Thursday, May 31, 2012

Introverts, Titanic, a thriller, Anne, Shangri-La, the madding crowd, and dystopia overload

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop TalkingQuiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If I hadn't already read "Caring For Your Introvert" then Quiet might have been more groundbreaking for me. As it was, I too often found myself nodding my head saying "I already knew this, and I agree. Now let's move on."

However, there is so much value in this book, even if it made me sad sometimes that its message was basically, "the world functions in a way that favors extroverts; here's how you can deal with it enough to not be rendered totally sidelined and underappreciated." Jeremy and I both mentioned how it was depressing to realize, as pointed out by this book, how much the workplace and the social scene and church and cultural norms (in the US, at least) stifle the natural way of the introvert. Basically, introverts are operating in hostile conditions almost all the time.

I appreciated the sections about Self-Monitoring - that really helped me understand the mystery of how I am able to function so well as a pseudo-extrovert when I want/need to. I also loved her idea of a Fair Trait Agreement. If only, if only...

I think Quiet will have the most value for someone who suspects, but doesn't know, that they are an introvert. To them, this book will be a revelation. I think extroverts will also enjoy learning about the "other side." For extroverts with introvert children, there is a whole chapter devoted to your situation (though I could have used a chapter for introvert parents with extrovert children. Poor Magdalena).

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

"A two-lane comfort cruise" - NOT

Every once in a while as they re-do Emirates Road in bits and pieces, they paint over the old lane markers and dot out the new ones. However, they sometimes don't remove the old ones all the way, or they don't dot out the new ones very heavily. The result is a sudden mass confusion about how many lanes there are, and where in the road they start and end. After a few days, whoever is in charge of the painting finishes the job right and the confusion ends. Until then, however, it's even more of a thrill ride than usual on Emirates Road as you're flying down the road at 120kph and suddenly have no idea where you're supposed to be - and neither does anyone around you.

Anyway, the point is that it reminds me of that episode of Seinfeld where Kramer somehow is in charge of repainting some lines on the freeway and he changes a four-lane road into "a two-lane comfort cruise."
Only it's not so fun as Elaine makes out when the road is full of traffic.

PS - this (The Pothole) is one of my favorite Seinfeld episodes, second only to perhaps The Dealership.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Random Syria stories

Let's enjoy some random anecdotes about Syria. I'm in the mood for happy stories from that place.

One time we went to the very south of Syria to visit the ruins in Bosra. We stopped at a small church in Deraa on the way and some total strangers invited us to their house to eat grapes in their courtyard. The grapes were hanging down from a magnificent trellis that spanned the whole length of the courtyard. Look, I know total strangers invite people to do awesome, atmospheric stuff like this all the time, everywhere...but they also kind of don't. It was a singular experience.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Semi-freedom

My last day of teaching this semester was on Thursday. I administer and grade the final exam this week and hold a couple of office hours, too. I also have a few duties for my grad fellowship to finish up. But my own classes and papers are all finished and turned in. I haven't been this un-busy since January.

So this morning was the very first time in my whole life that I sent both girls to school and had almost nothing to do beyond my responsibilities to my own household (during other semester breaks, one or both of the girls has been out of school). It was glorious. I kind of puttered around for about fifteen minutes, flitting from task to task, not sure what I wanted to settle my time on. Then I put on an audiobook and spent two hours cleaning up the sundry messes and piles that have accumulated around the house over the past three weeks. I was so busy during those weeks that I put unorganized piles on shelves and didn't keep up with sorting the kids' artwork and schoolwork (you have to stay on top of that or it takes over your whole house) and stopped making sure the storage area remained navigable and that the junk pile in the laundry room got put away every once in a while. It all had to wait until LATER, and later is now.
The artwork pile.
I'm not done yet. But two hours made a decent dent. And after those two hours, I took a nap.

I can't wait to tackle all the other household projects that I've been putting off until "later." It's going to be a great couple of weeks until my summer course starts up, and I hope I can make the most of it.

Friday, May 25, 2012

May 25th, outsourced

I know you've probably seen this a dozen other places already, but count me in with those who find it funny. My favorite part is the guy at 2:24.

Nicholas Spark's newest book/movie.

The world's most racist job ad. [HT Jeremy]

Thoughts on Mormon modesty. I no longer need to write a post about this because Jessie did an awesome job.

48 things that will make you feel old. Thanks. [HT BCC]

On a related note, here is a slideshow of pictures of things from the 90s. It's pretty wide-ranging: it includes things like 90210 as well as things like Popples.

I found this article about unlimited first-class airline ticket pass holders to be fascinating. I never knew such a thing existed! Too bad it won't exist for too much longer, probably.

Here are two articles about kids, both from the NYT. First, callous-unemotional children. Second, Etan Patz, the first face of a missing child on a milk carton.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Using Google powers for awesome

I came downstairs one morning and Miriam was hard at work on my computer researching My Little Pony. I wondered how she'd found the information she was looking at so I checked the Google search history. She had typed in

how rainbow dash got her cutie mark

and 

pony names

to Google. Nice. While I was looking through the history, I found these other gems from my own Googling.

people talking and not understanding each other. It was something related to a paper I was writing for my Language Acquisition class. I think I was looking for an illustration.

man from snowy river poo sliding off face. Don't you remember that scene? I couldn't remember if it was real or if it was an overactive childhood imagination, so I Googled it. (I didn't find anything conclusive, so I texted my sister instead.)

what time is it on the east coast. Sometimes my brain hurts from converting the time zones all the time and I wanted Google to ease the burden.

half of left pinkie cut off. Ummm, don't ask. Except that maybe someone I've known for almost a year - well, I just barely noticed that half of their left pinkie is cut off.

how old remove back of booster seat. The answer: not yet.

iron turns on won't heat up. Because my iron was doing that.

Anyway, that's what's going on with my Google searches in the past week. Did you realize that Google was saving all your searches? Because I didn't, not really. Yikes.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Olympics are coming

Are you excited about the Olympics? I'm excited about the Olympics.

You can find an overview schedule of the events here. I'm especially excited that we'll be in Oregon for most of it because my parents have TV and a DVR. Watching the 2010 Winter Olympics relying solely on nbc.com videos was touchy and inconvenient and difficult. It will be so nice to watch whatever we want, whenever we want. (FYI, Mom and Dad: I'm planning on watching a lot of Olympics while we're at your house this summer.)

I think I'm most looking forward to gymnastics, swimming, and some track & field. I remember catching some random BMX races in 2008 that were pretty cool, too. Ah, the 2008 Olympics. I watched most of the coverage while sitting in an armchair in our quaint Middlebury living room holding a sleeping/nursing newborn Magdalena in my arms. How time flies.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Filling a gap in my literary repertoire

Never in my whole life had I read any Anne of Green Gables books until last week. When I was a girl, I read a bunch of L. M. Montgomery short stories and they were all kind of syrupy sweet and horribly derivative of each other. So I never picked up her pièce de résistance.

Now, at age thirty, for the first time, I've read Anne of Green Gables, Anne of Avonlea, and Anne of the Island. Here are the verdicts.

I loved Anne of Green Gables. I wish I could have read it as a kid because I think I would have loved it even more. The writing is perfectly descriptive and Anne herself is such a joy of a character. Now I know who Flavia de Luce reminds me of, a little. I have to admit that my imaginings of the book and its characters were helped along by the wonderful TV movie that was made in the 80s. Reading the book made me want to watch the movie all over again. And I suspect that watching the movie would make me want to read the book all over again.

Anne of Avonlea, on the other hand, was such a disappointment. Where the first book was perfectly sweet, this one was cloying. Where the first book was endearingly cute, this one was overly precocious. And so help me, I wanted to punch little Davy in the face every time he appeared on the page. Hmph. I see now why the movie cobbled together characters and plots from this book and reduced their influence on the main story.

Thankfully, Anne of the Island was lovely again. I guess Montgomery figured out what she did wrong in Avonlea and fixed most of those problems (though Davy still makes a few appearances). A few years ago, I made the daring assertion that Anne would have been better off with Morgan Harris rather than Gilbert. A lot of commenters disagreed with me. I now stand corrected. Anne and Gilbert are EPIC. Besides, the movie's Morgan Harris doesn't really exist in the book except as an amalgamation of Royal Gardner and Mr. Irving, so there.

I'm so glad I've filled this particular hole in my literary repertoire!

Friday, May 18, 2012

May 18th, outsourced

Awesomely impractical benches in Belgium and Germany.

Red state/blue state baby names. Re: the last sentence in the article, whatever happened to giving kids names that couldn't be made fun of? I feel like that's not even a consideration anymore. [HT Alyssa]

A professor fools Wikipedia but gets caught by Reddit. Ethics aside, that is a really cool class project.

Stephen Colbert takes a page from By Common Consent's book and takes a hard look at subtlety in John McNaughton's paintings.

Epic Tea-Time with Alan Rickman...

Did you know 50 years ago was 1962? Really. Here are some photos from the world then.

Finally, the 10 TED talks that never should have been.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Long-lost friends

Facebook and blogs have made this a very different blog post than it would have been a few years ago. And that's one of the things I love about Facebook and blogs. Still, there are some long-lost friends of mine out there who seem to be beyond the reach of social media.

My sophomore year of college, I roomed with a Korean girl, Hae-Jin, who was studying at the BYU's English Language Center. She was so awesome. I will never forget the first day I moved in to Belmont 36 (the slummy apartments, not the swanky condos). On the kitchen counter was a tupperware full of cookies, with a Post-it note attached that had "Please eat this cookies" printed on it in neat, Asian-ish handwriting. She was also fond of telling Jeremy to "stop bothering" - she hadn't yet picked up on the fact that "bother" needs an object. Hae-Jin is also the person who was riding her bike with me home from Movies 8 and we cut through a dark parking lot and I hit a speedbump without warning and crashed. She jumped off her bike, ran over to me, and asked with such concern, "Bridget, do you work??"  Hae-Jin, where are you?

I miss so many of the kids I taught in Syria. Email was even kind of a big deal at the time, since it was hard to get a (dial-up!) internet connection at home. So when I moved away from Syria, I did so without lasting contact information for any of my students. Sad. I've re-connected with five of them on Facebook (yay!) but I still think about the others and wondering how they're doing. Lujain, Riwa, Dania, Mary-Anne, Alia, and everyone else, where are you?

In Russia, I was friends with a woman at church named Alyona Angel. Isn't that the prettiest name ever? Her personality fit the name, too. She had recently moved to Moscow from Moldova, so we were comrades in learning Russian (but she was way ahead of me since they studied it in school in Moldova). I remember she came over to my house for lunch one day and it was the first time she'd ever eaten pineapple. Every once in a while I check Facebook to see if she's there, but I haven't had any luck so far. Alyona, where are you?

A group of friends that I did manage to keep in touch with, even before blogs and Facebook, are my roommates from my freshman year of college. It's kind of amazing to think that we are still really updated on each other's lives even though it's been almost 13 years since we first lived together. Aaaand reading that sentence just freaked me out a little bit. I can't believe it's been almost 13 years!

Who are your long-lost friends?

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Fujairah

Until Saturday, there was one emirate in the United Arab Emirates (of seven) that we'd never been to. So we decided to go take a look. It was a short trip - we only saw Fujairah fort and Al Hayl fort. It was approximately 104 degrees outside so we didn't stay at either site very long. Above: Fujairah fort (Magdalena is hiding behind me). The fort is right in the city so you can stand on the hill and look out over modernity. However, Fujairah's modernity lags somewhat behind Dubai's, at least superficially. It's a much smaller town with a much smaller feel. And that's not a bad thing. It felt like a town rather than a city, you know?

The more interesting site was Al Hayl fort, up in the mountains behind Fujairah. It's "only" 150 years old. I enjoyed imagining tribal leaders operating this isolated outpost during the same era that the US was fighting the Civil War. Sometimes history is weird when you get to thinking about it.


It's been a while since we spent time among ruins. It's good for the soul. And the kids loved it. Magdalena was obsessed with the holes in the walls where the people could point their rifles out to shoot at "the bad guys." I liked the larger holes in the walls that let in cross-breezes for old-fashioned AC.

The forts are both quite small, but considering how short of a drive it is from Sharjah/Dubai (two hours, max), it was definitely worth it. Magdalena is already asking to go back. Maybe when it cools down a little, we will!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Axis of Semi-Evil, ten years on

In early 2002, this humorous article about an Axis of Semi-Evil came out. Jeremy and I read it and laughed and laughed. It was just a few months after 9/11, and President Bush had described an Axis of Evil (of Iran, Iraq, and North Korea) in his State of the Union address.

For some reason, I got to thinking about this article recently. I don't know where it was originally published [thanks to Steve in the comments, the link has been updated to its original source], but you can find it at the link above. Read it. It's still funny, even hilarious. But parts of it also made me sad, parts that didn't make me sad ten years ago.

The idea of a sulking Bashar al-Assad isn't as innocuous as it once was. Saddam Hussein is dead. Libya is different. Iran is different (kind of). North Korea has a different leader, even if he's more of the same. I think the Kissinger line would probably refer to Newt Gingrich if this article were written today.

What do you think? Does a re-read of this article ten years later make you laugh or cry, or a little of both?

Sunday, May 13, 2012

The Power of YouTube: Using online videos as a motivational tool in the EFL classroom

I know it's Mother's Day, but it's business as usual over here so you're getting a blog post about a research paper I wrote for my Methods & Materials class. And it has nothing to do with mothers.

The use of YouTube in the English as a Foreign Language (EFL) classroom is common enough these days, what with all the students being digital natives. The most commonly cited uses of YouTube in the EFL classroom are showing students videos to expose them to authentic language, and having students create videos and upload them to YouTube to gain an audience and receive feedback.

My Methods & Materials professor required that we carry out original research for this paper, so I chose to focus on a lesser-known use of YouTube in the EFL classroom: as a motivational tool, or as a tool that can increase enthusiasm for learning. I conducted the research in my own two classrooms, and focused on the teacher's (my) perception of increased student motivation/enthusiasm for learning. Therefore, my results are more feelings-based than numbers-based, but that doesn't make them any less relevant. The way a teacher feels about her classroom can't really be numerically quantified or graphed on a chart, but I didn't want to deal with student surveys this time around. A teacher teaches better when she feels that the students are mentally present and engaged with the material, and I wanted to see if showing YouTube videos at the beginning of class could have an effect on the level of motivation and enthusiasm for learning in the classroom.

I won't bore you with the complete literature review, but if you're interested in this topic, then you should read Berk, R. A. (2009). Multimedia teaching with video clips: TV, movies, YouTube, and mtvU in the college classroom. International Journal of Technology in Teaching and Learning, 5(1), 1-21.

When deciding what kinds of YouTube videos to show in the classroom, teachers have to consider what kind of tone they're going for - high-energy stuff to kick their students' attention into gear? Humorous videos to put them at ease with each other? Or calm, introspective videos that get the mind ready to think? - as well as what is culturally appropriate. In this part of the world, you can't get away with much, and teachers need to steer well clear of material that appears to question shared values.

The problem I was trying to solve with my research was this: from the beginning of the semester until about the time of the midterm, students are generally pretty good about coming to class and engaging with the material. The surroundings are new, the teacher is new, there's a different mix of classmates, and the subject is new. After the midterm, however, students tend to check out during class - at least mentally, if not physically. I wanted to see if I could help my students muster up a little more enthusiasm and motivation for learning by showing them neat YouTube videos at the beginning of class.

So that's what I did: at the beginning of class during the second half of the semester, about two times a week, I showed a YouTube video. (Actually, two of them were on vimeo.) Sometimes it was a high-energy, awesome video. Sometimes it was just something funny. Sometimes it was a calm, thought-provoking video. Here is a video showing clips of all the videos I used during this research project. It broke my heart to cut off some of them (and I couldn't bring myself to clip down Embrace Life at all).



The results? I felt that showing a short YouTube video at the beginning of class did increase the motivation and enthusiasm for learning of my students. After the videos, they seemed more ready to learn and more excited about doing it. I heard them talking about the videos after class. One student even told me that she looked up other ASL videos and learned a little sign language herself. Sometimes, I think kids just need a reason to get out of bed in the morning (especially when class starts at 8 or 9 o'clock, as mine do), and if one simple YouTube video is the kicker they need, great. It felt good to bring a little whimsy and energy into the classroom, even though it technically meant 1.5 - 4 fewer minutes spent on the textbook.

Plus, I had a lot of fun writing up this research.

If I were to carry out the results of this research in all future semesters that I teach (and I plan to), do you have any other videos that I should show? Remember that it has to be ultra culturally appropriate. Which reminds me - something that I chose not to focus on in the presentation of my research today was the fact that I forgot that there was a (tame, chaste) kiss in the World's Largest Rope Swing video (it's at 2:09). I swear that the sound of my female students' hearts getting set all a-flutter was practically audible when that flashed on the screen. Oops.

Friday, May 11, 2012

May 11th, outsourced

Putin Forever. Be advised that this slide show from Foreign Policy contains the sentence, "Putin [retrieved] a coin from a tub of fermented milk with his teeth."

I am so dumb sometimes. One week last evening I was at the park with the kids and I thought, "wow, the moon looks extra big tonight." It was the once-a-year supermoon, DUH.

Kentucky Derby hats. I would love to wear a hat like that just once in my life. [HT Kathy]

Miss Jill's roundup of some most embarrassing moments had me laughing so hard I cried at/for those poor souls.


Watch this Russian taxi driver test the depth of a puddle his car drove into.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Arranged marriage vs. love marriage

Yesterday, I attended a debate about arranged marriage vs. "love" marriage. It was a classroom exercise for some of my students from last semester. I was so proud of them as I watched them explain their points of view so passionately and articulately.

The subject of the debate, arranged marriage vs. love marriage, isn't the hypothetical, irrelevant debate prompt it might be in the US. Here in the UAE (and in the Gulf, and in parts of the wider Arab world), arranged marriage is still very much a thing. Even in countries/subcultures that have rejected the strict practice of arranged marriages, the process of courtship is very different from what we experience in the US. In Syria, my teenaged students used to tell me that they expected to have an engagement arranged by their family and the fiancee's family. It was only after the engagement that they'd be able to date that person. If things didn't work out, then the engagement could be cancelled. So you see how a so-called "love match" could still fall somewhere in the middle of the spectrum, toward arranged marriage. Maybe it should be called "arranged engagement"?

I really haven't thought about this subject for a long time. As I sat and listened to their debate, I considered my own opinion and how it might have changed over the years. I imagine there was a time when I was horrified by the idea of arranged marriage, and thought of it as an outdated, cruel, medieval practice. I don't think so anymore (assuming I ever did). I realize this statement could apply to a lot of controversial cultural practices, but I think if arranged marriage is dealt with properly, in a spirit of love and concern for all involved, and if it is appropriate for the cultural context, then there's no reason it can't turn out splendidly. Didn't our (the Mormons') own Spencer W. Kimball say that "soul mates are fiction and an illusion; and while every young man and young woman will seek with all diligence and prayerfulness to find a mate with whom life can be most compatible and beautiful, yet it is certain that almost any good man and any good woman can have happiness and a successful marriage if both are willing to pay the price"? (He did, at a 1976 talk at the BYU.) (And I know he was talking about Saturday's Warrior, not arranged marriage, but I think his point still applies.)


So as much as Americans might like to trumpet their love marriages in the face of more traditional arranged marriages, I think there is a touch of the arranged marriage alive and well in the West. Just a touch. Plus, I think if we looked closely, those of us with American or European mutt ancestry could find arranged-ish marriages in the not too far distant past.

Of course, what takes the fun out of debates is the realization that it's not all one way or all the other. The consensus, by definition, is that in some cultural contexts and with some individuals, arranged marriage is the best way to go. In others, love marriages are what is needed. It just depends. Most boring conclusion ever, but there it is.

My favorite part of the debate was the fun video they showed at the end. The team in charge of arguing in favor of love marriages made fun of arranged marriages, and vice versa. I asked if I could post it and they said yes. Take five minutes and watch it, if you want. The dialogue is hard to hear but you should be able to get the general idea of it. Enjoy seeing how these young Arabs treat this issue that hits very close to home.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Television characters with anachronistic names

Maybe this is something only name nerds notice, but have you ever been watching a TV show or movie and thought, "There is no way that character would actually be named that. No. Way."? Last year, Jeremy and I watched a few episodes (or maybe it was the whole half-season...?) of Falling Skies, and it featured a few egregiously anachronistic character names.

First there was Hal, age 16ish. And this show takes place in the present day, people. According to the Baby Name Voyager, Hal hasn't been in the top 1000 baby names since the 1970s...when it was ranked #903. Yeah.

Then there was Karen, also age 16ish - yet another name that hasn't been really popular since the 1970s.

So maybe screenwriters are giving characters names that were popular in their own generations, right? But that wouldn't really explain Emma (a grown-up woman) in Once Upon a Time. The name Emma didn't become super popular until the 2000s, so maybe a writer noticed everyone naming their kids Emma and then slapped the name on a 25-year-old woman.

I'm not saying these naming situations couldn't happen, just that it's strange that a TV show would choose them for its characters instead of other, more likely choices. In a more realistic TV world, Hal would be named Josh or Ryan, Karen would be Jessica or Megan, and Emma would be named Heather or Ashley.

I'm just saying. And yes, I know it's really weird that I notice this stuff.

Monday, May 07, 2012

Scarlet fever

Miriam came down with scarlet fever (of all things) late last week, and suffered into the weekend. All at once, I felt sorry for my poor miserable girl, and secretly intrigued that I (well, mostly she) was living inside a novel from the olden days. Visions of Mary Ingalls, Gilbert Blythe, and Beth March suffering nobly came rushing back to me from my childhood reading days. If I had had scarlet fever as a kid, I probably would have been a little too excited about it for my own good.

Of course, it's easy for me to say these things because in this day and age, we have antibiotics. Within 36 hours of her first dose, Miriam made a remarkable recovery. On Friday, I was giving her oatmeal baths and controlling her fever with Panadol. On Saturday afternoon, she was doing some low-key sprinkler running in the backyard. Amazing.

We saw two doctors over the course of her weekend treatment, both at Royal Hospital. The first visit, we were greeted by a Filipina receptionist, shown to the ER department (the only one open at the time) by a Malaysian security guard, checked in by a Somali nurse, assisted by an Indian nurse, and finally treated by a Rwandan doctor. Truly, this is a capsule of a run-of-the-mill UAE experience. The doctor diagnosed scarlet fever, and also gave Miriam this super cool (literally) fever patch. Do they have these in the US?

The next day, we had a follow-up visit with another doctor, this one from the UK. He was like something straight out of Downton Abbey, with his accent and mannerisms and little leather pouch-bag full of diagnostic instruments. He was really delighted to see that Miriam's scarlet fever symptoms were perfectly textbook - he ran to the next office over and had his colleague come in to see them. (The symptoms are: fever, strawberry tongue, sandpaper-like rash focused on creases in the skin, sore throat, and a rash on the face but not surrounding the lips.) Good for Miriam, I guess? He also said they've seen five scarlet fever cases in that hospital alone in the last week, so it's going around.

Which brings me to my final point: the weird diseases you sometimes get overseas. I don't know that I've ever heard of anyone having scarlet fever in the US, but it was going around in Egypt the summer we were there. Chicken pox is also making the rounds here - does that still happen in the US? It was a childhood rite of passage when I was young, but with the vaccine I suppose it's not so widespread there anymore.

Miriam is all better now and I am so grateful for antibiotics. I hope she can appreciate her adventure with scarlet fever even more when she gets around to reading some of my favorite childhood books.

Saturday, May 05, 2012

Let's commiserate

My youngest brother is getting married today. You may remember him from such posts as My brother, the Twilight extra. He and what seems like everyone but me is gathered in Oregon today to celebrate. And I am feeling sad.

Obviously, moving overseas was a purposeful, happy decision for us. It's not like some people think, that we don't care about our extended family, or that we don't mind being far away from them. Of course we care. Of course we mind. Of course we wish we saw one another more often, especially at times like these - weddings, births, graduations, or just 'cuz. And I know we're not the only ones missing out. A lot of your extended family's life happens when you're far away, whether it's 8000 miles or 1000 miles or 200 miles. (Any less than 200 miles...umm, what's your excuse for missing major family events?!? Hahahahaha.)

Since we moved to the UAE, we've missed no fewer than FOUR births of nieces and nephews. When I meet my niece Shiloh sometime in July, for the very first time, she will be 20 months old.

I missed my sister's wedding in 2008. I missed Jeremy's sister's wedding in 2005. I missed Jeremy's brother's wedding in 2010. I've never been to a niece or nephew's baptism. Except for my very first niece, I've never been there to see a brother or sister's (or in-law's) baby anywhere near the time of birth. I've never been to anyone's graduation - heck, I even missed my own (I was in Russia when it happened).

I'm sad I'm not at my littlest brother's wedding. Sometimes it gets old, missing things.

Let's commiserate. What major extended family events have you missed (especially due to extreme distance) that you want to pout about now?

PS - Congratulations, Steven and Kristi! I know you don't really care that I'm not there, and I mean that in the best possible way.

Friday, May 04, 2012

May 4th, outsourced

Here's a look about what a Mormon US president could mean for the faith. [HT Kathy]

Also, The Economist looks into the Mormon way of doing business.

Also, Jon Stewart takes a look at some of the truly bizarre ways Mormonism has been treated in the media lately. [HT BCC]

What does "Young Adult" really mean, when it comes to literature? Good question.

I was flabbergasted to read this article and find out that even after giving up a spot in highly selective (and expensive) private schools, parents may still be on the hook for tuition.

My heart gave a little squeal of joy to see some of the cast of The West Wing together again. [HT Jen]

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Kindle Touch review

Jeremy got me a Kindle Touch for Christmas. I wasn't so sure about the whole Kindle thing, but I was willing to give it a try and Jeremy was willing to give me a Kindle, so it all worked out.

Verdict: I LOVE MY KINDLE.

Pros: I love being able to tuck my Kindle into my purse and know that I will not run out of reading material at any time during any spare moment. I love that it is unobtrusive and doesn't take up a lot of space in my purse. I love that no matter how "thick" the book I'm reading, the Kindle is lightweight and easy to hold. I love that I can operate it with one hand and take care of children with the other, all without losing my place or having Magdalena pull my bookmark out. On that note, I love that I can quickly snap it shut (I have a simple cover on mine) and not worry about having to remember what page I'm on. I love that I don't have to worry about getting my hands on hard-to-find physical copies of books in random bookstores in the UAE. (And I'm sure the AUS library loves that I've stopped requesting that they buy so many books just to feed my reading habits.) I love that I can sometimes find awesome books for a dollar, or two dollars, or sometimes three. I love that I can get Kindle books at the library for free. I love that I can change the font size with a swipe of two fingers so that when I'm at the park with the kids and the sun is going down and the streetlights haven't turned on yet, I can make the type bigger and eke out five more minutes of reading. As I saw with A Red Herring Without Mustard, I love that I can highlight favorite or interesting or clunky or questionable passages of a book with the touch of a finger (and look up word definitions, too!).

Cons: I find that reading non-fiction is more of a chore on a Kindle. Non-fiction books are often enriched by maps, and appendices, and pictures, and sometimes you want to flip back to check on a name or a date. That's not so easy on a Kindle. Also, the Kindle displays a progress percentage at the bottom of the screen so during drier or more tedious sections of a book (and this happens more often with non-fiction), you are reminded at every moment that the percentage completed is barely crawling by. Then, since that percentage includes the notes, index, afterword, etc., a non-fiction book often reaches its true conclusion at 80%-85% in, which is disorienting. There is something to be said for feeling a book's true heft in your hands and being able to get an idea of the scope of the book by flipping through its pages before settling in to read it. That's not really possible on a Kindle. Finally - and this is kind of weird - my memories of books are sometimes tied to their physical appearance or the way they "feel" to read. Now I have a whole bunch of memories of reading dozens of different books while holding the same slim electronic device in my hands. It makes for a less rich reading experience.

But overall, those cons are mere quibbles. My Kindle allows me to read more books, including books that I wouldn't normally have access to, in places I wouldn't normally be able to read them (because it's not always practical to carry around a huge book everywhere). If you think you might like a Kindle, just get one already. You'll probably love it, as I do.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Bidirectional transfer

I presented an article in Language Acquisition yesterday. Here it is adapted from its native PPT format into a blog post. Lucky you. The article is Bidirectional Transfer, by Pavlenko, A., & Jarvis, S. (2002). Applied Linguistics, 23(2), 190-214. Jarvis, S., by the way, is a graduate of none other than Linguistics at the BYU.

The idea that L1 (first language) affects L2 (second language) is well established in the literature of language acquisition. Think about it: you've heard people use odd constructions in English (as a second language), or they have an accent, or they're always using words from their first language, or there's just something unnatural about the way they speak, no matter how proficient they seem on the surface. Those are all straightforward examples of L1 transfer to L2.

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