30 April 2008

Lies! All lies!

Some godless heathen has been circulating this picture of 'Agua Man' and telling people that it's just me, in a bad, homemade Agua Man costume. Well, let me put all the rumors to rest. I am not, nor have I ever been 'Agua Man.' Although I deeply respect and revere Agua Man, I could never be half the man he was.

Although the guy in the tights and the skirt in the background is totally Bob Kurtz.

29 April 2008

Jeremiah Wright

Jeremiah Wright. This man is at the same time the most brilliant and the stupidest figure of the 2008 election so far.

First, on his brilliance: If you haven't listened to him at the National Press Club and on the Bill Moyer's show, check it out. Wright is a scholar and s a theologian and knows his history. His discussion of hermeneutics and the need to grapple with the ugly parts of the Bible are important. His explanation of his comments that were played on the TV constantly is good enough and certainly not any worse than any other nonsense you hear in a church on Sunday morning ('I feel like God has gathered us here today to blah, blah, blah'). He's right: Religion that is not connected to the actual life of the practitioners is worthless. And that the religion of the slave-owner is not the same religion as the slave. He is right about the evil the US government has done and is doing and will do and I agree with him: if there is a God to damn this sort of behaviour and these sorts of evil people, then America is damned — you can use the word 'condemn' if it makes you feel better.

I am also aware of the double standard. First, that if this was Hillary's pastor, there would be no problem or fear. Obama is a black man, and some white people are afraid of black men, especially when they are angry. Wright is only a threat because we're all sort of afraid that Obama might be angry too. No one would be afraid of an angry white man like Howard Dean. Second, if Obama's pastor was white and spewing white evangelical crazy like God damns gays or abortionists or whatever like John Hagee, then it would be okay because white evangelical crazy comes from the Bible. Black Christian crazy is from the Black Panthers and Malcolm X.

Still, Wright is being an asshole about the whole thing. He's being antagonized and he's getting antagonized. He says he wants people to be reconciled, but he's not taking a step to the middle ground. Yes, some dumb white people don't get why some blacks are still angry, but the way of helping them understand is not shouting at them. It's through education. Now, granted, this is a bad place to do that, but you don't choose the circumstances you end up in. You have to deal with them as they are. So his inability to adapt is killing not only the chance of people listening to him in the future, but it's also hurting Obama's chance to be elected and bring some real reconciliation. God doesn't call anyone to be an asshole and I think you could probably speak the truth in a little more love and stop being so condescending. And shut the fuck up about the US government making AIDS or trying to defend the statement 'Zionism is a gutter religion.' That isn't getting anyone anywhere.

And anyone who quotes X saying, 'The chickens are coming home to roost' without recognizing the irony of X being killed by his own chickens? Well, that is unforgivable.

This is toughie for Obama, I think. What he really needs is for Clinton to admit she lost and let the full power of the Democratic party come behind him. Until then, I'm not sure what else he can do.

Just me and Johnny... hanging out... waiting for my new bicycle

This is Louis Garneau

He owns the company that made me new bike and he is fucking awesome. Greatest Garneau ever.

27 April 2008

My alma mater

Oh man. I miss Knox.

Tell me dear readership

I was about to write something about belief, but I thought before I do, I should listen to some of the more intelligent readers of the blog. What is the difference between knowledge and belief. Or more importantly, the difference between saying, 'I believe the fundamental claims of a religion to be true' and 'I know the fundamental claims of my religion are true.'

25 April 2008


Dear Mr Stephen Scott Pihlaja,

We are delighted to inform you that we wish to offer you a place on the Ph.D. Applied English Linguistics programme, and official confirmation with full details of the offer is being posted to you today.

24 April 2008

All this and a whole lot more

I love this:
Clinton: How many apples do you see?
Everyone else: Uh, five.
Clinton: But what if you don't count three of the apples. Then how many do you see?
Everyone else: Two?
Clinton: That's right, there are two apples.
My funding application wasn't successful at the University of Leeds which is really not a surprise. I wasn't expecting that my marks from Birmingham would carry me that far in an international scholarship race at a large UK university. Still, it was nice to have been nominated. I'm hoping that all of my options fall away except one and then I can make an easy choice. Not that the Leeds option is not still there because I am more than welcome to go, I just have to come up with some way to feed the baby and my wife while I am going.

I have two classes left today and one tomorrow. Then we are getting into the Golden Week holiday where I am hoping to enjoy a five day weekend and get a bike.

22 April 2008


I'm getting a Russian visa to spend 12 hours on June 1st in Moscow. The application for the visa was more intense than my last job interview. They wanted a heap load of information. I gave them the unvarnished truth. Don't tell my parents that they Russians are probably doing background checks on them.

All this to eat a hamburger in Red Square.

There's also some likelihood that I am going to see Robert Kurtz in Madrid, in all his Spanish glory. Watch me annoy him with my poorly remembered, annoying Spanish.

Good friend, mentor

One of the people I looked up most to in the last couple of years died today. He was an English teacher, world traveler, philanthropist, and deeply inspired me when I met him in Bangladesh last year. If there is a heaven, Bill Balsamo will fit right in. But I already miss him.

21 April 2008

Cornell West

I'm not sure if you caught Real Time with Bill Maher this week, but when asked about whether he eats meat or not, Cornell West said that he only eats meat when he has time. Maher pressed him on what that meant and West replied that sometimes he only has time for peanut butter and jelly.

20 April 2008

Settling down

After so much excitement about getting a sexy, sexy road bike, I think I am going to end up with a cheaper bike built for urban settings. When I'm rich and famous, I will have three bikes: a road bike, an urban bike, and a fixed gear bike. Until then, let's be a little more reasonable, 'eh Steve-o?

18 April 2008


This is only for people who get excited about the JR Yamanote line in Tokyo (via JP). And yes, I am one of those people.

17 April 2008

Working things out

I thought my schedule was really wide open earlier this week until I was looking at a list of classes that are canceled for orientation and saw that I had a class I didn't know I had. After some investigation, I realized that I had missed the first class of my section for students who are repeating English conversation. Consequently, no one has come in the following two meetings. This is odd to me because the course is required for them to graduate and if I, as a college student, had a required course that I had to make up and my professor wasn't at the first meeting, I would be pretty worried and ask about it with someone. Well. No one has said anything and no one is showing up so I think I may have shed 3 hours of classes. We'll see what happens.

I will probably end up with this Giant FCR 2. Ride with us or collide with us.


So Hillary is admitting that she straight up lied?
“I may be a lot of things, but I’m not dumb,” she said in explaining her exaggerated account. “On a couple of occasions in the last weeks, I just said some things that were not in keeping with what I knew to be the case.”

Open University

I passed into the second round of the PhD competition. I got an email from the OU and they said they did not need to interview me again as last year I had that miserable experience just coming out of the shower when they called. So, I'm on to the next round. I won't count my metaphorical eggs before they hatch, but this is pretty good news.

15 April 2008

The big time

I'm supposed to be teaching English IV right now, but it appears that no one has signed up. And so I went to class after making a tons of copies, copies, copies and no one came. Not that I'm complaining. I have four classes tonight at Yoko's university so I will be pretty busy anyway.

Last night I watched movie about Castro and Che and had thoughts all around.

14 April 2008

So now what

Finding good, quality daycare in Japan is a huge pain in the ass. I'm sure it's worse in the States, but Yoko and I have been having non-stop trouble since Yoko went back to work. After the Buddhist nursery school didn't work out despite my heavy lobbying for us to hang in there, we decided to go with the woman who was watching Naomi in Niigata. Although she is much older, she seemed like our only real option. This was going well until today when she told Yoko, Oh, by the way, I can't watch the baby tomorrow. Now, my morning of research is blown and Yoko has to take half a day of vacation while we wonder, now how often is she planning on doing this. We need to live closer to some family. We have no options except the first place which Yoko is dead set against and the whole thing is causing much more stress than it needs to.

My new job, on the upside, is going quite well and I am getting into the swing of it. I've taught all but two of my classes and they seem to be manageable. I'm really focusing on becoming a good communicator this term and trying to keep the classes dynamic and moving swiftly. This is difficult when you are just learning verbs sometimes, but I think it will all work out well in the end.

Go get 'em Jay II

Hell yeah:
Hillary Clinton is out there like she's on the duck blind every Sunday. She's packing a six-shooter. Come on, she knows better. That's some politics being played by Hillary Clinton... This is the same person who spent a decade with her husband campaigning for NAFTA, and now goes around saying she's opposed to NAFTA.

13 April 2008

Thoughts on secularism

One of the things that is required of you in some brands of Fundamentalist Evangelical Christian circles is the ability to whine about how marginalized religious people and particular your brand of Christianity in public life. There are songs about how when we took prayer out of the schools we fucked everything up. Apparently not though, as America remains as religious as ever, and Europe slips further and further away. Which reminds me again why I want to go to Europe although Japan is doing pretty well in resisting religion.

11 April 2008

My new respectable life

This is what my new classroom looks like. I teach here and I use white hot media in the classroom. The students are bound to love it.

Contract lecturing

I taught my first class at the new college this morning and it went quite well. Much better than I expected, although it was a high level class. I got things going the way I want though and the powerpoint presentations really help things run pretty smoothly. I have a lot to think about as now I have to meet most of my classes three times a week rather than only once. Gotta stay on the ball.

I think we solved our nursery school problem, but it's still not quite ideal. We have a lot of work to make the day-to-day business of the family work, but I can't complain as compared to other people, we have it pretty easy.

Other than that, things are swinging pretty well. Stuff I should be doing always outweighing stuff I am doing.

09 April 2008

Fever in fever

The baby has a fever and when mom went to work, all hell broke loose. I pride myself in my stay-at-home father prowess. I kill as a stay-at-home dad, but unfortunately, baby did not get the memo. I held her all day coaxing, begging, joking, 'Please, Naomi-chan. Sleep. Sleep? Sleepy, sleepy.' No dice, until four when I finally got her to sleep on my back.

Having both of us work is great in some ways, and I totally believe it's the best thing, but it's a huge pain in the ass at the beginning of the semester.

I have to go to Kobe for a 'meeting' at the end of the month. Very good things could be in store for me.

08 April 2008

Stephen's English classes are fun

You make me feel so tall

There was a time when all the bands that made me feel anything were on Vagrant Records. This was the end of my freshman year in college. I don't remember all of them, but the number one band was the Dashboard Confessional. That summer there was this tour where all the Vagrant bands played, one after another. There were like six shows in Chicago and two in Milwaukee and I went to four of them, I think. That year I saw the Dashboard Confessional six or seven times.

The best show was the one in November, when Dan Hoerner from Sunny Day Real Estate played with them. Four of us drove up from school to see it, and we stood in the balcony at the Metro. I threw up in Denny's after running into my ex-girlfriend, Bob and Bob slept on each other in the back of Jules' car. We got pulled over at 3 in the morning and Jules and I broke up the next week. It was a hard year for me. And the Dashboard Confessional didn't really make it easier.

Tonight, some five or six years later, I'm listening to 'Can't Slow Down' by Saves the Day and writing about metaphor theory.

04 April 2008

Life and Times

I am on the train to Niigata City from Shibata, going to the last get together I have with the people from my old job. Luckily, we are just drinking and I will be woefully underdressed for the occasion. This will be the second event that I will be underdressed for today as I also went to the entrance ceremony for Naomi's day care/ preschool and did not wear an ill-fitting wrinkled suit, which seemed to be what everyone else was wearing.

This preschool is connected to a Buddhist temple, but we were assured that there wasn't anything religious that happened. By nothing religious happening, apparently they meant burning incense in front of the Buddha statue and singing buddhist songs because that is what we did today. I'm not particularly interested in it one way or the other, but today it really bothered me. Maybe it was the fat monk who looked unhappy to be there and because I was recently in Laos where the monks seemed truly joyful and actually lived monastic lives. This guy seemed like a joke — the only thing I can think of that's worse than teaching small children religion is hypocrites teaching hypocritical religion to small children.

Other than that, things are going relatively well, as long as I don't think about my bike being stolen from in front of the house. I am confident that I will get it back as it is such a unique looking bike, and the bastard that stole it will have to ride it to Kyushu before no one recognizes it.

The new job which looks to be what I have been waiting for, more or less. Not a lot of hours, good working conditions, nice co-workers. Good boss. Gym with shower on campus. Ten minute walk to work. Fifteen weeks of classes and one week of finals. What more could you ask for.

03 April 2008

01 April 2008

Why not me

I decided today after seeing a call for chapters for a book on digital communication that I could probably write a chapter about digital communication. I'm working on a proposal for a chapter called 'Writing is the new speaking: Digital prosody and voice construction in blog writing'. I also am well at work on my presentation for the Researching and Analyzing Metaphor Conference in May and a proposal for the Japan Association of Language Teaching conference in October. The sum of all these parts is me procrastinating.

Also, in another hit to adolescent Stephen, my school made business cards for me. So now I have business cards that I didn't print myself.

An' I say, "Aw come on now,
You must know about my debutante."
An' she says, "Your debutante just knows what you need
But I know what you want."