Swimming underwater but getting wet

23 March 2015

After we returned from the US in the summer, we went swimming at the local public pool rather often. But as Sienna started taking lessons, I stopped going. Yesterday, though, we went back again. And by the end of the visit, Sienna was swimming underwater without a life jacket for the first time...and loving it. She started by ducking under the lane separator and gradually graduated to freely going underwater, taking a few strokes, and then popping back up again. If she just kept going when she popped back up, she'd be full-on swimming. Nevertheless, she was really swimming freely.

I'm so proud. What a winter! Ice skating, inline skating, swimming,...and lots of fun doing math.

Meanwhile, Gian, who has never been afraid of the water, is splashing around swimming with her floatation device and kicking up a storm. Pretty sure she'll be a swimmer soon, too.

Dalai Lama's reincarnation

12 March 2015

So the Dalai Lama has stated that he is considering ending his lineage as the head of Tibetan Buddhism. This is presumably in response to the high likelihood that the Chinese government plans to take control of the reincarnation to ensure that the next Dalai Lama is amenable to Chinese control of Tibet. To me, this seems like brilliant political strategy on the part of the current Dalai Lama. It would in effect devolve opposition to Chinese control of Tibet to Tibetans themselves, decentralizing and strengthening the struggle.

Unsurprisingly, the Chinese government is not pleased with this possibility. Unfortunately, a recent government official's statement has reduced the Chinese government's position and strategy to farce. Zhu Weiqun, who leads the ethnic and religious affairs committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, an advisory body that meets at the same time as the Legislature, made a statement that effectively positions the Chinese government as an all-powerful spiritual entity. His statement has certainly positioned the Chinese government as the leader of Tibetan Buddhism.

Mr. Zhu said that "Decision-making power over the reincarnation of the Dalai Lama, and over the end or survival of this lineage, resides in the central government of China."

So the Chinese government is in charge of reincarnation. If you're Buddhist, you might want to apply for your visa now.

Winter break inventory

28 February 2015

I am just back from hiking over Knife Rock (갈바위) in Bukhansan. I have wanted to go hiking all winter since I didn't live up to my own promise to myself to go hiking regularly during the past semester. I was finally motivated by a family-free day and a desire to "finish" something, since my work seems only to be broadening with every step forward lately. During my ambulation, I decided that I should take stock of other things that I managed to "finish' over the winter in order to make myself feel better. I'm not sure that the following items represent accomplishments per se, but they are things that I wanted or needed to do.

  • Went for a solid hike...once.
  • Redesigned my website, learning a bit of HTML5 and CSS3 along the way.
  • Helped my older daughter learn how to ice skate. This is probably my major achievement over the break.
  • Watched all of Archer.
  • Watched the first season of Bojack Horseman.
  • Read the core of Asimov's robot series: I, Robot, The Caves of Steel, and The Naked Sun. These seem eerily prescient.
  • Bought and set up a new desktop computer for my office. This finally gave me the power I need and allowed me to create a consistent Arch Linux install across all my computers.
  • Reorganized my office.
  • Traveled to Shanghai for a conference.
  • Presented at a second conference.
  • Submitted a first stage research proposal to the NRF.
  • Wrote a short piece on some current arguments in urban development for KRIS, our house journal.
  • Committed myself to an hour of writing every morning (though we'll see how that holds up).
  • Started reading a number of books for academic purposes, but these are not "finished".
  • Made an effort to organize and streamline my approach to thesis advising.


26 February 2015

"Every truth forms in negotiation, however messy, with aspirations to the universal."
-- Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing, Friction: An Ethnography of Global Connection


15 February 2015

"You gotta know to be a hypocrite, baby!" -- Lupe Fiasco


12 February 2015

Though I launched the site a couple of days ago, I think the basic site is now assembled and ready to be put aside for a while, especially since I have a great deal of work left before the semester begins.

Over the last several days I experimented with jQuery and php as means of keeping the site simple and fast. Additionally, I wanted to make sure that as little as possible had to be repeated on each page (and thus potentially edited!). I started with php to load the sidebars and content, but then I decided I wanted the content pages in a separate subdirectory. Well, that messes relative links right the fuck up. So I tried jQuery, which created an ajax setup that would simply reload the main section. It worked, but the urls were not meaningful and thus could not be used for bookmarks or copy-and-pasting into emails to students and others. More irksome, though, was that it called the library every time I visited the site, slowing it down and creating an external dependence.Finally, I figured out how to create a php variable for the root directory. The code looks a little uglier on the navigation selector, but it seems to be working like a charm and keeps it in-house.

I'm sure there will be small issues as I go along, but I'm confident I have tight little site now. So it's time to move on to more important things.

Producing anew

10 February 2015

The spammers have won. As is obvious, I have chosen to put my Drupal site to rest for a while. Last semester students consistently complained that they were having trouble logging into my site to upload their response papers. Eventually I discovered that the innumerable requests from comment spammers were turning my site into a useless pile of mush. At the peak, spammers were requesting over 7GB of data per day and crippling my site.

Using .htaccess I finally got the traffic under control. But two things led me to decide to hard code my site and abandon it for now as a course management system. First, Korea University has now implemented Blackboard. And though I have heard a great deal of negative reviews of Blackboard, it certainly seems as though it will be as effective at delivering the syllabus and course materials and at allowing students to upload response papers and view grades. Plus, for the students, it will reduce the number of sites they have to visit to get their work done. Second, I realized that---in part as a labor of love---I have to put in a great deal of time each semester getting students' IDs registered, setting up the course page permissions, and whatnot. Third, it became clear that to keep the spammer assholes under control I would have to regularly put in time entering the latest compromised computers that were attacking my site.

And so, I have decided to simplify for now.