a block from my old apartment). Actually, we didn't know it was GOEFL Advent. But we had some Naan and I had Aloo Palak and Raita, anyway. There were thunderstorms but the rain was sparse and we mostly walked between the raindrops.
It's probably not interesting to most people, but I find it fascinating: a scientist has decided that cities are different from anything else in the biological sphere (i.e. cities are, after all, collective organisms), because they experience "superlinear growth." Which is to say, cities grow faster as they grow bigger – whereas growth in every other biological system slows down as it gets bigger. What are the implications of this? Is this like comparing apples and oranges? Read a NYT article here, or another article by Stewart Brand here.
… but the song said he would. I'm referring to the Johnny Cash song based on the Book of Revelation (St John's Apocalypsis). It's rather dylanesque. Kind of intense in a not-sure-that's-relevant way.
What I'm listening to right now.
Johnny Cash, "The Man Comes Around." Lyrics:
And I heard as it were the noise of thunder One of the four beasts saying come and see and I saw And behold a white horse
There's a man going around taking names And he decides who to free and who to blame Everybody won't be treated all the same There'll be a golden ladder reaching down When the Man comes around
The hairs on your arm will stand up At the terror in each sip and in each sup Will you partake of that last offered cup? Or disappear into the potter's ground When the Man comes around
Hear the trumpets, hear the pipers One hundred million angels singing Multitudes are marching to the big kettledrum Voices calling, voices crying Some are born and some are dying It's Alpha and Omega's kingdom come
And the whirlwind is in the thorn tree The virgins are all trimming their wicks The whirlwind is in the thorn tree It's hard for thee to kick against the pricks
Till Armageddon no shalam, no shalom Then the father hen will call his chickens home The wise man will bow down before the throne And at His feet they'll cast their golden crowns When the Man comes around
Whoever is unjust let him be unjust still Whoever is righteous let him be righteous still Whoever is filthy let him be filthy still Listen to the words long written down When the Man comes around
Hear the trumpets, hear the pipers One hundred million angels singing Multitudes are marching to the big kettledrum Voices calling and voices crying Some are born and some are dying It's Alpha and Omega's kingdom come
And the whirlwind is in the thorn tree The virgins are all trimming their wicks The whirlwind is in the thorn tree It's hard for thee to kick against the pricks
In measured hundred weight and penney pound When the Man comes around.
Close (Spoken part) And I heard a voice in the midst of the four beasts And I looked and behold, a pale horse And his name that sat on him was Death And Hell followed with him.
I heard this as I was walking around Ilsan earlier today – I went to the HomePlus store over by Kintex – it's actually closer than the other one that's near my old apartment. (HomePlus is a kind Korean Target store, roughly – it's a step up from E-Mart which is Korean Wal-Mart, and, much as I prefer Target to Wal-Mart, so I also prefer HomePlus to E-Mart.)
I walked by the Juyeop Children's Library, which is rather cool, architecturally.
I walked by some springing flowers in front of Hansu Elementary School.
It felt like early Summer. Wait – it's early Summer. That must be why.
My current children's-book-in-progress is 이야기책A1 – it's a 1st grade "reader" and the title means "A1 Storybook" (cover picture at right). The stories are fairly easy to read. The second story is about why the cat washes his face after eating, but not before (which is what Korean children learn to do almost universally, I think – though that doesn't mean they actually do it).
It's told in an "oral tradition" style. Here's how it goes:
여러분, 고양이가 세수하는 것을 본적이 있나요? 고양이는 항상 밥을 먹고 나서 세수를 한답니다. 왜 먹기 전에 하지 않고 먹은 후에 하는 걸까요?
[Hey, everyone, have you ever seen a cat washing himself? Cats always wash themselves after eating. Why do they do that after eating but not before eating?]
And so it goes. It turns out the cat got tricked one time by a sparrow.
When I posted yesterday that I had renewed for another year, several people commented to me in one medium or another that I seemed to be being a bit masochistic in doing this. That's not true at all. If you read this blog, of course there are some complaints about one thing or another. But I don't think there is an overall negativity to this blog. Is there?
The facts: this is the best job I've ever had. Even the best job has challenges, hard or frustating days, whatever. But teaching, in general, is the first career (of my dozen or so careers) where I end my day, on average, happier than I start it. So if I can combine that with a non-psychotic boss and being in a country and city and culture that I've grown to really like, if only as an outsider, and this makes for a pretty good job.
"The most important decision we make is whether we believe we live in a friendly or hostile universe." – Albert Einstein.
Without being theistic, I definitely believe we live in a friendly universe. Call it a weird sort of "stealth" optimism.
Radio K is the University of Minnesota's radio station. They do things that I listen to, sometimes. The world is very interconnected these days, isn't it? I live in suburban Seoul and I listen to internet radio from Michoacan or Minnesota or Santa Monica.
What I'm listening to right now.
Fire in the Northern Firs, "Flavor Savior." The sound reminds me of something vaguely Afghan Wiggish or U2ish. Or something.
It's official. I signed my contract for another year in Korea, today – about 3 weeks after the renewal took effect from a de facto standpoint (the start date is May 1st), but such are things. We spent about an hour playing with our cellphones while waiting for our number to be called at the posh new Goyang City Immigration Office – our municipality finally has its own (as befits a city of over one million); the new office is near the city hall, instead of it just being a branch office of the Uijeongbu office, which is always what it's been during my previous visits there.
As is usual in such moments, after the process was done I felt both giddy and yet at the same time gloomily reflective in a "buyer's remorse" sort of way.
I'm happy that this stressful moment – the moment of decision and worry about if something might go wrong – is past, but I'm also wondering if I made the right decision. There are many things I don't like about my position, some of which have, in fact, been highlighted this week – my lack of control over the curriculum is greater than I had hoped for, and I often feel that my strong opinions about students' abilities and needs are essentially ignored. But… I have strong reasons to stay in Korea, and this provides a stable, safe, predictible environment in which to do so.
In good news, too, today, my student named Nemesis (not his real name, but you get the idea – picture at left) was extracted from my EP1 class, which made them a genuine pleasure for a change, despite their hyperactivity and disinterest in actual English. Ah well.
Teaching is such a strange thing to be claiming to be trying to do, isn't it?
Walking home, I heard Nik Kershaw's song "Don Quijote" come on my mp3 player's shuffle. This made me think of Rocinante. But not the Rocinante who was Don Quijote's horse, rather, the Rocinante that was the name of my giant M816 wrecker, US Army tow truck that I operated in Korea in 1991 as part of the 296th Support Battalion of the 2nd Infantry Division. In fact, I had nothing to do with why the truck was named Rocinante, although I approved of the name. It had simply come that way.
Nik Kershaw's album, The Riddle, which included that song, was one of only a half-dozen cassettes that I had for my Walkman, during my time stationed in Korea. As a consequence, the tape was on heavy rotation. When I was off duty, I would retreat from the barracks – where I despised some of my roommates, and most of all, where I genuinely feared my squad sergeant – and I would climb the hill on base to the helipad. I would sit down in a ditch and listen to my Walkman and read Dostoyevsky or Gogol. I consumed an immense ammount of Russian literature that year.
I don't have any pictures from that epoch in my life. But here's a "web pic" I found of an M816 tow truck. It's a very useful tool for flipping over Humvee's that have been stranded upside-down in rice fields by hotshot sergeants.
What I'm listening to right now.
Nik Kershaw, "Don Quijote." Lyrics:
your mind can play tricks makes you what you want to be just like superheroes you saw them on tv
coast to coast, wall to wall got to go, duty calls here i am superman, lois lane saved the world, back again here i am
in my old, red saloon i'm a knight in shining armour if i were asleep, man i couldn't be much calmer
hit the road, on the run faster than anyone here i amone for all, all for one shake the fist, shoot the gun here i am
don quixote what do you say? are we proud? are we brave? or just crazy? don quixote what do you say? are we shooting at windmills like you?
common sense, is as good as a cafe' on the moon when man and machinery come to their high noon
beat the clock, punch the wall fix'd in no time at all here i amradio on the blink kick the cat, hit the drink here i am
don quixote what do you say? are we proud, are be brave or just crazy? don quixote what do you say? are we shooting at windmills like you?
Tyler Cowen's Marginal Revolution blog had an interesting observation about the fact that apparently, the divorce rate in Silicon Valley goes up every time there's a giant IPO (e.g. Cisco, Google). This is apropos of the recent Facebook IPO, of course – although it should be noted that the Zuck got married on Saturday – not divorced. Maybe the divorce comes next week.
I was talking on the phone – "phone teaching" – with a 4th grader named Jiyun.
"What are you doing?" I asked.
"What are you studying?"
"Math," she answered, laconically.
"Do you like math?" I asked, trying to draw her out.
"Nooo. No. I don't like math." She paused. "It's's a big problem. My mother is a math teacher," she explained. Perfect English. Especially for a 4th grade elementary student. She'd made me laugh. I was impressed.
I have been re-reading Nietzsche's Geneology of Morals. I first read it maybe two decades ago in Spanish, but I consider it a very important work, for me. So I go back to it occasionally.
In his third essay, he writes about the ascetic ideal. I have felt the wierdly unascetic yearning to find this idea. I recognize the hypocrisy of it, as with most "purity narratives" as I like to call them. Here, Nietzsche rejects (or seems to be on the path to rejecting) Buddha's ascetic idea, specifically.
Every philosopher would say, as Buddha said, when the birth of a son was announced to him: "Rahoula has been born to me, a fetter has been forged for me" (Rahoula means here "a little demon"); there must come an hour of reflection to every "free spirit" (granted that he has had previously an hour of thoughtlessness), just as one came once to the same Buddha: "Narrowly cramped," he reflected, "is life in the house; it is a place of uncleanness; freedom is found in leaving the house." Because he thought like this, he left the house. So many bridges to independence are shown in the ascetic ideal, that the philosopher cannot refrain from exultation and clapping of hands when he hears the history of all those resolute ones, who on one day uttered a nay to all servitude and went into some desert; even granting that they were only strong asses, and the absolute opposite of strong minds. What, then, does the ascetic ideal mean in a philosopher? This is my answer—it will have been guessed long ago: when he sees this ideal the philosopher smiles because he sees therein an optimum of the conditions of the highest and boldest intellectuality; he does not thereby deny '"existence," he rather affirms thereby his existence and only his existence, and this perhaps to the point of not being far off the blasphemous wish, pereat mundus, fiat philosophia, fiat philosophus, fiam!
At the opening sentence of the next section (section 8), he makes his point explicitly. "These philosophers, you see, are by no means uncorrupted witnesses and judges of the value of the ascetic ideal."
Indeed. These philosophers are, in fact, coopted by the purity meme. What's the alternative?
I went to an accent-study survey (referenced from Language Log) in which many different speakers of English (mostly non native but with a few native speakers thrown in) read a passage – something about Stella shopping for peas and blue cheese and a toy frog. It gets kind of repetitive, and I concluded that the survey was badly designed. Here's the comment I posted at Language Log regarding my experience trying the survey.
I went through the survey fairly confidently, even naively, before reading these comments. And then I read Sarah Taub's: "I think my problem is that I wanted to interpret the study as asking how much the speakers sounded like native English speakers. I wish I had had more guidance from the experimenter as to how important the "native vs. non-native" and "US English vs. foreign" dimensions were. Perhaps those two dimensions should not have been combined in one experimental set." Now I'm second-guessing myself. I really had no idea how to balance these two aspects, and I agree with her comment that they should have provided more guidance on separating the two dimensions: native vs non-native and American vs non-American. What I ended up doing was essentially rating them on strictly the native vs non-native dimension (because I've spent too much of my life outside the US, perhaps, to actually CARE about the US vs non-US dimension?). So I gave a lot of scores in the 4 to 6 range (as an ESL teacher I am perhaps too generous – if I can understand them then they don't sound THAT foreign – "foreign" is when you really actually can't even make out what they are talking about!). And then, if someone was a 6, I awarded a 7 to those who were unambiguously American-sounding to me – which was exactly two.
Despite my frustration with the survey, I have a nearly inexhaustible patience with and fascination for these types of things. I really should go back to graduate school, shouldn't I? In linguistics, I mean…