Monday, March 30, 2015

Smart phone decisions

I finally got a smart phone. My old dumb phone was about to die and rather than spend money on a new dumb phone, I decided to spend money on a new smart phone.

My first decision was which kind to get: iPhone, Android, or Windows? I went for Android, because I use Google for so many things.

The next decision was which actual phone to get. I asked about the HTC One, but they only had the two newest models and they were too expensive. So I was going to settle for a Samsung. But then, the super helpful store employee from Afghanistan (did YOU buy your smart phone from a guy from Afghanistan?) leveled with me. He was basically like, look, if you don't care about brand that much, you can get a lot more phone for your dirham if you buy an off-brand. And that is how I came home with a lovely phone from the Chinese brand ZTE, with more camera, memory, and other cool stuff than the equivalent Samsung, for much, much less money.

(The first thing I did when I got home was Google ZTE, though, to make sure it wasn't a total piece of junk. Turns out it's legit...enough. The only weird things I've noticed is that "frog" was misspelled under the ringtones as "forg," and you can draw Chinese characters on the keyboard to input them into text messages. Which is actually kind of cool.)

Finally, I had to decide whether to keep using the phone on a pre-pay basis, or spring for a data plan. Data plans are not that expensive here - Jeremy had one when we first moved here for 100dhs/month - around $27.50/month. But pre-pay is just so much cheaper that I couldn't convince myself to get a data plan. So I use WiFi to do whatever at home or other places where I can connect securely, and turn off data so it doesn't use up my credit anywhere else.

And now I'm a happy lady and I feel so fancy with a smart phone. Especially since you can't help but feel fancy when the selfie beautify function is turned on. Mmmm, plastic-y.

Friday, March 27, 2015

March 27th, outsourced

I am intrigued by this Kickstarter for a product called Germavoid. I am a fan of the pinky-finger-door-opening move myself.

When is cheese not cheese? Musings on how food names in foreign languages can gross us out unnecessarily.

University course catalog cover accidentally becomes perfect metaphor for America.

I am so delighted by the fact that the Wisconsin basketball team is delighted by the stenographer recording press interviews. Delightful.

You WILL want to read this amazing story about the search for Richard III's remains, and then the search for his descendants, and one of the descendants ended up building his coffin coffin for him (!!!!!!!). So fascinating.

Jon Ronson on internet shaming. (Admit it: you totally read this in his voice in your mind. I did.)

We need to talk about the fact that apparently you DON'T have to have been born in the US to be President??? Was I the only one who was not previously aware of the nuances of "natural-born citizen"?? One of the first things Americans say to me when they meet Sterling is that "oh, well, he can never be President!" But he can, because at birth, he was entitled to citizenship on the merits of Jeremy and me. Apparently?? I feel like I've been lied to all my life.

I do not at all know the backstory of this video of Hugh Jackman applying to be a teacher. But that probably makes it funnier. I find it hilarious.

Wow, so many good links this week: have a look at these images of Swedish men making the most of generous paternity leave policies. Some of these picture brought me to tears, probably because they remind me of Jeremy.

Why is American figure skating losing the cold war?

This is an old article that I think I even linked to a while ago, but it is relevant: the crash of EgyptAir 990.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

A special visitor

This might be of interest to you: Jimmy Carter visited campus the other day. Sterling and I were running errands in the main building, then we went to the park for an hour. When I got home, facebook was alight with photos of Jimmy Carter in and around...the main building. We'd just missed him.

We get notable visitors every once in a while. Most we don't know about until they've already left, unless they're here to give a speech or attend a public event. Will Smith came here with one of his kids a few years ago. We also get a lot of diplomats, journalists, and authors.

Here is Mr. (Former President?) Carter with His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qassimi. My first thought when I saw this photo was that someone should have handed him (Mr. Carter) some sunglasses. I'm sure HH is used to it but the main plaza in direct sunlight is so dazzling that it seems to burn your retinas. Then again, maybe protocol doesn't let dignitaries wear sunglasses at official receptions.

It was fun to have a special visitor on campus, even if I didn't see him in person. Apparently he spent some time in the library talking to random students who were at the study terminals on the ground floor. Can you imagine?

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Triathlon success!

I ran in a triathlon last weekend and I've been dying to blog about it. I was waiting for them to post the professional photos, but they're still not out, so I'm going to post about it anyway.

Notice I said I "ran in" a triathlon, not that I did one all by myself. This was the Sharjah University City super-sprint triathlon, and you can do it by yourself or in a team of three - one person each for the swim (400m), bike (10k), and run (2.5k). I originally wanted to do it all by myself, but the truth is that I can hardly swim.

So I scrounged up a team of two of my neighbors to do the swimming and biking. We were kind of the AUS B-team, since there is a regular AUS women's team that has done the triathlon each year - they actually hold the course record for this event. Since the A-team is a group of awesome people, we all had a good time being faux-but-a-little-bit-genuinely competitive. The runner for the other team works in my same department, and ever since we found out the other was signed up, it was like we couldn't look each other in the eye - we were both just scoping out the other for signs of weakness. "Is she limping? She looks tired. I wonder if the heavy teaching load is keeping her from training." Etc. It was all in good fun.

The morning of the event came. When you are running a triathlon when you still have a nursing baby, sometimes you nurse that baby during the pre-race briefing. Also, when you are running a triathlon but your husband is, too, sometimes your daughters babysit your son in the stroller while you do your best to warm up and keep a clear eye for your cycling teammate to come in to the transition zone. In the end, she showed up much sooner than I expected, so I had to throw a juicebox and snack into Magdalena's hands for Sterling and then take off running to the sounds of Sterling being upset at my leaving.

All our friendly rivalry with the other team came down to this 2.5k-long moment. I was so, so lucky to be put in prime position by my cycling teammate. I was probably 200m back from the other AUS runner when I started, and we were the leaders. All I had to do was roll her in and the race would be mine (and my team's). And even though I was so nervous I felt like I was going to puke right there while running...I did! I passed her and held her off at the finish. Our final times were only 17 seconds apart. As I came across the finish line, I could hear applause and cheering from the spectators...followed by squawks of annoyance from Sterling once he noticed that I was there but not taking care of him at that exact moment. (The NERVE of me, honestly.)

However, we didn't get the record (and neither, obviously, did they, even though they're the ones who hold it). So there's still something to shoot for next year.

I remember a year ago when Jeremy did this same triathlon. I had barely started working out again after having Sterling, so I was bigger than my normal size and exhausted from sleep deprivation and still adjusting to being a mom of three. I was there watching all these fit people and feeling sad that I wasn't participating. So I made a goal to do the triathlon this year. And now I did! It's just icing on the cake that my team won. I am super happy of myself.

In lieu of fancy official photos - which I reserve the right to humble-post when they come in - here are some photos from Jeremy's phone.

Sterling is still wondering why Mama just ran away from him and then showed up again a while later.

(There are only two of us on the podium because our swimming teammate couldn't stay for the awards ceremony.)

Monday, March 23, 2015

Words I grew up saying differently

I can think of only a few conscious changes I've made to my own speech habits, at least on the word level.

1. Aunt. I grew up saying it like "ant." After I started teaching English in Russia in 2002, I got tired of having to clarify which word I meant (aunt or ant, since I pronounced them the same). You'd think this wouldn't come up that much, but somehow it did, so I consciously decided to start saying it aunt, to rhyme with "gaunt." And that's how I say it still. So if you talk to my siblings and me about my mother's sister, we will pronounce the word "aunt" differently from each other.

2. Soda. I grew up saying "pop." But as we've moved around the US and the world over the years, I've noticed that "pop" is less and less understood by others. So I say soda, even though it makes me die a little bit inside.

3. College. I almost never use this word anymore. People here do not understand it. So I no longer went to college, I went to university.

I was thinking about Jeremy and how he grew up in SE Idaho, so he sometimes flattens out the "ee" vowel in worlds like "field," to sound like "fild." He never did it very strongly, and while I really do try to respect the fact that there are many regional varieties of English in America, that particular tic of pronunciation grates on me. For years now, Jeremy has changed his pronunciation to be the more standard one ("feeld" instead of "fild"). I don't know how conscious of a thing this is for him. I do know that he sometimes over-corrects, and gives the "ee" vowel to something that actually should have the "ih" vowel - like saying "keeln" instead of "kiln," if that were ever a word he said (I couldn't think of a real example).

Have you ever consciously changed your pronunciation or word choice?

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