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Winter 2016-17 [Mar. 12th, 2017|03:37 pm]
Mike
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Happy New Year 2017 [Jan. 1st, 2017|04:50 pm]
Mike
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On a macro level, there seems to be a general agreement that as a year, 2016 was subpar. From my micro perspective though, 2016 was actually kinda fulfilling. I met increased responsibilities at work while remaining active in the EFL research community and maintaining social and hobby time. However, this year was most remarkable because of all of the personal connections I was able to cultivate with visits to and from various friends. In addition to my splendid Tokyo peeps, in 2016 I met up with…

January: Kochi people
February: Rita, Peter, Julia, Anna
April: Rachelle, Stephen, Anna again
July: Okanos (two visits!), Mayumi and Tome people – especially Seiko, Rie, Hiroshi and the Satos, Taguchis, and Kasaharas
August in NJ: NJ family, Matt, Joe
August in NY: Julienne and Adam, Caroline, Odakuras, almost Lea and Alex
August in Philly: Sara, Evan, Philly family
August in Edinburgh: Becky and Josef, Astrid
September: Di, Kochi people again
October: Joe again, Max, Rita again
December: Odakuras again

I’m still struggling with Trump’s election and its implications for America, as well as the general conservative momentum of governments around the world. Since November, I’ve often seen liberals accused of living in echo chambers. I think this is true, but not just for liberals. As social media algorithms become more sophisticated, we are all spoon fed more of the news that we want to read, news which doesn’t challenge our pre-existing viewpoints. Then as these bubbles become more fine-tuned, our politics become more polarized and we find it harder to accept new and different ideas, or even to relate to people with those ideas. This finding, supported by data (1, 2), has alerted me to a need to consume alternate perspectives in order to understand and respect others as individuals, even especially if we disagree. When government policy fails them/you/me/us, I still believe that we can all brave the next four years by supporting each other on this personal level.

Now moving forward into 2017, I’ve tasked my privileged self with introspection and negotiation homework. I must negotiate the knowledge that there are increasingly vulnerable people in the US, with my physical distance from the risks they face. I must negotiate the desire to support these people, with an incomplete understanding of how. I must negotiate the hope that American politics become more inclusive and accepting, with the knowledge that the majority electoral vote doesn’t reflect this sentiment.

In short, I’m still lost, but at least there's an immediate plan. I will (1) read/listen, (2) donate, and (3) live, on my micro level, the values of acceptance, sympathy, compassion for others which I hope the US will represent again one day. It’s not enough, but it’s a start. More visits in 2017 please so we can practice together!
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Baking 2016 [Dec. 27th, 2016|07:18 pm]
Mike
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The goal for 2016 was more pie. I suppose I succeeded right at the end. One of the instructional videos I used stressed that homemade pies don't need to be perfect, but I'm proud to report that this blueberry pie was. I've finally gotten the hang of pastry dough. In addition to all that's pictured here, I also baked a lot of whole wheat bread and energy bars for day to day consumption. My goal for 2017 is simply to continue both healthy and unhealthy baking as a healthy distraction from world events when necessary.
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Fall 2016 [Nov. 30th, 2016|10:14 pm]
Mike
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Too much work. Not enough words. Some pictures.
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On Giving Up Hope [Nov. 9th, 2016|10:47 pm]
Mike
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絶望に
なっちゃいけない。
前を向く。

trigger warnings: emotions, potentially problematic assigning of significance to dreams, furiously unapologetic boners for substantive intersectional equality

Watching Samantha Bee's characteristically superb "Let Hillary Be Hillary" was the last thing I did before bed last night. It left me with an optimistic outlook on a socially progressive future. I went to sleep just as the polls were opening in America, and looked forward to following the results the next morning from Japan. I very rarely remember my dreams, but I do remember this night’s quite vividly. I was in a movie theater sitting next to Hillary. She was wearing a fierce purple pant suit (padded for the gods*¹) and oversized leopard print scarf. We hadn’t come together, but we introduced ourselves and chatted until the movie started and then focused silently on the screen. I don’t remember what the movie was about. It might have been two hours of white noise; this was a dream after all. I like to think that it was a semi-autobiographical story by a writer-director from a different part of society who challenged us to consider familiar issues in new ways from alternate perspectives. It also might have been Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams. When the movie ended, Hillary seemed busy getting ready for a press conference from her chair, so I started off alone. She noticed me leaving and called me over for a quick hug and kiss on my forehead. I woke up relatively energized for a Wednesday morning, and made my way to school/work for class second period. Today I’d be introducing a speaking test, a culmination of our unit on the preservation of endangered languages. The kids wouldn’t be happy, but teenage groans are easy to withstand when the future seems so full of hope.

As the day went on and the results came in, the clouds in our office became darker and darker. Teachers and students all followed together in disbelief. Graduates visited from the university to spend a few jaded minutes with their high school teachers. In the afternoon I had to speak in Japanese to 250 sophomores about their junior year elective classes. Usually I feel nervous in such situations, but this time nerves were beat out by desperation. What good are two weekly hours of basic Spanish in a world so motivated by fear? The negative feelings culminated in the middle of a faculty meeting when the winner was announced. I needed to escape tonight, and vacillated between a bottle of wine and a run. I’m glad I chose to run. 60 minutes on the treadmill gave me a chance to organize my thoughts, and now I’m putting them to digital paper before my next, regrettably less optimistic sleep.

Horror and despair are natural first reactions to a tragedy of this scope, but we can’t let them last. Too many people are too vulnerable to resign our country to a Republican run triple branch death combo. As Americans, we have to step our collective pussy up by calling out hateful behavior for what it is. We have to step our pussy up so high that it can’t be grabbed by deplorables from their wretched basket. We have to step our pussy up so high that when the pendulum swings back in 2, 4, 6, 8 years, it gathers enough momentum to break the glass ceiling once and for all, showering jagged shards on politics driven by fear and ignorance. I’m sorry for not providing more specific examples of how our pussy might be stepped up. I'm not the best person to do so anyway, and honestly, I'm not even sure where to begin. I'm just sure that we will. We have to.

*¹trust and believe, mawma!
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