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.