Caveat: nuestros verdaderos conciudadanos

Hay sólo dos países: el de los sanos y el de los enfermos…

Hay sólo dos países: el de los sanos y el de los enfermos
por un tiempo se puede gozar de doble nacionalidad
pero, a la larga, eso no tiene sentido
Duele separarse, poco a poco, de los sanos a quienes
seguiremos unidos, hasta la muerte
separadamente unidos
Con los enfermos cabe una creciente complicidad
que en nada se parece a la amistad o el amor
(esas mitologías que dan sus últimos frutos a unos pasos del hacha)
Empezamos a enviar y recibir mensajes de nuestros verdaderos conciudadanos
una palabra de aliento
un folleto sobre el cáncer

– Enrique Lihn (poeta chileno, 1929-1988)

Noticias_201244_18326Me imagino que el aspecto que me atrajo a esta poema (o sea, el final) resulta obvio, dado mi propia experiencia reciente.

Feliz nuevo año. Trabajé hasta las 11 anoche, así que no tenía ni ganas ni interés en celebrar la noche. Hoy voy a hacer alguna excursión en Séul con mi amiga Mary que está visitando desde Daegu por el feriado.

Caveat: Aliens vs Monsters

In a final end-of-year debate experiment, before the cohort is split up and new classes start on the 2nd of January, I gave los crazy boys a final propositon to debate: "Aliens are better than monsters." We drew some aliens and monsters first, to be clear of the difference.

This class has a lot of the things going on in it that I consider most crucial to successful elementary-age-level foreign-language learning: engaged imaginations, peer-teaching (note that James and Mario are helping their less proficient teammates extensively), task negotiation (the students and I had an extensive, 10-minute conversation about what, exactly our topic would be).

[daily log (11 pm): walking, 5 km]

Caveat: 2013

It turned out that I had been feeling unhealthy for a reason. I was diagnosed with tongue cancer. I underwent major surgery at Korea’s National Cancer Center (국립암센터), having a golf-ball-sized tumor removed. I spent 3 weeks in the hospital, missed 3 months of work, underwent a tomographic radiation treatment, and spent a major portion of my life savings. By the end of the year, the cancer was apparently beaten but I had long term impacts on quality-of-life that left me wondering why I was bothering; nevertheless, I continued teaching in Ilsan. That was near-death experience number three.
[This entry is part of a timeline I am making using this blog. I am writing a single entry for each year of my life, which when viewed together in order will provide a sort of timeline. This entry wasn’t written in 2013 – it was written in the future.]

Caveat: sometimes a mud puddle needs an extra trip

pictureNormally I’ve been unimpressed with the proliferation of gifs – those little mini-animations – on websites, but I’ll make an exception to this one, where the gif strikes me as a perfect medium for what is a very simple story: sometimes a mud puddle needs an extra trip. And the dog is very patient.

A religious belief… is not a statement about Reality, but a hint, a clue about something that is a mystery, beyond the grasp of human thought. In short, a religious belief is only a finger pointing to the moon. Some religious people never get beyond the study of the finger. Others are engaged in sucking it. Others yet use the finger to gouge their eyes out. These are the bigots whom religion has made blind. Rare indeed is the religionist who is sufficiently detached from the finger to see what it is indicating — these are those who, having gone beyond belief, are taken for blasphemers.
– Anthony de Mello

picture[daily log (10 pm): walking, 1 km]

Caveat: The World That I Dream Of

Below is a video of me reading a speech written by my student, Andrea.

The title for the speech is "The World That I Dream Of." She wrote the speech entirely. I made some substantial corrections to grammar and a few tweaks to vocabulary choices, but I added not a single sentence or idea, nor were her her original grammar or word choices anywhere so poor that I was unable to grasp her intended meaning (conceding that I have many years of familiarity with what you might call Korean rhetorical norms being awkwardly translated into English via a cellphone dictionary, where every sentence starts with "Then," "So," or "And").

I handed her my camera and I am reading her speech for her because she is going to be entering a speaking contest, and she struggles some with English intonation. I thought that by giving her an example of a native speaker's intonation on her words, she could practice and improve her own.

As I read the speech, I became aware that it's really a pretty remarkable bit of rhetoric, for a 6th grader. I wasn't close to producing this level of social thought at that age, much less in a foreign language. I think Andrea has a future as some kind of preacher or inspirational speaker (e.g. a TED-talker).

[daily log (11 pm): walking, 5 km]

Caveat: A Dream of Cuil 5 At Least

I dreamed I was sitting in the dim living room of the “San Marino House.” That’s the in-family name for the house my great-grandparents, John and Isabel Way, and later grandparents, John and Alice Way, lived in in the San Gabriel Valley east of Los Angeles. The house was in the family from the 1910’s until its demise in the 1990’s. I had the opportunity to live in the house for about half a year in 1992.

With me in the crowded living room were some coworkers from Karma, and some other people that were allegedly in my family but that I didn’t recognize. My emotional state, in the dream, was strong: I was seething with anger and frustration, but it wasn’t clear what had brought this about.

The people around me were chatting about the built-in bookshelves in a kind of deprecatory way, and I finally went outside, only to find there was a giant canyon yawning where the back yard and 1920’s-era swimming pool used to be. There were tour buses parked and people milling about. I was feeling claustrophobic but found I couldn’t escape the crowds.

I went back inside. The dim room and the complaining people depressed me as I lay on the floor. Seeking some kind of distraction, I found a trail of ants leading into the kitchen, and followed it. My grandmother was in there, boiling silverware (she was a bit of a germophobe and always boiled her silverware). She had a collection of guns on the kitchen table (this was especially strange given she was a devout Quaker and pacifist in real life).

My grandmother spoke to me in Korean, and I stared at her, uncomprehending. Finally, I left, going out into the driveway area, where I found a handsome black horse. The horse was spooked but tethered and unable to move much. It rolled its eyes and snorted at me. I untied it and watched it run away down California Blvd toward Cal Tech.

I woke up puzzled by this dream. I don’t know what it means. I would give it a cuil number of 5 or so.

The San Marino House no longer exists. Here is a scan of an ink portrait I drew of the house in 1992, from the southwest corner of the lot looking toward the front porch, with all its encompassing greenery.


picture[daily log (11 pm): walking, 5 km]

Caveat: 판돈 일곱닢에 노름꾼은 아홉

This is one of the aphorisms from my aphorism book.
판돈      일곱닢에          노름꾼은             아홉
pan·don  il·gop·nip·e     no·reum·kkun·eun    a·hop
bet      seven-penny-ABL  gambling-man-TOPIC  nine
Nine players betting on seven pennies.
It means too many people fighting over too small a small prize.
This seems like a good summary of the current hagwon market in South Korea. I think if I were to publish a book about the hagwon business, I would make this the title.
[daily log (11 pm): walking, 6 km]

Caveat: On the subject of grace

(Poem #17 on new numbering scheme)

A Soteriology
On the subject of grace
Forty-eight years passed.
Each had a Christmas.
But they fell away.
They left a raw taste.
An empty cup waited.
There was no coffee.
Just the cream stain showed.
It made brown circles.
The dawn was coming.
So I stepped outside.
Rhythms painted my feet.
The cold earth took them.
Now, small windows burn.
The same sun returns.
Old snow reflects fire.
Later, night awaits.
Trees were desolate.
Dark gray branches forked.
Lavender clouds flew.
Magpies scolded me.
Breath took the gold sky.
The winter air curled.
The ground was frozen.
I found a brown leaf.
Someone picked it up.
We all want answers.
Nobody will say.
So give your own voice.
It's metaphysics.
Behold the universe.
Embed the subject.
The self makes the real.
Grace is an ether.
Grace is ungiven.
There is no giver.
It is yours. Take it.
- (2013-12-25).


Caveat: A Merry Food Rant

Today is the six month anniversary of my cancer diagnosis. It happens to be Christmas day, too.

That makes it a good day for a rant about food.

Food is a part of the Christmas theme. My relatives ask me about how it’s going with my eating. My coworkers cannot stop offering it to me. My friends invite me out to eat.

Every day, I eat three meals, and each one is a kind of torture.

On good days, I just say, well, forget food! – it’s a luxuriant distraction anyhow; I can find satisfaction in other things. “Gluttony is a sin,” and all that.

But… food is so core to everyone’s social world. It’s what friends do together – they go out to eat. It’s how relatives show love or concern. It’s what coworkers do together. It’s how the boss rewards us. It’s how the parents of my students show gratitude. It’s what strangers first offer….

So by having these “food issues” that I am having, I end up having social issues, too. As an introvert and someone with social issues already, it’s the last thing I need or want. But I’m stuck with it.

In fact, sometimes I speculate that there is perhaps an aspect of karmic payback to this whole “food issue” that I’m suffering. To have this kind of problem, centered around food, is probably “just desserts” (haha get it?) for a man who has struggled with both anorexia and obesity in his life, at different times.

On bad days, I feel like my “deal with the devil” to stay alive and survive this cancer wasn’t even worth it. Will people just leave me alone about food? Please? I’m sick of it. Sick to death of it.

pictureI can’t eat comfortably, but I can eat to stay alive. I prefer to eat alone, because the joy I take from eating, these days, is similar on the pleasure scale to the joy I take from vomiting – as such, it’s not something I want people to watch me experiencing.

I’m tired of being invited and pitied and queried and being-concerned-about. Food sucks. It may never be a fun thing for me, again. So that’s life. But frankly, I’m going to go live on a mountaintop alone, and eat my soft noodles in quiet-suffering-solitude, if all you people don’t stop bothering me about food.

No, I don’t want to go out to eat with you. No, it is not fun for me to sit and watch you enjoy your food. No, not just a bite of that cookie or cake because surely it’s not so bad as I say, thank you. No, I don’t know when it will get better. No, I don’t want your advice anymore about how to make things more palatable.

OK. That’s the last I’m going to post anything negative about food. When people ask me about it, I’ll point them to this post. If I have good news, I’ll share it.

Enjoy your Christmas. Be thankful for small things, like good friends and good food and… ah. Whatever.

What I’m listening to right now.

Santa Hates You, “Raise the Devil.” This is not an anti-Christmas joke. Santa Hates You is one of those German gothic-industrial groups I sometimes listen to, in my darker moods. They have a somewhat intellectual posture, within the genre.

Caveat: Also… Shit

My student Collin often gets on my nerves. He doesn't like to be prepared for class, and he manages to have a foul mouth in two languages. I realize that posting this is kind of contrary to my normal approach to simply ignore such behavior, but I just laughed so hard at this.

Normally I don't put up videos of individual students doing one of the simple 45 or 60 second unplanned practice speeches for the iBT (internet-based TOEFL), but Collin's conclusion was humorous. They're supposed to "talk to the clock" because the speech has a fixed time limit, but clearly he lost track of the time.

[daily log (11 pm): walking, 5 km]

Caveat: 간장공장 공장장은 강공장장이고…

Right before my hospitalization, I had decided to do a series of Korean tongue-twisters, in the same way I have been doing aphorisms and proverbs. I had this little cache of them, half-completed, in my blog queue, which I’m now finally getting around to working through.

간장공장 공장장은 강공장장이고 된장공장 공장장은 장공장장이다.
간장공장              공장장은              강공장장이고
gan·jang·gong·jang  gong·jang·jang·eun  gang·gong·jang·jang·i·go
soy-sauce-factory   plant-manager-SUBJ  Mr-Gang-plant-manager-is-CONJ
된장공장                 공장장은              장공장장이다
doen·jang·gong·jang    gong·jang·jang·eun  jang·gong·jang·jang·i·da
soybean-paste-factory  plant-manager-SUBJ  Mr-Jang-plant-manager-IS
Mr Gang is the soy sauce factory plant manager and Mr Jang is the soybean paste factory plant manager.

간장된장This is a wonderful tongue twister.


Caveat: Psycho


What I'm listening to right now.

MC 900ft Jesus, "The City Sleeps." This is basically a song from the point of view of a psychopathic arsonist. I'm not endorsing that, but it's an interesting piece, from early 90's.


Stealing down an alley on a cold dark night
I see a halo in the rain 'round the street light
I stop and look, and listen to the sound
As the raindrops penetrate the silence all around

Alone, I gaze into the glistening street
The distant thunder echoing my heartbeat
Urging me on to a secret goal
Away from the light from this lamp on a pole

So I turn, slip away into the rain
Drifting like a spirit through the shadows in the lane
Clutching the tools of my trade in my hand
An old box of matches and a gasoline can

Darkness envelops the scene like a shroud
A veil of emptiness hangs from the clouds
Filling up the cracks in this desolate place
Cradled by the night in an icy embrace

Moving to the town like a ghost in the rain
A dim reflection in a dark window pane
Blackness beckons from every side
Creeping all around like an incoming tide

A broken window in an empty house
I slip inside and begin to douse
The whole place with the fuel that will feed the fire
And push back the night, taking me higher

On out of the darkness in a defeaning roar
The match in my hand is the key to the door
A simple turn of the wrist will suffice
To open a passage to paradise

I pause, I think about the past and the gloom
The smell of gasoline permeates the room
Everyone has a little secret he keeps
I light the fires while the city sleeps

(Like the 4th of July)

The match makes a graceful ark to the floor
And time stands still as I turn for the door
Which expoldes in a fireball and throws me to the street
I hit the ground running with the flames at my feet

Reaching for the night which recoils from the fire
The raindrops hiss like a devilish choir
Dying in the flames with a terrible sound
Calling all the names of the sleepers all around

But then in the arms of the night, they lay
Their dreams sprout wings and fly away
Out of the houses in a gathering flock
Swarming overhead as I hurry down the block

I make my escape with the greatest of ease
And safe in the darkness, drop to my knees
And the lightless window, my hand on the latch
I reach in my pocket, and pull out a match

(Like the 4th of July)

[daily log (11 pm): walking, 5 km]]

Caveat: Cuil

Someone tried to develop a (pseudo-)scientific unit for the measurement of absurdity, or the degree of surrealism in a given situation.

In and of itself, it has a certain absurdity to it. It began, apparently, on reddit (a website dedicated to absurdity, under some analyses), but now a separate "wiki" is being built to expound the notion: cuil theory.

Moving forward, let's assume you have read some of the materials on that linked website. Then consider that the idea of cuil theory, in itself, has a cuil value greater than one.

I think cuil would be useful for classifying the content of dreams, not to meantion academic work in comparative literature, or philosophy? How about Žižek? I had intended to write more about this, but what I wrote before seemed absurd (go figure) so I deleted it, and now I'm not doing well at recapturing the tone of my original conception.

The one observation that struck me when I first ran across it: the reason why Cervantes' last work, Persiles, stands at least equal to – if not superior to – the Quijote novels, is because the Persiles has a higher cuil number. Elaborate….

[daily log: walking, 1 km]

Caveat: Dreaming Harold

As is typical these days, I ended up falling asleep into a weird, deep-sleeping nap not long after getting home from my Saturday classes, always getting discombobulated by the shift to the morning schedule on the weekend.

As is increasingly common, these days, too, I dreamed of food. My waking life’s efforts at eating are still uncomfortable and unfulfilling, so my traditional love of food finds its outlet in my dreams.

pictureSpecifically, this evening, I dreamed of eating Harold Fried Chicken (which is advertized with an apostrophe, but I never heard it referenced in speaking except as Harold). Harold is a Chicago fast-food chain that became near and dear to my heart when I lived in Chicago in 1985. I blogged about craving Harold while doing a Buddhist meditation retreat and then getting it after it ended, [broken link! FIXME] here.

The name Harold always makes me think of Harold’s Purple Crayon, too. That was true even in the dream, where I seemed to meet Harold of the Crayon while eating Harold Chicken.

That is a great series of books – not to mention that Harold is the emperor of epistemology for the preschool set.

What I’m listening to right now.

[UPDATE 2023-11-27: video removed and not replaced, due to “link-rot”.]

Niki & The Dove, “Mother’s Protect (Goldroom Remix).”

[daily log (1100 pm): walking, 5.5 km]

CaveatDumpTruck Logo

Caveat: Santa is a criminal

Los crazy boys had a debate on whether Santa is a criminal, yesterday. They were being quite rambunctious – this video represents the trail end of a rather stern effort on my part to get them to not dance on the desks when not expounding their positions for the debate, so they are feeling a bit resentful. They still do passably well on each side of the proposition, if somewhat hard to understand at moments.

It was fun. Here’s a group of aliens I drew on a whiteboard, climbing a holly tree (is there such a thing?) and contemplating a Christmas present.


Anyway, happy Solstice.

CaveatDumpTruck Logo

Caveat: The Culture

The blogger formerly known as IOZ, who has resurrected himself at some point in the last year as Blogarach, is one of my favorite bloggers – not just because I am sympathetic to his unapologetic marxism (if I can't always agree), but because he is a brilliant stylist, as I've observed before.

In a recent blog entry, he discusses the possibility of a post-scarcity society, and concludes our current problems with poverty and inequality are ultimately little more than a "supply chain problem." This both understates and oversimplifies the problem, and yet I think he is fundamentally correct.

He quotes Buckminster Fuller, who made post-scarcity arguments way back in the 70's. Here is the quote – I think it's interesting, as does the blogarach, in part because of how long ago the argument was made.

We must do away with the absolutely specious notion that everybody has to earn a living. It is a fact today that one in ten thousand of us can make a technological breakthrough capable of supporting all the rest. The youth of today are absolutely right in recognizing this nonsense of earning a living. We keep inventing jobs because of this false idea that everybody has to be employed at some kind of drudgery because, according to Malthusian-Darwinian theory, he must justify his right to exist. So we have inspectors of inspectors and people making instruments for inspectors to inspect inspectors. The true business of people should be to go back to school and think about whatever it was they were thinking about before somebody came along and told them they had to earn a living.

But the most intriguing thing about his essay is the title: "The Culture."

That title is the only reference, except in the tags at the foot of the blog entry, to the recently deceased author Iain M. Banks' stunningly fascinating and deeply-wrought science fiction concept of post-scarcity in his "Culture" novels, launched in 1987's Consider Phlebas. I like that kind of subtlety. Anyway, my recommendation is: read Blogarach's blog entry; read Buckminster Fuller; read Banks' novels. That is the path to understanding my core optimism for humanity's long-term future.

Even if I sometimes end up foregoing that same style of optimism vis-a-vis the narrower futures that pertain to my own existence.

[daily log (1145 pm): walking, 5 km]

Caveat: 눈 내리는 밤

눈 내리는 밤

말간 눈을 한
동공에 살던 은빛 비늘이여
오늘은 눈이 내린다
목에 하얀 수건을 둘러놓고 얼굴을 씻겨주던
가난한 애인이여,
외로운 천체에
성스러운 고요가 내린다
나는 눈을 감는다
손길이 나의 얼굴을 다 씻겨주는 시간을
– 문태준 (1970- )


The Snowy Night

Oh, my lover
who had pure eyes;
oh, the silver scales
that occupied your eyes.
Tonight snow falls.
Oh, my poor lover
who wrapped my neck
with a white towel and washed my face,
a sacred quiet descends
upon the lonely planet.
I close my eyes
to remember the time
your hands washed my face.
– Moon Tae-jun (1970- )

This is from the excellent site called Korean Poetry in Translation. Part of the poem's effect in the original is due to the fact that the words "snow" and "eyes" are homonyms in Korean: 눈. So the "lover" is clearly the snow, right from the start.

Last night was a snowy night. It was beautiful.

[daily log (1130 pm): walking, 5 km]

Caveat: 설명회

Yesterday I worked almost 12 hours. Although Tuesday is my lightest teaching load, we had 설명회 [seolmyeonghoe] for parents in the morning. The term literally means "explanatory meeting" but it's what would probably be called an "open house" in a similarly styled business in the US – it's a situation where potential customers (parents) come to see information and presentations about what our programs and curricula are like.

After that was over, we had lunch together. I felt uncomfortable because I couldn't eat the mega-spicy shabushabu that had been selected, and there was a fuss over getting me a special order – these things are quite awkward for me, socially. And unlike teaching class, I find meetings with coworkers much more exhausting, even just sitting for lunch or dinner – nothing is harder than sitting and trying to make sense of long, drawn-out, involved conversations being held in Korean about topics I'm deeply interested in – i.e. my students and our curriculum.

Today, on the other hand, I have a full teaching load ahead.

I have been sleeping so restlessly. It's not that I'm not getting enough sleep – I take the time to make sure I do – but it's never "all the way through" but always broken into about two hour fragments. I have to wake up, drink water (because my mouth dries out so much), use the bathroom (because of drinking water, right), pace around my apartment. I'm not sure what the solution to this is.

[daily log (1130 pm): walking, 5 km]

Caveat: Kennedy Stewartized

"Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can stop your country from doing." – Jon Stewart, paraphrasing (updating) Kennedy to match the current approach to lawmaking in Congress.

If Kennedy's original is a kind of soundbitized (soundbitten?) touchstone of progressive (liberal) sentiment, then Stewart's parody seems to represent the apotheosis of the contemporary Randian anti-liberal tendency.

[daily log (1100 pm): walking, 5 km]

Caveat: ius linguae

There are two main systems for deriving citizenship, which, being essentially legal concepts, go under their Latin names: ius sanguinis and ius solis. The idea of ius sanguinis, or “right of blood,” is that citizenship derives primarily from the bloodline. This is the traditional way of determining citizenship in countries that are primarily monocultural, as the nations of Europe were in the early modern era. Modern Asian countries also mostly use this model. The alternative is ius solis, or “right of soil,” where citizenship is derived from where one is born. I’m not sure that any modern country has a strictly ius solis model, but most modern “Western” countries – especially immigration-driven countries like the US, Canada or Argentina for example – use a combination of ius solis and ius sanguinis to decide citizenship.

I have thought about the issues around these definitions a lot, first of all as someone who was something of an immigration reform activist in the US prior to my own somewhat unintended emmigration (I say unintended in that I never meant for my emmigration to be permanent or even so long-term, but it has definitely evolved that way), but also as someone who is intrigued by the slow, difficult path Korean society and government is navigating toward a more open attitude toward immigration.

I have been observing with some degree of fascination my recent coworker Razel, who is Philippine-Korean. She acquired her status via marriage, but the extent to which she is integrated into Korean culture and society is breathtaking, and although I have no doubt that she occasionally experiences racism and prejudice, she says it’s in no way the defining feature of her experience. I feel jealousy for her level of Korean Language speaking ability – listening to her on the phone talking to her friends, code-switching between English, Korean, Tagalog and Visayan (the latter being her “native” Philippine languages) leaves me in quiet admiration.

Korean culture is uncomfortable with the idea of immigration. They welcome ethnic Korean “returnees,” called 교포 [gyopo], because they can be more confident of their ability to integrate into Korean society, and they more-or-less accept the idea of mixed marriages as an inevitability, too – as in the example of my coworker. But Koreans resist the idea of foreign individuals or families arriving and simply becoming Korean. It doesn’t sit well with their traditional Confucian concept of the predominance of ancestry and their ius sanguinis model of citizenship.

The other day, however, I had a weird brainstorm as I was thinking about my coworker’s mostly successful integration into Korean society. What if we could define a new, third model of citizenship? Specifically, for a more culturally and linguistically homogeneous society such as Korea, we could grant citizenship rights based, essentially, on the ability to participate in the culture – which is to say, the capacity for the language. It wouldn’t be that hard to say something to the effect of “citizenship for those who pass the language test” – though this would require an ethical and corruption-free administration of a well-designed test, which I’m not sure is the current status of Korea’s de facto standard Korean Language test, the TOPIK. But it would be a workable goal. So that would be ius linguae, “right of language.”

One thought that springs to mind is that this is a model that many in the US would be pleased to adopt – force all those “damn immigrants” to learn English before they get a green card or citizenship! Yet even as I’m happy to propose ius linguae for Korea, I recoil at the idea of applying it in the US. What is the difference? Mostly, history. Korea is historically essentially a single language / culture / state – for hundreds at least if not thousands of years. The US, on the other hand, was almost from the beginning a state defined by some concept of essentially “right of arrival” – to recall one of my favorite quotes on immigration, from Herman Melville, “If they can get here, they have God’s right to come.”

There are tensions within this, but that is the essence. Further, the US project is complicated by the preexistence of linguistic minorities – both Native American and French, Spanish, etc. – groups of people who were in place when the US essentially appeared “over” them through war or annexation. The US is an empire, not a unitary state. It hardly seems fair to impose as a requirement for citizenship the imperial language, since to do so guarantees the possibility of stateless permanent residents within your country, similar to the horrific legal status of Koreans living in Japan even today, 70 years after the end of the War. That Japanese example is a perfect one: the inevitable consquence of applying a ius sanguinis citizenship model in the context of empire is inequality and injustice.

I think Korea, however, is sufficiently compact and homogeneous that applying this type of ius linguae model of citizenship might represent an excellent compromise path between the traditional and inevitably racist ius sanguinis and the more modern ius solis / sanguinis hybrids, the latter of which would lead to an increasintly multi-cultural society and the emergence of linguistic / cultural ghettos – Korea already is beginning to have these in places where there are large numbers of foreigners, such as the area I call “Russiatown” that I like to visit sometimes. Granting citizenship only to immigrants who have already shown a commitment to integrating into Korean culture via the acquisition of the language would be a great solution, maybe.

This is just a brainstorm – a first draft – that occured to me mostly while walking back and forth to work over several days. I’m sure it’s subject to plenty of criticisms and refinements, but I wanted to record my thoughts and put them down.

In other news: yesterday, I turned off the internet and my phone and did almost nothing. It was a lazy day but I think I needed it. I am in danger of social burnout given the teaching load I have taken on (willingly), so I’m going to nurse my off-time for maximum isolation, as my alone time is recuperative for me.

[daily log (1100 pm): walking, 5 km]

Caveat: 업은 아기 삼년 찾는다

This is an aphorism from my aphorism book.
업은                    아기    삼년         찾는다
eop·eun                 a·gi  sam·nyeon    chat·neun·da
carry-on-back-PRESPART  baby  three-years  search-PRES
[Like] looking for three years for the baby one is carrying on one’s back.
BabyThis is about the same as “cannot see the forest for the trees” but also is about that tendency we have to look for things we already are holding, as when I’m looking for my glasses while wearing them.

Unrelatedly, what I’m listening to right now.

Smashing Pumpkins, “Disarm.” Michelle hated the Smashing Pumpkins, yet this song is strongly associated in my memory with our first full year together, because it was on the radio constantly during my drives to work (at UPS in Northeast Minneapolis) or class (at the Univ. of Minnesota).
[daily log (1100 pm): walking, 1 km – everything was so slippery, so I gave up on my walk]

Caveat: Rats

When I was in high school I had a pet rat. I remember being surprised by how easily trainable he seemed to be – I got him to jump and climb on command without even giving any kind of reward. "Jump, rat!" I would say, and he would crouch and look around and then jump several feet, from my hand to various other surfaces.

The rats in this video are much better trained.

[daily log (1100 pm): walking, 5 km]

Caveat: The fly

Sitting in meetings is the single hardest aspect of my job. Sitting, listening the rapid exchange of Korean dialog about students I know well and curricula I have opinions on, quickly evolves into a difficult exercise in quiet restraint and acceptance of a state of unknowing, in the face of the unbearable desire to be in control and have my strong ideas heard.

Yesterday, it occurred to me that it becomes exactly like a moment of sitting in quiet meditation, while resisting reacting to a fly walking across my face.

Yesterday, walking to work in a snowstorm, I took this "selfie" while waiting for a green light to cross the street at one spot.

2013-12-12 14.29.11

I look old. Or at the least, cold.

I like snow, though.

[daily log (1130 pm): walking, 5 km]

Caveat: Who Is the Ugliest Alien?

There has been an on-going debate about debate, at work.

I hold the position that it is possible, given the right sort of material, to teach debate at ALL levels – even the most elementary. Further, I feel it can generate a lot of great enthusiasm and interest in the students. My colleagues, for the most part, argue that teaching debate is something to be reserved for only the most advanced students, and that debate isn't appropriate for lower levels.

2013-12-11 18.24.52I suppose that's partly due to slightly varying interpretations of the word "debate" – are we talking public policy debate, as I teach to my TOEFL students? – then yes, debate belongs only with the most advanced students. But if by "debate" we can mean any kind of spirited dialog about opinion, then it can work at any level.

The last few weeks I have been putting together some lesson plans to teach debate to my lowest-level elementary class, a group of 3rd/4th grade boys whom I've mentioned before as "los crazy boys." This week, I put my plan into action, without really seeking approval (but we're at the end our curriculum, which will be renewed / changed in January, so I felt free to finish the assigned book a few weeks early in order to do this).

Yesterday, I drew some "aliens" on the white board. I gave them names, and genders (see picture at right). Then I asked the boys which alien was ugliest. This lesson is focused on two patterns, both of which are quite difficult for Korean learners of English: 1) gendered pronouns (he/she/it), since Korean doesn't have grammatical gender of any kind; 2) superlatives in "-est" (superlatives work very differently in Korean).

Los crazy boys did absolutely spectacularly. After only one practice run, we put the thing on video and I only had to cut two interruptions of maniacal laughter after mistakes.

2013-12-11 18.24.55

2013-12-11 12.25.42

[daily log (1130 pm): walking, 5 km]

Caveat: Do you like this world?

My student Jason wrote this speech, it's a first draft for a contest he plans to participate in. I'm going to help clean it up, but sometimes I like to post student writing as-is. It's a high-minded theme, and although there are a lot of mistakes, he does pretty well considering he sat and wrote it without much use of a dictionary and without much hesitation.

Do you like this world?
Are you satisfied with your family, friends, neighbor, government or your country?
I believe that everyone does not perfectly feel satisfaction to this world.
I think that both you and I would have the world that we are dreaming of.
These days, there are so lots of problems such as social problems, environmental problems or the war around us.
Many people are having difficulties because of these.
So, from now on, I will tell you that the world that I dreaming of.

First, I think that perfect world should have any violence, includes discrimination.
There are so many wars around us.
In Africa, there are many conflicts with a tribe.
We are living on the same place, the Earth.
We are all same person.
We should be all treated with dignity.
Therefore, there should be no war and racial discrimination.

Sceond thing that I want is high-technologies world.
These days, there science is developing with very fast speed, but I want more convenience world.
I wish people are flying with new invention.
It won't need airplanes or other transportation.
People would have more time to relax, and we can watch a movie or play soccer, because we can move faster.
Also, it would be perfect if we have our own tablet PC not like these days smart phone.
I want to have a PC like the Iron Man has it.
It can show you everything such as your friends, navigation, your families and so on.
It would be very convience.
Also, if robots do the difficult things instead of people, it would be great.
We can have a friend who do our house chores and homework.
Also, the robot could tell me my health, and I could exercise regularly.
We can live very confidently, because of robots.
Also, there would be no thieves, because of them.
Our society would be safe and happy, because of our scientific technology.

Third, we could got to the space and build a new world.
We need more place to live on.
We can build a new world in Mars so we can start living there.
Also, we can expend our space world.
We can build our new world in deep sea or the sky.
Human didn't discover the deep sea, because of its high pressure.
But if our science more developed, we can find a place that we can live very well.
If there are many new worlds, it would be very interesting.

In conclusion, I want a world that has no war.
Also, with high technology, we can save time, and robots could do our difficult things.
Thank you.

Caveat: Scaling back…

I have posted a minimum of twice-a-day to my blog for almost 2 years now, and I'm going on 4 years with a guaranteed once-a-day blog post. But as I've been predicting, I've been plunging more and more into work, and I just confirmed a new, post-내신 [naesin = middle-school exam time] work schedule that has 30 teaching hours per week on it. This will be the new normal, I suspect. Consider that anything over 22 hours is considered full time, and the only time in the past when I had 30 hours was a) when I almost quit my job at LBridge in Fall, 2008, and b) when I filled in for Grace when she went on a trip for a month in Summer, 2011.

Anyway, given that, I'm going to scale back my official "twice-a-day rule" with respect to this blog. I'll still try, and will still keep a once-a-day guarantee. A lot of what I end up posting here is pretty trivial or "light" or non-personal in any event, and there are plenty of other blogs doing that.

What I'm listening to right now.

Cee Lo Green, "Forget You." This is the "clean" version of the song – the version we've been using for our CC classes with the kids. The original version is "F@$% You," which is easy to imagine.

[daily log (1130 pm): walking, 5 km]

Caveat: Mojave

This track below, "Mojave," is from Antonio Carlos Jobim's 1967 album, Wave. I think my parents must have acquired this album not long after it first came out, because I distinctly remember seeing the black disk playing on the turntable when I was age 7 or so, and thinking it was the grooviest thing imaginable. At age 7, following my parents' taste to some extent (minus the classical, which seemed too "slow" to my childish sensibilities), I was mostly interested in Simon and Garfunkle, The Greatful Dead, the Beatles, Cat Stevens, and suchlike. And then there was this. My parents were not into jazz, typically, but somehow this album was in rotation.

When I played this album for the first time – still with fondness – for my college roommate (a music geek if ever the was one), his reaction was simple: "That sounds like elevator music." I had never thought of this before, but I took it with pride – as if I (or my parents) had discovered the genre of elevator music before it became "popular."

I think having this track on my mp3 rotation these days means it's one of the oldest continuously-listened-to pieces in my life.

What I'm listening to right now.

Antonio Carlos Jobim, "Mojave."

The video is weird – I rather like it, as it appears to be archival footage of a 100-year-old train trip. But my brain rebels against the idea of an Edwardian British train trip being accompanied by 60's bossa nova. It's painfully anachronistic. But… anyway. It's the version I was able to find via quick googlification.

[daily log: uh oh – I became lazy]

Caveat: Lo dudo





Time for an internet holiday. Turning everything off. See you later.

What I'm listening to right now.

José José, "Lo dudo."


Anda y ve, te esta esperando,
Anda y ve, no lo hagas por mí,
que al fin y al cabo, somos solo amigos…

Anda y ve, te veo nerviosa,
Anda y ve y que sientas con él,
lo que en su día tu sentías conmigo…

Pero lo dudo, conmigo te mecías en el aire,
volabas en caballo blanco el mundo,
y aquellas cosas no podrán volver…
y es que lo dudo porque hasta veces
me has llorado con un beso…
llorando de alegría y no de miedo,
y dudo, que te pase igual con él, igual con él…

Anda y ve, te esta esperando,
Anda y ve, no lo hagas por mi,
que al fin y al cabo, somos solo amigos…

Pero lo dudo, conmigo te mecías en el aire,
volabas en caballo blanco el mundo,
y aquellas cosas no podrán volver…
y es que lo dudo porque hasta veces
me has llorado con un beso…
llorando de alegría y no de miedo,
y dudo, que te pase igual con él, igual con él…

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