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.