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.