Caveat: Steep Going

If anything, this post-Halloween-party week will be harder than last. We have some month-end tests. We have student comments. I have several new one-on-one students for special tutoring projects (a one-on-one student-hour takes just as much work to prepare as a class of 10 – so it's not the most efficient use of my time, but I understand the need for these – it's part of the Karma "brand" I guess). So my work load is steep right now. It should ramp down a bit next week when the 내신 starts. 

And the week started a bit bitterly: we all went to a funeral Monday night, after work (yes, Koreans go to funerals at 11 PM – it's entirely normal, as they are on-going affairs with people coming and going, rather than something like a church service with a specific start and stop time – maybe more like a "wake" than a funeral). My coworker's sister finally died of her cancer, which I've perhaps mentioned a few times. This is especially dark and hard for me – "there but for the grace of god go I" and all that.

[daily log: walking, 7km]


Caveat: It’s the same in the whole wide world

What I'm listening to right now.

Ministry, "(Everyday Is) Halloween."


Well I live with snakes and lizards
And other things that go bump in the night.
Cuz to me everyday is Halloween.
I have given up hiding and started to fight.
I have started to fight.

Well any time, any place, anywhere that I go
All the people seem to stop and stare.
They say "why are you dressed like it's Halloween?
You look so absurd, you look so obscene."

Oh, why can't I live a life for me?
Why should I take the abuse that's served?
Why can't they see they're just like me?
It's the same… it's the same in the whole wide world.

Well I let their teeny minds think
That they're dealing with someone who is over the brink
And I dress this way just to keep them at bay,
Cuz Halloween is everyday…
It's everyday.

Oh, why can't I live a life for me?
Why should I take the abuse that's served?
Why can't they see they're just like me?
It's the same… it's the same in the whole wide world.

Oh, why can't I live a life for me?
Why should I take the abuse that's served?
Why can't they see they're just like me?
I'm not the one that's so absurd.

Why hide it?
Why fight it?
Hurt feelings…
Best to stop feeling hurt
From denials, reprisals.
It's the same… it's the same in the whole wide world.

[daily log: walking, 7km]

Caveat: Random Poem #155

(Poem #456 on new numbering scheme)
신의 은총이 없었다면 저도 저렇게 되었을 것이다.

My coworker was sad. Her sister died.
The cancer had declared its wish at last.
The funeral was all the way across
vast Seoul. These Koreans mourn the dead
as they live - with kimchi and alcohol.
The grace of god descended, so we kept
our silences while poking rice with spoons
and fetching bits of food with chopstick-thrusts.
Of course my own unlikely failed demise
was apropos - but felt indulgent too.
I spoke about it with reluctance till
at last we drove back down the Han to home.
The night was cold. It carved heavenly paths;
expressways sought to give us maps of hope.

Caveat: Solving Supernatural Problems

As I said I would do a few days ago, here are revisions of my ED1M cohort's Halloween stories. These are entirely the students' writing, but I have made sometimes rather substantial revisions of grammar or vocabulary to make them more "native sounding" – I don't want the students memorizing speeches with bad grammar, as it only serves to reinforce or "fossilize" bad habits. I have not altered the plots as created by the students, although in a few cases I had to fill in some elisions with guesses as to the writer's intent. These plots are mostly quite a bit "darker" than the one I created. This is pretty developmentally appropriate for 4th-5th graders, I think. Death and gore are abstractions, but compelling ones from a story-telling standpoint.


One day, there was a lonely ghost, named Nina. The ghost had died with a lot of tension, so Nina wanted to meet other ghost friends and she wanted to try to resolve her depression. Nina was reading a book about a call. Finally a friend called Nina and she was so excited to meet the new friend. This friend's name was Lum. Lum said, "I want to meet you." Nina said, "Sure, let's meet at the playground. Okay?" Lum said, "Okay. Good idea." Nina went to the playground and met Lum. Nina said, "Hello. I'm Nina. Let's be friends!" Lum said, "Good, I want to be your friend too." Then Nina said, "What should we do?" Lum said, "Let's go play with the other living people. It'll be fun to meet living people and they'll be happy to meet us. Let's go down to the ground." Nina said, "Sure, I want to meet these living people too. Let's go!" Nina and Lum floated down to the ground, and went to a school, and saw the students studying. When the bell rang, Nina and Lum met a girl named Sarah. She was very embarrassed to meet a ghost. Sarah could only be friends if she became a ghost. The next day Lum said, "I want to kill Sarah. Will you help me?" "Sure," Nina said. "I want to take Sarah." Thus Nina and Lum killed Sarah with an invisible sword.


One day, there was a lonely zombie. He wanted some friends, so he went to an amusement park. There were so many people there. He saw he could make many friends. First, he met a doctor, and killed her. She became a zombie. They became friends. The two zombies now wanted many friends. They walked across the street and met many people, all of whom became zombies too. The government gave a public warning: "In the amusement park, there are zombies! Please escape as soon as possible. Hurry!" Then, night fell. The zombies became angry. "Why are there not so many people, now?" The zombies went downtown. There were people shopping. playing, and then screaming. They killed and made friends with so many. The zombies had come quickly, but were dispersed when the government made a vaccine and gave it to people. The vaccine was great, but the zombies didn't want to normal people again. The zombies went to a market. They were hungry and wanted to eat fresh brains. There were many people. "Let's eat and make friends," they said. But one zombie had the vaccine."I can be a good person. I want to take the vaccine." She took the medicine and ran away from the other zombies. She said to the people, "Zombies! Run away!" The zombies were angry. One of the zombies ate her brain and she became a zombie again. She thought, "I don't have to be a good person. Let's find fresh brains." This earth became a zombie world.


One day, there was a lonely skeleton. This skeleton woke up only on Halloween. The skeleton waits until a child says, "Trick or treat?" Then it grabs the child and eats it. So one day, a child came and said, "Treat or trick?" The skeleton did not hear, because the skeleton could only hear "Trick or treat?" The child had said it backwards. Regrettably, then the child said again, "Trick or Treat?" The skeleton heard that, of course, and chased after him. The boy saw the skeleton and ran. The boy ran to his home and put a human doll in front of the door. The skeleton saw the doll and attacked it and ate it. The next day, the boy saw the skeleton was gone. He was shocked. He went to the hospital. There he dreamed about the skeleton. In the dream, the skeleton came and started eating his head. Then his mom came, and the skeleton hid. After his mom went out, the skeleton started eating his brain. Next the skeleton ate his foot, and his stomach. The boy woke up and was surprised to see he didn't have part of his brain and he didn't have part of his foot or stomach either. For five minutes he did nothing, he was so tired, and he slept again. In a dream, the skeleton returned and at his arm and one of his ears. The boy woke up again, and he was missing an arm and an ear. He looked around and saw the skeleton one more time. The skeleton ate the rest of the boy's body.


One day, there was a lonely mummy. That night, the mummy wanted to eat some people. Then a woman discovered the mummy, and she was not afraid. The mummy wanted to be friends with her, and she wanted to, too. So she and the mummy became friends. However, she left the mummy finally, because they didn't get along. She hated the mummy. So then the mummy was sad again. She was angry. The mummy started eating people. She ate many people. People tried avoiding the mummies. But the lone mummy got worse. People tried to kill the lone mummy that ate people, but it was not easy. This was because the mummy was eating the police, too. The people still didn't give up. Finally, the police injured the mummy. Unfortunately, because the zombie had been eating them, the police became zombies. Then the police ate people, too. This was terrible. As a result, the village gradually changed into a zombie community. It was a zombie village where only zombies lived. The zombies in the zombie village went to another village, and another. The zombies spread, causing the entire country to be overtaken by the zombie virus. The world was full of zombies, then. After a few more years, it was full of mummies too. In the end, it was full of ghosts. The world has changed strangely.


One day, there was a lonely devil. The devil liked to play. So the devil would take children's shoes. One day a girl named Elizabeth was crying. She had lost her shoes. That was what the devil had done. All of the kids were crying, and the devil was so happy. The devil also ate people's blood. "Today," Elizabeth said, "I will get my shoes!" That night she didn't sleep. She just hid in the tree. She said, "I'm sleepy, now." She decided nothing would happen, so she went to her room. At that time the devil came to Elizabeth's house. Elizabeth saw the devil, and said, "You are taking my shoes!" The devil was so surprised. The Devil ran away. He said, "I will take children's clothes and things." Elizabeth thought that finally the devil would not take children's shoes. But then one day the kids were crying again. Elizabeth knew this was the devil's work. So she said to all of the kids, "Now let's catch that bad devil." They waited for the devil. At that time, the devil came. Elizabeth said, "One, two, three, catch him!" So they caught the bad devil. The devil said, "What is going on? Hey! Hey! What are you doing to such as fantastic devil as me?" Elizabeth said, "Give us our shoes and clothes!" The devil was so scared, so he said, "Yes! Yes, I will do it." Elizabeth and her friends said, "This devil is so bad. They clapped and said, "Yeah! We caught that devil." Now they were happy.


One day, there was a lonely werewolf, named WW. WW wanted to eat guts. WW went to the mountains to hunt animals. He ate a lot of animals, but he was still very hungry. The police came and tried to catch WW, so he ran away. Finally WW was caught and put in jail. After 10 years, WW wanted to get revenge. He went to a village and killed all the people and ate their guts. The police came to the village to fight against WW. The fight lasted two years and the police shot many guns. The werewolf was badly hurt but killed all of the police. Finally WW became a kind of werewolf ghost that eats children's guts. The children screamed, "Ahhh!"

A saint came and hit the werewolf ghost, cutting through his body. WW was angry and this, and became a zombie. He was hungry, then, and ate many people's brains. He went to the city and many people became zombies. They ate each other's brains and even ate each other's bodies. Obama saw this problem and sent some soldiers to come and kill the zombies. But the werewolf-ghost-zombie WW couldn't be killed, so Obama himself came and fought WW. It was Obama versus WW. Obama shot the legs on the creature so he couldn't walk. Then Obama sent a missile and destroyed the earth. This solved the problem.


[daily log: walking, 7km]

Caveat: The Tissue-Paper Mummy Tradition

Every year, Karma English Academy has a Halloween party. The tradition has become that I run an activity room at the party, where visiting cohorts of students compete to make the best tissue paper mummy.

This year, this past Friday, some students in one class insisted that I should be the mummy. I allowed them, and two boys named Alex and Daho mummified me quite well. Daho took a picture of Alex taking a selfie with the mummy-teacher.


Of all the student mummies produced, I believe Lucy was the best, as mummified by her friend Julia and Amy.


Lucy was unusual of the student mummies, in that she didn't complain at all about being mummified. She seemed to enjoy it. She stayed perfectly still. This made her easier to mummify. One has to have a certain tolerance for claustrophobic feelings.

[daily log: walking, 1.5km]

Caveat: The Lonely Black Cat vs Alligator Zombie

I gave my ED1-M cohort a task to write a Halloween story. I gave them a prompt paper with a phrase like, "One day, there was a lonely {halloween creature: zombie, vampire, witch, black cat, etc.}." 

Most of them made very interesting stories. I'll post a selection of those, with corrections, soon. But meanwhile, I had several students who failed to make their own stories. Since the next step in the exercise is to memorize their stories for presentation to the class for their month-end test, I had to provide these students with a story to prepare for presentation. So I imitated my students' style and created my own story. Here it is.

One day there was a lonely black cat, named Cat. Cat had no friends, because everyone believed she worked for the town witch, Puckle MacBeth. That wasn't true. Cat only visited the witch because sometimes the witch gave her something to eat. Every day, Cat sat outside the town, wishing someone would be her friend. But that day, everything changed. You see, a giant zombie alligator came to the town. The zombie alligator was very terrible, with big teeth and no brain. It bit the people in the town, and started eating them. Even the other cats in the town were running and hiding, and the witch, Puckle, flew away on her broom. Cat was scared, but she knew she had to do something. She knew alligators liked to eat monkeys. She found a rainbow monkey doll and she put some poison inside the monkey doll. She put the monkey doll out by the road. The zombie alligator came by and saw the monkey. It ate the monkey doll without even slowing down. It went into the town to eat some children. But the poison from the monkey doll was very strong. Soon the zombie alligator was weaving and getting sleepy. It grabbed a small child with its giant mouth and started to chew. But the poison made the alligator stop chewing. Finally, it fell down in the street. It died. Everyone the town was very happy. They were thankful for Cat's smart thinking. The child who the alligator had been about to eat was very grateful. The child became Cat's best friend.

[daily log: walking, 7km]

Caveat: Crunchtime with Skeletons and Cancer Dreams

The weeks leading up to Halloween are, for me, always some of the hardest in the year at Karma Academy – because of our tradition of having a Halloween Event for the elementary students, combined with the the rhythms of the Korean academic calendar, which leads to a full schedule of classes for middle schoolers and also having to prepare tests for the elementary kids.

So…. Very busy.

I had a horrible nightmare last night. Unrelated to the current intensity of work, but perhaps merely brought out by the incidence of stress. 

I dreamed I was back at the Cancer Center. They'd found another tumor. I was going through it all again. It was just a "replay of stressful experience" dream, but with full consciousness, within the dream, that it was a replay. 

I woke up feeling quite discouraged about life.

[daily log: walking, 7km]

Caveat: Something wonderful happens when you attach a banana to a drone

There is apparently a rule of capitalization that I never learned. The rule is that after a colon (":"), the initial letter of the item should be capitalized if and only if that item could stand as itself as an independent clause.

  • Here is an example: This is a sentence.
  • Here is another example: just an isolated item.

The rule is clear enough, but I swear I never was taught this in any class, from middle school English all the way through college composition, and certainly not in any linguistics class, which, contrary to popular understanding, has nothing to do with such prescriptivist poppycock.

Anyway, although I believe these types of rules to be merely "prescriptivist poppycock," I nevertheless work hard to understand them and even enforce them with my students, because I am teaching them to write English mostly with the intent to get good scores on exams written by people who worship unerringly at the altar of prescriptivism. "Know your audience."

I enjoyed this humorous example of the rule, below (credit to linguistics blogger Geoffrey Pullum, writing at Chronicle of Higher Education's Linguafranca blog).

  • There’s one species we can keep in the lab without the animal rights activists getting upset: fruit flies.
  • Something wonderful happens when you attach a banana to a drone: Fruit flies.

[daily log: walking, 7km]

Caveat: No reason to get excited

What I'm listening to right now.

Jimi Hendrix, "All Along The Watchtower." The song is originally by Bob Dylan, of course, but Hendrix's performance is the iconic one, a least for this song. Neil Young also has a striking version.


"There must be some kind of way out of here,"
Said the joker to the thief,
"There's too much confusion.
I can't get no relief.

Businessmen – they drink my wine,
Plowmen dig my earth.
None will level on the line,
Nobody of it is worth.

"No reason to get excited,"
The thief – he kindly spoke,
"There are many here among us
Who feel that life is but a joke.

But you and I – we've been through that.
And this is not our fate.
So let us not talk falsely now.
The hour's getting late.

All along the watchtower
Princes kept the view
While all the women came and went.
Barefoot servants too.

Outside in the cold distance
A wildcat did growl.
Two riders were approaching,
And the wind began to howl, hey.

All along the watchtower
All along the watchtower

[daily log: walking, 7.5km]

Caveat: Random Poem #148

(Poem #449 on new numbering scheme)

“What is appropriate,” she asked, “when all around us the world burns?”

“Well let’s discuss the gold sky’s hues, then, or instead, let’s sing,” I said.


Caveat: Some People

"People on the side of The People always ended up disappointed, in any case. They found that The People tended not to be grateful or appreciative or forward-thinking or obedient. The People tended to be small-minded and conservative and not very clever and were even distrustful of cleverness. And so the children of the revolution were faced with the age-old problem: it wasn't that you had the wrong kind of government, which was obvious, but that you had the wrong kind of people." – Terry Pratchett

I guess this quote is from one of Pratchett's Discworld books – which, frankly, I never managed to read all the way through, and I enjoyed what I did read so little that I would be hard pressed to tell you what they are about. But he's nevertheless good at some great, quotable thoughts – he will live on through his many aphorisms, perhaps.

[daily log: walking, 7km]

Caveat: Some vague Utopia

In Memory of Eva Gore-Booth and Con Markievicz

The light of evening, Lissadell,
Great windows open to the south,
Two girls in silk kimonos, both
Beautiful, one a gazelle.
But a raving autumn shears
Blossom from the summer's wreath;
The older is condemned to death,
Pardoned, drags out lonely years
Conspiring among the ignorant.
I know not what the younger dreams –
Some vague Utopia – and she seems,
When withered old and skeleton-gaunt,
An image of such politics.
Many a time I think to seek
One or the other out and speak
Of that old Georgian mansion, mix
Pictures of the mind, recall
That table and the talk of youth,
Two girls in silk kimonos, both
Beautiful, one a gazelle.

Dear shadows, now you know it all,
All the folly of a fight
With a common wrong or right.
The innocent and the beautiful
Have no enemy but time;
Arise and bid me strike a match
And strike another till time catch;
Should the conflagration climb,
Run till all the sages know.
We the great gazebo built,
They convicted us of guilt;
Bid me strike a match and blow.

– William Butler Yeats (Irish poet, 1865-1939)

[daily log: walking, 1km]

Caveat: Teaching English to Cats

Despite being broadly satisfied with my job and chosen career, nevertheless I have days when I end up deeply pessimistic about my abilities as a teacher, and that always sends me off on a kind of spiral of self-doubt and fruitless, fantastical ideation about alternate career paths.

Yesterday was such a day. My difficult middle school HS1-T cohort persisted in being difficult. How can such smart kids be so completely uninterested? Not only uninterested in learning, but even deeply uninterested in the social contract we call a cohesive classroom. They just do whatever the hell they want.

It's like teaching English to cats. The cats just move around and do their own thing, and look on at the teacher, somewhat amusedly, from their utterly inhuman viewpoint. Meanwhile if the thought crosses their mind, they will play or attack one of their peers. Or open a window. Or get up and leave the classroom. Yelling and screaming feels like at best an utterly temporary fix: it can get the cats to sit still and feign detached attentiveness for maybe 30 seconds or 2 minutes, but soon enough a new whim will take one or more off on their secret tangent again. And yet bear in mind: this collection of students has the highest average score on English proficiency of any class at Karma.

I've never had a class quite like it. Normally, collections of high-scoring students are also well-behaved and fairly engaged learners. I don't know how to control these kids in any kind of positive way. I can only flail and yell and produce reactions of reluctant, very brief compliance. My gut feeling is that the classroom dynamic is driven more by the social interaction among the students than their individual personalities. It's a kind of toxic combination of teenage competitiveness and camaraderie. They're each trying to outdo or impress their peers in acts of passive-aggressive rebellion. My instinct in moments of highest frustration is to try to separate them into individual workers, and cut off social interaction – but that's almost impossible, and produces seething waves of angry resentment. And anyway, doing so doesn't make sense in a class where I'm supposed to be focused on the communicative, speaking function of language.


[daily log: walking, 7km]



Caveat: Fictional Victorian Doppelgängers for Famous Men


There is a category of things that could be called "Fictional Victorian Doppelgängers for Famous Men." It has at least one member: Wilhelm Heinrich Sebastian Von Troomp. You can read about it at Politco Magazine. These works of childrens' literature by author Ingersoll Lockwood seem very bizarre, but not that different in genre from the subsequent Oz books, really, though apparently of lower quality. But the name of the protagonist is discomfiting.

[daily log: walking, 7km]

Caveat: 너 보단 내가 더 커

The middle-school girls in my HS1-T cohort seem to have this song memorized (below). They were performing a fairly plausible rendition, spontaneously, in class last Saturday. I complained that since we were in English class, they should be doing a song in English. They pointed out there were some English words in the song – which is true, there are few snippets anyway. But every Korean pop song has a few snippets of English – it’s almost a genre requirement as far as I can figure out. Anyway their performance was sufficiently well-done that I got the song earwormed into my head and I subsequently googled it.
The catchphrase is “너 보단 내가 더 커” [neo boda naega deo keo], which is repeated so many times, means, “I am bigger than you.” The song is basically about rivalry with respect to height among girls. It’s quite petty, but satirically so, with a classic, very westernized ironic tone.
What I’m listening to right now.

마마무, “1cm의 자존심.”

여기 나보다 큰 사람 있어
없으면 됐어
마마무 마마무 마마무
너 보단 내가 더 커
넌 160 난 1
마마무 마마무 마마무
우리 끼리끼리끼리
딱 1cm 차이
뭔 헛소리
일단 휘인인 먼 나라 얘기
Ok 베프지만
키 앞에선 장사 없지
Small 휘인
어줍자니 일센치 가지고
언니들 이러기
우리 쿨하게 좀 가자
나만 힐 신기
너와 나의 차이 1cm
언닌 두상이 좀 커
그냥 받아들여 난쟁이
그냥 받아들여
달라질 건 없어 인생
Do you know What I’m saying
아이고 우리 언니가
어디 번데기 앞에서
주름을 잡을까요
이봐요 올라오려면 멀었네
여기 높은 곳까지
거기 아랫 공기는 어때
많이 탁하지
난 거기 못 가 입장불가
고만고만해 그만그만해
이럴 시간 있음
다른 거나 고민해
Oh 우리 휘인이 손이 안 닿니
내가 꺼내줄께
언니가 이 구역에 장신
마마무 마마무 마마무
너 보단 내가 더 커
넌 160 난 1
마마무 마마무 마마무
우리 끼리끼리끼리
딱 1cm 차이
A-YO 반올림해도 작아요
나보다 더
깔창을 깔아봐요 소용없나요
힐을 신어도 티가 나고
운동화를 신어도 티가 나
키 순서가 도레미파
너와 나의 차이 1cm
누가 봐도 이건 Same Same
둘 다 두상이 좀 커
여긴 우물 안의 전쟁
You know What I’m talking about
거기 문스타
아주 그냥 물 만나셨어
어허 인정해
여유 넘치는 게
장신인척 난리
우월한 척 난리
최홍만 인 척 난리
그래 봤자 도토리
맷돌손잡이가 빠졌어
맷돌손잡이가 빠졌어
지나가는 조태오가 웃어
지금 내 기분이 그래
어이가 없네
마마무 마마무 마마무
너 보단 내가 더 커
넌 160 난 1
마마무 마마무 마마무
우리 끼리끼리끼리
딱 1cm 차이
여기 나보다 큰사람 있어
너 보단 내가 더 커
너 보단 너 보단 내가 더 커
너 보단 내가 더 커
너 보단 너 보단 내가 더 커
너 보단 내가 더 커
너 보단 너 보단 내가 더 커
너 보단 내가 더 커
너 보단 너 보단 너 보단
내가 더 커
잘 들어 난쟁이들아
내가 이 바닥에서
너 보단 내가 더 커
너 보단 너 보단 내가 더 커
너 보단 내가 더 커
너 보단 너 보단 내가 더 커
너 보단 내가 더 커
너 보단 너 보단 내가 더 커
너 보단 내가 더 커
너 보단 너 보단 너 보단
내가 더 커

 [daily log: walking, 7km]

Caveat: Random Poem #142

(Poem #443 on new numbering scheme)

Lately the poems are not coming so easily. Epics and haikus are
difficult; weather and sunsets and student behavior become tired.

– some kind of effort at a heroic couplet (dactylic hexameter)

Caveat: Safe as the endless ocean that climbs our cliff

Carmel Point

The extraordinary patience of things!
This beautiful place defaced with a crop of surburban houses –
How beautiful when we first beheld it,
Unbroken field of poppy and lupin walled with clean cliffs;
No intrusion but two or three horses pasturing,
Or a few milch cows rubbing their flanks on the outcrop rockheads –
Now the spoiler has come: does it care?
Not faintly. It has all time. It knows the people are a tide
That swells and in time will ebb, and all
Their works dissolve. Meanwhile the image of the pristine beauty
Lives in the very grain of the granite,
Safe as the endless ocean that climbs our cliff. – As for us:
We must uncenter our minds from ourselves;
We must unhumanize our views a little, and become confident
As the rock and ocean that we were made from.

– Robinson Jeffers (American poet, 1887-1962)

[daily log: walking, 6.5km]

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