23 February 2011


Well, I am back now in England, after my whirlwind tour of the States. Both Naomi and Mei are sick though, so our house is quite sedated. I was happy to be surrounded by my family again.

The trip back to the States was, in the end, quite a bit of money to spend for a conference that I probably would not have attended if I knew what it was going to be like. It wasn't bad, per sé, but it was more out of my interest than I thought and I was disappointed with the level of scholarship, although there were several very big exceptions. This is to be expected, as it was an inaugural conference.

I have learned several lessons this year so far about what I am capable of, where I fit and don't fit, and what other's perception of me is, at least academically. This will all help me get a job, I think, but it has been a bit deflating. Perhaps my next lesson won't cost £600. 

I follow this series of thoughts when I go back to the States:
  1. America!
  2. America?
  3. America?!
  4. America.
I never got to the fourth step this time though, the step where things start to make sense again and I feel like I fit in. I feel so American here and so not American there. It's hard to explain, and I would like to avoid being that guy, the guy who has been abroad too long and thinks he floats above it all. I don't float above anything: I feel like I am stuck inside this existential insecurity box that I have built for myself.

That's not to say that I feel more at home here (here being England, the country): I don't really. It's just that everything I deal with day-to-day here makes more sense to me. Like our little family has carved out our little niche here and we fit well. I remember feeling the same way when I went back to Japan: this makes sense to me right now. America never feels far away until I'm there. And then suddenly it's like I live on another planet.

I saw three films while I was back too:

  • The King's Speech. Great clothes, otherwise uninteresting.
  • The Town. Not my kind of film, but surprisingly entertaining.
  • The Social Network. My favourite of the three. Interesting AND interesting.

I also realised why I gain so much weight (or appear to gain so much weight) in such a short period of time when I am not eating like I have been the last six months or so. It has to do with making too abrupt changes to my diet so that even if I do follow my 'more in than out' ethos (and this time with moderately good attention to the nutritional value of what I ate), once I put 400-500 kCals more in my body than I usually do, my body can't process it and I immediately gain it as extra weight. Not fat though: I went up 3 kgs from last Monday, but my body fat percentage dropped substantially. I think I have to get to the weight that I want, and then ease back into eating 2,400-2,500 kCals a day, rather than just saying, Okay, this week, I'm going to eat what I want and not expect any change because I'm working out and not expecting to lose weight.

On to the next one: Going to Turkey at the end of next month, then Bristol in the middle of April, and then Ciudad Real in the beginning of May. I'm looking forward to the next two conferences much more as I know a lot more people at both and will probably feel like I fit in more.

And then, come June, the new baby will be here and I will have to put my head down and start the dreaded final push of the PhD: writing up. Writing up? I'm not sure I'm ready to say that: I'm writing up.

17 February 2011

Busy as heck

My trip to the US, which was going to be everything all the time, has really turned into being about attending the heck out of this conference. It's been really good though: better, much better, than I was feeling on Tuesday night when I was about ready to get a ticket back at any cost. I chugged through, and am at the end of the conference now. I am finally taking a couple of sessions off to drink coffee and think about what everyone has been talking about. There is a lot to think about.

I don't think, however, that coming back to the States is in my future at this point. We'll see.

Now for one meeting tomorrow that I'm REALLY looking forward to, a birthday party with Mom, some exercise and then I will get on a plane again on Monday night and head home. On to the next one, right?

13 February 2011

A dream

I could have sworn I saw this in a dream before it happened. I love this video so much. This is what I've always wanted.

Mia Scan

Here's baby Mia at 20 weeks. I think we're going to call her Mia.

Facebook and Twitter

I have been quiet on social media the last couple of weeks, mostly because I have been so busy with other things and realised that both Twitter and Facebook were taking a lot of my time, but not really giving me much benefit in terms of... well, anything, during the week. So I started using a site block add-on for Firefox. It was weird, I would still find myself clicking the icons for the first couple of days: obviously, it had become something that I was subconsciously doing.

Anyway, today I have updated to the new Firefox which required me to update a bunch of my add-ons, so I ended up with a better blocking programme called Leechblock, that will allow me to block the sites I don't want during the weekdays from 9 to 5. So that's much better. A little FB and Twitter here and there is fine.

Especially given the fact that FB is taking over the Internet. Don't believe me? Watch this. Actually quite convincing. This basically means FB becomes your browser. FB swallows the Internet. You can then look at the Internet with your friends right there beside you. Sounds convincing to me.


I think I recovered completely from my disastrous Christmas holiday. Well, 'disastrous': I gained about 2 kgs. That's not that bad. Anyway, I'm back and looking to normalise somewhere below 74 kgs, which would be nice. Provided going to the US doesn't screw all this up.


We celebrated the Japanese holiday of 節分 (Setsubun) the other day. 

11 February 2011

Baby/ Marking

On Wednesday, we had our 20 week scan of the baby to see if everything was checking out okay, which it seems to be. I was impressed, again, by the technology. The technician listened and examined the heart of the baby carefully for like three minutes, watching the blood go in and out of the chambers, first in real time, then zoomed in, then slowed down. The girls got a kick out of seeing the baby, as per usual. There are not evident problems and for all the talk of the high risk of Down's, I think it's likely to come to nothing.

It is another girl, whom we will likely name 'Mia'. The girls names are much easier to get to work across cultures. Short and easy to pronounce.

Although I really had no strong desire one way or the other, I am slightly more happy with a girl than a boy, I think. Not that it really makes a difference. I feel like having all girls will give me more space, in some ways. I was loathing the thought of Saturday morning boys football. Girls football? No problem. Boys? No thank you. I'm full of stereotypes.

Part of me, however, wondered a bit about the epic struggle of father and son, fueled by my reading of War and Peace. Andrei, we could have named him. I would have put all my expectations on him. Mia, like Mei and Naomi, will get only my love and support. Be what your heart desires.

To say that I did a lot of marking in the last week would be the understatement of the year. I did a lot of marking. This is good for me to get done now before the pressures of having the new baby will be upon us and I have streamlined the process since this time last year, cutting the time it takes me to do one essay in half... but still. Monday night I especially felt the pressure. Oddly though, as these things are, the closer I get to the end, the stronger I feel. This happens in my life about every two months when I have a lot to do (usually coinciding with a batch of essays to mark). At the beginning, I think that I just need to take it day-by-day and survive to the end. When I get done, I feel like I have taken over the world. And I have increased both my financial capital and my personal strength capital.

I also had good meeting with my supervisors yesterday: my second supervisor commented that I might be onto something big, bigger than one might think if I describe my work in rather rough terms. I am also more and more cautiously optimistic about finding gainful employment after graduation since realising that the visa will not immediately be an issue. There is temporary work popping up here and there right now and I think I will be well positioned in a year to start applying. My applications now, though not a waste of time, are very, very long shots. Best to focus on other things. 

The weather is changing in Milton Keynes as well, just on the cusp of when it goes from being an okay place to live with not a lot to do to a wonderland in which the car becomes meaningless and we can cycle everywhere. This year will be different, I imagine: there will be mostly me and the older girls riding. Still. I am looking forward to it and to the warmth.

I am leaving for the States on Monday: this will be the culmination of six weeks of running. The plane takes off at 14:15 and I am looking forward to it quite a bit. Still, many things need to be done before then. Packing, shopping, quality time with the family. I still have to finish cleaning up my marking, doing some work on my data, teach today... But I successfully navigated another wave without it crashing down on me and that is, for now, something I am quite proud of.

10 February 2011

Could be the essence of my PhD

This might be what my PhD is all about:
How others view this justification [of calling someone human garbage] then seems to depend on how they view scripture and Yokeup’s interpretation of it. For Evangelical Christians that agree with Yokeup’s view of scripture and his interpretation of it, his use of the term is laudable as he is taking an aggressive stance towards the ‘enemies of God’. The use of the term and Yokeup’s courage are to be publically supported.  For Christians (both Evangelical and otherwise) that may agree with Yokeup’s view of the scripture, but disagree with his interpretation, they must carefully reject the interpretation without denying what they see to be the truth of the scripture. For them, the issue is one of hermeneutics: the metaphor vehicle is inappropriate because it comes from a wrong reading of scripture, but scripture is still the word of God and to be taken as holding authority. For those that share neither Yokeup’s view of scripture nor his interpretation, the use of the term is simply an insult that should be rejected as rude and inappropriate on YouTube.

07 February 2011


I can finally, FINALLY say that my article in Language@Internet is indeed ACTUALLY coming out! It took three drafts, but it's FINALLY there: the second article off of my MRes dissertation. So, so happy to finally get this out. It shall be:

Pihlaja, Stephen. (forthcoming) Cops, popes, and garbage collectors: Metaphor and antagonism in an atheist/Christian YouTube video thread. Language@Internet.

The best thing about it is that my copyright argument has now been accepted by three publications, meaning that I am not going (shouldn't?) to have any trouble with the ethics part of my PhD. Plus, I get to cite three articles and one book chapter of my own in my thesis. Nice. Very, very nice.

06 February 2011

Family picture

The cheeky one wouldn't do it right.

The Sky

"What's this? Am I falling? My legs are giving way," thought he, and fell on his back. He opened his eyes, hoping to see how the struggle of the Frenchmen with the gunners ended, whether the red-haired gunner had been killed or not and whether the cannon had been captured or saved. But he saw nothing. Above him there was now nothing but the sky- the lofty sky, not clear yet still immeasurably lofty, with gray clouds gliding slowly across it. "How quiet, peaceful, and solemn; not at all as I ran," thought Prince Andrew- "not as we ran, shouting and fighting, not at all as the gunner and the Frenchman with frightened and angry faces struggled for the mop: how differently do those clouds glide across that lofty infinite sky! How was it I did not see that lofty sky before? And how happy I am to have found it at last! Yes! All is vanity, all falsehood, except that infinite sky. There is nothing, nothing, but that. But even it does not exist, there is nothing but quiet and peace. Thank God!..."

05 February 2011

ビッグ ゲット

Apparently, there's a store right in front of the British Library where you can get tons of classic, out of copyright books for £2. Yesterday, I lugged around two copies of this monstrosity (the MK library's hardback version and the paperback version I bought in the morning) as well as a collection of Nietzsche's work (Human, all too Human and Beyond Good and Evil). Burdened by heavy thoughts: I'm not complaining, by any means.

I think I'm going to take this and the latest issue of Monocle on the airplane with me next week. This book, it seems, needs to be read consistently (a bit every day) so that you stay fresh and remember who's who. I'm shooting to be done by the end of the month. 

I stopped tweeting and using Facebook during the week. It's the best thing that has ever happened to me. So much less on my mind. So much work getting done. Once this thing in Egypt ends, I can will be completely unfettered in getting my work done.

This thing in Egypt though, 'huh? Really amazing to watch unfold in real time. 

Do the Dance

01 February 2011


I think Tolstoy is my new hero:
Tolstoy wrote these rules when he was eighteen years old:

Get up early (five o’clock)
Go to bed early (nine to ten o’clock)
Eat little and avoid sweets
Try to do everything by yourself
Have a goal for your whole life, a goal for one section of your life, a goal for a shorter period and a goal for the year; a goal for every month, a goal for every week, a goal for every day, a goal for every hour and for every minute, and sacrifice the lesser goal to the greater
Keep away from women
Kill desire by work
Be good, but try to let no one know it
Always live less expensively than you might
Change nothing in your style of living even if you become ten times richer

Book chapter

The first e-mail like this I have received. A good sign:
I am writing to...ask the whether you would you be interested in publishing the paper that you presented in Camden last summer in an edited volume in De Gruyters' (Berlin) "Religion and Society" series (co-edited by K. von Stuckard, W. Sullivan and G. Benavides)
Why, yes. Yes, I am.