Sunday, October 26, 2008


My roommate, Ryan, started painting a few weeks ago, (see previous post about apartment redecoration) and it really inspired me. My mom had some coupons to an art store and I set myself up with all the supplies I need, at 40% off, no less. This weekend I should have been studying for a test, and instead I spent, probably 15 hours painting this below. The photo doesn't really give it justice, it looks a lot better in person.

I really liked making it, and I think it was a good first try. I already have a plan for what I want to paint next time I have a weekend without too much to do I'll get on that. Don't hold your breath though.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Is this only interesting to me?

Only a small percentage (less than 3%) of the words we use today were used in Old English times (~500 AD to 1066 AD) but that small percentage of words are our most commonly used words. For example, of the 100 most commonly used words, ~95 of them are Old English. Below I've listed the top ten most used words in English,


I find it interesting that "you" is number 8, while "I" comes in 20th place ("my" at 81). "He" comes in 11th ("his" at 18th) and "she" doesn't get used till number 46 ("her" #62).

One more interesting fact, quoted from "The Adventure of English," by Melvyn Bragg

"We shall fight on the beaches," said Churchill in 1940, "we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender." Only "surrender" is not Old English. That, in itself might be significant."

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Novel Portion One

Well, I've been talking about this novel I wrote, and its awesomeness for a while. I figured I would post just the first couple pages for here they are. Enjoy. Especially if you have friends who are publishers.

A Novel By Sara Allsop

“Guns and Hooch!” The shout of a young man cut through the winding of the conveyor belt and the shuffle of packages en route from Lincoln, Nebraska to River Falls, Wisconsin. An idling semi cut its engine just as Joyce looked up to see her co-worker, James, proudly holding up a package. “Guns and Hooch!” he shouted again as he walked the ten yards separating them. Clint appeared after James, ducking out of his truck, as he followed curiously.
James plopped the evidence on the conveyor and stepped back. The box was made of dull brown cardboard and taped shut with clear packing tape, the corners were dented and scuffed, in fact the only unique thing about it was that it was addressed to a business which apparently sold alcohol to men and women with firearms.
“Am I lost?” Joyce asked. “Did this FedEx building get moved to Louisiana last night?”
“Louisiana isn’t the only place with hicks, we’ve got them here in our very own…” James paused and twisted the box, “Napp, Wisconsin.” He cradled his prize in his arms.
"Hey that's a lot better than Kay's Kennel and Video Rental," Clint said. The three of them had a running contest going as to whose truck would deliver packages to the strangest businesses. Sometimes it was something as simple as a Horse Supply Store on Elmer Lane, or a box that stated on the outside of it, “Do not deliver if recipient is intoxicated.” Joyce had found one a few weeks ago that she thought would be a winner forever; it was the strange business that thought that two stops to kennel your dog and rent a video was one stop too many.
“Next we'll find a business called Day Care and Poisonous Chemical Storage!” Joyce said.
“You know what they need?” Clint asked, “an aspirin and arsenic factory!”
“No, they need Monster Truck racing and lace doily supplies.” James added.
“Watch out for my hypodermic needle and crackerjack factory!” Joyce shouted.
The ideas continued as they went back to work, each trying to outdo each other in putting together the most outlandish business ideas they could. Joyce giggled to herself the rest of the day, even after everyone else had left the building by eight o’clock, thinking up other strange business combinations. The truck drivers arrived just after eight and pulled out with sagging shocks from their bulging trucks. Joyce heaved the heavy rusted warehouse doors shut behind them, nearly tripping when they caught on some uneven metal. She coughed out the diesel smoke and sat down in the small office to take her lunch, well breakfast, break. At noon she was finished with office work and began to clear her desk of papers, packing tape and mailing labels.
It was strange. Every morning that Joyce woke up for work she swore that today was going to be the last day that she worked at this horrific job. She would push back the covers in the pitch black night, leave the heavy heat of her bed to pull on some jeans and a hooded sweatshirt so she could fall asleep on the toilet. Why had she gotten a job that started at 3:30 a.m.? Now though, like every day, when she clocked out she wasn’t the least bit tired, she was pleased that she had pulled herself out of bed one more time.
Joyce grabbed her coat and tied it around her waist. She locked up the building as she left and started walking home. Joyce often took the 20 minutes it took to walk home to figure out exactly how much money she would have saved before she went back to school in five months. She was still paying off student loans from her Bachelors degree in English, but those payments were small and she could stop paying them as soon as she was re-enrolled in a Master’s Program. Joyce had been accepted to Madison University a month ago and classes started in September, meaning that she would only have to work this job a few more months full-time before she could cut back to part-time during school. That was still a long time to work at a dead-end job like this. Especially considering that she had a college degree. But she did like her co-workers, the pay was really good, and even though the hours were strange, she was sort of used to it by now. She still couldn't wait to go back to school. Then she wouldn’t have to just take a box from one place and put it in a different place for a living. She could actually do what she wanted to do, edit books.
She strolled down the street, daydreaming about helping an author get a book published. Joyce imagined there wasn’t any greater thrill than walking into a bookstore and seeing a book you had helped to create sitting there on the shelf. Unless it was someone purchasing that book. And maybe seeing it get a really good review in the New York Times Book Review. Or maybe that book winning an award and selling a million copies.
Joyce daydreamed about it, walking casually until she reached a house and couldn't help but notice the lawn. There were deep furrows in the grass, and mud tracked across the sidewalk and front walkway. It was as though a truck had backed right up against the front door.
Joyce looked up and down the street. There wasn’t anyone else out on the street and the house across the way had its blinds drawn. She wondered if anyone was looking out their front windows. She peered at the suspicious house again and then walked up the walkway purposefully, listening for a dog bark, a radio playing, or other signs of occupancy. She changed direction at the last minute to sidle to the side and peek in the front windows. She now saw why a truck had felt the need to pull up on the lawn, there was a shiny new piano sitting in the middle of the room, out of place like a pregnant nun at a Halloween party that no one else dressed up for. The furniture surrounded it, having been pushed out of place for its entrance. She could imagine the other furniture eyeing the piano askance, refusing to invite it into conversation and glancing at it snobbishly. The piano seemed to curve downward slightly in the middle, its rich brown shoulders hunched. Joyce knew that if it was possible, it would slump over to the snack bar and stand there in the corner sipping punch and keeping a sharp eye out for a friendly face.
Joyce imagined what she would do if she had a piano. She wouldn’t leave it out in the middle of the room, out of place like that. She would have a place made ready for it and the room would be built around it. It would have a nice lace runner to lie across the top of it and the bench would be filled with books full of sheet music from the likes of Chopin to Ben Folds Five. It would probably go where she had the television right now. Joyce mused over that for a while. No doubt that would create jealousy between them, and if anything, she wanted a happy piano and a happy T.V. Maybe they could be friends.
Joyce had always wanted to play the piano. It began when she was in the musical, “Brigadoon,” in high school, playing the role of third vegetable cart worker and they had rehearsed their songs to the music of a piano. The teacher had sat down at the bench, glanced over the music and then began playing. He carelessly looked from the music back to the students, listening for notes sung off-key and watching for dance missteps. His casual fingers had moved up and down the keys effortlessly, creating such a full and rich sound that when the inexperienced and tiny pit band took over, the group of 11 musicians had been no match for the music the piano had put out.
Joyce imagined herself sitting at a piano in front of a huge stage. She walked on with a backup band already set up and waiting for her. She sat down and adjusted the bench slightly, the crowd silent. She lifted her fingers to the keys and began to play, a simple tune, but one that the crowd recognized instantly. They began to roar in approval while the band joined, before long they were jamming together, she was pounding on the piano, effortlessly singing her heart out. So what if the song she imagined she had written in her head was actually an Elton John song? She could pretend she had written it all she wanted while-a car horn honked in her ear- knocking her over. She jumped up from the bushes, heart beating and stumbled quickly onto the front stoop trying to look innocent. She grabbed some leaves from out of her hair as she twisted around to see James sitting in his car in the driveway a few feet away smiling and raising one hand in a lazy wave.
Joyce took a deep breath. It was amazing how much the brain could pack in the short second it took her ears to hear the car horn to the time it took her eyes to see and register James. Her brain had already seen an angry house owner on a cell phone to the police, getting out of a truck purposefully with a bat in hand. In her mind she was already running halfway down the sidewalk, when her brain registered the harmlessness of James.
She shook her head at James and stalked towards his door as he laughed at her panic.
“Get out of here!” She shooed him away. “What if the owners come out?”
“Oh,” he said. He settled back casually and made no effort to put his car in reverse. “I thought it might be your house you were peeking in so sneakily.”
“Back up!” Joyce could just imagine the same angry house owner coming out now, having been woken up from a hang-over by the blast of a car horn to find two strangers chatting it up in his driveway.
“Get in, and I will.”
Joyce ran around and hopped in the passenger seat, shutting the door quickly and looking behind her as James backed up.
“What are you doing anyways?” Joyce asked.
“I was at the store, and on my way home, and who should I see but Joycie-poo peering in people’s windows like a criminal.” James pulled out of the driveway and paused in the middle of the street. “Where to?”
“My house is down that way,” Joyce pointed.
“How long have you been walking home from work?” James asked.
“I always walk to work.”
“You weirdo, you should have told someone you needed a ride. Is your car in the shop?”
“No, turn left here.”
“How come you’re walking to work then?”
“I don't have a car because I'm trying to save money.”
James shook his head as he turned at the stop sign. “and what were you doing peering in some stranger’s window?”
Joyce laughed. She had hoped that he had forgotten about that.
“They had these huge ruts in the lawn and I wanted to see why. Then I saw that they had a piano inside and I’ve always wanted to play the piano.”
“And you don’t?”
“No. Sadly.”
“Why not?”
“A number of reasons, A, I’m not going to live in one place long enough to make it worthwhile to buy a piano, and you can’t very well take lessons if you don’t have a piano at home to practice on. And B, I hate keyboards, so I’m not about to play one of those things, ergo C, I don't play the piano.”
“Why not a keyboard?”
“One, the keys feel different; two, a really nice one is almost as expensive as a used-piano anyways; and three, they seem tacky, like, someone with real skill wouldn’t be caught dead using one.”
“Yeah, I see that." James thought about it, "you don’t want to just suck it up and practice on one for a while…” James trailed off as Joyce shook her head menacingly at him. “Well, good luck with that then.”
After another offer to drive her to work in the morning was refused James drove off waving out the window with a yell to see her tomorrow.
Joyce pulled out her keys and glanced in the upstairs windows as she walked up to “Joel’s Chicken Emporium.” The smell of fried chicken wafted out and people chatted on benches out front. The sign painted on the window proclaimed, “Drive-Through Soon to be 24 hours!”
“Great,” she thought, “now the speaker box will be as loud as hell all night, instead of stopping at eleven o’clock.” She walked around the back of the restaurant and climbed up a set of stairs to her apartment. She wondered to herself if her roommates Megan or Cinnamon would be home.
Cinnamon was in college, going to be a psychologist. Her parents had been hippies, which explained her unique name. She had 2 brothers separately named Sky and Freedom and a sister named Ingrid Sun Flower. Cinnamon had been dating a guy named Bryce for going on three years and they were probably going to get married pretty soon. Cinnamon speculated that it would happen after she graduated with her Masters this upcoming fall.
Megan was the type of person who intimidated most people at first, she seemed vain and a little stand-offish, but was just confident in a world of insecure women. She especially intimidated men, or at least that was the only reason that Joyce could think of that she was currently and often single. She was tall, skinny, blond and often referred to as, “the hot friend.” She was in her second year of teaching third grade at the elementary school across town.
Joyce pushed open the door of the apartment and gagged immediately. It was as though she had walked into a wall of stench. There was a haze of smoke drifting on the ceiling that flowed out lazily into the fresh air. She pulled her shirt up over her nose and stepped back. She glanced around looking for the source of the smell. Judging by the scent she should look for a woman who had permed her hair and set herself on fire. Joyce left the door wide open, held her breath and stepped back into the apartment and past the entry-way closet to see both Megan and Cinnamon. Megan was frantically bent over the vacuum waving at it with a notebook. Cinnamon struggled with the window in the kitchen, trying to pry it open.
“What happened?” Joyce asked.
“The vacuum started on fire and Megan didn’t turn it off!” Cinnamon shouted as though the smoke filled room had somehow interfered with her ability to hear.
Joyce was surprised that the dinosaur vacuum they had gotten from the Salvation Army had lasted this long. It had been ancient when they bought it two years ago after moving in together. She smiled and laughed out loud. The window flew upwards with a bang and Cinnamon leapt back as she began giggling as well. Megan looked sheepishly around and took a shallow breath of air. She said to Cinnamon, “Mmmm, nothing like the smell of burnt rubber and frying chicken to create an atmosphere of romance for your date tonight.”
“Are you kidding me? I’ll make Bryce take me out, I can’t eat here.” Cinnamon said.
“Leaving Megan and I, yet again to eat alone, our only company this delightful smell.” Joyce said. “I walked in and my first thought was that someone had permed their hair and then set themselves on fire. But I think now that I’ve had a chance to fully appreciate the smell, it’s more like…no, I think that’s still a pretty good description of what it’s like.”
Megan paused and smelled the air tentatively. “You know, it does kind of smell like that.”
Joyce had an idea for something that might help. She ran back into the bathroom and began rummaging around the back of the drawers. She was looking for some perfume she had gotten as a present once. She didn’t like the smell enough to wear it, but it would do for now. She ran back out into the living room and sprayed it liberally on her finger, then wiped it underneath her nose. She took a tentative sniff with Megan and Cinnamon watching and then smiled. "You can still smell it a little bit, but it helps." Joyce passed the perfume to Cinnamon while Megan hefted up the sizable vacuum and carried it outside.
“At least we can stink up the restaurant instead of them stinking us up all the time.” Megan seemed pleased at the role reversal and took her turn with the perfume, spraying it almost directly up her nose.
They forced the rest of the windows open and Cinnamon switched on the ceiling fan. Even after everything they did, the smell was too overpowering. The perfume only lasted a few moments and then the burnt perm smell began to come back. In fact, after she had re-applied It three times, Joyce was beginning to wonder which was worse. Who had gotten her this designer imposter perfume anyways? It had to be someone who she didn’t know very well, and someone who was fairly cheap as well. A gift with the price printed right on it in permanent ink didn't exactly spell classy. Joyce tossed the spray can of $4.95 perfume back and forth in her hands. It had probably been one of those secret Santa presents at some place she had worked at a few years back. No one ever knew what to get each other so they got severely gender stereotyped gifts. Gifts like scented hand lotion or Terminator III on DVD. Joyce stopped thinking about it as she noticed Cinnamon pick up the cordless phone, then pause and look back towards Joyce and Megan.
“Why don’t we all go out for dinner tonight?” Cinnamon suggested. Joyce nodded her head in agreement, the idea of eating any food while remaining in the apartment made her want to retch.
As they gathered up their coats and purses Cinnamon asked, “Hey, I forgot to tell you, Bryce has a performance tonight, do you guys want to come? Otherwise I’ll have to sit alone.”
“Oh, his comedy thing?” Joyce asked.
“Yeah, you guys should really come and maybe we can find you some hot dates.”
“I’d like to,” Megan sighed, “but I’ve got about fifty spelling tests to grade and I’m getting evaluated soon so I’ve got to get ready for that, I can’t do anything but dinner.”
“It’s a Friday night!” Cinnamon protested.
“I know, but I’m visiting my family tomorrow and I want to be able to have fun with them without worrying about tests or anything.”
“Excuses,” sighed Cinnamon as she looked at Joyce accusingly.
“If you promise not to try and set me up with any ‘really hot dates’ then I’ll go with you,” Joyce answered. Cinnamon was always trying to set her up on dates, and while she had been excited about it the first few times they always flopped. She was too nervous and stiff with people she didn’t know. When she did meet someone she was interested in she wooed him by ignoring him, stuttering, and avoiding him whenever he came close for fear of saying something stupid. It wasn’t the best strategy, she knew, but it was all she had. She had told Cinnamon a few weeks ago that she had given up on blind dates, and looking for a boyfriend in general and was focusing on other things right now. Her theory had been that as soon as she stopped looking, the perfect guy would come along. So far it hadn’t been working, but she wasn’t about to say anything out loud for fear of another blind date night.
“Great!” Cinnamon dialed a few numbers on the phone and stepped a few feet away to call Bryce to come pick them all up.
“You know she already has a guy in mind for you, don’t you?” Megan asked. They opened the door and began to walk down the stairs.
“I know, but I need to get out of this house.”
“I’m sorry about the smell!”
“No, no it’s not that, I’ve just gotten into a rut lately. All I do is work.” Joyce and Megan had reached the bottom of the stairs and both took a deep breath of air. Joyce had never thought she would enjoy fried chicken air as much as she did right now. Joyce leaned against the building as they waited for Cinnamon to come down. “We need to start getting out more, meeting new people.” Joyce scuffed her foot against the ground, taking out her frustration on the dirt.
“And if by 'meeting people,' you mean 'meeting men,' then you are correct.” Megan sighed and leaned against the wall. “I need to find a man. My standards are starting to go down more and more. All I require now is a guy who knows how to spell friend and doesn't pick his nose in public.”
“You don’t mind the whole ‘chasing the girls around the playground and trying to kiss them’ game?”
“Are you kidding? I nearly joined in myself.”
“Gross, pedophile.” Joyce laughed. “Let’s hope the President of the PTA never walks past and hears us talking.”
“Don’t worry, I know exactly what she looks like so I can avoid her.”

Next time, on Paperback,

-Will Joyce ever learn to play the piano?
-Will the promised, "hot date," turn out to be truly hot?
-Will Obama win the 2008 Presidential Election?

Tune in next time to find out!

I love ESL textbooks.

I love flipping through various English textbooks. Now that I have used, probably over a dozen texts in teaching, I can see pretty quickly if I think the book will work well for the type of class I like to teach. (i.e. awesome) There are definitly books that I've looked at and wondered how they got published, but this upcoming one has taken the cake. I took as good of pictures as I could of the chapter entitled, "Hard Times," from the book, "Express Yourself!" This must be a different version than the one I used in Korea, because I DID use an Express Yourself book in my conversation class in Korea, and I remember hating it.

"Look at the pictures and vocabulary words. Talk about what is happening in each picture."

The guy is reading about a factory closing in the newspaper. He is pretty bummed about it and the next photo shows him waiting in line at the unemployment office.

Man and wife are worried about the future. Husband has already filled the garbage can with empty beer cans.

Husband didn't get the new job. He drinks even more and then shouts and scares his wife and kids.

Wife and kids move out, leaving a note, "You don't care about us anymore." Husband is sad. He drives around and thinks about killing himself till he goes in a church and ponders his future.

All right class, let's discuss unemployment, domestic abuse, and suicide today! Let's also discuss the stereotypes that have been reinforced through these cartoons.

Stereotype 1- When a man who works in a factory looses his job, he will turn to drinking.

Stereotype 2-If a blue-collar man drinks, he will drink to excess and scare his children and wife

Stereotype 3-Man work. Woman stay home with kids.

Stereotype 4-Only a life disaster of this importance could drive a man to church....OR that church is the only thing that could prevent this man's suicide.