Caveat: Somebody’s Confused

Lately I've been feeling pretty negative about my teaching ability. I suppose that doesn't help in terms of my overall affect, either. It's hard to say what is cause and what is effect, though. It becomes a vicious cycle because my self-doubt about teaching seems to lead to lower-quality teaching – I make more mistakes or mis-judgments; I get more "lazy" about tasks that I perceive as needing to be done; etc. Which of course later reinforces my frustration, too.

Earlier this week I made a terrible mistake. I told my HSM반 that I was mad at them that they hadn't done what I'd asked them to do for homework. In fact, I lectured them and harangued them for about 10 minutes.

It turns out, however… that I'd mis-remembered what their HW assignment was – mixing it up with my HST반. Further, the students… they just sat there, looking sheep faced and repentant. Not a single student made any effort to correct me or expressed any confusion over their "failure" to do the right homework. It's kind of a mess of a teaching screw up, because I only realized long after the class was over, that I'd made the mistake. They've already begun doing the "new, revised" homework assignment. It leaves them questioning their reality, and I'm not in any position to be able to "recover from it" with any grace whatsoever. I'm not even sure, if I tried to explain my screw up, that the students would understand – after all, I doubt they're really accustomed to authority figures admitting error, nor would they have a clue what to make of such information. 

I get paranoid that this is some early indication of the onset of some kind of dementia or mental breakdown. The hypochondria kicks in. 

Sigh. Bleagh.

[daily log: walking, 5 km]

Caveat: beyond the gray-white Palings of the air

A Chronic Condition

Berkeley did not foresee such misty weather,
Nor centuries of light
Intend so dim a day. Swaddled together
In separateness, the trees
Persist or not beyond the gray-white
Palings of the air. Gone
Are whatever wings bothered the lighted leaves
When leaves there were. Are all
The sparrows fallen? I can hardly hear
My memory of those bees
Who only lately mesmerized the lawn.
Now, something, blaze! A fear
Swaddles me now that Hylas' tree will fall
Where no eye lights and grieves,
Will fall to nothing and without a sound.
I sway and lean above the vanished ground.
– Richard Wilbur (American poet, b 1921)

Incidentally, "Hylas' tree" in this poem is a reference to Three Dialogues between Hylas and Philonous, a book written by the philosopher George Berkeley in 1713. I wonder if the "chronic condition" of the title is in fact existence, itself. It does seem be a bit chronic.

[daily log: walking, 5.5 km]

Caveat: Warhol Dreaming – put a peephole in my brain

What does it mean, in the vast scheme of dream symbology, to dream about Andy Warhol? Twice, in one night? 

Really, they were more like dream-fragments. And Warhol was perhaps standing in more as a symbol than as a character – but that's how he'd have preferred to appear in a dream, I suspect.

In the first dream fragment, I was with my father. He was trying to explain to me that, unfortunately, he would not be able to repay to me the 9 cents he owed me, this month. I wasn't sure why he was even worried about it, but he was very intent on justifying, via an explanation of his financial situation, why it simply wasn't going to be possible to come up with the 9 cents. He opened his wallet, and pulled out this repeatedly folded, enormous sheet of paper, upon which he was maintaining a gigantic spreadsheet, in multiple colors of ball-point ink, showing all the different people he owed money. It was all quite pathetic, especially when I realized all the amounts were in cents. Then I noticed, in the far upper left corner (and thus an early, if not first, entry in his spreadsheet), the name and amount "Andy Warhol -15." 

"You owe Andy Warhol 15 cents?" I asked my father, starting to laugh. I was incredulous, and found it funny.

He shook his head gravely. "Noo. Fifteen dollars." He shrugged his shoulders in embarrassment.

"But… he's dead." I said. My dad looked at me in alarm.

That was the end of the first dream fragment.

In the second dream fragment, I was on a commuter bus, trying to get across the 김포대교 (Kimpo Bridge across the Han River – the one that you cross from Ilsan if you're going to Bucheon or Incheon or the airport). There was a horrible traffic jam. It turned out someone had noticed that Andy Warhol was in a car – it looked like a late-model Lincoln towncar, of a sort I've never seen in Korea – and insisted that it was a great place to do an interview of the reclusive (reclusive? – this is some kind of dream-construct) star. In the slowly-moving traffic, my bus finally pulled along side the car where Warhol was being interviewed. The person doing the interview was my student Jinwon (of recent mention). I was more amazed. Jinwon apparently worked for a large Korean media company, and had arrived by helicopter. The questions he was asking Warhol were incoherent. Warhol's answers were incoherent. I was skeptical whether it was really Warhol in the car.

That's the end of the second dream fragment.

What do they mean?

What I'm listening to right now.

David Bowie, "Andy Warhol." No, I did not listen to this last night, so therefore no, it is not an explanation for the dreams. I found it this morning, after waking up with Andy Warhol on my mind. Normally I try to avoid posting a song on my blog that I've posted before, as I have with this one, but it seemed too apropos to resist.


Like to take a cement fix
Be a standing cinema
Dress my friends up
just for show
See them as they really are
Put a peephole in my brain
Two New Pence to have a go
I'd like to be a gallery
Put you all inside my show

Andy Warhol looks a scream
Hang him on my wall
Andy Warhol, Silver Screen
Can't tell them apart at all

Andy walking, Andy tired
Andy take a little snooze
Tie him up when he's fast asleep
Send him on a pleasant cruise
When he wakes up on the sea
Be sure to think of me and you
He'll think about paint
and he'll think about glue
What a jolly boring thing to do


Caveat: Convergence of Shortcomings

I just got home from a dinner with coworkers – that Koreanest of Korean work-things, which is called 회식 (hoesik [not very phonetically pronounced hwehshik more or less]). I became very depressed.

It is a total convergence of all my shortcomings, in one compact experiential setting:

It is my failure to eat normally. I can't enjoy the food.
It is my failure to have mastered the Korean language – I'm barely at 50% in listening, I estimate, and in speaking I'm still stranded in the single digits. 
It my failure to be the kind of outstanding teacher or coworker I wish I could be.
It is my failure to be "normally" sociable.
It's so many things that matter to me. All wrapped up in one big failure.

Now I'm tired.

Good night.

[daily log: walking, 3.5 km]

Caveat: I can’t email you my homework because my dad is at the police station

I have a student named Jinwon. Jinwon has never done homework, that I can recall. When he was new to me, he would give excuses, but eventually he ran out of excuses. He just would shrug and say, “Sorry, Teacher,” now.
I have even made him stay extra time, sometimes – which is something I rarely do, because I feel it’s a fundamentally unfair practice, since some parents have “Do Not Make Stay” instructions attached to their kids. I don’t think it’s good for the kids to see their peers getting differential treatment. I know, right… I’m a communist or something.
Anyway, Jinwon will only write the most desultory things, even when I’ve made him stay. He just doesn’t like to do stuff.
Then, the other day, he seemed quite proud. He claimed to have done his homework. Now… I make the students email their essays to me. I like having an electronic copy. I had not received any email from Jinwon, so I told him. He showed me on his phone, where he’d recorded my email address. He’d gotten it wrong – proof, I suppose, that after a year of knowing him, this was, indeed, the first time he’d attempted to send me his homework.
He asked if he could call his dad, to re-send the essay (I guess it was on the computer at home). I was pleased immensely that he was showing such initiative, and I also began to finally believe he really had done his homework, and wasn’t just inventing an elaborate excuse.
He got on his phone and called his dad. He talked for a moment, stepping out of the classroom. He came back, looking crestfallen. “My dad said to call later.”
“Why?” I asked, wondering if this was, in fact, just an excuse after all.
“He’s at the police station,” he said, showing what seemed quite believable concern and doubt.
“Really!? Why is he there?” I asked. “Is he OK?”
“I don’t know,” the 8th grader replied, with a distracted look. I think he was genuinely surprised.
“Maybe he didn’t do his homework,” I joked, inappropriately. Jinwon laughed, but it was a bit forced. I wasn’t sure I should have made that joke. I don’t know his family’s circumstances.
If this was a “dog-ate-my-homework” ruse, I was beyond annoyed – I was impressed. But actually, I don’t think it was.
Today, two days later, Jinwon sent his essay via email. First time, after 1 year. I felt glad. I praised him profusely, which confused his peers, I think, since they all do their homework every week, and get far less praise.
[daily log: walking, 5.5 km]

Caveat: 이 꿈에서 다시는 깨고 싶지 않아

저는 너무 피곤 해서 지금 재미있는 것을 쓰지못해요.
내가 지금 듣고있어요.

유승준, “가위.”

Check it out now, come on now let me bust it out,
Oh no too slow flow yo kick it a little faster come on
Just a La little more more faster come on come on
I said faster faster uh cause I like it like that and um uh
Come on yo faster yo go faster
넌 내게 말했지 세상을 떠나버린 후
꿈에서라도 다시는 만나서는 안된다고
하지만 매일 밤 꿈속에서 너를 만났어
아무말없이 날보며 울고만 서 있는 너를…
그토록 원했었지 너의 모든 흔적이 없어지길
우리의 모든기억 하얀 너도 강물 위에 띄어 보냈지만
내 손을 잡아봐 어디든 함께 갈테니
너 없이 혼자선 그 어떤 의미조차 될 순 없어
뭐라고 말좀해 왜 자꾸 울고만 있어
한번만 안아줘 이 꿈속에서 깰 수 있도록
넌 하얀 병실에서 조차 남겨질 내 걱정만 하곤 했어
우리 못다한 사랑은 잠시 접어두자고
오히려 나를 위로했어 이제 아무런 약속도
가난한 선물조차 할 수 없는 나
유일하게 너와 함께 할 수 있는
이 꿈에서 다시는 깨고 싶지 않아

[daily log: walking, 5.5 km]

Caveat: Day-in-Review in Video

Yesterday, as is more and more the case, I turned on my camera in each of my classes. The video camera has become a kind of reliable pedagogical tool, which I use partly because there is pressure from Curt to provide fodder for his efforts to effectively advertise our hagwon, and which I will happily support, but also because I have found that my students, as much as they groan and complain about the camera, actually respond to it very positively, speaking with more focus, with more effort, and more entertainingly, too. 

Below is a sampling of yesterday's video caps. Mostly, these days, I don't post my recordings to youtube – I'm a bit lazy (it took me 2 hours to minimally reformat, edit and upload these) and they weren't being used or viewed much. I will let Curt look through the raw clips if he wants, and a few times he's taken some things or asked me to compile some things. I still think that if I was willing put in the effort, it would be cool to have a daily "video diary" of my classroom work.

So here is a one day's video diary of student work in speaking classes at various levels.

At the start of the day, yesterday, I was coaching two students (siblings) with special prepartion for speeches they want to submit to a contest. I think the older brother's speech was a bit boring (and he was stubborn about applying my advice to make it more interesting). I think the younger sister has a good chance of some kind of prize – she's remarkable for someone who has never lived or studied abroad.

Next, we practiced a little song in my Phonics class – these are near-beginners. Then, we practiced the anachronistically Christmas-themed roleplay (an adaptation of the story of Scrooge) in my slightly more advanced Sirius class (where I had to play several roles myself, including Mr Scrooge, because of absent students) – these kids voices are very hard to hear and the sound quality is terrible, I know.

Then, for two classes, we did TOEFL-style speaking – supposedly one-minute speeches. The middle-school students are a rather unmotivated group, none of whom really got close to a high-quality speech, but these were just practice speeches – their speech tests (on exact same topic) will be on Friday. The elementary students (the two girls in the second), on the other hand, are supposedly the top of the hagwon (certainly academically they are),  although I think I have others who are better at speaking, specifically.

Finally, in my awesome new TOEFL1 middle school (really these are transitional kids, 6th-moving-to-7th, just now) we practiced longer, only lightly-prepared (and with zero notes) summaries of the Reading-vs-Listening variety known as TOEFL Speaking "Task 4" questions. 

I suppose I decided to post these partly to give some picture of what it is I spend my day doing. I'm not just sitting around complaining. 

Caveat: Tacocat

Want to see something annoying? Tacocat.

'Nuff said.

[daily log: walking, 5 km]

Caveat: I went to Seoul and ate a burrito

I went into Seoul and met my friend Nate, who happens to be in-country on winter break from graduate school in the US. We met at the Gyobo Mungo (giant bookstore) and I managed to avoid spending too much money (for a change), then we walked through the un-Januarish drizzle to find something to eat. I wasn't sure what I wanted to eat, but we walked past a location of the Dos Tacos chain and so we went there and I had a burrito: Mexican food through a North American filter through a Korean filter. But not bad.

We talked about literature. 

I came back home and had a splitting headache – I'm not sure why, the air seemed stuffy on the subway, but it caused me to abandon my previous intention to write an actual long blog entry. I took a nap instead. Now it's almost midnight and I'm non-sleepy. I hate when I mess up my schedule like that. 

[daily log: walking, 4 km]

Caveat: 추억이라 부를게

내가 지금 듣고있어요.

태양, “눈코입.”

미안해 미안해 하지마
내가 초라해지잖아
빨간 예쁜 입술로
어서 나를 죽이고 가
나는 괜찮아
마지막으로 나를 바라봐줘
아무렇지 않은 듯 웃어줘
네가 보고 싶을 때
기억할 수 있게
나의 머릿속에 네 얼굴 그릴 수 있게
널 보낼 수 없는 나의 욕심이
집착이 되어 널 가뒀고
혹시 이런 나 땜에 힘들었니
아무 대답 없는 너
바보처럼 왜
너를 지우지 못해
넌 떠나버렸는데

너의 눈 코 입
날 만지던 네 손길
작은 손톱까지 다
여전히 널 느낄 수 있지만
꺼진 불꽃처럼
우리 사랑 모두 다
너무 아프지만 이젠 널
추억이라 부를게

사랑해 사랑했지만
내가 부족했었나 봐
혹시 우연이라도
한순간만이라도 널
볼 수 있을까
하루하루가 불안해져
네 모든 게 갈수록 희미해져
사진 속에 너는 왜
해맑게 웃는데
우리에게 다가오는 이별을 모른 채

널 보낼 수 없는 나의 욕심이
집착이 되어 널 가뒀고
혹시 이런 나 땜에 힘들었니
아무 대답 없는 너
바보처럼 왜
너를 지우지 못해
넌 떠나버렸는데

너의 눈 코 입
날 만지던 네 손길
작은 손톱까지 다
여전히 널 느낄 수 있지만
꺼진 불꽃처럼
우리 사랑 모두 다
너무 아프지만 이젠 널
추억이라 부를게

나만을 바라보던 너의 까만 눈
향기로운 숨을 담은 너의 코
사랑해 사랑해
내게 속삭이던 그 입술을 난…

너의 눈 코 입
날 만지던 네 손길
작은 손톱까지 다
여전히 널 느낄 수 있지만
꺼진 불꽃처럼
우리 사랑 모두 다
너무 아프지만 이젠 널
추억이라 부를게

Unexpectedly, the lyrics site offered an English translation.

Don’t be sorry,
That makes me more pitiful
With your pretty red lips
please hurry, kill me and go
I’m all right
Look at me one last time
Smile like nothing’s wrong,
So when I miss you
I can remember
So I can draw your face in my mind
My selfishness that couldn’t let you go
Turned into an obsession that imprisoned you
Were you hurt because of me?
You sit silently
Why am I a fool,
Why can’t I forget you
You’re already gone

Your eyes, nose, lips
Your touch that used to touch me,
To the ends of your fingertips
I can still feel you
But like a burnt out flame,
Burnt and destroyed
All of our love
It hurts so much, but now
I’ll call you a memory

Love you, loved you
I must have not been enough
Maybe I could see you
Just once by coincidence
Everyday I grow restless,
Everything about you
Is becoming faint
You smile back in our pictures,
Unknowing of our
Approaching farewell

My selfishness that couldn’t let you go
Turned into an obsession that imprisoned you
Were you hurt because of me?
You sit silently
Why am I a fool,
Why can’t I forget you
You’re already gone

Your eyes, nose, lips
Your touch that used to touch me,
To the ends of your fingertips
I can still feel you
But like a burnt out flame,
Burnt and destroyed
All of our love
It hurts so much, but now
I’ll call you a memory

Your black eyes that only saw me
Your nose that held the sweetest breath
Your lips that whispered
‘I love you, I love you’… I…

Your eyes, nose, lips
Your touch that used to touch me,
To the ends of your fingertips
I can still feel you
But like a burnt out flame,
Burnt and destroyed
All of our love
It hurts so much, but now
I’ll call you a memory.

[daily log: walking, 5 km]

Caveat: Scary Mou(se/th)

I was trying to explain to a student the distinction between the /th/ phoneme and the /s/ phoneme – many Koreans have trouble with the distinction, since the /th/ doesn't exist in the language, and the problem isn't helped by some sector of the English education complex teaching them that there is really not any difference in the pronunciation between e.g. "mouse" and "mouth". 

So I drew a picture, because he was quite young. It was a spur-of-the-moment illustration, but I was pleased with it. 


[daily log: walking, 5 km]

Caveat: 시작이 반이다

This is an aphorism from my aphorism book.

시작이 반이다
si.jak.i ban.i.da
start-SUBJ half-COPULA
The start is half.

Which is to say, “Starting is half the battle.”
It was not hard to figure out, once I started trying to figure it out.

What I’m listening to right now.

Andy Kim, “Rock Me Gently.” Despite his name, he is not Korean (as is evident from the video, I think, too). Kim is a stage name, I guess. He is Lebanese-Canadian.
[daily log: walking, 5.5 km]

Caveat: Yo, Cat

I have these “Hello Kitty” index cards, which are pink. I got them for free somehow – I don’t recall when. But I use little index cards quite frequently (almost universally) in my speaking classes, when I allow students to make notes – I find the small format makes them think more about what information to put on their cards in preparation for speaking, and at least sometimes prevents them from writing out their speeches verbatim, because they can’t fit the full speech so well on such a small card.
Some of the students (boys, of course) complained about having pink, Hello Kitty index cards. I said deal with it. On a whim, I tried to create a less “girly” version of the Hello Kitty character. I called him/her “Yo, Cat.” Here is a bad-quality photo of a bad-quality sketch.
I guess I conceptualized this character as a hiphop artist.

내가 지금 듣고있어요.

[UPDATE 20180328: Video embed updated due to link-rot.]
매드 클라운, “콩 (Hide And Seek),” (Feat. Jooyoung 주영)

하루의 시작 똑같은 생활의 반복
속에 끈질기게 나를 놓지 않길
난 세상이란 바구니 속 작은 콩
행복이란 게 내 청춘의
방구석 어디쯤 숨었다면
난 쓰레기통 탁자 밑 신발장
안까지 싹 다 뒤졌겠지
하지만 나 바랬던 것들
여기 없네 내게 행복은
소문만 무성할 뿐 목격된 적 없네
속쓰린 아침 다시 밥과 마주했고
이걸 벌기 위해 이걸
또 삼키고 난 나가야 돼
삶이란 건 어쩌면
아빠의 구둣발 같은건가 봐
끊임없이 바닥과 부딪혀
닳고 아픈건가 봐
행복이란 게 마치
숨바꼭질과 같은 거라면
난 모든 길 모퉁이 모든 골목
구석까지 미친 듯 뒤졌겠지
모두가 모르겠단 표정으로
날 비웃을 때 답을 찾았다거나
답이 보인 게 아냐 난 그냥 믿었네
2011년 11월 난 보자기에
씌워진 저 작은 콩
까만 비닐봉지에 싸인
저 위가 내 하늘일 리 없다
믿었고 반복된 일상
평범함은 죄 아니니까
난 웅크린 채 숫자를 세
아직은 한참 밤이니까
스물일곱의 그 밤
무작정 걸었던 그날 밤
가로등 아래 우두커니 서
난 어디로 갈지도 모른 채
스물일곱의 그 밤
내 모습이 초라해
눈을 뜨면 꼭 잡힐 것 같아
아득한 그 시절 그날 밤
해 뜨면 어제 같은 오늘을
또 한 번 나 살아가겠지
붐비는 지하철 똑같은
발걸음들 나 따라가겠지
술잔 앞 꿈에 대한 얘기 할 때면
사실 내 목소리 떳떳하지 못해서
누군가 눈치챌까 괜시리
목소릴 높였지 이 곳을
벗어나고 싶어 난 내가
나로서 살고 싶어
더 비겁해지기 전에
겁 먹기 전에 이젠 나 답고 싶어
작은 콩 몸 속에는
서러움과 눈물 몇 방울
그리고 그 빛나는 믿음을
끌어안고 견디는 중
이 수많은 밤을
나를 믿는 것 꿈을 견디는 것
지금의 내 초라함은
잠시 스쳐갈 뿐이라는 것과
언젠가 머릴 들이밀고
솟아날 콩처럼 까만 보자기 속
난 한없이 더 질겨지고 있지
스물일곱의 그 밤
무작정 걸었던 그날 밤
가로등 아래 우두커니 서
난 어디로 갈지도 모른 채
스물일곱의 그 밤
내 모습이 초라해
눈을 뜨면 꼭 잡힐 것 같아
아득한 그 시절 그날 밤
하루 견뎌 또 하루
세상에 바짝 약 오른 채로
용기를 내긴 힘들었고
포기란 말은 참 쉬웠던
난 숫자를 세지
꼭꼭 숨어라 머리카락 보일라
어디로 넌 숨었을까
어디에 있건 상관없다고
자 하나 둘 셋 넷
다시 다섯 넷 셋 둘
세상은 나를 술래라 해
난 그래서 눈 가렸을 뿐
한때는 헷갈린 적도 있지만
난 이제 갈 길 가네
열까지 숫자를 세고
내일이 되면 난 더 빛나네
나는 더 빛나네
스물일곱의 그 밤
무작정 걸었던 그날 밤
가로등 아래 우두커니 서
난 어디로 갈지도 모른 채
스물일곱의 그 밤
내 모습이 초라해
눈을 뜨면 꼭 잡힐 것 같아
아득한 그 시절 그 날 밤

picture[daily log: walking, 5 km]

Caveat: For Short Attention Spans

It actually snowed for a while today, but it didn't really stick. Maybe it will more, tonight.

This video I ran across, below, is quite amusing. It can be watched many times, I think. There's a lot of weird stuff going on. You must have a very short attention span, however.

[daily log: walking, 1.5 km]

Caveat: Rapid Unscheduled Disassembly

This "vine" (a new-ish, looping video format that is gif-like) was circulating on the intertubes this morning.


This is Elon Musk's effort (well, his company's effort) to land the new SpaceX rocket on a column-of-flame+feet, like in old science fiction stories. Some internet wags (i.e. the Register, where I like to go for my tech news) were calling it "Rapid Unscheduled Disassembly," which strikes me as a wonderful euphemism.

This is just the first try of a production model (and no one was hurt, and the International Space Station nevertheless received its payload without problem), so as failures go, it was pretty minor, I'd say. They'll get it working, I suspect.

And then, finally, we will be living in the future, because rockets will be taking off and landing the way they are supposed to, finally.

[daily log: walking, 6 km]

Caveat: K-Old School

내가 지금 듣고있어요.


유승준, "사랑해 누나" (1997년!)… 어차피, 내 학생들의 연령이 이 노래의 세 미만이에요.


나를 미치도록 찐한 사랑에 빠지게 했던 그녀는 나보다 더
나이가 훨씬 많아 아니 쬐끔 하지만나는 네 어깨에다 손을
올리곤 했었지 왜냐하면 내가 키가더 크니까
혹시나 하는 두려움은 모두 떨쳐버려 세상이 만들어 논 기
유승준 사랑해 누나 
준들은모두 버려 널 아끼고 너를 믿는 가슴속에 내 소중한
사람이 있다는 걸절대 잊어서는 안돼
아무리 날 노려 보아도 항상 내 이름을 불러대지
어깨에 내손을 올릴땐 새침한 그 미소가 너무나 예뻐
그 누구의 시선도 어떤 말도 겁낼건없어 그 무엇도 어쩔
수 없는 우리 사랑 있잖아
어리다고 나를 놀리는 너의 친구들이 싫지만 걱정하듯 나
를 비웃는 내 친구 두려웠지만
바보처럼 울어선 안돼 언제라도 활짝 웃어줘 내 가슴속의
사랑은 널 안기에 충분하니까

넌 웃는게 예뻐 그러니까 웃어줘 언제까지라도 눈물은 없을
꺼야 늘 담당해줘 우리 사랑앞에서 두려워할 것도 흔들릴
것도 없으니까 그게 잘 안 되면 아예나를 오빠라고 불러버
려 그것이 너에겐 더 편할지도 모르니까 약속해 줄께니가
기대 잠들 내 가슴은 언제까지 너만을 기다린다는 것을
아무도 우리사랑을 어떻게 할 수는 없을꺼야
언제나 네곁에 있을께 너만의 사랑인 날잊어선 안돼
다른 연인들보다 힘이 들고 어렵겠지만 영원히 널 지켜줄거
야 조금만 더 기다려
어리다고 나를 놀리는 너의 친구들이 싫지만 걱정하듯 나
를 비웃는 내 친구 두려웠지만
바보처럼 울어선 안돼 언제라도 활짝 웃어줘 내 가슴속의
사랑은 널 안기에 충분하니까
헤어지기 싫은 너와 나의 아쉬운 작별을 하고 힘이 겹게돌
아온 내 책상속에는 오늘은 또 너의 어떤 얘기가 있을런지
하루종일 궁금해하는 내 일기장 오늘은 그 미장원의 미용사
에게 너를 2시간동안 너를 뺏긴 얘기를썼고 항상 마지막 간
절한 마음을 적었지 영원히사랑해 누나~~


Caveat: Chaewon’s Diary

I have a 1st grade (elementary) student named Chaewon. Her mother is making her do additional English homework that is not part of our curriculum – because it's never too early to overburden your kids with homework. She's making Chaewon write 2 English diary entries each week.

Here are Chaewon's first two extra-work diary entries. 



My first reaction was just to recognize the heart-wrenching agony of being a 1st grader in such a demanding cultural milieu.

My second reaction was: how is it possible for a 1st grader to have written this, in English, when she's been at KarmaPlus less than a year and does not stand out as a remarkable student.

But my third reaction was to recall that Chaewon is not a regular student. I believe that before she came to KarmaPlus, she was in an English kindergarten in Dubai. Probably, that was an immersion environment. I was struck by her at the time she first came, that she was a bit like a very shy "native speaker" child of her age with some recent trauma in her past, who was very good at verbal communication with English, but only on her terms and when she was willing, but was also quite "behind" on literacy skills – she could barely spell her name when she came to us. Perhaps the recent trauma in her past was coming to Korea?

Korean hagwon-based English education is of course almost opposite in orientation from her strengths, then: it depreciates spoken ability in favor of a kind  of mute, passive, but grammatically precise literacy – even among young elementary students. Of course I  try to be a counterweight to that – but there's only so much I can  achieve, seeing kids one or two hours a week. But because she is so weak in areas that hagwon curricula emphasizes, she is perceived by her Korean teachers as being mediocre at best, and her strange alternation between shyness and aggressiveness makes her seem unmotivated if not rude.

And, still, with respect to Chaewon's diary, I wonder – did she write this without assistance? I'm not sure. The linguistics are quite strange – on the one hand, it seems very private and sincere and strikingly sad, too. But on the other hand, it seems that even if a native-speaking first grader were writing this, I'd have to wonder, because there's a strange self-aware craftedness to the prose that doesn't seem right for a child that age. For example, the almost literary-usage style of "but" in the sentence "My familiar voice is not the alarm but my brother's voice." That's in weird contrast to the mis-uses of the terms "used to" or "notice," both of which bespeak an over-reliance on literalist look-ups in dictionary or grammar text, which is the sort of error I more normally associate with middle school students of middle-to-high competence.

I'm curious now.  I may want to follow up.

[daily log: walking, 5.5 km]

Caveat: Oinkography

Yesterday during the staff meeting I was grumpy, because … well, it was because of something that was ultimately my own fault, for having failed to validate some work someone else had done. Anyway, I will have to adapt my curriculum for my Sirius반… 

I took these notes during the meeting. They are quite detailed, but don't really make clear what I need to do.


Later, my student Hansaem made some minor additions to the notes in red pen, including her name and the name of an imaginary friend.

[daily log: walking, 5 km]

Caveat: 눈 위에 서리 친다

Here is a winter-themed aphorism from my aphorism book.

눈 위에 서리 친다.
nun wi.e seo.ri chin.da
snow over-LOC frost hit-PRES
Frost falls on snow.

This seems about the same as “out of the frying pan, into the fire.” But colder.
So far I’ve been very disappointed by the extremely snowless winter Korea is having. We had basically one snowfall. It’s just cold and dry. I guess that’s the whole Siberian thing, going on.
[daily log: walking, 5 km]

Caveat: the sky is a simulacrum

I'm not sure these three things belong together. But here they are, together in this blog.



Vast and grey, the sky
is a simulacrum
to all but him whose days
are vast and grey, and–
In the tall, dried grasses
a goat stirs
with nozzle searching the ground.
–my head is in the air
but who am I
And amazed my heart leaps
at the thought of love
vast and grey
yearning silently over me.
– William Carlos Williams (American poet, 1883-1963)

What I'm listening to right now.

[UPDATE 20180328: video embed replaced due to link-rot]

Jean Sibelius, "Lemminkäinen Suite."

[daily log: walking, 5.5 km]

Caveat: Post-4000

According to my blog host, this is my 4000th blog posting.

My 2000th post was 2012/02/17, and my 3000th post was 2013/05/12 – a span of 450 days, or 2.2 posts per day – while this post is on 2015/01/13, a span, from Post-3000, of 611 days, or 1.6 posts per day.

Evidently, my rate of posting has slowed down. I suppose the cause of such a slowdown is in part utterly obvious: it’s the fact of having experienced cancer (or more specifically, its aftermath) for the last two years.

But… I think it is also a bit of a disillusionment with social media in general. Most strongly, I became substantially unhappy with the facebook: its echo-chamber and epistemic closure aspects, and also the feeling that they “owned” me in some way, viz. the commodification of my online persona. So despite some gratitude to the way it enabled me to stay in touch with far-flung friends and family so easily during the worst of my illness, I have essentially quit the book-of-faces, leaving it only as an abandoned “stub” to enable people to “find” me. Nevertheless, my disillusionment with web-based social media extends up to and includes This Here Blog Thingy™, too, which I obviously haven’t quit but for which I feel some reduced enthusiasm.

What’s it all for? The blog has introduced a sort of discipline into my previously utterly-undisciplined writerly life, but it’s also become one of the chief ways I avoid what I might charitably characterize as my more “authorial” ambitions (novels, poetry, short stories). It’s become a means of self-discipline with respect to writing, sometimes, but just as often it’s evolved into a means of willful procrastination that fails to actually lead to any kind of writing or even to any intelligent or critical reading. I’m not proposing to drop the blog – merely expressing my disappointment with my own failure to “leverage the medium,” as a businessperson might phrase it.

Caveat: meameamealokkapoowa oompa and other curiosities of googology

Googology, apparently, is a subfield of mathematics dedicated to the study of large numbers. It has its own wiki. I found this wiki after attempting to read an old article by mathematician Scott Aaronson about big numbers. Actually, what surprised me about some of the material on the googology wiki more than anything else was that, in fact, I found myself making some effort to understand it, despite the dense mathematics.

I more-or-less understood the idea behind hyper-operators (and up-arrow notation), but became lost by what was called BEAF (a sort of systematic way of specifying functions with hyper-exponential growth, I guess), and I was eventually sidetracked by the plethora of whimsical terminology: big numbers beyond - way beyond – googol, with names like boogagoogolplex or meameamealokkapoowa oompa (which is defined by {{L100,10}10,10&L,10}10,10 , in case you were wondering – and no, I don't understand that).

There's a nice glossary of recently-coined, really big numbers (many created in response to Aaronson's original article) at an aesthetically-challenged web page called Infinity Scrapers. Note that the "meameamealokkapoowa group" appears at the bottom of the list (does this mean that it is really the biggest-of-the-big numbers? or just the most recently to be characterized?).

It is worth noting, for the uninitiated, that the absolute smallest of these numbers (but the largest which I can be assured that at least a few of my middle-school students, for example, might be aware of) is googol (= 10100), yet that number is still greater than the estimated number of elementary particles in the observable universe, 1086.

It's rare that I've tried so hard to penetrate a mathematical concept since my first year in college, when, after a semester of trying to make sense of the number-theoretical foundations of calculus under the unkind tutelage of Professor A. Wayne R__, nicknamed "B" Wayne R__ since he never gave A-grades. I concluded I wasn't cut out to be a math major, and abandoned ship for the more hospitable fields of the humanities surfing around to Religious Studies and English Lit before landing in Linguistics, which was a semi-return to the more rigorous fold. It's one of my few genuine regrets in life, I suppose. Not a regret at having jumped ship – rather, a regret to having found myself obligated to do so… which is to say, it's not really regret, more like disappointment with myself. 

[daily log: walking, { {}, {{}}, {{},{{}}}, {{},{{}},{{},{{}}}} , {{}, {{}}, {{},{{}}}, {{},{{}},{{},{{}}}}} } (=amount in km, represented set-theoretically using Von Neumann ordinals)]

Caveat: Estás mojado, ya no te quiero

Lo que estoy escuchando en este momento.

Los abuelos de la nada, "Mil horas." 


Hace frío y estoy lejos de casa
Hace tiempo que estoy sentado sobre esta piedra
Yo me pregunto
Para que sirven las guerras
Tengo un cohete en mi pantalón
Vos estás tan fría como la nieve a mi alrededor
Vos estás tan blanca, que yo no se que hacer

La otra noche te esperé
Bajo la lluvia dos horas
Mil horas como un perro
Y cuando llegaste me miraste
Y me dijiste loco
Estás mojado, ya no te quiero

En el circo vos ya sos una estrella
Una estrella roja que todo se lo imagina
Si te preguntan, vos no me conocías
No, no
Tengo un cohete en mi pantalón
Vos estás tan fría como la nieve a mi alrededor
Vos estás tan blanca, que yo no se que hacer
Te esperé bajo la lluvia
No, no, no, no

La otra noche te esperé
Bajo la lluvia dos horas
Mil horas como un perro
Y cuando llegaste me miraste
Y me dijiste loco
Estás mojado, ya no te quiero

La otra noche te esperé
Bajo la lluvia dos horas
Mil horas como un perro
Y cuando llegaste me miraste
Y me dijiste loco
Estás mojado, ya no te quiero

[daily log: yes]

Caveat: Canonize that Carpet!

I discovered an interactive guide to aiport carpets of the world. This is soo useful. Didn't you ever wonder what the carpet would be like at some airport? Here is your chance to know.

They provide quirky, tongue-in-cheek, postmodern reviews. Here is the review of the airport carpet at Mexico City (Benito Juarez International): 

The carpet of MEX is unremarkable save for one important feature: the carpet changes color every other year. Since its installation in 1987, its colors have included a midnight blue, a dull grey, a lime green, and a hot pink. After years of study, Mexican scientists have declared MEX a mircale, and attempts have since been made to have the carpet canonized.

[daily log: walking, 5 km]

Caveat: Like a Salmon

Trying to understand philosophy is like trying to hold a salmon. See below… 

[daily log: walking, 5 km]

Caveat: 웃고 뺨친다

I realized recently that at some point I kind of lost my habit of periodically posting little Korean aphorisms.
Here’s one.

웃고 뺨친다
ut.go ppyam.chin.da
smile-CONJ slap-PRES
Smile and slap.

The meaning is something like the one in English that goes, “smile on the face, dagger in the heart.”
I like its economy, and I learned a new word: 뺨치디 = “slap.”
[daily log: walking, 5.5 km]

Caveat: No Weather


Sometimes the little "weather widget" I've got on the left-hand column of This Here Blog Thingy™ behaves strangely. This morning it told me there was "no weather" (see screenshot at right).

I checked outside, and sure enough, the sky was slate gray and the temperature was 0 C. That strikes me as pretty close to "no weather," actually.

But you have to admit, it's kind of weird.

[daily log: walking, 5 km]


Caveat: Meditations on tonguelessness, and the end of the world

I've written before about what I call my "meta hypochondria" – that nagging suspicion that I have some grave new illness, but which I then dismiss by turning my worry to the possibility that I'm suffering from some unreasonable, hypochondriac delusion instead. Since my cancer, this has become even more multi-layered and frustrating.

With any new persistent ache or twinge or discomfort, I immediately begin to think: "Is that it? Is that the metastasis I've worried about? Is that some new cancer growing in my mouth or chest or wherever it is I'm feeling discomfort?" Then I think, well, that's unreasonable, to worry about that – I've got my check-ups, every three months, with CT-scans and all that, and they would tell me, if something was going on. Then I waver, and think, "well, but they might miss something. It's not common for a mouth cancer to metastasize into a gut cancer, but I've had that stomachache for the last several hours – maybe this is it?"

Then I think, I'm just a hypochondriac. That's meta-hypochondria, when you think that. Especially if it turns out you're wrong, and you're not a hypochondriac, but in fact have something wrong. That's what happened to me – I put off dealing with the pain in my mouth for so long, thinking I was just being overly sensitive to some minor issue, and telling myself to stop being a hypochondriac.

The fact is, I don't have much time in my life, these days, when my mind is not swirling around some possible new health problem. I experience a lot of discomfort: not quite pain, but "almost pain" in my mouth (where my nerves were cut), in my body (who knows from what – just aches and pains of a body not well-maintained), wherever. It's a bit like having a cold sore in your mouth – you "worry it" all the time, with your tongue.

The metaphor is exceptionally apt, if somewhat inverted, because the sensations aren't exactly the same: I wonder to what extent the fact that it was my tongue that was stricken, broken, and reconstructed as a numb, dead thing… how that impacts my proprioception… I think about how babies, before any other thing, begin to experience their world through their mouths. They put things in their mouths. It's like the mouth is a place of origin, a "center" of the self-perceived body-as-body. And so, I am vulnerable to distortions in proprioception because my tongue is "missing" – from a sensations standpoint.

Tangentially (but not as unrelatedly as normal, perhaps), I ran across this video, just now.

[UPDATE 20180328: Video embed lost due to link-rot; no replacement found. Condé Nast videos website fail! Sad!]


[daily log: walking, 4.5 km]

Caveat: University of malware… expected to do a rampant

Google translate is truly horrible, for Korean->English. I admit that at least for most major European languages, I am nevertheless impressed, and it does a great job. With those languages, there is a sufficiently large body of precisely parallel texts (mostly due to EU integration and language policies) that a statistical translation such as the google attempts can yield decent results. But Korean… the results can be truly weird.

Sometimes, I get text messages from my phone service (LG+). In case they are important, I will copy-paste them directly into google translate in an effort to decide if I can freely disregard the message or if I have to take some action on it. A message received earlier today was a great example where the google-translate version is hilarious and weird but nevertheless allows me to know that I can comfortably ignore the message.

The paragraph I laughed at came out in google as:

To celebrate the 24-year civil life cohesive, Courier, New Year greetings, New Year's gift quarterlies, University of malware, including entrance fees (SMS phishing) are expected to do a rampant.

The original was:

새해를 맞이하여 생활 밀착형 민원24, 택배, 새해 인사, 새해선물 연말정산, 대학 입학금 등 악성코드(스미싱)가 기승을 부릴 것으로 예상이 됩니다.

The gist is that I should watch out for spam SMS (which is definitely a problem in Korea – I delete 3 or 4 such messages each day from my phone), and maybe subscribe to their extra spam-fighting service … which I won't. I only pay attention to messages that are from a known source (e.g. a person I know or officially from my provider, like this one). It's hard to fall for phishing attacks in a language you don't know well. Speaking of which, when and how did some Russians decide I wanted to read vast quanties of Russian-language spam? Does anyone else have this problem with email spam in Russian?

And speaking of Universities of malware… maybe North Korea has one. Maybe there's a university of malware, doing a rampant, up the road in Kaeseong, 30 km from my home here in Ilsan. Somehow it's pretty easy to visualize.

 [daily log: walking, 6 km]

Back to Top