Sunday, July 31, 2011

Sticker shock

Whenever we've lived overseas, I've tried to avoid falling victim to sticker shock if at all possible. "Food costs what it costs" has become my mantra, and more often than not, it's the same price everywhere. There's no collection of weekly mailers to compare to see who has the best sales, no way to tweak your menu plan to match up with the lowest prices at certain stores. You can't look forward to the two weeks twice a year when canned goods or frozen chicken will go on sale so you can stock up. You just shop week to week, and each time you make a grocery list, you have to strike the right balance among several sensitive factors:

Friday, July 29, 2011

July 29th, outsourced

Outsourced Friday is heavy on the videos today.

From Jimmy Kimmel, we have an awkward CNN Headline News segue, and, well, Bear Grylls. [YouTube]

Everything is funnier when you speak in a British accent, even a walk around a Wal*Mart. [YouTube, via The Consumerist]

David Eagleman wrote a book about the brain and almost broke Stephen Colbert's during an interview. [via The Atlantic's Twitter feed]

Also from The Colbert Report is a (PG for language) piece about how the news media assumed the Norwegian attacks were carried out by a Muslim. So funny, it stings. [via AymanM's Twitter feed]

There's no way to put this delicately: behold, The Evolution of Nicolas Cage's hair. [YouTube]

Somebody created a fake movie trailer for HP6 as if it were a romantic comedy. I love the result, though really, you don't have to try too hard to make HP6 a romantic comedy. [YouTube, via Anna Ray]

In non-video awesomeness are these pictures of the Tour de France. [The Atlantic]

Google deleted a man's gmail and blogger accounts with no explanation. This freaked me right the heck out and I re-backed up all my Google stuff immediately (I learned my lesson two years ago). [The Consumerist]

These realistically recreated children's drawings disturb me almost as much as they entertain me. [BuzzFeed, can't remember how I found it, sorry]

Which Arabic dialect should Harry Potter speak? I loved this article for how well it illustrated the fact that Arabic is actually a dozen different languages, not one, and I will be jumping at the chance to share it with people any chance I get. [WSJ, via Jeremy Palmer]

Finally, we have 17 truly awful bathroom fails. I have been in one of those bathrooms where the stall doors have been bolted on too high (Ft. Stevens campground on the Oregon coast, FYI) and it is NOT pretty. [Huffington Post, via Anna Ray]

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Ramadan is coming

Today, July 27th, is the day I realized that there are only two more business days until Ramadan starts. I sat down this afternoon and frantically scribbled down a lengthy to-do list involving all kinds of places whose business hours, efficiency, and friendliness may be impacted (for the worse) by Ramadan. I have tomorrow and Sunday to knock off as many items as I can. And then everything will come screeching to a halt for a month.

Happily (and not by chance), we have planned a ten-day family trip out of the country for right smack in the middle of Ramadan, which means we will get to miss out on some of the crazy days here in the UAE. I mean no disrespect for the holiday - I speak only of the relief I feel at having ten days where I will not have to battle famished, irritable drivers on the already treacherous roads here. (Though I confess that it will also be nice to be able to eat and drink in public.)

Even though I knew on paper that Ramadan starts on August 1st, I should have also been able to feel it coming. Everywhere you go, there's a bit more energy than usual, probably because people are rushing around to get stuff done (like me) or because they're preparing for the month-long holiday. It's exciting, in a way - like Thanksgiving every day for four weeks, if you can imagine. I'm no stranger to fasting, but I've never fasted for days on end like observers do during Ramadan. I'll be wishing them well even as I do not participate, despite the urgings of my 7-year-old Egyptian neighbor.

For now, I'm taking a look at my to-do list and orchestrating tomorrow's errand schedule in my head. How did Ramadan sneak up on me like this? I'll have to do better next year.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Famous people I look like, according to foreigners

(Sorry for the clumsy post title. I couldn't think of a better way to put it succinctly. Just know that I mean "foreigner" in the sense of someone coming from somewhere other than the USA).

I've written before about how fun it is that we white people all look alike to people of other races (sometimes) (and vice versa). What's really fun is when that lack of finesse in distinguishing between different faces leads someone to believe that you are, in fact, a famous person (or more often, that you look a lot like one). The point is not that I actually look like these people. The point is that something about their face and mine looks the same to people of a different race.

In Japan, I had a lot of people tell me that I looked like Natalie Portman. Like, a LOT. I usually smiled and said thanks, because that was a dang nice compliment.


Monday, July 25, 2011

HP7.2

It's done. It's over. Finished. I've seen it: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2.

Of course, to stretch out the enjoyment (and delay the sad inevitable), Jeremy and I re-watched HP1-7.1. I wasn't really sure that today was the day for HP7.2 until we finished HP7.1 last night. Then it was time. And now it's over.

There's not much to speculate about HP7.2 as a film. There's no more, "maybe they'll pick that up in the next movie," or "I wonder where they're going with that story arc?" or "if they changed that here, they'll have to fix it later on." The HP film canon is set in stone now and can be examined as a whole. I thought HP7.2 was a brilliant conclusion, a capstone that finished off HP7.1 as well as it did the other six movies. Coming down from the high of watching it, no serious deficiency comes to mind: it was well paced, action-packed, thoughtful, and emotional when it needed to be. Consider that I knew exactly what was going to happen in this movie (having read the book a couple of times), and it was still thrilling to watch.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Blueberry woes and joys

One of the unexpected benefits of eating treats only once a week is that I get to choose a recipe and salivate over it for days and days before I make it. Chocolate chip cookie pie was one of those. This week's edition was fruit pizza.

I started out thinking I'd make blueberry pie, which hankering was brought on by watching this episode of Dirty Jobs. I dreamed about blueberry pie for a few weeks before I finally decided to just make one myself. Then I went to Spinneys (because their berries are better than Carrefour's) and calculated that to buy the standard four cups of blueberries required to make a pie, it would cost me $26. (To this day, I have successfully blocked my mind from calculating how many pounds of blueberries I could pick myself for that price at Ithaca's Grisamore Farms.)

Needless to say, a blueberry pie was, very sadly, not in the cards for me. So I settled on the fruit pizza recipe, realizing that while I would be paying the same proportional price for those precious blueberries, the total cost would be much easier on my wallet (about $3).

Friday took its sweet time coming around, but when it did, hoo boy:

So yes, I am really enjoying the "homemade sweets once a week" deal. If I had a packet of peanut M&Ms ready to eat anytime, I would probably not bother making something like this. But when it's a rare treat and I have to make it myself...well, I might as well make something AWESOME.

Friday, July 22, 2011

July 22nd, outsourced

First, a look at Harry, Ron, Draco, and Neville through the ages, via the actors who played them in the movies. Neville certainly grew out of an extremely long awkward stage, didn't he? [GFY]

Here's an infographic about the Harry Potter movies, though despite all the talk about huge box office grosses, I swear I read somewhere that the films didn't actually make any money. However, I can't find that article so we'll have to pretend I never said that, which is nice because I remember thinking how ridiculous that was. [Graphjam]

Lots of books and their movies have been deemed to be The Next Harry Potter, but have any of them really panned out? [The Atlantic]

Holy amazing synchronized swimming photos, Batman! Besides being interesting to look at, these photos alerted me to the fact that there is apparently a solo component of synchronized swimming (see photo 8). [The Atlantic]

This is a looooong but worthy read about the man who was wrongly accused of carrying out the post-9/11 anthrax attacks. It's so sad that what happened to him is even possible. [The Atlantic]

The most obtuse newspaper correction ever. There's kind of a big difference between those two, guys. [via By Common Consent]

Crossing a street in Vietnam. This was totally familiar to me. It was like Egypt, but with cute scooters. [Can't remember where I saw this, sorry.]

A hard look at gentrification. Interesting. [The Atlantic]

This might only be of interest to you if you're Mormon, but what if our meetings progressed in a different order? I vaguely remember having Sacrament Meeting last when I was a kid. My favorite part of that post, however, was the comments. Comment 23 was a total facepalm, and then comment 34 made me burst out laughing. I love it when intelligent people disagree in a humorous manner (that happens a lot at By Common Consent, by the way). [By Common Consent]

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Mall oddities

Happy Hyper Panda at Festival City has its Ramadan offers going full throttle already. One look at the stacks of those sheets of Qamar al-Din apricot leather sent me into full nostalgia mode for Ramadan in Damascus.

Also at Festival City, I did a double/triple/possibly quadruple take at this Cat in Boots movie poster. Cat in Boots? Isn't it Puss in Boots? (Yes.) I would suggest that we explore why it is called Cat in Boots here, but that is a road that we perhaps do not want to travel down for too long.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Google+

I've been on Google Plus for a little over a week now, but it's only in the last few days that I, ahem, figured out how to get to the actual Google Plus page. It took me a while.

Now that I'm there, and figuring things out, I've decided I really like how Google Plus works. It's clean and unsophisticated. I like how it's integrated with Picasa and all the other Google tools that infiltrate my life I use, though it was alarming to have my Picasa Web Album of last year's yard sale thrown up there by default. I think my first act on Google Plus was to make that particular album invisible. Anyway, Google Plus is also great because it corrects Facebook's near-fatal flaw in that it is very easy to know exactly which people you're sharing news/pictures/videos with.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Watching it again, for the first time

One aspect of parenthood that needs to be publicized better is the joy of reading/watching/doing things with your kid that you remember reading/watching/doing yourself when you were younger. It's almost like getting a chance to do something again, but somehow for the first time. The awesome nostalgia factor is even greater when it's something that has remained untouched since your childhood - something you did when you were a kid, and then put away or aside forever.

At least until your own child is old enough to enjoy it, and what a happy day that is! Over the past 10 months, we've been reading the Chronicles of Narnia books with Miriam. It's not quite as precious as it could be since I made the mistake (for these purposes, anyway) of re-reading these childhood favorites when I was in my early twenties. Now, reading them again with Miriam, I have to reach beyond my memories of that most recent reading to get at the ones from my childhood, and they're a bit murkier as a result.

Friday, July 15, 2011

July 15th, outsourced

Running while pushing a jogging stroller can sometimes turn into mini squat sessions. So true.

What is going to stir up controversy now that Harry Potter is over??

I think this person writing in to Consumerist about employees always putting her shopping cart away is doing it wrong. Do people really abandon their cart to gallivant around the store? If they do, is that proper supermarket behavior?

I took immense satisfaction in watching this video of Buzz Aldrin punching a jerk in the face. I also took satisfaction in reading this humor column about Buzz Aldrin.

You guys, from now on it's the people who aren't obsessed with baby names who are the weird ones, ok? Just read this and see how dang interesting baby names can be!

Literally the first piece of news I learned upon coming home from the wilds of Oman and checking the internets was that Netflix raised their prices in a shameful manner. If we had Netflix, I would be upset, too. My friend Jen put it into perspective, and reminded me how much I like to giggle at First World Problems.

I loved the closing of this article about the fake vaccination program the CIA set up in Abottabad:
"Governments routinely use sneaky tactics to achieve their goals. To me, the interesting story is this: Everyone in the world knows how much health-care matters. Seriously, even evil terrorist masterminds know it's important to vaccinate their kids. Just think what we can do with that, if we use it the right way."
The invention of the air conditioner changed America. I know that in the UAE, before there was AC, people just soaked themselves in the Gulf multiple times a day/night and then slept on the roof to take advantage of any breezes.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Oman again

This might be a huge long fat blog post, but since everything we did in Oman is connected to everything else, I don't want to split it into two. You'll just have to deal with it.

So. We went to Oman, again, for two nights and three days. Our trip was full of ups and downs but in the end it reconciled into an enormously positive net gain.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Summer so far

Here's how summer is going down so far for the Palmers in Sharjah.

You know, just hitting up the Children's Discovery Centre (quirky British spelling theirs) for some quality climbing through a model of the heart. The best part is that Sharjah's museums are free for the month of July, and for some reason that includes this place. That was great, unexpected news.

Monday, July 11, 2011

What Harry Potter means to me

So, is everyone writing posts about how we all can't believe the last Harry Potter movie is here, and how we can't wait to see it, but somehow we also never want to see it because once we do, it's OVER, and it will mark the end of an era? Or is that just me?

I can't wait to see HP7.2. It even comes out a few days earlier here than in the US (there are midnight showings on Tuesday night), but I don't think we'll be able to go see it until sometime next week at the earliest.

At the same time, though, I almost want to leave it unwatched for as long as I can possibly stand it. Because once I see it, that's it. The happy pastime of marking the progression of my adult life with Harry Potter movies will have to come to an end. I've talked about it before on this blog, but it goes something like this.

Friday, July 08, 2011

July 8th, outsourced

There are a lot of links to share today. Let's get started.

There's something called the Wilhelm Scream that gets used a lot in all kinds of movies. Here is a compilation of many Wilhelm Screams. (The video is slightly but not terribly violent, but duh, people are screaming, so.)

It looks like maybe those of you in the US won't have to deal with those sickly yellow street lights for forever. However, I seem to recall a city in Britain using them to specifically discourage youth from hanging out at night (because it makes your features so garish), so maybe they did have a purpose.

I've always wondered why Europeans insist on wearing their skimpy swimming trunks even outside the confines of Europe. Turns out, maybe they just don't feel like buying another swimsuit when the one they have complies with the rules in their home country's swimming pools.

I am absolutely behind this theory that the Duchess of Cambridge wore a sailor dress on her visit to Prince Edward Island as an homage to Anne of Green Gables.

This was an interesting article, but in the end I couldn't get past the thought of a $232.64 monthly cable bill. Even if it does include internet. Yikes.

So, is it a new flavor, or an original recipe? Which is it? I feel the same way when I see food packaging stamped with "New & Improved!" It can't be both, people.

Russia, Ukraine, and South Korea have opted to take Paramount Pictures up on their offer to market the movie Captain America as The First Avenger instead. To avoid anti-American sentiment, you know.

I laughed at this compilation of the horrible lessons we learn from Disney movies. But I keep thinking that I watched all those movies as a kid and I turned out just fine, right?

Have you ever wondered how to say, "If we cannot trust a man, move your head to the right, unnoticed, until we note your signal" in Russian? Wonder no more. Also: "You certainly read our leaflets!" and "Should the enemy spies or informers be liquidated?"

Finally, if I am reading this correctly - and I think that I am - the state with the overall lowest rate of obesity today (Colorado), would have been the fattest state in the nation in 1995. Woah.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

THE BIG 1K



This is post number 1000 on Bridget of Arabia.

To celebrate, I'm making the 1000th post of my blog, be about my blog.

My first real post said, "Well, here goes. I'm still not convinced it won't be pretentious, but I'll give blogging from America a shot." Almost five years later, I'm still still not convinced it isn't pretentious.

The people who have been reading my blog the longest are Nancy (and by extension possibly Andrew), Crys, Matthew, and my family. I don't claim that they read every post all the time, but they have popped in to comment frequently enough over the years that I know they've read my blog continuously since its beginning at least to some degree. [Edited to add: I think Liz and Jen have been around for almost as long, and remember that I'm going by overt, commenting readers here, not lurkers who have been around since 2006, bless your hearts.]

My most famous post to the world at large (not regular readers) is this one about My Brother, the Extra (Twilight). Ten thousand hits in one day, man.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Out of gas

I kept waiting to write this post until I got a good picture to go with it, but I've given up on that happening. Instead, I just went to the Gulf News website and found this one.

For over a month now, all the gas (petrol) stations in Sharjah have been closed, save for the stations operated by the ADNOC company. We're lucky because the closest gas station to us happens to be ADNOC, so we haven't had to travel farther afield or out of our way just to fill up our tank. However, we are still impacted by this petrol shortage since everybody from farther afield is traveling out of their way to fill up their tanks at ADNOC. If I had been alive during the 1973 oil crisis in the US, I think our experiences at the gas station these days would remind me very much of that time:

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

4th of July in the UAE

How do you observe the 4th of July in the UAE? Well, let's see. It was a three-day weekend, but that was because of the Al Isra Wal Miraj holiday on Thursday.

The fact that I had a dentist appointment at 5pm on July 4th certainly wasn't very festive.

A big clue that it was an unusual weekend was when there was so much work to do for my job. All of us employees draw from a central depository of work and when it's gone, it's gone, (until it's replenished, of course). This weekend, it was never gone. It was just me, working away on the 4th of July like nobody's business. Also not festive.

Which means we're left with the bounty of almost-expired, on-sale chicken hot dogs we found at Carrefour that we grilled up for dinner. We invited over our American neighbors to share, and they brought along the fixings for banana splits.

Sadly, there were no fireworks.

I guess the 4th of July is one of those holidays that's hard to do on your own in a foreign country. We got lucky one year in Jordan when someone in our neighborhood set off some spectacular wedding celebration fireworks on the 4th of July, but otherwise, our overseas celebrations have been pretty tame. One of these years, we'll have to try to be in Oregon for the fabulous Oak Hills fireworks display on the 4th of July. As a kid, I remember being so impatient for it to get dark so the show could begin. I hope to give my girls the same experience...someday...

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Things I learned from watching Arab TV

Well, the Bridgetcation came to an end on Thursday. It was lovely while it lasted, and I admit that when I walked in the door and gave hugs to my family, tears came to my eyes.

Now I'm left with memories of 48 hours of solitude to draw on anytime I'm feeling overwhelmed. I also have memories of the quirks of a "five-star" hotel in the Middle East. I'm telling you, these things are gems. I mean, there are places like the Mövenpick in Doha, Qatar that actually earn their five-star status. But mixed in there in the same star rating are places like the Cham Palace in Lattakia ($54/night for a room on the Mediterranean Sea, no joke) and the Radisson Blu in Sharjah, where I was staying. The price was great. The hotel...not so much. It was the little things, like how the bathroom faucets leaked, and some of the electrical outlets didn't work, and there was an oil rig RIGHT next to the hotel obscuring the view of the Gulf, but it didn't matter because you could hardly see out the windows because they were so dusty, and the TV remote didn't work from a reclining position on the bed, so anytime you needed to change the channel or adjust the volume, you had to creep up and perch right on the edge of the mattress to press the button.

Despite the challenges (ha), I still managed to enjoy some quality television time. We don't have TV at home, so it was a brave new world of shows and commercials for me. The best Arab channels are MBC 2 and MBC 4. I watched Emma (the 1996 version) on MBC 2 one of the nights I was at the hotel, along with bits and pieces of other movies and shows. It's been a while since I've watched Arab TV for any length of time, and I found myself learning some things.

Friday, July 01, 2011

July 1st, outsourced

So apparently Cars 2 is not so appropriate for very young children. Also, the Cars 2 universe can really get you thinking.

This casting call for extras (on Portlandia) is the funniest announcement of its kind that I've ever read.

Inside an eating disorder treatment facility.

I heard about this site from two different sources within two hours of each other. For good reason, too - Dear Photograph is poignantly awesome.

This takedown of a recent Newsweek cover (no, not the Mormon one, which I thought was fine, by the way) is SO RIGHT. What was Newsweek thinking??

My friend Liz linked to this article on Twitter, and I was so happy to read it. I cannot let go of that Oxford comma, the one that sets apart the final item in a series. When it's omitted, my mind stumbles over the sentence without fail. So hooray for this article defending it.

Finally, I leave you with a strangely beautiful (and negative, duh) review of Transformers 3.

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