Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Things that sort of concern me

So, every Croatian music video I've seen involves footage of soldiers with guns.

Monday, January 28, 2008


So, I just got off the phone with a women from a school in Santiago (that's in Chile, for all you geographically challenged out there). Anyway, the school sounds pretty nice (better than the one I was working at in Prague). There are a couple of things about it that I'm not crazy about, but the school does some good stuff to make up for it.

Anyway, I'm going to try to talk to a few more schools. I have a bit more time now so I can be a bit pickier.

Also, I had my first Spanish class today (I decided on 101). The course started a few weeks ago, so when I walked into class, the first thing we did was take a chapter test. I took the test too, and I think I did ok--maybe a B.

Also, I had a French class today as well. There are no French classes here at my actual level (upper-intermediate/low advanced), so I'm going with a more grammar oriented intermediate class. My speaking and comprehension is a little advanced for the class (after 40 minutes of class, the teacher switched to English and informed the class that we had just functioned in French for 40 minutes without anyone dying. I was like, "that's it?" But I figure I've survived a 90 minutes Czech conversation, so I can afford to be a little uppity.) But my grammar is not great and my spelling is atrocious (basically, when I write, I think in French but my hand guides the pencil in English).

What else... not much. Saw this lil' sis this past weekend--helped paint the future baby room (purple and yellow, if anyone was interested). She is gianormously preggers (and still has, what, two or so more months to go). I also proved that I have (barely) more energy than a puppy (I have to admit that while cats are superior as pets, dogs are a bit more fun to play with. Until they start humping the toys.)

Gonna do some Spanish and French homework before I head off to Yoga and Tai Chi.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

New news.

Okay, so I've got it all figured out (as in, I put off making a decision and bought myself more time): I'm going to hang in Salisbury this spring and take a couple of French classes and a Spanish class. I've got some other things lined up too (grading essays, getting involved with teacher training for a charity in Morocco, cleaning house and scooping cat poop...). Basically this buys me some down time (yes, taking classes is my way of relaxing and storing up energy for the next big push). It will also give me some time to work on acquiring some Spanish (which would be sooooo helpful if I want to move to SA--will hopefully lessen the culture shock just a teensy bit).

Now the big question is what level of Spanish I should take. I took a placement test and got a 192. That should put me in Span 101, BUT the cut off score for Span 102 is 200. I'm soooo close, and I'm an over-achiever (albeit a lazy one), so I'm thinking I could (maybe) hack it in Span 102. Votes? (I ask for opinions then I generally ignore them. But I like to hear them. Naw, I shouldn't say I ignore them. I ask for them, I consider them, then I do whatever I was gonna do anyway).

Anyway, the main thing is that I'm feeling a lot less stressed now.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Not much to post about

Well, nothing much going on, but I figured I'd post anyway. No longer working at the giant department store... Doing a bit of grading for ETS... Mainly cleaning house and looking for a job.

And the job search? Frustrating. As usual, I've only been at it for a few weeks now and I'm freaking out that I haven't found anything yet. I had a heck of a time hunting down people to write letters of rec for me (and when I say hunting, I actually mean stalking. Like, hey, you passed me in the hallway at UMBC once--wanna write a letter for me? Please? Please?) But I've got one (luke-warm) letter and one promise of a letter, so... yeah.

And, again, as usual, my frustration at not being able to find a job in a week has turned my attention back to...

You guessed it, more school. I'm not ready to make the final leap to a PhD, but I have considered getting another Master's. (This time at a real school. Which is what I said about my first MA. Before I realized that SU was gonna be a lot cheaper.)

But another MA is pretty much out of the question for now--it is too late to apply for the Fall '08 semester.

Ugh. What a whiny, depressing (and self-indulgent) post. Note to self: never blog when hungry.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Thoughts on Grammar

A couple of weeks ago, at the well-known department store where I worked as a Christmas retail whore, one of the customers, upon hearing that I work as an English teacher, began questioning my grammar. In particular, he brought up the fact that I had used "have got" instead of his preferred version, "have". To him, "have got" was redundant. There was a crowd, so I only gave him a brief overview of my philosophy of English grammar, beginning with my role as a teacher of English the way it is actually used, my consideration of myself as a descriptivist rather than a prescriptivist, and ending with the somewhat arbitrary nature of several English grammar rules (my oft-used example being the rule that one should never split infinitives). But of course, as soon as I finished work and got home, I cracked open the Strunk and White to check the rule for "Have got" versus "have". The rule was simple: use "have" instead of the more colloquial "have got" in writing. Which I do. Generally.

But that all leads me to my first point: people are funny about grammar. When I tell people that I am an English teacher, they either treat me as a confessor or a Grand Grammar Inquisitor. People seem to imagine that I am either inwardly wincing at their grammar (I'm usually not, but more on that later) or that I am part of a secret us versus them Grammar brotherhood. Once I explain to the first group that teaching English is my career and I'm only going to correct their grammar if they pay me, they laugh and relax. The second group is slightly trickier to handle. I usually give the same descriptivist versus prescriptivist and arbitrary nature of several English grammar rules speech, but I don't think most buy it (I think they walk away from the conversation with the belief that I don't actually know any grammar rules). As annoying as these Grammar brotherhood folks can be, they are also very fascinating. Each one has latched on to a relatively obscure grammar rule, and when they hear people around them breaking the rule, they suffer from fingernails-on-a-blackboard pain. I would love to be able to design an experiment that trys to find a correlation between something (Personality? Religion? Myers-Briggs type?) and Grammar nitpickery (ie, are people with the INFJ personailty type driven to distraction when they hear teenagers use the word "like" as a conversation filler?).

Now, on to my second point. I claim to be a descriptivist, but that is not completely true. There are certain grammar points that cause me acute pain. For example, if I hear someone use fewer instead of less (or vice versa), I have to exercise superhuman strength to keep from muttering the correct word under my breath. And, this being the holiday season, I have (got) to rant (slightly) about something I absolutely detest. Now, generally, I don't mind when people verb nouns or adjectives to create new words. After all, this is one of the ways in which the English language evolves. I even wrote a paper about the backformation of "enthused" from "enthusiastic". But (and this is a very big but) I hatehatehate when people use "gift" as a verb. As in, "He gifted the card." Agh. Disgusting. First of all, English already has several perfectly acceptable ways to express that thought. Secondly, is gift a transitive verb? Intransitive? Who can tell me? No one. But anyway, I was griping about this to my friend S's husband, R, and he mentioned that he used "gift" as a verb when the act of giving was aggressive (as in "regifting" or giving a person a present that the giver knows the recipient doesn't need/want/like). I find this usage completely acceptable as it gives us a way to express a well-known phenomenon (do doooo da do da do). About an hour later, R used the word "food" as a verb to express the act of unloading extra food on unsuspecting friends and relatives. And yet another well-known holiday phenomenon was expressed in a succinct manner).

So, what brought all this on? Just the fact that I made 24 chocolate cupcakes this morning and have spent all day trying to think of people to food.

Note: I know I should proof-read a post about grammar, but I'm sick and my laptop battery is about to die. So I'm just going to go ahead and post this with the knowledge that I'm leaving myself open to having my grammar edited. Politely and with the best of intentions, of course.

My wall of shame...

Well, as my last picture has given folks some small measure of amusement, I figured I'd continue with my tour of "animated and expressive" photos (Animated and expressive is how my good ol' Mom describes them. I use slightly different terms, which I shall not post here).

The bummer of it all is that I don't own copies of all the doozies out there. I wish I had a copy of my high school percussion picture. Or my military ID picture (that one was an absolute winner). Or the picture that someone took of my in France (where my chin managed to completely disappear). Still, I have plenty to keep this amusing.

Anyway, here I am with my double second cousin once removed, Marcus.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Yet another one...

So I have no idea how I manage it, but I look either retarded, autistic, deformed, or psychotic in just about every picture taken of me (the classic shots usually combine at least two of the above). I've always chalked this up to having an "animated" and "expressive" face. But it has happened so often I may have to consider the more likely alternative: I just look funny.

So feel free to weigh in on this latest classic. Just don't tell me that it "is not that bad." Or I will post my infamous passport picture.