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.