Caveat: Poem #1892 “Gangnam style”

I took the subway into Gangnam's heart
and walked up Teheranno, through the crowd,
immersed in human restlessness, alone -
until the dream unmade itself at dawn.

– a quatrain in blank verse (iambic pentameter).

Here is a picture of the familiar streetscape in Gangnam, Seoul, a few blocks north of the main subway station. I was here every day for a few months in 2010, when I was studying Korean language full-time. So it sometimes appears in dreams.

Caveat: Poem #1739 “숙제”

선생님, 왜요?
숙제 할수없어요.
그래서 미안.

– a pseudo-haiku in pseudo-Korean – because I sometimes still dream I’m in a classroom in Korea. Here is an English-version pseudo-haiku, which approximates the meaning.

But, teacher, why me?
I couldn't do my homework.
So, sorry for that.


Caveat: its heart ticks perfectly unfretfully among the trees

Poem with No Children In It
Instead, the poem is full of competent trees,
sturdy and slow-growing. The trees live on a wide
clean lawn full of adults. All night, the adults grow
older without somersaulting or spinning. They grow
old while thinking about themselves. They sleep well
and stay out late, their nerves coiled neatly inside
their grown bodies. They don’t think about children
because children were never there to begin with.
The children were not killed or stolen. This is absence,
not loss. There is a world of difference: the distance
between habitable worlds. It is the space that is
unbearable. The poem is relieved not to have to live
in it. Instead, its heart ticks perfectly unfretfully
among the trees. The children who are not in the poem
do not cast shadows or spells to make themselves
appear. When they don’t walk through the poem, time
does not bend around them. They are not black holes.
There are already so many nots in this poem, it is already
so negatively charged. The field around the poem
is summoning children and shadows and singularities
from a busy land full of breathing and mass. My non-
children are pulling children away from their own
warm worlds. They will arrive before I can stop them.
When matter meets anti-matter, it annihilates into
something new. Light. Sound. Waves and waves
of something like water. The poem’s arms are so light
they are falling upward from the body. Why are you crying?
- Claire Wahmanholm (American poet)

This poem was published just yesterday, in the poem-a-day publication I receive via email. It affected me more than most.
The poet says she wrote the poem as a “thought experiment.” She asked, “Could I, just over the course of a poem, inhabit a parallel universe where I never had children?”
So why did this poem affect me? Because it struck me as the inverse of an exercise I’ve engaged in many times: can I inhabit a parallel universe where I did have children? I remember a very, very vivid dream I had, a week or two out of the ICU after my cancer surgery. I wrote about it here. The dream was brief but full of “back story” – within the dream. It was like living an entire, parallel life – a life in which in which I had children. I awoke heartbroken. This poem invoked in me a recollection of that dream and its psychological aftermath. I’d call it one of my “top ten” dreams of my entire life.

Caveat: Poem #953 “The alien met along the road”

I set aside my thoughts, just walking.
The alien along the road
appeared and gave me pause, his talking -
his soulless pleadings - like a code

made up of tangled verbs and meanings
from which I got the barest gleanings.
I followed through an open gate,
his gestures seemed to show we're late,

how could I know, could he be trusted?
In dark and looming halls we roamed,
his pointless words spilled out and foamed.
We stopped beside machines, all rusted.

And he explained what he had planned,
but still I didn't understand.

– some kind of sonnet

Caveat: my thoughts are strange

I had some weird dreams. I was in some kind of future-dystopian world where everything was subdivided into these enclosed hive-like spaces, but each space was the size of a city. So you could go from city to city via these doors in the hive walls. And most of the cities were run down, post-apocalyptic places, with gangs of wild children and insane people running things.

So I was trying to find the city where life was tolerable. It was like traversing a scaled-up version Borges' infinite library, but each room, instead of being a small study stocked with books, was a city. This might be a nice conceit for a novel. I'll get right on that.

What I'm listening to right now.

Cold, "Bleed."


I'm feeling crossed, I take it inside
Burn up the pain, my thoughts are strange
Just like the things I used to know
Just like the tree that fell, I heard it
If art is still inside I feel it

I wanna' bleed, show the world all that I have inside
(I wanna' show you all the pain)
I wanna' scream, let the blood flow that keeps me alive
(I wanna' make you feel the same)

Take all these strings, they call my veins
Wrap them around, every fucking thing
Presence of people not for me
Well I must remain in tune forever
My love is music, I will marry melody

I wanna' bleed show the world all that I have inside
(I wanna' show you all the pain)
I wanna' scream let the blood flow that keeps me alive
(I wanna' make you feel the same)
I said
I wanna bleed
I wanna feel
(Show you all the pain)
I wanna scream
I wanna feel
(Make you feel the same)

Won't you let me take you for a ride
You can stop the world, try to change my mind
Won't you let me show you how it feels
You can stop the world, but you won't change me
I need music
I need music
I need music
To set me free
To let me bleed

[daily log: walking, 7km]

Caveat: Бу айыллыбыт / Арылы халлаан алын өттүгэр

Бу айыллыбыт
Арылы халлаан алын өттүгэр
Куордаах эттээх,
Куодаһыннаах уҥуохтаах,
Оһол-охсуһуу доҕордоох,
Иирээн-илбис энээрдээх,
Ириҥэ мэйиилээх,
Иһэгэй куттаах,
Икки атахтаах үөскээн тэнийдин диэн,
Анысханнаах арҕаа халлааннаах,
Иэйиэхситтээх илин халлааннаах,
Соллоҥноох соҕуруу халлааннаах,
Холоруктаах хоту халлааннаах,
Үллэр муора үрүттээх,
Түллэр муора түгэхтээх,
Аллар муора арыннаах,
Эргичийэр муора иэрчэхтээх,
Дэбилийэр муора сиксиктээх,
Ахтар айыы араҥаччылаах,
Күн айыы күрүөһүлээх,
Араҥас илгэ быйаҥнаах,
Үрүҥ илгэ үктэллээх,
Элбэх сулус эркиннээх,
Үгүс сулус үрбэлээх,
Дьэллэҥэ сулус бэлиэлээх,
Туолбут ый доҕуһуоллаах,
Аламай күн аргыстаах,
Дорҕоон этиҥ арчылаах,
Тоһуттар чаҕылҕан кымньыылаах,
Ахсым ардах ыһыахтаах,
Сугул куйаас тыыннаах,
Уолан угуттуур уулаах,
Охтон үүнэр мастаах,
Уһун уйгу кэһиилээх,
Сытар хайа сындыыстаах,
Буор хайа модьоҕолоох,
Итии сайын эркиннээх,
Эргичийэр эрэһэ кииннээх,
Төгүрүйэр түөрт тулумнаах,
Үктүөлээтэр өҕүллүбэт
Үрдүк мындаалаах,
Кэбиэлээтэр кэйбэлдьийбэт
Кэтит киэлилээх,
Баттыалаатар маталдьыйбат
Баараҕай таһаалаах,
Аҕыс иилээх-саҕалаах
Алта киспэлээх,
Аан-ийэ дойду диэн
Муостаах-нуоҕайдаах бэртэһэ
Туоһахтатын курдук,

The above is a fragment of a poem in the Sakha (Yakut) language, and is part of the Yakuts national traditional epic poetic oeuvre, Olonkho.
Obviously, I don’t know the Sakha (Yakut) language. On a really good day I command a few hundred words of rusty college Russian, at best.
But I like unusual languages. And I like poetry. And, if you accept the controversial Altaic hypothesis, perhaps Sakha is a very distant relative of Ancient Korean. Anyway, they’re sort of in the same cultural neighborhood, albeit a bit farther north, in east-central Siberia: today it is -41 C in Yakutsk, while here in sunny 고양시 we have a balmy -8 C.
I came across a translation of the poem on the blog of the philosopher and polymathic philologist Justin Erik Halldór Smith. Smith is currently a professor at the University of Paris 7 but he is a native of Northern California – like myself and, furthermore, he is of my generation, more or less – and thus he is someone whose occasional reflections on his youth in the green-hilled, hippie-infested comarcas of The City [San Francisco] have always had exceptional resonances for me. Anyway, his translation is strikingly good poetry, in itself, and, I presume, faithful to the original, given his scholarly abilities.

Under that primordial
shining and lucid sky,
where the two-legged, having
a mortal body and hollow bones,
knowing war and battle,
acquainted with strife and discord,
having a vulnerable brain
and a trembling soul,
must be fruitful —
with the cool windy western sky,
with the good generous eastern sky,
with the insatiable thirsty southern sky,
with the impetuous whirling northern sky,
with the shivering breadth of the sea,
with the heaving depth of the sea,
with the swelling abyss of the sea,
with the twirling axis of the sea,
with the unbounded reach of the sea,
with the revered aiy [nature spirits] who lie beyond,
with the radiant aiy [nature spirits] who guard,
with abundant yellow nectar,
with generous white nectar,
encircling us in the manifold of stars,
in the herds of countless stars,
in the traces of rare stars,
with the full moon accompanying it,
with the bright sun leading it,
with purifying roars of thunder,
with the smite of bolts of lightning,
with moistening cloud-bursts of rain,
with sultry hot breath,
with the drying out and again the replenishing of waters,
with the falling down and again the growing up of woods,
with inexhaustible generous gifts,
with origins from gently sloping mountains,
with gardens from earthen mountains,
with a hot and giving summer,
with the turning axis of the center,
with four converging sides,
with such high firmament,
what you tread on, will not give way,

what you rattle, will not lurch,
with such an unfathomable breadth,
what you press, will not bend,
eight-chambered, eight-sided,
with six circles,
with disquiet and worry,
in luxurious attire and ornament,
serenely peaceful,
always-existing Mother Earth,
shining like a silver buckle
on a horned hat with a feather.

[daily log: walking, 7km]

Caveat: Swinging Through Dreams

I have been sleeping badly, in recent days. 

On Sunday, I woke up too early but then took a mid-morning nap. Sometimes this works, sometimes it doesn't. When it works, I often have very strange dreams.

I was on an amusement park ride, a kind of swinging thing, where you swing in parabolic patterns, I guess. Moments of freefall at the ends of the swing arcs. And it was indoors, and I was on the ride alone – no one else was there. But there was no sense that I was trapped, exactly. It's just what I was doing. And somebody was reading some bit of philosophy-type text, over a low-quality loudspeaker. I was having a hard time understanding it, as I swung down… up, to the top of an arc, feeling the pit of my stomach drop… and down… whoosh, and up again. Like that.

Not much of a plot – but that was the dream. Quite vivid, anyway.

Work is really feeling demanding, lately. We have our annual hagwon talent show coming up, which involves extra prep. 

[daily log: walking, 6.5km]

Caveat: The Mysterious Case of Flight XYZ

I had a very strange dream in the pre-dawn hour. 

I was traveling by airplane. Maybe LAX to MSP or something like that. 

It was strange, because all the passengers looked like they'd been drawn directly from my facebook feed – all relatives and friends and long-lost acquaintances. And everyone was staring at their smartphones. 

Then the captain announced that we had a problem. We would have to make an emergency landing. Oddly, everyone was pretty calm. The airplane spiraled down in a wide loop, and I saw snow-covered mountains – the Rockies? We landed almost as smoothly as at an airport, but on a blustery, snow-covered alpine meadow. People got off the plane, but it didn't seem like anything was wrong with it. And everyone had cellphone reception, so people were announcing the landing on facebook and other sites, and people were watching news of our own emergency landing. 

But there was some delay in getting us rescued. There was only one helicopter arriving, to ferry out the 100s of passengers. So it would come and go, taking out only a half dozen at a time. A lot of us would have to stay the night. We camped out in the airplane, but it was quite cold. I felt sooo cold.

On the news in the middle of the night, that everyone was looking at on their cellphones, a scandal was erupting. It turned out the same pilot had made an almost identical emergency landing, in the same location, some years ago. How could that be? Especially since there was nothing obviously wrong with the plane. All the passengers and crew realized the pilot and copilot had disappeared. That was just too weird. On the next helicopter ferry arrival, some police arrived, with police dogs, who began looking for the pilot and copilot. 

I was just too cold. I didn't care about the pilot and copilot, I wanted to get out of there.

I woke up, and I had kicked my covers off. I sleep with the window open, and the building's heat had been turned off April 1 – the room was cold, it was chilly outside. So at least that's where the cold came from. The rest is just plain weird. The dream was far too coherent, in some ways. Almost like a movie or novel. It could be one.

I don't know where all the material came from – I haven't been watching any TV lately, so there's no airplane thriller movies enrolled in my dream-queue. I haven't looked at facebook in months, so I don't know how that happened either. It was just strange. What does it mean?

[daily log: walking, 7km]

Caveat: Quatrain #64

(Poem #260 on new numbering scheme)

Con chupe de pescado, pues,
soñaba sin querer.
Al despertar, me estremecí
¿cómo pude saber?

This is my second attempt at a quatrain using English ballad meter, but in Spanish – for which ballad meter is quite awkward. Still, this more or less works, except how it reverts to trochees in the last line. Don’t ask me what it means, exactly. A prose paraphrase: about fish chowder, then, [I] dreamed without wanting to. Upon waking up, I shivered – how could I know?
This is actually a dream I woke up from this morning: nothing complicated or surreal – I was just eating Peruvian style chupe de pescado at a certain Peruvian restaurant in Newport Beach, down the road from where I used to work in 2005-2006. I used to go there for lunch with coworkers fairly often. That fish soup is some of the most memorable food in my life, for some reason. I’m sure if I had it now, it would seem a poor shadow of its former glory – but that would be because of the changes to my own physiology of taste, post cancer.

Caveat: Quatrains #27-29

(Poem #226 on new numbering scheme)

It is some kind of giant house -
in Mexico, I guess.
In hills, a purple sun hangs low.
We all wear battle dress.
I bear a weapon in my hand.
We seek some evil man.
The air, it reeks of burning wood
and peaches from a can
I'm walking down long corridors.
I'm searching for my team.
A slowly ticking clock goes *snap*
I woke up from the dream.

– three quatrains in ballad meter.

Caveat: Englyn #88

(Poem #193 on new numbering scheme)

The green gorillas will gasp
and dance below clouds. A wisp
of mist gropes the trees that grasp
the hills. The cool air is crisp.

– an englyn proest dalgron. It may be surprising to hear that this is based on a fragment of a vivid dream I had 36 years ago, in 1981, while still in high school. I recorded it then in a journal I had. But this poem was written without consulting that journal – it’s just an image/story/vision that sticks with me. The full dream ended with nuclear holocaust – recall that I was in high school during the age of Reagan.

Caveat: The cities of long ago, re-dreamed

Wow, that was a weird dream.

I was in some Simcity version of San Francisco – the city of my childhood, mediated by the simplifications of game theory and the fever dreams of utopian urban planners. I was driving one of my old VW Beetles (I owned 3 different ones, over the years – the one I was driving most resembled the last one I owned, with its vato-ized steering-wheel and missing gearshift knob).

I wanted to the drive across the Golden Gate bridge. I was approaching from the south, on those raised viaducts through the Presidio, but the city's skyline hovered off where Marin should be. Furthermore, the toll plaza had been converted into a campground. "Isn't this the plot of some post-apocalyptic movie?" I thought to myself, inside the dream.

Reaching the bridge, there was some strange change in procedure – my car would be taken across the bridge by a robot train, while I had to walk. I shrugged, like Kafka's K, and went with the flow. I left my car to the robot trains, under the management of an angry Mexican, and started walking. I was with some companions, mostly visitors to me while I'd been in the cancer hospital: Peter, Grace, Curt, Helen. They were ignoring me.

The walk across the bridge was quite challenging. Reality became Inception-like (as in the movie "Inception," which actually I didn't like that much, but the CGI cinematography is compelling). The bridge began to twist and tilt and bend. But unlike in "Inception," the twisting, tilting and bending was all completely mechanical. The Golden Gate bridge was a giant clockwork mechanism with a million moving parts, like a Transformer car – but instead, a bridge. And it wasn't becoming a robot, it was simply becoming a bridge with a life of its own. So the deck of the bridge moved and shifted and tilted vertiginously until I was first standing on the underside of the deck, and then on the top of one of the great, red-painted towers, without having walked at all, but merely clambered around as the direction of down shifted.

I did not enjoy being atop the tower – I have a fear of heights, after all. I looked down and waited, hoping the bridge would transform again so I could walk safely to the end. When it kept shifting and instead I ended up hanging from a cable, I let go and fell a short distance to the highway deck again. I ran to the north side of the bridge, and found myself in downtown Vancouver, BC. Looking back, the Golden Gate bridge was now the Lion's Gate Bridge, but Stanley Park had been filled up with rowhouses in the San Francisco style. Vancouver is a city I visited several times in my adolescence, but I would not consider the city deeply familiar – the main thing that links it to San Francisco, aside from their somewhat similar urban patterns, is that it is a city from my childhood, rather than from later in life.

I looked around for the robot trains, and I saw them, but my VW was missing. I began to walk. The sun was hot, and I began looking for the ferry. Why did I need to find the ferry? Why did I expect to find it in downtown Vancouver? Walking in the hot sun reminded me of Mexico, so soon I was on the outskirts of La Paz, the southern Baja desert shimmering in the heat. The heat was oppressive.

That made me wake up. I'd put my head under my blanket, like a turtle, and it was too warm. I'd slept later than usual – much later.

Whenever I sleep much later than my usual 6-7 AM wake-up time, I imagine that my body's immune system is fighting something. And the dreams get weird.

Case in point.

[daily log: walking, 7.5km]

Caveat: Tárrases

I’m not exactly in the closet about my geofiction hobby – I’ve blogged about it once or twice before, and in fact I link to it in my blog’s sidebar, too – so alert blog-readers will have known it is something I do.
Nevertheless, I’ve always felt oddly reticent about broadcasting this hobby too actively. It’s a “strange” hobby in many people’s minds, and many aren’t sure what to make of it. Many who hear of it percieve it to be perhaps a bit childish, or at the least unserious. It’s not a “real” hobby, neither artistic, like writing or drawing, nor technical, like coding or building databases. Yet geofiction, as a hobby, involves some of all of those skills: writing, drawing, coding and database-building.
Shortly after my cancer surgery, I discovered the website called OpenGeofiction (“OGF”). It uses open source tools related to the OpenStreetmap project to allow users to pursue their geofiction hobby in a community of similar people, and “publish” their geofictions (both maps and encyclopedic compositions) online.
Early last year, I became one of the volunteer administrators for the website. In fact, much of what you see on the “wiki” side of the OGF website is my work (including the wiki’s main page, where the current “featured article” is also mine), or at the least, my collaboration with other “power users” at the site. I guess I enjoy this work, even though my online people skills are not always great. Certainly, I have appreciated the way that some of my skills related to my last career, in database design and business systems analysis, have proven useful in the context of a hobby. It means that if I ever need to return to that former career, I now have additional skills in the areas of GIS (geographic information systems) and wiki deployment.
Given how much time I’ve been spending on this hobby, lately, I have been feeling like my silence about it on my blog was becoming inappropriate, if my blog is truly meant to reflect “who I am.”
So here is a snapshot of what I’ve been working on. It’s a small island city-state, at high latitudes in the Southern Hemisphere, with both “real-world” hispanic and fully fictional cultural elements. Its name is Tárrases, on the OGF world map here.
Here is a “zoomable and slidable” map window, linked to the area I’ve been creating, made using the leaflet tool.

There were some interesting technical challenges to get this to display correctly on my blog, involving several hours of research and coding trial and error. If anyone is interested in how to get the javascript-based leaflet map extension to work on a webpage (with either real or imaginary map links), including blogs such as typepad that don’t support it with a native plugin, I’m happy to help.
I have made a topo layer, too. I am one of only 2-3 users on the OGF website to attempt this – But the result is quite pleasing.

I have always loved maps, and since childhood, I have sometimes spent time drawing maps of imaginary places. However, I never dreamed that I’d be producing professional-quality, internet-accessible maps of imaginary places. I believe it is a kind of artform.
So that’s where my time off sometimes disappears to.
UPDATE NOTE 1, 2016-12-05: The topo view is currently broken due to some work I’m doing. It will be repaired eventually.
UPDATE NOTE 2, 2017-02-16: The topo view has been repaired.
UPDATE NOTE 3, 2019-08-15: I noticed while doing other blog maintenance that the leaflet embeds were broken. I spent a few hours fixing them – apparently some recent leaflet.js update wasn’t backward-compatible (argh).
UPDATE NOTE 4, 2021-10-13: I noticed while doing other blog maintenance that the leaflet embeds were broken (again). I spent some time fixing them (again). Using a leaflet plugin for wordpress, now. Let’s see how long that works…. 
[daily log: walking, 1.5km]

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