31 December 2009

2009 Retrospective

Every year, I have plans to write retrospectives, and things always get away from me. Here it is almost 2010, and I have written nothing.

2009 was a tough one, a tough one that started out especially tough. I remember last January being particularly hard — walking in through the cold to school. Things began to turn around after I passed my driving test: Gary, my friend the photograph who's doing his PhD in Geography, came over and we drank beer and talked for a couple of hours. After that, things changed in small ways, but it was that night that it started to get better.

Mei was born, of course, in May. This was certainly the highlight. She came so quickly.

I got to the Louvre. I got to the van Gogh museum. I was in the UK, the US, Holland, and France. I started learning French. I taught my first semester at a British university. I lectured at Birmingham. I ran forty five kilometers on a Saturday morning in July. I got a second masters. I saved some money.

I will remember this the clearest: I was running one morning in Milton Keynes. I ran up the canal past where the trail ends. I came under a stone bridge and decided to stop there. I climbed up the embankment and into a field, the sun coming up over the British countryside. It was absolutely perfect.

2010 could be a big year for me. I won't say more than that, but I have a good feeling about it.

Perhaps you will continue on with me.

21 December 2009

America, America

It's Monday, which means I have been in America for a week. Some notes:
  • Ate.
  • Ate.
  • Saw Avatar.

17 December 2009

Back in the States

We are here, we are real, and we are really here. And I got some work done today. And I've eaten too much. And I exercised.

09 December 2009

Learning a language is hard

I think if you don't feel completely humiliated and incapable after a language lesson, you aren't trying hard enough. Let me explain.

The last time I was in a language classroom where I wasn't the teacher has been something like 13 years, when I was studying Spanish back in high school. And somehow, in the course of studying Spanish, I managed to hardly ever speak any of it, just memorize stupid grammar rules.

Between then and now, I have taught a load of English, learned Japanese, and learned a bit about language acquisition. All that to say, I have a lot of opinions about how to teach and learn languages, and more importantly, how I want to learn a language.

Tonight was my first French tutorial and since I did well on my first homework, I was thinking, well, this shouldn't be too bad. I realized, however, that there is quite a lot of difference between what you do by yourself at home and what you have to do when you and three people are trying to reproduce something in the spur of the moment. Oh man. I was nervous, I had the I-don't-know-how-to-say-that panic. Japanese was coming out. It was a mess.  A big, wet, silly mess.

Japanese, for as difficult as it is, is a very, very easy language to pronounce. You have all the sounds in you already if you are an English speaker. Also, because the alphabet is different. you learn all the new letters as new concepts tied to new sounds. With French, the pronunciation is more nuanced and because you have sounds linked to letters ingrained in you, it's very hard (for me at least) to look at the French particle 'de' and not pronounce it as I would in Spanish or English or even Japanese for that matter. You have to really force yourself to stay on track.

Anyway, it was fun, especially the last group I was in tonight as they were really, really trying to get around with no English.

Thoughts on teaching from the point of view of the student in a later blog, I think.

08 December 2009

Mei and new best friend

Anyone else feel like a poem?

If You Forget Me (Neruda)

I want you to know
one thing.

You know how this is:
if I look
at the crystal moon, at the red branch
of the slow autumn at my window,
if I touch
near the fire
the impalpable ash
or the wrinkled body of the log,
everything carries me to you,
as if everything that exists,
aromas, light, metals,
were little boats
that sail
toward those isles of yours that wait for me.

Well, now,
if little by little you stop loving me
I shall stop loving you little by little.

If suddenly
you forget me
do not look for me,
for I shall already have forgotten you.

If you think it long and mad,
the wind of banners
that passes through my life,
and you decide
to leave me at the shore
of the heart where I have roots,
that on that day,
at that hour,
I shall lift my arms
and my roots will set off
to seek another land.

if each day,
each hour,
you feel that you are destined for me
with implacable sweetness,
if each day,
each hour,
you feel that you are destined for me
with implacable sweetness,
if each day a flower
climbs up to your lips to seek me,
ah my love, ah my own,
in me all that fire is repeated,
in me nothing is extinguished or forgotten,
my love feeds on your love, beloved,
and as long as you live it will be in your arms
without leaving mine.

Ill all weekend

I spent Saturday in bed, something I haven't done since I was in Niigata, I don't think. I got very ill somehow, but luckily it didn't last too long and I mangaged to make my class on Monday morning which was my main concern. The Piccadilly Line was a complete disaster yesterday, owing to a bad signal at Arnos Grove, so I ended up spending like an hour on the underground, worrying that I wasn't going to be able to get to my class on time.

And last night I submitted all my essays back to Birmingham, having marked them, meaning that I only have some odds and ends to clear up before getting to the States for Christmas. An abstract, some transcribing... Some copying, a French class, some French homework... An article for a reading group. Nothing too heavy.

I do have to begin preparing for my next big project: teaching Pedagogic Grammar next semester, along with Research Methods. I have all the materials now and I have to beging thinking about what it is exactly that I want to teach... Should be interesting.

04 December 2009

It's Friday night, suddenly

Now that I teach on Monday, the week just disappears out from underneath me. And suddenly it's Friday.

We had my supervisors over for dinner yesterday, which was quite nice. It's hard to tell if they all had a good time: I think they did. Yoko and I certainly did and I enjoyed making the apple pie that turned out much better than I thought it would. And, as bonus, there was a ton of booze left over.

Naomi and I are both feeling kind of sick: Naomi's been coughing and I have a swollen something in my throat. If it doesn't clear up, I think I will have to go to the doctor before I come home for the holidays. I have a lot of things I have to take care of before then, including marking, working on an abstract, a French class, some transcription and some reading. If I can get through all of that, I may be able to have a bit more of a relaxing of a holiday. We'll see though...

02 December 2009

I'm pretty lame

My wife is blogging more than me now. I'm recycling her posts. I know, I know: I'm sorry. What am I supposed to do: I gotta make the cheese to keep the boat floating. Don't worry, though, In less than 11 days, I will be in the States, blogging none. Or more. Sorry. More.

28 November 2009

Bonjour, monsieur. Je chercher un bon café.

I'm trying to decide if I should throw a 's'il vous plait' at the end of that mofo.

Anyway, that's right. One chapter down, 11 to go.

Basically, all the French I used in France, was wrong. Completely wrong.

25 November 2009

French III

This is now Day Four of learning French, and things have picked up, finally. I think I might actually be able to do this without failing.

23 November 2009


At the British Library today, I saw an original manuscript of Handel's Messiah and, more impressive to me at least, the original manuscript for Jane Eyre. Under the glass, in Bronte's on script, it was opened to: Reader--I married him. Wow, right?

French II

I made my way to the British Library this afternoon, eager to get some French work done, but it has been a failure and I have missed the earlier train and I have to wait until 6 now anyway. Ugh. Let me back up.

This morning, I left the house to catch the 09:41 train to Euston, as I had a meeting at 11:30 with my supervisor at Middlesex to talk about the marks I had given to my students. The train was delayed because the were 'waiting for the crew from a previous train'. This seemed suspicious at best. So it looked like it was going to be about 12 minutes late and right before it arrived, they changed the platform, so we all stampeded over there and I ended up sitting across from a man with awful breath who was sleeping and snoring.

This got me to London late and I rushed to get on my underground train, made my transfer in record time, but the train terminated at Arnos Grove and I had to wait for the next train anyway. I arrived at Oakwood just in time to see the Middlesex bus pulling away (at like 11:16, which I could have sworn was early) and I had to walk the mile down to campus and I arrived at my supervisors office, sweaty and out of breath.

After that, things picked up, more or less. My marks were good, my students were good, I got a cup of coffee at the station and road back into the city.

Now, I am still at the BL, but my French understanding is struggling as I am really having a hard time hearing the language and matching what I hear with what I read. Hopefully I'll be able to get over this.

I am also in need of losing about 3 kgs before I go home (in less than three weeks now). Two days in and I'm feeling good. I should be able to get back on the saddle. Now I just have to take care of myself when I'm at home. We'll see if that happens or not.

22 November 2009


I have my first day with all the materials for my French course, and although this probably comes as no surprise to anyone, French is much, much, much easier (at least at this point) from Japanese. Just being about to look things up in the dictionary is a huge advantage. Hopefully I'll be able to catch up with everyone and get my stuff turned in by the first, per the requirement.

21 November 2009

Jack Kerouac

The famed older brother and his family are travelling across the country to take up a teaching post in the wild, wild west. I imagine them, in their Uhaul, living the American dream--Jack Kerouac with a family.

20 November 2009

Why I love Milton Keynes

Mildest weather ever. I was thinking, it's been pretty warm this last couple of weeks. I wonder how much colder it's going to get. Not that much colder, apparently.

19 November 2009

Computer? Okay?

Today as I was riding into work, one of my panniers came off when I hit a bump. This was the one with my laptop, unfotunately, and I thought, Oh this could be really bad. The bag got cut up, but after plugging it in at work, there doesn't seem to be a problem. Safe for the time being. Saints be praised.

I had to spend a good part of a half an hour last night trying to track down a plagiarized part of an essay one of my students wrote. It's such a pain just to prove what I already knew. You can't have an essay that's a complete mess and then like three perfect sentences that don't have quotes around them. Anyway, luckily I don't have to really take any serious action (that would involve going before a committee, etc.) as this didn't count towards their final mark, but come on guys: I clearly, clearly explained this to you.

Ugh. I also found out that even as you move up the metaphorical totem pole in the university system in the UK, you are still, for the rest of your career, marking papers. So I suppose I better get used to it, or improve my French enough that I can go be a rodeo clown there. Although, as I think about it, I'm sure there ain't a lot of rodeo clowns in France. Never mind: I will be the first.

18 November 2009

Take me out to the ballgame

We (my academic 'team') are moving this week and this is giving me the opportunity to tidy up my desk a bit. My desk is not very 'tidy' because I am always shuffling through some ridiculous amount of paper related to tutoring at Birmingham, my studies, or teaching at Middlesex. I have not done a good job of keeping everything separate and I keep thinking to myself, well, this might be useful in the future. I threw away a bunch of paper, consolidated a couple of files. A little bit of this, a little bit of that. Today I have spent no time reading, but my desk looks great and I finally know where everything is, more or less.

When I moved to this desk, I taped the note you see above next to my computer screen to remind me of what I did before I was a student. I taught 'Take me out the ball game' to high school students. I spoke and students repeated after me. I'm happy that I don't have to do this anymore and I taped the note up to intimidate myself a little — if you fuck this up, you gotta go back to teaching stuff like this. Anyway, I took it down in the move and I don't think I will put it back up at the new desk. I am a little bird that, after falling for a couple of hundred feet, has started to fly a bit. And it's looking less and less likely that I am going to hit the ground. At least not this time.

17 November 2009


Today is turning out to be a pretty productive Tuesday. I have:
  • Marked some papers,
  • Gone to the doctoral training seminar to invite people to present in the workshop I help run,
  • Got my transcript out for a workshop that I'm doing next week
  • Studied a bit of French, and
  • Begun work on an abstract for the metaphor conference in Amsterdam next June.
While making the announcement at the seminar, my colleague and partner in crime for the workshop said, 'Both Stephen and I are PhD students in...' and I was taken aback. I'm a PhD student? When did this happen, I thought. It was weird and weird that it caught me off gaurd.

After this, I went to the library to look at the materials for the French class I will be taking because I haven't been sent them yet. I have a TMA (tutor marked assignment) of reading and writing due on December first, so I was a bit worried, but after looking over the material I am less worried. Unlike Japanese, when you look at a French sentence, the grammar is pretty self-explanatory. The words look familiar. If you need to look a word up, in Japanese, this is a very time consuming process, especially if you're reading, and requires knowledge of at least one 40+ character writing system. French? Well, you just type it into bablefish. Bam! You have your answer. Anyway, I don't think it will be too difficult. At least for the first book (there are six). We'll see though.

My abstract is also coming together well. I thought last night, as I was going to sleep, if I had to explain what I was doing to someone who had no knowledge of metaphor theory or linguistics or ethnography or discourse analysis, how would I explain it. This was a very good exercise because it reminded me why it was that I am interested in what I'm interested in and what it is, exactly, that I'm trying to accomplish.

16 November 2009

On again, off again, on again

In 4 weeks, I'll be on a plane to the US with the wife and daughters. They'll be great right now, 15 minutes into it, loving the whole thing. Just give it about two hours...

My on again, off again relation with L192, the French class I am supposed to be in, is finally, officially (and officially in the right sense of the word) on again. I am registered and I have missed two tutorials and my first marked homework is due in like a week and half. Gotta get on this.

Now, I am in the British Library, working on marking and my annotated bibliography.

11 November 2009

New PJs

Actually, a good day

After 4 trips to the freaking garage, the car is, I think (fingers crossed), fixed. Hopefully it will hold up, and I will not be going back to this garage.

Do you ever feel good when you get on an e-mail that's sent to you and like a bunch of other people you respect and you think, How did I get on this list? I feel that way today. And it's a good feeling.

But I have to mark some papers, work on my annotated bibliography, and then mark some more papers and then some more marking.

Lots of marking before I come home.

09 November 2009

Oh. Hello.


I have more photo IDs than I ever have had in my whole life. The UK loves to take your picture: watch out!
I'm really into that Swell Season record. Here they are on QTV. What a weird relationship between the two of them. I've never seen Once so I can't really comment on that, but I really like the first song of the record. I love the desperation in the guy's voice: he's just going to make it work, goddammit! I hate to break it to you, mate, but it's unlikely to be solved by you 'sitting her down', but I appreciate your testicular fortitude in the situation.

I can say that I, too, use truth as a weapon to beat up all my friends...

08 November 2009

Forgive me, but

We decided to become CostCo members this weekend. Why the hell not, right? We decided that if all things were in common, we could do several good things for ourselves by becoming CostCo members:
  • Cheaper toilet paper
  • Marginally better food for the same cost in many instances as the cheapest food at Tesco
  • Some American goods that reminds the girls that, even though they don't know it, they are Americans and American kids do stuff like eating pizza and drinking orange soda
  • It gives us something to do once or twice a month.
I was a bit disappointed after we took the plunge — things really aren't that cheap there, but what are you going to do.

After all the drama last week with the damn car, it turns out that the guy who put the damn tyres on the car did not, in his haste to finish, think it necessary to balance the tyres. I have to go back again and hopefully get this taken care of without spending any more damn money.

The good news is that I finally got paid for the teaching I did the last two months which means we are not as badly in the hole as I thought. I knew that we weren't, I knew that the money was coming, but the fact that it is in my account now and not just in my heart and mind is comforting: what can I say.

05 November 2009

April trip coming together

We are thinking of traveling again in April, and if the trip comes together as planned it will be based out of Budapest as we have friends there and will likely include a road trip to Vienna and Serbia, and some much smaller chance of Croatia. Eastern Europe has been on my radar for a while now, so it will be nice to get out there with the kids and see what they, the Hungarians, Austrians, and Serbians,  have to offer... I imagine it will be lots of good food and good times.

Cyclist rage

Today, I finally snapped coming into work when I got the horn from somebody trying to pass me on a two lane bridge that is like 100 meters long. Here's a message for you along with my middle finger: I'm doing 40 km/hr. I'm not drinking your beer. I'm not taking your turn. Take a fucking deep breath and wait the 30 seconds it takes to get over.

And then a lorry, passing me, seems to forget that he is pulling a trailer and although the cab has cleared me, the rest of his truck hasn't. Riding off the bike paths on the main roads is so much faster and easier, but  give me some goddamn space. Immediately after flipping this person the bird though, I had the sinking feeling as I was quite close to the OU that I might have given it to another member of staff, or worse, someone that I know or who has some control over my funding. Luckily, they didn't turn into the uni nor the person behind me. As I thought about it, however, I stood by my gesture. How else am I supposed to communicate back with them when I get taken over like that. Seriously.

03 November 2009

Budding artist and French!

My negotiating skills paid off: as my sister said, the face-to-face is key and now I don't have to wait a year to start studying French. In fact, I have already started now that my registration went through. I am in an undergraduate university course again: can you believe it? And I'm on my way to trilingualism. Watch out trilingualism. I can't wait to say, 'My third language is French, baby.' Yes!

Naomi drew this picture of me and her. It's about right, don't you think?

Up with sick children

I wonder if my parents felt as helpless as I do caring for Naomi when she's sick. It's 2:30 — I think she's finally sleeping. I remember my parents making warm washcloths to press up against my ear when it hurt, and here I am tonight, doing the same thing 25 years later.

02 November 2009

Green Park

I had the most explosive yen  to finish 1Q84 after having left it withering for something like 6 weeks. I had 250 pages left, so starting on Friday night and ending just now, I pushed my way through. I found out yesterday that there will actually be a Book 3 coming out next year, so even though I finished, perhaps I haven't. Getting to the end was an achievement, but the ending isn't that much of an ending and I grew tired of it as the chapters wore on. Book 1 was much better than Book 2 and I think it got be a little too much: stop explaining what's happening, man, we get it: it's sort of real and sort of not. Anyway, I have to wait until the English translation to come out to really trust my reading of the Japanese.

I taught my class and came out to Green Park to finish reading, but because it was cold, I came into a coffee shop with WiFi and have decided to take the 17:46 train home. The leaves in Green Park are wicked pretty right now. It's just clinging on to autumn...

Inside, where it's warm, Christmas music is playing and now that British Summer Time is over, it is already pretty much dark out. The city, the buses: it is all enchanting. I'll have to remember to come back to this cafe.

31 October 2009

The automobile

500 quid later, I have a car that is road legal in the UK for one year and a working windshield wiper motor (that was 230 pounds of it). And two new tyres.

I hate cars, I hate owning cars, I hate maintaining cars, I hate driving cars, I hate cities planned around cars. A car has never done anything good for me. Ever.

30 October 2009


from Keller, S. (2003). Community: pursuing the dream, living the reality: Princeton Univ Press

29 October 2009

Influenza hits the Pihlaja home

Naomi is the first: hopefully this passes quickly and I don't get it. Or I get it after everyone else...

Getting something done

Well, this week I have finally had a little bit of production, including:
  • Reading a couple of books.
  • Transcribing a couple of minutes of a potential data set
  • Reworking dissertation for the Journal of Computer-mediated Communication
  • Some French study
If I can keep this up until the weekend, I think this week could count as a success.

28 October 2009

New Glasses?

Yes? No?

Certificate in French, Pre-school, NHS dentist

Not in that order:

  • If you're tired of me singing the NHS' praises, this is the wrong post to read. We found an NHS dentist, which was supposed to be impossible, but apparently it is not. I booked an appointment for everyone in the family that has teeth and we went today. We waited three minutes, the dentist saw all three of us at the same time. Completely the same as the private dentist. They checked out Naomi's teeth: fine. Yoko and I were both fine. Yoko is exempt from paying (still) because she had Mei within a year. Naomi is under 18 and free too. I had to pay £16.50. In and out in 20 minutes.

  • Naomi is starting pre-school in September (again, with the help of the government/ Milton Keynes council). We have to decide where we want her to go and enroll her this next week. For those of you who are hoping to hear her speak English with an English accent, you'll have to wait 'til this time next year. And I can stop feeling guilty about speaking Japanese in the home.

  • I am trying to get into a beginners French course at the OU. I missed the cut-off day for getting the staff fee waiver by like three days, so I called this morning and I was told that I couldn't get the fee waived, but I could still enroll if I paid the cost of the course (like £970 or something). If I have learned anything from my maths-literate younger sister, it's that you should always negotiate, push, and prod when you are told no by an institution, so undeterred, I came to work today, printed out the fee waiver form, got it signed, and went over to undergraduate student registration  office. The office is actually just their call centre (as everyone studies off campus), so I knocked on the door, talked to someone, and was brought to the appropriate person's cubicle. After pleading my case, she promised that she would try and e-mail me when she found out if I could get in with the fee waiver or not. I still haven't gotten an e-mail, which I would like to think is a good sign. Either way, I am at least registered for next year and if I take two one-year courses, I can get a Certificate in French from the OU: something I think would be useful, especially if we decide to move to France, which I would like to think is a possibility. If not, then I will just use it when we holiday there and for my Applied Linguistics work. You can never have too much language knowledge in this work and it's always a good way to trump people bullshitting about something: that theory falls apart if you think about it in the French or Japanese context.

Bad news

I realised I missed the cut-off date by four days for staff fee waivers to get into the French class I wanted to take. Now, to work the phones to get someone to let me in. Please! Let me in!

But now we have to go to the dentist.

27 October 2009

The Bible

Read Karen Armstrong's 'The Bible: A Biography' today. Very good. Christianity in history, created and shaped by the world it is in: sounds reasonable enough.

26 October 2009

Oxford Street, Pretentious d-bags, and 27 inch screens

Today, everything seemed to go right: I made all my transfers, and when I got on the shuttle bus to school, there was only one seat left. My class went well, and I was able to ride the shuttle bus back to the station without having to wait or throw any elbows to get on. Rather than waste all this good luck at the library, an ad on a billboard got me thinking I might want to scurry down to Oxford St. to see what fashionable people were up to.

Oxford St (particularly right around the Oxford Circus Station), for those of you who don't know, is populated with all sorts of high end what-have-you, right on the end of Soho. I went to have a cup of coffee and maybe walk down Regent St to see if the Christmas stuff was up yet. Instead, I ended up going down Oxford St and stopped in at a couple of places:
  • Urban Outfitters: I don't know if you any of you have ever been to this store before, but it's like the place you can buy all the stuff that was sort of underground a year ago, but is now played out and the reason you know it is played out is that you can buy it Urban Outfitters. Anyway, I looked around, and decided that probably the David Ruffin glasses that I want are probably already played out, but that probably won't stop me from getting them.
  • American Apparel: This place was super creepy. I guess the '90's are retro now, but I'm not willing to put on a neon anything for a little while, I think.
  • Uniqlo: This is the coolest clothing store (next to Ships and Neverland) in Japan and I'm wicked happy they have a few in the UK. I saw a couple of things that I wanted and could probably even afford. I think for Christmas, instead of buying each other stuff, Yoko and I will just go there and each spend like 30 quid and call it even.
  • Marks and Spencer: Just had to pee here, nothing to report.
  • Apple Store: I wanted to see if the 27 inch iMac was ridiculous or not and how the new mouse was. Both are better than I suspected, but probably not worth the ₤1500 they want for it. Still, it was nice to see it. The 27 in screen is probably really nice too, actually. They are so beautiful, anyway.
  • Banana Republic: Saw an excellent one button blazer that I want, but it was just under ₤200, which is way, way too much for a struggling artist like myself. With two kids to feed. College educations.
And although there were no seats on the 4:48 train back to MK, I sort of enjoyed sitting on the ground, reading my Community Studies book — all of London disappearing behind the sun going down as we raced into Buckinghamshire and back home.

23 October 2009

Back in black, baby

Back in the UK. Odd to be coming into St Pancras and thinking, we're home.

The best news of the day was that I fought and won my argument over the pricing of the hotel room, leaving me with 120 more euro in my pocket than I thought I was going to have on Tuesday night. Great!

All the pictures are here. Some highlights from today.

21 October 2009

The will to power

Our trip to Paris has been flirting with disaster since arriving. There was a problem with our hotel reservation that ended in us getting a really miserable room in little India in Paris, but only losing 120 euro to even have this place to stay and another 25 euro on the worst cab ride I have ever been on. We went out looking for some place to eat last night and walked for about 15 minutes, didn't see anyone who looked remotely French, and passed scores and scores of Halal/ Indian/ Bangla cafes before thinking, where the hell are we.

The room we were in only had one working light and not bathtub/ no soap... I was thinking, holy hell this is going to be miserable. And on top of that Yoko got sick, Mei was screaming...

This morning, we got up, had the continental breakfast, and thought things looked better even though Yoko was still feeling sick. We packed all our shit up, opened the hotel door and... rain. At this point, I was thinking we were going to end up in the hotel room all day, but we put the rain cover on the buggy and pressed on.

We went to a market near La Chapelle, where we are staying and that was nice. Then we got on the metro and fought up and down the stairs with the kids and buggy, with the goal of getting to St. Michel/ Notre Dame.  We succeeded in getting there and things started to turn around. It was raining, but not bad enough that you couldn't walk in it. Yoko was feeling sick, but not sick enough to go home. So we went to Notre Dame, which is beautiful and couldn't find a toilet so Naomi had to pee in the park, which she was happy with. We walked up the Seine all the way to the Eiffel Tower which was nice enough. It took like an hour and half, but we enjoyed ourselves and Yoko and I got a chance to talk, which we haven't in a while. Stopped and Naomi peed in the bushes again.

On the way to the Tower, the camera broke and I was standing there in the rain thinking, this has been such a disaster, but then the thought of Nietzsche's will to power, the ubermensch overcame me and I thought, We are going to press on. Regardless.

I had this sense again as I was pushing the buggy in the rain through the people corral at the Tower trying to get it through the narrowest of places and everyone looking at me like, 'Just go home and come back in 10 years.' I had it again as we were holding up the line trying to fold it up.

But then, we got to the top and out of the rain and there was a toilet and it stopped raining a little and then completely and we stood up there for like two hours just walking around, looking at the famous sites, drinking fabulous coffee.

We came down and it wasn't raining anymore and we took the train back to the French quarter. Had fabulous food. A fabulous walk around.  I keep trying to speak French with people and they keep giving up and speaking in English.

The key to enjoying this is realising that it's me, the wife, and two small kids. It's not just me, or me and Yoko, 0r me and someone else. It's all of us together. And at this point, we have two choices in our life: stay at home and not do stuff like this, or try to do stuff like this and realise that it is going to be harder. But worse: just harder. And when I realised that, it seems like everything fell into place.

Tomorrow we are going to hit the Louvre and see my second supervisor from the OU who happens to be here. And eat more delicious bread and laugh when we see a huge staircase instead of cursing. The key, I heard someone say on the TV, is: When it's good, it's fun; when it's bad, it's funny.

19 October 2009

Gone to France

Hopefully I will get a chance to report from the field, but unless I don't, the French say hello.

Curious as to why I haven't seen a FB posting from someone in a while, I looked up their page only to find that we were no longer FB friends. I have done this before (deleted someone without a note), but I didn't realize how shitty it was until it happened to me. Really? This is what the world has come to? Deleting FB friends to show our unhappiness with them? I can't think of a more petty passive-aggressive thing to do. I expected more from the Internet. Or from people on the Internet. I expect more from myself, too, I guess. Lesson learned.

17 October 2009

A series

I want some new glasses

I think I am going to get new glasses and I think I want to look like David Ruffin.

Naomi has a good time

A thrilling time for sisters around the world

Mei on the swings

There is no status to update

After a good discussion with a good friend yesterday, I decided that it was time to take a break from Twittering/ updating my FB status. Why is this? Well, it has to do with whether or not I want to be so obsessed with how I appear in front of people constantly. Am I saying what I'm saying for a positive reason or not.

I had this problem in the annuls of this blog, if you look back, back, back. I have kept this blog in one way or another for more than six years, the whole time I have been away, basically. I have been, in the last (perhaps) two years, less worried about appearances here. Maybe that's because I know that no one is reading this except the people who are truly interested in what I have to say in some sort of longer format. Micro-blogging seems to be more phatic, less about things that you might want to read in 30 years. Then again, maybe this is also phatic and I just can't recognise it as such.

I'm preparing to go to Paris on Tuesday, which includes learning to order in French, counting and working on some of that stuff.

15 October 2009

What might have been lost

I am listening to Bon Iver and thinking about Illinois in December, particularly I-94 out of the suburbs when it is so, so cold. I am really happy to be going home: although happy is the wrong way to describe it. It is right for me to go home. I realised this a couple of weeks ago out-of-the-blue. That money concerns aside, I should be home when I can be. And we should be in Japan when we can be. To pretend otherwise is silly, I think.

So going home will be nice, I'm sure. On the docket will be the Green Mill with Yoko, finally, seeing old friends, and hopefully catching a show by my reunited old band somewhere in there. I have to work some of the time as per usual, but it will be really nice to be able to sit on the parent's sofa and be home.

I have spent most of today marking an essay and working on giving comments to one of my tutees. I have been a PhD student for like two weeks and have gotten so little done in relation to that. I really need to get reading, but it's like I have a block: I sit down and there are so many other things to distract me.

Although listening to Bon Iver also reminds me of this time last year, with all the concerns that I had about whether or not we were going to be able to afford our life here. Whether or not I had made the right choice. What my future was. All these things are less of concerns now and it seems like I will be gainfully employed when I finish, so I feel like I should really live it up at this stage, before the kids start school and I start working in a real way. For now, we are only fettered by what we perceive as our limits, but really, there are no limits.

And for as much as I feel bogged down by my part-time work at this point, the truth is, the fact that I am getting paid to mark essays and tutor students and teach is pretty incredible thing... There's nothing else I would want to be doing.

14 October 2009

Michael Billig is by homeboy

The paradox of ideology is a variant of a general paradox of language, for the use of language involves both autonomy and repetition. The speaker simultaneously is in charge of language and is captured by it. [Roland] Barthes (1982) alluded to the ambiguity, when he wrote that the speaker is 'both master and slave' of language. On the one hand, speech is an assertion of the self, and, thus, the speaker is the master of the moment. On the other hand, speech is a repetition of signs. Within each sign, Barthes suggested, there 'sleeps that monster: a stereotype'. As slave, the speaker must use the words of the language, and, therefore, cannot but reawaken the sleeping monsters. Yet, the speaker, as master, does more than repeat stereotypes: 'I am not content to repeat what has been said, to settle comfortably in the servitude of signs: I speak, I affirm, I assert tellingly what I repeat' (1982: 460).
From Billig (1991) Ideology and Opinions: Studies in Rhetorical Psychology. London: Sage.

13 October 2009

I'll be home for Christmas

Thanks to my dad's accumulation of frequent flyer mileage, we will be home for Christmas: a nice, long stay from 14 December to 6 January. Although I am not looking forward to travelling with the girls, I am looking forward to arriving and seeing my family again. I talk a big game, but I miss the family, what can I say.

And then we have to go back to Japan next year too. I guess we aren't that far away from places...

09 October 2009

Nana this summer

In the corner of this picture, you can just barely make out my supervision team...

Viva Notes

Probably the best stretch of notes from my Viva. Sa and A are the examiners, St is me.
Sa           I’m less interested in metaphor than in community; only interested in it to the extent that it affects people. But how does one decide that as a linguist?
A            Entering into the field of metaphor studies requires this.
St            I don’t want to be a metaphor theorist.

07 October 2009

Putting it off

I should be making revisions to my thesis, but I haven't gotten the official comments from the examiners, so I am going to wait on it and blog instead.

Today has so far been a rotten, no good day that started with me trying to get documents together for transferring our NHS clinic, included Mei falling out of her child seat due to my careless handling of said seat (she's okay), and then after I biked a half hour to work, I realised that I had left my key card at home, meaning I couldn't get into any of the buildings.

The problems are all solved now. Mei wasn't seriously injured, just very surprised. We got a double pram that folds up quite small. This is for our trip to Paris in a couple of weeks. Hopefully it will do the work that I require of it.

Other than that, things have been going well. I lost some potential income, so that's not very nice. But it won't break us and we have enough of a cushion at this point that we can take a bit of a loss.

This is the building I teach in. Looks more 'universitorial' than the OU, but don't be fooled.


I passed my viva. More work to do, still. But I passed.

03 October 2009

A week in the bag

I ran, ran, ran for all of last week, and it felt really good to be doing stuff again. Monday was my first class, Tuesday was student orientation, Wednesday was work on the garden and supervision meeting, Thursday was the launch of the empathy project that my supervisor is working on, and Friday was the first meeting of the empathy group.

At 12:01 on Thursday morning, my registration magically changed from Master of Research Methods to PhD without so much as a peep. Now, I am a full-fledged PhD student, with no asterisk next to my name. I'm not sure this affords me anything new, but I am pretty happy about it. I was pretty stoked this week to be in the groups that I was, especially at the empathy launch. How I found myself in this group of people, eating excellent free food, and talking with top professors in this field is beyond me, but I do feel quite lucky. Lucky is the wrong word. Blessed is also the wrong word. I feel like I've gotten what it is I wanted and although I know how it happened, I don't really know how it happened.

This coming week I will be in London on Monday and Friday for work, and I have my viva for my MRes dissertation on Tuesday. I expect to spend all of Wednesday and Thursday making corrections, and hopefully be done this week. Then, I can go back to the job that I love best: reading. I will be paid to read for three months, at least, with no other expectations on me, except my part-time work... and the journal article editing... and my students at Birmingham... My supervisors will let me be free for a couple of months, at least.

29 September 2009

Another day!

I am completely done with the old apartment. We got the final word about our deposit, which was better than I expected. I was hoping that I might be able to get it all, completely back, but they deducted £25 to do some touch-up painting. Ah well, what are you going to do. I was worried about losing like £400 in a worst-case scenario. It's done now though and with the visa and the deposit back, I don't really have anything to worry about except my school and work for right now. So that's really good.

My first class at Middlesex went very well. The students all seem very keen and very interested in the subject: I suppose this is the difference between MA and BA level classes. I feel a bit like I am pretending when I teach at this level, like I may be found out to be a fraud. It's the same way I felt when I taught English to children, oddly enough. The commute was fine: about 1 hour and 40 minutes down, and on my way back, I spent some time at the British Library, so that was nice. I took a train back that only stopped once between Euston and Milton Keynes. Otherwise, the kids are good. Yoko is good. I am too busy for my own good, but I guess that I like it that way.

28 September 2009

Most recent photos of the girls

What I'm doing today

If you are interested in what I am doing today, I am teaching and I am basically going to be using a blog to do so. The blog can be found here, and I think this is going to be a good way to keep all of the resources together. We'll see what happens...

25 September 2009

A moment now?

It's been wicked busy moving in, but I have a moment as I wait for the IT guy. We moved into the house and are completely out of the old apartment. Things should be completely settled tomorrow and we'll see how much of the deposit we'll get back some time tomorrow.

(a day later)

Okay, let's try this again. The IT guy came, saved nothing, and I had to remake the whole freaking website. Whatever.

Well, here's what I'm up to:
  • Getting ready for my class at Middlesex, starting on Monday. I have more or less finished the first class plan, but I'm taking it pretty relaxed for the first couple of weeks. I have a computer hooked up to the powperpoint machine, so this should be helpful in producing good material
  • Student induction at the OU. I have to be involved in a couple of events with the international students. I will get a lot of free food and some free beer though.
  • Starting my PhD. I have my first meeting with my supervisor on Wednesday, and she is expecting possible research questions and data samples, I guess. This is more than I thought I needed at this point, but the way we were talking yesterday sounds a bit like I might be out of here in less than three years, which is a bit intimidating and not ideal because, frankly, at this point, the money is probably close to as good as I would make working and I have almost no responsibility.
  • Supervisor's new project. My supervisor is starting a new project about 'Living with Uncertainty' about empathy and the perceived threat of terrorism. Anyway, October first and second, there are events all day that I have to be at in a sports coat, smiling and directing people to coffee.
  • Preparing for viva. I have to defend my dissertation on the 6th. This should be okay. I mean, we'll have to see.
  • Marking for Birmingham. A batch is coming in next week, I think.
I'm missing Japan a little today. Missing autumn.

21 September 2009

Fighting it all these years

Moving is over. Well, not completely over, but everything is out of the old apartment and it is like 85% cleaned up. I still have some stuff to do there.

The new house has everything in it. Yoko and I were up to 1:30 this morning putting stuff away, but it was really nice. We didn't really feel it.  We were having dinner and I couldn't really believe it, in a lot of ways: two kids and house outside of London. Naomi slept in her own room all night  and I ate breakfast in the conservatory. I ran, and got home around 8:00 and cut the hedges, showered in our actual, real shower, dropped off some dry cleaning, went to the old apartment to put the covers back on the sofa cushions, and then came to work. Now, I am supposed to be working on my paper, but instead, I am bidding on monitors on eBay.

20 September 2009


I don’t have any Internet at the house yet, so I will be typing this at home and bringing it to work on the flash drive to make it on to the nets.

We are now completely into the house, although still have some time left before I have to give back the keys for the old place and announce it over. A little bit of cleaning left to do… And then I will wait anxiously over the weekend to see what will happen to my deposit. I am hoping to get about 80% of it back, which will allow us to by the essentials: a new computer chair, a USB to VGA adapter so we can have two monitors and, of course, a second monitor for the office. The essentials only.

The good thing about being out of the apartment is that I can now turn my subwoofer up without any concern about the neighbors. There are no neighbors.

The new house is pretty fabulous. We spent all of today moving things in, assembling shelves, cleaning the old apartment, and putting things away. Naomi enjoys playing in the garden, which is nice because it gives us a chance to not have to worry about her for a little bit. Mei can also cry in her crib when it is time to go to bed and we don’t have to deal with the sound of it being so freaking oppressive.

The garage is nice too. I have things out there and I greased up my bike for my first ride to the office tomorrow. We’ll see how long it takes. I think it will probably take between 25 and 30 minutes.

I have to go into the city this week for a meeting at Middlesex and still working on my article(s), the first of which is due on October first. Lots to think about, not a lot of energy to think about it.

More later.

19 September 2009

Some news

1. I am going to be teaching an MA class (Introduction to Research Methods) at Middlesex University from Sept. 28th. It's just one class, but given the working constraits of my studentship, I'm very lucky to find something in my area and for a whole year too. Now to get prepared...

2. We will be in Paris from 20-23 October. We're staying in what looks to be an okay area and the hotel is right across from a bakery. More later, I'm sure.

17 September 2009

One year!

I can't find a picture from exactly one year ago, when we came to England. I found this picture from Tokyo Disneyland and it describes the way things were this time last year.
Ah, yes, moving was hard, what can I say, but we made it and we made another baby and I wrote a bunch of stuff. It's been a good year — hard, but good. And now we can move on to the next task, whatever that may be. This is a better description of how we feel now:

15 September 2009

More Mei

On the UK like butter on toast

Now that I have been in the UK for a year and I have my daughter's visa, I feel pretty damn positive about this country. All told, it's been a pretty good year for us. Among the good things:
  • Great healthcare. We had to take Mei in again for some ring worm. Called in the morning, got an appointment in the afternoon, waited five minutes, another great doctor--great with both of the kids, out in ten minutes, needed medicine for free. No questions, no IDs, no nothing. You don't want a public option in the States? Fine. I'm going to live in the UK with very good, free insurance.
  • Milton Keynes, for as much as I have complained about it, has a lot of advantages. Ability to ride bike off the main road on well-cared for bike paths anywhere in the city? Check. No traffic? Check. Everything conveniently available? Check. Four bedroom house within walking distance of the city centre/ train station and huge garden? Check, check, and check.
  • A job that makes me feel human. I wanted to go to school the rest of my life and I got a four year extension on that dream. And I'm getting paid to do it. Imagine that.
  • The weather. I love the weather in England. It's so effing mild. It's been like the middle of September for three months now. I really, really dig it.
  • London. Enough said.
  • Markets. These were hard to find in Japan and the States. All over the place here.
  • Oxford.
  • Bread and beer. The food in England is not great, unless you want bread and beer. Then it's pretty damn good.
  • An easier life for my wife and kids. I was worried the most about them before coming, but they have it better here than in Japan in a lot of ways. Yoko doesn't need to work. There are parks everywhere. Yoko has been able to find good friends.
I think we will stay on another year but now, back to moving.

14 September 2009

Bits and pieces of moving

I am deep in the process of moving is coming along. Here is what happened today:
    • 6:13AM I woke up and realised that I won an auction overnight for a second 19 inch monitor. Great!
    • 6:55 Left to teach English
    • 7:15-8:15 Taught English
    • 8:30 Picked up Mei-mei's passport and mine from the post office centre. Visa, ftw!
    • 9:15 Went to bank with wife and children to change address, shopped for food.
    • 11ish went to school and spent forever calling energy companies, the tax office, etc. Worked a very little bit on my journal article. This and that
    • 3:00 Got home and went to the post office change my address. Needed a bunch of ID I didn't have came home, got ID, went back.
    • 3:45ish Took apart a couple of bookcases and packed some stuff.
    • 4:30ish Took said stuff to the new house, upacked some, worked on rearranging my office there.
    • 6:00ish Made way home.
    • 6:20 Ate dinner
    • 7:00 Gave kids bath
    • 7:45 More packing and cleaning while watching an interview of Larry King
    A busy day, right?


    This is the pensive face of a little girl who has leave to stay in Great Britain until 31 January 2014. Way to go, Mei-mei. We'll be in Paris next month, thanks.

    13 September 2009

    Throwing in the towel

    I'm not that interested in keeping up with technology when it comes to computers, I've decided. It's such a hassle. After the iMac died in May, I thought, maybe I don't really need to have the newest, best thing ever. And maybe, just maybe I don't even need Windows 7. I'm tired of trying to keep up. I've been using Windows XP for a whole year now, and I'm quite happy with it. It's fast enough, it's nice enough, and I like it. So instead of getting a new computer, I decided to get an older computer with a wicked fast processor and a good amount of RAM and just say, This is sufficient. And it is. Quite sufficient. It took me like two hours to get it up and running to my liking. I struggle through getting the Japanese working. It's all fine now. Yoko can use it. Naomi can use it. We're set. And all for only 140 quid. Seriously, I'm done with all the computer buying bullshit. Let's use what we need, and not worry about the rest.

    10 September 2009

    On being grateful

    This week, I have been slowly moving things into our new home, a mere ten minutes from our current apartment. I'm full of nostalgia as I drive back and forth. The leaves are changing and the sky is so blue--it reminds me of coming here. There were such complex feelings when we arrived; it had been so unclear whether or not we had made the right choice, but I remember all the things about the weather and the roads. Now, moving is much, much less stressful. I have two weeks left to move out of this apartment and we will be in our new house in about 11 days, giving us plenty of time to get everything from here to there and getting everything cleaned up here. I have high hopes that we will get most of our deposit back, but we'll have to see about that.

    The new house is coming together, although I had to do a serious amount of garden work on Tuesday and Wednesday as the previous occupier did the bare, bare minimum when it came to cutting the grass, meaning that there were parts of the lawn that had not been cut in three years. Where the bushes started and where the lawn ended was not immediately clear. I cut and cut for two days, and I think I made some headway, but there is a lot left to do. Moving our stuff in has felt good though and we are taking down the old pictures and getting our stuff settled. It will be nice: I won't lie. There is also some chance, I'm realizing, that we will not live in an apartment for the foreseeable future. I feel like we are moving on, that our little family is taking a step up.

    We're incredibly lucky, I realized, to be in this country with what we have, and although I don't believe in luck or providence, only the narratives of luck and providence, I feel like the narrative comes very easy for us. I'm not sure if that says more about us or the narrative, but I hope it shows that I am becoming a less negative person. So I am happy and grateful. For tonight at least.