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.

22 September 2007

Nova is going under: this is news

Probably only you English teachers will care about this, but the English language school giant Nova has gone under.

I used to write

I used to be a writer, the kind that wrote poems and stories, not discourse theory. I found this poem the other day:
Because of Numbers

Reduced, everything is
a number. Ask god.
It'll tell.

21 September 2007

Death of innocent people is, you know, bad

"Obviously, to the extent innocent life was lost, you know, I'm saddened," the president said at a wide-ranging news conference.
Any chance we might get a president that, you know, sounds like a president?

20 September 2007

Finland is out, fashion is in, investment is in

I talked to a very kind woman at the Finnish Embassy the other night and was told that I cannot reclaim my Finnish citizenship. I have to find some other way to get EU rates at the University. Some other country has got to have lax immigration laws.

Kanye West did okay for himself last week and his record which, from what I have heard of it, is pretty hot knocked Fifty Cent right on his ass. Not that I really care about any of that, but it was good to see someone with a little bit of style do well over someone who thinks that wearing loafers makes you gay. I read through Esquire yesterday as I do sometimes, not because I am able to afford anything in Esquire, but just because I like to look at the shoes. My brother and I were talking about Kanye West's understanding of himself in history, and I think fashion awareness is part of being aware of oneself in history. That is to say, to be unaware of how you present yourself stylistically is to be unaware of your position or the perception of you in society. Not giving a fuck about how you look may be fine, but it, unfortunately, doesn't preclude the fact that others still perceive you a certain way. It's so American to think that we can divorce ourselves from the world around us and think that somehow we can exist apart from the world we live in. Of course we can't and of course the pair of pants you wear reflects on you as a person. It's the nature of life.

In other adult-related business, Yoko and I are trying to work out our investment situation again, given the probable move in the next couple of years. I had a little bit of an epiphany the other day: If you could acquire $500,000 which, if you gave yourself 30 years or so, wouldn't be too hard, you could in an incredibly, incredibly conservative investment, make about $3,000 a month in a CD with an APY of 5.60%. This would be more than enough to partially retire and do whatever the hell you want without worrying about money, provided you lived your life in a fiscally conservative manner. I think that's pretty crazy.

Now, to get back to my citizenship search.

19 September 2007

Tight, tight jeans

For the first time since I was thirteen, I bought jeans with a 30 inch waist. I used to have jeans where the bottom of the leg was 30 inches. These jeans are, of course, a little tight, but not as tight as I thought. I guess I'm not that much of a fat ass anymore.

17 September 2007

A weekend of this, a weekend of that.

I was away this weekend, I apologize. What was I doing?
  • Killing spiders. It seems like just about every spider in the freaking country has decided to hang out in front of our apartment building. After getting spider web in my face at the 7-11 and walking up the stairs to the apartment, I decided that death would come in the form of a swinging of a plastic snow shovel. But this provided too many chances for them to scurry away, the little deceptive bastards. So I went to the store looking for spidericide (not insecticide as spiders aren't insects... they're something else). I learned what I already suspected: Japanese people don't see spiders as pests. This is tied to a Buddhist belief, Yoko explained, and because the spiders kill other insects. Screw that, I said, I don't care if they're gods and they kill mosquitoes, any creature dumb enough to crawl down my throat while I'm sleeping, bringing not only its demise, but my constant uneasiness, deserves to die, by any means necessary.
  • Kissing ass. I sent emails to a bunch of PhD programs to see if I might be able to get a chance to study with some of the metaphor people I like. I got one email that said, I would like to supervise your PhD, but unfortunately, my school doesn't have a PhD program in Applied Linguistics. I got a second, more encouraging email from the head of the linguistics department at the University of Leeds that basically said, I would like to supervise your PhD, please send me your proposal. This encouraged me greatly, until I realized that although I might be accepted to study at Leeds and Birmingham (these two seem the most likely for now), the chance that I will get money to study there is unlikely. A non-EU citizen, one year: £8,500. This plus living expenses for two and half people would be impossible. So I can get in, I just can't go. Well, for now anyway.
  • Watching Sex and the City. Mock me, if you will. It's a great show.
  • Eating lunch. Today, Yoko, baby, Uncle Efrain, me, and Mayo hit the all-you-can-eat buffet (pronounced buff-et). I ate a lot and then we walked around for like three hours.
  • Cleaning up baby vomit. She threw up so much about an hour ago. Like a litre. She seemed wicked proud of herself, and I was sort of proud too.
Now, back to watching Sex and the City

14 September 2007

You can be my black Kate Moss tonight

Black as a metaphor for evil. Black as a metonym for a person of African descent. Black as a color.

My brother and I were talking about Kanye West's assertion that God saved him from a car crash because he was chosen to make music — that his gifts give him some sort of messianic complex. This doesn't really bother me as just about every Christian you meet will at one time or another tell you about what God told them to do, or what God plans for them to do, or what God wants them to do. Why can't Kanye have a piece of the pie? Plus, I mean, he is pretty damn talented.

Marking Two Years of Coupledom

Two years ago, when I asked Yoko, 'So are we a couple?' for the first time, never would I imagine that two years later, we'd be sleeping in the same bed with an obnoxious, dangerously cute, and terribly opinionated four month old in a crib next to us. But, of course, I would have it no other way.

13 September 2007

'Former' MA student

Yes, I am now finished with my MA in Applied Linguistics from the University of Birmingham, six months early. I'll put a digital copy of it one of these days.

The baby will soon be announcing her intention to run for the premiership of Japan. She tells me most of her policy will be based on a national initiative for grabbing her toy.

12 September 2007

Why parents make more children

Tonight, at about 7:45, I realized why parents have second, third, or fourth children: to keep the first one entertained. It would be so much easier if you just could send another kid in to do the entertainment job. I'm thinking a dog might do the job in our case.

Here I am, soundless, doing my job.

Saints be praised: Abe Resigns

Out: old xenophobia!

In: old xenophobia!

11 September 2007


Yoko and Naomi and I went to the most incredible art show by the Japanese light box artist Seiji Fujishiro. All of his work is done using silhouettes and colored paper that is backlit. He uses water and mirrors too to expand the pictures in three dimensions. It was probably the second most incredible show I have seen in my life and the rare experience of stepping into a dream world. The baby loved it too because the gallery was so dark and all the pictures are basically light. She looked closely at them — it was really amazing.


Need a reading list on Ontology. Something a little bit more readable than Heidegger.

10 September 2007

A Prayer

Look, I'm not really into praying, but I thought I would share this prayer that I am lifting up to Steve Jobs today, as I forgot my flash disk at home:
Dear most sufficient St. Jobs:

Look, I believe in Apple and I believe in you. Based on my faith in you, I'm wondering if you could bend your ear to the 'lowly' and hear my most humble prayer. I want my hard disk to be based online and I want to be able to access it anywhere in the world. Today, again, I have forgotten my flash disk and instead of doing valuable work, I am praying to you. You see the problem, most sufficient St. Jobs. So how about this. Make a new iBook (or MacBook or whatever you want to call it) with no hard disk (or a very small flash disk), but with a wicked long-lasting battery and Wi-Fi access anywhere in the world. Then, I can pay you $100 a year or whatever you want for me to have an internet hard disk that will automatically update my desktop hard disk, so I don't have thirty versions of the same dissertation, all just a little different. I hate that. I know, I know, but mac.com still sucks and the storage space is too small.

I love you and trust you, most sufficient St. Jobs. Anywhere you go, I am willing to go to. Especially if that place is Internet-based storage.

In your most sufficient name, Amen.

09 September 2007

Tae Bo

I'm not proud of this, but I worked out with a workout DVD today. Yoko has been doing the Tae Bo so I thought I'd give it a try. Doing exercises watching a DVD is humiliating, but I think I'll do it again sometime. Yoko says that Billy looks like a grilled chicken when he works out. 'ビリーは美味しそう' だって。 'Billy looks delicious.'


I know some of you are loyal Bushies out there and I'll restate again that I don't think that Bush is a moron.

But, and this is a big but, he looked like a complete idiot at the OPEC meeting this week. Now, I know what you're thinking. 'Look, everyone makes mistakes. Bush has to give speeches all the time: he's bound to make mistakes now and then.' Well, here's the problem: the rest of the world thinks Mr. Bush is a moron. This is a pretty strong statement, but travel around a little and you get that feeling. Anyway, when he gets up in front of the APEC meeting and calls it OPEC or called the Australian troops, Austrian troops, or doesn't know how to exit the stage, he looks stupid. And sloppy. My opinion is, if you're leading an unpopular war and everyone thinks you're an idiot, you gotta do your best fight that perception especially on the international stage, if not for yourself, for the sake of the country.

The President is talking about how leadership is being decisive no matter what people think, but that's a shitty leader. A good leader does the right thing AND communicates it well. Bush is an awful communicator. Saying, 'We're making progress. ::hard stare:: It's a difficult battle and the enemy is re-so-lute' is not communicating why keeping our troops in Iraq is a good thing. Ron Paul and Huckabee got in this dumb argument at the Republican debate about honor: how we have to stay in Iraq indefinitely getting the shit kicked out of us because we need to preserve our honor. What a load of bullshit.

This Bin Laden tape is another good example of how Bush just doesn't get it. Bin Laden says that a Western presence in Iraq aggravates the situation and is set to bring doom on America. Bush says, 'I think it's interesting that he mentioned Iraq. Proves Iraq is important for the war on terror.' Wha-? Look, I'm no fan of Bin Laden, but if you want to know why they are upset with us, maybe we should listen to them a little bit. Then we can fight smarter instead of this, 'They hate our freedoms' line. Look, I'm starting to hate our freedoms too.

If, as Giuliani and Romney and all those guys would have us believe, security is the most important 'freedom' we have, I suggest we all convert to Islam. Nothing is more important than being safe, right?

Fighting the man

Japan has a lot laws that are very hard to get around. Visa laws, driving laws, drug laws: breaking these laws or trying to bend them is very difficult in my experience. There is one law, however, that is very easy and actually quite fun to break. In Japan, there is one public television station: NHK. NHK has no commercials and is funded half through government funds and half through a law that states that everyone who owns a TV should pay NHK 1,300 yen a month. This law has no stipulation for punishment if you don't pay and is only for people who have signed contracts with NHK to pay and then haven't paid.

Because most people don't pay this money or sign up for contracts, NHK sends out people to go door-to-door to try and get people to sign contracts, reminding them that paying the NHK fee is the law if you have a TV. I have managed to avoid talking to these assholes for my first three years in Japan, but lately, they've been at my house twice. The first time, I pulled the, I'm sorry I don't understand 'Japanese'. This worked very well as they haven't bothered me for a couple of months. But today they came by again, and Yoko answered the door. Yoko, not into lying as much as me, didn't pretend to be Chinese as we had practiced and came back into the living room to tell me the NHK guy was here. 'Tell him we're moving,' I said, which she did. He insisted to Yoko that we would have to pay for at least September and Yoko came back to tell me this and finally sent me out to talk to the guy.

E and his lady were here so I was a little upset. I went out there and said in rather blunt Japanese, 'What do you want?' I'm from NHK, he said, you have to pay your fee. 'We're moving,' I said, and he told me it didn't matter, it's the law. 'Look,' I said, 'We have people over, come back later' which he agreed to do.

When he comes back, I had a litany of ideas from going to the door naked to going to the door naked to with my wife to pretending to be having a huge argument with my wife to trying to hug him to pretending that I didn't speak Japanese again to standing in the doorway smoking and not saying anything to having him in for tea and insisting, in the presence of the TV, that we didn't have a TV.

All of this is, of course, silly, but the point is that NHK can do nothing to make us pay. The system is ridiculous, and when he comes again, all he can say is that if you have a TV you need to pay. But I am not required to tell whether I have a TV and I will tell him that I understand and will pay the money, if I have a TV.

The truth is, I am getting a kick out of finally having a bit of leverage in a system where I have no leverage. This guy is, unfortunately, going to take the brunt of my disdain for being told that I have to do something that is ridiculous. They can make me sit through a driving safety course. They can make me go to immigration once a year to bow low and request my next one year visa, but they cannot prove that I have a TV and they can't make me pay 1,300 yen a month to listen to Abe propaganda. So bring it on, NHK guy. Do your worst.

07 September 2007

Dust to dust, or was your pappy's twinkle anything?

I've been thinking, again, about death. This is a pretty regular thing in my lifecycle, as I suppose it is for most people. My thoughts about death this week got me thinking about birth, but more importantly, existence prior to birth. Most of us are not really bothered by the fact that before we were born, we were nothing. We perceived nothing, we thought of nothing, we were thought of by nothing, we were simply not. Not anything. In the course of our being, our existence (or at least what we perceive of existence consciously) has been something we acquired.

Now that we have acquired consciousness, we can't imagine going back to unconsciousness. It is, if we think about it, the worst possible thing. Worse than hell even, because at least in hell one would be something. But if we return to nothing, this is a sort of unimaginable darkness.

I willing accept unconsciousness every night when I go to sleep. It does not bother me that eight hours of my day simply vanish. The time between when I go to bed and when I wake up passes without a thought. It's like I cease to be.

Why do we insist on life after death and why don't we insist on an explanation about what we were before we were born? When we die, we lose consciousness and the energy we have acquired in life, the mass of our bodies is all redistributed. If we were unconscious before we were born, why do we assume we will continue to be conscious after our bodies have died?

06 September 2007

Procrastination is not my friend

My big plans for running the Niigata marathon have come crashing down because I didn't register early enough. I thought you could easily sign up a month before. No dice. Apparently, while I was hold up in a Bangladeshi hotel, the deadline was passing, quietly, so now I'm going to have to find some other marathon to run.

I think I finally understand what a theoretical framework is and how it differs from an analytic framework. Look, people are publishing papers all the time: why not me?

The new iPod nano is a winner. This is the first year I haven't accidentally bought an Apple product a mere day or several weeks before they come out with a new one. Maybe I'll be able to avoid buying anything this year.

The baby woke me up yesterday, babbling, 'Ow-ow-ow-ow-ow-' in my ear. It could not be ignored: she needs attention and she needs it now. I hope she finds out that she can entertain herself soon. This seems to be forthcoming as recently she discovered that both of her hands fit together and can be sucked on at the same time. And also that if she laughs hard enough, she ends up farting. Well, until she discovers toys, I will continue to hone my baby entertainment skills, which are honestly quite good.

It's funny how people appear in dreams that you have managed to block out in your waking life. Or how you change in the course of a dream. In a dream last night, I could recall that I was married, but I wasn't sure to whom.

05 September 2007

Staying alive

My article came back again for another resubmit. Getting a resubmission is kind of like hitting a foul ball. It's still a strike, but it's never the end. So I have to go find some theoretical framework research that gives me some more theoretical backing for my theory. I don't quite get it, personally, but I think I am going to, eventually, give them what they'd like.

I went to the doctor today to make sure that I hadn't acquired anything really serious in Bangladesh. I haven't. Just food poisoning.

Now, where the hell is that DVD...


I had a moment of brilliance today as I was proofreading my dissertation. I am a very bad proof reader of my own work. I always end up reading what I think I wrote, rather than what I actually wrote. The answer? Textedit. Textedit is a program all Mac users have that will read text aloud. It reads it pretty well, actually. Although I might not be able to see my mistake, I can hear it very well. After doing this once, I think I have eradicated a lot of the problems in my text. Plus, a narcissist, I love listening to my work read outloud to me.

I wrote this in a MySpace comment. It's a good description of how I plan to spend my life:
One day, after I finish all this, I will write a book about how teaching creative writing from an applied linguistics perspective is the answer to everything. I will coin a phrase that will be hugely popular and people will pay me to say this phrase at international conferences. I will rarely do any real work, see the world, and write a C grade novel under a pretentious pen name. That's my professional plan, at least.
The baby just keeps saying, 'Nyanyanyanya..' all day long. There is happy nyanya, sad nyanya, contemplative nyaya, and angry nyanya.

Lastly, we solved the TB immunization debate, deciding to do it or not do it based on where we move next year. This seems like the most reasonable and wise option. Thanks for everyone's kind thoughts. I got my mom to comment even. Which reminds me that I need to curse less here. We'll see if that happens.

03 September 2007

Making decisions

As a parent, I found out that I have to make decisions that frankly, I would rather not make. The current decision that I don't want to make has to do with immunization. In Japan, they still immunize against Tuberculous. The rate is a little higher than in the States, where we now do not immunize for TB. Immunizing for TB would not be a big deal if the immunization did not result in a rather large scar on my baby's arm. 18 scars to be exact. In the US, some of our parents have these scars, but no one my age has one. It's a proud, permanent sign that says, I come from a country that uses old technology because there's no reason to change.

So we have to make a decision about whether or not to go ahead and get the baby shot up, resulting in a scar that none of the kids in the US or UK will have, or not, and face a slight increase in her TB risk. TB immunization, it turns out, only helps you until you're like 6 and only again about 70% of the cases of TB. This, as far as I'm concerned, does not seem like a good enough reason to scar the baby.  When  it comes to the kids, any sort of permanent change to their body, if it can be avoided, should be and this doesn't seem like a good enough reason.

Anyway, the point is, I would rather not have to make the decision about it because I'm responsible one way or the other. And the Japanese people will just do whatever they're told by the doctor, so opposing it puts me (and subsequently, my wife) out of the pack a little. This is fine because we're leaving within a year, but still... I'd rather someone else just make the decision for me. Any takers?