Thursday, March 31, 2011

YA, Mossad, Assad, a Mormon-hater, and more

This is turning into a monthly thing, and I'm OK with that. Book reviews, here we go!

Delirium, by Lauren Oliver. (Put me in a master's program and watch how quickly my reading material gets heavy on the YA.) I wanted to like this book more than I did. I liked Before I Fall by the same author - in that book, I thought Oliver took a familiar, straightforward plot and made something special out of it. But in Delirium, it's just a familiar, straightforward plot. Nothing special about it. If you've read The Host or Uglies (especially Uglies), then you've essentially read this book.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011


Jeremy was in Chicago for almost a week, presenting at a conference. He came home in the wee hours of this morning, bearing gifts mailed to his hotel from grandparents, and lots of American treasures purchased at Costco. Ask me how excited I am about the two bricks of Tillamook cheese sitting in my fridge, or the bottle of pure vanilla extract in my pantry. The answer is: SO EXCITED. More than any other foreign country I've lived in, you can really find almost anything you need in Dubai. But there are a few exceptions, and now they're safely tucked into my kitchen.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Class and acronyms

I gave a presentation in class the other day. I used PowerPoint and everything. It had been a very, very long time since I'd opened up PowerPoint on any computer - seven years at least. I felt like a real grown-up as I prepared the slides, sitting there at my computer typing up bulleted lists and main points and tinkering with the nifty animations.

I was more nervous about giving the presentation than I should have been. I am not as out of practice at public speaking as you'd think, since I teach or give presentations at church all the time. Still, I wasn't sure I'd be able to throw off the motherhood mantle completely enough to avoid slipping into the tone of voice I use with my kids. Do you ever have those moments where you happen to not be with your children (imagine!), but something in your surroundings triggers a certain automatic reaction and you can't stop yourself from being a mom? Like maybe you're watching a movie, and a horse gallops into the picture and you say, out loud, in a very sweet, teaching-moment voice, "oooh, look at the horsie!!!!"

Yeah. I just didn't want anything like that to happen during my presentation.

And it turned out OK. The only thing that went wrong was that I came thiiiis close to being late. (I underestimated the time it would take to walk to class in high heels, which I was wearing to help me feel more professional and less like the person Magdalena had peed her pants on earlier that day while sitting on my lap.)

Also in class, as part of our study of morphology, we were talking about acronyms and how sometimes we pronounce the individual letters (NAACP) and sometimes we pronounce them as words (NASA, NAFTA, MADD). It got me thinking about my days at the BYU. While some buildings were called a proper name (the Wilk, the Testing Center, the library), a lot of the buildings on campus were known by their acronyms, and usually it worked out pretty well. You had the ASB, the JSB, the HRCB, the JKHB, etc., which were pronounced as their individual letters. But then there were gems that we pronounced as words even when the result was contrived and ridiculous:

Spencer W. Kimball Tower - SWKT - "swikkit"
Foreign Language Student Residence - FLSR - "flisser"
Harris Fine Arts Center - HFAC - "aychfack"
Martin Building - MARB - "marb"
Jesse Knight Humanities Building - JKHB - "juhkuh-hub" (OK, that was just Jeremy and me)
National Middle Eastern Language Resource Center - NMELRC - "enemy-lurk"
Museum of Art - MOA - "mowa" (at least I said it this way in my mind - anyone else?)

and the perennial acronym-name-pronunciation FAIL:

Smith Family Living Center - SFLC - "syphillis"

Let it be known that when they tore down the SFLC and built a new building, they named it the Joseph F. Smith Building, JFSB, an acronym that cannot be construed as an STD.

That's it for our linguistics digest this week. Did I miss any good BYU acronyms?

Monday, March 28, 2011

Arab revolutions as musicals

There's really no way to keep this from sounding trite. Just know that I don't mean it to be a thorough, all-encompassing, perfect analogy. It's just an observation, and it's meant to be a respectful one. I love music and I can't help but draw themes and connections and emotions from songs out into what is going on in the world at large.

From January into February, I was listening to a lot of Les Miserables, the musical. Whenever "Do You Hear the People Sing?" came up, it gave me goosebumps just thinking about the parallels to the Jan 25 goings-on in Egypt. (I have since realized that I am not the only one to have that impression - the comments on many of the YouTube versions of that song say as much and more.)

So if Egypt is "Do You Hear the People Sing?" what does that make Syria?

Well, I've been listening to Evita a lot in March. And there is one song that gives me the shivers just thinking about Syria. It's "Waltz for Eva and Che."

Seriously, check out the lyrics (or just listen to them in the song). Replace "descomisados" with "the old guard" and there it is.

Sunday, March 27, 2011


My friend Anna is one of my heroes. I met her in 2007 - her husband Chris was a student on the BYU Arabic program in Amman that Jeremy was in charge of. Not only is she effervescent and genuine, not only is she possibly the most well adjusted mother of small children I've ever met, not only did she babysit little Miriam in Amman so I could work, and not only does she consistently make me laugh hysterically, in addition to hosting my ragtag family of four in Lincoln, Nebraska on our way to Ithaca as well as on our way back...

(I could go on, can you tell?)

...but she wrote a play, and it is being produced. I KNOW.

It's called WWJD. And you should go see it. Soon. The details are here. If you, like me, are not in the Provo area, you can read the play here. I can almost promise you that you've never read anything like it. I have never seen Jesus characterized the way He is here and although I'm pretty sure someone could talk his or herself into being offended, they'd have to try pretty dang hard. (And they'd be wrong, mwahahahaha.) I've been thinking for a few minutes about how I could succinctly describe the play's tone and the best I've come up with is respectfully irreverent. Or irreverently respectful. Or brilliantly touching, or touchingly brilliant, or earnestly jovial...

Just see it (or read it) already.

Congratulations, Anna! 

Saturday, March 26, 2011


Maybe you knew, maybe you didn't, but there are protests going on in Syria these days.

Beyond that, I don't know much. Information is hard to come by and there is so much disinformation mixed in that it's hard to know what to think.

I know that when we were there last summer, things seemed better than they'd ever been.

I know that the exception to the above statement was that internet-based social media were being restricted more than they'd ever been.

I know that you could say a lot of things to characterize the late Hafez al-Assad as a wicked, evil, repressive dictator, and you'd be right.

I also know it's more complicated than that. For starters, you can't say the same about his son Bashar, no matter how badly certain elements of the press are itching to. His advisors, maybe, or the system he inherited, perhaps, but the London-educated opthamologist with a British wife and three kids? I can't believe it. I can't.

Maybe the cult of personality - all those Photoshopped, sparkly heart-encrusted images of Bashar and family riding bikes in the Alps - got to me after all.

In the meantime, it seems like everyone is keeping their fingers crossed and muttering not another Hama under their breath.

It's hard to know what else to do.

Friday, March 25, 2011

March 25th, outsourced

Image credit

This article on how to beat the salad bar (from a monetary standpoint) was so deliciously petty. I loved it.

In case March Madness: Basketball is too trivial for you, here's March Madness: Democrats vs. Dictators.

Animated GIFs are great for those moments that you just. can't. stop. watching. Like this wedding photo FAIL.

Should you give money to homeless people? Well, SHOULD YOU??

I perversely enjoyed watching Shannan's house descend into madness during a week when she decided to let the housework go (for good reasons). Don't we all have days...weeks...great swaths of years like this?

I am into neither college basketball nor creating elaborate table spreads for events, but I could hardly tear my eyes away from the beauty that is Our Best Bites' March Madness BYU-themed table. Gorgeous.

I've been seeing a lot of these quirky re-imaginings of maps (states as countries according to GDP, states as countries according to shape, etc.). This was a pretty neat one and I was surprised to see that Mormon Outpost was its own category. Huh.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

I hate most of my clothes

It's been almost 11 months since we got rid of almost everything we owned in preparation for our move to the UAE. That included getting rid of most of our clothes - you know, all those shirts hanging in our closet or clogging up our drawers that we never really wore anyway. I kept only the clothes that I loved wearing, and got rid of anything that didn't fit or was out of style (a loose definition; we're talking about ME here), or that I just didn't like wearing.

Well, of those clothes, a few shirts have recently bit the dust and I am left with two pairs of jeans, four dresses, and what you see here:

That's 10 blouses and two shirts. That's it. And I am becoming more unenamored with each and every one of them as the days go by. Let's take a look.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Thoughts I have at Carrefour

Of the big three multi-branch hypermarkets in the UAE (Carrefour, Spinneys, and Happy Hyper Panda), Carrefour has my allegiance. For now, anyway. Magdalena and I go there once a week, every week. It can get pretty mindless walking up and down those aisles, so here are some thoughts that sometimes creep in to fill the void.

Every time I walk past the Choco Pies, I cannot resist singing the "choco choco choco choco pie" refrain, out loud.

Monday, March 21, 2011

(Literal) School shopping, THE END

(Earlier installments of the School Shopping saga can be found here, here, and here.)

It's done. The spot has been reserved. The registration/uniforms/books deposit has been paid. And the winner is...

...School A, the one I didn't even hear about until very late in the game.

I cannot begin to describe how difficult it was to step outside the School S comfort zone and take a chance on School A. But I'm confident we made the right choice, at least for this year. We can always re-examine the decision next year, if necessary. (I'm keeping my fingers crossed that it won't be.)

In the meantime, I am almost giddy with relief that the school search process is over. I didn't realize how much it was stressing me out. Oh wait, I totally did realize it. Just ask Jeremy.

I'd like to take this opportunity to publicly thank Miriam's classmate's mom, who mentioned School A to me off-hand a few weeks ago as we passed each other on the sidewalk. I went home feeling disgruntled because now I'd have to check out another school purely out of politeness just so I could be informed next time I saw the classmate's mom and not embarrass myself and her for not having followed up on her lead.

Little did I know that I would find a good match in School A, one that I wouldn't have found if she hadn't told me about it!

Now let the months of waiting (to see if our gamble will pay off), commence.

Friday, March 18, 2011

March 18th, outsourced

I wrote this post about Reviving Bridget before reading this article about Clarissa Explains It All. I think they complement each other nicely.

Even The Atlantic loves Katniss Everdeen.

Here's an example of how posting on Facebook during class can go terribly, hilariously wrong.

This might be one of those videos that everyone has seen but me, but it's certainly worth a re-watch: slow motion sneezing. Ewwwww.

Best billboard vandalism EVER. Mwahahahahaha.

Strangely, I appreciated some of the points made in this original article just as much as I appreciated some of the points made in this snarky takedown of the original article.

Have you ever noticed all the effort that goes into Date Night preparations once you have kids? To this video (made by the Mompetition lady), I say, AMEN.

Thursday, March 17, 2011


An unexpected benefit of being a master's student is that it has exempted me from being on PregnancyWatch. I'm not talking about my own personal family planning decisions, lovingly and prayerfully made within the confines of my marriage, with the blessing of God.

I mean that thing where young wives get together to chat good-naturedly behind each others' backs and speculate endlessly about who is, or who will soon be, pregnant.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

More words pronounced incorrectly by me

Seems I get the hankering to do this in March - here are some more words pronounced incorrectly by me. I have been saving these up on a sticky note for the past year, so let's bust them out.

(Of course I know I can look them up in a dictionary to find out how they are actually pronounced. But on the fly, I don't always have that option. Besides, I'm just as interested in how we DO say these words as I am in how we SHOULD say them.)

deleterious. I absolutely know what this word means and how to use it effectively in print. I am less sure about its pronunciation. Something about all those e's gets me every time.

Reuters, as in the news service. For the longest time (never mind how long) I thought it was pronounced "Rooters."

Monday, March 14, 2011

Say what?

This is not our yard. It's Mushrif Park in Dubai.
There are times when even our own international English fails us. In the UAE, we often have to deal with people who speak neither English nor Arabic. Usually it turns out ok...somehow. But it often requires making the same phone call five times over the space of two weeks, to confirm important details, or using lots and lots of body language, if you're lucky enough to be conversing in person.

Even then, there's no guarantee that anyone is going to get his or her message across.

Sunday, March 13, 2011


Sometimes it seems like months go by without anything of note happening in the world. Other times, the major, globally important events stack up one on top of the other so quickly that even the news anchors can't keep up. I follow Anderson Cooper on Twitter (a bad habit I picked up during the January 25 revolution in Egypt) and every other tweet he's headed somewhere new, having been forced into a Sophie's Choice between this revolution and that, between Libya and Japan (Japan won this round).

I am heartbroken at the devastation that recently hit my one true forbidden love, Japan. And yet - and I want to say this very, very carefully - I am glad that due to Japan's foresight and meticulously earthquake-resistant infrastructure, there are fewer casualties than there might have been had this earthquake happened somewhere else with no such protections in place.

Then again, there's not much you can do about a tsunami in flat countryside, is there?

I am amazed at how we could practically watch the destruction unfold live, from many different viewpoints, via YouTube. I think it's a positive use of technology overall but I also feel slightly voyeuristic, like I've stolen a place at the window into Japan's suffering.

I hope and pray for a speedy recovery for them even as I know that the Japanese people are capable of great determination and resourcefulness.

Friday, March 11, 2011

March 11th, outsourced

I enjoyed reading this article about pictograms almost as much as I enjoyed looking at the "How Long Do Animals Live?" graphic that accompanies it.

I'd seen some of these dumb warning labels before but a few were new and made me burst out laughing unexpectedly, perhaps spraying actual spittle on my computer screen in the process.

Is Target now cheaper than Wal-Mart? All those people who have been saying for years that they would give up shopping at Wal-Mart but it's just so cheap there now have to come up with a new excuse. (PS, please to be watching The High Cost of Low Price.)

This gallery of old cereal boxes was a blast from the past for me. As soon as I saw the ice cream cone cereal box, all these memories of a) begging my parents to buy us kids said cereal, and b) the actual, terrible texture and taste of said cereal, came rushing back. Did any of them ring a bell for you?

Finally, I'm glad someone has finally addressed that most disturbing element of rock/paper/scissors: why DOES paper beat rock??


Thursday, March 10, 2011

Reviving Bridget

Have you ever had the feeling that if you sat down and thought hard enough about it, you'd be able to pinpoint the exact moment you lost your childhood sense of confidence at just being you? Every once in a while when I'm doing some mindless task, my brain gets to wandering and it digs up some old memory that seems so strange when seen through the filter of time. And I wonder if things could possibly be as I remember them, because there is such a disconnect between who I am and who I was.

I'm talking about this like this: when I was 12 years old, I decided I wanted to play basketball on my church's team for girls. I was short, I wasn't terribly interested in basketball for its own sake, and I wasn't any good at it, at all, and I knew it. But I wanted to play, so I did. If anyone laughed at me for my terrible skills, I don't remember it.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Six spoons of fresh snow peas

I've been spending a lot of time with phonetics and phonology lately - the study of sounds in language. My professor directed us to this website - the Speech Accent Archive - and I can hardly tear myself away from it. It is a treasure trove of accents in the English language. I've always enjoyed checking out the accents wherever we've lived (both in the US and out) but never have I been able to browse accents and compare them so easily at my leisure.

Check it out - you can choose which accent to listen to by the native language of the speaker, or by clicking on a map. All the speech samples use the same elicitation paragraph and most have an IPA phonetic transcription if you're into that kind of thing (I AM).

Monday, March 07, 2011


Yesterday morning when I came downstairs, I saw a crew of men in our backyard, putting in the grass at long last. I left the house to do errands and such and when I got home, I was so ready for the big reveal. I would look out our back window and I would be elated! Happy! Rewarded! Underwhelmed!

Wait, underwhelmed?

Yeah, underwhelmed.

They planted grass this way at the park, too, but I was hoping our backyard would escape that fate and get the full sod treatment instead. I have to admit, I've never seen grass planted this way before. They had trucks full of pads of sod but then they tore it into clumps and patted it into the ground. Maybe it's a UAE thing. The park grass had this treatment done about three weeks ago and it is slowly creeping its way toward full coverage. The other parks on campus have beautiful, non-patchy lawns of grass, so I can only hope that as theirs is, so ours will be.

I am still excited about having grass in our backyard at last, even if it is in the most technical sense imaginable. Now that all the prep work is done, we can plant trees and flowers back there, just in time for the warmer weather!

Friday, March 04, 2011

March 4th, outsourced

I've got some good ones for you today.

I loved watching this video about the festivities surrounding the opening of the Kyiv Ukraine Temple.

I didn't watch the Oscars, but I couldn't help but hear about this auto-tuned mashup of a few movies from 2010. This is one of those videos that I can't stop watching (and I kind of want "Tiny Ball of Light" to be a real song now, please).

How well can you score on this game called "Sheen, Beck, or Qaddafi," huh?

They're looking for an actress to play Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games movie, did you hear? She needs to be able to look "underfed but strong." Good luck with that one.

Last week I was digging around for a link to pointless fliers to share with you, but I couldn't find it. A few days later, I found a different link (via BCC) that is even better than the one I had originally seen a few months ago. Be prepared to giggle. (I also like this one, this one, and these ones.)

Remember when I bought that dress at H&M and it was too short but they wouldn't let me return it? Well, I think I've found my solution (thank you, Totally Tessa!).

Watch this original video of your worst escalator nightmares coming true. Then watch it set to silly music.

Until next week!

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Grad student mom

I've been a grad student/mom for a few weeks now. So far, so good. It still feels amazing to throw off the motherhood mantle for a few hours each week. I keep waiting for someone to show up at the classroom door, scan the assembled students, single me out, and tell me sorry, it was all a joke, it turns out I am actually not allowed to sit there and learn about things that fascinate me and enrich my mind.

The contrast between my mom and student selves is especially stark on the days I bring the girls with me to campus, pass them off to Jeremy at his office, and go straight to class from there. It has been a long, long time since I needed to be anywhere at a specific, regular time, just for ME. Maybe a doctor's appointment or two over the last few years? I'm still nervous that I'll be late to class and then I end up trying to hustle the girls along faster than they're able. Then Miriam gets to lagging behind and I'm trying to hurry her up and by the time I hand them over to Jeremy, it takes the entire walk from there to my class to focus on not looking like a harried mom when I walk in the door.

I'm so glad I kept up on reading high-level non-fiction over the years. It makes the textbooks infinitely more readable. However, my attention span has definitely taken a hit. I am so conditioned to being interrupted by tiny children at random intervals during any important task that when I do find a stretch of time to study, I find myself looking up after 12 minutes wondering if anything out there needs my attention.

Today I did my homework outside while the girls played. Miriam asked me what I was doing and when I told her I had homework, too, just like her, she got such a kick out of it.

I'm still moderately terrified of a thesis and I know I have a lot of coursework to get through in the next couple of years, but it feels so good to build character and be challenged in a way that does not involve poo, snot, or time-outs. Who's with me?

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Eternal sunshine

I never blog about the weather here. Have you noticed? This is partly because I learned my lesson from complaining about Tucson so much. I knew that if I wrote about the heat in Sharjah, it would be hard to keep it from turning into me complaining about the heat. And that wouldn't be fair because nobody forced us to move here and everybody warned us it would be hot. So really, I held off on blogging about the weather because I wanted to withhold judgment until I'd experienced a good few months of the UAE climate.

And the verdict is: it's hot. And I haven't even gone through a summer yet (I suspect that people here count their time in summers, just as in Ithaca people counted it in winters). September and October were very hot and humid. I can hardly imagine what June, July, and August are like. Well, actually, I can: hotter and even more humid. However - and this may be a pointless, overly minute distinction - the extreme heat is mitigated by the fact that everywhere has AC. EVERYWHERE, including the little guard shacks on campus. Heck, even the bus stops (in Dubai, at least) have little air-conditioned enclosures.


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