Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Learning Arabic

I've decided to start learning Arabic, but let me tell you, native English speakers, it's not easy. There are several letters in the arabic alphabet that don't have equivalents in the English language. And vowels make NO sense to me at all. When do I use an actual vowel versus a line signaling a vowel? And why are letters written differently based on where they are in the word? There are different ways to write letters depending on their position at the beginning, middle, or end of a word. Not to mention writing in the opposite direction as well. This seems impossible!

But I'm determined. Although it seems like a daunting task now, I'm sure it will become easier over time. The writing is so beautiful. I can't wait until I can understand Arabic.

If you're a beginner like me and want to start learning Arabic, I recommend this Learn Arabic with Maha on YouTube. Also, this video is a big help with the alphabet for true newbies. And take a peek at this list of basic phrases from Linguanaut to get you started. I think you should join me in learning Arabic so we can complain about how difficult it is together!

Ma’a salama

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Big Chess

The turkey has been eaten, black friday deals are over, and Thanksgiving has been forgotten. Now it's back to the grind.

I already miss playing big chess with my dad. The black and white squares were painted on the floor of the hotel's game room and the pieces were about the size of a toddler. Seeing the lines was much more difficult because more than once I made a move and then thought, oh crap, that's not what I wanted to do. When I said check, I though my bishop in line with your king...

Playing chess made me miss gameknot where I played over 362 games in the course of several years. A traumatic loss in only 3 moves (to a high school boyfriend nonetheless) sparked an interest in improving my chess game even though I didn't join the site until years after dating him. It's funny the little things you tie to your self-esteem and never forget. In retrospect, I chalk that horrific loss up to not really knowing the rules; even though at the time I felt as dumb as dirt. It's all a matter of learning the game and developing your strategy. I have improved quite steadily since then, and I shall never lose in 3 or less moves ever again; so if you thought you could crush me in chess, think again buddy!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Ocean City Winterfest of Lights

It was sooo cold today so we canceled our walk up the boardwalk in favor of walking around in warmer places (read: went shopping). My toes were thankful; my wallet not so much.

As soon as it got dark, however, we decided to brave the cold windy weather to attend the Winterfest of Lights, a Christmasy light show at Ocean City, MD. You only really need to go to this winterfest once, but as my parents pointed out, they add a couple new things every year and it gives you something to do.

As it is now after Thanksgiving, I can accept Christmas themed things. I found it pretty annoying that radio stations starting playing Christmas music and stores started setting up their Christmas decorations before halloween even. Let us enjoy one holiday at a time. Geez, people!

Friday, November 26, 2010

What 3 things would you grab in a fire?

This morning the fire alarm of our hotel woke us up. Attention: everybody outside. Fun indeed. A whirl of pajamas, unbrushed hair, and screaming kids from neighboring rooms.

You know that hypothetical situation where you choose 3 things you will take with you if your house is on fire and you have to evacuate immediately? Yeah, well that type of clear thinking doesn't really happen in such a situation anyway.

The three things I grabbed when I thought the place was on fire were my computer (good choice), contacts (probably necessary), and gloves (huh?). I didn't bring other important things like my ipod, phone, credit card, keys, or coat. So much for clarity in the morning fire drill. The alarm likely awakened us because somebody burned Jimmy Dean sausages in their microwave, but still, I couldn't have grabbed more strategic items? Hopefully I'll never have to face that situation for real.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving friends!

I'm at the beach freezing. Brrrr.

I'm also eating at a buffet. This only happens once a year. Turkey beware. I shall conquer.

Now, if only I could find my stretchy pants...

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Is it Thanksgiving yet?

Cant. Wait. Until. Thanksgiving.

I don't know what it is. Maybe it's seeing my family. Maybe it's taking a much needed break from school & work. Maybe it's going to the beach. Maybe it's the promise of turkey. Maybe it's the Macy's day parade and football game. Maybe it's the holiday spirit and chance at collective thankfulness. Maybe it's getting away from the routine. Maybe it's the Black Friday shopping.

What ever it is...Thanksgiving cannot get here soon enough.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Who fills out consumer research surveys?

Toyota's research company dedicated to "buyer feedback and emotional response studies" keeps sending out these customer surveys for me to fill out every few months or so since I bought my car in January; and I keep filling them out. I am such a sucker. They take almost 20 minutes to read and go through, clicking radio buttons from strongly agree to strongly disagree.

Who the heck actually does that?? Is it because I have no life? NO. Is it because I really think they care what I think? NO. Is it because I feel like I am accomplishing something meaningful or doing something nice for someone else? NO. It's because they have a drawing for a $20,000 cash prize that you supposedly get entered into for filling out the anonymous survey. It's because you click on the link and think, yeah, ok, that 1 in a million chance at 20,000 is worth 2 minutes of my time, and then, 18 minutes later you are still trying to decide whether driving a Toyota makes you feel more "powerful" or "secure" or hey, why not both?

It's all about getting customers to click on the link. Once they do, you've got 'em, because they're not going to stop filling the thing out mid-way through. And in my case, I'll click on the intitial link 3 times in less than a year. Clearly I don't learn. Is there anybody else out there who completes these surveys?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

How to get tickets to go up the Washington Monument

Even though I've been to Washington, DC a million times as a kid and have been living here for two years, I've still never gone up the Washington Monument.

For a couple years it was closed for renovation, but I do believe it's been opened for while since. You have to have a timed ticket to go up as I learned this weekend when I took this photo. Apparently you have to arrive on site at 8:30AM in order to get tickets to go up. Ha. Yeah right. On a day I would have time to go the monument (namely Saturdays), there is no way I'd wake up up at 8:30AM let alone be waiting in line for a ticket at 8:30AM. I love sleeping in on weekends. So what are those of us who are not early birds to do?

Well, we can order tickets at Recreation.gov. If you want to go on a weekend, it's likely you'll have to order yours a few weeks in advance. Or in the summer a few months in advance. The tickets are free, but there is a nominal fee per ticket for shipping and whatnot ($1.50 each when I checked), but the extra couple of hours of sleep is worth it.

I'm going to order my tickets soon, because it's about time I check out this DC from the best vantage point--within!

Sunday, November 14, 2010


As much as language shapes our reality, it is also largely inadequate. There is so much that language can say; but there is so much more that language cannot say.

So many times I have wanted to express a feeling or thought, but was unable to do so because words just couldn't fully grasp the nuance of the concept. I find this problem most often occurring to me when trying to express certain feelings or when trying to give accurate descriptions. I still love words though and think they lie at the essence of our being. Yet sometimes words can't suffice. And sometimes words must be twisted into artistic forms to more accurately represent the human experience.

All this thinking came about by stumbling upon these 20 Awesomely Untranslatable Words from Around the World . 20 words that don't have English equivalents. I know there are many many more out there, but I enjoyed this selection, which included:

Indonesian – “A joke so poorly told and so unfunny that one cannot help but laugh”

Spanish – “the mysterious power that a work of art has to deeply move a person.”

Arabic - “You bury me, a declaration of one’s hope that they’ll die before another person because of how difficult it would be to live without them."

Japanese – “a way of living that focuses on finding beauty within the imperfections of life and accepting peacefully the natural cycle of growth and decay.”

German – Quite famous for its meaning that somehow other languages neglected to recognize, this refers to the feeling of pleasure derived by seeing another’s misfortune.

and my favorite from the list (I can't imagine why don't have this one in English...):

Pascuense (Easter Island) “the act of taking objects one desires from the house of a friend by gradually borrowing all of them.”