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]

Caveat: 30 years in a moment

I had a very strange dream during that dawn twilight time when I often dream.

I was walking around Paris. I actually did that… about 31 years ago. It is strange how dreams dredge up old material like that. It was quite vivid.

There was a strange building (Centre Pompidou?) and I felt compelled to go inside. Inside it was like some kind of bar or nightclub, but the people were all just standing around – not drinking or eating or dancing or anything. I had this thought that they were ghosts.

I tried to leave the place, but I was unable to do it. It was like a maze, trying to get out. It became a maze – an image borrowed from some movie seen on TV, perhaps – a hedgerow maze with little gold flowers attached the leaves of the hedges. The flowers were like stars strewn across the sky. The sky whirled, as if time was moving rapidly.

I lay down, and the floor was asphalt. This has some precedent in reality, at some point in my past. I felt lost.

When I awoke, it was later than my usual wake-up time. The weather is hot, already at 7:30 am, and the sun is shining in my southeast-facing windows. The fan is blowing, and the air seems a little less humid than yesterday, but still my apartment is uncomfortably warm.

I have no idea.

[daily log: walking, ]

Caveat: Captain Bligh and the Cladistics

I had this weird dream that I was attending some university, and went to class to find that Captain Bligh was giving a lecture on cladistics.

Actually, this wasn't so surprising – in the past several days, I have consulted wikipedia articles on both topics: Captain Bligh and cladistics.

Here's what's weird, though: the reason I had consulted those wikipedia articles was because they had appeared separately in dreams, previously. So there's this strange conversation going on between wikipedia and my subconscious. I want in on it. I hate that feeling of being on the outside of a conversation where I have a clear interest, unable to break in or really understand what's going on. (Wait… that describes every single day, at work.)

About three days ago, I awoke (as I inevitably do, these days, several times a night, because this medication I'm taking seems to have shrunk my bladder) at around 3 am. I had been having a strange dream where some rioting Koreans were complaining about cladistics. Holding up signs with the word "cladistics" in red circles with red prohibition lines through them. I knew I had once known this word, but I couldn't quite recall what it was. So I grabbed my phone wikipediaed it, right then and there (isn't the 21st century interesting?). I (re-)learned all about cladistics, as I finally drifted back to sleep. I guess I must have studied it, at some point in the past, probably while fulfilling my botany minor as an undergraduate. I do find it interesting.

Then two nights ago, I had some dream fragment where I was with some of my students and we had to fight pirates. This isn't that implausible – pirates are fixtures of kids stories and cartoons everywhere, in today's global culture – and thus they come up now and then in class conversations and jokes and creative endeavors. I had forgotten the dream, until yesterday, sitting bored at work because no one had showed up for one of my classes (not that uncommon in the immediate post-test-prep period), I remembered the dream, and recalled that one of the pirates had been "Captain Bligh." Of course, this is ignorance. In googling Bligh, I (re-)learned that he was not a pirate, nor were his antagonists, the mutineers led by Fletcher Christian. Anyway, as before, I find it an interesting story. I find the person of Peter Heywood to be the story's most intriguing: going "native" in Tahiti, returned to Britain, condemned to death for mutiny, but pardoned and a career navel officer. It made me think, tangentially, that I need to get back to my recent aborted attempt to re-read Melville's Billy Budd.

That was all rather digressive, in an expository way. The point being, that last night, these two things came together again in the dream. The dream was borrowing from recent waking life – which is common enough. What is uncommon is that the recent waking life had been borrowing from dreams, in turn. Perhaps if I had been taking better notes, I would find earlier pointers from those previous dreams to waking life, again. Perhaps I could spiral, helix-like, back through dream and consciousness into my own remote past? Perhaps this could be the plot of a hard-to-understand novel that no one would read. Perhaps, Borges-like, just proposing the novel does most of the creative heavy lifting involved, and I can now rest satisfied.

I do need to rest, anyway. I woke up far too early, this morning, and have insomniated myself right through the overcast dawn. But I must go to work – it's Saturmorning and my "naesin semi-vacation" is over.

"Captain Bligh and the Cladistics" should be the name of a nerdcore hip-hop collective from somewhere in Polynesia, or perhaps Long Beach.

[daily log: walking, 6.5km]

Caveat: Svekolny for Christmas Dinner with the Presidents

I haven't been sleeping well, lately. I attribute the issue to some of the side-effects of this medication, but there may be other things going on too – it's spring, and that means a lot more allergens in the air, as well as many smoggy days in Korea.

I awoke last night at around 3 am, from a very vivid and complex, novelistic dream. The main outline of it was that I invited Vladimir Putin to Christmas dinner – not once, but twice. The first time, it was somehow in response to some kind of weird contest – he was visiting Korea and so there was some kind of contest and next thing you know, Putin was visiting me for Christmas dinner. Of course, I didn't know what to do. I tried to make some svekolny (a kind of Russian beet and garlic salad), but there were also some strange Mexican dishes, as well as sides of things like kimchi. It was all kind of ad hoc, and Putin, with an entourage, showed up and was polite. But when he went to try the svekolny, he made a terrible face and accused me of trying to poison him. This caused the to-be-expected media conflaguration: "American in Korea tries to poison the Russian president!"

Somehow, I convinced the Korean authorities that it was all a mistake, and the case was dropped. And then there was a "fast-forward" in the dream (novelistically), and it was the next Christmas. I sent Putin an email message to his personal email (which I somehow had access to because of the previous year's events). I told him that this year, I would do better, if he came to Christmas dinner.

This time, instead of at my apartment, I borrowed one of my coworker's larger apartments, and coworkers from Karma helped me prepare. I made more Russian dishes, including svekolny, and I also made a turkey and some traditional American food.

I didn't hear from Putin until Christmas Eve, when, unexpectedly, he sent me a message accepting my invitation. This time, the Korean politicians tried to get in on the publicity, and President Park showed up (she was wearing a Korean hanbok – traditional Korean clothing). In the dream, she was being very polite to me, like I was some kind of celebrity, but one of her police protection agents pulled me aside, and told me in a frighteningly cold tone that if I screwed this up, I would be expelled from Korea forever. In the dream, I wasn't worried.

Some of my coworkers were there, and I also invited some of my favorite students – about 20 of them. But when the Russian FSB agents showed up prior to Putin's arrival (to clear the area's security, I guess), they said that the children were too dangerous, and would not be allowed to see the Russian president. 

President Park was put off by this, and she said she would go with the children into the other room. But the children said they didn't want her there, so dejectedly she returned to the dining room just as Putin showed up. 

He sat down and leaned close, almost whispering. "You are very brave," he said. He was speaking Russian, but somehow, I understood him (which maybe makes sense – I did, after all, study Russian for two years in college). 

"Why am I brave?" I asked. He was so close I could smell his breath.

"To invite me back. Because of this, I respect you." 

I felt like I was talking to some kind of Mafia boss. He asked me what I thought about the Panama Papers (here we see the "current events" issue that perhaps brought about the dream?). 

I told him that I thought that the world was showing a double standard – everyone is all for online privacy, but if you're rich and powerful, you're not allowed privacy, in the name of "transparency." This argument is actually one that has occurred to me, but I'm not sure I fully endorse it. In the dream, I suppose I was trying to ingratiate myself with the Russian president, so as not to antagonize him. After all, my stay in Korea now was contingent on success.

I offered him my svekolny. He tasted it, and made the same disgusted, horrified face as he had last time. My heart fell, and I saw the Korean secret service agent glaring at me. 

Putin looked around, and appeared to notice President Park for the first time. "Try some," he said, like a serpent. "It's delicious." 

"I only eat Korean food," she averred, shaking her head.

Putin took several more bites, struggling to eat it. I wondered what I had done wrong – it tasted OK to me. But then again, my sense of taste is pretty deficient, these days.

He did not complain, however. He persevered through the rest of the meal quite politely. He asked me what I thought of Trump. I told him my sincere opinion. He made another face, but he said nothing. President Park was looking annoyed, because he wasn't talking to her at all. He was talking to Curt and Helen, from work. They seemed smitten by him, but I was only impressed with his tact – that he was clearly putting up with this for some ulterior reason of his own.

He left, with his security detail, without further incident. Park and the other Koreans left too. I went in the other room to check on my students. They were very curious to hear how it went. As I told the rapt kids about the experience, I fingered a very short "thank you" email to Putin on my smart phone. I asked him why he had tolerated my terrible cooking.

Almost instantly, I got an answer. "You showed great strength of character, asking me back, and so out of respect I had to eat it. It was truly terrible." His email included a smiley emoticon in the Korean style: ^_^. 

That was a very strange dream

[daily log: walking, 1km]

Caveat: The knowledge runs down

I awoke from a dream this morning. I was going to medical school in Mexico City.

Although it sounds preposterous, there are elements in my background that make this dream-plot more plausible, at least as a dream, than one might expect. When I lived in Mexico City in the 1980s, one of my coworkers, Joaquín, was studying in medical school (keeping in mind the caveat that at that time, a medical degree in Mexico was a baccalaureate degree. So at that time, I was immersed in a kind of second-hand medical education. Later, finishing my own undergraduate work, I studied quite a few botany courses, from which I derived a kind of comfort with biological discourses. More recently, since my cancer, I have developed a habit of trying hard to understand as much as possible about the various medical situations and treatments I have experienced, which has evolved into a kind of "hobby" of reading online medical blogs.

Anyway, that's just background, in an effort to understand how my brain managed to put together this dream, maybe. It wasn't that detailed. I was at my workplace in Mexico City, the main difference being that I was in medical school too – not just Joaquín. Of course, I was studying things related to cancer. I was having a difficult time, however. I couldn't seem to remember any of the various things I needed to memorize. Finally I looked over at Joaquín, and he just grinned. He had one of the fat textbooks open but was wearing it like a hat on the top of his head.

"What are you doing?" I asked. There was a weird echo, and when I looked around, I wasn't in my workplace but rather inside a hospital – kind of a cross between the Cancer Center here in Korea and the hospital where I spent some time in Mexico City. 

Joaquín looked like he was ready to perform surgery – except for the book on his head. He didn't answer for a while. So I asked him again, "What are you doing?"

Finally, he said laconically, "The knowldege runs down from the book into your brain."

[daily log: walking, 7.5km]

Caveat: We are fixed right where we stand

Saturday there was a huge thunderstorm. It was a monsoon-style deluge. Yesterday the weather was very spring-like, but I  was in a strange mood.

I'd dreamed I was one of my students, taking some test. But my version of the test was in Korean – of course. So I didn't understand the test. It was sad. I felt empathy for my students.

What I'm listening to right now.

Modest Mouse, "The View."


Your gun went off.
Well you shot off your mouth and look where it got you.
My mouth runs on too.

Shouts from both sides,
"Well we've got the land but they've got the view!"
Well now here's the clue.

Life it rents us.
And yeah I hope it put plenty on you.
Well I hope mine did too.

As life gets longer, awful feels softer.
Well it feels pretty soft to me.
And if it takes shit to make bliss,
then I feel pretty blissfully.

Your gun went off.
Well you shot off your mouth and look where it got you.
My mouth runs on too.

Shouts from both sides,
"Well we've got the land but they've got the view!"
Well now here's the clue.

We are fixed right where we stand.

Life it rents us.
And yeah I hope it put plenty on you.
Well I hope mine did too.

We are fixed right where we are.

As life gets longer, awful feels softer.
Well if feels pretty soft to me.
And if it takes shit to make bliss,
well I feel pretty blissfully.

For every invention made how much time did we save?
We're not much farther than we were in the cave.

As life gets longer, awful feels softer,
and it feels pretty soft to me.
And if it takes shit to make bliss,
well I feel pretty blissfully.

If life's not beautiful without the pain,
well I'd just rather never ever even see beauty again.
Well as life gets longer, awful feels softer.
And it feels pretty soft to me.

For every good deed done there is a crime committed.
We are fixed.
For every step ahead we could have just been seated.
We are fixed.

As life gets longer, awful feels softer.
Well it feels pretty soft to me.
And if it takes shit to make bliss,
well I feel pretty blissfully.

We are fixed.
We are fixed.
We are fixed right where we stand.

Notes for Korean (finding meaning)

  • 동등하다 = to be equal, to be on equal terms with, to be equivalent
  • deriv. 동등히 = equally


[daily log: walking, 7km]

Caveat: The Escherian Escalator Trip

I have had terrible insomnia, the last few days. It impairs me sense of feeling productive in my life, and renders me even less motivated than usual.

I suspect it has to do with the discombobulation of my regular schedule due to the long weekend, but mostly due to my apartment flood, last week, which forced me to make do with a temporarily altered sleeping arrangement – substitute bedding that is less comfortable.

Yesterday morning, I woke very early (3 am), and then lay down to take a nap later on, after the sun came up. During that nap, I had a very strange repeating dream. It repeated many times. I was a police officer. I was going down an escalator. My colleagues – the other police officers – were all children. Yet they were more aware of what it is we were supposed to be doing than I was, and they were telling me what to do. I was at a loss – so much so, that I couldn't make it to the bottom of the escalator, no matter how hard I tried. I could see that I was needed at the bottom, and everyone was telling me to go there, but I couldn't get there. As I looked around, the whole arrangement of the moving stairs was like a complex Escherian machine. All the children were leaving me behind. On and on and on…

I awoke from the nap and took a walk outside. The weather is springlike, despite it being the midwinter festival. I went into a bakery and bought a sandwich, the first since my surgery (and in anticipation of my next surgery, coming up tomorrow). I had all these preconceptions of how I might enjoy that sandwich, but they were preconceptions that were mostly based on experiences from many years ago. In point of fact, eating the sandwich wasn't really very enjoyable. I hate when that happens.

[daily log: walking]

Caveat: So Old

Yesterday dawned as the first truly cold day of winter – my phone reported to me that the outside temperature was -8°C (17°F). When the temperature drops, my sleeping is disrupted because of Korea's ondol heating system – the floors themselves are heated with hot water, radiator style. But, since I sleep on the floor…  well, when the floor becomes hot, that wakes me up – I don't understand how Koreans can sleep on hot surfaces, but they do: even when they use Western-style beds, they put heating pads on them for winter. I often have to migrate to my sofa in the winter for sleeping, because of the hot floor problem. I find sleeping on a hot floor unbearable.

Anyway, I had strange dreams because of my hot floor, before I woke up. 

I was in some global-warming future, I guess. That makes sense – the hot weather part. I was amid some sort of cluster of industrial warehouses, looking for a way home. I was lost, but I didn't feel any anxiety.

I was dreaming that I was very old. I was so old, it was the future. Buildings had forgotten the ground, and engineers had become heroes, who were remembered in parades. Televisions knew my name. I was so old that the future thrummed above me in the sky like a drone, and so old that my death was planted in the ground beneath my feet on the street, like the cracks in pavement that come about as the roots of trees burrow beneath. There were white plastic faucets sprouting from the walls, but they had no water. Only poetry would flow from the white faucets. I was so old, that the president was a child, so I finally was allowed to leave school. I stood in the street. I remember that I was wanting to make one last poem. I lived in all the cities, but all the cities were only one city, and their maps streamed and sparkled like liquid around me, like raindrops in beams of sunlight.

I woke up and tried to write it down, but even as I wrote it, it was like the end of 100 Years of Solitude, and it all faded away.

[daily log: walking, 6km]

I used to post, on This Here Blog Thingy™, a little item I called "Notes for Korean" – these were just an effort to record vocabulary I had run across or had some difficulty in puzzling out, and so I wanted to record it, mostly for my own future reference. I stopped doing it, first because of laziness but also because it didn't really seem to belong in a "blog." But I have decided that it was sufficiently useful to me, in the context of this blog's role as a personal aide-memoire, that I shouldn't worry about the latter, as long as I can overcome the former.  Hence, with very minimal fanfare, I resurrect my… 

Notes for Korean (finding meaning)

  • 뻔하다 = to almost do something, to barely escape doing something
    e.g. 달려오는 자전거에 부딭칠 뻔했다 (from my TOPIK in 30 Days vocab study book)
  • 보복운전 = retaliatory driver (meaning, a road rage person?)
  • 쩍벌남 = a "manspreader" (a guy who hogs space on a bus or train through a blatent open-legged posture – learned from my H2 class)
  • 편 = lit. side, but used in a periphrastic, "… to be on the side of…" to mean "… to tend towards… " or "… to lean towards… " in the sense of behavioral inclination, e.g. 나는 친구에게 서운한 일이 생각면 바로 이야기를 하는 이에요 = If my feelings are hurt by my friends I tend to tell them right away. (found my TOPIK in 30 Days vocab study book, but not explained there – I found explanation, of course, in KGfIL, the best Korean grammar book in the universe)

Caveat: Tied to the shifting ground

I dreamed I was in some rural place. There were ramshackle, badly-plastered buildings scattered on a steep, gravelly hillside. Little springs of water were leaking out of clay embankments and skipping down the steep, tall grass.

The soil was ruddy. It was somewhat reminiscent of places I have seen in Korea, but also, in the dream, I felt the familiarity of my childhood in Northern California, along some river – the Trinity, the Eel. Thinking about it now, it was like my stepfather's "ranch" high above the South Fork of the Trinity river. I used to spend warm summer afternoons out on the hillside, trying to draw imaginary cities out of the rocky clay. 

Perhaps I was a child, myself. Someone nearby had a stuffed toy rabbit, and within the dream, this was utterly unremarkable. There was a dark, shrouded figure lurking in the doorway of one of the buildings, simply watching me. I didn't feel afraid of this, and it did not seem strange.

People were talking, milling around, but I wasn't being social. I was eating fish soup out of a paper cup. The bits of fish seemed like wax – like those was sculptures of food displayed in front of restaurants in Korea, sometimes.

I dropped my paper cup on the ground, and I was so angry, hungry and desperate that I began digging around on the ground for the little bits of fish and vegetables and eating them with chopsticks. Someone was laughing at me – a relative? a friend?

I ended up eating dirt and rocks. I focused on the ground, and ignored the people around me. It was one of those dreams I sometimes have, where I felt myself becoming an animal. Walking on all fours, loping along the hillside, biting at pebbles and blades of grass.

I slipped away into the forest.

What I'm listening to right now.

CHVRCHES, "Clearest Blue."


[Verse 1]
Light is all over us
Like it always was
Like it always was
Shaped, by the clearest blue
But it's not enough
It's not enough, not enough

Just another time I'm caught inside
Every open eye
Holding on tightly to the sides
Never quite learning why
You'll meet me, you'll meet me
You'll meet me halfway

Whenever I feel it coming on
You can be well aware
If ever I try to push away
You can just keep me there
So please say you'll meet me
Meet me halfway

[Verse 2]
Tied, to the shifting ground
Like it always was
Like it always was
You, were the perfect storm
But it's not enough, it's not enough
Not enough, not enough

[Chorus – Variation]
Just another time that I go down
But you are keeping up
Holding to a hope you'll undermine
Never to be reversed

Just another time I'm caught inside
Every open eye
Holding on tightly to the sides
Never quite learning why

Whenever I feel it coming on
You can be well aware
If ever I try to push away
You can just keep me, tell me

[Build Up]
Tell me tell me, you'll meet me
Tell me tell me, you'll keep me
Tell me tell me, you'll meet me
Will you meet me more than halfway up?

Shaped by, clearest blue
Shaped by, clearest blue

Shaped (will you keep it half-a-way)
By, clearest blue (will you keep it half-a-way)
Shaped (will you keep it half-a-way)
By, clearest blue (will you keep it half-a-way)

[daily log: walking, 6km]

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