Saturday, March 31, 2012

Post-apocalyptic angels, illegal chocolate, 1861, and an invaded Australia

(I said it last March and I'll say it again - watch how quickly I start bingeing on the YA when my assigned MA reading gets heavy.)

Angelfall (Penryn & the End of Days, #1)Angelfall by Susan Ee

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

(4.5 stars.)

This book is NOT what you think it is. Unless you think it is a book set in present-day, 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. If that's what you're expecting, then yes, this book is what you think it is.

Angelfall was pretty awesome, to be honest, but it got a little wild at the end. Still, it was engrossing enough to make me confused when I walked outside and saw that I was not living in the book's world. That's a sure sign of a good read. I just love that the author was probably like, "Hmm, dystopian novels are really big these days. But so are books about angels. Hey, that gives me an idea...!"

Be warned that there is a lot of violence in this book. There is also, however, an unusually satisfying scene (unusual because YA heroines are not often allowed to act this way) in which the heroine gives a jerk what he deserves, without any men swooping in to help her. Aaah, it feels so good.

View all my reviews

Friday, March 30, 2012

March 30th, outsourced

I finally watched this commercial after about fifty of my friends linked to it. So chances are, you've seen it already. If not, behold the impeccable comic timing and clever catch phrases of Dollar Shave Club.

Ah, Wegmans. I miss you.

Loved The Muppets. Loved reading about Bret McKenzie writing the songs for The Muppets. I'm going on seven days of having those songs stuck in my head (in a good way).

I knew someone was going to show me how to do my hair in a Katniss braid! Is this hairstyle showing up everywhere in the US yet??? I can't wait to try it.

Downton Arby's. Ha ha. [HT Lili]

Here's an interesting Mormon-focused article about baby names. The name story in the third-to-last paragraph is one of the most bizarre name-related things I've ever heard.

I was really excited to watch this video of AUS Global Day 2012 to see if our family made an appearance. Then I remembered that when the camera was on us (by the Syrian ice cream cone vendor) I happened to be in the middle of sternly refusing an ice cream cone to a whining Miriam. So no wonder they didn't include that footage.

Everything I read in this article I already knew from watching Veggie Tales (but it was an interesting article).

The story of the California Iraqi woman being killed is a bigger news deal than Trayvon Martin over here. I'm glad I can access American newspapers online to keep up with what is going on. I read this article in the NYT and I cannot for the life of me get over this passage:

For Deanna Smith, a retired teacher who brought her 12-year-old granddaughter to a march for the Martin family in Atlanta this week, it is merely about standing up against racism. She also brought a big bag of Skittles. She does not mind that the company is making money from her purchase. The cause is more important.“He was so innocent,” she said. “Just getting candy from the store.”And after the march, they ate the Skittles.“There was no reason to let candy go to waste,” she said.
Is that supposed to be poignant? Or funny? Because it kind of made me giggle. (Just that part of the article, nothing else.)

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

I'm having a Me Party

Jeremy's been out of town since the middle of the night on Saturday. He gets back soon enough that I think it's safe to blog about his absence. I can't wait to see him, both because I miss him and because I never sleep well when he's gone. Every little noise in the house freaks me out and it doesn't help that Magdalena sometimes comes wandering into my room at 11pm. She did that last night and it almost gave me a heart attack. For once, it was not just my imagination that those noises I was hearing meant that someone was walking down the hallway into my room. Gah.

My Me Party has consisted of eating (halal-modified) Baked Potato Soup every lunch and dinner since Monday until it ran out this afternoon, and then having Citrus-Pomegranate Quinoa salad for dinner tonight. (Dinner time at our house is more often than not brought to you by Our Best Bites.) I've been wanting to make that salad for a while, and I was so excited when I accidentally found quinoa at Carrefour after months of searching. Turns out they keep it by the diabetic stuff, not by the couscous, or pasta, or barley, or mexican food, or rice, all of which places I checked. Instead, it's right by the sugar-free chocolate. How logical.

I've tried to make the best of my Me Party, but I can't wait until Jeremy gets home! Rumor has it he's bringing with him several Cadbury-based Easter candy products (he's been in London). Woohoo!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

A U-shaped curve of development

We've finished up First Language Acquisition in my LA class and are moving on to Second Language Acquisition. As part of our study of L1, each of us had to do a child language observation. We had to choose a child between the ages of 0-7 (by age 7, most aspects of the basic framework of spoken language have fully developed) and then choose a specific feature of language to investigate. We did this by either replicating a language elicitation device from the literature or coming up with something on our own. Then we had to write up the entire experiment, complete with results analysis. It was required that we film our interaction with the child.

Of course I chose Magdalena - I have easy access to her and she is already accustomed to my presence, so I figured an observation would be cake. Unfortunately, it didn't turn out that way. I had a hard time getting her to produce the language samples I needed. Specifically, I was testing her progress along what is called a U-shaped curve of development.

Something interesting that young kids do during the course of figuring out their native language is make progress by taking a few steps backwards. At an early age, they can produce correct irregular past-tense verb forms such as went, without understanding that it is an irregular past-tense verb form. They're just slapping together unanalyzed (but correct) chunks of language that they've heard their interlocutors use.

After a while, however - right around Magdalena's age and a little older - the kids have a "wait a second..." moment when they realize that verbs in English are supposed to form the past tense by adding +ed at the end. So then they produce incorrect (but painstakingly analyzed) language such as goed, because they've overgeneralized the +ed past-tense verb ending to apply to ALL verbs in English.

A little later, they'll figure out that certain verbs have an irregular form that needs to be used, and they swing up the other side of the U-shaped curve of development and produce went again. This time, however, they're producing it correctly on purpose. They're not just imitating what they've heard others say. They've analyzed the situation and figured out that the went form needs to block the incorrect goed form.

Pretty neat, huh? I was all ready for Magdalena to bust out all kinds of incorrect verb+ed forms, like holded, bringed, finded, drawed, etc., because that's what stage she is approaching, age-wise. But when it came down to actually filming the experiment, she did weird things like say, "Yesterday, the boy go to school." I could have sworn she doesn't really talk like that in real life. However, as I transcribed the things she was saying, I was shocked at how kid-like her speech really is. I never realized how much I took into account body language and tone and inference and context when interpreting her speech. Put on paper, kids' language really is quite patchy, unclear, and riddled with errors.

(It's not just kids, though. In The Language Instinct, Steven Pinker talks about how one of the most damning sentences Nixon produced on the Watergate recordings was, "For your immediate thing you've got no choice with Hunt but the hundred and twenty or whatever it is." That sentence doesn't make sense on paper, does it? But with intonation and pauses and context added in, it was completely clear to to the person he was talking to.)

Anyway, I was sad that Magdalena ended up not being a textbook illustration of the U-shaped curve of development, but I concluded in my report that she's probably just starting to move away from the correct, unanalyzed forms like went and is on her way to the incorrect, analyzed goed. My experiment with her happened to catch a snapshot of a few days of her language development, that's all.
As a reality check, here's what it's like working with a 3.5-year-old in a language experiment. This was even after I'd changed the original elicitation technique to try to hold her attention more. Sigh.

Monday, March 26, 2012

8 terrifying movies from childhood

The Deseret News ran a piece on "40 dark movies made for kids" the other day. I went through the list and even though half of it seemed to be made up of the Harry Potter films, there were quite a few that I actually saw in my own childhood, and yes, they were terrifying to me:

Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory
Raiders of the Lost Ark
The Watcher in the Woods
Something Wicked This Way Comes
Return to Oz
The Neverending Story
The Secret of NIMH
Jurassic Park

I do take issue with the article's assertion that all of these movies were "made for kids," though. Just because they were rated PG does not mean they were made for kids, at least if they were made before 1984ish, when the PG-13 rating was created to bridge the (huge!) gap between PG and R. Furthermore, it's not like my parents sat me down in front of these movies right before bedtime and intended me to watch them. I saw Willie Wonka at a church activity. A babysitter let my siblings and me watch Raiders of the Lost Ark, with special emphasis on the face-melting scene. I think I saw The Neverending Story when my grandma was in charge of us kids one evening.

The Watcher in the Woods and Something Wicked This Way Comes, on the other hand, were standard, parent-approved slumber party fare in my day.

I seem to recall watching Return to Oz with my family. Perhaps they interpreted my silence during the film as my acceptance of its material and an ability to work it into the safe idea of life I had constructed for myself. WRONG. My silence meant terror.

I read the book of The Secret of NIMH before I watched the movie, but it was still freaky. I had forgotten about it until recently, though, when I checked the DVD out of the library and started watching it with my girls. We turned it off after about 12 minutes. Some little friends were watching it with us, so now they'll have their own "the babysitter let us watch that movie" experience to look back on when they're older.

Jurassic Park must have marked my passage into adulthood because I remember being terrified by it, but it was also AWESOME.

Not on The Deseret News list, but other terrifying movies from childhood:
The Fugitive - watched it late at night when we stumbled upon a free HBO preview while my parents were out.
Flowers in the Attic. Yeah.
The Ring - oh wait, I was an adult when I saw this one, but yes, it terrified me and I couldn't sleep for weeks.

Speaking of movies for kids, we watched The Muppets on Saturday. I want to issue an apology to everyone I have interacted with since Saturday afternoon. If you thought I was teaching your class, or attending to our conversation, or writing up child language observation reports, you were mistaken: I was thinking about this movie. And singing the songs in my head. And sometimes out loud. One of my friends actually said to me at one point, "Do you know you are whistling?" Uh, sure. I totally knew I was whistling "Life's a Happy Song" out loud.

Find a way to see The Muppets. It is a gem of a movie. And not terrifying at all.

Friday, March 23, 2012

March 23rd, outsourced

This blog post by Stephen Wolfram (of Wolfram|Alpha), detailing the um, details of his life, is astonishing. ASTONISHING. [HT Ashi]

You might think you're not interested in reading an article about cookbook ghostwriters. I think you will be interested in reading an article about cookbook ghostwriters.

By Common Consent made me laugh a lot this week. Be sure to check out the FB link mentioned in comment #3.

This "Who is Your Downton Dreamboy?" quiz is so clever it will make you cry.

This really is the best wedding announcement ever! I love it. Too bad I can't remember who linked to it...sorry.

My Hunger Games name is Aimee Boggledeen. Awesome. [HT Eric D. Snider]

There is no way I can explain what this is, or why it's funny. You either get it, or you don't. (Your chances of getting it are increased if you ever turned on PBS as a kid in the 80s/90s looking for Sesame Street or Mr. Rogers but this was on instead.) I hope you get it, because it's hilarious. [HT Ken Jennings]

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Zinedine Zidane as a paragon of Islam in the West

We had this semester's round of student presentations this week. I think it's my favorite week of the year. The presentation prompt is to choose someone successful who you admire, and talk about how they may have used the principles we've learned in class to get to where they are. I didn't have quite as much variety this time as last time, but we still had a good mix of sisters, mothers, fathers, and uncles, as well as more famous people.

The most interesting choice (two of my students, in different sections, chose him) was Zinedine Zidane.
Of course these young Arab kids love him because he's a football star, but it goes beyond that. One of my Emirati students gave a very compelling presentation on how Zinedine Zidane is a good example of living the religion of Islam in the West. I don't know how accurate a representation of Zidane's practice of Islam this is; me fact-checking my students' presentations was beyond the scope of this assignment. In any case, the students in that classroom seemed to agree with what the presenter was saying.

After the presentation, the students continued to discuss Muslims living outside of the Middle East, particularly in France. They talked about how hard it seemed to be for the members of their faith to live their religion fully in countries where the Muslim tradition is misunderstood, or unappreciated, or even legislated against. One of my students spoke of how moved he was to hear of a Pakistani Muslim in France who volunteered to pay the fine levied on any woman wearing the hijab in public. Others spoke of religious discrimination against friends and relatives in the US or Canada. There was a definite undercurrent of a persecution complex running through the classroom.

And you know what? It was so familiar to me. Mormons are good at this, too. It's hard to get made fun of at school because your parents wear "magic underwear." It's hard to know that there are people out there who will look down on you once they know you're a Mormon. No, we don't drink alcohol. No, we don't have sex before marriage. No, we don't practice polygamy anymore. YES, we're weird.

But unlike my Muslim students, I actually find it easier (in many ways) to live my religion outside the land of its restoration. The truth is, the Middle East is a place where no one thinks it's strange that I dress modestly, or abstain from alcohol and premarital sex, or even that during a certain time in a certain place, members of my faith practiced polygamy. They get it. In fact, if they're weirded out by anything, it's by the fact that I do all these things and I'm not a Muslim.

I think the Mormon persecution complex, like the Muslim one, exists largely in the Western world. So who is our Zinedine Zidane? I can think of a few possibilities. Mitt Romney, because whatever you think of his politics, he is taken seriously in the US despite his religion (see also: Harry Reid). Brandon Flowers, maybe? Who is that person we look at and think wow, even with how awkward and difficult it sometimes is to be a Mormon, especially when you're in the spotlight, [so-and-so] is doing it really well.

(Answers such as Christina Aguilera, Keri Russell, Eliza Dushku, Jewel, Tal Bachmann, etc. may not be accepted.)

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Weather forecast: sand

I posted this on FB a few weeks ago, but it's true again this week. Here's what the weather (and driving) in Dubai is like today:

Well, not quite, of course. We were advised back in December that such weather conditions are extremely unlikely in Dubai. I can't believe that movie lied to us!

But it is pretty sandy. You go outside and it's kind of just...yellow. There's not always sand blowing directly in your face, but it's also not pleasant to be out of doors.

Also, it hasn't rained at all this winter, except for maybe once (and we were in Oman that day). I've only been through two winters in the UAE so I don't know which year was more typical: 2011, when it rained almost every day for a 10-day stretch, and off and on throughout the rest of the season; or this year, when it has been dry dry dry.

I do wish it would rain, for more than just the usual reasons. I think it would go a long way toward clearing the air of this horrible sand! I'll be keeping my fingers crossed.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Traditional American costume

It's the AUS Global Day time of year again, which means that Magdalena's school sent home a note asking for her to come dressed in her country's native costume today. As an American, I have a hard time coming up with something good for days like this. Last year, I dug up some cowboy boots for Miriam and her teacher donated a cowboy hat to the ensemble. This year, I found something vaguely red and white and blue and stripe-y for Magdalena:

And then I face-painted some stars on her to complement the effect.

Her school also asked me what our national sport and national food were. I answered baseball (much to my chagrin), and apple pie. Did I get it right?

Sunday, March 18, 2012

I fell down the stairs today

Sunday/Monday/Tuesday are my super busy days this semester. This morning I had breakfast, and then I didn't get a chance to eat again until 3.38pm, when I was able to allot exactly 7 minutes for some food before leaving for a meeting (and then class until 8pm). However, at 3.37pm, Magdalena peed on the couch. There went my eating time.

So I spent 7 minutes cleaning up pee instead of eating, and packed up a dinner to take with me to the meeting, where I didn't get a chance to discreetly eat it. The meeting was still going at 4.56, but I had to leave to get to class down four flights of stairs and across campus by 5 o'clock. As I ran down the stairs in high heels, my arms were full of two textbooks, my notebook, my (uneaten) sack dinner, two folders, and my purse. So it was an extra spectacular sight when I TOTALLY FELL DOWN THE STAIRS, going from the Mezzanine to the Ground floor. It wasn't even like I slipped gracefully onto my bum. I stumbled and fell forward onto my face, because my arms were so full that I couldn't catch myself. At the end of the fall, my head and torso were located on lower stairs than my feet. It was not pretty.

And I swear to you that nobody ever takes this staircase. It's almost always deserted. The building is five stories tall so most people just say what the heck, I'll take the elevator. But on this occasion, when I fell down the stairs as a full-grown adult, there happened to be two guys right behind me. Of course. They ran over and gathered my things and assisted me to my feet and so help me, I could not even look them in the face, I was so embarrassed. It must have looked pretty bad because they wanted me to sit down for a while. I mumbled something about being late (which was true) and hobbled off to class.

My right shin and left knee hurt so much. I can't wait until the bruises show up tomorrow. At this point I've moved beyond mortification and on to laughing at myself, but I still get a little horrified chill every time I think of what it would have been like if I had been wearing a skirt today. Yikes.

(And for the record, I got to eat my (cold) sack dinner at 6.30 during the class break. Woohoo!)

Friday, March 16, 2012

March 16th, outsourced

Parenting secrets of a college professor (don't worry, she's not going to tell you how much better at parenting a specific other nationality is).

No, this is not 150 years ago: a modern-day North Dakota. [HT Brad]

Feminist Harry Potter. See also: In praise of Joanne Rowling's Hermione Granger series. [HT BCC, and Jen]

Here's an amateur but heartfelt (and hand-based) message to Syria from youth in Chicago.

Do you, like me, hate the Peanuts cartoon strip? Then you might enjoy the subversive humor of 3eanuts.

The US and the UAE treat citizenship so differently. In the UAE, citizenship is granted only if your parents are both Emirati, or if at least your father is. So this article, about the idea of Americans having to earn their citizenship, made me think.

Finally, I leave you with Jon Stewart's words of wisdom (read: insightful mockery of someone saying stupid things) about women in combat. The follow-up Samantha Bee video is worth a watch, too. [HT Lyse]

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Magdalena's language acquisition

Human beings are born with the ability to discriminate between all the different phonemes (sounds) of any language on earth. As we get older - during infancy according to some, a bit later according to others - we lose that ability. The brain is an efficient language-learning machine, and it figures that if you aren't meaningfully exposed to a sound on a regular basis, you don't need to waste resources holding on to the ability to distinguish it from other similar sounds, much less produce it. So you end up with awkward Americans completely unable to trill their Rs, or Japanese people saying "supplies" instead of "surprise," and not knowing the difference.

Arabic is full of those nervous-sweat-inducing phonemes (for the native English speaker). There are two different H sounds, and two different T sounds, two different S sounds, and some sounds that are so weird I can't even compare them to anything that exists in English. With a lot of attention, practice, and imitation, some adult learners of Arabic as a foreign language learn to approximate these sounds well enough, perhaps even in a manner that approaches native-like production. But they'll always sound a little off, you know? Think of Arnold Schwarzenegger, or Henry Kissinger, or Antonio Banderas, or Anna Kournikova - they're obviously quite proficient in English but they produce some of the sounds in English in a way that is clearly not native.

But if you catch kids early enough, it's a different story. Magdalena is suddenly busting out some of those difficult Arabic sounds like a born native. To this linguist's ears, it's stunning. Our poor kids are always having their language analyzed (we have Google Docs for each of them to document the linguistically quirky things they say), so I couldn't help but prompt Magdalena to produce the letter ع.

She says it at 0:12-0:13, and again at 0:32-0:33. It sounds like a deep, strangled 'ah.' And I can't pronounce it anything like she does. Lucky girl, being taught Arabic at age 3. I have to admit, I'm jealous.

(The rest of the video is a bunch of Arabic songs, with Jeremy and Miriam pitching in to help, but they're a bit jumbled. She can't produce spontaneous language as well as she sings these memorized songs, but she sure enjoys singing them! Which reminds me - an Egyptian friend of mine in the MA program observed Magdalena's class as part of a project for Bilingual Education last semester. During Arabic class, my friend actually moved to the front of the room to see Magdalena better, because she could not believe her ears that this little blonde girl was busting out Arabic the way she was. She said it was one of the cutest things she's ever seen. What can I say? Magdalena is a very enthusiastic learner.)

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

How bizarre

Sometimes there are moments in Dubai that are so culturally bizarre that they leave me speechless. This morning, Jeremy and I were at Festival City, riding up the escalator and devoting a portion of our attention to the high school talent show (?) going on in one of the common areas. A teenaged girl was singing a song that sounded vaguely familiar. I must have looked more interested in her singing than I actually was because next thing I knew, the lady behind us on the escalator piped up and said, "Do you know whose song that is? It's Amy Winehouse. I LOVE Amy Winehouse."

Pretty normal exchange, right? Well, shift your paradigm because the lady looked like this:

Yeah, sometimes there are moments in Dubai that leave me speechless.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Looking for The One (plane tickets)

Yes, it's already time to be thinking about summer travel. We're planning on visiting the US for several weeks during July and August, so is my current best friend. And just because the plane tickets are technically paid for by Jeremy's employer doesn't mean the process isn't still incredibly complicated. We get to keep any excess money left over from the ticket allowance, so it's in our best interests to find a good price. We also have plenty of experience flying overseas with kids and so we know what kind of flight we want.

There's an Emirates Airlines DXB-Seattle flight that we are pining after. It's a scant 14 hours long with a subsequent 45-minute hop down to Portland. Can you imagine?!?!?!? Pure luxury. Unfortunately, the price is currently out of our range (almost $3k per ticket). (And you people who live in foreign countries with a direct flight to wherever you travel for the summer, I hate you. It must feel so great to just get off one plane and be there. Sigh.)

Sunday, March 11, 2012

A dearth of good movies

I haven't been to the movie theater since July, so you'd think Jeremy and I would have a whole queue of fresh iTunes movie rentals to enjoy at home every weekend. However, that is not the case. I don't think we've rented a movie since Contagion a few months ago. What is the deal? Are there no good movies out these days? In partial answer to that question, I bring you this Rotten Tomatoes screenshot of the current box office:

Yeah, I guess there are no good movies out these days.

But we must be overlooking something out there. What good movies are available to rent on iTunes (or watch instantly on Netflix, since we accidentally let another month of our "free trial" go by)?

Friday, March 09, 2012

March 9th, outsourced

Literary composite sketches (above is Tess of the D'Urbervilles). I didn't realize so many literary characters were so ugly! My mental Emma Bovary was always beautiful. [HT Jen]

Portlandia continues to amuse me. I won't pretend that I understood all the references in this clip but I got enough to make me laugh pretty hard.

If I ever put a bumper sticker on my car, it will be one of these. [HT Ken Jennings, a few years ago]

This is seriously a serious review of an Olive Garden restaurant in North Dakota. I became more incredulous with each passing paragraph. [HT Eric D. Snider]

I don't think I cry very often at YouTube videos, but...WOAH. [HT BCC]

Confessions of a bad teacher: "Dozens and dozens of teenagers scrutinize my language, clothing and posture all day long, all week long. If I’m off my game, the students tell me. They comment on my taste in neckties, my facial hair, the quality of my lessons. All of us teachers are evaluated all day long, already. It’s one of the most exhausting aspects of our job." AMEN.

I laughed at the first few seconds of this video and thought it was clever...I didn't expect to watch the whole thing and get CHILLS by the end. Happy International Women's Day! [HT Liz]

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Does your hospital waiting room look like this?

I took Miriam to the dermatologist last night. She's had some skin irritation on her scalp for a while so yesterday around noon I called the specialist at the local hospital. They gave me an appointment for 7pm that same day (night). I love the convenient medical/dental hours of operation here, and the almost nonexistent waiting periods for appointments.

Another thing I love about this hospital in particular (it's Royal Hospital in Sharjah) is the über-fancy waiting room.
Maybe I need to start a blog series on Waiting Rooms of the UAE. Miriam and I hardly had to time admire all the gilded decor before it was our turn to go see the doctor. Then we enjoyed some of the other oddities that a visit to the doctor in the UAE can bring, such as:

1. Being accompanied by a nurse the whole time. She walked us to the doctor, assisted the doctor, took care of our paperwork, walked us to the pharmacy, conducted that transaction for us, and then escorted us to the cashier's office to pay for everything. When there was nothing else she could do for us, she smiled at me and said, "I'm leaving now." It's nice to have a personal companion at the doctor's office.

2. Going home with a bucketload of medicine. If you are one of those people who is not really into medicine, particularly for symptomatic relief, well, you might not really like the UAE. If you don't get prescribed five different medications after a consultation with a doctor, then that doctor visit doesn't count. Sometimes I end up not filling all the prescriptions I receive because it's just ridiculous (or I already have three bottles of the stuff sitting at home in the medicine cabinet because of previous doctor visits).

3. Of course, sharing the facilities with people from all over the world. This place is so incredibly diverse I can't even believe it sometimes.

Miriam's scalp is going to be fine but we have a follow-up visit with the dermatologist next week. I look forward to spending some time in the fanciest hospital waiting room I've ever seen!

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Piaget and my kids

One of the classes I'm taking this semester is Language Acquisition. It helps that I have a husband who has two master's degrees AND a PhD in Language Acquisition (or Second Language Acquisition). I've been around this stuff for years now and I like to think I've taken a lot in by osmosis, mostly while sitting on the couch nursing babies while Jeremy studied. Right.

I never really had a handle on Piaget, though, until I had to present his Theory of Cognitive Development to my LA class last week. I ended up spending a lot of time preparing it because I found the stages so fascinating. I especially enjoyed seeking out home videos of my own kids (and a couple of YouTube videos) demonstrating aspects of Piaget's stages. The stages, by the way, are Sensorimotor (0-2 years), Preoperational (2-7 years), Concrete Operational (7-11 years), and Formal Operational (11-16+ years). This was one of those cases where I had a definite advantage over my classmates because I've witnessed my kids go through these stages.

Obviously, a lot happens to a child's brain in those first two years, so the Sensorimotor stage has six sublevels. The first is Simple Reflexes. There's not a lot a 0-6 weeks baby can do except suck, root, and grasp. Here is a video of 10-day-old Magdalena rooting.

Sunday, March 04, 2012

The craziest intersection in Sharjah

I've been mulling this post over in my head for months. Originally, I wanted to take a video camera with me in the car and just drive through this intersection a couple of times to give you an idea of the sheer terror of it. However, I did not do this for two reasons:

1. I am not willing to drive through this intersection for research purposes. Heck, I am hardly willing to drive through this intersection even when it's the only way to get from Point A to Point B.

2. I am afraid that the presence of the camera would distract me enough to render me incapable of devoting my ENTIRE attention to navigating this intersection, and then I would crash and die.

So you get a Google Maps screen shot, sorry. Here is the craziest intersection of Sharjah, in my opinion, in all its glory:
Ta-da! Now, maybe it doesn't look so bad. So let's gather some context.

Friday, March 02, 2012

March 2nd, outsourced

If you, like me, feel the void in your life left by the end of Downton Abbey, then perhaps you, like me, will enjoy reading Vulture's slightly irreverent recaps of each Season 2 episode.

I hope the poor PR intern who wrote the Wheat Thins memo to Stephen Colbert has a great sense of humor, the better to be able to handle the complete mocking of said memo by said Stephen Colbert. Hilarious.

In defense of loitering, from The Atlantic.

When we lived in Syria, Jeremy and I adopted the local habit of sleeping for 5-6 hours, then waking up in the morning, and then taking a long afternoon siesta sleep. I guess it was kind of like this. [HT Jeremy]

It would be great to have babysitters on airplanes, wouldn't it?

WTF QR codes. [HT Andrew]

Five years in Damascus, + hanging the old flag of Syria on a bridge in Mezze. [HT Jeremy]

Thursday, March 01, 2012

This thing is on my front door

I came home from work today and saw THIS abomination camped out on my front door.

For perspective, here is a tube of chapstick placed as close to the moth as Jeremy dared.

I guess it's moth season again. Shudder.


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