Caveat: Lock the Taskbar

What I'm listening to right now.

The Clash, "Lock the Taskbar."

OK… just kidding.

In fact… 

The Clash, "Rock the Casbah."


Now the king told the boogie men
You have to let that raga drop
The oil down the desert way
Has been shakin' to the top
The Sheik he drove his Cadillac
He went a' cruisin' down the ville
The muezzin was a' standing
On the radiator grille

The Shareef don't like it
Rock the Casbah
Rock the Casbah
The Shareef don't like it
Rock the Casbah
Rock the Casbah

By order of the prophet
We ban that boogie sound
Degenerate the faithful
With that craazy Casbah sound
But the Bedouin they brought out
The electric camel drum
The local guitar picker
Got his guitar picking thumb
As soon as the Shareef
Had cleared the square
They began to wail


Now over at the temple
Oh! They really pack 'em in
The in crowd say it's cool
To dig this chanting thing
But as the wind changed direction
The temple band took five
The crowd caught a wiff
Of that crazy Casbah jive


The king called up his jet fighters
He said you better earn your pay
Drop your bombs between the minarets
Down the Casbah way

As soon as the Shareef was
Chauffeured outta there
The jet pilots tuned to
The cockpit radio blare

As soon as the Shareef was
Outta their hair
The jet pilots wailed


He thinks it's not kosher
Fundamentally he can't take it.
You know he really hates it.
Really really hates it!

[daily log: walking, 6 km]


Caveat: King Jeong-eun

We were having a debate in my HS classes, on the topic of "restoring the Korean monarchy." 

This may seem like a quixotic topic, and it is, a little bit, but it is a sort of leitmotif in Korean media, sometimes – there was a popular TV drama a while back set in a vaguely alternate universe where South Korea was a monarchy. Historically, for most of its long history, Korea has been one or more monarchies in the Sinospheric tradition of "conceptually tributary but de facto independent" kingdoms under the suzerainty of the Chinese emperors. 

Anyway, to make the debate more interesting and less of a fairy tale, I focused on the aspect of an implied transition from a presidential system to a parliamentary system of government, since that is generally how monarhies operate in the modern world. We talked about separation of powers, about the seeming higher incidence of authoritarianism and corruption in presidential systems, South Korea's own problematic history of authoritarian presidents and how a parliamentary system might have moderated that or how it might prevent future tendencies in that direction.

In that vein, the students vented their annoyance with the incompetencies of our current dynastic president, Park Geun-hye, the daughter of the 1970s dictator. I made a throwaway line about the methods by which we might choose the new monarch, aside from simply annoiting some descendant of the Yi family that ruled Joseun prior to the Japanese takeover in 1910. In this vein, I mentioned both the Park family of the current president and the Kim family that has been ruling our neighbor to the north for the last 75 years. This was really meant as a joke.

However, one student, Seungyeop, decided to run with it. Seungyeop is one of those types of students that abound in my high level middle-school debate classes: pretty good at English, quite brilliant academically, but not really interested in doing homework. In fact, Seungyeop never does homework, but he can often get away with it in my class, where the main score is based on the quality of one's speeches. 

He gave a speech yesterday where he explained, more-or-less cogently, the advantages of making Kim Jeong-eun, North Korea's current dictator, the king of Korea as a part of resotring the monarchy. He said that since he seems mostly interested in the trappings of power, he would be happy for such a figurehead position, but since it would be implemented as a constitutional monarchy, he would be essentially powerless. Thus, this type of restoration could bring about Korean reunification.

His speech is the first in the series of five speeches in the video I posted for the class blog (embedded below). 

It's a little bit hard to hear, and as always, keep in mind that these are just middle-schoolers learning English, so I hold them to a fairly low standard on some axes of evaluation. But overall I thought it was a clever argument and it holds together especially well considering he slapped it together in the five minutes before speaking. 

[daily log: walking, 6 km]


Caveat: Epitafio

I have been sleeping badly lately. I can't quite figure out why. Maybe it's the summer heat and humidity, the intermittent rain and steamy nights. Maybe it's worrying too much about things I can't control very well – my imperfect health, my overall existential situation, work. 

Whatever the reason, I will wake up far too early in the morning, often before dawn, and struggle to continue with my night's sleep. I will gaze out the window at the pinkening eastern sky, and anti-nostalgically remember distant dawns witnessed while standing in formation in basic training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina. I suspect the humidity and heat cause this inevitable mental train to depart the station.

Then I will wake up fully, end up reading something or trying to write something, and then attempt to take a nap. Some mornings, the naps work, other mornings, they don't.

This morning, as thunderstorms brewed, I successfully napped. I had strange dreams.

In one dream, I remembered a story that once made a huge impression on me. The strange thing (or the inevitable thing) was that the story I remembered, in the dream, was a story by Borges about dreaming. A man dreams another man, who grows to become real. In the end, the dreaming man is revealed to have been dreamed by another, ad infinitum. This is the "Ruinas circulares," a quite famous Borges story.

I awoke and found a link to the story text online. I re-read it, as I have done many times.

I made a resolution, which seemed to emerge from that groggy post-dream space, that this should be my epitaph:

Nadie lo vio desembarcar en la unánime noche

[No one saw him disembark in the unanimous night]

[daily log: walking, 6 km] 

Caveat: Wedding Mice

My students did a roleplay called "The Wedding Mice," which seems to be an adaptation of a traditional story of some kind of Asian provenence (maybe Japanese? I can't figure it out). Some of the songs are traditional Western "kid songs," however – "Hokey Pokey," "If You're Happy and You Know It." It's a typical cultural mish-mash.

I think they actually sing pretty well – the video (cross-posted from my work blog) shows them singing along to melody only – there's no "assist" from recorded voices here.

[daily log: walking, 6 km]

Caveat: Ya no recuerdas quien soy

Lo que estoy escuchando en este momento.

Nosequién y los Nosecuantos, "Pacha." No entiendo esta canción muy bien, pero me imagino que el eslang tiene un sentido que no debo elaborar demasiado aquí.

Sé que el vocablo "vohue" es una alteración de "huevo," utilizando el juego de palabras "vesre." "Hacer la sapa" es probablemente un lundardismo. Respecto el título, "pacharaca" es una mujer ligera: ""Originalmente 'pacharaca', despectivo para muchacha de vida ligera o de entrega sexual sin mayores complicaciones, pero de bajo nivel social y mestiza." – según una definición encontrada en línea.


Ya no recuerdas quien soy,
yo te hice plan en la playa
tu te enfrentabas al sol y yo me acerque por la espalda
pasado el susto inicial, vencida tu descofianza
buscamos de lo que hablar y cruzamos las miradas,
me fui con tu direccion y tu numero en la agenda,
y en la mente un vision mezcla de hembrita y pantera,
deje q pasen los dias y a tu numero marque,
y cuando por ti pregunte, me dijeron q no vivias,
Ja Ja Ja . . . ni siquiera te conocian

Tu no estas obligada a satisfacerme,
por eso no debes mentirme si no te apetece verme,
trata de no ser falsa busca ser sincera siempre,
quiza antes de recibir lo que puedes ofrecerme
lastima que con tu gracia y con esa linda facha
te quieres hacer la sapa y actues como una pacha

Pacha . . . Pacharaca
Pacha . . . Pacharaca

Tu no estas obligada a satisfacerme,
por eso no debes mentirme si no te apetece verme.

Pacha . . . Pacharaca
Pacha . . . Pacharaca

Lastima que con tu linda gracia y esa linda facha
te quieres hacer la sapa y actues como una pacha

Pacha . . . Pacharaca
Pacha . . . Pacharaca(x2)

No te veo de nuevo, no quiero verte otra vez,
me he dado cuenta de que contigo, solo he recibido un revez
no te veo de nuevo en la playa, no te veo para que te ahogues
me he dado cuenta de que simplemente eres una calienta vohue

[daily log: walking, 6 km]

Caveat: Right…

What I'm listening to right now.

Franz Ferdinand, "Right Action." Um… this song seems weird. Is it a reference to steps 2, 3 and 4 of the Buddhist eightfold path? Or just a coincidence?


Come home practically all is nearly forgiven
Right thoughts, right words, right action
Almost everything could be forgotten
Right thoughts, right words, right action

But how can we leave you
To a Saturday night or a Sunday morning
Good morning

Sometimes I wish you were here, weather permitting
Right thoughts, right words, right action
This time, same as before, I'll love you forever
Right thoughts, right words, right action


11 South Court Gardens
England’s Lane past end to London

Sometimes I wish you were here, weather permitting
Right thoughts, right words, right action
Right thoughts, right words, right action
Right thoughts, right words, right action
Right thoughts, right words, right action…

 [daily log: right]

Caveat: Hey kids! Let’s have a debate about Park Chung-hee!

The monsoon has finally come. The last week has been pretty continuously rainy and grey.

I like this kind of weather. I can feel my mood improving, as contrasted to how I feel when it is hot and sunny, which always just feels oppressive to me. 

I'm working hard. My TEPS-M cohort middleschoolers, who normally annoy me greatly, made me laugh yesterday. Somehow we got on the topic of politics. They said we should have a debate about politics. I am actually a bit wary of having debates about politics – the kids are either apathetic or bear the same irreconcilable "culture-war" views as their parents no doubt have, i.e. the evangelicals are Saenuri-dang (Korean Republican analogues) and the rest are Minju-dang (Korean Democrat analogues). Mostly I prefer to focus the debates on specific policies or lifestyle choices. 

Somehow they seemed intrigued when I said that a few years back I'd actually had a Korean "presidential debate" in one of my classes. They asked what other topics I'd done. Out of the blue, one student burst out, "Hey kids! Let's have a debate about Park Chung-hee!" 

It was in a voice meant to imitate mine.

"Hey kids" is an imitation of the way I speak to them, when I first walk into a classroom. It's a kind of fakey-jokey, super upbeat tone-of-voice phrase that is meant in a vaguely ironic way, that has become part of my classroom "brand," I suppose. Most of my students seem to find it entertaining as it contrasts with my normal tone, and it's quite predictable. 

The humor was in combining that cheery introduction with an immediate segue into what could conceivably be a very controversial debate topic – but of the sort of complex, elevated topic material for which I'm probably also known (and dreaded): Korea's notorious dictator, Park Chung-hee.

Anyway, it made me laugh. I hear only silence. Maybe you had to be there?

[daily log: walking in the rain, 6 km]

Caveat: 내일은 새로울꺼야 기대를 높여

Sometimes, I will admit, what I’m listening to right now is not something I particularly like. I try to keep myself exposed to Korean culture and that includes the pop my students mention to me or that I happen across on the TV.
My students said I was old yesterday. This is true, but I still ended up preoccupied by it. So I went surfing Korean pop music.
Tomorrow will bring new expectations.

카라, “Step.”

Step it up now oh oh oh

넘어지진 않을거야 슬픔아 안녕
친해지지 않을거야 눈물아 안녕
자신을 믿는거야 한숨은 그만
이깟 고민쯤은 웃으며 bye bye

또 한번 더 배웠어
I will never forget about U, ye~
커졌어 난 강하게 더 높게 (Oh 높게)
오 예 예 예 예

Step it up step it up 다시 시작이야
또 템포를 올려서 앞질러 갈래
Just step it up step it up 다 보란듯이
크게 볼륨 높여 baby my babay


내일은 새로울꺼야 기대를 높여
그게 사는 재미같아 근심은 날려
누구나 같을꺼야 기 죽지 않아
작은 걱정쯤은 웃으며 bye bye

난 강하게 더 높게 (Oh 높게)
오 예 예 예 예

Step it up step it up 다시 시작이야
또 템포를 올려서 앞질러 갈래
Just step it up step it up 다 보란듯이
크게 볼륨 높여 baby my babay

내 인생에 섣불리 get louder
나 좋으라고 그랬겠어 그랬겠어

one two one two step 모두 박자에 맞게
겁 낼 필요 없어 아니 울 것 없어
모두 같이 함께해
어지럽게 왜 쓸데없는 생각해
그러지 말고 우리 모두 다 Step it up now

절대 난 돌아보지 않겠어 (Oh whoa yeah)
앞만 보기도 시간은 짧아

Step it up step it up 다시 시작이야
또 템포를 올려서 앞질러 갈래
Just step it up step it up 다 보란듯이
크게 볼룡 높여 baby my babay

Step it up step it up (왜 섣불리 get louder)
또 템포를 올려서 (괜히 그랬겠어 그랬겠어)
Just step it up step it up 다 보란듯이
크게 볼륨 높여 baby my babay


[daily log: walking, 6 km]

Caveat: Bug-Murder

I have been somewhat neglecting my efforts at meditation practice, probably to the detriment of my mental health. I still tell people I'm "Buddhist" in Korea when they ask me about religion (which is more common than you would think) – mostly because telling them this precludes the standard opening to Christian evangelism that annoys me so much – but in fact it's a bit of a front. 

I underscored this recently for myself, with a joke with a student. In my TOEFL2 class, there was a big ugly scary bug working its way across the floor. I didn't really want to kill it, but the students were jumping around and being distracted by it: there seems a certain bug-phobia embedded in Korea's younger generations. So, hesitating only briefly, I walked over and stomped on it, on my way out of the classroom. I turned and said, "I guess I'm not a very good Buddhist, am I?" 

This was what you might call a throwaway line – one of those jokes that I make that I don't really expect my students to understand but which I make because when I'm with my students, I make an effort to talk "as much as possible" on the principle of "contextualized input" – it's an actual strategy that's part of how I approach my role as a native-speaking teacher where there are very few native-speaking teachers. 

I was actually quite surprised when one of my students, the quite intelligent Sihyeon, burst out laughing at this joke. On the part of the student, it takes both some actual cultural knowledge and some effort to "pay attention" to previous discussion topics for him to have gotten it.

[daily log: walking, 6 km]

Caveat: The ideological foundation of our united struggle is unceasingly solidifying

I was led to this "document 9" (formally "Communiqué on the Current State of the Ideological Sphere") of China's party leadership by a comment thread on an entry at Tyler Cowen's Marginal Revolution blog.

A commenter basically said, "Why do we spend so much time trying to figure out the China Leadership's intentions? Why not take what they say at face value?" with a link to this document. Frankly, this is a very good point. I don't think that anyone with even a limited background in the history of Marxism, Maoism and China could fail to see that the Party leadership isn't really hiding anything here.

Whether one agrees with it or not, an exposure to Marxist thought on questions of ideology, dialectics and theories of history seems like the sine qua non as regards commenting intelligently on the China question. I think the Chinese leadership take a very long view of history, from a still unrepentantly marxian position, and their embrace of "capitalism" is merely a means to an end. The preamble to the last section of the document reads: 

Historical experience has proven that failures in the economic sphere can result in major disorder, and failure in the ideological sphere can result in major disorders as well. Confronting the very real threat of Western anti-China forces and their attempt at carrying out Westernization, splitting, and “Color Revolutions,” and facing the severe challenge of today’s ideological sphere, all levels of Party and Government, especially key leaders, must pay close attention to their work in the ideological sphere and firmly seize their leadership authority and dominance.

They intend to dance with the devil and step on his toes and force him out of the dance competition. 

[daily log: walking, 6 km]

Caveat: y encontrar, por ahora, lo que sea


Por ahora
no estoy muriéndome.
No estoy cantando
ni despidiéndome de nadie
ni llorando por gracias o de nada
ni compartiendo el pan o el vino
por ahora.

Ya sé que no tengo razón,
que le pido al serrucho
que haga un árbol con trozos de madera
y al martillo, en silencio, que acaricie.
Pero en dónde, como no sea en la sombra,
puedo siquiera buscar luz
o nada más buscar
y encontrar, por ahora, lo que sea.

Estoy a la espera de señales
claras, explícitas, rotundas
en el tiempo, en el agua, en una nube
o en los asientos del café:
señales que desmientan
que, hasta la fecha, nada
quiere decir ni ha dicho nunca nada.
– Luis Vicente de Aguinaga (poeta mexicano, b. 1971)

[daily log: walking, 2 km]

Caveat: 阿異 亥理te 李ding

I had a really horrible day yesterday. Some of my students rebelled, because they felt my homework expectations were too hard and unjust. Yet I think I’m easier than the other teachers – but they see me as low priority (it is sometimes clear that this perception is possibly encouraged by the other teachers, too). Anyway, it didn’t really go well. But it passed.
This morning, I had a better set of classes.
One student sent me his essay with the subject header, “阿異 亥理te 李ding”.
Sometimes (frequently) I get subject headers from students that are pure nonsense, and normally I could have read this as an example of that. But I’m certain that in this case it was a kind of multilingual rebus – because I happened to have briefly discussed the principle of rebus with this student not that long ago.
If you read the Chinese characters (hanja) with their Korean pronunciations, you get “아이 해리(이)te 리ding.” If you transliterate the Korean spelling, you get “a-i hae-i-te ri-ding”, which, phonetically, is clearly “I hate reading.” This is a sentiment frenquently expressed by the student in question.
Have a nice weekend. I want to rest.
[daily log: walking, 6 km]

Caveat: Little Rabbit Foo Foo, I Don’t Like Your Attitude

When I was a child, there was a kind of an earworm song called "Little Rabbit Fru Fru" which my sister and I sang with great enthusiasm, partly because it seemed to annoy our mother so much.

I thought of that song for some reason, recently – I think one of the songs in one of the role play texts I was teaching featured a similar melody.

I found an infinite number versions online, with variants like "Little Bunny Foo Foo" and others. Most of them are just as earwormy as I recall, but there were some unusual renditions too. I particularly enjoyed one slightly postmodern version, rendered on the basis of a children's book which retells the story of Fru Fru AKA Foo Foo, with excellent Scottish enunciation.

[daily log: walking, 6 km]

Caveat: Those whom the gods wish to destroy, they first make mad.

The Australian economist John Quiggin, who writes at a blog called Crooked Timber which I often peruse, had a slightly oblique discussion of a text by Thucydides (the Melian  dialogue) which I very vaguely recall once reading (or attempting to read). His summary is interesting, vis-a-vis drawing an eerie (and ironic) kind of parallel between the situation in Classical Greece, with Athens as hegemon within the Delian League, and the situation in modern Europe, with Germany as hegemon within the European Union.

He concludes with the quote I have used as my title on this post, which I guess is a kind of anonymous Greek proverb which was first recorded in Sophocles' Antigone (one of my favorite classical plays, I guess, though I most prefer Jean Anouilh's modern adaption, which neverthless stays quite loyal to the thematics… and speaking of Germans behaving hegemonically).

[daily log: walking, 6 km]

Caveat: Buy an Electric Car, Save the Environment!

Actually, no. Let's think this through. Where does electricity come from? Solar or hydro? Great, buy a Nissan Leaf. But most electricity comes from coal. So, in that case… burning gasoline is better for the environment. 

Here's the article that led me to think about this.

[UPDATE (a few hours later): I had written "Prius" but it occurred to me that this is ambiguous, since a Prius is technically a hybrid, not an electric car, and thus is just a new model for burning gasoline. I have altered the title and post to reflect this – but there's no majorly iconic electric vehicle, yet. I chose the Nissan Leaf because it's one I happened to have seen recently here in Korea.]

[daily log: walking, 6 km]

Caveat: july’s weather

This poem is a nonnet that I made while walking.
(Poem #20 on new numbering scheme)

july's weather
first the streets were wet with rain and trees
were swinging, wind was taking fierce
liberties with scudding clouds
and broken umbrellas
but then the rain stopped
humid air calmed

– a nonnet
picture[daily log: walking, 6 km]

Caveat: 부처님 위하여 불공하나

This is an aphorism from my aphorism book.

부처님 위하여 불공하나
bu.cheo.nim wi.ha.yeo
Buddha benefit-INF hold-ceremony-INTERROG
Do [you] hold a ceremony for the Buddha?

The meaning, according to the book, is that people may pretend to work for their employers but in fact are only looking out for themselves. However, the literal meaning of the phrase is merely, “hold a ceremony for the Buddha” – the bad faith of those holding the ceremony is taken as a given implied by the question, which grammatically is what is called a “mild interrogative” but the -나 ending also has an “adversative” meaning, i.e. an implied “but….
This seems to reflect the category of the old, institutionalized anti-Buddhist sentiment that was one of the ideological productions of the Choson era and which underlies, in my opinion, the success of evangelical Christianity in modern Korea.
[daily log: walking in the rain, 6 km]

Caveat: la verdad del aire


Te invito, sombra, al aire.
Sombra de veinte siglos,
a la verdad del aire,
del aire, aire, aire.
Sombra que nunca sales
de tu cueva, y al mundo
no devolviste el silbo
que al nacer te dio el aire,
del aire, aire, aire.
Sombra sin luz, minera
por las profundidades
de veinte tumbas, veinte
siglos huecos sin aire,
del aire, aire, aire.
¡Sombra, a los picos, sombra,
de la verdad del aire,
del aire, aire, aire!
– Rafael Alberti (poeta español, 1902-1999)

[daily log: walking, 1 km]

Caveat: Come in and take a look at your mind

What I’m listening to right now.

The Temptations, “Psychedelic Shack.”

Psychedelic shack, that’s where it’s at
Psychedelic shack, that’s where it’s at
Psychedelic shack, that’s where it’s at
Psychedelic shack, that’s where it’s at

People let me tell you about a place I know
To get in it don’t take much dough
Where you can really do your thing, oh yeah
It’s got a neon sign outside that says
Come in and take a look at your mind
You’d be surprised what you might find, yeah

Strobe lights flashin’ on signs empty after sundown–1:15
People gather there from all parts of town, oh yeah
What do I call it, you know it’s just across the track
People I’m talking about the psychedelic shack

Psychedelic shack, that’s where it’s at
Psychedelic shack, that’s where it’s at
Psychedelic shack, that’s where it’s at, oh yeah

You can have your fortune told
You can learn the meaning of soul
There ain’t no such thing as time
Incense in the air, ‘in signs painted everywhere
I guarantee you this place will blow your mind
Music so high, you can’t get over it, so low, you can’t get under it

Right around the corner
Oh yeah just across the track
People I’m talking about the psychedelic shack

Psychedelic shack, that’s where it’s at
Psychedelic shack, that’s where it’s at
Psychedelic shack, that’s where it’s at, oh yeah

Millionaires, kings and queens, go there to do their things
You might see anybody there, yeah
Bear skin rugs, tails and beads
Don’t really matter what you wear
You can take off your shoes, sit on the floor
Join in and be what you wanna be

Don’t you know it’s right around the corner
Oh yeah just across the track
People I’m talking about the psychedelic shack

Psychedelic shack, that’s where it’s at
Psychedelic shack, that’s where it’s at
Psychedelic shack, that’s where it’s at, oh yeah

They got a cat there shouting the blues
Talking about payin’ some dues
People walking around reciting poetry
Screamin’ guitars and a thousand colored lights
People I’m telling you this place is really out of sight

You can have your fortune told
You can learn the meaning of soul
I guarantee this place will blow your mind

Don’t you know it’s right around the corner
Oh yeah, just across the track

[daily log: walking 6.5 km]

Caveat: Buying a bike while sitting in class

Yesterday, my student Yeongu kept pulling out his smartphone and doing something on it. I know some teachers take the phones away from students, but I have never been a fan of that style. I prefer to try to motivate in the direction of moderating their own impulsive behavior. 

I commented to him, "I think you're addicted. What are you doing? Chatting?"

He just smiled and put the phone away, but minutes later it was out again. This went on for a while, and twice more I said, "can you please not pull out your phone like that during class, unless you're using the dictionary" – I allow students to use the dictionaries on their smartphones given my own poor ability to provide clear definitions for difficult vocabulary sometimes, given we are often trying to prepare debates about complex topics. Ironically, today's topic was "self-esteem" and "self-control."

I asked him again what he was doing. 

Finally he relented and said, "Teacher, this is important."

"Why, what's important?" I asked.

"I'm buying a new bike," he said – he held up his phone showing the screen of a popular Korean online shopping site (like amazon), with an image of a bike.

Oddly, suddenly, I didn't feel upset at all.

"That's cool," I marvelled, quite sincerely. I guess it hit me, in that moment, that that was a very "futuristic" thing, this idea that a student could be sitting in class and shopping at the same time. "I never could shop while sitting in some boring class, when I was young. You're very lucky." 

[daily log: walking, 6 km]

Caveat: 自强不息

I was cited this “four-character aphorism” by a student (I’ve discussed these special types of aphorisms [broken link! FIXME] before). He didn’t bother to explain it – somehow it’s just something people should know – as is so often the case with aphorisms.
So I had to figure it out. First of all, I went online and found the hanja (Chinese characters), as my student had only cited the hangeul spelling of it.


Really I’m not totally confident I understand it. I found this definition in Korean, which I don’t fully get: “스스로 힘써 몸과 마음을 가다듬고 쉬지 않음.”
The definition seems to mean something to the effect of “working hard doesn’t take care of heart and body.” I have decided the aphorism must mean something like “sometimes one should take a break.” Perhaps it’s like “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.”
After trying to figure this out, I decided to take a break.
[daily log: walking, 6.5 km]

Caveat: Proto Acid House

I’m still in a kind of bad state of mind, but I’ll get over it.

What I’m listening to right now.

Charanjit Singh, “Raga Bhairav.” This is from a unique 1982 album called “Ten Ragas to a Disco Beat” which has been “grandfathered” into the Acid House genre, which didn’t even exist in 1982. Nevertheless, the sound is quite convincingly within the style. I heard about the death of Mr Singh on the radio yesterday, and realized I had this in my collection, so I went and listened to it. It does sound quite contemporary.
[daily log: walking, 6 km]

Caveat: My mortality always on the tip of my tongue

I struggle with having to bear my mortality so close to the surface. These periodic checkup scans, which serve to remind me of the precariousness of my health, and of the sheer luck of it, don't help. It's more basic than that, though. In fact, my tongue reminds me at every single moment, because I can feel it, and it is still alien – hacked and transformed and handicapped and so clearly not really my tongue

Think about how we use our tongues constantly to probe the insides of our mouths. It's unconscious, and reflexive, and evolutionarily ancient. Watch a baby, some time, discovering the world through her tongue. Watch a rodent cleaning its fur. Watch a snake tasting the air.

Now imagine that every time you go to touch that familiar spot behind your teeth, or steer some piece of food you're chewing, or go to speak a consonant, you use a tongue which requires focus and conscious effort because it's not the same tongue that you first learned those skills with.

I cannot ever forget that I have been transformed, and that I'm a survivor of a traumatic experience.

I would prefer to forget.

Anyway, my bad feeling last night was not confirmed today. The CT scans have spoken. I continue to have a clean bill of health, from the oncologists' perspective. That's good.

What am I supposed to be doing with this time against fate which I've bought? 

[daily log: walking, 9.5 km]

Caveat: Words

Today started OK.  I had a conversation on the phone with my mother that was fairly upbeat, and then I went to the hospital for my scheduled scan.

The hospital was "locked down" because of the MERS panic. There were workers scanning people who wanted in, and asking questions and filling out surveys. It was frustrating because I got held back while they found someone who could ask me questions in English, after I failed to understand a question put to me in Korean. 

Once in, I tried to check in for my appointment early (which I always do – I always go early because it makes the appointments go faster, in my experience), and they wouldn't let me. So I had to wait. 

The scan was OK, though I had two more frustrating moments with my Korean. 

What's wrong with me, anyway, that I still can't speak this language? I felt like a failure.

I went to work, and got there just in time to teach my 6 classes straight on my new Monday schedule.

I got to hear about parents having complained that my classes were too difficult last week. I argued with my boss Helen about whether memorizing words with their translations is really a solution to kids not understanding material in one of my classes. My position is that, well, not really. Then again, given my own lack of success in learning Korean, who am I to talk? I felt gloomy about that.

I wasn't well-prepared because I didn't come early to prepare my classes, having been at the hospital instead.

I left work depressed. Very depressed – with a generally bad feeling about where I'm at and what I'm doing (and/or failing to do). 

Tomorrow, I go back to find out my diagnosis (if any). Just at the moment, I feel like my luck's given out, but we shall see.

[daily log: walking, 7.5 km]

Caveat: Yellow

Tia Olivia Serves Wallace Stevens a Cuban Egg

The ration books voided, there was little to eat,
so Tía Olivia ruffled four hens to serve Stevens
a fresh criollo egg. The singular image lay limp,
floating in a circle of miniature roses and vines
etched around the edges of the rough dish.
The saffron, inhuman soul staring at Stevens
who asks what yolk is this, so odd a yellow?

Tell me Señora, if you know, he petitions,
what exactly is the color of this temptation:
I can see a sun, but it is not the color of suns
nor of sunflowers, nor the yellows of Van Gogh,
it is neither corn nor school pencil, as it is,
so few things are yellow, this, even more precise.

He shakes some salt, eye to eye hypothesizing:
a carnival of hues under the gossamer membrane,
a liqueur of convoluted colors, quarter-part orange,
imbued shadows, watercolors running a song
down the spine of praying stems, but what, then,
of the color of the stems, what green for the leaves,
what color the flowers; what of order for our eyes
if I can not name this elusive yellow, Señora?

Intolerant, Tía Olivia bursts open Stevens's yolk,
plunging into it with a sharp piece of Cuban toast:
It is yellow, she says, amarillo y nada más, bien?
The unleashed pigments begin to fill the plate,
overflow onto the embroidered place mats,
stream down the table and through the living room
setting all the rocking chairs in motion then
over the mill tracks cutting through cane fields,
a viscous mass downing palm trees and shacks.

In its frothy wake whole choirs of church ladies
clutch their rosary beads and sing out in Latin,
exhausted macheteros wade in the stream,
holding glinting machetes overhead with one arm;
cafeteras, '57 Chevys, uniforms and empty bottles,
mangy dogs and fattened pigs saved from slaughter,
Soviet jeeps, Bohemia magazines, park benches,
all carried in the egg lava carving the molested valley
and emptying into the sea. Yellow, Stevens relents,
Yes. But then what the color of the sea, Señora?

– Richard Blanco (American poet, b 1968)

[daily log: walking, 1 km]

Caveat: Two Years Cancer Free

… knock on wood.

It feels pre-emptive to announce this, today, because this coming Monday, I have my scheduled checkup at the hospital, when they will do a scan and hopefully give me the "all clear."

But today is the the official 2-year anniversary of my surgery, which was July 4th, 2013, and thus I feel like commemorating it today. I can always do a retraction if I get bad news next week – but I think I'd be feeling lousier in terms of health if I was going to get bad news. Who knows?

Last week was also the 15th anniversary of Michelle's suicide. Her ghost still visits me, but not that often. 

I don't really feel like meditating overmuch on "where I'm at," right now. I'm just plugging along. Not great, not terrible, but hanging in there.

I have moments of great enjoyment in my job. And moments of frustration, too. I have greater frustration with my unfulfilled avocations – chiefly studying Korean, my writing, my art. But that's nothing new, and there have been no major transformations on that front that are worth reporting or reflecting upon.

Life goes on.

Happy July 4th. 

[daily log: walking, 6 km]

Caveat: Who Is No Homework Girl?

I have an oft-mentioned student (or gadfly) named Sophia.

Today she came early, and since she hadn't done her homework, I sat her a computer to compose her essay/speech for me. She is very hyper and unfocused, but over the course of about 40 minutes she managed to produce an essay that vaguely resembled the desired output. I was looking periodically over her shoulder, and she was actually writing the thing.

Then, when I wasn't looking, she turned and said, "I finished."

I looked at the screen, and it was blank. "Where's you're essay?" I asked.

"I didn't save," she shrugged, grinning at me almost proudly.

"What? Really?" I was a little bit surprised – not that she'd lost her essay, but that she seemed to have done it deliberately. So I asked, "Why did you do that?"

"Cause I'm NO HOMEWORK GIRL," she shouted, triumphantly and defiantly. She jumped up and ran out of the room.

A heroine for our age.

 [daily log: walking, 6 km]

Caveat: 개미가 정자나무 건드린다

Here is an aphorism from my aphorism book.

개미가 정자나무 건드린다 geon.deu.rin.da
ant-SUBJ shade-tree stir-PRES
An ant stirs a shade tree.

The ant cannot be successful in trying to shake a big tree. This means “out of one’s league,” maybe: the small man provoking or challenging the big man – a hopeless battle.

In other news, today is the last day of my “naesin vacation” – i.e. my reduced work schedule because of the middle school exam prep period. Frankly, this naesin vacation was the least vacationy I’ve had – since Grace was out for the first 3 weeks of it, I actually didn’t have a reduced schedule but instead an increased one. Last week I finally got the reduced schedule, but it hasn’t had the recuperative effect I normally derive from these periods of easier work. I’m still feeling stressed and burned out.
[daily log: walking 6 km]

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