30 December 2007

Flyin' birds down south tour, Day 7

I don't know what happened to the good weather, but now it is snowing.

29 December 2007

Flyin' birds down south tour, Day 7

My father-in-law is tending a rice paddy at the top of the world. We got in the car and drove up for about 10 minutes. It is carved into the side of a mountain with no people living above it. It is an incredible place. I forgot my camera so the cell phone will have to suffice for now:

27 December 2007

Flyin' birds down south tour, Day 5: The in-laws

We have arrived in Yoko's father's hometown, a quaint, small town in the middle of nowhere. This leg of the trip has been good so far, although the trip in was a little bit too much fast driving, winding roads, and screaming baby for me. I am alive, everyone else is alive. More when I can get the blog fixed.

26 December 2007

Flyin’ birds down south tour, Day 3: Hiroshima

We made the trip up from Fukuoka today and are now in Hiroshima City with Yoko’s dad. This is our third hotel room in three days, but we have managed better than expected. Having Yoko’s dad around is great–I really enjoy his company and he seems to be enjoying the baby’s. We ate Spanish food and drank, drank, drank to our hearts desire while talking about Marx and China.

The atomic bomb dome site is one of those places that I think all Americans should see. That might be a little dramatic, but its true. The use of the atomic bomb at the end of WWII highlighted one of the most subtly evil philosophies that is in the American ethos; that is, doing evil is acceptable if it is done to avoid more evil. You all know the argument about the bomb: American politicians decided to use the bomb to avoid greater loss of life that they felt would be inevitable if there was an invasion of Japan. Basically, we did the Japanese a favor.

This philosophy has never quite made sense to me. I guess it can sort be understood through twisted Christian theology in which one person suffers unjustly to save others. If not, I’m sure that someone will correct me. I can just imagine one of those Huckabee Republicans making that argument…

We went at dusk and I took some very good pictures that I will post some time. Tomorrow is on to Kochi and the in-laws house. More from there, I’m sure.

25 December 2007

Flyin' Birds Down South Tour, Day 2

I am now back in the land of my Japanese birth: Fukuoka. So many thoughts about so many things after the jump. For those of you only interested in the quickie and no self-introspection (which will probably also contain some 'bad' words and negative thoughts about organized religion), here is the only thing that matters. It is December 25th, and we have the window of the hotel room open to let in a bit of a breeze.

I am back in Fukuoka where I first came to Japan as an (depending on who is asking) English teacher or missionary. I believed in a lot of things when I came to Japan, and my first year in Fukuoka pretty much changed everything. So my return here, I expected, would be bittersweet. I had selfish objectives for returning, namely that I wanted everyone to tell me I had lost weight and my Japanese was very good because, let's face it, when I lived here I was fat and I spoke sloppy Japanese. My less selfish objective was that I wanted to speak to some of the people at the church who had really taken care of me while I was here without having to talk through a translator and maybe be able to thank them for everything.

Unfortunately, most of the people I was really close to have either left or were out of town this week, so the only people I ended up seeing were some of the church folks that I only knew a little bit. They did, however, all say what I wanted them to say and they were all much more interesting now that I can talk to them directly. We went out to lunch with the pastor from the church, who is quite possibly the sweetest man on the face of the earth, and had a very sweet conversation in which I was able to say, in some small way, thank you. So those goals were achieved.

We also had the goal of going out to the beach where I want my ashes tossed out when I die. I realize that this is a stupid and morbid thing for a 25 year old to think about, but I do think about it. This beach is where I used to study Japanese and walk and think about God. One time, I even waded into the water, up to my waist. I wanted to show Yoko, so we rented a car for a ridiculous amount of money and went out there for about five minutes. But it was completely worth it.

We also drove around where I used to live. I felt like I was looking for something, some sort of feeling that never quite came. It was weird how I remembered all the streets. I couldn't explain how to get there or where to turn or whatever, but I just knew when we were there. I think I was hoping for a nostalgic feeling, but all I really felt was a sense of familiarity with everything.

I have wondered, to Yoko, why is it that I ever left here? I know the answer, but its harder to understand now that I'm back. The black cloud that followed me around here lifted when I left for Niigata, but now that I am back, I feel like this is where I have belonged all along. Of all the cities in the world I have been to and the limited number I have lived in, Fukuoka is the best. It is beautiful. The people are polite, but not too polite. The sun is out in the winter and so are the people. You can eat ramen on the street and see plays. You have the mountains and the sea. It's all here.

I think we are all, to some extent, ruled by two things: our expectations and our disappointments. All of this is tied into these things: what I wanted, what I got, what I regret, what I don't. I don't regret leaving Fukuoka--now I have a wife and baby, Japanese ability, a much better developed sense of self, a masters degree, and twenty less pounds of body weight. But I regret leaving Fukuoka. And everything that I left to achieve has disappointed me in one way or another.

I finally realize that's it is that way with everything I have ever experienced in life. And it will be that way with everything I experience in the future.

Anyway, it's good to be back.

23 December 2007

Calls it

Just as I predicted, it is now a mere 12 hours before our flight leaves for the ‘Flyin’ Birds Down South’ tour, and we have, predictably, done very little to prepare. My wife is now in the kitchen, getting some kind of food to eat for dinner, but there seems to be little sign of packing. I’m not really one to talk, although I did manage to, after wasting about half the day on YouTube, apply for a part-time job in January and February that may allay all my traveling expenses to Laos and Spain next year.

I also managed to make my iTunes library very, very respectable. All the songs have a tag. All the songs have artwork. They look good. Real good.My wife got me the new record (‘orbital period’) from my favorite Japanese band, BUMP OF CHICKEN. Oh, it’s good. They are sort of like the Japanese U2, only less preachy. They are also coming to Niigata City on April 12th, and maybe, just maybe, Yoko and I will go together to enjoy our first area rock show, sans the baby. This would be magnificent.

I was hoping to write a long post recapping this year, and all its ups and downs, and I still might given that I will be killing time at the in-laws. First born babies, revolutions in Dhaka, and cups of coffee. Maybe I will wax sentimental, but until then, I’m sure I should be helping Yoko pack.

20 December 2007

The waiting is over

Listen up, all of you interested in the mundane details of my life. Some updating is coming down:
  • Me, the wife, and the baby are moving to Shibata on February 23rd and 24th or March 2nd and 3rd, it appears. This is about a month sooner than we thought, but the apartment is open, so we can go, save some money and start settling down before we both go back to work.
  • I have a new iPod. It's black, and it has changed my life.
  • I will be in Laos/ Thailand from March 19th to the 25th, give or take a day.
  • We are leaving on our 'Flyin' Birds Down South' Tour on Monday and will be gone until January 3rd. I will be bored a large portion of the time, so please look forward to a lot of pictures of me, alone in the mountains of Kochi Prefecture, looking for the world between worlds, made famous in Haruki Murakami's 'Kafka on the Shore'.
  • We let the baby into the kitchen.
All this means that my hours, days, weeks of waiting, waiting, waiting for something to happen are just about over.

On the new iPods, you can use the fascinating 'cover flow' feature, which is awesome, unless about 30% of your MP3's are from obscure places, labels or bands. Then you just get the annoying music note mark. So I spent the last couple of days getting my I-tunes library in shape. I scoured the web, built my own icons for some, and figured everything out. The result is a very, very respectable collection.

18 December 2007

Been around the world and I, I, I–I can’t find my baby

I spent yesterday writing and rewriting and reading and watching the baby crawl around the kitchen. Hopefully I will finish my revisions sometime today, but there’s not telling, really.

I’m obsessed with cause and effect. I think about it all the time. Today, one of the teachers at school asked a class of students who are obviously not interested in the class, who have never in the 30 plus times we’ve had class asked a question, ‘Don’t you have any questions?’ ::long pause:: ‘Mr. Watanabe, don’t you have any questions?’ ::Mr. Watanabe mumbles something:: ‘Okay then. Let’s move on.’

Now, why in the world does this teacher insist on asking the students to do something that they obviously are not trained to, interested in, or able to do? Then don’t ask questions in class–even I can see that its not an essential part of Japanese high school class culture. But the teacher continues to ask, continues to treat the class without seeming to consider what the effect of his teaching style is.

Maybe its one of those mysterious Japanese things that I’m not supposed to get because I’m a foreigner, but I don’t think so. I suspect the teacher thinks they should ask questions so he encourages them to do so. But his way of encouraging does not get the effect he wants. If he really wanted the effect, he has to change his cause. But he never does.

This sounds familiar. Doing something half-assed not because you really want to do it, but because you think it should be done. Form over substance will get you these sorts of results, I think. And I’m pretty frustrated with it.

17 December 2007

Hold it right there, Mr. Big Head

My excitement about getting my first major publication was dulled by a note from the chief editor of the journal who wrote back to me yesterday to say, basically, I disagree with the reviewers and although your article is still provisionally accepted, there are about 150 changes I want you to make. 145 of these changes are tiny, five of them are going to take some time. I hope we can get something we mutually agree upon by the end of this week. If not, it won’t come out until April. That’s fine though. A pain in the ass, but fine — he is right on about 149 of his comments.

15 December 2007


My first major journal publication!
It is a pleasure to provisionally accept your manuscript entitled ""but sorry about my blabbing": A CASE STUDY IN BLOG DISCOURSE" for publication in the Journal of Computer- Mediated Communication... I would like to publish this mansucript in my upcoming January 2008 issue of JCMC.

13 December 2007

Kanji of the year

The winner is 偽 or 'false'. Basically, there has been a lot of problems with this in 2007. Next year the Kanji should be 大場馬.

I didn’t do it

Yoko and I watched the most compelling Japanese film about the justice system in this country. It centers around a guy who gets falsely accused of feeling a lady up on the train. Given that the Japanese system has basically no due process, the guy is kept in prison, lied to by the police, and repeatedly pressured to plead guilty. He insists on taking the case to trial, has all sorts of evidence that the police acted inappropriately, on his own finds a witness from the train who says he is innocent… and is found guilty and has to go to jail. It’s such a great film in that sense. They build it all up, you’re waiting for the innocent verdict, and nothing. The film ends with an image of the prison.

Well, the story is mostly compelling because it is based on a true story. The conviction rate in Japan is 99.9%. There are no juries and the judge works (it seems) closely with the police. The police do what they want, say what they want, make the evidence they want. And the courts are useless for protecting the wrongly convicted.

A friend of mine was stopped coming out of a 7-11 last week by a woman asking him where he was from and what he was doing. She disappeared for a second, and then he found himself surrounded by eight men in dark suits asking him where he was from and what he was doing. They asked if he spoke Japanese and he said no, and they continued to question him in Japanese. When they tried to put him into a car, he protested and finally someone told him that they were the police. Apparently something had happened with a high school student–they didn’t tell him what–and the criminal had brown hair, a black jacket, and ‘a strange voice’. So they found the foreigner. He finally was able to convince them that he hadn’t done anything and they let him go. But what if he hadn’t? Or if he had misunderstood the Japanese. He could be in jail without a charge and I wouldn’t know it.

This happened to a Chinese student at the university. The head of the department accused her of stealing something. She was held in prison for 30 days without being charged. They looked for evidence for 30 days, found nothing, and released her, having ruined her life.

There is some positive change on the horizon as they will be introducing the jury system in 2009, I think. We’ll see if that changes how things are done.

I appreciate the US justice system a little more these days. There are parts of it that are unfair and we are doing the same sort of things to ‘terrorist’ suspects, but at least when it comes to crime in the States, you are innocent until proven guilty. And reasonable doubt means something. It’s like OJ. Yeah, OJ killed those people, but the police planted evidence on him. And that is a no-no. I would rather have a killer free on the streets from lack of evidence than have a person wrongly imprisoned.

10 December 2007

Obama, Huckabee, and don't get AIDS next year

Just watched the Oprah/ Obama thing from the weekend. It was pretty hot if you didn't see it. I like how the NY Times contrasted it with Chelsea Clinton coming out for her mom. Yeah, Chelsea Clinton. She really fires up a crowd. And, as I suspect, she like everyone else under the age of 45 probably supports Obama.

That is, of course, unless you believe in Jesus, in which case you have to vote for Mike Huckabee, regardless of whether you also believe that gays and other people with AIDS should not be locked up together in some Flew of the Cuckoo's Nest madhouse. God, I hope the GOP runs Huckabee. Or Gulliani. Or Romney. Any of them would be great. Thompson too. The only person that might have a snowballs chance in hell (idiom) against Obama would be McCain, but he doesn't hate immigrants enough, nor does he want to attach live wires to the balls of terrorists. This, apparently, is pretty un-American.

08 December 2007

Daddy at home

With Yoko at the dentist, I am at home, playing daddy at home for the morning. So far, I've completed some important tasks:
  • Baked bread
  • Burned a bunch of incense
  • Cleaned mold off of the window
  • Tired to put baby down for a nap
  • Baby-proofed bookshelf
  • Did laundry
  • Played with baby
Now, I am blogging and the baby is sitting next to me on the floor complaining. Now that she is starting to crawl, everything is a threat and she is quickly bored. Today, toys will not sate her — only sitting in my lap. Ah, yes. The apple. I think I've bought myself about five minutes. No, no, that didn't work. She keeps dropping it. And coughing and — ugh, hold on. ::ten minutes elapse::

There are several things we should all thank our parents for. The ability to dress ourselves and the ability to use the toilet are at the top of that list. Think of how horrible you life would be if you never mastered those skills. I'll tell you, it'd be horrible. You always hear people thanking their parents for teaching them to be strong or to love people or whatever. I'm thankful that I know how to put my socks on. And not slap people in the face when I'm excited.

The dentistry in Japan is awful. Just awful. They continue to destroy my wife's teeth and take our money. I've been pretty pissed the last couple of days about the whole thing. I'll try not to bring it up here.

My application date for choice number one for doing my PhD is due 14 days earlier than I thought. This is good news. It means less waiting. This could be the apex (the beginning of the Stephen Epoch) of everything I've worked for.

06 December 2007

Led Zeppelin

I have one memory of Led Zeppelin playing on an awards show in the mid-90s. I remember seeing it and thinking, that was so heavy. It was the heaviest thing I had ever heard. Now, older, colder, and more worldly, it sounds less hard than I remember, but still pretty fucking hard.

05 December 2007

Obama is a liar

I mean, he wrote an essay about how he wanted to be President in KINDERGARTEN! I mean, doesn't this make sense to anyone else?! This guy is FULL of bullshit. Here's Obama ten years ago:
‘[Obama] said no -- at some point he'd like to run for the U.S. Senate. And then he said, 'Possibly even run for president at some point.'
And the asshole in kindergarten:
Iis Darmawan, 63, Obama's kindergarten teacher, remembers him as an exceptionally tall and curly haired child who quickly picked up the local language and had sharp math skills. He wrote an essay titled, 'I Want To Become President,' the teacher said.
God, this guy is so SLICK! It's like, everything he says is just a joke. He's been tall, curly headed, and LYING since he was five. That's it. It's over. I'm supporting Clinton.

The rock music of the rocks

I rented some CD's:
"Reasonable Doubt" Jay-Z
"Blood on the Tracks" Bob Dylan
"Blonde on Blonde" Bob Dylan
"All That You Can't Leave Behind" U2
"Let It Be" The Beatles
"Hard Day's Night" The Beatles
"Never Mind the Bollocks Here's the Sex Pistols" Sex Pistols
I'm embarrassed by the U2 record, but I was feeling a bit nostalgic, brought on as it is by a dream. I think my nostalgia is sated, however. So far, my favorite is Blonde on Blonde. I think there is time for that to change. "Reasonable Doubt" is okay. Not quite "Blueprint", but it's okay.

03 December 2007

Ideas are good virtues

Kinda makes you want to do research with kids:
E: What sort of thing is time?
C: It’s something that you can’t see. Like my mom gets up in the
morning and she just knows what time it is. And she looks at the clock, something like that.
E: What is an idea?
C: It’s something that you think or that you know. It’s kinda like a virus, but it’s not bad. It’s good.
The children were invited to participate in a storytelling game, and introduced to two puppets (Elmo and Cookie Monster) that would help them answer questions. The experimenter ran three test trials to show how the puppets would help; these trials also served as a screening task. In the test trial, the experimenter presented the child with a solid-colored ball and asked the puppets the color of the ball. Each puppet produced a different color label (The ball is red vs. The ball is green), and one of the labels matched the color of the ball. The child was then asked to choose the puppet with the correct answer. The task was repeated three times with differently colored balls, and children who chose the puppet with the correct label at least twice continued the study. Only two 4-year-old children failed the task. Data were gathered from two more children—one per language—to replace these two children.
From "Metaphors We Move By: Children’s Developing Understanding of Metaphorical Motion in Typologically Distinct Languages" in Metaphor and Symbol 22 (2), by Seyda Özçalkan


This is the Krispy Kreme on the South Terrace of Shinjuku.

This is the wait time to get in.
I asked my wife to explain. She couldn't.

01 December 2007

Father-in-law saves lives of daughter, son-in-law, granddaughter

You might remember our earlier mentioned epic road trip that was to take part at the end of December. This road trip, although certainly epic, was looking to be difficult. Very difficult. Being optimistic and more importantly cheap, I was thinking it was going to be okay, but a phone conversation between my father-in-law and wife last night ended with the exchange of some flight coupons that will make flying to Fukuoka and Kochi (Yoko’s hometown) 50% less than it would without the coupons. This is saving our lives because from instead of traveling for 24 hours, we only have to travel 2 hours.

So we’ll have a new kind of epic. A two hour epic.

30 November 2007

The ambiguity of language/ reality

From the Journal of Metaphor and Symbol 1 (1), "From the Marble Mass of Language, A View of the Developing Mind" by David S. Palermo:
If we take the position that meaning originates within rather than without, we are saved from a search for the true meaning of the world. But, unfortunately, we are faced with the equally difficult theoretical task of accounting for how people create their meanings for the world, how meanings develop, how we can share meanings, and a number of other perplexing issues. Changing the question does not solve the problems; it only opens new perspectives that may light the path to solutions.
I should have more to say about this. I don't. Obviously metaphor and ontology are going to do a delicate dance through my heart.

My love is a fever

More from the Journal of Metaphor and Symbol 1 (1), “From the Marble Mass of Language, A View of the Developing Mind” by David S. Palermo:
A metaphor differs from a literal statement, at least in part, because a comparable literal statement may be judged in terms of its truth, whereas a metaphor engenders a judgment about a new meaning. Thus, if someone says, "The zebra is a horse," the listener is likely to say, "No, that is not true"; that is, such a statement is treated as a literal sentence and is responded to in terms of its truth value. If Shakespeare, however, writes, "My love is a fever," the reader does not respond in terms of truth but in terms of generating the meaning Shakespeare was attempting to convey. If we think of metaphor as the creation of a new meaning from the merging of two conventionally unrelated meanings, we can begin to ask questions about the nature of the emergent meaning in terms of the constraints imposed by the unrelated meanings, the context in which the metaphor is created, the developmental characteristics of the person creating or comprehending the meaning, and, most important, the characteristics of the abstract dimensions and generative rules used to achieve the meaning.

29 November 2007

11 days

I only have eleven days of work at my high school until the winter break. This is a strange feeling. I also have less than 50 days left at this school, period. This is a little sad, I think, but also makes me incredibly happy as I am ready to move on. No more conversation classes with people trying to take advantage of me. No more making small conversation with teachers who don't understand what I'm saying. And on to a new set of problems.

We did get into a daycare in Shibata, which is they say seven minutes from our new apartment. This is acceptable, I guess.

I downloaded a load of articles from "Metaphor and Symbol" as my subscription through the University of Birmingham is going to run out one of these days. Tons of interesting things to look at.

November 2 remember, Day Two: Part 2

My presentation went okay. Not great — got a little lost a couple of times. I wasn't really nervous until my dissertation supervisor showed up and sat down in the front row. Anyway, about 15-20 people showed up but the room was super small so there were people standing in the back and I felt good about it. I should have thought a little bit more about how I was going to frame it. Winging the whole thing had gone really well in Bangladesh, but maybe that had something to do with the PowerPoint crutch.

This happened after a meeting with my potential PhD supervisor from Birmingham that was absolutely incredible. We sat out in the sun and talked about metaphors for like eighty minutes. It sounds like getting in Birmingham is likely, very likely, to happen, and she is also going to help me out with my application to the Open University, which is my number one choice. All this good news, very good news.

I have been meeting tons of people that I know from the Internet only. Men who turn out to be women. British people that I thought were American. It's crazy. It also looks like there will be a place for me in Japan for a long time, if I choose to stay here. Although I do feel a bit like a wee nerdling in a crowd of giant nerds, I will keep trying my best.

27 November 2007

Revising the text, taking the pill

I'm not obsessed with hip hop music, it's just what's been on my mind lately. Everything seems much more urgent than everything else I have been listening to. Indie rock is such a joke right now. What else am I supposed to do.

My revisions are revising me, actually. Really taking me to the cleaner's. Looking at other papers in this journal, however, I feel like I will be in pretty good company if this article ever gets out there. If it doesn't, then I will love it.

Here is one problem about teaching English in Japan: Your students are also your customers. So if they don't show up to class, you cannot get paid. You have to make them happy as consumers, not as students. If they quit, you lose money, they don't get a bad grade. I'm going to be happy to be out of this game.

26 November 2007

Back, and in pain

I am back in Niigata and I have a killer headache. And I lost a bunch of stuff in Tokyo. My new headphones were on the train with me. I was using them with my Shuffle. I have my Shuffle. I have no headphones. This can't be good for anyone.

The trip was a total success. Had a great time. Really, really great time.

25 November 2007

November to remember, Day 4: Slips off into the night

The conference is just about wrapping up, and I had a pretty successful time. I had a particularly really good time hanging out with the Birmingham Alumni last night, shouting at one another and talking about the world as it is. I met a guy who is basically me in in 12 years (or where I hope to be in 12 years), so that was encouraging. It sounds like I am making the right choices to do what I want to do, and although I'm not quite as intelligent as I thought I was, I think I have enough to do what I want to do.

I walked from Shinjuku to the hotel last night at one in the morning. It was stunning. More later, I'm sure.

24 November 2007

November to remember, Day 3: Much less to write home about

Well, after feeling like I was at the top of my game yesterday, today I have come crashing down, in small ways. I was like, Well, I guess I was just playing with legos this whole time while all these other guys are building skyscrapers. I also met a guy with tenure at Waseda (Waseda being the Harvard of Japan). Waseda, I said, Wow. How's that? Oh, it's okay, he said.

They are a little bit older, so I guess that gives them a little leg up. But still. I am back in my place.

Ron Carter, great applied linguist from Nottingham, gave a pretty good talk today and I went to a meet and greet afterwards to ask a question. At the meet and greet, there were about twenty other self-important people asking self-important questions, and it took me about 30 minutes to finally say, Excuse me, this is sort of off topic, but do you think there will even be a distinction between written and spoken discourse in 20 years? To which he responded, Great question, and then sort of disagreed with something he had said in a paper earlier this year. Anyway, it was nice to be a self-important academic for about 5 seconds. And for Ron Carter to say I asked a good question.

23 November 2007

November to remember, Day Two: More on the game

It's looking to be another beautiful day in Tokyo. I gotta take a shower and go register, but I woke up this morning to an e-mail I had been dreading and waiting for: JCMC - Decision on Manuscript ID JCMC-07-18. This is the journal draft of my dissertation which I submitted to the Journal of Computer Mediated Communication, my first 'real' journal submission of research to a respected academic journal. I had to revise the manuscript three times just to get it to the reviewers, so my hopes were a little low.

Well, the good news was that it wasn't rejected, and the bad news is that it has to go through yet another revision. The two reviewers were helpful, but it looks like they had some conflicting things to say:
Overall, there is some issue with flow. Sentences are often choppy and not always clear.

This article is beautifully-phrased and authoritatively researched. The author writes extremely well.
So what do I do exactly? One reviewer, the more positive one said:
Although the evidence offered here is not adequate to support a stand-alone argument, the point is insightful, as is the analysis. Thus the article should definitely be published, whether or not it is reframed as I suggest.
It's not clear whether they mean in this journal or just anywhere. So I gotta revise and resubmit, hopefully getting a decision before I apply to the PhD programs in the spring.

Anyway, I'm off to listen to a bunch of academics talk about self-evaluation. I know, I know, riveting.

22 November 2007

November to remember tour, Day One

I am now in Tokyo, sitting in my on-site accomodations for the JALT conference. Big things are about to happen, I’m sure. Until they do, I can look out over the trees of the park next door into the high rises of Shinjuku and think, this is just about right. But I have heard it is Thanksgiving in the States, so to celebrate, I am going to pizza dinner with an American of Lutheran Missionarial persuasion. Yes, I know all of the Lutheran missionaries in Japan, and no, you cannot have their numbers.

Does living abroad make you a better candidate for President?

From Obama:
"A lot of my knowledge about foreign affairs isn't just what I studied in school -- I studied international relations when I was in college -- It's not just the work I do on the Senate foreign relations committee. It's actually having the knowledge of how ordinary people in these other countries live."
Clinton, again, not quite getting it, said:
"Voters will have to judge if living in a foreign country at the age of 10 prepares one to face the big, complex international challenges the next president will face," Clinton said. "I think we need a president with more experience than that, someone the rest of the world knows, looks up to and has confidence in."
And Obama gets a response right, for once:
"I mentioned that one of the reasons that I got it right when it came to Iraq was because I lived overseas when I was a child," he said. "It gives me some judgment and perspective around what other people think about America and how they might react or respond when we make some of the decisions that we do."

"Of course, both the Republicans, in their talking points, as well as Sen. Clinton said, 'Well, I don't think that what Sen. Obama did when he was 10 years old is relevant to our national security.' I didn't say that."
Obama nailed this one, finally. He mentioned Republican Talking Points, which is bullshit but a coy move to undercut Clinton. He attacked on judgement and that is really his strong point. Everyone is talking about experience. I say, screw experience if you have bad judgment.

It occurs to me that the reason Obama will win and Clinton won't is that he is able to frame himself and she is not. Everyone has already made up their minds about her. Obama still has the possibility of convincing everyone that he is the best candidate.

And you know what, yes, living abroad is better experience than talking with foreign leaders as first lady. You get to see how other people view the US from the ground, not from what point of view that the government wants you to see it. Being first lady is not training for the Presidency. Sleeping across the hall from Bill Clinton doesn't make you Bill Clinton.

21 November 2007

Goes to Tokyo

I’m sorry I haven’t been up to the challenge this week. I’ve been working, registering the baby for daycare, preparing for my trip to Tokyo, and drinking Mexican liquor.

Now, I'm going to go to Tokyo for the long weekend and attend the JALT conference, and present a paper/ I am also meeting with a potential PhD supervisor and doing some alumni duties for Birmingham because I am an alumnus now. I’ll have the Internet in my room so more blogging from there, I’m sorry. Maybe thoughts on love and why Yoko and I got engaged after knowing each other for only 9 months. Maybe something on how fucking on fire Obama is these days.

18 November 2007

15 November 2007

Epic road trip; Cock-eyed optimism

Our little trip to Mito the other weekend was just a practice run for a real epic road trip Yoko and me and the baby are taking over Christmas break. We're seeing all the big sites. The whole Southern half of Japan, basically. Here's a rundown.

  1. From Niigata to Fukuii Prefecture. This is on an overnight ferry where we can ride and sleep, the best of both worlds. We will arrive in Fukuii well rested and ready for the longest portion of the trip.
  2. From Fukuii to Fukuoka. This is something like 750 km and will take about 10 hours I think. The baby will be crying, Yoko and I will be irritated with each othe, but if the sun shines on us/ the god's are pleased, we will arrive in Fukuoka in time for a Christmas Eve Service at my old church.
  3. From Fukuoka to Kochi. This involves another ferry and some scenic driving.
  4. From Kochi to Nishinomiya. This is to see Yoko's grandmother for a couple of days.
  5. From Nishinomiya to Niigata. Through the snowy Japanese Alps, back in time for a class at 4:15 on January 4th.
Only those who attempt greatness can succeed in becoming great.

13 November 2007

Obama stays out!

This is a disaster:
Edwards comments came after the Grinnell College's "Scarlet and Black" newspaper reported a student's account of being pulled aside before a campaign stop in Newton, Iowa, and asked to pose a specific question.

"They were canned," Muriel Gallo-Chasanoff said in an interview with the newspaper. "One of the senior staffers told me what [to ask]."

Gallo-Chasanoff said she was told the campaign wanted the question, about what Clinton would do for the environment, to be asked by a college student. She said Clinton was prompted to call on her as well as another student seen in conversation with staffers before the event.

The Clinton camp acknowledges they suggested a student ask a certain question, but said Clinton did not know which questioners she was calling on during the event.

"It was news to me," Clinton told reporters, "and neither I nor my campaign approve of that, and it will certainly not be tolerated."

And file this under WTF:
Speaking at an event in Trident Technical College, in North Charleston, South Carolina, Monday, former President Clinton said his wife could take the criticism, The Associated Press reported.

"Even though those boys have been getting tough on her lately, she can handle it," Clinton said, according to the AP.

Those words

I was looking through my downloaded podcasts yesterday and saw that Larry King had interviewed Duane 'Dog' Chapman last week. For those of you with lives, Dog is the latest in a long line of white celebrities that have been caught saying nigger on tape. The Dog sort of got screwed because it was his son who made the tape of him saying, in part:
I don't care if she's a Mexican, a whore or whatever. It's not because she's black, it's because we use the word nigger sometimes here. I'm not gonna take a chance ever in life of losing everything I've worked for for 30 years because some fucking nigger heard us say nigger and turned us into the Enquirer magazine. Our career is over! I'm not taking that chance at all! Never in life! Never! Never!
Yeah, it's ironic, I'm sure. But in this interview Dog said something interesting: There are words that should never be used by anyone at anytime. Now, there is a statement loaded with ramifications. These words that no one should use — who decides what they are? Dog does? The Catholic Church? Al Sharpton? Obviously, whomever you pick, you're going to have problems. Now, can I think of a time when I would want to use the n-word? Not really, but why should we tie our hands?

Unfortunately for Dog, language can't be made to behave properly all the time. Once you impose restrictions on it, it bucks them because language is a huge, evolving organism made up of trillions and trillions of daily uses. And individual use, even if you impose penalties or laws or societal rules, cannot be restricted. So maybe Dog should be more careful, but let's not pull the plug on a whole word over it.

12 November 2007

Trip to 水戸: Thoughts on the Pacific Ocean, among other things

I have been on several epic road trips in my life.

One to Ohio to see Radiohead. One to Birmingham, Alabama to see a reunited Hum. And one to Kentucky to see the Magnolia Electric Co.. America, in geographic and socio-political terms, lends itself to road trips. Gas is cheap, and the roads are free and largely straight. You can travel 500, 600, 700 miles in a day and be okay, more or less.

Japan, in geographic and socio-political terms, does not lend itself to road trips. If you take a look at Japan on a map, you can see that Japan is really just a sliver of mountains broken off from the mainland of Asia. Traveling from one side of 本州 (Honshu, the main island of Japan) to the other has been historically full of danger. Now, there are highways that have been cut into and through the mountains, but you pay the price for it. We traveled just about 300 km each way and paid 6250 yen each way. That's about $110 for 400 miles. Gas was another 6500 yen..

More than the price, the driving is just not terribly relaxing. The roads are narrow — in some places, you'll have four lanes, but in about half of the trip to this weekend, it was two lane. You're traveling over 80 km/hr, with only about a meter of asphalt between you and the oncoming traffic. This wouldn't be a problem if it wasn't mostly mountain driving where you are climbing up and down hills, through long tunnels, ten kilometers or more, and around sharp corners. Add fog and rain or snow, and you have to stop about every hour and half to unwind and pray.

We came through the mountains yesterday, out of Fukushima Prefecture and it all made sense. There, spread out like a blanket, was the Pacific Ocean. I always think when I see the Pacific Ocean that if I could just walk — walk straight across it — I would eventually be home. And all that is between me and the States is really just a bunch of water.

Trip to 水戸 3

These geese are incorrigible!

11 November 2007

Trip to 水戸 2

/> This weekend, we went out to 水戸市 (Mito City) to see Yoko's brother and his family. We had a wicked good time, going to gardens, playing Wii, eating meat, playing Wii, going to a bike shop, and playing Wii. Oh, and also feeding swans. The baby did very well in the car, much better than expected. More thoughts on driving across Japan and the Pacific Ocean tomorrow. Until then, please: Enjoy all the photos.

Trip to 水戸 1

We are back from 水戸. More later:

10 November 2007

Talented women

In addition to be a skilled researcher, Yoko, apparently, also knits quite well. I will be sitting in here, watching endless episodes of South Park, and she will be in the living room creating things like this:


This month, Yoko was published in the The Journal of Japanese Association of Occupational Therapists. The baby rejoices! Her (Yoko's not the baby) research was about old people and teeth; namely, the more teeth an old person has, the less chance they have of being crazy.

Goes now to 水戸

I've been busy reciting the alphabet and working on my research proposal and working on my presentation for the JALT conference in a couple of weeks.

Now, we are traveling across Japan to see Yoko's brother and his partner, both photo'd below. Yoko's family is the best. All of them. Couldn't ask for better in-laws and I am wicked excited about seeing the family again. A couple of scheduled posts should come up and I will hopefully be able to fill you in once we get there.

08 November 2007

My life as basically hardly ever working

I'll be the first to tell you, most of the time, I have it pretty easy. Today, I came to work to see the December schedule for our school posted up on the big board. Again, I will not have to work for 7 days in December because the students will be taking exams. I also found out that the last day of classes is December 21st, leaving me with (at most) 10 and a half days of work in December. A couple of those days will also only be an hour. Will I get paid fully? Yes. Will I also receive a year-end bonus? Yes. Will I feel guilty about not working? No. Unfortunately, if anyone wants to know the secrets of my success, I can't tell, lest you steal my jive.

The moon, apparently

This map is of the dark side of the moon, which here looks more like a Jackson Pollock action painting, its riotous colours corresponding to geological materials and phenomena. Many of the colour spots are circular in nature, reflecting the large number of meteorites that have impacted on the lunar surface, unprotected by an atmosphere, over many, many centuries.

07 November 2007

Do or do not

This card came from my parents. It plays music. Hilarity ensues.

I hate magnetic poetry,

but I do like magnetic words. The can reveal grammar structures and show what is/ is not interchangeable (in terms of grammatical function) in language. On the refrigerator none-the-less.

Metaphor brainstorm 2

I guess the problem I'm having here is that I'm not sure what 'reality' is exactly. Or if we can even talk about 'reality' as any one thing at all. More Heidegger to misunderstand, I'm sure.

More handwritten blogging + Metaphor brainstorm 1

Look, I'm sorry Norah Jones

My iPod shuffled a bunch of cover art for some reason. This is by far the funniest one that's come up.

04 November 2007

A mixed bag: Sunday afternoon

Today included a big high point in my November so far when Yoko gave me these Bose in-ear headphones in celebration of finishing the MA. Now, earbuds are by and large a joke when it comes to deep, rich bass, but these bad boys are fucking incredible. Especially now that my hip hop collection is growing by leaps and bounds, this is a very, very good add.

Also, I think I realized what I want to do when I grow up. I think I want to teach metaphor theory in an MFA program. I think this would be a great fit for me and might be something I could actually sell. There. Now, to make it happen.

03 November 2007

You know what I hate?

When politicians mess up the carrot on a stick metaphor and refer to carrots and sticks for terrorists states. Dude, no one wants a stick. Only the carrot. So let's stop talking about giving anyone a stick.

Uniquely Japanese

So in Japan, you are offered the unique opportunity to 'rent' CDs.  You 'rent' the CD for a week and then you bring it back. I wondered if this was too good to be true and finally I decided to 'rent' a CD. It's true. ¥330. You can also 'rent' a CD for only one day for much cheaper. No catch.

02 November 2007

This is the moment

Now that my dissertation has passed, I can publish it on the Internet and not worry about whether or not anyone reads it or likes it. But please, let me know how it makes you feel. How did the marker feel about it?
The conclusions reached, and the reconceptualization suggested in the conclusion demonstrates a superior understanding of the issues at play in the field and offers a sound groundwork for a way forward in light of the limitations of current models of discourse.

The grammar analysis is also top-rate, and the summary offers a welcome overview of the analysis. The author’s conclusion, on page 32, that “Inconsistency seems to be the most consistent element in the blog entries analyzed in this study.” Is as compelling as it is unique—rather than insisting that a pattern appear in the data, the author has recognized that unclear results have the potential to be as informative or more informative than clear-cut definitions or distinctions extracted from the data.

The last chapter is as compelling as it is original, particularly the alternative discourse cline on page 36 and the discussion surrounding it, and the observation on page 37 that if texts “…can be understood as closely related to each other without clear, defined distinctions, then discourse can [be] discovered as it is, rather than what it should be” is top-rate.

Taken as a whole this is a well organized and researched dissertation that represents a superior piece of scholarship at the MA level.

Oh my Obama!

Obama envisions new relationship with Iran. Clinton whines about the big boys picking on her.

01 November 2007

Little gifts

I got a nice little gift today in the form of one of the older teacher's forgetting that we had class in the second period. I did not talk to him about having the class, just sat at my desk, watching the world go by. I have big plans for the rest of the day, I can't be bothered.

These plans include going to the dentist for a three month check-up, having the earpieces replaced on my glasses, going to the bookstore, and teaching my community center class.

Now that I have my grades from Birmingham, I feel like a kind of weight has been lifted. Things are still up in the air, but it feels like I'm moving in a good direction (life as a journey) rather than dead in the water (life as war) at my current job. I've managed to stop worrying about it. Yesterday, Yoko and the baby and I went out and about for the whole evening, with no stress and no arguing. The baby freaked out in the restaurant even, but rather than getting frustrated, I managed to get her outside and just accept that she needed to get away from the people. And that it was okay. There was no rush, no problem, no reason to get angry at her or Yoko. She just needed a quieter place.

Marriage seems to be full of all oscillation (marriage as a machine or system). And I found myself looking at Yoko last night and thinking, 'You know, I really like this person' — almost as if we were still dating. What an odd thing, to realize again that you like your wife. Or to kiss wife like you have thousands of times before, and it to be new again. This is certainly a gift.

My brother gets it right?

My brother has been talking about the possibility of Hillary Clinton making a mistake, to which I have always responded, Pish-posh: ain't going to happen. Well, this revolutionary guard as terrorists vote and this article might prove him right. Maybe not that she is stumbling, but that she is forgetting about the base and fighting the wrong fight. Either way, if this is all a part of a larger plan by the Obama campaign, I'll tell you what, my hat is off to him.

Even Sully sort of recanted. 

31 October 2007


Andrew Sullivan nails it, I think:
As someone who thinks Obama is still the best bet for real change in this election, I kept feeling underwhelmed by his performance. You wait for him to go in for the kill ... and ... he ... never ... quite gets there. He seems to be possessed of an almost pathological high-mindedness, and an inability to encapsulate his arguments in ways that get traction against his opponents. There were times when his oratorical high-point was the word "actuarial." If this is how he performs after we're told he's taking the gloves off, Rudy Giuliani must be licking his chops. Goddamn it: stop being so fricking reasonable and above it all. His response to the Romney Osama-Obama smear was - sorry to say - pathetic. He can't get mad at these racist attacks? He had a great answer to the final UFO segment, and he got a few final cracks in against She Who Is Inevitable. But he needs to grow some balls fast.

Superbaby grows tooth, tries to show it off

30 October 2007

Master of my domain

Stephen Pihlaja is now Stephen Pihlaja, M.A. Yes, that's right my grades came in today and they could not have better. My dissertation got a distinction mark, which is wicked good news for my PhD application. Wicked good news because it proves that I can well write at that level, in 6 months less time than my peers.

28 October 2007


You know when you die usually they have a photo of you up by your casket? I was thinking that instead of having someone choose that photo for me, I would make it official that the following picture is the one I want you all to use, if I should meet my unfortunate demise at the age of 67.

Go get 'em, Jay

“I don’t think anybody would claim that Senator Clinton is going to inspire a horde of new voters. I don’t think it’s realistic that she is going to get a whole bunch of Republicans to think differently about her.”


“I’ve been amused by seeing some of the commentary out of the Clinton camp, where every time we point out a difference between me and her, they say, ‘What happened to the politics of hope?’ which is just silly.”

Q. Why is it silly?

A. “The notion that somehow changing tone means simply that we let them say whatever they want to say or that there are no disagreements and that we’re all holding hands and singing ‘Kumbaya’ is obviously not what I had in mind and not how I function. And anybody who thinks I have, hasn’t been paying attention. Hope is not ignoring differences or ignoring problems. As I said in my convention speech, hope is what you have in the face of difficulties, uncertainties and conflict. Being honest about those differences and conflicts, but believing that we can resolve them, not trying to pretend that they’re not there.”

27 October 2007

Hit and run

I was in a small traffic accident last night on my way home from work. I was doing my thing, driving down the street on my motorbike when some taxi driver, oblivious to the on-coming traffic decided to suddenly make a u-turn. By the time he saw me, it was too late and he hit the front of my bike. I didn't fall off luckily, but there was enough damage to my bike that we had to go to the police and now I have to do all this dreaded insurance work. Seriously, just look where you're going.

Other than that, things have been going okay. The baby got up at five today and is now sitting on Yoko's stomach, laughing at everything and farting.

It looks like I am going to be able to go to Laos and the Philippines in March for both of the conferences that I wanted to hit at little or no extra cost, as I can fly to Laos through the Philippines. This is good news not only for me, but also the good people of the Philippines.

24 October 2007

Applying for adulthood

Hey, I've been out and about doing adult things like trying to decide where the kid should go to nursery school and some other stuff. I'm not doing really great at being an adult, but I'm going to keep trying.

Watch this.

21 October 2007

I come here twice a week!

Morning in America

In Louisiana, none-the-less.
Jindal, the 36-year-old son of Indian immigrants, carried more than half the vote against 11 opponents. With about 87 percent of the vote in, Jindal had 53 percent with 588,002 — more than enough to win outright and avoid a Nov. 17 runoff.

20 October 2007

Yoko owns song about goats

Here, Yoko sings a song to Naomi. The gist of the song is: a white goat writes a letter to a black goat and the black goat eats the letter; the black goat, seeing that he has made a mistake, writes a letter back to the white goat, but the white goat eats the black goat's letter without reading it. The song can go on and on.

The best job

Hands down, the best job I have is teaching a group of mentally handicapped adults. Today we had a Halloween party and I did crafts. I usually suck at crafts, but with Yoko's help, we made some killer Jack o' lanterns. We trick-or-treated. We decorated cookies. All the the best of everything. And the smell of urine, though strong, did not discourage me from sitting close to anyone.

PumpkinsMonkey!Making pumpkins

Oh, yes

Saints be praised. 0.

More on Japanese identity crisis

This article in the Times is very good:
Mr. Sugiyama said that sumo was less a sport than a cultural heritage that needed to be protected from, among others, “hungry” foreigners from countries with lower standards of living.

“If you go to Africa or India or South America and look around, you’ll find large people,” Mr. Sugiyama said. “We’re in an age of overindulgence in Japan, so if you give them an inch, they’ll take a mile right away.”

19 October 2007

Love's Myths

You can sigh your images, scold Love's splintered syllables--and then?
Nothing. Above the tree line, the mountain snow never complains.
The dawn arrives in a train. Therefore, I awake like winter.
Love, these lines are made to blunder from grief to granite like dice.
-Rick Jackson

Laos gets owned!

Well, looks like I'm going to Laos in March!
Dear Stephen,
Thanks a lot for submitting your proposals for Laos. They are all accepted.
At least for the time being. Apparently, there is also a seminar going on in the Philippines before the Laos one and if they need people to go to the Philippines instead, I think I'll likely go there. But building up my CV, piece by piece.

Teaching Internet Discourse: Computer Mediated Communication and the future of the written word

Over the past thirty years, the computer has taken a prominent role in mediating discourse. Computer Mediated Communication (CMC) not only facilitates discourse, but also changes the way humans communicate with one another. This presentation will first discuss issues in CMC and what have been seen as salient features of CMC discourse by asking the critical question: How is language and interaction different on the Internet then it has traditionally been viewed? Second, we will discuss how to address CMC issues in the EFL classroom and how CMC text can be used to facilitate learning in the classroom. Finally, we will discuss the impact of CMC on developing countries and the possibilities CMC poses for language learners.

Teaching and the corpus: Developing worksheets for corpus studies

Since the advent of corpus studies in the last forty years, the fundamental ideas about the organization of language have been significantly challenged. Corpus data, for the language learner, is one of the most valuable resources available, but training on corpus usage still continues to be seen as a luxury rather than a necessity. This presentation will show how teachers can use data taken from the corpus to develop classroom activities that focus on using data to develop grammar knowledge rather than using textbooks to develop grammar knowledge. The presentation will focus on the practical aspects of making materials and provide ideas for teachers hoping to build worksheets based on corpus data with the goal of creating an environment of data-driven learning.

Speaking English as a skill: Motivating students, motivating teachers

For many students of English, study of language is a monotonous and boring endeavor. Teachers also often struggle with finding energy to develop new materials and making classrooms interesting. This presentation will focus on the importance of shifting two paradigms in language learning: knowledge acquisition vs. skill acquisition, and teacher-based learning vs. student-based learning. By reconceptualizing language learning in these two areas, teachers and students can begin to develop classrooms that focus on English for communication rather than English for knowledge. We will discuss practical ways in which teachers can develop engaging classrooms based on skill acquisition and student-based learning through classroom management and material development.

18 October 2007

Fukushima in two days

I uploaded the pictures despite not having my iMac. All the pictures can be viewed here.

Fukushima Prefecture is right next to Niigata Prefecture, in the middle of Honshu. It is pretty much all mountains and Aizuwakamatsu, the main city and home of some castle. We decided to go to stay in a 'pension' outside of Aizuwakamatsu. 'Pension', I'm told, is English for small cottage, but I've never heard that word before.

We drove up and went to the Castle first. I thought the baby looked a little bit like Winston Churchill. She was also genuinely angry a couple of times. We also took a kind of Christmas card photo (seen above). It makes me feel old and a bit like a sellout. I'm sure there will be no Christmas card, though.

We then went up to a farm on the top of a mountain to eat Genghis Kahn, which is basically just cabbage and mutton. It was great, they had great ice cream and met the goats. Yoko said, 'ヤギさんを見に行こうか' but I corrected her, 'ヤギさんに会いに行こう.' (a little verb humor for the Japanese speakers out there). Yoko sang a song about goats to me and the baby, but this computer won't download the video.

Then we went to the actual pension which was called 遊夢イン. It was pretty cool and had a private bath that you could use at no extra charge. There are no naked pictures of me, but I assure you, I did get naked and it was fabulous.

On the way home, we stopped at a lake and Yoko talked me into paying 2000 yen to ride in this turtle boat. The turtle boat was made in the '80's it seems, with no upkeep to it since then, although this sign says that the emperor (who was the crown prince at the time), rode the turtle boat in 1984. This boat, for me, symbolizes one thing that is important to understand about Japan after the 80's. When the Asian market crashed in the early '90's, everything in Japan froze. And this turtle boat is one of the frozen things, still pretending it's 1984 and the Crown Prince is riding, when in fact the speakers are broken, there are rips in the seats, and it is no longer worth 1000 yen a person.

Back at work, back in black

After being away for 8 days, I'm back at work. This might be soul-crushing to anyone else, but not me. In fact, I think I'm doing pretty good today, you know, for being at work.

17 October 2007


is a great film. I think.

Returns from Fukushima and Apple screws me

We are back from Fukushima and there are no pictures yet because I can't be arsed to load everything onto this computer and then load it back onto my i-Mac if or when it gets fixed. Fukushima was great. We all got naked and there were no Sharpeis or pictures taken, so please don't worry. Remember, this is a family-oriented blog.

So I was pissed about my i-Mac dying and then today, on my way to rent a movie, my i-Pod gave me the dreaded: Oh hell no, I thought, this can't be happening to me for a (seriously) fifth time. It was and it is. My iPod has also died and gone to hell apparently. The Apple store assures me that it's likely a hardware problem that I can have fixed at a 'genius' bar at a retail store. ::looks around rice fields and sees baby sucking fingers:: Ain't going to happen, support site, you asshole. My choices? I can always buy a new Apple product to last me a good 18 months.

Steve Jobs, you can take your jeans and tennis shoes and billions of dollars and eat it, as far as I'm concerned. The rest of us have stuff going on.

16 October 2007

Baby owns Fukushima, meets goat

The family and I are now in Fukushima Prefecture enjoying a little R&R as I have a couple of days off of work. It's been really, really great. Pictures forthcoming. I figured out the key to staying in a nice Japanese style inn (旅館 for those of you taking the Japanese proficiency exam this year). Opt out of the dinner. You pay through the nose and if you're anything like me, there will be lots of expensive raw fish that tastes the same as the inexpensive raw fish. Then you eat dinner out (we at this farm on the top of the world) and then go to the hotel. Two people, one night including private hot-spring bath: only 8000 yen. I know, I can't believe it either.

15 October 2007

Recall this

My computer may be under recall which is good news in that I won't have to pay for anything and bad news in that I won't have an excuse to find a new machine. It seems to me that moving the iMac will be next to impossible, so once it is set that we are going, it will likely be up for grabs. You will be the first to know. I would like to get an Intel Core Mac mini, with the best processor and most RAM, but little hard drive and then buy my own peripheral hard drive and monitor. Those bastards really soak you on the price of the monitor when you get a desktop computer.

I found the younger brother of an elementary school era friend of mine on Facebook. So many things I recall about his family's house and so many insecurities. His mother once told me that I was insecure and I wasn't sure what that meant. I just knew that it made me feel odd. Unsure of myself.

14 October 2007

And the headstones climbed up the hills

Today was going actually very well and then, as I was cleaning my space and making my cords more organized, I unplugged my computer. When I went to plug it back in, nothing. No power, no sound, nothing. I tried different outlets, still nothing. This is the second time this has happened, and before, they had to replace the cord. They did this free of charge as it was recalled. I am hoping for the same problem. Luckily, Yoko's i-Book is holding up quite well.

I took the baby out for a walk and as she was chatting away to herself, I thought, I suck at a lot of things, but being a dad has been okay so far. We are looking into nursery schools in case we end up staying in Japan and Yoko explained our choices. Number 1 is the Buddhist one which apparently is very strict and the children are very well-behaved, but a bit robotic. Our second option is a secular school that is not quite as strict as the Buddhist one, but the kids are still relatively well-behaved. Yoko says they have them watch TV before lunch and she doesn't like that very much. The third option is a school where the kids are completely out of control. Unfortunately, our church's nursery school looks to be closing its doors in two years and will be taking no new students. If we do end up going to England, we may just extend Yoko's maternity leave a couple more months and then quit. We'll see.

Speaking of England, I am thinking seriously of cutting back the schools I am going to apply to in the States to maybe only one. There's nowhere I really want to go and having a professor you want to study under seems key to writing a good Statement of Purpose. I'd rather not apply to a school where my Statement would read something like, 'Yeah, uh, you guys seem okay.'


Just finished watching a BBC documentary on the Nazis. Really, really interesting. It seems that from the beginning the Nazis, like the Japanese, didn't have the manpower to really do what they wanted to do: rule the world. They wanted to do it just by killing the people that they were taking over. Ron Paul just said that all empires fail because they go bankrupt... Interesting. Very interesting. He also says, the more difficult a problem is, the more local the solution should be.

CSS stylesheet gets owned

I finally figured out how to make my links more obvious in my posts. This is a great victory.

10 October 2007

In Rainbows

Apparently 'In Rainbows' is worth 3 pounds 45 pence to me. Listening to it, though, makes me think I didn't pay nearly enough. All the rock and roll, all the digital noise.

09 October 2007

Various Items, 10/09

Well, Fall is here, the baby is in footsy pajamas, and the Cubs have blown another opportunity. I am also trying to find a jacket that I can wear when I ride my 'hog', but this has led me to a series of frustrating questions involving exactly how much of a jacket I should get. This decision would be much easier if I knew whether I would need a real winter jacket in the next five years. Being that I am in the purgatory of academic life, I have no idea.

The purgatory of academic life is like none other.

I have also been thinking about communicators and how it sucks that we only listen to people who communicate well. There are all these people with great ideas that aren't good communicators, or who are too smart for the rest of us to understand. If only Heidegger had been good at making compelling action/adventure movies about Deisin. Frankly, I'm tired of everyone talking about how to communicate their message better: what about the fucking message?

The baby and I went out together without Mommy on Sunday afternoon and we did very well.

I have some time off in the next couple of weeks, so I'm hoping to get some writing done and a couple of proposals and an abstract nailed down and out to the perspective reviewers. We'll see what happens.

Seriously, the superbaby will not be exploited

06 October 2007


gets it right.

TM: Mostly I like the big scale of the city. But also people here know that one day soon there's going to be a catastrophe -- another big earthquake. The people here don't live in fear though. But that's why people want to enjoy today, now. Not the future. Not the history. Now is the most important thing. That's why everything changes so quickly, why everything is so unstable and so fast. Now I actually live in Saitama, a satellite area about an hour away. I really need to have a barrier around my territory. In Tokyo you cannot make your own space, or only a very small place. It's a young city.


The baby has taken to rolling, like she figured the process out entirely. Before, when she rolled, it was always sort of a fluke. She would get angry or whatever. Now, she knows: flop your ass over, tuck, and roll. She is no longer surprised by it either, so we have to be a lot more careful about where we do or do not lay her down. It's so funny who she relates to Yoko and I differently. She demands things of Yoko, squawking and getting upset. Whenever she sees me, she starts smiling and doing her little dance. This, I found out on Thursday, only lasts so long as Yoko was away for about three hours and two hours and fifteen minutes into Yoko being away, she freaked out and could not be consoled. When Yoko came back, she stopped crying immediately and fell asleep. The next morning, she had forgotten, but I was still hurt. 'What,' I said, 'You think you can just forget about all that freaking out last night? You owe me an apologize.' She just laughed and started up her baby chat.

I have been thinking a lot about my philosophy of parenting this week. So far, there is little to worry about, but I think my philosophy of parenting is going to be like my philosophy of pedagogy. I want to create a safe place for the baby to build all the skills she needs to make her own decisions when she is older. I don't want her to be anything but what she is compelled (as much as she can, from her personality and desire) to become. The rub, I think, is how much to control. If we raise her in Japan or the UK, she will be completely different. She will see different possibilities and be constrained in different ways.

More on this as it develops, but until she starts talking, we're gonna focus on keeping her from rolling off the bed.

05 October 2007

'Reality'; TV and a wicked hot tat

Friend of the show, Carlos Whittaker, recently got this shit tat'ed out of him (I hope I just coined a phrase). I waited like two months to see the whole thing and now its on the Internets. The piece (Paul's conversion) is pretty awesome and got me thinking, maybe I should get another Tweety Bird on my ankle....

04 October 2007

Am I a Socialist?

I don't think you should have the right to not have health insurance. Does that make me a Socialist?

I also don't think you have the right to drive a car without car insurance or not wear a helmet when you are riding a motorcycle. This certainly does not make me a Socialist.

What's the difference?

03 October 2007

Look, it's all about sex

I had this thought about metaphor and religion today. Those of you who were involved in a Christian, Evangelical movement will remember a song that had the following lyrics:
In the secret
In the quiet place
In the stillness
You are there
In the secret
In the quiet hour I wait only for you
Cause, I want to know you more

I want to know you
I want to hear your voice
I want to know you more
I want to touch you
I want to see your face
I want to know you more.
At the time I sang this song, eyes closed with my hands up in the air, thinking about nothing in particular, I was not aware of the metaphorical reality this song was pushing. It was about God, and that was sufficient. I mean, God did want to talk to me and the reason that I wasn't hearing anything when I was listening for him was that I wasn't doing it right and needed to try harder.

If you are not familiar with this song and are asked what it is about, you might come up with something about sex and lovers. Because when you look at the lyrics of the song, that is the metaphorical reality it creates: Knowing God is like knowing a lover.

The thing I realized today was why that was so powerful to me as a 17 year-old. I understood this experience, all the longing and not knowing and the desiring something I couldn't get, because I was also under the impression that sex and sexuality and women were this thing just out of reach, but always on my mind. I understood passion for something I didn't quite understand because I felt it every time I looked at whomever I had a yen for. And I really, really understood it when I got into a relationship where I was able to completely close to someone emotionally, but sex still remained taboo. That passion that drove the song and drove my sexuality were the same.

Now, older, colder I've realized that most of all of this is just smoke. The metaphor did a great job of creating passion (or tapping into a passion that I already understood), but it did not lead me to truth. Choose your metaphor: God as a father, God as a King, God as a savior. Connecting to a metaphor is not connecting to anything more than a metaphor, and anyone who tells you that your connection to the metaphor is evidence of anything is blowing smoke up your ass. It is just evidence that the metaphor resonates with you. Worse, when you confuse metaphor with the reality it represents, before you know it, you're fighting wars over religion.

01 October 2007

Finally, some good news:

From David Plouffe, Obama Campaign guy:
Last night our movement hit some landmark goals: more than 500,000 donations from more than 350,000 people.

We also got news yesterday from Iowa -- we're leading in the latest Newsweek poll of likely caucus-goers. Here's the breakdown:

Obama: 28%
Clinton: 24%
Edwards: 22%
And our lead climbs to 8 points when first and second choices are combined.
Maybe, just maybe...

October First

It's now October and I couldn't be happier. It's starting to get a bit colder and the baby has a bit of melancholy that we can't quite place. Although I suspect she is contemplating her own mortality, it probably has more to with a change in weather.

This weekend, we bought a new rug for the living room and I also, before going to bed last night, felt my Statement of Purpose come to me, as in a dream. It could not be stopped. What is truth, anyway.

Oh damn. The baby just threw up on the new rug.

29 September 2007

Rex Kwon Do

The baby has been wearing this sleeper that makes her look sort of like a practitioner of Judo. Every time she puts it on, I can't help saying, 'Bow to your sensei!' I've been saying this all week and Yoko finally asked me why I keep saying it.

27 September 2007

Various Items, 09/27

Hadman and I were sitting outside yesterday morning and we saw two crows confront another two crows. It was surreal. They pinned them down behind a wall and then pecked the shit out of them. There were feathers everywhere. When it was over, two of them seemed to have injured wings. I didn't think that other creatures did this to each other.

I know you're probably tired of hearing about my confusion relating to my future, but I am being pursued to take an instructors position at a private university in Niigata. If I take the job, I can do my PhD part time, but I will still be teaching English and still be living in Japan. I would, however, not go into any debt going to school and be able to get some funding to travel. The problem is that I have to make a decision before I would hear back from the Open University on whether I got in there or not. Time for another list.

More on the Guliani cell phone thing. Maybe he just doesn't know that they can be shut off? Either way, I still think he's a hack.

Saw Babel last night. It was good. It took me about 3/4 of the movie to figure it out, at which point I said to Yoko (who was watching the movie with English subtitles), 'Oh, they're those kids parents' and Yoko said, 'Yeah, I knew that.' I guess I'm an idiot.

26 September 2007

Lee Bollinger is an ass

Lee Bollinger is such a coward. He was taking heat for inviting President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and instead of standing by his guns and insisting that it was fair to have Ahmadinejad speak, he folds and says, basically, You're a dictator and you are going to lie and the only reason we invited you here is to show that you're a liar. What an ass.

The cultural ignorance we are showing in the Middle East is just stunning.

25 September 2007

PhD Programs

Well, as it stands now, I think I am going to apply to the following programs:
  1. Open University, Milton Keynes, UK
  2. University of Leeds, UK
  3. University of Birmingham, UK
  4. Penn State
  5. University of Illinois
  6. Arizona State University
I think there is room for about two to four more. We'll see where I land.

Life in the big city

This weekend was to the max. Let me explain:

Saturday, I finally got over being single. Let me explain. When I move from one stage of life to the next (I've found), it takes me a little while to not want to go back to the prior stage. This happened when I graduated high school, moved to Japan, and got married. It takes me about ten months usually to get over whatever I used to be, but the marriage coupled with the baby made this transition a little bit longer. But on Saturday night, I was over it. Let me explain.

A guy that I know was playing records at a bar downtown. He asked me to come see him and I thought, Well, I should support this guy because I would want to be supported if I was spinning records downtown. It was late so I had to go without the wife and baby (although I fulfilled my baby-care duties of sleepytime and bath time before I went), and when I got to the bar, I felt incredibly out of place. It was filled with English teachers, all awkwardly boozing and mingling. I didn't know anyone, so I ended up drinking coffee at the end of the bar, watching everyone and thinking, I think I'm over this. And I was.

On Sunday, we had a church function that I went to out of some sense of duty and actually had a good time because E was there, and the baby was pretty crazy and I got to tell my friend Kenji (who's about to have his first baby) a little bit about the birthing experience. I said, Just when you're watching the contraction monitor and the next one is coming on wicked strong, don't say, 'Hold on, baby--this one is huge'. He and his wife are very, very cute.

After that, E and I went out to the riverbank (after babycare duty) to see Mr. Neal and his friends camping. This was also great fun and I ate chicken heart for the first time, while enjoying all the wonder of God's or someone else's creation.

Monday, we really hit the proverbial bottle, having lunch with S, T, and baby E, then going with big E to a tea ceremony hosted by his girlfriend's grandmother. Don't worry if you didn't follow that, I didn't really follow it either. Although I was dreading it, it turned out to be a lot of fun, and my plan of holding the baby to fend off the old women worked splendidly. Plus, I got to practice my polite Japanese.

After that, we had dinner with my friend Rudy from the Philippines who came back to Niigata out of the blue and had coffee. Really, a banner weekend.

24 September 2007

Baby enjoys laundry

Because the baby is so into towels, I thought she would probably dig hanging out under the laundry before I folded it. She did.