Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Great Computer Game

I love this game. Always makes me laugh.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

WIFI access!

Hey y'all. I'm in my Paternal Grandfather's house (Paw) and I just discovered that one of the neighbors has WiFi access (we do call it wifi in English right? I asked someone in the airport if there was any wifi access and the person looked totally confused.) So I figure I'll spend some time on the internet until the person who has the access discovers me and kicks me off. Heh.

Illinois. What can I say. It's flat. The Borders here has a pretty good selection of International Music and Language Instruction books. In fact, I tried to convince my Dad yesterday that he needed to buy the $392 Rosetta Stone Spanish instruction kit. (He wasn't going for it.)

I brought an upper-body work-out dvd with me so I could continue to work on my arms. It uses weights, so I decided I'd make do with a couple of soup cans. Nope. Turns out that my arms a actually a bit stronger than I had thought, so the soup cans were totally useless. I've been keeping my eyes open for something I can use instead.




Such an uninteresting 'blog. I'm so boring.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Fall 2005 Grades

Got all As. Just in case y'all were curious.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Ideal World versus Reality

My goals for Winter break:
1. Review French by watching French television on the internet and writing letters in French
2. Read a book about the history of Israel and Palestine
3. Make baby quilts for all my pregnant/recently mommified friends

What I will wind up doing:
1. Sleeping
2. Reading Janet Ivanovich's Stephanie Plum mystery books

Monday, December 12, 2005

Friends makin' babies

So. Another friend is pregnant. What is the baby count up to now? And who will be next?

I should probably learn to knit so I can make baby presents for my friends. Only some pregnant women might become upset if they received a baby sweater that had three arm holes. Go figure.

I have my final exam today. I think I meant to re-read some of the chapters (um, read some of the chapters) but I took a nap instead. ANyway, I'm allowed to bring a page of notes with me. I thought about writing up the page in French, but I decided that it would require too much work. In that class, breathing requires too much work. (This would be the infamous Ed Research class. May I never have to take another education class again.)

I went last week to the prof's office to ask him about the Mann-Whitney U test. He didn't have a clue. He was like,"Yeah. The Mann-Whitney, thats, um, the non-parametric equivalent of the t test." Duh.

Friday, December 09, 2005

An interesting development

From an article in the Washington Post:

Spanish At School Translates to Suspension

By T.R. Reid
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, December 9, 2005; Page A03

KANSAS CITY, Kan., Dec. 8 -- Most of the time, 16-year-old Zach Rubio converses in clear, unaccented American teen-speak, a form of English in which the three most common words are "like," "whatever" and "totally." But Zach is also fluent in his dad's native language, Spanish -- and that's what got him suspended from school.

"It was, like, totally not in the classroom," the high school junior said, recalling the infraction. "We were in the, like, hall or whatever, on restroom break. This kid I know, he's like, 'Me prestas un dolar?' ['Will you lend me a dollar?'] Well, he asked in Spanish; it just seemed natural to answer that way. So I'm like, 'No problema.' "
But that conversation turned out to be a big problem for the staff at the Endeavor Alternative School, a small public high school in an ethnically mixed blue-collar neighborhood. A teacher who overheard the two boys sent Zach to the office, where Principal Jennifer Watts ordered him to call his father and leave the school.

Watts, whom students describe as a disciplinarian, said she can't discuss the case. But in a written "discipline referral" explaining her decision to suspend Zach for 1 1/2 days, she noted: "This is not the first time we have [asked] Zach and others to not speak Spanish at school."

Since then, the suspension of Zach Rubio has become the talk of the town in both English and Spanish newspapers and radio shows. The school district has officially rescinded his punishment and said that speaking a foreign language is not grounds for suspension. Meanwhile, the Rubio family has retained a lawyer, who says a civil rights lawsuit may be in the offing.

The tension here surrounding that brief exchange in a high school hall reflects a broader national debate over the language Americans should speak amid a wave of Hispanic immigration.

The National Council of La Raza, a Hispanic advocacy group, says that 20 percent of the U.S. school-age population is Latino. For half of those Latino students, the native language is Spanish.

Conflicts are bursting out nationwide over bilingual education, "English-only" laws, Spanish-language publications and advertising, and other linguistic collisions. Language concerns have been a key aspect of the growing political movement to reduce immigration.

"There's a lot of backlash against the increasing Hispanic population," said D.C. school board member Victor A. Reinoso. "We've seen some of it in the D.C. schools. You see it in some cities, where people complain that their tax money shouldn't be used to print public notices in Spanish. And there have been cases where schools want to ban foreign languages."

Some advocates of an English-only policy in U.S. schools say that it is particularly important for students from immigrant families to use the nation's dominant language.

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) made that point this summer when he vetoed a bill authorizing various academic subjects to be tested in Spanish in the state's public schools. "As an immigrant," the Austrian-born governor said, "I know the importance of mastering English as quickly and as comprehensively as possible."

Hispanic groups generally agree with that, but they emphasize the value of a multilingual citizenry. "A fully bilingual young man like Zach Rubio should be considered an asset to the community," said Janet Murguia, national president of La Raza.

The influx of immigrants has reached every corner of the country -- even here in Kansas City, which is about as far as a U.S. town can be from a border. Along Southwest Boulevard, a main street through some of the older neighborhoods, there are blocks where almost every shop and restaurant has signs written in Spanish.

"Most people, they don't care where you're from," said Zach's father, Lorenzo Rubio, a native of Veracruz, Mexico, who has lived in Kansas City for a quarter-century. "But sometimes, when they hear my accent, I get this, sort of, 'Why don't you go back home?' "

Rubio, a U.S. citizen, credits U.S. immigration law for his decision to fight his son's suspension.

"You can't just walk in and become a citizen," he said. "They make you take this government test. I studied for that test, and I learned that in America, they can't punish you unless you violate a written policy."

Rubio said he remembered that lesson on Nov. 28, when he received a call from Endeavor Alternative saying his son had been suspended.

"So I went to the principal and said, 'My son, he's not suspended for fighting, right? He's not suspended for disrespecting anyone. He's suspended for speaking Spanish in the hall?' So I asked her to show me the written policy about that. But they didn't have" one.

Rubio then called the superintendent of the Turner Unified School District, which operates the school. The district immediately rescinded Zach's suspension, local media reported. The superintendent did not respond to several requests to comment for this article.

Since then, the issue of speaking Spanish in the hall has not been raised at the school, Zach said. "I know it would be, like, disruptive if I answered in Spanish in the classroom. I totally don't do that. But outside of class now, the teachers are like, 'Whatever.' "

For Zach's father, and for the Hispanic organizations that have expressed concern, the suspension is not a closed case. "Obviously they've violated his civil rights," said Chuck Chionuma, a lawyer in Kansas City, Mo., who is representing the Rubio family. "We're studying what form of legal redress will correct the situation."

Said Rubio: "I'm mainly doing this for other Mexican families, where the legal status is kind of shaky and they are afraid to speak up. Punished for speaking Spanish? Somebody has to stand up and say: This is wrong."

No work for a month and a half.

Yesterday was my last day at work (that is, until I have to go back at the end of January). I hadn't even thought of that until about ten minutes before I left. I looked around and realized I should pack up my books and tea (which I did in a burst of frenzy--like my ass was on fire). Then I got out of there so fast the other people working there didn't even have a chance to say good-bye (okay, I could have crawled out of there at a snail's pace and they wouldn't have said good-bye. But that's neither here nor there). I got a few steps out the door, stopped, took a deep breath, forced my shoulders down, and then walked on to class.

Seperate topic:
What I've learned about the politics of definite articles.
Last week I had a student come in to see me. She was absolutely livid that, in English, we use a definite article in front of her home country, Ukraine. She had just gotten a paper back from her professor, who had subtracted points because there was no "the" in front of Ukraine. She wanted to know why we said "the Ukraine." It does not fit any of the rules governing the use of definite articles in front of place names. I mean, it's not like we say the China or the France. I told her that I had no idea why we said the Ukraine, that we just did. (And I still cringe at my insensitivity in dealing with this issue).
Anyway, I mentioned it to someone (who had studied Russian) in an e-mail, and he responded that Ukrainians are a fiercely proud people, and that the use of a definite article before their country's name was a political issue. He sent me a link, and I did a little more research on my own.
Turns out it all goes back to communism and Ukraine's independence from the USSR. By using a definite article in front of Ukraine, we English speakers designate it as a region, not as a country (think the Rocky Mountains). At one point it was a region of the USSR, but it is now a separate country. So why should we say the Ukraine, especially when we don't say the Belarus or the Latvia?
Not only that, but most (if not all) journalism style guides say that Ukraine, as the name of a country, should not be proceeded by a definite article.
Needless to say, I sent off an e-mail to the student, apologizing for my insensitivity and giving her the links to a few sites she could use to support her argument should she decide to bring the issue up with her teacher. I hope she checks her Salisbury e-mail account.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Stranded in Tulsa.. almost.

So I thought I might write about how I almost got stuck in Oklahoma last week. This might be funnier if I give a little background on how I usually don’t have many problems getting to a place—it’s getting back that has been tricky. There was the time I was almost stranded somewhere between San Francisco and Tucson (that was several years ago). I can’t take any credit for that—I was traveling with a guy who swore up and down that he had enough money for the trip. And he may have had, if we hadn’t had to pay for food, gas, and hotel rooms.

Then there was the time I tried to get from Berlin to Valence. I took a plane from Berlin to Nice, before which I had carefully checked the internet to make sure there would be a train to take me from Nice to Valence. Unfortunately, when I went to the train station, there were no trains (you can ask anyone—the French train system’s website is a bit of a mess). I couldn’t stay the night in Nice because there was a giant lemon festival (or something like that—I forget what exactly, but my mind keeps picturing a lemon so I’m going with that). So I wound up buying a ticket for Marseille. I arrived in Marseille in the middle of the night and wound up riding the subway with gangs of shifty-looking French teenagers, trying to find the hostel. After a few frantic phone calls to Mom, I got myself into a hotel next to the train station and I left Marseille early the next morning.

A few weekends later, I decided to go over to Venice. I had an awesome time, until the night before I was supposed to leave I learned that there was to be a train strike the next morning. So I woke up at about 4am to go to the train station and try to get a ticket that would put me on a train to Turin before the official start of the strike at 9am. (As long as the train was actually moving before 9am I would be fine. I just had to find on that kept moving between 9am and Turin—I really didn’t want to get stranded in a little Italian village.) I reached Valence a little after midnight, so the entire trip back took almost 24 hours—grueling, to say the least.

And this most recent one has been my Oklahoma adventure. Compared to the previous almost-getting-stuck stories, this one is pretty tame. I drove my grandparents’ car from Ozark, MO to Tulsa, OK—with my grandparents in the car. By the time we reached the airport, they were a little flustered (couple of wrong turns), and they dropped me off quickly. I wheeled my suitcase in to the (tiny) Tulsa airport, plopped it on the scale, realized I had left my purse in the car, snatched back my suitcase, and took off running for the drop-off area. No luck. My grandparents were long gone. I wheeled my suitcase back in dejectedly, plopped it back on the scale, and explained my situation to Southwest. The lady behind the counter took my luggage, gave me a ticket, and assured me that I would be able to get through security without a photo ID (and I didn’t believe her, but I figured at least this was I wouldn’t have to wheel my suitcase around me while I figured out what to do next). She also, knowing that my funds were limited, gave me a stack of McDonalds gift cards so I could afford to eat, saying, “Here are some McDonald gift cards you can use to get some food. Too bad we don’t have a McDonalds in this airport.” (You think I jest? How could I make something like this up?)

I decided to try to find a cheap phone card so I could call my Mom and see if she could fax a copy of my passport to me so I could (maybe) use it to get through security. I went to the one boutique (I said it was a small airport) and asked there. No phone cards, but there might be a place on the other side of security that sells them. Hm. I could see a flaw in my plan. So I took some of my precious money, bought a tea, and sat down to think And I decided to give it a try anyway.

I got through security. Again, I’m being completely serious here. No photo ID, no cash for bribes—only my big-boobed, blond, freckled self (I say this because I think it had everything to do with my ability to get through security. I mean, could I look any less threatening?). I had to go through some extra prodding with the security wand, and I had my backpack emptied and my sociolinguistics books examined warily, but I made it through.

And now I only had about four hours to wait for my plane. (The plane was scheduled to leave at 5:45, so we had to leave my grandparent’s house--for the two hour drive to the airport—at 11am. You have to know my grandparents.) I used this time to search for a phone card and. No luck (can you imagine? And airport that doesn’t sell phone cards?). I was getting a little hungry and I would have started sucking the ketchup out of packets (reference to The Terminal), but, as I previously mentioned, there was no McDonalds there (can you imagine The Terminal set in Tulsa airport? It would have been a lot shorter). I did find a payphone that was 50 cents to call anywhere in the states, and I called Mom and left a rather disjointed, rambling message on her machine.

And then I waited. And wondered how I was going to get from BWI to my Dad’s house. I figured I maybe had enough for a taxi—or at least enough for a taxi to get me closer to my Dad’s house (I couldn’t call my Dad because he was in Salisbury).

Now, if you’ve ever flown Southwest before, you know that it stops every 45 minutes. So my flight from Tulsa to BWI was actually a flight from Tulsa to St Louis to Louisville to BWI. I’m sure some of these airports actually had McDonalds; I don’t know, however, as I was never allowed to leave the plane. Oh, and Southwest does not feed people. So I ate a lot of peanuts. A lot of peanuts.

At about midnight the plane landed in BWI, and I dragged my tired carcass towards baggage claim. And then I saw a shining angel in the form of my friend Shari (and I really have to emphasize the part she played in getting me out of this whole mess. My mom had called her). She got me, we got my bags, she drove me home, and she cheerfully assured me that she would be able to sleep in the next day—until 6am—and drove off.

Here is where you--especially if you know me—expect to hear that I forgot my keys or something, but I didn’t. I had them in my backpack. I went in, pet the cats, called my mom, and fell asleep, thankful that I was not stuck in Tulsa.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

First semester almost over!

In a week, I will be finished with this semester. Yea! Only four more semesters to go (Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall) and then I should (hopefully, hopefully) be done.

But I think I may have finally stumbled onto something good: linguistics. Especially sociolinguistics. I had thought that, to do linguistics, one must be good at languages (which I'm not). But I could do sociolinguistics in English. Not now, of course--but I'm thinking that, after a few years of travel, I could start to work at a community college teaching ESL, and get more into sociolinguistics, eventually publishing some research. There is so much room for research--I'm only on my first semester, and I already see so much original research I could do.

So that's all pretty exciting.

Meanwhile, I think the car might be going into her death throes. It has been icy here--not very icy to you Canadians; anyways that's not the point here--it's been getting icy and my car has reacted by icing up on the inside. SO now not only do I have to scrape the outside of the car, I also have to scrape the inside. I'm thinking this can't be a good sign. She's only a '97, but she was never very healthy to begin with.