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12 Jan

Miscellaneous ramblings, no. 2: electric boogaloo – Welcome to the second installment of a little feature I like to call “Miscellaneous Ramblings.” This is where I basically start writing with no clear idea of what I want to say. I’m not sure if this is actually a good idea, but that’s never stopped me before.

“Miscellaneous rambling is dangerous and should not be attempted without proper training and equipment.”

I’d like to start today’s entry with a correction to my last entry. It was a pretty serious error, and I feel it merits a full explanation. Somewhere in my last entry (you can just take my word for it if you don’t feel like reading the whole entry) I mentioned that I only have two real friends left in the States. Well, one of my readers and good friends read that line and was upset that I didn’t consider her a real friend. I suppose I should have explained myself better—what I meant with that line was that, of all the friends I had in the States before moving to Korea, only two of them are left (that is, these are the only two I keep in touch with and visit when I’m in the States). Friends that I made after leaving the States are a separate issue.

In the interest of giving equal air time to my good friends (considering all the time I spend talking about “that David guy”), I ask that you indulge me while I introduce this friend of mine. I can’t give you her real name because I’m pretty sure she is wanted by authorities in quite a few states, but she goes by the moniker “Lacuna.” I’m not sure what the significance of this name is, but I’m told it was a nickname she picked up during her time in the “big house.” All of that is in the past now, of course, and she is a fine, upstanding citizen of the great state of Alaska. She lives in a rather spacious igloo and works for the Alaskan Department of Transportation. Her current job involves procuring and allocating provisions to keep the transportation system up and running (she feeds the sled dogs), but I hear that she may soon be promoted to a management position (sled dog trainer). Oh, and she also has a website. It is currently adorned with an “under construction” graphic that has been there since the last Ice Age, but you have to admit it’s a very pretty graphic.

Ah, I feel much better now, and I’m sure Lacuna does too. If any of my other friends out there feel slighted by a lack of attention, please let me know. I can’t be disappointing my friends now, can I?

With that little matter out of the way I can now get to whatever it is that I’m going to write. I suppose I’ll just give you a little update on my life at the moment and see where that takes me. January is turning out to be a bit of a bummer as far as months go. It’s definitely not as bad as the hellish month of December, but due to some year-end carryover work, things have not gone as smoothly as I had envisioned. I am pleased to report that I have just finished a project that has been the bane of my existence for the past two weeks or so. I will not comment any further on said project except to say that it was similar to getting wisdom teeth pulled: it’s something that really needs to get done, and you’re glad when it’s all over and the throbbing pain has finally subsided, but the actual process itself is so exceedingly painful that it is almost impossible to get through it without being heavily medicated. At any rate, it is now over, and I can get back to work on various important projects, like my translation of A History of Korean Literature.

It’s funny, but you would think after such a heinous project that the last thing on earth I would want to do is more translation. In fact, I am very much looking forward to doing some sane translation, where my work is more creative and less like repeatedly smashing my head into a brick wall. Of course, I would most likely throw myself out the window if I had to do any more of the type of work I just finished. Then I would pick myself up and walk back inside, since we live on the ground floor.

Anyway, I’m hoping to get a lot of work done during the winter break. When I was at university in the States, I think winter break ranged from three to five weeks. Here in Korea, though, we get two months and change. In fact, winter break is almost as long as summer break, if not as long. My wife and I usually travel during the winter break because, to be honest, Korea isn’t the happiest place to be during the winter. It’s not as cold as some places I’ve been (Mongolia comes to mind), but it’s not all that cheerful either. Thus we usually flee the country for warmer climes in the winter. Either that or we go to New York, which is pretty much like Korea in the winter, except with bagels.

This winter, though, I just had too much work to do, so here we are. Surprisingly enough, it hasn’t snowed yet, which is a very good thing. I think I complained about the snow in my fabled (work with me here) “hell month” entry, and apparently the Big Guy upstairs was listening. On the other hand, there hasn’t really been all that much to photograph in the neighborhood. It’s beautiful when it snows, and I was kind of looking forward to taking some photos of that, but so far it’s been sunshine and blue skies. Not that I’m complaining, I just figured I’d explain why I haven’t taken too many photographs lately.

I did go out one morning last week and fill up the entire flash card with photographs of frost. I was driving back from the gym and I noticed that the woods across the street were still partially covered in frost and sparkled in the sun. I ran inside, got my camera, and ran back out again to take some pictures. Fortunately I learned how to operate the camera through thick gloves, because it was bitterly cold. I took a few photos of the woods and mountain, but they didn’t actually look as nice as I thought they wood (it was hard to see the frost). Then I turned around and noticed a huge patch of white. It was the western side of a huge pile of boulders that were dumped there when the golf course down the way was built, and the pile is now overgrown with plants. I’m not sure how they grow, but there they are.

So this patch of white I saw was an area that was still sheltered from the sun, and the frost hadn’t begun to melt yet. I climbed up the pile of boulders and was amazed at what I saw. I don’t think I’ve ever seen frost like that before. It looked like the plants had sprouted tiny leaves or needles of frost—the longest were over a centimeter long. I dubbed them “frost feathers,” because that’s what they looked like. I stood there for an hour and took one hundred forty-four photos, and by the time I was done I couldn’t feel any of my extremities. It was worth it, though, because I got some amazing shots. My usually crap-to-gem ratio would have yielded about seven good photographs, but the subject was so nice that I probably got double that.

Of course, I haven’t put these photos online yet (let the lynching begin!). I could probably get a whole gallery out of these shots, but I haven’t decided if I want to do that or if I want to save them for the Osanri: Winter gallery. I would have to cull the really good shots from the batch, which would require going through each and every photo, and I haven’t had the time for that yet. However, I realize that it would be really crappy of me to go on about how amazing the frost was and not show you any pictures. I get enough hate mail as it is, so I’m going to go through the photographs right now and pick out a couple for you. Hold on a sec. OK, I’m back. Here are two shots I’ve plucked from the batch and dropped into Experimental for the time being: frost needles and frost feathers closeup.

Other than translation and that one nice photography outing, not much of note has happened lately. Back in the States, though, my youngest brother Matthew is on his way to boot camp in South Carolina (I think it was South Carolina, at least). He has decided to join the Army National Guard, and he managed to pass the preliminary physical evaluation, or whatever it is that they call it. And now he is about to begin what I’m sure will be a life-changing experience.

I was a bit surprised when I heard that he wanted to join the National Guard. As his oldest brother, I had mixed feelings about it. I myself almost went to West Point, but I realized that I was not really Army material. Fortunately, my father respected my decision and I did not go to West Point. Not that it would have been a bad thing, but I just didn’t think that was the path for me, and looking back on it now I think I was right. My brother Brian, who is three years younger than me, is about as far as you can possibly get from being Army material. Matthew, however, is Matthew, and if I had to pick one of the three of us as a military man, it would be him.

I think it will be good for him, as long as he manages to hang in there. Like all young people (yes, I’m an old fogey now!), he needs discipline, and the ANG certainly has discipline. I imagine he’ll also be in a lot better shape when he’s done with training than he is now, and that’s another good thing. Plus it’s something to do with his life for a few years—it’s a definite direction, a definite goal. That’s also a good thing.

On the other hand, it’s the army. Yes, I know it’s the National Guard, but it’s still the army. I had been under the impression that the National Guard didn’t fight overseas (mainly because I really know very little about the workings of the U.S. military), but that is not the case. In fact, the federal mission of the ANG, which is printed in large words right on the front of their website, says: “Maintain properly trained and equipped units available for prompt mobilization for war, national emergency or as otherwise needed.” There’s also a ticker running across the top of the page whose sole purpose is apparently to convince you that the National Guard is the army.

So, while part of me is very proud of him, part of me is also uneasy. After all, the United States is currently at war. Actually, I don’t know if it’s technically still a war—I seem to remember Bush saying something about the war being over—but Vietnam was never a war and there were still a lot of casualties. I probably shouldn’t be writing these things because my mum reads this and I did my best to convince her that there was very little chance that Matthew would be sent off to war. That may be true, of course, but I would be lying if I told you that the idea doesn’t disturb me greatly. There may be a 99% chance that he will not be sent, but that 1% is enough to make a brother (or a mother) worry.

I think I’ll just stop there, because there’s nothing else I can really say at this point, and I don’t know why I said what I did. Mom, just ignore those last two paragraphs and remember what I said last time. Man, so this is what it’s like to be a parent. Anyway, M, I know you won’t be able to read this for a while, but your bro is proud of you, and I know you can do it.

I’m trying to think of an upbeat way to end this entry, but I think I pretty much sank any chances of that happening. It’s just that the proper perspective makes things that you once thought important seem so trivial. So, sorry to close on such a downer, but this is where I ended up. Let this be a lesson to you all: miscellaneous rambling is dangerous and should not be attempted without proper training and equipment.

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