31 August 2009

Dissertation

For those of you interested, here is a .pdf of the dissertation, 95% finished.
Research into computer-mediated communication has recently focused on large quantitative analysis of CMC text rather than close discourse analysis of full discourse acts in online interaction. Using a discourse dynamic, metaphor-led analysis, this dissertation investigates the dynamic use of metaphor in three YouTube videos between two American YouTube users: one a fundamentalist Christian and one an atheist. The focus of the analysis was on how metaphor was produced dynamically in the interaction between the users and how the use of metaphor could be seen at different levels of the YouTube video page, including in the title of the videos, the video, the description boxes, the comments, and subsequent video responses. Analysis showed that metaphor was used at every level of the discourse event and that dynamic production of metaphor in response to other users was seen, especially in discussing the positions and roles of the users in relation to each other and the larger YouTube ‘community.’ Analysis also showed that metaphor was used to not only position other users, but that understanding of specific metaphors seemed to differ depending on who was producing and interpreting a given metaphor.

30 August 2009

Supastar

Supastar

Solving my computer problems

No money solution

So basically, instead of buying a new home computer, I think I am going to set up our EEE PC to serve as the home computer, with the help of a keyboard and mouse and 19" widescreen monitor. I think it will work, but we have to see. I'll report back.

Our new house

Pinch me, I think I'm dreaming. As Yoko said, 'A lot of good things are happening to us. Aren't you a little worried?' to wit, I replied, 'Our car, baby. Our car is a freaking mess.' And we paid our dues living in a tiny, expensive, mould infested one bedroom for a year. So I'm not too worried.

68

Conservatory

Naomi and Yoko at the door

Garden

Our garden

New house, Outside

Stairway to Heaven

Office!!!

Top of the Stairs

New bedroom

民主党=自民党

Some of  you might be interested in the Japanese election in which the Democratic party of Japan has defeated the Liberal Democratic party. They are talking like this might change something, but I am pretty skeptical. One party rule is one party rule.

I also just found out that they changed the tollway fees in Japan. We would tear it up if we were still there. You could go from Niigata to Mito (where we used to go to see Yoko's brother) for like half of the cost... Too little too late.

28 August 2009

Dubliners kills!

I lingered before her stall, though I knew my stay was useless, to make my interest in her wares seem the more real. Then I turned away slowly and walked down the middle of the bazaar. I allowed the two pennies to fall against the sixpence in my pocket. I heard a voice call from one end of the gallery that the light was out. The upper part of the hall was now completely dark.

Gazing up into the darkness I saw myself as a creature driven and derided by vanity; and my eyes burned with anguish and anger.-James Joyce

27 August 2009

Blake

When B and L were here, they got us the best thing ever: a book of all of William Blake's illuminated plates. Complete: everything he ever did. A most beautiful book, an adult's book. And printed very, very well. Has me thinking about getting some more ink done. As I told B, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell was one of the first books that got me thinking about what it is that I think about now and was one of the first causes in a string of causes which led me away from what was  my most likely reality (in which I would have been a missionary) to another reality (in which I am a skeptic).

This is one that I like:

The end of the antichrist

Even to this day the crude fact of persecution is enough to give an honourable name to the most empty sort of sectarianism.--But why? Is the worth of a cause altered by the fact that some one had laid down his life for it?--An error that becomes honourable is simply an error that has acquired one seductive charm the more: do you suppose, Messrs. Theologians, that we shall give you the chance to be martyred for your lies?--One best disposes of a cause by respectfully putting it on ice--that is also the best way to dispose of theologians... (Section 53)

Jesus himself had done away with the very concept of "guilt," he denied that there was any gulf fixed between God and man; he lived this unity between God and man, and that was precisely his "glad tidings". . . (Section 41)

The most intelligent men, like the strongest, find their happiness where others would find only disaster: in the labyrinth, in being hard with themselves and with others, in effort; their delight is in self-mastery; in them asceticism becomes second nature, a necessity, an instinct. (Section 57)

Finished this up during this morning's run and will have to pick up another Nietzsche text in six months, when I am ready to wade through some more.

Now to finish up 1Q84. Only 18 chapters left, baby.

26 August 2009

Choosing a university

Now that I am finishing up the first year of my MRes/PhD programme, I am starting to feel like I might have some insight on how one should or shouldn't go about choosing programmes of study at this level. Indulge me on two points:
  • Make sure the theoretical framework you intend to employ (or that interests you) is the same as or close to what your potential supervisor is interested in and/or doing. The overlap of subject area is not nearly as important as how you address the subject. I think this is even more important that your personal chemistry or whether you 'like' your supervisor or not. You only see them once a month anyway: what you are doing in between is what counts. I have at least one friend who is in a hole because of this: the supervisor liked the topic, so the person was admitted to the programme, but what framework was to be employed was not clearly sussed out, resulting in much heartache as my friend tries to do something they don't want to do.
  • Ranking is never as important as learning. Cambridge and Oxford are beautiful, but beautiful buildings do not a good education make. I have been convinced of this since I went to Knox: the name of the university is not nearly as important as what the university teaches you to do. If you don't learn what you need to succeed, it doesn't matter how metaphorically heavy the diploma is.
Those are my nuggets of truth from this year so far. Many more to come.

The antichrist

The "kingdom of heaven" is a state of the heart--not something to come "beyond the world" or "after death." The whole idea of natural death is absent from the Gospels: death is not a bridge, not a passing; it is absent because it belongs to a quite different, a merely apparent world, useful only as a symbol. The "hour of death" isnot a Christian idea--"hours," time, the physical life and its crises have no existence for the bearer of "glad tidings." . . .

The "kingdom of God" is not something that men wait for: it had no yesterday and no day after tomorrow, it is not going to come at a "millennium"--it is an experience of the heart, it is everywhere and it is nowhere. . . .

This book is mystifying, horrible, inexcusable, and brilliant. I've never read anything that requires so much of me from sentence to sentence in terms of evaluation. You have to constantly sifting through it. It's a challenge, the best sort of challenge.

25 August 2009

Cats and Dogs

Now and then.
Naomi as a dog

Eye of the tiger

Eye of the tiger!

That picture of Mei  yesterday reminded me of a picture of Naomi from about two years ago.

Yoko and Naomi

26 days, baby!

I just packed my first piece of luggage for the new house. A little early: yes. But if I don't get a jump on this, it is likely to get a jump on me, I think. I'm trying to beat what I happened this time last year, when I did nothing until the last week, resulting in a lot of heartbreak.

Another day off running. I already feel my body getting fat, but I really need to give my ankle a couple of days. Tomorrow, though. Tomorrow.

24 August 2009

Eye of the tiger

Eye of the tiger

Eye of the tiger

A huge, epic case of the Mondays.

It's Monday, and I'm not feeling it at all. I have work  to do. It is open in a window right there, but I have yet to touch it. It's been 37 minutes.

I changed my Monday morning around so that now, every Monday morning at 7:15AM, I teach a Chinese woman to pronounce difficult words in English. So I leave the house at 6:55AM on my bicycle and arrive right before the class begins. It's a nice ride, but this morning, when I arrived, I was having trouble not yawning. What I really needed this morning was a run, a longish one, to really wake up. My right foot is still tender from last week and my left foot, even when taped, is really killing me. I'm not sure bursting all the blisters was the best thing to do. Anyway, I need to take a couple of days off to mend. This is okay because I ran about 70 km last week anyway, and my body (the parts of it I can't seem to mind over matter it with, like my joints) are saying, let's take a break.

The deadline for my MRes dissertation is two weeks from today and we are moving in 27 days. I will get the keys to the new house after I turn in the paper and start moving stuff up there, but it occurs to me that it probably won't take that long. We got here, from the airport, in two loads basically. Even if we have tripled the amount of stuff we have (which is likely as I have to move Naomi's bed and Mei-mei's crib, it still won't take THAT long, I don't think. And soon, I will be lying in the grass, in the garden, thinking, well, it wasn't THAT bad.

The new house will be great. I think (emphasize think) we will be able to afford it. I'm not sure how much more the utilities will be, but it is gas-heated and that is less expensive than electricity, I've been told. We'll have to see though. Either way, it will be much nice to be able to have my own office and be able to shut the door when I need to. There is nowhere in the current apartment where we can shut the door.

And I should soon be waxing sentimental about having been in the UK for almost a year now. We'll hold off on that until the disseration is in.

23 August 2009

I think I am now a long distance runner

Gotta tape up or it's a mess. You don't want to see what's under this, but let's just say, when you spend more time trimming your blisters with the toeclippers than your toenails... Well, I think you understand the loneliness of a long distance runner.
The loneliness of a long distance runner

The antichrist

I'm reading The Antichrist (well, I mean listening to it being read while I run).  A tough, angry book. I have defended Nietzsche against claims that his writings (after reading Beyond Good and Evil) helped support the Holocaust and the Nazis, saying that people took him out of context. I was completely wrong. He is an anti-Semite, and I was really disappointed by a line that came up talking about the Christian god as a god in the corner, a Jew, and I thought, You've lost me there. The problem with the Christian god is not that the Jews came up with it, asshole.


And I say 'lost' with some caveats: what Nietzsche has to say in this book is, in a lot of ways, agreeable to me, with some things that are very disagreeable. It's a very angry book, and I don't think these things are best addressed in anger. It makes it less about the ideas and more about complaining. Nietzsche's understanding of evolution is also undeveloped, and his solution (of achieving this  Übermensh... I don't know if you call it a level or stage or what) is stupid. There are a lot of problems with the book (at least the first 20 sections I heard this morning). Still, Nietzsche has  fingered the problem, and very much like Beyond Good and Evil I think he provides a very solid starting point for criticism of the concept of god.

22 August 2009

Disbelief is just another belief

I've heard this a couple of times now. 'Saying that there is no god is as much a statement of faith as saying there is a god.'

This was bothering the hell out of me because the best answer I was able to give up until now is, 'Uh, no dude, it's not' which isn't satisfying to anyone, especially not me.

Well, watching the YouTubes this week, someone made a good point. If someone says, 'I believe in bigfoot' and you answer, 'There's no bigfoot', would you say that you and the bigfootist are both exercising the same amount of faith?

On some level, I guess you are: we've fallen into this hole in the discussions here, which end up in a sort of, how do you know anything, epistemological mire. Because yes, I can't say with certainty that there is no bigfoot: I can only say that based on the evidence I have been presented and looking at the claims of the bigfootists, that it seems very unlikely that bigfoot exists. However, given that I cannot know all things, I have to say that, under the circumstances and given the claims made about bigfoot by people who claimed to have seen one, that it is very unlikely.

We have, the person in the video pointed out, a pragmatic understanding of 'knowing' that works for us most of the time. You can see this in how we even differentiate between knowing and believing. I think this is because we mostly trust what we know and can test and what we can know and test against other people's knowledge. And given that criteria, it seems reasonable to say, that at least in the sense that Christians conceive of a god, that given what I know and what I can test, this god likely does not exist. This is not a statement of faith. It might be something else, but it is not a statement of faith.

Okay, have at me.

DJ Krush

I'm really into this right now.

Today's run

25.33 km
1,815 kCal
2:10 (plus 10 minute boom-boom break)
1:32 of sustained running (8km-ish to end)

21 August 2009

Naomi, the painter

Naomi is happy


Naomi's art


Naomi Art 2

B & L appear, light up the town

Vargases, Naomi, and Stephen

A full plate, metaphorically speaking

It's been a busy week for me, so I haven't been able to blog as much as I like. We are moving in just about four weeks now, so I am starting to call places and tell them that I am moving, that all of our services have to be moved to the new property. No problems yet and I am not expecting any. The worst is that we will be without the Internets for a week or so, which is actually a good thing in that I will probably be able to get more done in the week of the moving.

My bike wheel is messed up and looking to cost £90 to repair. Small things here and there. Fixed it for £0!

My passport did not come and I'm trying to not think that right now, I should be in Barcelona with all my best friends from college. But I am not. I am here, and that's okay.

Trying not to eat too much and trying to run.

The family is all okay, too. Mei is laughing. Naomi is acting more and more like a little girl.

18 August 2009

Today's run

10.5 km
52:14
746kCal

10 km in 45 minutes is my current goal. Then 20 km in 1:45. Then a marathon in under 4:00.

17 August 2009

Been busy

Friends have been in town: one on Thursday/ Friday and another two from Saturday to today. It's been good: I've been to Oxford twice in the last four days and am going to London in a couple of hours, but I'm wicked tired. I name my 41.37 km on Saturday. Just short of a marathon, but my goal was 40km setting out and I just followed the path I had, so it wasn't a failure by any stretch of the imagination. A little slower than I would have liked, but I think I know how to shave off some time this weekend. We'll see. My body weight has gone up like 2.5 kilo since last Wednesday given all the eating I've done with friends. Hopefully tomorrow I will be able to get back on the horse. And proofing. I finished one project just barely over the weekend and got another one that is due by Friday. When it rains, it pours.

But. B brought me a ton of dubstep music and I am dubstepping right now. Holy hell. This stuff is amazing.

14 August 2009

www.stephenpihlaja.com

I have put together a professional site so I can send people somewhere other than here. Because here, well, it's a little bit out of control. Don't worry, I blame myself, not you. Your mother and I should have disciplined you more.
Screenshot of new site

11 August 2009

1Q84, Part III-ish

I finally finished the first book of 1Q84. In Japan, they usually put out long novels in two books. So I have finished the first 24 chapters or 554 pages, and have another 24 chapters to go.

Very similar to Kafka on the Shore, I've decided, in that the two stories you are following slowly becoming interlinked in interesting and compelling ways. When you start out, you have to work very hard to keep up with the two, but by this point in the book, they are working off each other and the book is gaining steam. I read four chapters today out of necessity, basically.

I love how Murakami doesn't change the world in drastic, but subtle ways, as if you are staring at a picture and swearing that it is moving, although you can never be quite sure. He puts his characters in these sorts of situations where they are unable to distinguish truth from perception of truth. Are there two moons or am I just seeing two moons?

It's not perfect. His portrayal of women is kind of stupid sometimes. He is living out a lesbian fantasy through a couple of characters....

But it's a terrifying book. The dog died, one character says. Oh that's too bad, another says, it was young wasn't it? A page goes by and we find out the dog was torn to pieces in the front yard during the night. The butler at the house had to pick up the pieces with a paper towel. Damn.

On to Book 2.

10 August 2009

Sleepy

Sleepy

Cambridge

Last Saturday, we went the University of Cambridge Botanical Gardens. Boy, did we have a good time.
On the River

Botanical Gardens

Botanical Gardens

Nana and dada

Botanical Gardens

Naomi drinks coffee

Coming down, down down.

Time Period Total Weight Change (kg) Weekly Weight Change Rate (kg) Daily Calorie Deficit/Excess
1 Week
1.2


1.2


1288

30 Days
3.5


0.9


1036

All Time
4.0


0.3


306

09 August 2009

For the record

I did finish my run on Saturday morning and in the allotted time. I decided to buy a Camelbak and go on another, even longer run this Saturday. Running is the cheapest high in the world, unless you count the cost of the Camelbak, and then it's the highest you can get under £20.

Lots to finish up this week. I'm marking, proof-reading, and taking one last swing at my dissertation.

We went to Cambridge this weekend and I will upload the pictures from work tomorrow. Hold steady, hold tight.

07 August 2009

Preparations for 30 km run

  • Gold bond power (fine dusting)
  • Bandaids (4x)
  • Cereal bars (5x)
  • Glucose capsules  (10x)
  • Sports Drink
  • Like 2,000 kilo-calories of food in my stomach from today
Hopefully, we'll make it.

There were never such devoted sisters

Enjoying life in the crib

Naomi and Mei

Naomi and Mei

05 August 2009

1Q84, continued

One of the things that Murakami is so, so good at is just stating shocking facts in the middle of story, when you are least expecting it. This one from 1Q84 reminded me of a line from Norwegian Wood, when Midori kills herself:
環が自殺したのは、二十六歳の誕生日を三日後に控えた、風の強い晩秋の日だった。

which I translate as:
The day Tamaki killed herself was three days before her 26th birthday in late autumn when the wind was strong.

The chapter builds up to this point with almost no hint that it will happen. We see it through the eyes of Tamaki's best friend (the second protagonist in the novel) who helps Tamaki overcome a rape and sees her married to a man whom she says she loves. Murakami gives the slightest hints that there might be a problem in the marriage--she has quit studying for her law exam, but is fine with it, happy to be free of the stress. And then she suddenly kills herself and he peels back the truth of the situation that the relationship was abusive and Tamaki was terribly depressed. It is so subtly Japanese, this sort of thing. You don't know until it all falls apart, and then you have to go back in the chapter to find the hints that he has dropped.

Murakami tells such layered stories. You wonder, why the hell is he including this rambling, unrelated trivia about this character''s life? But by the end of the chapter, it has suddenly become keenly important or devastating. He makes you want to re-read earlier chapters with the knowledge of the later chapters.

I have hit the sweet spot where my knowledge of the story and the characters is stronger than my inadaquacies in Japanese and I can just experience it in the language. It's like floating.

04 August 2009

Losing is winning

Time Period Total Weight Change (kg) Weekly Weight Change Rate (kg) Daily Calorie Deficit/Excess
1 Week
1.1


1.1


1190

30 Days
2.3


0.6


680

All Time
3.0


0.2


217


Well, this is very good news, although they are based on averages, so my all time wieght loss is lagging a bit behind as I started this chart after I went on the diet and the rolling average takes a little while to catch up. Anyway, today, for the first time this year (and probably since 2006), my morning weight was under 80 kg. In just about three weeks, I should be trying to bring straighten out this slope and just maintain for the rest of my life. We'll see how that works out.

Hard to be a decent human being


This story about David Bazan just about nails how I feel. How do you break up with something that only ever existed in your mind? It's funny how easy it is to reject with your mind, but not your emotions. We are all still 7 year-old children, afraid of the Sunday school teacher.
Wait just a minute
You expect me to believe
That all this misbehaving
Grew from one enchanted tree?
And helpless to fight it
We should all be satisfied
With this magical explanation
For why the living die
And why it's hard to be
Hard to be, hard to be
A decent human being?
I am reminded that Nietzsche went mad with the realization that there had never been a god and he was responsible for his own fate. I wish it were easier... It is easier, however, then pretending that there's any truth to a myth.
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