30 November 2010

Snow!

There is about three inches of snow on the ground in Milton Keynes. Not able to ride my bike, and uninterested in driving, I have taken to walking to work. It's only about an hour, and much less stressful than driving. Hopefully the snow will melt enough today for a safe ride tomorrow, but until then, iPod on, cares to the wind.

Some clarity has come again, after a chat with my wife about the future, our future with the family. It occurred to me over the last month that there are tons of opportunities open to me, it's just that none of them look like what I expected them to look like. And that if I am open to something I didn't expect, I'm probably going to be very pleasantly surprised. So, new rule: I'm open to anything, anywhere. Yoko, I realised as we talked last night, is the kind of person who is likely to find the good in wherever we are, in whatever we are doing. The reason England is so good for her is that she has made it good for her. Flexibility and the ability to make things good for yourself is a very valuable thing to have in a spouse, especially if you live the kind of life that we live. I, in contrast, am skilled at making good things bad... perhaps I should work on this...

Anyway: the door is open, wide open.

29 November 2010

Seagrams coming home

Seagram murals!!!

My presentation from today


This is my presentation from today. Still need to add notes, but for the people that were there, they will get it.

Presenting, representing

I should be preparing to present in about a half hour, but I have had a busy morning and I'm not in the mood. I've talked about this data like four times this year, so I'm confident that it's going to go okay. I'm not too concerned.

In a follow up to yesterday's post, Yoko called to say a Parcelforce driver (not the one that left the parcel) had come by looking for it. His solution? Go door-to-door asking people. Of course, nobody was home (nobody is EVER home, except like the one time this guy comes by last week) so he said he would come back with the original driver later and have him sort it. Yoko may have her glasses back before the end of the week, perhaps.

It's also been wicked cold here, well below freezing for like a week which is strange for this time of year, in my limited experience. I suit up to ride my bike in the morning, and I'm thinking, I'm going to be dressing up like this four days a week for the next three months, save the week off for Christmas and the week off when I go to Chicago. I should estimate how much money I've saved and how much weight I've kept off thanks to cycling. It's tough in the winter, but much better than driving. Driving is so stressful, I really hate it. I guess I will just have to be courageous against the cold and careful not to slip especially when it's dark.

I'm sending out my first job application today. Sort of nervous about it, but we'll see. This would be a nice one to get, but if I don't, it's not the end of the world. I have plenty of time. If it does happen to work out, it looks like a really good place for me in the mid-term run--a good place to really work on my research and have a good, even teaching load. I shouldn't get too excited about it: gotta tamp down my expectations.

28 November 2010

Thanks for nothing, Parcelforce


You know, this would be great except that the parcel has not been left at House 46. The people at House 46 weren't in all day. The dispatcher has been incredibly useless ('Have you tried any other houses?') How many should I check, dispatcher?
'Uh, hey, I'm your neighbour and, uh, I got this card that said a parcel was delivered to House 46 and I know this isn't, you know, House 46 or whatever, but I guess the people at House 46 were out all day and didn't receive the parcel and anyway, I was wondering if you had it?'
Thanks for nothing Parcelforce.

Would you hire me?

Japanese universities usually require a photo with the CV. Here's mine. I look hireable, right?

25 November 2010

Finally

I checked the transcripts I needed to. This is my PhD in one folder.

PhD in a Folder

23 November 2010

Straight rider

Pre-Midlife Ciris
A motorcycle license would certainly help expediate a mid-life crisis, when that time comes. If we do end up back in Japan, this would be a really nice thing to have.

22 November 2010

Decoded Review in the NY Times

We were kids without fathers, so we found our fathers on wax and on the streets and in history, and in a way, that was a gift. We got to pick and choose the ancestors who would inspire the world we were going to make for ourselves. That was part of the ethos of that time and place, and it got built in to the culture we created. Rap took the remnants of a dying society and created something new. Our fathers were gone, usually because they just bounced, but we took their old records and used them to build something fresh.

Monetised!

Monetisation pays off
Say what you want about how little this is, but it's one yen more than I got using Wordpress. Now to get it to pay me in GBP...

Forthcoming

This is my first major publication:
Mr Stephen Pihlaja:

We have reached a decision regarding your submission to Fieldwork in Religion, "‘Are you religious or are you saved?’: Defining membership categories rules in religious discussions on YouTube".

Our decision is to: publish article in Edition 6.1

------------------------------------------------------
Reviewer B:
article fine as is. no real recommendations

------------------------------------------------------

21 November 2010

The secret you (learn) how to tell

Matsuhama Bridge 1

I said some things this week that I finally needed to say about Japan: some secrets that I didn't, as Bon Iver says, know how to tell. I'm not sure that it has done any good, but my mind is starting to turn in the way that it needs to. I must go buy some thick paper for a CV printout this week and get ready for my very first foray into the unknown, deep space just beyond the PhD.

The Marriage of Heaven and Hell

Do for Others

Do for others

16 November 2010

Paused

I was getting some momentum yesterday before the break in, but that seems to be shot. We spent the night cleaning up: forensics came and took prints, but that was more or less a waste of time: the asshole was wearing gloves and, from what it looks like, probably not especially in his right mind. I taped up the window best I could and got most of the mud out of the carpet, but until the window is fixed, I still feel a bit exposed. But it's stupid: the one thing I have learned from this is that you lock your doors, lock your windows, yes, but if someone wants to come into your house, they will. It's that simple. And to think you can somehow get safer or do more than be cautious and somehow insulate yourself from this... you can't. It will happen given the right circumstances.

In the US, we have this sense that we can be independent and protect ourselves, make our own fate. I appreciate that in a lot of ways, even though it is ultimately just an illusion. I don't like the sense that I get here in England that you get broken into, they can't catch the criminal, and that's just the way it is. I want to believe that I'm safe, even if I'm not. 'I have a terrible need for religion,' van Gogh said. Yes, me too: I want to believe in safety, that I can protect my family.

I wrote a short story about this when I was an undergraduate about a guy who goes out and buys a gun after his wife is mugged. It was all about how exposed we all are and how the things we do to protect ourselves only end up making us more distant. It was a distinctly American short story.

I was trying to use gender neutral terms to talk about 'the burglar' but from the size of the boot prints, I think we can say 'he' without any problem. The burglar. I'm so curious about him: what was he looking for? What does he need money for? Why our house?

I'm not angry with you, burglar. I mean, I am, but I'm more curious than angry. Why did you go through the medicine? Didn't you see the lock box? Do you think about me cleaning up after you? Do you wonder about the people whose stuff your dumping on the ground? My wife, my daughters, and you have opened my wardrobe drawer. It's strangely intimate, don't you think? Or do you never think about that? You trespassed every social rule that I can imagine: perhaps I'm just jealous. You do what you want. Or do you leave terrified that you'll be caught? I imagine you do. I imagine that all of this is stressful for you.

Perhaps in a different world, in a different context, I would have just given you money. I would have felt sympathy for you instead of imagining that I, like Batman, would catch you and make you regret having ever set foot in my house. Don't worry: that version of me only exists in my mind. I'm not Batman. I'm a student, sitting at my desk, terrified as I call the police. I waited for my wife to appear below my building and wondered, Has my luck finally run out?

I will be fine, burglar, don't worry about me. You probably won't be though. And I'm sorry for that; I wish it was different.

Leave it to me to over analyse even this. I had to walk to work this morning because I left my bike last night in the rush to get out. I thought to myself, This gives me something to write about. What other times have I been stolen from? I haven't, I don't think. Technically, I still haven't.

As we waited for the police yesterday, I said outloud what I had been thinking since Yoko called: This wouldn't happen in Japan. It's just an observation. You're much more likely to kill yourself in Japan than be killed by someone else. This wouldn't happen in Japan, and I have brought this entry back to where I began, the illusion of security. Of course this would happen in Japan. There is nowhere you can stand behind a thick enough door, at least not at my pay grade. So best to clean up the boot marks, lock the doors, and carry on. I have the best worst luck of anyone I know.

15 November 2010

Broken into

Today, somebody broke into the house while Yoko was out. They came in through the kitchen window and basically tore apart the first floor, particularly Yoko's and my room. And they took... nothing. Not the lock box. Not the iPod. Not the camera. Not the computer. Nothing. This is incredibly strange, I think, but the police tell me that they were probably looking for jewelry and with no jewelry, they left. Bizarre, I think, absolutely bizarre. We're all okay though. This happens quite regularly in this country, I guess. You have to sort of learn to live with it. We are incredibly lucky in even our unluckiness.

But I have to say: muddy bootprints from a stranger in your daughter's bedroom is not a good feeling. When Yoko called me at work, she had just come home to find it and I told her to come to the school immediately, I called the police, and then I waited for the longest ten minutes ever. The police have been great though, our landlord has been great, everything is put away now. It's like it never happened. Sort of.

Broken into

Broken intoBroken intoBroken into
Broken intoBroken intoBroken into

Cleanse the pallette

I finished drafting my writing about Evangelical hermeneutic activity, something I have been working on for a month. A month of writing got me about 4,000 words, which is really not a good pace as I go forward, but I suppose it’s a start. It’s pretty dense though, something I needed to get better at in the early stages of drafting. So we’ll see how it is taken by my supervisors. But finishing it feels good, and now, on to the Langauge@Internet article. I have a self-imposed deadline November 31st for that one.

Mei, in one of her less cute, more annoying moments, pulled Yoko’s glasses off her face on Friday, resulting in a broken left ‘arm’ on the glasses. I know the word ‘arm’ now because I have been spending the last five days trying to solve this problem. The first solution was getting them replaced at the store where I went to ask about the warranty, but we were about four months too late. Cost of new frames £124 (these were the expensive side of the buy one get one free deal). The second, and most obvious (and obviously wrong) solution, involves gluing them. Every time I have ever had broken glasses, I think I can glue them. Well, I can’t, and here’s why: there’s so damn small and there is never any surface area. I had them glued well a couple of times, but they snapped both times after a marginal amount of use. I also almost ruined the lens when I squeezed the glue, shooting out globs in front of and behind the lens, but miraculously missing them. went online and e-mailed everyone I could find selling these frames (like eight different dealers) and just got an e-mail saying that one could help me out for £24.95. Not as good as gluing them, but hey, I’ll take it.

And speaking of broken earthly goods, I was sitting in Starbucks on Friday when I got an e-mail from Yoko saying that the car remote key was dead and could I pick one up on the way home. She described the car as not having any power and I thought, that damn key and it’s damn immobiliser. Once the electronics in the key don’t work, everything fails. So I got the battery and when I replaced it on Saturday morning, I still got nothing. The car was completely dead. I called out landlord and he came over with a jumper box and when he put it on the battery all the doors unlocked and the radio came on, but the car wouldn’t start still. A new car battery, I thought, that’s no problem. To be expected. What are those like £20? No, it was £75. And those things are heavy as hell. I had to walk a mile with it. Anyway, problem solved, car running, money out like water.

This, of course, happened in a context: a context of family life. Although I thought we had avoided the ‘morning sickness’ this time around, we have not. Yoko was out of the game on Saturday, leaving me to do my typical shitty job of taking care of the house and getting annoyed with the kids. I do my best, but I’m so impatient with them and frustrated that I am losing my weekends again for the next… three years? I had tried to forget about this when we were making the decision to have Baby #3 because, to be honest, I don’t think I am strong enough to handle it and there are times, especially with the pressures of work and school, that I am not sure I’ll make it. I’m not sure I’ll make it. My dad, I was recalling as I carried the battery up the hill to the house, never showed much sign of weakness , but I know now that it probably wasn’t the case that he had it altogether. I wonder if my kids think I have it altogether…

It also meant that on Saturday morning I couldn’t run or spend anytime on the rowing machine. The whole day was full of fidgeting. Finally, after dinner, I got to exercise and felt much better. My body sort of expects it now, I think, and wonders where it is when it’s gone. This is the first November I have been healthy. When I was dating Yoko, I did diet and exercise in January, but other than that, I have mostly spent the winters hibernating. If I get to March and don’t feel like I have to drop 5-10 kgs, I’ll be very, very happy.

Finally, on Sunday we went to a Japanese friend of Yoko’s house for afternoon tea with a bunch of friends of Yoko’s friend (and some of Yoko’s friends too). I was happy to be back into the Japanese environment again. It takes me about 20 minutes and my Japanese is firing on all cylinders: I can communicate about anything that comes up without any problem. I can understand, I explained, about 90% of the words that everyone is using, but the context and the grammar makes it possible to hide that I don’t know 10% of the words. You stop thinking and you start speaking. The people were all very nice and we had a good time.

But it’s Monday now. Already Monday afternoon. Article proofing then handouts for class on Friday. Nothing: piece of cake.

13 November 2010

Mei watching Travis Barker

Mei loves drums and people without shirts on. Here she is watching Travis Barker's remix of Flo Rida's 'Low'.

Here's the video she's watching:

12 November 2010

4 months

I have been keeping up my healthy lifestyle for 4 months now and have been well within my goal weight range since the beginning of September. We'll see how long I am able to keep this up. One week at a time, I suppose.

11 November 2010

Renaming an article

You know you've done a lot of revising when you have to retitle the article. Now:
Cops, popes, and garbage collectors: Metaphor and antagonism in an atheist/Christian YouTube video thread

Fighting the Rain

I am in London today, going to a Linguistic Ethnography thing at Birbeck College. I’m looking forward to getting away from writing for a half a day, with an excuse none-the-less. This week has been cut pretty short: Tuesday I had Yoko’s doctor appointment and today and tomorrow, I am in London. Still, in the midst of the busyness, I was able to get a great deal of writing done around the edges. The Language@Internet article is now ‘done’, but I have to go back and make sure that it is cohesive and what I took out and added in haven’t left any holes. It took a good 15 hours though of reading and rewriting. I think the finished project is something I can actually be proud of though. We’ll see what the editor has to say.

I also have some writing that I am doing for my supervisors, the same bit on the Evangelical hermeneutic activity that I have been talking about for the last month. It’s now completely drafted and I just have to proof it and send it to them. I am cautiously optimistic about it.

Two good things have happened as I have been busy this week.

First, I’m not nearly as worried as I was the last couple of weeks about my work situation in the future. Not sure why I was so concerned about it or why I am less concerned today, but I am. I am actually feeling optimistic about staying here, thinking that something may work out. To be clear, though, nothing has changed: just my outlook. My cubicle-mate from China just had a job interview for her dream job at the University of Reading. I’m hoping it went well, but it has me excited for her. I talked with a professor at the OU who has spent some time teaching in Japan. We talked about going and coming back. Point number one, whatever I do, is keeping my research profile up. As I am working on this article and feeling a bit more confident, I am less worried about being able to do this independent of my supervisors.

Second, I am in London today and going to a seminar, two of my favourite things in the world. I especially like being here when I don’t have to get any work done. I took an earlier train and have camped out in Starbucks (75p! for the filter coffee! Every time!) and also brought out my old EEEPC that I forget about from time to time, but is really quite nice. It’s faster than my laptop and now that I am doing lots of stuff on Google docs, it doesn’t matter that it has almost no hard disk. I’m thinking about making the leap to open source software for my thesis: Google docs and Zotero instead of Word and EndNote. Not sure I am going to be able to, but it excites me, especially if I can use this smaller computer instead. I was talking to my famed older brother about getting an iPad and although that would be nice, this EEEPC is actually able to do whatever I would use the iPad for. At least at this point in my life, where I am procreating like a rabbit and have no money, I think I need to focus on using the resources I already have instead of trying to get new ones. Now, if only Google docs would work offline.

I should say that, so far, number three has been much easier than number two. Well, from what I can tell. Yoko is holding up remarkably well. With Naomi, at this point, she was hardly able to move. I’m not sure if it’s that she feels much better or is just really working hard to make it easier for all of us, but it’s been good so far. I will write more about comparing these experiences one of these days. Yoko, among her many, many good qualities, is remarkably resilient. Amazing, really: I am quite lucky.

09 November 2010

Online teaching tools and resources

Among the many hats I wear, one is part-time, adjunct lecturer. I teach two classes in the Autumn at Middlesex University in London: one called Empirical Investigations of Language and one called Research Methods for Language Teachers. Part of the problem of being an adjunct, part-time lecturer is having to teach without access to your own office on campus and, in my case, having to use two university libraries (the one at Middlesex and my home library at the OU). Things get mixed up all the time, especially in terms of the computer. I can take my laptop to Middlesex, but as I don't have it set up to access their network, I can't print anything out, so I have to use one of the Middlesex computers anyway. They also don't have Wifi, so I had to do work on one computer, remove the LAN cable and work on the other one. Last year I was lugging my laptop in and using a flash disk to shuttle between the two. It was a mess. I would also upload handouts to OasisPlus (which is the Middlesex name for WebCT), but every time I made a change, I had to re-upload the files. I was also e-mailing students about class activities, but that never worked properly because I could never ensure that people actually checked their e-mail.

This year, I am solving the problems in a new way, sans my laptop and using only online tools that I can access anywhere:
Google docs. Although not a great interface and not easy to work on, it does allow continues web publishing and provided you are okay working within the limits of the document, it works well. When you can make changes, the document is automatically published back to the web, saving the hassle of uploading it again. I can also tweak the module guide and other documents without having to print everything out.
Wordpress blogs. I keep blogs for both classes (ELT4123 and ELT4101), posting all the handouts and everything from the class. As I am teaching Research Methods for the second time, I kept all the posts from last year (made them drafts) and now I can go back through them and repost the relevant ones. This saves a ton a time and allows me to offer content to the students throughout the week, not just when we meet. I do a lot of scheduling of blog posts as I tend to be really interested in doing it at on one day at one particular time and then forget about it when I start thinking about my thesis. If I can schedule five or six posts in a sitting, the students can have new content for a couple of weeks and I only have to put in 10 minutes of work. Also, as all the links to documents go back to Google docs, I can change the document without worrying about the link. I also never e-mail my students anymore. I tell them the content is on the blog and they are required to check it at least once a week. No more 'I didn't get the e-mail' excuses, as it is now their responsibility to check the blog.
×Dropbox. I still use Dropbox for my own work, but it is less helpful when I'm working on a computer that's not mine as it requires that you download the program and then allows that computer access to all your files in the dropbox folder. I like the public link feature for Word documents and use that when I have something stable that I'm not changing and is too complex for Google docs, but as you can only make those changes on computers that have Dropbox, it's not especially helpful in my current situation.
Facebook. Three of my five students use Facebook regularly, so I set up a group for them. I have my privacy features set so that they can't see any information about me beyond my picture and name, and I encouraged them to do the same for me (although no one has so far). I do not add any new or different content to the Facebook group, but I do try to post the blog entries there and, more importantly, deadlines for assignments. I still prefer the blog for adding real content (especially as I can reuse it over the years), but this is a good way to deliver the blog content to the students.
UPDATED: I acutally think Firefox portable might be the solution to this problem. I am going to use it this week and let you know.
Xmarks and Firefox. I installed Firefox on the two computers I tend to use at Middlesex and downloaded my bookmarks using Xmarks. This makes a big difference in the ease and quickness I can access things when I am using another computer. I have left the links on the computers, as I believe they are limited to my login and password on those computers, although even if someone did access them, there is really no issue as the computer doesn't save your password or login names and all my bookmarks are pretty boring. It makes accessing all the materials for class so much easier.
So far I have been successful in leaving my laptop at home, which makes the mile walk from the train to campus much more pleasurable. In the 18 months I've been at Middlesex, I have also not had any problems with the Internet being down when I go to the school, although if that were to happen, I still have my textbooks to teach from and I could have the students look at the handouts after class, as they would still be online.
Happy technology using everyone!

07 November 2010

Forthcoming (?)

My article ‘Cops, popes, and garbage collectors: Real-world occupations as metaphors for online behaviour in an Atheist/Christian YouTube thread’ ’Cops, popes, and garbage collectors: Metaphor and antagonism in an atheist/Christian YouTube video thread’ has come back for revisions a third time. Although it wasn’t stated explicitly, it seems to have been just on the edge of being accepted, pending the changes. They are asking me to do things like remove ‘Author, 2010′ and replace with my own name and also include a biography and acknowledgments. There were about 85 comments on the text, so there is still some work to do, but I would say that 75% of them are fixable with no thought (change a word) and the other 25% require a very thin bit of rewriting. Adding some information about other articles I cite, add a couple more references: nothing major, but enough to keep it from being accepted this time.

I’ll be honest: I looked at the comments the first time of Friday night and was pretty demoralised. I opened them a second time yesterday and felt the same way. Finally, the third time I felt like the task is surmountable: I want to get this done within the month and be done with it. It has already taken probably a month of my time this year. I’m also done with this dataset. Yes, yes, the pope of YouTube, very quaint. Now what.

But it will be a nice publication: edited by the top scholar in the field of CMC. Very well-recognised journal, although online and not ISI, unfortunately. It doesn’t matter at this point; having the citation is the most important thing. I will need, however, if I am going to apply to Japanese jobs in particular, have to get some paper journals. Hopefully the Fieldwork in Religion article will go through. We’ll see. Anyway, another two days of working on this when I should be working on my literature review.

1 July 2011

The baby is due on the first of July next year.

Such an interesting set of questions they ask at the surgery you when you announce that you think you are pregnant: Is this happy news? the GP asked my wife. Yoko answered, Yes! and I thought, Well, it’s complicated, as my second daughter tried to open a cabinet in the office and rummage through some medical supplies. I was thinking about how I was using the word ‘problematize’ (with a ‘z’: this is an American publication) in my article. Lange problematizes notions of public and private space online.

The GP asked about a Down’s Syndrome test, if we wanted it sooner or if we were willing to wait, and I said piously, It doesn’t make any difference to us, and suddenly felt guilty about saying it the way I had. Folic acid, midwife appointments, ultrasounds. The GP said the baby was due the first week in July, but as we left, I felt like I needed a date. Sorry, she said, the first of July. The first of July, I said. Put it in the diary. You would probably prefer the fourth, the GP said, as a joke. No, no, I said, the first is fine.

Eight and a half months: a marathon, not a sprint. Enjoy it: it is likely the last time you will do this. I’ll be 29 on July 1st.

The first of July 2011. Every two years for six years. Three postgraduate degrees, three children. Yes, I said, when she commented that we probably ‘knew the drill’ at this point: yes. Yes, we do.

05 November 2010

A PhD, a book, and a class

I love a lot of things: coffee, fruit and fibre cereal, teaching, reading, writing, and thinking. If I judge a day by how many of those things I enjoy, today would be a perfect day. It is a dreary day in London, the way I’m sure people imagine it. I have finished one class and have one class to go, but unlike last year, I don’t feel like it is something to get through. I am genuinely enjoying it this year. The students are fantastic: bright and helpful. The syllabuses in both classes have come together after a little bit of shakiness. I know what I am going to test on, so I have confidence that I am preparing the students well. It is going very well.

My trips to London on Friday have also, so far, been very good too. I’m teaching an hour later than I was last year, providing me with an hour (if I choose) to hang out near Euston on the way up. I have been spending this time in a Starbucks across from the British Library. I recently acquired a Starbucks card that allows me to get a tall cup of filter coffee (with free shots) for £1. If I bring my own tumbler, it’s also 25p cheaper, and there is a free refill. So today, I sat there, drank two cups of coffee (net value £3.70) and enjoyed free wifi, all for 75p. Perfect for a student like myself. I was ecstatic. I have been using this card all the time. Starbucks red has appeared, however, meaning that I am now tempted to drink high-calorie, sweet lattes which are not 75p. Once in a while, I suppose.

I don’t mean to be a Starbucks shill. I’m not. I’m sticking it to the man, really. Taking advantage of their kindness to me.

As I sat in Starbucks today, I was working on the bit of writing I’m doing for my supervisors, the first part of my literature review. It’s coming together nicely, and after writing three paragraphs by hand, I only have about two more to fill in and I can send it off. I can see the placement of the section in a larger literature review, and I began work on a bit of the Introduction today. Soon, I will have a file on my computer called ‘thesis chapters’ and as I was riding up to Middlesex today, it occurred to me: I am writing a book. It feels like I am writing a book. Bit by bit, this thing will come together and in a year and half, I will have a book.

Another postdoc came across my metaphorical desk this week, one that has an acceptance rate of 6/200 (3%!), and one that, as I looked at it, I felt like I might have a shot at; that is to say, I could hear a narrative where they might choose me. It’s an American Studies Centre at the University of Sydney and although I am not really an American Studies person, they confirmed that my research would be considered. I was looking at the current scholars and it was like, Yale, Stanford, Yale, book published, associate professor: very impressive scholars. But there were like two people of six that I thought, okay, I’m not that different from this person. The thing about US PhDs is that they drag on forever so the students come out with tons of experience and publications. Their supervisors publish with them and bring them in on their projects. My impoverished CV looks very thin next to them, but it’s all mine. So although this is not Stanford, and I have not written a book yet, I think if there is some understanding of the British system, coupled with the publications I do (will) have, my unique subject area, and my (eh-hem) charisma, perhaps… perhaps I could get into the last round of voting. I had a bit of an afterthought though: the kids, the wife, dragging everyone to a new… but it was fleeting, and I thought, the future will hold whatever it holds and if we go to Australia for a year or ten, we go to Australia. It will be what it will be.

Again, though, it’s very, very good to be looking at these things now, to know what’s out there and what I can potentially compete for. Doing this all while writing up would be a bit harrowing, I imagine.

Lastly, I haven’t written about my weight in a while, much to everyone’s relief, I imagine. I should just say that it is plugging along. It’s pretty boring after a while actually. I still weigh myself every day and will continue till the end of the year I imagine, but it’s been staying pretty steady. I had to drop maybe 1kg since coming back from Spain, but that hasn’t been much work. I’m practically back to where I was this time last month which is the goal. At some point, as long as I stay under 76kgs, there will be nothing to report. Just keep on keeping on.

04 November 2010

Explaining myself

It’s been a hectic week, therefore, I have not blogged. Lots of writing and reading, but in a new sort of productive way. I have never written and read like I did this week. So efficient. My document, a bit of writing about Evangelical hermeneutics that will be a part of my literature review, was open on my computer and I was moving seamlessly between the document and my reading. I quoted Foucault without effort and stitched in a paragraph about Bakhtin and voice as though I knew something about it. Yesterday, I had a supervision meeting were I talked through the main points of the writing and felt like I was making compelling, nuanced critiques of other work and that my supervisors were pleased with the progress I had made. Now, to return to the books and finish it up: another 4,000 of the thesis likely done. 4,000 + 3,500= 7,500 words, or 7.5% of the thesis.

I went back to the writing I had done earlier this summer to see if I might be able to cull some words to help me in this text. It seemed so thin to me suddenly, like I had only done a very surface-level analysis. At the time, I felt like I was reaching so deep. Deepness, I suppose, is also relative.

I had some friends from Romania here on Monday and Tuesday, missionaries I had met while I was an Evangelical myself some eight years ago now. We have kept in touch all these years, and they came and stayed with us for two days. Unfortunately, I was writing, something I can’t seem to stop when it starts, but we managed a couple of good conversations, a careful dance I’m getting better at–telling the truth about what I believe in a non-oppositional manner. My belief need not be seen as oppositional to your belief, a stance they both hold as well, so we had very useful conversations. What it made clear to me, more than anything, was how substantively different I am now from when I was 20, when I saw the world through the eyes of faith. It also reminded me that I prefer my current epistemological position, which shouldn’t be much of a surprise. Of course we look at who we are now as the ideal: we know so much more than we did.

I saw a job posting that was perfect for me (near Nagoya where Yoko is from), but started in the Spring of 2011. As is my custom when these things come up, I e-mailed the contact anyway to check on the possibility of the job being delayed or a similar one coming up in the future. I also just want to advertise myself. Anyway, I worked for about an hour on this e-mail, carefully wording everything, but the response I received made clear that my efforts were more-or-less a waste: all that had been communicated was that I was interested in the job. They did want me to apply, but I sent another careful e-mail saying that I didn’t think I could, but thank you and please let me know if the position goes unfilled.

The real Japan versus how I idealise my time there. A friend reminded me that the advertised position (‘Associate Professor in American Studies’ in this case) and what you end up doing could be quite different. Still, the pay is accurate, as are the teaching hours, so it is not a complete mirage. Remembering the whole experience, however, is something I would serve me well.

When I’m writing, when my research is successful, I feel less of the pressure to think about the future. The writing is all I need. Unfortunately, the muse is absent more than present and will be gone again by next week when I finish drafting this bit and move onto the less satisfying work of coding data.

Finally, the pregnancy is going so much smoother this time. At this point the last two times, Yoko was sleeping for several hours during the day and sick most of the time. Maybe that’s to come, but it could be, my mother tells me, a sign that the baby is a boy, as there is something chemically that makes a boy easier to carry than a girl. Or it could mean nothing: L tells me of a friend for whom this was the opposite. Well, I say, find meaning where you can.

01 November 2010

The Reasoned Life

The baby gestates along without so much as a peep, things remaining quiet at the Pihlaja house. We decided to tell Naomi about the baby over lunch on Sunday. At first she stared at us without any comprehension and I thought, well, it’s probably too soon for her to understand. But when Yoko explained it as we are going to have another baby like Mei, suddenly Naomi started laughing hysterically. I don’t think she understands. In fact, I’m sure of it: every other day for the last couple of months she’s said that she has a baby in her stomache. Perhaps as Yoko starts to grow…

Although last week I wrote about the unreasonable nature of our decision to have a baby, I should probably concede that, like everything I do, there is more calculation involved than I would like to admit. July 2011, in terms of the next two to three years of our lives, is a pretty good slot for baby having. I will not be crazy with writing up yet and as I have more-or-less ruled out a post-doc application, I won’t have much hanging over me. Moreover, it will be summer break at Middlesex, so I won’t have to teach, and if we plan on leaving the country in 2012, we will probably not get a visa for the baby saving us £450. This will mean, unfortunately, that the baby cannot leave the country until we move or get work visas, but I will still have my passport to travel for job interviews if need be.

In larger, life-planning terms, it’s probably better for Yoko to have the baby sooner rather than later as waiting could mean that we get to a point where it is more difficult to get pregnant and/or the risks of having a baby are higher. Plus, having all the kids around the same time means that although we will have a rough time when they are all small, it will be condensed, and by the time I’m 35 the kids will be 10, 8, and 6. Sure, the cost of having a baby is high especially as a student, but realistically, we are comfortable enough. We’ll still be enjoying the benefits of the NHS in the summer and will have all the things we need for baby care and (if the baby is a girl) all the clothes too. Financial capital, at least at this point, will be a minor issue: that issue will come later, but my earning potential will increase with it.

In terms of my mental health capital (how far can we take this, Bourdieu?), making the decision allows me a bit of intellectual freedom as I don’t have to spend any mental energy on worrying about the potential or non-potential of having another baby every month. The decision is made–now I just have to do the work. Granted, this is a lot of work, but my mind enjoys the boundaries of knowing at least one thing in my life is settled for a couple of years. There is so much that is unsettled.

There is so much that is unsettled… yes, that is indeed true. I have spent two months thinking about what I want to do with the next step of my life. Early, I concede, too early to think about in practical terms, but the process of thinking about it, looking at jobs and imagining myself and our family in a different environment is actually a very useful exercise. It helps me think about what it is I want. Of course, I can’t imagine it perfectly and what I want and what I can have are two very different things. Still, this ship will have to turn at some point. If we are going to Japan, that process needs to start now. If nothing works out and the next step will come out of the blue (which I suspect), then I can accept that. Possibilities abound, I need to enjoy it rather than fearing it.
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