Caveat: Nonnet #94

(Poem #112 on new numbering scheme)

I said.
"I'm a ghost."
"You're not scary,"
my student complained.
"Aw, but really I'm dead,"
I cheerfully insisted.
"Why don't you believe your teacher?"
She wasn't buying it, however.

– a reverse nonnet

Caveat: Cae / Nieve con gusto a universo

Invierno para beberlo

El invierno ha llegado al llamado de alguien
Y las miradas emigran hacia los calores conocidos
Esta noche el viento arrastra sus chales de viento
Tejed queridos pájaros míos un techo de cantos sobre las avenidas

Oíd crepitar el arcoiris mojado
Bajo el peso de los pájaros se ha plegado

La amargura teme a las interperies
Pero nos queda un poco de ceniza del ocaso
Golondrinas de mi pecho qué mal hacéis
Sacudiendo siempre ese abanico vegetal

Seducciones de antesala en grado de aguardiente
Alejemos en seguida el coche de las nieves
Bebo lentamente tus miradas de justas calorías

El salón se hincha con el vapor de las bocas
Las miradas congeladas cuelgan de la lámpara
Y hay moscas
Sobre los suspiros petrificados

Los ojos están llenos de un líquido viajero
Y cada ojo tiene un perfume especial
El silencio es una planta que brota al interior
Si el corazón conserva su calefacción igual

Afuera se acerca el coche de las nieves
Trayendo su termómetro de ultratumba
Y me adormezco con el ruido del piano lunar
Cuando se estrujan las nubes y cae la lluvia

Nieve con gusto a universo
Nieve que huele a mar

Nieve perfecta de los violines
La nieve sobre las mariposas

Nieve en copos de olores
La nieve en tubo inconsistente

Nieve a paso de flor
Nieva nieve sobre todos los rincones del tiempo

Simiente de sonido de campanas
Sobre los naufragios más lejanos
Calentad vuestros suspiros en los bolsillos
Que el cielo peina sus nubes antiguas
Siguiendo los gestos de nuestras manos

Lágrimas astrológicas sobre nuestras miserias
Y sobre la cabeza del patriarca guardián del frío
El cielo emblanquece nuestra atmósfera
Entre las palabras heladas a medio camino
Ahora que el patriarca se ha dormido
La nieve se desliza se desliza
                                                se desliza
Desde su barba pulida

– Vicente Huidobro (poeta chileno, 1893-1948)

picture[daily log: walking, 7km]

Caveat: Nonnet #93

(Poem #111 on new numbering scheme)

Did you see the city wherein hid
multitudes despairing, its grid
teeming under sky, across
arms of the sea? And... did
you see who controlled
that sea? - I saw
wherein lurked

– a nonnet

Caveat: plantpocalypse

Some while back I was proud that I'd kept some houseplants alive in my apartment for so long – several years, in fact. I think I even blogged about it. That stretch of success has sadly returned to the default mode of my plant-raising efforts: plantpocalypse. A kind of vegetarian version of a Halloween slasher movie has played out over the last few months.

I now have only two sickly plants remaining, and both seem on the edge of meeting their Maker. I don't really know what I do wrong – I suspect I'm too unreliable as a waterer – too much water interspersed with not enough. But, I rationalize: don't plants in the real world deal with unreliable supplies of water fairly successfully? It does not rain exactly 1 mm every day, after all. I lack the right life philosophy to be a gardener, perhaps. I see unreliable environments as being character-building. I suspect my plants view it differently, and don't feel the need for building character.

pictureThe two current survivors:

The one on the left is probably already dead – the leaves are dry and brittle, despite retaining their green color. I pruned the other substantially, removing many yellow leaves and limp vines.

Anyway, at this rate, I don't have to worry about how they'll survive my upcoming two-week absence.

picture [daily log: walking, 2km]

Caveat: Nonnet #92

(Poem #110 on new numbering scheme)

A toddler child is staggering along
with his mother and grandmother.
The mom patters on with words
- typical mother-speak.
She points at some man,
says, "Bye-bye hae."*
The boy smiles.
He says

– a nonnet
* linguistic note: the borrowing from English, “bye” (and “bye-bye”), is pretty fully nativized in Korean, used as an informal farewell by many people. “Bye-bye hae [해]” would mean “say bye-bye.” Of course, in Korean pronunciation, “bye” is two full syllables, “ba-i” (and “bye-bye” is four), and that breaks my poem, but anyway the vowel break is elided and diphthongized, so I’m going with the English pronunciation I guess.

Caveat: When you get older

Since the unexpected and unplanned departure of one our teachers at Karma two weeks ago, I have been teaching some of the so-called "CC" classes that I haven't done for quite a while. These classes are essentially a kind of "pop music" listening class – have the kids listen to pop songs and make an effort to compel them to sing (not necessarily a very rewarding exercise with middle schoolers, especially since I have a lot of sympathy for their position). 

So I have been trying to come up with songs where I can actually teach something about the song's meaning, and not just focus on the mechanics of capturing the lyrics.

I did NWA's old rap song, "Express Yourself" (which I've blogged before but which for some weird reason I can't seem to find in google – google is great but it has mysterious holes sometimes, when it comes to googling my own blog).

And then I did this song by Avicii, a weird kind of Celtic-influenced Technopop, I guess – I'm not great at genre classifications. The song is not quite as shallow as it seems at first, although it's fairly conventional. The kids like the video, anyway. So we went through the lyrics in detail, line by line.

What I'm listening to right now.

Avicii, "The Nights."


Hey, once upon a younger year
When all our shadows disappeared
The animals inside came out to play
Hey, went face to face with all our fears
Learned our lessons through the tears
Made memories we knew would never fade

One day my father—he told me,
"Son, don't let it slip away."
He took me in his arms, I heard him say,

"When you get older
Your wild heart will live for younger days
Think of me if ever you're afraid."

He said, "One day you'll leave this world behind
So live a life you will remember."
My father told me when I was just a child
These are the nights that never die
My father told me


When thunder clouds start pouring down
Light a fire they can't put out
Carve your name into those shining stars
He said, "Go venture far beyond these shores.
Don't forsake this life of yours.
I'll guide you home no matter where you are."

One day my father—he told me,
"Son, don't let it slip away."
When I was just a kid I heard him say,

"When you get older
Your wild heart will live for younger days
Think of me if ever you're afraid."

He said, "One day you'll leave this world behind
So live a life you will remember."
My father told me when I was just a child
These are the nights that never die
My father told me

These are the nights that never die
My father told me
Hey, hey

[daily log: walking, 7km]

Caveat: sod byeochayu gaejulaet eoyeoeuedng aepdg sod imkyo aeh

Here is an interesting decoding puzzle, of sorts.

Type something in English, using touch typing, e.g.

in the beginning

… but on a Korean keyboard setting. That gives a random string of Korean "jamo" (letters). e.g.

ㅑㅜ 솓 듀햐ㅜㅜㅑ후

This has no meaning in Korean – the syllables aren't even well-formed. 

Now transliterate that nonsense into Roman letters.

yau sod dyuhyauuyahu

The code is easy to decode, but only if one is at least familiar with touch typing in both Korean and English, and familiar with the standard "Revised Romanization" rules which establish a mostly one-for-one equivalence between jamo and Latin letters and/or digraphs. 

Puzzle question: What is the original English phrase?

sod byeochayu gaejulaet eoyeoeuedng aepdg sod imkyo aeh.

[daily log: walking, 6.5km]

Caveat: Nonnet #90

(Poem #108 on new numbering scheme)

and bones
the imagery
that drifts out, unsought,
from those contemplations
which accompany the fact
that the dead cat I saw just now
seemed to be merely in calm repose.

– a reverse nonnet

Caveat: the Choi Soon-sil thing

I was so pleased with my HS2B cohort last night.

We are basically finished with our current Speaking class textbook. We can't bother ordering a new book, since in December they'll be transitioning to the next year-level (i.e. HS3), which will involve a new book – getting a new book for just a month and a half is impractical. Obviously, I didn't do very well budgeting out the progress in the book, which was meant to last a full year.

"So, what are we going to do?" I asked.

Most classes of 8th graders would desultorily propose something in the vein of "play" or"nothing" - and it would be left up to me to come up with something more academic.

These kids, however, proposed, "Let's have debate class." Most them had me for debate in prior years, but the 8th grade curriculum as currently defined doesn't include much debate.

"Wow, so you guys like debate?" I asked.

They did.

"So what should we debate about?" I asked.

Most classes of 8th graders, presented with this choice, would immediately suggest debating something pretty banal: who is the best current pop idol on the k-pop scene, or something in the vein of my absurd debate topics.

One girl, however, proposed, "Let's debate about president Park and the Choi Soon-sil thing." I was, in fact, pretty ignorant about this. I was vaguely aware that some new scandal was exploding around the South Korean President, but I didn't know the details. So we spent some time with them filling me in on what was going on. 

Once I understood what was going on, I offered some possible debate propositions. 

The one we settled on was: "President Park's recently revealed behavior is impeachable." We had to make a digression while I tried to explain the concept of impeachment, but, to my surprise, they knew what this was – I guess it's something they cover in civics class in their public school.

They're pretty sharp 8th graders – I already knew this. But what I like most about those kids is that they are so interested in learning stuff and thinking about their world. This is what I strive for when I talk about student-driven learning. 

Of course, once we'd settled the debate proposition and I assigned some speeches for the next speaking class, they wanted to play. So I let them do that for the last 15 minutes. They're clever - they know if they please me with showing interest in academic topics, they'll get latitude on free time during class, too.

[daily log: walking, 6.5km]



Caveat: Nonnet #89

(Poem #107 on new numbering scheme)

Let's imagine a dystopia:
a strange future where things are weird.
Unconsciousness is a crime
punishable by death.
The authorities
dislike darkness.
Don't get caught

– a nonnet

Caveat: flipping out

My boss and friend Curt has been on a bit of a tear about a concept known as "flipped learning." He keeps asking me my opinion about it, but frankly I'm not sure what to say. I started writing this several months ago and never reached any feeling of conclusion about it. I've decided to just post it "as is."

If, by flipped learning, one is referring to the principle of "new material at home, review during class," then I think it is hardly a new concept. Indeed, I think teachers of every age going back to Ancient Greece would use this model at least sometimes – what is the Socratic Method, after all, if not a kind of flipped learning?

On the other hand, I suppose the concept's current vogue is due to the technological component. "Traditional teachers" – which as I suggest are no more traditional than flipped teachers, simply more authoritarian – can offload their teacher-centered lecturing to some video and then spend class time practicing. But what, exactly, is the value of "lecturing"? If it's really well done, then sure, make a video. But personally I would rather read a book than watch a video if I'm seeking new knowledge, and although I might be a minority, there is nothing inherently easier about learning from a lecture, whether in person or in a video. It's easier for some, harder for others. In fact, if you count books as a way to present new material to students outside of class, then flipped learning is nothing knew at all, and has been going on since Socrates asked his students to read some Sophists before coming to talk to him.

In the domain of foreign languages, specifically, I have not, personally, ever had (attended) a class that was NOT flipped, in this broader, fundamental sense. Good foreign language pedagogy is grounded in the principle of "practice, not lecture." I strive for this in my own classrooms, although I don't always succeed, being a somewhat compulsive lecturer. Having said that, the "flipped" classroom is definitely a novelty in the Korean context, where the teacher-centered, passive-reception classroom model is king.

So on the one hand, I support Curt's idea of "flipping" his classrooms. But I would urge him to take it a step further – rather than wasting a lot of time and effort making or finding "videos" as if that were somehow the most essential aspect of the flipped classroom, I would suggest instead trying to dispense with the lecture altogether, and move toward a classroom where language topics are taught implicitly and through practice. This can still be structured to focus on the skills of accuracy and grammar-translation that are essential to mastering the Korean test system.

[daily log: walking, 7km]

Caveat: Nonnet #88

(Poem #106 on new numbering scheme)

Students congregate along damp streets
like water droplets in a mist,
a brownian shivering
on Fall's first chill evening,
their various worries
floating on words
across gaps

– a nonnet

Caveat: Nonnet #87

(Poem #105 on new numbering scheme)

sad cat.
What is it?
Did you get lost?
... looks like you're hungry.
I'm afraid to touch you.
You might carry some disease.
I saw you begging from those kids,
earlier. You seemed to be happy.

– a reverse nonnet

Caveat: but I don’t know

What I'm listening to right now.

EXO, "너를 위해(For you)" – this is from the soundtrack for a historical drama ("달의연인 – 보보경심려") I haven't actually ever watched – I don't really get into the extremely popular Korean historical dramas – their revisionism is too annoying. But my student told me I must listen to this song. Normally, when it comes to pop culture, I do what they say if it's relatively painless. It seems the best way to keep up to date. It's just a sappy love song.


다른 공간의 다른 시간이지만
내 사랑이 맞을거야
바람에 스치는 너의 향기로도
난 너인걸 알수 있어

but I don't know
내 맘속에 언제부터 니가 산건지
I don't know
너를 보면 설레는 이유

나를 스쳐 지나가도 돼
니가 날 다 잊었으니까
니가 기억할 때까지
나는 너를 기다릴테니까
그대여 나를 바라봐줘요
여전히 그대도 나를 사랑하나요
그대여 내눈을 보고 얘기해줘요
사랑하는 맘은 숨겨지지 않아요

너에겐 내가 곁에 있었단
사실을 절대로 잊지는 마
널 위해 모든걸 바칠 수 있었던
내 마음을 지우지마

but I don't know
내맘속에 언제부터 니가 산건지
I don't know
너를 보면 설레는 이유

나를 스쳐 지나가도 돼
니가 날 다 잊었으니까
니가 기억할 때까지
나는 너를 기다릴테니까

같은 공간 같은 시간 함께 있잖아
언제라도 내 곁에 와 너의 자리로

With you 너를 위해서
그대여 나를 바라봐줘요
여전히 그대도 나를 사랑하나요

[daily log: walking, 6.5km]

Caveat: Nonnet #86

(Poem #104 on new numbering scheme)

Nothing comes easily, you know.
Well, I admit, I can forget
this terrible frustration
sometimes. Nevertheless,
simple stuff feels like
trying to make
a new poem
out of

– a nonnet
picture[daily log: walking, 1km]

Caveat: Nonnet #85

(Poem #103 on new numbering scheme)

A strange madness took hold of his mind.
He believed he was made of glass.
"Please, do not touch me," he begged.
He made the best of it,
though, declaring that
was more pure;
the soul,

– a nonnet

Caveat: Nonnet #84

(Poem #102 on new numbering scheme)

I saw a scary caterpillar
throbbing across the dull asphalt:
a green fragment of muscle,
alive like a zombie's,
step, step, step, step, step.
The little feet
writhe toward

– a nonnet

Caveat: I’m with Goethe on this one

I find most conspiracy theories – whether left, right, center, or way-out-there – implausible. My own response to most conspiracy theories can be summarized by the old quote from Goethe, "misunderstandings and neglect create more confusion in this world than trickery and malice. At any rate, the last two are certainly much less frequent." This idea has circulated more recently as "Hanlon's Razor": "Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity."

Mostly, I have given up trying to explain why conspiracy theories are implausible to those who espouse them, however. It seems a fruitless exercise, and anyway it's a lot of work.

I ran across an excellent debunking of the recently emergent conspiracy theory (being propagated by Trump et al.)  that Democrats are rigging the upcoming US election. Written by a commenter who goes by "CrunchyFrog" on the Clintonist left-of-center blog "Lawyers, Guns & Money," it is so well reasoned I felt like sharing it. Not that I have the mistaken belief that someone who believes Trump's voter-fraud theory would be persuaded by this to change their minds, but I cite it just because I admire this kind of reasoning. I think the author would not mind having most of it reproduced here (I clipped off the gratuitous insults and Trumpist-baiting at either end as detracting from the clarity of argument). 

Regarding the black voter busing scheme. Let’s think about this logically (not possible for the GOP, I know, but bear with me). If I were running such a scheme what would I have to do to make an effective dent in the results? As a starting point, a lot of Colorado wingnuts think that Obama won there in 2012 by cheating. He won by 138k votes, so let’s use 140k votes as a starting point. So let’s say I have a bus full of black voters – say 66 people (common capacity limit on school buses). So if every bus is filled to near capacity that’s about 2200 bus-visits to the polling stations. How many polling stations can a given bus hit in a day? Well, your typical precinct has 2-3 people checking voters in and each one processes about 2 per minute, so that’s over 30 minutes just to check in (of course there will be other voters, too), plus time to drive between precincts. Seriously, if you are counting on more than 10 precincts per bus per day you’re going to be disappointed. So that’s 220 buses chartered for the day, and a total of about 14k fraudulent voters.

Holy freaking crap. The logistical problems of arranging that many fraudulent voters, ALL of whom are risking felony sentences and NONE of whom have ever talked about it to anyone. Now plan to arrange for 140k fake registrations using the matching photos for each person and arrange it so that the manager of each bus makes sure that every voter gets the exact fake ID for each precinct. And NO MISTAKES – remember no one has ever been caught doing this because Democrats, who are inept in government, are utter geniuses when it comes to vote fraud. So that means there NEVER can be a situation where a fake voter encounters a registrar who says “Hey, I live on that street, I’ve never seen you” or similar.

By the way, the absolutely easiest logistical part of this scheme is arranging for photo ID. Assuming you have that many people willing to commit felonies for whatever you are paying them and have arranged everything else in detail, getting fake photo IDs for them is simple and routine. So photo ID laws do absolutely jack shit to stop massive vote fraud – but of course that wasn’t their real intention, was it?

[daily log: walking, 7km]

Caveat: Nonnet #83

(Poem #101 on new numbering scheme)

One day, an imaginary man
went to Duluth, seeking stories.
He stood on the mythic shore.
Gray-green waves gnawed the sand.
Some black flies spun doubts.
He built machines
with his words.
The lake

– a nonnet

Caveat: I’ll post this later

I'm really dissatisfied with my tendency to procrastinate, lately. I have a lot of stuff piled up at work, and I have things that need to get done related to my upcoming trip, and I'm just doing really badly lately at getting things done. 

I don't have a solution at hand. I'm trying to clean up some of the clutter in my apartment, with the thinking that the messy environment is part of what is inhibiting me. I worry that I have "hoarder" tendencies, sometimes. 

This post is more banal than usual – strictly journaling my current state of mind.

[daily log: walking, 6.5km]

Caveat: Nonnet #82

(Poem #100 on new numbering scheme)

A failure of communication
with a few of my coworkers
caused me to tell a student
with a confident voice
the exact wrong thing.
She cried, asking,
"Teacher, why
did you

– a nonnet

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