Thursday, October 30, 2014

For Once, Apple "delivered" ;-)

I have this half-written post in my drafts folder in which I'm mad at Apple and basically giving up on its computers. I wrote it only a handful of days ago, actually, mad at the situation with my photos!

Why the slight change in perspective, you could ask? Well... Because my once "top of the line" iPhone 5 just had a battery replaced for free by apple today because it had a faulty one that qualified for free replacement! YAY! 

Great "gift" on the 2nd anniversary of me getting the iPhone. I joke that since 7 is my number -- ;-) anyone out there born on 7/7 as well? Too bad it wasn't in 1970! I turned a disappointing six on 7/7/77 -- my next iPhone will have to be the 7! ;-)

We'll see about that! It will all depend on whether our AWESOME "alternative" carrier Ting will take it! Meanwhile, I'm more or less in peace with Apple, but I still need to find a way to back up TWO YEARS of photos held hostage in iPhoto in my laptop. 

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Brazilian Presidential Elections

Today was the second round of the presidential elections in Brazil and, in spite of corruption charges and much criticism, the incumbent president, Dilma Rousseff, was re-elected.

The sharp divisions in the country remind me a lot of the "red" and "blue" states extremes that started with Bush's "election" and re-election, except that the Northeast and North of Brazil are equivalent historically to the South of the U.S. and in Brazil the "red" side refers to the socialist-learning Worker's Party and the even more left communist parties.

All of my friends and family are very  upset with the re-election and I read lots of unhappy posts on facebook. Many people actually putting up a black "bereavement" Brazilian flag as their profile photo. I also talked to my mom on the phone and she ranted for a long time.

I haven't lived in Brazil for 18 years, so I cannot really have an informed opinion about the election. I liked Marina and I used to support the Worker's party, but their corruption and other problems make me no longer sympathize with them.

People are talking of impeaching Dilma, let's see what will happen. I hope that the economy in Brazil doesn't go into crisis mode harming our family members. :-(

Friday, October 24, 2014

The "Big Dream" ;-) (a Sabbatical in Europe)

I had to spill all the beans in the title because, well, if all you see are my blog post titles, at least you'll know what my greatest dream (for now) is! ;-)

You know, the thought of not having a career, a job/jobs is pretty freeing, actually. But I know I will need to figure out something to continue helping to support my family.

While that doesn't get decided/settled (will it ever?), why don't I take to dreaming? Half-an-hour of research about traveling in Europe reminded me of my "big dream" and gave me a small epiphany: maybe not having a job could help in this dream? Or the contrary? K and I have often talked that having an actual job I could request a semester of unpaid leave from would be the most important condition to actually act on our dream. And maybe that's true. Sigh... :-(

So, the dream is simple. When K got his current job at first he was told that they were no longer doing sabbaticals, but then things changed and there are actually sabbaticals to be had -- after he gets tenure (which hopefully will be in the Summer of 2016). And the dream would be for him to find an institution in Europe to do research during the sabbatical semester -- preferably in France, Switzerland or England (to make it easier for the boys in school).

The dream would be to go in the Spring so he could also do research in the summer and then we could travel around. If we were to go to France, particularly the greater Paris region or to England, I think I could also get a teaching job (language, literature) for one semester. I mean, anywhere close to a big university would give me a chance to do something too.

Anyway... it would be challenging for the kids (who would be 13-14 and 16-17), but it would be a once-in-a-lifetime experience!

I'll let you know if any of this ever transpires. In any case, it's several years into the future.

Dreaming doesn't hurt, does it?

(big sigh... not whiny, but the "smiling"/content kind of sigh :-)

Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Amazing Summer 2015 Middle-East/Europe Trip Tickets Were Bought OR ("Good" Debt??)

Buying international travel tickets is costly and, therefore, horribly scary & stressful! (at least for me!) Right now I'm burying my head on the sand, ostrich-style, not thinking about all that debt on my credit card that we'll have to figure out how to pay! The problem is that we still have some debt from buying the car this summer, yikes! Is there such a thing as "good" debt? If yes, these qualify, I think! ;-)

We don't travel until mid-July next year, but bought the tickets two nights ago because tickets need to be purchased well in advance for these kinds of trips. Especially for such a crazy itinerary as ours! We fly into Cairo (via Frankfurt), tour through Cairo, Sinai Peninsula, Jordan and Israel with a group; fly from Tel-Aviv to Zurich, spend 14 days in Europe; fly back to the U.S.

I'm excited! The Middle-East trip will be with family: parents-in-laws, my parents, one of the brothers-in-law ("K2") and his wife & sons, my mother-in-law's sister and at least two of her three sons and their wives, maybe a few more relatives, and, to complete the group, some close and not-so-close friends. My sons will be baptized by their grandfathers (both pastors) in the Jordan River -- Kelvin's bright idea! -- and I think that's going to be very emotional and meaningful (my nephews may be baptized too, but I don't know).

Then our family and my parents and I will spend some time in Europe together. We haven't decided the itinerary yet, but I'm already super panicky that 14 days is ABSOLUTELY nothing & too little time! Good thing I spent 27 wonderfully packed days in Europe in 2000 backpacking, camping, and "Eurail-passing" with my husband, so we did see LOTS, most everything (museums, churches, monuments, sights) in these eight cities: Paris, Barcelona, Florence, Rome, Venice, Munich, Berlin, & Amsterdam.

The boys have an agenda, and it has ONE (cute!) item: they want to visit the Miniatur Wunderland in Hamburg, Germany, which is the largest model railway display in the world! So we have no choice, we have to go to Hamburg! ;-) And it's kind of "out of the way," but we'll do it for them (they also want to do the "behind the scenes" tour -- but we have to book one in English in advance, I don't know if that will work, but coming from so far away, it may be worth it!). K was saying we should then go to Denmark, but I think that maybe not, only if we had more time. My parents already know Denmark. They know most of Europe, actually, since they lived there for 3 years(1969-1972) and traveled around for 4 months at the end of their time there.

I don't really have any "agenda" except to visit my birth-place (Geneva) with my parents and to go to the Alps (wherever Rick Steves, our travel guru extraordinaire, says to go). We will be able to spend a few nights "camped" in K's aunt (actually his mom's cousin) in Basel, Switzerland, so that will be helpful -- we can leave suitcases there, for example.

Yeah, I'm excited! And I will probably blog much more about his trip in between now and July. And, hopefully I'll blog a lot of the trip as well!

Have you been to Europe? Or the Middle-East? Do you like traveling abroad? I love it, I'd do it all the time if I could!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Trying to Be At Peace

My "silly" premonition may be dead-on. I found out nearly 10 days ago (but I couldn't find the right way to blog it) that U#2 is going to do a national search for my current position and I'm "welcome to apply."

I totally freaked out when I found out and I sent a panicked email to two friends. Good thing my dear friends, who are so patient with me, reminded me that they do need to advertise for a new position in order to change it to a 3 year more permanent position. That happened with them, but I think the circumstances were quite different. (it was a last minute thing two years ago, positions opened up, were advertised mid-summer for a short while and they got the contracts. Last year they had a few more 3 year contracts for other lecturers of the same language). It didn't seem to be premeditated and long planned like this, I think. I will find out when the ad is posted. (which may be late in the year too!) ;-(

So... I have a really bad feeling about this. I think it's a very convenient occasion for them to get rid of me. And what happened this summer and in the beginning of the semester with my contract strongly suggests that my intuition is right. I know the students love me, but maybe asking for fair treatment is a ticket to be discarded. After all, as Chomsky stated, they want more control over us vulnerable workers.

And to make matters even more complicated and stressful I found out that there's no way I can have full-time work at U#1. In fact, I don't even know if I can to teach more classes there, though I'm hoping it will be possible.

Yeah, just what I needed to keep going with my crazy-busy schedule in the middle of the semester.


I know that whatever happens I will be OK. I trust that the Lord has a plan for my life and this situation, but I'm still apprehensive and sad. And stressed out about the money. But I know He can provide. Please keep me in your prayers in the next few months. I hope that this unbearable suspense won't last too many months! (but it may) :-(

Thursday, October 09, 2014

That Gluten-Free Experiment?

I don't know if you remember that I did a really short week-long experiment of going gluten-free and I need to report back that it didn't really work (and please don't tell me that I needed to have gone at least a month, blah-blah-blah, I already know!) .

The thing is: I'm quite sure I don't have a gluten intolerance.

(OTOH I am not sure I'm not lactose intolerant, but I don't really want to know at this point, sorry, no! ;-)

So, yeah... that's that, I don't think I have a lot to say about this (which is a pretty rare thing for me!), except two things:

1) It wasn't very hard because I already eat lots of gluten-free meals and I'm not dependent on bread or cereal at all.

2) Large amounts of pasta or white bread (rich in soluble fiber* and poor in insoluble fiber) are excellent for my IBS, so why quit them for no reason?

Note: I still eat lots of veggies and whole grain foods, I just try to balance them with foods rich in soluble-fibers. I love lentils, for example, but coupled with tomatoes, they are my worst enemy. ;-) I still eat them once in a while, if possible, but with tons of rice!

* This very link -- that I found years and years ago (OK, back in 2006 or 7, not that long ago) when I was discussing with my husband about eating fruits & veggies together, and googled "soluble/insoluble fiber" -- is what led me to my highly accurate self-diagnosis of IBS. (the diagnosis was confirmed by a doctor after I had a colonoscopy)

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

My kids' pediatrician drives...

... a blue convertible BMW!

I just saw him as I was getting gas at Costco.

Weird Premonition

Last Thursday I found out with great delight that they're building an Aldi grocery store precisely halfway in the middle of my daily commute from home & University #2. 

We love Aldi, it was a "staple" of our grocery shopping back in PA and while my son was doing vision therapy an hour away I could also shop there weekly.

So... The catch? It seems WAAAY too good to be true that they're building an Aldi right on my daily path. 

My crazy "natural" conclusion? I probably will lose my job at U2 and won't be working here once the store is open.

I may be crazy, but it could be true!!! I should find out soon. 


Friday, October 03, 2014


I had to get those negative feelings out of the way, thanks for bearing with me! And BTW that photo I took & shared in the post make be happy, beauty makes me happy!

This week I met briefly with a student on Tuesday afternoon, just to make her some copies from the beginner level textbook. She lived in Brazil as a child, but hasn't been in touch with Portuguese for years, so she needs some grammar to help her re-capture the language in its fullness.

We walked down the hall together, talking. Then I started making copies, telling her what to do with the pages that were coming, explaining that I'd save the originals and make her a double sided, stapled packet.

Half-way through the process, my student turns to me and says, simply:

"You're so happy!"

I don't think I said anything. Maybe I just nodded and most certainly continued smiling. Or I may have said something like:

 "Sure! I guess I am!"

And it's very true. I'm really, really happy. And blessed. And I'm thankful for that every single day. That's why it doesn't bother me that sometimes I feel down and that my job situation is pretty depressing. That doesn't change a thing about me being truly happy. And I'm pretty sure that even if bad things happen (like deaths in the family), I can still be happy.

And, of course, I need to include "Happy" in this post because I do love it! (ever since I heard it in Despicable Me 2). I don't care that some people don't like it because it's so ubiquitous and overly popular or for whatever other reason. It makes me happy!

The Summer of... Nothing Done?

I can't believe it's Fall already.
Blah... you may recall I don't like the cold and though Fall is beautiful, it's also sad to me. 

This Fall I'm particularly... I don't know... disgruntled? maybe? Because the summer wasn't satisfying in a "things accomplished" kind of way. 

Some things got done, some for the very first time (like the piano):
  • the boys had piano lessons and kept their progress up, and I went all "tiger-mom" on them and had them learn a really hard duet to play in churc when family was visiting. That was satisfying, but the results are not very palpable, right?
  • The boys were in swim practice whenever we weren't traveling, but they didn't participate of any meets, so, again, no "results" except for better fitness. 
  • Both K and I presented papers at conferences and had a good time meeting colleagues and traveling with the family -- too bad they were back to back, so we got tired of traveling!
I guess that's about it. We did travel some -- a short trip to Florida, which had to be short because of this wedding we needed to attend -- and another short trip to Canada to visit family (which was short because they all came to visit us!).

The visit from family was short and intense (hosting 8 people is a lot of work!), and it helped us clean the house some (there's nothing like pressure to get things done!) but they left precisely on the kids' first day of school and the timing was far from ideal... 

What depresses me is the seemingly endless list of things that did NOT get done:
  • First, and foremost, the translation project that I started in July and which has been completely PAUSED since we traveled to Canada and classes started. :-( I won't be paid a penny until that whole things is done, so, yeah... our loss! And the worst part is that I have no idea how in the world and when I am going to finish this!!
  • I never worked in the yard and removed the countless SCARY poison ivy vines that have spread EVERYWHERE in the our backyard flower beds and next to the trees in the border of the property. 
  • We never cleaned/organized the garage.
  • I didn't organize our books which is something I've been wanting to do forever, but maybe never will?
  • I really wanted to paint the hallway and living room and downstairs, but K doesn't want to hear of those projects so, guess what, I think they'll never get done! ;-( (summer is a busy time for him and he knows painting is time consuming, but I want to do it myself, but with my "problem" who know if I'll ever really succeed in doing it. I think I could if I wanted to!)
  • I also wanted (I always want to) make more photo books and stuff, but that only works out when I have a deadline (such as a free book offer). 
We did re-stain the deck -- I finished last Friday and last Sunday! -- and I got to help K significantly with it, which made me incredibly happy! "Useful manual labor" is something I truly enjoy! (except gardening in the heat and with tons of mosquitoes, I suppose). 

Yeah, it wasn't that bad. That's why I wanted to write this post, to put things into perspective! I need to be more positive, but it's hard!

Well, like it or not, Fall is here. Happy Fall, everyone!

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Kimbap (Sushi) for Breakfast!

This morning I had a lovely, if unusual, breakfast of leftover yummy food from last night! Kimbap (the Korean word for sushi -- my friend Jen who helped me make them, wants me to use the right word) and Korean soup!
(There were about ten or twelve, but when I remembered to take the photo only these we're left!)

My younger son, who shares my taste for lunch/dinner foods for breakfast, had leftover penne with garlicky broccoli!

Do you ever eat unusual foods for breakfast? I'd LOVE to know!

P.S. BTW, for most Brazilians, typical American breakfast fare such as eggs, bacon, potatoes [home fries or hash browns] grits, sausages are very strange indeed! I love them because I love savory food much more than sweets.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Some Reasons Why I Hate Cold Weather/Winter

I even dislike Fall and early Spring (though Spring is a hopeful time -- warmth is coming! -- as opposed to depressing Fall), and some of the reasons are:

- the cold kills the plants and the world becomes all brown and grey and sad. :-(

- I strongly dislike wearing pants, socks and closed up shoes (and I obviously loooove sandals and dresses!). I've never cared for scarves & other accessories. Thankfully, I do love hats & gloves & I don't completely despise boots.

- I hate feeling cold, and my feet are often cold (sometimes even in the summer I wear socks to bed!).

- Putting on coats and taking them off is a horrble nuisance! Not to mention the cost of dry cleaning them (and their cost to begin with!). I have a bunch of filthy coats that I NEED to have cleaned -- why oh why can't I just wash them at home???? (I don't mind buying coats. I just wish I could afford more)

- I love snow (and snow days!!) and think it's beautiful (though messy), but it doesn't snow a lot here, so it's mostly really ugly & dreary.

- Winter is just way too long. Not having grown up here I don't really enjoy the seasons that much.

I need to drive now, so I'll publish this. If I remember anything else, I'll edit the post!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

What Wise Man Noam Chomsky Said about Adjunct Labor & Higher Education

I'm late* to this since it was published online in February at AlterNet, but "better late than never" is my motto!! *(but not as late as publishing a 2009 article as "new/news" here this year, that was embarrassing and I'm thankful for the commenter that pointed it out. No link for obvious reasons!)

and thanks to my dear friend Diber for the link!

WARNING: this is a "Soap-Box" kind of post. My apologies in advance for the inflammatory language!

"Chomsky: How America's Great University System Is Being Destroyed" (subitle: Faculty are increasingly hired on the Walmart model as temps.) is a great article not only explaining how/why the university system is "adjunctified" nowadays, but also exploring in great historical detail how universities have fully adopted a "corporative model"or the model of private enterprise. 

I suppose people on the right would probably argue that his arguments are flawed, blah, blah, blah... but seriously, he is perfectly right in saying that it is only possible to have a really profitable corporate world by exploiting lots of people and, at the same time, relying on them as consumers. 

I'm sorry if you disagree with me, but I cannot, in any way, shape or form, understand how people cannot see the truths he's pointing out in this speech/essay. I cannot help but be a "leftist," and I cannot really understand anyone who thinks that exploiting other people and not granting everyone (including women, children, people of color, people of other countries, people of every sexual orientation, etc) equal rights and protections is the way the world (and this country in particular!) should operate. I just cannot understand. 

You don't need to be "communist," "socialist" or any other "ist" to believe that people are inherently greedy and that there is no way any system (particularly a supposedly "communist" one) can work without exploitation and, most importantly OPPRESSION of weaker classes of people (and suppression too -- that's why I secretly, and not so secretly admire whistle blowers such as Edward Snowden and the WikiLeaks people). 

Chomsky outlines a series of ways in which Higher Education is being destroyed in this country: 

1) relying on very vulnerable (i.e. graduate students and adjuncts) teaching body, while hiring less and less tenure track faculty, is conducive to CONTROL. In addition, reducing the time and the quality of the time students are in contact with faculty also enhances control and decreases the possibility of dissent and critical thinking. The vulnerability of this group (ME, MY FRIENDS!!) is great and in many cases prevents them (US!) from organizing, unionizing, protesting. 

I LITERALLY CRIED reading his paragraph about that. 

2) Hiring lots of administrators (and staff too) and paying them higher and higher salaries. I had no idea that the numbers of students and faculty hasn't been changing much, but the number of administrators (of all levels and their staff, under-deans, secretaries, etc) has swelled incredibly.

3) Increasing the cost so students will be saddled with LIFELONG student debt that they will be forced to repay. So, they are most effectively controlled for life because of their debt!

I HAD NO IDEA that education, even an Ivy League education, was relatively inexpensive 60-70 years ago (until WHEN? I wonder). 

If you've lived in this country all your life, you may not know this (and you should see my students poor wistful faces every time I tell them that -- I just did last week), but in most other countries, UNIVERSITIES DO NOT CHARGE TUITION. Getting a college degree from a prestigious university is free or practically free in most developed countries, but not in the United States.

OK, I'm getting of my soapbox right now. Screaming like this is exhausting!!!! 

It's just I wish with all my heart I could be a "real" activist, but I just CAN'T! And it's not just that I'm a vulnerable adjunct, but I really don't have any rights here where I live. I cannot unionize, I do advocate for myself as much as I can, but although that can give me a temporary one more year of a full-time contract, it doesn't guarantee AT ALL future work. 

Sigh... all this is exhausting. I wish I could take a break from these thoughts, but they are my whole entire life, day in and day out. The mega-commute, the teaching of too many classes, the meager paycheck (which is actually great compared to other people in a similar situation).

It's easy to just feel too weak and tired to fight back. It's easy to feel defeated and powerless. But I don't want that for myself. I don't know how, but I will fight. I won't give up! (hopefully)

thanks for listening, if you're still here. 

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Boyhood: Delightfully Brilliant, yet Riddled with Stereotypes...

... or should I say brilliantly delightful? And... are some of the stereotypes slightly mysoginistic?
I don't know, but I wonder...

Well, after a summer of constantly wishing to watch movies, but not having time, I finally got to see Boyhood last Sunday with my husband in the small local theater!

(this viewing was preceded by a Richard Linklater "Before" movies marathon the weekend/week before, but I'll blog about that later! Can't wait!)

First of all, Boyhood, filmed over twelve years, is a groundbreaking film-making experiment/experience. It is incredible to see the characters age, particularly Ellar Coltrane, the boy, and his sister, played by Linklater's daughter Lorelei. Trailer:

Apart from Rebecca Woolf's commentary on the movie (and her previous post), I avoided reading reviews or criticism of the movie online, but I knew not to have too high expectations, so I wasn't disappointed.

The film is pretty moving and funny and I loved how (and I'd read about that ahead of time) Linklater chose to use music from the different years the action was taking place. I particularly loved the opening scene with Coldplay's Yellow!

I think -- although I haven't grown up in this country, so I wouldn't be able to really evaluate that! -- the movie accurately portrays American families (particularly with divorced parents) and the way American kids are raised. I loved that I have family in Texas and that I'd already been to most of the locations and I could recognize the landscape, which is very similar to where my sister-in-law's family lives. The NYT had an article about this in July, titled "Texas Gets Love Letter in 'Boyhood.'"

I was looking at my students today and thinking that I better understand their elementary/high school experience and their worldview after watching this movie (I felt that way particularly when I was looking at one of my female students who has lots of earrings in one of her ears, kind of quirky like boyhood's Mason) -- Brazilian kids' upbringing seems to me to be so different (of course in my generation, I haven't lived in Brazil and taught kids there for the past 18 years, but I still think it's different).

I liked the movie, but I think it's very hard to give it much depth and really develop the characters when you're filming over a twelve year span and that is the film's weakness. Filming like that is also very conducive to reducing the characters' lives to countless stereotypes. The single-mom who keeps finding abusive partners, the misfit high-school kid, the way boys/men see women.

I don't know... maybe I'm being too picky and academic here in being annoyed with the stereotypes and the way women/girls are portrayed. The sister seems to fade away so much towards the end of the movie, since the focus has to be on the boy(hood) of her brother.

And maybe my viewing was colored by this having read this tweet by Joyce Carol Oates:
(tweet was looking great, but then it became text only when I deleted a comment I had here before, I hope it works again! YAY, it is working!)

In any case, women, particularly the mother, seem to be viewed as victims of men (maybe that's a good thing? To show how women can be strong and overcome abuse?) and since it's a movie about a boy growing up, we also have stereotypes of the way young men see women. I like the girlfriend and what happens seems realistic, but I don't know if I like the girl at the end.

I don't really know exactly what/how I feel, but as a girl/woman, I wish there was another movie like Joyce wrote. Sometimes this whole being-a-feminist-thing and seeking gender equality is exhausting to me... I wish I could just move on, but it's not possible, not with depressing statistics about the gender gap (particularly one I can't find now about how mothers make even less money than other women). The fight has to continue... sigh... and the awareness of gender stereotyping really did take some of the "magic" from this movie for me.

Last, but not least, I kept wondering if his mom wasn't just an adjunct and probably not really a tenure-track professor (like her second husband -- what a piece of work! And then they also totally make fun of this crazy supposed UT Austin professor who talks to himself in a diner, yikes!). She obviously seems to have a full-time position, but she's also pretty broke (and she clearly only got a master's degree not a doctorate). Well... it doesn't matter, but that part really resonated with me (obviously!).

Overall, I really enjoyed the movie and I loved Ethan Hawke, though I prefer him in the Before trilogy much more. Ellar Coltrane was superb, I want to read the interviews and articles about him and also view Q&A's with him and Linklater that are available on YouTube. I liked Lorelei Linklater's performance a lot and Patricia Arquette was OK as the mom. Now I can go read some reviews and I may come back to edit this with some links to my favorites (or not!).

I'm glad I finally got to do something I'd been really looking forward to! We do make it a point not too watch too many (if any!) movies, but this was one I wanted to see very badly. Hopefully this post doesn't have too many spoilers for you if you still haven't seen it!

P.S. As a mom of two boys I also got to think about my sons and my mothering of them, but they're still too young for me to identify with the teenage years that were a large part of the movie. In addition, their upbringing is/will be just very different from the boy in this film. Oh, and I thought that including stereotypical views of religious people was fine, almost funny. And the guns in a Texas ranch detail. I just thought that the dad's marriage came out of the blue and was left completely unexplained... but the movie wasn't about him. The mother is always closer to the boy, so she's portrayed in more depth.