So, I was reading a random blog, and ran across this little meme, which is not that new:
“Pick up the nearest book to you, turn to page 45. The first sentence explains your love life.”
Curious to have my love life explained, I immediately did this.
The book nearest to me was TOPIK in 30 days – this is a book for self study of Korean vocabulary, intended for preparation for the TOPIK test (Test Of Proficiency In Korean – and as a side note, ¿why in the world does the main Korean language proficiency test have an English acronym?). Not that I’m preparing for the test, but I do try to compel myself to study Korean vocabulary sometimes.
On page 45, the sentence was an example of usage of the verb 구하다 [gu.ha.da = “get”]. The sentence read,
오후 내내 방을 구하러 다녔지만 마음에 드는 방이 없었다.
I’ve been looking all afternoon to get a new room, but there’s none that are appealing.
In fact, this is quite plausible, as a kind of metaphorical explanation of my love life.
A thought for the day, if that’s what it is:
“What if we’re not conscious, we just think we are?”
I was in some Simcity version of San Francisco – the city of my childhood, mediated by the simplifications of game theory and the fever dreams of utopian urban planners. I was driving one of my old VW Beetles (I owned 3 different ones, over the years – the one I was driving most resembled the last one I owned, with its vato-ized steering-wheel and missing gearshift knob).
I wanted to the drive across the Golden Gate bridge. I was approaching from the south, on those raised viaducts through the Presidio, but the city's skyline hovered off where Marin should be. Furthermore, the toll plaza had been converted into a campground. "Isn't this the plot of some post-apocalyptic movie?" I thought to myself, inside the dream.
Reaching the bridge, there was some strange change in procedure – my car would be taken across the bridge by a robot train, while I had to walk. I shrugged, like Kafka's K, and went with the flow. I left my car to the robot trains, under the management of an angry Mexican, and started walking. I was with some companions, mostly visitors to me while I'd been in the cancer hospital: Peter, Grace, Curt, Helen. They were ignoring me.
The walk across the bridge was quite challenging. Reality became Inception-like (as in the movie "Inception," which actually I didn't like that much, but the CGI cinematography is compelling). The bridge began to twist and tilt and bend. But unlike in "Inception," the twisting, tilting and bending was all completely mechanical. The Golden Gate bridge was a giant clockwork mechanism with a million moving parts, like a Transformer car – but instead, a bridge. And it wasn't becoming a robot, it was simply becoming a bridge with a life of its own. So the deck of the bridge moved and shifted and tilted vertiginously until I was first standing on the underside of the deck, and then on the top of one of the great, red-painted towers, without having walked at all, but merely clambered around as the direction of down shifted.
I did not enjoy being atop the tower – I have a fear of heights, after all. I looked down and waited, hoping the bridge would transform again so I could walk safely to the end. When it kept shifting and instead I ended up hanging from a cable, I let go and fell a short distance to the highway deck again. I ran to the north side of the bridge, and found myself in downtown Vancouver, BC. Looking back, the Golden Gate bridge was now the Lion's Gate Bridge, but Stanley Park had been filled up with rowhouses in the San Francisco style. Vancouver is a city I visited several times in my adolescence, but I would not consider the city deeply familiar – the main thing that links it to San Francisco, aside from their somewhat similar urban patterns, is that it is a city from my childhood, rather than from later in life.
I looked around for the robot trains, and I saw them, but my VW was missing. I began to walk. The sun was hot, and I began looking for the ferry. Why did I need to find the ferry? Why did I expect to find it in downtown Vancouver? Walking in the hot sun reminded me of Mexico, so soon I was on the outskirts of La Paz, the southern Baja desert shimmering in the heat. The heat was oppressive.
That made me wake up. I'd put my head under my blanket, like a turtle, and it was too warm. I'd slept later than usual – much later.
Whenever I sleep much later than my usual 6-7 AM wake-up time, I imagine that my body's immune system is fighting something. And the dreams get weird.
This is a fascinating article: a German historian has demonstrated incontrovertibly that Hitler was a serious drug addict. I actually had never heard about this before, but it looks like it has been one of those "open secrets" among historians.
I find it very compelling. The idea that Hitler was a coke-head junkie in his last years has a lot of explanatory power. And not just Hitler – the whole damn Nazi military apparatus was apparently high on meth and coke, with the pushers being the government. A bad trip, indeed.
What other 20th century insanities might be better understood as drug-related issues?
I guess this is about reputation and fame, though it’s not clear to me if it has negative, neutral or positive valances. The Korean definitions are: “남의 이름을 높여 이르는 말” (a person’s name spoken of far and wide) and “세상에 널리 드러난 이름” (a name revealed widely in the world). And important person? It’s not clear to me how this is actually used.
Ariel was glad he had written his poems. They were of a remembered time Or of something seen that he liked.
Other makings of the sun Were waste and welter And the ripe shrub writhed.
His self and the sun were one And his poems, although makings of his self, Were no less makings of the sun.
It was not important that they survive. What mattered was that they should bear Some lineament or character,
Some affluence, if only half-perceived, In the poverty of their words, Of the planet of which they were part.
– Wallace Stevens (American poet, 1879-1955)
I admit that Stevens' poems make me feel discouraged about my own pathetic efforts at poetry. In my irrelevant opinion, he was the greatest American poet of the 20th century. Then again, I'd put Robinson Jeffers in the top 5 too – and most people haven't even heard of him.
I’m not exactly in the closet about my geofiction hobby – I’ve blogged about it once or twice before, and in fact I link to it in my blog’s sidebar, too – so alert blog-readers will have known it is something I do.
Nevertheless, I’ve always felt oddly reticent about broadcasting this hobby too actively. It’s a “strange” hobby in many people’s minds, and many aren’t sure what to make of it. Many who hear of it percieve it to be perhaps a bit childish, or at the least unserious. It’s not a “real” hobby, neither artistic, like writing or drawing, nor technical, like coding or building databases. Yet geofiction, as a hobby, involves some of all of those skills: writing, drawing, coding and database-building.
Shortly after my cancer surgery, I discovered the website called OpenGeofiction (“OGF”). It uses open source tools related to the OpenStreetmap project to allow users to pursue their geofiction hobby in a community of similar people, and “publish” their geofictions (both maps and encyclopedic compositions) online.
Early last year, I became one of the volunteer administrators for the website. In fact, much of what you see on the “wiki” side of the OGF website is my work (including the wiki’s main page, where the current “featured article” is also mine), or at the least, my collaboration with other “power users” at the site. I guess I enjoy this work, even though my online people skills are not always great. Certainly, I have appreciated the way that some of my skills related to my last career, in database design and business systems analysis, have proven useful in the context of a hobby. It means that if I ever need to return to that former career, I now have additional skills in the areas of GIS (geographic information systems) and wiki deployment.
Given how much time I’ve been spending on this hobby, lately, I have been feeling like my silence about it on my blog was becoming inappropriate, if my blog is truly meant to reflect “who I am.”
So here is a snapshot of what I’ve been working on. It’s a small island city-state, at high latitudes in the Southern Hemisphere, with both “real-world” hispanic and fully fictional cultural elements. Its name is Tárrases, on the OGF world map here.
Here is a “zoomable and slidable” map window, linked to the area I’ve been creating, made using the leaflet tool.
I have made a topo layer, too. I am one of only 2-3 users on the OGF website to attempt this – But the result is quite pleasing.
I have always loved maps, and since childhood, I have sometimes spent time drawing maps of imaginary places. However, I never dreamed that I’d be producing professional-quality, internet-accessible maps of imaginary places. I believe it is a kind of artform.
So that’s where my time off sometimes disappears to.
UPDATE NOTE 1, 2016-12-05: The topo view is currently broken due to some work I’m doing. It will be repaired eventually. UPDATE NOTE 2, 2017-02-16: The topo view has been repaired. UPDATE NOTE 3, 2019-08-15: I noticed while doing other blog maintenance that the leaflet embeds were broken. I spent a few hours fixing them – apparently some recent leaflet.js update wasn’t backward-compatible (argh).
This has been a quite busy week at work. Basically, I have spent the week crafting a textbook for a special debate class that will start next week for middle-schoolers who are not participating in the full 내신 (test-prep) schedule, due to the always-changing vagaries of parental demand.
I have made my own debate textbooks before, but this one is being driven by Curt's desire to see me integrate better with the other teachers who will also be teaching the same cohorts.
Textbook-making is a lot of work. I long ago gave up on vague ambitions to make an actually-publishable debate textbook, although for my middle-school Karma debate classes I have been using variations of my own book, in print-out format, for many years now. And I still get "writing team" emails periodically from Darakwon, the Korean EFL textbook publisher with which I'd started a tentative relationship that never amounted to anything. This tends to keep the textbook-writing concept always floating around in the periphery of my consciousness.
So I'm tired. And I haven't even started the special classes yet. That's next week.
Yesterday, in the Newton2 elementary cohort, a boy who goes by Jhonny (the mispelling is deliberate and he's quite adamant about it) announced to the class that he had a girlfriend. He's always a bit of a clown, so this interruption wasn't completely inconceivable.
"That's nice," I said, blandly. "What's her name?"
"I don't know," he said, sheepishly.
"You might want to find out her name," I suggested. "Girls like it when you know their names."
"I can't," he protested.
He's not great with English, and it was clear he wanted to explain more. He explained, in Korean, to the boy, Jerry, next to him, who is better at English.
Jerry said, "A girl gave him a note. Secret note."
"Aha," I said. "That makes sense. So you don't know her name."
Jhonny nodded, vigorously. The girls at the front of the class tittered. "It's so horrible," Jhonny complained, burying his face in his palms dramatically.
That's not good."
She made a face.
"But it's upside down."
I pointed at the card.
"True," she admitted, smiling.
The Tarot card looked so scary.
"It means you should be dead. But you're not."
As I’ve written before here, I sometimes use my Tarot cards in my classes, as a kind of cross between communicative listening exercise and entertaining reward. Many (maybe most) of my students are fascinated to have me “read their future” about some question. They ask about their upcoming test scores, their health or the health of family members, about their careers and future prospects for marriage. I keep my readings pretty generic, and of course, like any Tarot reader, I use clues in their questions and things I know about my students to make the answers more interesting and relevant.
Last night, I had a confident fifth-grader, Soyeon, insist that it was her turn to “read” the cards for me, instead. This doesn’t happen often – the kids are intimidated by the 30 pages of printed out “card meanings” that I use with the cards, to lend some legitimacy to my interpretations and to find plausible meanings – I don’t have the 178 possible meanings memorized. Most of the kids understand the principle that an inverted (reversed) card would have an opposite meaning, too, so I can play with that when it happens.
Soyeon was happy to lay down the cards and page through my printout of meanings, however. She told me to ask a question. Keeping to a nice, “safe” topic, I asked about my future health. Most of my students know about my cancer saga – it’s been the background of many a spontaneous classroom discussion. So that gave her something interpret against, too.
She laid down three cards: a past card, present card, and future card. She turned over the past card, and it was “The World.” She looked at the printout, but she didn’t just read it out loud. The printout, to be honest, has a lot of difficult vocabulary. I made it that way on purpose – it gives me a chance to teach something when I read the cards, and it also allows me to “hedge” meanings when I feel like things are too gloomy or creepy or anything else. Soyeon thought about what she read for a moment, and complained she didn’t understand it. I told her to just look at the picture on the card and use the words she did understand to come up with her own idea.
“You traveled everywhere the world. It was good.”
Not bad, right?
Next, she turned over the present card. It was the 9 of wands. This was one of those eerie moments when random Tarot hits really close to accuracy. The meaning of this card, as I’d put on my printout, is something like “a warrior has won a battle but now must rest.”
She said something like, “You got sick and it was like a battle. Now you’re tired.”
Then she turned over the final card. It was “Death,” but reversed (upside-down).
She laughed. She only glanced at the printout, before saying, triumphantly, “You should be dead, but you keep refusing.”
That seemed really clever, and exactly the right way to read a card like that.
I don't actually currently have with me either of the books, The Dispossessed by Ursula LeGuin, or Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. Yet over the years, I have found myself recalling both books frequently in my meditations on philosophy and the nature of human societies, although until just now, never really at the same time.
I had a very weird epiphany, the other day, however. In my mind, anyway, these books are actually in the same category. Most thinkers would be alarmed by this suggestion, I imagine. LeGuin and Rand are hardly philosophical comrades-in-arms.
Both books, thematically, are about utopias. In fact, both are about flawed utopias, though the flawed utopia of each one is the dystopia (anti-utopia) of the other. Yet both tread the ground of the conflict between the two topias. Both authors influenced me hugely in my own thinking about utopias and intentional communities of all kinds.
My epiphany is "incomplete" – I need to work through how these books connect. They may even be in a kind of accidental dialogue.
Interestingly, my curiosity prompted a quick googlesearch, which revealed to me that LeGuin has explicitly claimed she was NOT influenced by Atlas Shrugged. This is almost humorous, in light of my epiphany. It makes me want to try to prove otherwise. If LeGuin read Atlas Shrugged, as she admits, then it suddenly becomes inevitable, in my way of thinking, that there must be some influence, if only that LeGuin is writing against Rand. I am recalled to mind of critic Harold Bloom's influential work, The Anxiety of Influence.
If I had the texts in front of me, I would be tempted to re-read them in parallel and find out what relations might exist. Maybe I'll purchase copies on my next trip to the bookstore – I heard there's a new Kyobo Mungo store at 백석, a much closer trip than heading into Seoul – the Kyobo Mungo outlets there form my main source for English-language books.
I tried to learn this four-character idiom from my building’s elevator the other day.
I guess this just means showing respect. Frankly, I found the definitions I found of this idiom to make the whole thing seem much more complicated, but perhaps I’m over-analyzing. The online hanja dictionary at daum.net gives: “괴이하거나 익살스럽거나 노골적이지 아니하고 독실한 정취가 있는 경향” which I make a rough effort to translate as: “Neither bizarre antics nor clowning around [interfere with?] a tendency toward an unblunt and sincere atmosphere.” I also found: “성격이 온화하고 부드러우며 인정이 두터움” which might be “personality is mild and smooth, acknowledge cordiality.”
I notice in both definitions a more contrastive as opposed complementary relation between the two components of the hanja (first two hanja are one component, second two are second component). I have no idea how that ends up working. But I get the general idea, maybe.