Catching Insects



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I caught this butterfly in Mok'po. This is one of many shots I took of this particular butterfly. It didn't want to be still, as butterflies are want to do. I waited and waited for it to settle down, but it was not about to let me take a picture without a lot of patience.


This little guy was just as energetic as the butterfly. I chased and chased him, from flower to flower, but it didn't want to let me take a good picture. Instead, I ended up take a ton of terrible shots without getting much better than this particular shot here. Continue reading

Aging While Expat

man wearing blue hurley shirt
Photo by Thgusstavo Santana on

Growing older, past 40, is strange all by itself. You cannot do what you used to, your joints ache, your stomach doesn’t function as well and the thought of getting up before noon on the weekend is, for me, a complete waste of good sleep time. For someone living away from an English speaking country things are even weirder. You have to go to a doctor and discuss things that require a level of detail you’re not sure your translator can handle. Plus you have someone prodding your body who may not care for your particular set of foreign modesty.

I have solved at least one problem by dropping modesty altogether. That’s not to say that I’m walking the streets with nether cheeks flapping in the pollution saturated wind, but I am less shy about some nurse getting a peek at the pathetic front piece of my body.

–She’s a nurse. She’s not impressed. Too bad her lunch has probably been ruined–

And before someone aims to correct me about nurses being female, I have to say that I have seen one male nurse in Korea, and he was over 40 himself. I felt sorry for him for a different reason: he had to pick up my 90 kg bulk and move me to another bed. I doubted he could do it. I was mistaken.

Nurses here don’t seem to keen on wearing gloves when dealing with bodily fluids. I have had my blood drawn and urine sampled many times, and very rarely have I seen gloves. The cavalier way they handle fluids makes me squeamish to even enter a hospital. Doctors have told me that some hospitals don’t want to spend the money on gloves. Other doctors have said nurses don’t like wearing gloves as they are uncomfortable. But gloves are a known method of preventing the spread of disease, and if I had a hospital within a short hop of perennially infectious China, I’d wear gloves all the time.

One time I went to a hospital with a South African co-worker, and she was definitely not having the no gloves thing. She asked politely if the nurse would wear gloves. The nurse demurred and instead squirted sanitizer on her hands. Well, she said, I suppose that works.

The panicked look on some hospital staff’s faces when they see a foreigner come to their hospital would be comical, if it weren’t for the fact that miscommunication leads to serious complications. Perhaps even death. One would think it behooves a patient to learn the language, and it does. But the other part of growing older is one’s brain doesn’t compute as well as it used to, and learning language is liable to lead to other blood curdling problems.

Despite these minor problems there are great advantages in living in a country with universal healthcare. You don’t spend all your money in medical billing, you don’t have creditors chasing you, you can afford the medication and no matter what you know the doctors are good at what they do.

I heard of one instance where Korean culture got in the way of a diagnosis and almost killed a man. A young doctor said that an American patient was suffering from appendicitis, and needed surgery right away. An elder doctor said it was the flu and all that was needed was antibiotics. The two doctors got into a disagreement until test results resolved the conflict to the younger doctor’s, and patient’s, advantage.

Seeing a doctor is no fun, but it’s especially strange when the doctor cannot ask you direct questions, when they disagree with your need for serious pain medication, or when they chide you for being a wuss. Still, I’d take all this over an American medical nightmare any day.


Pieces of Candy

THERE AREN’T A LOT OF PIECES OF CANDY . . . sorry, the caps-lock was on . . . as I was saying, there aren’t a lot of pieces of candy in my wardrobe these days, because when I worry I eat candy. Candy contains sugar, sugar causes diabetes and cancer, and if it weren’t for my love of sugar I’d be a healthy. However, as I am without scruples when it comes to eating candy (that is, I don’t care where it comes from, or what slave labor produced it, whether Chinese or Korean labor camps, or from tainted chocolate factories in Borneo, it matters not to me) I consume a great deal of it. My hips are starting to protest all the added weight, and my thighs are causing enough friction to start fires, but I don’t care. I dare not budge from my habits. Habits are what makes us, and what makes us happy are our habits. So why run from that which adds pleasure to otherwise miserable lives? The side effects of my habit are weight gain and an unhappy smile, but what’s that to three second of pleasure?


Candy is never in short supply. You can get it much easier than crack or heroine. You can snort it through a straw like cocaine. You can inject it in your butt cheeks like silicone. If you want you can take a wad of taffy and stuff it between your lip and gums, like tobacco, though I’m not sure that will have the same effect as tiny shards of ceramic and nicotine. You could lace taffy with ceramic, and perhaps induce a sugar rush, but I wouldn’t recommend it.


Gum, they say, is candy, but I don’t think so. Gum is gum and candy is candy. Candy is sweet and can only be used to cause elevated blood sugar levels. Gum doesn’t do that. Plus, gum has the added advantage of bubbles! You can try and blow bubbles in taffy, or well chewed tootsie rolls, but the anemic size of the bubbles, and the potential for an aneurism, isn’t worth the effort.


Gum, they say, sticks in your stomach for seven years. I think whoever came up with that canard is a brain cell short of a pair. Who in their right minds thinks chewing gum is going to stick to your innards for years? If that were true one could conceivably eat enough gum to block the entire digestive system. You’d die of starvation! How many five year olds do you know that are starving because of Big League Chew blockage? If gum stuck around for five years there’d be national charities and public service announcements featuring celebrities. Can you imagine Brad Pitt or Keanu Reeves droning on about the hazards of chewing gum?


Anyway, gum’s for keeping the breath healthy and the teeth clean. That’s too much good in one product. I’m sticking to Twizlers, candy necklaces and gummy bears. Handfuls of jelly bellies hit the spot as well. You can get all the flavors of the rainbow (and then some) all in one bag. But for crying out loud we have to stop the manufacture of popcorn jelly bellies! You cross the line of decency when you put food flavors in candy! There shouldn’t be any hamburger, spaghetti, corn on the cob or bacon jelly bellies. If candy ain’t sweet then it doesn’t belong to this family of righteous goods.


Now, excuse me, I have to scarf down a half brick of piña colada chocolate. That’s guaranteed hypoclycemia!


I think it’s time.

No one reads this thing, so one has to wonder: why write it? Well, some day it might prove useful to have something like this lying about the internet. It couldn't hurt. Why not voice one's inane opinions on a medium well suited for it?

What other use is the internet but inanity? Oh, yes, there is the “communication” bit, the occassional cat video, the elementary photography workshop, recipe for creme brule, the repositories of historical photos and expositions . . . there are those bits lying about the internet, these tiny cultural time bombs laying in wait for the passive click, but what really are we to do with the internet but fill it with useless drivel? Wasn't that one of its intents? No?

I could think of no better addition to this library of useless facts than my own useless blog. And so it is time to get back to it, give it the college try. Damn the editors! Damn the lurking trolls and grammar nazis, both with differing agendas but accomplishing the same thing. That is, they both annoy us drivel writers.


Squiggle Hair


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I’m getting too old. I found out I was too old because I saw a chest hair. No, not my first, no, this chest hair was not grey either. It was a chest hair that, for whatever reason, took on a squiggly, somewhat pubic shape. You know, the curly q wiggle that leaps from a patch? At first I thought it interesting, after all, who wouldn’t find it amusing to have a pube coming out of their chest. And aren’t chest hairs related to pubes in some way, like Japanese are related to Koreans, or how tangerines are lated to oranges? I scoured around for a few more seconds, looking for greys, or truncated hairs—the kind that refuse to grow around the nipple, as if they’re scared of the big pink disk and wouldn’t want to be part of any garden whose centerpiece was soft and squishy—but could find nothing so off the wall as that damn squiggly hair.
I lost it for a moment. My eyes lost focus and I went wandering past to the freckled arm. But as everything seemed normal there I thought I’d better get back to business, back to the more important stuff. My eyes trotted back to where I’d last seen the squiggle, where I’d thought it used to be and searched as one searches for that last nugget of chocolate in the chocolate chip ice cream; but it continued to evade me. At last, I saw it in the periphery, in the shadows as it were. It was tucked in between two nondescript hairs—that is, it was hiding behind the others like a child hides from the class in a class photo. Its corkscrew squiggle gave it away. At last, after much hemming and hawing I gripped the hair, took a deep breath, and tugged. The pain was sharp and somewhat pleasurable, more like being jabbed with a needle really. Suddenly I understood what all the acupuncture hubbub was about. I grabbed at it again but realized that I had altered the shape of the hair from a sprawled out spiral twine to a tight curled spring. It was now embedded even farther into my patch of chest hair.
I was determined to get this hair out, off of my person and into the ether. I wasn’t going to let it escape me . . . so I pulled out my wife’s Nair . . . desperate times and all that. I was careful not to shave the hair off, that’s not what I wanted. No, what I wanted was to clear the fauna around the hair, and I was going to use Nair like Agent Orange. After an hour I had my quarry separated from the pack. I pulled out a pair of tweezers and gave a big tug. This time I had it out and with a glad feeling I released it onto a pile of its brothers. Little did I know that the seed of yet another squiggle, call it Son of Squiggle, lay embedded and waiting right where I’d plucked the last, and there was no way of permanently ending the family line short of laser surgery.

This morning, I saw a hair coming out of my ear. A man’s work is never done.

You Is Ha Ha

I can has good grammar and incredible talent. I has good posture and really fine motor skills . . . I slam a ping pong ball with deft precision! When fine motor skills I have, I use to their utmost. Most people has no good motor skills, nor fine grammar, nor incredible talent. Most people is hacks . . . moderately intelligent. Most people is whew whew not so smart as I. Pea-brained, mosquito brained, microscopic, pigeon-headed malcontents (admits I that dictionary I looked this up, that is “malcontents”) rule the world, and us geniuses are no in charge. No in charge! How fair is that I ask U? Not fair, not good. No, the world is not fair and not good, and us, the ones with the big lofty brains, the super geniuses, we sleep bitter sleeps in lonely beds with only our thoughts to keep us comp'ny. Cause no one likes a smartass, I've been told. Nopes, nots us, nobody loves us good grammar loving, ping pong smashing do-goods.

But I no care for the world. No, I am a universe unto myself, smashing! I got galaxies in my pocket and small worlds rolling in my sand crusty eye-holes. In my underpits whole fauna grow, trees, monkeys (I like monkeys most), flowers–give it a smell–and topiary (dictionary again) and topiary gardeners. Yes, I live a life of superior isolation with thoughts only for the critters climbing my nose mountain at night. Can you claim such? You no gooder at thinking as I. That's a fact of life and I's sorry for you . . . no gooder than I. But feel not bad. Feel not bad for you bad coordination, lack of people skills, no grammar having and empty-bodied as you are. Feel no 'pression for thy loneliness and crassness (dictionary now friend), no, feel no 'pression nor costly self-help book desire. No! Take a class from I and you is like I (though not equal to I), and I get money to support my topiary and feed my gardeners. Come to 555 West Ha Ha street, in Fogeddiboutit Lane, in Stupid City to get your first free lesson. That's right! I is help you grow your gooder brain for the benefit of you! Plus, it keeps me highest, in the beer as you understand, an aroma–beer–my bellybutton colony enjoys most (they grow hops and barley there!). See you there you not so luck and precious, ungrammarly you!

What’s a Wattle?


What is a wattle, and can you avoid having one? A wattle is the extra skin some people have around their neck, usually below the jaw. If you’ve ever seen a turkey you’ve seen a wattle; or if you’ve seen the Gungan leader in Star Wars, Episode One, you’ve seen a wattle. It’s the skin he shakes when he’s talking to people. Women can get them as well as men, though I think it’s more of a woman thing. The older you get it seems the likelihood of getting a wattle evens out, whether man or woman. Heavy people get them for sure. If you’re carrying some extra weight then you need another place to store that excess baggage—why not a wattle? Well, it’s not fat, not really. It’s just skin. Hanging, swinging, rolling skin that you can wrap around your head in winter. A muffler if you like.

I wonder if you could freeze it off. If you gather it up and tie a rubber band around it will it fall off, like a bull’s scrotum? I think it would. I think it’ll fall off after a few weeks if you starve it of blood. It’ll fall to the ground as you’re walking. If that were true you’d see wattles laying about all over the place.

No one wants them, unless of course you need somewhere to store nuts or loose change.

You could glue a pair of googly eyes to it; maybe make a mouth and nose out of felt and glue that on too. Why not? You’d look like Zaphod Beeblebrox, from the last Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy movie. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery you know, and who doesn’t want to flatter Douglas Adams? I mean, the man was a genius. Still, most people might not get the reference and you’d look like someone who’d glued a muppet to your gullet for no particular reason. I suppose you could wear a sign around your neck, outlining the wattle problem and how you’d decided to deal with it in a creative way, but by the time you explained all that the sign would be fairly long and you’d trip on it . . . or else trip on the wattles lying about by people smart enough to wrap theirs with rubber bands.

I think that if I ever get a wattle—I see the beginning of one now—I think I should have to go on a diet or maybe find myself a plastic surgeon. That seems like a safer bet. Still, it would be nice to have a built it wallet.



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Ballyhooed sounds a little like a euphemism for shit to me. “God, I just took a big ol' ballyhoo! It was the size of the Titanic! I think I'll have to buy a cork to keep my insides from coming out!” Though I'm sure I must be the only one who thinks so. I sometimes have to explain to my students how to pronounce a word, and while I'm doing it I sometimes lose the ability to form the word. I can't remember how to pronounce it, because somewhere in my mind the ridiculousness of the language prevents me speaking. I forget which syllable is stressed or why I'm saying the word in the first place. Today, I had to explain how to pronounce 'frolic.' You know how many times I've used frolic in my life? I think I've used it four times, including this paragraph. I never use the word. I've seen it, but I don't use it. Frolic sounds more like a disease than cheerful playing. It's something the doctor tells you got from sleeping with a prostitute. “I'm sorry, you have a bad case of the frolic. You should have kept it in your pants.” I know what you're thinking though, “You associated 'frolic' with 'colic', which is a bad thing to have.” But I disagree. The 'olic sound is often associated with something negative: Alcoholic, apostolic, asystolic (heart ceases to beat!), bucolic, carbolic (can be an acid!), catabolic (the breakdown of molecules!), catholic (need I say anything?), diabolic (did someone say . . . Satan?), hyperbolic (exaggeration, like this paragraph), melancholic (I need a pill for my sadness), metabolic (what you lack after 40), nonalcoholic (a crime), phenolic (a mildly acidic toxic white crystalline solid–say no more), thromboembolic (an obstruction of a blood vessel), vitriolic and workaholic. I think I've made a pretty convincing case. Next time I'll squabble on the value of babble, dabble, psychobabble and hardscrabble.

Baxter Be Little


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It's a small man who can see the date on a penny lying on the ground . Baxter was a small man. He saw not only the date but the divots from all the keys that had ever scratched the surface of the coin. He was so small that when he squinted he could see the spaces between the molecules. That is small indeed! Yet Baxter had a feeling of bigness about him. When he strolled through the park he took mighty big steps; his feet stretched from centimeter to centimeter in a lofty swagger quite unmatched by people ten times bigger. When he shuffled through the crowds at the train station he spread his arms out to engulf as much area as he could as he move between the legs of those walking around him. At times he felt so big that, as he rode the neck of his pidgin, Eunice, the people far below were but ants sprawled beneath his feet.

Baxter was a big small man on top of the world. What then could be the problem? No one writes of a person, or thing, without there being somewhere a problem, a mystery, a plot for the protagonist. The problem for Baxter was that he had a problem but did not know it. He was mighty diminutive but unconcerned by the fact that the world was gigantic in comparison. He failed to trouble himself about the fact that he was unable to reach the mailbox, or that the kitchen sink was so high that he had to climb boxes, chairs and countertops to get a saucer for his tea. To him he was as he should be.

Habit and routine dictated his worldview and, as far as he was concerned, whether he was infinitely tiny or grotesquely large, all the world was in balance. Tiny was good, big was fine, large was okay, and gargantuan was just a bit beyond reason but, hey, c'est la vie, to each their own, what will be will be.

Still, you say, I have failed to explain Baxter's problem! That is true. If Baxter was unwilling to see the problem was there really a problem? Yes, most definitely there was! Because even as Baxter lived a life of enthusiastic oblivion a small fraction, of the city, thought it unseemly that an under-statured man stick his nose in the air, as if his effluvium did not stink! And so a plot was hatched to break Baxter's fragile worldview, and plunge him into the effervescent pool of misery everyone was entitled to.

What do I miss in being alone?

You don’t miss it till it’s gone, that’s what they say anyway, and it’s true. You don’t miss love, you don’t miss those you’ve been with, until they are no longer with you, in your arms, but far away and gone into the reaches of time. You’ll never get them back. Age removes you further and further away until all you have to remind you of who they were are wisps of memory fluttering in the wind of consciousness. The older I get, the more I see love falling behind me until I am sure it was all just a dream. They were just my fleeting imagination gone haywire. They are not real, were not real, but dreams I had as a young man wishing for better things. Instead, I am condensed into a less expressive being, a rock. All that I have left to keep my company are anger and happiness, and happiness becomes more a stranger every day.

Why should it be so? Why should I whither into a darkened, stiff branch of what I once was? I feel that it is because I have accepted the culture of “happiness and satisfaction are found in the arms of another,” that I cannot see true life without the love of another. That is a problem. I should instead be able to live my life without the support of another person. I should at least be self-supporting. Not narcissistic, nor self-indulgent, lazy and idle with my time alone; but committed to self-improvement through the utility of the internet, through the discipline of the mind; though ego cries out for the strength of another person, I should be able to continue on my own. Why not? Why swallow the lie that I am bound for lonely desperation in the arms of whoever walks by? I need others, no doubt, but I do not need them to fulfill me when there are plenty of things to fill my time, keep me busy and drive me on through life.

After all . . . in the end, we die alone. Why not get used to it now?