27 December 2008

New music

For Christmas I was given:
  • Heretic Pride by the Mountain Goats
  • For Emma, Forever Ago by Bon Iver
  • Narrow Stairs by the Death Cab for Cuties
  • 808's and Heartbreaks by some really talented asshole
  • Get Lonely by the Mountain Goats
A good set. I like the 808's record. What can I say.

22 December 2008

On vacation

I'm officially on holiday. It's a working holiday as I have a paper to write and I have to make comments on a University of Birmingham student's paper, but it is a holiday nonetheless.  I wrote my three months in England post earlier, but I'll comment again on it. It seems that three months after you move abroad is right about the time that you bottom out, but you are starting to see the light and figure out how you are going to make your life happen. I'm happy that we have made it this far, but I am looking forward to next year. It feels like we have turned a corner.

More when we arrive in the colonies.

Cold, rock hard cash

Although my electric bill from the first two months will stand at a jaw-dropping £183.15, I found out why it's so expensive, and can now shut the water boiler off when it is not being used. Apparently, heating water all day long is expensive and unless you shut that it off, that's what you're doing.

Japan, in it's wisdom, only heats water when it needs it.

21 December 2008


I felt the baby move for the first time last night. Great!

20 December 2008

Newport Pagnell

As you already know, we don't really live in England, we live in Milton Keynes. Milton Keynes is a lot of things but it's not really England. This is okay most of the time, but I'm getting a little peckish for a high street and old church. And rent that isn't so dear.

Newport Pagnell is the answer, I think. It's about ten minutes out of Milton Keynes, but real live England. With a wicked hot high street and a wicked hot church. And a cemetery that is probably haunted.

I'll take better pictures the next time I am there. They have a beautfiul little music shop with a steel guitar in the window.

19 December 2008

Driving down traffic

I'm still trying to drive down the traffic on my site, and closing it to search engines didn't completely solve the problem for some reason, so I am closing some of the more popular posts to password-protected posts. But don't worry, they are all quite old, and if you really want to see something, the password is whatever the title of the post is. For example, if I wanted to protect this post, I would make the password 'Driving down traffic'. We'll see if this helps me get a bit less visibility.

Rick Warren: Logic, not so important

“I could not vote for an atheist because an atheist says, ‘I don’t need God,’” Warren preached, according to the Los Angeles Times. “They’re saying, ‘I’m totally self-sufficient by [myself].’ And nobody is self-sufficient to be president by themselves. It’s too big a job.”

This is right up there with claiming that there is a 5,000 year definition of marriage being between one man and one woman.

No, Rick. An atheist doesn't say they don't need God. Good try, though.

An atheist, Rick, is a person who says, I have no belief in a god. It has, as far as I can tell, nothing to do with how self-sufficient they think they are or are not.

However you can spin it though.

18 December 2008

RAE Rankings

The OU went through the research evaluation exercise in the UK and though it's kind of hard to understand (I'm not sure I understand) depending on how you weight things, my department is either 3rd, 9th, or 21st, depending on how you count. The 9th looks to be most accurate, as we submitted more of our research to review than many of the other places.
Institute of Education
University of Cambridge
University of Edinburgh
University of Oxford
University of Bristol
King's College London
University of Nottingham
University of Manchester
Open University
University of Warwick
Not too shabby, if you ask me. Overall, the OU is 43 of 166, up from 66 the last time we were ranked. And apparently, The Guardian feels our department is 21 of 81. Can't argue with that and it is top 25%. I know no one cares, but the reason for the different ranking is based on the fact the OU submitted a much higher number of scholars for review than the other places (all except one or two). So we are third in number of 4* and 3* scholars and ninth in number of only 4* scholars by volume That is to say, we have more internationally recognized scholars than Oxford and Cambridge, but not a higher percentage of scholars of this grade. All that really matters for PhD students in the end is that your supervisor is submitting 4* work, and I suspect that Lynne, with her six publications of books or articles in international journals this year is likely one of them.

17 December 2008

3 months

We have been fighting back the humidity and mould for 3 months now, and I'd like to believe that we are winning.

Last night was the department Christmas party which was a lot of fun. I learned more about English culture. I learned that pudding is not just pudding, but can include what I would call cake. I played the piano even, during a game of pass the parcel. All very interesting.

Now, we have only 6 days before we  go home.

15 December 2008

Dumb laws

The TV licensing scheme in the UK is so stupid. Basically, everyone with a TV has to shell out £140 a year so the BBC can maintain free programming. Luckily, as we don't have a TV, we don't have to pay. I have a simple rule: don't make people pay for something they don't want. PBS in the States does it right. Fundraise, have commercials, or get off the air. Taxing your way into existence is bollocks.

Coming home

I think since I left the US in 2003, I have been home four times. This will be my fifth. Leaving, at the time I left, was a knee-jerk reaction to a future I was worried about falling into, working at a desk in ill-fitting slacks and a polo shirt. Japan was everything that cubicle was not and I needed to get away from it, whatever the cost. I stayed away for a lot of different reasons, mostly pragmatic and mostly related to Japan being what it was, so full of intrigue, dark forests, and long staircases with shrines on hills. But there was a part of staying away from home that was less pragmatic and more related to how much of a dead-end my life had become before I left.

Going home is always, to some degree, coming to grips with that again. I always end up throwing things away. The first time was the worst — the walls of my room just plastered with shit. Every time I have thrown more away, but I know that when I go back, there will be more to throw away. I've resigned myself to accepting it will never all be thrown away and that I will always find little things, notes I had saved saying to myself, 'I will only keep this one thing — I need to keep something.'

14 December 2008


You know you are living in the UK when you have a more moisture in your walls than you do in your mouth. It's nasty. Mold, everywhere. I don't really know what to do.

13 December 2008

Presents for Nana

Knocking Christmas

I like giving people gifts, and sometimes, I can be quite good at it. What I don't like is having to get gifts out of obligation or get a gift for someone just because I need to get a gift for them, not because they particularly want anything that I can give them. I end up wandering around a store and getting something just to get something, and this, I realize, is one of the greatest problems with consumerism in our world.

So today we went shopping and luckily it didn't take too much time and we got things that more or less were thoughtful and not bought out of compulsion, but we had to do battle with about 50,000 other English people, all grabbing around like it was a rugby scrum. It seemed like if we had stayed any longer, some fat, angry, sweatshirt-wearing middle-aged woman with an inexplicable haircut would try to eat us by mistake. No kidding.

If you're not into the consumerism of Christmas, you can get hung up on the religious aspect of it, but I'm personally not too much into that and keep deleting Facebook new threads about keeping the Christ in Christmas. Yes, yes, everyone is out to get everyone else. Naomi and I are doing the advent calender, and every time we open a door, there's a little verse about Jesus being born. I'm not sure I will make it to the 25th. Don't get me wrong, we'll keep opening the windows and counting, but I'm pretty much done with the story--I'm all for the counting.

This all sounds terribly cynical, and it is. I miss the Japanese version of Christmas which was much more low key and centered on eating cake. And the religious people were actually religious about it and not angry at everyone and themselves for buying so much shit.

Anyway, in far more important news, I went to the tailor and am getting my winter coat taken in because I bought it when I was still fat and couldn't really wear it anymore. I asked the lady to take it in and give me, if she could, a bit of a waist. They pinned it up and let me say, it was hot. I'll post up a picture when I get it back.

So really, peace on earth and good will toward man, in a general, non-religious sort of way.

Bahktin Conference!

Can't go, but maybe next year.
Stockholm University is proud to announce the Second Interdisciplinary
Conference on Perspectives and Limits of Dialogism in Mikhail Bakhtin,
June 3–5, 2009. All those who are interested in Bakhtinian perspectives on dialogism are invited to attend the conference.

12 December 2008

From the office of professional development

In December of 2007, I was teaching English part time at a Japanese high school. I found this, on the blog from last year:
Anyway, 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. Maybe. Until then, I’m sure I should be helping Yoko pack.

Put me anywhere on God's green earth, I triple my worth

I finished my part time work with my Japanese scholars, taking them around in a van and making sure they were delivered to the right places. Now that I have a bit of cash in my pocket, I feel like we might actually be okay — go to the cleaners, get a haircut, buy rice, this and that. It was nice enough work. Nothing to write home about and I'm glad that it's done, but it was nice enough work. The good news is that I have kept up a healthy flow of part-time work and also figured out how to overcome (some of) our losses in the stock market from the meltdown with some creative currency exchanging.

Now onto driving lessons, finishing this book on arguing and then I can go home for Christmas.

09 December 2008

Re stacks

I have been running around with some Japanese scholars from Niigata — was in London last night, Leicester and Coventry tonight, Oxford tomorrow, and then back to London on Thursday night.  It's been fun and as we drive here and there, I've been talking to the driver, who's a really interesting guy. I spend all my time at work talking to pointy-headed intellectuals, it's nice to talk to people who really work for a living. He also gave me some tips for my driving test.

08 December 2008

The OU

This is where I go to school.

My time lapse walk to work

Bush on subjectivity

Bush said this about his Middle East legacy:
"I believe when people objectively analyze this administration, they'll say, well, I see now what he was trying to do."
The implication must be that his policy has not been analyzed objectively. So when will this objective analysis be possible? Is his analysis of his own policy objective?

07 December 2008


I guess we actually do live close to London. Yesterday we went and here are the highlights:
  • We travelled by car to Finchley Central Station and then took the underground to London Bridge Station.
  • We walked around the Borough Market a little and then up to London Bridge to look over at the Tower Bridge.
  • From there we went up to St. Paul's, and then down to the Embankment across from the Tate.
  • We took a very long walk up the Embankment to Westminster to see Big Ben and Westminster Abbey.
  • Then we took the underground up to Leicester Square, had lunch in Chinatown, walked around Soho, walked to Piccadilly, and then up Regent's St. to Oxford Circus.
Altogether, it was a really standout day and as we were walking on the river to Westminster, I thought to myself, I think I have finally arrived.

All the photos are here.

05 December 2008

Driving me insane (pun on driving)

I passed  my written test for my driver's license, which isn't much of a surprise and I'm pretty upset that the whole thing is taking so much work. I booked my actual driving test and now I have to take some lessons so I don't royally fuck it up and waste hundreds of pounds on failure. And hundreds of pounds is not an exaggeration. I'm going to say this and I promise not to take it back until Naomi is 13ish — driving is a human right. And the British government is oppressing me. And what really frustrates me is that if I had just taken my test in Japan on a manual car, we wouldn't be having any problem. I could just exchange them out. I could go on and on about this for days and days.

Otherwise, I've been busy doing other stuff. Next week I'm going to be running around with some Japanese scholars, taking them here and there in a giant van. I have to write an essay too, somewhere in there and read a book. It doesn't seem like it ever ends, but the good news is that we are going to be in the States in about two weeks.

Get ready, colonies. We are bringing the empire back, baby.

02 December 2008

Get your clap on

I'm not getting anything done today

We're now going on two days of nothing productive, and  although setting up the computer might be considered productive, it hasn't felt that way. I have to finish proofreading an article by Friday and also take my written test-hazard perception test for my UK driver's license on Friday, so that has me a bit on edge. The hazard perception test is when you watch this screen and click when you see developing hazards. There is one per clip, except one clip that has two. You have to be careful not to click too much, or you get disqualified. I did a practice and scored perfect on one, but I clicked too much. I did it again, and on the same clip, and I scored 3/5. It doesn't make any sense, so I'm going to pay £4-5 pounds to get access to ten more practice clips and that should help.

That's all.

My new computer

My new computer came through today and this, of course, means I will get nothing done and be completely unproductive. What else would you expect.

01 December 2008


L'Alchimiste. Which makes me think of Paulo Coelho. Which makes me think of Yoko.

28 November 2008


I saw a hiring annoucement for an associate lecturer at the Open University. Man. If we stay in the UK after I graduate, we're talking about twice as much income as we have now at minimum. If we learn to live on this budget for four years, I think we'll be okay in the long run.

Proofreading politeness

I'm trying to be less blunt in my proofreading and I think it is interesting how this:
This is not in your references.
sounds much better if you say:
This is not currently in the references.

26 November 2008

Shoot at you actors

The more I look at the amount of information I have for my dissertation, the more worried I get.

25 November 2008


Sometimes I can be productive. Like today, starting at 6 this morning, I looked over the final notes on the paper I am proofreading. It should be done by the end of the week.I went back to sleep for an hour and then added comments to three transcripts, and transcribed a six-minute, six scene video from one of my YouTube rats. If you don't think this is something, you should try to transcribe a YouTube video. After adding and formatting the comments, 6 minutes of video yielded about 80 pages of transcripts in ten point font.

There is an awful lot in these videos and my goal right now is to have at least 100 for my PhD — I have two and half now. I will have enough data for years and years of articles. Ideas I have already include first, how responders in comments and video responses choose topics, second, how people perceive their roles in Internet communities, third, how video producers try to produce personas they think are attractive in their videos, and fourth, how videos reach the top of the 's' curve of activity.

After all that, I went to ethics lecture, made lots of faces, and argued with my people in my group. I then made reservations for seven visiting scholars from Japan at hotels in Leicester, Coventry, and Oxford. When they come in December, I will spend three days riding around with them and trying to keep them happy. I will get paid something for this, I hope.

And then I did a little reading.

From here, I plan to go to happy hour at bar with people from the ethics lecture and then go home, eat dinner, bathe baby, put baby to sleep. Then maybe I can finish my proofreading work and study for my driving test.

24 November 2008

Nothing to speak of

This weekend went off without much of anything. We went to Japanese church yesterday, which was nice enough. I like getting back in to the Japanese mindset every so often, with the bowing and the politeness and the language. Yoko said that my Japanese hadn't really gotten worse since coming to the UK and that was nice to hear. It's much easier for me to speak Japanese in a Japanese environment. A couple of people said things to me in English there, and it sort of tripped me up, like they made the record skip or something. I miss aspects of Japanese culture at different times, especially how things are categorized, with simple rules to follow. This can be incredibly frustrating when the rules don't work, but when they do, it's very nice.

I studied for the driving theory test for quite a while. I think I'm going to be able to do well, or pass at least. The driving test is something else entirely. I'm still not very comfortable driving here.

Proofs came in for two of my articles yesterday so I was looking things over and thinking that my level of writing last year was really not that great and I'm not really that happy with the articles being published as I don't really see things the way I did last year. I'm sure that won't ever change though, or at least, it won't change until I get older and more set in my ways.

My YouTube lab rats have been going at it, as they always are, but it's sort of depressing to listen to all morning long — the Christians complaining about the Atheists and the Christians who aren't Christian enough. The Atheists not caring about anything and using all this false, hyperbolized language that they think is making them sound smart, but just makes them sound like they are pretending to be smart. I want to make a rule: If you can use a shorter, simpler word, use a shorter, simpler word. Although all the misuse of the English language makes me look up a lot of words and think about their meanings.

Finally, I'm watching the second season of Rome, but it just makes me feel bad. At some point, you're tired of all this graphic depiction of violence and rape and hardship. The history is interesting enough, and I realize that I have only a very cursory understanding of the Roman Empire. Not that I should be expected to know more than I do, but still — it would be interesting to study.

22 November 2008


I have an article coming out in an online journal called 'The Translation Journal', I just found out. It's called 'One's Loss, Another's Gain: The Challenges of Translating "I" in Japanese Academic Texts'. It's an article about the difficulty of translating Japanese sentences without subjects in academic articles, and discusses a translation I did for a friend. I never, in my wildest dreams, thought I would be able to publish an academic paper about translation. This calls for some wine.

21 November 2008


It's stupid that the most challenging test I am going to take this year is the Theory Test given by the DVLA (the English DMV) to get my driver's license.


I am loving the hell out of that Frightened Rabbit’s song, especially the chord progression.

My studies are going quite well. I'm getting to what I really want to know, which is how do non-centrally controlled systems make sense of themselves. My primary and secondary education — basically the teaching of the fundamentalist Christian movement — said that order cannot be attained without central control. I remember two pictures in a textbook describing thermodynamics, showing that things tend towards disorder: a completed cabin in the woods and one that had been left and was deteriorating. Simple, right? You don’t take care of it, it falls apart. The question, it turns out, really hinges on what you call ‘order’. I am beginning to think that second picture might be more ordered — a phase in a natural cycle which leads to something else.

This is the same nonsense you will get from intelligent design people about a watch you find in the woods. ‘Do you think that watch is naturally occurring? Of course not.’ What you are tricked into thinking is that something made by humans equals ordered complexity and something naturally occurring like a rock or tree is not. Moreover, that ordered complexity equals conscious design. You would not, however, be asked to give a supernatural explanation for the ordered complexity of a certain tree living in a certain spot in a certain forest, which is ordered complexity. Or the Grand Canyon. Or any other ordered, natural system. The forest takes care of itself — we don’t need an explanation for it because we can see the natural processes at work that bring it to this point.

The intelligent design person is left arguing that even though the natural processes is explicit and describes the placement of a tree in that part of the forest, there is some meta-level tinkering going on that we can’t see, but is the explanation for the explanation. I wonder why, under this thinking, there is no need to explain God. What’s God’s explanation? If you say, ‘God doesn’t need and explanation, God is God,’ then you best not attack the naturalist for saying, ‘Nature doesn’t need another explanation.’ You're just stopping at different points.

These are all thoughts at the outset — initial, poorly-worded ones. Better ones coming soon. I promise.

20 November 2008


This is something for sure.

Kept my head above water

A discussion with the tax office confirms my best hope that I will not have to pay £650 for Yoko's part of the council tax bill. This is very good news and though £50 a month is not much, it is a lot to us these days. So now I can focus on work again.

19 November 2008

Keeping my head above water

I came home today to a piece of mail saying that I have to pay a tax that I didn't think I had to pay. I still don't think I have to pay it, but I have the awful sense of being burdened by another £50 a month that will just constrain us even more. I really don't want to spend the next four years worrying about money, but it looks like I am heading down that road. I'm not sure I secured the proofreading job I was hoping for. So much up in the air.

My studies been really good though this week. I had a really productive meeting with my supervisors — my supervisor called my writing 'fluent' — and came away feeling like I was moving forward, figuring out what I need, and being sufficiently scaffolded to borrow from Vygotsky for the first time. I realized that I am not really studying language or metaphor, but organization and how organization occurs in language. It is what I have been fixated on watching TED videos for the last year and it's so odd that all of these interests are coming together. My life as a self-organizing system.

A few of weird things have happened in the last couple of days, bad omens. Streetlights going off as I walk under them, three in two days. One of my new friends from the MRes programme is sick with cancer and even though I have just met him and hardly know him, it is bothering me. It shouldn't bother me. All men are grass.

And now, Naomi is starting to communicate. She says, just now, 'Ball.'

18 November 2008

Being There

I'm reading a really good book called 'Being There' by Andy Clark.

17 November 2008

A weekend of Jelly Beans

My father was here this weekend and so I posted less. It was a very good weekend though — he brought jelly beans and a very nice bag for me. We talked for the whole weekend, which was very nice — not something you are able to do on the telephone or Skype. We drove around, saw things, and just relaxed. After I had taken him to the airport on Sunday night, I came home to a load of work to be done. I tried to put Naomi to sleep and was too effective as I fell asleep too. I woke up at 9:30 and tried to write a few emails, which was a wholesale disaster if I judge based on what I am reading this morning. I went back to sleep and I woke up this morning with a raging cold.

I'm now at work, trying to get my stuff together to start my new course, Introduction to Qualitative Research Methods. There is reading to do.

In the course of the weekend, I lost my cell phone and found it this morning and corrupted a word file and saved it this morning. So much wasted time. I'm now also responsible to drive seven Japanese academics around England in the middle of December. I don't know how I got into this, but it should be okay, provided I don't get lost a lot and I am able to make a little bit of money off of it.

13 November 2008

Good things

In Japan, I had a research budget of 10,000 yen to buy posters for my classroom; now I have a brand new Toshiba Sattellite Pro. The times they are a changin'.

What I am doing with my life

I don't know if any one is interested in this, but I have written about 6,500 words this week and these are some of them:
This can be seen practically in discourse analysis of a YouTube video thread. For example, the researcher could come across a video thread in which two participants are discussing their religious beliefs. The researcher could decide to study this dialog as an isolated discussion between the two dialog participants. If it was, indeed, a random discussion occurring independently of a larger trend, this scope might be sufficient and could provide powerful insights about video dialogs regarding religion.

If, however, there is some viral Internet trend, in which there a structure for discussion of religion on YouTube has emerged, and the dialog is taking place in the context, the researcher would be ill-served to view the dialog as random and occurring independently of another system, when, in fact, a different scope of study would be needed to more accurately describe the dialog. The researcher must be keenly aware of the multi-dimensionality of Internet texts and the interaction of numerous complex systems which give rise to phenomena on the Internet.

12 November 2008

Lab rats

Many of you know that I am studying a set of texts produced by a particular set people on YouTube. I think there are maybe 7 people in my group now, and I suspect that will continue to grow. I was talking to my brother about it, and he had a vision of me, watching over these people in a maze, taking notes. Since then, I have been thinking about them as my rats, and how I need to check in on my rats every now and then. My rats do this, my rats do this. I am overly involved in the lives of my rats.

There is a careful distinction I am making now about participants in a study vs. texts in a study, and I think it is quite clear from what I have been reading that when one publishes something online, the text is a copyrighted text and under that protection. You should know, however, that fair use laws allow other people to do many, many different things with your text once you have published it online. To that end, I am not going to talk explicitly about what text I am studying so as not to spook the producers, although--given the nature of the discourse my rats are taking part in — I doubt they would be spooked. In fact, I think they would be happy to be watched.

A party tonight at a pub named after a Swan. It sounds intriguing to American ears, I know.

11 November 2008

Rethinking some things

After Obama won, it felt a little bit like the day after Christmas. I wasn't let down so much as I realized that I put a lot of energy into following the election and that energy was going to need to go somewhere. For the first week, I have been following the political blogs in much the same way that I was last week, but today I sort of hit a wall. It is time to let it go. It's over now. So I unsubscribed from about 75% of the political blogs I was subscribed too and decided, it's time to move on.

I have plenty of things I need to be putting my energy in.
Today, I worked out my research budget and will be getting a new laptop and going to a conference in July in Amsterdam and a conference in the UK in September. These things should help me do better work as I start my PhD next September.

That's all for now.

Today, looking to be good

I woke up this morning to an acceptably good grade on my Intro to Social Research paper and my new FireFox set-up humming. There was also a letter we need from Yoko's insurance company coming. and then sunshine, followed by a bit of rain, and then sunshine.

Yesterday, in the midst of having a pretty miserable day, I was able to find several CMC journals, particularly, a special issue of a journal called 'Convergence' that I should submit to. I realized or decided that my YouTube study involves texts, not participants, allowing me to do my research under fair use.

More later.

10 November 2008

Getting nothing done

Today has felt completely pointless. It all started with the rain. Rain on a Monday morning might motivate people like Satan, but not me. And when you have a slow, pointless weekend, there is nothing more threatening than having a slow, pointless week. You worry it might stretch into a month or a year or a lifetime. It's silly really, and probably unfair to blame it all on the rain.

I'm doing my best to remember all the parts of Japan and not just the best parts. Today though reminded me of getting on my motorbike in the rain to go teach children English, coming home and being wet and cold. This was a good thing because if I'm not careful, I remember only the good parts — the having money and good food and stability. I also have a note hung next to my computer — an artifact of a life that I used to have — that reads:
We have a class in the first period this morning
Could you teach these?
  1. "Take Me Out to the Ball Game"
  2. p. 50 Focus Listening
  3. p. 52
  4. p. 54
Junko Kawahara
This is to remind me why I am here and not teaching English anymore.

I organized FireFox on my computer, which is something I guess. I now have all my bookmarks at home and at school. I added some good extensions that allow me to see what time it is in India (20:32), Chicago (09:03) and Japan (00:03). The UK, it says is (15:03). How useful is that? I can also see that I have no new messages in my gmail account and also in my Google reader. All silly distractions: a complete a waste of time. I should go read, but I fell asleep reading. I feel carsick, too. I should proofread my paper.

My father is coming this weekend.

56 days

I wrote a post and it disappeared.

This weekend was boring. I proofread and Naomi and I fed the ducks.

That's the digest version. More later.

07 November 2008

Milton Keynes

I guess Milton Keynes isn't completely ugly...

A world of hurt

I came to work today to get a little bit of writing done and then go to the library to read, but I started writing and couldn't stop and wrote my second essay for my Introduction to Social Research module, which I guess is a good thing. I then started on my first position paper for my supervision meetings and I already managed to write a paragraph of that and outline where I think I'm going. So the day was a success. In other successful news, the University is going to buy me a laptop, although I doubt it will be a MacBook. At least I will be able to work at home, provided Naomi doesn't get it all sticky. She gets everything sticky.

I was going to go read, but it's been such a successful day, I'm just going to go home.

The Good Life

'The Good Life', Danny Vo
Danish National Gallery

What is idealogy

From Valentin Nikolaevich Voloshinov's 'Marxism and the Philosophy of Language':
Everything ideological possesses meaning: it represents, depicts, or stands for something lying outside of itself. In other words, it is a sign. Without signs there is no ideology. A physical body equals itself, so to speak; it does not signify anything but wholly coincides with its particular, given nature. In this case, there is no question of ideology.

However, any physical body may be perceived as an image; for instance, the image of natural inertia and necessity embodied in that particular thing. Any such artistic-symbolic image to which a particular physical object gives rise is already an ideological product. The physical object is converted into a sign. Without ceasing to be a part of material reality, such an object, reflects and refracts another reality.

06 November 2008

My future

I have to do two things in five days and I promise I'm going to get them done. And then I am going to write a great paper for Introduction to Social Research module. And then I am going to go back to sleep.

05 November 2008

Yes we can

This victory alone is not the change we seek — it is only the chance to make that change...Let us resist the temptation to fall back on the same partisanship and pettiness and immaturity that has poisoned our politics for so long. Let us remember that it was a man from this state who first carried the banner of the Republican Party to the White House – a party founded on the values of self-reliance, individual liberty, and national unity. Those are values we all share, and while the Democratic Party has won a great victory tonight, we do so with a measure of humility and determination to heal the divides that have held back our progress.
This is our chance to answer that call. This is our moment. This is our time – to put our people back to work and open doors of opportunity for our kids; to restore prosperity and promote the cause of peace; to reclaim the American Dream and reaffirm that fundamental truth – that out of many, we are one; that while we breathe, we hope, and where we are met with cynicism, and doubt, and those who tell us that we can’t, we will respond with that timeless creed that sums up the spirit of a people:

Yes We Can.

I stayed up as long as I could, saw that OH and FL were going to Obama and thought, I'll take a quick nap and get up in an hour when Obama is speaking. The next thing I know, Naomi is crawling over me on the living room floor and I have missed the speech by about an hour. But. It doesn't matter. We did it in the end, I am proud to have been a part of this whole thing in the little ways that I was. Obama was speaking this morning and Yoko was crying--I suspect it has meant as much to her now as it has to me because I have been so involved. I have been trying not to tear up myself, but I don't know why that is. It is an emotional thing.

I want to say that the country is moving in a good direction, but as I look at the results for Prop. 8 in Cali, I am profoundly sad and I am not optimistic.

But here it is: Obama holds a pragmatic, rather than idealistic, view of the world.  And that should make anyone happy. There is nothing more American than Pragmatism.

So, congratulations to all the supporters out there. Condolences to the McCain/ Palin people. I think we're all going to be okay. Just gotta key working to be better.

04 November 2008

With these things there's no telling, we just have to wait and see

This song is Yoko and my song, sort of, but I am thinking about it today as I think about Obama winning.  We'll just have to wait and see. If I have to choose between skepticism and optimism, I'm going to try to be optimistic. If not for me, for Naomi, the girl with the giant leaf.

03 November 2008

A waist

I would like to get a winter coat that gives me a waist and my current coat is way the hell too big. I got it before I went on the diet like three years ago. I want a coat that gives me a waist and doesn't have a belt. I saw an okay one at the Gap, but the large was too small to wear with a sport jacket underneath and the XL was too big.

Do you like your leaf?!

02 November 2008

Home for Christmas

We are coming home for Christmas. December 23rd-December 31st. The tickets were cheap enough for us to make the buy, and I think it will be the best thing.

Make your requests now, or forever hold your peace.

01 November 2008

Theory of Everything

'Complex Systems and Applied Linguistics' is my new favourite book, and that's a good thing because it was written by my supervisor at the OU. One of the main points the book makes is that the world is a confusing, complex place and we are all confused and complexified by it. We, however, don't like confusing and complex things so we create systems or grids to look at the world and make sense of the non-sensible. We tell ourselves stories. This relates to language in the area of metaphor as we are always reaching to make what is abstract, not abstract. We are trying to put pants on it, take it to dinner, and pretend we are not eating alone.

The problem is, we are often eating alone; that is, we can't make sense of it all. There are large parts of what happens to us that just don't make sense, can't make sense, shouldn't make sense. And I'm beginning to think that part of wearing the big boy pants is coming to accept this. Or, if not to accept it, to stop trying to make sense of things that can't make sense. Or to quit thinking that the goal is to make sense of everything.

Theories of Everything say that everything can fit into a grid and they usually have a very large category for things that don't make sense labeled 'god'. So when something happens that we can't make sense of, or doesn't fit into our grid, we say, 'That's god's business, I don't need to make sense of it.'

The more I think about it, the less I buy this idea and the less comfortable I am saying that anything can explain everything. Does the fact that we are complexified by things really warrant religion? This way of thinking makes me a poor candidate for fundamentalist-type religious pursuit, which is too bad, really, because I was a pretty good Fundamentalist Christian. Instead, I have to ride at the back of the bus, the homeless guy who isn't quite sure where the bus is going, but feels like being on a bus is better than being outside in the cold.

It seems to me that there is no problem with saying this theory or idea solves some problems, but it can't solve all of them, and it doesn't quite fit on all situations. This seems the most reasonable to me, having proofread my first paper for Introduction to Social Research and getting ready to go to bed.

What a car hath wrought

Now that was have a car, we have no money, but we do have freedom to get around and out of our little house. Today, we practiced this freedom by traveling to Oxford, only about an hour away by car. And Oxford is fucking cool. We went to the Natural History Museum, ate sandwiches in the covered market, went to University Church of Saint Mary the Virgin, went to the Gap and Borders... It was really nice to get out of the house and see something new. Oxford is not anything like Milton Keynes. Milton Keynes is sort of America in England. Oxford is England, the way I want it to me. Full of Korean tourists and old buildings. It didn't really rain on us, but it was bitterly cold.

The car is nice. Next up London, then Cambridge. Then Birmingham. Then Bath. Then back to London. 

30 October 2008

Our new car

When I graduated from college, my parents gave me a Saturn. The car was everything I could have dreamed of — leather seats, manual transmission — but as I was moving to Japan, the car was passed on to my younger sister. She now drives it around, all over the country, but I never did get a car. Now, some five years later, I am in England, needing a car, and my parents offered to make up that lost car and give me my belated college graduation present. We couldn't be more thankful. Here it is, a 2003 Nissan Tino SE. It's pretty fabulous and I was able to get affordable insurance too. So thank you, parents!

Sorting things out

I have trouble with lying. I'm not very good at it; I'm terrified of being caught. You need to lie a bit when you are buying car insurance. Telling the truth means about £50 more a month. Of course, the upside of telling the truth is that if I do happen to get into a car accident, I won't be liable for thousands and thousands of pounds of repairs for the car that I hit. I can rest easier at night.

Money so they say, is the root of all evil today.

29 October 2008

Encyclopedic knowledge

One of the central tenets of cognitive semantics is that the meaning of words is encyclopedic: everything you know about the concept is part of its meaning.- W. Croft (1993)

Coming to the end

I've been an Obama supporter for more than four years now and have my blog to prove it. These last two years have been long, and now I'm reading articles now about the possible Obama administration. I don't want to jinx it, assume the win, but I am feeling a kind of nostalgia. I don't know what I expect from an Obama administration. I don't really expect change because we are talking about a huge machine that is not easily moved one direction after sliding slowly into the ditch for the last eight years. I'm not holding my breath for a second New Deal Still, I believe in all the rhetoric, that our country can pull ourselves out of a hole. Maybe we can make progress on health care and education. Maybe we can get the hell out of Iraq. Or maybe for the next week or so we can relax and enjoy this, the improbability of it all, that we might have a president named 'Barack Hussein Obama'. How cool that would be. Maybe there are things we can still be proud of in our little democracy...

28 October 2008

That's right

On the way home from work, it snowed. It snowed a shitload. Please tell me this is not something that happens a lot here.


Baseball is a game of statistics.

My studentship allows me to work six hours a week, so I've been looking for some part-time work that is both flexible and lucrative. Proofreading seems to be that thing. Of course, it's well known that I can't proofread to save my life. Everything I've ever written is riddled with errors. That may be true, but I passed the proofreading test for a development bank based in Tokyo and am, having passed the test, now able to be paid for proofing one piece for publication. If I do well, I can become a regular reader and work on two or three projects a month.We'll see if I'm able to do the real thing to their specifications. I'm a bit concerned.

We found a good car, I think, although I'm not quite sure if I should go for it or look for something a little cheaper. A car will also allow us to, after our contract is up, to move to a cheaper, larger house outside of the city. In Milton Keynes, you either are in the centre, or you are in one of the villages. There is nothing beneficial about living closer to the centre, so we might as well get away, save some money, and get a bigger place.

We also need to keep in mind that after four years, the likelihood of us leaving England is pretty high. We need to be prepared to make that move, if it happens, but I'm trying not to worry too much about the future. 

Having worked some of this out, we can breathe a little easier in our monthly expenses and not have to worry about barely making it from month to month. And maybe, one day, I will be a well-paid discourse consultant and university professor.

27 October 2008


Although I'm not entirely sure why, I am a frequent reader of the Ragamuffinsoul and saw this up there, so I will pass it along. A great point to argue 'what you do' rather than 'what you are'. This applies to research too, I think.

The video won't embed to save my life.

Signed, sealed, delivered, I'm yours.

This weekend was full and filling — pizza with friends, Japanese church, and finally giving in to the truth that we need a car. True, I've been talking about how great not having a car is,  and while it is, indeed, great for me, Stephen, it's not great for my family. It's not great if we want to go anywhere together, or do anything together. I don't want to think about how much we're going to have to spend — it's a lot, it's too much. I'm anxious just thinking about it. I need to focus instead on the weekends in Cambridge and Oxford and London and Birmingham.

We went to see the midwife and we discussed having our little baby in the house. Yoko asked, What, do they put a tarp down? I'm not sure, I said, I don't remember having a baby being that messy. I don't think you would need a tarp. A towel, at most.

24 October 2008

A novel proposition

Don't publish an e-mail address in your agency's literature if you never answer questions sent to that e-mail address.

Baby no. 2 rests comfortably

Today we had our first ultrasound for baby number 2 and he or she was sleeping comfortably, little heart pumping away.

Second time around

I have to rewrite my essay today.

23 October 2008

22 October 2008

Complex Systems Theory II

I'm as skeptical as anyone of theories of everything, but this Complex Systems Theory is a pretty helpful way of thinking about a lot of things in the world, from religion to why you argue with your wife.

Complex Systems Theory

I spent all morning reading about Complex Systems Theory and now I am going back to the library to read some more about Complex Systems Theory.

21 October 2008

Time for a Fujishiro

Every now and then, it's good for all of us to look at a Seijiro Fujishiro piece and think about light.

As I predicted

Yes, today has not been productive so far. That's okay though. We had a doctoral training workshop that was not really helpful. I gave some advice to a friend about PhD applications. And now I have a seminar on using the library and a free drink on the university at 5:30.

Naomi has been sleeping through the night, getting up only once to look around and when I crawl back into her little bed, she goes right back to sleep.

Last night, we also bought a bunch of stuff that we have been waiting to buy, including a mattress pad that will make our sleeping experience a little better. We'll see, though.

When I woke up without you for the first time

I have posted this before, I'm sure.

Less productive day

Today will probably be less productive than yesterday, but that's not saying much as yesterday was very productive. I think I'll spend some time in the library.

20 October 2008

Paper finished!

I set out this morning to write half of my paper, I go home having finished that mofo. With 65 words and 30 minutes to spare.

Rain?! In England?!

Getting crazy

I really, really need to start working on this essay.

19 October 2008

Look, I'm the problem here, not you

Today, as Yoko and I and Naomi road the bus around town, I had an epiphany. At some point, I am going to have to just let go and not try to be responsible for things I can't be responsible for. And I can't make it not rain. And I can't always avoid spending money. And I have to stop thinking that tomorrow, it'll all make sense.



Rothko gets it, I think, and with the proper education, I could probably tell you why.

18 October 2008

Marxist doesn't mean what I think you think it means

Lots of reading to do and the deeper I get into it, the more I realize that Marx was far, far more important in the last 150 years than I previously thought. As I read more Russians, the more I get intrigued by Russia and Moscow, like I can hear it calling me.

We had people from my department over to our little apartment today, from Germany, Bangladesh, and Thai. Yoko said the most profound thing about England — I don't feel like I want to go home, but if I left, I wouldn't want to come back.

A lot of the people at the University are taking breaks from lucrative work they do in their home countries to study. They will get PhDs and then return to even more lucrative work in home countries. Yoko and I with Naomi and this second baby are without a home. When we finish here, we will have no default place to go. Wherever we choose will have to be someplace new. This is more distressing to me than it should be as moving again is still about four years off, but not having a home is starting to bother me.


I got everything moved over here. Look down, look down!

17 October 2008

A gift

Vygotsky for free
Go now, pay never!


I keep thinking I will be able to blow off my writing for the MRes and just focus on getting ready for my dissertation. This isn't going to be a possibility. I hate the feeling of being one third of your way into a essay and thinking, I'm not sure I'm connecting the dots very well here. Am I writing about the right thing?

The fact that I slept from 12 to 5, intermittently as I was trying to keep Naomi from going ballastic without breast milk, is probably not helping me think. I need to get used to it as the second baby is only going to make my sleeping schedule more complicated.

I really, really, really hope Obama didn't peak too early.

1 month

We have now been in England for 1 month.

Here we all are, looking pensive.


Could someone please comment and let me know you made it? Am I talking to myself?

16 October 2008


This is how communication happens.

Nana, the swimmer

New look

I've completely reworked the blog — I hope you like it. Things are hard to find for now, I know. I promise I'll be putting it all together and adding the posts from the last year.


I read a lot today, include a whole undergraduate coursebook on language. It was really good, but I keep getting distracted by unrelated, interesting topics, like graffiti. What a fascinating subject. Nothing to do with anything though. I did, however, find my mailbox with a book in it from my supervisor. And a note that says I have been paid. Imagine that — paid for studying.

An old friend from college came over last night with a friend of hers. It was really nice — remembering life as it was. My senior year of college all came back to me.

I am hoping Naomi sleeps through the night. Come on, sweetheart. Sleepy, sleepy.

Close your mouth, John

and get back to pretending you're annoyed.

Moving back?

I am thinking pretty seriously about moving back here, to Wordpress. I like the ease of use, the stability. We'll see. If you're here, then you have bookmarked www.mysonabsalom.com correctly. If you haven't, well, you aren't reading this anyway, so it doesn't matter. If I do move back, I'll take all my old posts and put them back up here, so don't you worry about that. Might take a while, but it will all be back online eventually.

Naomi is weening right now, which means that I am up at night with her instead of Yoko. It's tough in that she gets sort of edgy and you have to talk her down and get her back to sleep. It's good because she sleeps longer and Yoko can get more rest. It's also good in that our relationship (Naomi's and mine) has improved since I started putting her to bed. She listens to me a little better and seems a little bit older.

Lots of reading right now — on ideology, on dialogism, on a lot of different things. There are a couple of seminal books that I just have to get through. Once I do that, I should be in a little better shape to talk about things in my field.

15 October 2008

Dead again

My normal blog is up and dead again. I think it might be time to come home to Wordpress.com. We'll see.

I was up all night with Naomi. How will I read today?


My supervision meetings have gone a little bit like this:
  1. Stephen thinks he has made great progress.
  2. Stephen begins meeting by outlining great progress.
  3. Supervisors start a line of questioning that begins with, 'Have you thought about~?'
  4. This line of questioning ends in Stephen asking, five or ten times, 'I'm sorry, who did you say wrote that?' quickly followed by, 'I'm sorry, how do you spell that?'
  5. Then there is also a line of conversation that follows 'I think you need to read more about X term' which means more-or-less,
  6. Supervisor is not convinced Stephen knows what the word Stephen has been using again and again really means.
  7. This is of course true and leads to
  8. Stephen trying to defend his careless use of the word or phrase or idea and realizing he doesn't know what he's talking about in the middle of the statement
  9. resulting in Sarah Palin-style answers.
  10. Stephen leaves with notebook full of names and articles to look up and feeling deflated.

14 October 2008

Saints be praised!

The Internet is in our house — I am alive. Dylan on the stereo, a bagel in my stomach, the baby with an umbrella. Everything is okay for now.

13 October 2008

The weekend, the nets

Our little family is still trying to understand how to ride buses, and more importantly, which buses will take us to which places the quickest. On Saturday, we wanted to go to Willen Lake, which is a nice, uh, lake with all sorts of family attractions. We rode the 8 bus. I had heard about the 8 bus during orientation as being the bus that goes 'everywhere'. This is not an exaggeration, and all the turning and twisting made both Yoko and Naomi sick, so that when we arrived at Willen Lake, we had to make a pit stop in the buses. Yoko may have the world record of taking a pit stop in the bushes in the most countries. I can count five.

Willen Lake is nice, and also has a Buddhist Temple which we visited and felt a little bit at home.

After that, we had lunch, and then took the 22 to the centre of town and went to the mobile phone store. And the Apple store. And the cookie store. As much as I want a Macbook, as I am using this program Endnote to organize all of my citations for my PhD and as Endnote is not made for Mac, I don't think I will end up getting one and if I do end up getting a new computer in the next four years, it will likely be a PC.

After that, we took the 20 bus home. All this bus riding was done for only £6.20, a small sum. I figure a car (after we sunk £1,000 to get it up and running) would cost us £80-£100 a month. I don't think that it's worth it, especially if we only really need it twice a week and can get around it if we order things on the Internet. You can order groceries and have them delivered to your house on Tues.-Thurs. for only £3.50. So the bus system should be fine for now. We also found that the 26E bus will take us to the Japanese church, so really have nothing else to want for. Basically, within a ten minute walk of our house we have access to four bus lines, so even if one bus (the most convenient one, unfortunately) only runs once an hour, the others seem to work.

Money, it seems has a lot of say in what we do or don't do.

On Sunday, we went to the Anglican church that we have gone to twice now, and which I thoroughly enjoy as it is much lighter than your average US or Japanese church, and the people are very kind to Yoko and Naomi and me. We skipped out on coffee so that I could ride my bicycle to Ikea and do some shopping for Yoko, which was more or less successful. We are punting and going to get a different mattress as the one that came with the apartment is killing us. Ikea has some nice ones, but I would like to spend less than £200 if at all possible.

We are also trying to decide how we are going to convert the apartment to fit one more child and I think we are just going to have to move to a two bedroom flat. This will be fine, slightly more expensive, but since my grant will go up when the second baby is born, it'll all work out. And the Internet should be on today.

12 October 2008

Moving on to Irony

The larger the deviation from reality, the greater the certainty of ironic intent.
As an example, consider the following utterance:
(2) 'What lovely weather!'
If (2) is uttered on a warm, sunny day, there is no deviation from reality, and the statement may be interpreted literally. If (2) is uttered on an overcast day, the statement becomes a bit more ambiguous. For example, if torrential downpours had occurred every day during the preceding week, then a day without rain might indeed seem 'lovely'. In this case, the use of the heuristic specified in (A) is problematic; there is a deviation between the utterance and reality, but because it is not extreme, an ironic interpretation may not be warranted. Finally, if (2) is screamed at the hearer over the howling wind, as speaker and hearer crouch in a tornado shelter, the use of (A) allows an ironic interpretation to be made with some certainty. (Kruez 1996) 

in Mio, J. S. and A. N. Katz (1996). Metaphor: Implications and Applications. Mahwa, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

This book, 'Metaphor: Implications and Applications' is really getting me going (intellectual excitement as sexual arousal; intellectual excitement as physical excitement; books as women).

It seems to me that irony is going to play a larger role in my study than I thought originally, especially if I go with my 'pope of youtube' data, which is built entirely on an ironic, metaphorical statement.

Apparently Gillian Welch wants to do right, but not right now.

Finally, if I hear anyone ever describe anything but a long trip without the intention of returning as a 'journey', I am going to jump off a building. Just saying something is a journey does not make you any more thoughtful. Give it up.

10 October 2008

English food

Do you like potatoes? No?

Do you like sandwiches?

A good read

Good article at Politico, although a bit scary. Let's not get carried away now:
The unmistakable momentum behind Barack Obama's campaign, combined with worry that John McCain is not doing enough to stop it, is ratcheting up fears and frustrations among conservatives.

And nowhere is this emotion on plainer display than at Republican rallies, where voters this week have shouted out insults at the mention of Obama, pleaded with McCain to get more aggressive with the Democrat and generally demonstrated the sort of visceral anger and unease that reflects a party on the precipice of panic.

Even some metonymy for us metaphor people:
“When you have an Obama, Pelosi and the rest of the hooligans up there gonna run this country, we gotta have our head examined!”

Reading list, Week of October 6th

Cameron, L. (2007). Confrontation or complementarity? Metaphor in language use and cognitive metaphor theory. Annual Review of Cognitive Linguistics 5, John Benjamins.

Cameron, L. (2007). "Patterns of metaphor use in reconciliation talk." Discourse & Socitey 18(2): 25.

Cook, V. J. (1988). Chomsky's Universal Grammar: An Introduction. Oxford, Basil Blackwell, Inc.

Gibbs, R. W. (1994). The Poetics of Mind: Figurative thought, language and understanding. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.

Gibbs, R. W. (2006). Embodiment and Cognitive Science. New York, Cambridge University Press.

Gibbs, R. W. and L. Cameron (2007). "The social-cognitive dynamics of metaphor performance." Cognitive Systems Research doi:10.1016/j.cogsys.2007.06.008.

Larsen-Freeman, D. and L. Cameron (2008). Complex Systems and Applied Linguistics. Oxford, Oxford University Press.

09 October 2008

That one, '08

I just voted. It shouldn't come as any surprise that I ticked the box for 'That One'. I'm sure it makes no difference in the grand scheme of things, but I feel a little bit better.

To the library to read.

Come on

I had my first supervision meeting, and it was productive, although I left sort of thinking I didn't have things quite as figured out as I thought I did in my mind. My supervisor is going through a rather prolific time in her career it seems as she has all sorts of articles and books she seems to be involved in. I was also in a seminar today with Guy Cook, one of the preeminent discourse analysts at the University. I had heard was on staff here, and he is, apparently. I thought he was going to be on my supervision team, but I misunderstood and instead he is my examiner for my MRes. There are a lot of good feelings in life, but wanting to go to work in the morning is a pretty good one.

Come on skinny love just last the year, but I hear: Come on, Skinny love, just let us see you.

Naomi is learning to sleep without the boob, which means that I am taking a more active role in her life, namely crawling into bed with her so she feels secure enough to fall asleep. The first night she screamed and screamed and then finally gave up after about an hour. The second night was much better, but the third night Yoko put her down which made the fourth night hell again. Last night was the fifth night, and she did very well, although I have to do a ninja routine to get out of bed without her waking up. One false move and she sits up and I am back in bed.

She is understanding a couple of Japanese baby words: sleep, shoes, dog, cat, bird, and ashi, which she calls the picture of the baby as we have been trying to teach her about her new cousin, Asher. She can also hug and kiss on command.

My dissertation topic is coming together and I'm going to do the thing that I'm more interested in, rather than what I feel I 'have to' do as I wrote my proposal on it. The new idea is related to the first  paper I gave in Spain earlier this year on the 'Pope of YouTube' and the emergence of metaphor in vlog discussions about religion and secularism. I think this is important not just for my little project, but for discussions about faith on the Internet and the trouble of saying what you want without any consequences. It might also have something to do with the emergence of Secularism in the States, which is something I am interested in. Plus, I already have the data.

We went to the doctor for the first time on Monday, and my first interaction with NHS was really good. We have heard again and again that, in general, the medical system in England works well and people are well-taken care of. I did okay translating what the doctor said to Yoko, but I think it is difficult as Yoko would rather just hear and understand completely what the doctor is saying. Apparently in England, being pregnant is not an illness, so unless there is a problem, you will not see an OB/GYN. We go see a midwife at the end of the month and then will do an ultrasound around that time, and then before Christmas. Unless there is a problem, we will just see the midwife. I am comfortable with this, and although Yoko has mentioned in passing the possibility of going home to have the baby, we don't really have the resources (or me, the will) to do that. I think we are going to just have to do it here.

Endnote is the best computer program, ever. If you are, or ever want to be, an academic, it is a necessity.

08 October 2008

Objectively speaking

The first week of my course in Introduction to Social Research is all about objectivity and subjectivity, and whether or not we can talk about what is 'true' or not. What strikes me about this discussion and what I like most about it, is that all of us will finish this reading, write our response paper, finish this course up, and then go on to actually doing it. That is to say, the theory is girding for some real project that we all have in mind, so when we talk about methods, we are all, or all supposed to be, thinking about our own methods.

And moreover, at the end of our time here, all of us are going to have to present something. At least 80,000 words of something that we have been reminded (now four times I think) must meet four or five standards set by the university. The point is, you have to produce something and whether or not you think truth is knowable, you will have to defend an argument.

07 October 2008

I like this song

Goals for this week

  • Read for class
  • Read about Universal/ Generative Grammar
  • Get guidance from lead supervisor
  • Think about running pilot study for gathering data
  • Eat less chicken

06 October 2008

What I am up to

The Open University, as I have said before, is the UK's distance learning university, meaning they have somewhere around 200,000 students studying around the UK and Europe. These students do everything online and through the mail and meet their tutors at different offices all over the country. So, if you can imagine, the university campus is basically a huge university campus without any undergraduates or as I said jokingly to someone, any of the problems. There are, I guess, some 300 research students on campus, and we are all supported as the staff is, with our own desks, access to the facilities, printers, copiers, etc.

This year, I will be doing a Master's of Research. Master's degrees in the UK are not in general taught, meaning that I do not have to go to classes. Instead, I will take 4 module courses(each for six weeks and then a dissertation module starting after Easter next year. The module courses have required readings and papers that I need to write the first one has four papers, I think and that are basically task-based. I also have to attend tutorials for the module which will be the closest thing to a class as all of us in the module will attend and meet with our tutor. There are three of those over the course of the six weeks. The module courses I am taking are Intro to Social Research, Qualitative Research Methods, Quantitative Research Methods, and Advanced Qualitative Methods.

I also have to attend a weekly PhD workshop that is aimed at preparing us to do research, and I have to meet with my advisers every one or two weeks. There are other various seminars and training programs that I will likely go to, hopefully including the Researching and Analyzing Metaphor workshop in Amsterdam next July, and some training in the UK on computer mediated communication.

I have been told that the university is spending between £300,000 and £400,000 to train each of us, most of that money coming from government grants. The goal of the MRes and the PhD is to produce self-sufficient researchers, so basically we are given the resources we need to and told to do our work with a little guidance, but it's basically up to us to get everything in when it is needed. From what I can tell, there are also no real grades, just passing and failing.

There is something to be said here about the difference between studying and researching, which both have their benefits, I think. That said, no one here is really studying anything. After talking to different people and the different things people are studying, I have learned that if you are passionate about something and you can convince someone that it is worth researching, you can get money to research it. Yes, even the Wii. Basically, the school gives you support for four years to do what you want, with some limited guidance. For me, this is perfect, and I am looking forward to what the library and Internet can teach me.

05 October 2008


I woke up late and took the bus into town with wife and daughter. We went to the market downtown, ate good food from men in vans, and ordered the Internet finally with a promise we'll be connected by Oct. 13th. I drank a lot of tea and we took bus back to house, before I turned around and rode my bicycle to work. After all the nonsense of getting what we needed was finished, it's been really relaxing. Naomi, also, has been doing much better now that I am putting her to sleep and not Yoko. The first night she screamed and screamed. Last night, just a little crying, but when you tell her and you have to tell in Japanese, fortunately/unfortunately, she repeats what you said and lies down. She won't, however, go to sleep unless I am lying next to her and will wake up if I try to leave. So I am working on my stealth departure, but not quite there yet. It's nice though — I should enjoy it while it lasts.

If we can't afford to fly to the States for Christmas, we are thinking about going someplace warm: either Portugal or France. We'll see. Going home would be best, but it's like $1,700.

04 October 2008

Here and now

I am finished with orientation and I couldn't be happier. Well, now I'm not going to get free food, so that is one thing I will be missing, but otherwise, it's nice to be finished. Now, I can move on to doing my actual work. It's been one week, and the magic is not gone yet.

03 October 2008

Oh my gosh

I can't believe I'm listening to this vice-presidential debate between Joe Biden and Sarah Palin — I think it should be against the rules to say, 'You betcha' or 'gosh' or 'gosh darn it' in a debate. I'm waiting for Palin to break down and start sobbing: And oh sweet baby Jesus, won't someone — someone — think of the children.

01 October 2008

Baby, born

Famed older brother and famed sister-in-law have brought forth Asher Samuel Neeraj this last Monday.  Oi!

Keeping it up

We have been in England for two weeks now, and time really seems to be flying by. Yesterday, I got my bank account, so once I get my debit card, I can finish my Internet order sometime on Saturday. Plus two or three business days and I should be connected in the house. We'll see if that actually happens. I shouldn't complain though because when we first went to Japan it took something like six weeks to do.

Today I get all of my books for my program and then finish up orientation tomorrow and Friday. After all that is done, then I think we can move into the more steady day-to-day living.

The weather was really nice until yesterday when it started raining. Today is shaping up to be nice though.

I can also say that I think I was able to make it to England for (very roughly) what I thought it would cost. Still far, far too much, by my estimation.

30 September 2008

The trip over

When I moved to Japan, I famously had two bags and a guitar. I will probably tell this story for the rest of my life. When I moved to Niigata, I had added two more boxes. When Yoko and I moved to Shibata, it was some forty boxes and furniture. When we came to England, we checked 14 bags (3 free, one free bike, and ten extra bags) and carried on 6 bags. We were also supposed to have a stroller, but we left it in Mito by accident.

My plan was to have all these bags shipped from Heathrow to our Bed and Breakfast for some 150 pounds. All went as planned on the Japanese side—our bags were at Narita and I was able to get them to the British Airways counter with help from Iori, Yoko's brother's partner, who basically saved our lives for about a week before we left. That left us with the 6 carry-ons (one backpack, two duffle bags, two-wheeled bags, and a diaper bag). This was a lot (more than I would suggest, especially if you are travelling with a baby), but we managed, me carrying my backpack, pulling the two-wheeled bags with the diaper bag and duffle on top of each and Yoko carrying the baby and one or two of the duffles, depending on the situation.

I was worried that we were going to have trouble getting all of this on the plane, but nobody stopped us and when we got on the plane (before everyone, of course), I was able to get everything into the overhead compartments without too much trouble. We were in the bulkhead too, which was pretty nice, especially since we didn't have a seat for Naomi.

We took off and Naomi fed and didn't have any trouble with the pressure change (although I have a feeling that the technology has gotten better on planes because I don't have any problems with my ears and I always used to be really sensitive to it). About two hours after takeoff, some juice started to drip down from the ceiling on the row behind us which was pretty weird, and required everyone behind us getting moved. This turned out to be pretty great because the dripping stopped, but the people didn't move back, leaving us with another row to exploit.

Naomi did a really good job and slept on and off through the flight. I didn't get any sleep, but I did finally get to see the Sex and the City movie that I have been waiting to see and didn't think it was as bad as everyone had said.

When we landed at Heathrow, things went really well: we had visas so we went right through immigration and all of our bags came through without any trouble. I was able to get everything on three carts and we paid a porter 8 quid to push one of them to the left luggage.

At left luggage, I told them of my plans to ship everything (per the e-mails I had traded with the company). They had to take every bag individually and measure it and weigh it before they would quote me a price (although I asked a couple of times for a rough figure, expecting it to be, as I was quoted, about 150 pounds). After about 20 minutes of measuring, they finally came back and said it was going to be like 430 pounds, which I was shocked at and immediately refused. One of the guys at the store also told me that I could rent a van for next to nothing and just take it up myself. I had thought about this before and decided to just go ahead with it.

Well, I went to the car rental kiosk which is basically just a phone bank and asked the guy who was directing people there what I should do and he told me I should just put everything on the Avis van, go to the Avis office and try to change my reservation. So Yoko and I pushed the carts (now at 4 for some reason) out to the buses to get the Avis van. The Avis van comes and the driver looks at all my stuff sort of skeptically, but agrees to put it all in the van and take me to the office. Or at least, half of it, at which point he says, how are you going to get all of this in your car? I say, Well, I am going to change my reservation and he says, There is no car there big enough to carry all of this, you have to go rent a van. So he makes me unload everything.

By now, it's about 8 and Yoko is standing there on the curb with Naomi, who is on her back and asleep. The porter guy comes around and asks me what I'm doing and I tell him, and he gives me some advice about where to rent a van, so I leave Yoko on the curb, go back to the Kiosk to try to call the van rental place, but it is now closed, apparently. So with no other options and my wife and daughter out in the cold, waiting with our stuff, I decided to just punt and put everything in left luggage and work something out in the morning.

We paid the porter to put everything on a huge cart (at a cost of 16 quid) and take it back to the left luggage. At this point, I was a little worried about the reception we were going to get at left luggage as I had them go through this once before, but they were accommodating and took everything at 
£6.50 a bag (12 bags) and Yoko and Naomi and I went back out to wait for the Avis van.

When we got to the Avis office, I was pretty disappointed as the 'small' cars were not really that small, and the car I had reserved was, in fact, much larger than I thought. I would have been able to put at least three more bags into it if I had brought them, but by then it was about 9 and after explaining my problems to the Avis guy and him trying to help me, we just decided to go with what I had.

I had never driven in England before, and on no sleep, at nine in the evening, I was a little bit concerned, but I only made one wrong turn coming out of the airport, and was quickly on the expressway and in MK in about an hour (as we had planned).

All in all it was much more stressful than it needed to be on the arrival side. If I had just put everything in left luggage immediately, it would have been much easier, but it worked out as I just spent the next day couriering things back and forth and was able to get the flat in time and all of that. But you learn as you go

Can you believe it?

I am at the library at the OU and finally, finally, finally connected to the intranet. Here's what I have been up for the last week.

Basically living in Ikea. I was in Ikea for my whole life it feels like a lifetime, only to come home to piles of things that needed putting. Still, new student orientation has been pretty incredible, and I'm feeling wicked lucky to be here. Our little cohort is pretty international. Canada, Mexico, Argentina, Holland, South Africa, China, Bangladesh, Palestine, Germany, Cyprus. Some other ones too.

Still, Yoko is feeling ill, and I have a lot left to do, but now that we don't have a car, things are going to settle down and I can start to work on the more academic priorities.

25 September 2008

Rolling blackouts

I am going to disappear from the Internet for a couple of days, until it is installed in the house. I suggest you continue to hit refresh on this page until I reappear.

24 September 2008

Photo taken by famed older brother

And finally

There is something about Europe in Autumn with a morning sick wife...

Send money

We are moving in on Thursday which means today was about 50% successful. I didn't get a bank account but was able to order the Internet and get some needed furniture and the rice cooker. I also took a pass on buying the first car I have looked at. When the Internet does comes I will be able to call the US for free. Until then. we'll be blacking out on Thursday for a couple of days or weeks, depending on the availability of the Internet.

News in Britain seems to be revolving around Gordon Brown and how much people think he is a failure. And knife violence. In Japan, Taro Aso who both a Xenophob and wicked ugly man has been elected Primer.

I miss the quirkiness of Japan; England is so much more straightforward.

23 September 2008


I am on a roll now, having secured the apartment for us to move into on Thursday — the next level of settling down. This means I can now set up a bank account and then order the Internet and then buy a car. And then, I hope, we'll be finished, or then I can start getting to work. I have a meeting with a fellow student and supervisor, and then orientation on Friday.

22 September 2008

On a roll

We are rolling now. We got up late and went to check out this church service that Yoko had seen on a blog or something. I wasn't quite sure what it was, but Yoko said there might be Japanese people there so we went. When we got into the sanctuary, it was bizarre — like we had suddenly passed through the wardrobe and re-entered Japan. Everything was exactly the same: the same songs, the same people, the same organ. The welcome card in Japanese. The service began and we sang the first song. Yoko started crying and suddenly I was crying too. Naomi wandered around the whole time, and afterwards, there was tea and Japanese snacks and we all chatted in Japanese for about 30 minutes. I have now met more Japanese people in England than English people.

And suddenly, before I knew it, I was saying that I was willing to teach English privately to the Japanese community. I am back on the horse, but come to think of it, between teaching English and working at the supermarket, maybe teaching English is the best thing for me. I make about four times what I would doing anything else, and it's much easier.

It's looking likely that we will get a car as it is not as expensive as I thought and will probably help us out a little bit getting around here and there and going where we need to go. Now to find a reasonably-priced car.