This Week on teh Interwebs


Unbelievable how dependent we are on technology. This is my first WiFi of the day. I must say it is restful to disconnect. I don’t know how i feel about people taking technology “breaks” but i like the idea of spending several hours disconnected at a time. I still checked my work email, but only once at 8am and once again just now.

At the same time, some of the things i did today wouldn’t have been possible without twitter- a chance meeting with an online friend, a restaurant recommendation- but i have so far enjoyed my mini technology break. As i am on the slowest wifi of the world, i will leave you with one picture of Pablito, taken by the lovely Swiss Twist, who is also taking part in the back2blog challenge.




Getting to know Packing Cubes

This post is part of Stephanie Booth‘s 10 day blogging challenge.  You can read about the details and join in here , and check the hashtag #back2blog for the others who are doing the same.  While I blog regularly at Muslimah Media Watch, I should do more here. So here is post 1 out of 10, enjoy!

The past year, having done many trips back and forth Zurich-Lausanne, trips to France and Italy and Spain (if you stretch the definition of year) and regular work trips to Amsterdam and London, I have been trying to resist my natural urge to overpack and become a more zen traveller with less ballast.  Two criteria have helped me whittle down: I refuse to check luggage so I must limit my toiletries to the 3-1-1 bag (a makeup lover’s nightmare); and, if whatever I want doesn’t fit into my Patagonia MLC, it doesn’t go (nb: the MLC is too large generally for three or four day trips, but I find it holds my work laptop and assorted textbooks as well as my clothing, thus reducing the need for a book bag or a tote).

So once I found the perfect bag and the “as good as it is going to get without checking the bag” toiletries situation, I started wondering how I could streamline further, and chats with Stephanie as well as journeys to the ends of the internet led me to packing cubes, the little rectangular things that help you sort your clothes even further. I’m usually skeptical of the little accessories of a capitalist, consumer society, and I feel like some sort of poseur  flashpacker (halfway there with the Patagonia bag anyway). However, that balances out against the “digging through my luggage in a hotel room at 8am when I am late for work in Amsterdam” and have gotten cubes in the hopes of just having the peace of mind of knowing where my crap is without dumping the compartment-less MLC upside down on the bed.

My trip to Amsterdam in the coming days will be my first trip with the cubes. I have two smaller cubes (socks), two medium size cubes (t-shirts) and one big cube for dirty clothes as they get dirty (trick I learned online, somewhere at the ends of the internet). I’ve already packed everything but shoes and trousers. My first assessments are:

-cubes are definitely a “nice to have” item rather than a necessity.  For the usually-under-four day trips I do, they might be overkill, and to be honest, I could easily pack the MLC without them. I’m not in love yet. I feel like this is another one of those things, like armpit bleaching deodorant, that capitalism tries to tell us we need or something, but no.  I think I would only start getting my money’s worth out of cubes at the day 7 or 8 mark but for 4 days I’m still in “gadget” territory. But like a good sport, I’m giving them a try for this short trip.

-In my case, since i pack reasonably light, the cubes add bulk for shorter trips. The ones I have are no-name brand but pretty light but the MLC has soft sides and the cubes make it pooch a bit.  However, the bulk is offset by everything being there color-coded by cube (underwear in one, socks in one…), and the organizational aspect is currently worth a few more centimeters to me. (For MLC fans- if the MLC is stuffed it will not fit into some of the smaller European jet overheads. Best bet Europe intramuros is to keep it only 3/4 full so as to smush it).

So I’m not sold on the cubes yet, but am excited to try. I’ve gotten to the point professionally and personally where I need to think as little about packing as possible (I probably spent an inordinate amount of time agonizing over buying the cubes, then the birthday GC helped stop that) and I am hoping that the milliseconds I save each trip not looking for underwear will somehow add up.

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Some more thoughts on skincare in airplanes

While looking for ways to tweak my airplane routine in prep for my trip to New York, I was surprised at the number of people google told me about who don’t do anything for their skin before getting on a plane. I’m definitely not a barbie girl, still pretty low-maintenance, but just hopping on the plane I don’t get, it can really mess up your skin for a couple of weeks.  For those of you who have met me, y’all I’m definitely not a person who cares about looks and clothes, but for me, skincare and light makeup is about overall maintenance and how we present, regardless of weight or “fashion” issues. 

Anyway my usual routine goes a little like this:

1. Overall Hydration: you should start this a few days before you get on the plane. Drinking five liters of water on the plane is just going to make you pee a lot and do very little for your skin. I up my water around three days before- that is what will make the difference for your skin, not loading up on the plane.  This also means cutting out the salt and the alcohol (for those who do that) a few days before.  The night before I also do a mask and shovel on the night cream and usually have some coconut water for the magnesium. 

2. Sunscreen: A lot of blogs say you should sunscreen while you are on the plane. While it is true that you can catch UV in the plane, sunscreen is bad for your skin- it clogs pores and doesn’t let your skin breathe.  As anal retentive as I am about sunscreen (every day of every month of every year), I never wear it on planes. It just isn’t worth the irritation and big pores from having 12-18 hours of it sitting on top of your skin in a compromised environment.

3. Cleansing in the plane: I don’t want to know where the plane water comes from.  So I am not a big fan of using that water on my face, and I don’t think wipes do the type of cleansing you need in that environment.  So what I do is take my shower and wash my face as close to leaving as possible, then slather on what I would use as a night treatment, regardless of it being a day or a night flight. Then I don’t touch my face, except to put on more eye cream, until I get to the lounge (why yes that is how i roll). I think wipes are good to have on you if you are dealing with delays or accidents, but I don’t think they should be your main cleaning situation because they won’t go as deep as you need for 12 hours of plane funk on your face.

4. Makeup on the plane: I don’t, not at all. Like sunscreen, some products are bad for your skin in certain environments. And don’t give me the crap about mineral makeup if you don’t want to hear the story about the woman who used Bare Minerals and never washed her face ever again, because it was “natural.” This is where wipes have an admitted benefit- if you absolutely must be somewhere when you get off the plane and don’t have a lounge, then by all means wipe off your night cream and throw on some TM and mascara before landing. I’ve also found that in business class people are more worried about getting their sleep on or finishing that presentation they need, so no one is going to be looking at you. 

5. Lip balm etc: you want the richest, heaviest, thickest lip balm you can find. Personally, straight up lanolin is your best bet, but plain shea butter or cocoa butter can work too. Then throw something on top of it like vaseline to seal it.  I generally use a cuticle cream on airplanes too, because the hand sanitizers rip my skin like my mofo. 

6. What do I carry for the plane:  because i do my skincare and hydration before, those items get packed and ziploc bag gets what I take for when I land.  Before getting on the plane, I use  my beloved nuxe oil on my entire body, including face and hair, then touch up my face with  clarins flash balm and the “matching” eye balm. For when I land, I wash my face at the first clean bathroom without a dubious water source with whatever is on hand (this trip will probs be Shiseido Perfect Whip in the tube), then moisturize with whatever LRP moisturizer I am using lately (right now Rosaliac) or some DDML.  The two or three days around flying are not the time to do harsh scrubs or retinols or any moisturizer with “weird” ingredients- wait until day two or so after landing when your skin has adjusted to your new climate.  Keep loading up on eye cream for a couple of days as well.

And please, unless you want to hear the NSFL Bare Minerals Lady story, wash your face before you get on the plane. 


Reforming Islam

*rant from phone at lunch so forgive formatting issues*

I’ve gotten a lot of crap lately, bordering on harassment at times, regarding my points of view on religious freedom and what it means to be a practicing Muslim.


Beyond the old classics like “Muslims don’t condemn terrorism/violence against women/skittles” arguments, I think my favorite trope of them all is “But so-and-so disagrees with you and she’s a feminist and a Muslim did you read what she wrote!” Well good whoever this week’s reformer or so-called Muslim feminist is.  While some public Muslims are doing very good jobs at building bridges and raising the dialogue, some of them are out there to get a paycheck. Money talks so pay attention to who is paying them and why.


I’ve said it before in a number of fora but it bears repeating: One of the criticisms the “Muslim community” has raised (why yes I will speak for Teh Islamz since everyone else does) is that no one listens when “normal Muslims” condemn terrorism/violence against women/bad stuff.  Now flip that coin. When the MSM “listens” to a “Muslim”, ask yourself why? Are MSM outlets really interested in what Muslims of all walks have to say, or are they interested in points of view that feed their tired stereotypes about what it means to be a Muslim woman?


That’s my answer to those who pull my feminist card or my Islam card. Your reality is not mine and you don’t speak for me.

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Makeup blogging and indulgent narcissism

One of my other side hobbies is makeup and on Sundays I usually indulge in reading my makeup blogs. The one thing that never ceases to amaze me are the amount of people who will post a Face of the Day with only the smallest bit of makeup. After seeing one today where someone had slapped on some tinted moisturizer and mascara then asked what we thought of her look, I had to rant.  There are a couple of reasons why such adventures in narcissism bother me:

1. We all know, even the most makeup hopeless, how to put on mascara and TM.  The only time I am going to think your “simple” FOTD is going to rock my world is if you have crappy skin (before pic as proof) and are wearing false lashes or did something hecka awesome on your waterline, etc. Otherwise, you aren’t doing anything the average woman does on her way out of the house.

2. FOTDs are there to educate. You pulled off a major smokey eye with some orange eyeshadow? Get out the camera, I want the play-by-play.  You’re wearing red blush? Awesome sauce. You don’t have any makeup on and you are asking girls who wear makeup all day and have makeup rooms what they think of your two-product look? I’m going to think you are cheesing for the cameras and trolling for compliments.

3. There is only one case where I can find this acceptable: when someone is testing a foundation or a TM and puts that and only that on his/her face to show the level of coverage, how it oxidizes, etc. Then again, before pic. Don’t troll then expect everyone to play along  (although many do) with the “oooh honey, you have great skin” and the “wow, no clumps in your mascara”… Really?

I feel better.


This smackdown on being the Other Woman from Feministe

This article from Femininste says it better than I could ever say it.

Of course, there are caveats in the relative lack of morality in sleeping with married men- it could be an open marriage, it could be a French divorce. But when a woman has proof in the form of an email or a letter that neither of these options are the case, the only thing I think is appropriate for the other woman to say or feel is “I’m sorry.”  Anger towards the wife? No way. Pissed off that the wife called you out? Just desserts. Anything other than “I’m sorry”  is arrogant and pretty rich and smacks of poor character.

Or, in the words of the OP, “If you show zero remorse for being involved in something that hurts someone else, you have a problem.”  When you are with a married man, it is never innocent, justified fun- someone is getting hurt. As such, I have a very, very tiny violin I can play for any woman who tries to make excuses for her actions.  I do think, however  that it’s ok to sleep with someone before you know the deal, but once you know what is going on, you owe it to yourself and his wife to GTFO. This comment, especially, nails everything I could ever say about how the wife feels: “Know who defines cheating in a relationship? The person being cheated on.” You shouldn’t get mad at her for calling you and her husband out for being deceptive POS- she is the one coming from a position of pain. Accept your (admittedly shared) role in destroying a marriage, apologize, and try to do better for yourself and for another human being the next time. You might actually grow.

Finally, and this is the crux of the matter for me, cheating is a public health issue. As I have always said, and as this comment on the OP so eloquently states, if you are in what is supposed to be a monogamous relationship and having condom-free sex, and your man is not telling you about his side piece(s) out of “discretion” and “not hurting your feelings”, you are unwittingly being exposed to STDs.  I remember one sister whose husband didn’t get an STD but got staph because her husband’s new piece had suspicious boils that he, in the heat of passion didn’t care about. Men are generally asymptomatic when it comes to yeast infections- sometimes his girlfriend gives you one.  I can dig poly relationships and open relationships, but personally I care too much about my health to “share” a man, and being forced to do so out of deception is unjust and unfair.

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Let’s try to vote again

So my campaign to actually be registered to vote and really vote has started again.

Every election cycle is the same, I have to chase their asses and then I finally get the wrong ballot or get it too late.  

It must be because I am a Democrat.  Yes I am looking at you Harrison County Clerk. Y’all have enough absentee ballots to send to know what and when y’all need to send.

Anyway. I need to sign a power of attorney over to my Dad at the rate this is going. My brother would get that ballot and be all “Mitt Romney cha ching cha ching” with a flourish.

Speaking of Mitt Romney, people asked me the other day why I am voting for Obama.  I’m not an Obama fangirl by any stretch, but he has two things going for him:

-Obama is so far protecting a woman’s right to an abortion. I am a single-issue voter and this is my single issue. If you are not 100% pro-choice, if you say you are pro-choice but qualify it or otherwise question or try to put conditions on access to abortion, I will not vote for you.  There is a war on women in the United States and it goes a little like this: they want to make abortion illegal, they want us to pay for birth control, they want to repeal Obamacare and they are closing women’s clinics.  So essentially your choices as an American woman, if the Republican tea baggers have their way, are to have children you can’t afford or just not have sex.  I don’t think so. 


-The second thing is that Mitt Romney is a multibagzillionaire. He has no idea how I live or what keeps me up at night. Regardless of Obama’s current financial situation, I can relate to him. Why? Because he too had an essentially single mother. He too had to live with his grandparents. He too probably knew what it was like to choose between groceries and rent. Like Bill Clinton, Obama knows what it is like to be poor or struggling even if he isn’t any more and I believe his willingness to push Obamacare through against all odds reflects that. Mitt Romney? His most difficult financial situation was whether to put his gazillions in the Caymans or Switzerland. I have to deal with rich people like him every day and that ish is getting old. The Romneys of this world have different values.  

Oh and people who are “anti big government” but want to legislate the hell out of my vagina… I can’t do that either. 


Debrief on the DALF C1

As promised IRL to a few people, I wanted to write a debrief on the DALF C1 which I took last month.  My advice can be summed up in one phrase: Just showing up is 80% of the battle. One you have hit a certain level in French, the only thing you need for the DALF is to learn the strategies on how to take the test and PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE.  I was in class two hours a week and probably worked two to four hours a week on homework on top of it.

The test is in four parts:

1. Oral comprehension: If you don’t have this on lock, this is the hardest part of the test. You either have it or you don’t, and the only way to get better at it is to listen to the radio and tv or podcasts.  Some of the review books (I will list the ones I used below) also give CDs with audio portions done in the style of the test. I’m lucky that I have lived in French-speaking countries for the better part of the last ten years so this was the portion of the test I studied for the least and was the most confident about after the test.

2. Written comprehension: Again, if you are used to reading in French, this part of the exam should not be major drama. Here, more than any part of the test, it is important to know “how” to take the test.  My mistake in the practice test was writing too much- for example, my high school French teacher made us respond always in complete sentences.  On this test is isn’t absolutely necessary as long as you get the information correct.  In other words, spend time learning from the books or from you teacher what the format of a correct answer on this section looks like.

3. Essai and Synthèse: These were the hardest for me and my prediction is that this is the section I will get the lowest note on.  This used to be what I was strongest at in university but since I have been working, I really have only used my speaking skills because at work most of the stuff I wrote in French was always the same thing (business letters, accounting stuff…). I always say that this part of the test is the most “francofrançais” because their format is very picky and particularly French (I am not sure that kids in Romandie have to do synthèses in school). You need to be comfortable writing in French, and you need to know how to follow the format and identify what they are asking for. For example, in the exam, they could ask you to write an article, a letter, an essay…but it won’t be spelled out and the clue will be in how they assign the subject. For example, my essay in this exam was meant to be an article. These subtle differences are outlined in the reference books and by the teacher if you take a prep class. For the synthèse, it is one of those things where you don’t know how to do it unless you have written twenty.

4. Oral expression: You have a topic for which you have one hour of prep, then 10 minutes of talking followed by ten or fifteen minutes of a discussion with the jury. I had two ladies and one mainly took notes while the other did the talking. What people may not realize before the exam is that the jury is not there to play bad cop- their goal is to put you at ease and see how much you can talk. During this part of the exam, you have the right to a French-French dictionary (a Larousse for example) which they provided for us in the exam. Bring a watch and practice timing yourself to hit that 10 minute mark, and whatever happens, don’t stop talking. Talk about your cat, talk about your life, but just keep talking even if you run out of things to say on the topic.  The questions after the talk are meant to challenge you and see how you speak on the fly.  Remember than in our second and third languages it is always easier to talk about ourselves and our personal lives, so if you run out of things to say, talk about yourself. For example, my topic was e-books. If I ran out of stuff to say about e-books, I would have just started talking about what I like to read.

Prep classes and books: I took the prep class from Zurich’s Alliance Française.  I recommend taking the prep class because the hardest part of the exam really is knowing how to take the test- unless you spent some time in the France-French school system, walking in to the test freestyle is kind of a crapshoot. I spent a year in a French university (taking regular classes not “foreigner classes”) and I still had a hard time with the formatting stuff.  My teacher was awesome and gave us all of the reference materials we needed in class. I was the exception because I am one of those people who needs to have books around, so I got three books and used them all- some of the exercises our teacher gave us in class came from these books.  I had Réussir le DALF C1 – C2  from Didier without the CDs (but some of the CD stuff we did in class). I mainly used that book as a reference to understand what was going on.  A book I reached for more frequently was Cadre commun activités pour le CECR C1-C2 from CLE. This book has a lot of exercises that prep you for the level you need to take the test- a lot of vocabulary and culture générale. Because of the background prep it offers, if you are thinking of taking the test, I would recommend flipping through this book to see if it seems too hard or just right for you before committing to the test or the class.  If it is too hard, you might want to spend more time studying for the test. Finally, for the written parts of the exam because I had no effing clue how to proceed, I loved Réussir le nouveau DALF C1-C2 La production écrite from Tegos (warning: website best viewed with Netscape Navigator).  This book gives you 24 dossiers similar to the written parts of the exam with step-by-step examples of how to write them. This was important to me because I know it is my weakest area, but like all the books, unless you are into books I don’t think you need them if you are taking the prep class. Finally, the website Passe ton DALF was full of useful information.

The final piece of advice I have is that the content of the test is hard, but the bar is set very low. You only need 50 points out of 100 with 5 points minimum in each of the four sections. If you have a section or two you are strong at, then all you have to do really is write your name on the other ones, so you don’t have to stress for the exam.


While I am ranting

Can I rant about Egypt for a second? 

Of course anything I say is with a grain of salt, I’m just some white girl in Switzerland, but I am really tired of people getting their panties in a wad about ZOMGS THE CREEPING SHARIA THE MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD WHY EGYPT GOING TO BE HAMAS etc etc and the stupid Friedman-likequestions that go along with it like “Is Islam compatible with democracy”  *gags self*

Here is how I see it, with the usual disclaimers of dumb white girl in ivory tower etc. Let’s assume for the purposes of this exercise that the elections were free and fair, which I think they were to the extent that they could be. We can’t even have fair elections without voter fraud in the US so how can you expect a country having its first democratic election ever to get it perfectly right?  Morsi doesn’t have a very strong mandate if he only got like 24 or 25 percent in the first round. You had voters in the second round who thus had to choose between the military or the MB. Considering the lovely legacy the military has had during its reign the past year, I think a lot of people probs held their noses and voted MB.  So no, stupid MSM, I don’t think this is some sort of “Egyptian voters want Sharia” vote but rather a “anything but scaf” vote. 

Another point about the MB that people are missing out on is that for a long time they were the only opposition with any real organization.  Political participation involves money and logistics, and the MB was the only group “organized” enough for many years. This legacy is shown in the election results. it isn’t the whole answer, of course, but it is a relevant part IMO. And since people are talking about Hamas, I feel the same way about Hamas that I do about the MB, if you want to go out on the pan Arab conspiracy theory tip. Namely, When you have a single group in power, that group also decides who will be “allowed” to organize in opposition.  It is no coincidence that Hamas was “allowed” to organize itself, and when you go back to the idea that political organization involves logistics and money- who was better organized than Hamas? 

Finally, I don’t think the revolution is over just because this dude got elected. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and Egypt isn’t done yet. I like to think, and hope I am right, that this is just the beginning.