Caveat: ɇ

The other day, we were starting book three in the Smart Phonics series in my Alpha1 cohort (elementary 1st and 2nd graders). This is where the kids first meet the obscure and confusing "silent e."

This always makes me think back to PBS's Electric Company show, circa 1970s. 

What I'm listening to right now. 

Tom Lehrer, "Silent E."

I think I will try to show this to my students.


Who can turn a can into a cane?
Who can turn a pan into a pane?
It's not too hard to see
It's silent e

Who can turn a cub into a cube?
Who can turn a tub into a tube?
It's elementary
For silent e

He took a pin and turned it into pine
He took a twin and turned him into twine

Who can turn a cap into a cape?
Who can turn a tap into a tape?
A little glob becomes a globe instantly
If you just add silent e

He turned a dam – alikazam! – into a dame
But my friend sam stayed just the same

Who can turn a man into a mane?
Who can turn a van into a vane?
A little hug becomes huge instantly
Don't add w, don't add x, and don't add y or z,
Just add silent e

[daily log: walking, 6 km]

Caveat: just to drown out in the city of lakes

What I'm listening to right now.

Sims, "Tape Deck."


(Baby I'm all… Minneapolis, in the midwest)

Welcome to the tired generation of pliered patience
we're the tossed pennies, the Reaganomical waste kids
but look at me, broken link off every socialites token blink
thinking I'ma change shit
I don't want your nomination
my name is Sims, freedom fighter writer trapped in cat's cradle
Doomtree that's phat the label (Yeah)
so hang from your halo, but I spit mud on your Dockers
not trying to graduate to a Craftmatic adjustable office
turn your brain waves on and off like water faucets
I'm astonished stomping through the modern process
so I rally around stone throwers
my bones colder than icebergs
titanic havoc wrecking shop with Christ slurs
twice burned for advice learned before I met hesitation
open visitation for a dead generation
so wake the fuck up, I'm running out of patience
wake the fuck up, you're sleep walking
wake the fuck up

(Come on man, listen to this shit)
(Wake up)

We were born agitated seeds but grew into apathy
half of me wishes out of this modern catastrophe
but I've got my nine millimeter mouth to blasphemy
twelve steps to being a better self but the ladder collapsed on me
casually humanity becomes a casualty of
graphic mastery, a mental masterpiece
but the pieces spit out my mouth like faulty orthodontics
unorthodox phonics and chronic smoke choke on autopilot
a fleet of Palm Pilots disperse from universities
what's worse meaning isn't surfacing, time to face
how can y'all take the days straight without a purpose to chase?
there's more to life than grades, work, then graves

Put the tape in the tape deck
Yo put the tape in the tape deck
(My life, my life, my life's a fucking mess.

Next year I might be 25 light beams ahead of myself
(might) be 25 cents richer depending on my shelf life
ain't what it seems but I've got one to bleed
so save up a fuck for the agitated seeds
smashing piggy bank dreams
saturated breed, soaked in fat and granite
planted on this planet next to the blaze that we didn't raise
we saw the flames and fanned it
now I'm annexed to vexed manic panic status, I got next
ante up your war machine mechanics and pension checks
they're out their right mind
I threw a left cause just to stop the motive
duly noted as I throw my clear thoughts in their gearbox
it's like there's one typewriter and a million fucking Xerox
so save those peer props about beer gogs and gear rocked
cause you got steered lost

Put the tape in the tape deck (I crank the mix tape and wait for the break)
Yo put the tape in the tape deck (I crank the mix tape and wait for the break)
I just don't think you're good that's all (I crank the mix tape and wait for the break)

I crank the mixtape and wait for the break
just to drown out in the city of lakes
I crank the mixtape and wait for the break
just to drown out in the city of lakes
I crank the mixtape and wait for the break
just to drown out in the city of lakes
I crank the mixtape and wait for the break
just to drown out in the city of lakes
I don't wanna be a part of your workforce
I don't wanna be a part of you problem
I don't wanna be a part of your workforce
so I guess I'll be that thorn in your side

(I have to start all over again.
Ain't that the damnedest thing?
Did ya know that loneliness will kill you deader than a .357 Magnum?
Did ya know that?)

[daily log: walking, 6 km]

Caveat: 내것 잃고 인심 잃는다

About a month ago, I misplaced my book of proverbs. I don’t quite know how this happened – I was straightening things up and put it somewhere I thought was logical at the moment, and then couldn’t for the life of me find it again later.
This was annoying. I actually looked quite actively for it a few times.
Yesterday, I finally ran across it, under a vast pile of papers I had intended to sort out at one point. How it got there I can’t quite fathom, as the pile of papers precedes, archeologically speaking, the loss of the book. 
Anyway, I am glad to have found it again. Here is a proverb.

내것 잃고 인심 잃는다
nae.geot ilh.go in.sim ilh.neun.da
my-thing lose-CONJ hearts-of-people lose-PRES
“I lose my things, and I lose the hearts of the people.”

I guess this has a pretty self-evident meaning, although it’s not clear to me if the loss of the things leads to the loss of people’s hearts, or if it’s more about how bad luck comes along all at once, losing this and then that.
Anyway, this is why I was sad to have lost my aphorism book – because I knew that subsequently, I would be losing the hearts of my readers. 
[daily log: walking, 6 km]

Caveat: to teach reason reason


Who could believe an ant in theory?
a giraffe in blueprint?
Ten thousand doctors of what's possible
could reason half the jungle out of being.
I speak of love, and something more,
to say we are the thing that proves itself
not against reason, but impossibly true,
and therefore to teach reason reason.
– John Ciardi (American poet, 1916-1986)

What I'm listening to right now.

Krzysztof Penderecki, "Symphony No. 7."

[daily log: walking, an inch]

Caveat: Vigilant Disregard

On my work blog's admin page, hosted on the website, which is Korean, they will put up these little "prompts" to suggest blog topics, in Korean.

Yesterday, on June 25th, appropriately, they had the question:

6.25전쟁과 같은 전쟁이 다시 일어나지 않으려면, 어떻게 해야 할까요?

Roughly, it asks, "How can we avoid another war like the 6-25 war?" ("6-25 war" is what South Koreans call the Korean war, since it started with the  North's surprise attack on June 25th, 1950). 

The answer that popped into my mind immediately was: "Just keep doing the same thing that's been done."

Why such a flippant answer? Well, it's worked for 60 years, right? 

I would characterize the South's approach to the North with the oxymoronic phrase "vigilant disregard." Vigilant because the Korean military is large, well-trained (relatively speaking), and well-supported (e.g. financially, by the U.S. alliance, etc.). Disregard, because, despite this vigilance, there is little coherence or intentionality to be found in the broader policy portfolio. It is mostly reactive, but tempered by a strong conservative tendency to hove to the status quo and avoid provocation. I've always said that South Korea seems to mostly see the North the way a Korean family would regard a mentally ill elderly relative. Something to be embarassed by, to try to ignore, but also to be controlled as best possible. 

Anyway, I answered that naver blog question here on this here blog thingy. 

[daily log: walking, 6 km]

Caveat: Cervantes’ Bones

pictureThey’ve gone and found his bones, finally. He was known to be buried in the Convento de las Monjas Trinitarias Descalzas, but the precise gravesite had been lost to time.
A short editorial in the New Yorker observes that this business of finding the old satirist’s remains is tied in with a creeping commercialization, i.e. the emergence of a “Cervantes tourism industry.” I’m not inclined to condemn this out of hand – it strikes me that Cervantes wouldn’t have been offended by someone making a buck off his remains – indeed, it’s the sort of scheme he’d have been on board with.
I suppose I have a special relationship with Cervantes – his work is, after all, the topic of my never-quite-written PhD dissertation. If I ever make it to Madrid, I’ll feel compelled to visit this newly-created bit of history, I reckon.
Meanwhile, just last weekend I read 5 pages of [broken link! FIXME] a certain book that, in theory, supports that never-quite-written dissertation. Not that I’m going to write it, but sometimes I think about it.
picture[daily log: walking, 6 km]

Caveat: This debate is boring

This is crossposted from my work blog.

We did a "humorous" debate on a topic the students selected from a list of suggestions. 

Proposition: "This debate is boring."

The debate was special because my relatives were visiting, and my niece Sarah and nephew James participated. It was a rare chance for American students to participate in Korean hagwon life. And although they'd never done this type of debate style before, they held their own as native speakers, with excellently reasoned if somewhat short speeches.

Here are the speeches.

Homework: none.

I'll post additional pictures of James and Sarah's visit to the hagwon later.

[daily log: walking, 6 km]

Caveat: holographic principle

"The holographic principle states that the entropy of ordinary mass (not just black holes) is also proportional to surface area and not volume; that volume itself is illusory and the universe is really a hologram which is isomorphic to the information "inscribed" on the surface of its boundary." – from wikipedia.

This blew my mind – my layman's brain can't understand all the mathematics or physics, but I sort of understand the principles involved, and this is really amazing to think about. 

My stepmother Wendy and sister Brenda with her two kids James and Sarah have come out to Ilsan today. I'll post about it tomorrow.

[daily log: walking, 5 km]


Caveat: Singing About Meatloaf

What I’m listening to right now.

Tiny Cowboy (AKA Oasis), “Meatloaf.”
This song is embedded in an episode of the the almost Cervantine cartoon Phineas and Ferb. The group “Tiny Cowboy” seems to be a fictionalization of the real brit alt rock group Oasis.
The sophisticated and multi-layered writing on this Disney children’s cartoon, which [broken link! FIXME] I mentioned before, continues to amaze me as I occasionally sample episodes during my free time. Either that, or my senility is advancing too rapidly, and I’m perfectly content to just sit and watch cartoons.
A deconstruction of Star Wars:

[daily log: walking, 6 km]

Caveat: A Rainy Saturday

Yesterday was a rainy Saturday. I went into Seoul and met my stepmother Wendy. We shopped a bit around Insadong, had lunch of jeon [전] and donkaseu [돈카스], and stopped off at the Jogye temple.
I came home and ended up going to bed early.
Today has been supremely lazy.
picture[daily log: walking, down the stairs and up again]

Caveat: old earth’s groping toward the steep heaven


NOT of all my eyes see, wandering on the world,
Is anything a milk to the mind so, so sighs deep
Poetry to it, as a tree whose boughs break in the sky.
Say it is ashboughs: whether on a December day and furled
Fast ór they in clammyish lashtender combs creep
Apart wide and new-nestle at heaven most high.
They touch heaven, tabour on it; how their talons sweep
The smouldering enormous winter welkin! May
Mells blue and snowwhite through them, a fringe and fray
Of greenery: it is old earth’s groping towards the steep
Heaven whom she childs us by.
– Gerard Manley Hopkins (English poet, 1844-1889)

[daily log: walking toward the sky]


Caveat: Sow and Reap


Karma is what you do and what you reap as a result. If you stand tall and straight in the sunshine, then your shadow will be tall and straight. If you slouch, then your shadow will slouch. If you create noble karma, then you will have a noble life but if you create twisted karma, you'll lead a twisted life.
– ven. Song Choi (Korean Chogye zen practitioner, trans. by Brian Berry)

I don't know that I completely like the emphasis of this quote – it trends toward the "purity narratives" that I detest in religious discourse. However, it is a simple definition of "karma," which is always on my mind, because of my eponymously-named place of employment. Read creatively, we don't necessarily have to imagine that "twisted" is a negative – I could see it as a kind of synonym for "interesting" or "baroque" or something similar.

[daily log: walking, 6 km]

Caveat: MERSland

Am I worried about MERS? Not particularly. On the one hand, I suppose if it gets bad, that would be, well, bad. And my own weak immune system would not be helpful, either, if it started spreading around Ilsan.
It is true the Korean health authorities have somewhat mismanaged the outbreak, too.
If I was in America, it’s worth noting that authorities there were mismanaging Ebola, not that long ago. So far, so much the same anywhere you choose to be.
In any event, I think 90% of the current MERS situation in South Korea is hypochondria and media-driven public panic. The fact is that if you stay away from hospitals, you’re fine.
Authorities are trying to correct their earlier mis-steps. I got a MERS-oriented public health flier the other day at my apartment.
I guess I view it as one of those incipient, unpredictable but inevitable calamities, like earthquakes or typhoons or North Korean aggression. They happen if they happen, and meanwhile, the smartest course is to not worry and try to live life as normal.
picture[daily log: walking, 6 km]

Caveat: An American Kid In the Hagwon

My niece Sarah visited yesterday at Karma.
It was interesting to see how the kids reacted – they don’t get much chance to actually meet “foreigners” (i.e. like me), much less “foreign children.”
I wish I (or someone) had taken more pictures. Here are two that my stepmom (Sarah’s grandmother) took.
I was actually very impressed with Sarah’s equanimity and patience with the situation – I can imagine it feeling pretty overwhelming to be immersed with a bunch of rambunctious aliens (in many senses of that word – alien language and alien culture, but still just kids for all that). She got along really well with my lower level (and younger) class, but I think she felt a bit uncomfortable and overwhelmed with the older and more advanced kids.
picture[daily log: still just walking]

Caveat: L’insensibilité de l’azur et des pierres

Tristesse d'Été

Le soleil, sur le sable, ô lutteuse endormie,
En l'or de tes cheveux chauffe un bain langoureux,
Et consumant l'encens sur ta joue ennemie,
Il mêle avec les pleurs un breuvage amoureux.

De ce blanc flamboiement l'immuable accalmie
T'a fait dire, attristée, ô mes baisers peureux,
"Nous ne serons jamais une seule momie
Sous l'antique désert et les palmiers heureux !"

Mais ta chevelure est une rivière tiède,
Où noyer sans frissons l'âme qui nous obsède
Et trouver ce Néant que tu ne connais pas !

Je goûterai le fard pleuré par tes paupières,
Pour voir s'il sait donner au cœur que tu frappas
L'insensibilité de l'azur et des pierres.
– Stéphane Mallarmé (French poet, 1842-1898)

It has felt very summery lately. 

I was going to post about Wendy and Sarah's visit to Karma yesterday, but I'll save that post for another time as I didn't set aside time this morning to write about it. I will only say I slept in a bit more than usual this morning and had a really bad dream about losing several students (really losing them, as in unable to find them), and everyone laughing at me for my inability to find my students. I think that symbolically reflects stress over the quality of my teaching.

[daily log: walking, 6 km]

Caveat: Why Are Jumping Cats Offensive to the Dead?

pictureThere’s a book I have, entitled Eerie Tales from Old Korea. It doesn’t have an author, but is “compiled by” Brother Anthony of Taizé, a quite well-known Catholic monk who teaches at the main Catholic University in Seoul (called Sogang University) and who is a prolific translator and populizer of Korean poetry and literature.
These tales in this compilation, however, are not his translations, but rather translated by various early Christian missionaries in Korea. I enjoy reading these stories.
Here is a short story that makes me wonder about cats. According to Brother Anthony, it appeared in a magazine called Korea Review, published 1902-1905, probably translated by the missionary Homer B. Hulbert. The story doesn’t really answer the question in my title – it merely raises it, and offers a kind of “first instance” folk-explanation.

About two centuries and a half ago, a boy, who later became the great scholar Sa Jae, went to bed one night after a hard day’s work on his Chinese. He had not been asleep long when he woke with a start. The moon was shining in at the window and dimly lighting the room. Something was moving just outside the door. He lay still and listened. The door swung of its own accord and a tall black object came gliding into the room and silently took its place in the corner. The boy mastered his fear and continued gazing into the darkness at his ominous visitor. He was a very strong-minded lad and after a while, seeing that the black ghost made no movement, he turned over and went to sleep.

The moment he awoke in the morning, he turned his eyes to the corner and there stood his visitor still. It was a great black coffin standing on end with the lid nailed on and evidently containing its intended occupant. The boy gazed at it a long while and at last a look of relief came over his face. He called in his servant and said, “Go down to the village and find out who has lost a corpse.”

Soon the servant came running back with the news that the whole village was in an uproar. A funeral had been in progressbut the watchers by the coffin had fallen asleep, and when they awoke coffin and corpse had disappeared. “Go and tell the chief mourner to come here.” When that excited individual appeared, the boy called him into the room and, pointing to the corner, said quietly, “What is that?” The hemp-clad mourner gazed in wonder and consternation. “That? That’s my father’s coffin. What have you been doing? You’ve stolen my father’s body and disgraced me forever.” The boy smiled and said, “How could I bring it here? It came of its own accord. I awoke in the night and saw it enter.”

The mourner was incredulous and angry. “Now I will tell you why it came here,” said the boy. “You have a cat in your house and it must be that it jumped over the coffin. This was such an offense to the dead that by some occult power, coffin, corpse, and all came here to be safe from further insult. If you don’t believe it, send for your cat and we will see.” The challenge was too direct to refuse, and a servant was sent for the cat. Meanwhile, the mourner tried to lay the coffin down on its side, but, with all his strength, he could not budge it an inch. The boy came up to it and gave it three stroke with his hand on the left side and a gentle push. The dead recognized the master hand, and the coffin was easily laid on its side.

When the cat arrived and was placed in the room, the coffin, of its own accord, rose on its end again, a position in which it was impossible for the cat to jump over it. The wondering mourner accepted the explanation, and that day the corpse was laid safely in the ground. But to this day, the watchers beside the dead are particularly careful to see that no cat enters the mortuary chamber lest it disturb the peace of the deceased.

picture[daily log: walking, some certain amount of distance]

Caveat: Dolls Yelling Like Thunder

I met my stepmother Wendy yesterday – she's back in Korea this time with my sister and niece and nephew. But those latter are staying with friends in Seoul, and so far those friends in Seoul are keeping them very busy – which is fine, since I'm rather burnt out lately. But I met Wendy yesterday, we went to a bookstore and had lunch at an Indian restaurant, and then Wendy came out to Ilsan. She says she likes Ilsan, and I'm happy to host her here.

Early this morning, around 5 am, there was a monstrous thunderstorm, and I woke up. When I went back to sleep, I had a very strange dream.

I was teaching in a very disorganized, slightly overcrowded hagwon. Hm… sounds like reality. There was a very noisy class going on next door to mine, and so I went out into the hallway to see what was going on in the other class, and I looked in and saw only dolls on shelves and toys. No students.

I went back to my classroom, and once again, there was noise coming through the thin walls. Once again, I went to look, and saw only these somewhat creepy dolls sitting on shelves. 

The dream wasn't quite a nightmare, but it was disturbing and eerie. 

I woke up and the clouds from the earlier storm had cleared, and then later I had coffee and made a short shopping trip with my stepmom, and we talked a lot.

Really, that's all we did: kind of sat around today and talked a lot. Two vaguely exhausted relatives catching up, I guess.

 [daily log: walking, 2 km]

Caveat: Spongewalter Whitepants

OK, I don't even particularly like that TV show, "Breaking Bad." 

This parody, however, is pure genius. Maybe it's just that I do happen to like Spongebob. I'm weird, right?

I had a another really difficult day yesterday. The capper: I broke my video camera – which, if you watch my work blog, you know I use a great deal in my classroom, on a daily basis. I have to buy a new camera. I guess maybe this weekend. 

I will go into Seoul today, to meet my stepmother who happens to be in Korea currently – she's been staying at Yongsan. 

[daily log: walking, 6 km]


Caveat: Disabling Windows Update Improved My Quality of Life Substantially

I have to say this – the “Windows Update” service sucks.
Perhaps there is some technical way to control when it decides to run its various processes. I was never able to figure it out – perhaps I was somewhat hindered by the fact that the computers I was working with are Korean language versions of Windows (and it should be noted, Microsoft charges money to change the language of your operating system, which strikes me as a cruel scam), and my Korean just isn’t that good.
The experience I have had with Windows 7 is that the Windows Update kicks off various memory-intensive processes basically whenever it wants. These processes, linked to what is called the “TrustedInstaller,” are not the same as the timing of the download of the updates, which can be scheduled (see screenshot, above).
These processes use so much memory (the amount of which I couldn’t seem to regulate, cap or control) that it essentially prevents one from using the computer while they are running. As I said, these processes kick off on what seems an essentially random schedule (some experimentation showed that it was often, but not always, within the first few hours of connecting the machine to the internet after having been turned off or having been disconnected). It’s a common enough problem that you can find other people complaining about it online with google searches, but most commenters seem seem to relegate it to the category of an annoyance, rather than considering it a major problem.
For me, it was a major problem. I don’t use my computer all the time at work – obviously, when I am in the classroom, I’m not using it. But when I need to do something on it, I need to do something right then. I can’t sit around and wait for some Windows Update trustedinstaller.exe doohickey to finish monopolizing the memory. I’m on a 4-minute break between classes, and I have run to the staff room because need to go on my computer to print something for a student, or I need to search for a file on my computer, etc. I would keep the “processes running” window open my computer, just so at least I could decide right away whether my computer was going to be useful to me or not.
Lowering the priority on the process thread connnected to the svchost.exe process that encloses the trustedinstaller services involved in these processes didn’t prevent them from making my computer unusable. Killing off any of the svchost processes isn’t an option, as they tend to bundle things you really need, like network connectivity, with things you really don’t need, like Window Update. The only solution is to disable the process.
So, finally, I simply disabled Windows Update. What is it doing, anyway? All these alleged virus vulnerabilities… sometimes I feel like it’s just so much technohypochondria, really. If I have a major problem on my computer, I have it all backed up – I learned my lesson long ago, about that. I would never lose more than a day or two’s worth of work. I put everything important and long-term in google-docs. Maybe I would be best off at this point with a chromebook. But I need Windows because this is Korea – Microsoft owns the Korean OS space, and so I get too much stuff from coworkers, bosses, and students, that is Windows-reliant, Internet Explorer (i.e. ActiveX) -reliant, and/or MS Office-centered. I actually have Ubuntu Linux installed on my work computer, and sometimes I open it just for a breath of fresh air, but the interoperability issues quickly end those experiments.
Anyway, disabling Windows Update prevents these memory-intensive processes, and I can use my computer when I need to, without these annoyances.
Sometimes, I leave my computer on and turn the Windows Update back on when I leave work, so it can still do its update thing if it wants.
Since I disabled Windows Update, I’ve experienced a noticeable improvement in my mood at work. I no longer dread having to run to my computer to do something for a student between classes. I no longer have to tell a student, on a nearly daily basis, “I’m sorry, I’ll get that paper to you later, I can’t open it on my computer right now.”
For anyone reading this: 1) if you’re having the same problem, just disable Windows Update – you’ll survive fine; 2) if you have some advice for how to get my (Korean-speaking) Windows 7 to only run these memory-intensive process on some fixed schedule, please let me know – I gave up trying to figure it out.
Posting this here is probably inviting some various denominations of fanboy trolling, but I guess I’ll just deal with that – comments are moderated and often ignored.
picture[daily log: walking, 6 km]

Caveat: Whiteboard Hijinks

My teaching schedule is slowing down some, now that the middle-schoolers have started test-prep, but I’m still filling in for Grace, and working hard getting caught up on all the work and projects I let fall by the wayside during my busiest time the last few weeks.
I’ve been pretty grumpy at work – I’m not very good at letting go of things that piss me off, in this case the issue of parents complaining about my more laid-back teaching style. I feel this need to “prove” myself – to do extra work to prove that I am, in fact, teaching something despite the more laid-back style. Hence all the work I’m doing in posting videos of my speaking tasks and tests on my work blog, all the work in showing that the kids are actually doing English-learning stuff in my classes.
Meanwhile, alligator meets mouse, drawn the other day.
picture[daily log: walking, 6 km]

Caveat: The Waxwing Slain

2015-06-10 09.18.35I was the shadow of the waxwing slain
By the false azure in the windowpane;
I was the smudge of ashen fluff—and I
Lived on, flew on, in the reflected sky.
And from the inside, too, I’d duplicate
Myself, my lamp, an apple on a plate:
Uncurtaining the night, I’d let dark glass
Hang all the furniture above the grass,
And how delightful when a fall of snow
Covered my glimpse of lawn and reached up so
As to make chair and bed exactly stand
Upon that snow, out in that crystal land!
– Vladimir Nabokov
(Russian-American novelist, 1899-1977)

This is a snippet from Nabokov's poem "Pale Fire," which is not simply a "poem by Nabokov." Rather, Nabokov wrote the poem (999 lines) and embedded it in his novel Pale Fire, wherein the character of John Shade is the purported author of the poem.

For some reason this poem made a major impression on me from when I read the novel (I think in late 1980s), and certain lines have stuck in my memory. For that reason I have an interest in waxwings. Above right is a sketch I made of an imaginary species of waxwing.

Caveat: Extended Grumble

Yesterday was one of the worst days I've had in quite a while.

Part of it, of course, is that over recent weeks, I have been working far longer hours, and more intensely during those hours. First there was the pressure of the talent show. I finished that, pushing hard partly with the understanding that I was going to be getting an easy schedule shortly after that, due to the middle schoolers' exam prep schedule. That didn't happen, because Grace had to go back to Canada. So instead of a reduced schedule, I got a doubled one. I don't begrudge that Grace had to go, but it's been stressful.

I was supposed to post grades for the middle schoolers last week, but I was so busy with the extra classes, I got a deadline extension until Monday. I took the work home over the weekend, and yesterday I started working at 10 am. I finished my grades by the deadline (3 pm), and when I told the middle school director… not even a thank you. Just an impatient, "I already saw."

I worked 7 classes today, straight through, filling in for a class that another teacher had to miss, too.

Then I had to post all my homework assignments. 

I've been in burnout mode, lately, and my temper and mood are beginning to show it.

To top off the day, I heard some parent had complained for one of the classes in which I have been substitute-teaching for Grace. I'm too laid back, I guess, or something: I didn't make students who hadn't done their homework stay after class.

Pop quiz question – when, exactly, in my current schedule, am I supposed to find time to supervise students who have to "stay" to finish homework? Regardless, it also takes time to explain each student's "reason to stay" to some other teacher, so offering the services of another teacher is only a half solution at best. Frankly, the other teachers don't enjoy being hit with the "supervise the kids who stay" task, either.

The fact is that I despise and have always despised this whole "stay after class" policy, anyway. It's been a bugbear of mine ever since becoming a hagwon teacher. The practice of making students stay late who haven't performed adequately on homework or quizzes is bad pedagogy and a bad business practice too.

It's bad pedagogy because it's implemented unfairly – as it must be. You see, not all parents want their kids to be made to stay. There are sometimes practical reasons for this – their kids have some other obligation in the time directly after hagwon, i.e. another hagwon, a family home-by-8pm-rule, or whatever. And other parents just don't want to see their kids getting stressed out at age 10 over homework. 

Then, in contrast, other parents make a big deal that it's part of the hagwon's job, and insist that we should make their kids stay. Worst, there also inconsistent parents, who want their kids to stay sometimes, but not others. 

So now… let's look at this from the kids' perspective: what the kids see is that some kids have to stay, and others get a free ride, and it seems utterly arbitrary and unfair. Nothing de-motivates kids faster than the perception that they are in a situation where the rules are arbitrary and unfair. 

That's why it's bad pedagogy.

It's a bad business practice because it means some of your customers (i.e. the parents of the kids who stay) are getting more value for their tuition than others. That will seem unfair to parents of the kids who don't stay (and who sometimes can't let their kids stay, for the above-mentioned reasons). This drives away these customers, who are in fact the best customers for your business – these are the parents whose kids are "low maintenence." Further, it creates dissatisfaction and frustration among the staff – trust me, I'm not the only teacher ranting about this system. A dissatisfied staff impacts teaching quality.

TL;DR: I had a horrible day, and I'm still angry about it today.

[daily log: walking, 6 km]

Caveat: The Gentrification of Hugok

The neighborhood where I work is called Hugok [후곡]. In some ways, it feels more like “my neighborhood” than where I live (Janghangdong [장항동], oftimes referred coloquially as Ra-peh [라페] after the mall nearby, Ra-peh-seu-tah [라페스타 ] i.e. “La Festa”), which has a more big-city, downtown feel. Where I live is kind of like “downtown Ilsan,” while where I work is more like a real neighborhood, somewhere. In fact, from a development standpoint, Hugok is marginally older than Janghang, the former dating from the late 1980s while the latter was built with the subway line extension in 1993. Parts of Hugok along Ilsan Road were already built and inhabited when I was here in 1991.

I’m writing this because although there are 3 or 4 different Starbucks stores in Janghang, serving as an index of the area’s “downtowny” character and internationalist orientation, there has never been a Starbucks in Hugok.

That, apparently, is changing. I snapped this photo last Friday, looking across the street from my hagwon’s former location, a few blocks east of the new location.
picture[daily log: walking, 6 km]

Caveat: Invisible Platypuses

Yes indeedy I am quite tired now. I feel a bit grumpy due to unfinished work I might do this weekend against my standard operating philosophy of "never take work home." 

Continuing the platypus theme started a few days ago ([broken link! FIXME] here), I was talking on the phone with my mother and sister this morning (sister visiting mother in Australia). My sister said she saw many invisible platypuses. 

Those are the most frequent kind, I explained.

I will do nothing now. Enjoying my memorial day.

[daily log: walking, here and there]


Caveat: More of me

This week has been pretty difficult – I have been working a "double schedule" because my coworker Grace had to go home to Canada for two weeks. 

Today, Friday, will be the most brutal schedule of all. I actually have more "teaching hours" on my schedule than there are hours on the schedule. This is possible because several times we have cleverly "overlapped" the mis-matched elementary and middle-school schedules, such that I will leave a given elementary class slightly early, or show up slightly late to a given middle school class, and thus I'm actually "officially" in more than one class at the same time, several times.

I will not get any breaks. 

I will be tired.

I don't have to work tomorrow, for Korean Memorial Day holiday.

See you later.

[daily log: walking, 6 km]

Caveat: 용화꼰데 녜이보 쥬도 몰라소 미효니꼴로 보냬욤

My student sent me this message as the subject line when emailing an essay last week.
용화꼰데 녜이보 쥬도 몰라소 미효니꼴로 보냬욤
This is profoundly badly-spelled Korean. It is so bad, that it’s systematically bad. It took me about 25 minutes of work to figure out what she meant. Thus I theorize that it represents a kind of Korean version of “eye dialect“.
One thing I realized is that it systematically moves vowels around. Where standard Korean spells “어” she spells “오”
Thus 네이버 -> 녜이보 and the verb ending -서 -> -소
This change applies to her name and her friends’ name too:
영화 -> 용화 and 미현-> 미효니
Note in the latter she also doesn’t obey the morphophonological rules for dividing stem from suffix, but sticks to a strictly phonological division.
I don’t quite know what the -꼬- suffix is about, semantically. Something “cute” I suspect.
There is also a certain degree of systematic palatalization:
네 -> 녜 and 내->냬 … I never pronounce these distinctions quite right anyway, they are quite fine, but Korean ears perceive differences in palatalization  to a degree I can’t even hear with my English-trained ears.
My ultimate question is why did she do it? In a paranoid moment, I could just imagine it’s a kind of mocking of a “foreign accent” – several of the transformations, like the vowels and the palatalization, represent issues I have with my Korean pronunciation. But in fact I very much doubt it. Basically I think it must be a kind of “eye-spelling,” I’m almost certain, which emphasizes certain trends in Korean as spoken by teenagers – I have definitely heard 어->오 in slangy talk, especially girls. Kind of like the very common addition of the ending -ㅇ/ŋ/ to open syllables in clause final position, of which this text doesn’t have an example – but I frequently hear e.g. “안녕하세용” for “안녕하세요,” even by teachers.
That being the case, however, it’s puzzling that she would select me as a target for this strange spelling – the message was meaningful and specific to communicating the content of her email to me – it relied on me understanding it’s meaning, because what it says is: “Yeonghwa forgot her login password so Mihyeon is sending you her essay.” Thus the only way Yeonghwa gets credit for the attached essay is if I understand the subject line – otherwise Mihyeon gets credit for the essay, as except for the “sent by” field, it’s the only place any names occur.
Did she just “forget” that I wasn’t a native speaker? That’s probable. Or did she do it intentionally as a way to challenge me or be deliberately opaque? That’s possible too. Did she think I’d spend half an hour figuring it out, and then write a linguistic analysis about it on my blog? I doubt it. I tend to write about these things because there is very little on the internet, in English, about non-standard Korean – it’s extremely hard to find.
[daily log: walking, 6 km]

Caveat: Oats!

pictureI have had cravings for oatmeal (just the regular old oatmeal in a quaker oats can, or those instant oatmeal packets that abound in the US) for a very long time. But unlike almost any other product imaginable, I have had difficulty running across it. I don’t even recall seeing it at Costco or at the foreigner’s grocery at Itaewon. I really want some variety in my porridgey foods, rather than just Korean 죽 and 누룽지, which are both rice-based.
Finally, the other day at HomePlus, I noticed this on the TESCO “foreign foods” shelf (the British TESCO is an international partner for HomePlus): “Scottish Oats” (at right).
I bought some, and had some. I am happy for the variety.
picture[daily log: walking, 6 km]

Caveat: Syntactical Hapaxes and Legosnakes

Sometimes I find myself saying something where I suddenly feel aware that maybe this is the first time anyone ever needed to say that specific thing. I think of these as some kind of syntactical hapaxes (hapaces?). This awareness harkens back to the linguistic commonplace (due to Chomsky, maybe?) that one of the most remarkable features of human language and syntax is that they allow the creation of utterly novel meanings, on demand.
So yesterday, at work, I looked at the color printer on the desk in the staff room, and I observed: “There is a lego snake in the yellow printer ink.” How likely is it that someone needed to say this before?
You see, lego (the toy) includes a “lego snake” – it comes with some sets that include the lego crocodile (which I prefer to call a legogator). It is small – a single piece, intended for the same scale as the lego minifigures – about 2 cm long and 2 mm thick.
On my desk, there lives a small legogator with his lego snake – generally in the legogator’s mouth.
Meanwhile, the color printer includes a set of external ink containers that are a kind of universal post-retail hack that Koreans have turned into a business, that avoids the need to buy expensive ink cartriges for one’s ink-jet printers. The external ink reservoirs are openable and can be filled manually from bottles of ink, and small tubes snake (ahem) into pseudo-ink cartriges embedded inside the printer. This system is much cheaper and more practical than buying expensive replacement ink cartriges, though clearly not in the best financial interests of the printer-manufacturers, who have always been pretty honest about the fact that they make most of their money on selling refill cartriges rather than the printers themselves. But I have never seen an ink-jet printer in Korea that did NOT include this type of aftermarket add-on.
That’s a technical digression, for those interested. What I saw yesterday was my lego snake floating in the yellow color printer ink reservoir.
I took a picture after making my utterance, because I immediately felt the need to record this syntactical hapax for posterity.
You can see the lego snake clearly, enjoying a swim in yellow ink.
I notified our technical/maintenance guy, Mr Park, and he popped open the ink reservoir (I was afraid to mess with it myself, not knowing the details of the device’s operation). I then used a pair of scissors to fish out Mr Snake, who was now altered from red plastic to a more orangish hue, understandably.
I suspected a young 4th grader named Chaejun of the crime. He spends a lot of time in the staff room, because his mom works at the hagwon. And he’s a little bit mischievous. Mr Park agreed when I suggested that Chaejun was the culprit.
So I asked Chaejun, later, when I saw him. “Did you put a lego snake in the printer ink?”
His English really isn’t that good, but he understood what I was referring to immediately, which was already immediate confirmation that he was the guilty party – what non-native speaker would know what that was about, if they hadn’t engineered the situation in the first place? For that matter, none of my coworkers could wrap their minds around what I’d discovered, even when I tried to explain it to them later: there were too many unexpected, strung-together nominal modifiers: lego + snake, printer + ink.
Anyway, Chaejun didn’t bother denying it. He simply nodded, grinning proudly.
picture[daily log: walking, 6 km]

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