Sunday, December 21, 2014

IHOP and Cheerios

1. IHOP. A few months ago, IHOP opened up in the UAE, at Dubai Mall. I know that IHOP is not that special in the US. I mean, it is, because it's a restaurant that serves breakfast all the time, but I realize that you are probably not excited about the IHOP that is nearest to you because it's always there. You know that if you want to go there, you can, anytime. Maybe there are even two IHOPs in your area, or three!

But I was so excited about this first IHOP. There is something about breakfast that is just delicious. There is something about being handed a plate full of pancakes, four different kinds of syrup, and just diving in. There is something about having french toast, (beef) bacon, eggs, hashbrowns, and (veal) sausage on your plate and not only did you not have to cook any of it, it is all hot at the same time.

So we went to IHOP on Thursday. It was the kids' first time. They loved it. And even if you do have two or three IHOPs in your area, do any of them come with a view of the Burj Khalifa?



I thought not.

2. Cheerios. If you are willing to scour enough shelves and pay enough money, you can find almost any ingredient/food in the UAE. (Almost.) But I had never, ever, not in 4.5 years here, seen plain Cheerios. You can sometimes get Fruity Cheerios (US version), and until earlier this year, you could get Egyptian-produced Multigrain Cheerios (tasty enough, but only if you haven't had the real thing in ages). You can almost always get Honey Nut Cheerios, which are also Egyptian-produced but are also not Honey Nut, just Honey Cheerios. (Except for three weeks ago, when our local grocery store randomly brought in a batch of honest-to-goodness US-produced Honey Nut Cheerios. I bought three boxes. Next time I went to the store, it was back to Egyptian Honey Cheerios. Weird.)

Breakfast cereal kind of sucks here anyway, and Jeremy and I have been in a pretty bad breakfast funk recently. So it was with great joy and surprise and amazement and disbelief that when we were in Jumeirah yesterday, we stopped in at Park & Shop and found CHEERIOS. I asked the manager and he said they just got them in last week. It is a Christmas Miracle.

I know I am opening myself up to some ridicule here. In the end it's just pancakes and breakfast cereal, I get it. But you know how I am about food. So I'm not saying I ever thought less of the UAE for not having Cheerios (or IHOP). I don't expect every store to cater to my whims. But wow, breakfast this morning was fantastic.

Friday, December 19, 2014

December 19th, outsourced

I found a few misplaced links from weeks ago that are still worth sharing. One is this article about what it's like to work at Radio Shack. (Reading that of course brought to mind this old gem from The Onion.)

I'm sure you saw this already, but it made me laugh a few weeks ago: Nativity scene finished.

The Syrian winner of Arab Idol refused to wear his country's flag, to avoid taking sides.

My girls can't wait to try out /ponystream next time we Google Hangout with the grandparents.

That escalated quickly. [HT Jessie]

The strange normality of life in the middle of Syria's war.

A relay runner accidentally stole the finish line glory from a marathon winner. I love the video so much - the befuddlement of the commentators, the cluelessness of the relay runner, the cringeyness of the whole thing. Perfection. [HT Blair]

The price of Christmas dinner at various British supermarkets.

National Geographic photo contest winners!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

The last episode of Serial

I had this episode sitting on the iPod in my purse for a full five hours before I listened to it. I kept thinking that maybe I should just ask Jeremy if he would be offended if I listened to it while we were in the car this afternoon, but thought better of it. So after we got home tonight, I was perfectly happy to tackle those dreaded chores that somehow don't complete themselves while you're putting the kids to bed, because at least I could listen to Serial while I worked.

The first season of Serial is over.

First, my reaction to the podcast. I respect Sarah Koenig's ending. I really do. Her final exclamation that we didn't have the facts 15 years ago, and we don't now, and that's all we really want, really resonated with me. I could feel her frustration simmering through the entire episode, and I share it - why is everyone lying? I appreciated the Don From Lenscrafters interview, and one last, possibly record-breaking in its length string of "you know"s from Adnan. We got the obligatory update on the Innocence Project, and a lob from left field about a serial killer. (Sorry, Deirdre, but what "big picture" explains away Jay knowing where the car was?) I was afraid this episode, and thus this entire podcast, would be a meditation on the elusive nature of truth, or that Sarah Koenig's foreshadowing of an "I dunno" ending would come true, but I don't think it did.

Second, my opinion on Adnan's guilt/innocence, because the universe doesn't allow posts like this to be written without the author weighing in. I think Adnan certainly should not have been convicted with the evidence that was presented at trial 15 years ago, not to mention the evidence we have heard since then. But like Sarah Koenig, I can't definitively say that I think he's innocent. I think he probably is. I know Dana said she thinks no one is that unlucky, but we're not talking about just anybody. We're talking about a case that is compelling enough to have its own podcast. The sample is biased. This is a weird case, and therefore it's almost more likely that things for this one guy, Adnan, went horribly, unluckily wrong.

Which, ARGH, sounds like I'm trying to say I DO think he's definitively innocent. I don't. I can't make that leap. There's just...something - a disturbing buoy, we could call it? - that keeps me from 100%. But I'm almost there. I am very, very easily persuaded by those theories that say Jay did it, and framed Adnan later.

How about you?

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

p and b are hard

Arabic doesn't have a 'p' sound, which often leads to my students saying p instead of b, or b instead of p, or multiple layers of all of the above. I have been called "Pridget" before, because they think it's Bridget, but then they think that maybe they just think it's b but really it's p, so they take a chance and say p instead of b.

This confusion has led to two funny things in my class lately.

1. A student wrote me an email and said he would turn in his homework "as soon as baseball." Whaaa? Wait for it. Now change the b sounds to p sounds and you'll see why he made that mistake.

2. Today I gave a quiz on count/non-count nouns. The students just had to go through a list of nouns and circle whether they were count or non-count. By the way, the distinction is this: with a count noun, you can say "a [noun]" or use the plural form - flowers, coins, necklaces. With a non-count noun, you can't - foliage, change, jewelry.

Anyway, I marked the quizzes as they handed them in, and one student was completely befuddled that he got "poetry" wrong - he had marked it as count when it is actually non-count. A different student was still working on the quiz, so this confused student and I had a hushed conversation about why he was wrong. The conversation just wasn't going anywhere - he couldn't seem to grasp how "poetry" could not take on "a poetry" and "poetries."

Finally, after class when all the quizzes were collected and we could speak in normal tones, I realized all at once that he had been saying b instead of p (and in his British accent) and thought the word was "battery." Which IS a count noun. Anyway, we had a good laugh and it was a relief to know that he wasn't so baffled after all. Just confused about p and b.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Jeremy in Japan

Did I ever mention that Jeremy got to go to a conference in Japan in November of last year? Well, he did. Sterling was only about five weeks old at the time and I was still working on my thesis so sometimes I'm not sure it wasn't actually some kind of sleep deprivation-induced hallucination. But I just looked through some old emails, and it did happen.

I was a student in Kyoto during the summer of 2000, and Jeremy's conference in 2013 was not too far away in (I think) Osaka. Altogether, he was gone for about a week, and about two days of that time he spent in Kyoto. He stayed in the same guesthouse I did as an 18-year-old in 2000. He met up with my host family and my two host sisters took him around town. He ate a bunch of Japanese food I miss, saw some sights, and sent me pictures of Japanese lunchboxes because he knows I have a serious weakness for a well-formed bento box.

When he came home, my host family had loaded him up with gifts and goodies for me and the kids. What amazed me the most was that they sent me many of my favorite snacks. That's right - they remembered my favorite snacks from 13 years ago. I was moved to tears, both for the kindness/generosity factor and the pure nostalgia factor. Also the delicious factor.

I didn't serve a mission for my church, and although I'm not at all equating a secular, language/culture-based study abroad program with a mission, it is the only kind of experience in that vein (young, on my own, abroad) that I have. My memories of that time are so precious. So to have Jeremy go to that place and see those things and eat that food and meet those people was a beautiful thing for me. Of course, I only wish I could have done all those things with him!

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