Thursday, January 27, 2011


I have a paranoid uncle who uses software to hide his location every time he logs onto the internet.  He tells me I should do this, and it goes in one ear and out the other.  But this in fact has it's uses--I'm now downloading the software he uses to access blocked sites here, at least before the internet is completely shut off.

I went to medinatelba7r today, which is more going out than I've been doing since it all started.  In some ways, everything seems completely normal.  Then, there are women reading about recent events in the newspaper on the metro--I have never seen anyone in the women's car reading the newspaper.  There were plainclothes cops at the train station--who are much scarier than the regular train station cops, who looked a bit apprehensive.

Hanshuf.  Bokra.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Yom el-ghaDab

Recent events are making it difficult to concentrate on research, although not living especially near the action, I am glued to my computer for updates.  My natural optimism and my natural cynicism are very much at war.  I desperately want things to be better here in baladelba7th and I believe in change.  But, it's hard, and there's so many things that need fixing.  Mostly though, I'm worried about all the hopeful faces I saw yesterday.  I want to continue watching them fill with hope.  I don't want to watch them be crushed--literally or figuratively.  Atawakkil 3alallah.  

Monday, January 24, 2011

Tickets home

My husband bought his plane ticket home.  I already had mine.  We made cat reservations on the plane.  We now have a mid-May departure set from baladelba7th, after two years here.  I feel pretty much exactly how I felt my second year second semester of graduate school: I've finally settled in, and I've started forming my community, and now I'm forsaking it all for a far-off land.

This constant moving (I've spent no more than two years, minus summers, in any given place in the last eleven years, and the last three of these moves have involved oceans) is one reason I crave stability, why I hope against hope for a post-graduation tenure-track job in a place where my husband can also find a job.  Or a non tenure-track, but stable job, something that gives me the time to make my community without leaving when I start to succeed.  Of course, this place must also have lots of loghatelba7th and my type of folk dancing, which are not a typical combination.  Rabbina yusahhil!

Incidentally, a transcription marathon is no way to spend your last four months in a place either--I'm at 2.5 out of 8 transcriptions for the week, after two full days of transcribing :-(

Friday, January 21, 2011

Karakadee Margaritas

So here is the recipe.  I'm pretty sure the proportions are up to preference, and I measure it on my glass anyway, so I don't know what the real measurements are.  They've never come out poorly though, even in different glasses.  And even when my husband makes it for me because I am trapped by the lap cat.

Fill glass with 3 ice cubes
Fill 1/4 with tequila
Add a heavy splash of cointreau or triple sec
Fill up glass with very lightly sweetened karkadee (boil hibiscus flowers and a small amount of sugar--I favor one spoonful per cup)
Squeeze in a lemon or half a lemon


Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Yaa WAIL!!!!!!!!

In a moment of masochistic curiosity, I calculated how many transcriptions I would need to do a week in order to have all of my data processed by August, and thus spend the year actual writing my dissertation, which is what I should theoretically be doing next year.

The answer is . . . eight! If you have never done transcription, this will not seem so bad.  If you have, you will understand why I panicked and ran for the karkadee margarita ingredients.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011


I finally resubmitted the article that came back "revise and resubmit."  I'm hoping this will be the magic ticket to my first publication, especially as I'm headed on the job market next  year.  This paper has been on quite the journey.  It started out as a project for a class, and then morphed into my first qualifying paper (in my program, we don't have comps, we have papers).  Note to grad students: if your program does this, do not, under any circumstances, no matter how much you care about the topic, try to start an entire new field of research for your first qualifying paper.  I alas did not have my future self to take good advice from, and tried to tackle one of the thorniest areas of my field, for which there is ample anecdotal pontifications, but no empirical research.

Between reading and designing and misinformed advice (because no one else has done this either) I ended up with a study that tries really hard but has some major design flaws.  I thought, no problem, I'll redo it later.  However, the idea is that we also need to publish our qualifying papers, such that we have publications for the job market.  So, I submitted it to a major journal in my field, figuring what the heck, I'll aim high and go from there.  Not surprisingly, it was rejected (nine months later).  This didn't bother me, until I read the reviewers' comments--it was quite clear that they had not understood the paper, or not been willing to understand it due to ideological conflicts.  One gave minor comments, and said it was terrible.  One gave minor comments, and said it was great.  One gave major comments with constructive suggestions for major revision (thank you!). To give a small, but pertinent example, one comment form the first reviewer went something like: "This paper focuses on A population."  A sentence from my paper went something like this: "The participants in this study were B, with 15% A"  

Okay, I thought, maybe I didn't write this very clearly.  So, I rewrote it in language an infant could understand, and submitted it to a small journal.  This got the revise and resubmit.  The reviewer pattern was the same: one said it was great, with minor comments, the other wanted substantial revisions.  This time, however, they at least appeared to have read the paper, so perhaps the fault was my writing all along.

Now it's resubmitted, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed! If only it weren't so tempting to think of ways to redesign this study instead of transcribing. . .

Rain, rain go away

It has rained nearly every day for the last week or two here, very bizarre weather for baladelba7th.  Of course, this most recent time I was hanging out my laundry when it started.  Since the laundry was wet, do I take it in? Or just let it get more wet and then dry again? I opted for the latter, as hanging laundry is a pain anyway.  One of the happiest moments of my childhood was when we got a dryer and hung laundry no more. 

The rain is also rather loud, and is scaring the cats.  Have they forgotton what rain is? Or are they just looking for even more excuses to take my attention away from revising my paper?

Monday, January 17, 2011

ma3a salama tour guide, ahlan Phase 4!

There have been visitors more or less straight since I've returned to baladelba7th.  Finally, it is over (well, for a month).  The visitors consisted of my siblings and a very old friend and his husband (in fact, the friend who introduced me to my husband).  Going out with them every day/night made me feel like I have a social life, instead of merely a research life, but it was also exhausting and hectic.

Now, it is back to the grindstone.  I'm into Phase 4 of my research, which is mostly piecing together small bits I didn't get to during earlier phases.  Even better, most of this piecing together is in el-medina el-kabeera, which means fewer train rides to medinatelba7r, which (biznillah) means much less stress! Of course, this also means that I theoretically have more time for the dreaded transcription . . .

I also have more time to dance, which is lovely for everything except my calves.  As I've mentioned before, my folk dancing is pretty intense on the calves.  The folk dancing I've picked up here is also pretty calf-intensive, especially as I just got the shoes for it, which have two inch heels.  When my achilles injuries first started two years ago, I gave up on heels, and have been phasing them out of my wardrobe ever since (quite the sacrifice when one is under 5'3"!).  Now I am dancing in them, which is quite the trick balance wise, as well as harsher on my calves.  Tight calves also lead to achilles pain, so alas it is not something I can ignore.   I can massage my calves, but my hands get sore.  I can have my husband massage my calves, but (as he can't understand why anyone would engage in physical activity when there is Google Reader and computer games) this usually ends up with two minutes of massage followed by "huh, I didn't realize you could have muscle in that part of your calf . . . ".  My cats are excellent massagers, but they don't follow directions so well, so they typically knead my stomach, which does not feel so good, or my hairline, which pulls my hair and thus also does not feel good.

In the end though, aching calves are a small price to pay for the stress relief that dancing brings me.  When I don't dance, I become superstressed about everything.  When I do dance, I feel like I've gained back the ability to breathe.  When I don't have time to dance, due to too many research activities, I really suffer and do things like start this blog.

So here's wishing that Phase 4 will bring more dancing as well as more researching!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Off to a good start!

Eleven days in, 2011 has been off to a rocking start for me:

  1. An article I submitted came back a promising revise and resubmit
  2. I convinced the powers that be at my school to let me teach Course Y instead of Course X in the Fall, which will be killer for my job apps
  3. I got an awesome job for this coming summer in a place where I have lots of friends
  4. I have had an excellent week of working and folk dancing--three days of dancing in a week and my achilles tendon seems to be mostly under control!
  5. My advisor officially proved Phase 4 of my research, which is basically just filling in some gaps in my data.  In other words, even if it fails, I've got enough data for a dissertation!
  6. I got a foot pedal for Christmas.  While it doesn't make transcription bearable, it does make it faster.  
  7. I figured out how to conduct Kendall's partial tau in SPSS after an update changed the syntax rules and ruined my previous method.  This is an essential part of (1), and I'm going to paste the directions here, in addition to saving them on my computer, so I can find them in the future.  
How to conduct Kendall's Partial Tau in SPSS with Variable1, Variable2, and Variable3:

Paste the following syntax into the syntax editor and run it:

  /VARIABLES=Variable1 Variable2 Variable3 

In addition to the Kendall's tau correlations, you will get a matrix in a new data editor window.  Under rowtype, change all instances of "TAUB" to "CORR".  

Then paste the following into the syntax editor and run it:
  /VARIABLES=Variable1 Variable2 BY Variable3 

This should also work for Spearman's partial rho.  In the first part, replace "KENDALL" with "SPEARMAN" and then change "RHO" to "CORR" in the matrix.  

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Wishing for water

Yet again, the water is out in my neighborhood.  This wouldn't be so bad, if it weren't for the fact that one of the ways I control my achilles tendonitis is to soak it in a bucket of water filled with frozen water bottles.    This is best done immediately after folk dancing, or right now.  Here's hoping the water comes back before my tendon gets too painful!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Playing Tour Guide

In sort of an extended family vacation, my brother and his wife flew back with me to visit baladelba7th.  We celebrated New Years, toured around a bit, and then they headed off to medinatel'athaar.  My other brother plus three friends arrived in baladelba7th Tuesday night, and Wednesday morning the seven of us set off for a two-day excursion to medinatelba7r, with me as tour guide.

We did not get off to an auspicious start.  Two of my brother's friends woke up at 8:20 when we had reserved a 9:00 train.  My brothers and my brother's wife arrived at the train station at 8:50 and I rushed them onto the train (not an easy task, as the train station is currently arranged in the most confusing way ever due to construction).  The three friends still had not arrived, so my brother ran back to look for them.  They came in a different entrance and jumped on the train as it started to move.  My brother, on his first day in baladelba7th, was left behind in the train station, all because he didn't want to leave his friends.  Worse, he had the ticket of one of his friends.  Luckily, when I explained to the ticket collector what had happened, he agreed to let her ride without buying another ticket.

My brother had a mobile that worked long enough for me to direct him to the ticket office to buy another ticket.  Unfortunately, that train wasn't till 11:00, and there is not much to do near the train station.  His phone quit working after I got him to complete the ticket purchase.

So, the rest of us arrive, and I take them to the hotel, check them in, take them to a sandwich shop, give them instructions on sandwich ordering, and directions to our first tourist site.  Then I immediately jump in a taxi to try to catch my brother at the train station in medinatelba7r.  Because his phone stopped working, I can't tell him which station to get off at.  There are two stations in medinatelba7r.  Nearly everyone gets off at the first one, because that is where most people live.  The tourist destinations are closer to the second one.  If he follows the crowd, he'll get off at the first one.  If he asks, the porters always direct tourists to the second.  I figure I will try to catch him at the first one, as the two stations are pretty much equidistant to the tourist site the rest of the group is at.  This is easier said than done, as the chances of me getting on the train while everyone is rushing off are slim, and I don't know what car he's in.  If he gets off, and I'm still looking for him on the train, and the train takes off, it's an even bigger disaster.

So, I decide to talk to the station manager.  I explain the situation, and he is sympathetic and says I can get on the train to look for him once the passengers have gotten off, and he will hold it for a minute or two at the station.  In case my brother gets off, I explain what he looks like (luckily, he is easy to spot in baladelba7th, having my coloring and being over six feet tall).  The train arrives, and I go running through the cars yelling his name, much to the amusement of the other passengers.  After about six cars, the porter tells me my brother has gotten off.  I hop off, and quickly spot him.  A station worker who has been alerted to the search is trying to tell my brother that his sister is looking for him.  Unfortunately, my brother speaks no loghatelba7th, and the station worker speaks little English, so my brother thinks he's hassling him as is wont to happen with tourists in baladelba7th and is resisting him, saying no, no, I don't want anything.  I arrive, apologize and thank the station worker, find the station manager and thank him, and set off to join the rest of the group, reunited at last.

We spend the rest of the day touring, and have a nice dinner overlooking the sea.  The next day, I come down with a dreadful cold, but we get in some more sites, with fewer disasters.  While I was really glad to see my brothers and my brother's wife, and the friends were cool, it was rather stressful for me.  Suddenly, the person who hates interacting with strangers is buying tickets, negotiating prices, translating all sorts of food orders, directing taxis, and doing all sorts of other things that I normally leave to whoever I'm with (usually my husband).  I'm also doing it times two or seven, since we always need two taxis and seven tickets/meals/etc.

Interactions with tourists in baladelba7th are always an odd dance between extreme hospitality/excitement and financial exploitation, depending on the situation and the person.  For example, there are the station workers who agreed to hold the train for my brother and didn't even think to ask for money, and then there is the taxi driver who refused to turn on his meter and demanded 50 from my brother for what should have been 10.  I felt the need to negotiate this dynamic as well, paying a little more than normal, but not three or four times more.  This was also important to me because I wanted my brothers to see the good and generous side of people in baladelba7th and not the tourist=money side.  Most of the time, this worked fine, and there were no hassles.  Sometimes, there were.  Yet another good example of this dynamic, and how it depends on the individuals involved was on our final taxi trip from the hotel to the train station.  I would normally pay 5 for this trip, but because we had lots of bags and were tourists, I told everyone to pay 10 to avoid any hassle.  When we arrived, the taxi with my brother and his friends demanded another 5.  I said no way, we already paid you double.  Then, my taxi driver backed me up, saying essentially, come on man, they already paid double, and you want more? That's not right, even for tourists.  I was simultaneously annoyed at the first taxi driver, and impressed by the second.

Needless to say, I was exhausted by the end (and the cold didn't help).  My brother and his wife flew out last night, and my other brother and company are headed on a ahramat tour today and then taking the train to medinatel'athaar tonight, so I have a bit of a break.  Was it fun seeing my family and their friends? Absolutely.  Would I ever survive as a tour guide? Not a chance.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Are you grown up yet?: Adventures in Suburban Babyland

"We're getting so old," my brother moaned, "I'm almost 25.  You'll be 30 later this year."
"So?" I replied.  "Thus far, my life has gotten better with every passing year.  I'd never want to go back to 25.  I'm excited to turn 30."
"Really?" he said.  "I mean, I do like my life now better than college . . . "
"Absolutely," I assured him.

We digressed into a discussion of how being in your twenties meant you were in your third decade.  Then he asked: "Do you feel like a grown-up?"
"No way," I said.  "I feel much more mature than people in their early twenties, but grown up? Nope, not yet."

So then we discussed why it was that I don't feel grown up, even though my years suggest I am (although not according to my father, who thinks it's not possible to even begin to be an adult until you're thirty).  I said perhaps if I had a baby and a house, and lived in one place for more than two years (something I haven't done since high school).  My husband suggested that maybe if I had a tenure-track job I would feel grown up.  This makes sense, as growing up, all the adults I knew lived in one place in a house they owned, had steady jobs, and had kids.  For better or worse, this has become my definition of "grown-up."

A few days later, I got to examine these theories by visiting two couples my husband and I are friends with who live in the suburbs of the large city closest to my parents' house, and who have each had a child in the last year.  I should explain that I hate, hate, hate suburbs.  Readers, if you live in a suburb, do not take offense.  I like many, many people who live in suburbs.  But I have a deep, visceral hatred of the suburbs.  I realize they are supposed to combine the conveniences of rural life (more space, larger houses for less money) with the conveniences of urban living (close to the shops and events in the city).  However, in  my mind they combine the worst of rural life (having to drive everywhere) with the worst of city living (too many people, not enough trees).  Increasing my dislike of suburbs is that where I am from has become increasingly suburbified over the last fifteen years.  When I came home from university twice a year, there was a always a new shopping center or subdivision (technically, where I am from is now an exurb of this same large city.  Happy two-hour commuting!).  I found that these all looked the same, and were very ugly brown and beige combinations.  Not to mention the fact that for me, squeezing a large house onto a small lot is the same as squeezing a large person into small jeans: singularly unpleasant to look at.  Furthermore, when houses are so close together, but not touching, I imagine them attacking each other.

But I digress.  My friends in the suburbs are wonderful, and their kids are very cute.  They also definitely seem grown up.  They have Christmas decorations and matching plates.  In some ways, I would like a more stable life.  I am very tired of moving.  It is the little things that are annoying, like the fact that I have bought 4 irons in the last 5 years, because an iron is something that you really need, but is too insignificant to pack (especially moving across oceans).  Particularly when because you know you will get rid of it you buy a cheap iron that doesn't work.  At the same time, I value my freedom and independence greatly, and a kid and a house would be very limiting.  Although I do want children, eventually.

Staring out into my friend's backyard, I examined the trees.  Some of them had quite interesting shapes, and I imagined that it would be fun to build fairy houses in them with a child and her friends.  Then I had visions of a scary suburban mommy-blogger descending on me in wrath, horrified that I was encouraging building houses for make-believe creatures.  

I would say that I should work to redefine "grown-up" for my lifestyle and generation.  But that sounds far too academic.

So perhaps I'll just never grow up?

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Jet Lag

Even though it is the same number of hours difference, I have much worse jet lag traveling West to East than East to West.  East to West, I simply wake up a few hours early.  West to East, I end up with dreadful sleeping patterns like that of last night: going to sleep at 9:30, waking up at midnight, and not being able to fall back to sleep until 5am, then forcing myself to wake up at 8:30 because I had a computer support appointment at 10:00 which the support person never showed up for.  Grrr.

So now, I am preparing my second cup of coffee and trying to calibrate for the day.  I think I should make some New Years resolutions/goals/plans/whatever.  But really, I just want to finish the book I started during my five hour bout of insomnia . . .