30 October 2010

Autumn

November comes the day after tomorrow, so we squeezed the last bit of life out of autumn today.
Leaves

Papino and Nana

Pumpkin Carving

Pumpkin Carving

Pumpkin Carving

Pumpkin Carving

Nana Runs

Mei and leaves

5p coin takes a beating

If you were ever curious what a 5p coin looks like after it has travelled through the digestive system of a one and a half year old, you have come to the right place.
The queen makes it through the digestive tract unharmedThe back of the coin, after a trip through Mei

29 October 2010

What love's got to do with it

IMG_4889_1_1.jpg

Love is a word used to describe a complex system of feelings and actions. But what is love?

Love is not something you can operationalise, so I avoid using it when I want to be precise. I love my wife, I say I love my wife, but I'm not bothered by the exact specific meaning of it. No citation needed here--I'd cite Rick Jackson if I needed to. The constituent parts of my love for her and her love for me come up at times, and I recognise them when I can as data points in some larger system that I have no understanding of.

When my father was here in the summer, we (Yoko, the girls, my dad, and I) were walking through the supermarket. I was talking to my dad about meat, specifically how we as a species probably eat too much and how meat farming is adding to global warming. These are the sort of soft liberal issues I bring up so as to ease the acceptance of my political (and eventually spiritual) beliefs with people I know oppose them. Meat is not overtly political or spiritual, and the thought process is clearly explainable. It's probably not helping anything, but what the hell, I can try, right?

Anyway, as I was having this conversation, Yoko says to me in Japanese, 'I think I'm pregnant.' This came out of the blue. Certainly not, I thought. I mean... no, no, certainly not, right? Certainly not. My meat conversation with my dad ended immediately and I eventually said to him, sorry, Yoko just told me she thinks she's pregnant, which is not something that's really fair to say to your dad in the supermarket when you're shopping for meat.

I remember that day was very bright: lots of sun, no clouds.

Well, Yoko wasn't pregnant, but it got a series of conversations rolling. The first being that I didn't want to, again, have a child by accident. Way too much surprise for me. Also, come to think of it, I didn't really want to have another kid anyway. We have two kids: why would we need a third? This was, I thought, quite a logical position. Two kids makes sense in a lot of ways, especially if you're trying to be mobile in the way that I want to be. Four is also divisible by two, something that five is not. I come from a family of five: it's fine, but four, I thought. Four is enough.

This was not how Yoko saw it: she had always envisioned a family of five. The three kids able to support each other at different times, a more complex set of relationships to help them mature and grow together. It was, she conceded, her dream, not something that could be argued, with the positives outweighing the negatives. It was simply and quietly what she always had and probably always would want.

I opposed this on my rational grounds, hoping that it would go away. But over the course of a couple of months it was becoming clear that this thing, these three kids, was not an issue that was going to go away, and though I might be able to eventually win the argument, it would be at a cost. When the conversation came up again for the third or fourth time, it was clear: yielding was my responsibility and yielding would, in terms of relationship capital, be significant. More than anything that could ever be said, a million 'I love yous'.

So, now, a speck of baby floats inside Yoko and one day that speck may grow up and read how they came about. So I have this to say to you, tiny speck of baby: You are special. Your sisters are special too, but you are particularly special because you are the instantiation of my love for your mother. You are the choice of love: of saying yes instead of no and of faith in the strength and longevity of our family, gathered up and bound by love.

2011 will be a big year, as was 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, and 2006 before it. I suppose my penchant for stress can't be sated. Oh well: what is life if not for living. July 2011, we start again.

26 October 2010

The value of a PhD (or, The value of a PhD in Japan)

Well, as my thoughts flitter around about potentials and I look at job postings in Japan, some things become clear very quickly, if you can read the air appropriately:

1. A PhD, though not essential, puts you at the top of the list. You will be considered first.
2. Japanese ability is important.
3. Experience is essential.
4. Research abilities and publications are important.
5. Teaching is important.

Looking at these postings, it’s clear that at this point, pulling a good job, even potentially tenured at a small university, is quite possible. And, given 5 or 6 more years working, someone like me would be in a very good place to get tenure at a good university, provided I keep on the path that I am. This doesn’t say much about me except that the skills I have cultivated make me a very good candidate for a job at a university in Japan, which I suppose shouldn’t surprise me as that was my goal for about five years. in 2012, I would have the key skills at the level they are needed: particularly, and uniquely, Japanese ability AND a PhD.

The PhD’d foreigner in Japan is still rare and will probably continue to be rare. Most teachers come to Japan as younger folk (22 or 23) and initially don’t do much professional development. You might marry a Japanese and realise, in your late twenties, early thirties, that you need more education to stay gainfully employed. So you get an MA, and that usually takes maybe 3 or 4 years. It also takes a lot of time, energy, and money, and by the time you finish, you are heavy in experience and probably have a good job near where you want to settle, so the PhD and the 5 or 6 years more of part-time study it requires, along with the financial cost and lack of immediate pay-off, is unappealing. You are unlikely to move anyway.

The workload of a PhD may change in coming years as some schools are looking into modular PhDs which don’t require a thesis, but I doubt that those will be taken as seriously in Japan. The Japanese universities, I suspect, will still want you to prove that you have spent some time on campus (if not completely on campus) and have a thesis that you published or published out of. Plus, although easier than a non-modular (I won’t say ‘real’) PhD, they will cost the same and still be a hell of a lot of trouble to complete, not really adding to their appeal.

Although foreigners with PhDs might try to go to Japan, the problem with them is that they lack any Japanese experience and can’t speak the language. They are well-qualified, but in the wrong ways.

So perhaps I should try to fit into the puzzle that I fit into.

25 October 2010

Some sort of future

Trip to Spain 2010
What a difference a couple of weeks makes.

You’ll remember a post that I made in September, breathlessly announcing that I had decided to apply for an ESRC post-doc at King’s College. I was focused, excited. I e-mailed everyone. Yes, this is what I wanted.

Well, I soon found out that the acceptance rates of these things were next to nothing. Mathematically zero. And although I have a lot of confidence in myself, when you have to round up to get to .3%, I start to get worried. No matter, I thought, I would still apply and plan on working some year or two year contract teaching, with the expectation that eventually, something would come together, if I worked hard enough.

This last week, the government announced that it was cutting the budget pretty seriously, leaving some 500,000 public sector workers unemployed. The universities are now going to be allowed to charge higher tuition and in exchange, the government is essentially defunding higher education. Who knows what is going to happen for real, but I can say this: without a miracle, the 2012-2013 grant funding is going to be non-existent and every department, terrified that they will be deemed not profitable and axed, is unlikely to hire anyone new. Hopefully in three to five years, the bad blood will be out, but that’s unlikely with such a huge overhaul to the system.

Add to this the immigration fears that have the government capping non-EU immigrants. I thought this only applied to people coming into the country and not people renewing, but I met an American yesterday who was looking like he wasn’t going to get renewed based on the new rules. Doesn’t matter that his company wants him to stay: they can only employ so many foreigners. So he has to move on. Thank you, (don’t) come again.

So I have a couple of choices. Basically I can say, well, there will have to be people hired and I might get lucky and they’ll choose a foreigner (me) over a qualified English person. The problem with this is even if they want to hire me, whether or not I’ll be able to get a visa will be a different story. And the chance of there being a job is quite unlikely. Option two is start looking elsewhere in Europe, which will be my second choice, but I am wary to make a short-term commitment if learning another language is involved, as Yoko and the kids will require more adaptation than me. Certainly a possibility, but, again, I haven’t been seeing a lot of opportunities, owing to the fact, I suppose, that I don’t speak another European language and can’t search universities that way.

That leaves the US and Japan. Yesterday, I came downstairs and Yoko was watching a Japanese TV show on YouTube and laughing. It was one of the Japanese variety shows--distinctly Japanese and hard to explain. As I watched her watch it, I had a sense of... peace. Peace is the best way to describe it. Security and peace, but also a sense that I did not have to do anything. I feel like I am always doing something in the UK, always trying to get something done that must be done in English or plan to take the family somewhere that they can't go themselves because the streets are confusing or it requires too much English. Japan would be different. I could leave the house on a Saturday: go ride my bike and come back and Yoko and the could be somewhere else by themselves. No help with maps, no need to look it up on the Internet for them. That would bring me a great deal of satisfaction: I could go to the coffee shop and read without any guilt hanging over me.

I’m not sure what the answer is. Well, that’s not right: the answer is to not worry about it and focus on my work and loving my wife and family. But I’m always looking for the exits.

24 October 2010

Sneaky bastards

I'm finished. Nothing can be done. Luckily I have light enough hair anyway, you can't notice it. But. There you are.
White hairs

22 October 2010

Back at it

Trip to Spain 2010

I'm on the underground on my way to work and listening to music or reading can be quite difficult. I am prepared for my classes which is good news for me today as I am still feeling ill and a bit lethargic. Another post about the trip, this one more introspective.

21 October 2010

Tanger

I have three or four posts in me about this trip, some that are less about the trip and more about other things that came up during the trip. We'll start with one that is just the facts about the trip.

Trip to Spain 2010

So a long time ago, in May, when I made plans for this trip, I was intrigued by the possibility of us going to Morocco for the day. I heard this was something you can do and looking at the map, it seems like it's close enough. Yoko and I had both always wanted to go to Africa, even if it was only sticking our metaphorical toe in. Unfortunately, the ferry tickets I'd seen from Màlaga to Morocco were expensive, especially if you included getting to the ferry, getting around wherever we arrived--and it was going to be only 4 hours for a whole day of travelling. So I gave up the idea and thought, well, when we get to Torremolinos, we can see what's available there.

As you might guess, a lot of people have the same idea and everywhere there are signs for trips to Tanger for under (where the hell is the euro sign on this keyboard) 59. So I enquired early on Monday morning at one establishment and when the woman assured me that we would be picked up at the hotel and it would take under two hours, I thought, yes, exactly, perfect. And we booked it. €173. (The html code for € is &euro, I just learned.)

We woke up on Tuesday morning at the crack of dawn and ate the early breakfast we ordered, and though I still wasn't feeling 100%, it was better than the day before. At 7:15, the bus rolled up and a very energetic, multi-lingual woman helped us on and we had a quiet trip in the dark for the first thirty minutes or so, slowly stopping to pick people up and watching the sun come up over the sea. Well, 30 minutes stretched into an hour and an hour stretched into an hour and half of us driving on the coast. We were also only stopping to pick people up, not use the restroom, and an emergency was growing with the wife. Luckily, it wasn't Naomi because she would have not been able to make it, but when we asked about using the toilet, the otherwise perfect tour guide became sort of like a nazi: Why do you need to stop? We're late! 'Yes,' I said, 'I realise this, but we've been on the bus for almost three hours now: that's a long time.' A stop was negotiated, the 'next' stop or so I thought. When we stopped again, Yoko left the bus and ran into an office building, but it became pretty clear that this was not what was supposed to happen, and the rest of the passengers, many of whom were also suffering, tried to get up, but were told to sit down. Anyway, Yoko was back straightaway, and then the bus stopped at a petrol station within five minutes, when about half of the bus got up to pee, despite the begging of the tour guide that only those who 'really needed it' should go. How do you measure 'really needing to go to the bathroom' on a gradable scale in which a bus of international tourists would have any idea what the threshold of leaving the bus should or shouldn't be?

With all that nastiness behind us, we came up past Gibraltar which I was pretty happy to see and then to Tarifa, where we would take the ferry across. I saw that the cost of the ferry for an adult was €36 return and was growing more curious: we had travelled by bus for three and half hours. We were getting the ticket and when we arrived in Tanger, we were going to take a bus around the city with a guide, have a walking tour, and lunch, all-inclusive. But anyway, we took the ferry across, which was only 35 minutes, and soon we were on the bus driving through Tanger.
Trip to Spain 2010Trip to Spain 2010

I haven't said this yet, but it's obvious: yes, taking a bus trip to Morocco is against every DIY, indie bone in my body. I'm sorry. I confess it. But hear me out: We couldn't have gone with the kids in another situation. Far too volatile in some senses. Although I would have happily gone alone just the four of us, I would have spent the whole time worrying about getting back on the boat.

Okay, that said, the tour guide (a new one now, on the Moroccan side) was telling us about how wonderful Morocco was: a whole speech about who though they were Islamic and religious, they were peaceful freedom-loving people. And women can wear whatever they please now. Very free.
Anyway, as we took the winding road up the hills, I was realising that Tanger was quite big actually and quite condensed, built on very steep hills coming up off of the port. We arrive, inexplicably, at a dirt lay-by at the side of the road where we were met by an army of men selling trinkets and men selling camel rides. Naomi was scared of the camels and Mei too, but Yoko and Mei rode around once and within five minutes, we were back on the bus.

The next stop was the top of the walking tour and they told us repeatedly not to leave anything on the bus. When we got off the bus, there were about three more guides, helping people to go the right way and unfolding our stroller. Oh no, I thought, this is not the place to have a stroller... but as this was a guided tour with (I have yet to mention) an army of people over 60 (there were some Spanish kids in their preteens, but they were by far the youngest next to Naomi and Mei), the path was very, very well chosen. We made our way through a small neighborhood, with the guides carefully watching to make sure that no one wandered off.

Trip to Spain 2010
Trip to Spain 2010
Trip to Spain 2010
Trip to Spain 2010

We had lunch at a restaurant where another tour group was eating: beer, cous-cous and chicken with a simple soup, and some great honey biscuits and tea at the end. All very nice, and up off the street, so it felt a bit like floating above everything. There was live music which Mei really got into and quickly became very popular among the rest of the restaurant goers.
Trip to Spain 2010
Trip to Spain 2010

Next we were taken to the 'market' and this was the point that I realised why this trip was only €63 a person. The cultural talk we were getting about traditional rug-making in Morocco was a very thinly-veiled sales pitch to buy the rugs and as we shopped in the 'market', things were about three times more expensive than the prices being shouted at us as we walked briskly through the streets earlier. And although you could bargain (the leather bag I looked at just briefly went from €180 to €50 based, from what I could tell, on my lack of interest ), things didn't come down that much.
Trip to Spain 2010

The next stop was a traditional pharmacy with another salespitch by a very energetic young man, whose jokes I laughed at loudly. Again, all over-priced. When we left, however, we were in the heart of a series of very winding, very narrow streets lined with stores, and as we made a couple of turns, I thought that if it would be very, very easy to get lost, and you could very, very quickly get into a lot of trouble, if you went the wrong way. The guides did a very good job of keeping the metaphorical lid on everything, but there was clearly a lid.
We were hustled away, back onto the boat around 5 and as I went to the bathroom, I walked past a group of men praying, next to a slot machine with a picture of a bikini'd woman (breasts tucked in, thankfully). This is very disparate, I thought: can these two things really do business together? Costa del Sol on one side, burning with debauchery, gluttony, and capitalism. On the other, the free, moderate Muslim women wear the hijab and seem to be outnumbered on the street 30 to 1 by men. Of course, the question is yes. Yes, they can. They are. And, for what it's worth, I would much, much prefer to go back to Tanger or Marrakarech than Torremolinos. One is understandable in a moment, the other has miles and miles of narrow, dark, fascinating places without steak and chips. Perhaps in my next life.

A shadow

A shadow

20 October 2010

Last time around

I'm still not 100%. I'm at like 60%. Perhaps less. I need a chart with numbers showing how crappy I feel.

Lots to say about Tanger but that will have to wait until tomorrow when I am home. Fascinating place, even if only seen through the bars of a tour bus jail.

Today we spent the day in Malaga which was nice enough. Much more refined than Torremolinos given the fewer tourists. Nice little sun-drenched plazas here and there. The Picasso museum was closed though and that was unforgivable.

This trip has given me alot to think about. I will have to spend a couple of days thinking it through. I didn't want to spend the trip thinking but perhaps what I really want is a holiday from myself.

18 October 2010

Another day ill

Day two. I have been so sick. So, so sick. We went to the beach today and I was like a dead man walking. When we went home around 4:30 I could barely walk. I slept a couple of hours and I slept another couple of hours and I think my fever broke. The whole time I’ve been like, this is not going to be an issue. Well, it has been. And that sucks.

My Spanish is surprisingly much better than I thought, especially the reading and comprehension. Not so good at speaking as I have forgotten all the verbs, but otherwise it’s not been that bad.

Tomorrow we are going to Morocco. I didn’t think that we would be able to, but I went to a travel agent and they said we could go for €63 a person with Naomi at 75% the cost. I didn’t want to do it until they said they pick you up at the hotel and take you to the boat and in Tanger, they take you around in a bus and lunch is included. Certainly worth it I think. We’ll see. Not the sort of thing I would normally do, but with the wife and kids, it’s a no brainer. Hopefully my stomache will be better and I won’t have the body aches and the shivering. I’m taking more medicine so that should help.

Otherwise, (well, what else is there really) things are okay. I don’t think we’ll be back her though. Far too touristy and not enough of the interesting tourist stuff (art museums, interesting shopping). Do I wish we had gone to Paris or somewhere else in France? Yes. Yes, I do. But live and learn.

17 October 2010

Torremolinos

Well, here we are in Spain. I’m writing this on my mother’s iPod in the hotel. It is now ten at night: I have been up since three and now I am feeling quite ill. The same illness that Naomi and Mei had this week. It’s my turn. Better me than them though as I have the self control to get to the toilet on time (as opposed to Naomi) and I understand that being ill is just a part of life (as opposed to Mei). Still I wish a couple of things: first, that I didn’t eat as much as I did today. The spirit of the holiday really took hold and though I caught myself at around three in the afternoon, it was too late and we ended up ordering way too much for dinner too. The worst of all worlds. Second, that after realising I was going to overeat for the day, that I wouldn’t have gone running for forty minutes in the Spanish afternoon sun. Now, I am shuttling between the bed and the toilet as the children and wife sleep, wondering if my body is finished expelling whatever it thinks it needs to expel.

Torremolinos. I think you could learn more about British culture here watching the expats than you could by watching the actual Spanish people. There are a lot of interesting Spanish people here: don’t get me wrong. But the most interesting group of people has to be the British. What are they doing here sitting in British pubs, drinking British cider at eleven in the morning?

Torremolinos, as I was warned, is a resort village. Lots of concrete highrises and miles of beach. The boardwalk on the beach is lined for miles and miles with little cafes and tiki huts, selling more or less the same thing: steak and chips for twelve euro. It’s stunningly beautiful and everybody you see couldn’t give a fuck about anything from the looks of it. There is no recession. There are no issues of inequality or class. There are just miles and miles of people eating too much and, like I said, not giving a fuck.

I am not putting this down, by any means. Although under different circumstances this wouldn’t be my first choice, but it is cheap and easy: two things a PhD student supporting a family needs. Tomorrow, we are going to spend the day at the beach with all the European women with their boobs hanging out (hanging!) and I will try to eat less and run less and have a good, but more judicious time.

One thing I should say: I love countries where you have to go to a fast food shop to get a cup of take away coffee; everywhere else you have to sit while they serve it to you in a proper cup and saucer. Ten minutes sitting in the open air under a clear sky blue blue sky as the day slowly pulls away into the Mediterranean sea will solve all of your problems for at least ten minutes. Everything else be damned: that alone is worth £700.

16 October 2010

Going to España

That’s right: tomorrow at the crack of dawn, we are heading south for a couple of days. This is the most simple holiday I have ever booked. Drive to the airport. Get on a plane. Take a train 15 minutes from the airport there and bam! We are 15 minutes walk from the beach and we aren’t moving for three days. There was talk of going to Morocco. Probably not going to happen. A little sight-seeing. Maybe we will go to Malaga for the day? But other than that, we are going to be firmly planted in Torremolinos.

We arrive at 9, so we should have lunch in Torremolinos and then get into our hotel room. And the relaxing can start in full.

Some good things:


  1. I got a Starbucks rewards card. Bring your own tumbler: tall filter coffee (which is actually taller than tall in your own tumbler) with shot of hazelnut (and, in the future, whipped cream) £.75. That’s right. Reward me.
  2. I started work at Middlesex yesterday. Strange returning, made especially strange by my lack of jitters. I had none. Very happy to be back with students and we have (fingers crossed) a good group this year.I took the long way down yesterday too: Ran in the morning and then rode Yoko’s bike slowly to the station. Opted for the slower train over the late train. Got coffee on Euston Rd before going up to Trent Park. Took a leisurely walk to the campus. Did everything slowly, deliberately. Finished Murakami stories. Spent £1.55 on coffee and an apple: not nearly the £5+ I was spending last year on tons of things I shouldn’t have been buying during the trip. If I spend £2 instead of £5 every time, I will save £60ish. That’s enough to buy to fix a damaged door (see below).
  3. The guy who’s car Naomi’s car door damaged called back, which isn’t especially good, but he said the damage was only £60. I asked him to send me the receipt via e-mail and I would reimburse him. Receipt still hasn’t come. He’s doing it all wrong, but what can I say: £60 is not the £300 I was worried it might be.
  4. My writing really took off this week. I have been working on my literature review: the real one that goes into the real thesis. Working on the scripture interpretation section. Need about 3,000 well-packed words. Have about 2,000 loose ones now. I will finish drafting it and then condense it down. Up to 4,000 down to 3,000
  5. My weight is coming back down after three days up. That was frustrating, but I stayed on course. I will maintain, I promise you that. Promise. I noticed that although my weight went up, my body fat percentage fell, meaning the weight fluctuation was water retention/ normal body cycle. As my weight goes down, if the fat percentage comes up, then I am doing it right.
  6. We are spending so much money this month and I found out yesterday that due to a dumb glitch in the payment system at Middlesex, I won’t get paid this month. This is a bad thing, but I was almost completely unaffected by it: a very good thing. It will all work out, like the weight. Keep the principles right and the numbers will work themselves out by the end of the year.
  7. Naomi and Mei wrote all over the wall (bad thing), but it was all cleaned up with an eraser (great thing). More importantly: didn’t get angry. Yoko scolded them and Naomi helped clean it up. I need to have more stories that end with ‘I didn’t get angry’.
  8. It’s getting cold, which I love. Coats and sun going down at 6 and not 9. I will hate it in a couple of months, but at this moment, I love it.

Eat dinner. Finish packing. Sleep. And we’re off.

13 October 2010

Ups and Downs

The shower is occupied by someone, so I have to wait here at my desk in my workout clothes until it is free.

Yesterday marked three months since I had started trying to lose weight. I think I can call it a success, although after having hit the all time low of 73.5 on Monday, I was 74.7 this morning. Hopefully that means my fluctuations are getting larger (ie., normal) and I am getting closer to maintaining. It was a surprise though as I still have not eaten the amount of calories I used yet and it was the first time that I had ticked above my rolling average on the physics diet site (the rolling average is 74.38, I think). So I was a bit frustrated by that, but then frustrated with myself for being frustrated: this is the way it is, and I need to get used to it. I can't just keep losing; I am where I want to be and it's going to involve some fluctuation.

I had a good supervision yesterday: it's strange how this is actually getting to a point where we are talking more about the end than we have in the past. The end is coming. We're talking about thesis chapters, postdoc mentors, all the things that I need to think about for the end. A strange, but good feeling. Did I think I would be a PhD student forever? Eventually you become Dr. So-and-so and go teach/ research somewhere.

We are going to Spain on Sunday. Naomi is a bit sick and home from school, but I think we're going to be okay. She should be able to well by then. If Mei gets sick, that's fine: we can drag her around, but Naomi is more difficult to drag. I did some investigation about Torremolinos, where we are going. It's very, very touristy, but I have to say, I'm sort of looking forward to that. I don't want to have to worry about anything: I just want to relax. Big hotel, big swimming pool, big beaches. Four days of having picnics on the beach. That's fine with me.

And I start teaching on Friday. I'm more-or-less ready to go, although you are never really ready to go with these things. Lots to think about--lotta ins, lotta outs. I'll be happy to be on the train come Friday morning 9:41: Milton Keynes to London. Quick coffee in London and up to Middlesex. My Friday routine until May.

12 October 2010

Acceptance Rates

1 out of 450 is .22%. That's much better than winning the lottery.

The diagram

This is the diagram I was trying to draw yesterday. It's a rough outline of what I think my thesis will look like at this point.
diagram
Post-supervision:
Supervision

11 October 2010

Home

I love this picture from home.
America

Underwater

I've been feeling submerged lately. I got done marking all my papers, did some proofreading of my comments last night and sent them off at like 8:30. I just threw myself at them this time: 4 a day, 5 a day, and I realised after I finished, that it had been a lot--too much perhaps. After sending them, I read one of the most terrifying Murakami stories I have read (terrifying in the way Murakami is: both in content and in awareness of terrible in life) and fell asleep at like 9:15, having survived another weekend.

My life has fallen to cycles, but there is no off cycle at this point, just a different kind of work. I work all week and on the weekend I work some more while everyone sleeps and take care of all the things around the house I've been absent taking care of when everyone's awake. The kids and Yoko fall asleep around 8, and I sleepwalk for two hours, working more when there's work . Or reading, as I have been this last week, Murakami stories which just submerge me more and more. I look forward to 10 when I have an excuse to carry Naomi to her bed and sleep myself. I have little drive to eat at night like I did. There's no desire for anything but to eventually go to bed.

I gave blood this morning. Strange that we use the word give here: they took it from me. I have a hard time understanding the English of the nurses, there are like 3 of them I have to interact with and always a different local accent. And then I lose a pint of blood and I'm completely gone. Can I be taken away please? Today, I sat there, in the waiting area thinking: I am doing this just to get away from my work for an hour and eat cookies. I wonder how many cookies I will eat. The woman hit a nerve on the way in with the needle, and I tried my best to not make it seem like it hurt as much as it did. I'm weak, I thought.

I was worried about the cookies, but I remembered a series of events from yesterday morning that began when I got out of bed at 5:30 because everyone was up. I checked my mail and discovered that my hotmail account had been hacked. I got on the scale and weighed in at 73.6, a new low which surprised me as I thought I had stopped dieting. I have been trying to listen to my body, count my calories less, but my body is lying to me. Again this morning, I got on the scale: 73.5 kgs. Where is the weight going? I thought. Eat less, sleep more, my body is saying. I know you're lying to me, I say back. You don't, my body says, all you have to go on is me--I tell you how you feel.

I drank almost a gallon of coffee yesterday. I was with the girls all day. Shouting, crying, playdough, is it time for bed. Mei's crying: it's 10:30 at night, was I sleeping, who's in bed with me now.

This morning, I got up at 6:20. Naomi wanted to play this DVD that she had brought home from playgroup. I put it in and it was a video of her, shot in front of a green screen driving a car, waving at cartoon characters. This wasn't a dream. She was so happy watching it, but in the video, she looked so sad and confused. You could tell someone off screen was directing her to do things, but she looked so confused. It was a promotional DVD; we were supposed to pay £19 for the real one, but I was angry. We hadn't agreed to this. Who was doing this to my daughter without me knowing? Naomi just danced around, so happy to see herself in a cartoon. I put it away, back in the plastic it came in and had it returned this morning without an order.

I suppose I should get used to seeing my kids do things I didn't know they were doing. How strange it must be for my mother to read this blog: all these far away things happening to a child you invested so much in. How confused do I look. I wanted to save Naomi from the experience: I'm sorry this is happening to you.

I was hoping I might wake up writing this. No such luck. Back to a diagram that I have in mind, something to present to my supervisors in a meeting tomorrow, through the haze. Hopefully I can wake up before I start teaching on Friday.

09 October 2010

Best dinner ever

Yoko made the BEST dinner ever tonight. Tonkatsu (Japanese fried pork), cabbage, sweet potato french fries, and rice. With beer made from cherries and Ben & Jerry's ice cream? Oh, it was FABULOUS!
Tonkatsu

Cherry beerCherry beer

Mildly succesful, far too busy

Well, this week, all told wasn't especially successful, but I think I did come out ahead, in terms of capital. Well, in some senses:

Academic capital. I suppose I have less now. I didn't get into Discourse & Communication. I found a potentially very, very interesting postdoc, but it was limited to people who had their PhD in hand in September 2012, something I won't. I am thinking now that I might apply for that postdoc in 2013, if it's still available and try to do the ESRC project in 2012 or just work. We'll see what shakes out. The problem, I was explaining to Yoko, is that I have too many interests in my research. It's like I will apply for 5 different things (all VASTLY different) and just do the one that works out.

Financial capital. I had the dreaded MOT for our car this week which includes a test of the 'safety' of the car and has now found serious problems both years I've done it. Last year I put about £530 into the car to get it through the test (and have a couple of other issues resolved). This year I was hoping for around £350, but when I got to the garage, the guy suggested that I didn't do a full service, but rather a half one, saving me about £120. Great, I thought, but I knew that I needed to replace the front brakes, so any break was welcome.

Anyway, I got a call at about 11:30 and the guy's like,

There are four issues for the MOT: three of them are lightbulbs (no problem!) and one of them is the exhaust (uh...). You have a major leak in your exhaust (uh...).
'How much is that going to set me back?'
Well, you're looking at £350 altogether, he said.
Well, all things considered, it's not that bad.
'And,' he says, 'You need to replace your brake pads and discs. How much do you drive?'
Not a lot?
'Well, you might be okay for a couple of months. Maybe 3 or 4 if you're lucky.'
And how much will that be?
'About £230.'
Crap.
'But it can wait.'
Well, that's something I suppose.

So I put £356 into the car, but it is seemingly running more smoothly and having a good mechanic who isn't out to screw me (too badly) is a really nice thing.

Sorry more about the car: around this time of year (and the same time of every two years in Japan when you have to do the same sort of test), I start thinking, do we REALLY need a car. The answer is always, Yes, we do, but no, I don't. But I am not I anymore: it's been a while since it was just I and my scooter. And that life was miserable, so I shouldn't complain at all. A car is a small price to pay.

As I added up all that I have spent on the car this year and last, we are talking about maybe £130 a month, all told. That's not that bad, but it is out #3 expense (well, #4 if you count utilities and rent separately). One thing to look forward to: when I start paying city tax, that will become the #3 expense and I'll stop bitching about the car.

Having a used car is like this, I suppose. Of the things that have broken on it, about £300 mechanical, bad car issues, but the rest have been just issues of wear and tear. Cars cost money. We are talking a little bit about getting a new car if we stay here long term: my dad, the man who knows about these sorts of things, tells me that a new car is cheaper than a string of used cars at around 10 years. Plus you have a new car for the first three years (then it becomes used, I suppose). Maybe I'll get a 'used' car that is like under 10,000 miles or something. Anyway, that's still way in the future: we have made the decision to drive this car into the ground at this point. Or until we leave the country, whichever comes first.

Sorry, a long way around to saying, that although I did lose some financial capital here, I was 'blessed' with a gift of quite a few essays to mark from Birmingham and, over the last year I've been doing it, I have increased my efficiency. When you see the same sorts of essays again and again, it becomes pretty clear what the issues are and you can write up a surprisingly detailed analysis in a very short amount of time. Also, I was asked to supervise another dissertation (this one at Middlesex), so I will get some extra pay for that. All told, the financial capital, despite the car, despite the dreaded trip to the dentist in two weeks (another tooth problem?), and our trip to Spain, I think we will get out of October in the black.

Relationship capital. Yoko and I went on a date yesterday: the first in what will hopefully be a string of them as Yoko's lovely friends have offered to watch the kids now and then. They don't want to be paid, but that makes it more of an issue, actually, because you can't just ask then: they're doing a favour for you. Anyway, we tried to get real curry, but the real curry shop was closed so we ended up at a nice enough faux Italian place that had like three people in it. After that, we went to the faux pâtisserie in the mall and had cakes and coffee and although I had been spending the day thinking about the US (owing to that postdoc I mentioned a couple of hundred words above), I ended up thinking, 'Why the hell do I want to go there: don't forget about Paris, dumbass!'

Health capital. This is where a loss or an equal amount is better than a gain. This week was full of pitfalls. Potluck on Tuesdayabout which I have already complained . Cake reception on Wednesday. Takeaway Chinese on Thursday. Tiramisu, pasta, eclair, and coffee on Friday. This, in the past, would have meant a sure gain, perhaps a falling off the horse entirely. I got on the scale this morning though knowing that I had maintained: although I had eaten those things, I had been fairly careful to eat, as Yahoo! news calls it, 'this and not that' (that is, substituting high calorie items with similar low calorie items: a small cupcake instead of another piece of millionaire shortbread, for example) and I hadn't, on any one occasion actually eaten too much (excepting for the potluck on Tuesday which I controlled for with a small dinner). Moreover, I actually enjoyed eating on Thursday and Friday, something that I hadn't earlier. So that was a success. And my weight today was 74.0 kgs, an all-time low but just barely, meaning that I am on the very negative side of maintainance.

So, a long time to say, this week was a wash. But I much better than it could have been.

06 October 2010

ESRC postdoc projected difficulties

Well, I have been investigating my ESRC application plans this week and have to say, the prospect looks dimmer than it did. Basically, King's has supported '1 or 2' applications in the last three years, and neither were successful. So. I suppose I should be looking for work and thinking this will only happen if I am extremely, extremely lucky.

05 October 2010

One month

I passed a simple milestone today, one month of maintaining between 74-76 kgs. Basically, I'm trying to get to a point where I am even. I'm still dropping a little weight, like .2-.3 kgs the last couple of weeks. This is fine with me: I wouldn't mind having my rolling average closer to 74 than 76. But it's a victory.

A victory in an otherwise unfortunate week so far. I have gotten little done, been mostly unproductive and that's entirely my fault. The rejection this morning didn't help, but it only took me about two hours to get over it. Yes, the comments were right: the problem with the article was the article. I need to do better next time: that doesn't mean that I'm a failure, it just means I'm not at that level yet. And that's fine. I don't need to be at that level for about three years. The fact that I thought I could get there earlier than that reflects poorly on my pride. So.

Eating is still miserable. I am constantly worried about it. I went to a potluck today and I spent the whole time trying not to eat too much. I did okay in the end, ate about 1,100 kCals, which although more than I planned on, happened in the middle of the day so I can eat less for dinner and have no problem. But I couldn't enjoy myself: I had part of me saying, don't worry about it, you'll make it up later and another part of me saying, you know you won't, if you eat too much it will be the beginning of going back to where you were. It's just so damn frustrating. I'm finding myself trying to avoid instances where I know there will be food. Tomorrow, we have a cake reception for the new students that I have to go to. We'll see if I'm able to have one piece and stop. I'm not sure where the balance between obsession and a healthy lifestyle is. I'd much rather be dieting or not caring. In between is impossible.

This week, Yoko and I are going on a 'date'. A 'date', I'm told, is when two people go out without their kids to eat and enjoy one another's company. Yoko and I have never left both of the girls with a non-relative, but we have recently secured a babysitter. Two actually, two people willing to watch the kids. So we are going to leave for about two hours on Friday afternoon to have lunch together. I can't actually believe it.

Paper comes back

It can't all be smooth sailing:
I enjoyed reading this paper – although, I’d afraid I was not able to spend a long time writing out reviewer comments. What I have offered here instead are some marked-up comments which I hope may be useful to you as you take your work forward. At this time, I am not able to recommend the paper for publication because there’s a lot more work that’s needed. Without a more rigorous and carefully applied analytic framework, I’m not sure it will be suitable for Discourse & Communication – especially not under the guise of multimodal discourse analysis. I also think your new media framework will need tightening up a lot before you look to present it as a piece of new media scholarship. I’m sorry not to offer a more positive response. Please don’t think, however, that you have nothing to offer – you’re just going to have do do a better job of helping people see it.

Back to work.

04 October 2010

Religion and Spirituality, here I come

AMERICAN AIRLINES 47 LHR London Feb 14, 2011 02:15 PM ORD Chicago Feb 14, 2011 05:05 PM

AMERICAN AIRLINES OPERATED BY BRITISH AIRWAYS 6196 ORD Chicago Feb 21, 2011 08:40 PM LHR London Feb 22, 2011 10:10 AM

My funds were approved: I am going to Chicago, for sure now.

03 October 2010

Commitment made

I bought these shoes for £8 and today I bought insoles (£2) and had them resoled (£23.95). This is a serious commitment and says that these shoes are the ones I am throwing my weight behind. Still might prefer the docs, but these, especially with a darker polish, look great. I love them.
New soles
New solesNew soles
.

01 October 2010

Fursty Ferret

September2010 (133)
I was thinking of making a new series on the blog where I review ale, but not knowing anything about ale, I think I will just post the pictures and say whether I liked it. This one gets big points for the label and name. It claimed to be sweet and it was sweet enough. Would I buy it again? Sure.
Fursty Ferret: 3/5.

Two years down, two to go

I am now at the halfway point of my time at the OU. I have been here for two years and a day, I will be here one year and 365 days more. I have received 25 grant payments, I will receive 23 more. I've written one dissertation, one probation report, and three articles. I have my thesis left. What have I learned?

I think I have learned the most about precision. Precision in writing and arguing. The evidence of this, the thing that I would present as evidence for 'learned about precision in writing' for my stupid 6 month progress reports, would be the reduction of my probation report from 18,000 words to 10,000 words. This cutting required the most important skill I think academics need: the ability to look at every word in every sentence in every paragraph in every section in every article and decide how it all fits together and if that word is needed. And if it isn't, to cut it, regardless of how much you love that word. The report was packed so tightly in the end, so dense. I was, and I suppose still am, quite proud of it.

But there is a lot to still be done. I have been overtaken this week by starting to lay the groundwork for this postdoc application, asking people I respect their opinion, contacting people at King's, both administrative staff and current postdocs. I am looking now for someone who might be potentially interested in collaboration. I e-mailed one Japanese academic, although my eye is still on this scholar in Hamburg... The good thing about getting a Japanese collaborator is the value (in uniqueness) to my application, but also for potential future plans as I would be happy to take a job or another postdoc at a high level Japanese university.

A friend asked me yesterday if I realised I was so calculating. No, I said, it surprises me. And I know that it won't work out the way I plan now: I will look back on this post in a year or two and laugh at myself. Or maybe I won't: maybe I'm getting to a point in my life where I actually know what I want and I can go get it. Either way, it's exciting to me.

I did receive my 25th grant payment today and it included the yearly 2.5% raise that we get. It's not a lot, but our utilities have gone down, I am saving £10-15 a month now on my Internet/phone, and our car insurance will likely go down again in November. All this together will amount to a substantial shift. I don't like counting my chickens before they hatch, but I think things financially are likely going to get better.

Lastly, my weight loss maintenance is going well. Much harder to maintain than lose for me. I'm not sure how much to eat. Well, I mean I know within about 300 kCals, but it's very hard to put my finger on. Yoko says I should eat until I'm not hungry, but this sounds much, much easier than it is. I have always seen eating as a task at meals, and then something I do intermittently through the day without any thought. I also tend to eat until the food is gone. This works some of the time, but not when there is more food than you need in front of you. What do you do? I've also only cycled three times this week, walking to work the other days, so I have been burning less. Still, I'm happy where I've been all week between 74-75 kgs. I'm going to shoot to keep that until the end of the year, I think and re-evaluate in January. My clothes are feeling a little big, which I hate and I don't want to go buy new clothes. I suppose I just have to get used to it: they don't look bad or noticeable yet. Just have to wear my belt a little tighter.
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