Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The day of the dead battery

I don't even know where to begin. Try to take in these facts all at once, and then I'll continue:
  • It's 108 degrees outside.
  • It's the last week of the semester = SUPER BUSY JEREMY.
  • Miriam's school had a Sports Day this morning and invited all the parents to come watch.
  • Super Busy Jeremy took 60 precious minutes of his day to attend Sports Day, because it was a Big Deal to Miriam.
  • Magdalena was inexplicably grumpy this morning, complete with clinginess and an inclination to fall asleep in the car if given five minutes put together, and call it a nap.
Ready? OK.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Out of the Wild

We don't get much TV here in Sharjah. The university provided us with a television set, but we would have to pay a monthly fee to receive any channels. So the TV has been relegated to the playroom, unconnected to cable, for the occasional kids' DVD. Jeremy and I watch DVDs on his laptop.

Or rather, as the case has been recently, we've watched television programs purchased on iTunes on his laptop. That's how we saw Downton Abbey a few months ago. Earlier this month, Jeremy stumbled upon a show called Out of the Wild, from the Discovery Channel. I started joining him to tune in halfway through the Alaska season, and just like that, I was hooked.

The premise of Out of the Wild is that nine strangers are dropped into some kind of wilderness (Alaska in the first season, Venezuela in the second) for an indeterminate length of time. They come from all kinds of life situations - some are outdoorsy, but others are far from it. Their only goal is to survive, together, while hiking miles and miles and making camp in various situations. The end comes when they reach civilization.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Semester in review

Today, I had my last class of the Spring 2011 semester. Let's see how Bridget 2.0: Master's Degree Edition is coming along.

Favorite thing about working on an MA: Spending time with right-minded individuals who are interested in the same things I am. Oh, and the small matter of fulfilling the great dream of my adulthood.

Favorite thing about working on an MA, more candid answer: That I don't have to take my kids with me to class. It does wonders for my psyche.

Friday, May 27, 2011

May 27th, outsourced

I've got a lot of links to share. Let's get started.

Honestly, I'd never thought of The Sound of Music quite like this. But it's kind of true, isn't it?

From alert reader Carrie G in a comment on last week's Outsourced post comes Kim Jong-Il Looking at Things.

The sharpest articles from The Onion are those that tell the absolute truth embellished in only the sparest manner to disguise it as humor. Here's one that made me laugh...and then shake my head sadly.

Have you had trouble finding your kid's name on a souvenir license plate? Here's why. Side note: I think in my entire childhood we only ever found 'Bridget' on one souvenir license plate (at the BYU), even though we searched every place we went. Then when we were living in Arizona, my brother stumbled upon another, for a grand total of two 'Bridget'-stamped items of merchandise.

This article about the minutiae of the highest-grossing summer blockbusters since 1996 was fascinating, and also like a time machine. Reading about the most popular movies of my teen, young adult, married, and then mothery years really took me on a little trip through my life since 1996. Even if I didn't see all those movies, I certainly remember being aware of them, you know?

The first person to tell me that this article is a big fat joke wins the prize of restoring my faith in humankind at large. Please, please don't let it be legitimate.

Now for the videos.

Searching for those magical golden days of yore with The Daily Show.

This video (and others by the same guy) is hilarious.

I love the Japanese. I really do.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Too much skin

I live in a country where signs like this are fair game:
Yes, if you are a woman, you can skydive indoors in complete privacy, shielded from the potential or actual sight of unrelated males. There are also women-only hours for swimming pools and gyms and probably other places that I'm forgetting.

The reason businesses offer these kinds of benefits for women is that there is quite the market for it here. There are a lot of veiled women running around the UAE, obviously. Sharjah is especially conservative and I find that I've become very sensitized to immodest dress. Wait, let me backtrack - not even immodest dress. I've become sensitized to clothing that shows one's shoulders, or hemlines that are above the knee, both of which you'd be really, really hard-pressed to find in Sharjah.

Now, in Dubai, in the more western areas, you see plenty of that. Though to their credit, western women here generally don't go much beyond bared shoulders and a few extra inches of leg. GENERALLY. There's always that one random white lady at Dubai Mall (I like to assume she's European, not American) walking around in something so fantastically inappropriate that you can practically feel the stink-eye she's getting from every elderly muhajjiba in the place. (Another thing you can practically feel, unfortunately, are the eyes of every male between the ages of 15-? following such a woman's every. move.)

It's a good thing those elderly muhajjibas don't hang out at the Aquaventure water park at Atlantis. They would have to give up the stink-eye after about five minutes, due to exhaustion. We went there two weeks ago and I don't know who these scantily clad women are (Europeans?), or where they thought they were vacationing (Europe?), but WOAH. I saw more skin in one day at that waterpark than I think I've seen in my entire eight months here put together. And a lot of that skin at the waterpark was partial boob. There, I said it, BECAUSE IT'S TRUE.

It was almost a relief to retreat to good old provincial, conservative Sharjah where I wouldn't have to worry about (European?) women willfully exposing themselves to me...and my husband.

There, I said it, BECAUSE IT'S TRUE.

Discussion question: I'm not trying to bag on women dressing as they please or showing off their dedication to diet and exercise. But I have to wonder - these women know they're offering themselves as eye candy for the rank and file, right? Right?

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Getting to YES

There's this book called Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In.

I haven't read it, but sometimes I wonder if Magdalena has. She is an expert at wearing down my defenses and making 'yes' look so tempting.

First, if she's planning on doing something naughty, she takes the trouble to come over and tell me, "Mama, don't see!"

If it's something that she can't hide (or hello, when I decide to check out what it is that she doesn't want me to see), she starts with "Don't say no, Mama," and then asks me for what she wants.

Of course I say no anyway. Then she says, "Mama, don't say no! Say 'ok'!" Because maybe it's all just a misunderstanding and I didn't hear her original request to not say no, right?

I still say no. Then she breaks out the big guns. "Mama, don't say no to your special Majd!" This is a variation on something we said once when a little boy at church was kicking her - "we don't kick our special Majd" (Majd is her nickname, by the way).

That almost makes me give in, if at all possible. If I still manage to hold out, Magdalena gives it one last shot: "Mama, be nice to me, I'm just a little girl!"

So if you ever notice me pausing for a good long while before deciding whether or not to grant permission for Magdalena to do something, now you know why. I need to be dang sure about that NO.

Monday, May 23, 2011

My Syria

A year ago today, we were doing this:

You know, exploring ruins in southern Syria like nobody's business. We spent 10 days in Syria last summer, enjoying the ruins in the south, the Old City in Damascus, the castle near Homs, another castle in the middle of nowhere, the beaches in Lattakia, and the fantastic food in Aleppo.

It hurts to think about what is going on in those places now, so much so that I try not to do it. What's more, Syrians are very possessive of opinions on their country, especially at times like these. So I hold on to the shred of opinion that I feel like I'm allowed to have, having lived in Syria for a year and visited it three times since, and loving that place with all my heart, beyond all reason.

It's hard to know that friends and former students are still there, and be afraid to ask them how they are doing lest they say something they shouldn't in response. It's hard to see the dream of a progressive Bashar al-Assad fall messily and oh-so-disappointingly by the wayside. It's hard to see the Syrians I follow on Twitter descend into bitter debate and divisions over and over and over again.

It's hard to not know when we'll go to Syria again, or what Syria will be like when we do.

So I tuck Syria away in a corner of my mind where Hessfeld still lurks in the basement of City Mall with his "surprise in the ball." There are local nuggles on offer at Siwar as-Sham, as usual. Charlie is still hanging out at Baramkeh, calling the American girls "blondie." Dima hasn't stopped crying. A ride in a shared minivan taxi costs 5 lira (10 cents). If you know to ask, you can get a cheap room in the unremodeled wing of the Cham Palace Hotel in Lattakia, right on the Mediterranean. The strawberry ice cream at The Barfait is still divine, and a trip to Beirut is as simple as buying up a seat in a creaky yellow land yacht of a taxi and heading over the mountains. And after any length of time spent in My Syria, you will be hard-pressed to decide what you love more: the people, the ruins, the dialect, or the food.

I hope Syria can continue to hang on. I know I'll be holding on to My Syria.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Library woes

Last week when the girls and I returned some DVDs to the library, the librarian pointed out that one of the cases was missing its disc. I realized that we'd left it in the DVD player and told him so. He said he'd renew it for a couple of days to give us time to bring it in. Otherwise, we'd have to walk home, get the DVD, and walk all the way back to return it. (This is a big deal when it's 109 degrees outside.)

I was feeling pretty good about being granted so much leniency by the library. I had previously been scolded for returning a DVD in the - horrors! - outside drop box. They told me I was lucky the DVD hadn't been broken during its long fall from the slot to the bottom of the bin. I apologized and told them I returned it in the outside drop box because my daughter was crying. This was true. What was also true was that I was on my way back from a run so I was a) sweaty and b) in sweatpants, so I didn't exactly want to go walking into the library to return a DVD. I was glad the library seemed to have forgiven me, and now trusted me enough to return a DVD in one piece, if a little late.

Friday, May 20, 2011

May 20th, outsourced

Welcome to Pyongyang, North Korea.

If you've ever seen those smarmy high fructose corn syrup commercials, this SNL spoof will be really funny to you.

Just how Mormon is Jon Huntsman? Everyone's dying to know. Too bad it really IS "tough to define."

But here's a look at Huntsman compared to Romney re: Mormonism, anyway. (And then an interesting follow-up.)

Dear goodness, this made me laugh.

Here's an entry from The Economist's Gulliver blog about how airline passengers have taken some safety measures into their own hands since 9/11.

The headline doesn't really make sense, and the principle described in the article makes even less: Suicide Punishable Under UAE Law. Huh? Because for sure what a person who has tried to commit suicide but failed needs is to be prosecuted as a criminal. That will show them!

The first image in this collection of photos from the Southeastern USA flooding is mesmerizing. I keep thinking about how it came to be. When did they build the levy? How nervous are they that it will break? How do you even do that?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Sometimes, exercising willpower can backfire

The goals I outlined in my Time to Shape Up post are going very well. Just as it was liberating to get rid of almost everything we owned, and liberating to give up candy for the year, it has been liberating to finally decide to not eat junk food of any kind (except for on Fridays). I am now completely immune to the vast displays of candy, cookies, chocolate, and chips at Carrefour.

However, I've been punished for exercising willpower twice since starting this experiment.

The first Friday I was allowed to eat junk food, I ate half of a Ben & Jerry's carton (the small one, ok? It was 500mL, whatever that works out to) of Half Baked. I know that is technically approximately 17 servings since the serving size is about a teaspoon, but can we all agree it was an exercise in willpower to a) not eat any ice cream the entire week preceding Friday, and b) not eat the entire carton once I was allowed? Thanks.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

I no longer hate most of my clothes

Remember when I hated most of my clothes? Well, here's an update.

It took almost two months, but I finally went shopping at a little place I like to call "the largest mall in the world." Because it is. It's called the Dubai Mall.

(By the way, sometimes I think living in Dubai is wasted on someone like me who doesn't like shopping. I can only imagine what a HEAVEN this place would be to someone who enjoys it.)

H&M and I have made up re: their return policy, so I went there. I also hit up GAP and Zara. Baby steps, ok?

I got two plain, colored t-shirts. I am sucker for these. Sometimes you just want to wear a t-shirt, ok?

Monday, May 16, 2011

Weekend at Bridget's

Jeremy's brother Scott came to visit us this weekend. Here's what you get when you spend four days with the Palmers in the UAE. Take note, everyone who's been thinking of coming to visit us.

You go to the (almost) top of the world's tallest building, aka THE BURJ KHALIFA.

You go to church in Sharjah. Scintillating, I tell you.

Friday, May 13, 2011

May 13th, outsourced

SO. Did you notice that Blogger was down for almost an entire day? I certainly did. I hope my TV Shows I Used to Watch When I Was a Kid post comes back. Sniff.

Did you know that 40 of the top 1000 names for boys in the USA born in 2010 are some form of "Aiden", or rhyme with "Aiden"? Now, I happen to like the name Aiden, but people, that is out of control.

I thought this was a very insightful piece on why the death of Osama bin Laden meant different things to different generations. That is to say, to a particular generation, it didn't really mean anything.

I have a very strange soft spot for humorous writings about the experience of vomiting repeatedly. This one is my favorite so far.

Here are some amusing photos of staged "living at IKEA" moments. Please also note the appearance of a certain WARRIOR DASH t-shirt.

Victory Day in a few countries of the former Soviet Union. Jeremy and I want to a День Победы parade when we lived in Moscow and it was a big deal. As you can probably tell from these photos.

Oooh, a good, spooky tale of a cold murder case being solved. Isn't it amazing that the use of DNA in crime-solving has only become a reality in the very recent past? (By the way, skip the blue boxes of text that show up in the middle of each page of the article - they give away the ending!)

I really like this guy's apartment.

Sitting down is killing you. NO, REALLY.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

TV shows I used to watch when I was a kid

This is by no means a comprehensive list, and I tried to stay away from straight-out Saturday morning cartoons...or we'd be here all day.

The Simpsons. More than any other TV show (and a lot of things that are not TV shows), The Simpsons influenced my formative years. FOR THE BETTER. What's kind of sad is that I haven't watched a new episode since at least 2001.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Fear of moving

Every household I've ever lived in in the Middle East has had a problem with ants. Every single one. That includes where we live now, which, while it is the nicest house I've ever had, is not immune to pesky ants. On Monday, we had them come in and spray - a dude with a mask and a hose sprayed who-knows-what around the edges of every room downstairs in an attempt to stem the rising tide of invasion.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Death of a sandbox

When we moved here, our block of housing was barely finished, and the landscaping wasn't finished at all. There were wide swaths of sand everywhere and sand became the bane of my existence. It got everywhere - in our house, all over our car, on the patio, and it filled anything we left outside - especially during the winter when it was often quite windy.

But there was a happy side to the piles of sand: my girls and all the other neighborhood kids had access to the largest "sandbox" they'd ever seen. And they quickly set up materials for making the most of it.

Monday, May 09, 2011

Bilingual education

I'm hoping to take a class next fall on bilingual education - it's one of the electives that will count toward my degree. Perhaps something I learn in that class will shed more light on the fun stuff going on with Miriam's writing skills lately. Check it out:

Every once in a while, something like this happens - Miriam writes in English but from right to left. I think this kind of thing happens with a lot of kids.

But then there's this:
In the upper left corner of this lovely drawing, Miriam has written her name in Arabic. But she's written it from left to right. It should look like this: مريم.

Friday, May 06, 2011

May 6, outsourced

Oooh, lots of good ones today.

The death of Osama Bin Laden inspired a few of the links I'm sharing today. Here's a brief article about what the New York Times front page looked like before the news hit. Obviously, they had to make a LOT of changes.

Here are some great photographs of Navy SEALs undergoing training.

Speaking of photographs, this one was making the rounds all this last week, and of course it was only a matter of time before the meme people got ahold of it.

In my opinion, the funniest thing about this video is how well Will Farrell approximates George Bush's speech and mannerisms. But the rest of it makes me giggle, too.

The last OBL-related link I have for you, I'll present with this quote from Martin Luther King, Jr.: "I will mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy." But guess what? MLK never said that.

In other news, women, sort yourself out! Hilarious.

These people want to make a documentary about a place called Duck in North Carolina, where apparently lots of Mormon singles congregate every summer. Sounds interesting...but they need funding.

The 2011 Guide to Making People Feel Old Using Movie Release Dates. Did you know Home Alone came out more than twenty years ago??

Finally, if Outsourced Friday isn't enough to fill your link needs, head on over to The Atlantic, which is presenting Nearly 100 Fantastic Pieces of Journalism. You're welcome.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

The Hunger Games cast

Apparently they cast a bunch of parts in The Hunger Games movie? And I missed it? I'm sad because now I can't propose my own ideas of actors that would fit the various roles, but whatever.

We've got Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss.
Honestly, she looks very different from the Katniss in my head. I've never seen any of her movies, either, so I have no idea if she at least fits the attitude of the Katniss in my head. I'll just have to wait and see how she does.

Then there's Josh Hutcherson as Peeta.
Well, ok. Maybe they can dye his hair? And maybe he will grow up a little between now and when the movie comes out? Maybe?

Liam Hensworth as Gale.
I hope I hope I hope he's not as Channing Tatum-y as he looks.

Haymitch and President Snow remain un-cast, as far as I can tell, but Effie Trinket is none other than the lovely Elizabeth Banks.
She is fabulous.

It's going to be interesting to see how this movie turns out in areas other than the casting of the principal characters. I'm wondering how they're going to keep it PG-13. At least I'm assuming it's going to be PG-13.

Also, how will the actors - especially Katniss - convey to the audience in the movie theater the complicated layers of plot elements like "I am pretending to be in love with Peeta, but I am actually not, and while I must convince the Capitol's Hunger Games audience with my performance, I must also be able to use said performance to reveal to you, movie theater audience, that this is not how I really feel." GOOD LUCK.

What did The Hunger Games kids look like to you as you read the books? Are you disappointed or thrilled with the casting decisions? Or do you not care?

For my part, I'm rooting for Daniel Craig as President Snow.
Am I right or am I right??

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Why I'm reading Ender's Game right now instead of working on my research paper

Because I'm so, so very tired. Magdalena is back at her wetting-the-bed antics. Reading about anything other than small children being roped into intergalactic warfare would put me to sleep, instantly.

Because I'm tired of everyone having read this book but me and it's time to put an end to that situation already.

Because I technically still have almost a month until I have to hand in the research paper, and I'm really good at working under pressure.

Because I still don't know which way I'm going to approach my subject, or how I'm going to organize the background information, and every time I get to thinking about it my mind breaks.

Because I know the moment I get to working on it, a small child will come into the room with a need that must be met RIGHT NOW.

Because we just had an exam the other day and I'm still "giving myself a break," OK?!??!?

Because to get a few angles on my research, I need to make some phone calls, and I hate making phone calls. Especially here, when a lot of phone calls end up in, "why don't you just come see me in my office?" territory. Which brings me to another reason I'm reading Ender's Game right now instead of working on my research paper:

Because I'm at home with these two kids, and any "come see me in my office" would automatically be a family field trip whose positive outcome as far as juvenile obedience goes I cannot guarantee. I also need to visit the reference section of the library to consult some books that cannot be checked out. Same problem. Plus, my children know where the library's DVD collection hides and they would probably run amok and shriek like banshees while they hunted down Cars/Toy Story 2/Walking with Dinosaurs.

Yeah, I'm going to go with that last reason. That's why I'm reading Ender's Game right now instead of working on my research paper.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Time to shape up

A bunch of things happened all at once and suddenly I'm determined to eat better.

First, at long last, at the beginning of May, it is now too hot to go running every morning, as has been my wont for lo, these past six months. I enjoy exercising for the health benefits, but to be honest, I also do it to support my sometimes atrocious eating habits. Read on.

Second, it's true that I haven't eaten candy since December. But I have, uh, overcompensated in the ice cream department. Part of this is not my fault: the small grocery store on campus recently started stocking Ben & Jerry's ice cream. It is magical and delicious, but it is not a good thing because that store is literally a 2-minute walk from my front door.

Monday, May 02, 2011

OBL

Did anyone else find Seth Meyers' remarks at the White House Correspondents' Dinner to be hilarious? My favorite joke, believe it or not, was about Osama bin Laden. If you don't have time to watch the whole video, well, first of all, make time. Second of all, the relevant portion comes at 2:15 into the clip (but watch from the beginning to get the context).



Given the big setup with the birth certificate jokes being rendered unusable, I thought the OBL bit especially interesting in retrospect. President Obama gives a big laugh, but you have to wonder what he knew at the time.

The response here in the UAE seems to be along the lines of what governments around the world are expressing, though of course nobody is chanting "USA!" in the streets.

It will be interesting to hear the details of how it all went down, and if we're lucky, maybe Mark Bowden will write a book about it. If that seems like a callous remark to make at a time like this, well, I don't know what to think. On the one hand, I don't want to gloat at someone's death. On the other, dude was a bad, bad guy. You know what I mean?

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Hamas, Riyadh, Baghdad, Korphe, and a haunted amusement park

Hooray for book reviews! Sorry I don't give any plot backgrounds here. I figure you can look that up on your own, if you want to. Sometimes it's best to just dive right in to a book without knowing too much about it ahead of time.

The Professor and the Madman, by Simon Winchester. This book was interesting, despite the author's best attempts to make it dull and haphazard. I have to wonder if this was originally a long article and someone told him to turn it into a book. If it weren't that this book described perfectly what my job with Oxford University Press was (though I was not interned in an asylum at the time), I would have liked it even less.

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