My name is Jared Way. I was born in rural Far Northern California, and became an "adoptive" Minnesotan. I have lived in many other places: Mexico City, Philadelphia, Valdivia (Chile), Los Angeles. And for 11 years, I was an expatriate living in South Korea. In the summer of 2018, I made another huge change, and relocated to Southeast Alaska, which is my uncle's home.
For many years I was a database programmer, with a background in Linguistics and Spanish Literature. In Korea, worked as an EFL teacher.
In June, 2013, while I was in Ilsan in South Korea, I was diagnosed with cancer, and underwent successful treatment. That changed my life pretty radically.
Currently, you could say I'm "between jobs," somewhat caretaking my uncle (to the extent he tolerates that) and getting adapted to life in rural Alaska after so many years as an urban dweller.
I started this blog before I even had the idea of going to Korea (first entry: Caveat: And lo...). So this is not meant to be a blog about Korea, by any stretch of the imagination. But life in Korea, and Korean language and culture, inevitably have come to play a central role in this blog's current incarnation.
Basically, this blog is a newsletter for the voices in my head. It keeps everyone on the same page: it has become a sort of aide-mémoire.
If you're curious about me, there is a great deal of me here. I believe in what I call "opaque transparency" - you can learn almost everything about me if you want, but it's not immediately easy to find.
A distillation of my personal philosophy (at least on good days):
I have made the realization that happiness is not a mental state. It is not something that is given to you, or that you find, or that you can lose, or that can be taken from you. Happiness is something that you do. And like most things that you do, it is volitional. You can choose to do happiness, or not. You have complete freedom with respect to the matter.
"Ethical joy is the correlate of speculative affirmation." - Gilles Deleuze (writing about Spinoza).
Geofiction - this has evolved into a significant "hobby" for me. I like to draw imaginary maps, and there is a website that has enabled this vice.
I worked as a volunteer administrator for the site OpenGeofiction on and off for a few years. I created (but no longer maintain) the site's main wiki page: OGF Wiki. I am not currently working as administrator but I remain active on the site.
The above work has required my becoming an expert in the Openstreetmap system. Openstreetmap is an attempt do for online maps what wikipedia has done for encyclopedias. I have considered becoming an openstreetmap contributor, but I feel that my current location in Korea hinders that, since I don't have a good grasp Korean cartographic naming conventions.
Starting in April, 2018, I decided somewhat capriciously to build my own "OGF stack" on my own server. This was not because I intended to abandon the OGF site, but rather because I wanted to better understand the whole architecture and all its parts. I built a wiki on the Mediawiki platform (the same as wikipedia). This wiki has no content. I built a map tileserver and geospatial database, which contains a very low resolution upload of an imaginary planet called Rahet. And I built a wordpress blog, which is a separate, low-frequency blog intended to focus on my geofictional pursuits rather than this more personalized, general purpose blog. All of these things can be found integrated together on my rent-a-server, here: geofictician.net
TEFL - my "profession," such as it is.
Online English Grammar reference Grammarist. Useful for settling disputes over grammar.
We had three Halloween parties - to cover the various shifts of children we teach. One yesterday and two today. It was all barely-managed chaos, but I think the kids had fun. I had fun. But it's a lot of work, too. We did various activites: memorizing Halloween-themed poems or songs, face (or hand) painting, costumes (for those kids that brought costumes), and my favorite, paper decorations. Then the kids would march down to one room where the Assistant Manager had set up as a witch giving out candy. They would knock, say "trick or treat" and would have to present something: their song or poem or painting or costume or craft. The paper crafts were attached to the wall. There are no pictures of me or the kids in action - because I was too busy to take pictures. I was kind of coordinating everything, and running from classroom to classroom making sure everyone had something to do.
We had a Halloween party at hagwon for the Tuesday/Thursday kids. Then we'll have one tomorrow for the Monday/Wednesday/Friday kids.
My costume is a sort of "Zorro lite" - with a fork. A fork, because I have a plastic pitchfork, instead of a plastic sword. I'm surprised at how many kids recognize that I'm trying to be Zorro - it's just a hat, mask, and black coat.
Normally I sleep for about 7 hours a night, if I don't set my alarm I'll just wake up after about 7 hours, regardless. After yesterday's disturbed and half-sleepless morning, however, I was very, very tired last night. I went to bed right at midnight. I had noticed a sign in the elevator (
picture at right, click to enbiggen) posted by my building's administration saying that that time of the year when the heat comes on has arrived. You can note that the sign explains that when the overnight temperatures are between 0 and 10 degrees Celsius, the heat is only on at night, but then once the overnights drop below zero, they'll leave it on all day. So when I got back to my apartment, given it was forcast to be around 5 C overnight, I turned on the heat in my apartment - partly, because I want to make sure it works for the season before it becomes a critical matter. But... I was feeling oddly cold, too. I assume it's some kind of cold or flu, starting up.
So my apartment became unpleasantly warm for sleeping, and at around 2 AM, after 2 hours of restless sleep, I woke up. I drank some water, turned the heat back off, opened a window, and went back to sleep. I hadn't turned on any alarm. And lo and behold, I awoke at 10:45 am - which means I basically slept for almost 11 hours. I haven't slept that late in ages.
It must be a cold coming on. Or stress. Speaking of stress, my blood pressure was down slightly upon return to the doctor yesterday morning - they said it was only "dangerous" rather than "unacceptable." So they certified my health for the Provincial Education Office, provisionally. I thought these health inspections were supposed to be about drugs, not other issues. But whatever. I guess it's true I've got to somehow get control of this: more exercise, better diet, less stress.
I like that I got all that extra sleep, but it kind of destroys my morning habits of leisurely consuming several cups of coffee and doing some reading or writing or something. It's like I wake up and rather than a 6 hour morning stretching out ahead of me, I have only a few hours to get things done and get to work. I've been going into work earlier than the mandatory 3 pm time almost every day, lately, and it's going to get worse. Staff changes at work mean that my class load is going to increase.
가랑비에 옷 젖는 줄 모른다 drizzle-IN clothing be-damp-PART line not-know-PRES [Like] not knowing [about] damp clothes on the line in a drizzle.
"The little things add up over time." That can be true about negative things or positive things, but clearly this is referring more to the negative. I wonder how closely it might correlate, alternately, with the straw that broke the camel's back? I should ask someone.
Wow I slept badly last night. I'm stressing about something. Specifically, my allegedly too high blood pressure - the doctor wants me to go back. Of course, stressing about it is exactly the worst thing for it. Knowing this doesn't help.
I had an "off-line" day - I forced myself to not go on my computer until now. And I'm not sure I have figured out my new phone, either - so I had a non-technological day. I've been reading a biography of Park Chung-Hee, by Chong-Sik Lee, that my friend Peter loaned to me. It's really very interesting.
Somewhat discordantly...or at the least, unrelatedly:
What I'm listening to right now.
McGinty, "Farewell to Nova Scotia."
I only visited Nova Scotia once. I was 11 or 12 years old.
I read the most incredible short story, online, the other day. I'm not going to try to summarize it - it falls in the category of speculative fiction, and as sci-fi it's deeply implausible. But it's a conceit, or maybe an allegory. It's awesome. I suggest reading it:
My students taught me a phrase: "이빵꾸똥꾸야!" They said it means you hate something - the thing you're talking to - a kind of vocative "I hate you."
But a little bit of looking around the internet adds some information. It's "little-kid" talk, originated in a TV show from a few years ago. And roughly, its more literal meaning might be "you farty butt."
I work Saturday mornings. It's kind of hard to do, when I work afternoon/evenings the other 5 days of the week. But at least it means I get a day-and-a-half weekend. Today was a rainy day.
I left work and took a picture of the fall trees and the rain and the traffic. Hugok is the name of the neighborhood where KarmaPlus academy is located. I took the picture below standing on the corner in front of work, as I was leaving. The building in the center across the street was the first building I worked in in Hugok, in 2007 (Tomorrow School, which no longer exists).
Yesterday, we had our own presidential debate. The debate proposition was: "Barack Obama should be re-elected as president of the U.S." They divided about evenly between Romney supports and Obama supporters, after the dust settled (we've been working on this all month).
I gave my most advanced students (ISP7 cohort - all 8th graders) many lists of the "Top 10 reasons to vote for X" style, but they crafted and chose their reasons themselves.
I'm amazed at how my kids have handled this debate topic. It's incredibly difficult, and hard for them to connect to or understand, too - they're Korean 8th graders, after all: they don't know or care that much about US politics. I actually expected a much lower level of interest and dedication to this topic than they have shown - I was doing it more as a prelude to the real fun: we're going to be tackling the Korean presidential election, next, which votes in December.
I voted for Obama mostly as seeking for (hoping
for) a repudiation of George W. Bush. And so the reason I cannot vote
for Obama this time round is because Obama has utterly failed to
repudiate anything Bush did: Guantanamo still open, drone strikes are
more popular than ever, wars only wind down in defence-industry-friendly
ways, the Patriot Act persists, Bush's tax cuts persist, health care
reform (if it must be done) is in the pockets of the insurance industry
(seriously: let's compare Bush's oft-forgotten humongous new drug
entitlement with Obamacare and try to find philosophical differences),
etc., etc., ad infinitum.
There's some unpleasant irony in the fact that the Right (such as it is) accuses Obama of such things as socialism and betraying American values. To the former accusation, Obama is no more socialist than Bush - which is faux socialist, at best, though certainly more socialist (e.g. "big government") than anyone on the right wants to admit. To the latter accusation, well, I would have to say that GW Bush was he who most "betrayed American values" - Obama is merely continuing that trend. Here's an interesting thought: Colin Powell has endorsed Obama, again. Wasn't he, uh, GW Bush's Secretary of State during that most stunning of betrayals of American values, the Iraq invasion?
blog post at the website-whose-name-I-hate sums it up most excellently.
It seems I will be voting "third party" this year - back to old ways, I
guess - though I'm a bit hesitant to wear my politics so prominently on my sleave, as posting on this blog inevitably means.
The same blog post points to a somewhat apocryphal quote from Karl Rove, that is utterly stunning in its scope:
an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while
you’re studying that reality — judiciously, as you will — we’ll act
again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s
how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors . . . and you, all of
you, will be left to just study what we do.
Obama will be remembered as only the second emperor of the new imperium that Julius Caesar - ahem, George W. Bush - founded.
Yesterday was a very long day. I got up and went with Curt to the hospital in the morning, for a stupid reason: I had done a health checkup / drug screening back in May, because it's required for the Provincial Office of Education for hagwon employees, but then Curt forgot (or procrastinated on) submitting the paperwork from it, such that it was "out of date" when he went to submit it. So... I had to do it again.
I'm still suffering from too high blood pressure. And I haven't managed to shed any pounds, either. I continue to be frustrated with my feeling that I should be managing these things better somehow. Probably, that frustration leads to stress which is the cause of the cortisol that's causing the problems in the first place. Sigh.
After the hospital, Curt and I had some juk (rice porridge) at a juk-joint in my neighborhood. We were eating, and Curt told me that he doesn't actually like juk. "Why did you get it?" I asked. "You got it," he explained. It was an odd moment. Like a moment in a novel, interpolated into a regular reality.
Later, I had a busy day at work. And I went with some coworkers to Costco with the idea of buying some Halloween-themed stuff for our hagwon Halloween party next week, only to find that Costco had exactly 1 (one) Halloween decoration in stock. It was dumb. We bought a lot of candy, but we'll have to find the Halloween stuff elsewhere, or improvise our own (which I would personally prefer but doing that does seem to be labor intensive).
Then we had a hoesik (business-dinner) for a departing coworker - nothing more exciting than watching a bunch of Koreans drinking too much. Well, that's cynical. I genuinely like and respect most of my coworkers - they're good people and well-meaning. And often very hard-working, too - more so than I am, in point of fact. But I always feel awkward in the alcohol-themed hoesik - especially since I've gone back to my teetotaller ways, lately. I did have one cup of beer - and it was enough to leave me feeling woozy and with a splitting headache in the morning - or maybe that was just staying up too late.
You definitely learn things about people in that kind of environment that you can't learn if you don't see them that way. Which is why I always go to hoesik, even though I feel awkward about it. It's anthropologically fascinating. That sounds so cold, doesn't it?
절약이 돈 버는 것 thrift-SUBJ money make[money]-PART thing Thrift is a money-making thing.
"A penny saved is a penny earned." Well, yes, the whole frugality thing, right?
I have good days and bad days, on that. Certainly, I try to live within my means, even as my "means" have been cut by about 75% over the last half decade. I made the decision, at some point, that money wasn't the main thing in my life. But it still has to be dealt with - managed.
I slept very deeply, probably because of all the walking yesterday. I was surprised to hear thunder. It's rare in Korea - certainly I don't associate it with fall weather. It was raining hard - the swooshing sound of cars and buses on the busy streets echoed outside my window. My legs were sore. I made some coffee.
Ganghwa Island is a very historical place. It's a large island approximately straight west from Seoul and also straight west from Ilsan, but there's not really any direct route there from Ilsan. I took a zig-zaggy bus over there with my friend Peter, and we walked a 22 km route down the island from the bus terminal in the main town at the northern end all the way to a very historic temple complex called Jeondeungsa. It had a lot of tourists. We saw a lot of rice being harvested. We stopped at a hole-in-the-wall called "Mexican Pizza Chicken" and had some chicken (they didn't have pizza, oddly) that didn't seem very Mexican. But it wasn't bad. Random strangers handed us fruit and nuts. Some of this, we ate. It was a good day, but now I'm very tired. Here are many pictures, starting with a googlemap of the route, in context west of Goyang (Ilsan - where I live) and Bucheon (where Peter lives).
So, without a detailed travelogue - perhaps just a random comment here or there - here are some pictures, in chronological order.
A farm house with a mushroom-shaped roof.
A cute dog in front of a very western style house.
A rice-harvesting machine, cutting rice.
A country lane.
A sign to a tomb of Leegyubo.
A farm house with a strange but interesting design.
Exploring Lee Gyu-bo's tomb site.
Caveat: I find dumptrucks exciting. Because... of the blog name, y'know?
We were having a
speaking class in my E1-1 cohort (6th graders). These aren't the brightest bulbs, but they're fun kids. I had elicited and
finally gotten, after much trial and tribulation, a list on the board of
various social issues: e.g. the environment, crime, homeless people,
"crazy" people (mentally disabled), Dokdo (Korea's revanchist
territorial dispute with Japan), drugs, etc.
Then we went down
the list, and I was trying to get them to describe possible actions
they, as individuals, could do with respect to these issues. Most of
them were very appropriate for their age and ability level: "don't
litter" for environment problems, "take them to hospital" for crazy
But then a student utterly shocked me.
"What about for the
problem of drugs?" I asked. I know the kids get some level of
drug-awareness education in their public schools, perhaps somewhat
similar to the infamous DARE in the US. "What can we do?"
Harry raised his hand.
"What?" I asked.
to Netherlands," was his immediate and unironic suggestion.
I'm afraid I started laughing. I
never would have expected a Korean 6th grader to come up with such a
response. I would not have expected it even from an American kid - though US kids tend to be more "worldly" than Koreans at that age.
Here are some more examples of reduplicative (or semi-reduplicative) phenomimes and/or psychomimes that I recently ran across. I've written about them before (twice). I've given up trying to determine which are technically phenomimes and which are technically psychomimes - the boundary between them seems awfully fuzzy. I suspect things dealing with mood and feeling should be called psychomimes and those dealing with taste (such as most of those below) should be called phenomimes. But aren't tastes feelings, too? (The -하다 [-hada] are just the verbal-making suffix)
섭섭(-하다) [seopseop] = to be disappointed, to be sad 새콤달콤(-하다) [saekomdalkom] = to be sweet and sour 쫄깃쫄깃(-하다) [jjolgitjjolgit] = to be chewy 바삭바삭(-하다) [basakbasak] = to be crispy 아삭아사(-하다) [asakasak] = to be crunchy 살살 [salsal] = softly
[Update (2015-10-08): I decided to create a consolidated list of examples, which I can update periodically.]
Most dreams seem like rehashes of old material, poorly or incompletely executed at best. But occassionally something really strange comes along. This morning I was dreaming something like a crime-procedural (a la CSI). But the specific situation involved investigating a dead person's past work history at a university library. This latter is the connection to my subconscious's accumulation of experience - I spent far too much time in university libraries, when younger. But I was the investigator, in this dream-story.
I had found a book that had been checked out by the deceased person in 1979, with those old-style check-out cards, and it had a date-stamp and their name written by hand on a list glued into the front cover of the book, in that old style libraries used to use to check out books, before computers and bar codes and all of that. So I wanted to take the book as evidence of something - I'm not sure what, but in the dream, it was important, as it showed something critical to the case I was building. But taking the book was a problem - I went to check it out, and the first thing that happened was some idiotic student worker at the library said, "...well, this book hasn't been checked out since 1979, so we need to put in a bar code and a new computer-printed information page."
He moved to remove the sticker in the front of the book with the deceased person's name on it. And I said, "Wait! That's the part that I need - that's why I want to check out the book."
This boggled the mind of the student worker, so I asked to see the supervisor. No one could even understand what I was talking about - even when I began referencing the fact that there had been a murder and that I was trying to get this book as evidence. I considered just taking the book as evidence through some kind of crime-scene confiscation scheme - but for some procedural reason I didn't have access to that pathway of action.
Finally, I was talking to some head librarian. "Why won't anyone help me solve this problem?" I asked. The woman was memorable - she resembled someone I actually knew in college. She didn't even look up from her work. She grimmaced, as if to say, 'how could this man be so ignorant?' And she said, simply, "You put a crook in their craw."
I woke up with a start. Why? The phrase was striking, and puzzling. Was it a real expression? It seemed familiar, to me, as I mulled it over in my waking-up brain. I couldn't shake the expression - it was sticking with me. Finally, I googled it. Nothing for "crook in their craw." A hits few for "crook in his craw" and "crook in my craw." There are enough hits - mostly in the comments parts of websites - to believe that it's a real expression, and not just a conjuration of my overactive imagination. But it's definitely not very common. It seems to be a southernism - perhaps it entered my mind while in the military, or via my mother, who occassionally lets her youth in Arkansas show through her layers of dialectical detritus. What is a crook in a craw? It's something that bends you out of shape. It's something that annoys you.
So in the dream, I was annoying those people. And I still don't know why, as I was distracted by the language used by the person who was trying to explain to me that I was annoying them. Is that annoying?
쇠뿔도 단김에 빼라 bull's-horn-TOO at-once dodge-COMMAND Dodge the bull's horn at once.
"Strike while the iron is hot" is the translation offered for this expression on various websites and Korean-English dictionaries. I don't like how no one tries to actually translate the literal meaning of the proverb - they just offer "Strike while the iron is hot." But there's no striking, no iron, no hotness - not in the actual Korean proverb. What there is is a bull's horn and some kind of dodging or evading or removing. 단김에 seems to be a variant of 단결에 "in a body, in combination, in solidarity" and therefore "at once."
I stayed very late at work, talking about stuff with the boss. I think the post-merger situation isn't all good. I don't know what solutions are possible - the big players in the market seem to be engaging in price-war: they're undercutting the tuition of the smaller hagwon. Whether this is sustainable or not, I can't guess. The staff at "KarmaPlus" isn't really cohering into a single team. How does one make this happen? I don't know.
What I'm listening to right now.
Magnetic Fields, "Meaningless."
Meaningless? You mean it's all been meaningless? Every whisper and caress? Yes yes yes it was totally meaningless Meaningless like when two fireflies flouresce Just like everything I guess Less less yes, it was utterly meaningless Even less a little glimpse of nothingness sucking meaning from the rest of this mess Yes yes yes it was thoroughly meaningless and if some dim bulb should say we were in love in some way kick all his teeth in for me and if you feel like keeping on kicking, feel free Meaningless Who dare say it wasn't meaningless? Shout from the rooftops and address the press Ha ha ha, it was totally meaningless Meaningless Meaning less than a game of chess Just like your mother said and mother knows best I knew it all the time but now I confess Yes yes yes how deliciously meaningless Yes yes yes effervescently meaningless Yes yes yes it was beautifully meaningless Yes yes yes it was profoundly meaningless Yes yes yes definatively meaningless Yes yes yes comprehensively meaningless Yes yes yes magnificently meaningless Yes yes yes how incredibly meaningless Yes yes yes unprecedentedly meaningless Yes yes yes how mind-blowingly meaningless Yes yes yes how unbelievably meaningless Yes yes yes how infinitely meaningless
My students are writing things that resemble blog entries - my blog entries.
Here is the work of a 5th grader who goes by the English nickname of Kevin. I transcribe what he wrote, following my usual policy of not making any corrections in the transcription - he lost points because he didn't make any effort to even romanize much less try to translate the names of the places he visited (I've provided romanizations in square brackets and translations following).
I got up at 6 o'clock, Because I went exploration. I ate breakfast. Then I rode bus. I went to seoul. First, I went to '탑골공원' [tapgolgongwon]. There is '원각사지십층석탑' [wongaksajisipcheungseoktap]. Then I went to '안중근 김구 기념관' [anjunggeun gimgu ginyeomgwan]. I saw 안중근's work. And I went to '백범 김구 기념관' [baekbeom gimgu ginyeomgwan]. I saw 김구's work. Finally, I went to '서대문 형무소' [seodaemun hyeongmuso]. I saw prison, execution ground. It was horrible. Then I reached home. And, I ate bread. It was delicious. I am proud of hero. If hero not there Japan get rid of Korea. Thank you, hero.
This tiny essay is chock-full of cultural content. So I provide notes - including many links to the fabulous wikithing.
'I ate bread' - Koreans call pastries 빵 which they then inevitably translate literally as 'bread.' In fact, when they say 'bread' they almost never mean what we mean by 'bread' in the West - they mean pastries.
A good nationalist-leaning, hero-worshipping, colonialist-bashing education is an important part of every child's upbringing, doncha think? I don't think this is any different than, say, an American fifth-grader going to the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, etc., in Philadelphia, for example. But it's a different perspective to see the propagandization in action from a cultural distance.
짖는 것은 무는 것만 못하다 bark-PART thing-TOPIC bite-PART thing-ONLY can't-do That which barks isn't sufficient to bite.
"One's bark is worse than one's bite." The ~만하다 ending means "is sufficient to" in one of my grammar books, so I decided that ~만 못하다 must mean "isn't sufficient to" - but what I'm not confident about is how this works when attached to the periphrastic ~는 것 "that which ~". I just kind of ignored that aspect in the second half of the sentence.
Speaking of bark worse than bite: my boss. Just sayin'.
If I ever went to Africa, Ghana is one of the countries that most interests me. I can't really explain why - it's partly related to my econo-geekery: Ghana is a remarkable economic success story, in many respects, in a region replete with disasters. That, in and of itself, is interesting. But as the culture grows more prosperous, it takes on the trappings of the globalized bourgeois everywhere. One aspect: pop music and videos.
I spent part of the afternoon yesterday watching Ghanian music videos. This is inexplicable.
What I'm listening to right now.
Becca, "Daa Ke Daa."
And meanwhile, reading Henry James. Why did I ever dislike this author?
The article at The Atlantic website begins with this striking observation: "More people die from suicide than from murder and war combined, throughout the world, every year." From there, the author, Brian Gabriel, develops the idea that depression may be a consequence of evolutionary success: which is to say, there is something positively adaptive about the genetics behind depression, related to both immune response and other, more behavioral results. Basically, if you're a member of hominid species that mostly dies of disease in youth, there may be an evolutionary advantage to reacting to stress by isolating yourself and sleeping all day.
This actually makes some sense. I'm not savvy enough to judge the bits about immune response - and I also seem to remember learning that depression actually lowers immune response - so I'm not sure how that works or what the interaction is.
Regardless, it's a very interesting, brief article.