Sunday, December 28, 2008

한국어 숙제 제12과

12.1
1) 8시 23분입니다.
2) 7시 46분입니다.
3) 12시 반입니다.
4) 3시 12분입니다.
5) 9시 37분입니다.

12.2
실례지만 지금 몇 시입니까?
1) 오전 6시 21분입니다.
2) 오후 4시 17분입니다.
3) 저녁 8시 43분입니다.
4) 5시 6분 전입니다.
5) 11시 10분 전입니다.

12.3
1) 실례지만, 시간이 있습니까?
2) 실례지만, 화장실이 어디입니까?
3) 실례지만, 결혼했습니까?
4) 실례지만, 이름이 무엇입니까?
5) 실례지만, 어디에서 오셨습니까?

12.4
1) 몇 시에 끝납니까? 12시 50분에 끝납니다.
2) 몇 시에 집에 옵니까? 오후 2시 반에 집에 옵니다.
3) 몇 시에 일어납니까? 아침 7시에 일어납니다.
4) 몇 시에 친구를 만납니까? 저녁 6시에 친구를 만납니다.
5) 몇 시에 비행기를 탑니까? 오전 11시 40분에 비행기를 탑니다.

한국어 숙제 제11과

11.1
1) 아침마다 신문을 읽습니다.
2) 해마다 여행을 합니다.
3) 주말마다 운동을 합니다.
4) 월요일마다 회의를 합니다.
5) 여름마다 바다에 갑니다.

11.2
1) 날마다 몇 시간 주무십니까? 날마다 7시간 잡니다.
2) 저녁마다 몇 시간 텔레비전을 봅니까? 저녁마다 2시간 텔레비전을 봅니다.
3) 날마다 몇 시간 일합니까? 날마다 8시간 일합니다.
4) 아침마다 몇 시간 운동합니까? 아침마다 1시간 운동합니다.
5) 날마다 몇 시간 숙제를 합니까? 날마다 2시간 숙제를 합니다.

11.3
1) 몇 명 있습니까? 9명 있습니다.
2) 몇 잔 마십니까? 2잔 마십니다.
3) 몇 개 삽니까? 5개 삽니다.
4) 몇 권 있습니까? 100권 있습니다.
5) 몇 벌 있습니까? 20벌 있습니다.

11.4
1) 선생님이 4분 계십니다.
2) 텔레비전을 1시간 반 봅니다.
3) 커피를 3잔 마십니다.
4) 구두를 2켤레 삽니다.
5) 맥주를 10병 삽니다.

한국말 숙제 제6과~제10과 복습

읽기 연습 1: 연습 문제
1. 생일이 몇 월 며칠입니까?
생일이 5월 9일입니다.
2. 어디에서 생일 파티를 했습니까?
집에서 파티를 했습니다.
3. 이 사람은 무엇을 받았습니까?
선물을 많이 받았습니다.

읽기 연습 2: 연습 문제
1. 어제 날씨가 어땠습니까?
어제 날씨가 참 좋았습니다.
2. 지영 씨는 어제 어디에 갔습니까?
지영 씨는 어제 여의도에 갔습니다.
3. 지영 씨는 거기에서 무엇을 했습니까?
자전거를 탔습니다. 꽃도 구경했습니다.

한국말 숙제 제10과

10.1
1) 오늘 날씨가 좋습니다.
2) 그 백화점이 큽니다.
3) 지하철이 복잡합니다.
4) 비빔밥이 맛있습니다.
5) 그 영화가 재미있습니다.

10.2
1) 날씨가 어떻습니까? 덥습니다.
2) 기분이 어떻습니까? 좋습니다.
3) 그 책이 어떻습니까? 쉽습니다.
4) 그 남자가 어떻습니까? 친절합니다.
5) 남대문 시장이 어떻습니까? 쌉니다.

10.3
1) 어렵지만 재미있습니다.
2) 춥지만 좋습니다.
3) 작지만 좋습니다.
4) 맵지만 맛있습니다.
5) 예쁘지만 비쌉니다.

10.4
1) 한국말 공부가 어떻습니까? 어렵지만 재미있습니다.
2) 백화점이 어떻습니까? 비싸지만 좋습니다.
3) 한국 생활이 어떻습니까? 피곤하지만 재미있습니다.
4) 김치가 어떻습니까? 맵지만 맛있습니다.
5) 아파트가 어떻습니까? 작지만 좋습니다.

한국말 숙제 제9과

9.1
1) 선생님이 아닙니다.
2) 회사원이 아닙니다.
3) 장수미가 아닙니다.
4) 한국 음식이 아닙니다.
5) 교과서가 아닙니다.

9.2
1) 미국 사람입니까? 아니요, 미국 사람이 아닙니다. 캐나다 사람입니다.
2) 브라운 씨입니까? 아니요, 브라운 씨가 아닙니다. 마이클입니다.
3) 여자 친구입니까? 아니요, 여자 친구가 아닙니다. 동생입니다.
4) 은행입니까? 아니요, 은행이 아닙니다. 우체국입니다.
5) 3월 17일입니까? 아니요, 3월 17일이 아닙니다. 3월 18일입니다.

9.3
1) 어느 나라에서 오셨습니까? 미국에서 왔습니다.
2) 어느 나라에서 오셨습니까? 호주에서 왔습니다.
3) 어느 나라에서 오셨습니까? 프랑스에서 왔습니다.
4) 어느 나라에서 오셨습니까? 독일에서 왔습니다.
5) 어느 나라에서 오셨습니까? 영국에서 왔습니다.

9.4
1) 어느 교실에서 공부하십니까? 201호에서 공부합니다.
2) 어느 역에서 지하철을 타십니까? 시청역에서 지하철을 탑니다.
3) 어느 백화점에서 사십니까? 롯데 백화점에서 삽니다.
4) 어느 학원에서 한국말을 배우십니까? 가나다 한국어 학원에서 한국말을 배웁니다.
5) 어느 호텔에서 친구를 만나십니까? 신라 호텔에서 친구를 만납니다.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

한국말 숙제 제8과

8.1
1) 9월 26일입니다. (구월 이십육일입니다.)
2) 3월 9일입니다. (삼월 구일입니다.)
3) 12월 31일입니다. (십이월 삼십일일입니다.)
4) 6월 15일입니다. (유월 십오일입니다.)
5) 10월 6일입니다. (시월 육일입니다.)

8.2
1) 오늘이 몇 월 며칠입니까? 7월 14일입니다. (칠월 십사일입니다.)
2) 오늘이 몇 월 며칠입니까? 2월 8일입니다. (이월 팔일입니다.)
3) 오늘이 몇 월 며칠입니까? 8월 11일입니다. (팔월 십일일입니다.)
4) 오늘이 몇 월 며칠입니까? 11월 30일입니다. 십일월 삼십일입니다.)
5) 오늘이 몇 월 며칠입니까? 4월 5일입니다. (사월 오일입니다.)

8.3
1) 왔습니다.
2) 배웠습니다.
3) 기다렸습니다.
4) 읽었습니다.
5) 공부했습니다.

8.4
1) 지하철을 타셨습니까? 네, 지하철을 탔습니다.
2) 영화를 보셨습니까? 네, 영화를 봤습니다.
3) 사진을 찍으셨습니까? 네, 사진을 찍었습니다.
4) 냉면을 잡수셨습니까? 네, 냉면을 먹었습니다.
5) 전화를 하셨습니까? 네, 전화를 했습니다.

8.5
1) 저녁에 편지를 씁니다.
2) 다음 주에 쉽니다.
3) 내년에 결혼을 합니다.
4) 다음 달에 일본에 갑니다.
5) 오후에 약속이 있습니다.

8.6
1) 언제 영화를 봤습니까? 지난 주말에 영화를 봤습니다.
2) 언제 서울에 왔습니까? 6월 8일에 (유월 팔일에) 왔습니다.
3) 언제 결혼했습니까? 작년 9월에 (작년 구월에) 결혼했습니다.
4) 언제 신문을 읽습니까? 아침에 신문을 읽습니다.
5) 언제 청소를 합니까? 저녁에 청소를 합니다.

8.7
1) 학원에서 무엇을 배우십니까? 학원에서 영어를 배웁니다.
2) 도서관에서 무엇을 하십니까? 도서관에서 공부를 합니다.
3) 시장에서 무엇을 사십니까? 시장에서 야채를 삽니다.
4) 공항에서 누구를 기다리십니까? 공항에서 어머니를 기다립니다.
5) 다방에서 누구를 만나십니까? 다방에서 친구를 만납니다.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

한국말 숙제 제7과

7.1
1) 미국에 갑니다.
2) 부산에 갑니다.
3) 친구 집에 갑니다.
4) 회사에 갑니다.
5) 은행에 갑니다.

7.2
1) 어디에 가십니까? 중국에 갑니다.
2) 어디에 가십니까? 병원에 갑니다.
3) 어디에 가십니까? 식당에 갑니다.
4) 어디에 가십니까? 우체국에 갑니다.
5) 어디에 가십니까? 하숙집에 갑니다.

7.3
1) 집에서 식사를 합니다.
2) 극장에서 영화를 봅니다.
3) 도서관에서 책을 읽습니다.
4) 회사에서 일합니다.
5) 백화점에서 선물을 삽니다.

7.4
1) 어디에서 친구를 만나십니까? 다방에서 친구를 만납니다.
2) 어디에서 한국말을 공부하십니까? 가나다 한국어 학원에서 한국말을 공부합니다.
3) 어디에서 식사를 하십니까? 식당에서 식사를 합니다.
4) 어디에서 일하십니까? 은행에서 일합니다.
5) 어디에서 지하철을 타십니까? 시청역에서 지하철을 탑니다.

한국말 숙제 제6과

6.1
1) 창문이 있습니다. 창문이 없습니다.
2) 담배가 있습니다. 담배가 없습니다.
3) 연필이 있습니다. 연필이 없습니다.
4) 약속이 있습니다. 악속이 없습니다.
5) 친구가 있습니다. 친구가 없습니다.

6.2
1) 교과서가 있습니까? 네, 교과서가 있습니다. 아니요, 교과서가 없습니다.
2) 사전이 있습니까? 네, 사전이 있습니다. 아니요, 사전이 없습니다.
3) 안경이 있습니까? 네, 안경이 있습니다. 아니요, 안경이 없습니다.
4) 시간이 있습니까? 네, 시간이 있습니다. 아니요, 시간이 없습니다.
5) 아이가 있습니까? 네, 아이가 있습니다. 아니요, 아이가 없습니다.

6.3
1) 연필이 있습니다. 볼펜도 있습니다.
2) 책상이 있습니다. 의자도 있습니다.
3) 구두가 있습니다. 운동화도 있습니다.
4) 아들이 있습니다. 딸도 있습니다.
5) 시간이 있습니다. 돈도 있습니다.

6.4
1) 친구를 만납니다. 동생도 만납니다.
2) 선물을 삽니다. 꽃도 삽니다.
3) 불고기를 먹습니다. 냉면도 먹습니다.
4) 맥주를 마십니다. 소주도 마십니다.
5) 편지를 씁니다. 카드도 씁니다.

6.5
1) 책이 있습니까?
네, 책이 있습니다.
공책도 있습니까?
아니요, 공책은 없습니다.
2) 라디오가 있습니까?
네, 라디오가 있습니다.
텔레비전도 있습니까?
아니요, 텔레비전은 없습니다.
3) 선풍기가 있습니까?
네, 선풍기가 있습니다.
에어컨도 있습니까?
아니요, 에어컨은 없습니다.
4) 언니가 있습니까?
네, 언니가 있습니다.
오빠도 있습니까?
아니요, 오빠는 없습니다.
5) 남동생이 있습니까?
네, 남동생이 있습니다.
여동생도 있습니까?
아니요, 여동생은 없습니다.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

한국어 숙제 제1과~제5과 복습

읽기 연습 1: 연습 문제
1. 아버지는 무엇을 가르치십니까?
아버지는 한국 역사를 가르칩니다.
2. 어머니는 무엇을 잘합니까?
어머니는 요리를 잘합니다.

읽기 연습 2: 연습 문제
1. 김영수 씨는 요즘 어떻게 지냅니까?
김영수 씨는 잘 지냅니다.
2. 박은선 씨는 무엇을 가르칩니까?
박은선 씨는 한국말을 가르칩니다.
3. 김영수 씨는 학생입니까?
아니요, 김영수 씨는 회사원입니다.

한국어 숙제 제5과

5.1
1) 저것이 무엇입니까?
2) 그것이 무엇입니까?
이것이 무엇입니까?

5.2
1) 이것이 무엇입니까? 구두입니다.
2) 저것이 무엇입니까? 시계입니다.
3) 저것이 무엇입니까? 가방입니다.
4) 그것이 무엇입니까? 책상입니다.
5) 그것이 무엇입니까? 냉장고입니다.

5.3
1) 이것이 무엇입니까? 그것은 안경입니다.
2) 그것이 무엇입니까? 이것은 공책입니다.
3) 그것이 무엇입니까? 이것은 꽃입니다.
4) 저것이 무엇입니까? 저것은 달력입니다.
5) 저것이 무엇입니까? 저것은 물입니다.

5.4
1) 산물을 삽니다.
2) 지하철을 탑니다.
3) 불고기를 먹습니다.
4) 신문을 읽습니다.
5) 운동을 합니다.

5.5
1) 무엇을 배우십니까? 영어를 배웁니다.
2) 무엇을 보십니까? 영화를 봅니다.
3) 무엇을 읽으십니까? 잡지를 읽습니다.
4) 누구를 기다리십니까? 동생을 기다립니다.
5) 누구를 만나십니까? 사장님을 만납니다.

한국어 숙제 제4과

4.1
1) 이분은 누구입니까?
2) 이 아이는 누구입니까?
3) 그 사람은 누구입니까?
4) 저 학생은 누구입니까?
5) 저 선생님은 누구입니까?

4.2
1) 제 친구입니다.
2) 제 동생입니다.
3) 제 책입니다.
4) 제 옷입니다.
5) 제 가방입니다.

4.3
1) 저분은 누구입니까? 제 아내입니다.
2) 저 학생은 누구입니까? 제 친구입니다.
3) 이분은 누구입니까? 제 여자 친구입니다.
4) 그 아이는 누구입니까? 제 아들입니다.
5) 그 사람은 누구입니까? 제 동생입니다.

4.4
1) 우리 부모님입니다.
2) 우리 아이입니다.
3) 우리 교실입니다.
4) 우리 집입니다.
5) 우리 회사입나다.

4.5
1) 저 아이는 누구입니까? 우리 아들입니다.
2) 이분은 누구입니까? 우리 선생님입니다.
3) 저분은 누구입니까? 우리 사장님입니다.
4) 저분은 누구입니까? 우리 할머니입니다.
5) 이분은 누구입니까? 우리 어머니입니다.

한국어 숙제 제3과

More Korean homework completed... This is where I started using copy and paste to keep from going insane.

3.1
1) 어머니입니다.
2) 아이입니다.
3) 동생입니다.
4) 시계입니다.
5) 구두입니다.

3.2
1) 학생입니까? 네, 학생입니다.
2) 회시원입니까? 네, 회시원입니다.
3) 아버지입니까? 네, 아버지입니다.
4) 책상입니까? 네, 책상입니다.
5) 의자입니까? 네, 의자입니다.

3.3
1) 저는 정수미입니다.
2) 저는 이지영입니다.
3) 저는 회사원입니다.
4) 저는 일본 서람입니다.
5) 저는 중국 사람입니다.

3.4
1) 제 이름은 이영진입니다.
2) 제 이름은 마이클입니다.
3) 제 이름은 스즈키입니다.
4) 제 이름은 프랑스와즈입니다.
5) 제 이름은 량위링입니다.
제 이름은 애런슈마커입니다.

3.5
1) 처음 뵙겠습니다. 제 이름은 야마다입니다.
반갑습니다. 저는 김경수입니다.
2) 처음 뵙겠습니다. 제 이름은 톰입니다.
반갑습니다. 저는 다나카입니다.
3) 처음 뵙겠습니다. 제 이름은 박정수입니다.
반갑습니다. 저는 마이클입니다.
4) 처음 뵙겠습니다. 제 이름은 최유진입니다.
반갑습니다. 저는 히로코입니다.
5) 처음 뵙겠습니다. 제 이름은 리밍웬입니다.
반갑습니다. 저는 이영주입니다.

한국어 숙제 제2과

More Korean exercises. The textbook is "가나다 Korean for Foreigners" elementary level book one. "Lee Kee-dong" is credited as the translator. Exercises for chapter two follow. Completion was not sped by copy and paste functionality.

2.1
1) 장 사장님, 요즘 어떻게 지내십니까?
2) 정수미 씨, 요즘 어떻게 지내십니까?
3) 이영진 씨, 요즘 어떻게 지내십니까?
4) 마이클 씨, 요즘 어떻게 지내십니까?
5) 다나카 씨, 요즘 어떻게 지내십니까?

2.2
1) 야마다 씨, 요즘 어떻게 지내십니까? 잘 지냅니다.
2) 이 부장님, 요즘 어떻게 지내십니까? 잘 지냅니다.
3) 최 교수님, 요즘 어떻게 지내십니까? 잘 지냅니다.
4) 양지호 씨, 요즘 어떻게 지내십니까? 잘 지냅니다.
5) 김윤미 씨, 요즘 어떻게 지내십니까? 잘 지냅니다.

2.3
1) 잘 잡니다.
2) 잘 씁니다.
3) 잘 가르칩니다.
4) 잘 먹습니다.
5) 잘 읽습니다.

2.4
1) 할아버지께서도 안녕하십니까? 네, 안녕하십니다.
2) 선생님께서도 안녕하십니까? 네, 안녕하십니다.
3) 사장님께서도 안녕하십니까? 네, 안녕하십니다.
4) 아버지께서도 안녕하십니까? 네, 안녕하십니다.
5) 어머니께서도 안녕하십니까? 네, 안녕하십니다.

2.5
1) 남편께서도 안녕하십니까? 네, 질 있습니다.

2.6
1) 친구도 잘 있습니까? 네, 잘 있습니다.
2) 아들도 잘 있습니까? 네, 잘 있습니다.
3) 딸도 잘 있습니까? 네, 잘 있습니다.
4) 동생도 잘 있습니까? 네, 잘 있습니다.
5) 학생도 잘 있습니까? 네, 잘 있습니다.

한국어 숙제 (Korean Homework) 제1과 (Chapter 1)

In my Korean class we are assigned homework from a workbook, which is then checked every class. Our textbook also has exercises for every chapter, but these are not strictly required, or indeed even mentioned. I am doing these exercises for practice both of the language and of the Korean keyboard layout. I can't imagine an audience that would find these terribly interesting, but on the internet this is no obstacle to publishing.

1.1
1) 옵니다.
2) 잡니다.
3) 공부합니다.
4) 입습니다.
5) 먹습니다.

1.2
1) 씁니까? 네, 씁니다.
2) 배웁니까? 네, 배웁니다.
3) 마십니까? 네, 마십니다.
4) 벅습니까? 네, 먹습니다.
5) 읽습니까? 네, 읽습니다.

1.3
1) 사십니까?
2) 기다리십니까?
3) 읽으십니까?
4) 잡수십니까?
5) 주무십니까?

1.4
1) 보십니까? 네, 봅니다.
2) 읽으십니까? 네, 읽습니다.
3) 운동하십니까? 네, 운동합니다.
4) 잡수십니까? 네, 먹습니다.
5) 주무십니까? 네, 잡니다.

1.5
1) 타십시오.
2) 기다리십시오.
3) 읽으십시오.
4) 앉으십시오.
5) 잡수십시오.

Monday, December 8, 2008

I am a thirteen-month-old Korean

I have been in Korea for a full calendar month today. Like an infant, whose age is closely monitored but exclusively by its mother, I have been much too busy to notice. There's a whole world out there!

I should mention that in Korea, babies are born one year old. Koreans can actually be two years older than their corresponding American age, because Korean ages all increment only, and in unison, at the New Year. Never mind the International Date Line.

The strangest thing about Korea is that they don't know about clothes dryers. Everything is hung. It's as if the clear benefits of powered drying are a closely guarded secret, kept from the people by a government hell-bent on rod-supported evaporation. After a month, some of my clothes are becoming entirely too like particle board. I know of one dryer in Korea, it is in the next city, and I plan to use it.

Here is my schedule, Monday to Friday:

7:30-8:00am Awaken. Shower, dress, sometimes eat, drink.
9:00am Get on a train at Anyang station. Change trains twice, get off at Kangnam station, Seoul.
10:00am I am taking a Korean class that meets for two hours every weekday.
12:00pm Leave Korean class, either get Red Mango frozen yogurt or get back on trains directly.
1:00pm (or later) Back in Anyang, head for work and prepare to teach.
4:00pm Start teaching English classes. Two three-hour classes. Five minute breaks every hour on the hour.
10:00pm Done teaching. Get some food. Maybe do my Korean homework. Go home, write a rare update on my life in Korea.
12:00am With any luck, I'm in bed...

Weekends are free, which is absolutely necessary. I have a sufficiently large network of friends that I have consistently found enjoyable revelry. In three weekends I have been to three bboy battles. I danced at all three and entered two with cool people that I met here in Korea. I have been to Korean clubs, karaoke places, public computer labs, those last two more popular than you'd think, and tried many varieties of Korean food, most of it good. I saw Quantum of Solace with Korean subtitles, which is fine except for when characters are speaking non-English languages and there would ordinarily be English subtitles.

Here I would like to coyly mention that further elaboration on weekends would surely require a more precise idea of my audience.

Korea is a good place for practicing my meeting-people skills, which tend to need a bit of practicing in my case. I read Bertrand Russell on the train to remind myself that I speak English. I think it gives my English, at least in writing, a British stilt which amuses me. Perhaps this is due to the combination with speaking slowly and carefully to silly students.

And finally, here is a quote that runs commonly through my mind, from a lyric of a band called Modest Mouse, from their song called Blame it on The Tetons:

Language is the liquid
That we're all dissolved in
Great for solving problems
After it creates the problems

Peace, and I'm out! I love everybody, even you! May your life be better than you deserve! I will pay for this message by being extra tired tomorrow!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Red Bull BC One 2008 Results

The Red Bull BC One began streaming from Paris promptly at one o'clock Central time today, with impressive live editing and the general pomp and polish that Red Bull always puts into their event. The MC for the show was Rakaa of Dilated Peoples, who was rocking not one but two Zulu Africa medallions around his neck. The judges came to the stage with brief demos. Ivan seemed all through the event, as usual, to have had several too many Red Bulls himself, jumping around and coming to the stage to spin something when bboys were standing off for too long.

I made my predictions about twelve hours before the start of the event, and I was almost completely wrong, except for Taisuke's battles. Let's see how it went down. Winners in bold.


Round One (round of 16)

JUST DO IT / CICO
I had picked Just Do It against Cico's power game, but in the battle JDI came too slow, really not matching Cico's energy at all, even dragging his feet a little when he went for his own power. I agreed with this win for Cico.

LIL G / TAISUKE
Lil G came to the stage wearing a black full-face ski mask, as if he was in a bad crime movie. He was also wearing a Venezualan flag. Hopefully his country will be inspired to step up in the future. Lil G did bring some nice and fairly original power, but he seemed to crash multiple times per round. Taisuke was able to win even though he looked to be holding back. Amusingly, "Lil" G is actually taller than Taisuke.

LIL CENG / KID DAVID
Kid David came out first, with several brief throwdowns. After his second, Lil Ceng exploded onto the floor, cutting him off from continuing. Kid David yelled that he wasn't done, but it was too late to stop Ceng. Lil Ceng came with crazy power, almost totally clean... and Kid David didn't do much in his third round... Lil Ceng took the battle 3 to 2. Worth notice: Kid David had a nice four beat freeze combo in his second round. I wanted to see Kid David advance, but Lil Ceng did impress me.

PELÉZINHO / BAEK
The Brazilian Pelézinho came rocking a lot of Red Bull gear, and raw energy. Baek came with a lot of difficult handstand freeze sequences, but stumbled a little bit on one air baby set. Pelézinho scored the minor upset victory with a 3 to 2 judges' decision.

BENNY / WING
Benny came out looking obnoxious and effeminate. His whole third set was hand hops. Easy win for Wing, but one judge did go to Benny.

MOUNIR / NASA
Nasa looked a bit like Kid David with his hat and forward-slung neck. Both came hitting beats, but Mounir brought more energy and snap. Nasa also stumbled considerably in round two. Emphasizing the difference in speed and energy, Mounir left his can of Red Bull at the feet of Nasa at the beginning of his run. The judges went unanimously for Mounir.

LIL KEV / MENNO
Lil Kev should win some sort of award for swagger, especially as a young kid, for redirecting Menno around the platform disdainfully, and then coming out fire before Menno has a chance to get started. I did have to scratch my head at one point when Kev did a headspin flexibility variant that I thought Brahim originated, and in the end he did too many headspins, with something of a stumble in his third round, and the judges supported Menno unanimously.

RONNIE / KOLOBOK
Kolobok looked a little clumsy and slow compared to Ronnie. Ronnie did hesitate once in his second round, but I was very surprised to see the judges go 3 to 2 for Kolobok. I had to disagree myself, and think this is probably the upset of the event.


Round Two (quarterfinals / round of 8)
They did move down the brackets as I guessed, but I only picked three of the eight initial battles. Wow, worse than flipping a coin.

Cico / Taisuke
I named this "the battle of bad hair" as the bboys came out to battle... As the battle progressed, Taisuke used the power of music, and Cico used all other power - and he repeated a bit from his first battle. In his last round, Taisuke put his foot through Cico's legs as he stood there, and Cico snapped his legs together, holding Taisuke for a second. Not a cool move, Cico. Judges went all for Taisuke, bringing one of my picks to the top four.

Lil Ceng / Pelézinho
I didn't pick either of these guys to be in this round. Lil Ceng smoked Pelézinho, and took his (own) shirt off while doing a headspin. Whatever, Lil Ceng. Pelézinho seemed to be repeating a lot, and the judges ruled unanimously for Ceng.

Wing / Mounir
This battle started with an annoying stand-off resolved by hyper Ivan. Mounir went to the wrong side after his round in defiance of Wing. So, two points for swagger, negative twenty points for losing the battle. (Total: -18 points.) Judges all went for Wing, but not the French crowd... This brings Wing to the top four, as predicted.

Menno / Kolobok
Menno waves off Ivan's proposed spin for priority, winning points with me. I thought he'd battle Ronnie here, and I had Ronnie winning. The judges give the battle to Kolobok 3 to 2, maybe because Menno did so many of his similar baby catch power variants. Kolobok did look better than he seemed against Ronnie here.


Round Three (semifinals / round of 4)

Taisuke / Lil Ceng
These two seemed to be friends, and both sides were having a lot of fun. Lil Ceng came with mad power but stumbled ever so slightly on his last run. Notably, in his second round Taisuke came over the top of Lil Ceng's run perfectly.

Wing / Kolobok
I think Kolobok repeated a move from an earlier round exactly, first thing out in this battle. Wing took it despite doing a lot of similar forarm spin and freeze stuff.


Round Four (finals / round of two)

Taisuke / Wing
I had predicted it'd be Taisuke against Ronnie here. The Japan vs. Korea match-up was probably meaningful to some. Taisuke seemed pissed off through the four rounds, but the consequence was lethargy rather than fire. Music also didn't seem to suit him, consistently changing just as he came out. I think if he had brought more energy and longer sets, Taisuke would have had the win, but as it was, a majority of judges went with Wing, adding to his recent Circle Prinz win.

Red Bull BC One 2008 Bracket

This year - just twelve hours from when I'm writing this - the Red Bull BC One international one-on-one bboy battle is being webcast live from Paris. Yesterday they released the first-round battle match-ups, and I thought I'd put down my predictions. It's like March Madness, except I actually have an interest in it and there isn't really time to start a pool. So here we go! Round winners in bold.


Round One (round of 16)

JUST DO IT
/ CICO
I think the judges (Ivan, Extremo, Hong 10, Lilou, and Storm) will be a bit power-friendly for my taste, but even so, Cico is a blunt instrument. The power Italian used a 90 as a whole round against RoxRite in a previous BC One. His 90s are some of the best in the world, but he'll have to show more bboy elements to make it here. If he comes off clean, the Nike slogan from Holland can make it to round two.

LIL G / TAISUKE
I haven't seen much of Lil G, but he seems kind of like a Venezualen Cico. Taisuke comes close if he doesn't completely match G for power, and the bleach-blond Japanese Zulu certainly has the well-rounded chops to win his first round.

LIL CENG / KID DAVID
I didn't realize Flying Steps was still around! I'm rooting for RoxRite's musical crewmate here, but I acknowledge the German's power may win out.

PELÉZINHO / BAEK
How many times has this Brazilian guy been to BC One now? Korea takes this one.

BENNY / WING
And... Korea takes this one too. Especially fresh off his Circle Prinz win, I don't expect any surprises from the South African entrant. I have a lot of respect for bboys coming from smaller, isolated communities (thinking Brasil and South Africa) but I don't think the conditions produce the internationally competitive bboys that win BC One. We'll see if the evidence supports my hypothesis.

MOUNIR / NASA
Who are these guys? Mounir at least has video on the Red Bull site. Looks like he's battled Extremo, one of the judges. Nasa is repping Australia and some crews that I generally like (Zulu/Fresh Sox). They both seem to have kind of goofy hyper attitudes. I like Nasa's name more.

LIL KEV / MENNO
I haven't seen anything from Lil Kev in a while, but I remember him as the boy who was so "Blond, Blond, Blond" in Planet Bboy. I may be wrong to discount him because of his youth, but Menno seems like an easy choice here.

RONNIE / KOLOBOK
This Kolobok guy seems to have some foot-grabbing moves kind of like Ronnie... But he's not Ronnie...


Round Two (quarterfinals / round of 8)
I don't know if they'll just collapse the brackets like this or rearrange match-ups, so this is all even more speculative...

JUST DO IT / TAISUKE
I think Taisuke will come off cleaner here.

KID DAVID
/ BAEK
Predicting Baek's arsenal gets tired before Kid David's.

WING
/ NASA
No-name vs. increasingly big name.

MENNO / RONNIE
I like Ronnie's tops more. Not that I like either's very much, but I have to pick somebody.


Round Three (semifinals / round of 4)

TAISUKE / KID DAVID
I want to see an international final.

WING / RONNIE
Ronnie comes cleaner.


Round Four (finals / round of two)

TAISUKE / RONNIE
Ronnie wins again.


Hmm... It'll be fun to see if I'm right about anything. I'm not particularly excited about how I predict it coming out. It seems like it would be more fun for somebody else to win. If I just pick who I want to win from the list of 16, I'd pick Kid David, Taisuke, or maybe Menno. I'm not sure Taisuke has a sufficiently original aresnal to draw from. Who knows, some of these bboys I don't know as well may totally surprise me. Should be a good show.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Midwest Bboy Adventuring, October 17-25, 2008

I traveled these nine days throughout Wisconsin, Illinois, and Minnesota, following bboy events and practices and having a fantastic time. A conservative estimate is 1,746 miles driven, which neglects travel within cities. Thanks to all those who came with me, who practiced, cyphered, and battled with or against me, and especially to those who helped out with a much-needed place to sleep in the night.

2008 October 17 Friday
Menasha to Milwaukee 104 miles
Dinner at the restaurant where my sister works, Cafe Centraal, and then the Veggietales live show with my little sisters. They did not do Barbara Manatee.
Milwaukee to Madison 80 miles
Audre Lorde Cooperative Unveiling featuring UW-Madison bboy cypher/performances, as well as a devastating show from Uniiq Funk.

2008 October 18 Saturday
Madison to Chicago 148 miles
Nine Soul Hydrauliks soldiers and one American Rythm Attack/ENI member went and battled at Hellaween 2, held at Alternatives in Chicago. We also ate some tasty food in Chicago's Viet Town.
Chicago to Madison 148 miles

2008 October 19 Sunday
Madison to Minneapolis 270 miles
A small Madison delegation made it to Mona Lisa's breast cancer benefit, carrying about $1,000 raised dancing on the street in Madison. We missed the Warriors' show but made it in time for some burlesque dancers and cyphers. Chilled afterward at a nice spot called Azia, and slept a few hours at the Minnesota Joe Mega-Plex.

2008 October 20 Monday
Minneapolis to Madison 270 miles
Madison to Milwaukee 80 miles
Dope practice session at UW-Milwaukee, hosted by Tuy. Many people there, and a photographer too.

2008 October 21 Tuesday
Milwaukee to Madison 80 miles
Dope practice session at UW-Madison, hosted by Tony and the club there. A Badger Herald photographer was there too. Two days in a row of photography. Crazy.
Madison to Milwaukee 80 miles
Staying with my cool sister in Milwaukee.

2008 October 22 Wednesday
Holy crap, I didn't have to drive anywhere far away! Session at UW-Milwaukee again. Also saw possibly the worst movie of the year, Max Payne.

2008 October 23 Thursday
Milwaukee to Madison 80 miles
Another good UW-Madison practice session. First two hours at Humanities, then another hour at the SERF. Caught the Dumate show at High Noon and crashed at Jarius' place.

2008 October 24 Friday
Madison to Chicago 148 miles
Battled with MoG at the second Free Soul battle at Zentra. Afterward hit up Stone Lotus thanks to Aaron Dorsey's hot connections, and then finally The Weiner Circle, which I recommend.

2008 October 25 Saturday
Chicago to Madison 148 miles
Exhausted, sore, and caffeinated, I returned the speakers for one more Madison practice session.
Madison to Menasha 110 miles
Home sweet home.

Total: 1,746 miles driven

That was a dope nine days! Now I'm taking a few days up here with my fam. I'll be back in Madison for Halloween weekend for sure. It means a lot to me, seeing everybody in these last couple weeks before I leave for Korea. Much love.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

How water is heated does not affect how it cools

Hypothesis: Water heated in a microwave oven cools more quickly than water heated on a stovetop range.

The two filled glasses were not actually involved.

Experimental apparatus:
  • standard candy thermometer
  • iPhone stopwatch
  • two identical tumblers
  • pyrex measuring cup
  • microwave
  • tea kettle
  • gas range

Experimental procedure:

For the microwave test, about two cups of tap water were heated in a standard microwave for about six minutes. The water was observed boiling inside the microwave before heating was stopped. The water was removed from the microwave and a measure of it was poured into a tumbler on a standard dining room table protected by a thin fabric runner. The room was determined by consensus to be at room temperature. Temperature readings were taken at one minute intervals for the first eleven minutes, then intermittently up to 48 minutes, for a total of 22 readings. The initial reading was 85ºC.

For the stovetop test, a tea kettle was half filled and left to boil on a gas burner at high heat. Heating was stopped after the kettle was heard to whistle and let off steam. The water was presumed boiling. A measure of water was poured out just as for the microwave test, and temperature readings were taken at one-minute intervals for the first fifteen minutes, then intermittently until a final reading at 50 minutes, for a total of 21 readings. The initial reading was 186ºF (85.56ºC).

Experimental issues: The thermometer used was intended for cooking, not science. It was only marked to five-degree increments. I read degrees Fahrenheit in the second (stovetop) test in hopes of benefiting from the relative "smallness" of degrees Fahrenheit and then converted to Centigrade.


Analysis: The cooling curves do not appear different for water boiled by microwave versus gas burner.


As you can see, microwave temperatures seem just a bit above those for the stovetop throughout. This distinction is certainly smaller than the error of the instrument, and should be regarded as insignificant. The graph shown adjusts time by one minute so that the samples were at 85ºC simultaneously. If this is not done, the stovetop graph rides just perceptibly above the microwave graph, and just as negligibly.


Observations:
  • The temperature initially measured for the fire-heated water was about one half degree Celsius hotter than that for the microwaved water. This may be because I measured it with less delay, or perhaps a tea kettle really can get water one half degree hotter. Even if so, it does not seem a significant victory for the tea kettle.
  • No temperature was measured even as high as 86ºC. The water did boil in both cases, and the temperature at which water boils is (by definition) 100ºC. This seems odd at first. Perhaps it is due to some combination of lower air pressure (the elevation of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, is around 634 feet above sea level), impurity of the water, and delay between last boiling and first measurement.

Conclusion: Water cools at the same rate regardless of whether it was boiled by microwave or convection from burning natural gas.


Commentary: This hypothesis was offered by Dylan Carlson, based on anecdotal experience with microwaved beverages cooling more quickly than desired. It was speculated that the different mechanisms of heating, microwave excitation versus convection of heat through a metal container, leave the heated water differently configured at some level; a different liquid crystallography leading to different cooling properties. Similarly disappointed with microwaved beverages from time to time, I became intrigued and then excited to carry out an experimental test of the hypothesis. It is not difficult to become excited about science.

It would have been very interesting to find evidence of different cooling behavior, but alas it seems there is none. The familiar experience that lead to the initial hypothesis may be explained by the difference in volumes of liquid typically heated by microwave versus range. Generally only small amounts of liquid are microwaved, which then cool quickly compared to large volumes. It is not unusual to boil a large volume of liquid on a stovetop, which cools more slowly for its larger mass and is kept warm also by its hot metal container.


Note: The word "how" is used in two slightly different senses in the title of this report. It is the author's belief that the small chance of misreading is compensated for by the snappiness of the title.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The unity of nature and nurture

I wrote this essay as part of my application to teach English in Korea. As usual, being forced to write is not so far off from being forced to think, and I was generally pleased with how I formulated an idea that had been rattling around for a while. I think it could be better exposited at greater length, but here it's already over 500 words.


Prompt: "With respect to the nature versus nature debate, compare and contrast the roles of intrinsic and environmental factors in human development."

For some time it has been generally accepted that both nature and nurture play essential and intricately entwined roles in our development. Recent and current research attempts to specify only the extents to which genetic and environmental factors determine human outcomes. However, the historical understanding of the two sides of this debate as separate entities clouds an underlying unity. Analyzing the modern understandings of nature and nurture reveals a false dichotomy and motivates a choice in interpretation that emphasizes an internal locus of control.

Ridley's 2004 The agile gene: How nature turns on nurture gives an excellent exposition of how environments can interact with genetics rather than stand wholly apart. An individual's DNA and the systems that express specific genes form a massively complex system. Even with identical genes, certain traits may or may not manifest themselves depending on the environment an individual experiences. Contrariwise, studies of identical twins find that their genetics do determine in large part their adult traits - even when they live their whole lives apart - so the environment cannot be said to completely override genetics.

Modern medicine does make attempts to override genetics, as it were, by controlling the DNA developing into new humans. Prenatal testing is being used to determine whether a fetus will have genetic disease. Some tests are even designed to allow parents to choose whether their child will be male or female, and testing of this kind will only become more sophisticated. Men and women have always chosen their mates with some conscious or unconscious consideration for genetic fitness, but now engineered "designer babies" are moving from the realm of speculative fiction into reality. If we control nature, then nature itself is subsumed by nurture; the two categories collapse into one.

If we define nurture to be those circumstances under some measure of human control and nature to be not only genetics but any unchangeable element, it can quickly seem that circumstances of nature bleed into what we conventionally think of as nurture. For example, if a mother lives in a country wracked by poverty and famine, we cannot justly claim that the failure to nurture her child is her failing. The child born in this natural environment suffers malnutrition as surely as a child born with an extra twenty-first chromosome suffers Down syndrome. And the physical sciences constrict the range of circumstances in which humans are truly free to choose to a zero point. There is no room in science for free will, and if this is so then it is nurture eaten up by nature; everything is determined, nothing is chosen.

Pragmatically, then, we feel that we can weigh the benefits of two competing world views: either a deterministic universe in which everything is completely dictated by external circumstance and unfeeling physical law, or a world of self-made individuals cooperatively creating reality. From the former emerges helplessness and hopelessness. The latter promotes feelings of freedom, purpose, and self-determination. Presented with this ultimatum, it is more rational to operate as much as possible from the assumption that attempts to nurture our fellow humans are justified and meaningful.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Planet B-Boy

There is a very good documentary about b-boying, centered around the Battle of the Year, called Planet B-Boy. I saw it for the first time at the Tribeca Film Festival. It's now having a limited release in theaters. It was showing this weekend (2008 March 21-23) in New York City at the Landmark Sunshine on the Lower East Side.


I recommend you go see this film. Go to the web site and see if it's playing near you. It's in Chicago, for instance, the weekend of 2008 April 4. It follows bboy crews from the USA (Knuckle Head Zoo), Japan (Ichigeki), France (Phase T), and Korea (Last for One, Gamblers) as they make their way and compete at the International Battle of the Year in Germany. Regardless of how you might feel about Battle of the Year, it's a great film for b-boys, b-girls, and everyone else. Go see it already!


Monday, February 11, 2008

All that is

The perfectly good word "universe" has been tainted by scientists and science fiction writers who talk about "alternate universes" and "parallel universes" and all the rest. The universe used to stand for something - namely, everything - but nowadays the universe might just as well be a planet with a particularly crunchy atmosphere.

I propose that there should be a word for what I think the universe used to mean: everything that is. This word should include in its meaning any and all universes that exist, whether or not communication of any sort is possible or actually happens between them.

"The verse" might be a good word, having the sense of "universe" without the unitary, singular bit. I don't know if anyone would take it seriously. It's what they say in Firefly, a defunct television show. I think it was just meant to be future slang there.

Actually, if communication of any sort were possible between two universes, wouldn't they be the same universe? Maybe we could call the two chunks "continents" or something.

That is all.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

The Long Hike Log

This is a re-post. It was originally on my now-defunct personal web site at aaron.penjar.net. It was one of my favorite things there. I rescued it from an archive.org backup and now here it is again. I have decided not to edit it at all, so here it is, just as it was when I first put it up in 2003.

Introduction

This is the record I kept as I hiked from my dorm room in Madison, Wisconsin, to my home in Menasha, Wisconsin. This disance of approximately 120 miles or so (by my path) I walked in the five days of 13-17 May 2003. I trekked solo and so decided to keep a journal in a notebook of how I got along. And here it is.

Entries varied in quality and style. Where I wrote at length, I have transcribed exactly my entries, making changes only for spelling and the like. Other times I wrote in fragments, making bullet-point lists to be expanded on. (This became more frequently the case as the days wore on.) I have written these notes into paragraph form to make them readable.

It might not be the travels of Lewis and Clark, but it's not so bad either.


9:50am Day 1 (Tuesday 13 May 2003)

I set out this morning from 426 Chadbourne Hall (420 North Park Street, Madison, Wisconsin) at 5:37am, which weather.com had said was supposed to be sunrise. Seemed like the sunrise had already happened to me.

First glitch of the trip (or second if you count missing dawn) was that my camera's battery turned out to be dead. At least now I don't need to buy more film. I've alreday missed some good photo oportunities though. The Red Gym behind the trees on Library Mall, all in full bloom in the early morning light, for example.

Then there was some crazy creature I saw before I even got to State Street. It was dark-colored, about cat-sized but huskier (like a miniature badger, I thought) with a lighter-colored bottle-brush tail. It was so cool. And there were these two giant rusty peacocks (without the extravagant tails) made from old car parts and such, standing guard outside some apartments. They were neat too.

So I'm maybe 2/3 of the way to Sun Prairie, on the "Soo Line" railroad tracks. Nobody's tried to kick me off yet, and I haven't seen any active trains except for at some scrap metal processing plant where machines were eating up crushed cars and old I-beams and excreting scrap metal stew into a few open railway cars on an adjacent section of track.

I passed a few things I believe to be mile-markers, and with them and my fancy new digital watch I estimate my pace to be almost three miles an hour, which is reasonable, especially on railroad tracks.

I ate (drank) a "Zenergy" bottled smoothy thing as I walked State Street this morning (about 5:50am). Now I'm having a few apple rings and one (of two per package) Nature Valley granola bars. This pack of mine is heavy, and doesn't ride as well as it might.

Must mention the graffiti. Every underpass is like a collaborative galleria.

My mat is a big pain to carry, but worth it for sitting on, not to mention sleeping on tonight, I imagine.

I started the day wearing long pants, my AAE t-shirt, and my blue long-sleeved math team t-shirt. It was brisk, but nice. I took off the math shirt, which is now proving useful for helping to hold my mat on top of my backpack. I've just taken off my removable pant legs, so I'm now wearing shorts and short-sleeved t-shirt. I applied lots of sunscreen, and I really hope I don't burn. That would not be fun. I switched my watch to my right arm, just to balance always wearing it on the left. I'm always wearing my nifty safari hat with the neck flaps. I think it's awesome.

There are plenty of rabbits about, especially on the outskirts of Madison. I could probably feed myself just by throwing rocks at them, let alone with a crossbow or something.

I'm about to finish my first half-Liter bottle of water, then I'll get going again.


1:59pm Day 1

Ah, hiking. Is anything more awesome?

I had to pee really bad for the fourth time on the trail, which is pretty weird. I haven't drunk that much, really. I feel like my body must be flushing out all my extra body water or something, which isn't really what I want to do with it. Now I'm sitting on my mat in a pleasant grove on someone's private property.

Eating on the "trail", I finished the other half of my first Nature Valley granola bar package, had a strawberry Harvest bar, and a half-Liter of orange juice. Now I'm eating these little spherical Snickers things. Mmm... high fat.

I'm trying to decide how far I should go today. I started ridiculously early, so I have a lot of hours of daylight. I don't want to burn myself out too much and be useless tomorrow, though. I think I'll take a nap here. I hope I don't sunburn too badly.

Where am I now? A couple miles (well, maybe one) beyond Sun Prairie. Those Sun Prairie people sure put "Sun Prairie" on everything in their town though, wow. "Sun Prairie" this, "Sun Prairie" that.

I should call home (or try anyway) and tell them I'll be late for dinner. Wouldn't that be clever of me. After my nap, perhaps.


Or perhaps not. I must be the most nervous outdoor sleeper ever. Every little noise was making me jump while I was trying to nap. Probably just little birds flitting about, but I kept thinking it was a person, come to kick me in the face and off his land or something. Oh well. I'll just have a poop on this land and head off then.


5:46pm Day 1

It is really beautiful here. Not wanting to overdue it (and being adequately tired anyway) I chose the Deansville wildlife Area to bed down in tonight. You aren't really supposed to camp overnight, but what do you do.

I expected it to be a forest, but the part I got to is a grassland sort of thing. Not wanting to be excessively visible from the roads, I walked in a ways toward some trees that grow along a tiny creak that flows through the area. After initially checking out some more mature trees, I found the ideal spot next to a small thicket of young birch. A thin ring of dead six-to-eight-foot trees surrounds an ample clearing floored with lush green grass. The creak runs through it, and many birds flitter and sing in the surrounding trees. Looking up through small fresh spring leaves on multiple levels of hopeful birch branches there is a fine view of the pale blue afternoon sky, sprinkled with lacadaisical whispy cumulous clouds that give the distinct impression they could look like anything, but don't happen to at the moment purely because they haven't gotten around to it just yet.

So I've laid down my tarp and put my mat on it, and with the soft grass underneath on the relatively level ground, I can scarcely imagine a more ideal setup for sleeping directly under the stars.

Here's a list of more things I've eaten:

  • a box of raisins
  • four rather nasty beef sticks. I definitely didn't need four of them, but the package said "refrigerate after openning" and I can hardly do that. Mmm... Beef: it's what's processed and disgusting for supper.
  • some apple rings
  • another half-Liter of water

I'm well off my Madison map now... If I ever find an opportunity, I'd like to mail that map and my camera home. Possibly other things too, if I think of them.

So in studying my map, I've come up with the following plan.

Day 1: Madison to Deansville Wildlife Area (not really part of the plan, but I've already done it now haven't I?)
Day 2: get to Shaw Marsh (near Beaver Dam)
Day 3: visit DNR headquarters, hopefully get most of the way throught the Horicon Wildlife Refuge
Day 4: get to Eldorado Marsh
Day 5: vicinity of Oshkosh
Day 6: get home

This seems like a fine plan to me. Day 2 (tomorrow) is probably the hardest (longest, anyway) day. I hope the weather continues to be phenomenally great, and that I sleep well tonight and am not too sore tomorrow.

I almost wish I had an excuse to try my skill at hunting these rabbits that hop around all over the place. Can't justify an attempt because there's a slim chance I'd succeed.

A very cute little chipmunk just bounded remarkably high out of the grass. It was funny.

My main soreness right now is behind my knees. I think it's from over-striding, or hyper-extending, or something. It doesn't bother me much as long as I use primarily my upper leg muscles (quadriceps in particular, if that's the right name for it) to accomplish walking.


11:01am Day 2 (Wednesday 14 May 2003)

I hesitate to write, but only because it will take so long to catch up. So I'll start where I left off then... Don't hope to see that I'm following my grand plan from yesterday.

The Deansville Wildlife Area was an idyllic natural wonderland before dark. After dark, it was one thing and one thing only: cold. As the sun set from the clear sky and twilight descended I began to get an inkling of this and ate a Nature Valley bar hoping to use the carbs for warmth. I had laid down sevenish, hoping to get a good full night's sleep. I ate at 8:15 or so, and the sun was completely gone by nine or shortly thereafter I suppose.

The moon seemed almost as bright as the sun, nearly full and making it impossible to see many stars despite the absence of the urban glow. I was sitll able to find one of the dippers, but my knowledge of the night sky is so week I couldn't ascertain much. I tried to sleep.

My tarp was moved around and wrapped about me in many ways as I tried to find the warmest arangement. My upper body, with tight-fitting winter hat, one short and one long-sleeved t-shirt and my well-worn hooded sweatshirt, was doing comparatively well. My nylon convertible pants, on the other hand, were just not designed for the kind of warmth my legs needed.

I eventually settled somewhat with the tarp thrown haphazardly over my whole person, in the hopes of creating a warmable airspace around my body. Fetal position on my four-foot mat, I got perhaps two hours of fitful sleep.

My airspace was slightly warmable, but it was mainly humidifiable. This would have been all right if there had been anything to keep the tarp from touching me, but there was not.

So I essentially generated a massive remotely condensed cold sweat. Not just "cool," but as cold as 12 degrees above freezing. I don't know what triggered it, but at about 11:30pm I snapped awake and found myself submerged in a polar sea. It felt as though each wet square inch of nylon tarp were clinging desparately to my clammy body.

There was nothing for it. After a frozen moment's addled consideration I jumped to my feet, wrapped my tarp and spare t-shirt (which had earlier tried its luck as both a blanket and a pillow) in my mat, which I now carried under my arm, and set off.

Walking would have to warm me up, and it did. Three times I laid down to rest again on the side of the road for 30-45 minutes. The driver of one passing pickup truck stopped and asked if I was all right. "Just taking a nap, thanks." What else do you do in a ditch along a lonely county highway at three in the morning. As drunk as I assume that guy must have been, he must have thought I was way drunker.

I was glad to have bought and brought my tiny blue single-AAA Mag-Lite flashlight. When I started out around midnight the moon was still shining bright from the cloudless heavens, but around two in the morning foggy clouds began to thicken and darken the sky. It was as if dusk continued until just before dawn. Reading what street signs I could find and consulting my trusty map, I decided that the best plan was to head for Columbus. I thought of seeking out a sleeping bag, but knew it would be day (and warmer) before stores opened, and why buy it in Columbus just to carry it to Beaver Dam?

At quarter after four I decided I had better eat. So I had a breakfast of a peanut butter and chocolate Harvest bar and a half-Liter of orange juice, finishing off my juice supply.

Somehow I made it into Columbus by 5:40, thinking it would be my longest distance covered in 24 hours. I climbed a fence and a concrete barrier to switch highways as I came into the city. Just passing the last farms, I found what I had thought would be the ideal shelter: a grade school's playground. I considered a merry-go-round but settled on the roomier space beneath a platform in a climbing-sliding complex. I threw down my roll, covered myself with my tarp, and tried to get some sleep.

I had suspected I might encounter law enforcement on this trek, and I was right. I was awakened (if that's what you are when you're forced to stop trying to sleep) by a female voice. A pair of Columbus polic officers, a younger healthy-looking woman and a well-fed middle-aged man, were looking for a drunk but would deal with me as they had found me.

The woman seemed to be a technical sort of cop, as if she were new and wanted to make sure she could do each task. She attended the radio, used police codes when talking on it, and drove the car. In a movie she definitely would have been the "green" officer learning the ropes. She took my ID and radioed it in to be checked. Of course it came back clean, so they were happy to send me on my way.

The male officer was a different brand of playing cards altogether. I explained to him why I had been dosing in a children's jungle gym, and he offered some info on the Wild Goose Wisconsin State Trail that I am now heading for at his suggestion. He helped me find it and plot a course to it on my map. Explaining about the coldness that I was dealing with, he offered me a bright yellow disposable blanket. He said he was glad to give one to someone who was still alive, although I kind of wonder how many dead bodies he really deals with in small town Columbus. I didn't notice at the time (I was a little frazzled) but this jovial officer was a little strange. He awkwardly worked "happier than a pig in mud" and "sweating like a pig" into his chit-chat, as if he wanted me to provoke him with some inflamatory pork comments of my own. Also he phrased my journey as hitch-hiking; I was sure to specify that I was just hiking, not hitching, as I believe that hitch-hiking is illegal. Kind of a strange cookie, this cop; perhaps he was more clever than he seemed, but then again perhaps even less.

I will never be able to say that I walked all the way from Madison to Menasha, because the Columbus poice drove me to the opposite outskirts of town. I thought it wouldn't be a good idea to turn down their offer. They really seemed like they wanted to do it.

So now I'm walking toward the southern end of the Wild Goose trail, or more accurately taking a rather long break at a wayside along the route there. It's raining, and has been for several hours. I hung the tarp up to make a shelter. It's supported at three corners by trees, and the fourth is tied down to my Leatherman. I should have known that big file tool thing would come in handy, it makes the Leatherman a sturdy stainless steel tent stake.

This yellow blanket is just the thing I needed, I think. One side is waterproof plastic, the other is sort of foamy. It doesn't slip against clothing at all though, making it hard to move around under. It's really a lot like a high-quality disposable table cloth. I wouldn't mind if it were a bit wider so that I could wrap it completely and securely around myself and still have room to wiggle. I could imagine myself sweating like a pig in this thing if it weren't quite so cold outside.

I watched a robin from my little shelter as it successfully hunted for worms in the grass. That was kind of cool.

Eaten while here:

  • box of raisins
  • some banana chips
  • some water
  • some York bites

Maybe its serious about not raining now...


1:03pm Day 2

Well, I'm heading out again. It's still all cloudy, but it seems to have stopped raining anyway. I just filled four of my water bottles at the wayside outdoor drinking water fountain thing. Some motorist who had stopped came and talked to me for a bit and offered me a ride, which I declined. He seemed like a friendly old guy, perhaps lonely or something. I kind of felt bad for him. I transfered the remainder of my package of York bites into my pants pocket, dropping two.

More than anything else, I'm now walking like a robot from the Star Wars universe. My legs take very small steps, and my knees don't bend a whole lot, but it isn't very painful, so it's the method I'm sticking with. I definitely feel like one of those battle droid things, or maybe even C-3PO.

It got me to thinking about Star Wars. All the walking robots shuffle along sort of like I do now, even the ones that are supposed to be highly mobile for combat. This is no doubt a part of the reason for the battle drones being replaced by clones. So are we supposed to believe that in this universe where a droid can be fluent in six million or so forms of communication, nobody can figure out how to make them walk properly? The cars can fly, for goodness sake, why can't the robots walk? Oh well.


8:36am Day 3 (Thursday 15 May 2003)

Seven miles already today. I meant to write last night but didn't. So what did I do after leaving the wayside yesterday?

I hiked what I hope will be the most boring leg of this trip. Officer Friendly had pointed me down East Highway 16/60. It's blue on my map, which translates I guess to being busier than my comfortable little black county highways.

I've decided that having a semi trailer fly by me at highway speed creates a buffeting similar to that experienced on a roller coaster, but considerably less fun. It probably helped to dry off my tarp, which I has wearing in poncho mode, but I am definitely not missing it on the infinitely nicer Wild Goose trail.

This was definitely a very, very long straight road, which seems worse than a very, very long path with variation and turns and such. I did get several ride offers, all of which I turned down. Some guy in a grey pickup truck, some chick in a red car, and some country housewife all yelled ride offers to me. That was kind of fun. I almost thought about taking one of them up on the offer, but didn't. I talked to a county sherriff of some kind, who did the standard ID check and asked me if I was all right and all that. He seemed kind of bumbling. He gave me directions to the start of the Wild Goose Trail, which I already knew, when I was already within three miles of it.

Approaching the start of the Wild Goose Trail, I saw some construction work as a crew was laying fiber optic cable along the side of the highway. I've seen markers for the stuff all over the place, warning not to dig and wreck it. They seem to do it in a pretty cool way, with a big boring machine so that they don't have to dig a channel and all that. I ate the last of my York bites and a bunch of trail mix, putting it into my front pants pockets and snacking on it.

And then, after thinking I'd never make it, I was finally greeted by the trail sign: "Fond du Lac, 34.8 miles." It was great. I stopped and sat at a combination map sign and park bench to eat a peanut butter and chocolate chip Harvest bar and drink as much water as I could before setting up camp.

The Wild Goose Trail follows an old abandoned railroad coridor. The tracks are long gone and the trail is well surfaced with crushed limestone for walking on, with grassy side-trails for horses, but the path is still raised, with minor valleys on either side that rise eventually to privately owned land, farm or otherwise. So the space I had to bed down in was rather swampy, especially since it had been raining all day.

It reminded me of nothing so much as Dagobah, the swamp planet from Star Wars. (Why is everything Star Wars lately?) Luckily nothing tried to swallow me, there were really no nasty bugs to speak of, and I was able to find a satisfactory space, adequately hidden from the trail. Not that it mattered; I have seen no one else on the trail whatsoever.

So this last was my first night with my nice new police-issue blanket. Also, I used my rope to tie my tarp into a fairly nice lean-to configuration. Then I layed out my tarp, folded once to make a sort of open sleeping bag. With my neat green tarp lean-to and crisp rectangular blanket in bright yellow, it looked very geometrical.

I decided I might have better luck staying right with my blanket if I took my shoes off, so I did. Once I got myself wrapped up, all thoughts of writing that night were gone, but it was only eight o'clock or so. I tried to sleep.

There were noises. Birds keep on chirping until darkness has fallen completely. The namesakes of the Wild Goose trail were duly represented, and quite doing their part to contribute to the atmosphere, it seemed. Also there were bangs. These were loud bangs that seemed to come from the distance. I would have thought they were gun shots if I hadn't known they couldn't possibly be.

I didn't know if it would rain any more in the night, but I hoped it wouldn't. It did. I half-woke and noticed it, pulling my backpack under the lean-to somehow and managing to get my shoes back on my cold feet before trying to get some more sleep. It is very hard to move under my blanket without exposing some part of my body to cold air. It was not incredibly comfortable, but it was survivable.

I got up at 5:15, grateful to have been able to stay down that long but unable to stay down any longer. It was already light enough to see well, and the sky was still a blanket of grey cloud. I packed my things very quickly, I thought, and set off.

I noticed several things in the first few miles. First, there are mile markers, which I love. I'm now using my fancy new digital wristwatch's "chronometer" feature to record the time I spend on each mile. It seems to typically take 20 minutes or so for me to complete a mile, when I take no substantial stoppings. There are occaisional twigs and leaves and such on the path, and also worms. The worms are often indistinguishable from the twigs except at very short range, as they, like the twigs, become covered in tiny bits of limestone. The worms were no doubt drawn out by the rain, and unable to get back into the earth. Some still move, but not most. A few of my toes are not doing as well as they might be. I sat down and pulled off my shoes, and applied self-adhesive bandages (aka Band-Aids) to several of them. One had started to bleed a little bit, but not seriously. Finally, I discovered what the source of last night's banging noises was. There is a rifle range about a mile and a half along, and apparently its users like to shoot through dusk.

I've walked through Waupun already (not much to walk through, really) and will be entering Horicon sooner or later. Now I intend to record, as I've been meaning to, a list of things that I should do when I get home.


Todo When I Get Home List

  • See movies:
    • X2: X-Men United (call John Z.)
    • The Matrix Reloaded
    • Bend It Like Beckham (where?) (with sisters?)
  • Learn to play the piano:
    • practice 10-11 am M-F (stick to it!)
    • get headphone piano for school? (in fall)
  • YMCA classes
    • promote promote (PRIORITY ONE)
    • prepare syllabi (sp?)
    • sign up to take some other classes
  • Organize all STUFF
    • things to sell this fall in Madison
    • teacher quotes (go through all notebooks)
    • store/dispose of useless stuff
    • laundry (where to put clothes for summer?)
    • clean up linoleum
    • clean/put away all stuff from hike
    • file all loose photos where they belong
      • finish roll in camera (new batt?) and get developed 1st
    • scan and store photo albums (my own at least)
  • My web site(s)
    • reorganize, update, fix, correct, add to
  • Write Up Hike Log (PRIORITY TWO)
  • Research paper on vegetarianism
  • Read British HP books (1-4)
  • prepare for HP partying
  • get set up to and try to run regularly
  • hike-n-raft the Fox River
  • do some cooking
  • Re-do (a bit) the library
    • new monitor
    • only one (well-organized) desk... the nice one
  • skateboard/roller skate at local skate parks

(addition, below)


Man, do I smell bad! Still cold and cloudy. Heading out at 9:20.


11:33am Day 3

Not even noon, and I've done nearly 12 miles. Not even noon, and it's already getting sunny. Er... It's getting sunny anyway, so I'm down to shorts and t-shirt for the first time since Tuesday. I stopped here at a pleasant little park in Burnett and applied judicious amounts of sun screen. Harcore sunburn is not what I need. I just hope my Walgreen's brand SPF-15 is up to the job. I was okay from Tuesday, anyway.

There was something else I thought of for my todo list, and this sentence was going to end "but I forgot what it was," except I just remembered it. Obvious.


  • "The Great Outdoors" Comic Strip
    • develop, submit to Cardinal, etc.

Speaking of which...

[Editing note: My hike journal is interspersed with notes, drawings, and ideas for this comic strip thing that I'm kind of working on. I don't know if it's going anywhere, but if it is my web site will definitely reflect it.]

I'm really hungry for the first time on this trip. Kind of weird. Gotta keep eating!


2:17pm Day 3

Just over 17 miles of Wild Goose Trail (I love those mile markers) I encountered my first non-me human on the trail. A friendly old man and his friendly young dog passed me going the opposite direction on the trail as I sat on a bench tending to my feet.

He stopped to chat (the dog couldn't be bothered) and told me of a couple bikers he had been passed by twice, but said the trail is typically quite uncrowded. He asked if I had any blisters, and I realized with great relief that I did not. It hadn't entered my mind that I might get blisters. Thank you, Capoeira training, for making my feet particularly resistant to blisters!

I moved from the bench to a shadier spot on the trail nearby after laying out my clothes to dry in the sun. Here comes the dog again... jumping all over me.

The man stopped again passing me on his return leg and recommended a possible camping spot up ahead the way I'm going. He says it's on Highway 49, a couple hundred yards to the right from the trail. I don't know how likely a spot it sounds, really.

People are really quite friendly, it seems. Also dogs, who cover my legs with marsh goo in their jubilance.

Note: A while ago I saw some kind of crazy creature at the base of a tree. I'm not even going to try to describe it aside from that it was furry, it was maybe cat-sized, and I didn't know what it was. It was different from the crazy animal I saw on Library Mall.

Now the real reason for this stop, which is to write down comic ideas that I've been going over in my head.


Why is it called "Hogwart's" school of Witchcraft and Wizardry? Weird that there's no stated reason.

Heading out again - shortly after 3pm.


8:50am Day 4 (Friday 16 May 2003)

Well I wasn't going to write, but I've been reported dead in Fond du Lac and thought I absolutely had to mention it. "I'm not dead yet!" I suppose I had better start where I left off in getting back up to the present...

Well, I did a lot of walking. Mile after mile, you know how it goes. I didn't want to stop too early last night, knowing I probably wouldn't get to sleep until nine-ish anyway, when it gets totally dark and the birds quiet down. I also figured that the more I did yesterday, the more tired I'd be and the better I'd be able to sleep. Some of that was almost right.

[Editing note: My notes here are pretty hard to piece into a cohesive account. They're very brief thought segments, and their ordering is so non-chronological it's amazing to me that I wrote it down the way I did.]

I eventually decided that it'd be better to bed down after Oakfield than before, so I endeavored to push through. Oakfield was a strange little town, or so it seemed to me. There were in several places signs that warned against trespassing on the trail, which is makes exactly as much sense as it seems to. Residents must have put up signs to keep people like me off of the public trail. Official-looking signs, even. I was glad to not have to confront any Oakfieldians on this matter. Maybe they were only addressing the snowmobilers or something.

I needed to replenish my liquid supplies, and the only place I could find was a cruddy little non-chain gas station that didn't seem to have bathrooms. So I bought some bottled water and some orange juice. I also broke down and bought a sandwich to munch. Even as hungry as I was, gas station sandwiches are really really bad. I probably shoulnd't have gotten the darn sandwich. It isn't sitting so well in the ol' belly. Oh well. It seemed like a good idea at the time.

So I continued on the path out of town, and stumbled across a pack of young boys who had turned some of the area around the trail just past the last of the buildings into a sort of off-road biking play area. I watched as one kid tried to take a jump, discovering halfway down his hill that he had no functioning brakes. It was a bad time to discover this, as another kid had just jumped in front of him. They managed to avoid an accident.

These kids meant that I would have to walk farther along than I had thought, so that I wouldn't have to worry about their somehow coming across me. I didn't want to get far enough along that I was very close to the highway crossings that I saw coming up on my map either. The first spot I tried was next to an old stone bridge that the trail followed over a nice babbling brook. After fighting down the steep deteriorating stone stairs to the bank, I was unable to find any place suitable for lying out. So I pulled my way back up the trail.

Most of my sitings of other trail users occured just past Oakfield. The biking kids, some teenage guy running, and a group of four middle-aged people walking. After these last two couples (I presume) had passed out of sight, I scrambled up what was now a sharp incline on the left of the trail, getting up to the level of farms surrounding. I found a decent spot and tried to set up camp as I had the night before. It was darker, I was more tired, my camp was not as good.

On the other hand, it didn't rain, which was nice. But then, I didn't get as much sleep either. It was very cold, and 2:30am was as long as I could hold out. So I was up and away, clamboring down onto the trail at three in the morning.

I got to one of the highway crossings that I knew were coming up at around 3:30. Waiting for two cars to pass, the second one abruptly turned in to me, drawing to a stop. I already had a familiar resigned feeling when the red and blue lights started spinning on the roof.

It was a fairly strange encounter, as it turned out neither of us knew the other was there until the last second. The cop hadn't seen me before stopping; I just happened to be waiting to cross the street at a place that he referred to as one of his "honey holes" for catching speeders with radar. After the obligatory ID check and struggle to explain what I was doing in the middle of nowhere in the middle of the night, I was on my way once more.

So 5:30ish this morning I reached the end of the Wild Goose Trail in Fond du Lac. That was gratifying, let me tell you! And technically, I hiked the whole of the trail in one day. That's pretty awesome.

I had some navigation difficulties entering Fond du Lac, so I stopped at a nice new-seeming Citgo station with a big food selection and enjoyed a proper breakfast of sausage-egg-and-cheese biscuit sandwich, donut, and grapefruit juice. It was pretty nice. I used the bathroom, and I must say, I am one grubby guy. I also got a couple of maps and figured out what was going on.

On through Fond du Lac then, eh? That's what I did exactly. A bit over half way through, at 7:30 or so, I came across this nice park. Adelaide Park is its name, and I've laid down near its big sign, with some of my things strewn about to dry in the sun. I wasn't minding the warmth myself, although it didn't clear my nasal passages, when several interruptions came along.

Some guy from the body shop across the street stopped by to make sure I was all right. Some kids on their way to Parkside grade school (adjacent to the park) stopped in a gang and seemed to think that they'd mess with me or something. They were trying to tell my that their school owned the public city park and that I shouldn't be sleeping in it or something. I really dislike little kids who act like they have some sort of authority, especially over me. I'm not sure I dislike it more when they actually have that authority or when they don't, but these precocious little hellions had nothing on me. So eventually they drifted off and I tried to nap a bit more.

I was roused by a siren. There's always kind of a little voice that wonders if the siren is coming for you, or maybe someone you know or something, but this time I had a stronger than normal feeling. I was a little amused when a big red ambulance parked virtually at my feet and paramedics jumped out with little black bags. They explained that I had been called in dead, and I was very amused. I didn't even know that you could call a person in dead. Some old lady driving along had seen me napping in a public park, and decided that the only logical explanation was that someone had dumped a corpse. The poor woman would die of fright in Madison, where parks are often covered with various people laid out in the grass.

Well, I don't think I'm going to get any more sleep around here. It's 9:10, and I'm heading out. Hopefully I'll find a bathroom before leaving Fondy.


1:01pm Day 4

Nowhere has got to be pretty darn big, to have a middle that I can keep walking through for days and never get out of it. I'm on yet another grid of county highways, making my way toward Oshkosh. I was playing with the idea of trying to go straight on to home, but now I'm hoping I'll be able to find Dan Berken in Oshkosh and get some proper sleep at his house there.

I'm sort of passing the time as I walk along by calling around on my sister's mobile phone. I was able to borrow the phone for my trip since my parents pay for it anyway and they wanted me to be able to call if I get in trouble or anything. So I've been calling roughly daily to say that I'm not dead yet and that everything is going well. I turn the phone on, call, and then turn the phone off. But yesterday I left the phone on long enough that it got notified that there were voicemail messages.

Luckily the voicemail wasn't password protected or anything, at least in its speed dial entry. The first message was from someone trying to reach Joanna, which didn't work since I have the phone. The second one was from a reporter from the Post-Crescent. She must have called my house and been given the cell number. She wanted to know about the Capoeira classes that I'm doing at the Neenah-Menasha YMCA this summer, which was pretty cool I thought.

I tried to call her back last night but it was late so I just left a message. I got her today though, and tried to give an interview of sorts. It doesn't sound like she's doing anything terribly in-depth though. Capoeira is just going to be one item in a list of "strange ways to exercise" or something.

It would have been hard for me to give a worse interview. Stumbling over words was the order of the day, and forgetting words altogether was the second course. Trying to describe Capoeira's history, I couldn't remember the name of the other major type. (I do Regionale, the other kind is called: something.) Then, talking about Capoeira as a workout, I wanted to describe it as: something. Argh. I still can't remember the darn word. Either of them.


7:48pm Day 4

Pretty sure I'm so exhausted I'm stupid. Most noticably can't remember names/words/etc. On phone with Shaun, the Post-Crescent reporter: Angola is the Capoeira word I was trying to remember. I still can't remember that other word. All I get is bad crossword puzzle hints: it's used in the name "'blank' medicine", it's like "unitarian" sort of, or "wholeness" or something.

[Editing note: The word I was looking for was "wholistic," as in "Capoeira provides a very wholistic workout, training aerobic endurance, muscular strength, flexibility, balance, and involving the whole body."]

Just now, trying to compare myself to it, I can't remember the name of that short story in which a retarded man and a mouse are given injections that dramatically increase their intelligence for a while, but eventually cause them to regress and die. That was a pretty cool story.

[Editing note: Maybe I wasn't doing so bad after all. I still can't remember what that story was called. I know it was a guy's name though. Now just for fun, here's the last paragraph exactly as I wrote it.]

Found Dan finally. House not actually habitable. Apartment though. Also food. Maybe shower. Warm sleep. Home tomorrow.

[Editing note: Now, what did I mean by that?]

I came into Oshkosh later than I had hoped to. I got Dan's address and phone number from 411, but I never got an answer at the provided phone number. It seemed to take forever, but I eventually got to the address with the help of my Oshkosh map. Dan had told me that he bought a house in Oshkosh. The building I arrived at was a big apartment complex. I was sure I was doomed, and sat down to try to call around and possibly get another phone number where I might reach a Berken.

Just then Ben Ziemba drove up with his girlfriend. Ben was (and still is, more or less) Dan's roommate. I was saved! With Ben's help I got Dan's cell number and his real house address. It was a little frustrating to have to backtrack a mile or more to an address I had literally passed by on my way to the apartment address.

When I got to Dan's house, I discovered to my dismay that it was stripped down to the bare skeleton of a house. No real roof, no siding or insulation, no interior walls, no flooring, etc. Definitely no furniture. Dan had told me that he had to do some work on his house, but I had imagined it was on the order of painting some walls, not leveling the foundation and working up.

The whole Berken clan was working on the house. I made small talk as coherently as I was able, and now I'm just sitting around. I would help out or something, but my legs are all but useless and I'm dead tired. I guess Dan still lives at the apartment that he and Ben share, so I'm going back there to crash for tonight. That's going to be awesome. Then tomorrow I can walk a comparably easy distance home.


Epilogue

I didn't write any more entries in my notebook, but I did make it home the next day (Saturday 17 May 2003). I had planned to get home in the afternoon and be able to clean myself up and then go to Bethany's play. But I learned via cell phone that Bethany was doing her bigger role at the two o'clock show, so I tried to hustle a little more and made it to Seton Catholic Middle School just in time to see The Music Man.

My parents brought my request, which was a large meal from Subway. Mmm... Fruizle! My old principal even let me eat in the gym during the show. It was pretty cool. I was pretty smelly, but there were enough open seats that I didn't have to inflict myself on anyone.

After the show, I walked home from school.


Appendix A: On Red-Winged Blackbirds

I meant on several occaisions to write in my journal about the birds I saw as I walked along, specifically Red-Winged Blackbirds. The males are territorial and easily identifiable by their striking red and black plumage, and would sometimes follow me along my path, apparently trying to scare me off or guard against me with little caws. I thought they were pretty neat.

Somehow I always forgot to mention these birds in my entries, which is why I'm making this an appendix; an afterthought. So there you go.


Saturday, February 2, 2008

Practical Philosophy

The folks at The School of Practical Philosophy are really quite keen on that Practical bit. They give you practices. In the first week, we got and did a thing called "The Exercise", and have done it again in the second and third classes. It's also on eight-and-a-half-by-eleven in our binders, and additionally printed on a special card. Here it is:


We were supposed to be doing it twice a day for the last two weeks. Today we did a new practice which is called The Pause. It's like The Exercise but shorter. You're supposed to be still for a moment and focus on one sense. It's a sort of micro-meditation, and well-named besides.

The main content of this class was "Levels of Awareness", although we spent a lot of time discussing attachment and sharing personal stories of trying to apply the question "What would a wise person do?" Some people shared things that I would probably have considered too private to bring out in that environment. Anyway, here are the levels of awareness from my notes:
  • Higher states of consciousness
  • Fully awake
  • Awakening consciousness
  • Waking sleep
  • Dream
  • Deep sleep
It was claimed that most people spend most of their allegedly awake time at the "waking sleep" level.

I had to run part of the way through Central Park to get there on time, but I did, and this time I chose to go back to the room and teacher (Roland) from my first week. He's a private school administrator, seems a little like Mr. Rogers, and is a wonder just to watch for his teacherly demeanor. Today I was particularly impressed with how he handled a participant's wildly off-topic response to a question. Without ever losing a beat he addressed the response positively, affirming the speaker, and then gently returned to the question he had actually asked. My response as a teacher in that situation might easily have been wide-mouthed and probably insulting flabergastion.

One weirdness from the day: several times Roland spoke of something taking multiple lifetimes, in a way that could be purely colloquial or could indicate a literal belief in reincarnation. Is that a part of the school's curriculum, I wonder?


Subway Philosophy
Week One
Week Two
Week Three

Monday, January 28, 2008

Eduardo for Presidente is watching me

Somebody put these signs up recently. One looks directly into all my front windows. In the kitchen, Eduardo is there. In the living room, Eduardo is there. Who are you, Eduardo? What do you want to be presidente of? I'm already an Obama man, Eduardo!

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Lily of the Valley

The Lily of the Valley is not technically a lily, but it is of the Valley, in at least the same sense that I am. By that I mean that we can both be found, or could, in the Fox River Valley, toward the middle of Wisconsin. There again, the Fox Valley may not technically be a valley at all. An adult once tried to explain to me that the land is depressed some handful of feet over many miles of farmland specked with forest, so that by the time you come to the the suburban metropolis where the mighty Fox River joins Lake Winnebago, you can hardly expect to observe directly the characteristics typical of valleys. I never had this on better than say-so.

My family lived, and still does live, just exactly where the Fox is in the business of joining the Winnebago, or vice versa. Two short winding arms connect Lake Winnebago with Little Lake Butte des Morts, which is not technically a lake at all since it is really just a wide, slow part of the Fox River. Nestled in this freshwater embrace is Doty Island, where my family has lived in two different houses. In both houses I think we speculated that Doty Island may not technically be an island, being simply bordered by an excess of river on the shore of a lake, rather than isolated out in the middle of anything. It's easy to think that, with everything built up so much that roads hop rivers on unobtrusive bridges and factories lean out over shallows on tidy concrete pylons.

In grade school I remember we learned all about land-forms, most memorable in their oddity the plateau and the isthmus. What a load of malarky!

Our old house was surrounded by a pleasant land-form called a yard. I understand now that the British call the yard of a house its garden, even if it isn't a garden at all. This would have been confusing at my family's home, since we had distinct gardens inside of the yard.

My mother tended a triangular flower garden bordered with old brick in a front corner of the yard, opposite the driveway. Along that driveway was a neighborly row of hosta that led back to a tall neighborly fence. Along the fence back there was a narrow plot of flowers, sometimes magnificent and sometimes fallow. The opposite edge of the yard, back from the brick triangle, was edged thick with lilac bushes, tall and woody, under which sometimes mysterious flowers would appear. As with the crocus and violets that appeared here and there in the lawn now and again, my mother would generally just smile when we noticed, if she took credit at all. The yard was allowed to be miraculous.

Hosta, incidentally, is like Lily of the Valley in that it was once classified as a lily, but is not any longer. The botanists must have their reasons.

The yard was backed by another fence, this one older, shorter, and grayer than the other. Square in the middle of the rectangular back yard so enclosed was a rectangular vegetable garden with a wire fence to keep out the rabbits, closed up with a homemade gate. It could have been a full acre to a bunch of kids, and for the amount of work it was to keep properly tended. There was always a lot of rhubarb. We kids had our own little plots in there to putter around with too. Mine was right by the gate. One summer I just dug a hole where my plot was and buried a time capsule, which was a plastic tennis ball canister containing such memorable items as a pair of black dress socks.

The yard had trees as well, big sturdy Maples that gave us presents through the year: sugary sap, helicopter seed pods, and colorful leaves overhead and underfoot. The trees were old, old, old, like the neighbors, like the neighborhood. Their young cousins in sprawling developments are easy to pity, easy to mock. One day those too will be dignified matriarchs, the landmarks of an old area, providing nearly as much shade as they allow sun.

A last garden lay along the side of the brown-painted garage. It was a raised bed of rich soil, sweetened with compost and mulched with fresh grass clippings. It was held up on one side by the old garage wall and on the other three sides by moisture-cracked railroad ties. If you followed the ties back past mint and chives to the limit of the yard, near the raspberry brier, there was a quiet space between the rotting fence and the garage. It was a passage.

I had, and perhaps I still have, only an introvert boldness. I will do it, try it, explore it - as long as it doesn't involve interacting with people. This tended to make me respect the borders of our yard more judiciously than the family dog, and without any need for a remote-control electrocution collar. There could be neighbors in the neighbors' yards, after all. There were fences. The adults must have their reasons.

So it was only ever carefully that I ventured out behind the garage where the neighbor’s yard melded with ours. The trees there were more sprawling, more clutching. Their joined canopies swaddled hard moist ground in a relative darkness and grass grew only here and there, struggling.

That unfriendly expanse was a kind of barren sea, and the strip of shore behind our garage was more alive than all of it. It was there that grew the Lily of the Valley, and neither of us would venture farther afield. This was a real bed of flowers, ankle to knee height, too dense to walk through, with leaves of rich green parchment curving around delicate stems that tentatively raised up bashful bells so white and pure, so impossibly small.

The fragrance of the Lily of the Valley is a wonder of the world. If you crouch and put your nose to those constellations of dainty flowers, your eyes will widen with the power and beauty of it. They smell exactly like Eve.

Standing there with them, there was no reason to step out into any other place.

I tried to dig up that tennis ball time capsule I buried, years before I had really planned to, but I couldn’t find it. The family moved since then, and I don’t think I’ll ever have another attempt. It’s gone.

I don’t know if there are Lily of the Valley behind that old garage any more. I tried to find some at flower shops much later. I found out they’re difficult to be had. Sometimes they can be special-ordered, usually for weddings, for a few weeks in the spring. When I want flowers, I tend to get Stargazer Lilies, true lilies, huge and flashy, pungent enough to fill a whole room with their sweet scent. Stargazer Lilies were bred by someone in California. Everyone can agree about flower eugenics.

I was looking for Stargazer Lilies just the other day at Whole Foods Market, underground at Columbus Circle in New York City. They didn’t have any. I examined a White Hyacinthus instead, put my nose to it. The delicate sensation was like a vision of a lost time. It reminded me of the Lily of the Valley.

It reminded me that perhaps lilies are things we call lilies and valleys are things we call valleys, and that will have to do.

Strange but True

I went to Mitsuwa, a Japanese supermarket in New Jersey, with Momo and Han today. New Jersey's Bergen County forbids the sale of home appliances on Sundays. No toaster for you, Momo! Pretty tasty food though, and a whole aisle of Pocky. They even have Pocky for Men!

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Philosophy Works: Week Two

I got to my second Saturday class at the School of Practical Philosophy a little earlier, so I sat in the back room, which is decorated in what I'm inclined to call a Victorian style, all white and ornate. On Saturdays the two rooms on the second floor are both full, and two tutors lead two sections simultaneously.

The tutor for today's section was a good deal more of a rambler. I was less fond of him. I was also more tired, grumpier and caffeinated, so it may not have been entirely to do with him. I additionally entertained hostile thoughts for the gleefully talkative older members of this room's audience. How dare they not share my cynicism?

The main content for the day was contained in two simple diagrams called "triads". The first one is composed of external stimuli, desire, and action. This is described as a mechanical cycle, or "the picture of a limited life". The second triad has essential desires, habitual desired, and effort. The word effort was broken down to mean "from strength". These diagrams were supposed to explain something, I guess.

The tutor also led the group twice through "The Exercise" awareness meditation, and there were a few parables or fables involving animals. Self knowledge and observation were themes, but the whole session seemed to lack coherence. It couldn't have helped that I was in a kind of fog myself. Fog or not, I feel I have growing criticisms of the philosophy as such that I will have to expand later.


After class I explored the neighborhood a little. I had an expensive sandwich called "The Spa" with avocado and sun-dried tomatoes and drank fresh-pressed juice from carrots, bananas, and apples. Walking toward the Met, I found that across the street from the School of Practical Philosophy is the first Waldorf school in the United States. Some of its eighth-graders were advertising a fund-raising sale on the sidewalk out front. They had knit hats, among other things. I happen to know a little about Waldorf schools because they're in the same class of alternative educational schemes as Montessori schools, which I was and am interested in. I wished them luck and walked into the Met, but decided I didn't really care to wander around inside for a suggested contribution of $20. On my way to the subway on Lexington, I discovered that All Souls, the Unitarian church mentioned earlier, is within two blocks of the School of Practical Philosophy. This whole region seems to somehow be a hotbed of upper class mysticism, a suit-wearing hippy land.


Subway Philosophy
Week One
Week Two
Week Three