31 January 2011

How long have you been praying

Peace in the Middle East

26 January 2011

Naomi's first computer drawing

Naomi's first computer drawing

25 January 2011

The other sea

We did go to Wales over the weekend and it was nice.

Wales!

Tier 1 and recovery

I am feeling better today. Not quite 100%, but I was able to get a good 10 hours of sleep last night, which I needed. I got to work today and things moved slowly at the beginning, but I ended up having a pretty successful day, more or less. The MDX term ended last Friday, so I have marking to do (essays for two classes and one set of exams). I'm about halfway done at this point and trying to get it all finished before next week when the Birmingham marking will come. And then I will get that done and prepare my presentation for the Religion and Spirituality in Society Conference. And I am writing a book review for Youth and Policy. And I have to do some writing for a 10 February meeting with my supervisors. That's all.

Visa trouble was alive last week when I had heard reports that they closed the Tier 1 visa which is the visa you can get after you graduate from the PhD, without having a job. It costs a lot (like £550 for you and £150 for each dependant), but it would give us the possibility of staying here between October 2012- March 2013, looking for work, leaving open the possibility of going back to Japan for the 2013-2014 school year in April if need be. Obviously, going back in April 2012 for good work would be choice one, or having something come up here (or elsewhere) in October 2012. Anyway, I heard (and read that) they closed this visa category, but apparently it is only the Tier 1 (General) and not Tier 1 (Post study). So. That's good news, I guess. Not that I can see us paying, what... £1150 for the possibility of maybe finding something. But at least the option is still open. This is also a nice caveat too:
The time you spend in the post-study worker category does not count towards the period you need to spend in the United Kingdom before being eligible to live permanently in the United Kingdom (known as 'settlement' or 'indefinite leave to remain').
 The underlying message: Get the hell out of the country.

Well, we'll hope something works out in Japan prior to this, or I manage (by some miracle) to get work before I graduate so I can go right on to a working (Tier 2) visa. Or another possibility opens in another country, which is also something I'm working on.

24 January 2011

Migraine

I had my first experience of a migraine headache today, starting on my bike ride to work and ending after a couple of hours of taking it easy at the desk. It was a bizarre experience: the headache itself wasn't all that bad, but the aura was fascinating/frightening. I lost vision in my left eye at the peak of it, although I could still see things. It's hard to explain, but it was like the world became this pulsing, pixelated mess. Like a broken kaleidoscope. And then it dimmed, and then I just felt odd. Then the headache. And then it was gone.

I went to the doctor and he asked me some questions that involved talking about how much stress I was under (a lot, frankly), how much sleep I was getting (often interrupted), and the possibility of any of this changing in the near future (none). How about this weekend? he asked. I drove for 10 hours to Wales and back, through winding back country roads with children screaming for some percentage of that time. It wasn't bad, I wanted to say though: the only reason I bring it up is that you asked. It wasn't that bad of a trip actually.

Anyway, there is no end in sight for the amount required of me from my wife and daughters, supervisors, and bosses. I imagine the day when this might subside. I can't see it in the short run, so I think I will have to just live with it and hope that migraines don't become too common of an occurrence. And avoid passive-aggressive behaviour in the meantime.

But one bit of good news through the pixelated vision: my abstract was accepted at a conference in Bristol in April. Title is: ‘I love your metaphors so much’: Anaphoric metaphor use and reference in YouTube comment threads.

20 January 2011

What I did this morning

London Luton to Istanbul - Sabiha Gökçen
Dep 27 March 2011 07:10
Arr 27 March 2011 12:55
Flight 2383

Istanbul - Sabiha Gökçen to London Luton
Dep 31 March 2011 12:50
Arr 31 March 2011 14:45
Flight 2384

Plus hotel.

I think our time is waning. Gotta get this in while we can.

19 January 2011

Harsh

I mark 'harsh' as a metaphor in my data. I mark harshly as an essay marker. There is something to be said about harshness.

harsh adj \ˈhärsh\

1: having a coarse uneven surface that is rough or unpleasant to the touch
2a : causing a disagreeable or painful sensory reaction : irritating
As some of you know, I mark essays for a university I work part-time for (see CV) and when I finish marking, I get comments on my marking. They are generally positive comments, but I have, more than once, been picked up for being too harsh on the students. When I read that criticism of my marking, I have the uncomfortable feeling of being presented with a part of myself that I'm not particularly pleased with and probably need to change.

When marking essays for students studying at a distance, it's extremely important to be careful how you word things because you don't have the benefit of face-to-face interaction to read how someone is reacting and mediate yourself. No, you have to anticipate how someone will react and also consider that you might be dealing with someone who is not necessarily British or Canadian or American, places where criticism is generally different than in Korea or Japan. I have tried to mediate my harshness by dropping the pronoun 'you', 'You must be more explicit in your description' becomes 'This paragraph might benefit from a more explicit description.' But I am not consistent enough in doing this or careful enough to praise what is praiseworthy. Well, another batch in February will be another chance to improve, I think.

More (perhaps much more) importantly, is my harshness with my wife and daughters. This too needs to be mediated much better in my life. And unfortunately, you don't get notes on your interactions with your family. How useful would that be: every two months someone observes you for a day and tells you what you are doing right and wrong. I should start a business of personal assessors. 'Curious how others view you? We'll tell you!' Put that in the back pocket in case I fall upon a lot of money and can try all my business ideas one at a time...

Oh wait, I think they already have people who do this: they're called psychologists. Well. Never mind.



War and Peace, among the many things it gets so well, is what men think and say with other men and what they think and say when the women they are committed to are present. Of course, these are military men, 200 years ago and in Russia, but still: some of it rings so true. Neither of the personas are quite right. Both are performance. Prince Andrew, whose wife I know by reading the cliff notes (which should have warned of spoilers) will die in childbirth, is the best character for this. He says to Pierre in Chapter 8 of Book 1:
Never, never marry, my dear fellow! That's my advice: never marry till you can say to yourself that you have done all you are capable of, and until you have ceased to love the woman of your choice and have seen her plainly as she is, or else you will make a cruel and irrevocable mistake. Marry when you are old and good for nothing- or all that is good and noble in you will be lost. It will all be wasted on trifles. Yes! Yes! Yes! Don't look at me with such surprise. If you marry expecting anything from yourself in the future, you will feel at every step that for you all is ended, all is closed except the drawing room, where you will be ranged side by side with a court lackey and an idiot!... But what's the good?
How true and false at the same time. Both yes and no. (I wish the translator and/or Tolstoy had omitted the exclamation mark in the first sentence. It's not needed: the point is made without it.)

Have I mentioned how good I think this book is? I think it's great.

17 January 2011

A reprieve

As England had suffered two very bad winter storms in December, January is turning out to be, by contrast, almost balmy. It was up to 11 over the weekend and, despite the rain today, things look to be soggy and cool, much in the way you expect the beginning of March to be. It's a kind of false Spring, but after such a punishing December, I welcome it gladly.

I have been absent from real blogging for a while. It comes and goes, but today, re-reading some older blog entries, I felt the need to keep adding to my own history here. For posterity's sake, at least.

The weekend was nice enough. Tomorrow is Yoko's birthday and we are celebrating it by going to Wales for a night on Saturday, but, in the spirit of celebration, we headed to lunch at Cafe Rouge (Britain's faux French eatery) this weekend to use some 'points' we had acquired from shopping at the supermarket. The food was nice enough: we went for an early lunch and Mei fell asleep, but Naomi, for the first time, was able to colour a picture quietly while we waited for the food to come. It was nice, but made me eager for the real Parisian cafes and a stroll toward Le Arc de Triomphe, up from Le Louvre. I have moments of panic where I want desperately to be back in two places: Paris and Tokyo. Unfortunately, of my two life paths, one will likely cut into the regularity of the other, but this can't be helped.

We then had coffee at Starbucks and Yoko remarked that having this card (the cheap filter coffee card) had given us some normalcy again as we used to regularly have coffee in Japan (with no thought to the cost) and can now do the same thing here. We went twice last weekend and once this weekend. We also attended Japanese church on Sunday afternoon, which always brings Yoko a great amount of joy and, in turn, encourages me by seeing her so happy. I wore a bowtie which apparently drew a great deal of attention to me. Everyone commented that I was overdressed, but I was in jeans and cowboy boots. 'It's a normal thing,' Yoko said when someone asked why I was wearing it. Yes. Yes, it is.

Although I am now closer to the end of my PhD than I was the last time I did some good, quality navel gazing, I feel less of a sense of urgency about the future and more apathy, really. I think I have found that feeling that everyone else seems to have about my life that has evaded me: namely that everything will work out, most likely.

War and Peace, as you can tell from my last couple of posts, really has gotten to me. It's a fabulous story. Really, the sort of thing that makes you want to read and read to more fully submerge yourself in it. I think Les Miserables will be next up for me.

Finally, the schedule for my conference in Chicago has finally been posted. Although I was feeling less than excited about going, looking at some of the presentations, I am encouraged. In four weeks, I will be on a plane back to the motherland.I think I will get some good contacts for the bits of my literature review covering the metaphor and biblical texts, as well as hermeneutic activity.

16 January 2011

Epic: the line between

"One step beyond that boundary line which resembles the line dividing the living from the dead lies uncertainty, suffering, and death. And what is there? Who is there?- there beyond that field, that tree, that roof lit up by the sun? No one knows, but one wants to know. You fear and yet long to cross that line, and know that sooner or later it must be crossed and you will have to find out what is there, just as you will inevitably have to learn what lies the other side of death. But you are strong, healthy, cheerful, and excited, and are surrounded by other such excitedly animated and healthy men." So thinks, or at any rate feels, anyone who comes in sight of the enemy, and that feeling gives a particular glamour and glad keenness of impression to everything that takes place at such moments.
The weather had cleared again since noon and the sun was descending brightly upon the Danube and the dark hills around it. It was calm, and at intervals the bugle calls and the shouts of the enemy could be heard from the hill. There was no one now between the squadron and the enemy except a few scattered skirmishers. An empty space of some seven hundred yards was all that separated them. The enemy ceased firing, and that stern, threatening, inaccessible, and intangible line which separates two hostile armies was all the more clearly felt.

15 January 2011

War and Peace

I'm listening to the audiobook version of War and Peace while I work out at night and reading chapters here and there. Wow. This is an epic book. I suppose I shouldn't be surprised, but I am. I wish I had gotten into it earlier, but I think being married, in particular, is making my reading of it and the relationships in it much richer than it otherwise would be. Anyway, I've only finished Book 1 and the first chapter of Book 2 so I have a long, long way to go...

11 January 2011

Potato Eaters

I too feel reduced to a description of myself as what I eat. I got to 9 January without January getting to me. That must be a record. And it's barely cold out. What's wrong with me.


Apparently, my calorie in/ calorie out adventure is now coming crashing down. Only works (for me) when I am eating less than 2,500 kCals. I can row/run/bike my ass off, always make a loss, but if I am eating more than 2,500 kCals, I gain weight. I have worked out more in the last three weeks than I have in five months. I've meticulously ate fewer calories than I have spent, with modest 100 kCal to 500 kCal losses each day. I weigh 4.5 kgs more than I did two and half weeks ago.

My weight is a perfect metaphor for the rest of my life right now. The equation isn't working. Do I need to press on with the same equation, revert to back to where I was, or look for a new one.

08 January 2011

Marathon* 1

42.05 km
4:08:21
5:54min/km (Avg Pace)
3335 kCal

Asterisks suck. Let me explain.

This morning, I got up at 6:00 to run the course I mapped below. It was raining pretty hard, and I thought a bit about just putting it off to tomorrow, but my better angels got the best of me and I headed out, swapping my hoodie for my raincoat and adding a pair of wool socks.

From the beginning, it felt like the rain was going to be frustrating (particularly the puddles), but that it wouldn't really force me home. It also became clear that having the raincoat was going to heat me up pretty quickly. Anyway, I started towards the old railroad track path that I was going to be running, but by the time I got there (about 3 km in) it had almost stopped raining.

The first 10 km were no problem, but I didn't push myself very much and was thinking that at some point I could ditch my raincoat along the trail and pick it up as I was going to be coming up and down the path four times. When I made the first turn (at 13 km), having completed the path once, I was pretty sure that I wasn't going to be able to finish as my foot was hurting and I was realising that it was pretty stupid to attempt this after running the two half marathons I did last week. It was also clear to me that although running the straight smooth path was nice, it was a) pretty hilly and b) going to get a little tedious, which doesn't bode well for morale. I thought to myself that I would go down and back and think about punting at that point.

But when I made it back (at 23km) I decided that I would drop my raincoat, and after doing that and thinking that I was more than halfway there, I thought I would continue on. The problem was, I was slowly realising that my water supply was dwindling. As I was thinking of possible places I might get water, there was nothing close to the path coming to mind and the only place I could think of was on the trail back to the house, near the very end of my run. At about 28 km, it was clear to me that I needed water to finish, so I decided to not go down the path a last time, instead at the turn at 32 km, I would head home and stop at the convenience store to buy water and make up the remaining 7 kms. Although I wasn't sure, I could think of a route that I thought would be about 7.5 km, but I couldn't remember for the life of me if it was 6.5 kms or 7.5 kms. Plus, it was in neighbourhoods with a huge vertical drop (and subsequent climb). Certainly not ideal, but I didn't really have a choice.

I stopped at Tesco Express and bought two 500ml Powerades and drank one in less than a minute (a good indication that I needed it). I headed back in the direction of the house as that was the starting point for the route I could think of and dropped off my Camelbak and raincoat in the front yard, with the second half drank bottle of Powerade.

One of the good things about running out of water, however, was that I spent about 5 kms thinking about my water rather than my body, so when I got to the house (35 km), I was sort of back in the game mentally, although my body was feeling it. I walked for about 5 minutes from 3:35 to 3:40 and then picked up the running again. It started raining again around 40 km, but by that time my body was back completely and I added a little bit to the end of the run to make sure I had passed 42.195 km, a full marathon.

Well, after relaxing a bit and taking a shower, I mapped my run and realised that I had actually come in 145 metres short of a full marathon (42.05 km), owing to the fact that I over-estimated how long the second section of my running was (7.5 km instead of 6.5) and underestimated my run in the woods. Leaving me 145 metres short. Which sucks because I certainly had another 1 or 2 km in me and the only reason I stopped was because I thought I was finished. Oh well. What's 145 metres between friends. What's an asterisk next to the word 'marathon' anyway.

I did realise on this run, however, why it is that I love long, lonely runs. I had over 4 hours in which I was completely alone. No one to talk to. No Internet. Nothing. Just me and my thoughts. And I'll tell you what, you think about a lot in 4 hours. You think about everything in your life, more-or-less, and you do so slowly and deliberately. You let your mind wander and there's nothing to worry about. It's not like driving or riding a bicycle where you have to stay focused on what you're doing or you hurt yourself. No, running alone on a path in the middle of the woods at 7 in the morning as the sun comes up through the rain... It's loneliness is the best sense of the word. It's you and your body, your mind vs. your body.

07 January 2011

Marathon 1

I'm running my first marathon of the year tomorrow, if things work out. 42.31 km. It's basically just up and down the same path four times. It's straight and doesn't cross too many roads so I don't have to worry about getting hit by a car. It's a bit hilly, but I'll take hilly and straight over anything with an uneven path and/or sharp turns and/or cars. Here's what I will have on me tomorrow:

Running Swag
Sweatshirt
NY Yankees hat (bought in Seoul!)
Mobile phone
£5 in cash
LaCoste washcloth
Shoes & socks
Cereal bars (4)
Camelbak
Ipod & headphones (Tupac, Kanye, and Bon Iver)
Bandage & tape for left foot
Running tights, swimsuit, & shorts

So, we'll see how I do.

Post about new shoes, forthcoming!

05 January 2011

Anti-climactic

Well, my chat with the doctor was pretty uninteresting, leading me to believe that the chance for zaniness or wackiness in this process is going to be rather limited. The conversation went like this:
Doctor: So you want a vasectomy?
Me: Yessir.
Doctor: You're a little young to be getting a vasectomy.
Me: I have been married for almost five years--we have two kids and one on the way. I'm pretty content.
Doctor: Great, I'll write the referral.
Me: Isn't there a one in thirty chance I'll have chronic testicular pain?
Doctor: Extremely rare. Probably less than that.
Me: Oh.
And that was that. It will probably take about four months to actually get done, but no matter, any time before the end of June should be fine.

On to the next thing. I have been in a vicious cycle buying cheap shoes for a while. I got some nice Dr Martens in 2009 that were great, but about two sizes too big (I got them on sale on the Internet). Then I traded them in for those great shoes I got at the charity shop this summer, but the soles fell off those and although I replaced them, the leather ripped a couple of days ago. Six months is not a long time to have shoes, but given that I walk so much, I guess I shouldn't be surprised. Anyway, I'm back to the Dr Martens, I think. I tried them on in the store and then ordered them online for £50.


So these are good, I think: I wanted to get the Gilberto boots, but they didn't have my size.


Oh well. I'll have to stay with the Oxfords for now. There are worse things in life. The Docs are both sewn and glued, giving them a lot more life than the charity shop shoes. And the soles are rubber, not leather. I probably should get a pair of shoes strictly for walking, but this seems like a bit of a waste. One pair of shoes for me, thanks.

Back to work.

03 January 2011

2010 Winter Break Memorial Half Marathon

As you can see, I've already blown one New Year's resolution of staying under 78 kgs (78.2 yesterday and 78.8 today). Really a mystery as I have kept my kCals in less than out, but I guess when you eat 50-75% more than what you usually do, it doesn't matter if you're working out 90 minutes a day.

Oh well, a bit shorter and slower than Saturday. But not bad for back-to-back runs. Perhaps I will attempt 42 on Saturday. We'll see.

Summary
Name: Regular Run
Time Taken: 01:44:44
Workout Weight: 78.0 kg.
Workout Route: January Half Marathon 2 03/01/2011
Burned: 1,765 (kcal)
Pace: 04:54 (avg)
Speed: 12.23 (km/hr) (avg)

01 January 2011

2011 Predictions

Me and the Maths-Literate Younger Sister are making some predictions for 2011 in six categories and then next year, we'll check them, see who was more accurate.

Politics
Me: Obama Rebound! Favorability above 55% within the year.
MLYS: Three bills passed changing healthcare reform 

Entertainment
Me: Bieber sex scandal!
MLYS: Hugh Hefner, dead at 114!

Religion
Me: So-called 'Ground Zero mosque' compromise. Still in NYC, but not so close to the WTC site.
MLYS: China opens its doors to the world religions!

Social
Me: Gay marriage in three more States
MLYS: US birth rate increase

Technology
Me: Waning interest in 3D films, no interest in 3D TV
MLYS: Implanted child tracking chip

Wild card!
Me: North Korea collapse!
MLYS: Julian Assange off the hook on sex charges, no comment on espionage

Album of the year


I didn't listen to a lot of music in 2010, but I listened to enough. My favourite albums were XX by The XX, Sigh No More by Mumford and Sons, and My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy by Kanye West.

I have gone back and forth on the Kayne record, but I realise that the reason I struggle with it is that I am asking it to do more than just be excellent music: I'm asking it to say something about the culture, to show that the misogyny in the lyrics and imagery is self-conscious, and to be a critical comment on celebrity in 2010. I don't have that expectation of the XX or Mumford and Sons. They don't have to make any deep political or critical statement about anything. They can take a snapshot of a love scene and that is enough.

To be sure, that is enough. I'm not taking anything away from them. But Kanye West's record is brilliantly produced, brilliantly constructed, and full of tension: it requires much, much more from me when I listen to it. I have to argue with him. And I like that. I like that much more than The XX dredging up the feeling of being 16 again or Mumford and Sons capturing perfectly the essence of this picture.

No, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy wants to be great, tries to be great, and is, for the most part, great. So it is my album of the year.

UPDATED: The NY Times sort of agrees with me. 

2011 Inagural Half Marathon

I'm only going to blog half-marathon and marathon length runs this year, I think. This is the first one:

Summary
Type: Regular Run
Date: 01/01/2011
Time Taken: 01:42:03
Pace: 04:43 (avg)
Speed: 12.68 (km/hr) (avg)
Workout Weight: 76.7 kg.
Workout Route: January Half Marathon
Total Distance: 21.57 km.
Burned: 1,739 (kcal)
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