مرحبا عليكم!

I study languages.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

So let it be written...

...so let it be done.

There it is, in all its glory.
My very first non-straight-A.
In fact, it's a real live B. 
And it's mine, really mine.
I can't decide whether to celebrate or cry.

oh, wait.
maybe I can.

thanks to kelsey for two of the photos. and y'all are right, the costumed one's not from this year, but we haven't changed so it might as well be.

Sunday, December 26, 2010


found while combing the far reaches of the Internet while my dad makes hot potato soup in our new Blendtec, my brothers engage in a fierce Ping Pong tournament, my mom settles in for her fifth hour of a Lord of the Rings marathon, and my little sisters build princesses out of Tinkertoys.

Ice party.

Emma's quite talented (not to mention stylish).
The other day I was privileged to be the guest of honor at my little sister Emma's eighth birthday party. We held it at the local figure skating rink where Emma has been practicing her skills. She's never taken lessons, but she can fall into a two-footed spin almost as well as I can and zooms around on her little skates like she's the Tasmanian Devil. Eleven seven- and eight-year-old girls were invited to the rink for her party, and I helped everyone strap on their bright blue party hats and rental skates before pushing them out onto the ice. I was there as adult-skater supervision--to make sure no one got stranded or hurt in the pre-Christmas crowds. We assumed most of the guests would find their legs and make their way around the rink just fine. Yeah, we thought wrong. During my first lap around the ice I picked up no less than three little girls, one of whom (the blonde in the picture below) had retreated to a corner to sob at her inadequacy. "I c-c-can't skaaate!" she sobbed as I glided over and scooped her up. "Yes, you can," I reassured. "I'll help you."
note my frazzled smile, as well as my "Designated Party Adult" cone hat.
Laps two and three brought me no less than three other hangers-on, and let me tell you, it is dang hard to keep your own balance while holding up six eight-year-olds. We formed a huge chain, which effectively gave us a wide berth as others swerved to avoid clotheslining themselves on our arms. It all worked out, though--maybe a little too well. I heard that little redhead bragging to her mom about how fantastic a skater she turned out to be and I laughed to myself as the mom promised to take her back to the rink to practice. Hope you can skate, mom. :-)

In other news, I hope everyone had a very merry Christmas. My parents found me some beautiful Arabic/English short story compilations (some with CDs so I can hear them read!) and I can't wait to rock my new snow coats, shoot some new film, and use up my gift cards. Gotta love the holidays. :-D

Friday, December 24, 2010

عيد الميلاد

No matter how old I get, Christmas Eve always seems like the LONGEST day of the year.
I guess it's just old Father Time's way of reminding me that I'm not as old as I think I am. :-)

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Some of my family traditions:

Sunday, December 19, 2010


"He sat down at his wheel and opened a plastic bag filled with several balls of clay the size of grapefruits. He took the first one out and in a matter of a few moments, created a vase. He took a second ball and created a bowl. A third became a plate, and a fourth, a bottle. The whole exercise took no more than ten minutes and by the time he was finished, I felt I had been hypnotized by his silent art of creation . . .

I believe he was trying to teach me that there is more than one path to happiness. Each of the vessels he made that day started as an unimpressive lump of clay, but all of them were transformed into their own unique vessels, full of beauty and purpose. I recognized that in my efforts to get into dental school, I had been blind to any other option . . . I recognized that I had found happiness in learning to carve wood, in farming, and in fishing. But the happiness I found working as a tailor had easily eclipsed all the happiness I had experienced in my life. In a moment of humility, I saw that my prayers had been answered, just not in the way I believed they would be. I found the happiness I sought, but it required that I forget my single-minded goal and open my eyes to a broader picture. Looking back on it now, I wonder if I ever could have been happy as a dentist. I don't even like to visit the dentist."

--Ben Behunin, Remembering Isaac, 137-139

Friday, December 17, 2010


بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

I just rocked my three-hour Arabic final.
And when I say I rocked it, I mean I blew it entirely out of the park. It's demolished. Burnt to the ground. Liquified. Vaporized. Flash frozen and sent through a meat grinder.
I could figure out EVERY SINGLE THING I SAW.
I'm not saying I'll get 100%. I'm absolutely sure that I won't. It's Arabic. There are infinitely many opportunities for mistakes--a forgotten short vowel, a missing letter, a misvoiced participle, a misjudged case ending--but let me just take this chance to say that on this exam those mistakes should be extremely few and far between. I saw all the tricks--deceptive xabar-kaana-s, ism-inna-s, definite and indefinite diptotes, attached and unattached sound plurals--and I played by all the rules.

It was my best and most enjoyable final ever, and I've had a lot of good finals in life. The greatest thing about Arabic exams is that they're really a just chance to show off how much you know--how hard and how long and how doggedly you have pushed yourself to the limit for your knowledge. And it's real knowledge--it's yours and it's tangible and it's useful and valuable and no one can take it away from you. This semester has opened my eyes to how much I honestly love this language. I go to class because I absolutely WANT to be there. Arabic (especially fusHa, my favorite kind) is a language that just keeps on giving. There's just so much in it--so much depth and beauty and structure and elegance that no one could ever learn it all. It's inexorably rigid and yet so artistic, creative, and shocking. And writing--يا سلام! The fact that I can WRITE and attempt to write WELL in this language is opening up a whole new world for me. Writing in Arabic is like writing in English--on LSD. It's so much more colorful and intense--every single little morpheme has to agree just perfectly and you can be so beautiful and indirect with style and vocabulary and the way you choose to formulate your sentences--
Obviously, I just can't get enough. :-)

After the exam some fabulous people asked me to join them at In-N-Out for a post-exam celebration, and I went and had fun with them even though I never eat cheeseburgers. Then I zoomed home and just allowed myself to feel my happiness.

I have learned so much this semester--nuanced tense and Arabic case markings (casing has become my FAVORITE Arabic activity of all time), hydrohalogenations and stereochemistry, progressive sound change and syntactical theory, Old Testament syntax and fifteen words for differing numbers of livestock--!

Welcome, Christmas break! I'm absolutely thrilled to see you!

(Next semester preview: Arabic 202; Biblical Hebrew; Intro to Tibetan; Middle Eastern History since 1800; and History of the Ancient Near East from 330 BC to 640 AD).


Thursday, December 16, 2010


b-b-but first, a quote from Coleman:
"You are the person schizophrenics think everyone is."
(she's right, you know!)
Ironic (or inspired?) that the day I find out I’ve earned my first B is the day I feel so wildly fantastic at everything else. My major linguistics paper—double-digits' worth of single spaced pages on the phonetic, phonemic, morphologic, and morphosyntactic differences between fusHa and amiyya masriyya—came back flawless, compliments of my Overzealous Grad Student. I spent the early afternoon crafting a real personal narrative in Arabic as part of my final exam; it’s sweet and engaging and sometimes even elegant and it’s mine, from me, all mine. I ate Oreo ice cream and discussed literature; I cased every Arabic sentence with which I came into contact and loved every minute.

Oh, and did I mention I’m officially getting a B in o-chem?
Yeah, it was an afterthought for me, too.
(well, for now; I’m sure the existential crisis will descend when it actually hits my transcript)

GPA now:

GPA as of next week (projecting that the grading of my finals proceeds as ascertained): 

^ oh, hey, Christmas colors. ^

Wednesday, December 15, 2010


This is by far the most intricate and captivating thing I have seen all week.

"Beauty is truth, truth beauty, — that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know."

Thought of You from Ryan J Woodward on Vimeo.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010


For today's linguistics final, my task was to recreate the phonemic structure of a proto-language using lists of cognates from three of its daughter languages and devise general rules for why the sounds changed the way they did. After two frustrating hours of stretching phonetic environments and conjuring up abstract justifications, I knew my approach was off. I wasn't seeing the big picture. Picking apart a language is like sorting through the pieces to a complex, interwoven puzzle; everything seems random at first, but once your rules start to click the entire data set falls magically into place. I knew my approach was wrong, as meticulously formulated as it was, but I couldn't convince myself to change. My logic was infallible because it was mine.

And that's really how I live my life. Arrogant though it may be, I consider myself to be absolutely, perfectly correct at all times unless explicitly proven otherwise (cited references, please). And today it was harder than I ever thought it should be to tell myself that my initial intuition for this problem was fundamentally flawed. But with half an hour to spare I forced myself out of my solipsistic paradigm. I made myself do things that made no sense. I floundered in exceptions and impossibilities and, really, I almost gave up--but then the Red Sea parted and BEHOLD, THE CONDESCENSION OF THE SOLUTION. It was weird. It was pedantic. But it was right. My Overzealous Grad Student (I'll miss him) flipped to the back of my exam after I turned it in (five minutes to spare) and congratulated me on my success.

I think an essential part of individuation is learning that you aren't always right--that your infinitely logical solution isn't always the best, that you have a really hard time pronouncing that consonant cluster, that you don't know what pi-allyl electron resonance means, that you don't know every single vocabulary word. You're not perfect. But that's okay.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Finals week.

Monday, 8 AM: Religion
Monday, 2:30 PM: Organic chemistry
Tuesday, 11 AM: Linguistics
Wednesday, 7 AM: עברית מקראית
Friday, 11 AM: العربية

سأموت على يد الكيمياء العضوية
There are no words for the degree to which I cannot stand organic reactions (though infrared spectroscopy and nuclear magnetic resonance are looking to be strong points).

And check out the intimidating signature line on this e-mail I received last week.
Calm down, humanity.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010


And now, from the other end of the political spectrum:

Happy Hanukkah.

Also, read this article from The Economist.
"[In a survey] Almost everyone said they liked “mainline” Protestants, Jews and Catholics. Evangelical Protestants liked almost everyone else more than they were liked in return. Mormons liked everyone else, while almost everyone else (except Jews) disliked Mormons. And almost everyone disliked Muslims and Buddhists more than any other group . . . Osama bin Laden did not help American Muslims by attacking America in Islam’s name, but Mr. Putnam and Mr. Campbell believe another factor is at work: the fact that Muslims, Buddhists and Mormons do not have a place in what people have come to call America’s Judeo-Christian framework. Tolerance of Jews and Christians only? That is not quite so impressive."

And enjoy Joel 2:9 (along with Antoine Dodson). Can't say we weren't warned.
"They shall run to and fro in the city; they shall run upon the wall, they shall climb up upon the houses; they shall enter in at the windows like a thief."

Monday, December 6, 2010


Sometimes I feel like the needle hand, but most of the time I'm the bubble kid.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Both ways.

It's time to resurrect the fig tree again.
I want incompatible realities and it's killing me.

"I saw my life branching out before me like the green fig tree in the story.

From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple fig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked. One fig was a husband and a happy home and children, and another fig was Ee Gee, the amazing editor, and another fig was Europe and Africa and South America, and another fig was Constantin and Socrates and Attila and a pack of other lovers with queer names and offbeat professions, and another fig was an Olympic lady crew champion, and beyond and above these figs were many more figs I couldn't quite make out.

I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn't make up my mind which one of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet."

~ Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

Thursday, December 2, 2010


"It is impossible to convey the life-sensation of any given epoch of one's existence — that which makes its truth, its meaning — its subtle and penetrating essence. It is impossible. We live, as we dream — alone." 
"It occurred to me that my speech or my silence, indeed any action of mine, would be a mere futility."
(Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness)

I have two jobs: one I like and one like the ones Palahnuik satirizes in Fight Club--the kind where I stare at a computer all day and do meaningless things like manually uncapitalize all the capital letters of the first terms in pages of lists or find every instance of italics in a two hundred page history text and change them to bold. I stare at my screen, slack-brained, and navigate my little pointer to each little superscript number above a footnote, highlighting the number and only the number--if I accidentally include a space I have to try again--to double-check if InDesign has really styled it as a superscript. Over the course of a week I may do this five hundred times.

I also write accessibility text. The inclusion of accessibility text is a legal requirement in web-based course design, because blind people who may want to participate in your web-based course cannot see the images on the screen and therefore do not have the same learning opportunities as a seeing student. Every image in the course, then, informative or not--a diagram of a Langerhans cell or a graphic of a grinning cartoon student in the margin--must be explicitly described in accessibility text so blind people don't miss out. I'm working on a high school anatomy course right now, and today I wrote accessibility text for detailed diagrams of deep muscles. And then I realized something. My work will never matter to another human being unless by some mad chance a blind high school student signs up for an almost entirely visual online anatomy course. And just like that, the laughable and overwhelming futility of the hours I spend at that cursed screen turned into a metaphor for my entire job.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010


My current project:
ذاكرة الجسد (Memory in the Flesh), Ahlam Mosteghanemi (Arabic/English)

Okay, so the Arabic here is fantastically styled and metaphoric and far more difficult to read than Elias Khouri(English spelling?)'s more straightforward storytelling in Gate of the Sun (باب الشمس)(which, don't worry, I haven't put down; I kindle my interest by keeping a diverse literary portfolio), but I'm having a wonderful time trying. And, يا سلام, the translation! It's fabulously eloquent and I can't imagine translating anything with such literary prowess.

I mean, consider just the dedication. The power! It kills me!

الى مالك حدد، ابن قسنطينة الذي أقسم بعد استقلال الجزاءر ألا يكتب بلغة ليست لغته . . . فاغتالته الصفحة البيضاء . . . و مات متأثرا بسلطان صمته ليصبح شهيد اللغة العربية، و أول كاتب قرر أن يموت صمتا و قهرا و عشقا لها. و الى أبي . . . عساه بجد هناك من يتقن العربية، فيقرأ له أخيرا هذا الكتاب . . . كتابه.  

To the memory of Malek Haddad, Son of Casantina, who swore after the independence of Algeria not to write in a language that was not his. The blank page assassinated him. He died by the might of his silence to become a martyr of the Arabic language and the first writer ever to die silent, grieving, and passionate on its behalf.
And to the memory of my father, who may find someone there who knows Arabic to read him this book, his book.

يا سلام! الجمال!ل
Almost nothing in this world makes me happier than good literature.

Monday, November 29, 2010


5 Things I Am Grateful For Today
1) The fact that it snowed lightly almost all day, justifying my clothing choices--soft boots, a cozy white hat, and an outrageously bright snow coat.
2) My linguistics class--some days the lighthearted atmosphere in there is a real breath of air to a drowning girl.
3) The fact that no one came to my office hours so I could count listening to music and playing on Facebook as productive, employed time.
4) One very nice compliment.
5) The fact that I finished my homework before 10 PM and might even get to see my friends tonight.

This started out as "5 Things I'm Looking Forward To This Week," but (pathetically) I couldn't even think of one. I think I read on one of those inspirational chocolate wrappers that happiness comes from having something to do, someone to love, and something to look forward to. Well, I certainly have enough to do, so if I want to be happy I guess I'd better spend a little more time on the other two.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Mashrou' Leila.


Love, love, love, love, love.
Check out فساتين (my favorite); if you speak Arabic at my level/higher you'll be psyched; we can understand most of it.

بتذكري لما قلتلي
انك راحت تجوجيني
...بلا فلوس و بلا بيت

Snowpocalypse Not.

BYU shut itself down at 3 PM yesterday after wildly abusing the Y-Alert text messaging system (really, fifteen messages?) to make sure every single one of its 30,000 students knew about an impending blizzard that would (and I quote) "far surpass anything that we've seen, probably for the last several years. The combination of snow, extreme cold, and possibly damaging winds will make travel extremely hazardous." A counselor in the Kennedy Center sent all her employees home at 12 to escape the traffic, and when I showed up in her office she looked to be on the verge of tears. "Be extremely careful in the snow!" she exhorted as I left. The testing center, which decided to close at 4 PM, forced my organic chemistry professor to extend our exam until next Monday, giving those who hadn't taken it yet an extremely unfair advantage (in a class graded in fierce competition, that's insane). My roommate, who was supposed to work a five-hour shift on campus yesterday and all day today, simply won't get paid for those hours (she can't come to work if campus is shut down). And my neighbor's kids, who excitedly set up an insulated tent in the backyard in order to weather the storm "like Bear Grylls," sat out there for hours while not one flake graced our sorry ground.

Let's just say I'd hate to be:
1) the meteorologist who decided citywide alerts were necessary
2) the dude who decided it was necessary to shut down the entire university

"Are you sure, Cecil? Shut down campus? That might be a little drastic."
"I'm sure, Steve. This blizzard will far surpass anything that we've seen, probably for the last several years! We'll be stuck inside for days! Students need to stock up on groceries and flashlights or get the heck out of town!"
"But consider the logistics of the situation. Eleven professors trying to pack in exams before Thanksgiving, thousands of students in classes on campus, thousands more employees with jobs to work..."
"Give the order, Steve. Break out Y-Alert."

Luckily, I'm not the only Utah blogger laughing.

Monday, November 22, 2010


high school
lol, aka paradise
The Friendship comprises seven girls who've been best friends since, well, ever. We're twenty and twenty-one years old and since we all bounce in and out of Utah between future-oriented endeavors we're never too far apart. We're sisters in the best sense of the word and have been for a decade or so.
But on Friday we celebrated our first wedding, and our beautiful Elizabeth Witham became Jerret and Elizabeth Elton. As the Friendship teased and giggled during our best-friends-of-the-bride photo shoot outside the temple we realized things would never be the same. In many ways they'll be better--more adult, more real, and more individual. But in other ways, we're really going to miss each other.
Congratulations, Liz! You were an elegant bride.

One F-ship wedding down...six to go?

{Also: I, the pre-med-pre-missionary/least likely to marry anytime soon, caught Liz's wedding bouquet. Ironic.}

Friday, November 19, 2010


I'm always so depressed and angry with myself after my Arabic speaking appointment.

This is how it goes. My partner and I are the last pair of the week to meet with our graduate student. We step into his room at 4:45 PM every Friday afternoon and it's obvious the poor guy has had enough--eighty American students butchering the Arabic language per week is just about eighty too many. So without speaking to us he leans back in his chair and closes his eyes, not bothering to hide his frustration. It's legitimate frustration, too; I suck on pretty much all fronts when it comes to speaking, and because I know that, I get even worse. Inevitably, my partner slips into Shami and I stumble into fusHa, both of which make our grad student angry (we're supposed to be speaking Masri). We've given up trying to memorize the اولادنا scenes; any more of سعيد and his سرير لوحده and I might just give up on life. So we read the scenes from my paper and then I stutter through the monologue I so carefully prepare, forgetting half of it and mispronouncing the other half due to the fact that I'm insanely nervous and if you asked me to speak in ENGLISH in front of someone who was judging me I might just pass out, let alone do so in Arabic.

I guess the thing that bothers me most, though, is that we never get any positive feedback--or really any recognition at all. Our grad student just closes his eyes and tells us what we've butchered most severely, then asks us for our point sheets (grading is wildly subject to mood) and we get out. I think I'd have a more positive speaking experience if I were asked real questions--I don't expect anyone to remember things about my life, but it'd be nice to have a little personal inquiry once in a while, or at the very least a single positive comment. I get so down on myself about my speaking abilities that I really do think it makes me worse. I'm a person who thrives on verbal recognition--if someone compliments me on even the smallest thing that I do right I feel all right about myself, even if they chew me out for my errors afterward; if instead all they go on about is everything I screw up I just leave feeling horribly, completely incompetent.

Thursday, November 18, 2010


As a scientist, I don't comprehend the concept behind "making comments in class." In all honesty, I cannot comprehend why anyone would raise their hand during a lecture unless they had something academically substantial to contribute to the collective enlightenment of the class--a question relevant to everyone, an argument exposing a flaw in the presenter's argument, or a well-researched connection to something equally well-researched.

However, as I've observed while learning to function in non-science classes, comments that fit the above criteria are the exception rather than the norm, and to help me make sense of this concept I've started to classify the types of comments I hear every day into six general categories. It's no wonder I'm confused--no one taking electrical physics raises his hand to inform the class that the principles that drive three-dimensional charged-field magnetism are "just so true, because, like, I was talking to my roommate/boyfriend/spouse last night, and we realized that people do this ALL the time. I mean, when I was on my mission, I had this investigator who..."

The Six Major Types of Comments in Liberal Arts Classes
1) Corroboration
2) Parallel example: Course-relevant/Scholarly
3) Parallel example: Individual-specific
4) Expansive example: Intelligent
5) Expansive example: Unfounded logic leap
6) "I feel..."

Corroboration comments consist of a student raising his or her hand to agree with the professor. No insight or additional information is added. Inexplicably, the student must just agree out loud. These people always make me wonder. If they feel such an urge to comment when they understand a principle, and they only comment once or twice per lecture, what does this say about how much they understand?

Parallel example: Course-relevant/Scholarly comments are rare--diamonds among dust mites. Comments in this category are exactly what they sound like--intelligent, relevant, and thought-provoking. Sadly, comments like this are almost extinct, having been brutally forced out of their natural habitat by attention-seeking opinion whores packing rounds of personal pronouns.

I find Parallel example: Individual-specific comments absolutely incomprehensible. What illogical,  egocentric force drives a person to raise his or her hand to share an irrelevant story from his or her daily life with a class of fifty others with no vested interest never fails to shock me. Extensive comments about a movie one has seen or a book one has read (unknown to the rest of the class) also fall here.

Expansive example: Intelligent comments are indicative of deep thought; these comments concisely and effectively articulate connections between ideas, great works, languages, historical figures, or contemporary society and the topic at hand.

Expansive example: Unfounded logic leap comments confuse everyone involved (including the commenter). These are the comments in which a very confused student makes connections to something he or she doesn't fully understand, and no one knows whether to laugh or to pretend like they didn't hear. For example, after an exhaustive lecture on protein complexing in homologous recombination in my molecular biology class last year, one girl raised her hand to ask, "Is this why we have gay people?"

"I feel..." comments express the emotions (and not the opinions) of the commenter. These comments match Parallel example: Individual-specific comments in sheer irrelevancy. Why fifty other students and a professor should care what YOU feel about Principle X is absolutely beyond me.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


BBC Provo, 8:55 AM Greenwich Mean Time (2 AM MST):
Jessica Sagers announced Monday that she does, in fact, have emotions. "I know I always seem like I'm in the same mood, but please don't think it's that simple," said Sagers, smiling inexplicably in an impromptu conference later that day. "Very few--if any--people know when I'm unhappy." Responding to questions posed about her ability to cry, she was taken aback. "Are you kidding? I cry all the time. I just don't do it around anyone if I can help it. And if I'm exhausted, stressed, scared, or despondent enough, I won't be able to help it, so keep your eyes open." Confused at the press's apparent inability to distinguish whether she is, as she claims, a human being, she offered some suggestions to help the layperson differentiate between her moods. "Any jewelry in the shape of a heart, that's a dead giveaway for sadness. Red eyes--I mean excessively red, the I've-stayed-up-all-night-and-will-probably-have-to-do-so-again-tonight red. Troubled skin. It's not that hard. Of course I'm going to tell you I'm fine. I don't want to talk to you, probably, so it's the easiest thing to say. Don't take it personally. It's me, not you."

Sunday, November 14, 2010


An excerpt from this fabulous student blog.

Not long into their interview with public radio host Ira Glass, one of the three college-aged interviewers, a young girl, asks, with a desperate smile etched on her face, how to decide “which of her passions” to pursue.
“Like how do you determine, how…” she begins.
“How do you figure out what you want?” Glass interrupts.
“How do you not only figure out what you want, but know that you’ll be good at it?” she finishes.
There’s a pause. In this moment, when Glass prepares his answer, the young girl’s earlier admission that she’s a pre-med, and doubting her decision to attend med school, hangs in the air. Glass can relate: he too had been considering med school when he stumbled into his first radio internship, after his freshman year of college.
He proceeds cautiously, softly: “Honestly, even the stuff you want you’re not necessarily good at right away…I started working at 19 at the network level, and from that point it took me years. The key thing is to force yourself through the work, force the skills to come. That’s the hardest phase.”
One of the other interviewers, a young man in a baseball cap, interjects: “Do you think hard work can make you talented?”
“Yes. I do.”
The students let this sink in.
“In the movies there’s this idea that you should just go for your dream,” Glass continues. “But I don’t believe that.”
By the students’ reactions, this is not what they expected to hear.
“Things happen in stages. I was a terrible reporter, but I was perfectly good at other parts of working in radio: I am a good editor…I feel like your problem is that you’re trying to judge all things in the abstract before you do them.”
A beat.
“That’s your tragic mistake.”

Thursday, November 11, 2010


this comes from a website for one Mrs. Beard's first grade class in michigan. clearly, mrs. beard knows her stuff.

Today I found the Middle Eastern Collection on the fifth floor of the library, and I couldn't help feel happy tears in my eyes when I discovered I could read.

I never experienced that revelation as a child; I grew up with words in my mouth and have never remembered life without books. As a two-year-old I am told I flipped through magazines in the airport, proclaiming racy headlines to amused onlookers; my parents loved to show off their first baby's unnatural affinity for the written word. As a six-year-old I stored handwritten short stories on pink Post-it notes in my closet; at twelve I dissolved into Betty Smith and at seventeen into Conrad and Faulkner, and for the past three years I've consumed just about everything I can find.

But today between the fifth floor stacks, my back to the Welsh Bibles, I realized I can read in Arabic--not just in my textbooks, not just in my drills, and by all means not very well--but it's true, I really can read. Despite not understanding every word, I am trained to guess at meaning and well enough founded in grammar to make out the shape of syntax, voice, and flow.

And so in bliss I researched milestone works in contemporary Arabic literature and checked out two novels with true literary merit, a version of each in Arabic and in English. With them I'm going to challenge myself. And whether I get through six pages or six hundred, one fact remains: I can read.


An amusing list of interdisciplinary cognates, all equally relevant to my life.
Click to enlarge (if you dare).






كل شيء courtesy of Wikipedia/Google Images.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Square yard of space.

If last year’s model was pristine and white, all clean lines and stark decoration, this year’s is sanguine and lavish. The overwhelming color is luxuriously cranberry—venous blood and lukewarm Merlot. Persian rugs adorn my floor in haphazard piles, prickly gold trim spinning ribbons through forests of plush, and a small gold chandelier radiates thick yellow light from a ceiling painted in stylized Arabic. No windows, no doors, no one else, of course. Books, sure—indulgent novels, nothing with even the aftertaste of information. Ambient acoustic guitar. A four-poster bed drizzled with pillows—burnished red, deep brown, burnt pink, sparkling gold. Kunafe min is-shar3a fi al-Quds and dark chocolate fondue.