Tuesday, April 30, 2013

April 2013 books

Consider the Fork: How Technology Transforms the Way We Cook and EatConsider the Fork: How Technology Transforms the Way We Cook and Eat by Bee Wilson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

4.5 stars. I was caught off guard by how much I liked this book. Jeremy read it before me, and mentioned skimming over the less interesting parts. By the time I was reading the book, I was asking him, "WHAT less interesting parts??" It is ALL interesting, at least if you a) spend time in the kitchen and b) have ever wondered about the history of cooking and the tools we use to do it.

To get a feel for whether you might be interested in this book, you can read this article by Megan McArdle from a few years ago (and watch the video), or read this short article by the author of this book. Or, if you've ever read and enjoyed anything by Bill Bryson (particularly At Home: A Short History of Private Life or A Short History of Nearly Everything). Just know that this book is not as witty, but just as interesting.

Highly recommended!

The FitzOsbornes in Exile (The Montmaray Journals, #2)The FitzOsbornes in Exile by Michelle Cooper

My rating: 2 of 5 stars


I got quite a way through this before declaring it a DNF. This is book two in a series. As I was reading book one, I wondered if I was enjoying it because of the characters, or because of the unique setting. Book two has the same characters in a completely different setting, and it was meh to me. So it turns out I loved the setting of book one, the characters not so much.

I might come back to this book and finish it someday, but today is not that day.

EdenbrookeEdenbrooke by Julianne Donaldson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Reading (and hating) a book like Definitely Not Mr. Darcy made me appreciate what a GEM this book is. It's set in the Regency period, but the author isn't constantly referring to oddities about the time period or stretching to use unnaturally authentic (you know what I mean) language. I'm sure it's not perfectly historically accurate, but it is absolutely true to the feel of the period.

It's also clear that the author loves and is very familiar with Jane Austen, etc. There were a few turns of phrase that reminded me of her - for example, when someone speaks of someone else not being "at their level" - flashback to Mr. Elton from Emma, for sure.

It was such a treat to read a genuine, romantic-yet-not-sappy story. Well done!

Surviving the Angel of Death: The Story of a Mengele Twin in AuschwitzSurviving the Angel of Death: The Story of a Mengele Twin in Auschwitz by Eva Mozes Kor

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I dearly wish my adolescent self could have read this book. I was very interested in WWII as a kid and I read anything I could get my hands on, which meant that sometimes I read stuff that was way above my level. This book is written for a YA audience and it somehow manages to tell a truly harrowing story - about horrible things that happened to a CHILD, which is especially affecting - in a completely YA-appropriate way.

I was worried that I would be haunted by what happens in this book, but instead I come away from it with a new appreciation for the strength, tenacity, ingenuity, and survival instincts of children. This is a very unique story told in just the right way. I will have my kids read this when they get a little older. If I were homeschooling, I think I would include it in any WWII curriculum for ages 10+. Younger, maybe, if you read it to/with them.

Guests of the Ayatollah: The First Battle in America's War With Militant IslamGuests of the Ayatollah: The First Battle in America's War With Militant Islam by Mark Bowden

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Second reading, April 2013: Still one of my all-time non-fiction favorites. (Review of first reading.)

(And now is as good a time as any to share this relevant clip of The Simpsons. Read the English transcript and enjoy the video in Spanish since I couldn't find the original.)

Lark (Lark #1)Lark by Erica Cope

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This book wasn't aggressively bad, it was just not good, in a sloppy way. I think it could have been redeemed by being put through a few more drafts. The age of one character changes from one page to the next; some things happen that seem to be important but they're never discussed again; and, most egregiously, two characters who I thought were the same person turned out, in the final few pages, to be different people. This was not a purposeful surprise of the book and I still wonder if it was some kind of mistake. The characterizations of anyone aside from the central character are very weak, to the point where, when we left one of them (Grey) for a few chapters, and then came back to him, I couldn't really remember anything about him.

Lark is the kind of book that some people probably think ALL YA lit is like. But that's not true. A lot of it is much, much better than this.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Wadi Adventure Race 3

Since moving to the UAE, we've missed having easy access to events like the Warrior Dash or the Dirty Dash. Then we heard about the Wadi Adventure Race 3 (WAR3), hosted at Wadi Adventure (a water/adventure park) in Al Ain. WAR3 was a 10K run with 20ish obstacles/tasks sprinkled throughout. The race was on Saturday and the girls and I went to watch and cheer on Jeremy. I can only handle so much adventure with my racing, so I decided to take a look at what Jeremy went through and then decide if I ever want to do it.

Well, friends, I never want to do this race. But WAR3 should take that as a compliment. There are tasks during this race that I don't think I'm capable of doing, or at least not under the time constraints of a race atmosphere with an audience watching, among what is basically a convention of the fittest human beings in the entire UAE (seriously. No beer bellies or occasional runners at this event, yikes).

The race started off with a strong rainstorm, which was not planned by the organizers, of course (they had warned that one of the obstacles would be the intense heat, but instead it was wet and cool). The runners headed off into the desert to get in some running distance and did some obstacles that I couldn't see - climbing over some road barriers and running on balance beams, if I heard correctly. Then they came back into the park proper and headed down into the maintenance tunnels behind the wave pool (!!!). They swam through that long, dark tunnel (exhibit A of The Tasks I Don't Think I'm Capable of Doing), climbed up a ladder, and then jumped into the pool to swim across it and climb out on the other side.

Then they did all kinds of things in the rafting river - "running" (=trying to stay upright) against the current, leaping onto a path of rafts strung out across a pool, some monkey bars - and then headed back out into the desert for a sand crawl and a 10kg sandbag carry. Finally, they wound back toward the park for the final obstacles: a tire jump, a climb through a rope maze, a confrontation with the Al Ain rugby team (really), and a difficult ascent of a tall wall with no assistance from a rope. (But maybe with some assistance from people who had already finished the race.)

Here is a video of Jeremy braving that last bit of the race.

As a spectator, this race seemed to me to be much harder and more intense than something like the Warrior Dash. Looking on the fb page for the event, though, I saw people begging the organizers to make it even more difficult. They change the race for each incarnation so we'll see what they come up with next.

Or rather, Jeremy will see what they come up with next. Because I'll just be watching, quite happily.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Saturday is a special day

Halfway through this semester (so a few weeks ago), I made the decision to not force myself to work or study on Saturdays anymore. This has been a huge change. For the past 2+ years, Saturdays have been just another day full of homework or papers or preparing lesson plans for the following week. So weekends were really lame. The girls were frustrated because they'd want to go here or there or do this or that but mom and dad were always too busy doing work.

Well, I've reclaimed the weekend and it feels GREAT. I get errands done, we go to the beach, we deep-clean the playroom and wash all the toys, we catch a cultural event, we go to Al Ain all day for an adventure race (more about that tomorrow). It is so much fun, and as a result, I feel more rested and recharged for the actual, now only 5-day workweek. This is true, even though my Sundays (today) are technically busier now because of all the things I'm not doing on Saturdays.

But for now, I'm happy with the trade-off. It's great to have a weekend again and it's so rewarding to spend it as a family.

Friday, April 26, 2013

April 26th, outsourced

From The Onion: Majority of Americans not informed enough to stereotype Chechens.

This is something that really happened: three Emiratis were deported by Saudi Arabia because the religious police feared they were too irresistible to women. My Saudi students corroborated this story, though they may have been corroborating it based on the same news sources. In any case, here are (purported) pictures of one of the irresistible men.

This is something that really exists: a food called Rip'n Chick'n.

Oooh, help with research by taking surveys about all kinds of stuff! [HT Liz]

Best personals ad ever. And by best, I mean worst. Or most creatively bad, maybe. [HT Liz]

"Sleep when the baby sleeps. Clean when the baby cleans. Don’t worry. Stress causes your baby stress and a stressed baby won't sleep." And other ridiculous sleep advice.

I read this article (suggesting that women who attend Ivy League schools are obligated to work in their field after graduating) the day after writing that post about moms and higher education. Pretty much, I disagree with almost everything that article says. What do you think? [HT Stacie]

"The man ran away down the street toward his car with the barefoot Hendrix and others in pursuit. Hendrix said he couldn't catch Eggersten before he fled in his car, but he picked up chapstick that the man dropped and memorized his license plate."I yelled at him, 'I've got your DNA and I've got your license plate: You are so done,'" Hendrix said." In other words, Napoleon Dynamite exists and he is a Mormon Bishop in Utah.

Pictures of people who mock me.

Don't you hate headlines that just BEG you to click on them because they conceal pertinent information that might make the story unappealing? Twitter's @HuffPoSpoilers can solve that problem (for The Huffington Post, at least). [HT Eric D. Snider]

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Lizzie Bennet Diaries

A while ago, a friend of a friend (Jenn) sent me an email telling me about a YouTube production of something called The Lizzie Bennet Diaries. She thought I might like it.

She was wrong. I totally LOVED it. There are 100 episodes in total, each one lasting between 3-5 minutes (with a few outliers on either side), and it only took me a little more than a week to watch them all. They were the perfect break-time activity because they were so short, and so numerous, and so FUN!

For me, it was like reading/watching Pride & Prejudice all over again, for the first time. The story is familiar, but the presentation is new and different and very clever. I really couldn't choose a favorite thing or character about this series (except that I love Charlotte, and I also love manipulative Caroline). The only downside to this series is that sometimes, after a particularly long stretch of episodes, you realize that you are sitting there watching people talk to each other all the time.

I could talk about it a lot more...or you could just watch Episode 1 (and probably 2 and 3 and 4 and 5...) to see if you like it.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The effect of education, I suppose

I got to thinking about moms and education the other day. Sometimes when moms get together, we all laugh about how we studied something or other in college but we don't remember a thing now.

First, I don't think that's true. I think most of us do remember quite a bit about what we learned, whether in our major/minor, or in general education classes. I had a nine-year gap between my BA in Linguistics, and my first MA class, Linguistics for ESL Teachers. I was amazed at how much I remembered without even realizing it.

BUT. Second, my point is that it's not the point of education to have us be able to recall the minutiae of certain subjects, ten years (or five years or one year...) after we graduate. Rather, the effect of education ten years on should be that we ask different questions, and think more critically, and see the world in a different way than we might have.

Anyway, just something that's been on my mind for some reason. Possibly because girls here sometimes get a bad rap because they come to this prestigious university, study for four years, graduate...and then get married and stay home and have kids. (Depending on your personal cultural context, this may sound very, very familiar.)

The implication is that their education is "wasted," or somehow has less value than the education of someone who, I don't know, gets a job in their field after graduation? I guess?

And sometimes we hear the platitude that well, even if you don't get a job in your field, and you stay home to tend your children instead, you will still totally use your education, all those things that you spent all that time learning. Wasn't there a BYU Magazine feature series to that effect a few years ago? I think that's great. But, to come full circle: I don't think that's the point.

Education changes the way we think and the decisions we make and the questions we ask about the world around us. I think that's so much more valuable than any specific content we may remember from x college course.

Do you agree?

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Al Jazeera's Dima Khatib @ AUS

I just got back to my office from a special guest lecture given by Dima Khatib, a prominent female Arab journalist for Al Jazeera and that network's first female bureau chief. I have a few other things I should be doing now, but I am so energized from her talk that I want to share a few highlights with you.

Dima was invited to speak at AUS by the Mass Communications Club, and the advertised angle of her presentation was her work as an Arab, female journalist. She framed her presentation around seven challenges. They were all fascinating, but I am going to focus on five, six, and seven.

1. Obtaining family support. Dima was born in Damascus to a Syrian mother and a Palestinian father who encouraged her and supported her in her life's ambitions....

2. Dealing with society's expectations and traditions. ...Even though these ambitions went against what was expected of her by society.

3. Overcoming the patriarchy. Dima spoke repeatedly about being surrounded by men. She specifically noted that most of the audience for her presentation at AUS today was female, and what a change that was for her. She showed us pictures of her at work and out and about and most of the time, her colleagues were 100% male. Literally 100%.

4. The nature of journalism. Journalists go to dangerous places and do dangerous things, and it's not always easy to be in those situations as a woman.

5. Sexual harassment. This was a big one. Dima explained that as a journalist, she has experienced the sexual harassment you might "expect" (sad but true) when out in unruly crowds or elsewhere on assignment, but she also made sure to note that she has experienced sexual harassment inside the office as well. And as one of the very few women around (see challenge #3), there has not often been a safe, clear path of recourse for her in dealing with these incidents. Plus, she also had to worry that if she reported an incident, it might hurt her reputation - I assume as a Muslim woman, though she didn't say this explicitly. On a somewhat lighter note, she said that her camera tripod is her best weapon in preventing groping incidents (by using it to move people out of her way in an unruly crowd) and in punishing them, as well (by hitting people with it). This makes me laugh, but also kind of cry.

6. Having a family. Dima said that you can have it two ways. She herself chose to develop her career first, and then she had a family. However, she encouraged the young women in the audience to consider having a family first (and young), and transition to a career in your 30s. Either way, she said, go ahead, have a family. She said she would throw away all that she has accomplished in her career (which is considerable) in order to have her family. Wow. She spoke at length of the challenges of working as a correspondent while pregnant. She did not tell her bosses in Qatar (while she was in Latin America) that she was pregnant until she was six months along, because she didn't want to be treated differently. She continued being on camera throughout, just having closer and closer shots that did not show her changing body over time. After she had her son, she - seriously! - conducted live, on-air interviews over the phone while breastfeeding her baby. She also canceled live interviews just beforehand - something she said she had never done before, not when there was war or conflict or earthquakes or gunfire or whatever - because her son was crying and he needed her at that exact moment. And she told them that was the reason she was canceling, which I thought was even more courageous.

Here is a picture (from a fellow lecture attendee) of Dima doing her work with her son literally in her arms. She's not actually on camera at this moment, but yeah, AWESOME.

Friday, April 19, 2013

April 19th, outsourced

On Tuesday morning in class, I asked my students who they thought America thought carried out the Boston bombings. Their answers: "for sure they thought it was someone Saudi, Syrian, or Iranian."

Peter Sagal at the Boston Marathon, five minutes ahead of the bomb.

The story behind (and leading out of) one of the most striking pictures of one of the bomb victims.

The first SAT tested students using a fake language. TELL ME MORE.

Too bad I totally still remember: what nobody remembers about new motherhood.

This is my new favorite idea: invite international choirs to sing in General Conference. Huzzah!

17 Pinterest FAILS. [HT Andrew]

The surprisingly serious quest to make muggle quidditch a real sport.

Once upon a time in Pyongyang - photos of North Korea before the Kim family took over. These are really amazing.

Gabrielle Giffords on the gun lobby's grip on the Senate.

Guess what? The law school jobs crisis is even worse than you think. [HT Liz]

So cool: wringing a washcloth out in space.

Dating for moms. So true. [HT Crys]

I don't know why this clip from Jurassic Park is so funny. I only know that it is. [HT Eric D. Snider]

Have you all seen the Dove Real Beauty ad thing? Well, watch it. Then read this rebuttal (which I happen to agree with). Then watch this to laugh at it all.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Human subjects, here I come

Guess who's certified to conduct research on human subjects?

Yes, it's true: I AM.

I had to complete the NIH's series of web modules in order to be able to even APPLY for approval from the university's IRB (Institutional Review Board) for my thesis research. So I learned a lot about how not to coerce people into participating in my research and how to not discriminate against certain populations and the special issues involved in conducting research on current prison inmates.

I'm still a long way out from the thesis finish line, but I am making progress. I am working very hard at producing a robust, well researched proposal, so that the thesis will fall into place when the time comes. I hope to defend my proposal within the next month or two, and my thesis a few months after that. However, it's not all in my control - my research depends on certain universities being in session, so if I hit the doldrums of late July and August (or *cough* Ramadan), my thesis completion and defense will be delayed.

If you are wondering what my thesis is about, it's topic C from this poll a while back. The working title is Intercultural Competence and Classroom Cultural Conflicts, but that was something my advisor and I threw together at the last minute when we had to fill out some paperwork. The final title will probably be a little different and will hopefully not have as many Cs in it, because yikes.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Don't miss it.

There's a new advertisement for Sharjah's major (only?) airline, Air Arabia, that's popped up on billboards and bus benches around town recently. It features a smiling man looking down at a small baby that he's holding in his arms. The text reads, "Get there on time. Air Arabia." I think I also saw some ads with the same image that said "Don't miss it. Air Arabia."

This advertisement struck me as a particularly UAE-ian construct. That ad is meant to appeal to the huge segment of the expat population here that is male, married, with a wife and kid(s) in a different country, most likely a country served by any one of Air Arabia's many low-cost, direct flights.

And according to Air Arabia, when those guys want to be there for the birth of a new baby, or soon thereafter, they can.

Is it just me, or would this ad fall flat on its face in the US? I know there are people in certain professions in the US (or Americans who work abroad) who do have to be careful about traveling home in time for major events like births on a regular basis, but surely there aren't enough to support a national ad campaign like the one that Air Arabia is running here. What do you think?

Tuesday, April 16, 2013


Today/yesterday had a lot going on. Far away from us, there were the bombings in Boston and a missing girl in Utah. Not fun to wake up to. I hope the injured and affected in Boston can heal, and that Charice is found safely, soon.

Closer to home, we experienced an earthquake today. I had just arrived home from work and I was sitting in the playroom with Magdalena. All of a sudden, I felt really dizzy, which is something that actually happens to me sometimes, so I didn't think much of it. But then I realized I felt so dizzy that the ground was moving under me...and also the lamp was shaking. And Magdalena was looking at me as if to ask, "what is going on, mama?!?" After the shaking subsided, I told her that I thought it was an earthquake, and then we ran upstairs to my computer to check.

Facebook took about five seconds to light up with "did you feel that??" status updates from friends in the UAE. But it took a good 15 minutes (hahahahaha, how spoiled we are these days) for any news about the earthquake to hit official sites. I was hoping it was a small earthquake nearby, and not a huge earthquake far away. Unfortunately, it was the latter.

Did you ever experience an earthquake as a kid? I did, a few times, and it was SO exciting. Miriam got home and was so disappointed that she hadn't felt it, since she had been on the school bus at the time. It was all she could talk about all afternoon. I remember that feeling. As a kid, you're not fully aware of the possible dangers to yourself and others from things like earthquakes, so it's more of an adventure.

Today was a good chance to talk to our kids about earthquake safety. Apparently, the new advice is to go outside? Many buildings on campus were evacuated and everyone just stood outside in the 100+ heat. When I was a kid, I remember learning to stand in the archway of a doorway. Like lightning safety, this is something I need to brush up on.

Monday, April 15, 2013

The Sound of Music bus tour

This is something that we did in Salzburg, Austria:

I can't think of when we've ever done something like this. We're not really organized tour kind of people, but we had a limited amount of time to be in the city and we knew this tour would be a good way to see a lot of things in a short time. Plus, we knew the kids would love it. Because, The Sound of Music.

Yes, this tour was based around the history of the movie (and peripherally, the history of the real story of) The Sound of Music. The bus drove us around Salzburg and took us to the locations where the movie was filmed. In the meantime, on the bus, a chipper British man explained some of the background story behind the movie and interesting trivia about it.

After a while, we headed into the countryside to see some lakes and a few of the more far-flung movie locations, like the church where Maria got married (in the movie):
On the 40-minute drive back to Salzburg from Mondsee (where the church is), the bus driver put on the movie soundtrack and the guide invited us all to sing along. Considering that the only people on the huge tour bus were our family, another American (?) family, and a small group of Filipino tourists who, strangely, didn't seem to be all that familiar with the movie...well, the singing left a lot to be desired. Magdalena had the most gusto of anyone, which was cute.

Friday, April 12, 2013

April 12th, outsourced

If you have it in you for another Syria link: Syria in ruins.

The AP has officially un-approved the term "illegal immigrant" for use according to its style guide.

My friend Liz, on miscarriage (and how to talk about it).

On a related note: how not to say the wrong thing to someone who is very sick or has other difficult things going on in their life. [HT Suzanne, who had foot surgery and then surgery to fix a complication recently]

Take the John Williams movie score quiz! Just a warning: it's really, really hard until the last few (at least that's what I thought).

If I suddenly start traveling by airplane a lot, by myself: BUY THIS SUITCASE. [HT Scotty]

Beautiful photography of abandoned buildings.

Reasons my son is crying. Genius. [HT Liz]

Aaaaaand dogs wearing panythose. It was only a matter of time. [HT Jen]

Talk to your babies. A lot.

Dubai Police's newest patrol car: a Lamborghini Aventador.

Frustrated, weary sigh: "the price [for women - specifically moms] of exiting the workforce for even a short time is huge." And: "women who take a career break [to raise their own children, especially when their paycheck will not cover the cost of daycare] are penalised out of proportion to any objective deterioration of their skills." And other fun facts.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Why we fly Emirates

We were lucky to be on Emirates' DXB-FRA direct flight for our trip to Germany. We've now flown with Emirates a few times across the Atlantic (on their SFO, LAX, and SEA routes) in addition to that 7-hour flight (there and then back), and Jeremy has flown a few shorter flights with them for conference trips. Here are some reasons why I love Emirates and why I (gasp!) will spend more money or go out of my (schedule) way to fly with them whenever possible. This, coming from two people (Jeremy and I) who have been solid "cheapest possible fare" people - even for international travel - until this point.

The Emirates Terminal in Dubai. Emirates has their own dedicated terminal in Dubai. Not only is it a thing of spectacular beauty, it is also more efficient than the other terminals. When we arrived in Terminal 2 on our way back from Turkey, I thought we had accidentally landed in Karachi or Cairo. It was complete chaos in  a poorly designed, dusty building, with fantastically sluggish passport control as a bonus. Terminal 3 is a breeze in comparison (and on its own merits, too).

The fancy Emirates flight attendant outfits. Admit it. They are AWESOME and you secretly want to try on one of those hats, at least.

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Germany with friends

We had such a great trip to Germany. If you don't count Turkey (and I don't), this was our first trip outside the Middle East/US regions since 2010 when we spent a few hours in London. Before that, we spent a few hours in Vienna on a similar layover. Basically, this was our first substantive trip outside the Middle East/US since 2002 (when we were living in Russia and visited Germany, Austria, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia).

And you know what? It felt so good to be somewhere NEW. Somewhere that wasn't familiar, but also wasn't different in the same old (Middle Eastern) way. Does that make sense? Aside from the experiences we had, the things we saw, the friends we spent time with, and the food we ate, this trip was good for our souls. Also, it was fun to speak German again, which is our personal language of love.

We loved staying with our friends the Lewises in a small German village in Bavaria. This is actually the third time they've hosted us, since we stayed with them in Nebraska on our way to Ithaca in 2009, and then on our way back in 2010. We first met them back in 2007 in Jordan.

And seriously, they live in a small. German. VILLAGE. Check it out.
So lovely, and such a needed change of pace.

Our kids and their kids got along swimmingly,
...especially when it came to hiking places called Ice Cream Mountain (I believe the fanciful name was made up by their kids but maybe it really is called that? I'm only suspicious because they called another prominent peak near town "Lollipop Mountain," and what are the odds?):

Did I mention, or can you see, how COLD it was? So very very cold. Lucky us, we had held on to most of our good quality cold gear from when we lived in Ithaca, which until this time has been sitting in a bin except for when we pull it out to go to Ski Dubai. It may not have been the best strategic packing decision three years ago, but it sure felt good to get some use out of our own stuff. (Except Magdalena, who got to borrow that adorable pink jacket, which she hardly ever took off.)

I think staying with friends is what really made this vacation a vacation. We had knowledgeable hosts who were fun to hang out with (even if we were lame and went to bed early every night due to the 3-hour UAE/Germany time difference), and who fed us delicious food and entertained our children. Plus, if I didn't mention it before, they live in a small German village. So basically, we could take it as easy or as fast-paced as we wanted. Some days we went out and saw a lot of stuff. Some days we spent on our own in Austria. Some days we went to church and then went home, took a nap, and called it a day. Bliss.

We had thought about going to Europe for a good chunk of this summer, but it just wasn't working out. Then Spring Break presented itself as a viable option, and we went with it. I'm so glad we did. It was a fantastic trip...even if years from now all that our kids will remember is being cold cold cold.

Sunday, April 07, 2013

German food (or rather, what I ate while in Germany)

While in Germany (and Austria, for a day), I mainly ate from these food groups:

Fruit. I don't know where the heck it came from since it was freezing cold in Germany while we were there, but I had the best oranges (they might have been Clementines) EVER in Germany. Also strawberries. Also apples. And all for way cheaper than I can get them in the UAE! Yum.

Yogurt. I love yogurt anyway, so the fact that I could choose from lots of delicious German/Austrian kinds was just a bonus. My favorite was this kind that came in a jar. I have no idea if there was something extra special about it, but it sure tasted extra special.

Bread. Oh how I have missed good, dark bread. Mostly we ate light rye and dark rye, as well as some brötchens that you buy from the store in a package and they're almost all the way baked, and then you put them in your oven for a few minutes so it's almost like fresh bread. So tasty.

Meat. Let's be honest: it was mostly pork. I'm sorry if that offends my Muslim friends but - and I say this as someone who was vegetarian for a few years, and who adheres to strict religious dietary guidelines, and who, even when not a vegetarian, went without pork for the first two years we lived here - PORK IS DELICIOUS. The friends we were staying with cooked us a ham dinner for (the day after) Easter and it almost made me cry happy tears.

The other meat of note that I ate was (turkey) Schnitzel. Also delicious.

CHOCOLATE. And. how. Each day in Germany was not complete without sampling some new German delicacy. Thankfully, the friends we were staying with were on the same page as me on this topic, so they were able to point out the best stores to buy copious amounts of Milka and Ritter Sport products. On our way out of their small town, we practically cleaned out the village store of Milka chocolate. There were so many varieties to choose from, but I already know my favorites so I stuck to those:

You know, Toffee-Ganznuess, Caramel w/Alpenmilch, regular Alpenmilch, Jogurt, Oreo, Da'im, etc. I only took home two kinds of Ritter Sport because I had narrowed down my favorites by the time we left the country: Peppermint and Coconut (those are two different kinds).

The other major food group while we were in Germany was American Food, because the friends we were staying with are affiliated with the Army and thus have access to a well stocked commissary. I think they got tired of me exclaiming at every American delicacy they pulled from their shelves. I even got excited about Cheez-Its. I KNOW. Are Cheez-Its even good? Yes, they are. Because they taste like AMERICA. My favorite American food that we ate while we were there was plain old Cheerios, though. I miss those so much.

As you can see, food is important to me. I don't know if I am abnormally prone to forming strong food memories and associations, but I've realized this about myself: food brings me great happiness. It doesn't even have to be fancy high-brow food. It's not like I'm a cheese or wine connoisseur, out there seeking the best vintages or whatever. I love food that takes me back to a time or place, or a food that I'm not able to eat very often so it's special when I get a chance.

Take the ham dinner, for example. On an objective level, sure, it tasted good. But it probably did not taste good enough to warrant me feeling the way I did when I ate it. It reminded me of special dinners growing up, of Christmas or Easter and sitting at the table with my family, eating my fill. It also reminded me of what I've been missing, NOT eating ham (specifically) for probably more than three years. Combined, those two sentiments made for a delicious dinner.

Anyway, yes, I am weird, but food is good. And hooray for German chocolate!!!

Saturday, April 06, 2013

As you wish, part 2

At the end of this post describing the name change for Emirates Road (the 311, the second of three major highways in the UAE) from Emirates Road to Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Road, I wondered what they'd decide to call the 611 (the third of three major highways in the UAE). Today, I found out. The 611, formerly casually referred to as the Bypass Road or the Desert Road, is now called...

...Emirates Road. In other words, what the 311 used to be called, before they renamed that road to Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Road, which is not to be confused with Sheikh Zayed Road (the first of three major highways in the UAE).

I find this hilarious. Honestly, I do. I checked and re-checked the date of the article announcing the change to make sure it wasn't April 1st, but nope, it seems legitimate.

So from now on, when giving any directions involving Sheikh Zayed Road, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Road, and Emirates Road, you'll have to be very, very careful. Because Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed road is not the same as Sheikh Zayed Road, and it used to be called Emirates Road, but now the Desert Road is Emirates Road. Yeah.

Good luck, everybody!

And ps, I have tons to blog about from our trip in Germany, coming up this week.

Friday, April 05, 2013

April 5th, outsourced

JUST the other day, I noted to myself that we used TripAdvisor more than any printed guidebook when planning our trip to Germany.

Another timely article, having been on an international flight a few hours ago: medical emergencies at 40,000 feet.

Is it just me, or do these photos of planets placed in the sky as if they were as close as the moon totally freak you out??? [HT Liz]

FBI special agent Danny Knapp was a co-worker of my SIL Stacie. This is a great series of articles about his life.

The Onion's eulogy of Roger Ebert.

Here's a great info-graphic guide to how all those familiar brands fit together. And my friend Jen tells me that all of them are against labeling to indicate GMOs. Lovely. [HT Jen]

Did you miss the 2013 World Figure Skating Championships? So did I. But here's a round-up of the best skating outfits. And by best, I sometimes mean worst.

A history of beards and Mormondom. [HT Scotty]

Finally, my favorite blog post of the year: Names 2012.

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

On the way to Salzburg

Yesterday, 10a, two hours and five minutes outside of Salzburg and making excellent time on the Autobahn:

Magdalena: How much longer until we get there?
Me: Look at Lady Edith (the GPS).
Miriam: How many times do you have to count to sixty to make two hours and five minutes?
Me: One hundred and twenty five.
Magdalena: OK Miriam, let's get started!!!!!


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