31 July 2010

Posting from an iPod

My mom let me borrow her iPod for the end of the year. Using it now. Not bad at all. Could be a game changer perhaps? We'll have to wait and see. So far so good though. Like it a whole lot actually.


This is what my summer leave looked like:

29 July 2010

Back in the saddle

I found a running path that doesn't cross any streets for like 3 miles. Really speeds you up. Hopefully I can find a faster route there...

Date: 07/29/2010
Time Taken: 01:05:32
Workout Weight: 182.0 lbs.
Total Distance: 8.60 mi.
Burned: 1,178 (kcal)
Pace: 07:34 (avg)
Speed: 7.9 (mi/hr) (avg)

28 July 2010

Perpetual disorder machine

Where has this holiday gone?

I was worried at the beginning that I would be bored with no work to do, but I have managed to keep myself pretty busy, first, by completing my work on a project with my supervisor at Middlesex and second, by trying to get the house in some order. Having kids means that our house is never in a state of order for more than about five minutes or until the girls wake up, but given my obsessive tendencies, this drives me crazy. I hate when dishes are out, I hate when the floor is dirty, I hate when things aren't put away. I also hate that in this house which we are renting with about 30% more furniture than I think is actually needed, I'm always stumbling over something. Why the hell is there a chair in front of the door?

I have been, little by little, trying to solve these problems. Today it was putting some chairs up in the attic and while doing that, sorting out the garage a little bit. The garage is a mess too, also full of things that belong to the house, so throwing anything away is not a possibility. I cleaned out the garden moving like 50 kgs of dirt to the recycling centre and then the inside of the car. I organised the desk when the hard disk died.

We also have been doing some fun things and by fun, I mean leaving the house under the pretense of doing something fun. Last week was Stonehenge, yesterday the pool which allowed me to lose a bit of my farmer's tan and see Yoko in her new swimming suit. This weekend we cycled about 30 miles, which was good exercise and good fun. I think more cycling is in the cards today.

I'm ready to get back to work on my article though and start making some decisions about my data set, analytic methods, etc. By the end of September, I hope to have all the bad blood responsibilities I've taken on over the last year finished and focus on three things in the 2010-2011 school year: PhD, teaching, and one committee for a visual methods conference next year. No book reviews. No extra work. No helping put anything else on. I'm going to focus. I can say no — watch me.

I've also been trying to keep up my diet and get back under 81 kgs and a healthy BMI, which is going okay. I realised yesterday that I had seriously misunderstood what a resting metabolism rate is and this is probably why I have been having bad headaches. Especially on Sunday. Shit. I thought I was going to die. I guess I can eat more than I thought. The problem is, of course, like in April when I was running so much, I would have to eat more. And eating more is fine, so long as you are running it off. Well, stop running and the habit of eating is still there. So I am exercising a bit less this time around and focusing on eating well. It's something I need (underscore need) to get under control at this point in my life, or I'm going to have a wicked tough time staying healthy into my thirties. This year has been better: I started exercising in April and with the exception of June have been doing pretty good.

26 July 2010

Overheard at the Scottish Parliament

Alex Johnstone (North East Scotland) (Con): Will the minister join me in commemorating the 25th anniversary this year of the European cup quarter-final between Dundee United and Barcelona, in which, in a brilliant second leg in Barcelona, despite losing 1-0 at half time, following brilliant goals from Ian Redford and Paul Sturrock, Dundee United emerged to win the game and was applauded off the field by the Barcelona supporters? Will the minister acknowledge that, having had that experience, the Catalunyans are probably feart?

The Deputy Presiding Officer: That may have been funny, but it was complete misuse of a question.

Fiona Hyslop: I think that Glasgow would welcome any Barcelona fans, as I am sure it has done in the past. The only time that I saw Dundee United play was during Celtic's centenary year, when I think Celtic beat them in the Scottish cup final.

22 July 2010

Figuring things out

The end of my whirlwind ride as student will come in 2 years. I've been in education for a while now, but in 2012, I will reach the end of the road. so I will have to do something else.

I should back up — this week I have been on holiday, enjoying the fabulous 'staycation' which has involved little actual relaxing and a lot of catching up on things around the house that I have been meaning to catch up. The hard disk on my computer died too, taking up a whole day of work. Yoko had to go to the dentist. There is no end to the things to do around here.

We have also been looking at furniture. And that can only mean one thing: we are thinking about buying permanent housing. I did a little investigating this weekend and it turns out that in the near, or very near future, we could get permanent accommodation, provided we knew we were going to be here for three to five more years. After I finish, basically.

Well, where we are going to be in two years is anyone's guess, but as I was running yesterday, I figured a couple of things out. First, that I want to settle somewhere for five to ten years and not worry about accommodation or my job. Moreover, I want to settle in the country that we will ultimately settle in. The reason I'm feeling this way, I think, is that I need to reduce some of the basic level concerns about food and shelter so I can focus on my research. 30 to 45 are important years for an academic: this is the fundamental work you do and build on and ensures your 45-60 time period is spent in a tenured post, doing what you want to. But doing good research requires stability.

I'm not sure what that means practically for me except that I am very unlikely to take a post on the mainland of Europe unless it has a clear advantage for my research or I'm offered the possibility of indefinite work. That is to say, we are unlikely to go to France for two years just to go to France. I can do that if I want to, but I don't think I want to.

This way of thinking likely narrows what kind of work I will be looking for and where. Most likely the UK or Japan. Japan, I was thinking during my run, offers the best option: I could likely get the kind of work I want and settle very easily. House, furniture, the whole nine yards. Wife could work, probably not best for the kids, but they wouldn't know anything else, so that would be fine. In Japan, I see a very clear path for my career: taking a good, possibly tenured post, straight out of school, and in ten to fifteen years, be in a place to move to one of the best universities in Japan. This seems like the easiest thing for me. Plus, we could have onsen in the mountains, great food, low taxes, family close by, great healthcare, safety, security, and if we live in Kansai, which would probably would, a big, international city with everything to keep a foreigner happy.

After talking this over with Yoko and expecting her to be excited to go back to Japan, she seems to want to stay here. Staying here is, in a lot of ways, the best option — very good for the kids: multiracial, multiethnic schools; English higher education, best for me if I get a lectureship, and best for interesting travel as England is in the middle of everything. Harder for Yoko, I think, of all of us, but if she likes it, then it can't be that disagreeable. The key problem being finding work, but now that I know what I'm looking for, I think it might be easier. It's just not clear how I would get from here to professorship in twenty years, or how we would organise our lives in a way that accommodates our families in both the States and Japan.

I guess the plan for now is to look for work mostly in England, and Europe more broadly. I'm going to try my damndest not to take a post-doc position unless it doesn't require a move, but looking heavily for a 3 to 5 year contract somewhere that would allow us to buy an apartment. This means I need to spend some serious energy publishing articles and shaking hands and kissing babies as conferences.

20 July 2010

New Music

An offer to download 50 mp3s for free came to my doorstep and I jumped for it. They were free, but a mistake led me to ordering 25 more for another £9.99. Whatever. It was from www.emusic.com which only has  independent music and goes on a credit system rather than an album system. Good if you are buying albums with not so many songs on them. But because they charged my credit card without what I felt was due warning, I can't really recommend them...

Anyway, here's what I got:
  • Vic Chesnutt's At the Cut. You might recall my obsession with this song earlier this summer, so I finally decided to get the record it came from. Really good, actually. Another one of the great just-before-you-die records, like Johnny Cash and Leonard Cohen.
  • Deadmau5's Get Scraped. Not as good as the new one on the website, but I like it.
  • Ratatat's LP4. Really good, classic Ratatat sound.
  • Future, Jazz. This is a compilation album that I got because I thought it was all DJ Krush. DJ Krush has one song on it, but it's all remixed jazz. Very nice.
  • The Mountain Goat's Tallahassee. Wanted for a long time, finally own. Saints be praised!
  • The Album Leaf's Into the Blue Again. Not sure how this is as I am downloading it now.
And I have 4 songs left.

My dead hard disk led me to delete a ton of music from my iTunes library — stuff I would never listen to, but was holding on to. Anthrax? I also deleted most of the single songs that I had downloaded from the Internet over the years. Only listen to full albums as a rule anyway — why have all this crap in my library.

18 July 2010

Everthing is broken

And by everything I mean: one of Yoko's teeth and our external hard drive.

Now, Yoko's tooth, though precious, is easily fixable and the external hard drive, which I bought used online, was just backed up on two other hard drives on Saturday. Nothing is lost, and I reserved a new Hitachi one for £40 that I can pick up tomorrow. Still, a dying hard disk is a scary thing, especially when all of your music and photos are on it. I back things up semi-regularly, but apparently not regularly enough. The clicking is something to watch out for.

I think I should get something more cloud-based.

I spent a lot of time this weekend thinking about buying part of a house. In two years or later, but it may well happen.

16 July 2010

Two articles

I have to write at least one article off of my probationary review. One is more or less accepted to either a special issue or a proceedings, and this is the one that I will be submitting to a 'real' peer-reviewed journal. Hopefully Convergence.
Article Two

Visas and memories of reading

Looking at the Home Office website last night has me thinking about where we should make our life. It doesn't seem that right now there is anyway for us to construct a life that doesn't involve spending thousands of pounds or dollars to simply be legal. Except, of course, Japan.

Japan, yes, you are in my thoughts again. When I was sitting through hours of arts presentations on Tuesday, one person mentioned a project trying to recover recorded instances of reading throughout history. He asked whether or not we, the audience, had any memories of reading.
I had a vivid one that perhaps I have written about before, but will write about again. In the summer of 2005, N introduced me to Haruki Murakami and particularly Norwegian Wood, which I read in English and then attempted to read in Japanese. It was a huge undertaking and initially very slow going. In the evening, I would go downtown to walk on the river, buy some food, and read.


This was also the summer that Yoko and I began to talk. We had been to a concert together, accidentally just the two of us as the person we were supposed to go with pulled out at the last minute. One week, sometime in the end of July, beginning of August, I had texted her to ask if she wanted to go out to dinner sometime. She replied saying that she was quite busy with work, unfortunately. I knew what this meant, and had accepted it. I was a 23 year-old fat American with a bad haircut in a 100 yen t-shirt, a bad English teaching job, and a very minimal level of Japanese. She wore skirts and pressed blouses. The gap between us, I understood from this text, was too broad. So I gave up my daydreaming about her and continued my slow reading of Murakami.

I had sent that text about having dinner early in the week, and on Thursday, I was sitting outside a department store downtown, reading with my dictionary when Yoko texted me asking if I was at home. I said, No, I wasn't, I was downtown. She texted back saying, It wasn't a big deal, she was at my apartment and I wasn't there, but she would come some other time. I was shocked — I could come now, I said, give me 20 minutes. No, she said, that was fine. Some other time.

Thinking about it, remembering the context of that summer, feels like I am thinking about a different couple. And I suppose we were: it was after all five years ago. I remember feeling, when I went back to my book, distracted, that something was starting to happen. And something was, that sense I wrote about earlier this month: in less than six months we were engaged, and less than a year later we were married. At the time, however, under the fluorescent lights outside of Daiwa, I was reading a scene where the protagonist in Norwegian Wood is standing on the train platform in Shinjuku. And I remember thinking, yes, I am starting to understand this.


I always like it when your edges are challenged.

15 July 2010

RP and register

I am having the damnedest time talking/ writing recently. I'm not sure who I am to whom right now. Do I say 'quite like' to an American friend? Why did I start saying 'quite like': am I just trying to sound British? And 'proper'. I feel like I purposely started using phrases, writing e-mails in certain ways, spelling with 's' instead of 'z, but now I can't tell why I'm doing it and how other people perceive it.

I have to do it when I mark (or wait, should I say 'grade' here?). I have to do it when I write for my supervisors and publications in England. I don't have to do it here, but I find myself doing it.

If only I knew someone in academic literacies research who could sort this out for me... If only...

Unrelated, I also have had a couple of bizarre instances of stuttering the last month. Like I just can't get my words out.

14 July 2010

Catching up

What did I do with this week? Nothing. Nothing at all. I have gotten my gluttony back under control, which makes me feel less bloated and more in control of myself. Thankfully, despite having lost control of my diet through June, I was still riding my bike every day, so my body still feels pretty strong.

12 July 2010

Fat without the ph

Take a month off from caring about what I eat and I gain almost 3 kg. Ugh. Back to the drawing board.

10 July 2010

Recursion and belief

It's interesting to me the parallels between Chomsky's view of language and the Christian view of the world. For Chomsky, he has very little trouble arguing that something is universal, even when it isn't evident in part of his data set. Like he says, it doesn't matter if you use the capacity of recursion in your language, it doesn't mean it's not there. He has the enviable position of presenting case after case of languages that use recursion and when presented with one that doesn't, all he has to say is that the speakers have a capacity for it, they just don't do it. How does he know they have a capacity for it? Well, there's no evidence that they don't have a capacity for it (except, most obviously, their language).

The Christian argues the need of a saviour to save you from your sins. This is something that fits well in Western culture grown out of a judeo-Christian worldview with well-defined concepts of and words for sin, salvation, etc. We needn't see these concerns as constructs of culture because everyone we see and encounter understands them. As far as we know, they are innate in the human experience.

Well, they are innate until you discover a tribe like this. The Christian must say, They don't have a concept of God, but that doesn't mean that God's laws aren't written on their hearts. When there is evidence that they hold a belief that is similar to some judeo-Christian understanding of the world, the Christian can argue it as evidence of the judeo-Christian creator. When they don't have evidence of what Christians believe, they can simply argue that sin has blinded the tribe and as we are all fallen people, everyone's view of the world has been distorted, the West's, of course, being less distorted and closer to the truth. It's a very clever way of never allowing any evidence against your worldview. I'd like to put that argument aside, however, as I know it is not winnable, given the way faith works.

What is most troubling, most indefensible, is the belief that whatever people group you can think of would necessarily benefit from Christianity. Doesn't matter who they are, what they are, where they are. Doesn't matter if they are completely content in their life in the middle of the jungle. The Christian believes that they would benefit from conversion, and with it, the acceptance of Western cultural norms such as individual agency and fixed (ie, decontextualised) moral law.

I held this position before I went to Japan: that the Japanese, whoever they were, needed Jesus. Didn't matter that I had never met a Japanese person before. Didn't matter that I didn't know anything about their language or their culture. They needed Jesus. And when I got there, I saw all the gymnastics people need to do to make the Christian worldview fit in the Japanese culture. I remember a missionary telling me how the Japanese people he knew faced death with such austerity. He described it as without hope, but what he went on to describe was acceptance of death as an ending to life. It was only hopeless in his paradigm. He was entering the other's point of view from his own paradigm, not entering the other's point of view from the other's paradigm.

Campus Crusade had this problem, I have heard, in doing outreach on university campuses in Japan. They ask, 'What will happen to you when you die?' This works very well in the States where we are primed to worry about this. The Japanese students, however, weren't bothered by it. Hadn't occurred to them.

Why must the cultures that don't have an afterlife myth, that accept death as an ending, be seen as inferior to those that do. How dark the Japanese culture is! the missionary exclaims. They don't even worry about death!

How unfortunate to live an unexamined life! I say, To let your paradigm rule you without critical examination!

09 July 2010

Learning languages

Well, my study of French (which anyone who follows this blog knows has been a thorn in my side for about 8 months) is starting to wrap up. I had been really concerned about it, but I realised in June that all I needed to do was exceed at the assignments to get through the course. And getting through the course is, at this time in my life, really the goal. So I set out to do just that, and managed to get a 97 on my last assignment. My tutor praised my work, but I felt like all I had done was use my knowledge of language to work out what I needed to do. Let me explain:

When you talk, day-to-day, you speak in heavily nuanced, contextualised way. Imagine me telling you this story, as I might:
Dude, I was in the store today to get a bottle of water or whatever and it was like, I don't know, 80 cents, but all I got is a twenty, so I'm like whatever and this guy at the counter was like ::rolls eyes and sighs:: [you: yeah?] Yeah, I give him the twenty and he's like looking at me like, you know? [you: yeah, right] A twenty. I fucking HATE that shit. Seriously.
That's a mess, and if I wanted to tell this story in French, well, I would be frustrated. The key, I think, when you attack a problem like this in another language is to simplify, simplify, simplify. If I had to tell this story in French, I would try to boil it down to the important parts: I needed water. I only had a twenty. The cashier was upset with me. I don't think it is a reasonable thing to be upset about. And if I was writing an assignment about it, I would go through my book and look for whatever grammatical form we had studied and I would put that into my account, along with some linking words. And I would look up everything in a couple of dictionaries and use the forms I found in the dictionaries in my story.

Does this mean I know anything about the language? I don't think so. But it does mean I will likely pass this class without any trouble.

08 July 2010

Four years

Yoko and I have agreed to continue our yearly marriage contract another year.

Four years? Has it been four years. Do you remember that Johnny and June Cash song where they talk about getting married in a fever? We got married in a fever. I had read Gravity's Rainbow in 2004 and there was this line: 'Fuck the war: we're in love'. That's how I felt about everything. It didn't matter: nothing mattered. We were in love and it made sense. It couldn't be explained.

I don't think I would ever tell anyone to get married just because it makes sense (italics are key here). In fact, if someone was telling me that they were getting married because it made sense I would probably be pretty skeptical. And you should be skeptical too. But year after year after year, I think it makes sense in more empirical and verifiable ways.

'I believe in me — Yoko and me — that's reality.' John Lennon


07 July 2010

06 July 2010

Waiting for Madeline

Naomi was waiting for her new friend, Madeline, to come over and play. She never came and Naomi fell asleep. People begin disappointing you early in life, it turns out.

My life in bed

Yoko gave me the ultimate birthday gift: while I was in Amsterdam, she moved Mei out of our room. No crib, no nothing. Just our bed. This is the first time we have been sleeping just the two of us for the first time in a little over three years. That's right. Three years. It's pretty amazing. I'm not sure what to do with myself. The kids in the other room are having a good time too, from what I can tell. Mei is still breastfeeding so it will be a while before she is completely sleeping through the night. The following conversation happened over dinner:
Me: (to Yoko) When do you think Mei-mei is going to stop breastfeeding?
Yoko: (thinking)
Me: (to Mei) When do you think you're going to stop breastfeeding?
Mei: (lifts both hands up as part of her 'I don't know trick')
There was another good dinner conversation:
Yoko: (to Naomi) When you go to school, you'll have a lot of friends.
Nana: (thinking)
Yoko: What should I do when you're playing with your friends?
Nana: Vacuum (which Naomi mispronounces as 'funeral' in Japanese — a bonus double joke)
Lots to do until middle of August. Will I get all this done?

05 July 2010

Back to work

I am back at work, back at my desk. So many things to think about — a couple of new books. I found myself more in the methodology section of the library, skipping over the social theory sections (early 300s). Multimodal analysis, here I come.

03 July 2010

Social Media and Metaphor, Day Six: That's an empirical question

'That's an empirical question', in response to a question to a scholar about his opinion of something, is the best statement from a conference presenter I've ever heard. His answer, I think, really explains the way a researcher should think: there is no reason to speculate about a question that can be answered empirically.

This trip has been fabulous. Much better than last. Lynne, my supervisor, is outgoing chair of this organisation, which allows her students all sorts of wonderful access and perks. Last night, we were invited out with the executive committee of the organisation and sat in an outdoor bar, overlooking Vondelpark, while Amsterdam celebrated its World Cup victory. Sitting at the table were all the people that I have read and re-read. All of them brilliant scholars and all them wonderfully eccentric in their own ways. People mention how lucky we are to have Lynne as our supervisor because of her attention to detail, especially when it comes to methodology. I agree — it's like winning the academic lottery. She also, for what it's worth, said she was proud of us.

Monday I go back to my desk at the OU and plugging away on my research. It's been a good six days though: I made some good contacts, had a good time and am full of good ideas for the future.

Now to get back to Yoko and the girls.

02 July 2010

Social Media and Metaphor Tour, Day 5

Still having a good time on my trip—  presentation went okay, mostly because someone I quite respect came and is interested in what I'm doing.  Otherwise things have been fun: yesterday we drank beer then rode bicycles from the uni to Vondelpark. Then sat drinking wine and eating pizza in the grass for like three hours. Ideas everywhere, brilliant people everywhere. I talked to an Englishman living and teaching in France: that door is still open provided I learn some more French. Possibilities all around, all around the world. The first week of my 28th year is hopefully a penchant of things to come.

I miss my family though. Will be home soon enough, so I will have a good last two days.