Caveat: the world outside looks the same as yesterday

… so, a bit of an anticlimax, as usual. Feeling a bit grumpy, this New Years Day.

Already, last Thursday, I knew I was getting sick. I had some stomach flu type symptoms Thursday and Friday. Saturday the stomach stuff cleared up, but it transformed into a more regular flu. I felt feverish Saturday and yesterday, and did even less than usual.

I napped a lot, and experienced some really unpleasant dreams. In one, I was driving on an LA freeway, but I kept missing my exit. Over and over and over and over and over. In another, I was talking to my father, but he'd become a conspiracy theorist, was living on the streets, and was spouting weird, vaguely right-wing nonsense. I was trying to take him to a mental health facility, and he was running away. He had a pet monkey.

I hope I get better. Work is going to be demanding this week, even with today off: all new classes, new curricula, new students.

So that's the not-so-fresh start to 2018, for me.

Plus, tomorrow morning, earlier then I would prefer, I have to get up and go to the hospital. It's time for my scheduled semi-annual anti-cancer scan. So that will be fun.

[daily log: lying around]

Caveat: 2017

I continued living in Ilsan.
[This entry is part of a timeline I am making using this blog. I am writing a single entry for each year of my life, which when viewed together in order will provide a sort of timeline. This entry wasn’t written in 2017 – it was written in the future.]

Caveat: The Karmic Black Hole

Last night, we had a 회식 [hwehsik – Korean "business dinner"] at a samgyeopsal joint we frequent (Korean grilled pork, mostly "bacon" cuts but prepared differently). This was to wish a farewell to two departing coworkers, and a welcome to a new one. 

I will particularly miss my coworker Kay. She has been probably the kindest "deskmate" I've had in my years teaching in Korea. She is good at conversation, and good at overcoming the inhibitions so many Koreans (even English teachers) have about communicating in English. She is happy to talk (or try to talk) about topics a lot of Koreans shy away from: politics, religion, the meaning of life.

She recently lost her sister, which I've blogged about, having gone to the funeral. 

So she decided a life change was in order – which I am utterly sympathetic to. Therefore I am actually pleased she's going – for her. 

But I will definitely miss her. And she is genuinely caring and interested in the kids – she has never been just a "time-keeping" teacher. She enjoys interacting with them. 

She said something funny, the other day. But first, some background.

There's a kind of revolving door, at Karma. People leave. Move on. But then they end up back, working at Karma again. Curt (the owner) clearly inspires a certain loyalty. 

I think, of my coworkers, every single one has left at some point, yet has come back to work again at Karma. Except Kay, of course. I would even count myself, in that – I worked for Curt back in the pre-Karma days, at LinguaForum. And I left, yet I returned. 

So I joked to Kay about her coming back, later, at some point.

She got a very annoyed, but amused look on her face. "That can't happen. That really can't happen. It won't happen."

"Are you sure?" I asked.

There was along pause.

"This place is like a black hole."

We laughed. 

[daily log: walking, 7km]

Caveat: Girl Ambidexter


Sometimes my students reveal unexpected, surprising talents. The other day, because it had come up in some discussion of the word "ambidexterous," a middle school girl named Hyein announced that she could write equally well with both hands. I was somewhat skeptical, so she proceeded to write a demonstration on the whiteboard. She used her left hand. The writing was smooth and was comfortably quite fast, hardly slower than when she normally writes with her right hand. It exhibits her characteristic "messiness" that is also typical of her right hand, too – it reflects the same handwriting style, I guess you could say.

I was duly impressed. This is actually a pretty rare skill, and had always seemed to me to be indicative of quite a bit of both mental and physical acuity.

Hyein shared her story, though: she said that when she was 6 or 7, her mom had seen her writing with her left hand, and had told her she had to do it with her right hand. This is, of course, common in Asian cultures (and earlier-era Western cultures, too). So the girl is a "native" left hander, but in having been shifted to the right hand when younger, she retained her left-handed ability. Of course you hear about this happening all the time, but I had never run across it experientially, before.

[daily log: walking, 6km]

Caveat: 이런 게임 멈추고 너를 다시 보게 돼

지금 듣고있는 것.

레드벨벳, “피카부.” 이MV가 조금 이상합니다.

Uhm yeah yah

Oh gosh 난리야 Oh gosh
맞아 난 좀 기분파
헤 금방 또 사랑에 빠져
Yeah yeah yeah yeah
새것만 좋아해요 반짝거리죠
다들 그렇잖아요 맞죠

Peek A Boo 설렐 때만 사랑이니까
La la la la la
내 친구 모두 소리쳐
넌 정말 문제야
I’m fine fine fine fine fine fine

Peek Peek A Peek A Boo
Peek Peek A Peek A Boo
흥이 난 여우 그런 나라구
Peek Peek A Peek A Boo

I said 1 2 3
Play the game again
버튼을 눌러보자 쿵푸만큼 빨리
중간에 내 맘 변해도 놀라지 말기
혹시 끌리지 않니 그럼 Excuse me
자 전화해요 밤새 또 놀러 가요 함께
Restart a game
돌진해 롤링해 블랑카

오늘 저녁도 Let’s go
놀이터는 붐비고
지루해질 틈조차 없죠
Yeah yeah yeah
빙글빙글 돌아요 다들 똑같죠
오 마침내 마주친 눈빛

Peek A Boo
새로워요 사랑인가요
La la la la la
내 친구 모두 소리쳐
넌 정말 문제야
I’m fine fine fine fine fine fine
Ma Boo Boo Boo
Peek A Boo Boo Boo Boo

Peek Peek A Peek A Boo
Peek Peek A Peek A Boo
Peek Peek A Peek A Boo

술래는 너로 정해졌어
재밌을 거야 끼워 줄게
Peek Peek A Peek A Boo
저 달이 정글짐에 걸릴
시간까지 노는 거야
Peek Peek A Peek A Boo

Peek A Boo 이상해 어라 넌 좀 달라
이런 게임 멈추고 너를 다시 보게 돼
무섭지 않아 난 새로운 얘기가
펼쳐질 거라는 걸 방금 느꼈으니까

Peek Peek A Peek A Boo
Peek Peek A Peek A Boo
흥이 난 여우 그런 나라구
Peek Peek A Peek A Boo

술래는 너로 정해졌어
재밌을 거야 끼워 줄게
Peek Peek A Peek A Boo
저 달이 정글짐에 걸릴
시간까지 노는 거야
Peek Peek A Peek A Boo

술래는 너로 정해졌어
재밌을 거야 네가 좋아
Peek Peek A Peek A Boo
저 달이 정글짐에
걸릴 시간이지만 더 놀자
Peek Peek A Peek A Boo

Peek A Boo
Peek A Boo
Peek A Boo

[daily log: walking, 6.5km]

Caveat: It’s just that I was looking for a world / To walk into empty-handed

The Small Self And The Liberal Sky

Perhaps you didn't realize
Anything can happen under a sky like this

Never give in to surprise:

Not for mountains
Who turn under sheets and breathe in
Each other's green scent;

Not for the lights where nobody lives;

Not for the blood-colored mushrooms
That rise up one after one like little presidents;

Not for the small self, afraid
It has misunderstood the question.

Oh, it's prepared to answer anyway,
It has its array of modest affirmations
Like anyone. Just that-

So many years and something in the leaves
Does not fall.

I find young starlings in the lake's ice,
Their wings spread like death-flowers pressed in a book;

Find moths spawned in the woodshed
Like a winter's supply of blossoms.

It's just that I was looking for a world
To walk into empty-handed.

That's when I found you, female, shamelessly
Sailing toward me in your folded paper boat.

Don't deny it, please.
At night the self feels smaller
And water is scarce in parts of the mind.

The small self is obliged, therefore,
To take back everything
Anyone has ever said.

No one is allowed to speak now
But you

– James Galvin (American poet, b 1951)

[daily log: walking, 6.5km]

Caveat: oh my God, an ill reindeer

What I'm listening to right now.

Run-DMC, "Christmas in Hollis." From 1987. Wow.


It was December 24th on Hollis Ave in the dark
When I seen a man chilling with his dog in the park
I approached very slowly with my heart full of fear
Looked at his dog, oh my God, an ill reindeer
But then I was illin because the man had a beard
And a bag full of goodies, 12 o'clock had neared
So I turned my head a second and the man had gone
But he left his driver's wallet smack dead on the lawn
I picked the wallet up then I took a pause
Took out the license and it cold said "Santa Claus"
A million dollars in it, cold hundreds of G's
Enough to buy a boat and matching car with ease
But I'd never steal from Santa, cause that ain't right
So I'm going home to mail it back to him that night
But when I got home I bugged, cause under the tree
Was a letter from Santa and all the dough was for me


It's Christmas time in Hollis Queens
Mom's cooking chicken and collard greens
Rice and stuffing, macaroni and cheese
And Santa put gifts under Christmas trees
Decorate the house with lights at night
Snow's on the ground, snow white so bright
In the fireplace is the yule log
Beneath the mistle toe as we drink egg nog
The rhymes you hear are the rhymes of Darryl's
But each and every year we bust Chrsitmas carols
(Christmas melodies)


Rhymes so loud and proud you hear it
It's Christmas time and we got the spirit
Jack Frost chillin, the orchas out?
And that's what Christmas is all about
The time is now, the place is here
And the whole wide world is filled with cheer


My name's D.M.C. with the mic in my hand
And I'm chilling and coolin just like a snowman
So open your eyes, lend us an ear
We want to say


Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

[daily log: walking, 1km]

Caveat: Poem #510

I said to them "Let's choose a song to do,
that everyone agrees is fun to learn."
They wasted over fifteen minutes while
deciding what they thought would be the best,
and then at last we started through the song…
a hand shot up: "This song is boring! Stop!"

[daily log: walking, 7.5km]

Caveat: 주린 고양이가 쥐를 만났다

I learned this aphorism from my book of aphorisms.

주린 고양이가 쥐를 만났다
ju.rin jwi.reul man.nat.da
starving-PRPART cat-SUBJ mouse-OBJ meet-PAST-FIN
“The starving cat met the mouse.”

This is where the poor man finds an unexpected boon. A stroke of luck.
I’m not quite sure of the exact context of this. Does it just apply to financial or material luck? Or could it mean other types of luck, too? Did the cat meet a mouse when I won my unexpected victory against cancer?
[daily log: walking, 7km]

Caveat: Stealth Xenophilia

Hey, foreigners! Want some money?

I had this brainstorm as I was walking to work through the snow, listening to NPR about the newly passed tax bill in the US Congress. So here's a rare 2nd blog post for this day.

I have seen plenty of discussion of the way the new tax "reform" bill is essentially a wealth transfer from the poor and middle class to the wealthy. What seems less commonly commented upon is that it also will be a wealth transfer from US citizens to non-US citizens. This is remarkably dissonant with the Republican platform. I wonder what's going on.

Let's think about it. Who holds US equities? Who are the owners of stock in US companies? Some brief googling found numbers from 2015, that stated that foreign ownership of US equities was 21%. While this may be not exact, it hardly seems that far off, either.

The point would only be – that means 21% of the huge corporate tax break is benefitting wealthy non-Americans. Since the tax cuts are being financed by losses to government spending or by government debt, under best-case scenarios, or, by eventual higher taxes on US workers under darker scenarios, it becomes irrefutable that what the tax bill represents is not just a wealth transfer from the middle class (and poor) to the wealthy, but from Americans to foreigners.

Is that what they want? I can't imagine they're really so ignorant as to not realize that. Who are the international wealthy who own all these equities? Russian oligarchs, Saudi princes, China's party-member nouveau-riche.

Interesting, right?

Further, to the extent the tax bill is being financed by increased government debt, we need to also ask, who holds US government debt? One quick google search showed me that as much as half of US debt is held by foreigners. Now, to the extent that that debt is… debt, it's not really an asset transfer. But debt-holders are acquiring access to streams of future US revenue, in the form of interest payments on the debt (which come from taxes, right?), so again, this boils down to a wealth-transfer from US coffers offshore. Who are these US debt holders? #1: China. #2: Japan. The Cayman Islands is high on the list – which is just a proxy for people who are rich but don't want you to know about it. You get the picture.

They say this is going to help the US economy, right? How? Even if there's trickle-down (which is of course empirically questionable), it seems that a large chunk will be trickling into other countries' economies.

Indeed, to the extent that super-wealthy South Koreans (e.g. the Chaebol families, such as the owners of Samsung or Hyundai) hold US equities or debt (which I'm sure they do), I may benefit more from this tax plan as a resident of South Korea than I do as an American citizen.

And here's the snow I walked through.


Caveat: incessant talkers

I got nothing for you, today. It's been a bit busy, lately. So here's a stupid joke.


My kids are making me join a Twelve Step Program…




It's for incessant talkers and we call ourselves "On and On Anon."


[daily log: walking, 7.5km]


Caveat: I need to see that

We were looking at Christmas song videos the other day, in a middle school class – as a kind of reward at the end of class. So I was searching on youtube, and it was up on the screen with the projector. I actually like to do things like this – the kids can engage with a routine, day-to-day "how to search the internet in English" undertaking, at a practical level. They can sort of "look over my shoulder" as I try to find something, all the time as I also talk, explaining what I'm doing. They pick up vocabulary about things like "click there," "search for X," that kind of thing, which is often missing in formal curricula, if only because a lot of this terminology is still pretty new.

A girl who sometimes goes by Sally was quite funny. I had the youtube search results up, and I was scrolling through them. She jumped up, as if it were an emergency.

"Teacher! Stop!" She said, assertively. "You need to click that 'Official Video.' I need to see that handsome man right away." 

Of course, I broke down laughing. "Oh, you 'need' to see that?" 

She nodded vigorously, all seriousness. 

So I clicked the video – some saccharinely handsome American pop star, singing a forgettable rendition of a Christmas song. I didn't bookmark it. But you get the idea.

[daily log: walking, 7km]

Caveat: Poem #505

I have two neighbors, who both, it seems,
like to make noise. One plays keyboard,
repeating the same bland tune.
The other cleans her floor
with a rattling
floor sweeper thing.
Today, they
were in

Caveat: Ovid, you can go home now

I guess the ancient Roman poet, Ovid (Publius Ovidius Naso, 43BC-17AD), was exiled from his hometown of Rome at some point. Apparently the city council in the city of Rome recently passed a motion revoking his exile. I'm sure his ghost is super happy to hear this.

Est deus in nobis; agitante calescimus illo:
impetus hic sacrae semina mentis habet.
from Fasti, VI.

There is a god within us.
It is when he stirs us that our bosom warms ; it is
his impulse that sows the seeds of inspiration.

[daily log: walking, 7km]

Caveat: Actually, your behavior is pretty weird

I had my middle school 7th grade cohort, HS1-T, write "Letters to Santa." But the idea was to create coherent, reasoned essays. They are my most talented class, linguistically and intellectually, if not, erm, motivationally.

I think in this case, however, they were very creative. One girl, Yeoeun, wrote a quite humorous letter. Here it is, unedited or modified.

Letter to santa.

Hello dear my Santa. Now I am writing letter to you! Wow very crazy. Very weird because I think you are not real and you are crinimal. If you are read this letter you will not give me the present. I am sorry . HAHA.

Actually, your behavior is pretty weird. You don’t know the people who believe Santa. However you trespass in to people’s houses. There are many criminal events similar like you. The crinimal inspire about your behavior and they use their crimine method. It is seriously bad event. Please stop being weird trespassing. It is peace for the world.

If you are a real, I want to go concert with you ! On Christmas, there are a many concert. There are ‘Golen Disc Award’, “Seoul Music Award’, and SBS, MBC, KBS’s ‘Song Festival”. I am the fan. I like the boy group ‘ Seventeen’. I try to get ticketing but I failed. I have very bad slow hand. So I want to see them. I love them and I respect them.

Third, I want to be a lotto winner! There are many people who win the lotto. But I am not win the lotto. So I want to be them ! I want always getting many money. If I have many money, I can burn the money. Overuse is always happy. Buy the clothes, cars, airplanes, buildings and do it all. Also I can get the concert tickets! I really want this things come true.

I know this is not a real. But many people believe you because of comfort.But I want you are a real. Your behavior is little bit crazy but maybe have a good heart. Merry Christmas !!!

[daily log: walking, 1.5km]

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