Caveat: Pessimistic Optimist

My friend Peter – one of the few regular readers of this blog – remarked to me earlier today that I was a much more optimistic person in person than as conveyed in this blog. 

This was a striking observation to me, because my personal impression of my own character and situation had always actually been somewhat opposite: that I was more pessimistic in person than in the blog.

Then again, there are other times when people have observed that I seem like a fairly content and happy person, despite my protestations to the contrary. This is true, for example, of my students, who seem to almost universally perceive me to be the "happy teacher." 

I guess it's good that I can can come across that way. I'm not sure what it means, nor am I sure which is more "true." I have reflected sometimes – and joked – that I am a "pessimistic optimist" meaning that I am at core an optimistic person, but that I have a thick veneer of pessimism, partly as a matter of self-defence and partly just by virtue of the "Gillidette" personality type I inherited from my mother's side. 

Whatever. I am both depressed and discouraged by life in the present moment, yet I continue to live day-to-day in a fairly steadfast manner that includes a lot of play and "fun" with my students. 

[daily log: walking, 8.5km]

Caveat: 취중에 진담 나온다

This is an aphorism from my aphorism book.

취중에 진담 나온다

chwi.jung.e jin.dam na.on.da

drunkenness-OUTOF solemnity(truth) come-PRES

Truth comes out of a drunk man.

“Truth in wine.” This is such an important part of Korean culture, it would be difficult to overstate it, really. Several times a week one or another of my colleagues either expresses a need to get drunk or else suggests to me that doing so would solve some element of my own difficulties. When pressed, they always fall back on the concept expressed in this aphorism – that only by drinking can we express our true selves. This is because of the strength of the cultural repression in the society, I guess, that the only way to be honest with one another is through alcohol. Maybe there’s something to it – I don’t know. I don’t really judge it so negatively – I only know that I am, as I always have been, a melancholic drunk. For me, personally, a night of drinking inevitably ends in tears. Perhaps that is my core “honesty,” I don’t know. As a consequence, however, I don’t really feel that positive about it, though.

Meanwhile, I should report the results of my consult this morning. I saw both Dr Jo (radiation specialist / diagnostician) and Dr Ryu (oncologist). Dr Jo said the scans were clean, no tumors or lumps or bumps or badnesses. He did make the observation that there appeared to be “more damage and scarring” (from the radiation) in my mouth/throat than he expected. That could possibly explain some of the discomfort I continue experiencing. I talked with Dr Ryu about nerve damage and what’s called “neuropathological” pain – that is, the “ghost” pain from the cut nerves. Of course, it’s “normal” but that doesn’t really solve much. I suppose there is no solution, except to buckle down and cope.

Partly, I suppose my feeling, lately, is more of a psychological problem than a physical one. It seems that after having gone through all that, I should somehow be making more of this “new life” or “borrowed time” than I am. I nearly died. I came through it. Now, I just work and waste time… same as before. Shouldn’t I be doing some important or meaningful with this bonus round, having beat the odds, at least so far? The feeling of guilt – of “wasted chances” and blown opportunities – is very strong, these days.

Unlike my Korean friends, I don’t think a repression of self-honesty is my problem. So in alcohol there is only sorrow, not truth.

CaveatDumpTruck Logo[daily log: walking, 10km]

Caveat: Remains of Spring

I had been thinking, some days ago, how dry this spring seemed to me. Promptly, it began to rain later that day, and we have been having this sort of on-and-off drizzle ever since.  Very Humboldty.

I was at the hospital for a portion of the morning. I didn't get a diagnosis – I have to go back and see the diagnostician tomorrow – they were not as efficient with their scheduling as they normally are, and there was some conflict between scheduling the scans and reviewing the results. So I'll get to see Dr Jo tomorrow morning. 

Meanwhile, I get to experience suspense.

Oh, and teach 6 classes today. Really… the most exhausting part of the scans is that I have to fast (not eat) for the half-day beforehand, which leaves me feeling ennervated. The contrast medium injection is uncomfortable and a little bit freaky as you experience it entering your system, but I'm pretty used to it and I can recover quickly from that particular aspect. 

I slept extra hours over the weekend so that I would have some reserve of energy to plow into a full-time week of work (first full week back to the full-time schedule with the end of the middle-school 내신 [exam prep]) front-ended by this hospital visit, but I felt really tired anyway. Oh well.

Walking from the hospital to work today, straight from my appointments, I saw a tree that had discarded the vast majority of its blossoms due to the rain, I guess. These are the remains of spring. The picture doesn't really capture it very effectively – it's washed out and blandish. 


[daily log: walking, 7 km]

caveat: just like old times

i am off to the hospital this morning, walking in a slow rain the same route that became rote last fall. i will have a ct scan. i feel more nervous about this one than the one in january, because my hypochondria has been in a kind of overdrive lately. i keep wondering if my remission has ended with each twinge of pain or discomfort that i feel. it could just be the nerve damage in my mouth, evolving or adapting or healing, but sometimes the sensations too greatly resemble those i associate with before my diagnosis and surgery.

Caveat: Same Scene Different Season

This isn't a very good picture. I'm posting it mostly because I took a picture of exactly the same thing last fall with fall-colored leaves, and again in the winter with snow (I'm too lazy to search for where these were posted, at the moment, but they were posted to this here blog thingy).

So this is the spring version of these weird kimchi-pots sculptures next to Balsan Middle School (발산중학교 – which is attended by many of the students that I teach). I walk past this almost every day.

2014-04-26 09.15.09

My mini-vacation-like-experience for April has ended – I'm back to my massive teaching load, on the special post-exam-prep teaching schedule with middle-schoolers at the moment. I worked today and have decided to avoid the internet this weekend. So after this post I'm off until Monday. I'll let you know how that goes.

[daily log: walking, 5 km]

Caveat: Tarot Shtick

I have a sort of fortune-teller shtick using my old tarot cards that I sometimes do with my more advanced classes. It's often very popular with middle-schoolers. I don't do it as much with elementary students, because they don't have the patience for it, and it can seem a little bit too abstract for them. Last night in my Newton2 debate class, a pretty advanced class of 5th and 6th graders, I tried it. Unexpectedly, I ended up recording the whole 15 minute episode, because I'd left the camera on from when we had our debate. It hadn't been my intention to record it, and, like any candid video recording, it's hard to follow in parts and boring or others – it's not really performative. But the shtick itself had gone on very well. The three kids were utterly fascinated by the cards and their "fortunes" as I read them from the cards.

Many people object to this kind of "lesson" in class, but there is, in fact, a clear and strong pedagogical purpose behind my in-class ramblings of this sort. First of all, when the kids are genuinely interested in this, they give their whole attention and because it's in English, that in itself is a great learning context. One of the girls asks near the beginning, for example, why I can't give them the printout of card meanings in Korean, and I dismiss it, saying this is English class. She goes on to pay very close attention. I let the kids talk among themselves (and to me, to the extent I understand) in Korean, because I think having recourse to L1 (native language) helps them to cement meanings in L2 (target language).

Anyway, I don't often post "raw" video of my teaching – especially a "fun" lesson such as this as opposed to something more conventional. I decided to just go ahead and post it, however. Partly, I see it as similar to posting photos, just more "high tech" – you can see me and what I'm doing, I guess… what my day-to-day life is like, and how I am in my "non-performative" moments in my classroom environment, where I invest such a high proportion of my energy these days.

[daily log: walking, 5.5km] 

Caveat: 3729 – 3719 = 10

My blog appears to no longer be down, and the admin site which became unavailable shortly after access to the "front end" was restored is now accessible again too.

Well. That was a lot of hassle, and I'm still trying to figure out some alternatives so that I don't get caught blogless in the future – as if anyone is really paying attention. Heh – I know there are four of you who are. Huge audience, eh?

But I have a bit of a puzzle. My post-count prior to the downtime was 3729. My post-count after the downtime was 3719. Ten blog entries disappeared. My back-up blog kept the 10, and listed 3729 after the import process.

The question is – which 10 blog entries are missing? Where did they go? How do I even figure out which ones are missing? Does it matter?

I think it's a scripting problem, given I have access to the unformatted text files of the before and after – but I was never a scripter. What would be nice would access to the back-end database. I could slap together some SQL in a few minutes to find the missing articles.

Which is another reason to continue looking into alternatives to my blog host. My nearly 10 year nearly flawless relationship with typepad is forever sundered. Ah well. Nothing lasts forever.

[daily log: walking, 6 km]

Caveat: Talking into Nothingness

My blog has been utterly down for more than 24 hours now, as far as I can figure out. At least it's accessible on the "back end" – meaning I am able to write this post. But it's like talking into nothingness – I'm writing a blog post that no one can see.

I've been putting a lot of energy into trying to extract the content of this blog from the host and configure a new, back-up location for my nearly 4000 blog entries. I've got something that is up-and-working, but getting all the pictures posted with my new back-up blog turns out to be more difficult. I may have to manually download all the pictures (one by one?!).

I'm looking into longer term alternatives for changing my blog host – the down time is pretty annoying but what's more annoying is the lack of clear communication from the host provider to me, the customer, about the situation.

Meanwhile, here is a picture of some doodles I did while taking notes in a meeting a while back. I'm posting it to test a new picture-posting method (which is much more laborious but ensures I have copies of each picture posted in multiple locations).


[daily log: walking, 5 km]

Caveat: Disasters

Note: apologies to readers – this blog has been frequently inaccessible over the last several days. This is due to some serious reliability issues at my hosting provider (typepad) which they are attributing to DDoS attacks by hackers. I hope this doesn't become a regular thing. Meanswhile, I'm looking into alternatives with respect to hosting, but any blog migration to new servers would be laborious and slow-in-coming…. Now back to our regular broadcast.

Less than two weeks ago, it just so happened that the debate topic offered up by our textbook in my Newton2-T반 (elementary 5th and 6th graders) debate class was "School field trips are a good idea." At that time, the kids were all adamantly in favor of school field trips, as is perfectly understandable. It was difficult to get some kids to take the CON position in the debate, so I was forced to choose two of them randomly to take the negative side. Nevertheless, they all did a good job.

Here is the debate.

SewolLo, the following week – last week – the Sewol disaster occurred. The sinking ferry was almost exclusively populated by field-tripping high-schoolers. Suddenly, the kids all were quite opposed to school field trips. School trips are obviously too dangerous, they explained, absorbing the media hype and unfamiliar with statistical thinking.

[daily log: walking, 5.5km]

Caveat: Nyam nyam nyam

I surfed the internet a little bit. I discovered that I am not tone deaf.

I'm not sure that I ever really thought I was, but I also didn't really know how to figure out if I was or not, since I didn't really have enough musical training to understand what tone-deafness even was.

I'm not sure that not being tone deaf helps me much when I'm listening to Korean pop music. Korean culture is weird.

What I'm listening to right now.

Lip Service (립서비스), "냠냠냠."


Y'all ready?
Drop it

냠 냠냠냠냠냠 빼고 싶어요!
냠 냠냠냠냠냠 그만 먹고 싶어요!
냠 냠냠냠냠냠 답이 없어요!
냠 냠냠냠냠냠 길이 없어요!


햄버거햄버거햄 햄버거햄버거햄 햄버거햄버거햄 햄버거가 맛있어요!
아메리카노메리카 메리카노메리카 메리카노메리카 메리카노 맛있어요!
냠 냠냠냠냠냠냠 냠냠냠냠냠 냠냠냠냠냠냠 밤이 되면 더 땡겨요!

Verse 1

평생의 숙제 끝나질 않은 살들의 축제
줄지 않는 내 무게 살과의 전쟁
아 아이고 머리야
칼로리 계산하다 하루가 다가겠네
O. M. G
또다시 먹방놀이 내 배는 보라돌이
들려 살찌는 소리 내 뱃살아 I'm sorry
꼬륵 꼬륵 꼬륵 꼬륵 꼬륵 꼬륵 꼬르륵
후룩 후룩 후룩 후룩 후루룩
머릿속엔 라면뿐~


햄버거햄버거햄 햄버거햄버거햄 햄버거햄버거햄 햄버거가 맛있어요!
아메리카노메리카 메리카노메리카 메리카노메리카 메리카노 맛있어요!
냠 냠냠냠냠냠냠 냠냠냠냠냠 냠냠냠냠냠냠 냠냠냠냠냠 냠냠냠냠냠냠 냠냠냠냠냠 냠냠냠냠냠냠 밤이 되면 더 땡겨요!

Verse 2

Ok 치킨 앞에서 커지는 내 beat
맘 잡았었는데 다시 멈칫
집었다 놓았다 내 맘은 애가 타
나도 날 몰라 cuz i got a wing

이만하면 됐지 I'm gona crazy
입에 넣는 순간 난 후회할 테지
Stop 그만 O. M. G

난 이미 먹었고 신나게 먹었고
주사위는 던져졌고 시간은 지났고
내일은 조금만 먹어야지
내일은 저녁은 굶어야지


햄버거햄버거햄 햄버거햄버거햄 햄버거햄버거햄 햄버거가 맛있어요!
아메리카노메리카 메리카노메리카 메리카노메리카 메리카노 맛있어요!
냠 냠냠냠냠냠냠 냠냠냠냠냠 냠냠냠냠냠냠 냠냠냠냠냠 냠냠냠냠냠냠 냠냠냠냠냠 냠냠냠냠냠냠 밤이 되면 더 땡겨요!


비파가 나가신다. 길을 길을 비켜
내 말 좀 들어봐 나 아주 미쳐
Everyday 완벽했던 지난 5 days
주말 한방에 dang 모든 걸 reset
Diet diet 그 놈의 diet
요요 와요 man I'm tired
뭘 믿고 자꾸 먹어대 겁 없게
돌이킬 수 없어 내일부터 다시 해


돈가스 돈가스돈 돈가스 돈가스돈 돈가스 돈가스돈 돈가스가 맛있어요!
아메리카노메리카 메리카노메리카 메리카노메리카 메리카노 맛있어요!
냠 냠냠냠냠냠냠 냠냠냠냠냠 냠냠냠냠냠냠 냠냠냠냠냠 냠냠냠냠냠냠 냠냠냠냠냠 냠냠냠냠냠냠 밤이 되면 더 땡겨요!
(종일을 굶다가 밤이 와 그러다 터진 내입구멍 O. M. G 냠냠냠냠냠냠)

[daily log: walking, 1km]

Caveat: 서울가서 김서방집 찾기

Here is an aphorism from my aphorism book.

서울가서 김서방집 찾기
seo·ul·ga·seo gim·seo·bang·jip chat·gi
Seoul-go-CONJ Kim-mister-house search-GER
[Like…] going to Seoul and searching for Mr Kim's house.

This plays on the ubiquity of the "Kim" family name in Korea. Looking for Mr Kim's house is a futile and aimless search, because there are nothing but Mr Kim houses. It's like finding a needle in a haystack, groping in the dark.

[daily log: walking, 6km]

Caveat: 87 años de soledad

RIP Gabriel García Márquez. Ayer murió a la edad de 87 años.

Últimamente confieso no ser tan admirador de su obra, y sin embargo debo decir que durante un período de mi juventud fue un escritor cuya influencia en mi fue muy fuerte. Su novela Cien años de soledad fue probablemente el primer libro en español que leí de forma continua, de comienzo al fin. Creo que fue durante un fin de semana lleno de nieve y frío mientras vivía en Saint Paul en 88. ImagesFue la primera vez que contemplaba la idea que quería estudiar la literatura española. Después de cinco años, esa idea se fijó y fue el comienzo de mi carrera académica de estudios graduados. Mis intereses se ampliaron pero llevo una deuda al autor colombiano porque fue él quien al principio me introdujo a la literatura española.

"La vida no es sino una continua sucesión de oportunidades para sobrevivir."

Lo que estoy escuchando en este momento.

MC 900 ft Jesus, "Buried at Sea."


is this a sound
or just a dream?
in my world nothing is quite what it seems

white shroud
clear blue sky
the sea swells a bit
when sailors die

was that a word?
is this a clue?
you're so very far away
but i'm sure it's you

feathers fall
birds in flight
they bury me slowly
is it really still night?

was that a word?
is this a clue?
you're so very far away
but i'm sure it's you

feathers fall
seabirds in flight
in my world
nothing is

[daily log: walking, 5km]

Note: this blog post was delayed 9 hours in posting due to my blog host being DOWN. It was down a lot yesterday, and there have been a lot of technical issues recently, apparently. One reason I tolerate the annoyances of the typepad blog host – and PAY for it (there are so many FREE blog hosting options these days that paying for mine as I do is a bit of an anachronism) – is reliability. Moments such as that one yesterday give me pause….

Caveat: The Empress Pulcheria

It being Thursday, and 내신, I only had two classes. So I had some time to kill at work. One almost never "desk-warms" in hagwon life, as is so common when working as a public-school English teacher in Korea.

I was surfing wikipedia.

I spent almost two hours reading various pages of Roman and Byzantine history. I was really getting into it. I found out about the Empress Pulcheria, and the machinations of the Byzantine court around the Council of Chalcedon. It was very interesting. I think that woman would make a good protagonist for a novel.

My classes went well. I like teaching debate to elementary students – they're too young to realize it's boring, and they get excited by it.

It rained. That's good, as the sky needed cleaning – the spring smog/fog/dirt-from-heaven was getting unbearable. My advice: don't visit South Korea in spring, despite the pretty flowers everywhere.

[daily log: walking, 5.5km]

Caveat: Life Goes On

Work has slowed down quite a bit for me, now that the first 내신 (test prep period) of 2014 has started. I have no middle school students except for my Saturday 특강. I’m staying busy with things, though, and getting a bit more caught up feeling with various longer term tasks for work. I’m not really feeling like it’s a vacation, just a more at-ease period.

I’ve been feeling paranoidly hypochondriacal about various twinges and difficulties in my mouth. I have a 3-monthly CT scan scheduled in a few weeks and will find out if my hypochondria has any merit.

Life goes on.

Here are some pictures I took of my whiteboard artwork.




CaveatDumpTruck Logo[daily log: walking, 5 km]

Caveat: 티끌 모아 태 산이다

This is an aphorism from my aphorism book.

티끌     모아         태   산이다
ti·kkeul mo·a        tae  san·i·da
dust     gather-PRES big  mountain-be
Gather enough dust and it is a big mountain.

The word 태 [tae] gave me a moment's difficulty, as there was nothing in the Korean English dictionary(s) to indicate the meaning "big," but that's clearly what it means and I vaguely recalled running across that meaning before. I looked in the hanja dictionary, however, and found it easily – it's that character 太 which means big. So in this proverb, it's a kind sinism, I guess.

My aphorism book gives the charming, Dr Seussian translation of "Many a mickle makes a muckle." I had never heard this English aphorism in my life, so I ended up researching that, too. I guess it's mostly dialectical, limited to north England (Northumbria) and Scotland. It means lots of little things (mickles) add up to a big thing (muckle). Etymologically, however, they both derive from Old Norse, meaning "a big thing," which is odd.

[daily log: walking, 6.5 km]

Caveat: Spring Cherryblossoms at Night

(Poem #19 on new numbering scheme)

The almost-full, white moon sighs. Riotous,
ravenous green spring writhes,
a flock of white petals flies,
to resist it seems unwise.

I poetized (poeted? poetated?) that while walking home from work. The poem more-or-less follows the pattern of the Welsh poetic forms called englynion. Specifically, it’s an englyn unodl union (according to wikipedia).
picture[daily log: walking, 5 km]

Caveat: his unique and solitary home

The Poem That Took The Place Of A Mountain

There it was, word for word,
The poem that took the place of a mountain.

He breathed its oxygen,
Even when the book lay turned in the dust of his table.

It reminded him how he had needed
A place to go to in his own direction,

How he had recomposed the pines,
Shifted the rocks and picked his way among clouds,

For the outlook that would be right,
Where he would be complete in an unexplained completion:

The exact rock where his inexactness
Would discover, at last, the view toward which they had edged,

Where he could lie and, gazing down at the sea,
Recognize his unique and solitary home.
– Wallace Stevens (American poet, 1879-1955)

[daily log: falling down, .001 km]

Caveat: Friday then Saturday

Last night (Friday) we went out to a sort of mini 회식 [hoesik] that was really just going out for drinks and food after work. We went to a jeon (전) joint, which was a friendly accommodation of my own preferences, and which I appreciated. It wasn't everyone from work – just the "Elementary team" meaning there were only five of us. I think the new teacher – Gina's replacement – wasn't that happy to be there, perhaps not feeling like she was fitting in. I actually had some makkeolli and some kimchi jeon, which is a step in the direction of normalcy.

As usual, however, I ended the evening feeling gloomier for the experience – mostly for the same reasons I always have: such experiences always hammer home the fact that my Korean-language competence is utterly unsatisfactory.

I did laugh at one person's joke, somewhat unexpectedly (perhaps the makkeolli was influencing). Ken was getting a little bit drunk and was trying to demonstrate all these "street handshakes" – I don't know what else to call them, the kind where you bump fists then wiggle your fingers or do a high  five or some transition to dropping your hands in sync – which Koreans associate with Western culture. I explained that they were utterly alien to my own upbringing, too – just as alien to me as to the Koreans. As Ken fumbled trying to show how it worked, Irene said "켄도 몰라" [Ken doesn't know either]. I found this quite funny and pretty insightful, too – I really doubt Ken knew what he was demonstrating. That was just a single shining moment of lucid understanding in the generalized sea of what-in-the-world-are-they-saying.

Today I went to work, but I have a slimmer Saturday schedule because of 내신 [test prep period]. I taught my single class. We ordered pizza and I made the kids debate the proposition: "Potato pizza is better than pepperoni pizza" (whereby my overseas readers learn that "potato pizza" is a thing in Korea). One boy accused me of ruining what would have been a fun class by making them have that debate, but overall I think it went OK.

I came home and did my standard Saturday thing: I turned off my phone and crashed, napping off a long week.

What I'm listening to right now.

넬 – "환생의 밤."

[daily log: walking, 6 km]

Caveat: watching the monad

The difference between men is in their principle of association. Some men classify objects by color and size and other accidents of appearance; others by intrinsic likeness, or by the relation of cause and effect. The progress of the intellect is to the clearer vision of causes, which neglects surface differences. To the poet, to the philosopher, to the saint, all things are friendly and sacred, all events profitable, all days holy, all men divine. For the eye is fastened on the life, and slights the circumstance. Every chemical substance, every plant, every animal in its growth, teaches the unity of cause, the variety of appearance.

Upborne and surrounded as we are by this all-creating nature, soft and fluid as a cloud or the air, why should we be such hard pedants, and magnify a few forms? Why should we make account of time, or of magnitude, or of figure? The soul knows them not, and genius, obeying its law, knows how to play with them as a young child plays with graybeards and in churches. Genius studies the causal thought, and, far back in the womb of things, sees the rays parting from one orb, that diverge ere they fall by infinite diameters. Genius watches the monad through all his masks as he performs the metempsychosis of nature. Genius detects through the fly, through the caterpillar, through the grub, through the egg, the constant individual; through countless individuals, the fixed species; through many species, the genus; through all genera, the steadfast type; through all the kingdoms of organized life, the eternal unity. Nature is a mutable cloud, which is always and never the same. She casts the same thought into troops of forms, as a poet makes twenty fables with one moral. Through the bruteness and toughness of matter, a subtle spirit bends all things to its own will. The adamant streams into soft but precise form before it, and, whilst I look at it, its outline and texture are changed again. Nothing is so fleeting as form; yet never does it quite deny itself. In man we still trace the remains or hints of all that we esteem badges of servitude in the lower races; yet in him they enhance his nobleness and grace; as Io, in Aeschylus, transformed to a cow, offends the imagination; but how changed, when as Isis in Egypt she meets Osiris-Jove, a beautiful woman, with nothing of the metamorphosis left but the lunar horns as the splendid ornament of her brows!

– Ralph Waldo Emerson (American philosopher, 1803-1882), from his essay "History" (1841).

[daily log: walking, 3 km]

Caveat: 갈수록 산이다

This is an aphorism from my aphorism book.

갈수록 산이다
gal·su·rok san·i·da
go-THEMORE mountains-be

"The farther [you] go, there are [more] moutains.

This means that matters go from bad to worse: just more mountains. Personally, I rather like the idea of hiking over mountains and finding more, but clearly the meaning here is negative. I am reminded of my uncle's memorable and favorite aphorism – an inversion of a more popular and positive version which he clearly rejected – and which was embedded in my brain by his frequent utterances of it when I was young: "It's always darkest just before it gets completely black."

[daily log: walking, 5.5 km]

Caveat: “Cancer Survivor”

I was listening to NPR this morning, as I sometimes do, streaming online.

There was an interview with author Barbara Ehrenreich, who happens to be a "cancer survivor," but it came up that Ehrenreich doesn't approve of this term. Her reasoning is clear and I found myself agreeing: the term "cancer survivor" devalues those who die. I see her point.

I was reminded of a conversation I had with Curt a few days ago. Curt used to talk a lot about Steve Jobs, as someone he admired and tried to emulate in some ways. Steve Jobs is a popular idol for entrepreneurial types, there is no doubt, and Curt was just being stereotypical in this respect.

When I said something about Jobs the other day, however, Curt announced, "I don't respect him anymore."

"Why not?" I asked.

"He died."

I was rather taken aback by this. I pointed out that he had died of cancer. Curt nodded. I asked Curt, then, "Would you no longer respect me if I died of cancer?" – a distinct possibility, given my recent travails.

Curt paused awkwardly. "Maybe," he finally answered, as if making a joke. I wasn't so certain it was entirely in jest, however. There's something to that, and it matches up with Ehrenreich's comment: by making "heroes" of the survivors we're also making a cult of success against something that is beyond our control. It's a bit like making heroes out of lottery winners – which, come to think of it, our culture does too, doesn't it?

So I hereby announce my discomfort with the term "cancer survivor." Nevertheless, I don't plan on changing the wording at left. It has some value as being a shorthand way to convey succinctly my current situation, both physical and mental.

[daily log: walking, 6.5]

Caveat: The Circular Ruins

The dream that I awoke from this morning was that I was in some kind of Aztec or Mayan ruin, mostly a series of underground caverns. They had been occupied and modified by a vast population of industrious Koreans, however. Thus the underground passages resembled the concourses of the Seoul subway system, but with wall decorations and statues scattered about on a mesoamerican theme. I was looking for my students, but was unable to find them. I stuttered through various Korean-language conversations with random merchants and passers-by, saying I was looking for the kids from KarmaPlus hagwon, but no one had any idea what I was talking about. So I kept wandering. The passages went on and on, and everywhere there were busy people going about their lives in what seemed a subterranean Korean civilization among the Mayan ruins. It was quite strange but very vivid.

[daily log: walking, 5 km]

Caveat: Steal from the world


HAPPY the man, whose wish and care
A few paternal acres bound,
Content to breathe his native air
            In his own ground.

Whose herds with milk, whose fields with bread,
Whose flocks supply him with attire;
Whose trees in summer yield him shade,
            In winter fire.

Blest, who can unconcern’dly find
Hours, days, and years, slide soft away
In health of body, peace of mind,
            Quiet by day.

Sound sleep by night; study and ease
Together mix’d, sweet recreation,
And innocence, which most does please
            With meditation.

Thus let me live, unseen, unknown;
Thus unlamented let me die;
Steal from the world, and not a stone
            Tell where I lie.
– Alexander Pope (1688–1744)

What I'm listening to right now.

Yeah Yeah Yeahs, "Sacrilege."

[daily log: walking, 5 km]

Caveat: 제 버릇 개 줄까

This is an aphorism from my aphorism book.

제            버릇      개   줄까
je            beo·reut gae  jul·kka
one[a person] habit    dog  give-INTERROG

[One] gives one’s habits to a dog.

The meaning is that it is difficult to give up old habits – about as difficult as giving one’s habits away to one’s dog.

Google translate’s version was: “Do you want my spoiled dog.” This is funny.

CaveatDumpTruck Logo[daily log: walking, 1 km]

Caveat: Decorative Excesses

On Thursday I had to run out of my Newton2-반 classroom for a few minutes to fetch some materials from the staff room, and when I returned I found the whiteboard thoroughly decorated. I took a picture of the three girls guilty of decorative excess. I really like that class. They are smart, engaged, spirited, and interested.

Note that some of the drawings are by me – I decorate the board as a class progresses. But others are imitations (some quite good) of my “style.” And all the names and hearts are, of course, solely the work of the girls in question.


Meanwhile, spring has sprung. Sproing.

I guess the trees, too, have their own version of decorative excess. I took this picture walking to work this morning. It was a blustery, windy but clearly springlike day.


CaveatDumpTruck Logo[daily log: walking, 5.5 km]

Caveat: 9 Months Cancer Free

Today is the three-quarters-of-a-year-iversary of my surgery. I know that I "beat the odds" in that I have a mostly normal life: I can talk, I kept my job, etc. I have to remind myself of that when I feel so miserable and depressed, as I have, lately.

I ran across a quote from Shakespeare's Macbeth in a very unexpected place: on page 921 of my Practical Dictionary of Korean-English Buddhist Terms.

Under the term 인생 (人生 [insaeng] = life), the dictionary says:

무엇이 인생? 사전에는 "목숨을 가진 사람의 존재"라 쓰여 있다. 영국의 문호 셰익스피어의 인생관을 들어보는 것도 나쁘지 않을 것 같다.

인생이란 어설픈 형상 없는 그림자
뽐내고 안달하다 곧 사라지는
한낱 가설무대 위의 광대.
– 셰익스피어, "맥베스", 5막 5장 –

Then, the reference book being a bilingual glossary, a translation into English is provided.

Life: What is life? Let's see what Shakespeare says:

Life's but a walking shadow; a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then heard no more.
– Shakespeare, Macbeth, V, v –

Note that the translation provided does not translate the introductory phrasing word-for-word – the Korean slightly more detailed, saying something to effect that "the dictionary says 'life' is 'existence of people who have breath of life' but England's great writer Shakespeare's summary is not bad."

I have run across other very interesting tidbits of humor and erudition in this book. I'm glad that I bought it. I'm so strange, my favorite books have always been reference books.

[daily log: walking, 5 km]

Caveat: but for the ignorant freedom of my talking mind

The Meaning of Existence

Everything except language
knows the meaning of existence.
Trees, planets, rivers, time
know nothing else. They express it
moment by moment as the universe.

Even this fool of a body
lives it in part, and would
have full dignity within it
but for the ignorant freedom
of my talking mind.

- Les Murray (Australian poet, b 1938)

CaveatDumpTruck Logo[daily log: walking, 5 km]

Caveat: Buried Beds and Folktales

The song lyrics do not match the video, and at first, that bothered me. In the end, though, I decided I liked them. They have the same feel, I think. They are both based on folkloric elements or themes. Each has its separate story, and I'm not sure that it makes sense having put them together this way, but each story is interesting. There's a website.

What I'm listening to right now.

Buried Beds, "Children of the Sea."


A ship to shore, a girl a boy,
fastened golden pins of the sea.
Of fear, of rain, a tongue betrays,
wash your sins away and face the day.

All you children of the sea,
one single heart does beat
your chains will fall away.
Darkness grows when you’re alone,
but your mother lies below
she’ll lift you up electric blue and green.

Of men, of rage, a girl betrayed,
once a garden raised falls below.
One heart, one hand, will lift the land,
a crumbling tower falls into the sea.

All you children of the sea,
one single heart does beat
your chains will fall away.
Darkness grows when you’re alone,
but your mother lies below
she’ll lift you up electric blue and green.

[daily log: walking, 5 km]

Caveat: Zoos

We drew some zoos in Copernicus반 yesterday. I love having students students do artwork. It’s such a great way to get their full engagement to learning.
[daily log: walking, 5 km]

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