Archive for ‘Writing’

October 10, 2014

Please pass the Febreeze

by Janie Jones

My Advanced Writing professor is one of the emaciated-looking smoker types.  She’s very nice, and I have no complaints about her teaching, but it is hard to get your homework back reeking like an ashtray.  When she handed me my stack of papers, the smell half led me to expect a pile of ashes to fall from between the leaves when I picked it up to put in my bag.  Now every time I open my folder for this class, I am assaulted by a whiff of stale cigarette smoke.  I suppose the leftover scent won’t harm me, but I do find that odor rather offensive.  The campus is non smoking, so obviously she brought this stuff home to grade.  I half wish that there was a ban on subjecting students to second hand-second hand smoke smell from grading papers at home.


But, one of my papers I got back was my grammar test.  I got a 93%.  So, just so you all know, when I screw up it’s not because I don’t know better.

October 7, 2014

Tuesday Titters: they’re over there with their group

by Janie Jones

I have never been a grammar nazi, and I don’t ever try to convince anyone, much less myself, that I have flawless English. Generally I get the basics of grammar, whether or not I catch my mistakes when editing is another story.  And while some of the more obscure particulars often elude me (commas are my arch enemy), I would like to think that I have a somewhat better than average grasp.  When I do make mistakes in my written grammar I am embarrassed, and I must admit I am rather disdainful of the pathetic writing skills of many of the younger generation.  Yesterday I had a grammar test in my Advanced Writing class, so soon we will see just how much I know and don’t know.

Until then, here’s a joke for you all:


Q: What do you say when you are comforting a grammar nazi?

A: There, Their, They’re



September 29, 2014

I’ve been too busy to blog

by Janie Jones

I’ve been swamped with homework.  I’m writing two papers this year, and one of them has a big first draft phase due today.  Also due today is my group physics project.  We built a catapult:

September 2014 misc 010

September 13, 2014

A change of perspective; just a different view of the insanity

by Janie Jones

So once again it’s back to school time.  But this year I’m finally back at Stickittoyou U.  I couldn’t afford to really move to Big City, but I found myself a small room in town.  On the weekends, as long as I don’t have to work and the weather is fair, I’ll be out on the farm with Leif.

It’s been a year of big changes.

I’m still struggling with it all.  And last week it was easy to feel like I wasn’t going to make it.  Juggling two jobs (I’m cutting back on the tour guide gig so I can work in a biology lab), Physics, Cell Biology and Professional Writing for Science Majors, settling in to a new abode, and worrying about Leif, the dogs and how poor I am is a lot of balls in the air.  I cried a lot last week.

I’m scared out of my wits.  I’ve put in hours and hours preparing and slogging through maths and chemistry and I am tired.  All that work doesn’t seem to have gotten me very far right now.  I can’t remember enough to feel well prepared.  I’m worried I won’t be able to hack Physics with all the math.  I’m worried I’ll hit the wall of math in my Cell Bio Lab and choke to death on conversions and how to adjust formulas for stock solutions.  I have two big papers to write, one of which is a research proposal.  I actually have to come up with something to propose to study.  How can they expect me to know enough yet to propose my own study?

Then the other students are all talking about MCATs and GREs and other grad school placement testing.  No pressure there.

The more things change the more they stay the same.  Same stress, same exhaustion, same fears, just different rubber walls.

But I can’t give up, so I guess I’ll just have to keep on stumbling along.

Even if you fall on your face, you’re still moving forward.

-Victor Kiam


September 8, 2014

Oh, the power of a comma

by Janie Jones

From my Advanced Writing for Science Majors class today:

Consider the following sentence giving careful thought to proper punctuation.

Woman without her man is nothing.


Woman, without her man, is nothing.


Woman, without her, man is nothing.

January 2, 2014

I’ve had to do a lot of inanely boring tasks in pursuit of my $8/hr, but this one is really killing me

by Janie Jones

So my boss is teaching a creative writing class this spring.  Apparently she used to teach one but she says it’s been about 20 years.  I don’t know why she was given a creative writing course this semester after all those years.  I didn’t ask.  I don’t really care and I’m really not one bit curious.  I get paid no matter what she teaches, and as she’s generally a great person to work for, and is grateful for all the boringly tedious jobs I do in her stead, it’s basically all the same to me.

At first I thought, “Oh, creative writing.  This should be interesting and fun.”

The class hasn’t even started yet and I am now so sick to death of it I hope with all my soul that I will have as little to do with it as possible.

Surprised?  Me too.

Curious as to why?  Well, I’ll assume you are or you would just stop reading.

First, the textbook is absolutely written to pander to the lowest common denominator.  Now, having helped for 5 semesters with the basic freshman composition classes, I know there’s a lot of people out there who manage to make it through high school who couldn’t write a clear, coherent, grammatically correct account of pouring a bowl of Frosted Flakes for breakfast, much less make it interesting.  These people need textbooks which write in three and four letter words and studiously avoid anything exceeding two or three syllables.  They need to be told the ridiculous basics such as a complete sentence must have a noun and a verb.  But most of these students are just hoping to get through the class because it’s required for pretty much every “degree” and certificate program under the sun.  They don’t aspire to be writers.  However, this class is one students freely choose to take, presumably because they want to be writers. So, I feel they deserve and also need a higher caliber textbook; one that is going to challenge their intellect, make them think harder, one that assumes they are more than just mouth-breathing vegetables whose only experience with writing thus far is what they recently tweeted about, they need a class and a textbook that goes beyond the blatantly obvious.  This book is supposedly teaching people to be better creative writers. It kinda makes me vomit a bit in my mouth when the book is telling people things like how it’s important to use specific and descriptive words instead of vague, boring words, or how your work must exhibit tension and energy or it will not hold a reader’s interest.  I’m really sorry, but seriously?  Isn’t this kind of like saying the sky is blue?  If you really are someone who wants to be a creative writer shouldn’t this be something you instinctively understand?  In my mind it seems like if you had to be told this, you probably don’t belong in this class.  Naturally I see there is real value examining these concepts and practicing building your skill at these things, but if you don’t already realize their importance you’ve missed your calling.

Secondly, it seems to me that this author chose to write this textbook on how be a creative writer because she couldn’t hack it as one herself.  Her text book is boring to read, none of the pieces she uses as examples are remotely interesting to me, and she rambles and beats the dead horse of her various points into hamburger as if she was getting paid by the word.  Furthermore, both she and her editor seem to love incomplete sentences and, while I am definitely not an expert on comma placement, even I want to gouge my eyes out at all the superfluous commas not to mention all the dashes and miscellaneous and unnecessary punctuation sprinkled with great abandon throughout the text.  As my “job” over the holiday break was to type all the practice assignments and exercises in the textbook so my boss will be able to upload them to the online classroom, both myself and Microsoft’s grammar checker are having bona fide conniption fits at all these grammar and linguistic inconsistencies.   I have four more chapters to transcribe.  I hope the grammar checker doesn’t decide to crash and take MS Word with it, but, on the other hand, then I’d be able to get out of finishing this project.

The only thing worse to me than imagining what kind of assignments the students might conceive as a result of “learning” from this textbook is imagining that they might actually suppose that it gave them a good education on the creative writing process.  While I’m up on my soap box, I’d just like to say that if this textbook is the drivel that passes for a solid primer in training new and upcoming authors, then it is plain to see why 90% of them aren’t worth reading, much less the razing of entire forests of trees to produce the paper their “work” is printed on.  I don’t think it is necessary or even stimulating to read modern creative writing that is chock full of pattern pieces, initiations, and slang.  As I consider the classics, there are many authors who had exceptionally engaging works that still upheld the traditions of solid grammar and freely and unapologetically used multisyllabic words that engage one’s intellect whilst still entertaining.  I can’t help but feel this textbook does a sorry disservice to aspiring writers.  It implies that conventions of grammar and intellect in writing are not necessary, that you can hide behind “creativity” and ignore what makes a good writer stand out:  How to use the English language to it’s fullest potential.

If I ever find myself in a post apocalyptic world in which I have to stay warm by fire, I would seriously cry having to burn books to keep warm.  But, that said, I’d not loose one ounce of sleep flinging this textbook on the fire.  Heck, I might just burn it for the fun once the semester is over.

I’ll get down of my soap box now.  I still have to brave my way through 4 more chapters.

Someone please pass the Pepto.  I just read the first assignments in Chapter 7, and I feel sick.

November 30, 2012

Would you like chips or crisps with that burger? Neither thanks, I’ll take fries.

by Janie Jones

I find it very sad that both the written and spoken American language seems to be degrading.  Heck, if this blog was a standard we’d be screwed.  But, scary as that thought is, as a returning college student and a TA for an English teacher, I see some scarier examples of what is practically functional illiteracy daily.

Now, take my British friends.  They still seem to have both accents and writing skills that put us to shame.  While in the US we stand in line, across the pond you queue up.  Things there are not awesome or cool.  They are brilliant.  How dignified sounding.  And then there are just some strange differences.  They don’t have a bathroom or a toilet it’s a loo.  They don’t have trucks, but lorries.  For some reason that always makes me think of a small pet parrot.

I do have to wonder though about their slang.  I mean, snog?  Really?  You snogged in the broom closet?  And, take the mickey?  We make out.  We give you grief.  Where did one common language go astray?

Somehow last night at the Jones household we got to talking about julienne sliced deep fried potatoes, served hot, slightly crispy on the outside and still soft on the inside.  You know, French fries.  And, inevitably that led to the discussion of British sliced deep fried potatoes.  You know, chips.  And, from there we naturally degraded into a friendly argument about those super thin sliced fried potatoes made extra crispy and sold in a bag.  You know, potato chips, or as they say across the pond, a packet of crisps.

Leif, and I disagreed on the appropriate British nomenclature for said potato sides.  And, to solve our disagreement, I volunteered to email my blog friend, Tilly.  However, the answer to our disagreement couldn’t wait, so Leif googled this joke letter from Urban Legend, inaccurately it seems, attributed to John Cleese:

10. You will learn to make real chips. Those things you call French fries are not real chips. Fries aren’t even French, they are Belgian though 97.85% of you (including the guy who discovered fries while in Europe) are not aware of a country called Belgium. Those things you insist on calling potato chips are properly called crisps. Real chips are thick cut and fried in animal fat. The traditional accompaniment to chips is beer which should be served warm and flat.

It’s a funny letter, you may enjoy reading the whole thing if you haven’t heard/seen it before.  Anyway, the result was that I was correct, according to his faultless research, in that what we call chips are the equivalent of crisps, and what we call fries are their chips.  But perhaps my international blog friends with first hand knowledge will provide some authentication or repudiation of said facts put forth by the John Cleese imposter who wrote this article.

In the meanwhile, Leif, having a sweetheart under his burly Viking exterior, admitted defeat.  At first he seemed a bit surprised to discover he was wrong on this highly important and relevant topic.  To which I, with full snark mode engaged, reminded him that I did watch many BBC programs and had some knowledge of such things due to my international blog friend community.  Gracefully, despite my teasing, Leif did not fail to miss his opportunity to flatter me by saying there was no one else in the world he’d rather admit defeat to.

Awwwww.  Now there’s an early birthday gift for you.

T-minus 5 days….