28 November 2011

Monday morning frost

The weather in Milton Keynes calls for the XX to be played on repeat until further notice. The winter in Milton Keynes encourages hibernation, and I fight it through Christmas, but come January, I will give in and allow myself the selfish pleasure of depression. Depression is a metaphor. I find it harder to be depressed the older I get. I'm becoming a better pair of headphones, more balanced, representing reality better without the high highs and high lows. I'm a more balanced EQ.

I read the reviews for the earbuds I have, by the way (skip this paragraph if you're uninterested in talk of headphones). And they accurately describe all the problems I have had with them. Don't isolate, fall out of your ears, represent bass well, but need to be turned up to do so. Aren't great for walking or running. Aren't worth the cost. They are, however, Bose earbuds.

I read the news about Black Friday, all the people crawling all over each other trying to get cheap things, and after having my moment of liberal elite reflection about Capitalism, the underclass, and all the problems in the world, I remembered fondly a particular time in my life when my brother and sister and I were a bit older and would shop over the holidays with my mother. We would go to Hawthorne Center, the more upscale mall in the area, and get lunch and coffee and walk around. There was so little to worry about: I didn't have to drive, I didn't have to pay for anything, I bought gifts for like three or four people, I ate what I wanted, and that was it. This is nostalgia, I thought.

Jay-Z made a good comment about hip hop in an interview I recently heard on Fresh Air on NPR. When you listen to hip hop, you need to remember that the rapper got popular when they were relatively young, Jay-Z reminds us. They get popular and don't have normal relationships anymore, so when they rap about relationships, about women, about violence, about sex, they are rapping about adolescent fantasy. How many thirty year old rappers are there? Tyler the Creator is suddenly all over, everywhere, and his normal experience as a person ostensibly ended before he turned 20. Everything from here on out will be reliving what he did when he was in his teens and the imaginary world that has been constructed around him. And there is no incentive to change what he raps about: it's about money now. Biggie was 24 when he died. 24. Tupac was 25. You hear Biggie rapping about having kids and hustling to support them and you gotta remember he was like 20. Something to think about, at least.

Another thing that my PhD has ruined/enhanced: everything that comes through my brain must go through the analytic sieve. What would Foucault say. What would Bakhtin say. How does this one instance, this tiny stability, fit into a larger system. Where is the larger system coming from, where is it going.

Boy, do I like the new Florence and the Machine album. It's the delay on the tom-toms in a couple of the songs. The first one in particular. Another good album that needs to have a balanced EQ to be fully enjoyed, I imagine.

Don't think, please, that I can't shut my eyes and let it wash over me. Awareness of the metaphor heightens it: it does not diminish it.

27 November 2011

Good* Headphones

I've been learning all about headphones the last two weeks, as I am in the market to get a pair. I was originally looking at the SRH750DJs, but I think I've been dissuaded. Basically, it comes down to what criteria one uses to establish the category of a 'good' pair of headphones. I think this is, as far as I can tell from my reading, the expert description of a good pair of headphones:
Headphones which accurately represent the original mix of the music clearly and evenly at the broadest frequency range. They are balanced and represent the sound the same way regardless of volume.
So, when someone says, 'I want headphones with really good bass,' you can tell that they probably don't know much about headphones and you will probably be able to sell them a pair of Dre Beats. They have 'good bass' that is actually not so good.

This PhD has ruined my life. I want headphones, so I formed a research question, did a literature review, did some data collection, and then made a decision about what I would buy. I swear to god, I'm not a Positivist. I'm a Pragmatist--a William James Pragmatist, not a Barack Obama pragmatist--who trusts procedural objectivity.

This accuracy bit is really a new thought to me. Good headphones let you hear the way the song was actually mixed (i.e., the way the artist has, in theory, wanted you to hear it) and if you have a headphone that skews towards the DJ smile (high lows and high highs with a depressed middle), you reinterpret the sound, perhaps to your preference, perhaps not. If you are listening to a Fleet Foxes song, you don't want to have overpowering bass: you want to hear it clearly in balance to the amazing harmonies that are happening across the frequency scale. Worse, if you enjoy some Biggie every now and then, the bass is so pronounced in the mix already that if you put on a headphone that represents the bass too powerfully, you get an unpleasant experience full of distortion. You want Biggie to kick down the door, but you don't want him to kick it down in a way that injures the person on the other side.

This is an extended metaphor: is it a story or a scenario? I suppose it's a story: it has two events--Biggie kicks down the door and injures someone.

I've always thought of Bose headphones as the best, but they aren't: they are the best for a particular category of people who have money. They want something they describe as a great headphone: comfortable and which makes the music they listen to sound good, along with a bunch of other criteria that have nothing to do with sound (portability, isolation, style).

Emic words describe the world  of particular experience, not exact, precise, replicable things. The Positivist throws out the emic terms: they aren't reliable, they differ so much among people. The Positivist, however, sells no headphones because those emic terms determine who buys what. The world is a complicated place, it turns out: much more often unreliable.

For me, portability, durability, price, and isolation are also important criteria, but again, they are different questions than the sound of the headphone. I also want a headphone that's classic, not stylish. The Beats look 'great' today (if 'great' is whatever everyone else is into at the moment), break tomorrow. I also want ones that aren't going to fall apart in two years, right after the manufacturer warranty is up. And I want good sound at low levels on the underground and none of this sound-cancelling apparatus crap (who wants to carry around AAA batteries anyway). I want them to sound good at work, walking to Middlesex, on the train, and on the underground.



So, I think it's the Sennheiser HD25-ii (basic edition) for me. A bit pricey, and that's what's holding me back. But if I use them for ten years, well, it will be worth it, I think. The guy at the store turned me on to them. Twisting the headband he says, 'The Shures have replacement earpads and cables, but it's the hinges that break. The hinge breaks and you're screwed.' The Sennheiser's have a little bit of smile, but not overwhelming. I, after all, like 'good bass' myself. They're not reference headphones, but they're close enough and I am not actually a professional so it doesn't matter that much. They isolate well and they're about half the weight of the other DJ headphones I tried. All the parts are also user replaceable so when I do break them, I'm not screwed. They aren't stylish, which means (I suppose, but am not sure of) they are less likely to be stolen. They are, however, classic. Iconic. Like Ray Ban Wayfayers and Levis. Right up my alley. They're on ear as opposed to over ear, but I think they're more comfortable because they're so light.

Now, to convince myself that they're actually worth it and I can justify the cost to myself.

23 November 2011

Deutschland for Empathy, Day 4

Well, the trip is winding up:  I'm on my way out of the city to get to the airport for a 17:00 flight. Now, I am sitting in Starbucks outside of Stadmitte station, having some coffee and reflecting. I had a cookie too. I can have a cookie now.

Berlin: livable, extremely livable. Polite, clean, German. Cold, but people are still sitting outside. Christmas began here: you get the sense that everything we try to do in the States and England is just mimicking what they do here. They do it properly here. Christmas markets. Grog. The carols sound proper in German. They should, you suspect, be sung in German all the time, by everyone.

It has been another good trip for me: far less stressful than the trip to NYC, thanks mostly to the fact that I was staying in a real hotel and the trip was not funded from my research budget, but my supervisor's, so there were no money concerns either.

The meetings of the Empathy(2) Network were good, but more importantly, I had a supervision meeting yesterday evening that really was one of the best we have ever had. I am finishing my analysis, my findings are coming together and I have the beginnings of what will be my actual thesis, rather than what I have imagined it to be. The next steps are clear, we are discussing finishing the analysis by Christmas and beginning (!) writing up in January. I didn't fight: I tried to listen. No resistance: you are riding a bicycle for the first time and suddenly the person holding you up has let go. I wasn't sure how this would be, but I see the end of the road. The light at the end of the tunnel. Choose your scenario. My supervisor says, You can take Christmas off. Can I? I'm not sure that I can.

Build this up, she said, gesturing up from the paper. A construction metaphor. Writing is building. You build up, not out. Findings are a base.

The end. It's strange to imagine. My supervisor says to me yesterday about what I had presented her: this is pretty much done now. Done!? I haven't heard that yet. If that part is done... that's a big part. My colleague says to me, Well, you would hope that things would start to wrap up. Yes. You would hope that. But I didn't expect it to happen.

I should stop writing and go back to walking. There is so much to see in this world.

21 November 2011

Deutschland for Empathy, Day 2

What a fabulous day. Listened to my supervisor talk for like four hours and was like, once again, I am lucky, lucky, LUCKY to be her student. Precise, careful, systematic scholar with big, important ideas. I feel invigorated again about my own research. All the sorts of things you want from a conference/seminar.

Also ran barefoot on a treadmill last night:
12.5 km in 60:16

Felt great, but I woke up this morning with a massive blood blister on my right foot big toe. Oh well: will run shoe-d tomorrow.

20 November 2011

Deutschland for Empathy

My International travels continue today with a trip out to Deutschland for a series of meetings for my supervisor's 'Empathy Network' which should probably be 'EmpathyNetwork' (Pragmatics joke, sorry, move along). Anyway, hopefully will have the WiFi at the hotel. If not, I'll be back around Wednesday night. 

18 November 2011

Personal style

One of the great things about growing up is settling into a style. Once you know what you like and looks good on you, you can simplify, simplify, simplify and stop effing around with stuff that you have, but aren't really committed to: I'm wearing this but I haven't really thought about it. Levi's 30 x 30 slim straight jeans, well-cut dress shirts (oxfords, preferably, but not required), small slim sweaters, and brown shoes. That's all I need day-to-day. Add a suit, a pair of khakis, and two or three blazers? And I'm done.

And it's an exactitude too: a category of style that (to me) says young, stylish intellectual. PhD, not MA. Clean shaven, not bearded. Slim straight, not skinny. Tailored, not slim. European cut, not American. Levis, not H&M. Classic, not fashionable. 77 kgs, not 72.Vintage, not thrift store. Shure studio headphones, not Dre Beats. Pragmatism, not idealism.

I proudly showed Yoko my wardrobe (British closet) the other day. I can wear all of this. She wasn't really impressed, but to me it was a proud moment of self realisation. And now I can acquire things that I want to keep for a lifetime and avoid things that I will keep for a short amount of time. Like the Saddleback Leather bag which I continue to obsess about. I'll get it and use it for the rest of my life. Or a good pair of headphones instead of an iPhone. These, not those. I couldn't say that at 22.


This is a metaphor for growing up. The better you get at saying this and not that. I know now.

I had a moment of sheer panic the other day when I heard about someone being held up for a visa based on claiming a public benefit (one that I claim) that they shouldn't apparently have been claiming. The benefit office had checked their documents and ruled that they should have received the benefit, but the border agency had a different opinion. Disagreement between government agencies, and the applicant is held responsible. Anyway, I did my best to confirm that their situation was different than ours and we should, in fact, be receiving the benefit that we are receiving: we are, something about Japanese/US citizenship, but the border agency could have a different opinion, particularly as they are looking for ANY reason to reduce immigration. Makes me nervous and terribly, terribly apprehensive about making an application. At the same time, at least I know to send more supporting documents when we apply next year.

For all interested passengers

I don't do a lot of book reviews (given a horrible experience with a huge book in a field that I had no business reviewing in), but this one came out okay, I think:

Pihlaja, Stephen. (2011) [Review of the book American Grace: How Religion Unites and Divides by Robert Putnam and David Campbell]. Youth and Policy 107: 116-117. Available online at: <http://www.youthandpolicy.org/images/stories/journal107/reviews107.pdf>

14 November 2011

I believe I can fly



I showed this to my daughters and Mei just clapped and clapped. I think base jumping is in her future. She's been spending the evening pretending she can fly. Another trip to the A&E will probably result from this but hey, at least they both now know they can fly.

The eye

This is what I feel like, thinking about the next year. Apparently the day this arrived at the Tate in London, Rothko killed himself.


Jump start blogging

That dull feeling of uneasiness after you send something off to your supervisors and then you wait is something I'm never going to get used to. They tell me that the next steps are mine to take, mine to decide--that there is no right or wrong way to do this. I never feel that way though. I feel unease, constant unease.

Perhaps this is because I am not sleeping. I woke at 12-something, 2-something, and 5-something last night. Baby crying? Who's in bed with me? Have I turned on the washing machine?

More bizarre things are happening, I'm sure, other places in the world.

IMG_2571


Accidental poetry


I copied and pasted a quote and this is what came out.

By  designating
the  cultural  as  arbitrary, Bourdieu  reverses  the  normal  perception  of
things,  which  is  that  the  sacred  objects  of  high  culture  are  such  because  of  some
quality
intrinsic  to  them.  From  this  essentialist  point  of view
they  deserve  their place
and  their  veneration  because  of
something  about  them  that  is
'real'-they  really  are
beautiful  in the way
that knowledge
is really
true
(and so really
is knowledge).  This,
in
fact,  Bourdieu  argues,
is an illusion.

13 November 2011

Alpha Pi

Morris Louis here provides a metaphor: convergence is inevitable, if only for a moment out of view.


11 November 2011

29 and some change

IMG_2495[1] 
 I'm 29 years old. I don't feel 29.

Tonight, my eldest daughter (I have an eldest daughter) came home from a birthday party in a dress, wearing makeup, and having her hair done. She smelled nice too. Really? I thought.  I have to start dealing with this now? She's 4.

Parenting is hard for a lot of reasons, but this hardship is the result of trying to make what I believe fit in the context of what the society I live in believes and what my spouse believes. I don't believe that 4 year olds, even when playing 'dress up' (which they do a hell of lot in this country), should wear makeup. Sorry. But I live in a context where, at birthday parties, little girls do this. I have a couple of choices:
  1. Get the hell out of dodge and isolate myself and my family in the woods somewhere to avoid the influence of the outside world. Being neither a hippie nor a Fundamentalist religious type, this is not a possibility.
  2. Not let my daughter go to the parties. A good idea in theory, but much more likely to have a negative effect on her than wearing makeup every so often.Oh, we don't invite Naomi to parties--her dad won't let her go. Yeah, no: I'm not that guy.
  3. Let her go, but don't let her do the makeup. Same problem as number three, though, really. You don't want to be that parent.
  4. Let her go, let her do what everyone else is doing, and try to talk some sense into her when she comes home. A good idea, but how does that conversation start: Honey, the problem with you wearing makeup is that it encourages you to think of yourself as something to be observed rather than an agent in your own right. You might think it's great to have people looking at you and admiring your beauty, but think about your agency in that situation: do you really want to be object rather than subject? The result of that is a culture in which men assert control and power because you become an object to be admired and acquired, not a subjective individual, a signal heteroglot exerting, an albeit tiny amount of, pressure on the larger system. And by the way, all men want is sex. 
  5. Move to some posh neighborhood where the influence of the kids around us will be upwardly mobile and, even though they do put on makeup, the sea swell of the peers will be towards A-levels and University as opposed to... well, not.
Ugh. None of these options look great. I'm an academic and we will probably, for the foreseeable future, be living in lower cost housing, so number 5 is out. 1-3 is out too because I don't have the energy to be that much of an activist. I guess I've settled on 4. Who knows if it will work.

I'm 29. I want to purchase two things really badly for myself: some kick ass headphones and this Saddleback leather bag, but the cost of everything in this country is going up and we are making no more money this year than last. I can work part time, but who knows if the Euro-zone will explode in the next week? Month? Two months? I have to think about these things, can't just drop £400 on (even really useful, needed) toys. Hell, I can hardly buy clothes for myself when I need them without thinking, do I really need this. I have to think about keeping these four people that depend on me in clothes that fit, first: happy and health.
I'm only 29. I thought back to 2008-2009 with nostalgia today: I couldn't believe it. The worst year of my life and I sort of wanted to go back. We only had one kid then. The apartment was so much smaller. We spent less on food. There was no pressure from the PhD: I was lost, yes, but it didn't matter.

Oprah tells us to count our blessings. Nana and Mei still are happy to kiss me goodnight. I like that quite a bit... 

I came home from work the other day and there was a tear in my undershirt, so I was going throw it out, but before I did, I called the girls into the lounge and told them to watch carefully. They both stood there and I suddenly tore the shirt from the middle like Superman. Nana was non-plussed, just completely aghast. Why did you DO that? She was so shocked and I just laughed and laughed and laughed. I'm SUPERMAN! I said.

I'm only 29. 

One day at a time


09 November 2011

Things I learned in Philly

Everytime I hang out with B, I learn a bunch of stuff from him and in conversation with him:

  • Grooveshark is like Spotify, only freer
  • Organic food is crap
  • Solving uncomfort problems on a bike requires adjustment of seat
  • Live where you live, don't live one place and drive to another. If you can't cycle there, you're too far away.
  • If you're going to believe something, believe it 100% and stop trying to pretend that you aren't who you are
  • The dominant culture doesn't think about retaining itself because it is unopposed and perpetuates itself unobstructed while consuming the bits of minority cultures it finds useful; minority cultures struggle to not be consumed, and this appears to the dominant culture as aggressive and oppositional (bell hooks, Eating the Other, anyone?) 
  • Say what you want about Occupy Wall St., protest puts pressure on the apparatus and bends it, however slightly, towards the concerns of the oppressed (Things I learned from myself: Hippies will protest anything, all the time, given the opportunity)
  • Call your wife before you buy expensive tequila, but make sure you married someone who knows you well enough to say yes without hesitating
  • Have friends who say, upon drinking the expensive tequila, Oh wow, there's a lot going on in there.
  • Have friends that challenge you
Things I learned from B's friends:
  • You can say about tequila, Oh wow, there's a lot going on in there
  • Headphones don't get a lot better after $150
  • Onesies can, in very, very limited circumstances, be worn by adults, but you must have a beard
  • Do what you're paid to do, but try to influence the people who are paying you
  • Michelle Bachmann needs to spend a month in B's house with his friends before she says anything about anything
  • It's okay to shop at Trader Joe's: the whole point is that it's ironic
  • Cycling is a culture, not transportation
  • Cycling is transportation, not culture: get what you need, not what makes you look good
  • You can share everything and be much happier

08 November 2011

Time is/is not on your side

Time, why you punish me. I won't lie, Hootie and the Blowfish taught my young Evangelical mind about a lot of things.

My week usually starts with a flurry of things I have to do: e-mails to respond to, drafts of things to check from various people, teaching stuff, PhD admin stuff, funding bid stuff... Very practical things for the most part. After I clear through those things, I am back to the place where I started: my PhD looking up at me.

Hello, I say.
Hello, my PhD says.
What have you been up to over the weekend?
My PhD shrugs.
Well, I guess we gotta, you know, get back at this.
I guess we do, my PhD says, lackadaisically.

This will change in the next 6 weeks when I start writing. Or I start to reorganise my writing. Or maybe it won't.

I mentioned that I cleared out my closet the other day and my acquisition of some new sweaters. I also got a haircut. Wearing clothes that fit properly, for some strange reason, really makes me feel much better. When I'm not swimming around in a sweater in particular. I feel much more narrow. Better cut. The 30 x 30 jeans really help too. You wouldn't think two inches less on the waist would make that much difference. It does. It makes me think I might be able to wear a pair of khaki trousers, if I wanted.

If I wanted. It's good to be able to see needs and wants for what they are. Khakis are, unfortunately, probably inching towards the needs side. I only have three pairs of jeans that fit. I can get away with this until I need to interview for a job.

Mei was in the hospital again on Sunday night. Fell down, again. Cut her face, again. Yoko took her, which was great for me, hard for Yoko. I was really happy: Yoko is really functional now in the UK. It makes things much easier for all of us. Anyway, Mei is fine. Got the cut glued up: she didn't need to go necessarily, but the face is an important place to get cleaned up.

I love the hell out of Mei's personality, despite how often she falls down. She's so funny. I love all of them, of course, but Mei makes me laugh. Where did she learn that? It's funny how you admire the bad personality traits of your kids sometimes. Mei exacts violence on her sister in a way that, although I dislike/discourage, I have some respect for. She will not be screwed with and she will not whine or cry or complain (sometimes): she will just take a swing. Knives out. If she can hone that skill...

Naomi is much more diplomatic most of the time. She will cry and whine and whine and cry continuously without any sense that her complaints are not getting her anywhere. She pouts. It takes her a long time to get violent: she will complain to me or Yoko first, Mei is hitting me!

She is friends with everyone though: diplomatic.

Kids, man. Kids.

Okay, back to work. Back. To. Work.

Dunstable Downs 1 October 2011

06 November 2011

Cleaning out my closet

So I'm on a cleaning out my closet kick. Haven't worn you in a year? Out! Too big? Out! Right size, but stretched out (in some places) and/or shrunk (in other places) because I've had you for more than three years? Out!

The truth is I am now a small who wears 30/30s. If I wear anything else, I look like an idiot. I have all these clothes that people have given me that I hate, but keep for whatever reason. No more!

Today, I went to TK Maxx and spent £19.99 x 3 on Rochas cotton sweaters that are normally £70 a piece. Blue, black, grey. Problem solved. They look great and I don't have to worry about this for a couple of years.

The next and last bag I get will be a saddleback leather business bag. I am in love with this. The best thing about them is doing a search for them on eBay and seeing that bags, used for five years are still selling for 80-95% of the cost of a new one. Crazy. That's quality.

At some point, you look at your dataset and you go, I have nothing else to say about this.

02 November 2011

Welcome home

The immigration official in the US says this to you when you return: Welcome home. Thanks, I always say, the same series of thoughts chasing me as I leave to pick up my bag.

The trip to New York was a complete, unmitigated success, from beginning to end, with the small exception of my health. Each meeting I had was full of rich, careful, deep discussions about the things most important to me, and people I respect a great deal were incredibly generous to me with their time and resources. The audiences for my presentations were engaged and thoughtful, asking great questions. I couldn't have asked for better people to meet and talk with.

The success, I should say, was not expected. I ran into this trip playing the ultimate confidence man. I booked my flight before anything was confirmed. All the meetings and presentations were ones that I initiated. It was far too much of my research budget. It wasn't focused enough on my current research. It was at the wrong time, it turned out... A litany of problems.

But all of those problems seemed to fall away, little by little. The conversations stayed on my current work and how it will relate to my future work. Most importantly for me, I saw a path that would lead me out of Applied Linguistics and into (an empirical, rigorous, research-driven brand of) Religious Studies, potentially at a high-level university or college in the States. I remembered that I love the liberal arts college and would be very happily at home in the East Coast of the US, working at a smallish 4 year private institution that placed a heavy emphasis on staff research. To make this happen (I was told and I agree wholeheartedly with), I would need to find a department that values textual analysis and sees a need to incorporate empirical research into their curriculum. I could teach core classes on religion without any problem and then teach classes on New Atheism and Evangelicalism as my specialties, all from an applied linguistic/social sciences perspective. That is, the texts shaping the communities and the communities shaping the texts, seen in analysis of the reading of the text within the community. This is essentially the kind of research I have been wanting to do. And the Religious Studies departments value books over articles, another thing I am much more keen on. Articles are okay, but I would rather be putting out a book every two years than three or five articles. The creative writer in me.

So, my three to five year plan gets a little clearer. I think I will be more and more eager to try and make the Religious Studies angle work because of how interesting it is to me, and how many more options it gives to me.

I liked what I saw of the East Coast. Public transit is much better than the Midwest. Things are closer together. The buildings are older. I don't know--I could see my family living there.

Friends, B & L, took me in for the weekend in Philly and let me relax, let go of all my responsibilities for about 48 hours. It was amazing. I didn't know what to say. B and I were at a market on Saturday afternoon: I was sipping coffee and waiting for B's number to be called by the Amish cheese seller that he was trying to buy honey from. There was nothing for me to do. No one to care for, nothing to worry about. I just stood there, freed. We went to a Bike expo, Trader Joe's, two parties, a church service, the whole time talking about all the things that friends need to catch up on after not being together for two years. When you can answer the question, how are you doing honestly and carefully over several hours stroll through Manhattan. I felt as though I was being carried the whole time.

I said that this was a success provided you didn't consider my health. I didn't sleep the whole time I was in the States and I had a very, very difficult time eating. When I was around other people, I ate well and carefully, but when I was alone, I obsessed about it constantly, like I was trying with all my might to avoid some imaginary past version of myself who I don't think actually ever existed. Ultimately, I did okay--it was just harder than it needed to be.

And the sleep. The hostel was nice enough (cheap), but I was unable to rest well there. When I got to the hotel on Thursday, I did okay, but I was paranoid that I would miss my cab in the morning at 6:15 (the wake-up call, predictably, wasn't made). We were caught in the rain/snow on Saturday, and by the time I got onto the plane on Sunday night, I was shivering horribly, complicated by my ears being unable to adjust to the pressure. I slept and slept upon getting back to MK, switching out bedsheets and t-shirts as I soaked them in sweat.

I woke up this morning feeling just as bad, but willed myself to work as I needed to prepare for my classes tomorrow. The shower and new clothes, followed by lots of cold, flu, and pain drugs, snapped me out of it and I am feeling about 85% now.

In spite of my sickness, I found out today that the metaphor association I am a member of accepted (most of) my application to cover the cost of the flights, so I have still only used half of my research budget. Not sure what I will do with the rest, but it's nice to still have.

I came home to my family, too. My little world that I always feel I abandon when I leave. You get the sense that things are a bit different when Dada isn't around. I'm back now and normalcy resumes. Dada doesn't put up with crying; Dada wants you to put away your toys now, not later.

What lies ahead is anyone's guess. I'm happy to have had the experience, and see, if only for a moment, another reality. Another potential reality.
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