Caveat: Unclear on the concept?

My students take these regular vocabulary quizzes, one component of which is to use the word in a sentence.  However, often times because of constraints on what can be covered in class, they’re left to their own devices in coming up with a good sentence to use for a given word.

The result can be some rather unusual sentences, either unintentionally funny or poetically incoherent.  In the first category:  “The dog appealed behind the tree.”  In the latter:  “this sheep is sink, soon.”

In other classroom humor, my most advanced class (an intimate five students)… we’re talking about some subject they’re not all finding terribly interesting – the US civil war, maybe? – and I look over and notice some rather insane 3-year-old-style scribbling/doodling on the broad face of the page of the book we have open.  Just a mishmash of swirly lines and boxes and dark blotches all across the text.  A brutal commentary on the quality of the text?  Sharing his level of interest in the class?

So, I call his and his classmates’ attention to the scribbling.  And without missing a beat, he says, “This is cubism, teacher.  I’m expressing myself.”

This brilliant display of adaptive language skill is a genuine delight, and I can’t stop myself from laughing for the remainder of the class.

No matter how boring it is, I’m going to try to post something every single day this month.  So prepare yourself, dear readers, for some truly banal content!


Caveat: Tuesday Morning

A few blocks south of here there is a large park with a Lake in it.  Everyone seems to call it the Lake Park – I’m not sure if this an official name or not.  I walked down there this morning, and there’s a nice little pedestrian bridge that gives some good views of the area.  Below are 5 photos all taken from basically the same exact spot standing on this pedestrian bridge connecting the Ilsan neighborhood to this large park.

Looking east (well, kinda east-north-east, I think) there’s this weird looking bit of public art on the large plaza on the north side of the boulevard between Ilsan and the park.


Looking north you can see the Homever store I mentioned (a Walmarty sorta place), and the little Jeongbalsan hill.  My apartment building is a few blocks behind the Homever store, and the subway station is a few blocks toward the little hill.


Looking northwest, North Korea is only about 20 km thataway – after you go through Munsan on highway 1, which is where I was stationed in the US Army.


Looking southwest, toward the Han River and then Incheon (which is where the international airport is, about 25 km), and then the West Sea (also called Yellow Sea) and, much beyond, Qingdao and Shanghai.


Looking southeast, toward downtown Seoul (about 25 km) – it’s city all the way.


In other news, I am coming to the stunning realization that most Koreans don’t know the names of their streets, and don’t particularly care – they often don’t put signs, they don’t put the names on maps, etc..  This is difficult for someone like me, who has always loved being able to study a map and then navegate around on this basis, and it’s surprising to me that it’s taken me so long to realize this.  Regardless, it leads to an interesting, networked-node sort of view of the world, an interconnected web of buildings and landmarks on nodes, with unnamed spaces connecting them.  I’ll get the hang of it, but getting directions is, well… interesting.

Caveat: Korea

Location:  경기도 일산구 (Ilsan-gu, Gyeonggi-do)

Soundtrack:  mostly sounds of crickets, cicadas, citysounds

I really meant to post more, sooner.  I am entering my 2nd day here in Korea.  I start my teaching job later this morning.  Right now it's 3 am and I'm unable to sleep, due to the confusion induced by the time-zone change.  But I'll adjust.

Last week was very hectic, in Minneapolis, getting packed up and all my stuff moved from my apartment to the storage unit I've rented in Eagan (near the airport).  I got checked out of my apartment on Thursday afternoon, and Friday morning I was on my way, Minneapolis to Chicago and direct from there to Incheon – a 14 hour flight and a 14 hour time difference meant 28 hours in a suspended state of intraplanetary teleportation. 

I slept a little on the plane, but never do much.  I watched two movies – from the Korean movie channel on the plane, to get myself in the right frame of mind.  They were actually very good movies:  "Highway Star" (Bokmyeon dalho) and  "Miracle on 1st street" (1Beonga-ui gijeok).  Subtitles in English, so I wasn't completely lost.  If you want to get a taste of contemporary Koreana these would be excellent choices, I think.

The flight arrived at Incheon almost 40 minutes earlier than scheduled, and by 5 pm local time on Saturday night I was through immigration and customs and boarding a bus for Ilsan.  I rented a temporary cellphone and was thus able to connect with my contact from my new job, who met me at a bus stop just west of Madu Station in Ilsan-gu and drove me from there several blocks to my apartment.

It's just a little studio, hotel-room-sized, but with a kitchenette.  And even has a washing machine.  It's in a highrise apartment building called Urim Bobo County.  I have no idea what they mean by this – bobo means, roughly, bourgeois, but without any negative connotations.  And "county" seems to imply a pleasant suburban living environment – it's a transliteration of the English word, not the Korean word that means "county".  Overall, I expect the intended effect is like the infinite number of apartment complexes in the U.S. with names like "Park View Terrace" or whatever.  Basically meaningless, but meant to evoke a kind of suburban arcadia. 

But, unlike suburbs in the U.S., Korean suburbs (and postwar urbanization patterns in general) are overwhelmingly high-density – thus this suburban community (45 minutes by train northwest of Seoul) feels more like Manhattan than like any socio-economically equivalent American suburb, e.g. Thousand Oaks in L.A. or Burnsville in Twin Cities.


This picture (above) shows the main street a block north of my apartment, and the fire station that will be my landmark for finding the place.  The school is northwest, about a 20 minute walk – I wasn't able to find it yesterday, walking around exploring, but I did find a nice park with a little hill in it, called Jeongbalsan (which is also the name of my rail station), and I had a strange moment when the pine forest smell and the humid, red, sandy soil evoked memories of marching through Korean woods on infantry exercises when I was stationed here in the U.S. Army all those years ago.  Smells are weird that way, so evocative.


Above is a picture of the big buildings peeking through the trees of the park.

Anyway, I've been trying to get a lot of sleep since I arrived, so as to at least be well rested if not quite on schedule when I go into work later today.

In computer news… I am trying to get my Linux installation to allow me to type Hangul (Korean writing system).  I'm having some frustrations, but I can kind of get it to work through a bit of kludge at the moment, by typing in the one application I can get it to work in (gedit, the opensource equivalent to something like Wordpad under Windows) and then cut-n-pasting into the destination (e.g. Firefox browser, where I write this blog), hence: 정발산 (=jeongbalsan). 

Caveat: Pretty good plains

Location: Bismarck, ND to Minneapolis, MN

Soundtrack: surfing the radio; Radiohead (great for road trips), Dylan (of course), Mexican Institute of Sound (something new)

On the radio, I heard: an opera called ‘The Greater Good’ as I drove into a vast cloud of forest-fire smoke west of Billings; a christian radio station that turned out to have a less-than-conventional twist, which lead me to – very interesting; the news that Karl Rove (AKA "Bush's brain") is resigning; a country music top 20 countdown; a new version of “la guantanamera” in which the role of pure cuban girl is played by some innocent named “habeas corpus”; and more, more, more! Listening to the radio while driving cross country is second only to television as a way of sampling the cultural insanity that is the USA – and it’s easier to do while doing other things, e.g. driving across Montana, which, at 700 miles, is interminable and occasionally dull.

20070814_collisionwithbutterfly I had a head-on collision, somewhere west of Bismarck, ND – with a butterfly. I noticed it when I got out at a rest area (see picture).

The sky transitioned from the hazy, smoky mordor of Montana’s forest fires to the wide-open hugeness of the plains, as North Dakota gradually flattened out to the utterly circular horizon of the land just west of Fargo. They call these the Great Plains, and, although I like them a lot, calling them “great” seems extreme. Let’s call them the Pretty Good Plains, and leave it at that.

Caveat: River of Madness

Location:  US-101 and roads from Humboldt to Cherry Grove, OR

Soundtrack:  KSLG (Nine Inch Nails, the new Modest Mouse, etc.) and then my MP3 player on ‘shuffle’

I drove up yesterday after getting an oil change for my truck and spending a bit over an hour out at Mad River beach west of Arcata (in picture).  I used to go out there a lot when I lived here, just to meditate on the ocean and be on the edge of the world.  I’ve actually rather enjoyed being in Humboldt this visit, but I still think there’d still be too many ghosts here to be able to live here permanently.

I have never seen the highway between Arcata and Portland up the coast quite so sunny – it’s almost disorienting.


Caveat: Desert and Smog

The drive from Minneapolis to Phoenix went well. Bernie really got into it – here's a photo: I've never tried posting a photo to this blog before.

20070724_bernietakesadriveWe saw mostly clear, hot weather on the drive, but between Flagstaff and Phoenix met some spectacular thunderstorms and downpours, gorgeous summer "monsoon" as they call it in Arizona.

I stayed a few days at my sister's in Phoenix, watching the cat go through the initial stages of adjusting from a one-human household to a two adult humans, two child humans plus one dog household. I think she'll do fine, in the long run, but the short term involves substantial time camping out in her litter box and behind the refrigerator in the kitchen where no one could get to her.

I managed to spend some time messing things up on my sister's computer, in the name of trying to help her fix it. I'll blog this bizarre technical experience seperately, perhaps – I've definitely reached a new low in my level of respect for Hewlett-Packard.

Jameson and Dylan, my nephews, are great fun to interact with and watch. It was particularly fun to see them playing "dog" – where Jameson led his compliant and cheerful brother around on a leash:

20070724_dylanandjamesonThis morning I left Bernie the cat in Phoenix, adapting to her new home, and drove to L.A., across the smoggydusty desert. It was a sad parting, for me, as I've grown quite attached to my cat, but my commitment to go to Korea to try my hand at teaching is complete, now, so I'm glad to have found a new, caring home for her.

Caveat: Fat in Utrecht

This picture was taken in Utrecht, Netherlands, of me and my friend Bob. I don't look that happy, do I?


[This is a back-post, added at the date the picture was taken but in fact added 2014-05-14. I post this picture mostly because it is the picture which shows me at my maximum weight..]

Caveat: Model A Ford

I don't remember the exact date, but around Christmas of 1994, right after having my having returned from 6 months in Chile, Michelle, Jeffrey and I traveled to Los Angeles from Minneapolis, to visit my father and family. This was one day when I think we got into my dad's 1928 Model A Ford and drove to the beach. Here is a picture of me and Jeffrey with the car in the driveway of where my dad was living at that time, which happened to be right next door to the house he grew up in.

Photo 012

[The "retroblogging" project:  this is a "back-post" written and added 2013-05-06.  I've decided to "fill-in" my blog all the way back.  It's a big project.  But there's no time limit, right?]

Caveat: Fireman


I don't remember the exact date, but we took a number of fall camping trips to Northern Minnesota during the period 1987-89. I chose this date as plausible but it's at best a guess.

I was standing in a campfire (notably, a failed campfire), probably making a goofy speech. I really enjoyed those camping trips.



[The "retroblogging" project:  this is a "back-post" written and added 2013-05-05.  I've decided to "fill-in" my blog all the way back.  It's a big project.  But there's no time limit, right?]

Caveat: Puerto La Libertad, El Salvador

Picture taken at the pier in La Libertad.


[The "retroblogging" project:  this is a "back-post" written and added 2014-05-14.  I've decided to "fill-in" my blog all the way back.  It's a big project.  But there's no time limit, right? This is a rare picture of me – I scanned the degraded photo in 2007 and finally go around to posting it.]

Caveat: Chartres &c.

14 janvier 1985 lundi

The weekend was busy. Saturday, recall: the soft chilly gloom of Chartres, an amazing cathedral, so dedicate to god, as were the generations of men who created it. Each window, her own story, framing the illiterate world wherein the medievals lived placidly, sheep of god. The cathedral seemed the sort of thing that I though only appeared in myth, or in the daydreams of young children (like I once was) who went to be architects someday (as I once did). But I watched too the midwesternesque french countryside roll by outside the frosted bus windows, and watched the little farms and towns swing past, and the vast wires which swooped by only to be caught up just before they fell, under their heavy electric loads, by another prententious tower of gaudy, post-industrial steel. So much for Poetry. I spent that night – the whole night – at La Piscine – a strictly across-the-channel sort of scene (i.e. Londoneque). But I stayed six hours till 5:30 am. Not drinking, not dancing, but just watching several hundred disaffected french, british, american, german, etc. youth party all one Saturday night. It left me content but exhausted. You can feel all the shields of a thousand static individual clash, and smell the hot, empty ozone of their lonely intermingling. Some were happier than others.

Yesterday, having slept 3 hours after taking the 1st metro homee (yes, I got that wonderful, almost ecstatic sense!), I staggled off to the Louvre, looking for something meditative. I hit the whole thing, spending 7 hours there, and despite my exhaustion, I felt somehow compelled to see it all, and meditate a little on each thing I saw. I spent a lot of time especially with the early rennaissance schools of painting in Italy. I could spend hours watching the renditions of so many vivid imaginations.

Well, I did miss the Ancient Near-Eastern part, basically. But I meditated too a great deal on the displays of tapistries and works of Coptic Egypt. I recalled several books I'd read last spring on gnosticism, and how one of the centers of that alternate, powerful christian spirituality was coptic Egypt. I tried to squint my eyes and visualize the vibrant, christian faith in its hydra-headed, flowering, youth among the dead stone and starched styles – but all I felt were the overwhelming waves of heat, that desert, where those same artifacts waited 1200+ years after Islam had ousted the coptic vibrancy. Etc.

So I spent today pretty much recuperating.


[The "retroblogging" project:  this is a "back-post" transcribed from a paper journal on 2013-04-26.  I've decided to "fill-in" my blog all the way back.  It's a big project.  But there's no time limit, right?

I will concede: frankly, this is very pretentious, embarrassing, unpleasant writing to look back on – especially considering it was my own journal? In 1985, who was I thinking was going to read it – some futuristic world-wide computer network?

The picture is from a scan of one of the rather extensive set of photos that I took in 1983-1985. It shows a view looking toward Sacre Coeur from one of the bell towers on Notre Dame.]

Caveat: Hawaii Where I Wasn’t

This picture was sent to me by my family. It's only here as a kind of memorial – I was not communicating well with them at this stage in my life.


[The "retroblogging" project:  this is a "back-post" transcribed from paper on 2010-11-28.  I've decided to "fill-in" my blog all the way back.  It's a big project.  But there's no time limit, right?]

Caveat: Lufenholtz Beach

Last year, I got a pretty nice camera from my uncle (used). It was a Pentax.

I took it out while home in Humboldt for Christmas Break this year, and took some photos of the world. One place that's important in my own psychological evolution: Lufenholtz Beach, in Trinidad, California.


[The "retroblogging" project:  this is a "back-post" transcribed from memory on 2012-02-17.  I've decided to "fill-in" my blog all the way back.  It's a big project.  But there's no time limit, right?

The above picture is from a scan of one of the rather extensive set of photos (mostly of nature) that I took in 1983-1985.]