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.