Caveat: Ten Miles From Crazy

I've gotten some messages from people I know, in the vein of "Are you OK?" recently, because of all the wacky threatening and counter-threatening that's been going on here in the Korean peninsula. A lot of people in North America or other distant places don't really understand just how "same as usual" this type of thing is. So just to reiterate: I'm fine.

I live exactly 10 miles, as a crow flies, from North Korea. I checked it out on google maps. But if I didn't look at the news, I'd never know there was a problem. It literally seems to have zero impact on my day-to-day life. If push comes to shove and things go crazy, they will probably go crazy really fast. But if that happens, I'll figure it's about the same as an earthquake or tornado or some other natural disaster. Most Koreans I know look at it that way: it's not something they can control, and it's just a hazard of living here. Just in exactly the same way that living in San Francisco means you have in the back of your mind that there might be a giant earthquake someday, or living in Oklahoma means you have to imagine there might be a tornado at some point.

I know I've written about this before. Probably exactly in the same way – This Here Blog Thingy™ is getting a bit long in tooth – in the blogular timescale of things – and so repetition may become inevitable. But anyway, don't worry. Unless you like to worry about earthquakes and tornados, too.

What I'm listening to right now.

Sixto Rodriguez, "Cause."


Caveat: Tláloc


Que me canso
De ser Dios
Que me canso
De llover
Sobre mojado

Que aquí
Nada sucede
Sino la  lluvia

– Efraín Huerta, 21 de agosto de 1969

Huerta fue un gran poeta mexicano. Fue uno de los primeros poetas que leí en español.

Tláloc es el nombre náhuatl del dios azteca de la lluvia y de los lagos y ríos.

Me gusta también este otro poema, aún más corto, sobre el revolucionario argentino, Ernesto "Che" Guevara .


Para Eugenia Huerta



Caveat: 말이야 좋지

말이야       좋지
word-CONTR good-SUSP
Words are good [but…]

I understand this almost perfectly but I’m just as almost clueless how to understand the grammar of it.

It’s not really a complete sentence – the “-지” ending on the verb stem “좋” is what I think of as a contingent negative, a sort of non-finite subjunctive or something like that (in saying that, I don’t mean to offer some alternative interpretation to the formal linguistic description – e.g. Martin calls it a “suspective” ending, but that term [like most of Martin’s] seems rather misleading [or limiting] about usage). So you could read the verb as “I suppose it’s good” and then you add the contrastive “-이야” on the noun “말” which means all kinds of things, but mostly “words.”

So eventually you get something like “Sure, words are good, but…”

In fact, this phrase basically seems to mean: “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”

Caveat: An amalgam of sorrows

What I'm listening to right now.

Assemblage 23, "Damaged."

This song explains why I'm single.


I am merely the product
Of the life that I've lived
An amalgam of sorrows
And the wisdom they give
But the weight has grown heavy
And its dragging me down
It's so hard not to sink now
But I don't want to drown

I'm damaged
But somehow I've managed
This far
But I don't know if I can find my way back home
I'm damaged
But somehow I've managed
For now
But I don't think I can face this on my own

There is beauty in hardship
There are poems in grief
There are trials we must go through
Though they may shake our beliefs

But I don't know how I got here
Lost in the cynical dusk
Set adrift in the worry
That I've no one to trust

I'm damaged
But somehow I've managed
This far
But I don't know if I can find my way back home
I'm damaged
But somehow I've managed
For now
But I don't think I can face this on my own

If to suffer is holy
I'll take my share of the pain
I can swim through this sadness
If there's something to gain

I can reach for the surface
And try to pull myself free
But the last thing I want is
To drag you down here with me

I'm damaged
But somehow I've managed
This far
But I don't know if I can find my way back home
I'm damaged
But somehow I've managed
For now
But I don't think I can face this on my own

Caveat: Bad

"All the other classes are playing. Last day of month." Kevin had an expression halfway between offended and desperate. "It's not fair."

Jinu, in the front row, squirmed his discomfort, and tried to peer out the classroom door, down the hall, toward these other classes allegedly playing.

"Fair?" I asked. "This class really hasn't earned play time," I said. This went over most of the kids' heads – earn isn't a word they've likely learned yet. I tried to simplify. "You're a bad class. Bad!" I said this with a little too much conviction. They shrank back in their seats.

"OK, then, where were we?"

What I'm listening to right now.

Gary Wright, "Dream Weaver" (1975).


Caveat: 기대가 크면 실망도 크다

기대가             크면      실망도               크다
expectation-SUBJ be-big-IF disappointment-TOO be-big
If expectation is big then disappointment is big.

“Big hopes lead to big disappointments.” This was easier than most of the proverbs I’ve attempted lately. The grammar was pretty straightforward and the vocabulary was basic.

I can relate to this proverb.

Caveat: Hello! and Enormous Turnips!

Hello 004

With my second graders, we were going to do a play based on the story about The Enormous Turnip, with some musical bits, based on a script in our text, but the kids found the script too hard to memorize and disliked the costumes too. Furthermore, there were five characters but only three students. So we did a "dramatic reading" instead. I think they did fine. I'm happy with them and they are very cute.

The picture at the top was drawn by one of the girls in the play. She did it freehand and presented it to me, saying "Hello!" She's a pretty good artist.

Caveat: Harping on Consistency

I think one of the issues I've had with the hagwon business as I've experienced it is the utter disregard for genuine consistency in how rules are applied to students or parents alike. Or worse, the utter lack of rules. It's about relationships but everything is therefore subjective and unpredictable to someone "not in the loop." I guess there's nothing wrong with trying to have a personal relationship with each of your customers, but it makes for an unscalable business model on the one hand, and it makes for unpredictable quality of outcomes on the other. I get really tired of the line "well, for this student, do this way, because her mom wants that, but for this other student, do this other way, because his mom wants that other way." Some students stay late when they don't do their homework; for others it's forbidden. Some get "level up" even though their test scores are inadequate; others stay behind despite better scores. Some get special schedules: "little Haneul only comes on Monday's and Fridays, so you have to remember to tell her about the Wednesday homework."

This comes about in part because of all these personal relationships. But… there's no one tracking it all. It's not in any system that anyone has ever told me about. It's utterly unpredictable and unscalable. And ultimately, I think it leads to poor quality outcomes.

The end result is that you're not able to track your progress as an institution, you're not able to compare one student to another because they're all being treated differently. I have nothing against providing personalized attention and even bespoke curricula to students. But at some point, there has to be an objective standard: where are we trying to get this student, ultimately? What constitutes acceptable progress, and if the student isn't meeting benchmarks of progress, what should our response be? It's quite telling that I'm not even able to have this conversation with my coworkers, much less get any kind of answer. They are befuddled that it should concern me. The only thing that matters is: will the student continue to enroll at our hagwon? That's putting the cart before the horse… provide a quality education to your students, then customers (parents) will recognize that, and they will continue to enroll.

My boss has an ambition to be a successful
businessman. I know that he thinks highly of an entrepreneur like Steve Jobs – he somewhat idolizes him. In light of this, I'd like to make an observation about Jobs' business style, as I've understood it. Steve Jobs
never seemed worried about how much market share he was getting. Until
recently, Apple was always a "minority" product – a niche. Jobs would
identify a niche market at the "top end" and focus on quality,
consistency and attention-to-detail. He never worried about who was
interested in his product. He was happy to turn away customers who were
not interested in his product. He was happy to tell customers to go buy the competition if he wasn't meeting their needs. That created an elite and clubby feel to his niche, and conveyed an image of extremely
high quality, which may or may not have been really accurate. I think that kind of strategy can be successful in a Korean for-profit hagwon,
too. It's a similarly fragmented and commodified market, despite the huge differences. Don't try to be every thing to every customer. That's impossible.
Decide what students you want to teach, decide what kinds of parents you
want to work for, and stick with them. Never be afraid to say "I'm
sorry, but this hagwon is NOT a good place for what you want. Please
shop somewhere else." There are many parents and students who might be
too expensive – in both time and effort – to match what you can offer.

There a
many niches in the English hagwon market. Choose ONE. Only ONE. Then… do it better than
anyone else.

Caveat: 부전자전 (父傳子傳)

부전자전 (父傳子傳)
… transmission from father to son.

“Like father like son.” This is another one of those “actually it’s Chinese-not-Korean” proverbs I’ve been running across. A Chinese proverb nativized into Korean in toto. Just like Latin fossils persist in English, e.g. “in toto.” This one, according to the dictionary, can even be made into a verb: just put the good ol’ -하다 on the whole thing, and it’s a verb meaning to transmit from father to son. I like that.

I’m more like my father than I prefer. I’m a bit of a flake – not very reliable. Further, I tend to not reach out or communicate with people. This is clearly a trait of both my parents, but more my father than my mother in style and mode.

Caveat: Dunes

What I'm listening to right now.

PldunesCat Stevens (Yusuf Islam), "Lilywhite."

This song makes me remember my years living at my then-stepfather's on the edge the Arcata bottomland, in the late 1970's when I was young adolescent. The property backed onto the Lanphere-Christensen Dunes preserve (which is his half-namesake). I would explore the dunes on my own on rainy days when no one else wanted to be out there. I would sit in my room and read Ursula LeGuin novels, listening to the rain on the metal roof and playing Cat Stevens.

Caveat: Cronus and Casanova Walk Into a Hagwon Named Karma. . .

In the non-stop laugh-fest called the BISP1-M 반 class on the elementary side, we were attempting to read a painfully bowdlerized version of the Greek myth of how Zeus came back and killed Kronos. It's surprising the extent to which certain rarefied aspects of Western mythology permeate Korean pop culture – apparently, most of the kids already knew this story. There may be some song or video or "gag show" comic routine involved in their knowledge of this, but a truly bizarre moment came when, as I was explaining the bizarre facts of the Zeus myth, a fifth grader named Kevin burst out in song. I'm not familiar with the song.

I was talking about how strange it is that when Zeus give the poison to his dad, Kronos, the old man proceeds to vomit up his other children, whom he'd eaten earlier in the story. I'm miming the act of vomiting for the kids, since it's not a well-known vocabulary item. And fifth graders being fifth graders,  this is profoundly entertaining, in a way few other things can be. So we're having fun. And then, right as I say, "and they're not even babies!" (talking about how the eaten children that Kronos vomits up are now grown-up siblings), a boy named Kevin croons, "Ahhh, Ohh, Casanovaaa!"

Huh wuh?  Casanova? How's he fit in this story? One of the girls yells out, "Zeus was a Casanova!"

Well. I guess they know this story already. "Not really a normal Casanova," I try to amend. But it's really too late – they are all dissolving in tears of giggles. And that's how the class ended.

As a kind of nerdly incidental, I would like to point out that it is speculatively believed by many Indo-Europeanists that the Greek name Kronos and the Sanskrit "karma" share a common etymology, a sort of "cutting" or "inscription."

Caveat: Cha

I said to my student, "Whatcha doin?"

He shrugged.

"Do you understand my question?" I asked. He was a fairly advanced student.

He shook his head.

I slowed it down, but I deliberately retained the phonological contractions, because I had an intuition as to the problem, and I was curious. "What cha doin?" I repeated. I was turning it into a lesson.

There was a long pause. Then he asked, "What is 'cha'?" He was perplexed.

Indeed. Here's the thing: he's not a beginning student. If ever there was a sign that the kids need more interaction with native speakers, this was it.

Caveat: 절반의 성공

절반의     성공
half-GEN success
[…like] half of success.

“You’re halfway!” “See the cup as half-full, not as half empty.” I’m think this proverb is meant in this vein, like as a way of encouraging people. But I could be misunderstanding it, and it might mean “Not worth the effort.” I have no idea. Then again, it might be neutral in meaning, indicating you could look at it either way.

Given my own pessimistic tendencies, I should take this kind of thinking more to heart. I’m much better at being optimistic toward others than I am toward myself.

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Caveat: Fences

"You mustn’t believe in your own religion; I don’t believe in mine. Religions are like the fences that hold young saplings erect. Without the fence the sapling could fall over. When it takes firm root and becomes a tree, the fence is no longer needed. However, most people never lose their need for the fence." – Swami Muktananda

Caveat: Gotta go, buffalo

I want to build a lesson plan around this "Good-Bye Poem." It's a composite of several versions I have found. I'm sure there are many variations.

The Good-Bye Poem

Alligators5fa46b6849b46c7751d902ebd9146360See you later, alligator!

After a while, crocodile!
In an hour, sunflower!
Maybe two, kangaroo!
Gotta go, buffalo!
Adios, hippos!
Ciao, ciao, brown cow!
See you soon, baboon!
Adieu, cockatoo!
Better swish, jellyfish.
Chop, chop, lollipop.
Gotta run, skeleton!
Bye-bye, butterfly!
Better shake, rattle snake.
Give a hug, ladybug!
Blow a kiss, goldfish!
Take care, polar bear!
Our school day now ends.
So, good-bye, good friends!

I could see making the lesson for my lowest level (1st and 2nd graders) all the way up to my most advanced (e.g. my current "poetry" unit with my 9th graders).

Caveat: alone in austere emeraldry

The Nigerian author Chinua Achebe has passed away. I vividly recall reading his novel Things Fall Apart – it was something assigned in a university class of some kind, but it had an impact on me, and I returned to it and reread it many years later and it will pop into my mind sometimes. It's a great book.

I always felt some ambivalence about Achebe as a personality (as opposed as an author) because, like so many great authors from poor, post-colonial countries, he seemed to exist mostly in Europe and the US. I'm thinking in terms of the great Latin Americans whom I loved reading so much, but all of whom were living lives as academics in US universities: Carlos Fuentes, Octavio Paz, Gabriel García Márquez, Isabel Allende. Achebe was the same – he lived in New York and New England for most of the second half of his long life [UPDATE: shortly after posting this I ran across a very interesting meditation on Achebe that pursues this aspect in depth – it's not at all flattering to one's perception of Achebe, however].

I don't mean this despectively. It is simply a reality that talented writers will gravitate to places where they can be well paid for their talents. But it creates a certain ambivalence vis-a-vis their having crafted  narratives critical of colonialism and neocolonialism.

… enough of uncharitable ranting.

What's undeniable is that Achebe was a great writer – one of the greatest of the 20th century.

A poem of his:

Pine Tree in Spring

(for Leon Damas)

Pine tree
flag bearer
of green memory
across the breach of a desolate hour

Loyal tree
that stood guard
alone in austere emeraldry
over Nature’s recumbent standard

Pine tree
lost now in the shade
of traitors decked out flamboyantly
marching back unabashed to the colors they betrayed

Fine tree
erect and trustworthy
what school can teach me
your silent, stubborn fidelity?

Caveat: Outraded

In the past, I have actually been [broken link! FIXME] quite [broken link! FIXME] fascinated by Intrade. And it wasn't a small thing – it struck me as a "next big thing." But apparently as of last week, Intrade is out of business – just go to their homepage. I wonder what happened? No doubt something scandalous, right?

What I'm listening to right now.

Muse, "Animals."

Caveat: Evolving National Wealth

It's amazing the interesting things that can be done with survey data. This chart reposted at the I Love Charts tumblr (from a site called upworthy) is fascinating.


I wonder where South Korea would be on this chart – I have a sort of suspicion it would be an outlier much like the US, and for similar cultural reasons – i.e. the prevalence of evangelical strains of Christianism.

I also would be curious to see the same chart with each US state separated out and treated as separate countries with their individual state-level survey results and varying individual state-GDP figures. Would there still be outliers? Or would you find each individual state cleaving closer to the curious curve that was discovered?

Caveat: Isolating

Last night I did something I don't normally do – I rejected a direct invitation to socialize with my coworkers. Since coming to Korea, I've always been pretty dedicated to participating in the 회식 [hoesik] custom of "work-related social gatherings." In principle, I think they're a good thing.

Perhaps, in reading between the lines, it's obvious to people that I'm less than satisfied with how things have been at work. I've had some singularly frustrating interactions with the hagwon management over issues related to teaching load, curriculum control and changes, etc., and I have been developing a sense that my karma may not indefinitely include Karma. So I just felt that a social outing at this juncture would be more of a complainfest than any kind of enjoyable interaction.

A coworker said that that was the point – he told me I had to let my frustration out of my system. But in my conception, the Korean custom of going out with coworkers, getting plastered with soju and then saying all kinds of inappropriate things that one later regrets… well, that never seemed like a good way to relax.

The same person told me to be careful: "You're isolating," he said. He was meaning that I was rejecting human contact. "I'm only isolating from my coworkers," I defended myself. I still spend more than 30 hours each week interacting, intensively, with children – who, by the way, are much more enjoyable company than my drunk coworkers. So… how, exactly, am I "isolating," in the psychological sense?

I'm merely being selective in the scope of who I chose to not isolate with.

Caveat: My Blog Will No Longer Be Cross-Posting To Facebook

Many of my friends and family who read my blog read it because of the fact that at least half the time, I remember to check the little box on my blog publishing window that cross-posts my blog entry to facebookland, where they can run across my blog entries in their facebook news feeds. This may not be happening much, moving forward, because the facebook cross-posting feature here at my typepad blog host seems to be perpetually broken. Personally, I suspect it's more likely the fault of facebook than the fault of typepad, but the end result is the same either way: not many of my blog posts will be appearing on facebook. Based on surveying some help tickets at typepad, no one seems able or interested in fixing this problem.


This is a reminder to my friends and family who happen to read my blog that you'll see me much more reliably if you come to my blog directly. It's easy to remember or bookmark:

Meanwhile, I will cross-post this entry to facebookland manually, just to let everyone know.

Caveat: A Wikinfestation of Squeakinge Lisards

I long ago lost any interest whatsoever in writing or editing for wikipedia. There was a time, in the early aughts, when I was making a concerted effort to author bits in wikipedia. Mostly, I wrote and edited articles related to Mexican and US geography.
I gave up – mostly because I so frequently found my efforts rejected or altered beyond recognition by the wikipowers-that-be. Perhaps it was laziness on my part, or a certain vanity, but I didn’t feel I could meet the requirements. So I quit.
But I still spend an inordinate amount of my online time with the vast wikithing, and I feel grateful to the many people who have stuck with content-creation, there, surpassing my own level of commitment and patience. I have even supported the wikimedia foundation with donations. I say this, proudly, while still acknowledging its faults.
The wikithing most definitely has faults.
Sometimes, if I stumble across an article with an egregious or blatent mistake or bias, I will “watch” it. I won’t edit it – as I said, I don’t do that anymore – but I will watch it, curious to see when someone gets around to noticing it.picture
About a month ago, I stumbled across this weird little stub about something called a Squeakinge Lisard. It struck me as a kind of hoax – either an outright fiction or some kind of clever, indirect effort at book promotion (via a link to a “source” which was a novel by some guy – but it turns out the link is dead, so in that case, um, not working so well as a book promotion).
I decided to draw a Squeakinge Lisard (shown at right).
I rather like this phrase, Squeakinge Lisard (especially with the archaic spelling). I would like to propose the phrase Squeakinge Lisard as a generic name for bits of information found in wikipedia that are not, in fact, true, but that have somehow managed to evade the editorial police for an unexpectedly long period of time.

I actually find the idea of bits of absurdist fiction embedded in encyclopedias to be a charming and appealing notion (e.g. Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius, by Borges). But I am shocked that the wikithingers have let this Squeakinge Lisard survive so long, unedited and unobserved.
I once had a quixotic fantasy of starting my own wikithing, from the bottom up, with a single requirement: that all the content be untrue. There are people who are making various efforts at this kind of thing: there’s uncyclopedia in the Onionesque satire category and there’s sorolpedia in the completely fictional orbistertiesque category. I wish them the best of luck.
Meanwhile, how long will it take for the Jimmywalesites to do something about their Squeaking Lisard infestation? Let’s watch together, and see…
What I’m listening to right now.

A Tribe Called Quest, “Award Tour.”

[Chorus – Dove from De La Soul:]
We on Award Tour with Muhammad my man
Going each and every place with the mic in their hand
New York, NJ, NC, VA
We on Award Tour with Muhammad my man
Going each and every place with the mic in their hand
Oaktown, LA, San Fran, St. John

People give your ears so I be sublime
It’s enjoyable to know you and your concubines
Niggas, take off your coats, ladies act like gems
Sit down, Indian style, as we recite these hymns
See, lyrically I’m Mario Andretti on the MOMO
Ludicrously speedy, or infectious with the slow-mo
Heard me in the eighties, J.B.’s on “The Promo”
In my never-ending quest to get the paper on the caper
But now, let me take it to the Queens side
I’m taking it to Brooklyn side
All the residential Questers who invade the air
Hold up a second son, cause we almost there
You can be a black man and lose all your soul
You can be white and groove but don’t crap the roll
See my shit is universal if you got knowledge of dolo
Or delf or self, see there’s no one else
Who can drop it on the angle, acute at that
So, do that, do that, do that, that, that (come on)
Do that, do that, do that, that, that (OK)
Do that, do that, do that, that, that
I’m bugging out but let me get back cause I’m wetting niggas
So run and tell the others cause we are the brothers
I learned how to build mics in my workshop class
So give me this award, and let’s not make it the last

We on Award Tour with Muhammad my man
Going each and every place with the mic in their hand
Chinatown, Spokane, London, Tokyo
We on Award Tour with Muhammad my man
Going each and every place with the mic in their hand
Houston, Delaware, DC, Dallas

[Phife Dawg:]
Back in ’89 I simply slid in the place
Buddy, buddy, buddy all up in your face
A lot of kids was busting rhymes but they had no taste
Some said Quest was wack, but now is that the case?
I have a quest to have a mic in my hand
Without that, it’s like Kryptonite and Superman
So Shaheed come in with the sugar cuts
Phife Dawg’s my name, but on stage, call me Dynomutt
When was the last time you heard the Phife sloppy
Lyrics anonymous, you’ll never hear me copy
Top notch baby, never coming less
Sky’s the limit, you gots to believe up in Quest
Sit back, relax, get up out the path
If not that, here’s a dancefloor, come move that ass
Non-believers, you can check the stats
I roll with Shaheed and the brother Abstract
Niggas know the time when Quest is in the jam
I never let a statue tell me how nice I am
Coming with more hits than the Braves and the Yankees
Living mad phat like an oversized mampi
The wackest crews try to diss, it makes me laugh
When my track record’s longer than a DC-20 aircraft
So, next time that you think you want somethin’ here
Make something def or take that garbage to St. Elsewhere

We on Award Tour with Muhammad my man
Going each and every place with the mic in their hand
SC, Maryland, New Orleans, Motown
We on Award Tour with Muhammad my man
Going each and every place with the mic in their hand
Chinatown, Spokane, London, Tokyo
We on Award Tour with Muhammad my man
Going each and every place with the mic in their hand
Houston, Delaware, DC, Dallas
We on Award Tour with Muhammad my man
Going each and every place with the mic in their hand
New York, NJ, NC, VA

Seven times out of ten we listen to our music at night, thus spawned the title of this program
The word maraud means to loot
In this case, we maraud for ears


Caveat: 화장실 나오는 마음은 들어갈 때와 다르다

화장실  나오는        마음은      들어갈        때와       다르다
toilet exit-PRPART mind-TOPIC enter-FUPART time-CONJ differ
The mind entering the toilet differs from the mind exiting.

“People are fickle.” This is about unreliability. This is pretty funny, for a proverb. Here’s a picture I took in 2010 in Suwon – a public restroom I saw there in a park that’s shaped like a soccer ball. Now we can add to that this knowledge that toilets change minds.

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Caveat: Reciprocity

Tsze-Kung asked, saying, "Is there one word which may serve as a rule of practice for all one's life?"

The Master [Confucius = 공자 / 孔子] said, "Is not Reciprocity such a word? What you do not want done to yourself, do not do to others."

Time passed.

Jared observed, "I am eating Latin American style rice and beans for dinner. But I have a bad headache."

The internet said, "Wut? Thank you for sharing."

Caveat: Imperial Conspiracies

"Never attribute to malice what can be more easily explained by stupidity" is a favorite aphorism of mine. In the context of this unusual and entertaining conspiracy theory as outlined in this video, I would modify the aphorism to read: "Never attribute to malice what can be more easily explained by bad writing." Not that the bad writing in Star Wars makes it a bad movie – oh dear, no! Sometimes, bad writing is what's needed.

Caveat: Oh, Monkey! 오래만요!

My BISP1-M class had been making me upset. Every time I keep points in the class, or we play a game, they nearly come to blows arguing about rules and turns and points. I don’t have this problem with other classes, but because of this, I had told the class that I was no longer “keeping points” (i.e. in-class, game-based points) and no longer paying “dollars” (my private currency I give to students so they can shop at my “store”). Further, my minneapolitan rainbow monkey (used in the popular sport of “monkey darts“) was banned from class.

This made the class quite sad, but we’ve been limping along since then.

Today, not intending to, I brought the minneapolitan rainbow monkey to class. He was sitting on the podium at the front of class, and, upon seeing it, a fifth-grade girl who likes to go by the name Laracle (which is Korean pig-latin-analog for Clara: 클라라 -> 라라클) jumped up and grabbed the small toy monkey and danced down the middle of the classroom, like in a reunion in a romantic movie.

picture“Oh, Monkey!” she exclaimed in a sing-songy voice.  “오래만요!” [long time no see].

It was cute.

During the vocabulary quiz in the same class, another boy somehow managed to forget the Korean word for “wing” (날개) – either that or he was making a pointless (and point-losing) joke. He drew a picture of a wing, showing he understood the meaning, and perhaps for another class I’d have given credit for his answer – but I wasn’t feeling charitable. See the picture of his test paper at right.
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Caveat: A Saliency-Based Case-Marking System?

I had another typical hermetic Sunday, yesterday. I successfully shut off my computer and phone and tried to exist on my own. It was hard. It was starting to rain, and I didn't take a long walk.

I read some parts of Paradise Lost. I don't really like it, but it's one of those gaps in my literary background that I feel needs filling in. So then I was trying to study Korean. That frustrated me, too.

My mother and I traded some emails recently on the topic of pronoun mis-use. Apparently in my blog in a recent entry, I'd written "a picture of my friend and I" when, grammatically, it should have been "a picture of my friend and me." This is use of "I" in the object case is called "hypercorrection" because it has in the past been perceived by linguists as some kind of response to too much correction by teachers of students' mis-use of "me" in the subject case: it is long-established that colloquial English allows "Me and him went to the store," while grammar teachers abhor it.

Here's what I wrote in my email to my mom.

I had one idea (thought? observation?) about it. Some languages mark
something like noun case on the basis of things other than grammatical
role. As a relevant example, Korean includes grammatical role in its
case marking particles, but these particles also include things like
conjunctive and topical markers that are added to words on the basis of
things like psychological saliency-to-the-speaker.  I have been
speculating that a lot of the "drift" we see in colloquial English
around the "mis-use" of pronoun case (e.g. "Me and him went to the party,
but that's a secret just between you and I") is that English's case
system, being so weak and "unmarked" in most situations (i.e. nouns
don't show it anymore, and some pronouns don't either – e.g. "you") that
the grammatical underpinning of the system has begun to float around,
and other aspects that can influence a case-marking system, such as
saliency (in e.g. Korean or Japanese), are coming into play.

in just a short 1000 years English can evolve a grammatical system more
similar Chinese than its indo-european brethren, why couldn't it just as
easily begin to evolve a case-marking system similar to Korean (I'm not talking about the particles/agglutinative aspect, but just that there might be something evolving like a "topic" case where the grammatical role plays no part in its deployment)?

What I'm listening to right now.

King Crimson, "Elephant Talk." But what case are their pronouns in?

Caveat: 실패는 성공의 어머니다

In my latest iteration of my efforts to study Korean: I’m doing some tutoring sessions on Saturday, a sort of language exchange.

I learned this proverb / saying:

실패는         성공의        어머니다
failure-TOPIC success-GEN mother-COP
Failure is the mother of success.

I think this makes sense. But failure is also the mother of more failure. And success can be the mother of more success. Not to be too gloomy. Call it the gene-mixing rule as applied to failure and success.

My notes from class (easy to take notes with a camera in your phone, right? – I learned that trick from my students):


What I’m listening to right now.

My Bloody Valentine, “Soon.”

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