Caveat: 도둑고양이 및 컵라면

I think watching old Korean TV dramedies is good for me.  It helps me build my confidence with Korean – if not actually doing much to improve my proficiency, probably.  I learn to recognize little bits of conversational Korean, and pick up intriguing bits of vocabulary.  Plus, they’re mindlessly entertaining and occasionally quite funny, and provide good cultural insights too, keeping me positively engaged in the culture, in a way that working at hellbridge certainly fails me.
They’re probably a better way to kill time than to sit around feeling gloomy or depressed about my work, due to how overwhelming it feels.  Or beating myself up over not actually spending time studying Korean intensively with all those Korean textbooks I’ve bought.
Anyway, the series I’m watching right now (옥탑방 고양이= oktappang goyangi =”Rooftop-room Cat”) is nothing spectacular.  I downloaded it originally based strictly on the cute name – I like cats and I like the Korean word for cat (고양이, besides which I live in the near-homonymous city 고양).
So I went off looking for the script because there was a word I wanted to figure out, and learned that the lead actress is one of the seemingly many Korean pop-culture types that have committed suicide in the last several years.  There seems to be an epidemic of it, at least based on how people talk about it.  It’s kind of sad.
On the website about the series, I saw the following notice:  “故 정다빈양의 명복을 빕니다.”  It was strikingly somber, in black and white, unlike the garish colors normally employed on Korean websites.  And it had a hanja (故).  Hanja is the use of Chinese characters in Korean writing, which is quite rare except in higher-register news articles, and it clearly wasn’t a name, since it was directly followed by the name of the actress (정다빈).  That made me think, too, that the content was more “formal” than is normally found on Korean entertainment websites.  So I intuited it’s meaning, and went off a-googling.
And sure enough, imdb told me she had committed suicide.  The language of the notice is roughly, “lamented Jeong Da Bin -[some kind of ending, genitive?] pray for the repose of the deceased (i.e. RIP).”
I never found the script.  MBC (the network that made the series) doesn’t make the scripts easy to find, at least for someone with limited Korean language proficiency like myself.  That’s why I like KBC shows better — their website makes it easy to see the scripts of the old shows.  But I figured out the phrase I was wondering about, anyway, by playing it over a few times and typing what I heard into naver’s online dictionary:  도둑고양이= dodukgoyangi =”burglar-cat” i.e. stray cat.
The other thing that I caught was the term 컵라면(= keopramyeon =”Cup Ramen”). Instant ramen noodles in little cups (just add hot water) are endemic, here.  And there’s nothing novel about the term.  What I noticed for the first time was the pronunciation of the term in rapid speech.  Despite being a hybrid of English (컵 keop cup) and Japanese (라면 ramyeon ramen) borrowings, it still undergoes the very native allophonic convergence at the intersection of the first and second syllables, so that it is pronounced not /keop-ra-myeon/ but rather /keom-na-myeon/.  The terminal /p/ and inital /r/ shift to nasal versions, but retain their points of articulation.  It’s entirely regular in Korean, but as can be seen, it makes recognizing borrowings from other languages a bit difficult in spoken form.  Now, there’s a sort of coolness only a truly geeky linguist-type could appreciate.

Caveat: Null Day

I spent part of the day trying to clean up and organize my computer, a bit.   Too much downloaded crap lying around, as well as the remains of several non-functioning OS installs – one of Windows Server, one of Linux.  I was starting to run out of space.

Of course, as soon as I had space, I downloaded some new stuff.  I started watching a new Korean tv series, after a long hiatus.   More of the standard romantic-comedy genre that I find so informative for trying to pick up bits and pieces of Korean linguistic pragmatics.   The hard-core dramas, especially the historical ones, aren't so useful for that, because nobody talks "normally" in those sorts of shows.

It didn't feel like a very productive day, however. 

Caveat: 고맙습니다

Because it’s that day.
Misty rainy cold day, and man squats under umbrella working at a manhole.
These are the Indigo kids:  James (with alligator), Kelly K, Olivia, Brian, Amy, Flora, Sally, Jessica (강도!), Kelly L (from LF!), Crazy David.
Violets: Gina, James, Jin, Stephanie (from LF!), Paul, Tammy.
The Awesome E2M2: Jimmy, Max, Andy, Willy, Sally, Irene, Scarlet, Cindy, Sarah, Floating Jay (in front).
The E1bM2: Anastasia, Kevin (hiding), bad-boy David, whats-my-homework John, Jack.
The Library Zombies: Richard, Annie, Ella, Hana (boggle boggle sorinae!).
The boys from “Worst Class Ever”: Yosep, Pete, Cooper.
The girls from “Worst Class Ever”: Minerva, Ellen, Jenis, Lynn, Ally, Lydia.

Caveat: 보글보글 소리내

bo-geul-bo-geul so-ri-nae = “it makes a boggle-boggle sound”.  That’s how Hana described the noise she was making, when she said she was imitating a fish.
The kids found my constant repetition of the lovely Korean description of this idea endlessly entertaining. I’ve never seen them laughing so hard. So I milked it:  “보글보글 소리내.  보글보글 소리내,” I repeated.
An unrelated observation. The Obamas, up until a few years ago, shopped at the same Hyde Park food co-op what I used to shop at sometimes, during that time when I lived in Hyde Park. That’s weird. And… actually, I wonder if Obama will be the first president who has ever, in his life, shopped at a food co-op? I bet he is.

Caveat: What really happened at Roswell

I finally have a plausible explanation.  A student writes:

There was a man named Tomas.  Tom was very stupid.  One day he planned to travel to space, but he didn't know that there is no gravity.  So he didn't bring a space suit.  In space he flew along.  When he saw three days later, he was in New Mexico.  He was a little panicked, but he started to travel in New Mexico.  And he became an artist one year later he became very rich.  He lived happily forever.


Caveat: Fear (embedded)

I thought I'd try something new.  My first effort to embed a linked video.  It's brutal, unkind, over-the-top satire.    But it made me laugh.

Get the latest news satire and funny videos at

[Noted added 2010-08-11: The embed is dead. It's really annoying to come back to my blog years later and see the links broken to things like this. I think this is why trying to add embedded materials is a fraught undertaking. I can't find where the original embedded vid went. Oh well. Sorry.]

Caveat: Stab it with your kkochistick

pictureI was walking home with Basil and we were going to stop and buy some chicken-on-a-stick (kkochi), and I saw this decimated kkochistick, with its tiny napkin-banner blowing in the wind, stuck into a tree like the spear of some insane tribesman, leaving a warning to unwary travelers.
I took a picture with my cellphone.
Today was “first snow,” although there wasn’t much… and it kept turning back to rain, so of course nothing stuck.  It sure is beautiful, invigorating weather, though.  I really love it.
Koreans view “first snow” as a significant event.  The kids celebrate it with excitement, and one of our coworkers ran out and bought treats for everyone.  I think it’s a fabulous tradition.
I came home and had some rice with spicy instant soup for dinner, and made some ginger tea.
I’ve been thinking about respect.
In the West, respect is something that’s earned.  And it can be easily lost.
In the East, I think, respect is something each person is due based on his or her position in the social hierarchy (basically matters of age and, in employment, the chain-of-command). Thus, no one can “lose” respect, ever. Perhaps it could be summed up with a phrase such as, “I have been utterly shamed [or hurt, wounded, etc.] by you, but I still must respect you.”
I think that misunderstandings of how respect works differently may be one of the main causes of disillusionment on the part of Westerners working in Korea, and may be one of the main reasons why Korean bosses view Western employees as impudent, rude, or downright lazy, too. I have never seen my boss more confused and at a loss as when I was trying to explain to him the idea of “earned respect.” And he’s someone who has, in fact, spent time in the U.S. How must it be for Koreans who have never had that experience?

Caveat: Government

Regarding the desirability of government:  "We have been through some hard times, but the worst was when we had a government." – Somali businessman Abdirizak Ido, as quoted on the National Geographic website.  A true libertarian disciple, wounja say?

Meanwhile, a columnist named Chris Haire, writing for the Charleston City Paper today, says of Bill Kristol (conservative commentator), "[h]is dreams of a Benevolent Global Hegemony turned out to be a malicious worldwide clusterfuck."  This comment made me laugh for a while.  Especially appearing in a fairly mainstream-seeming blog.  I went on to discover I don't agree with a lot Mr Haire has to say.  But I enjoyed the moment of humor, anyway.

Caveat: Coldnesses

Suddenly, it's winter. The high temperature today was around zero (32F) with strong winds.  The golden leaves on the trees have all dropped to the ground in a very short span. And a snow flurry is forcast for the morning – I'm skeptical, as forecast snow rarely seems to actually materialize in this part of the world.  But we shall see.

I stayed at work until 1am last night, entering grades into the really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really bad computer database system that LBridge uses.  Note that it is really bad, in my opinion. What a monumental waste of time. Jeez. I could build a better database system. And I'm not really a very good applications designer. And by the way I'm not volunteering.

Caveat: … so I will be happy forever.

Jenny writes, "Being happy is the most important thing, so I will be happy forever." This may be a grammatical mistake, but it may be entirely accurate, and simply a demonstration of the extreme cultural gap I face here. But if it is accurate, it is also an appealing life-philosophy, especially compelling coming from a 5th grader. Essentially, the idea that the best reason to be happy is precisely because it is important to be happy. And nothing more than that. How could life be more simple?

Then again, Ryan writes, in answer to the same question, "My ideal job is going around the world and earn money with various job." I can definitely relate to that – and it's pretty rare for a Korean kid to come up with such a radical idea as being a vaguely bohemian world vagabond.

Caveat: 좀비천사 vs 타락천사!

좀비천사 (jom-bi-cheon-sa=Zombie Angel Jared) battles 타락천사 (ta-rak-cheon-sa=Corrupted Angel Tommy) in singular combat, while 강도 (the “robber” Jessica, a student) is referee (심판) from her futuristic skeleton skateboard (note her long pony tail and vicious grin). As interpreted by James, in grade 3.
Who will emerge victorious? Tune in next week…
Actually, Tommy is one of my colleagues whom I get along with better than most. He’s a very laid-back dude. Still, he bears a striking resemblance to his angelic alter-ego as portrayed here. Note the slathery slobber and scary horns. Or…
OK, just kidding. ㅋㅋㅋ

Caveat: My Korean Childhood

I sat and watched Brandon being disciplined by Pi Seon-u (our principal). I felt dirty, watching it.  I always do.  It's not really that bad, I tell myself.  It's the way things are done here.  Mr Pi makes Brandon hold a ream of photocopy paper on his hands, outstretched.

What I'm seeing is identical to the sorts of hazing exercises that were so common in basic training, in the US Army.  You hold out your arms, palms downward, straight in front of you.  Your M16 sits on top.  It's not really that heavy, you tell yourself.  And it's not.  But holding it there for more than half a minute or so is incredibly difficult.  Try it sometime.  It takes discipline, and it hurts the outstretched muscles in the arms and in the back of your hands.

Brandon holds it.  Drops it.  Picks it up and holds it again. Mr Pi lectures him in soft tones. I don't understand what's being said, but it's easy to imagine. Behave. Self-discipline. Don't disappoint.  Work hard. What would your parents think? Do you want to end up a failure?

Brandon is such an intelligent and bright-spirited boy. A fifth-grader, I think… he was at LinguaForum, before coming to Hellbridge. But he's the kind of boy that gives the term "bouncing off the walls" literal resonance. In the US, he would be labeled ADHD and would be strung out on ritalin. Anyway… it's easy for me to imagine what he might have done to antagonize his teacher – I sent him out of my classroom more than once, myself, back when I had him at LF.

And I wonder. Is it possible to learn discipline, for me, at this late age in life? I had a singularly undisciplined childhood, and despite that, I still play the same sorts of lecture scripts in my head.  Not that they're successful.  Not that they impart any kind of self-discipline. But they're there.

Can I, now, learn discipline? I feel guilty that I don't have it, when I watch someone like Brandon being disciplined. Disciplined.


Can I look at it from a Foucauldian perspective, theoretically, and still continue to believe that it has value for the individual? Can I see the cruelty of it, with children, and still believe that it could have value, for me? It seems so.

I think it might be the case that I'm sticking it out at Hellbridge because of this burning quest for discipline.  Those piles of papers to correct… they impart discipline. I've enrolled myself in a new sort of psychic boot camp.


Korean culture approaches almost all collective cultural pursuits (schooling, work, even social gatherings) in a way that Americans reserve for boot camp:  social spaces provide a means to impart the collective discipline on the individual.  And the individual is there to soak it up. 

Falling down is common. And the response is supposed to be:  pick yourself up, brush yourself off, and soldier on. Push hard, fail hard, push some more.

Not everyone picks up and soldiers on.  And the shame of failing… of not picking up… is excruciating for the individual. The suicide rate is very high in Korea, especially among students. A 10-year-old boy was in the news, recently; he committed suicide over academic pressures. A 10-year-old! Kids like Brandon. 

Koreans shake their heads, feeling sadness and sympathy. Even empathy, I'm sure. But they never question the basic premise: the failure belongs to the individual, the success, to the collective. Not one Korean whom I overheard discussing it thought to question if the boy's parents might not have been doing a perfectly adequate job, in placing such pressures on him, or thought to wonder if the academic system here bears some responsibility. 

If Brandon turns up dead tomorrow, what will people say? What will they believe? What will I feel?Would I be complicit, because I've watched Mr Pi disciplining him from the corner of my eye, with a disturbing mixture of distaste and envy? Yes, envy: that I had such strength of spirit. To fall down, pick up, and soldier on.


Caveat: Ragged Point, 1998

The following is a fairy tale.

He parked the maroon Pontiac on the side of of highway one just north of Ragged Point, California, facing the setting sun and the vast, swarming, grey Pacific.  He'd driven it down slightly into the bushes, so it wasn't entirely visible from the highway.  He'd bought 100 tablets of diphenhydramine and a liter of vodka.  He began swallowing the pills with swigs of vodka, and watched the sun sink into the banks of fog rolling off the sea.

He managed to swallow more than half the tablets.  He went lightly with the vodka, because he didn't want to throw it all up, like that other time.  This was meant to be the end. 

There was a very quiet period.  There was crying.  Impotent anger at the world.

Then it was dark, and he felt his heart accelerating.  Had minutes passed?  Hours?  "This is it," he muttered.

He perceived his heart beating very strongly, he began to black out, feel dizzy. Nauseated.  "Shit."

He felt his lungs laboring.  He was burning up.  He saw nothing but blackness, he heard a buzzing.  And his banging, angry heart, leaping in his chest.

He started to scream.  Or would have been screaming, but his lungs were out of his control.  Was he even breathing?  This really was it.  Death.  Such a vivid experience.  But… oh, and there's the white light.  Let's analyze this, he thought.  Let's think this through.  The heart has stopped.  It has?  It really has.  The chest is tight.  He felt numbness creeping up his limbs.  Shit, no heart.  Really. 

So what's the white light?  Perfectly logical, he reflected.  The brain is losing oxygen, right?  So… the part of the brain farthest from the heart shuts down first, right?  And that's at the back… the visual cortex.  The center of the field of vision is processed at the part of the brain farthest back, farthest from the oxygen-supplying blood.

And, so… what if, logically, the "default" signal is "whiteness"–light–not darkness?  Then, as the brain "died," the whiteness would spread out in a circle from the center of the field of vision, as the neurons in the visual cortex went "offline."  The white light, the tunnel with the light at the end, approaching the white light… these are merely the brain trying to make sense of the fact that the visual cortex "dies" from the center outward. 

Yes, he was really thinking exactly these things, as he lay dying, in the driver's seat of the maroon Pontiac parked in the bushes off of Highway One at Ragged Point. 

And then he felt some kind of seizure… it was remote from his "self," because all his limbs and body felt numb.  But some kind of banging.  And the heart still not beating.  Hasn't it been an awfully long time?  The white light is so big.  His brain was dying. 

Always a fan of black sarcasm, he decided on his last words, to himself, as a committed agnostic.  "Unto you I commend my spirit," he quipped, to a god who'd never once answered him.  And only a stunning silence, at that moment, was the reply, too.  But he himself spoke the next words, instead.  He himself answered, "aww, fuck this.  You're not done yet!"

And he felt his heart start beating wildly, and he felt his lungs gulping air, and he somehow managed to pop the door open, and roll out of the seat of the car and onto the damp, dewy grass outside and bang his head on the gravel.

And time passed.  And stars were whirling overhead.  And the journey began.  It was the night of November 17th.  He was… nowhere. On Earth.  Alive?  He began to walk away from Ragged Point.

Maybe not alive.  He walked through a tree.  He saw bench, but could not sit on it. 

"I'm a ghost," he decided. 

He saw some approaching headlights on the highway, and so he went down and stood in the middle of the road.  The car went through him.

Definitely a ghost.  Like Pedro Paramo, in Juan Rulfo's tale, he meditated.  Pedro went down into Comala, and didn't know he was a ghost.  He talked to the spirits he met there, including his dead father.

The man climbed a hill, passing through brambles that he didn't notice, and noticing the spirits of other dead people around him.  Spirits?  "Are we all dead here, together?" 

Somewhere in among some trees on a hillside, he found a spaceship.  And down the steps of that spaceship, he saw his uncle.

"So you're dead too?" he asked.  His uncle shrugged.  Said nothing.  Offered nothing.  Walked away down toward the highway again.  He followed.  It was an arduous journey.  Just a month ago, he'd been on his uncle's land in Alaska, but that hadn't been the right thing to do.  The wilderness was very lonely, and loneliness… oh, loneliness.

He walked for a long time.

The stars whirled in the sky.  Cars and trucks passed through him.  He was a ghost.

He found some other ghosts, living in a hole beside the highway.  They did not talk.  They were ghosts.  He did not talk, either.  He lay on the cold pavement and waited for something to happen.  He watched the sky, and began to wonder about the voice that had spoken, so angrily, in response to his hubristic sarcasm.  "You're not done yet."  Done?  It had been his own voice.  Full of strength.

It was at this moment that he realized it was true.  There was no god.  It was all illusion.  Wishful thinking.  Having become a ghost, he ceased being agnostic, for there was no longer any need to hedge bets.  A nihilistic certitude gripped him.  It was a warm, comforting nihilism, such as he'd never felt before.

He remembered he'd been following his uncle.  But… where had that man gone?  It was hard to stand up.  Hard to peel himself off of the cool pavement.

The stars whirled in the sky.

He fell down and felt a moment of pain.  A moment of doubt, about his ghosthood.   Ghost.

He cried, for a long time.  He couldn't find his uncle.

He was a ghost.

The stars whirled in the sky.

But… the sky in the east was turning pale green, the hills of the California coast.  Was he going to spend his eternity here, on the edge of the world, as an atheistic ghost?

He sat on some gravel beside the road, but no cars came by.  The sun was rising.  He felt cold, but not terribly.

He saw a convenience store.  Because he was a ghost, he decided to go through the wall.  But the wall… was solid.  He sat down on his butt, and laughed.  Not a ghost, after all?

Then what?  Where was he?  He sat on the curb in front of the convenience store, which appeared abandoned, now, in the clear morning light.  There were no more spirits wandering the empty highway.  A truck barreled past.

"Shit," he muttered.  Still alive.  Not done yet.

He stood up, and brushed dirt off his shirt.  He stood beside the road, and stuck his thumb out at the next car that went by.  Several cars later, a pickup truck stopped and a man asked if he was OK. 

"No," he answered.  "I need to get into town."  He didn't make too much conversation after that, but alluded to an imaginary car problem.

The pickup truck driver dropped the man off in Cambria.  He realized he'd somehow covered more than 30 miles from where he'd parked his maroon Pontiac at Ragged Point, but only 5 or so of those miles had been in the man's pickup truck.  Had he walked 20-something miles among the ghosts in the night?

He called his father collect, and explained what had happened, elliptically.  He bought a bus ticket to San Luis Obispo, with the last of his cash, and his father collected him there.  His father took the man to the emergency room to make sure he'd survived his ordeal more or less intact.  Then the father had the man committed to a "mental health facility" in Alhambra. 

The man descended into a catatonic depression, then.  He kept dreaming he was back at Ragged Point.  But he wasn't done, yet.   The November air in Southern California always smells of honeysuckle and asphalt.   That's the smell of… not being done, yet.

A series of ECT sessions broke the catatonic depression.  Six years of therapy and antidepressants mostly banished the darknesses that had always haunted him to the corners of his mind.  He had a semi-successful career, even.  But he was restless.  He kept wandering.

Ten years later, he dreams about Ragged Point.  About the stars whirling in the sky.  Sometimes, he speculates that he is, in fact, a ghost.  Still, he's not done yet.


I think he managed to swallow about 60 tablets.  That would make well over a 1000 mg of diphenhydramine.  Doses above around 800 mg are generally considered potentially fatal, and combining it with another CNS depressant such as alcohol increases risk considerably.  It was not, perhaps, the simplest or most painless way to try to go, but it had been well-thought-out.  A previous attempt, at a motel in Maryland, had been ill-considered and unsuccessful… too much alcohol, and not enough sleeping pills, had led to vomiting and unconsciousness, but had never had much of an actual risk of death.

The wikipedia article on diphenhydramine points out, regarding the "recreational" use of the drug, that "people who consume a high recreational dose can possibly find themselves in a hallucination which places them in a familiar situation with people and friends and rooms they know, while in reality being in a totally different setting."  This correlates well with the man's experience at Ragged Point.  Regarding the actual potential of death… high overdoses are generally accompanied by symptoms such as tachycardia, hyperpyrexia, and seizures, all of which the man remembers vividly.

Speculation on the part of the hospital intake staff the next day was that he'd induced a minor heart attack in himself.  Whether his memory of his heart actually stopping was a hallucination or a real experience is anyone's guess, but it does match well with the expected profile of an overdose at the level he attempted;  wikipedia says, "considerable overdosage can lead to myocardial infarction (heart attack)."

Caveat: Mac n Cheese

I got home and found myself craving macaroni and cheese. Like, the kind you make from a box, with that weird radioactive orange powder, that’s so delicious. Well, it’s impossible to buy that in Korea, I think.  But I was inspired to attempt to make it anyway. I boiled some macaroni pasta that I had on hand, and drained it and added milk, and then I melted some slices of orange presliced Korean american-style cheese into it.
It didn’t quite work out. It was edible, but it lacked that tangy flavor I associate with boxed mac n cheese. It was an effort, anyway.
pictureIn other news: can I commit myself to staying cheery and positive at work? I don’t know. I should try. If I can fool my students into thinking I’m always happy, surely it can’t be such a huge leap to make my coworkers think likewise? What do I get out of them thinking I’m a grouch and a humbug, after all?
One other recent insight: things like joy and sadness and anger are actually amazingly superficial. Right on the surface. They don’t define us, not even in the moment. The deep part, that defines us, doesn’t have those things.

Caveat: Rainforest

The picture is of a quilt made by my mother. She explains that it is “a copy (interpretation / based on) an illustration by William T. Cooper from Visions of a Rainforest by Stanley Breeden, I suspect you need to attribute it to him.”
So there’s the attribution. I like it… and it shows she’s pretty talented, too; it’s hard to imagine that that is a quilt, from the picture. Pretty cool.

Caveat: “He can only see inside himself”

I don't necessarily feel comfortable when in-class chit-chat wanders in the direction of my opinion about other teachers or staff at LBridge.  I don't encourage it, but on the other hand, since I am such a firm believer in the core importance of communication in language teaching and learning, I don't always steer conversation away from it, either–especially if the kids seem really interested or engaged in the question at hand.

Anyway, the kids were discussing some of the merits and drawbacks of various of their teachers.  I remained non-commital as to what my personal opinions were. But one of my students, Ally, made a remarkably insightful observation in not-so-perfect English about one of my colleagues, who shall remain nameless.  She said, "He can only see inside himself." Basically, this fifth-grade Korean EFL student managed to capture, in English, the fact that the man in question is sometimes disturbingly narcissistic and eerily peculiar in his affective relationships with others – a touch of Asperger Syndrome, perhaps. "Plus, he's rude," Ally added, almost as an afterthought.

Of course, I'd hate to hear what they say about me behind my back.  But as always – and contrary to what many of my peer teachers believe – I suspect that in some ways kids are more sincere judges of character than most adults, and whatever they say behind my back, I'd be inclined to take it to heart.

Caveat: Pepero Day

November 11 is Pepero Day.   It's a silly, contrived holiday that makes Valentine's look laden with tradition and seriousness.  But a lot of kids gave me Pepero cookies as gifts. 

In other news, my boss basically had a tantrum at me today.  He was very angry.  I've seen him very angry before, but never directly at me.  It was very unpleasant.  The basis for his complaint was legitimate, but hardly grounds for a tantrum.  Then again, it was basically in response to the inappropriate way in which I deal with my anger and frustrations–which is to write nastly little passive-aggressive letters explaining what is bothering me.

The original problem:  the fact that CD-players in the school have a rather annoyingly high "failure" rate.  It's very depressing and frustrating to go into class with a CD that needs to be played and a player, and have it not work.  So I wrote a note about how it seemed like it would be a good idea to invest in more reliable equipment, especially since the students today commented to me about the problem, to the effect of, "this really makes it seem like my parents are wasting their money here."  Which is a pretty astute observation from a 6th grader.   Yet pretty typical for a snipy pre-adolescent.  But I'm betting the fact that I conveyed this student observation to my boss, 피선우, is what set him off.  Nothing is worse in the hagwon biz than looking bad to the students or their parents.   But he really didn't manage his anger well.

I'm not naive enough to think that boss-tantrums are rare in Korea – I watch too much Korean television for that.  But it certainly seems excessive and inappropriate to my American sensibilities.  I would go so far as to say, this is the first time in life that I've had a supervisor yell so directly and angrily at me.  And how should I deal with this?

Psychologically, I'm in a terrible place right now, and I'm struggling not to go off the deep end.  But something is pushing me.  It's related, at least in part, to a rather significant upcoming 10th-year-anniversary.   Let's call it Ragged Point Day, November 17, 1998.  Those who know me well know what this day is.   And I'm pushing myself very, very hard to not do anything rash or regrettable, specifically because of the need to feel that I've "grown past" the mental issues that led me to Ragged Point in the first place.  It's why I haven't quit LBridge.  Why I'm putting up with the shit.  Why I'm terrified of backing off a cliff, yet feeling cornered.

Caveat: 떡볶이 Yum!

I worked for about 4 hours today. I walked to work amid the crisp air and fall leaves, and took this picture on the path amid the apartment blocks where typically go. When I was walking home, I stopped at a stand and bought some 떡볶이. This particular variety included the basic sliced tubular-shaped rice-cakes, in a slightly sweet red chili pepper sauce with 오뎅 (sliced fish cake, a kind of fish sausagy thing, same as 어묵?).  I took it home and ate it with some real cheese I’d bought the other day. Unconventional combination, but delicious.
I then went off to surf comedy web videos. I witnessed the following scene, in which Governor Palin is played by none other than that spiffy satarist, ObamaGirl. I realize that now that the election has occurred, this is old news. But after the little clip ended, I laughed for a long time. Not sure why.
Putin: I’ve come to take Alaska back, for Mother Russia.
Palin: Not on my watch!  [She does brutal judo moves on his ass, giving him a bloody nose – this is ironic, given that Putin holds a black belt in judo]
Putin: [grinning] You have strooong thighs, like Russian bear.

Caveat: Foggy… Guilty… Gold, Falling Leaves.

It’s a rare foggy night in Ilsan. And somewhere along the way, it suddenly became deep autumn: the trees are all turning yellow and gold fast, and leaves are piling up on the sidewalks.
I dreamed about my cat (ex-cat?) Bernie, last night. It was sad, as yesterday I’d gotten an email from my brother (who shares partial custody of her, I guess you might say, with my father), saying that she was seeming sick, and so he’s taking her to the vet.
In my dream, I was visiting some people (unspecified people), and they had cats. The cats were all very friendly with me. But then I noticed that Bernie was there, too.  But she wasn’t being friendly. She was sitting very quietly, looking at me in the distrusting way cats have of looking at you. A fairly transparent dream – my guilt over having left her when I came to Korea, right?

Caveat: 라이프이즈굳빰빰

“ra-i-peu-i-jeu-gut-ppam-ppam” = “life is good [konglish] bam bam” this is some kind of a song lyric, which I saw as a text-message on a student’s cell phone.
And the students in the same class declared, “Oh, she should be your daughter!” I was surprised, “Really?  Why?” “Because she is always happy.” Does this mean they see me as “always happy”? That’s another triumph for my ability to forget my frustrations at the doorway to the classroom, and be on my best for the students.
Meanwhile, Obama took one step closer to his ultimate destiny: to be Space Emperor. Here is an electoral map I found, valid as of 11 pm Korea Standard Time:

Caveat: Space Emperor Obama, Quoting Lincoln

Space Emperor Obama's book, The Audacity of Hope, gives clear evidence of his dangerous socialist tendencies… as, for example, when he quotes that proto-communist, Lincoln, on page 188.  The future Space Emperor writes:

But our history should give us confidence that we don't have to choose between an oppressive, government-run  economy and a chaotic, unforgiving capitalism.  It tells us that we can emerge from great economic upheavals stronger, not weaker.  Like those who came before us, we should be asking ourselves what mix of policies will lead to a dynamic free market and widespread economic security, entrepreneurial innovation and upward mobility.  And we can be guided throughout by Lincoln's simple maxim:  that we will do collectively, through our government, only those things that we cannot do as well or at all individually and privately.

Caveat: Extratoritory

Christine, a coworker, reported that a student was inventing words in her class today.  This is not uncommon, but I liked the reported student's efforts today especially: 

extratoritory — a law where the president can do whatever he wants.

Caveat: 수건돌리기

On Friday, my “Indigo” students (2nd and 3rd graders) taught me the game called “수건돌리기” (su-geon-dol-li-gi which is translated in naver’s dictionary as “drop the handkerchief”). We played it during the last 5 minutes of class, because we had extra time because I’d cancelled a vocabulary quiz. They were very hyper because of the halloween candy in circulation, so it seemed best to let them work off energy.  It’s a bit like musical chairs… with lots of screaming and running around. It was fun.

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