31 March 2007

In and Out

I got my presentation proposal out for the JALT (Japanese Association of Language Teaching) conference in November. If I present there, I could be a star.

On kindness

I was got sort of bogged down in a debate on another blog for the last couple of days — really been on my mind. I still am not sure if I behaved in a way that I am proud of or not, but I am pretty convinced that it was best for me to stop. It's got me thinking that I would like to write a couple of longer posts on some issues that came up. The first one is this one: on computer mediated communication.

Obviously, I am very interested in CMC. Academically, I'm interested in grammar and narrative, but as a person who has been using a computer to communicate for 10 years now, I am really bothered by one thing: on the internet, people are not people. They are screennames. And you can say anything you want without ever having to see someone face-to-face. This is an incredible freedom, I think, but it causes us to be less careful about what we say than if, for example, you were sitting in my living room.

A while back on my old blog, I said that someone had deleted one of my comments on his site. I was upset and quickly wrote about it and linked his site on my mine feeling that justice had been done. I was surprised when he IM'd me and asked what I was talking about — he, of course, had done no such thing. He was terribly kind about it, but it really got me thinking about how quickly I had accused him and how quickly I had been mean and impolite.

Those are our key words, I think: mean and impolite. I live in a country where it is terribly important to be kind and polite and maybe it's getting into my blood. I just don't understand why the computer is an excuse to say things we wouldn't say in person. Or the computer allows us to be very rude to people we have never met. I think it has to do with consequences and how we mostly don't do evil because there are good consequences to not doing evil. On the Internet, those consequences are a little less clear. So that's where I wanted to start: kindness. We gotta be kind to each other.

Later posts on pacifism, compassion, and some other things.

30 March 2007


So I was in Tokyo yesterday to go to the notary at the embassy, do some research at Temple, and see the flowers on the trees.

This is me doing research. I looked really good. Anyway, I took pictures of pages from books. 230.
I also got to see the trees blooming in Ueno Park. Incredible. I'll post some video later.

The Christian Dior window in Ginza. The Sony Building and the Hermes Building in Ginza have gotta be the hippest places in the world. Just awesome.

29 March 2007

Breakfast at Tiffany's

I don't know if the movie is anything like the book, but Truman Capote is great:
She was not alone. There was a man following behind her. The way his plumb hand clutched at her hip seemed somehow improper; not morally, aesthetically. (17)
from Capote, Truman. (1958) Breakfast at Tiffany's. New York: Penguin.

28 March 2007


It's 10:30 and I am just leaving Niigata for Tokyo to get a notarized copy of Yoko's passport, do some research at Temple University, and see a friend. Should be a good trip, but I miss my wife and the bulging stomach that is my daughter. Friday I should be done traveling.


I'm back from my bicycle trip around Sado Island (former exile for Japanese criminals and political dissenters). If last year was an unmitigated disaster, this year was a mitigated success. The exception was really strong winds on the northwest side of the island and I mean, strong in the sense that I was more than a little bit worried about being blown off a cliff which kept me to 10 km/hr for almost three hours and a lot of wind this morning on the southwest side. But this year, there was no rain and I stayed at a great hotel, so I could sit in a bath last night and this morning before I rode. The stats:

Total Distance: 216 km
Total Time Riding: 10:51:29
Top Speed: 47.8 km/hr
Average speed: 19.9 km/ hr

I didn't take a lot of pictures as the wind was so bad most of yesterday and today I was booking it to make the early boat. I do have a few though and I will post them on Friday, when I get back from Tokyo.

26 March 2007


I leave for Sado tomorrow at 6. Wicked excited. Looks like rain, 40% for Tuesday and 50% for Wednesday. It's cool though. I'll keep it real.

The thing is, I forgot

Alberto Gonzales said he wasn't personally involved in the firings of these 8 US attorneys. It turns out, well, he was.  That's cool, but here's my problem. Why not just say that in the first place? "I don't know if I was involved in any meetings about the firings." You think people won't find out? And why can't Rove and Meirs testify under oath? President says they can be interviewed, but no transcript and no oath. I think the Democrats should have seized the opportunity, interviewed Rove and all come out saying that he admitted to selling his soul to the devil when he was 16. And he also killed JonBenet Ramsey. No record, no one can dispute it.

25 March 2007


There was an earthquake this morning south of Niigata in Ishikawa Prefecture, like 6.9. It wasn't bad here, but we definitely felt it. Lots of mudslides, it looks like. Roads falling apart, trains derailing. That's Japan for you, I guess.

Last day of Sumo today and looks like we might have a showdown between the two top wrestlers, both from Mongolia. I'm sure they're drinking Kumis to get loose before their matches.

I wanted to complain about the Allen Wrench for a while and wonder aloud about what moron thought the Allen Wrench was a good idea, but now, with the help of Wikipedia, we need have no more questions. Apparently, it's full of useful functions:
  • The tool is simple, small and light.
  • The contact surfaces of the screw or bolt are protected from external damage.
  • The tool can be used with a headless screw.
  • The bolt can be inserted into its socket using the key.
  • There are six contact surfaces between bolt and driver.
  • Torque is constrained by the length and thickness of the key.
  • Very small bolt heads can be accommodated.
  • The tool can be manufactured very cheaply, so is often included with products requiring end-user assembly.
I still think it's a pain in the ass.

The Catcher in the Rye

A fabulous, fabulous book.  One of the best executed first-person narratives I have ever read.
"She was terrific to hold hands with. Most girls, if you hold hands with them, their goddam hand dies on you, or else they think they have to keep moving their hands all the time, as if they were afraid they'd bore you or something. Jane was different. We'd get into a goddam movie or something, and right away we'd start holding hands, and we won't quit till the movie was over. And without changing the position or making a deal out of it. You never even worried, with Jane, whether your hand was sweaty or not. All you knew was, you were happy. You really were."- Chapter 11

22 March 2007

The perfect black t-shirt

So I've been looking for a perfect black t-shirt for the last five days. "Perfect" entails a couple of things:
  • You can't see my nipples
  • It's tight, but
  • It doesn't feel tight.
  • It's not too long
  • It's not over 500 yen
The 500 yen black t-shirt. Loose, tight, perfect. Obviously, I bought all they had.


I always wondered why people hate the IRS. Now that I have actually talked to them, I know why:

IRS: Hello, IRS.
Me: Hi, I just a quick question about filing. I live in Japan and my wife is a Japanese citizen without a social security number and I am wondering what is the best or easiest way for us to file.
IRS: (already angry) Okay, sir, I am not here to tell you what is easiest or best to do. Okay?
Me: Oh, no, I just meant-
IRS: Let me finish. I can only tell you what the law says.

And it went on like that for 20 minutes. Without really any good answer, except that I have to go to Tokyo, probably. Dude, man, I'm not trying to scam anyone here, you know.

I also hate TurboTax.

21 March 2007

You'd better sit down

Some guy from American Idol is apparently my doppelganger from college. Or, more exactly, he ate College Me and left Tom Ford, plus or minus five inches.


This is pathetic.
Chris Sligh, the "American Idol" contestant who has won fans thanks to his curly mop of hair and soulful voice, has a few people concerned with his departure from strictly Christian music.
Jonathan Pait, a spokesman for fundamentalist Bob Jones University where Sligh attended for several years, said: "We really are somewhat disappointed with the direction he has gone musically."
 "Is he going to stand strong by his true Christian morals?" Greene said. "Christianity is a lifestyle ... and there are things in your life that you do need to stand for."
And the best one:
"It speaks well to the fact that it's not all blood, guts and trash," said Jeter. "Music doesn't have to be filthy. You can have a good time in a good environment, and Chris is proof of that."
I disagree. Music needs to be filthy. The filthier, the better.

Slaughterhouse Five Wisdom II

The flaw in the Christ stories, said the visitor from outer space, was that Christ, who didn't look like much, was actually the Son of the Most Powerful Being in the Universe. Readers understood that, so, when they came to the crucifixion, they naturally thought, and Rosewater read out loud again:
Oh, boy--they sure picked the wrong guy to lynch that time!
And that thought had a brother: "There are right people to lynch." Who? People not well connected. So it goes. (109)

20 March 2007

Slaughterhouse Five Wisdom

“The Tralfamadorians tried to give Billy clues that would help him imagine sex in the invisible dimension. They told him that there could be no Earthling babies without male homosexuals. There could be babies without female homosexuals. There couldn’t be babies without women over sixty-five years old. There could be babies without men over sixty-five. There couldn’t be babies without other babies who had lived an hour or less after birth. And so on. It was gibberish to Billy.”

Something more substantial

A friend of mine from college became a priest. I can't believe it. You can see pictures here though. He is super cool though and I am sure he will be a super cool priest.

I also shaved my head and bought tight black pants.

19 March 2007

Penn State!?

I might finally go to a school that doesn't have a football team that's awful.

17 March 2007

Slaughterhouse Five

Yoko gave me a gift card to the book store so I bought Slaughterhouse Five and The Catcher in the Rye. I have to get some of these classics under my belt. How did I get out of college without reading these? Of course, now In Cold Blood is on hat list, too.


The video rental store is finally getting some of the Academy Award movies from last year, so tonight I got to see Capote. Really, just a terrible movie in all the best ways. The kind of movie that makes you uncomfortable. And really, great fashion sense on that guy.

Last week, I saw Crash and although I liked it initially, I have, after a week, decided it is a poor rip-off of Magnolia, a much subtler, better film. Also, ironically, with Philip Seymour Hoffman.

Come to think of it, he's in The Big Lebowski, too.

I have been close now, on several occasions, to writing some deeply personal, bleeding heart nonsense on here, all stemming from the news from Lake Wobegon, March 3rd. But I think I'm going to be able get away with staying comfortable distant. Good for me, good for you.


I guess Bangladesh is not the "safest" place to go.
On August 17, 2005, a banned Islamist terrorist group, Jamaatul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), claimed responsibility for nearly 500 coordinated small bomb blasts in virtually every part of Bangladesh that killed two persons and injured several dozen.  Subsequent JMB bombings and suicide attacks killed approximately 30 Bangladeshis, including judges, court workers, police officers, and bystanders, and wounded nearly 200 Bangladeshis.  JMB statements call for the imposition of strict Islamic law in Bangladesh, justify the indiscriminate use of suicide attacks, and condemn Western social and political concepts as un-Islamic.
Political confrontations manifested in demonstrations, rallies, and marches are unpredictable and have the potential for violence.  In general, demonstrations occur on Friday afternoons but may take place at any time and any place.  However, most demonstrations occur in downtown Dhaka, approximately five miles south of the U.S. Embassy.  Protesters have used physical force, rocks, guns, and explosive devices during confrontations.  In the past, police have used rubber bullets, tear gas, live ammunition, water cannons, and other riot equipment when confronting protesters. 
Due to kidnappings and other security incidents, including those involving foreign nationals, U.S. citizens are advised against traveling to the Khagrachari, Rangamati and Bandarban Hill Tracts districts (collectively known as the Chittagong Hill Tracts).
Excellent. I'll only be in Dhaka. I should be fine, although I'm speaking all day on Friday it looks like and Friday is when they like to burn things.


It's complicated when you start listening to more than one side of a story. The Japanese bombed a US base on December 7th, 1941, and as pissed as we might have been about that, well, it was a military base. Does it justify fire-bombing civilian populations all over Japan and Germany? This might lead you to think of the Japanese as victims, but the Japanese were colonizing much of Asia at the time and taking part in some of the worst kinds of violence and manifest destiny seen in the modern period. The good book teaches us that "no one is good, not one," and I guess I'm starting to believe that when it comes to nation-states.

This sort of critical thinking should not, of course, discount the sacrifice of men and women who died in the war or fought well. This should also not excuse any individual acts of evil committed by US soliders or the US government. Can't we be both grateful and critical?

I felt this way when I saw my cousin again this winter. He served in Iraq as a helicopter mechanic. It was obvious that the experience had done something to him. Support the troops is a pretty hallow thing to say, I think. It doesn't mean anything. For what it's worth, I'm thankful that he went, even as I oppose the premise for going. Is that possible?

13 March 2007

Rolling, it keeps rolling in

Doing a PhD is looking wicked possible at my current University, starting in April of 2008. It's cheap, it's low-residency, and they are excited about me and I'll tell you what — I'm excited about them too.

Going to Bangladesh

My presentation proposals got accepted for the Teachers Helping Teachers seminar, so I'm going Bangladesh at the end of August. These are the presentations I will be giving:
  • "The blog and the classroom: Connecting the dots"
  • "Watch Out! The Corpus, Verb Usage and Non-native Teachers of English"
  • "Authenticity in the EFL Classroom: News for Kids, News for Adults"
I bet Bangladesh is incredibly hot in August, but, on the plus side, I do get to go to Bangladesh.

12 March 2007

Things to accomplish

I had a rather large list of things to accomplish over my Spring Break, including:
  • Figure out what I want to do with my life
  • Do a load of research about PhD programs
  • Do a load of reading for my dissertation
  • Start drafting my dissertation
  • Join JALT
  • Finish Translation Studies Paper
  • Post on Helter Skelter more often
  • Go to Tokyo to do some research for my dissertation
  • Post here more often
  • Start applying for jobs next year which includes the sub-list:
    • Get a respectable list of places I want to apply to
    • Get references
      • Letters AND
      • People who can vouch on the phone or e-mail
    • Finish resume (which included this sublist):
      • Find out how to type an accent mark
  • Clean the apartment and my desk area
  • Fix the toilet
  • Smoke a couple of cigars
  • Bike a lot
  • Hit my goal weight
  • Relax some
I've been doing okay on a lot of this stuff and not so well on some others. I've still got a couple of weeks left though.

11 March 2007

Life in the fast lane

Oh Japan.
If you want to lose weight, Japan is your country. This here is vitamin gel. It tastes like berries, it feels like eating a cup of jello, it gives you half of the 12 essential vitamins you need for the day, and it has no calories. That's right. None.

My Japanese phrase of the day is 言うまでもないことを言う which means to state the obvious. The Japanese are the KINGS of stating the obvious. I asked Yoko if they had a competition for stating the obvious. I imagine it would go something like this: Three contestants are shown a cucumber and they try to say the most obvious thing.

Contestant A: It's a cucumber!
Contestant B: It's really green!
Contestant C: I'm Japanese!

My job search is now in full swing, and I'm trying to talk people into vouching for my reliability. It's is all over the effing board right now. Could be anywhere in the world. I'm also readying a couple of presentation proposals for conferences all over Southeast Asia. Stephe-O teaching teachers how to use the Internet in Bangladesh? Well, don't be surprised.

Judge Steve Pihlaja

Woah. By googling your name, you do yourself a service; namely, you can figure out who is imposing laws in your name.

09 March 2007

A warmer cup

Things I love

1. Yoko
2. Kweli
3. My effing bike
4. Degas
5. James Galvin
6. Tully's Coffee

I like Tully's coffee, but I am troubled as to why it is a "warmer" cup of coffee. I think I want a better cup of coffee. A sexier cup of coffee. A tastier cup of coffee. A funner cup of coffee. A larger cup of coffee. A fresher cup of coffee, but not necessarily a "warmer" cup of coffee.

Goal weights and being pissy

So last night, for about 10 minutes, I had a really pissy post about teaching. I had a really bad night. I almost walked out of a class. It's just--I hate when people give up. I can't teach students and learn for them. I can't speak any slower or any more simply. The students have to try.

That's not interesting.

Anyway, I had two goal weights for my diet. The first was to get back to where I was this time last year, which I accomplished today. (high five) Now, another 3.6 kilograms to go. Oh yeah.

This is hot. Love this dude.

08 March 2007

James Galvin

Things I love

1. Yoko
2. Kweli
3. My effing bike
4. Degas
5. James Galvin
To the Republic

fences the first sheepmen cast across the land, processions
of cringing pitch or cedar posts pulling into the vanishing
point like fretboards carrying barbed melodies, windharp
narratives, songs of place, I'm thinking of the long cowboy
ballads Ray taught me the beginnings of and would have taught
me the ends if he could have remembered them.
But remembering
was years ago when Ray swamped for ranches at a dollar a day
and found, and played guitar in a Saturday night band, and now
he is dead and I'm remembering near the end when he just needed
a drink before he could tie his shoes.
We'd stay up all night
playing the beginnings of songs like Falling Leaf, about a
girl who died of grief, and Zebra Dun, about a horse that
pawed the light out of the moon.
Sometimes Ray would break
through and recall a few more verses before he'd drop a line
or scramble a rhyme or just go blank, and his workfat hands
would drop the chords and fall away in disbelief.
songs he'd pull on the rum or unleash coughing fits that
sounded like nails in a paper bag.
Done, he'd straighten and
say, My cough's not just right, I need another cigarette, and
light the Parliament he bit at an upward angle like Roosevelt
and play the start of another song.
Then, played out and
drunk enough to go home, he'd pick up his hat and case and
make it, usually on a second try, through the front gate
and gently list out into the early morning dark, beginning
again some song without end, yodeling his vote under spangles.


Things I love:
  1. Yoko
  2. Kweli
  3. My effing bike
  4. Degas

07 March 2007

Oh yeah

I finished my ridiculous driving probation. One year clean, despite numerous close calls. Now, I can keep driving safely.

Me 2, Japan 0

Good work, Japan

In Japan, everyone with a TV is required to pay the national television company 1,300 a month. Doesn't matter if you don't watch NHK, you are required by law to sign a contract. But, oddly enough, there was no law to make people pay. But they changed that now and are threatening to take people to small claims court for the 1,300 yen. Seriously. In America? We couldn't do this.

Well, so Mr. NHK showed up today and was shocked to find me, a foreigner. He had everything set up for me to sign the contract, but suddenly,  I managed to forget all of my Japanese. I'm sorry? I said, What is 契約書? I'm not sure what this means. You'll need to talk to my wife. He looked so scared. It was hilarious. Oh, uh, oh, he said. Oh, well, oh, okay then. And left.

Me 1, Japan 0

Things I love

1. Yoko
2. Talib Kweli
3. And my fucking bicycle

I've been steadily re-doing my bicycle. I got me new brakes, you know, new shifters, new mirror, grips, seat, man, it's all good. It fits like an effing glove. Like an fucking glove.

Things I love

1. Yoko
2. Talib Kweli

06 March 2007

Real World

You can watch Real World Austin on the Internet Here's some great real world wisdom for you:
Either we're going to have a really great time, or it's going to really be awful.
Maybe I just didn't realize this earlier, but all the Real World is based on is people getting drunk, talking about trying to have sex, whining, and being ridiculous with one another. And there's all these great pieces of advice like, "Well, see you can either have Mel, and you know that's cool and all, or you can go out, you know, and see what--see what's like out there, man. And you know, it's like — you want to have your cake — you know what I'm saying — and eat it." Ah, yes Danny. That seems to be the problem.


Yoko and I used to look like this.

03 March 2007


CPAC is such a fucking joke. Ann Coulter calling John Edwards a faggot to cheers. Sam Brownback whining about the deterioration of the family? What the hell does the President have to do with the deterioration of the family?

Sam's kids drew these pictures of embryos.

You can tell when Spring has come when I am crouched out by the bicycle, tinkering and dreaming of the mountains.

Jokes I tried to sell last night

Here are three jokes I tried to sell last night:
  • "Yeah, I never was really into dance music before, but now, I'm all about it. I, like, didn't even know what a DJ was. I thought it had something to do with horses."
  • (When Neal and P were talking about their plan to give away unused, big, expensive Japanese medical equipment to impoverished nations.) "Well, obviously, Tom Cruise should have first dibs on whatever you get."
  • (They were talking about going on to a club called "Shame") "Yeah, but don't you just feel bad when you do there?"
This last "shame" joke--only one of the guys heard and didn't really respond. So I said it again, more loudly, still to no response, and finally Neal's friend from Urasa who had heard initially but hadn't laughed said, "You know, because it's called 'Shame.'"

02 March 2007

\ (^.^) /

I don't especially feel this way.

Neal is in town which makes things a lot better and makes me a lot more aware of how married I am. Hanging out with a couple of single guys talking about rock climbing in Greece and internships in Fiji will do that, I guess. And I'm like, "Yeah, so Yoko and I were at the supermarket yesterday and it was totally like — we totally didn't know what washing detergent to buy." And everyone's like, "That's, uh, really great dude."

I am finished with my day job for about five weeks now. I can stay up late, sleep in, and sit around in my underwear all day, reliving the glory days of freshman year. Only with no Bob, and a shit-load of work to be done.

Maybe it's time to start cursing again online. I sort of miss it.

01 March 2007

Wait for it

Finally, after 17 months of toiling as an MA student, I can say that I have an article forthcoming in a very reputable EFL journal, The Language Teacher. Sure, it's not a research article, and sure, the waiting list is a year/ two years for publication, but I am forthcoming. Look for "Enhancing Classroom Experience through a Class Blog" in the "MyShare" column sometime in the next decade. And that is something, my friends.

After hearing that, I was super-stoked and went to class feeling like I had something to contribute. This lasted until an older woman from the class came up to show me that she had printed out Helter Skelter English completely in color for reference. "I can't see the videos," she said and I suggested that she might need to install a flash video player. She looked very confused for a second and asked, "What's a flash?" I said, "It's a program that helps you see video on the internet. You need a program to see video on the Internet." She still looked very confused, and finally her friend, who had been listening very carefully, said, "Oh, I know! It's a disk you buy at the electronic store."