Saturday, April 26, 2008

New Things

I bought a new computer recently--I'd been saving up to get a kick-ass desktop that will (fingers crossed) make me through PhD school until I start earning the big bucks as a professor. I'm pretty happy with my new computer, so it inspired me to upload pictures off of my camera. Which inspired me to actually sort them into neat little folders (new computer and all), and since I have a nifty card reader built into my computer, I didn't even need to plug my camera in.

Needless to say, I really like the new desktop. It's inspiring me to new levels of procrastination--I'm juggling cooking and sorting pictures, browsing the internet (I finally am paying for internet at my home instead of just using it at school and attempting to use someone else's unsecured wireless). All this inspired me to actually post.

That...and I wanted to show you all my pretty new bowl that I bought at a local art sale today:

It's a watermelon! It's really big, and I bought it for cheap because the glaze cracked the bottom of the bowl, so it's technically non-functioning. However, it will function quite nicely as a thing to set on my counter and be pretty and hold fruit and stuff. So I'm quite happy with my steal.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Maybe E-Books Aren't So Bad...

I'm suspicious of E-Books. Why would I take a beautiful thing like a book and transfer it to an electronic medium? I love books--especially when they smell a certain way or have a particular heft. There's something comforting about the physicality of an object that is also full of non-physical entities, such as characters and ideas that only come to life when I, as the Reader, participate. Transferring reading to a activity mediated through technology robs the Book of some of its magic and charm.

Perhaps, however, electronic books can still be useful. I've heard nothing but rave reviews of this one, the one that I now want. The Kindle looks amazing. And there are sites like that let you download free classics. Classics that I want to read.

It also appeals to my environmental side. Even if I got a free book download, I'd still want to print it out, using lots of paper. The Kindle is created to dodge the tricky issue of using a computer for reading--and it allows you to take notes on what you're looking at. It's also searchable ("What's that book with the thing about green spaces? Oh, let me search my Kindle...there it is!"). I can suddenly see the possibilities for research and travel--if I need to read some books for a project, but I also have to fly somewhere? No problem--I can carry all I need in one tiny device!

One drawback is that it doesn't seem to easily accept PDF files--something that would make it perfect as a research tool. I get a lot of ILL articles and book chapters in PDF format, and to upload them to a Kindle instead of printing them off would be better than anything I could imagine. It seems that they are working on this--and reading the reviews, there are certainly ways to get the PDF file on the Kindle by connecting it to a computer. Sweet!

Needless to say, I'm going to be saving up for this little device. If you'd like to contribute to the Jenn's Kindle Fund, please do! It'll be infinitely useful for my personal enjoyment and my academic career.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

I Get it Already!

I've begun skimming the novel I have to read for Thursday.

Before you gasp in shock and despair at my sloppy English student ways, let me explain: Marquis de Sade. (People pause. They know that name. The term "sadist" comes to mind. Didn't he get thrown in jail and wasn't he the subject of a movie?).

We're reading Justine for 18th Century English novel. I'd already read a shorter piece by Sade that involved a man who raised his daughter up as his mistress, so I thought I was ready for anything he could throw at me. Boy was I wrong.

Justine is about 350 pages of unrelenting aberrant sexual practices: rape, sodomy, incest. And there is no glossing over these occurances, no making it easy for the reader--nope, Sade seems to take a sadistic (haha) pleasure out of describing scene after scene of the horrible acts that can be done to poor Justine. It's pretty terrible, though the story itself and the writing isn't too bad.

I'm only mildly prudish, I promise--I don't usually shy away from stark descriptions of sex, even violent sex...but usually those descriptions are one moment of a book. In Justine, they occur over and over again. And again. I wonder at the number of "libertines" who are after some crazy, weird sex. After reading the book for about three hours straight, I suddenly couldn't take anymore, and I had to stop. I was physically sick to my stomach.

Therefore, I'm skipping the rest of the horrible passages. Since I have less than 100 pages left, I think that I get the idea of what Sade is after.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

The Number 4

Since Secret Knitter so kindly tagged me for a meme, I thought I'd respond within 4 days.

The meme is "4 Things"--I went back to Secret Knitter's source, but I think you can pick any number of four things to write about.

4 Jobs:
1. Resident Assistant: 4 years in college, and I loved all but the last year. The last year taught me that a pleasant supervisor can make all the difference in the world between loving and hating your job.
2. Writing Center Assistant: 3 years of tutoring writing and speech taught me a lot. I like tutoring writing--and my future career is along those lines.
3. Secretary, Civil Engineering: my first "real" job outside of college, it was supposed to be a placeholder until I departed for graduate school, but then I got promoted to...
4. Admin Assistant for the College of Engineering. I like it (mostly), and it is a fantastic way to save money and get cheap graduate school tuition.

4 Movies I could watch again and again:
1. Ever After: I think I adore this movie because she rescues herself at the end of the movie and generally represents a strong female character. I like that. I first watched it in high school and have adored it ever since.
2. Gilmore Girls: I've watched each season repeatedly--it's quirky, has great dialogue, and even when it gets dramatic, I still like it.
3. Moulin Rouge: I LOVE this movie--and sing along loudly every time I watch it.
4. Sense and Sensibility: I also adore this movie; it's a fantastic adaptation of Jane Austen's novel, and it's like watching the novel come alive. I didn't realize until recently how very good it was and faithful to the novel.

4 Places I've lived
1. Modesto, CA: from a wee tot until age 10, my home was in California. My parents fled to...
2. Harrison, AR. I finished growing up here, went to high school in the area, and found out that I was "smart".
3. Since I was "smart", I managed to get a scholarship to UCA, so I moved to Conway for 5 years, becoming the first person in my family to complete a Bachelor's degree. Since a BA wasn't enough for me (and I was dating someone pretty cool), I took off for...
4. Fayetteville. My current home, and where I work and attend graduate school. Fortunately, I'm still dating the feller that I followed up here, so I can pretend like I moved for other reasons than him, though everyone might think differently.

4 Places I've been:
1.) Guadalajara, Mexico: my first study abroad experience. I was sooo young and didn't take as much as I could have from the experience, but it was still quite educational and life changing. (I also lost 20 lbs because I didn't eat much and walked a lot during my 5 week stay).
2.) New Mexico/Arizona: another travel trip through the university, where we set out to study Native American history and culture. We visited the Navajo, Hopi, and Pima reservations, read great books, saw the Grand Canyon, visited Flagstaff (a lovely town), and played in the desert. It was also a great experience that I wish I could go on again, but alas...
3.) Wyoming/Montana: we set out for Montana on a road trip (we were invited to a wedding!) and ended up playing in Yellowstone and seeing some awesome stuff. The wedding was fun, the camping was great, and I had a blast on this trip--in fact, we might repeat it soon.
4.) Spain!!: our most recent trip abroad. It was two weeks of traveling, seeing cool stuff (the Prado! La Sagrada Familia!), and I would do it again in a heartbeat (but I'd also buy Eurorail passes before I went--trains were way too expensive).

4 Favorite Foods:
1. Curry (Thai/Indian): I once did something slightly embarrassing for leftover Thai curry.
2. Broccoli/greens/asparagus/brussels sprouts/peas: I love them green veggies.
3. Beans: especially in bean burger format. Or really any format; I'm not too picky.
4. Ice cream: mmm, ice cream. Delicious. (If it was all healthy food, someone might suspect me of lying!)

4 Places I'd rather be (than work):
1. Home
2. Camping
3. running around the park
4. Colorado

4 people to respond:

1. Justin
2. Aimless Wanderer
3. ADAllen
4. Kerry

(and whoever else might like to, like you, Tim.).

Monday, April 07, 2008

Running Away

With the end of winter and the promises of cute bathing suits for the summer, I have started running again like crazy. I love running, and I've set forth some lofty, marathon-length goals for the future. In pursuit of building up for it, I've implemented a weekly long run. This weekend, I signed up for a 5k, the first of several I will run this month.

The Hogeye 5k was the shortest of several running events that took place yesterday. I've not trained enough to run the half-marathon, let alone the full--so I signed up for the 5k. It was nice to wake up, stroll to the starting line (warmed up from the walk), run the race, then stroll home in the beautiful spring sunshine.

This race showed me the results of my training: I was able to run it easily--even with all the Arkansas hills--and finished strongly. I saw the faces of several others who finished around me, and they looked like they were going to fall over, yet I felt invigorated and like I could run more. I passed one girl on a steep hill who was running too hard: her breath was labored and she sounded as though she might keel over at any moment. I was expecting more of a challenge, but this race was...effortless. That tells me I need to start training to run a 5k distance faster, and also start training for longer distances.

I like running races for the competitiveness and challenge: I feel bad if I try to "compete" with the other runners on the track when I'm just working out, but in the race setting, it's perfectly okay to pass someone and feel good about it. I especially feel good about passing men. A couple of guys I know ran the race as well, and I beat them.

I'm pretty motivated to keep running. I want to improve my fitness, run faster and farther, and have awesome running muscles. Next weekend is another 5k that a friend signed me up for, and then the week after that is the Race for the Cure that I promised to run with a friend. Should be exciting!

Friday, April 04, 2008

"Sad Trash"

I am working my way through my G-mail box when I discovered this poem I wrote in 2005:


There's a humming, a buzzing
Energy crackling in my finger tips
Flowing from my Soul
Creative life to waiting to conceive
A burst of divine Light—

The Poet is divine
Did you not know?

All our levels of humble existence
Seek to reach a better plane—
Achieve Nirvana, or Heaven,
Or Enlightenment.

Perhaps Artists are more aware
Of this amaranthine Struggle
Or perhaps we simply
Seek ephemeral perception—
Through Words—
On Page.

It has some issues (I'm not a very good poet), but really like the phrase "amaranthine Struggle". And yes, I like Emily Dickinson. Just thought I'd share some creative writing, since I hadn't really done any lately.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Monolingualism is American?

My Applied Linguistics course confronts several issues of language and literacy, one of which is learning a foreign language and the persistent monolingualism of the United States. As someone who can be considered proficient in a second language (I did manage to get around Spain for two months), I always feel a bit of smugness that I don't fall into the "monolingual" category.

Then, however, I run into students from all over the world who not only know two languages, but usually are proficient in three or four, and have a working knowledge of several others. It's crazy how sheltered we are when it comes to language.

The Chronicle of Higher Education published a commentary on the the foreign language requirement for English graduate students. The author, Edward White, thinks programs should be more serious about the requirement--which means bringing it to students' awareness before they start graduate school.

White is absolutely correct. Graduate programs shouldn't get rid of the foreign language requirement because there are valid reasons for its existence. The advantages to learning a foreign language are numerous, one of which is a better understanding of your own language--several concepts in English clicked for me after I started learning Spanish. Also, there is more to literary studies than English literature (or literature in English). Being able to familiarize oneself to other languages is a step toward learning about other cultures, philosophies, and a rich world literature.

I'm looking forward to PhD school when I have the excuse and opportunity to learn another language. I always debate on what it'll be: French? German? Greek? More students should learn foreign language--and help reverse the trend that classifies Americans as persistently monolingual.