Caveat: where the numb meets the lonely

As anticipated, this week is quite hard. I'm teaching extra classes – covering for a coworker whose turn it is now to take a trip (as I took a trip a few weeks back).  I am not really feeling very healthy – I felt surprisingly healthy during my trip, experiencing none of the complications or issues I had worried might arise during travel, but since getting back it has been as if my body is undergoing a kind of "rebound" or compensation for the all-out effort during the trip. 

I'm tired, my neck hurts, my tongue "stings" more than usual (the phantom pain I've described before), and I constantly feel vaguely nauseated – this could be exhaustion, I suppose. Then again, there's some kind of stomach flu going around Karma, lately. OK, enough complaining.

What I'm listening to right now.

Miranda Lambert, "Vice."


Stay as a needle dropping on a vinyl
Neon singer with a jukebox title full of heartbreak
Thirty-three, fourty-five, seventy-eight
When it hurts this good you gotta play it twice
Another vice

All dressed up in a pretty black label
Sweet salvation on a dining room table
Waiting on me
Where the numb meets the lonely

It's gone before it ever melts the ice

Another vice, another call
Another bed I shouldn't crawl out of
At 7am with shoes in my hand
Said I wouldn't do it, but I did it again
And I know I'll be back tomorrow night oh

I'll wear a tail like a leather jacket
When the new wears off, I don't even pack it
If you need me
I'll be where my reputation don't proceed me

Maybe I'm addicted to goodbyes

Another vice, another town
Where my past can't run me down
Another life, another call
Another bed I shouldn't crawl out of
At 7AM with shoes in my hand
Said I wouldn't do it, but I did it again
And I know I'll be gone tomorrow night
Mmm, another vice

Standing at the sink now, looking at the mirror
Don't know where I am or how I got here
Well the only thing that I know how to find
Is another vice

Mmm, another vice
Yes, another vice
Ooh, another vice
Another vice
Another vice

Another vice

[daily log: walking, 6.5km]

Caveat: Englynion #12-#13 “Expressions of sentiment”

(Poem #121 on new numbering scheme)

Three students said they hate me, just today.
That's what they say, to feel free
from the stresses of study.
Another student, leaving, left a note:
"For years," she wrote. "Your teaching
gave me a gift of meaning."

– more englynion penfyr. Note that the student’s quote is invented – no Korean ESL student writes in poetic forms – but I did receive a note with this type of message.

CaveatDumpTruck Logo

Caveat: A rare ear, our aery Yahweh.

Bat's Ultrasound

Sleeping-bagged in a duplex wing
with fleas, in rock-cleft or building
radar bats are darkness in miniature,
their whole face one tufty crinkled ear
with weak eyes, fine teeth bared to sing.

Few are vampires. None flit through the mirror.
Where they flutter at evening's a queer
tonal hunting zone above highest C.
Insect prey at the peak of our hearing
drone re to their detailing tee:

ah, eyrie-ire; aero hour, eh?
O'er our ur-area (our era aye
ere your raw row) we air our array
err, yaw, row wry—aura our orrery,
our eerie ü our ray, our arrow.

A rare ear, our aery Yahweh.

– Les Murray (Australian poet, b 1938)

[daily log: walking, 6.5km]

Caveat: S7

On Saturday, I bought a new phone. It is a Samsung Galaxy S7. This is my first new phone in 5 years, and since that phone was a hand-me-down (gifted to me by my former coworker, Ken), it is the first phone I have bought since first arriving in Korea in 2007. Although in some ways, over the years, I have been an early adopter, with respect to phones I can definitely assert that I have always been quite behind the curve of modernity.

I was puzzled, momentarily, with how to post a picture of my new phone (since I don't own a separate camera, and since one of the main features I was interested in for my new phone was the camera). Then I realized I could use my old phone to take a picture of it. This is, therefore, officially the very last picture taken with my old phone. It's going on mothballs – although I have a vague idea I might mess with it as a low-performance linux box, if I want to mess with something like that.


[daily log: walking, 7km]

Caveat: Englyn #9 “Immobilized”

(Poem #118 on new numbering scheme)

Dream feeling: being held down, like a moth,
pinned, rendered slothful. Look: brown,
piled leaves. So I wait. I frown.

The above is a syllabic poetic form called an englyn penfyr, a type of englyn, which is Welsh in origin but also written in English, historically, by poets with Welsh connections, such as W.H. Auden or Dylan Thomas.

I have decided this is the new poetic form I shall pursue obsessively, in sequel to my 99 nonnets. As best I can tell, I have posted 8 englynion previously on this blog, so this would be number 9. Englynion are not, typically, restricted to single stanzas – although they may be, too. However, for purposes of counting, I shall count each stanza separately, as it will help me to feel more prolific should I pursue enchained, longer poems.

CaveatDumpTruck Logo[daily log: walking, 7km]

Caveat: one light-year per year

"One light-year per year" is the speed of light. This is not an entirely reductive definition, because of how the units are officially defined by the physicists. This was the insight I drew from physicist and blogger Sean Carroll's blog entry today, which gives thanks, for Thanksgiving, for the speed of light.

I'm all for giving thanks for unusual things. Giving thanks for the speed of light seems like an awesome idea.

c – ya.

[daily log: walking, 6.5km]

Caveat: What Must Be Done

I had a bittersweet moment with a student the other day. I'm helping a 7th grader prepare for the "practice TOEFL" which she will take in a few weeks. This is a kind of "unofficial official" version of the test – it gives people a chance to guess how the experience of taking the real test will be, and get a plausible, realistic score while answering real questions (taken from old tests). This student is one of the top students at Karma, regularly getting the highest scores on our level tests and in a cohort with older students, too. However, she experiences a lot of performance anxiety around the speaking component of TOEFL, so I'm trying to help her feel better about that. 

She surprised me, saying she had decided she wanted to study linguistics. She said she'd been influenced by things I'd said, and had been pursuing the interest on her own, too. I felt very flattered and pleased.

But then she said, "I told my mom my plan to study linguistics. My mom said no. She said I must become a doctor."

This is typical "Korean mom" behavior, of course – not that I mean to reinforce stereotypes, but they're grounded in reality. So I guess my student will have to pursue her interest in Linguistics avocationally – either that, or rebel against her mother's wishes. 

[daily log: walking, 7km]

Caveat: solving that question


What are days for?
Days are where we live.
They come, they wake us
Time and time over.
They are to be happy in:
Where can we live but days?

Ah, solving that question
Brings the priest and the doctor
In their long coats
Running over the fields.
– Philip Larkin (British poet, 1922-1985)

I feel a sense of normalcy returning, after the complexities and irregularities and "always on" effort of the trip. I definitely have needed to find some down time. One notable aspect of my sense of self, in the wake of the trip, is a feeling of having finally crossed some milestone with respect to my recovery from my illness. Until this trip, there was some feeling that I was still in a sort of extended convalescence. By traveling back to the US, I have in a way declared my full recovery. There is actually a kind of ambivalence about this. The long, complicated, traumatic battle with cancer has evolved into a typical dysfunctional relationship – both resented and clung to. It's hard to let go, even though it's necessary.

The days pass. It's good to see my students, some of whom even seem to have missed me.

[daily log: walking, 7km]

Caveat: The Semiotics of a Particularly Funny Joke about Dreams, Chickens, Roads, and Motives

 "I dream of a world where chickens can cross the road without having their motives questioned."

In a candy shop in Oldtown Pasadena about 9 days ago, where we had stepped in because my nephew Dylan had a sweet-tooth, I ran across the above joke, inscribed on a fridge magnet, for sale for the ghastlily exorbitant price of $6.50.

I laughed very hard. So did my dad. My sister just made a face – the kind that says, "I can see why you would find that funny but I don't plan to laugh."

I bought two of them, but the phrase was already inscribed on my brain. Curt, who'd witnessed all this, was unable to understand the humor. Of course, there are lot of cultural touchstones that make it inaccessible to those not grounded in US culture.

I have been trying to think about how best to explain to Curt why this joke made me laugh so hard. I think the first step is to begin to fill in some missing cultural components, with a disquisition on the ancient "Why did the chicken cross the road?" joke genre.

So, let's begin. There is a question-and-answer joke, that asks, "Why did the chicken cross the road?"

The oldest, most time-tested answer is, "To get to the other side."

There exists an infinite number of alternate versions, with questions and answers. Many of the versions rely on the "build up" of previous versions (e.g. #10, below). I researched a few that I found most humorous.

Why did the chicken cross the road? To get to the other side
Why did the chicken cross the basketball court? He heard the referee calling fowls
Why did the turkey cross the road? To prove he wasn't chicken
Why did the chicken cross the road, roll in the mud and cross the road again? Because he was a dirty double-crosser
Why didn't the chicken skeleton cross the road? Because he didn't have enough guts
Why did the chicken cross the playground? To get to the other slide
Why did the dinosaur cross the road? Because chickens hadn't evolved yet
Why did the turtle cross the road? To get to the shell station
Why did the horse cross the road? Because the chicken needed a day off

The next step is to recognize the new joke's nod to another genre altogether: the "I dream of a world where. . . "

Somehow, my feeling is that this is rooted in the Langston Hughes poem. Or, if not rooted there, then nevertheless Hughes' poem is an early peak of a meme.

I Dream a World

I dream a world where man
No other man will scorn,
Where love will bless the earth
And peace its paths adorn
I dream a world where all
Will know sweet freedom's way,
Where greed no longer saps the soul
Nor avarice blights our day.
A world I dream where black or white,
Whatever race you be,
Will share the bounties of the earth
And every man is free,
Where wretchedness will hang its head
And joy, like a pearl,
Attends the needs of all mankind-
Of such I dream, my world!

So another aspect of the joke's appeal, at least to me, is that it takes the silly chicken joke meme and combines it with the high-register "I dream" meme.

Finally, the last part of the joke, which renders it especially appropriate for me, is the bit of psychobable at the end:  ". . . without having their motives questioned."

This is a type of language popularized during my parents' generation, and echoes the whole "I'm OK, You're OK" meme of that era. 

There's a lot going on in that joke. I have placed it on the sidebar of my blog. 

[daily log: walking, 7km]

Caveat: 왜사서 고생이야?

Last Thursday, watching my uncle chipping wood before distributing the wood chips on his surrounding forest floor, Curt seemed puzzled by the purpose of it all. He said there was an expression in Korean that seemed relevant: “왜사서 고생이야?”
Loosely, this translates as, “why do [you] make work for [yourself]?’
More literally, it is something like, “Why buy and then suffer?” One should not suffer as a consequence of one’s purchases, right?
It applies to everyone, at one time or another, though. Nevertheless, it’s a type of activity that may be more relevant to some more than others. I, like my uncle, sometimes seem to make work for myself, unnecessarily.
[daily log: walking, 9km]

Caveat: A Mysterious Gadget

What follows is essentially a "guest post" – although the guest writer doesn't exactly know he's a guest on this blog. When visiting my uncle in Alaska, he asked me if I could help identify the "mystery gadget" described by a "friend of a friend" of his, Doug Clyde. So I offered to post Doug's original email on my blog, which might give some additional web-visibility to the object and help identify it – I have a fairly eclectic collection of blogreaders, so I thought it might be useful. Below is Doug's original email. My uncle also forwarded the same email to some other acquaintances. 

I try to send my brother  a unique Christmas gift each year – something useless but too nice to throw away.  This year I think I have outdone myself.  It’s so unique I can’t figure out what it is.  An internet search was no help.  I’m hopeful that one of you can enlighten me.

It is very well made – the base is cast brass with a black wrinkle finish that is common on old lab instruments like microscopes.

The brass balls are fixed to their rods, but the rods are free to go up and down.  The height of the lower bar can be adjusted by loosening the brass knob in the center of the bar. 


The knurled fitting on the top of the balls can be unscrewed.  Under this fitting (inside the ball) are small lead beads which I assume are used to trim the weight of the brass ball. 


Lead beads w/ball point pen shown for comparison.  Those beads would not weigh much.


Note the bottom of each rod is machined to different diameters.


The pin on the bottom of the big ball measures 0.0500  of an inch,  The pin on the small ball measures 0.1000 of an inch.  

The diameter of the big ball is 1.8250,  the small ball 1.1250

I’m thinking it might be one part of a display or lab instrument.   I don’t have a clue.  Thanks for looking and let me know if you  figure it out. 

Happy  Holidays  - Doug

If you have an idea what this gadget is, you can send me an email (gadget 🐌 jaredway ⬤ com), and I'll forward it back to my uncle.

Perhaps you noticed, I'm posting this at 4 am, Korea time. Jetlag, anyone? Well, it's not too bad – I wake up this early sometimes even when not jetlagged. Let's just called it "jaredlag." 


Caveat: Alien At Home

I am at home being an alien. That has become my normal. I look out at the permanently alien environment I have made my home.

That was a long trip, I just completed. 

I think I am going to be tired for a few weeks. But there's work, to keep me busy while being tired.

This blog post is a bit minimal, since I'm going to crash, and let the jetlag catch up with me. Or let myself catch up with the jetlag – however that works. Anyway it's never quite so bad, westbound.

More later.

Caveat: Ferry at Dawn

We got on the ferry at dawn, to travel back to Ketchikan, thence to LA and on to Seoul. The dawn twilight was misty and cold, and the trees were bejewelled with heavy frost.

Postscript: I had a frustrating time trying to post this from my phone. My allegedly smart phone is upsetting me. This is from my computer – we have arrived in LA.

Caveat: Boat Outta Water

We helped (watched?) my uncle Arthur remove the boat from the water and put it in the barn, today, at midday, while the tide was high.


Curt pretended to be pulling the boat up the ramp (in fact, there is a motor and pulley system).


[daily log: walking, 6km]

Caveat: Hydaburg

We took a short road trip down the island to the village of Hydaburg. Mostly, I was interested to see it because it was the one part of Prince of Wales Island that I hadn't visited before. Also, I have long had a peripheral interest in the Native American languages, and the Haida language is still (just barely) alive and spoken in Hydaburg, which is interesting. Thus, bilingual street signs can be found in the town.


We saw totem poles in Hydaburg. They are interesting, too. They remind me of Korean 장승 [jangseung].


The day was sunny but cold – Prince of Wales gets cold when the sky clears, in the winter. Frost lingered on the grass throughout the day. There was striking snow on mountaintops at the center of the island.


We drove back to Craig and ate at a dockside cafe, and then came home and had a latish dinner of part of the salmon we'd caught yesterday.

Caveat: Dawn Over Port Saint Nicholas

My uncle's home is on a little bay (really, a fjord) called Port Saint Nicholas, which might make you think of Santa Claus, but the latter is not involved. 

Here is a picture of dawn this morning over Port Saint Nicholas, looking east from the back deck.


We went out in the boat today, fishing. We caught a fish. More on that later.


Caveat: Craig, Alaska

Yesterday we rode four different airplanes. One of them (the Portland-Seattle leg, only 30 minutes) was a bit extraneous, but was due to getting the best schedule for LA to Ketchikan. The last plane, from Ketchikan to Klawock, on Prince of Wales Island in Southeast Alaska, was what is sometimes called a "puddlejumper" – a small plane, with 8 passengers. 


My uncle met us at the Klawock airport (which is not very big – about the same level of infrastructure as a rural Korean bus-station) and we drove to his house, which was about 40 minutes.

I ended up going to sleep very early. I think Curt and Jin did too. Now it's morning, quite early – about 5:30 am. Our plans for this leg of the trip are bit unstructured. Perhaps a bit of driving around, perhaps some just lounging around. 

More later.

Caveat: That Pacific Northwest Rain

I find something weirdly warm and nurturing about that cold Pacific Northwest winter rain that is my birthright. I miss it sometimes. Here is a view out the window at Portland airport, as we await a connecting flight to Ketchikan.


Caveat: interaction and walking around

It was a day of interaction and walking around. We spent the morning with my sister and her family in old Pasadena. Then for mid afternoon and early evening we went to west L.A., where we met my good friend Jay (he of some hiking trips to Zion and Bryce National Parks, e.g. in 2009). Finally, last we stopped at my father’s friend’s house, Fidel, who spoke to us entertainingly for a few hours and played some Latin Folk songs. I’m not sure on how appreciated this was by Curt and Jin, but as usual they were very polite and seemed in good spirits.
Tomorrow, very very early, we fly out to Alaska. I’ll update when we get there, hopefully – perhaps with only a short note if there are connectivity issues.
picture[daily log: walking, 8km]

Caveat: Wisconsonian Arirang

A few days ago we had stopped in Whitewater, Wisconsin, to see my friend Bob who is a Professor of Music there. He has a colleague named Chris Ellenwood. When Bob was giving us an impromptu tour of the Music department, we met Professor Ellenwood and he, upon learning that there were two visitors from Korea, gave a spontaneous rendition of the Korean folktune "Arirang" using a whistling technique, which Curt captured on video. I said I'd post it when I got a chance, so here it is. 

Caveat: East of Eagan

My close friends Mark and Amy live in the St Paul suburb called Eagan. This is a view from their front yard, looking east, at 6:20 am.


Yesterday we drove up from Chicago, stopping to see Bob one last time at Whitewater, Wisconsin, because I forgot my phone charging cable at his house. Curt insisted, plausibly, that my subconscious forced me to leave the cord in order to compel me to see him again.

We got a tour of his work area at the Music Department at UW Whitewater. One of his fellow professors performed a spontaneous rendition of Arirang (a Korean folktune) upon meeting my two Korean traveling companions. Perhaps a video clip of this is forthcoming – if so, I'll post a new blog entry for it.

We drove the rest of the way back up to St Paul (Eagan) and spent the night at Mark and Amy's. Today, we fly back to Los Angeles.

More later.

Caveat: Chicago

We stayed in Chicago overnight – we got a last-minute super discount deal on some kind of decrepit luxury suite downtown, using the internet. Considering how spontaneous this part of the trip has been, so far it's gone well. We saw anti-the-new-guy protests in Chicago, marching through the streets.

We'll be driving back up to Minneapolis today, then flying to L.A. tomorrow.

More later.

Caveat: just google something

We were standing on a street corner. We wanted to eat Korean Samgyeopsal, so we had found a restaurant on California Avenue on the North side, but the place only opened at 4:30 and it was only 3:30, so we had to wait a while. We walked around, and Curt struck up a conversation with a Korean dry cleaner. Maybe it's true that all dry cleaners in the US are Korean – certainly I have almost never met a non-Korean dry cleaner. 
Curt had fixated on finding a place to get a haircut. He is pretty brave, socially, so on his own initiative, he stopped two middle school girls coming out of the nearby school. Entirely typical middle-school girls from the big American city – which is to say, the girls wore hijabs. I guess, besides the Korean businesses here and there, the neighborhood definitely had a lot of muslims – I'm not sure what ethnicity.
The two girls seemed disconcerted by a random Korean coming up to talk to them, but after Curt explained what he was looking for, the girl thought for a moment and suggested, tentatively but with a very natural voice full of typical American teenage intonations, that there were some stores along Devon Avenue, which was nearby. Then the one, bolder girl shrugged and smiled. "Or you could just google something," she offered, dismissively brandishing her smartphone, and they walked away. It was such an obvious answer, and I think Curt felt a bit sheepish by the response. He was just trying to be socially and linguistically brave and she stated the obvious.

Caveat: America, You’re Fired

Worth noting: apparently the Canadian government's "immigrate to Canada" website has been crashed by excess web traffic. I am definitely going to be working on my Korean language skills – I see a TOPIK (Korean language skills test) test in my future.

What more should I say? This is an awkward morning for the USA.

I have this germ of an idea that I'm going to try to avoid mentioning the victor's name on this here blog.

In personal news, I stayed at my friend Bob's house last night. Curt and Mr Jin stayed at a B&B a block or so away (since Bob's house is a bit small to accommodate so many guests). I'm not clear what exactly our plans are for today, but they might involve Chicago. 

I'll post more later, I guess. 

[daily log: walking, but how far?]

Caveat: Don’t Vote Your “Unconscience”

I awoke before dawn today – but it's not clear to me if this is a sign of a continued jetlagged state or if, alternatively, in fact it is proof of my adaptation to the time zone, since pre-dawn wakings with subsequent insomnia are a very typical part of my day-to-day existence. 

Today is election day, in the US, where I happen to be. With some admitted guilt, I will come out openly and say that I do not intend to vote.

I can justify this in several ways, although I will introduce these justifications with the caveat that I am deeply aware that they are merely that: justifications. 

My first justification is that although I am, de jure, a US citizen, in the de facto sense I have become an emigrant. This may be reversed someday – indeed, it's easy for me to imagine various futures where I return, but at the current moment, taking the broadest possible definition democracy and with a notion in mind of whether or not I am a "stakeholder" in the 230 year old US social experiment, I am definitely a fringe case. If offered the opportunity to vote in South Korea, I would be more likely to consider it.

My second justification is that for most of my life I was a third-party voter. I only broke with that tendency when I voted for Obama in 2008 and 2012. I had a lot of optimism about what Obama might represent, in terms of somehow breaking with the old, terrible habits of the US executive. I have been deeply, gravely disappointed. I don't believe Obama is a bad person, but he clearly was unable to break those old habits, due to systemic inertia and his own conciliatory disposition. As a result, I suffer voter's regret, which is an unpleasant if weirdly abstract emotion. In a rather selfish spirit, I do not wish to experience voter's regret with respect to Clinton, and the "main" third party candidates are quite distasteful this round – Jill Stein is dangerously ignorant about the principals of science and fiscal management, and Gary Johnson is just simply dangerously ignorant about just about everything, as far as I can tell. And it's too painful to even comment on Trump.

My third justification is that the places where I am registered to vote (yes, there are multiple places, which is itself uncomfortable and disconcerting, but where, exactly, should I be registered anyway, given my long non-residency and scattered roots?) are not really "in play" with respect to the national election. Both California and Minnesota are "safely blue" and thus there is hardly a scenario under which a Trump victory could be "my fault." I feel I can abstain, following my conscience, with a clear conscience, so to speak.

So there I am. I am not apathetic – I am deeply interested in and engaged with US politics. Rather, I am not voting on various principles, despite the fact that Minnesota, where I sit right now, would undoubtedly let me vote (it is a same-day registration state). Nevertheless I remain curious as to the outcome, and I urge everyone to vote (or not vote) their consciences. 

But try not to vote your "unconscience." That may be the problem that got us to this crossroads. 

I ran across the most amazing thing earlier, as I surfed online a little bit in my predawn insomniac state. I discovered that my friend and former work colleague, Jay Neuman, has a blog. Somehow, I had neglected to notice this before. Jay is a committed Christian, yet he has written what in my opinion is one of the best ethically-oriented evaluations that I have seen of the Faustian choices presented by the current situation. I recommend reading it – even if you are not Christian.

Happy voting.

Today we drive to southern Wisconsin. We can listen to the elections on the radio or something. 

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