Friday, February 26, 2010


First, something that I read, and loved, because it put in academic terms many things that I have always felt about the phenomenon of Wifework: What marriage really means for women. Of course the author, Susan Maushart is Australian/American, so there are real cultural differences in our experiences, but she really sums up the parts that get under my skin really well. Been meaning to mention her work for a while. I'll revisit this at some later point.

Second, my thesis reading is totally overwhelming me. Everything I read points me to at least five (if I'm lucky.. more likely fifty) further references that look interesting or relevant or life-changing. And of course I don't have the time to read it all. And of course I don't have access to a decent library, so a lot of books that I could skim and recognize as "not really relevant even though they sound like they should be" remain tantalizingly out of reach, even as they stick out their tongues and wag their fingers at my focus on the texts I *am* reading. It has become very clear to me that this is one of my major obstacles in completing writing tasks. The allure of more things that could be read leads me to collect far more material than I can possibly read, which means I put it off, which means I don't get started on writing till far too late. So now that I've identified this problem in so many words, I need to seek some suggestions as to how I can circumvent the problem: I want my reading to be thorough; that's something I'm not willing to sacrifice. So how do I identify "thorough enough," given that "complete" is never an option where reading and learning go?

Ok, back to reading about qualitative research methods, so I can decide what to go with sometime in the next week. :)

"I raise my hands to frame the light,
Raise my voice in the middle of the night,
I close my eyes when I start to sing,
It's a way of, way of praying"
               - Carrie Newcomer, The Yes of Yes

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Can We or Can't We?

Last night, H and I had dinner at one of his colleagues.' This is an unusual occurrence for us, socializing with people from his workplace, especially since we've moved to Abu Dhabi. The conversation ranged from politics to parenting to comparisons of Abu Dhabi and Pakistan, to any number of things.

The politics part I won't really get into today, other than to comment that I discovered something about myself: I used to get very frustrated when I heard people blame all or most of Pakistan's woes on "the foreign hand." Now I am amusedly exasperated. Something to discuss in more detail another day, perhaps.

The conversation on parenting is what I want to focus on. We were agreeing that too many children in Pakistan were given far too free a hand by their parents, in terms of how much money they had to spend, in particular. We talked about how a lot of drug money had flooded into the country in the 80s and how foreign remittances from expat workers created "money for free." Too many kids had fathers who were working abroad, usually in the Gulf, and sending most of their salary home. These kids never saw how hard their fathers worked, and they worked hard. At jobs that their kids would consider beneath their dignity, for long hours, in pretty nasty living conditions. All their families saw was a sudden influx of wealth. We're not talking extra pin-money here. Family incomes increased exponentially.

The point of this conversation about the Dubai-chalo (Let's go to Dubai) phenomenon was that if kids don't see any of the effort that goes into earning money, they have little respect for money. And this was where things got really interesting, from my perspective. Our host made the remark, only half-jokingly, that it was mothers who would be answerable to God for their failure to raise their children appropriately, the implication being that their moms should teach them that their dads are working hard. And our hostess added, well, of course the mothers would be responsible for the upbringing, but the fathers would be answerable as to whether their children had been brought up on halal  or haraam kamaai ('legitimate or ill-gotten earnings', but the phrase is laden with a whole constellation of connotations in Urdu).

I can't honestly say that I know enough about the Quranic view of parenting to be able to comment on whether their opinions are correct from a dogmatic point of view. I would be willing to speculate that there are probably scholars who would espouse these views. But I'm left wondering how much we can and should control our children's attitudes, in the way that our hosts seemed to think that parents should. I suppose the expat workers' wives could try to get their kids to empathize with their fathers' experiences, but I wonder how many of the mothers were able to empathize themselves. They would have little to no exposure to the reality themselves, except for what their husbands told them in the month or three they were home every two or three years. Could those moms be held responsible for their kids attitudes? Can *any* parents be held responsible for their kids' attitudes?


Thursday, February 11, 2010

Small victories

For the first time in I don't know how long, I actually have no ironing pending. I have a load of laundry drying on the rack so there will be more tomorrow, but that's just the nature of housework. The cool thing is...there isn't any more TODAY. And laundry is actually under control. There's a load to do tomorrow, but that's ok, too. There isn't room for another load on the rack.

Housework and I don't get along. A former student, also my husband's niece, sent me a postcard recently, because she said that she thought of me the minute she saw it:

Once I had stopped laughing, it got me thinking. That statement is a patently irrational position. And it's perfectly reasonable that it reminded her of me. And that makes me uncomfortable. Because I don't like being irrational. Housework, unpleasant as it is, simply IS. And it regenerates itself every day.

What I've realized over the past several months is that I have used my anger about gender inequities as an excuse not to do that part of the housework that even *I* think I should be doing. I've also realized that getting angry because my husband isn't doing it doesn't clean the house. This is obvious to most women, apparently. And doing the work puts me in a much better position to argue the injustice of it. heheh.

Another time, I will have to write about my husband's chief line of defense in these arguments: "Fine get angry, but don't make that DOR (division of responsibilities, for those of you who are equally corporate clueless as I was) that I suggested!" and why that ticks me off, even though getting down to making it might actually be very much in my interest.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Further Along The Road Less Cluttered

Amongst the many facets of my life that I am attempting to unclutter (why is that word so much better than 'declutter'?), the thousands (4987, to be precise) of PDF files that I have accumulated over the course of literature reviews for masters courses, teaching preparation for multiple subjects, and materials development for teacher education were really weighing on me. Every time I thought of going through and trying to rename them, my heart would sink. And I knew I had to identify them, because I have two cartons of paper that can't be thrown out until I know for sure which of those articles I have electronic copies of. Also the slight matter of actually needing to write up a literature review for my thesis proposal...

So after renaming about 200 of them, I decided this was for the birds. Laziness, as I believe Benjamin Franklin said, is the mother of invention. Or some serious web-searching. And what do you think I found? It turns out that Zotero is not just a convenient way to keep your bibliography. If you import your existing, lazily-left-with-the-long-string-of-numbers-from-the-online-database-as-a-title into your Zotero collection, Zotero will give you the option of retrieving the metadata for the PDF and automatically creating an entry in your reference collection. It took my poor overworked Inspiron's 1GB of RAM about 12 hours to do the import of the ~4GB of PDF files, but now the majority of those files are in the process of getting automagically identified and indexed in a format that I will be able to directly pull into a bibliography.

There are still a bunch of files that it can't identify itself, and I'll have to go through and search for the references. Some of the documents don't contain OCR'ed text, and some of them don't have readily identified DOIs, but if it takes care of 80% of them, I'll be a happy woman.

Note to self: When downloading PDF files, download them directly into the Zotero collection, so that this nightmare need never be repeated.

It never ceases to amaze me how stupid I can be. And that apparently there are enough other people out there who are equally stupid that someone comes up with a free software solution for our stupidity. :)

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Inbox Zero, YAY

After months without internet access, I had a huge (for me) backlog of email in my inbox. Today, I managed to go through and get it down to zero. Yay for GTD and Yay for getting down to the business of actually uncluttering my life instead of just reading about it.

I got permission from my university to work on my thesis from Abu Dhabi, so five years after I was supposed to, I've actually started working with an advisor on drafting my research question for real. Yay for moving forward on long-overdue personal projects.

(I'm in a celebratory kind of mood. It doesn't show, does it?)