Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Admission Ticket Assignment

My Applied Linguistics professor has a requirement of us for each class: that we write 250 words in response to a prompt given at the end of the prior class called an "admission ticket". You have to attend class to turn it in and to get the prompt for the next week's ticket. You can get the prompt from a classmate, but you cannot get someone to turn the ticket in for you if you miss a class.

At the end of the semester, you turn all your tickets in. They will have been given a check, check-plus, or check-minus, meaning they'd been accepted. If one is not accepted for whatever reason (looks like one already turned in, etc), it gets an X. If you turn in the maximum number of admission tickets (in our case, 14), your grade goes up. If you turn in one fewer (13 for us), then your grade is what you earned on other assignments. If you turn in two fewer, your grade goes down one letter grade, and onward.

I share this with you because I think it's a brilliant way to avoid taking attendance (and wasting valuable class time) and to encourage students to attend class.

Anyway, our prompt for this week was to think of an amusing example of illogical, non-standard English. Here's my response:

Using language to sound smarter is nothing new. We constantly see it in freshman writing as they click “thesaurus” in Word, not fully understanding that synonyms are words that are similar, not necessarily equal in meaning. As I thought about amusing examples of illogical, non-standard English, I immediately thought of malapropisms[1].

Malapropisms occur when a speaker substitutes a similar sounding phrase or word for one of intended meaning. One might say, “I think her point was irreverent” instead of “I think her point was irrelevant”, since the two words sound similar. Most of the examples in actual usage occur when a speaker either doesn’t learn a common phrase properly (“pigment of my imagination”) or attempts to use vocabulary he grasps tenuously.

Popular culture has used malapropisms humorously for as long as people have been misusing language—Shakespeare certainly included them among his other methods of wordplay.

Unfortunately, some infamous instances of malapropisms in actual usage come from our current President. Sites that discussed malapropisms referenced Bush’s tendency towards language misuse, compiling frequently updated lists and using it as mockery-fodder, even coining a term for his peculiar speech impairment.

The comic effect of malapropisms is undeniable, even when they occur unintentionally. I personally find them enjoyable because it gives a glimpse into the mechanisms of language, and how difficult it can be to operate in a discourse that one is unfamiliar with. Critics of our current president cite his unusual usage as evidence that he is unschooled in political discourse, and therefore unfit to be our president.


“Bushism.” Wikipedia. 25 January 2008.

“Malapropisms.” Fun-with-words.com. 25 January 2008.

“Malapropism” Wikipedia. 25 January 2008.

Weisberg, Jacob. “The Complete Bushisms.” 25 January 2008. 9 January 2008.

[1] While I was tempted to pepper this admission ticket with malapropisms, I refrained for ease of reading. It was certainly fun to think of ways to misuse language…

Monday, January 28, 2008

Apartment Advantages

The advantages of having my own two-bedroom apartment are numerous, but I'm thinking of one that pertains to my success as a student: my office.

Since I am one person with a two bedroom place, I made the logical decision to make one room my sleeping quarters and one room my office/craft room/guest bedroom. Last week I worked to get the office organized, setting up my books, my computer, putting all of my crafty stuff away in the closet, adding lots of books to Library Thing*, etc.

It's a cozy space--my boss gave me a nice, comfortable desk chair (which I really like). The room is a good workspace: well-lit, plenty of room for my stuff, everything within easy reach.

Its chief advantage, however, is that it's small and not easy for Lance to hang out in. Not that I have any problem with Lance hanging out with me, oh no...but when I'm trying to read or do homework while hanging out with Lance, this is usually what happens:
Lance: Hey Jenn, listen to this cool thing!
Me: Dear, I'm trying to read.
Lance: Yeah, I know, but...it'll only take a minute!
Me: *Sighs* Okay, what is it?
Lance: [Tells cool thing]
Me: Hey, that is pretty cool...but I need to read now.
REPEAT every 10-20 minutes....

Me: Oh!
Lance: Hmm?
Me: Isn't this cool?? [Talks about cool thing I just read]
Lance: *Feigns interest* That is pretty cool**.
Me: Blah, blah, blah, I love books, blah, blah, blah. Oh, I guess I should read now...
Lance: Yes, you do, so we can do something fun.
REPEAT every 10-20 minutes
I was working contentedly in my office for a stretch of uninterrupted time last week when I realized that having a separate work space is definitely worth the extra cost of living alone***. Lance was contentedly playing on his laptop without feeling the need to share cool stuff with me or talk to me while he was cooking. I didn't distract him with random English facts. And I got lots of stuff done, which gave us more time to do things other than have me panic about the amount of homework I had. Offices rock.

*I'm about halfway done, I think. Bring on the books!
**He takes much more interest than he needs to--he's supportive like that.
***Besides the other 1000 awesome things about living alone.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Amusing Things

Funny PicturesI faithfully subscribe to I CAN HAS CHEEZBURGER--it's one of those things in Google Reader that I giggle about on a daily basis. It's nice to have something amusing to look forward to each morning.

My cat is obsessed with my pillow. No matter how hard I try to dissuade her, she must sleep by my head, which amuses me and annoys me all at the same time.

I made a list site. I love lists.

I'm having a hard time focusing at work lately, so I'm playing around on the internet. In my playing around, I found this fabric site, which has me thinking about all sorts of crafty projects I'd like to make...

Thursday, January 24, 2008

All Alone, But King

I've never read Robinson Crusoe, but I had vague ideas about what the book entailed: shipwrecked on an island, hangs out with some dude named Friday, eventually escapes. Defoe's story is well-known enough to be immediately recognizable when someone asks what I'm reading*. I wasn't quite prepared for my reaction to the work as I started reading it for my 18th-Century Literature class.

Robinson Crusoe was written in the early 18th century, when British colonization was in full swing (the American colonies had yet to rebel). Consequently, the book is full of what Lance calls "the Taker mentality". Crusoe kills animals without needing to, just because they are big and there. My modern conscience was appalled at such a unfeeling approach to other creatures, and especially toward other people, namely non-Europeans.

At the beginning of the book, he sells his companion Xury to a Portuguese captain who rescues him, even though he was "very loath to sell the poor boy's liberty, who had assisted me so faithfully in procuring my own" (29). As through the whole book, however, Crusoe finds it easy to smooth over any pangs of conscience and justify his actions.

The book alternates between Crusoe bemoaning his dejected state and telling us how he lived on his island, and after his religious conversion, his bemoaning shifts to reflections on God. He realizes that he could be in a worse state, but it takes him half the book to figure that out. His life, although he is without human contact, is actually quite comfortable: he is able to retrieve food, clothes, tools, and weapons from his ship before it sinks, and with those supplies build himself a "castle" as he terms it.

His view of the world is in-line with the colonists' perspective. This island becomes "his" domain. The creatures that he tames are "his" subjects and servants. And when Friday appears on the scene, he has no thought to make him his equal--he isn't a European after all!--but he becomes his loyal servant to do Crusoe's bidding. Crusoe is king of his little world, and he persists in viewing it this way throughout the book. When other men come to the island, they too end up his subjects, his army, his men to command.

I found the book interesting and engaging (I was never bored in my reading of it); however, the ideas the book represented were ones that were alien to my way of thinking. Robinson Crusoe was a book born of the ideas in its time, and no Englishman reading it would have thought anything the matter with Crusoe's approach to the world. After all, who wouldn't want to be king of an island?

*Usually it's "Ah..." *Looks bored as I try to explain the book*.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Belated ARCHIES (Top 25)

Having read several lists of Archies, I found my list-making impulse* too captivated to not do it. So after a little thought (and an internal debate on if I was too late, but then I saw this), I decided to list, in no particular order, my list for 2007:
  1. Spain (potential 2008)
  2. my own apartment (potential 2008)
  3. little shelves in my closet for shoes
  4. Ravelry
  5. Knitting groups
  6. Rory (the cat, not the Gilmore Girl)
  7. Jesca Hoop
  8. bookmaking
  9. Working for the Little Mountain Bindery
  10. Tortilla de patata (Spanish omelette)
  11. Sunbeam stand mixer
  12. Two friends' wedding
  13. Another one, two months later...
  14. Realizing I have really awesome friends
  15. A visit
  16. NPR
  17. Free Rice
  18. The Cupcake Blog
  19. 101 Cookbooks
  20. Library Thing
  21. Etsy
  22. Knitty
  23. Google Reader
  24. Knitting Swap Pals
  25. The Grammar Vandal
I think 25 ought to do it for my first stab at the Archies!
*There's a site that encourages lists. Drat them!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Bookshelf, Where Art Thou?

I go through the same trauma every time I look for a new bookshelf. For one thing, I want one that actually will last longer than one move and will hold lots of books with out listing to one side. Another, I want one that looks good. Because it's made with real wood, and not particle board crap. And each time, it's an arduous process.

Thus, I set out to buy a smallish bookshelf to hold specifically my semester's texts and library books. But the awesome one I found once at Lowe's was no longer there. Drat--and it was so cool! My favorite! I should have bought four!

I went to Target to find the one they had on sale this week. While it was affordable, it was also crappy. And they didn't have the color I wanted.

I found one at a thrift store that should have been $5, but it was $15, which was the price of a brand new one at Target. Apparently they smelled my desperation.

I'm trying to decide if I should keep searching, go to miscellaneous big-box retailer and buy the crappy small one, or shanghai Lance into building me one to my exacting specifications. Don't the bookshelf barons realize that people like me are willing to pay a little more for a cool bookshelf that won't fall apart if you as much as think about putting too many books on it?

So for now, all the books that are destined for the bookshelf are lying around in dejected piles.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

That Thing...

Library Thing: most of you probably remember me talking about it, and many of you have embraced it as a way to catalog your library. I signed up, then didn't really have time to add many of my books.

118 books later, I've discovered why I put off doing it. I recently moved, and I'm looking for a way to sort all of my books. Then I decided I really wanted to put them online. This is going to be an on-going project, I have a feeling...

It's a neat program, though, and a neat tool to organize one's library. Lance declares I will be frightened by the number of books I own, and I'd admit that I've only entered in a small fraction of my total collection. I'm sure it won't stop me from buying anything else, though. I'm a book addict and an English grad student, for God's sake.

Friday, January 18, 2008

The First Frivolous Friday

Although I occasionally maintain an air of calm disinterest on this blog (I'm an academic, y'know), most of you know that I'm secretly silly and easily excitable (and fond of alliteration). So in the spirit of my fun-loving and sugary cheerful side, I'm instituting Frivolous Fridays, where I post about anything unrelated to literature, graduate school, and books (though I reserve the right to be giggly over books, if I want.)

This week's frivolity involves coffee. Mmm, I love the coffee. Since I determined as a freshmen in college that I adored coffee, I've journeyed through various coffee-drinking phases. I started out drinking impossibly sweet coffees, but then discovered my true coffee love was strong and heady, with a bit of cream to make it palatable (not that I don't occasionally dip into the drinks that involve coffee, but more often lots of sugar and milk). Lately, I'd been alternating between lattes (occasionally with a splash of cinnamon syrup), Americanos (with half and half) and brewed coffee.

When we were in Spain, I learned something very important--I thought all along that lattes were my espresso drink of choice, but I was wrong. Oh, so wrong. You see, the problem with a latte is that it involved too much milk, not enough espresso love. I discovered this by drinking cafe con leche every day for my two and half week stay.

The cafe con leche is served in a small white porcelain cup with a tiny spoon and a packet of sugar. Lance and I would sprinkle a little of the sugar in the cup, stir it with the adorable spoon*, and drink it slowly. Most everyone in Spain drinks their coffee like this; in very few places did we see coffee para llevar (in a disposable cup)--you want a cup of coffee, so you buy it and drink it at the bar, then pay and leave**. It was beautiful, really.

So upon returning to the US, I set out to find the proper thing to order at my favorite local coffee shop. I'd been informed that what I really liked was the macchiato, but when I ordered that, it was a shot of espresso with a teeny bit of steamed milk foam. A bit strong for me.

Today, however, I determined that the cappuccino with light foam was my drink (at least at Arsaga's). It's deliciously milky, and although I forwent the added sugar, it was just like being in Spain again, sipping cafe con leche in a little cafeteria. Yum.

*I bought some tiny spoons because I have this thing for the diminutive. I also already own small coffee cups, and have bought other things because they are small and "precious".

**Very few things could be bought para llevar unless it came from a fast-food joint or places specifically meant to sell "take away" food. And the portions were small enough that you didn't typically have left-overs to take home...

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Lagging Behind

Last night was my first class of the spring semester, and although I'm still readjusting to the time changes, the class perked me up. It was Literacy and Applied Linguistics, and since I have an undying passion for linguistics, I was in heaven. We talked about the International Phonetic Alphabet, which is one of the coolest things ever.

I have another class on Thursday afternoon, but I think I'll like it a lot too--it's 18th century British novel.

We got back to LR Saturday evening, where Amber cheerfully picked us up. It was an 18 hour journey, and our bodies knew that it was time to rest. We had slept most of the way on the plane from Atlanta, waking up with cocktail napkins on our legs (did the flight attendants smirk as they did so?). We went to Kerry and Justin's house where we chatted a bit with friends before succumbing to sleep.

Jet lag hit me later the next day; it wouldn't hit Lance until yesterday. Someone mentioned to me that she heard it took as many days as the hours of time difference to recover from jet lag; I think that a valid assertion. An afternoon walk and coffee has perked me back up for the rest of the day. My plans for tonight are some rest, some DVD watching, and maybe a little bookmaking or cleaning up my apartment, which is still in a shambles from the move. As soon as we get our pictures uploaded, I'll start posting Spain stories!

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

When You´re Royalty, You Can Buy Good Art

So um, yeah. The Prado. Amazing, awesome, and more than what was promised to me. I see now why it´s considered a world-class museum. I spent 5 hours there, and barely saw anything. Well, I saw everything, technically, but I didn´t get to really contemplate it properly, or spend much time on it.

Favorites include works by El Greco, Goya, and Bocsh. I saw The Garden of Earthly Delights, The Third of May, Velazquez´s Las Meninas, and lots of really, really good art. Amazing, especially when my best museum experience was the National Gallery in Washington. And since I got to study a lot of the art that I saw today*, it was even better.

The experience of standing in front of Goya´s The Third of May was...indescribable. It´s a painting I´ve always admired, but standing before it, in person, seeing the size of the painting, the brush strokes, the actual colors and composition as the painter did...the work suddenly takes on a new power. I think I gaped at that painting for a good 5 minutes before Lance tugged me along to the next room.

Well, we´re off to Barcelona in the morning. Whee!

*I should have majored in art history too, damnit. I guess I´ll just have to study on my own...

Spanish Movements

We hit Toledo yesterday, which is a short 30-minute hop by train from Madrid. (Lance and I keep asking ourselves why we don´t have more trains--would a train between Conway-Maumelle-Little Rock be wonderful? Or among the NWA cities?)

Anyway, I´m still holding off too many details until I have photographs, but I thought I´d chat a bit about the art of Spain. I knew that Spain had a couple of painters of note--but I discovered the art of one that I knew by name: El Greco.

He painted at the end of the 16th to the beginning of the 17th century, and his paintings are distinctive for their elongated figures, use of light and color, and mystical subjects. He also often painted his figures holding their hand up in a particular way. I think when I get home, I´m going to set out to learn more about him and his art; he seems like a really interesting person. We walked by his house yesterday, and today, when we go to the Prado, we´ll see more of his art.

Hostel life is still interesting. We´re heading off to Barcelona tomorrow, so that´s exciting--but our trip is starting to come to its conclusion. It seems like a long time since we were home, and it´s only been a week and a half...

Off to the yarn store today. I´m hoping it´ll prove to be all I´ve hoped for...

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Hotel to Hostel

Hola, my faithful readers. We're now in the lovely (huge!) city of Madrid. We're headed off to the Prado later this evening (when it's free), so we'll get to see lots of awesome art. I'll relay more later.

We arrived in Madrid yesterday afternoon, and set out for an affordable place to stay that was close to our train station and our tourist destinations. Using my guidebook, I found a little place that looked cool and got high ratings, Cat's Hostel. It's pretty cool, especially for a hostel, but we went from a hotel room to a noisy eight person dorm, so the switch was interesting. But exciting.

Well, our place has free internet, but only for 20 minutes, and it's taking me forever to do anything on them because the internet is slow, so I'd best sign off.


*PS, Donna and Mark, I found a yarn shop finally in Spain. I'm planning to check it out tomorrow or the next day and will report my findings about Spanish yarn stores...

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

¿Hablo español?

The language barrier has been interesting. I can read signs, and my vocabulario is slowly returning. (The verb conjucations seem to be lost, so I´ve been glancing at my verb book to refresh--but it´s hard to remember which to use when, so I usually take the simple, wrong approach). I can make myself understood, and generally understand for the most part, but I´m still frustrated. I think I´ve never felt much motivation until now to actually speak and study Spanish beyond earning an A for a class.

I´m good with language, but insecure when it comes to speaking. I´m starting to get over that out of pure necessity, since I´m the one out of the pair of us who can read, speak, and understand most of the Spanish that comes my way. Those Spaniards with English skills usually switch to English when I start having problems, though I´m always careful to start by speaking Spanish, and usually respond in Spanish until I can´t figure it out. It´s worked so far.

I´ve become increasingly aware of language, both mine and those around me. Surrounded by the rhythms of a language I have to concentrate to understand, I´ve discovered how much language plays into our everyday lives. How often we use it to communicate, to achieve our basic needs, to connect to both old friends and new acquaintances. It´s a pretty cool thing, our ability for language.

Right now, I´m listening to a loud argument in some sort of Germanic language. Our hotel is actually mostly Australians, Spaniards on holiday, and Dutch or German or something. I´ll expect to hear Spanish, and it won´t be. Quite strange, really. The loud protester is the same one that we saw get into a lame bar shoving match (not really a fight), and I don´t really want to turn around to see exactly what is going on.

Well, I´ll write more about actual Spain soon (probably when I get back, and I can illustrate with photos!) It´s pretty nice, this españa, and it´s been pretty nice to us so far. We had a fantastic new year´s, and I hope you all did too!

Hasta pronto...