Sunday, December 30, 2012

Great-Uncle Glade

Uncle Glade surveys his garden, June 2004
Last week, my great-uncle Glade passed away. You may remember him from such adventures as the time he woke up at 4am thinking there might be an intruder outside the home so he armed himself with a baseball bat while he went to check it out. At the time (2004), he was 88 years old.

I realize that many of you may not know your great-uncles very well. I don't know very many of mine well, either, but Jeremy and I lived with Glade (and his wife Alice, my great-aunt, my grandma's sister) for a year and a half after we moved back to the US from Russia. Of course I knew that he wasn't getting any younger, but I was still sad on Friday afternoon when I heard the news of his passing. He stayed active and did so much for so long that sometimes you could forget how old he actually was. By "staying active" and "doing so much," I mean that he continued to garden and mow the lawn and keep up the house and hand-make gorgeous musical instruments until very recently.

Not only did I spend a year and a half in his house, I even read Glade's life story. He put it all together (on a typewriter, if I recall correctly) and had it professionally bound, complete with old pictures and scans of memorabilia. I read Hugh Nibley's biography (A Consecrated Life) around the same time period and I have to admit that my own great-uncle Glade's life story was just as impressive.

May God rest your soul, Uncle Glade. Many people's lives are better because of you.

Friday, December 28, 2012

December 28th, outsourced

Just a few links for you today. It's been a quiet week.

A Downton Abbey gingerbread house. WOAH.

Facebook privacy is so confusing that even a Zuckerberg family photo isn't private.

Portraits of squashed commuters in Japan.

The story of a photographer who covered Columbine and Sandy Hook.

My new favorite video: this Norwegian guy was trekking by himself around the South Pole for three months when he came upon his last cache that he had buried so long before that he couldn't remember what was in there. May we all have the same reaction next time we see a bag of cheesy puffs. (Just watched it again and noticed that the English subtitles have some profanity. So maybe just watch it in Norwegian. The words aren't important.)

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Books 2012 + Book Stats

My favorite books of 2012 are here.

Here are some interesting (?) stats about the books I read in 2012 (complete list below).

The books I read in 2012 were:

68% fiction. This is by far the highest percentage since I started keeping track.

32% non-fiction (obviously).

Furthermore, 57% of the fiction was Young Adult. This is by far the lowest YA percentage since I started keeping track. So I'm reading more fiction, but less of it is YA. Hooray?

Overall, 39% of the books I read were Young Adult.

11% of the books I read in 2012 were non-first-time reads.

9% of 2012's reading list were books that Jeremy also read this year. This is way down from previous years. We need to get on that.

I read 27% of the books in their physical, hard-copy format, at least in part. A few of those I also had on Kindle and switched between the two formats. This was mostly true for non-fiction books so I could look at the pictures/graphs/maps more easily.

79% of the books were checked out from the library. The rest I either own/bought or (more likely) were borrowed from a friend. The library percentage includes books I checked out from the library in the Kindle format.

Only 7% of the books I read this year were audiobooks.

The longest stretch between completion of a book was two weeks at the end of October between Every Other Day and Catherine the Great.

My longest stretch of YA books was in May/June with four in a row: EnclavePandemoniumSilence, and Crossed.

My longest stretch of awesome books was over the summer, when I read four of my favorite books in 2012 right in a row: The Scorpio Races, Between a Rock and a Hard Place, Make the Bread, Buy the Butter, and  A Safeway in Arizona. What a great month of reading that was.

My most productive period of reading was (surprise, surprise) when I was alone in Sharjah while Jeremy and the girls were in the US. I finished a book on July 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 5th, 6th, 8th, 9th, and 11th. It was awesome.

Reading is awesome, too. I do it any chance I get. In case you can't tell.

Now for the list.

Young Adult/Juvenile Literature
Calico Captive (Elizabeth George Speare)
Please Ignore Vera Dietz (A.S. King)
Every Other Day (Jennifer Lynn Barnes)
Sweethearts (Sara Zarr)
Bitterblue (Kristin Cashore)
Clockwork Prince (Cassandra Clare)
Wither (Lauren DeStefano)
Legend (Marie Lu)
Ultraviolet (R.J. Anderson)
The Enemy (Charlie Higson)
The Scorpio Races (Maggie Stiefvater)
The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks (E. Lockhart)
Insurgent (Veronica Roth)
Beauty Queens (Libba Bray)
Under the Never Sky (Veronica Rossi)
Shatter Me (Tahereh Mafi)
Unearthly (Cynthia Hand)
Hallowed (Cynthia Hand)
Crossed (Ally Condie)
Silence (Becca Fitzpatrick)
Pandemonium (Lauren Oliver)
Enclave (Ann Aguirre)
Imaginary Girls (Nova Ren Suma)
Tomorrow, When the War Began (series) (John Marsden)
All These Things I've Done (Gabrielle Zevin)
Angelfall (Susan Ee)
Anna and the French Kiss (Stephanie Perkins)
The Death Cure (James Dashner)
Kissing Shakespeare (Pamela Mingle)

North and South (Elizabeth Gaskell)
Tess of the D'Urbervilles (Thomas Hardy)
Far from the Madding Crowd (Thomas Hardy)
Anne of the Island (L.M. Montgomery)
Anne of Avonlea (L.M. Montgomery)
Anne of Green Gables (L.M. Montgomery)

Child of the Prophecy (Juliet Marillier)
Definitely Not Mr. Darcy (Karen Doornebos)
Midnight in Austenland (Shannon Hale)
I Am Half Sick Of Shadows (Alan Bradley)
A Fatal Waltz (Tasha Alexander)
A Poisoned Season (Tasha Alexander)
And Only to Deceive (Tasha Alexander)
A Study in Sherlock (Laurie R. King)
Pope Joan (Donna Woolfolk Cross)
A Red Herring Without Mustard (Alan Bradley)
Daughter of the Forest (Juliet Marillier)
The Virginian: A Horseman of the Plains (Owen Wister)
A Town Like Alice (Nevil Shute)
Son of the Shadows (Juliet Marillier)
The Flight of Gemma Hardy (Margot Livesy)

Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness (Alexandra Fuller)
Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman (Robert K. Massie)
Logavina Street: Life and Death in a Sarajevo Neighborhood (Barbara Demick)
The House by the Dvina: A Russian Childhood (Eugenie Fraser)
Between a Rock and a Hard Place (Aron Ralston)
A Midwife's Story (Penny Armstrong)
Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight (Alexandra Fuller)
A Jane Austen Education: How Six Novels Taught Me About Love, Friendship, and the Things That Really Matter (William Deresiewicz)
The Book of Mormon Girl: Stories from an American Faith (Joanna Brooks)
The Storyteller's Daughter: One Woman's Return to Her Lost Homeland (Saira Shah)
The Hemingway Book Club of Kosovo (Paula Huntley)

Current Events/Historical Non-Fiction
The Floor of Heaven: A True Tale of the Last Frontier and the Yukon Gold Rush (Howard Blum)
A Safeway in Arizona: What the Gabrielle Giffords Shooting Tells Us About the Grand Canyon State and Life in America (Tom Zoellner)
Beyond the Deep: Deadly Descent into the World's Most Treacherous Cave (William Stone)
In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin (Erik Larson)
Lost in Shangri-la (Mitchell Zuckoff)
A Night to Remember (Walter Lord)
Deception: The Untold Story of East-West Espionage Today (Edward Lucas)
Monsoon: The Indian Ocean and the Future of American Power (Robert D. Kaplan)
1861: The Civil War Awakening (Adam Goodheart)
Manhunt: The Ten-Year Search for Bin Laden--From 9/11 to Abbottabad (Peter L. Bergen)

Make the Bread, Buy the Butter (Jennifer Reese)
Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking (Susan Cain)
The Language Instinct: How the Mind Creates Language (Steven Pinker)

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Christmas music

Most years, Jeremy and/or I buy a new album of Christmas music to add to our collection. It's a great opportunity to seek out new music and make sure we don't overdose on our old favorites. An added bonus is that my memories of each Christmas are flavored by whichever album we bought that year.

This year, we bought two albums. One is Loreena McKennitt's latest collection of Christmas music, which includes this gem of Good King Wenceslas.

The other is The Lower Lights' Christmas album. My favorite is their rendition of In the Bleak Midwinter, but the truth about me is that I will love any version of that song on any album, pretty much.

As for old favorites, I still can't get enough of MoTab + The King's Singers O Holy Night.

What surprised me this year was how I fell in love with a Christmas song I've been listening to for five years now but never really liked. It's Sarah McLachlan's Wintersong.

It's one of those songs that's maybe really simple on the surface, so you discard it, but after a while (five years, ahem) you realize that it's actually one of the richest Christmas songs you've ever heard. Minute 2:20 - 2:32 - perfection. I'm so happy my brain caught on and I look forward to loving this song for many years to come.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas in Sharjah

It's Christmas Eve. Magdalena went to school today. Neither Jeremy nor I teach on Mondays, so we had the day "off" - but we spent the morning finishing up some work so we could enjoy the holiday. We went to spinning class. The songs were Christmas-themed. You think you hate George Michael's "Last Christmas" now? Just wait until your spinning instructor makes you do jumps the whole time.

Tomorrow (Christmas Day) is, thankfully, a holiday for the university. But it's right back to business on Wednesday. Since the holiday is on a Tuesday, it makes for a weird schedule this week. I actually had several students complain that the university didn't move the holiday to Sunday or Thursday for a kind of "Christmas (Observed)" 3-day weekend. I understand the sentiment there, but at the same time, I don't think you can do that with Christmas. I also had a brief pearl-clutching moment in my MA class that meets on Tuesday when a few students volunteered that they would rather come in on the holiday (aka CHRISTMAS) to meet instead of doing a make-up class. Thank goodness, my (Muslim) professor didn't take them up on the offer.

We're heading out soon to a Christmas Eve dinner at a friend's house. Let Christmas begin!

Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 21, 2012

December 21st, outsourced

I'm sure many of you read the "I Am Adam Lanza's Mother" article. In the interest of context, here is a response to that article.

Sometimes Buzzfeed can make you smile when nothing else does. Here are the 40 cutest things that happened in 2012. Also, 20 reasons why it was cool to be Mormon in 2012. [HT Liz]

Stalker robot horse = equal parts terrifying + hilarious (the latter especially at the 2:10ish mark).

One of the links I put up last week (about a guide to US daily life, for Russians) claimed that there is no word for "privacy" in Russian. Language Log investigated (there really isn't, it turns out).

Also re: words: 2012's worst, according to some people who really pay attention to this stuff.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Books 2012: Favorites, etc.

A bit early this year, here are my eight favorite books from 2012. To make the list, I had to have read the book for the first time in 2012 so that old favorites don't clog the top spots.

 Logavina Street (Barbara Demick). You will dream of Sarajevo every night while you read this book.

The House by the Dvina (Eugenie Frasier). Little House on the revolutionary Russia.

Make the Bread, Buy the Butter (Jennifer Reese). This cookbook was written for me because making stuff from scratch is often the only choice here. Plus, this book finally got the awful taste from Animal, Vegetable, Miracle out of my mouth!

Between a Rock and a Hard Place (Aron Ralston). "EVERYONE PLEASE STOP TALKING TO ME SO I CAN FINISH THIS BOOK" pretty much sums up how I felt about this one.

A Safeway in Arizona (Tom Zoellner) - this year's Columbine for me. I feel like this book spoke directly to me. I'm still thinking about it.

The Scorpio Races (Maggie Stiefvater). I have a weird reluctance to share this book with you. It's so quiet and unassuming and yet so strangely beautiful. If you read it and don't like it, I don't want to hear about it, mmmkay?

Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight (Alexandra Fuller). Haunting. This is a book that I still think about on a regular basis.

The Virginian (Owen Wister). A lovely member of that category of slow, thoughtful books that read like a love letter to their setting, in this case the American West. How had I not read this before?

Now for some fun stuff.

Most unexpectedly good book: Angelfall, by Susan Ee. I was expecting a story that went through the motions of everything that's hot in YA lit these days. I was not expecting TRUE AWESOMENESS in the form of post-apocalyptic San Francisco where angels have destroyed/taken over the earth, and the 17-year-old heroine trained in self-defense has a paranoid schizophrenic mother and a wheelchair-bound, paralyzed little sister. YEAH.

Most unexpectedly bad book: Palace of Stone, by Shannon Hale, and that makes my heart cry.

Longest book: Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman (625 pages). But it was actually a pretty smooth read.

Shortest book: The Book of Mormon Girl (216 pages). I read it when it first came out and was only available as a Kindle book. I think there is an expanded version in print now...? And that might be the one that is 216 pages (because I don't think the Kindle version was that long). In any case, a lovely book.

Most-read book: 2012 marked my umpteenth reading of Calico Captive (assuming we're counting all the times I read it as a kid). This year I read several books for the second time: Tomorrow, When the War Began, The Language Instinct, A Night to Remember, Tess of the D'Urbervilles, The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, and North and South.

Best bad book: The Flight of Gemma Hardy. I really enjoyed reading it even though in the end I decided, meh, not for me. Basically I wish I could read Jane Eyre for the first time again and this book was the closest I could get.

Worst good book: Hmm, a book that I gave a high rating to that I didn't enjoy and maybe never want to read again...Tess of the D'Urbervilles. Brilliant book. Torture on the emotions. Nothing to gain from a second reading.

Worst book I didn't finish: I didn't record DNF books this year, so I can't fill this category. Maybe I should delete it.

Worst book I did finish: I hated Definitely Not Mr. Darcy. I hated all the characters and everything they did and all the things that happened. Flames. On the side of my face.

Worst cover: Kissing Shakespeare. Overtures of child abuse, anyone??

Or perhaps you prefer THIS abomination?? Thank goodness for Kindles.

Best cover: Just the right amount of spook in its beauty: Imaginary Girls.

Books in which there is mind-reading in some form: Under the Never Sky, Silence, Daughter of the Forest, Son of the Shadows, Hallowed, Bitterblue, Child of the Prophecy, Every Other Day.

Books that have a character or place name of "Delphi(c)": Under the Never Sky, Silence, And Only to Deceive.

Books in which a girl who goes through traumatic experiences as a kid with her best-friend (boy) neighbor by her side, then loses touch with that boy, then thinks he is dead even as she deals with her feelings for him. And also, one of her parents is not around and the boy's father is abusive: Sweethearts, Please Ignore Vera Dietz.

Books in which a Scottish woman marries a man from a cold, northern, foreign country with customs very different from her own, but she learns to love it there, but also she insists on traveling to Scotland to birth her first baby: The Flight of Gemma Hardy and The House by the Dvina.

Happy reading!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Outdoor school

Today I was a regular Miss Stacy, taking both sections of my class outside for our lessons. We sat in a courtyard area near the library and soaked in the crisp morning air - 20C/68F. The sky was blue and the sun was shining but there was a nice breeze blowing through, reminding us that it's winter here in the Emirates.

I'm taking more risks with my students this semester. In so many ways, for me at least, teaching is acting. Sunday/Tuesday/Thursday mornings just before eight o'clock, I put on a persona of someone who's got it together, who's confident in front of all those immaculately dressed Khalijis, who knows least if it's in the textbook. This semester, I'm letting my real self shine through a little more (and my real self is not necessarily mutually exclusive with the traits I mentioned above. Or at least I like to think so). Sometimes the kids say funny things and I want to laugh. Sometimes I say funny things and I want everyone else to laugh. Sometimes we arrange the desks in a circle - if the carpet weren't so filthy, I'd have us sit on the ground. Did you know that even the guys who wear kandura can still sit cross-legged? It doesn't seem like it should be possible, but it is.

Taking class outside today was my way of keeping things interesting, of enjoying the great outdoors even when we have work to do. The cool weather is so fleeting here, it would have been a crying shame to sit inside and look at PowerPoint slides for two hours. Still, my outdoor class period could have totally flopped, I suppose. But it didn't.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Mac and cheese miracle

The next few sentences are not complaints. They're just necessary statements to set off the conclusion of this story.

My resolution to shop at a new, very small grocery store that is seven minutes away from my house has been working out really well. However, most weeks I have to shuffle my meal plan on the fly because of ingredients that are not available. I'm not talking about fancy cheese (I already know I can't get it there) or American imports (ditto) - on a regular basis, this store is out of key vegetables, or fruits, or meats, or whatever. Once in a while, though they make up for it with a random bounty of amazing food, like pomegranates for 50 cents/lb., or whole pineapples for $1.50 each, or that one time they had seedless (!!!) non-rotting (!!!) grapes for...well, it wasn't cheap, but they were GOOD.

Today was a low day, though, because they didn't have milk. MILK. They had a few 4-packs of the milk powder UHT stuff, but that stuff is awful. We are UHT snobs and only buy the UHT milk made from milk, not powder. So I was in a defeatist mood by the time I got to the last aisle: pasta. That's when I saw this:
I don't know who made a mistake such that a whole flat of real American macaroni and cheese was delivered to podunk mini-Carrefour in Sharjah, but I love them. Not for my own sake, but for my kids...and possibly my husband. Thank you, mystery macaroni and cheese orderer. It was almost worth not being able to buy milk. Almost.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

What to tell my kids

After an event like what happened in Connecticut yesterday, the question for me is what to tell my kids. Do I sit them down and teach them that bad guys sometimes come into classrooms to kill little children, and that they should do this, this, and that to stay alive? Or do I preserve their innocence and say nothing?

When there was a fire at a mall in Doha, Qatar that killed 13 children in the mall's play area, I had a talk with my kids about fire safety, and how you have to get OUT. Not sit and wait for a teacher, not hide in a closet, but get out, opening a window and jumping from it if necessary. But a fire is a fire, not a person holding a gun.

How do I balance my fervent wish that my kids never know that there are people out there who want to hurt others, with the fact that there are people out there who want to hurt others?

Friday, December 14, 2012

December 14th, outsourced

Even though it's going to offend some/a lot of you, and even though I already offended some/a lot of you on fb and/or Twitter, I'm going to post it here again: I don't like Elf on the Shelf. There, I said it. Can I still be American?

Bad/awkward/unintentionally hilarious academic writing culled from textbooks.

I absolutely cannot vouch for the lyrics and/or videos but in any case, this mashup of songs from 2012 was pretty neat. And yes, all music does sound the same these days.

Earlier this week, Terry Waite (author of Taken on Trust) returned to Lebanon to the scene of his kidnapping.

A Hello Kitty beauty spa, right here in Dubai! [HT Sarah]

The seven countries where the state can execute you for being an atheist. The UAE is not one of them. Hooray?

This guide to everyday American life, written by a Russian, sounds like it would be so much fun to read. Why do we hire teenage babysitters?

Google's look back at 2012.

From 1941-1945, "the United States" was the most common 3-word constituent in the English corpus. More fun at Evolution of the Most Common English Words and Phrases over the Centuries. [HT Kaylee]

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Khaliji Night

Yesterday, a few of my students invited me to attend an activity sponsored by the Saudi Club called Khaliji (Gulf) Night. Jeremy met me after class and together, we "stopped by" the event for "a few minutes." Well, we ended up getting escorted in by one of my students, for free, to what was basically a VIP seating area. And then we stayed for quite a while, because it's awkward to leave in the middle of an event when you're in front of everyone in the VIP seating area, but also because we were enjoying the cool weather and the performances and the ambiance.

This semester has been a little low on cultural outings since I've been so busy. It was nice to "get out" a little by staying on campus and hanging out with hundreds of GCC + Yemen nationals for a while. I was struck by some impressions.

1. The abaya and kandura are soooooo normal to me now. In fact, Jeremy and I are both getting quite good at being able to distinguish Saudi styles from Emirati styles from Omani styles from Yemeni styles, etc.

2. Another thing that is normal to me now: male students standing to greet each other solemnly, leaning close into each other's faces to touch noses or kiss cheeks. That was going on all over the place last night and it's actually really neat to see.

3. It was fascinating to see the Khalijis all hanging out together. They were at once more alike and yet more distinct than I've ever seen them. Let me explain. When you put a bunch of Arabs in a room together, you tend to group the Khalijis into one unit, at least in your mind. They might even group themselves together. They are alike, in that they are all from the Gulf. But it's not long before differences become apparent - in behavior, in dress, in beliefs, etc. (And don't ever get a Saudi started on the differences between east/west coast and central areas in that country alone...except do, because it's totally interesting.) Last night, those hundreds of students were a cohesive group because, well, it was Khaliji Night. But one of the major activities that was going on when Jeremy and I were there was a game in which the nationals of each GCC country set themselves apart, by way of calling out differences in each other's dialects. I'd never seen anything quite like it before, not in all the time we've been here.

I continue to be amazed at how my understanding of the Arabian Gulf changes over time. I find myself so energized by the cultural diversity here - I learn or experience or see or try something new every day just by stepping out my front door.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Two things that blew my mind today

1. Miriam's school had a book fair this week and today she came home with a book of facts. We were flipping through it and I stumbled across this one. You guys, "United Arab Emirates" alternates consonants and vowels through the whole name of the country. WOAH. I mean, so does Qatar but that's not a big deal because it's a measly five letters.

2. In my Language Testing & Evaluation class today, the professor briefly went over some common ways that students cheat on exams. Now, I'd heard the rumors about wireless earpieces and magic watches like the rest of you, but I never really believed it. UNTIL NOW:

According to my professor, a student at AUS was caught with one of these watches recently. You'd better believe I'll be keeping an eye out for them at the next exam I proctor.

Monday, December 10, 2012

The good kind of peer pressure

I know how to swim. I do. But not very efficiently, and while I'm confident I could keep myself from drowning if it came down to it, in the end I am not very comfortable in the water. Something about going underwater and feeling it pressing in on me makes me very claustrophobic.

A few weekends ago, we went to Fujairah to spend the day at the beach with friends. One of the attractions on offer there was snorkeling. I knew I wouldn't like snorkeling. It combined all the terror of being underwater with it all pressing down on me with the awkward inconvenience of not being able to breathe through my nose, which only compounded my fear of the water. I was absolutely planning on "oh, I'll go later"-ing my way out of snorkeling and if I was lucky, I knew that all of a sudden it would be too late for me to go and we'd just have to pack up and go home with everyone else having snorkeled but me. Oh well!!!!!

What I didn't count on was having two very patient friends who also happen to be expert snorkelers (and scuba divers, as if snorkeling weren't enough). They kind of wouldn't take no for an answer and before I knew it, I was swimming out to Snoopy Island and snorkeling.

There were some hitches, like how I didn't have fins, and how I was somehow completely incapable of de-fogging my mask, but I saw some awesome underwater scenes and I more or less figured out the breathing thing. In fact, I believe my Christmas present this year will be my very own fins/mask/snorkel. I enjoyed it that much.

I'm so glad I went snorkeling and I'm so glad for friends who weren't afraid to push me beyond my comfort zone...but still like me even if I failed. That's the best kind of peer pressure.

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Book ideas for gifts

I might post my book-related lists/favorites earlier than normal this year because it occurred to me that such information might be useful for people giving books as gifts. For starters, here is a list of book recommendations I came up with earlier this year for the members of my family. Maybe you can extrapolate these recommendations for people in your own family. I've put some of the reading characteristics I took into consideration inside parentheses. The main point was not that *I* loved them (though most of these I liked at least very much), but that I thought *they* would love them, or at least enjoy them. (Full reviews of all of these books are somewhere on my blog if you feel like searching for them.)

Jeremy (non-fiction, international, crazy): Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight, by Alexandra Fuller.

My dad (non-fiction, historical, dealing with a place/time he experienced himself): Deception, by Edward Lucas.

Friday, December 07, 2012

December 7th, outsourced

There are over 200 bodies on Mt. Everest, and they're used as landmarks. [HT Scotty]

I guess I'm just a 14-year-old boy at heart because I find the idea of this facebook prank HILARIOUS.

I love The Piano Guys and I love their latest rendition of a Christmas song (O Come, Emmanuel).

My favorite version of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" is the Shrek version and also Brian Crain's instrumental version and also Allison Crowe's. I don't like Alexandra Burke's version at all, sorry. How about you?

Check out the generation charts in this article about why parents don't name their girls Mary anymore.

If you ever feel like stirring up vaccination debates, here's a great pro-vaccine article.

The Atlantic's 2012 in pictures.

You might think you'll just sit down and casually watch or skim a few minutes of this 13-minute video about driving in Russia. WRONG. You will click for the HD version and make it full-screen and watch the whole dang thing. It is just that crazy. [HT Andrew]

Did you know that some colleges require swimming skills in order to graduate? It's true (Cornell is one of them). [HT Liz]

I just want to point out two things: one, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints now has a website dedicated to issues of same-sex attraction; and two, the statement on the front page that "individuals do not choose to have such attractions" is, as far as I can tell, an almost entire reversal of what the church's standing was as recently as 10 years ago.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Bridget elsewhere

I've showed up in a few different places recently.

I had a guest post at Poetry Sans Onions - it was a reprint of my American Mormon post from a few months back. Thanks for having me on your blog, Julia!

I had my very first academic publication come out at the very end of November. It was a book review that appeared in TESOL Arabia's Perspectives journal. Even though it's "just" a book review, I'm pretty thrilled. Despite my best efforts, I have not been able to obtain a copy of the issue or even a picture of a copy of an issue (I left my camera at home, then the scanner wasn't working, then I had to give back the copy I borrowed, etc.). Just take my word for it that it's the best book review EVER.

Finally, I was involved in two PR pieces produced by the American University of Sharjah last semester (that's the fun of being a minority here). The first one has yet to see the light of day, but the second one appeared last week. You can find it here (it's a video). A few notes:

1. Yes, it says Bridget Plamer. But the fact that the "typo" is perpetuated in a few places makes me think that they think that's actually my name. The interesting thing is that when Jeremy got his AUS business cards two years ago, they misspelled Palmer the exact same way. Huh.

2. Uh, they told me they would edit it more. We did several takes and I knew I had some weird hesitations in there but I thought they would cobble together a best version. I guess not.

3. HOWEVER: I am so glad they cut out one part. At the end of each take, they had me look at the camera and say something like "Welcome to AUS - see you around!" The impression I got was that they would then do a supercut of each interviewee saying the same thing. I haven't yet seen that supercut but I kind of hope it never comes into existence.

4. I love love love that there is an Awkward Kristin moment going on in the background of my interview at the very beginning. Because yeah, we were filming in a computer lab and there were tons of people there just trying to mind their own business when me and a camera crew barged in.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

UAE 41st National Day

Sunday was UAE National Day. I guess even the non-Islamic holidays are unpredictable, because at the last minute the government gave us Monday off as well as Sunday. (This is quite a reversal from our first year here, when, if I recall correctly, we didn't get any holiday at all.) The university had to scramble to accommodate the unanticipated day off and so now there is a Saturday at the end of December that has been declared to be a Monday, for teaching purposes. And I thought only the BYU did stuff like that.

On the Thursday before the holiday, both girls dressed up for school. Miriam wore a green t-shirt because they asked her to (I think they made some kind of human flag design) and Magdalena dressed up because UAE National Day is inexplicably her most favorite holiday. She asks about it all year long. I think it's because National Day is the most visible holiday around here, as far as decorated public spaces go - you can't go outside without seeing fancy flags and car decals everywhere. Every other vehicle on the road looks like this (image from last year, at the Dubai Mall parking garage):

We had a great four-day weekend and I'm sure Magdalena is already looking forward to National Day next year.

Monday, December 03, 2012


(The NaBloPoMo, it is complete. Thanks to everyone who posted a lot this month. I really enjoyed reading your stuff! Especially my family members' blogs. Steven, please write more next year, thanks.)

Last week I went to the doctor because I had been feeling so tired all the time. I get enough sleep and I eat good food and I exercise, so I was all prepared to not take any crap from the doctor about improving my diet or going to bed earlier or whatever. Something about my body was just off. I thought maybe it was low iron (hemoglobin) since I've been anemic before and it felt like this.

I talked with the doctor and of course the first thing she asked me is if I was pregnant (no). Then she went ahead and had the lab take some blood to test for my iron levels or even thyroid abnormalities.

In the 24 hours between having my blood drawn and getting the results, I hoped fervently that my hemoglobin level would be so fantastically low that it would explain why I've been feeling awful lately. When the clinic told me that the results were normal (12 - at the low end of the acceptable range, which is 12-16), I was so sad. Because that means I can't just take iron pills and feel better.

Well. Also last week, I taught a unit to my students about stress management. Part of the chapter talked about the ways stress can manifest itself in your body, mind, or emotions. As I read through the list with my students, I had a flashback to that scene in Groundhog Day where Bill Murray realizes he fits a list of characteristics perfectly.

Tired, on edge, prone to illness - so maybe I'm just stressed? On the surface I don't feel stressed but maybe my emotions and body are trying to tell me otherwise. I'll see how I feel after I get over this cold...and after this semester ends. In the meantime, has anyone else just felt tired all the time, even after adequate sleep, food, and exercise? How did you get better?

Friday, November 30, 2012

November 30th, outsourced

Let's just get this right out there: if this elevator prank happened to me, I would either die of fright, or come very close to it. I don't even find this ha-ha funny. I find it horrifying! [HT Andrew]

To cleanse our palates from the above: here is one-pound fish man. There was a guy by the Tushinskaya metro station in Moscow who had a catchy tune about black pepper, but the one-pound fish guy is not too shabby.

OK, hear me out: I was doing some research on YouTube for my Law Enforcement English for Women class and I came across BRITISH Law & Order. It really exists. Here is a snarky promo for it. I WOULD TOTALLY WATCH THIS SHOW.

Pictures of Hitler in disguise (so Allied troops would know what he looked like if he was trying to evade capture). [HT Scotty]

At first I was amazed that Amazon's warehouses look like this. But now that I think about it: OF COURSE they do. They sell everything. [HT Scotty]

My friend Hani wrote this week about his conversations with his mother in Gaza.

(The following link has some graphic photos and content.) Until further notice, Maria Santos Gorrostieta is the bravest woman ever. God rest her soul. [HT Liz]

(In case you don't want to click through to the above, which tells the whole story, you can click here for a shorter, less graphic version.)

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Three fat books and a skinny one

Catherine the Great: Portrait of a WomanCatherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman by Robert K. Massie

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Four stars, but only just.

I was puzzled even as I was fascinated by this book, especially the first half. Where was the discussion of sources, the synthesis of different accounts of this woman's life? Instead, I found an amazingly smooth, utterly readable account of Sophia/Catherine that was informative even as its origins were entirely opaque. There is only one point in the book where a major source and its provenance are openly discussed, and alternative interpretations given. Otherwise, we just take everything at Massie's word.

But it's a very good word, really. The first half of the book is a stellar re-telling of Catherine's life. Once she (spoiler alert! ha ha) becomes empress, the story slows down a bit and moves forward a decade or more in jumps and starts. There is an entire chapter on the French Revolution, for example, that has very little to do with Catherine herself - the focus moves entirely away from her.

I'm making it sound like I liked it less than I did. Very good, just a little puzzling at times, that's all. I would have liked less conjecture accepted as fact and more open discussion of who said what and why. That's just more my style.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Khaliji hijab bumps

The ladies here love to exaggerate the shape of their head under the hijab by poofing their hair with gigantic flower clips. The stylist in this series of photographs has a hijab bump. I see bigger ones around campus every day. This is helpful to know so that when you go to a store that sells hair accessories and you see those huge flower clips, you know what they're for. In fact, you will hardly ever see the flower clips themselves out in public, because as far as I know, their main purpose is to be concealed under the hijab. You can see a tutorial for the Gulf (khaliji) hijab style here to get a better idea of what I'm talking about.

Today we were at The Discounts (some super awesome dollar-store type places in Ajman) looking for UAE National Day swag and I saw some of the biggest flower clips I've ever seen. Magdalena agreed, reluctantly, to model them for me so you can get an idea of their scope.

 I promise you, this is one clip. ONE.

Magdalena is not impressed.

So now you know what's hiding out under those hijab bumps. In case you were wondering.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Two things teeth

1. We found a great pediatric dentist for the girls in Dubai. At first, I was taking them to the minimalist, cheap, no-frills dentist in Sharjah but they weren't having it (that is to say, they were terrified of going to the dentist). So I found a nice, cushy dentist for them, a sweet Iraqi American lady who knows how to work with kids. She's amazing. Magdalena had a small cavity earlier this month and the dentist filled it in about eight minutes total, without using anesthetic, and Magdalena sat still during the whole thing. Here she is inspecting the dentist's work.

2. Miriam lost her sixth tooth today. When I was a kid, I remember wiggling my loose teeth all the time with my tongue or finger, so the whole process (slightly loose to lost and out of my mouth) was over in a few days. Not so with Miriam. She barely wiggles her loose teeth so they hang on by a thread for weeks and weeks. The usual pattern is that after it gets to be too hard for her to eat, she works up enough courage to have Dad pull the tooth out. Or, as was the case today, she just yanked it out herself, while watching Dad's softball game. Whatever works!

Monday, November 26, 2012

The best books about birth

I sometimes get emails from friends and family asking me to recommend books about childbirth. Here is my short list of books worth picking up.

A Midwife's StoryA Midwife's Story by Penny Armstrong

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A lovely book with a very genuine and earnest voice. I'm not sure I would be entirely comfortable reading this book if I were a die-hard hospital birther, but on the other hand I think it has the potential to change some minds, or soften some viewpoints, and that's a good thing. This book's peek at the lives of both a midwife and the Amish is fascinating.

The Midwife: A Memoir of Birth, Joy, and Hard TimesThe Midwife: A Memoir of Birth, Joy, and Hard Times by Jennifer Worth

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book is like a less tidy version of Baby Catcher. The stories in The Midwife aren't quite as pat and refined as Baby Catcher's, which they shouldn't be, considering the differences in time and place (post-war East End London vs. modern-day California). But the writing in The Midwife is slightly clunkier, too, which makes the birthing and medical scenes abrupt and visceral.

The stories in this book are at once inspiring, heartbreaking, nauseating, disturbing, and entertaining. But prepare to be shocked - midwifery and medicine among the very poor in 1950s London was a messy business and the author tells it like it is (was).

(Just a note - I somehow ended up with the large-type edition of this book, which broke up the reading experience somewhat. I'll have to read the regular edition someday and see if I like it better. But obviously I liked it quite a bit as it was.)

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Getting sick is no longer the end of the world

Speaking from my experience as both a SAHM and a go-to-work mom, I can definitively say that getting sick is so much more terrifying when you're a SAHM. I remember the days when both my girls were very young and the mere thought of waking up with a scratchy throat filled me with panic, because (and I know you've heard this before) moms don't get to take a day off work. All that stuff you have to do every day when you're a mom? You still have to do it when you're sick. And those people you're dealing with, those tiny, cute people? They don't care if you feel like you got hit by a truck and they will continue to make unreasonable demands.

Contrast this with going in to work, assuming you don't take the day off. Yeah, you still have to do stuff but at least you're surrounded by people who possess the powers of reasoning.

The point is, I'm sick, and this actual conversation happened via phone between Jeremy and me this afternoon:

Jeremy: How are you feeling?
Me: Pretty awful.
Jeremy: Why don't you stay home from class tonight, then?
Me: Because I will get more "rest" sitting in class than I will being at home.

TRUE. Being sick doesn't scare me at all when I'm heading in to teach a class at 8am or sitting through one of my own in the afternoon/evenings. It scares me when it's just me and the girls, mano a mano, plus a whole pile of housework to do and dinner to be cooked.

Which reminds me of another benefit of having a nanny - I can let all that housekeeping stuff really and truly slide, and just rest if I need to. Plus, tonight I was all set to plow my way through making a high-effort dinner when Carol (the nanny) reminded me that I had made two pizzas last week and one of them was still in the freezer, ready to be popped in the oven. Bless you forever, Carol. Bless you and your superior memory.

In conclusion, it's not fair that I'm sick because I was already sick this season. I get sick once in the fall and once in the spring, like clockwork, but this is round two for Fall 2012 and I'm not happy about it. I was sick in early October and feeling pretty smug about it because I got it out of the way so soon. Hmph.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Tips for the Primary Presentation

Once a year, the children of our local church congregation (the Primary class) put on a - show? presentation? program? concert? play? - for the rest of us. It's mostly speaking parts about what they've learned in the last year, interspersed with the songs they've been practicing for the last year. This is my favorite day of church ever. It's so unpredictable. Think about it: you get to sit there and watch what happens when they give a 3-year-old a microphone and a captive audience. You just never know what could happen. Which kid will pick his nose the whole time, in front of everyone (there's always one)? Which kid will sing tunelessly at the top of his lungs? Which kid will yell into the microphone? Which kid will recite his part perfectly and in such a heartfelt manner that it brings tears to your eyes? You can see why it's my favorite Friday of the whole year.

Or at least it used to be, before I was in charge of the dang thing. It's not quite so ha-ha funny when I'm the one who's supposed to be putting forth at least marginal effort toward making sure so-and-so doesn't pick his nose the whole time. This is my second year in charge. Here are a few things I've learned about writing/planning a Primary Presentation. Before you read it, keep in mind that it's too late for suggestions from you, at least for this year's presentation, because our last practice is finished and the real thing is this Friday. Note to self: write this post earlier next year (assuming I am not fired after this week's performance).

1. If you're going to have the kids write their own parts, maybe just don't. I thought it would be great if I wrote a sort of skeleton script with a sentence or two of pre-scripted background and then a prompt for the kids to fill in themselves. However, that led to a lot of extra hassle and work because not all the kids (or kids' parents) followed through. Then the teachers and I had to do it, and re-type it in the script, and re-print it out practically every week, etc. etc. etc. In the end it worked out OK, but I will think long and hard before doing that again. That said, sometimes you get awesome stuff from the kids' own little hearts, like one girl saying that one of the good things about agency is "the blessings of the mind." Not sure what that is, exactly, but the girl says it like she means it, so.

2. If you're working with a standard Mormon chapel this probably isn't a problem for you, but in our re-purposed residential villa, my mind has been running in circles trying to figure out how to make sure all the kids fit in the space in front of the congregation, and make sure everyone can see them, and make sure they are in order so that they can present nice and civilized-like without stumbling all over each other. Please note that achieving all this is IMPOSSIBLE. Next year I might just have the kids appear in the script in order of age so that they will also sit in order of age. That way, the big kids won't be in the way of the little kids. At least in theory. Sigh.

3. Some kids just can. not. sit. still. No. matter. what.

4. I try not to make a big deal of the tiniest kids actually saying their part during the practices. The fact is, some kids will get up and say their part perfectly every week in practice and then choke on the day of the actual performance. Or, as Miriam did when she was 5, they will never once say their part during practice and then perform brilliantly on the actual day. Whatever. Most of us are just happy to see our kid up there. And let's be honest with ourselves: even when our kids say their parts, the truth is we can't always understand the actual words they uttered.

I can't wait for Friday! I also can't wait for be over, you know what I mean?

Friday, November 23, 2012

November 23rd, outsourced

Are they still talking about the Petraeus affair? Until Colbert laid it all out for me, I didn't realize how soap-opera-like it all was.

These hosts of an ESPN show purposely crammed their segment full of quotes from The Princess Bride. Very cute.

Videos you've probably seen, oh, EVERYWHERE ELSE by now: Other things that security cameras see, and Dumb Ways to Die.

McKayla Maroney and her Not Impressed face...with the President. [HT Jessie]

31 kids who are too clever for their own good.

I didn't know AC/DC was from Australia until a few months ago. That's (partially) because "regional dialects tend to get lost in song" - all singers basically sound American. [HT Scotty]

If you're not too full of caring about war these days, what with Gaza and Syria, think about That Other War.

Seeing these old photographs in color makes more of a difference than you'd think - this stuff really happened in color!

In the UAE, I don't need permission from Jeremy to leave the country. However, he gets a text message whenever I go through passport control. (Interestingly, when the kids go through passport control, I get the text message.) I'm not sure why that didn't come up in this article about the same thing happening in Saudi - are the women being prevented from leaving, or are the husbands just being informed?

In case you need to get that "Dumb Ways to Die" song out of your head, here is William Shatner singing about deep-fried turkeys. Mmmmmm. [HT Yvonne]

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thanksgiving 2012

Just like last year, I was proctoring a midterm exam until after 5pm on Thanksgiving. Festive? No. But Thanksgiving dinner sure was nice when it finally came. Today, I'm grateful for friends to celebrate holidays with when we are far away from family. Happy Thanksgiving!
Our friend (and Thanksgiving hostess) Candy helping Magdalena glue her "thankful leaf" on the "thankful tree."

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

My post-death list of DVDs to watch

Jeremy and I have this idea that after we die, we'll be able to check out the DVDs of our lives as well as any other event that ever happened on earth. For example, there was this one time while we were dating that we went hiking in the mountains near Provo fairly soon after a fire there had disrupted wildlife habitats, pushing more wild animals into areas usually only frequented by humans. After a few hours, we were almost to our destination when ahead of us on the trail, from behind some bushes, came the sounds of a really large animal. We turned around and ran back down the mountain and although it was the right thing to do, we have wondered ever since: what was behind that bush? Was it a mountain lion, like we thought? Or was it a deer or even just a pack of energetic squirrels? The DVD of that hike (from a different perspective, obviously) is high up on our list of scenes from our own lives to check out after we die, so we can finally KNOW.

On the list of events at large to watch on DVD:
- seriously, what happened to Amelia Earhart?
- what really happened to those campers in Russia in 1959?
- how about the Tunguska event?
- what did "CROATOAN" mean, anyway?

Etc. You get the idea. The possible survival of Anastasia Nikolaevna used to be on my list, but I'm pretty sure that they've since proved that she was buried in a mass grave in Siberia along with her family. I'm glad that's cleared up.

What's on your list of things to check out on DVD after you die?

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Anniversary the 11th

We're sitting next to each other watching a Bad Lip Reading of Twilight:

It does not get any better than this. Except maybe on Saturday, aka Jeremy & Bridget's Anniversary (Observed). Here's hoping.

Monday, November 19, 2012

The best movie soundtrack

I'm not referencing my iTunes library as I write this so it's possible I'm missing something obvious, but is Top Gun the best movie soundtrack or what??
It is a fact that listening to the soundtrack for Top Gun will make you more excited to do whatever it is you have to do. I have used Top Gun to get me fired up for driving on the crazy roads in Oman, when working really hard in spinning class, and to give me courage for a dentist appointment. Plus, if I ever become a figure skater, the Top Gun anthem will be the music for my long program. OH YEAH.

I listened to Top Gun a lot as a kid - like A LOT. That's how I know ALL the lyrics to ALL the songs, even the ones that didn't make sense to six-year-old me. Actually, I can sing along phonetically to the entirety of Take My Breath Away but I guess I don't know the "words" per se - does anyone? "Never hesitating to become a favorite was"? "Haunted by the notion somewhere there's a love that inflames"?

What's your favorite movie soundtrack? Besides Top Gun, of course.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

The nanny life

I'm sure the duties of a nanny vary from family to family. Here's a little more about our nanny situation.

The nanny herself. She's from the Philippines, she's the mother of three grown children, and she has a college degree in finance. A young, childless, semi-English speaker was not a deal-breaker for us when we were thinking of desirable qualities in a nanny, but now that we have Carol, I am so grateful for what she is. I like having an experienced mom around who can take care of the kids even when they're sick. Also, it's so nice to be able to speak normal English to/around her. Plus, she can help the girls with their homework.

Her duties. It's hard to choose a favorite thing that our nanny does for us, but aside from the general housecleaning/laundry she does, I love that Carol gets up in the morning to help get the kids ready for school. When I was doing it all by myself, it was lonely to be the only adult awake, slicing apples and filling bowls with cereal and zipping up backpacks while trying to get myself ready, too. It's much more cheerful and efficient with Carol around. And yes, she packs my kids' lunches. That was a hard task for me to give up on an emotional level, but I've come to terms with it and I'm grateful for it every day.

Another favorite thing is when I come home from class at 8pm and the downstairs is tidied up, clean, dinner put away, lights dimmed, quiet. Upstairs, the girls have taken a bath and brushed their teeth and are tucked in bed with jammies on, ready for a story. It is the best feeling in the world.

Also a good feeling: those days when I have to leave for a meeting and Jeremy is working late and Carol is there to fill in the childcare gap. I used to have to trek them over to a babysitter's house, or trek over the babysitter to our house, or drag the girls to campus. It is so nice to be able to just have them stay at home so they're not always being pulled to and fro.

Her days off. She has every Friday off, but every once in a while she leaves on Thursday night after the girls are in bed. Sometimes I wonder if she's bored with us because we don't host as many social events as her previous employers, but I like to imagine she's relieved at the lighter workload. I'm glad she has a day off every week for her sake, but also for ours. It's a nice chance for us to just hang out and be ourselves, as a family.

Her pay. We pay her well. Could we have hired a nanny for a lot less, like half as much? Yes. But I wanted to pay a good living wage to Carol, who is a widow with three grown children to care about and lend money to :). Also, as stated above, she is experienced, educated, and she speaks English well, all of which up the asking price, as it were.

Challenges. I love the "nanny life," but that doesn't mean everything is perfect. Every once in a while, I wish Carol would do things differently. The key is choosing your "battles" - what do you care enough about to mention? For example, when I was in charge of the laundry, I had a very particular way of folding our undergarments (weird, I know, but Jen might know what I'm talking about). Carol doesn't do it that way, but I've decided not to care. Even trying to teach helpful details can come across as nit-picky and it's not a big enough deal to bring up. On the other hand, after a few weeks of her working for us, I noticed she was using hot water (90C) to wash all the clothes. That was important enough (to me) to bring to her attention.

If you have any questions, please ask!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

How we stay in touch

How do you stay in touch with family members who live very, very far away? Well, we're not exceptionally good at it, but here are the ways we help our kids remember who their grandparents, cousins, and aunts/uncles are.

1. Blogs. The girls each have a blog. Most of their cousins have blogs. It is so nice to be able to log in and see pictures from our family members in the US whenever we want.

2. Videochat. That's what we call it in our house - maybe there's a better name for it? Technically, we use Google Hangout, via our Gmail accounts. We don't do this as often as I would like to. Our kids (and some of the cousins) are still at the age where it holds their attention, but after a while they just start typing crazily on the keyboard and making faces at the camera and running around the room. Still, it's good to see each other, even if not much meaningful conversation goes on.

My favorite recent videochat experience was on Wednesday morning when we videochatted with Grandma Walker (my mom) as well as my brother and his wife and three kids (maybe only two were present, though - I couldn't really tell through the chaos of excited kids) and beloved dog. I had the videochat going on my laptop so when Miriam's bus came, I followed her out the door and all the cousins got to see her get on the bus. Priceless.

3. Spying on us at church. I think it's mostly only my family who does this. The services we attend in Sharjah are broadcast over the web to isolated pockets of Mormons who don't have access to a regular congregation. My parents know the URL and watch the beginning of our meetings sometimes - they can see us walk in and greet friends and play the piano or whatever.

4. Cards/packages in the mail. This doesn't happen that often, since mail from the US to the UAE is both expensive and slow. But every once in a while, we get an envelope "package" with stickers or small, lightweight, thin crafts for the girls to do. Jeremy's mom and sister Sarah are the ones who usually put these together. It's always a happy day when we get a letter from the US.

5. Weekly emails. My family recently started this one - each week my parents start a general mass email to me and my siblings (and a few of the older grandchildren) talking about anything, everything, or nothing - just whatever. Then everyone pitches in over the week until a new one starts. For me, it's all nicely stacked up in one conversation in Gmail. It's a nice way to hear news from my siblings without anyone feeling like they have to start their own email just to share a small piece of news or a good experience from the week.

My friend Anna (an American living in Germany) posted a great keep-in-touch strategy on her blog that I would love to try: videos of grandparents reading a story. What a great idea!

Even though we don't see each other in person every year, the above strategies keep us from feeling like strangers when we do see each other.

Friday, November 16, 2012

November 16th, outsourced

Why doesn't James Bond ever go to really dangerous countries?

You guys, I remember when this WAS the internet: an AOL commercial from 1995.

This (Agnes DeMille/Aaron Copeland + Gangnam Style) is even weirder than that time someone did a mashup of the themes from The X-Files and Downton Abbey.

Five men rescued four people from a fire at a villa in Ras al Khaimah last week.

Eastern/Western perspectives on learning. I recall hearing this idea years ago and it really stuck with me, to the point that I never (or seldom) tell my kids to their face that they're smart or intelligent. I want them to know that learning is hard work.

Track Romney's Facebook de-likes in real time. [HT Crys]

Hahahaha, describing a spaceship using only the first thousand words. [HT Andrew]

Six real-life horror movies. [HT someone...can't remember who, sorry]

Jeremy and I actually lost sleep for laughing so hard at this late at night the other day. [HT Scotty]


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