30 September 2010

In Between

My freedom, my in-between time is waning. I finished my French yesterday morning, finished my initial transcription of all my YouTube data in the afternoon, dressed up more than I needed to and went to a party for my supervisor in the evening (a litre of ale in an hour is a bit much, but I love those walks home), and went home to nothing to do. I got up this morning, made breakfast, made lunch, made coffee, talked Naomi into going to school with her mom, and I left for a long walk to school. 55 minutes in the sun. The sky was sky blue (I was listening to Wilco). I got to work, wrote a couple of e-mails, had coffee with a good friend and colleague. Talked about the future. Had lunch. Read some. Listened to Christopher Hitchens talk about foreign policy.

This has been an ideal day off for me. Day off in the sense that I have had nothing pressing in on me, no deadlines. Soon, I will have a flood of essays from Birmingham to mark. I had to edit and work on my syllabuses for Middlesex, those classes starting two weeks from tomorrow. But I feel like I am turning the corner. A post tomorrow about the ending of two years of my studies, the halfway point. But today, I feel like a kid on a swing at the highest point, right before starting to fall back again. I am weightless and in the sky, above everything. I can just barely feel the world starting to pull me back.

Yoko and I had our yearly, we probably should do some financial planning, conversation. It’s hard when you don’t know where you’re going to be in two years and have four different kinds of currency. Hard is the wrong way to put it: difficult to work out. But we did a little bit of shuffling here and there. We have more or less weathered the recession: things seem to have gotten as bad as they will get about a year ago. The good news is, when you have different currency, you can always trade ahead if you are patient. And you just wait. A lot of our financial plan relies on waiting and not trying to make money quickly, ever. 2.5-3% annually. I think it’s a good plan. Ask me in ten years.

29 September 2010

Success

On the way to the Louvre

Today, I took my French oral final, completing all the coursework. Now I am finished. From about May of this year, I've been saying that my goal in this class was just to finish and pass. Well, I finished and I'm pretty sure I passed, but I have sort of a bad taste in my mouth about it. I did poorly on the oral final. I froze up when speaking and produced really bad work for the first minute or so. Luckily, the last three minutes were pretty fluid and I pulled it out of the ditch.

Even though I got what I said I wanted, I'm a firm believer in the axiom, 'Anything worth doing is worth doing well.' I think Abraham Lincoln said that. (I'll let you be in my dreams if I can be in yours. I said that.) And I did not do this well. I didn't put time into it the way I should have. I studied for the final, but only minimally, telling people who were asking if I was studying my French for the final, Well, I'm studying the 10 sentences I need to produce to pass, yes. I probably will get a 55 (which is well above passing) on that test, and probably score around 70-75 overall in the course.

I was hoping finishing would be a load off, but the poor way in which I did, I was frustrated. I took a walk: I should have done better. I should have tried harder. For five years, I taught English and I hated students like me, kids who never gave 100% and didn't really care. I hated people who studied for tests but couldn't answer simple questions.

As the whole French thing started with Paris, I think I need to go back to Paris to feel it again. I suspect I will do better on the ground there. But I suppose I have something: I have passed Introduction to French and I'm happy it's done.

17 September 2005

I wrote this to a friend about Yoko in September of 2005:
Not being able to understand her 100% was really bothering me until last night, when reading the Bible of all things at a Bible study of all places, we were reading John 6 and got to the part where the disciples were leaving Jesus and the twelve stayed because (Peter says), "Where else would we go? You have the words of eternal life." (I like how Eugene Peterson translates eternal life as true life.) Anyway, my friend Jim said, "It wasn't that they understood. They didn't understand Jesus. But they stayed because they were faithful. And that was the most important thing." This I related to my current spiritual situation, but also to my relationship with Yoko who, even though I sometimes don't understand her words, I can see what kind of person she is and have faith.

Faith. I didn't mean to use that word. What is faith.

Sufjan say,

"In the morning through the window shade
When the light pressed up against your shoulder blade
I could see what you were reading
Oh the glory that the lord has made
And the complications you could do without
When I kissed you on the mouth."
I suppose at one time in my life, I had true faith.

Yoko and Stephen

27 September 2010

Arms wide open, here we go

If you have found my weight loss blogs boring, this is going to be much, much worse because posts about my potential postdoc will go on now for at least a year, potentially three. So saddle up.

Last week, you'll recall that I went to a seminar and met some people I had been wanting to meet. Although I had been leaning towards teaching when I finish my PhD, that swung radically the other way in the last week after I decided I needed to do aim a bit higher so as to potentially stretch myself even further. I have always been a B+ student at B+ institutions. It's time to take the next step.

The next step is applying for a very competitive postdoc supported by a very competitive university. King's College is the university; the ESRC postdoctorate is the funding. First, a bit about King's for my reader's across the pond, from Wikipedia.
King's College London is a constituent college of the University of London in the United Kingdom. The college was founded by King George IV and the Duke of Wellington in 1829, and its royal charter is predated in England only by those of Oxford University and Cambridge University, thereby giving King's a claim towards being third oldest university in England. Along with University College London, King's College London became one of the two founding colleges of the University of London in 1836. In 2010 King's was ranked 5th in the UK, 6th in Europe and 21st in the world in the QS World University Rankings.

According to the Guardian newspaper, King's College London, the London School of Economics, Imperial College London and University College London, each 'have international reputations that in this country only Oxbridge can beat'.

Basically, Oxford and Cambridge aside, it's one of the best in the country. Not only that, but they are also arguably the leader in linguistic ethnography, the area of research that I want to expand on in my postdoc.

The ESRC is the government's research funding body for work in the social sciences and their postdoc basically covers one year of consolidating your PhD research into publications. As my work right now seems to be going about thirty different ways with thirty different strands, having a 'will work on in postdoc' pile would be very useful for me, especially as I could find myself with very disparate areas that I would want to publish in.

The process now that I have to follow begins with contacting my potential mentor at King's, which I've done, and will now start to prepare my materials for an application to King's. They will require some information about potential research, two chapters of my thesis, and some other ins and outs. They will take three weeks to accept/ reject the application and then, if it's accepted, I would start working with my mentor there on the real application for the ESRC, making that application sometime in Autumn of next year. Then it will be another two months or so, and I should know if I get the funding or not. If I get the funding, then I will have one year at King's and up to three months collaborating with an overseas researcher, if I want. There is someone I want to work with at the University of Hamburg, so I may go there for a couple of months. We'll see.

So, the next step is find out when King's wants this application and then pushing on with my PhD research with that in mind. Although the ESRC grants are very competitive, my professor at the OU and my supervisor at Middlesex are both currently doing research funded by the ESRC and my supervisor at Middlesex actually reviews applications, so I may be able to get a good idea of what a successful application would look like.

The bad news? Well, if this works out (and that's a HUGE if), we will have another year of essentially the same income we have now. We would also probably stay in the same house in Milton Keynes... But the money is not that bad now and we are content here. So I think this is the right way to go. And I'm excited: the beginning of the next thing.

26 September 2010

Rounded

My edges used to be substantially rounder.

Rounder

Sunday

75% of family
Well, I wore my bowtie today: I consider any day I wear my bowtie a success. But it's getting colder in the UK and soon, I sense that it will snow. Snow us in.

Yoko's singing group was singing at the baby dedication of one of its members today, at a church run by a missionary couple from Tennessee, the guy looking sort of like Ted Haggard. Yoko warned me about this earlier in the week and I was wary, but she promised a potluck lunch. Being that I am now trying to eat less and eat better, the potluck lunch didn't really have that much of a pull for me, but what are you going to do.

I should take a step back, a step that brings me on to the scale this morning, where I came in at 74.2 kgs. My weight loss over the last two weeks to just over a kilo, down from weekly losses of around 1.3 kgs for three weeks or so.

You'll notice the blue line is starting to get less steep, which is the goal. I want it to come down to 74, but that means in the next seven days, I will have to start eating the number of calories that I am burning everyday. I'm easing up to it now, getting close to 2,500 kCals three times this week. It should be an interesting experience. 2,700-3,000 kCals a day? What will that be like.

Anyway, I digress. So Tennessee Baptist church in Milton Keynes. Yoko's group sang and we sent the girls to the nursery. Now that Naomi is going to school, I thought she could make it in the real world from now on. So we sent them off and I listened to the sermon that was given, not from the guy from TN, but an English dude involved in an organisation that the church is a part of.

It's funny listening to a sermon from the other side: they are just propositions built on assumptions. The assumption underlying this one was 1) it's obvious there is a god because we are here, and 2) because it's obvious there is a god, it is also obvious that he provides us with everything we need. Objection presented: well, god doesn't provide everything to everyone--what about the people dying in Pakistan? Answer: that's a political problem--the problem isn't the lack of food, it's man. Man's the problem. The preacher also took a swipe at Richard Dawkins (okay, he's an asshole, fine) and Stephen Hawking... Stephen Hawking, the wheelchair-bound Cambridge physicist who can't speak without the aid of a computer? Yes, apparently whatever newspaper article this preacher read about Hawking's new book cast him as anti-god and, therefore, anti-thankfulness. Richard Dawkins, I get, but Stephen Hawking? Come on now.
God's got a pretty good gig in Christian theology. Whenever anything goes right, he gets the credit. Whenever there's a problem, it's man messing up his master plan.

This church is also quite patriarchal, something which is quite jarring to me now, more so than when I was younger. We need more men in the ministry. God send us more men. Really? We're not over that yet?
Well, after the sermon, some silly praise music and a minute of reflection with our eyes closed (I wonder what this potluck is going to be like), the potluck came in all its glory. And it was glorious. I sat with the Japanese folks, enjoying my privileged position between cultures and feeding Naomi ham. I didn't eat too much, and when the puddings came out, I managed to only have a bit of cake, a single marshmallow dipped in chocolate, and some fruit. It was successful.

I came home to my Birmingham payment and an expense payment from the OU in my bank account and a fresh carafe of coffee. I am now making coffee three times a day on the weekends: I don't think that this is too much. I'm actually certain that it's not. The house is cold, but it is a perfect, grey Sunday afternoon. I'm listening to The Album Leaf, free of entanglement. Although deconstructing what has power over you is hard and it's a long road out, I gotta say, I'm happy to be done and I have no desire whatsoever to go back. There is so much more to life than simple propositions and faith.

I have my French final on Wednesday. I have faith that it will be fine.

24 September 2010

Post doc funding

I have two choices when I graduate from my PhD. First, get a teaching position at a university. Probably won't be a great university and probably won't be tenure track. Will probably be fixed term, one to three years. Second, do a postdoctoral research project. I could do this by piggy backing on someone else's project or by applying for my own funding.

I had been leaning heavily toward prospect one because of the financial payoff. Basically, I could make money for the first time and lose some of the pesky problems of being extremely careful about finances. Fortunately, the longer we are here, the more relaxed about money I've gotten and I've realised that actually, things are not that bad, even at our current income rate and we are able to do, more-or-less, what we want to do and our savings is making slow interest, so it's not like we are falling behind. I'm also realising that if I want to really make a name for myself, postdoc work, although a sort of long way around, would eventually lead me where I want to go: teaching at a big, big(ger) name university in the UK, US, or possibly Japan. Postdoc funding will only be a bit more than I am making now and it could mean another 1 to 3 years, but when the children are young, I think it's okay.

Getting on another project would be fine, and most likely, but not nearly as prestigious as getting the funding yourself. So I'm thinking of really going for broke here and trying for some very competitive stuff. I mean really go for broke. Essentially, I have research ideas in CMC, religious studies, inter-cultural communication, and membership categorisation analysis. I am going to spend some time doing some research on possible funding streams and go for it. The problem is I am not a UK citizen, meaning the British Academy and ESRC post-docs are not a possibility--my funding is going to have to come from somewhere else which means it is likely we may have to go somewhere else. I'm thinking maybe three years in the EU wouldn't be too bad, if it meant a crack at a good job back here. (ESRC will fund international students: problem solved!) Or there, wherever there is. I also realised that if I don't teach for two years, it doesn't mean that I lose my experience having taught. I keep that. So the postdoc, provided everyone it happy, is probably a net gain over getting an instructor position.

Most of the post-doc applications for Autumn 2011 are due around this time, which means that I have to be applying this time next year, which means that I have really be starting the application process in the Spring of next year. Can't believe it is all going to happen so (relatively) quickly.

23 September 2010

Lunch

My first attempt at cooking my lunch in the rice cooker.
Lunch

2 cups of rice
2 hot dogs
1 can of mung beans
Half red onion
2 tbs crushed red pepper

Cook. Eat. Enjoy. Yields 4ish cups of healthy, delicious, low fat what-have-you. Oh, and spicy as h! I'm guessing 2 cups is around 600 kcals, give or take. A good sized lunch for me.

21 September 2010

Trains, buses, research methods

I'm on the train from Coventry to Milton Keynes, but thanks to the magic of my mother's iPod I am once again able to blog on the run. I was in Coventry to go the University of Warwick for a talk on intercultural communication. The talk was okay as far as talks go: a PhD student presenting some very rough data that, in my opinion, was pretty seriously flawed. But what do I know, I'm just another student. No, the U of Warwick is very nice and I am happy to be invited to what was, essentially, a department event. In a perfect world, these sorts of things lead to good contacts which lead to collaboration and, eventually, good work. We'll see though. Tomorrow I am going to London to King's College for a similar event, but with much bigger names and which will also include a dinner. That should be a good experience although I am reading the article we're going to talk about and it's pretty meh. Hopefully the talk will be more interesting. At the very least, I am also going up to Middlesex to get some work done for the new term.

The trains and buses have worked well today. I was able to read and not spend any extra money in the shops as I was passing through. I don't know why I ever go into them, really. I know what they have: high calorie, fatty, expensive food that I shouldn't be eating anyway. We went grocery shopping today and I got like three different kinds of beans that I am going to try out-- cooking them with rice and vegetables in the rice cooker. Should be delicious and full of good protein and not fat. A good lunch for me at school. Yesterday, I had almost no sugar. Today had been pretty low too, although I did have a small cookie with lunch. Otherwise, I've been really good. Keeping under the caloric intake and hopefully getting to a point in about two and a half weeks that I cn come back up to an even input/output ratio. First week in October.

20 September 2010

More protein, less fat

My first week of trying to maintain my weight loss went well. I was up all week and then back down below where I was last week on Monday, but my rolling average went down .43 kgs to 75.53 kgs, and I was at a new all time low today, only a bit less than the last one. I would like that to be below 75 kgs, but that should happen in the next weekish, so I'm not too worried. I've been in my goal range now for 15 days.

What I am more worried about is deciding what I should eat now. I realised that I live, actually, a pretty sedentary life when I am at home and school, and probably need close to 2,300 kCals plus whatever I use for cycling to and from work. So I need to eat more high protein, lower fat/ sugar/ carbs food. One of the reasons I felt so bad when I was dieting, I realised, was that I was eating so much sugar and carbs and not nearly enough protein. Of course, I dropped weight through the maths of it all, but I could have done it a lot easier if I had eaten more protein. I think the answer is beans, meat, and more beans. Soya beans, to be exact. It's hard to get protein without getting fat. Eggs, nuts: lots of protein, lots of fat. Beans have more fiber too.

Basically, the Japanese diet is perfect: fish (protein, no fat), beans and tofu (protein, no fat), rice (good carbs), and vegetables (fiber and vitamins).That Chipolte salad, minus the cheese and sour cream, was really good too, I think.

On the self-control side, not eating too much in London on Saturday and when the church ladies came over yesterday was successful, although I did technically eat too much when the church ladies came, I just didn't eat anything else the rest of the day. This is what got me thinking about protein. I had about 500 kCals in sugar, and I only felt like eating more. This morning I had an egg, cheese, and ham bagel sandwich (still too much fat, but some protein at least: I would usually have just had the bagel) and I feel much fuller. More meat for lunch...

19 September 2010

Paris

Why am I not in Paris right now?
France 2010

Las Meninas

Foucault's treatment of this painting in The Order of Things: An Archaeology of the Human Sciences is pretty damn good. More later on the misreading of Foucault and how that misreading makes Sarah Palin possible.
Las Meninas by Velazquez

18 September 2010

Japanese Festival, Chipotle

Boy, did we have a great day in London.
Trip to London, 18 Sep 2009

Trip to London, 18 Sep 2009

Trip to London, 18 Sep 2009

Trip to London, 18 Sep 2009

Trip to London, 18 Sep 2009

Trip to London, 18 Sep 2009

Trip to London, 18 Sep 2009

Trip to London, 18 Sep 2009

Trip to London, 18 Sep 2009

Trip to London, 18 Sep 2009

As you can see, we had a good time. First, we went to the Japanese Festival in Spitalfields Market, up near Liverpool St. Station. Like half of the underground lines were shut down today, it seemed, but we got there eventually. At first, it seemed very small, but we quickly realised it kept going and going into the market. It was really cool: Spitalfields Market is a pretty cool place anyway, but add a bunch of Japanese festival stalls, and it was even cooler. We had some good Japanese food and walked around a couple of times before it got really busy.

I like Japan, but I'm not one of those people who likes Japan, if that makes sense. The kind of people that dress up in kimono and do cosplay. The kind of people that put chopsticks in their hair. I like Japan: it's an amazing place full of amazing things. But please, non-Japanese people, let's not be Japanese fanboys. It reflects poorly on all of us.

From there, we went down to the National Gallery. Not a long time, but saw some of my favourite stuff and stared at van Gogh's sunflowers for a while.

Then we did my favourite thing in the whole world: walking up Charing Cross Road, stopping in at the used bookstores along the way. I was looking for Foucault, but wasn't successful. We crossed the road into Chinatown for a couple of minutes so Yoko could get a sweet bean bun, then made our way to the new Chipotle, a little bit of home that I find myself wanting every so often. I had the chicken salad and chips and salsa: really great and a bit smaller than the States, so we left feeling like we had eaten just enough, rather than we had gone nuts.

We got back on the train and were back in Milton Keynes around 7. It's amazing how close it is and how much you can do without spending hardly any money. 

17 September 2010

Foucault

Oh no. I can't believe I'm starting on this.

My broken pictures

My pictures from Aberdeen. My camera was broken: couldn't see what I was taking pictures of.
Aberdeen

Energy

IMG_0050Moving to the UK was a difficult thing to do. Perhaps this is an understatement. At the time I marked everything in terms of losses: losses of bank accounts, mobile phones, jobs, etc. It was hard, very, very hard.

But one thing that it wasn't: boring. Sitting on the ferry as we left Niigata, I was full of potential energy. All the mistakes we (I) made in bringing things over, in the knives in the carry-on luggage, in not planning on how to get our luggage to our house from the airport. All of it was terrible at the time, an awful set of experiences. It was hard. The whole time, however, we were  supported with the hope embedded in potentiality. That what was coming was going to better than what we had. Even in the moments when it wasn't working, this was clear to me. It would work out. It would be better.

If I, September 2010 Stephen, were meeting September 2008 StephenSeptember 2008 Stephen would be ecstatic. It worked, he would probably say, you got it, you got what you wanted. You teach where? You're going on vacation where? You live where? My god man, we did it.

That's what I imagine he would say. And he would be right, more-or-less. From his perspective, it has been incredibly successful. From my perspective, I feel less enthusiastic about it. I shouldn't. All the problems I've had this week (this year) are minor, small things. The decisions I have to make are small in the grand scheme. My life has been full of improvements for the last two years.

But oddly, that sense of potential has been replaced with a sadness for what I gave up in Japan. I, believe it or not, was reminiscing about grocery shopping this morning. Grocery shopping? Seriously? It was so much better in Niigata. The food was so much better. Driving was easier. The shopping centres were nicer. The people were nicer. The money was better. Things were cheaper... It goes on and on.

Naomi and DadaPart of me, I suppose, will always want to put everything back in the box: to go back to Shibata with our plans to move to Kobe in 2009 and do that life. That life, however, would only be possible if I knew that this life was possible: to know that I could do it, I could succeed in Europe and that staying in Japan was a choice of desire, not necessity.

So it is impossible. If I was still in Japan, I would probably be miserable. I would be coming back from my summer of studying at Birmingham to a job that I would be content with, but probably dislike. I would have no money as I would be paying PhD fees and be discontent, worried that I had made the wrong choice.

Why can't I be content. I think that is the question I would like to answer before I am 30. Because this isn't going to change. September 2012 Stephen, you probably got a kick ass job, right? You are probably doing exactly what I, September 2010 Stephen imagine will make me/you the happiest. And I imagine that you see me as naive, not in a bad, condescending way, but the same way we all look at younger versions of ourselves as somehow unable to see the obvious. Well. That's okay, I suppose. I am very happy with my life and the choices I have made. Without recognising other possibilities, we can't enjoy what we have now. So I'm going to keep plugging along and slowly become September 2012 Stephen: older, wiser, and hopefully, more content.

16 September 2010

Maintainance

Obviously, I was a bit naive about my ending of the diet. It's like this, I have been killing it from both ends to lose weight: diet and exercise. Most of August and up to last week, I was making daily losses of between 1,000 and 1,500 kCals, sometimes more. I thought that I would be able to get back to eating normal amounts of food, but it's pretty clear that I need to ease back into it, especially if I'm not going to be running three times a week (which I don't think I will, given that I think my body needs a little recovery time). I am still riding my bike to and from work, giving me another 500-600 kCals to include in my diet, but I think I need to ease back into it. I was back up to 75.7 yesterday, although that seems to have been a high peak, but I would still like high highs to be more in the high 74 range. My rolling average is at about 75.8 and has dropped (albeit very slowly) everyday, so as that is the number I really should be watching, I can't complain. So yesterday and today I am back to a 2,000-2,200 kCal intake, giving me a loss of between 600-800 kCals. Hopefully this will help me ease down to the high 74s while I figure out how to stay the same weight, with some fluctuation. I'm not really sure how much I should expect to fluctuate, really, but my guess is that will become clear in the next month or so.

Boring, I apologise.

I had my last French class last night and took a mock final, which I did okay on. I just have to be able to reproduce it come the actual final. I have all the questions. I know exactly what's going to happen: she's going to ask me very simple questions about my family and I have to do a role play. You're allowed to lie if it makes it easier. It's sort of like this, here's a good analogy: speaking French is like playing football (the world variety). You have to do all these things to be a good footballer. This class, however, has focused on kicking the ball into the net. The whole time we have stood in front of an open net and tried to kick the ball in. For the final, for the first time, there will be a goalkeeper, but the goalkeeper, before you take the shot, will tell you which way they will jump. 'Look, I'm going to go left, all you have to do is put it in the right side, okay?' And last night we had a practice. 'Okay, Stephen, just kick it in the right side.' And I went up and took a big kick and the ball went down the centre very, very slowly, almost making it across the line. My teacher, the goalkeeper in this analogy, said, 'Okay good shot, you can come up and kick it the rest of the way in.'

I keep wanting to tell people, you know I speak Japanese quite well. Quite well. They're like, yeah, yeah, why can't you pronounce vous aimez, you idiot.

Two years

Tomorrow marks our two year anniversary in England.  Last year I felt like this was an acheivement: that we had succeeded at something. The second year has been much less of a struggle for a lot of reasons. I'm looking forward to another year here, although mindful that the end is now slowly coming into view...

Anyway, every month of the last year in pictures.
On the Seine

It's okay, Nana.

Yearly date!

IMG_8295

Our new piano

IMG_9084

On the train!

IMG_0465

Trip to Scotland/ York, 2010

IMG_1277

IMG_1776

Naomi and Dad

15 September 2010

Reorganisation

I am trying to get two things done: the first is studying for my French speaking final. This will happen in two weeks, and once it is done, my French studying dream will come to a less then illustrious ending. I think, baring some complete meltdown, that I should be able to pass without too much trouble. I just have to get the studying done which, although it is annoying, is more bearable knowing the end is very close at hand. I need to go back to France, yes, but this doesn't seem to be in the cards for now. Oh well: we have a class tonight which I will attend and hopefully leave ready to take the final.

The second thing I have to do, which is much more tangible and ends with me having money in my pocket, is writing my syallbuses for my classes at Middlesex this year. I went to the library today to get the set books for the new class I am teaching: Empirical Studies of English. As this course is essentially an introduction to Discourse Analysis, I feel like I have all these opinions about the topic, which, surprisingly, is making it more complicated to put together. I can't just teach someone else's curriculum.

Yesterday, Naomi opened a car door in the wind and nailed this Benz we were parked next to. I actually wasn't with Yoko and the girls when it happened as I was riding my bike: I met them in Tesco and Yoko told me what had happened and asked me what to do. It was on the passenger back door, so the driver wouldn't have noticed it until much later. We went into the store and I was like, Probably you should leave a note. So Yoko when out there, and I was hoping they had already left. They hadn't and Yoko met the driver, who was extremely kind, it sounded like, but still took Yoko's card and said she would contact us. I am expecting a £300-£500 bill (they called and said it was 'minor' damage and they were getting a quote, probably less than £200?), given that the car was new and they will likely take it to a dealer to get fixed. That's worst case scenario. Best is that they do nothing, their insurance covers it, and we put it behind us.

In the five minutes we were in the store trying to decide what to do, we had a moral dilemma about it. Most likely they wouldn't have noticed and we would have gotten away with it. Nobody saw except Yoko. But, in the end, I felt much, much better about owning up to it. Money is just money, right: sleeping with a light conscience is much better. I did do a best case/ worst case scenario analysis when it happened though and imagined the worst case of not saying anything and having the person call the police, look at CCTV footage, get our license plate number, etc. Very, very unlikely, but a very bad outcome, I imagine.

Right decisions seem to be abundant this week. Let's hope they pay off. My conscience is clear and my wife is happy though, so perhaps I am reaping the good Karma as I write this.

I said to Yoko last night, that what I like, what I want the most, is to be going somewhere that I want to go. It gives me the most joy to think about next Tuesday when I will be on a train to Coventry for a talk at the U of Warwick. And then on Wednesday to King's College for another talk. And then next month when I get to go to London every week. Or going to Malaga. The anticipation of moving and going somewhere desirable really floats my metaphorical boat for some reason. And to do so wearing a bowtie? Well, there is nothing better.

13 September 2010

End

Well, I'm back from Aberdeen. I'm also done with my diet, I think. Here are the charts:


Time Period Total Weight Change (kg) Weekly Weight Change Rate (kg) Daily Calorie Deficit/Excess
1 Week
1.3


1.3


1465

30 Days
5.5


1.3


1442

All Time
8.4


0.0


3



Not entirely sure what to do now, but it's a whole new world.

12 September 2010

Aberdeen Trip, Day 5

I am out of my room, my shoes are off, and I am sitting in the television room of Crombie Hall, enjoying my Internet password, as well as electricity from the university. I should get up and go to the city to have lunch and do something, but I'm out of energy at this point after having walked up to the river just now to see the sea lions sunning themselves. They were, in fact, sunning themselves. I don't think I have ever seen a sea lion in the wild before. Now, I have. I have also seen men in kilts and heard the bagpipes a couple of times. Come on Scotland: you're playing into the stereotypes!

I am thinking about going to see a film, but I'm not sure there's really anything I want to see. Perhaps I will just go to a corporate coffee shop and drink coffee and read. I need to get some souvenirs for the girls as well. Hopefully I can do that at the supermarket.

Being near the sea has been nice. It smells so good. In Matsuhama, I lived a ten minute walk from the sea and hardly ever went. Same in Fukuoka. While in Aberdeen, I've been twice a day. I like the sense one gets looking at the sea. Cannot be explained. We need to go out there with the kids sooner rather than later.

Tomorrow, Naomi goes back to school and hopefully we will have much less drama. I am going to take her all three times this week. No drama with Dad.

There's a really nice shopping centre at Union Square. I went to the Apple Store and saw all the new iPods. Amazing. I also went to Zara and this other really cool clothing store that I had never seen before, but was playing the killers. I was looking for a scarf: I found the one I wanted at Zara, but as it was £19, I kept looking and ended up with something nice from TK Maxx. Brownish and thin, but huge so you can layer it.

I know I said I was going to take the day off, but I think I will now make comments on my Bham student's paper.

11 September 2010

Aberdeen Trip, Day Four

The end of a conference is always a difficult thing for me. Apologies for bringing it back to food and eating again, but after both BAAL last year, and the conference this year in Amsterdam, I bought a package of cookies and ate them. Not a small package, mind you: like a proper roll of chocolate biscuits: probably 1,500-2,000 kCals altogether and just ate them all. This might seem odd: it seemed odd to me when I was doing it. You hate yourself when you do things like that. It’s such an embarrassing thing, but so secret and private. No one knows unless you tell them.

As the conference ended today, I felt the same sort of emptiness. The first part of this was because there was no lunch served and I was actually very hungry, but the other part of it, the thing I think I was unable to put my finger on in Newcastle last year or in Amsterdam was how these conferences work and the natural letdown you feel when they finish. We used to talk about this when we went on religious retreats: the retreat would end and Monday was always so awful. We thought it was the devil trying to bring us down from being so close to god.

The truth, it turns out, is that people (and me in particular, being that I am rather outgoing) actually quite like being with other people who they share common interests and beliefs with. At these conferences, you have this built-in closeness with the people around you. Everyone is interested in language. Most people are academics. Everyone understands the complexities of multilingual interaction and quite a few are in intercultural relationships, with bilingual kids. At a coffee break, you turn to anyone, and you start talking. About anything, about everything.

When the conference ends, it’s suddenly back to a very bleak, real world. When we finished today, I came back to the room, slept for an hour, and then went to the city centre to eat and look around. I had this desire to talk to people, everyone around me.

You also go from spending six hours a day or more listening to talks and thinking/ talking about big issues. This is pretty demanding and even though I love it, I need a break. I have a paper I have to read for one of my tutees and I just can’t do it now. I need to decompress.

So I walked and walked and walked instead of binge eating. After I recognised the problem, it was easier to avoid. I did eat lunch and sat at Starbucks with a huge cup of coffee and some shortbread and drank it very slowly, but I didn’t eat too much, or keep eating when I was full. There was, for a brief moment, nowhere to be, nowhere to go. I was upset that I didn’t book a flight back for earlier in the day, but I realised, checking my flight status for tomorrow, that the flight out of Aberdeen to Luton on Saturday was like at 1:30, so I couldn’t have taken it anyway. I’m on the next one which just happens to be on Sunday night.

There’s more.

Someone asked me yesterday, ‘Where are you from?’ In this context, it’s hard to deduce what they mean: do they mean where I live or where I come from originally? I said, ‘That’s a difficult question’ and was about to go on to clarify, but the woman laughed and said, ‘That’s a strange answer for me as an non-native English speaker. This is such a simple question.’ I explained the problem and she understood in the end. I asked another woman the same question today, and she laughed and said, ‘Do you mean where do I live now, or why do I talk funny?’ She was a Cambridge professor, lived in the UK for 30 years, but originally from Texas. The Texas accent never fades.

All-in-all, it was a successful trip for me in a lot of areas. Yoko once told me that at the end of your twenties beginning of your thirties, your style settles and you stop buying new clothes every year. Until then, she said, it was fine to buy cheap clothes, but when you settle, you should buy better clothes that will last. I feel like I am starting to settle. Part of it is fashion. Part of it is this new body that feels less burdensome than the body I had last year. Part of it is a confidence in the work I am doing. This all adds up to a sense of peace, of getting older. I like it quite a bit. I like that my shoes fit and I look in the mirror and am not unsettled with how I look. It’s a very tangible manifestation of how I feel inside.

I didn’t get a job for 2012, as I was hoping, but the groundwork is there and I am realising that I probably don’t need to worry about it. Or rather, that it’s fine to worry about it as worrying about it will drive me to succeed, but that things will probably work out. And with the food and the eating: the problems, when you look at where they come from, are solvable. You just have to make sure you are solving the right problem. Come Monday, I will need to stop this very small intake of food that I am at now, and level off. Quickly, actually, so I don’t dip too much further. I think that will be okay: I can more-or-less go back to what I was eating before, minus the binge eating. And weighing myself regularly. I need to get back into the academic mode come Monday as I have a French final and preparations for teaching at Middlesex in October to do. But tomorrow, I will take a day off, I think. Run on the beach a last time and maybe see a film. Family and work responsibilities will come back soon enough.

10 September 2010

Aberdeen Trip, Day 3 cont.

Well, my presentation went really well. I had a problem exporting my file in the morning: panicked a bit, but everything worked out. The presentation was (very?) well attended with like 20-25 people: one of the most attended I have been in so far, at least. At the beginning I blanked for about three seconds: in my mind this was a huge thing that was probably just a blip, but I pulled it out of the ditch and got going. People asked good questions and three or four people have found me out during the breaks since then to say they enjoyed it. The session chair came and sat next to me at lunch as well: he's from Lancaster which is also on my list of places I want to work, so it was nice.

And I wore my bowtie. I owned it. OWNED it.

Now I can relax. I've run out of business cards though. Stupid to forget those, right?

Aberdeen Trip, Day 3

Just got up and ran again.

Things have been going well. I found myself talking to someone last night whose work I had been looking at just earlier this week. We talked at a wine reception for about a half hour, about a lot of different things. Certainly a good person to know, personally and professionally. I then managed to have my kebab (ate the bread, so it wasn't technically a salad), but avoided the sauces and the chips. I came home without buying other food, meaning that I am keeping on target.

I have my presentation this morning, but more than before, I have really practiced it a couple of times and think I know what I want to say, completely. We'll see though.

09 September 2010

Aberdeen Trip, Day 2 cont.

Well, I got some sleep last night. The dorm mattress ain't great, but what can you do. Anyway, I got up and ran to the North Sea. It was fabulous. I will be spending a lot of time at the sea while I'm here, methinks.

Breakfast was good and now I need to go off to register and spend the rest of my day listening to how to teach English better.

Aberdeen Trip, Day 2

Well, it still feels like day one because I haven't been to sleep yet, but I have made it to Aberdeen AND I got the Internet working on my computer. A small feat, as it was like a thirty step process.

My flight was delayed by two hours which meant I got in around 11 and took the last bus into the city. I had plans to take the bus and walk to the university, but the whole time I was contemplating just taking a freaking cab. It would have been much easier, but no, I stuck to my plan, and walked from the city centre to the university: about a half hour. It was nice enough: not really that cold here. Very misty. Very beautiful, from what I can tell.

Anyway, I am going to get up in 5 hours to run, or at least that's the plan. I made it through my first day not eating too much: only four to go. I think (think) that I have changed my eating pattern enough in the short run at least to be okay. We'll see though.

The Internet! Glory!

08 September 2010

At work?

I wasn't supposed to come into work today, but the stars aligned. I came to look for my watch, but it's not here, so it should be at home somewhere. Whatever, I need to work on my presentation and transcribe some videos.

This morning, I woke at 6, which seems to be the way things are going now. I got on the scale to see how I was doing and I was at 74.7, meaning that I am still losing weight and will have to, when I get back home from my trip, start to eat more. There's no way around it. I'm obviously worried about this and falling off the wagon, but my clothes are getting loose and I need to stay healthy. It's a long way to underweight, but I never really wanted to be skinny. Just healthy.

So I went running, had breakfast and got ready to take Naomi to school. I told her again and again about what the plan was:
  1. We would go together
  2. I would wait a little while
  3. I would leave
  4. She would play and have a snack
  5. Mommy would come pick her up
Anyway, she was a bit apprehensive about this, but we got there and like I said, I sort of hung back and let her play. She came up to me to see if I was still there, and I told her the plan again and she went off to play. She came back a second time and again I told her the plan. She came up a third time and I told her that I was going to go now and she needed to play, but mommy would come pick her up after the snack. She nodded and I said goodbye and she waved and said goodbye and went back to playing.

And I left. And they haven't called to say she melted down. So. Success?

Complicated, I thought I was walking to Aldi to see if they had frozen fruit: things are so damn complicated. How do we all get what we need and want. How does the family negotiate everyone's needs.

When my brother left for college in... it must have been '97 (correct me if I'm wrong, DeWalt)? Anyway, our family for like 4 months was completely thrown into a malaise. We moved to Chicago and nobody knew what to do with this giant gap in our lives. It was hard: all the relationships had to readjust. Naomi going to school 12 hours a week is certainly nothing like this, but the centre of gravity is going to start to shift again, I think. Language in the house will start to change: the girls will speak to each other in English. They will be more busy: they have things going on every day of the week now. This will hopefully afford me more freedom, less responsibility to keep everyone entertained all the time. Maybe I'll read a book.

07 September 2010

Things I plan to do in Scotland

  • Run every morning
  • Eat a kebab salad
  • Walk on the beach of the North Sea
  • Not eat too much (more coffee, fewer biscuits)
  • Read some of Part III of 1Q84
  • Try not to feel too bad about leaving my family for a couple of days
  • Kick ass in my presentation
  • Wear a bow tie one day
  • Get a great job for October 2012
Let's see how many of these I cross off.

06 September 2010

First Day of School

Nana

Naomi and Dad

Rebounding

I didn't rebound this morning: kept losing actually (a bit). I didn't change anything yesterday, really. I was a little less careful about what I ate, but still a really big loss in kcals for the day. Still, I was really surprised at how different I felt. It wasn't a burden any more. We went to the Japanese church service (see next paragraph) and there was a ton of cakes and candy and I decided before it started how much I would eat and then ate that much. Didn't fight with myself at all. In the next week, I'm going to be around a lot of food and I'm a bit worried, as losing weight was only a part of this: the real goal was to get control of my body, which is much harder to quantify and much harder to do.

The Japanese church met for the first time after the summer break yesterday. It wasn't at our house, so we road bikes out there. I have been going back and forth about my attendance of church: I have been going to the services to support Yoko, but I'm sort of done with it. Anyway, yesterday it seemed like it would be good for me to go, that even if I didn't want to, it was going to help make more peace in the house, which I'm always up for. It was strange though, as they started singing, I was comfortable, much in the way I was comfortable in Japan at church. We are not English, and I feel so cut off from England as a place with a culture. It's like I live in a bubble here. But the Japanese community is a place that we both fit in, albeit in different ways. So it was nice to just be there and be with those people. The religious element of it, so long as I allow it to be what it is, can be lived with, I think. I left feeling like there were other people out there, if that makes any sense.

Naomi started school today: it went okay. It's going to take some time to adjust and we didn't leave her at all. Yoko and Naomi ended up coming home like halfway through, but Naomi seemed to enjoy playing. On Wednesday, I'm going to take her and spend the whole time, if I need to, but I think at some point, we just gotta leave her. It's hard though.

I never went to school as a kid and walking with Naomi today, it was strange to experience it. I didn't have any idea what she felt. She will just barely remember it, I imagine. But it was nice. She is slowly going to gain some independence, and that will make it all easier. When I thought she would be there for three hours today, I thought Yoko and I might go to the supermarket with Mei, just the three of us: I imagined that in two years, they will both go to school and Yoko and I could get coffee for a couple of hours once a week, seeing as I don't (and won't ever) have a real job. Nice, I thought. Very nice.

Other things, complicated things, going on, but I am going to have to leave them for now, as there are preparations to be made for my trip to Scotland. I lost half a day today, will lose half a day on Wednesday, and tomorrow, I am doing some world Englishes thing where I am interviewed about how English is viewed in my culture. Lots to do, lots to be done.

05 September 2010

Goal weight

Yes!

I wanted, at the beginning of this, to weigh between 74 and 76 kgs. I think the real goal should probably be between 73 and 75, but I accomplished what I set out to do. First time ever. 75.4 kg, 165.8 lbs. The last time I was this weight, I was like 13.

04 September 2010

A real barbershop

Today, I was on my way to a market to get my hair cut and I walked past a barbershop with hip hop music and full of people that looked nothing like me. I thought, let's give this a shot. A result:
46436_10150250026085367_763635366_14605020_8116979_n47362_10150250124655367_763635366_14607115_5012149_n

03 September 2010

That's a lot of blood...

Yesterday, I rode my bike home from work and was unpacking things. Yoko said to me, do you want to hear some bad news? And I was like, Well, no, but tell me anyway. And she was explaining to me that the kettle blew up earlier in the day, causing a small fire on the counter. As she was describing this, Mei toddled into the kitchen and fell into a wooden stair stool that we have in the kitchen.

It was one of those falls that looked like no problem, but suddenly Mei was really, really screaming and there was a ton of blood coming out of her mouth. A lot. You know how mouths are though. Anyway, Yoko picked her up and was trying to find where she had cut herself. When she finally got Mei to open her mouth and mopped up the blood, it looked like she had a pretty serious gash in her bottom lip.

I saw it and thought it looked bad, but knowing the mouth to be very quick to heal, I thought, Well, if it stops bleeding it will be fine. We got cotton on it, but Yoko was pretty worried about it and I, not knowing anything about this, thought, Okay, okay, let's go to the hospital.

So we got in the car and drove down to the hospital, but by the time we got there, Mei had stopped bleeding and actually fell asleep. This didn't seem like an emergency anymore, but luckily, at the hospital, they have a walk-in clinic, so we opted to go there and just have a GP look at it to be safe.

The walk-in clinic was full of teenagers, doing what exactly, I don't know. We signed in and like 10 minutes later the GP saw us. He said to Naomi, 'What's your name?' and she answered, 'Naomi' which sort of shocked me: she tends to be sort of nervous about speaking to strangers in English especially. Anyway, the GP was incredibly kind, took one look at the cut and was like, 'This is fine, she'll be fine.' And I said, Well, how do we know when to take her in or not, in the future? And he was like, It's up to you, it's no problem if you need something checked out.

So we left and went home and had dinner and it was over — another win for the NHS.

02 September 2010

Leaving

Family

I missed this, but the 31st marked two years since we left Niigata. Has it been that long? Hasn't it been longer?

01 September 2010

The end of the day

I have transcribed three videos today and worked on my presentation for next week, so I feel as though I have earned a moment to blog. My blog entries, when I wait like I do for so long, become a potpourri of all the boring bits of my life. I'll try to be brief.

My dataset is growing, but it is looking to be fascinating and multi-facilitated. I'm really pleased with how it is coming together and how I solved this problem. I think my dataset solution is interesting and allowing me the space to find what it was that I am looking for. I have marked about 40 videos now for transcription, and transcribed a good number of them (25%?) already. Once you have the template down, it's easier to do. Then it's just a matter of metaphorically putting your nose to the metaphorical grindstone.

I studied French hard in August and am taking two weeks off. I will study very, very narrowly for the final for two weeks ahead of it, but that's all that I'm going to give to it. Tired of wasting my time on something that is not going to help me at all in the long run.

Last night, at 4 in the morning, I was rocking a screaming Mei and thinking to myself, I feel awful. I have felt awful for about six weeks, as  I have taken on this austerity plan towards my weight. Feeling like I was (I feel a bit better now), I am glad that come next week, I will be on a plane to Aberdeen and not have to think about my lack of eating all the time. When you work alone at your desk, it's very hard to put not eating out of your mind. It's been good to have to do it this way, I suppose, I can learn it. But still. My body feels healthy, but I am weak and tired and ready to be stronger. It's been affecting my outlook on the world too: made me shorter with my wife and kids. It needs to be done: I need to stop hovering around being overweight for the rest of my life, but anyone who tells you that you can lose weight without feeling crappy doesn't know what they're talking about. You will feel crappy. Nature of the beast: your body is eating itself, for god's sake.

But I need to get away next week: clear my head and work on my networking for a job in 2012. I had this vision today, as I took a walk by the river after listening to Christians and atheists argue all day, of getting a job in a new department that will be opening that year and securing a position this year. It would take so much stress away. It won't happen, but... a girl can dream.

I shouldn't complain. We are on target. I survived August despite not getting the pay from Birmingham I had expected: now I will have a good couple of months financially, minus of course the needs of the car and the trip, but I realised that our trip to Spain is a vacation. I shouldn't count it as a cost: it's a chosen expenditure because of the work I'm doing. It's for our enjoyment--we're doing it because we can afford it. Spending money on enjoyment once a year is not a bad thing. It's not getting the car fixed. It's not a new visa. I need to be more positive.

I wanted to blog all day, but I have lost all my thoughts and energy. Oh well, one more week and I'll feel better. I promise.
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