Caveat: Doubly Possessed

My student Sophia is probably the only student I have who actually thinks in English at least some of the time. And maybe it is only in the context of being able to effortlessly switch what language one is thinking in does it really become common to see dynamic lexeme-level code switching, in the linguistic sense.

I was handing her a vocabulary quiz booklet, and she handed it back to me, saying, offhandedly,

that's 동현의 것's
(i.e. that's Dong-hyeon-ui geot's)

"Dong-hyeon" is her classmate's name. Really it's not exactly code-switching, since it's a kind of "doubled-up possessive" – a Korean possessive (-의 것 [-ui-geot]) embedded in an English possessive – so more like "code layering." She was just covering her bases.

I just found it fascinating from a language-acquisition standpoint.

[daily log: walking, 6.5km]

Caveat: Fall back into place

I'm still kind of recovering from last week. Still have a lot of work. My reduced test-prep work schedule is coming soon, and will give me a chance to rest.

What I'm listening to right now.

Beach House, "Space Song."


It was late at night
You held on tight
From an empty seat
A flash of light

It will take a while
To make you smile
Somewhere in these eyes
I'm on your side

You wide eyed girls
You get it right

Fall back into place
Fall back into place

Tender is the night
For a broken heart
Who will dry your eyes
When it falls apart?

What makes this fragile world go 'round?
Were you ever lost
Was she ever found?
Somewhere in these eyes

Fall back into place
Fall back into place

[daily log: walking, 6.5km]

Caveat: More Woodchucks

Last week, I gave a speaking test to my Newton1-M cohort. The topic I’d given them was the humorous “woodchucks should chuck wood” proposition that I’d had success with before.
Here they are, giving their own reasons why woodchucks should chuck wood.

Here are the texts of their speeches (since they are hard to hear). I made major corrections to the grammar of their draft speeches, but the ideas, reasons and examples are entirely their own. I had made the requirement that they each include the original tongue-twister in their speeches.


Hi, my name is Jerry. There is a question, “How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?” The answer is, “A woodchuck would chuck as much wood as a woodchuck could chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood.” I think this is wrong. I have a reason, too, which is that the woodchuck’s teeth are not strong enough to eat wood. A beaver has strong teeth, that’s why it eats wood. A woodchuck has weak teeth. If a woodchuck ate wood, it would get hurt. Do you want a cute woodchuck to get hurt?


Hi everyone, my name is Angela. The question is, “How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?” And we all know that the answer is, “A woodchuck would chuck as much wood as a woodchuck could chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood.” I think woodchucks should wood if they could. I have one main reason for this. Woodchucks like wood. Woodchucks like brown colored things. I saw a woodchuck. The woodchuck said, “I like wood!” So it’s a good situation. I think woodchucks should chuck wood if they could. Thank you for listening.


Hi, my name is Mark. We’re debating about woodchucks. “How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood? A woodchuck would chuck as much wood as a woodchuck could chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood.” Personally, I think a woodchuck shouldn’t shuck wood even if they could, because wood is not delicious. According to a survey of many cute, furry woodchucks, 90% of the respondents said that wood is not delicious. Therefore for this reason I think a woodchuck should not eat wood, even if they could. Thank you for listening to my speech.


Hi, my name is Ysabell. My team is the PRO team on this debate, which has the question, “How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?” The answer is, “A woodchuck would chuck as much wood as a woodchuck could chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood.” I think woodchucks should chuck wood if they could, because their name is WOODCHUCK! I have a friend whose nickname is “Carrot.” She likes carrots. I disagree with my opponents, who say woodchucks shouldn’t chuck wood. It’s not true. How can the name ‘woodchuck’ not be true?


Hi, my name is Jenny. Some student asked the teacher, “How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?” The teacher said, “A woodchuck would chuck as much wood as a woodchuck could chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood.” I think this is wrong. I think woodchucks shouldn’t chuck wood. Today, when I went to school, I met a woodchuck. I asked, “Do you like wood?” The woodchuck said, “No, I don’t eat wood.” Look, everyone, the woodchuck said it, itself, and I heard it directly. Woodchucks shouldn’t chuck wood. They don’t want to.


Hello everyone, my name is Julie. We are debating about woodchucks. The question is “How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?” The answer is “A woodchuck would chuck as much wood as a woodchuck could chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood.” I am on the PRO team on this proposition, because if we try it, maybe wood actually tastes good. Some wood can be delicious. For example, sugar cane is a kind of wood. It is very sweet and delicious. So I think I agree with this idea. Thank you for listening.

picture[daily log: walking, 6.5km]

Caveat: 空谷足音

I saw this four-character idiom online somewhere – I didn’t record from where.


This idiom seems to be similar to: Vox clamantis in deserto! “A voice in the wilderness.”

1 Iɴɪᴛɪᴜᴍ Eᴠᴀɴɢᴇʟɪɪ Jᴇsᴜ Cʜʀɪsᴛɪ, Fɪʟɪɪ Dᴇɪ. 2 Sɪᴄᴜᴛ sᴄʀɪᴘᴛᴜᴍ ᴇsᴛ ɪɴ Isᴀɪᴀ ᴘʀᴏᴘʜᴇᴛᴀ: Eᴄᴄᴇ ᴇɢᴏ ᴍɪᴛᴛᴏ ᴀɴɢᴇʟᴜᴍ ᴍᴇᴜᴍ ᴀɴᴛᴇ ғᴀᴄɪᴇᴍ ᴛᴜᴀᴍ, ǫᴜɪ ᴘʀæᴘᴀʀᴀʙɪᴛ ᴠɪᴀᴍ ᴛᴜᴀᴍ ᴀɴᴛᴇ ᴛᴇ. 3 Vᴏx ᴄʟᴀᴍᴀɴᴛɪs ɪɴ ᴅᴇsᴇʀᴛᴏ: Pᴀʀᴀᴛᴇ ᴠɪᴀᴍ Dᴏᴍɪɴɪ, ʀᴇᴄᴛᴀs ғᴀᴄɪᴛᴇ sᴇᴍɪᴛᴀs ᴇᴊᴜs. (Vulgate)

1 The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God; 2 As it is written in the prophets, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee. 3 The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. (KJV)

But the Christian/Western allusion is to prophecy, while the Chinese seems to mean one of two things, neither of which is quite the same. First, it might mean a pointless exercise of proclaiming when no one is paying attention. Alternately, it might mean the way that deserted place becomes more welcoming when a sound is heard. Regardless, I don’t think it’s directly relatable to the notion of prophecy… I guess it comes down to one’s opinion regarding the efficacy of prophecy.
There is also the text by John Gower, a Latin-language poem written in the 14th century, bearing the title “Vox Clamantis.”
[daily log: walking, 1km]

Caveat: now we get to see

Today is the big day – the annual Karma Academy Talent Show. I've been really busy in the preparations leading up to this day, with 2-3 hours extra work most days for the last 2 weeks. Now we get to see just how badly it goes.

[daily log: walking, 7km, insane-child-wrangling, 6 hours]

Caveat: with repining restlessness

The Pulley

When God at first made man,
Having a glass of blessings standing by,
"Let us," said he, "pour on him all we can.
Let the world’s riches, which dispersèd lie,
Contract into a span."

So strength first made a way;
Then beauty flowed, then wisdom, honour, pleasure.
When almost all was out, God made a stay,
Perceiving that, alone of all his treasure,
Rest in the bottom lay.

"For if I should," said he,
"Bestow this jewel also on my creature,
He would adore my gifts instead of me,
And rest in Nature, not the God of Nature;
So both should losers be.

"Yet let him keep the rest,
But keep them with repining restlessness;
Let him be rich and weary, that at least,
If goodness lead him not, yet weariness
May toss him to my breast."
– George Herbert (Welsh-English poet, 1593-1633)

Although I like the poetry, and in some ways I can appreciate the concept, too, I find this portrait of God deeply unsympathetic. Of course, as CS Lewis has observed, we're not supposed to like God, are we? That's not really the point. In a similar vein, I have always found the gnostic portrait of the creator God (i.e. of the Pentateuch) as an enemy of humanity compelling – a view which perhaps was more integral (implicitly rather than explicitly) to pre-modern Christian views of God, as suggested by the above poem. Anyway my own view remains that I appreciate all these stories as strong metaphors, but I remain militantly anti-transcendentalist.

[daily log: walking, 6.5km]

Caveat: das

I don't have anything to say today. So I will present this, found somewhere online:

"Don't be sad, because sad spelled backwards is das, und das ist nicht gut."

[daily log: walking, 7.5km]

Caveat: A flash of black

(Poem #25 on new numbering scheme)

I was walking. There was a whirr of wings.
A flash of black.
A raven spun and landed in front of me.
Some years ago I was in Japan, and I saw many ravens.
So ravens make me think about Japan in the Summer.
But also, I think about death.
Aren't there some traditional cultures that associate ravens with death?
I wonder about ravens. They are scavenger birds.
Carrion-seekers. They must know about death, after all.
That's why they tilt their heads like that.
People seem to know about death, too.
We are carrion-apes who know about death.
It's a matter of ecological competence.
Is that where clever consciousness comes from?

– some kind of free verse
The picture shows some ravens (crows?) I saw at Hallasan, on Jeju Island, in February, 2011.
Stupid 138
picture[daily log: walking, 7km]

Caveat: It’s Monday morning; Let’s go to the hospital

It's a tradition. Go to hospital. Snap a pic. Post to blog. Wait. Wait.
More later.


Update, a few hours later:

With respect to my diplostome, the doctor actually said, "very good." That is good news. It seems to finally be closing up as it is supposed to.

There was some less good news, too, though. After doing some x-rays to look around the rest of my jaw, the doctor identified another spot where there was likely some necrosis-exacerbated dental problems, around the root of an upper molar. The molar was a spot where I had a root canal long ago, and because of this, the doctor shook his head, depressingly. He explained there was little we could do. "Wait for it to start hurting, then take it out. Meanwhile, keep using it." It is another case where any effort to cure it would be worse than the problem, so the medical procedure boils down to "wait."

[daily log: walking, 11km]

Caveat: Джунгли

As I've mentioned before, just sitting and watching Korean television on some random channel can often lead to seeing unexpected or unusual things, not necessarily of high artistic merit.

Yesterday I got home from work and it was very hot. Summer has arrived. I turned on my A/C for the first sustained run this season, took a short nap, and then vegged in front of the TV.

I watched a very bizarre Russian comedy called Dzhungli ("The Jungle", 정글), subtitled in Korean. Obviously my level of comprehension was rather low, but between my rusty two years of college Russian and my low-vocabulary but high-frequency Korean, I picked up more than I might have expected. Mostly pronouns.

Fortunately the plot was so facile that it sustained my interest. It was full of the kinds of social and cultural stereotypes that became unpopular in the west about half a century ago. Some married couple with relationship problems gets stranded on a remote tropical island. At first they're sabotaging each other's efforts to survive on the island, like a never-ending lover's quarrel devolved into a lord-of-the-flies scenario, but then these highly caricatured "natives" show up, who, despite wearing blackface, rather humorously all speak German (bear in mind that the Slavic term for "German" [nemets] means, roughly, "can't talk" – so this may be a kind of complex joke). The natives attempt to kill the couple, but they fight them and eventually escape the island and return to Russia and marital bliss.

Actually  it reminded a lot of some lost episode of Gilligan's Island, with better special effects and marginally less coherent dialogue, and where Ginger and Gilligan finally become an item and have their own private adventure in the jungle somewhere.

I don't recommend this movie. Unless you're really bored watching Korean broadcast TV on a Saturday afternoon.

[daily log: walking, 1km]

Caveat: Jenny’s Magic Machine

I have a 5th grade student named Jenny. She is pretty smart, but has a bit of a melancholic personality. In fact, I've known Jenny for a long time – she was, long ago, in one of my Phonics cohorts, when she first studied English. As a result, I feel like I know her pretty well. Nevertheless she surprised me a little bit, yesterday, by expressing what seemed to me to be some pretty deep ideas, in English.

We were having more-or-less free conversation during class, talking about how to get motivated to prepare for our up coming talent show event. Several of the kids complained that they felt too shy and didn't want to do it, including Jenny. Then she said, "I wish I had a machine." 

"What kind of machine?" I asked.

"A machine if you click it, it changes feeling." She made a gesture of operating a computer mouse. 

"What do you mean?"

"If I am shy, I can click it, and I am happy. If am sad, I can click it, and I am OK." 

"That would be a pretty good machine," I agreed.  "I think everyone would like a machine like that."

[daily log: walking, 6.5km]

Caveat: like plywood battlements

A Poem of Unrest

Men duly understand the river of life,
misconstruing it, as it widens and cities grow
dark and denser, always farther away.

And of course that remote denseness suits
us, as lambs and clover might have
if things had been built to order differently.

But since I don't understand myself, only segments
of myself that misunderstand each other, there's no
reason for you to want to, no way you could

even if we both wanted it. Do those towers even exist?
We must look at it that way, along those lines
so the thought can erect itself, like plywood battlements.

– John Ashbery (American poet, b1927)

[daily log: walking, 6.5km]

Caveat: 文過飾非

I saw this four-character idiom in my building’s elevator the other day. It was really hard to figure out a meaning for it – my online search and linguistic skills are either declining or this was an exceptionally difficult and rare one.


Breaking down the individual hanja:

文 문 = 글월 letter, writing, sentence
過 과 = 지날 fut-part pass, elapse, spend [time]
飾 식 = 꾸밀 fut-part ornament, fabricate, affect, make, embellish
非 비 = 아닐 fut-part not be

Maybe literally, then, something like “[despite time] spent writing, [there is] no embellished effect” (?).
I searched a lot for a translation, and found nothing. I was having too much difficulty translating the one Korean definition I found. I tried a trick that sometimes works for these four-character idioms: you can put the idiom into googletranslate as Chinese instead of Korean. In this case, the meaning seems clear: “to pay lip service to.” I am not certain that the Korean usage of the idiom retains exactly the same meaning, but the Korean meaning given at naver’s dictionary is:

허물도 꾸미고 잘못도 꾸민다는 뜻으로,  잘못이 있음에도 불구(不拘)하고 뉘우침도 없이 숨길 뿐 아니라 도리어 외면하고 도리어 잘난 체함

It was taking me too long to try to figure out an idiomatic translation for this definition, but the gist seems to be in vein of “it is a mistake to try to hide ideas through embellishment, etc.” I’m not really confident, but it seems to semantically connect enough to the direct translation of the Chinese as to make me think that meaning applies to the Korean usage as well.
[daily log: walking, 6.5km]

Caveat: Disciplined by a 2nd-grader

One of my new classes is a Tuesday special "activity" class for our lowest-level, youngest class, a combined "Basic" cohort. These kids are essentially "pre-Phonics" and I'm mostly focused on getting them comfortable with a classroom conducted in English and doing fun games and vocabulary review for the online materials we're using.

There is one girl, a 2nd-grader, who has a quite distinctive personality. Her English name is Hailey. She has a preternaturally deep voice for a child of any gender, and sometimes hearing her talk can be disorienting, as she can sound almost like an adult if you pay attention to the tone of voice and not the content of her words. This dissonance is augmented by her tiny stature.

Either because of this, or for whatever other reason, she is also fairly behaviorially mature for her age, and a little bit bossy with her peers, but strangely staid and polite with adults. She actually likes to sit and pay attention quietly in class. When we were playing a game, yesterday, she was copying down words from our last exercise, practicing her English Alphabet letters. She suddenly raised her hand and asked to go to the bathroom (in Korean). After making her repeat the request in English, I let her go.

After she came back, she resumed her writing, and I let her – I run a fairly loose classroom anyway, and far be it from me to force a child to participate in a game when she'd rather practice writing. 

Then suddenly my coworker Helen popped her head in the classroom and said the class was too noisy. I assumed this was because there were some prospective customer-parents in the lobby, and having a loud, raucous classroom is not a great sales pitch – at least not in Korea. So we ended the game and went on to a more structured and quieter activity. 

Later, Helen told me that in fact, Hailey had stopped by the front desk on her way to the bathroom, and had complained to her about how noisy the class was, and had requested Helen to come tell the class to quiet down.

I found this truly funny. I have never had a 2nd grader complain about a too-loud class, before. I didn't even think it was possible. 

[daily log: walking, 6.5km]

Caveat: Let’s pretend, happy end

It was a really long day yesterday, with six classes back-to-back and essays to score. I'm feeling gloomy because I made a mistake with last-month's grades. Just a stupid mistake in the spreadsheeet, but the sort of mistake that unnecessarily and negatively impacts the impression parents have.

What I'm listening to right now.

Garbage, "You Look So Fine." This is from Garbage's Version 2.0 album, possibly one of my most favorite and most listened-to albums of all time – one of those albums where I like every song on it.


You look so fine

I want to break your heart
And give you mine
You're taking me over

It's so insane
You've got me tethered and chained
I hear your name
And I'm falling over

I'm not like all the other girls
I can't take it like the other girls
I won't share it like the other girls
That you used to know

You look so fine

Knocked down
Cried out
Been down just to find out
I'm through
Bleeding for you

I'm open wide
I want to take you home
We'll waste some time
You're the only one for me

You look so fine
I'm like the desert tonight
Leave her behind
If you want to show me

I'm not like all the other girls
I won't take it like the other girls
I won't fake it like the other girls
That you used to know

You're taking me over
Over and over
I'm falling over
Over and over

You're taking me over
Drown in me one more time
Hide inside me tonight
Do what you want to do
Just pretend happy end
Let me know let it show

Ending with letting go [3x]

Let's pretend, happy end [4x]

[daily log, walking, 6.5km]

Caveat: Sunday Monday

I wrote these little poems. They are attempts at the Welsh traditional short poem form called englynion – specifically, the englyn unodl crwca, or crooked one-line englyn.
(Poem #24 on new numbering scheme)

looking now out the window,
solid gray clouds, drawn just so -
i lie down to read. let go of winter,
wishing for rain, but no.
the puddle of water shines,
the morning sun's brightness finds
streaks of mud and small cracks; signs like a map's
matching patchwork of lines.

These forms are quite restrictive, in the technical sense. I seem to prefer trying to write inside such constraints, sometimes.
picture[daily log: walking, 7km]

Caveat: Wom

Cute_wombatQ: What sport do you play with a wombat?

A: Wom.

What I’m listening to right now.

San Cisco, “Bitter Winter.”


I don’t wanna be, with anybody else
If I wanted someone like me
I’d hang out with myself

I’m stuck here, in the middle of winter
I feel a bit bitter about what you said to me
Well you never talk about it
Instead you scream and shout it
Never let nobody into let them know what you been through

You love drama I believe in karma
I’m struggling and might see a shrink
I never thought that I would think that

I, no I don’t wanna be
With anybody else but you
Can you come with me [x2]

We’re so different you and I
I think that’s what first caught your eye
I’m your mistake, you’re my escape

You suggest the theatre
I go just to be with you
It’s not something I like to do
I hate musicals, I know
I’ve been to a few

I, no I don’t wanna be
With anybody else but you
Can you come with me [x2]

I don’t wanna be, with anybody else
If I wanted someone like me
I’d just hang out with myself

I, no I don’t wanna be
With anybody else but you
Can you come with me [x2]

[daily log: talking, 1km]

Caveat: 8 of Wands, Inverted

I have a set of tarot cards, which I have owned for over 30 years now, and they remain in good condition. I had misplaced them during my move in 2013, but they later turned up.

Sometimes I do "tarot readings" in my middle-school classes if I have a few minutes to kill at the end of a lesson and they express some interest. Yesterday in my 8th grade HS2A cohort, they weren't that interested, but I gave a tarot reading yesterday because those kids are just zombies as far as I can figure out.


I have one of the students ask me a question, then I will "read their future" with the cards and booklet of interpretative meanings that I compiled. Some kids find it fascinating, and I can justify it since of course I'm conducting the "readings" in English.

One boy asked "What will I do tomorrow?" Perhaps he cynically hoped to get me to make a prediction he could invalidate. I don't mind this. I read the cards and told him, plausibly enough against their standard meanings, that he would have to make a choice tomorrow, and that he would make the right choice. I was pleased with this, since it seemed the kind of reading that would be impossible to invalidate.

The next question, from a girl, was about university. The cards were kind of dark and negative, on that one, but I told her - a shy and timorous girl – that the cards showed that although what university she attended seemed important, she shouldn't worry so much about it – her life could be good regardless of where she went. There was at least some support for that reading.

Finally, another girl asked, cynically, "When can I leave this classroom?" I laughed at the passive-aggressive cleverness of this question.

I pulled a card, and turned it over. It was the 8 of wands, inverted. The meaning of this card is "delay" – really, look it up yourself. "Your leaving this classroom will be delayed!" I announced, triumphantly. I showed them the booklet page under the appropriate card, to prove I wasn't tricking them.

This was such an impressive result I could see the kids were either a bit surprised, or else still thought I was tricking them somehow.

The girl who'd asked the question rolled her eyes and looked at the clock on the wall again.

[daily log: walking, 1km]

Caveat: Another day, just breathe.

Last night we had a 회식 (work dinner), that Korean institution where coworkers periodically and essentially obligatorially participate in an after-work dinner and drinking experience. I am not much of a drinker these days, and furthermore my medication contraindicates alcohol, but something made me have a couple cups of beer last night, which, given my normal abstention, left me feeling completely discombobulated. 

Anyway, it was at a seafood reastaurant, one of those places where there are servings of raw, still-wiggling, chopped octopus tentacles among other less-identifiable delicacies. I have never been a fan of still-wiggling octopus tentacles, although I'm fine to eat them cooked, when they have a kind of "ok to swallow whole" texture such that they are more bearable than many other things. I had some issues with bits of clam and mussel shell in the food getting caught in my undexterous mouth.

Perhaps the pleasing aspect was that, although I didn't talk much – I never do – I was finding my level of comprehension through the evening fairly high. I followed a number of conversations more-or-less successfully, although if I let my attention wander I would become lost. As I've always commented to my coworkers, for me, hweh-sik is harder than work, not easier, and not really relaxing. It's like an intensive Korean listening comprehension class, always held late at night after a long day at work.

A picture, looking across the table – a low table, everyone seated on the floor – you can see new teacher John, Curt, and newish middle-school subdirector, Sunny (who, like many Karmaites, is an L-Bridge refugee, and thus someone whom I've known on and off for quite a long time). 

2016-05-12 22.43.02

What I'm listening to right now.

Télépopmusik – "Breathe."


I brought you something close to me,
Left for something you see though your here.
You haunt my dreams
There's nothing to do but believe,
Just believe.
Just breathe.

Another day, just believe,
Another day, just breathe
Another day, just believe,
Another day. just breathe.

Im used to it by now.
Another day, just believe.
Just breathe. just believe.
Just breathe.
Lying in my bed,
Another day, staring at the ceiling.

Just breathe. another day.
Another day, just believe.
Another day.
Im used to it by now.
Im used to it by now.
Just breathe. just believe.
Just breathe. just believe.
Just believe. just breathe.
Just believe.
Another day, just believe.
Another day.
Another day, just believe,
Another day, just breathe,
Another day (I do believe).
Another day(so hard to breathe)
Another day(not so hard to believe)
Another day. another day.

[daily log: walking, 6.5km]

Caveat: on parsing paraphrastic palindromes

There is a website dedicated to "satirical linguistics," called SpeculativeGrammarian. There is an article called "Nursery Rhymes from Linguistics Land," which is a collection of humorous, linguistics-themed re-writes of traditional nursery rhymes. Given my fondness for tongue twisters, combined with my interest in parsers (that was the subject matter, broadly speaking, of my undergraduate honor's thesis) and my fascination with palindromes, this particular rhyme was particularly impressive:

Peter’s Parser

Peter’s parser parsed a paragraph
Of paraphrastic palindromes;
A paragraph of paraphrastic palindromes
Peter’s parser parsed.

If Peter’s parser parsed a paragraph
Of paraphrastic palindromes,
Where’s the paragraph of paraphrastic palindromes
Peter’s parser parsed?

There are many others I liked, too. 

[daily log, walking, 6.5km]


Caveat: 시체노리

My coworker taught me this expression, in the context of my trying to explain what I had done over the weekend. “I did basically nothing,” I had said. “I was a zombie.”
She found this expression somewhat funny, and offered the Korean equivalent: “시체노리 했다” [ haet.da]. The meaning, roughly, is “[I] played at being a corpse,” but apparently it can be used just as I used the “I was a zombie” expression, or other colloquialisms for doing nothing, like “I was basically dead.”
Not much else to say.
[daily log: walking, 7km]

Caveat: γνῶθι σεαυτόν

Know thyselfEvery now and then I run across something where I think that – if I didn't already have a good name for my blog - it would make a good name for a blog. 

There is an ancient Greek expression, γνῶθι σεαυτόν ("know thyself"). Recently I ran across something I think I'd seen before, which is an interesting, skeleton-themed mosaic from an ancient Roman villa (see at right, but note the Greek in that mosaic is missing the "ε").

This was in the context of news about a different, recently-discovered, skeleton-themed mosaic near Antioch in Turkey, below, whose inscription apparently could be translated as "Be cheerful and live your life" – although there are more pessimistic readings, too. I was unable to find a clear transcription of the original Greek, a language which I have occasionally pursued as a kind of low-key hobby – I won't even attempt to transcribe it here. 


[daily log: walking, 7km]

Caveat: Hypnagogia

(Poem #23 on new numbering scheme)

The reek of butterflies and dust woke me
from winter's complacent pessimism
and showed with grave determination
that true intentions are both made and found.
Uninteresting. I put my arm out
to touch the bookshelf behind my pillow
and unindexed archives of better sleep
unfolded into gold and copper flags.
I counted seven breaths while I focused
on disregarding things: body, pain, mind
the myriad irrelevancies of being
and that bit of twisted string, felt crouching
in that spot on the shelf where I'd seen it;
imagine it was another whole world.

picture[daily log: walking, 6.5km]

Caveat: the internet let me down

I had one of my "low tech" Sundays, I guess. I was tired of looking at the internet and tried to avoid it today.

What I'm listening to right now.

This morning, anyway, when I started to prepare this blog-post, the internet let me down. I was listening to this song, and was going to post it. But the song is completely missing from the normal places where such things can be found – e.g. youtube, vimeo. Not even the pirate-riddled Chinese site I've used a few times. So. No online track available. I guess they want you to buy it. How antiquated.

Epsilon Minus, "Lost."


My sadness seeks out comfort
Where are you now
I just had to express these feelings
My regret overwhelms me
I feel you now
I just had to show you what remains

You said that I would never change
Just a frozen thought in your mind
I'm destined to remain
You embody everything I am
And I thought I would tell you all this
As I watch you slip away
And the hope built up inside
Told me this would be the time
I would cry no more goodbyes
You gave the world to me

My loneliness astounds me
I've lost you now
I have no one to blame for these things

You fought to keep them all away
But desire overcomes me
And that's something new to me
I've known longing
I've lost something

And the hope built up inside
Lied to me a thousand times
I've cried one more goodbye
The world I had destroyed
And these feelings I won't hide
When the tears slowly subside
I've lost everything today
When you took the world from me


[daily log: walking, not much]

Caveat: Theacher BaBo I’m Claber ok!

Last Tuesday, during my new Basic반 cohort (with 1st and 2nd grade elementary, beginning-level students), a student named Gloria came to the class. The thing is, Gloria does not belong in that cohort – she's pretty smart and anyway she is much farther ahead in English, currently being part of Grace's CS cohort. But for some scheduling reason, Gloria is stuck attending on Tuesdays, when Grace's CS class doesn't meet, so she got slotted into the Basic class, as being the only age-appropriate alternative. 

I think she's a little bit resentful of this, but she participated well with the other kids, and I felt like she wasn't upset about it. It is an easy class, at the least, for her. Then, at the end of the class, she kind of surreptitiously handed me this note, below. Just the fact that she has the level of ability to compose such a note puts her at a much higher level than the other students in the Basic class.


To transcribe, it says:

Hi ~ Teacher   It's Gloria
Theacher BaBo. Thank Thank you.
o  I'm Claber. ok! 
       - Gloria –

The word "babo" is Korean. It means something like "dummy" or "stupidhead." The word "claber" is a misspelling of "clever."

It was cute, anyway. I like the black cloud over my head, in the portrait. Did I really say that?

[daily log: walking, 7km]

Caveat: happy to just fall down

The Korean TV news is full of bits on the North Koreans' Party Congress, the first in 36 years. KJU is consolidating his power, repossessing the military, and showing savvier leadership than had been expected, it appears. Not that that's a good thing. 

 Perhaps relatedly, what I'm listening to right now.

Communist Daughter, "Not the Kid."


When we were younger
we had nothing to do
so we'd close our eyes
and spin around in circles
happy to hit the ground
or happy to just fall down

When we were younger
we'd go down to the park
we'd catch all the fireflies
we'd put 'em in jars
we never knew that they'd die
we never really thought that far

I'm not the kid you knew
im not the kid you remember

When we were younger
we were scared of the dark
so we closed our eyes
we pulled the sheets over our heads
we didn't want to see what's there
like the shadows under the bed

And now that I'm older
I look back on those days
I wish I had them back
cuz the shadows are gone
or at least they're not that strong
as the shadows in my head

I'm not the kid you knew
I'm not the kid you remember

I'm not the kid you knew
I'm not the kid you remember

In 1985
well there was a picture taken with my name on it
climbin' an apple tree with blue shoes
You'd think it was me
I could swear it was you

I'm not the kid you knew
i'm not the kid you remember

I'm not the kid you knew
i'm not the kid you remember

I'm not the kid you knew
i'm not the kid you remember

I'm not the kid you knew
i'm not the kid you remember

Notes for Korean (finding meaning)

  • 병진 = advancing side-by-side – this is the label for the new, not-military-first policy initiative by NK's KJU

[daily log: walking, 1km]


Caveat: Abandon all reason

Today is a holiday, in South Korea. I'm celebrating by procrastinating on everything important. In fact, I have invented a new religion: procrastinatarianism.

Meanwhile, I'll share this, which made me laugh inappropriately when I ran across it at work during a brief free moment, on a website I frequent called SpeculativeGrammarian, and which I was utterly unable to explain to my coworkers. 


What I'm listening to right now.

Radiohead, "Burn The Witch." This is their new song. As usual, one of my favorite bands. Creepy video, too. 


[Verse 1]
Stay in the shadows
Cheer at the gallows
This is a round up

[Pre-Chorus 1]
This is a low flying panic attack
Sing a song on the jukebox that goes

Burn the witch
Burn the witch
We know where you live

[Verse 2]
Red crosses on wooden doors
And if you float you burn
Loose talk around tables
Abandon all reason
Avoid all eye contact
Do not react
Shoot the messengers

[Pre-Chorus 2]
This is a low flying panic attack
Sing the song of sixpence that goes

Burn the witch
Burn the witch
We know where you live
We know where you live

[daily log: walking, 1km]

Caveat: PGH in Tehran

"PGH" is a kind of shorthand for Park Geun-hye, Korea's current president, who I also like to refer to as The Dictator's Daughter. 

Recently she has been on a high-level visit to Iran, now that Iran is "open for business" under the new nuclear agreement, and she can do so without antagonizing the Imperial powers in Washington and Brussels. Korea's economic presence is already huge in the region – bearing in mind that it is Korean construction contractors who have built major portions of infrastructure in Iran's neighbors United Arab Emirates to the south and Uzbekistan to the north. The Burj al-Khalifa might be in Dubai, but it was built by Koreans – a point of pride, here. 

Anyway, her visit is all over the news. I keep the Korean 24 hour news channel running sometimes on my TV at home. I noticed something that frankly surprised me, that vastly increased my estimation of President Park's intelligence. It's minor, perhaps: she has made a point of wearing an Iranian-style headscarf during her state visit to Tehran. Somehow this strikes me as a remarkable bit of cultural sensitivity. It's hard to imagine a European or American female politician making such a cultural concession. It may antagonize those who object to the clearly anti-feminist nature of the Iranian regime, and I have sympathy for that. But we should also acknowledge that PGH is no feminist – if she were, she'd never have won the presidency in Korea. It was just such gestures of obeissance to patriarchy that have made her political career possible in Korea. Basically, that she can extend such symbolic behavior into the international sphere speaks well of her level of political savvy and machiavelianism. 

I'm not saying I like her, but I think perhaps she is easy to underestimate. 


[daily log: walking, 6km]

Caveat: Sartorial Advice

Yesterday the weather was quite warm. The seasonal transition from early Spring to late Spring has materialized, right on schedule. At work, the air conditioning is still not really operating yet – I'm not sure if this is due to recalcitrance on the part of those who make the decision to operate it, or some technical issue with priming it for the new season. Koreans often turn on and turn off heating and air conditioning systems based on calendar dates rather than actual weather. 

Classroom 204 was therefore beastly hot. Normally, I wear a kind of casual wool blazer at work – partly because it is kind of my uniform, partly because both in winter, when heating is inadequate, and in summer, when the air conditioning is too strong, it keeps me warm. Anyway, I took it off. It was too hot.

When I went to my next class, I still didn't have it. I guess since I wear it most of the time, it was notable that I didn't have it. 

"Teacher!" a fifth-grader named Jenny said. "Where is your jacket?"

"I took it off."

"Why?" she asked quite seriously, tilting her head, conveying a gravity and bafflement that seemed incommensurate with the triviality of the issue.

"It's too hot," I explained.

There was a period of silence. Then Jenny said, "Teacher! You need your jacket." Although she fishes around a lot for vocabulary, she has really good English intonation patterns, and this sounded impressively native.

I was surprised. "Need? Why?"

"It's more stylish," she explained, as if this was a critical and important factor.

"Ah. Good point."

Jenny and the other students waited for me to put on my jacket, before class proceeded.

[daily log: walking, 6.5km] 

Caveat: Soleboarding

I saw this video on youtube. Aside from guessing it would be very entertaining to a certain species of elementary school student (for which reason I bookmarked it and have shared it with a few classes, to universal acclaim), I was interested in it because I’m pretty sure this street is just a few blocks from my dad’s old house in L.A., although I can’t quite place it exactly.

The guy is “skating” on a slippery, steep hill of a street, during a rainy day. He’s doing so simply on the soles of his shoes, but he has some evident skateboarding skills, so he makes a great show of it.

[daily log: walking, 6km]

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