Friday, May 30, 2014

May 30th, outsourced

I almost didn't click to watch this video because it had a sappy headline attached to it. I'm glad I watched, though, because this woman who fell down during a 600m championship race is AWESOME.

Political science advice for Queen Elsa (of Frozen). [HT someone...can't remember who, sorry!]

Emailing me a video of a woman eating two 72oz steaks in 15 minutes is something my mom did this week. 0:28-0:42 is where I start to get a little queasy. [HT Suzanne]

How to tell someone's age based on their name!!! I loved this. In the US, Miriam gets the "oh, my grandma was named Miriam" line a lot. [HT Andrew]

So, um, Glenn Beck made fun of #YesAllWomen? This is one of those times where I'm really hoping a clip was taken way out of context (though this would need a steamer ship full of context to be made right). On the same awful subject, what Elliot Rodger said about women reveals why we need to stamp out misogyny.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

MERS in the UAE

I'm not sure how much MERS is in the news outside of this region. It's a sort of Saudi SARS, but a completely different virus. MERS stands for Middle East Respiratory Syndrome. The first cases were reported in Saudi Arabia, and most cases since then have also been in Saudi Arabia, but there have now been cases in the rest of the Gulf (except Bahrain) as well as Jordan and Lebanon (and I think two cases in the US?).

The university health clinic sent out a Health Authority of Abu Dhabi pamphlet about MERS. I found it informative and interesting, and I thought you might like to see a few pages from it.

I love the helpful information, cloaked in the visual norms of the UAE. I saw these images posted on the wall at the hospital a few weeks ago, too.

Note the recommended protections to be taken at Hajj or Umra. Hajj will fall in the beginning of October this year. If I recall correctly, there has always been increased attention on the various sicknesses people spread/bring back home with them to the UAE after Hajj, so this year should be even more intense.

The concern about camel meat/milk is completely legitimate in this country!

Again, I love the graphic design here of a muhajjiba as a helpful medical authority.
Very culturally on-point.

More Hajj/Umrah concerns. This is a big deal because restrictions on travel to Saudi mean restrictions on Muslims trying to fulfill one of the pillars of their religion.

And finally, social media misinformation is addressed.

Anyway, this is what's going on in the UAE these days.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Bad crawling form

When you have more than one baby, it can be fun to compare the ages at which they reach certain milestones. Both of my girls learned to sit up at about 7 months, crawl at 8 months, and walk at 10 months.

Sterling has his own schedule. So far, he learned to crawl at 6 months and sit up at 7 months. (This means we completely bypassed that nice, if brief, stage of "sit up and play nicely with a pile of toys.")

His crawling form is atrocious. I think it's a product of the tile floors here - he really gets good purchase with those little toes (and he has lots of blisters/callouses to show for it).

Magdalena had more textbook technique, but Miriam started out with bad form, too.

However, she eventually straightened out because that semi-crawl wasn't very fast.

I wonder if Sterling will ever correct his form, though, since his scoot-drag-crawl works really well for him. It works well for me, too, to be honest, since I can hear the slap-slap of his hands as he makes his way around the house. It makes it easy for me to keep track of where he is.

I'll leave you with pictures of one of my favorite stages of babydom: planks and supermans. Magdalena had this epic pose:

Sterling used to do supermans all the time,

as well as the occasional plank. So cute!

Sunday, May 25, 2014

The quietest year

Due to pregnancy and then having a newborn/infant, this has officially been my least adventuresome year in the UAE. I know, I know: seasons of life and all that, but I miss the pick-up-and-go we had for the first three years we lived here. I remember doing things like going camping in the sand dunes on a school night, or deciding to go to the beach on a Saturday morning and being in the car, ready to go, 10 minutes later. We could spend all day at a water park, or go on a long roadtrip to Oman, no problem.

Things are different now, not necessarily because we have another child (though I'm sure there is an element of that in all this), but because said child is still so young. I know things will be back to normal soon. We took Miriam to Jordan for the summer when she was just a little older than Sterling is now. We drove across the United States when Magdalena was not quite one year old. Our adventuresome days are not over. They're just on hold.

I had thought maybe things were resuming yesterday afternoon when we decided to join some friends at a bonfire in the desert. This is it, I thought. This is our return to normalcy, where we go out and have fun in the wilds of the UAE and stay out past our bedtime and come home late with our hair full of sand, having eaten too many roasted marshmallows.

What actually happened was that Sterling and Magdalena fell asleep in the car on the way there and were therefore grouchy when we finally arrived (late, because we got lost). We had already eaten dinner at home, but both girls announced their extreme hunger immediately upon arrival and commenced whining for food beyond the apple slices I had brought. Sterling was entertained by the fire and darkness and friends, until he decided he was actually terrified by said fire and darkness and friends. So he started crying.

We were the first to leave. When we got home, I felt like our big return to the adventure scene had been a huge failure. And it kind of was. But I just know the good old days are coming again. They're right around the corner, I'm sure of it. In fact, they're probably lurking somewhere around July, when we head out for the summer to Eastern/Western Europe. Sterling has about one month to prepare to properly join the family by demonstrating his skills in train-sleeping, baby backpack-sleeping, and eating weird ethnic odds and ends gleaned from mom and dad's plate at restaurants. I know he can do it, and I can't wait for him - and the rest of us - to succeed and get back into the swing of adventure.

Friday, May 23, 2014

May 23rd, outsourced

Disney princesses and political science. Pure. Genius.

What is YA literature? Here is an excellent response to that question.

Ken Jennings blogged about the behind-the-scenes stuff at the Jeopardy! Battle of the Decades tournament. So did this other lovely person.

Here are some interesting tidbits about Dubai, as shared by an architecture professor at UAE University.

Oh. My gosh. There is a show called "I Wanna Marry Harry" which is awful, but the Fug Girls did a recap of it, which is HILARIOUS.

Why do people persist in believing things that simply aren't true? Science and research have some answers for us, but they are still kind of frustrating. [HT Liz]

You guys, Newsies has been a part of my life too long for me to objectively know if it is actually any good. So while I enjoyed this video of BYU's Vocal Point singing and dancing to it, YMMV.

I could not help but laugh: 23 People You Know Are Dead Now.

And finally, 28 Struggles Only Hijabis Will Understand.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Mom MAs

Yesterday, I attended the Professional Project Presentation (the non-thesis option for my MA program) of my dear friend Shireen. She and I started the program at the same time, way back in Spring 2011. We were drawn to each other as study/complain/celebrate buddies, mostly because we were both the most non-traditional students in the class. By this I mean that we were the only 30+ (ok, I think I was 29 at the time), 10-years-out-from-our-BAs, mothers of children (she has four) in the class.

We had almost all of our classes together until I took an extra class one semester and jumped slightly ahead in the program. The good thing is, we're back-door neighbors, so we still saw each other and were able to give each other advice even when we weren't sitting in class together. We both gave birth to baby boys during the program, too. At various times, we talked each other out of quitting or taking a semester off, and gave each other much-needed pep talks to get through the times when we felt stretched so thin between family and school. She always seemed to know when I needed a heaping plate of koshari dropped off at my door, and I tried to keep her American-born kids supplied with authentic chocolate chip cookies.

Attending her presentation yesterday was such a joy. We have been through so much together while working so hard for our MAs.

Here we are together after I defended my thesis five months ago. (Through an unfortunate fluke, she missed the defense itself - she showed up at the right place but the wrong time).

And here we are together yesterday.

Of course I'm happy to see Shireen finish the program, but I'm also sad to see our MA connection come to an end. After she's had time to take a few naps and recover from 3+ years of MA-induced stress, maybe we can get together and celebrate our accomplishments.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Toy snob

When Sterling was born, our next-door neighbor gave us one of those large push-cars to (according to the box), "let baby learn to walk." I took it out of the box yesterday and noticed that it had a spot for batteries, apparently to enable some musical push-button functionality. I immediately gave an involuntary shudder, for I loathe sound-making toys. But then I checked myself and decided I shouldn't be such a snob. Sterling has an activity center thing that has some quiet tunes it plays, and that has been fine with me. So maybe this car toy thing would be fine, too.

NOT SO. I put in the batteries and pressed the first button I saw and was greeted with the following.

The batteries will be coming right back out of this one, sorry. Sometimes it is correct to be a snob.

(Even if it is alarmingly high-brow that one of the included songs on this thing is Ali Baba's Farm. Is that standard on US toys?)

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Jeopardy! favorites

Now that the Jeopardy! Battle of the Decades tournament is over, I'm able to watch bits and pieces of it on YouTube, caveman-style. I already know who wins, but it is still a joy to see Ken Jennings compete again. Here are two notable moments from the quarterfinal and semifinal.

First, this crazy difficult category from the quarterfinal: "Initials to Roman Numerals to Numbers." Alex explained beforehand that the displayed answer suggests a name. You take the initials of the name, convert them to Roman numerals, and then convert that to a number. Watch Ken Jennings dominate the entire category (audio sync is a bit off).


On a lighter note, during the semifinal, in a category called "Art 'S'tuff," the correct response (beginning with an s, as required), was "shadowbox." But Russ Schumacher instead says, improbably, "What's a diorama?"

Which of course made me think of this classic Ralph Wiggum moment. I wish I could believe Mr. Schumacher did that on purpose, but I don't think so.

This was done on purpose, though. It's my all-time favorite Jeopardy! moment. (These last two are not from the tournament.)

This one is pretty good, too, and I love the odds of it happening.

I mean, really, a guy who knows that bit beforehand (see here) makes it onto Jeopardy!, makes it to the end, doesn't have a clue about the real answer and is willing to completely give up to have a chance to tell a joke. I love it.

(Edited to add: Miriam came home from school and watched a few minutes of the final game with me. When  told her that was Professor Ken Jennings, as seen in her Greek Mythology and Maps and Geography Junior Genius Guides, she got a special little smile on her face. Those books are so good, by the way! I bought them for the girls but I ended up stealing them so I could read them, too.)

Friday, May 16, 2014

May 16th, outsourced

I've always wondered this: which passports are most accepted around the world?

Drawing eyebrows on babies will not disappoint you. [HT Lisa]

Here is a quick video primer on the spurious link between vaccines and autism. Very clear, concise, and fact-based...and therefore unlikely to change the mind of any member of its target audience, SIGH. [HT Suzanne]

Speaking of spurious! Behold, Spurious Correlations. Discover a new spurious correlation graph each day! My current favorite is "Number of people who drowned by falling into a swimming pool" and "Number of films Nicolas Cage appeared in." Somebody stop that man! Or stop the drownings, whichever.

This video is causing a stir in the UAE - as a marketing ploy, Coca-cola set up phone booths in migrant worker camps that accept Coke bottle caps as currency to pay for calls to their home country (I checked the country code of that first guy, by the way: Kyrgyzstan!). It's a nice gesture, but some people are saying that Coke was just using free internet-based calling anyway and that a single bottle of Coke costs 1/10th of a day's salary for these guys. Discuss.

School lunches around the world.

Here are some fun second-language maps of the United States.

I AM LIVING THIS: parents at the beginning of the school year vs. the end. School, please just end already.

Did you see that video of the cat saving the little boy from the dog? It's like he momentarily forgot Cat Code (Do Not Care, At All Costs). Here it is.

When you remove non-drinkers from the statistics, the UAE has the second-highest rate of alcohol consumption in the world. Statistics!!!

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Colored abayas

A question I sometimes hear asked by expats who live here is why men in the Gulf wear white (kanduras/dishdash), while women wear black (abayas). It's an honest question, but the truth is that kanduras aren't always white, and abayas aren't always black.

In the UAE, kanduras, especially in the winter months, can be cream, beige, dark brown, dark blue (my favorite), or grey.

It's true that abayas are usually black, but you often see subtle (or not-so-subtle) embroidered or sparkly, jewel-studded patterns on the sleeves, neckline, hemline, or even solid areas of the abaya.

More recently, however, I've started to notice Emiratis wearing abayas that are not all black. Whether this has been the case for years and I'm only now starting to notice it, or whether it is a new trend, I'm not certain. But I have seen abayas with conservative, blockish patterns of brown, purple, cream, and silver fabric in addition to black.

The fact that I'm having a hard time finding examples of the colored abayas I am seeing these days makes me think that this is a fairly new trend for the UAE. Here is one example that isn't exactly right, but close:

The colored abayas I am talking about have color as part of the abaya itself, not just on the hems and sleeves.

Anyway, no, kanduras are not always white; and yes, abayas are usually black, but sometimes they have color on them, too.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Video time capsule of Syria, summer 2010

In my quest to organize ALL THE THINGS, I am going through old home videos and creating coherent, somewhat edited movies out of them. Most of them - and perhaps this is the nature of home videos - I have not sat down and watched since they were recorded all those years ago. Yesterday, I loaded up the batch of videos we took during the summer of 2010, specifically of our trip to Syria. It was like unearthing a time capsule. Those people! They're us. Those beautiful girls, age almost-2 and almost-5! They're ours. And of course, that country! Those castles! That town square! Those people! Currently embroiled in civil war.

Which makes watching these videos very bittersweet. I sat down with the girls last night and we watched all the videos of that trip. We talked about what was probably damaged and bombed and what was probably still OK. We talked about what they remembered about that trip, including things that weren't caught on tape.

We laughed and laughed at how in almost every scene, Magdalena is eating. The punchline of that particular joke was the reveal at 15.33, where you think maybe she is finally not shoving food in her mouth...and then she turns around.

I know that this video might not be of interest to anyone besides ourselves. I also know that our trip there does not have a place in the grand scheme of things. And yet I find myself entranced by this particular video time capsule. I wonder about every place in it, every person in the background. What has happened in that spot since? Where is that person now? Things started to go downhill in Syria about nine months after we were there. I know God has more to worry about than whether the Palmers got one last trip to Syria before such a thing became impossible, but I am grateful every day that we went. And for this video, to remind me of happier days there.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Bring Back Our Girls

Today, you have a chance to join in a group fast and prayer for the girls who are being held captive in Nigeria. You can find the details here: #BringBackOurGirls Day of Interfaith Fasting and Prayer. You can find a really excellent blog post about the whole issue here: "If All You Can Do Is Care, Then Care."

I am not full-on fasting since Sterling is still breastfeeding, but I am doing what I can. Are you joining in?

Friday, May 09, 2014

May 9th, outsourced

This young woman took self portraits in the style of each decade since the 1920s. So cool!

Stupid paparazzi headlines, improved. See "Makeup-free Amy Adams is anything but glamorous as she goes wild in the aisles in Los Angeles supermarket" become "Woman buys grocers, remains 5-time Academy Award nominee." Bravo.  [HT Lyse]

What is gluten? Some people who stick to a gluten-free diet don't know the answer to this question. [HT Lili]

First-World Problems, Japan Style: "The six ice packs the lady at the pastry shop put in my packaging cooled my two pieces of cake so much, that back home we had to wait to eat them." Oh, the horror!

Family cleans house, finds pet tortoise missing since 1982. I love this story! [HT Jessie]

I feel like there are a lot of these going around lately: person has extraordinary talent, as seen on x tv show. But seriously, this woman has an extraordinary talent! In addition to her ability to use sand and shadow to paint a story, I am amazed at the fact that her hair does not fall in front of her face as she does so.

Thursday, May 08, 2014

Fairouz in the morning

Our local grocery store has started to play the music of Fairouz over the speakers in the morning. Playing Fairouz in the morning (and Omm Kulthum at night) is an Arab tradition I learned in Syria. Sometimes in the mornings in Damascus, you could hear Fairouz emanating faintly from your neighbors' apartments, a kind of ethereal thread of melody that followed you, fading in and out as you went about your morning chores.

I was so pleased to hear "Adesh Kan Fi Nas" the other morning as I picked out produce. I could not help but hum along. The guy weighing the fruits and vegetables noticed and, with a smile, he repeated the commonly held belief that if you listen to Fairouz in the morning, your whole day will be calm. I have decided to believe this, and will therefore be doing my grocery shopping in the morning when at all possible.

Go ahead and have a listen. I think Fairouz is an acquired taste, but once it's out. You, too, will be humming along, out loud, as you skip through the produce department picking out apples.

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

How to make the best cookie

The girls' school science fair was yesterday. Magdalena's project was "The Plant Grows Toward the Light." It's in the greenish shoebox thing.

Miriam's project was an experiment to see which tasted better: fresh-baked cookies whose dough had been refrigerated for 48 hours, thus allowing the wet and dry ingredients to really soak into each other; or fresh-baked cookies whose dough had been mixed right then. The day before the science fair, she and her project partner went around the neighborhood asking people to taste-test Cookie A (refrigerated dough) and Cookie B (fresh dough). Then she presented the results (and more samples for people to taste-test for fun) at the science fair yesterday

The New York Times says that Cookie A, with its refrigerated, fully incorporated ingredients, makes the better cookie. But Miriam's taste-test experiment found that most people preferred Cookie B, the one whose dough was prepared and then baked right away.

We talked about possible explanations for this since it went against her hypothesis (and that of the NYT). We decided that since most people make cookies because they want them now, not two days from now, most people make and eat cookies like Cookie B. So when they tasted them, Cookie B was what they were drawn to as the familiar ideal of a cookie. Cookie A also made for a crispier, flatter cookie, which several taste-testers mentioned as being a negative. Cookie B was puffier and softer.

But the ultimate conclusion she made was that there is no "best" cookie. People like what they like, and it can't always be explained by SCIENCE.

Monday, May 05, 2014

The kindness of Rajkumar

When we were in Salalah last month, we had a miserable first night in the hotel. We could hear music and noise from the lobby and there was no bathroom fan or other source of white noise in the room to drown it out. Which is why, the next morning, we a) changed rooms, and b) went to the store to buy a fan for white noise. The fan we owned at home had broken recently, so we needed a new one anyway - we'd just bring this new fan home from Salalah.

However, the store we went to didn't have a tidy, ready-to-go box fan for us. Instead, they only had one of those rotating pedestal fans.

And it was in a box. Unassembled. And it required tools to put together. I'll tell you what, we showed up back at our hotel after a long day of sight-seeing basically AT bedtime, and we still had horribly translated-from-Chinese directions to squint at and this thing to put together with patience and a screwdriver we simply did not have. It was not a happy realization. With heavy hearts, grouchy kids in the background, and possibly some seriously bad attitudes, we phoned the front desk to ask to borrow a screwdriver.

What showed up at our door two minutes later was a million times better than a screwdriver. His name was Rajkumar.

Jeremy had already started to wrangle the various pieces of the fan as I tried to keep the rest of our exhausted family out of his way. Rajkumar came striding in the room with his toolbox and basically asked Jeremy to step away from the fan. He was like a doctor taking charge of a medical emergency. He had a look on his face like, "Everyone calm down. I've done this before." (Or, as I suggested at the time: "It's nothing. I had the tire and the jack. Just be comfortable. It'll be a minute.")

Rajkumar put that fan together in a jiffy. When he left the room, all ease and smiles and sunshine, our attitude had completely turned around. All at once we were ready for bed, and we had a great night of sleep to look forward to, thanks to some white noise from a nice pedestal fan. And a miracle man named Rajkumar.

Friday, May 02, 2014

May 2nd, outsourced

A brief history of exploding whales, including "Has the Whale Exploded Yet?" (Except between last night and this morning, they decided the whale will probably not explode after all.) [HT Jeremy]

The best of baby George in Australia and New Zealand.

The grammar of clickbait! "In Three Simple Steps, Find Out How Upworthy Titles Create Cognitive Problems In Readers. But What Happens If You Don’t Click? You Won’t Believe What Happens Next."

Take a look at this correspondence between Laura Ingalls Wilder and her daughter as they discuss how to improve By the Shores of Silver Lake.

Hijab couture.

Not that I've seen all of them, but I don't see how anyone could ever beat Emma Stone's performance at the most recent Jimmy Fallon lip-sync battle.

Picture pedantry - really interesting stuff about Twitter (and other social media) accounts that post historical photos without context, attribution, or fact-checking.

This woman was practicing to enter some kind of mommy dance contest and...oh, the timing. [HT Ariana]

Win Rock, Scissors, Paper using SCIENCE. [HT Andrew]


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