Caveat: Obligatory hospital waiting room blog post

I saw snowy trees and fields while walking past the park. More later.

2016-02-29 10.37.38.jpg

Update, a few hours later: I gained a clearer understanding why it is they seem to be procrastinating on doing further surgical work. The issue is that to dig down deeper in that area puts my right sublingual nerve at risk. This is a really big issue, because I lost most of the functionality of my left sublingual nerve during the cancer surgery. So my tongue has been operating all this time on the right nerve only. That's one thing the doctors mean when they say my tongue is asymmetric. So the one thing they really don't want to do is mess around with the right one. So anyway. They looked there, they said that some bone was showing (which somehow implies it's necrotic?), but they decided to continue to "wait and see." I'll go back next month. 

[daily log: walking, 11.5km]

Caveat: el ingenio del odio

It's a snowy Sunday afternoon on the Korean Peninsula.

My friend Bob asked me to help translate a song he's using (he is a music professor). 

What I'm listening to right now.

Victor Heredia, "Todavía cantamos." This song commemorates September 11th (the other one). 


Todavía cantamos, todavía pedimos,
todavía soñamos, todavía esperamos,
a pesar de los golpes
que asestó en nuestras vidas
el ingenio del odio
desterrando al olvido
a nuestros seres queridos.

Todavía cantamos, todavía pedimos,
todavía soñamos, todavía esperamos,
que nos digan adónde
han escondido las flores
que aromaron las calles
persiguiendo un destino
¿Dónde, dónde se han ido?

Todavía cantamos, todavía pedimos,
todavía soñamos, todavía esperamos,
que nos den la esperanza
de saber que es posible
que el jardín se ilumine
con las risas y el canto
de los que amamos tanto.

Todavía cantamos, todavía pedimos,
todavía soñamos, todavía esperamos,
por un día distinto
sin apremios ni ayuno
sin temor y sin llanto,
porque vuelvan al nido
nuestros seres queridos.
Todavía cantamos, todavía pedimos,
Todavía soñamos, todavía esperamos…

My translation (I found a translation online but it was quite poor – perhaps merely an exhalation of the googletranslate). 

We still sing, we still ask
We still dream, we still hope
Despite the blows
That were dealt in our lives
By the shrewdness of hate
That exiled to oblivion
Our loved ones.

We still sing, we still ask
We still dream, we still hope
That they to tell us where
They have hidden the flowers
That scented the streets
Where we sought our destiny
Where, where have they gone?

We still sing, we still ask
We still dream, we still hope
That they give us hope
To know that it is possible
To brighten the garden
With the laughter and singing
Of those we love so much.

We still sing, we still ask
We still dream, we still hope
For a different day
Without coercion or hunger
Without fear or crying
When they return home,
Our loved ones.

We still sing, we still ask
We still dream, we still hope…

[daily log: walking, 1km]

Caveat: Beside the clock’s loneliness


I imagine this midnight moment’s forest:
Something else is alive
Beside the clock’s loneliness
And this blank page where my fingers move.

Through the window I see no star:
Something more near
Though deeper within darkness
Is entering the loneliness:

Cold, delicately as the dark snow,
A fox’s nose touches twig, leaf;
Two eyes serve a movement, that now
And again now, and now, and now

Sets neat prints into the snow
Between trees, and warily a lame
Shadow lags by stump and in hollow
Of a body that is bold to come

Across clearings, an eye,
A widening deepening greenness,
Brilliantly, concentratedly,
Coming about its own business

Till, with a sudden sharp hot stink of fox
It enters the dark hole of the head.
The window is starless still; the clock ticks,
The page is printed.

– Ted Hughes (British poet, 1930-1998)

[daily log: walking, 6km]

Caveat: naufragia fecerunt in marique perierunt

At Diagoras cum Samothracam venisset, atheus ille qui dicitur, atque ei quidam amicus: "Tu, qui deos putas humana neglegere, nonne animadvertis ex tot tabulis pictis, quam multi votis vim tempestatis effugerint in portumque salvi pervenerint?"

"Ita fit," inquit, "illi enim nusquam picti sunt, qui naufragia fecerunt in marique perierunt."

— Cicero, De Natura Deorum

Diagoras, who is called the atheist, being at Samothrace, one of his friends showed him several pictures of people who had endured very dangerous storms; "See," says he, "you who deny a providence, how many have been saved by their prayers to the Gods."

"Ay," says Diagoras, "I see those who were saved, but where are those painted who were shipwrecked and perished?"

— Cicero (106 BCE – 43 BCE), On the Nature of the Gods

This, in fact, addresses what is sometimes called the "survivorship fallacy," a logical fallacy that frequently arises in even high-level formal research in economics and the social sciences.

[daily log: walking 6.5km]


Caveat: A useful idea

The Korean word 엉동이 [eongdongi] means both "butt" or "ass", as well as "hips." The meaning is completely ambiguous, and undifferentiated in the language. I don't see this as a defect – it's just how it works. 

It can be difficult to explain to my students that there is a difference, and confusions are constant – and with elementary kids, you will not be shocked to learn that this is an important group of vocabulary items.  Thus you get "Teacher, he hit my hips" when "he hit my butt" is meant,  or "He was standing with his hands on his butt" when "He was standing with his hands on his hips" was intended. 

Yesterday with my 9th graders – who should already know this – I was explaining to Doyeong this difference. Probably, I've explained it before to him, given his potty mouth. I stood in front of the class, I put my hands in my hips. "Hips." I reached behind. "Butt." I explained, "They're completely different, in English. Different words, different concepts." 

"Really," said Doyeong, after a long pause as, it appeared, the distinction was finally sinking in. 

"Hey. That's a useful idea," he declared.

[daily log: walking, 6km]


Caveat: 0.02%

I was listening to Logan Vath's song, "Ain't It Like Nebraska," yesterday, and had this very weird thought: how much of my life have I spent driving across Nebraska? For whatever reason, I have vivid memories of some of those drives – especially that perfectly straight 70 mile stretch of freeway between Lincoln and Grand Island.

Because my main two "homes" in the US are California and Minnesota, and because over the years I have on many occasions had a better reason to drive than fly between them, I would estimate that, conservatively, I have driven across Nebraska at least 15 times. Given it takes about 6 hours on I-80 (with appropriate stops for gas or food), that means I've spent at least 90 hours driving across Nebraska. Since I've been alive approximately 441,000 hours, that means I've spent 0.02% of my life driving across Nebraska.

Of course, I've spent much more of life driving across other stretches. The 30 minute drive between Long Beach and Newport Beach is much shorter, but since it was my daily commute for a year, adds up to much more. Likewise the one-hour drive between Lansdale and Cherry Hill and other daily commutes from different times in my life.

Perhaps this should be contrasted with 0.46% (over 2000 hours) – the percent of my life I've spent walking between between Janghang and Hugok, in my seven years living in Ilsan. 

Sometimes I t hink about strange things.

[daily log: walking, 6km]



Caveat: <html>37 years of markup</html>

I had this weird realization, over the weekend, as I did some little thing on my computer, that I have been hacking around with HTML for more than 20 years, now. I was first exposed to HTML in maybe 1994, when I was taking grad-level courses at the University of Minnesota in preparation for my formal application to grad school, and was messing around on the U of M's intranet, which was in its infancy but was well ahead of the technology adoption curve, since the WWW was only about 3 years old at that point – note that the U of M was one of the innovators in the WWW realm, having been the original home of "gopher," a hyperlinked, markup-driven proto-internet that was one of the coneptual predecessors to Tim Berners-Lee's creation of the WWW at CERN in 1991).

Less than 2 years later, as a grad student at the University of Pennsylvania, I "published" my first web page – several webpages, actually, a simple website that provided me with a means to communicate homework assignments and ideas with my students (I was a TA, teaching lower-level Spanish language classes). My website included a little compilation of interesting bits of Spanish language culture such as could be found online in that early period of the internet, and when I was no longer teaching, I moved the site over to a geocities site where it lasted a year or two more, but it eventually died (along with geocities, of course).

DotMatrix Regular.ttfHTML (hyper-text markup language) was not that hard for me pick up. I was already familiar with the concept of "markup," since even in 1995 I had already been dealing with some other types of markup for almost two decades.

I was exposed to the concept of "markup" in middle school in the late 1970's, thanks to my computer-literate uncle, who had an Apple II that he'd kludged together with an IBM Selectric typewriter (well, not brand-name, I think it was a Japanese clone of an IBM Selectric). This unholy marriage allowed him to produce letter-quality printer output in what was still a predominantly low-resolution, dot-matrix age (picture at right, for those too young to remember). I wrote my middle-school English essays (and later high school essays) using this arrangement. To send the unformatted text files to this printer required the use a fairly arcane set of markup commands (possibly these commands were ancestral to what later became LaTeX? I'm not sure). 

Later, as an undergraduate in 1983-1985, I had a work-study job in the department of Mathematics, and they discovered my mastery of the principles of markup and they made use of me for some departmentally published mathematics textbooks – even today, mathematical printing requires a great deal of markup to come out looking good – just look at the "source" view, sometime, on a math-intensive wikipedia page

So, as I said, markup was already an "old" concept to me when I met HTML in grad school. And HTML is a conceptually quite simple implementation of markup principles.

20 years later, I've realized that despite all my shifts in profession and location and lifestyle, not a week has gone by, probably, when I haven't hacked a bit of HTML. Of course, having this blog exposes me to opportunities – but most people with blogs avoid the markup, sticking to the user-friendly tools provided by blog-hosts. I, however, somehow manage to decide to do some HTML tweak or another with nearly every blog post. Ever since I started keeping a separate work-blog to communicate with students, I have made even greater use of my HTML hacking skills, since it allows me a convenient way to bypass the Korean-language user interface on the blog-publishing website.

So … enjoy the fruits of markup – happy web surfing.

[daily log: walking, 6km]

Caveat: For ever and for ever

A Farewell

Flow down, cold rivulet, to the sea,
Thy tribute wave deliver:
No more by thee my steps shall be,
For ever and for ever.

Flow, softly flow, by lawn and lea,
A rivulet then a river:
Nowhere by thee my steps shall be
For ever and for ever.

But here will sigh thine alder tree
And here thine aspen shiver;
And here by thee will hum the bee,
For ever and for ever.

A thousand suns will stream on thee,
A thousand moons will quiver;
But not by thee my steps shall be,
For ever and for ever.
– Alfred Lord Tennyson (English poet, 1809-1892)

[daily log: walking]

Caveat: 십일번 타고가다

I learned this idiom from a coworker.

십일번 타고가다
eleven-number ride-and-go
…take the number eleven [bus route].

Literally, it means "take the number 11 bus route." But the number 11 bus route is a metaphor for walking. Why? The digits "11" resemble two legs, I guess. I think this an idiom I can find much use for, given how much I walk as opposed to other forms of transportation. I like when I learn such useful things to say. Although who knows when I might actually find myself saying it – the next time someone offers me a ride that I turn down, I suppose.

[daily log: riding the number 11, 6.5km]

Caveat: Poseidon said “ Okey dokey Yo!”

I have a small elementary cohort, called Newton2T, with a very fast student and a slow student. They were using class time to work on their essays sitting at the computer (i.e. typing – I use these classes as typing practice, too) – because they hadn't finished them as homework. The fast student, Brian, finished his 120-word essay in a matter of 15 minutes or so, and asked me, "What can I do?"

I suggested doing some work for another class, and he didn't like that idea. So I told him to write a story. "I can't think of a story," he complained.

"Write about about the alligator and the monkey," I said. He wrote this story – verbatim, below.

One alligater and monkey is in the box. One alligater name is Donald and monkey’s name is Jared       Donald was hungry. So Donald look at Jared. Jared was scared. So, Jared prayed for Jejus.          So Jejus gave super power to Jared. Jared was happy. Why?He was strongest in the world

Jared was King in the world. Jared have bad imagine. That imagine is jared kill Jejus and get EVERY SUPERPOWER. Jejus was very angry.. So thunder to jared. Jared fly to sky castle. And shouted for Jejus. “ Hey Guy Come on!” Jejus was SO angry. So Jejus said poseidon “ please help me, one crazy monkey have super power.” Poseidon said “ Okey dokey Yo!”

[daily log: walking, 6km]

Caveat: killing unarmed animals

Justice Scalia died, I've seen in the news. I have some curiosity about this, just in the sense that I tend to follow American politics despite my frustration with it.

There has been some of the typical hagiography of Scalia that, given his record, seems a bit unjustified. He wasn't really a great person, as far as I can figure out. He was bitter, legally insonsistent, and pointlessly combative. I saw this humorous quote about Scalia, attributed to Clarence Thomas, of all people: "He loves killing unarmed animals." That's snark from one supreme jerk to another.

Unrelatedly – two days ago, it was snowing as I went to work. More climate volatility, among the redwoods (metasequoia) of Ilsan.

2016-02-16 snow2

[daily log: walking, 6km]

Caveat: Things Koreans believe about immigration

Since I teach debate, I sometimes have the situation where students express views or even "facts" with which I don't agree or which I dislike. Only with the most advanced students have I ever tried to go into the realm of evidentiality and "sourced" arguments – mostly I focus on using debate as a means of expressing opinions using English and without regard to the veracity or even acceptability of what they're saying. Also, since I often make students "switch sides," I can hardly complain if they end up coming up with some implausible argument for a position which they wouldn't have chosen in any event on their own.

The below, however, is not one of those cases – the student chose the position apparently sincerely, and furthermore, I can sadly say that the opinions he echoes are quite widely held. Most interesting, vis-a-vis the question of immigration to Korea, is the seemingly circular argument that foreigners should not come to Korea because, since Koreans are racists and nationalists, immigrants would therefore have a bad experience here. It boils down to: "Don't come here because we don't like you, and so it would be bad for you to come here." 

Still, perhaps the most bizarre are the beliefs about how dangerous foreigners are. Yet this kind of thinking is hardly unique to Korea – just look at the American discourse around immigration, and such views are easy to find.

There are many people who are coming from other country these days. Korea can develop by accepting these kinds of people, but there are many people in different opinion that disagree about accepting these kinds of people.

People who are coming from another country have different religions. IS which is one of the most dangerous groups of people in the world have the Islamic religion. They are very dangerous, so most people do not like to live in the same country with them. Korean people often eat fork after work, but Islamic people can not eat pork. Hindu people can not eat beef, so they can not join in the Korean company dinner. Many people who are coming from other countries can not live with Korean people.

There is the wall between Korean people and foreigners. This wall is called nationalism. Korean people express a very powerful nationalism. For example, Korean people do not like black people because they think that black people make scary situation. Korean people are also disregard immigrant workers who are coming from Philippines or Vietnam. Immigration is harmful for foreigners.

Foreigners make crimes. American soldiers make crimes almost once a week. They kill many Korean women and rape them. Chinese are psycho. Chinese kill Korean people, cut into their bodies and also they eat human meat. Foreigners are dangerous to live with.

In conclusion, immigration is sometimes helpful but not always. Foreigners have different religion and make many crimes. Korean people also have nationalism, so foreigners can not endure it. People should know that immigration is not always good for our country.

I can say that among my students, such views as these are not that common – just by virtue of being a middle-school student who is in the top quartile of English ability (such is the case with my students, since I don't teach the lower levels) means that one's views of things like globalism and internationalism are probably moderate. Nevertheless, in the broader public, I can also say that such views are probably more common than anyone would like to admit. 

"While the secret knowledge is only available to some members of the society, there is an ideology, an ethics, and a phenomenology of ignorance that is shared, to some degree, by all." -Jonathan Mair

[daily log: walking, 6km]

Caveat: 求之不得

I learned this four-character idiom from my building's elevator last night. I might learn more idioms if I took the elevator more often. But I would get less exercise. And there are other places to find four-character idioms.


This was hard to figure out the meaning. I'm not totally confident. There is no entry for the idiom in the Korean-English online dictionary, but the Korean-only dictionary gives (for the verbalized form, 구지부득하다): "구하려고 해도 얻지 못 하다," which the googletranslate renders "Even trying to save is not obtained." That's not that helpful on seeing the meaning. I had better luck googling it as if it were Chinese. In an online Chinese-English dictionary, I found it is an idiom meaning "to be exactly what one has been looking for." I could kind of see that, but it's not clear to me that the Korean usage has the same meaning, or if the Korean usage is more negative, which would be more simply, to try to find but fail to find something.

In which case, I tried to find the exact meaning of this idiom, but failed. 

[daily log: walking, 6km]

Caveat: Where’s New Zealand, Anyway?

I don't have much to say today – I had a rather braindead weekend, after that thunderstormy Saturday. Actually, right after writing about climate volatility, it started to get cold again. It's bright and sunny and about -6 C (21 F) now, midday on Monday.

Meanwhile… did you know there is an entire website dedicated to maps that fail to show New Zealand? I mean, just in case you needed that information.

[daily log: walking, 6.5km]

Caveat: The well-composed in his burnished solitude

In the Element of Antagonisms

If it is a world without genius,
It is most happily contrived. Here, then,

We ask which means most, for us, all the genii
Or one man who, for us, is greater than they,

On his gold horse striding, like a conjured beast,
Miraculous in its panache and swish?

Birds twitter pandemoniums around
The idea of the chavalier of chevaliers,

The well-composed in his burnished solitude,
The tower, the ancient accent, the wintry size.

And the north wind's mighty buskin seems to fall
In an excessive corridor, alas!

-Wallace Stevens (American poet, 1879-1955)


[daily log: walking, 1km]

Caveat: on climate volatility

I have been so tired lately. I came home from work and took a nap today – the work-in-the-mornings Saturday schedule always discombobulates me slightly.

I awoke to a thunderstorm outside. In February? The weather is weird. This moment, an hour after sunset on February 13th, it is 16 C (60 F) in suburban Seoul. Meanwhile, according to the internet, it's -20 C (-4 F) in Minneapolis. Last month, these numbers were reversed. Both situations are abnormal. People like to argue about anthropogenic global warming and climate change, but I wonder if new terminology might improve the acceptibility of the concept to the sceptics, borrowing from the world of finance: "increasing climate volatility."

[daily log: walking, 6km]

Caveat: . . . waiting is the hardest part

I awoke very early so I could have time to face my day before heading off to the hospital. I walked into the rising sun feeling my normal mix of apprehension and the weird, uncharacteristic optimism that I only seem capable of experiencing when facing imminent discomfort and adversity.

Now I sit waiting among the near-ghosts and their attendants and hangers-on, on the utterly familiar east wing, 2nd floor of the superfun cancerland theme park.

Sometimes, waiting is the hardest part.

Several hours later – update… 

Good news: No more necrotic bone presented.

Bad news: 3 weeks after the surgery, there has been almost no healing. This is due to necrotic soft tissue in the same area. Basically,  I have big hole in the back of my mouth where they took out the dead tooth and bone. This is exactly why this procedure couldn't be done by a regular dentist. It requires monitoring and maintenance. Low grade infection is inevitable. Impact: eating will remain problematic, and mouth hygiene is critical and remains tedious. "Come back in 2 weeks, we'll decide what to do next." 

[daily log: walking, 11.5km]