30 April 2010

Not quite

My pace was a bit better today, but I was going for under 1:15:00. I also didn't do any rest walking today either, but I think that a minute of walking after 50 minutes or so might actually speed up my time. Oh well, we'll try again.

Summary
Type: Regular Run
Date: 04/30/2010
Time Taken: 01:18:52

Workout Weight: 181.0 lbs.
Workout Route: New Ten Mile Run
Total Distance: 10.07 mi.
Burned: 1,407 (kcal)
Workout Stats
Pace: 07:46 (avg)
Speed: 7.7 (mi/hr) (avg)

28 April 2010

BAM!

Summary
Type: Regular Run
Date: 04/28/2010
Time Taken: 01:21:11

Workout Weight: 180.0 lbs.
Workout Route: Ten Mile Run
Total Distance: 10.02 mi.
Burned: 1,341 (kcal)
Pace: 08:04 (avg)
Speed: 7.4 (mi/hr) (avg)

26 April 2010

Math explains headache

Summary
Name: Regular Run
Date: 04/25/2010
Time Taken: 02:30:27

Workout Weight: 179.0 lbs.
Workout Route: Sunday Run Route
Total Distance: 17.40 mi.
Burned: 2,297 (kcal)
Workout Stats
Pace: 08:34 (avg)
Speed: 6.9 (mi/hr) (avg)

Yesterday, I ran for 2.5 hours, burning 2,297 kcals. My resting metabolic rate is 1917 kcals a day. I ate about 2100 kcals yesterday leaving me upside by 2114 kcals. The result was a huge, massive headache. I couldn't believe it. I went to bed and I was dying, absolutely dying. I got up this morning and ate and ate again, trying to mark some papers, but it was like I had hit a wall and couldn't think. I had an early lunch and have been eating crackers to try and get going. I'm feeling a little better, but it was a really strange feeling.

I had to take the car in today to get the passenger side automatic window fixed. Talking to the mechanic as I dropped it off, he was saying it could be up to £300 to fix, depending on the problem. I was upset about this and coupled with my massive headache, I went home pretty depressed. Well, it turns out that it is just the switch, which is only £75 to fix and the car doesn't need the oil changed, another cost I was worried about. So that was good news.

And Yoko's parents sent me an early birthday present, Part III of Haruki Murakami's 1Q84. That is likely to give me a massive headache, but in a good way.

And finally, my French homework, although daunting, has gone well so far. I just have to translate some stuff into French, speak it into the computer, and I will be 60% done with the coursework. Only five months left and I can go back to just hanging out all the time.

25 April 2010

Not bad!

Summary
Type: Regular Run
Date: 04/25/2010
Time Taken: 02:30:27

Workout Weight: 179.0 lbs.
Workout Route: Sunday Run Route
Total Distance: 17.40 mi.
Burned: 2,297 (kcal)
Workout Stats
Pace: 08:34 (avg)
Speed: 6.9 (mi/hr) (avg)

24 April 2010

Ink

I know it's a little early to let our little girl get tats, but these were so cute.
Sleeves. Nice.

Making at least one right choice

Our first bill came from our new energy supplier, and except for a mistake they made in reading our meters, it seems as though we made the right choice in changing suppliers and, more importantly, in moving to the bigger house. Although we definitely couldn't have made it work in our old apartment, coming to such a big place as where we are now, I worried that it might be too expensive to heat and light. We suffered through a terribly cold winter by British standards and were able to afford the heating comfortably.

I am almost halfway through my work at the OU. After my probationary viva on June 21st, I will be a second year student and our student life will come to an end sooner rather than later. I don't think it's been that hard... The first six months were hard, but I think that was more my personality than the actual hardness. It's been harder for the family than for me, I imagine. I went to bed last night after locking the doors in the house and setting the washing machine and dishwasher and I thought, I'm just a kid: what am I doing.

Yoko and I reminisced yesterday about September of 2005. Has it been almost five years?
Yoko and StephenWife and new glasses

23 April 2010

Running

Apologies to everyone who has had to listen to me talk about running/ dieting this year or last. You can be excused.

I ran this morning: 8.7 miles in 1:08:09, a pace of 7.7mph, which is pretty good for me. I didn't actually feel that great running today. At the halfway point I was doing okay, but I was running along the canal, and the path there is very narrow and not paved, so you are sometime running on grass, sometimes on the rock path. This creates a surprising amount of stress. I tried to keep the pace up and did better than usual: if I could do the marathon run at this pace, I would be pretty happy. Not possible, but it would be nice.

My next run will be doing the one I did on Wednesday and today, combined for a total of about 17 miles. I'm going to do this on Sunday morning, and shoot to do it in under three hours. It should be easy enough so long as I don't run as aggressively as I did today.

I'm also not really dropping any weight and I realised that I need to cut back even more on what I'm eating. I've been doing calculations in my head sort of ad hoc and basing it on how full/ empty I feel, but that's not been going so hot. I end up eating too much.

I'm also doing less preparation for my running. Last year I spent a lot time thinking about what I ate before and after I ran and getting everything ready well in advance. This year, I've just been getting up, filling the water bottle, and going. I need to do a little more prep for Sunday: yes, this will likely include wearing my running tights and my camelbak. I'll start at 5 in the morning, too, rather than just waiting until I get up. Part of me wants to try a marathon length run next Wednesday or Thursday, just to get it out of the way early and try to do one every month for the summer, but I think I'll wait until May and do four: one every month until August. We'll see though.

22 April 2010

Five years ago

I wrote this to a 'prayer list' almost  five years ago:
Friends:

It occurs to me that I haven't written this list in quite some time, not since the beginning of August, I think. I'm sorry I've been so lax in getting to you all. I also to me that this will be the one year anniversary of this letter and the two year anniversary of me being in Japan come the 19th. Conor Obrest sings, "How time can move both fast and slow amazes me," and I have to say that I agree with him whole-heartedly. Thanks for reading these last two years and thanks for your prayers.

On September 1st, I began my new job at Meikun High School, a private school of about 1,200 students in the neighborhood of Kameda in Niigata City. Quite simply, the move was wonderful for me in a lot of ways. First, the stress of working at Meikun is significantly less than my previous job. Now, instead of 6,000 students, I have less than 1,000. Instead of being responsible to create execute a curriculum without the support of teachers, I am a part of an English department which runs very precisely. Instead of singing “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes” five times a day, I give lectures on grammar principles, American culture, and pronouns. So I am very happy with the move and happy to be making new friends at the school.

The new job also brought with it the need for me to teach several private classes. I now have 35 students that I teach in all sorts of capacities from one-on-one to large children's classes. These have been largely very good, except for several students who have been known to cancel and thus deprive me of getting paid on any given week week. When everyone is showing up, it’s a really good side gig, but it can be difficult keeping everything in mind and remembering where I have to be on any given afternoon.

On a more sober note, I have been seriously considering my role in leading the cell group Bible study and whether or not it may be time for me to either take a break from leadership or step down entirely. It dawned on me as I was "leading worship" last week that I have been only going through the motions of Christianity for the last year and a half and, when it comes down to the question of what I really believe, I don't think I have a good answer. For a while, I thought this is what the group needed (and maybe it is what it needs), but this week I realized that I can't keep going through the motions: I don't think I can sing another benign praise music lyric or ask the group to apply something from the text when I am disconnected from and don't really know if I believe it can be applied anyway. It's a terrible thing to ask others to go where you are not willing to go yourself.

I began my distance studies through the University of Birmingham (UK) this last week in applied linguistics and have been just amazed at how good and helpful it has been even this early on. The readings have really engaged me and got me writing again which is really fabulous. Linguistics has so many possibilities for literature, translation and translation theory, spirituality, English Language Teaching… The list goes on and on.

Lastly, on a very joyful note, I have been keeping a rather big secret for a couple of months now, but as it seems to not be going away, I thought I would share: I've been dating a woman from my church since the end of September. Her name is Yoko--she is a graduate student studying occupational therapy in Niigata. I could go on and on about how fabulous she is and how incredibly blessed I feel when I am with her, but I'll save you all that for now. As she speaks rather limited English, I feel like I have been in cross-cultural relationship boot camp, but it seems we are finding our way slowing and looking expectantly towards the future to see what path may unfurl for us.

This letter feels disjointed as I re-read it, with the highs and lows not connecting. But as things are that way now, I suppose it is an accurate representation of what has been happening and, thus, successful for the purposes of me writing to you. I hope it is readable…

Certainly, my love for you all has not diminished in the absence of this letter for the last two months. You are on my mind and my heart and I look forward daily to seeing you again.

Stephen

October 8, 2005

18 April 2010

Running

Full blown obsession.

Ran 11.4 miles today. Note the decimal place. Just about two hours: not great, but not bad for the last of three days running. Friday was about 5 miles. Saturday, just over seven. And today was 11.4. Next long run will be over 14, slated for next Saturday morning. The camelbak will probably come out.

God, the loneliness of the long distance runner: it's everything I've ever wanted out of life. The quietness of the morning, the mist. The clear air. Me vs. my thoughts vs. my body.

And I have like a two month jump on the season. This is going to be a good year for running.

17 April 2010

Come on, baby. Don't be like that.

New face

The loneliness of a long distance runner

Every spring/ summer I have the same series of thoughts:
  1. Ugh, I've gotten fat again over the winter. I feel bloated.
  2. No matter, I will diet a bit and exercise a bit and get it under control.
  3. Not like last year though! I will not obsess about it or weigh myself or count calories or think about how long I am running.
  4. No! I am above that.
  5. Whew, what a great run. I wonder how far I went?
  6. I feel like I've lost a little weight. Perhaps I should weigh myself just once to see.
  7. Another nice run. I wonder how far it was: I'll do the calculation for it on mapmyrun, just once.
  8. You know, just to see.
  9. THREE MILES?! I only went three miles in a half hour?
  10. I'm a fat ass. Must run more.
  11. Okay, seven miles in an hour. Better. That's better.
  12. Let's map another run for tomorrow and then a longer one for next week.
  13. My weight on Tuesday was less than Monday, but not less than Friday of last week.
  14. At this rate, I will be at my goal weight in three weeks and four days.
  15. And then I can go for the perfect running body, something I've never achieved!
And so on and so on until I go crazy.

Once I run the equivalent of a marathon and drop below 80 kgs., I will have it out of my system, I think. God help me until then.

I should say, though, running long distances, somewhere between hour two and hour three, I really have a vision of the world as it should be. The runner's high or whatever, but things make perfect sense and I can't even feel my body anymore. Certainly worth getting into running, if just for that.

16 April 2010

Holiday solved

Well, I've been killing myself trying to decide what to do for a holiday this summer. Expensive, bad choices all around. I decided to take a look at the cost of moving the trip to October and BINGO. You can do 5 nights with airfare at a four star hotel for, believe it or not, under £400. So I think this is what we are going to do. Throw in food and probably a car rental and it will be a lot, I imagine, another £300 probably, but we can have a nice, longer vacation, instead of killing ourselves on a short trip for like 50% more in a shitty hotel.

Plus, we may go down to Morocco for the day. Yeah, that would the coolest thing ever.

14 April 2010

Screaming kids, wife of steel

I am about at the end of my metaphorical rope with the Mei-mei screaming herself to sleep every night. That's an overstatement, of course: it's just the way it is, but she has just been absolutely impossible to get to sleep. Even when she does finally sleep, it's only for a couple of hours and she's up screaming again. She screams now when she wants something too. Point and scream.  She's like a very needy monkey, or a small, illiterate dictator.

Yoko is full of patience for this, rarely seemingly bothered. Mei starts screaming in the middle of the night and Yoko dutifully attends to her. In the morning, I head off to work, and Mei is screaming for something. When I come home, she is screaming for something. In between, all eight hours, I imagine that Yoko has been patiently attending to her needs.

I'm not usually one to be prideful of my family: an odd thing I internalised being in Japan. The Japanese don't tend to talk to proudly of their own family, as it is essentially bragging about yourself. That said, of all the people in our little family, Yoko has given the most for our European adventure . She was the one that gave up her career, she is the one that has to really make our small budget work, she is the one with the kids all day. I'm pretty sure she wouldn't have it another way, given the choice, but I, for what it's worth, think it's pretty great.

Finally, 愛のチャイム (and everything it represents) is one of the reasons I can run from Japan, but I cannot hide. There is a gravitational pull, and I am falling. How long before I can't stand it anymore, and we sell all of our British things and move to Nishinomiya or Kobe. It's funny, when I was in Fukuoka, I realised that I was going to die. And for all the trouble that realisation has caused me, I always felt that dying in Japan, surrounded by Japanese, would be much less traumatic than how I envisioned it before. This chime, played on the loudspeakers in the towns and villages, helps explain the peace of Japan in a small way, I think, and how death is really just another thing.

13 April 2010

Anti-social behaviour

So I called me the police yesterday on some youths. Let me explain.

I came home early from work yesterday, after having finished whatever it was that I was supposed to be doing. Something related to French or something. Anyway, I made my way back, riding through the park right next to our house. Yoko and the girls were playing so I stopped to see what was  up. There were a couple of teenagers, playing football, and kicking it in the kids play area. Not especially reckless, but it was becoming more and more clear that they were not regarding any of the kids on the playground. So I tried to stop one of them and say, 'Could you not play around the kids?' and didn't get an answer, I said it a couple of times and finally said, 'Can you hear me?' and they just went on ignoring me. I don't know why this was: if it was my accent, or he was being an asshole, or what. But it was weird. Certainly some class issues at play too, I imagine.

At this point, one of the kids pulled a shopping trolley out of the bushes and was running around with it, finally picking it up and throwing it back into the bushes. There was a girl there who I had seen with this guy before: she's always watching like a flock of little kids, but she couldn't be more than 16 herself. She was yelling loudly and smoking too. Finally, the wife and kids and I all just went back to the house.

I was frustrated by it, especially because the Naomi and Mei couldn't play, so I decided to call the police to see what they might do.  Surprisingly, this is a priority for them and they sent officers to the park. In England, you can report 'anti-social behaviour' which basically is anything like what these kids were doing and the cops will go talk to them. They called me back in like an hour and half to say that when they got there, the kids were gone, but that I should keep calling the police whenever it happened.

I don't know how I feel about calling the police in this instance: in the States, I don't think you would--you would solve the problem yourself. Maybe not, I don't know. Maybe this relates to my political leanings, but I see the police as an extension of myself and my community, much like I see the government. It is better to have someone stand between me and those kids, for my own safety and their's, frankly. I get pretty angry pretty quickly in these situations and the adrenaline starts going... It's not a good thing. But the police are just there to do what the community wants and needs. They are the community. I feel the same way about the ideal government: it is simply us, the community, doing what we need to do to sustain ourselves.

So stay the hell away from my kids, you damn teenagers!

Finally, this reminded also me of my time as a teenager in parks, not wearing shoes, swinging on swings, laying in the grass, etc. I hope I was never threatening to anyone. I don't think I was... I want to think I was more Walt Whitman than Holden Caulfield.

09 April 2010

Submitting

Submission is the main tenet of Islam and academia.

Whenever I submit an article, I have an immediate sense of panic: was there a huge error in the article? Did I check it carefully enough? Is it missing something? I added something right before I sent it, was that checked properly?

Ugh. I have an overall good feeling about the article being EVENTUALLY accepted, but probably not in this next round. If it gets outright rejected, I will be upset, but that seems unlikely. I don't think the article got any worse since the first draft.

I did solve one small problem: a hole in my favourite white shirt which I patched with an iron-on thing. Barely noticeable now.

Tomorrow, my new glasses will come, and the Stephen of the last four years, in my Japanese glasses that I got because I the contacts I wanted didn't fit, will hit the scrap heap of my life.

08 April 2010

Fun in box

The kids are getting bigger. Mei can give hugs now and can climb all the way up the stairs. Naomi is more and more like a big sister. Still having issues sleeping, both of them, but I think they will come around eventually.
Fun in box.

07 April 2010

Tory?


Well, as you may have heard, Gordon Brown called an election for May 6th. Now, I don't follow British politics that much, but I'm going to try to do my best to follow this election. The UK is in deep shit economically, like the rest of the world basically. I'm not a conservative by any standard, but I am sort of torn about this election, to the extent that I understand it. (Remember that clicking 'more' subjects you to my strong beliefs about politics, religion, or both.)

Here's basically what I believe about the economy:
  • You can't spend more money than you have for any extended period of time. Doesn't work for me, doesn't work for the government. Eventually you're going to have to deal with it.
  • Raising taxes to make up the deficit doesn't really solve the problem. Living within your means is a better way to try and solve this problem, I think, rather than trying to get more money. You aren't really solving the underlying problem then.
  • Cutting the budget sucks... but it's gotta happen. In the US, it's the military industrial complex: we pay way, way to much on guns, razors, knives in the US.  I'm not an expert on it, but it seems that benefits-sending is a huge problem here. Check out this chart. I'm happy to be corrected about this, but it seems like the government is spending a whole hell of a lot on benefits.
  • People won't try to work if the government benefit scheme is paying them as much as they would working a job. I'm never a big incentive person, but if you have a choice between not working and working at a trendy fast food chain... I don't know. Yes, the government needs to work at providing good education and training. Yes, many people can't work or have a ton of trouble working. But, I'm sorry, if you can work and there is work, you should work. Does that make me a conservative?
On the other side:
  • I don't, however, believe that the government should let business leaders make decisions about the public good. Tesco is not going to make decisions with the good of the people in mind. They are trying to make a profit: fair play. But the government (which is the people) needs to regulate them and make sure that many don't suffer for the benefit of the few.
  • Education is key, KEY to keeping your population moving forward. Cutting spending in education is just ensuring that you have an under-educated population in the future.
The problem is that I am benefiting from government spending. And if the Tories win, they will probably cut education, leaving me with a very difficult employment situation in two and half years. I gotta say, however, that if me not getting a job leads to the government getting spending under control and having a sustainable model for government spending... I think that's the best thing.  Hopefully, some balance can be struck.

06 April 2010

(><);

I hate days off in the UK. Let me explain.

In Japan, the days off, usually falling on Monday, were gifts. A long weekend making the preceding week bearable through anticipation and the following Tuesday through Friday shorter. As my work was so uninteresting, a day off was a day free from everything. I would ride my scooter on days off in the Spring and the summer, trying not to spend money and wandering around the river in the middle of Niigata. After I met Yoko, we would go out to eat on days off, shop, generally enjoy life together. Sleep in late before the girls were born. Here is a very brief video from one of those days.

Ah, yes.

In the UK, however, days off are like stones tied around my neck: purposeless and frustrated, I spend the day wandering around the house, messing around in the garden, and generally bothering my wife and kids. Yesterday, a day off from Easter, I was completely lost. We went to the store in the afternoon. That was all.

I'm sure there are things to do here, but I feel so disconnected from whatever it is. We went to the grocery store and bought pizzas. The girls slept in the afternoon. I should have gone running, but I spent the day thinking about my work, what I should be writing.

This is perhaps a good sign: I love my work more than I love my free time, but still, it feels very empty. I feel like I need to give Yoko some time off. I feel like I should be doing something productive, cleaning or whatever, but I just end up getting in everyone's way.

I'm back at work now, feeling much better: dressed and, at least theoretically, productive.

I'm not sure what all this means for my life in the future. If Yoko and the girls become more connected to the UK, perhaps this will be better: I can ride off on my bicycle with all my existential worries and have no concern about how I am causing my family to suffer. But perhaps this will only be possible in Japan. Maybe that's where I belong. It will be funny if we end up back there because I can't stand being away, rather than Yoko...

05 April 2010

There will be blood

Daniel Plainview has got to be my favourite film character in a long time. Love that you can't tell if he's a hero or villain. Love what he says about wanting everyone to fail but him. Love the 'stache.

Best film I've seen since 'No Country for Old Men.' Loved it.

04 April 2010

Scotland in June

We will be at a B & B walking distance from here June 5th and 6th, baby.
Scotland!

02 April 2010

Good Friday, better Saturday

Well, I came to the OU today and there ain't nobody here. I guess it's a religious holiday and the English, though not especially religious, seem eager to celebrate Easter. People have been asking me what I am planning to do for Easter, to which I respond, Nothing, I'm not really a Christian anymore. And they look at me like I've lost my mind.

Although I think celebrating religious festivals without religious conviction is silly, I suppose it's not really celebrating a religious festival so much as taking a day off.

I was all geared up to work today, but getting here and having no one actually working has me wondering what I'm doing here. Not quite sure what I would be doing otherwise, but.

I have to work on my article, my probationary report, and mark some papers. Yoko will be picking me up in 4.5 hours, so let's get to it.

01 April 2010

Best life ever

Life in the big city

Everything all of the time

I can't think of a better day than the day I had yesterday. I wrote like a bandit (some 2,000 words in the end, I think) sitting looking out at St Pancras station in the Social Science Reading Room at the British Library for like five hours. When I finished, I walked down to the top bit of Soho to meet some teachers for drinks. No better way to spend a day, in my opinion.
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