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.