Caveat: Like golden rays of sun in the cloud

I am having a very busy week. I've been putting extra hours in prep time at work, posting grades, planning some curriculum for a new class, and doing some other bureaucratic pursuits. 

In parallel with starting this new medication (see Monday's post), which features some not-so-pleasant side effects, I am feeling more exhausted than I have been in a long time. 

So… sorry, I'm not posting very interestingly, lately. I have my little "stockpile" of pre-started blogpost drafts… things collected at various times, from which I can grab some random thing (mostly poetry, or music, or occasionally bits of online humor) when something new doesn't occur to me.  These posts tend to come across as a bit impersonal, I guess. As of today, that stockpile is empty. 

What I'm listening to right now.

Röyksopp, "You Don't Have A Clue." Of course, I blogged this song before. But I didn't post the lyrics, then, as I hadn't yet fixed on that little habit. And, it was a long time ago.  So again, then.


It's late in the night, dancing is done
The music has died, you're ready to run

But you don't have a clue, this party hasn't ended yet
Not for me and you, now you're just pretending

You're hiding from yourself
Yes you are, yes you are
Like golden rays of sun in the cloud

We're meant to be one, I know we are
If I am the sky, then you are my star

Hey you don't have a clue, this party never ended
Not for me and you, I know you're just pretending

You're hiding from yourself
Yes you are, yes you are
Like golden rays of sun in the cloud

I will make you see
Haven't you got, haven't you got it yet?
Just lay down for a while, next to me

Didn't mean to make you panic
I didn't mean to put you off
Baby it's the way that you've got me
I listen to my heart and it takes you high
And you ask me how
Can I show you how
I need your love right now, now, now

[daily log: walking, 6.5]

Caveat: Riannon, uerch Heueyd Hen, wyf i, a’m rodi y wr o’m hanwod yd ydys.

At the University of Minnesota, in 1988, I took a class on the Medieval Welsh language. I don't know why. I think I had this idea of trying to connect with my alleged Welsh heritage (the family name "Way" is Welsh in origin, cognate with "Vaughn" and "Waugh," and bears no relation to the English word "way" meaning means or road). 

It was one of the most difficult classes I ever took. Yet I remember it quite fondly.

Most of the other students had some background that would be appropriate – either knowledge of Modern Welsh, or work with some other cognate language, like Irish or Scots Gaelic. All I had was some linguistics and Latin. The first day, the professor handed us this text.

Pwyll Pendeuic Dyuet a oed yn arglwyd ar seith cantref Dyuet. A threigylgweith yd oed yn Arberth, prif lys idaw, a dyuot yn y uryt ac yn y uedwl uynet y hela. Sef kyueir o'y gyuoeth a uynnei y hela, Glynn Cuch. Ac ef a gychwynnwys y nos honno o Arberth, ac a doeth hyt ym Penn Llwyn Diarwya, ac yno y bu y nos honno. A thrannoeth yn ieuengtit y dyd kyuodi a oruc, a dyuot y Lynn Cuch i ellwng e gwn dan y coet. A chanu y gorn a dechreu dygyuor yr hela, a cherdet yn ol y cwn, ac ymgolli a'y gydymdeithon. Ac ual y byd yn ymwarandaw a llef yr erchwys, ef a glywei llef erchwys arall, ac nit oedynt unllef, a hynny yn dyuot yn erbyn y erchwys ef. Ac ef a welei lannerch yn y coet o uaes guastat; ac ual yd oed y erchwys ef yn ymgael ac ystlys y llannerch, ef a welei carw o ulaen yr erchwys arall. A pharth a pherued y llannerch, llyma yr erchwys a oed yn y ol yn ymordiwes ac ef, ac yn y uwrw y'r llawr.

We also had a "reference grammar". I had already acquired a (modern) Welsh dictionary.

We had to translate the text, which was the introductory passage from Pwyll Pendeuic Dyuet – a bit of Welsh mythology from the Mabinogion (Red Book of Hergest). I actually managed it. It was very hard. Eventually, we translated the entire story, along with some Welsh poetry and other medieval snippets.

This intensive experience has led to the story of Pwyll and Rhiannon (a Welsh horse godess) being one of the most vivid stories resident in my imagination.

Here is the part where Rhiannon first appears, in the story.

Yna y dywot Pwyll. "A uorwyn," heb ef, " yr mwyn y gwr mwyhaf a gery, arho ui." "Arhoaf yn llawen," heb hi, "ac oed llessach y'r march, pei ass archut yr meityn." Sewyll, ac arhos a oruc y uorwyn, a gwaret y rann a dylyei uot am y hwyneb o wisc y phenn, ac attal y golwc arnaw, a dechreu ymdidan ac ef. "Arglwydes," heb ef, " pan doy di, a pha gerdet yssyd arnat ti?" "Kerdet wrth uy negesseu," heb hi, "a da yw gennyf dy welet ti." "Crassaw wrthyt y gennyf i," heb ef. Ac yna medylyaw a wnaeth, bot yn diuwyn ganthaw pryt a welsei o uorwyn eiroet, a gwreic, y wrth y ffryt hi. "Arglwydes," heb ef, "a dywedy di ymi dim o'th negesseu?" "Dywedaf, y rof a Duw," heb hi. "Pennaf neges uu ymi, keissaw dy welet ti." "Llyna," heb y Pwyll, " y neges oreu gennyf i dy dyuot ti idi. Ac a dywedy di ymi pwy wyt?" "Dywedaf, Arglwyd," heb hi. "Riannon, uerch Heueyd Hen, wyf i, a'm rodi y wr o'm hanwod yd ydys. Ac ny mynneis innheu un gwr, a hynny o'th garyat ti. Ac nys mynnaf etwa, onyt ti a'm gwrthyt. Ac e wybot dy attep di am hynny e deuthum i." "Rof i a Duw," heb ynteu Pwyll, "llyna uy attep i iti, pei caffwn dewis ar holl wraged a morynnyon y byt, y mae ti a dewisswn." "Ie," heb hitheu, "os hynny a uynny, kyn uy rodi y wr arall, gwna oed a mi." "Goreu yw gennyf i," heb y Pwyll, "bo kyntaf; ac yn y lle y mynnych ti, gwna yr oet." "Gwnaf, Arglwyd," heb hi, "blwydyn y heno, yn llys Heueyd, mi a baraf bot gwled darparedic yn barawt erbyn dy dyuot." "Yn llawen," heb ynteu, "a mi a uydaf yn yr oet hwnnw." "Arglwyd," heb hi, "tric yn iach, a choffa gywiraw dy edewit, ac e ymdeith yd af i.

Rhiannon_by_alan_leeTranslations of the Mabinogion abound online - I'll not attempt to replicate my undergraduate feat of translation. At right, is a painting of Rhiannon, by Alan Lee, in his illustration of the Mabinogion.





What I'm listening to right now.

Fleetwood Mac, "Rhiannon."


Rhiannon rings like a bell through the night
And wouldn't you love to love her?
Takes through the sky like a bird in flight
And who will be her lover?

All your life you've never seen a woman
Taken by the wind
Would you stay if she promised you Heaven?
Will you ever win?

She is like a cat in the dark
And then she is the darkness
She rules her life like a fine skylark
And when the sky is starless

All your life you've never seen a woman
Taken by the wind
Would you stay if she promised you Heaven?
Will you ever win? Will you ever win?
[| From:… |]


She rings like a bell through the night
And wouldn't you love to love her?
She was alive like a bird in flight
And who will be her lover?

All your life you've never seen a woman
Taken by the wind
Would you stay if she promised you Heaven?
Will you ever win? Will you ever win?


Taken by, taken by the sky
Taken by, taken by the sky
Taken by, taken by the sky

Dreams unwind
Love's a state of mind
Dreams unwind
Love's a state of mind

[daily log: walking, 6.5km]

Caveat: choking on escapable darkness

Holly Wood (her real name, apparently), is a political and social commentarist operating in the twitteresque postblogoid realm called "". But her writing is quite astute. She leans more radical than I, but I respect radicalism, and often find it inspiring. She posted this untitled bit of poetry:

Freedom requires cultivating
the peculiar and completely irrational
faculty for projecting imagination
beyond the horizon of common sense.

We have to drive out beyond the city limits of hegemony
away from the light pollution of neoliberal ideology.

Men do not rule.
Men have never ruled.
Only legitimacy has ruled.
End man’s legitimacy and
you end the rule of man.

To end man’s legitimacy, child,
you must become exceedingly fluent
in what today is only unfathomable.

Hurry, though,
we are choking on escapable darkness.

[daily log: walking, 6.5km]

Caveat: castles of glass

Tournez, Tournez, Bon Chevaux De Bois

Turn, turn again,
Ape's blood in each vein!
The people that pass
Seem castles of glass,
The old and the good
Giraffes of the blue wood,
The soldier, the nurse,
Wooden-face and a curse,
Are shadowed with plumage
Like birds, by the gloomage.
Blond hair like a clown's
The music floats—drowns
The creaking of ropes,
The breaking of hopes,
The wheezing, the old,
Like harmoniums scold;
Go to Babylon, Rome,
The brain-cells called home,
The grave, new Jerusalem—
Wrinkled Methusalem!
From our floating hair
Derived the first fair
And queer inspiration
Of music, the nation
Of bright-plumed trees
And harpy-shrill breeze . . .
* * * *
Turn, turn again,
Ape's blood in each vein!

– Edith Sitwell (British poet, 1887-1964)

The lines "The people that pass / Seem castles of glass" reminded me of Cervantes' tale, "El licenciado Vidriera."

I had intended to write something more interesting today, but I lost my motivation. It might be under the pile of papers on my desk.

[daily log: walking, 6km]

Caveat: Happyfun Hospitaltime

I went to the hospital this morning, for one of my check-ups. I saw a new doctor – Dr Min, an oral cancer and post-op oral specialist (sort of a "cancer dentist"). His English is quite good – which sometimes is not such a good thing. You see, doctors have a tendency to digress on "worst-case scenarios." This is not information I really can use, and it creates a lot of anxiety for me. 

The news is not entirely bad. I guess there has been some slow closure of the exposed bone at the back of my lower jaw, but he's quite concerned over just how slow. Mostly, it didn't feel positive. "It could open up again," he mused. Hygiene will remain an ongoing problem. There are some other "lesions" too. No reason for biopsy at this point, given the periodic CT scans, but something we should keep an eye on. 

Dr Min has given me a prescription of a medication which "might" help accelerate the recovery of healthy flesh in the affected area. This use of the drug, called pentoxifylline (under brand name 페렌탈 in Korea), seems to be "off-label," but the doctor suggested that in my unsual case it could help, since the consequences of the necrosis in my mouth are similar to the "peripheral artery" problems for which the medication is normally indicated – specifically, the scary-sounding gangrene.

With respect to neuropathic pain (i.e. "ghost pain" related to severed nerves in my mouth and tongue), he was less helpful. He said in most cases, unless it is incapacitating, the best approach is to simply "endure" it. Most non-opioid painkillers aren't useful (which I already knew), and opioids, of course, have other issues. 

I certainly am not feeling particularly positive. Lately, I have felt like the quality of my teaching is declining, I feel uncreative in my my creative pursuits (writing or art), and of course I continue to reliably make zero net progress on my Korean ability. 

Last night, coming back on the subway from my effort to be social and active in Seoul yesterday, I just felt tired and frustrated. I had a weird epiphanic insight, as I sat watching the people around me. One reason I used to enjoy traveling is that I have always enjoyed "people-watching." One reason that I don't seem to enjoy traveling any more is that I find people-watching to be a much less positive experience. Instead, it has become a kind of burden. It's not that I've lost my interest in and curiosity about those around me. Rather, it seems that the problem is that this curiosity and interest is now tempered by a kind of simmering background jealousy. That is not a becoming emotion, I realize. Perhaps it is not wise for me to confess it, here. But it's a real thing, definitely – I have this sort of anger or frustration at the fact that most other people seem to lead these relatively (relatively) carefree existences, without looming health issues or limited horizons of the possible. I feel that I am at risk of becoming a bitter old man. That is not a desirable outcome.

It's easy for me to find optimism about humanity, but harder to find it about myself.

[daily log: walking, 10.5km]

Caveat: A crushing easter

I went into Seoul today, meeting my friend Peter and doing a walking-tour thing. I'll tell more about it tomorrow, maybe.

Meanwhile, unrelatedly… this guy crushes things with his hydraulic press and posts videos of his activities on youtube. As a bonus, he has a kind of evil-sounding laugh.

I feel that this is the pinnacle of our civilization's culture.

[daily log: walking, 4.5km]

Caveat: get to work, then

This is a humanoid "robot." Actually, I'm not sure just how autonomous it is, but it clearly has a lot of potential.

It's just a matter of time. It seems like robots are going to be doing interesting things, soon.

[daily log: walking, ]

Caveat: I’ve got dues to pay

What I'm listening to right now.

Cake, "Sheep Go To Heaven, Goats Go To Hell."


I'm not feeling alright today,
I'm not feeling that great,
I'm not catching on fire today,
Love has started to fade.

I'm not going to smile today,
I'm not gonna laugh,
You're out living it up today,
I've got dues to pay.

And the grave digger puts on the foreceps,
The stonemason does all the work,
The barber can give you a haircut,
The carpenter can take you out to lunch.

Now, I just want to play on my pan pipes,
I just want to drink me some wine,
As soon as you're born, you start dying,
So you might as well have a good time.

Oh no…

Sheep go to Heaven,
Goats go to Hell.
Sheep go to Heaven,
Goats go to Hell.

Oh no…
All right…

I don't wanna go to Sunset Strip,
I don't wanna feel the emptyness,
Bold marquees with stupid band names,
I don't wanna go to Sunset Strip.

I don't wanna go to Sunset Strip,
I don't wanna feel the emptyness,
Bold marquees with stupid band names,
I don't wanna go to Sunset Strip.

And the grave digger puts on the foreceps,
The stonemason does all the work,
The barber can give you a haircut,
The carpenter can take you out to lunch.

Now, but, I just want to play on my pan pipes,
I just want to drink me some wine,
As soon as you're born, you start dying,
So you might as well have a good time.

Oh no…

Sheep go to Heaven,
Goats go to Hell.
Sheep go to Heaven,
Goats go to Hell.

All right…
Oh no…
Oh no…

Sheep go to Heaven,
Goats go to Hell…

[daily log: walking, 6km]

Caveat: 太古順民

I learned this four-character idiom from my elevator.

“In the old days people [were] gentle.”

I’m not sure the expression is that useful, at least for me – unless there’s an element of irony or some historical reference that makes it more complex than it seems.
It seems to encapsulate the extremely common misconception people tend to have, that times are always getting worse, and that civilization is in a state of decline. Why people believe this seems to be a fundamental quirk of human psychology, which perceives current problems as being more severe than past problems, and which then extends this misperception to the scope of human history. It doesn’t even matter how old you are. I have heard 3rd grade elementary kids heave heavy sighs and say things to the effect of, “it was so much better in the old times [meaning 2nd grade].”
[daily log: walking, 6.5km]

Caveat: 나는 이 지상에 잠시 천막을 친 자

나는 이 지상에 잠시 천막을 친 자
초원의 꽃처럼 남김없이 피고 지고
자신을 다 사르며 온전히 살아가기를

– 박노해 (한국어 시인, 1957년 ~ )

One who pitched his tent upon this Earth for but a moment am I.
Like a flower in a meadow, earnestly blooming,
Utterly destroyed that others might make their way in life.

– Park, No-hae (Korean poet, b. 1957)

My friend Peter posted this unnamed poem on his blog, and provided his own translation for it, since none was to be found.
[daily log: walking, 6km]

Caveat: The knowledge runs down

I awoke from a dream this morning. I was going to medical school in Mexico City.

Although it sounds preposterous, there are elements in my background that make this dream-plot more plausible, at least as a dream, than one might expect. When I lived in Mexico City in the 1980s, one of my coworkers, Joaquín, was studying in medical school (keeping in mind the caveat that at that time, a medical degree in Mexico was a baccalaureate degree. So at that time, I was immersed in a kind of second-hand medical education. Later, finishing my own undergraduate work, I studied quite a few botany courses, from which I derived a kind of comfort with biological discourses. More recently, since my cancer, I have developed a habit of trying hard to understand as much as possible about the various medical situations and treatments I have experienced, which has evolved into a kind of "hobby" of reading online medical blogs.

Anyway, that's just background, in an effort to understand how my brain managed to put together this dream, maybe. It wasn't that detailed. I was at my workplace in Mexico City, the main difference being that I was in medical school too – not just Joaquín. Of course, I was studying things related to cancer. I was having a difficult time, however. I couldn't seem to remember any of the various things I needed to memorize. Finally I looked over at Joaquín, and he just grinned. He had one of the fat textbooks open but was wearing it like a hat on the top of his head.

"What are you doing?" I asked. There was a weird echo, and when I looked around, I wasn't in my workplace but rather inside a hospital – kind of a cross between the Cancer Center here in Korea and the hospital where I spent some time in Mexico City. 

Joaquín looked like he was ready to perform surgery – except for the book on his head. He didn't answer for a while. So I asked him again, "What are you doing?"

Finally, he said laconically, "The knowldege runs down from the book into your brain."

[daily log: walking, 7.5km]

Caveat: 4.2 million bananas’ worth of radiation

Sometimes I look at the online comic xkcd. It's quite nerdy, and sometimes the author crosses over from funny to informative. He posted a radiation dosage chart that I thought was interesting – given my own brush with radiation. It was particularly notable that, in terms of ionizing radiation (i.e. the kind that is associated with cell mutations and necrosis), a banana puts out more of that kind of radiation than a cellphone.

Apparently, a banana puts out about 0.1 µSv of ionizing radiation. If my math is correct, with my 3-monthly CT scans, I'm getting about 80,000 bananas' worth of radiation per year. I'm not sure what the dosage was of my radiation treatment, but at minimum it was the equivalent of about 30 full CT scans, which would amount to 210 mSv, or 4,200,000 bananas. Given I have a (mild) banana allergy, I think the radiation was a better deal.


Notes for Korean (finding meaning)

  • 외방 = "upstate" – the parts of Korea outside of Seoul
  • 버팀목 = one of those wooden supports attached to trees to hold them up or force them to grow in a certain direction
  • 미륵 = Maitreya
  • 돌무덤 = a cairn, a grave
  • 육군 = land army (as opposed to navy)
  • 해군 = navy
  • 공군 = air force
  • 중위 = army first lieutenant
  • 대위 = army captain
  • 대령 = army colonel
  • -기는 하다 (긴 하다) = a "concessive" verb phrase ending, perhaps "… although …" or "… admittedly …"

[daily log: walking, 6km]

Caveat: Plato’s annoying ghost

What Then?

His chosen comrades thought at school
He must grow a famous man;
He thought the same and lived by rule,
All his twenties crammed with toil;
'What then?' sang Plato's ghost. 'What then?'

Everything he wrote was read,
After certain years he won
Sufficient money for his need,
Friends that have been friends indeed;
'What then?' sang Plato's ghost. ' What then?'

All his happier dreams came true —
A small old house, wife, daughter, son,
Grounds where plum and cabbage grew,
poets and Wits about him drew;
'What then.?' sang Plato's ghost. 'What then?'

The work is done,' grown old he thought,
'According to my boyish plan;
Let the fools rage, I swerved in naught,
Something to perfection brought';
But louder sang that ghost, 'What then?'
– William Butler Yeats (Irish poet, 1865-1939)

[daily log: walking, 1km]

Caveat: neighborhood critical mass

I'm not sure what's changed, but lately it seems like several times a week, walking to or from work, I pass or run into someone I know, in the neighborhood where I have worked for 7 years, called Hugok. Former students, mostly, or in a few cases former coworkers or parents of students with whom I developed a nodding acquaintance at some point.

Last week, for example, I ran into a former student, now a senior in high school, and it was a pleasing and gratifying conversation for both of us – I remembered him well enough to immediately speak to him by name (which I know pleases students and is not always something I can pull off well – my memory is porous with names), and we made small talk about his post-high-school plans (still vague, but he wants to study economics). 

One afternoon, walking to work, I saw a former fellow teacher on a bike, and we nodded and waved. Last night, I saw another former coworker standing at a bus stop. We had not interacted much, but there was the same nod-of-acquaintance.

Today while I walked home, I saw a young 2nd grade elementary student riding her bike. She likes to come and play with my alligator puppets in the teacher's room, and she's very verbal, in Korean, but trying to speak English makes her shy. I called her name and she was surprised but said hi, and then I realized she was next to her dad. He introduced himself and, half in Korean half in English, we talked for a while. He wanted to know what to do about his other daughter, who I taught a few months ago. She apparently doesn't like to study – the eternal Korean parent's lament.

These do not seem to be exceptions.

It's as if the number of people I know in Hugok has recently reached some critical mass, due to my having been here for so long. It's weird. I'm not used to being "known" in a neighborhood – I've moved far too frequently in my life, and I'm not very social, anyway, so it's not like I go out of my way to be known.

Nevertheless, there is something gratifying in all these chance encounters. They have a mostly fairly positive feeling.

[daily log: walking, 6.5km]

Caveat: Lemonfire

The next time you find yourself stranded in the winter wilderness with only a lemon, some zinc nails, some brass tacks, some wire, and some steel wool, you can feel secure in the knowledge that you can make a fire.

[daily log: walking, 6km]

Caveat: 중도를 추구하려고 하다

Yesterday, I went into Seoul in the morning. I really don’t do that very often, anymore – I wasn’t even able to remember the last time I went to Seoul on a weekday morning. The reason is that my friend Peter is back in Korea (again!) and we met for lunch, before I rushed back out to Ilsan and back to work. I was happy to see him again – he’s starting graduate school in the fall at Johns Hopkins, and is trying to consolidate his Korean Language skills in the meantime – he’s long ago far outstripped my ability, which leaves me feeling both proud and jealous.
Anyway, my main observation is that working after what should just be a relaxing jaunt into the city for a few hours was remarkably exhausting. I guess I just don’t have the stamina I used to – it makes me feel geriatric and decrepit.
Work, yesterday, was a challenge, anyway. Too much alternation between having to be the “heavy” teacher one moment, because kids aren’t being responsible, and having to reassure them the next, because they’re fragile and burst into tears when things get too hard. To be honest, I personally don’t feel the desire or need to be the “heavy,” but it’s essentially an external requirement of the job – in hagwonland, teachers who never play the “heavy” get criticized for being “too easy” or being only entertainment. The stereotypical Korean parental expectation is: “if my kids are having fun, they must not be learning anything.”
I really like teaching, but I regret that in all my different incarnations as teacher, I’ve always felt so constrained by external requirements that don’t match what I have as my idealized concept of what it means to be a good teacher. I don’t work well with those constraints. Other talented teachers are better at somehow sticking within the external constraints and still managing to stay true to their teaching philosophy, but I think maybe I’m too erratic or something, to be able to navegate that difficult path. It’s really the same problem of finding “moderation” or the “middle way” that plagues most aspects of my life. I’m either too much or too little.
[daily log: walking, 6km]

Caveat: Wyrm com snican

Wyrm com snican, toslat he {m}an;
ða genam Woden VIIII wuldortanas,
sloh ða þa næddran, þæt heo on VIIII tofleah.
Þær geændade æppel and attor,
þæt heo næfre ne wolde on hus bugan.

A worm came creeping, he tore a man in two
then Woden took 9 Glory-Twigs,
struck the adder then, that it flew apart into 9 (bits).
There brought about the apple and poison,
that she [the adder] would never enter a house.

– from anonymous "Nine Herbs Charm" 10th-century Anglo-Saxon manuscript Lacugna (prayers and incantations)

[daily log: walking, 8km]


Caveat: Difficult Decisions

I have student who goes by the English name of Vona. She is a middle-school student in my TOEFL-style speaking class. A while back, we were trying to answer a question from the book with one of the TOEFL-style 45-second "personal experience" speeches. The prompt was: "Describe the most difficult decision you've had to make in your life." 

These poor 8th graders were at a loss, of course. 8th graders don't like to think about this kind of thing, and most of them are pretty sheltered, anyway, so they haven't had to make a lot of difficult decisions in their lives, so far. Several talked about things like whether to study for some specific major exam, or not, as being their difficult decision.

Vona spoke fairly coherently for 45 seconds, which is an accomplishment for her. What was her most difficult decision?

What to eat at the restaurant. The menu has too many choices.

The thing is… I suspect this may, in fact, be her most difficult decision. Such is life in among the upper middle-class in Seoul's northwestern suburbs.

I regret not having video of this fine speech.

[daily log: walking, 6.5km]

Caveat: Gotta keep on running

What I'm listening to right now.

Dead Kennedys, "Viva Las Vegas (Elvis Presley cover)."


Twilight City gonna set my soul
It's gonna set my soul on fire
Got a whole lot of money that's ready to burn
So get those stakes up high

There's a thousand pretty women waiting out there
They're all waiting, they'll never make air
And I'm just the devil with a lung to spare, so

Viva Las Vegas
Viva Las Vegas
Viva Las Vegas

How I wish that there were more
Than the 24 hours in the day
Even if I ran out of speed, boy
I wouldn't sleep a minute of the way

Oh that blackjack and poker and the roulette wheel
I'll poach your money lost on every deal
All you need is sonar and nerves of steel, so

Viva Las Vegas
Viva Las Vegas
Viva Las Vegas

Viva Las Vegas
Where the neon signs flash your name
The one-arm bandits cash in
All soap's down the drain
Viva Las Vegas
Turning day into nighttime
Turning night into daytime
If you see it once
You'll never be the same again

Gotta keep on running
Gonna have me some money
If it costs me my very last dime
If I wind up broke
Then I'll always remember that
I had a swingin' time

Oh, I'm gonna give it everything I've got
Lady Luck's with me, the dice stay hot
Got coke up my nose to dry away the snot, so

Viva Las Vegas
Viva Las Vegas
Viva Las Vegas
Viva, viva Las Vegas

[daily log: walking, 1km]

Caveat: Boiling Sea-Lions

Of course, it is well known that Korean speakers struggle with the phonemic character of the "L-R distinction" in English. In fact, Korean possesses both sounds (at least, approximately, and with some caveats vis-a-vis the retroflex character of the English R), but in Korean the distinction is not phonemic but instead allophonically complementary. 

If the above paragraph is gobbledygook, that's OK. I'm just being a linguist.

My point for this blog post is that sometimes my students make humorous mistakes. My student Cody was trying to give a debate speech about why zoos are not good for animals, and he was trying to say that life in a zoo is boring for animals, but his pronunciation consistently and clearly rendered "boring" as "boiling" – this is not just an L-R mistake but I think he was genuinely confusing the two words. Added to this is the typical "agent/patient" confusion typical with Korean learners of English (i.e. "The sea lion is bored" being rendered as "The sea lion is boring.").

I was struggling to explain to him the difference. Finally, on a piece of scrap paper, I sketched a zoo with bored animals, and then added a boiling sea lion. This seemed to get the message across – even though I received a lot of criticism for the quality of my sea lion. I agree it's a pretty implausible sea lion, but he is clearly boiling.


[daily log: walking, 6km]


Caveat: Not for lack of stones

Here are some random thoughts that have been floating around in my brain, mostly due to the fact that one of my weird hobbies is reading economics blogs.

On anthropogenic climate change

The entire "stop global warming" movement is predicated on the fallacy that, if we can just make people see the problem, they will immediately understand that it is a problem and so work to stop it. I don't think that's quite so obvious. There are too many narrow-minded people who live in cold climates and like to vacation in Florida or Mexico. Their reaction to being convinced of the reality of anthropogenic of global warming would be to shrug, buy a Hummer, and start investing in Minnesota or Manitoba real estate. The geopolitical equivalent of this is that there are entire countries capable of the same reaction.

Here's a scary thought: Why should Russia work to combat global warming? A warmer planet Earth puts that vast country in a more "human friendly" biome – tundra beomces taiga and taiga becomes steppe, and Siberia's agricultural potential is immense, if only it was a bit wetter and warmer. If I were a nationalistically-inclined long-term planner in Russia, with Putin's ear, I'd be doing everything possible to increase carbon output. And if we look at Russian energy policy, that does seem to be the approach.

The real problem with climate change isn't the deniers, it's the apathetic and faux-apathetic (i.e. Russia in the above scenario).

On "peak oil"

Somewhat relatedly, why do the Saudis keep increasing output? I think the answer is clear, there, too. They have been operating for more than a generation with a very sophisticated understanding of their position vis-a-vis the world energy market and our Age of Petroleum. In the 1980s, the oil minister, Ahmed Zaki Yamani, observed that, "Thirty years from now there will be a huge amount of oil – and no buyers. Oil will be left in the ground. The Stone Age came to an end, not because we had a lack of stones, and the oil age will come to an end not because we have a lack of oil."

I find this insight profoundly compelling. The age of oil will end with oil in the ground – because technology and civiliztion will either have moved on, or self-destructed. It's almost obvious to anyone capable of long-term thinking. Given that fact, there is no long-term benefit to hoarding oil. Pump and sell today, for tomorrow it will have no value.

[daily log: walking, 6km]

Caveat: Clowns Don’t Bounce

I'm not sure how widespread this "clowns don't bounce" meme is. I had never heard it until my elementary student Sophia used it as a (decidedly absurd) reason during an impromptu debate the other day.

We were debating about whether computer games are bad or good for kids. She said she thought computer games were a good idea. I asked her, "What is your reason?"

She answered, deadpan, "Clowns don't bounce."

I couldn't help but begin to laugh – which I'm sure was her intention.

Eventually I asked her what prompted her to say it, and she explained that it was something she saw "online." Later she further explained that it was used in a tween-appeal sitcom called Victorious. This sitcom is one I may have vaguely heard of – it's produced by the same people who make the one called iCarly, which I know I have mentioned in this blog before. iCarly has a few redeeming qualities, and I understand its appeal to kids. I'm not sure about Victorious. It seems more of a knock-off, with the consequent lower quality. Anyway, I guess that show's writers are the origin of the "clowns don't bounce" meme.

Anyway, it worked well as a strictly absurdist reason in a debate – if that's what your objective is. Unfortunately for Sophia, in this particular instance that was not the object, and after laughing with her briefly, I asked her try to come up with a better reason. 

[daily log: walking, 6km]

Caveat: On Frogs, Thunderstorms and Awakening Insects

Last Saturday morning, my friend Peter sent me a message saying that the day was 경칩 [gyeongchip]. As is usually the case when I hear about a previously-unencountered Korean "holiday," this turned out to be part of the old Chinese solar calendar. Gyeongchip is one of the 24 "solar terms," when hibernating insects are awakened. But somehow, a frog is involved, too. I'm not clear on the details, although its is likely that awakened insects might be good news for frogs.

The insects are awakened by thunderstorms. Naturally, as I left work on Saturday, there was a thundestorm. It was quite intense. I can imagine all the insects woke up. 

JingzheThe picture at right is just sourced on a rather meandering web-search, found at the KOCIS site (Korean Culture and Information Service). Note the characters in the upper-right: 驚蟄. These are "jingzhe" i.e. gyeongchip. 

[daily log: walking, 6.5km]

Caveat: Long Sleep

I used to love to sleep. Since my surgery, sleep is more problematic. It's harder to stay asleep – I am often repeatedly awakened by feelings of obstruction in my throat, which may be authentic tongue control issues I suppose, or might be more like "ghosts" that result from the lack of functioning nerve endings in parts of my mouth and neck. And I have long suffered a kind of "morning insomnia" that doesn't affect my ability to fall asleep but impacts my ability to stay asleep.

Anyway, I was quite surprised to wake up at 11 am today. This is about 4 hours later than my usual wake-up time (which is always without alarm). Since I work afternoons, it doesn't create any problems if I sleep in, but I still felt quite surprised by it. Even rather disoriented – and it discombobulated my morning routines.

I suppose it's the "burnout" feeling from work catching up to me, but it might also be an impending flu or cold – sleeping more seems to sometimes be the first sign of such a thing. 

[daily log: walking, 6.5km]

Caveat: We are fixed right where we stand

Saturday there was a huge thunderstorm. It was a monsoon-style deluge. Yesterday the weather was very spring-like, but I  was in a strange mood.

I'd dreamed I was one of my students, taking some test. But my version of the test was in Korean – of course. So I didn't understand the test. It was sad. I felt empathy for my students.

What I'm listening to right now.

Modest Mouse, "The View."


Your gun went off.
Well you shot off your mouth and look where it got you.
My mouth runs on too.

Shouts from both sides,
"Well we've got the land but they've got the view!"
Well now here's the clue.

Life it rents us.
And yeah I hope it put plenty on you.
Well I hope mine did too.

As life gets longer, awful feels softer.
Well it feels pretty soft to me.
And if it takes shit to make bliss,
then I feel pretty blissfully.

Your gun went off.
Well you shot off your mouth and look where it got you.
My mouth runs on too.

Shouts from both sides,
"Well we've got the land but they've got the view!"
Well now here's the clue.

We are fixed right where we stand.

Life it rents us.
And yeah I hope it put plenty on you.
Well I hope mine did too.

We are fixed right where we are.

As life gets longer, awful feels softer.
Well if feels pretty soft to me.
And if it takes shit to make bliss,
well I feel pretty blissfully.

For every invention made how much time did we save?
We're not much farther than we were in the cave.

As life gets longer, awful feels softer,
and it feels pretty soft to me.
And if it takes shit to make bliss,
well I feel pretty blissfully.

If life's not beautiful without the pain,
well I'd just rather never ever even see beauty again.
Well as life gets longer, awful feels softer.
And it feels pretty soft to me.

For every good deed done there is a crime committed.
We are fixed.
For every step ahead we could have just been seated.
We are fixed.

As life gets longer, awful feels softer.
Well it feels pretty soft to me.
And if it takes shit to make bliss,
well I feel pretty blissfully.

We are fixed.
We are fixed.
We are fixed right where we stand.

Notes for Korean (finding meaning)

  • 동등하다 = to be equal, to be on equal terms with, to be equivalent
  • deriv. 동등히 = equally


[daily log: walking, 7km]

Caveat: The drug we’re fed

I have one middle-school cohort of 9th graders that seems quite intrigued by US politics – unlike most 9th graders. I hadn't realized how much I'd revealed of my own opinions, however – normally I try to come across as fairly neutral, but not always successfully.

With great insight, the other day, one of my students said, "Teacher. If Trump is elected, you will have to study Korean very hard."

"What do you mean?" I asked.

He answered, "You said if you can pass the Korean test, you can become a Korean citizen. I think you will want to do that." 

I laughed. That was pretty perceptive, and interesting. 

What I'm listening to right now.

Dead Kennedys, "Stars and Stripes of Corruption." As a side-note: the Dead Kennedys were the first musical group I saw in a live performance, of my own volition (i.e. not with my parents or other adults) – it was not really a concert, but at a club. I was 16 years old.


Finally got to Washington in the middle of the night
I couldn't wait
I headed straight for the Capitol Mall
My heart began to pound
Yahoo! It really exists
The American International Pictures logo

I looked up at that Capitol Building
Couldn't help but wonder why
I felt like saying "Hello, old friend"

Walked up the hill to touch it
Then I unzipped my pants
And pissed on it when nobody was looking

Like a great eternal Klansman
With his two flashing red eyes
Turn around he's always watching
The Washington monument pricks the sky
With flags like pubic hair ringed 'round the bottom

The symbols of our heritage
Lit up proudly in the night
Somehow fits to see the homeless people
Passed out on the lawn

So this is where it happens
The power games and bribes
All lobbying for a piece of ass

Of the stars and stripes of corruption
Makes me feel so ashamed
To be an American
When we're too stuck up to learn from our mistakes
Trying to start another Viet Nam
Whilke fiddling while Rome burns at home
The Boss says, "You're laid off. Blame the Japanese"
"America's back," alright
At the game it plays the worst
Strip mining the world like a slave plantation

No wonder others hate us
And the Hitlers we handpick
To bleed their people dry
For our evil empire

The drug we're fed
To make us like it
Is God and country with a band

People we know who should know better
Howl, "America riles. Let's go to war!"
Business scams are what's worth dying for

Are the Soviets our worst enemy?
We're destroying ourselves instead
Who cares about our civil rights
As long as I get paid?

The blind Me-Generation
Doesn't care if life's a lie

so easily used, so proud to enforce

The stars and stripes of corruption
Let's bring it all down!
Tell me who's the real patriots
The Archie Bunker slobs waving flags?
Or the people with the guts to work
For some real change
Rednecks and bombs don't make us strong
We loot the world, yet we can't even feed ourselves
Our real test of strength is caring
Not the toys of war we sell the world
Just carry on, thankful to be farmed like worms
Old glory for a blanket
As you suck on your thumbs

Real freedom scares you
'Cos it means responsibility

So you chicken out and threaten me

Saying, "Love it or leave it"
I'll get beat up if I criticize it
You say you'll fight to the death
To save your worthless flag

If you want a banana republic that bad
Why don't you go move to one
But what can just one of us do?
Against all that money and power
Trying to crush us into roaches?

We don't destroy society in a day
Until we change ourselves first
From the inside out

We can start by not lying so much
And treating other people like dirt
It's easy not to base our lives
On how much we can scam

And you know
It feels good to lift that monkey off our backs

I'm thankful I live in a place
Where I can say the things I do
Without being taken out and shot
So I'm on guard against the goons
Trying to take my rights away
We've got to rise above the need for cops and laws

Let kids learn communication
Instead of schools pushing competition
How about more art and theater instead of sports?

People will always do drugs
Let's legalize them
Crime drops when the mob can't price them
Budget's in the red?
Let's tax religion

No one will do it for us
We'll just have to fix ourselves
Honesty ain't all that hard
Just put Rambo back inside your pants
Causing trouble for the system is much more fun

Thank you for the toilet paper
But your flag is meaningless to me
Look around, we're all people
Who needs countries anyway?

Our land, I love it too
I think I love it more than you
I care enough to fight

The stars and stripes of corruption
Let's bring it all down!
If we don't try
If we just lie
If we can't find
A way to do it better than this
Who will?

Notes for Korean (finding meaning)

  • 다채롭다 = to be colorful
  • 허세 = a bluff, bluster, poker face

[daily log: walking, 1km]

Caveat: Le soleil est éteint par la pluie


On ne peut rien faire contre les soirs de Mai
Quelquefois la nuit dans les mains se défait
Et je sais que tes yeux sont le fond de la nuit

A huit heures du matin toutes les feuilles sont nées
Au lieu de tant d'étoiles nous en aurons des fruits
Quand on s'en va on ferme le paysage
Et personne n'a soigné les moutons de la plage

Le Printemps est relatif comme l'arc-en-ciel
Il pourrait aussi bien être une ombrelle
Une ombrelle sur un soipir à midi

Le soleil est éteint par la pluie

Ombrelle de la montagne ou peut être des îles
Printemps relatif arc de triomphe sur mes cils
Tout est calme à droite et dans notre chemin
La colombe est tiède comme un coussin

Le printemps maritime
L'océan tout vert au mois de Mai
L'océan est toujours notre jardin intime
Et les vagues poussent comme des fougeraies

Je veux cette vague de l'horizon
Seul laurier pour mon front

Au fond de mon miroir l'univers se défait
On ne peut rien faire contre le soir qui naît

– Vicente Huidobro (poète chilien, 1893-1948)

Huidobro no sólo escribió en español sino también en francés. De todos modos, es uno de los poetas que más me gustan.

[daily log: walking, 6km]

Caveat: no more dog-whistle politics

Work has been quite busy. We started a new schedule yesterday. The kids started their new school year. It's weird to see the middle-schoolers back in their school uniforms after the winter break. 

My new schedule feels "heavy" but I'm sure I'll get used to it. The issue is mainly the preponderance of "new" classes, which inevitably consume more prep-time than classes where I've been with a given cohort for a long time with a predictable curriculum. 

Meanwhile, for your edification and hours of enjoyment, I'll send you to the Trump-et – no more dog-whistle politics! We're going loud and brash, now – screenshot below.


[daily log: walking, 6km]

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