Tuesday, November 30, 2004


It's official. I'm staying here.

That is to say, I've decided to stay at Lancaster for my PhD, as long as things work out like I hope they will. I am still applying at UNT, and there is still a possibility that I will end up there. But, Lancaster is now my top choice for a PhD.

My supervisor, Elena, also happens to be the Research Student Director (or something like that), and she has been amazing. Sometime in about Week 2 of the term, I asked her whether it was possible for research students to teach here, as I was considering staying for my PhD but wanted to be sure to get some teaching experience as well. She informed me that the possibility does exist, but that it would yeild much less financial aid than a teaching assistantship in the US was likely to. She also mentioned some other possibilities.

Well, then a few weeks ago I asked her if she might be willing to write me a letter of recommendation for UNT -- which I was really worried about, since I felt that the faculty here didn't really know me that well yet, and have had no assignments or anything yet by which they could assess my abilities. She said that she would be happy to, though, and even asked another of my teachers (who happens to be her husband) if he would as well.

Today, she gave me my letter of recommendation and then sat me down and had a long (well, 10-minute) talk with me about PhD options, and basically said that she and Jonathan would both be willing to do whatever they could to help me get funding if I wanted to stay here. Specifically, she mentioned a few research projects that they are each working on where they would be willing to take me on as a research assistant, and Elena also said that she will be teaching the undergrad stylistics course next year and would need someone to help out with the seminars for that. "And we have very few research students here who would be qualified to teach a stylistics course," she added (thereby implying, through flouting the maxims of relation and quantity, that I would be one of those few people).

Anyway, I guess the point is, that if Elena, Jonathan, and Marj (the linguistics postgrad secretary) are willing to put that much effort into helping me find a way to stay here for my PhD, and since this really is where I would most like to be for a PhD, I am also willing to publicly state my determination to stay at Lancaster for my PhD if it is in any way possible. Just wanted you all to know.

(Sorry Margo!)

Oh, and Thanksgiving was very nice. We had a great meal, and lots of fun with all our American, British, and Chinese friends.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

The Gobbledygook Generator: LOL!

I just had to pass this on to you all. I found the Gobbledygook Generator on the Plain Englisn Campaign website. Quite an interesting campaign, with lots of implications and concerns for linguists and others interested in language use. Anyway, my favorite sentence from the Gobbledygook Generator was this one:
I can make a window to discuss your deconstructed strategic paradigm shifts.

LOL! Too funny!! Check it out for yourself. And while you're there, take a look at the Plain English translations page.

Sunday, November 21, 2004

trip to Haworth

So yesterday was my trip to Haworth. It was wonderful! The village is absolutely beautiful, very quaint, and the walks were good. I didn't do much walking, as it IS November, after all, and the gound out there was covered with snow, which partially melted during the day and left the dirt trails quite muddy and yucky. But now that I have boots again, I would like to go back sometime and take a REAL walk, out to Top Withens, or Bronte Falls, or even Wycoller Hall (supposedly the real-life model for Ferndean Manor in Jane Eyre - read about its ghosts).

The village's claim to fame really is the Bronte family -- there's not much else that's ever happened there of interest to anyone outside the village itself -- and they show it! I was so amused by the constant references to the family and their works that I even wrote down a list of them.

  • Rochester House

  • Bronte Cottage

  • Withens Cottage

  • Bronte House

  • Eyres 'N' Graces (one of my favorites - it was a shop)

  • Villette Coffee House

  • Ye Olde Bronte Tea Rooms

  • Ye Olde Bronte Confectionery and Stationery Shop

There were probably several others that I didn't recognize, as I've never read any of their works outside of Jane Eyre -- a deficiency that I've always intended to remedy and never have yet.

I also was highly entertained by one of the shops on the Main Street (which looks very much as it must have 150 years ago): it was called "The Piano's Not for Sale", and outside the shop was a sign reading:
Dignified Haggling and Virtuoso Piano Playing Allowed

I ate a Yorkshire parkin, a local baked speciality, which was delicious. It was rather like a large, round piece of gingerbread. It filled me up quite nicely, and I was never hungry again until dinner time.

The Bronte Parsonage Museum was also wonderful. It is the original building that the Bronte family lived in while their father was the parson for Haworth parish. Much of the furniture in the house was original, with only a few large items having been reproduced from sketches by the children. This year is the 150th anniversary of Charlotte's marriage to her father's curate, a man named Arthuer Bell Nicholls, and there was a large display in Charlotte's room about their marriage. I hadn't realized until just the last few weeks that she was ever married. I was very interested in their story, and one of my next books will probably be "The Life of Charlotte Bronte" by Elizabeth Gaskell, who was a close friend of Charlotte's during the last few years before Charlotte died. In fact, if I remember rightly, it seems the Gaskell was the one who undertook a bit of match-making with the couple -- but that was after Arthur had already proposed once. It's a long story. Maybe I'll tell it another time.

I took a little walk around the village, about a mile or so to Penistone Hill, and then wandered quite a bit trying to get the right pictures with my camera. It was quite a task -- like chasing the horizon. I kept looking out and thinking, "Oh, that would be a lovely picture, if I could just get in the right position for it." So I would walk a little way trying to find the right position, and by that time it had disappeared -- or rather, shifted, so that I now thought that the scene over there would be a nice photo, and would walk around to try and shoot it. All in all, I had quite a job of it trying to capture the West Yorkshire scenery. I did get one or two good shots, though, which I'll add to my website as soon as I have a little time.

On re-reading this entry, I realize that it sounds unnaturally like Charlotte Bronte's style of writing. I suppose that's what I get for being so preoccupied with her lately -- I just finished Jane Eyre today, yesterday I of course thought a lot about her, and then I've also decided to use an extract from Jane Eyre for one of my papers (the stylistics one, and it's been quite entertaining so far -- have I menetioned before how much I love stylistics?).

Saturday, November 20, 2004

i'm off ...

Well, this morning I'm off to Haworth, home of the Brontes. A friend of mine was going to come with me, but she called me early this morning to say that she's not feeling well and hasn't been able to sleep for the last few days (apparently she's a chronic insomniac), and so she wasn't going to come. So I'm by myself again today. But that's all right -- I like myself! :)

Right now I'm just waiting for the right time so that I can go down and meet my taxi. I've got about 15 minutes before I need to leave for that. Ho-hum.

Well, I will be sure to write later today, or tomorrow, and share my experiences of Haworth.

Friday, November 19, 2004

happy happy day

Well, today was about the best day I've had since I've been here, I think. I did loads of laundry, which was good (especially since I'd run out of underwear!), and then I went into town to do a little shopping. I looked a little at some shoes and at some coats, bought some socks in Next (my favorite British clothing store, I've decided), and then went out to ASDA, the WalMart affiliate.

A while ago, on my first trip to ASDA, I realized that part of the reason I wasn't doing any cooking was that I didn't have the necessary utensils -- bowls, spoons, spatulas, etc. So I decided that I would go back to ASDA and buy some of those things, along with some more food, and that I would somehow find room for it all and I would start cooking no matter what! Well, that was today's trip. While there I got a few things for the family for Christmas as well, which I'm really excited about. And I finally found some adorable things for my newest niece, who will be born in a few weeks probably -- that had been a long and arduous search, so it was great to finally find some things! I got my cooking utensils, and was disappointed to find that they didn't have any big plastic bowls or the like -- that was rather frustrating. But JoAnna, an American student in my ward, is going shopping Monday or Tuesday for some things like that, and I might go with her and see if we can find something for it. I also found some Orangina at ASDA, which was very exciting -- the problem was that they only had it in a 2-liter size, so I had to get one of those! Oh well, maybe we can use it for FHE or Thanksgiving next week. :)

On my return home, I realized that I felt very content. It was late in the afternoon, and the sun had set while I was in ASDA, and the moon had risen as well. It was a very pretty half-moon, and it looked nice against the darkening blue sky with the bare tree branches between me and it. And I just felt happy -- a deep, heart-felt contentment that I'm where I should be and doing what I should be doing. There's no greater feeling on earth.

When I got home, I took all my things into the kitchen to put them away, and when I opened the cupboard where my one shelf is, I found the shelf beneath it empty. Luckily, one of the girls was in the kitchen, so I asked her if she knew whose shelf it was, and she replied that it had belonged to the girl next to her, but that she had moved upstairs sometime during the week, and I was welcome to take that space. Oh, joy of all joys!!! I could not have been happier! I had felt so long like I couldn't do anything in the kitchen because I had no space, but now with TWO shelves ... wow! I can do anything. I promptly moved all my dishes from my room into the kitchen, and it feels great to have that space back for my books and things again. I tell you, it's the little things in life -- you really don't realize how much things like bed sheets and shelf-space mean to you until you have to be without them!

And, to complete my happiness, I have to say thanks to my brother-in-law and sister for my little Thanksgiving package -- it made me feel very loved! :D

Thursday, November 11, 2004

back from my trip

Well, I'm back! I had a marvellous, though exhausting, three days in the north of England, saw some great things, and took some nice pictures. So I guess that means that it was all a success. Let me elaborate below. (NOTE: the links don't work yet, except for the Sutcliffe ones, but they will soon.)

Monday I left campus (via taxi, as the buses don't run that early) at 6:45 am to catch my train to York. I had to change in Leeds, and the train I was on was amazingly cold. In fact, I found that I was rather cold on all the trains during the entire trip -- except the last one (of course) from Carlisle to Lancaster.

Anyway, I first went to York. There I looked around at the Minster (cathedral), which was phenomenal. I would say I preferred it even to Notre Dame, although in different ways. I never knew it before, but apparently Constantine was declared emporor of the Roman Empire in York, at the site of the Minster. I don't know if that was the only place ... I would assume that he was proclaimed emporor in many different places ... but in any case, there's a statue of him in front of the Minster, which was quite nice. The Minster itself is just indescribable. The choir was especially intriguing to me, with its intricate and detailed wood-work. I also walked around much of the medieval wall that still surrounds York. Parts of it have been torn down, but by far the majority of the wall is still intact today, and in good repair. It makes for quite a nice stroll. I also went to see Clifford's Tower, the only remaining part of the castle that used to be in York. It was first a typical motte-and-bailey wooden fortress built by the Normans, although I think there may have been something there before that, too. That wasn't the most wonderful thing I've ever seen, but interesting nonetheless. Mostly York is just a pretty town, with a nice quayside and a woderfully well-preserved old town that still looks much as it must have 500 or 600 years ago.

I then went on to Whitby, found my room for the night, and slept soundly. The next day I spent almost entirely there in Whitby. Ever since going out there Halloween weekend of this year, I'd thought that I would like to go back there, and that really was the impetus for this whole trip. Whitby was lovely! Even in November. Unfortunately, two of the things I really wanted to do I couldn't. I'd been wanting to tour the abbey ruins and then see the Captain Cook museum. The Abbey is closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays during the winter, and the Captain Cook museum is closed entirely during the winter. *sigh!* Oh well, I guess that means I'll just have to go back there again some time! ;) But the rest of the town was still wonderful. I wandered out for a stroll along the west pier, where I watched the locals fishing; I spent a good hour or so in the churchyard of St. Mary's, taking ominous-looking pictures of the graves and the abbey beyond them; and I toured the Grand Turk, a 1997-built replica of an 18th-century man-o-war, and the main ship used for the Hornblower series. That was quite nice, and I was glad that I had read up about ships in the age of sail ... although I wished that I had read something a little more recently, as I got the mizzen-mast and the fore-mast mixed up. How embarrassing!

Wandering around St. Mary's Church yard, I took several pictures of the graves. They're so fascinating to me -- the epitome of sinister Halloween-type gravestones, the kind that you see in cardboard on somebody's lawn at the end of October and think to yourself, "Yeah, right! That's so fake! Graves never look like that. There's no way they could stand up like that!" But they do. And they also get that great coloring, where it looks like the whole gravestone was dipped in white paint, and then somebody else came along and artfully poured a bucket of black paint across the top. As I wandered among them, I occasionally got a whiff of some foul, rank, pungent, smell, and I thought that must be what old, damp graves smell like after 100 years in the North Yorkshire mists. But then as I started back down the 199 steps, I realized that it was probably the goats that were grazing behind the wall on the other side of the steps from the church!

I also took the time to go eat fish and chips at the "world renowned" Magpie Cafe. It has a reputation for the best fish and chips in England ("and consequently in the whole world!" -- movie quote, 10 points), and deservedly so. I kept wondering how good fish and chips could actually be. But I asked the guy at my B&B the night before, and he assured me that, although he had been skeptical at first, he also had found the fish and chips at the Magpie to be worth the price and the wait. Luckily I went early enough that was no queue, and the fish and chips really was delicious! Much better than anything else I'd ever had before, definitely.

Also while in Whitby I learned of the famous Frank M. Sutcliffe, who was a local photographer and revolutionized the photography industry with his techniques. He has some really stunning photographs, and I bought postcards of a few of them, which I'm linking here for your enlightenment, edification, and enjoyment. Toy Boats| St. Hilda's Abbey, Whitby | High Seas on Whitby's West Pier (my personal favorite)

That night I went on to Newcastle, where I again found my hotel and immediately went to a nice, sound sleep. The next morning I got up bright and early and went to wander around in Newcastle's city centre. The problem was, I got up a little too early. When I got there, nothing was open, and the only people around were those going to work. But I found my way to the quayside there, too (which was a feat in itself), and got to see the famous Gateshead Millennium Bridge. Quite facsinating -- unfortunately I didn't get to see it in operation, I'm sure it's quite a sight! I popped over to the Laing Art Gallery for a minute, mostly to see the "Blue Carpet", which was not at all what I had been expecting. I wandered along in the shopping area and was pleased to find a high-class department store with a huge display in the windows telling the story of the Nativity. It's not often you see that sort of thing, at least not in the States anymore, so I thought that was great. I then went down to the Discovery Museum, a free-entry, family-oriented museum. It was fun, but a little skimpy on details -- that is, until you got to the 20th century, which I thought was funny. There they had absolutely every decade in its own little section, with tons more information about each decade than you could possibly want. I skipped that part. Partly because I had to catch a train ... but not entirely.

After Newcastle, I hopped a train to Carlisle, where I did a tour of the castle and met some fellow Americans (from Lancaster, Pennsylvania), and then looked through the shopping centre before heading back home again. By the time I got to Carlisle, I was so tired and exhausted I didn't have the energy to do half of what there was to do. I just wanted to get home, to my own bed, and massage my poor little (ha!) feet, and go to sleep in my own little bed. Which I did. It might sound like I didn't like Carlisle that much, but that's not true. Besides Whitby, it was actually my favorite place that I visited, and I would love to go back sometime soon, maybe to do some shopping (as they had some great stores there that, as far as I know, we don't have here in Lancaster), and to see the cathedral. It was a lovely town, and it is built mainly with sandstone, which is prevalent in the area.

So all in all, I had a great time, but was really glad to get home again. I gave myself a little pedicure last night, which felt great, and then I read parts of Jane Eyre before going to sleep (which I haven't read for years, literally), and fell in love with Mr. Rochester all over again. :)

Oh yeah, when I went out to do some errands this morning (including getting a much-needed book from the library, yay!!), I decided to wear my flip-flops, as my feet are so swollen and sore that I didn't want to put them back in shoes again. But I hadn't quite even gotten to the main campus yet when the right one broke! The little strap that goes between your big toe and ... the next toe (?) ... broke, and so I couldn't walk at all in any way that would keep it on. So I had to take it off, and walk part-barefoot back to my room to put some shoes on. LOL!

Thursday, November 4, 2004

"things are looking up..."

"... it's a great little world we live in!" (Once again, 10 points to anyone who knows that quote!)

Things have been going very well this week. My money is closer than ever to being here where I can actually use it. I found a great new skirt the other day in town. I found the ASDA store -- owned by the Wal*Mart family, and I'm a fan! I got a couple of books from the library today that I've been trying to get hold of for some time now. I've pretty well decided on what to do for my assessment essays. And I have partially finalized plans to travel next week, during my reading week.

I'm for sure going to York, Whitby, Newcastle, and Carlisle. I didn't realize it until just last night, but it turns out that the railway line from Newcastle to Carlisle follows Hadrian's Wall pretty closely for most of the way. So maybe I can get a decent picture or two from the train. I'm so excited to go to Whitby again. I've fallen in love with the town. I'm just sad that I can't stay in the youth hostel there. It's on the East Cliff, right by the Abbey ruins, but they're currently only open on Fridays and Saturdays.

I downloaded my photos from last week's trip and added an England page to my website, which will go live tomorrow.

Oh yeah, and I get to attend the Pasty meeting this week (Pragmatics and Stylistics resarch group). Last time I had something else I had to do at the same time, so didn't get to attend. But this time I will be there, and the topic is about mind style in Middlemarch, and I'll also get to meet Mick Short in person (presumably).

So all in all, I'm quite happy today.

Tuesday, November 2, 2004

quick update

Last weekend I went to Robin Hood's Bay and Whitby, as you know by now. I have been wanting to tell you all about it, but I don't have time as yet. I also took quite a few pictures, and haven't yet had time to get those up on my website. I guess I just wanted you to know, though, that I had a great time and have come back safely. And I made a lot of new friends in the process, too. (The Chinese girls that came with Fu Pei and me now all are a lot more chummy with me. I just feel bad because I have such a hard time remembering all their names!) So, I'll get that stuff taken care of as soon as I possibly can.

Next week is a reading week, so I don't have any classes. I'm toying with the idea of making a big loopy trip, from Lancaster to Leeds, then York, Whitby, Newcastle (upon Tyne, that is), Carlisle, and then back home. Mostly because there were so many things to do in Whitby that I didn't have time for, but it takes to darn long to get there on the train that I thought it would be as well to stop at a few places and see more of the country. I guess I'm mostly worried about the expense and the logistics of it all. Anyway ... will let you know when I figure out what I'm doing. I suppose there's always the possibilty of staying here and reading ...