31 January 2009

I (heart) Complex Systems Theory

The never-ending story

It was quite a nice Saturday. We walked to feed the ducks, came home, had lunch, then met up with my Bulgarian school friend and his lovely family. We all played in the park, then had coffee and talked Hungary, taxes, and heating bills. I think I am getting old.

30 January 2009

A week of things

Is it Friday already? It is, isn't it.

Well, this week was very good — I did a whole week on the anger strike, and when I slipped up, we managed to have an actual productive argument that ended with some mutual understanding. I am feeling much more positive than I have in a long time, and I think that's a very, very good thing.

We got paid today which officially ends our hardest month here financially with that damn driver's license and test as well as road tax, eating up more than 20% of our income, right out of the gate. We had a hard go of it, but it's weird, when you don't have money to spend, you stop thinking about ways to spend your money and you start thinking about other things.

I contacted some of the YouTubers I watch and had a couple of good responses and one really long video chat with one of them. I need to think about some other things in my research, in addition to what I'm looking at now, I think. They've all been super cool, some surprisingly so. Makes it very, very clear that we only show what we want on the Internet. So we are settling in, too. Really feels weird. Weird in the best possible way.

27 January 2009

John Updike is dead

Day 5, anger free

Well, things have continued to go well on my anger strike, and I am beginning to see myself as I want to be, someone I've wanted to be for quite some time. It's hard to explain.

26 January 2009

What I'm doing with my life

This is what my life has come to:


My anger strike is not helping my memory, unfortunately, as I left my keys at home and as I have my USB drive on my keychain (you know, so as not to lose it), I am at work with nothing to do. I did call my wife and hopefully she will be bringing it by with that loud daughter of mine.

My bank has the option to download statements as .cvs files, so I spent all evening coding spending and testing my anger strike as my wife and I tried to make sense of it and make some sort of plans for spending. Now that we both have debit cards, hopefully we can track our spending better. And even though my anger strike was tested, it was ultimately a good thing as I suppose you can't just not be angry when you're just hanging out.

I've been feeling more positive and I'm not sure if it's related to the strike. I went running yesterday and today, I had the most explosive yen to run again, so I did.

25 January 2009

Anger Strike Day 3

It's still a bit early to call today a success, but it's looking to be another successful day. An interesting, unintended consequence of reducing anger has been a reduction in worry as well and a noticeably happier environment at home. I don't think we have had a weekend where we haven't argued at least once since we've been married. This would be a nice first.

I also am two weeks off the Diet Coke tomorrow, having saved somewhere between £10-15.

Unfortunately, our iMac is dying and needs a new graphics card, which the guy at the Apple store who really, couldn't have been nicer told me was going to put me back £500. Fortunately, the dying although not yet dead card just makes random parts of the screen look like this:

My friend Gary told me the secret to life was to want less, so I am trying not to want a new computer. Especially not a new 24" iMac. No. I don't want it.


24 January 2009

On being happy

Day 2 of my anger strike went really well. It's funny too, I could tell right when my cue to get annoyed or say something annoyed was, I didn't, and it's like getting 20-50 minutes of your life back. I'll let you know if I'm able to keep it up. I hope so.

Still making the grade

23 January 2009

Choosing not to be angry

Do you think you can choose to not be angry?

This is my new New Year's Resolution, aimed at trying to save my family from failing. This is the first day, and I did pretty well, but nothing really bad happened, so I guess it doesn't count. I can only think of two things that made me feel like I was starting to get angry, that I explicitly chose not to get angry about, but in both cases I succeeded.

One of the things people don't tell you before you get married is that when you are stressed, you can be absolutely awful to your spouse. Maybe it's not everybody. Maybe it's just me. I think divorced couples and bitter couples are the ones that do (or did) this too often. Maybe it's forgivable once a month or twice a month, but I'm officially taking a break from it. And if I can't, perhaps it's time to talk to somebody about it.

We'll see how this goes.

A proper post

I owe a proper post this week, but I have been too busy doing other things, thinking about other things to really get around to writing. Have I lost my talent?

Three years ago today I asked Yoko to marry me.

21 January 2009

Apparently still, uh... rocking?

The Counting Crows are still together, I guess. I saw them once in like 2000, right when that record with the fish bowl came out. The sound was just awful as I recall. But the famed older brother was there, right around the time when he and his future wife were trading e-mails for the first time. I remember it quite well. Quite well.


Apparently the Presidential Oath is sort of like asking Jesus into your heart: you gotta get the wording right or it doesn't count.

19 January 2009

Okay, okay

The Jonas Brothers are so hot, but I thought I might look for something a bit hotter. Also, don't comment with a, 'This is basically a young Mates of State, you're an ass' comment. I already know that. I wasn't born yesterday. But give it a try.

18 January 2009

It's weight in gold

  • The graphics card on the iMac is going. Or more precisely, the fan on the graphics card. This is leading to a trail that looks like a small barcode following the cursor. It's annoying, but the computer is still working. Unexpected expenses are the best kind.
  • Today is Yoko's birthday. We went looking for a hand mixer. Failed. I tried to make a cake. Sort of failed. Got a couple of frames for pictures. Success. Complete success.
  • My thoughts about atheism are becoming clearer which is good for my research. I think I'm grasping the issues.
  • A job is opening up in Aarhus, Denmark that is perfect for me, but they are filling it this year and the soonest I could take anything is in 2010, but most likely 2011. I would really like the kids to go to elementary school in Scandinavia.

19 years young

Yoko turned 19 today!

17 January 2009

Life plans, travelling, motorcycles

Yoko is turning 19 tomorrow, so it is a weekend of celebration here.

We were in London today to go to London Aquarium, but the London Aquarium is an epic fail. I wrote on the comment card that it is a little bit like going into your creepy uncle's basement. It was really, really lame. We spent about an hour there and although Naomi got a huge kick out of it (screaming and cheering for the fish), we were only there for about an hour. We had lunch on the Embankment then walked up to Buckingham Palace through Saint James' park and into Hyde Park. We sat on a bench in Hyde Park for a while, then walked down to Knightsbridge to Harrods which is just about the coolest department store ever. A nice quiet day of strolling around.

Yoko and I have been talking a bit about where we are going after this, and Scandanavia is looking attractive, especially as the elementary school education is so good and those places tend to rank really high in happiest surveys. I saw a job listing for a position in Denmark that is perfect for me, but obviously, it's a bit early to take anything.

Anyway, we are thinking a bit about going to the continent sometime in the Spring if we have the money and Yoko is doing okay. Just a couple of nights in Zurich or Arhus in Denmark to see what it's really like. Or maybe we'll go to Munich or someplace in Germany. Things to be decided, I'm sure.

I also found out that now that I have a driver's license, getting a motorcyle license is not too difficult. We'll see what happens with that.

15 January 2009


I took my driving test and 50/50 was about right possibility of me passing, but I pulled it off, on a wish and prayer.

Driving test

I have been training for my dreaded practical driving test for a while, and the time has come. I give myself a 50/50 chance of passing. I am trying to keep my hope down so if or when I do fail and I have to put up another £90 to get another go, I am not too pissed. We'll see though.

After a slow start, I have been going at two new year's resolution. The first is for better dental care and the second is no carbonated beverages. I hope the first one lasts all year and the second one lasts for a reasonable amount of time. I haven't drank any soda for two days which is pretty long for me. The dental care involves brushing for two minutes in the morning and evening (and once in the afternoon, ideally), mouthwash twice a day, and flossing once a day as well as wearing my teeth grinding preventer while I sleep. So far it is going okay. I have been dreading going to the dentist and getting a bad bill of health and having to pay a couple of hundred pounds on some expensive treatment, so prevention is my best friend.

Something deeper coming later this week, I promise. Between this driving test and a paper I turned in on Sunday, lots been going on in ol' duder's head. Lotta ins, lotta outs. Once we get past the test, I should be a little bit more relaxed. If, of course, Allah wills it.

13 January 2009


Many of you may have heard that I was trying to grow a beard the last couple of weeks, but basically it was an epic fail, given that the right side of my face didn't go so hot. I'm still a thirteen year old boy, apparently. I punted and shaved down to a moustache and soul patch. There are some more ideas up here. I want to get the Balbo one day, but I think I'm going to have to stick to something a little bit simpler for now. Something I might be able to pull off. To finish it off, I'm looking for some brown cowboy books, size 11 1/2.

I also finally threw my towel in on the boxers. Too much cloth down there. Simplify, simplify.

12 January 2009

Forgive me

There's not much to say. A bad grade here, Chinese takeout there. Naomi awake and asleep at the right times and wrong times.Thoughts about the new baby.

We're going to name her Mei, I think. 明 Being a metaphor person myself, I am interested in how 'light' and 'insight' are linked in the Japanese lexicon, and how, as I place this metaphor on my daughter, she becomes what she told she is. Mei is pronounce like the month 'May' and was taken from the great Miyazaki film, 'Tonari no Totoro' which shows Japan as it should be idealized in the middle of the Showa era, in the late '60's and early 70's.  Mei is the girl who sees Totoro, the mythical figure living in the woods, before anyone else sees him and who runs away. How much weight can be piled upon a child?

I may be applying to become a tutor for Intro to Fiction Writing. That would be something although I doubt my CV will pull the weight it needs to.

09 January 2009

Intonation Units

From 'Intonation units in spoken interaction: Developing transcription skills' by Stelma and Cameron in Text and Talk 27.3:
One of the constant properties of consciousness, according to Chafe, is that it has a focus and a periphery, much like human focal and peripheral vision. Moreover, focus is a dynamic property, as there is ‘a restless movement from one focus to the next; consciousness does not stand still’ (1996)

08 January 2009

Finding my sea legs

We've been back in Britain for a week, but it feels like we were never in the States. After having been back, I will probably make some effort for us to go back to the States after I graduate, even though the thought of going through the process of immigration for Yoko will likely keep us from actually doing it. In the UK, it might be expensive, but we are all in the same boat. If we go back to Japan, that also would be relatively easy. The States? This will require going back to Japan to do some amount of paperwork and waiting. I'll be honest, I'm just not that into it.

I should be less obsessed with where we are going to land when I graduate, as it is so far off. Naomi was in the bathtub on Tuesday night and I was sitting on the toilet next to the tub drinking coffee and thumbing through Plato's 'Poetics' and I thought to myself, I don't know what else I want, really — what's wrong with me.

I had a good meeting with my head advisor yesterday, a meeting that essentially led to me having an epiphany about my project and giving me some pretty clear metaphorical steps to finishing my work.

Now, to clean up my transcripts.

06 January 2009

Pretty damn lucky

So it turns out I have a really good supervision team.

05 January 2009

Stephen makes baby girl, succeeds at evolutionary purpose

We had our second ultrasound today and to no one's surprise, we have succeeded in making another baby girl. I couldn't be happier about this, although as we were watching the screen, I was pretty much okay with whatever the outcome was. Having two girls fits into my Obama complex, but it flies right in the face of my John Lennon complex.

04 January 2009

03 January 2009

My landlord, a good man

In December, I was fighting back mold and thought that maybe the whole outside wall in bedroom was going to rot out. Well, we got back from the States and there was no mold to speak of in the bedroom. This was good news and I wasn't thinking much about it until I got a call from the letting agency saying that my landlord still wanted to come by and see the situation. He came over and the apartment was a mess, but I explained the whole thing and he looked it over. We got to chatting and it turns out he has a two bedroom apartment not too far from here that he is going to want to let in about two or three months. No better way to get out of contract than to sign a new one with the same landlord for a better place. We'll have to see what it looks like and how much he wants.

He left and about five minutes later, the doorbell rang again and it was him saying, 'I just realized that I saw your bicycle up in your bedroom. It must be really hard to carry it up and down. Here why don't you keep it down in the storage space under the stairs that your neighbors are using.' This was a huge, huge gift as now I don't have to choose between dragging the bike up the stairs and leaving it under the crappy plastic cover I have for it, but has been not really doing its job. Now, I know it is safe and dry downstairs.

I put the front closet together and moved some stuff up into the attic, so we have a little more space now and I'm feeling positive about our whole set-up here.

I rode the bike up to Willen Lake with the new brake levers I got for Christmas, which just make the bike feel tighter than before. It's hard to explain, but when you have your bike adjusted well, everything reacts really well and you can be aggressive on it. I ran one time around Willen Lake, and it feels like my body is wicked sore.

Now to pass my driver's test and get on with life.

Naomi went to bed at 8 tonight without too much crying which means she is adjusted back to English time, I think. It's funny how you just slip back into thinks after having been in another country, some thousands of miles away, for a week.

02 January 2009

And I told you to be balanced

January and it is only two days old looks like it is going to kill me. I need to keep my wits about me as 2009 looks to be the most benign year I have had in quite some time (minus the new baby, of course). But only a little travel. I think Bon Iver is going to have to help me get through this month.

The shoes I got in the States are way the hell to big.

But don't my Naomi and Yoko look great and isn't my jacket great?

Annus mirabilis v. Annus horribilis

Here's hoping 2009 is less noteworthy than 2008. I hope I am hoping for something inbetween 'mirabilis' and 'horribilis'. Less travel, more focus, and a new baby.