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?


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