New blog

As many of you may already know, this blog started more than three years ago as a chronicle of our year in Spain. Looking for a way of keeping in touch with friends and family in the era pre-Facebook, a blog seemed like an ideal tool. I could report on what my husband and I were doing without spamming the mailboxes of friends and family. I had no aspirations in writing about anything more meaningful than what was life like in Barcelona and what we did last weekend. I didn’t really expect anybody else but friends and family would come across this blog.

My old blog banner
My old blog banner

But part of writing a blog involves reading other blogs. Before I knew it I started leaving comments on other people’s blogs, they started coming here and linking to my blog and I soon began to meet new people with whom I had interests in common. I soon began writing about issues other than life in Spain, things that interested me or concepts or ideas with which I struggled. By the time I came back to Canada there was no question about whether I should continue writing here.

But in time the blog lost its initial focus and became very generic. As I started teaching and working on my dissertation and that was more predominant in my mind, I started writing about issues related to teaching and researching that I felt were less interesting to readers of this blog. So I moved them to another wordpress blog, before moving it to my own academic site. Since last summer, I’ve began to read more (and blog more or perhaps facebook more) about issues related to food, the environment, sustainability, health, and so on. I’ve also began to experiment more and more in the kitchen. And take more and more photos of food (check my flickr site). As a result, some of my friends began to suggest I should create a food blog. I could see the use of that. For one thing, a more focused blog would allow me to have more specific categories and tags, allowing for better searching of food-related posts.

I often use my blog as a fancy bookmarker or a place to organize notes. I’ve never been very good about using the bookmarks feature on my web browsers and ever since I created this blog, it’s been even worse. I blog about things that interest me and often share links to sites I come across, news articles, and so on and more than once I’ve simply searched the blog when I wanted to find a reference to a site that I knew I had talked about. But it started getting difficult to find posts about a specific dish I had cooked or that had a particular photograph. So, combined with my interest in moving my blog(s) to my own domain(s), I’ve created a new blog: Mató & Maple Syrup. Mató is a fresh cheese from Catalonia that is usually served with honey as a dessert and maple syrup, well, it’s the Canadian sweetner par excelence. Since it was in Canada and Catalonia where my cooking really florished, the name seemed appropriate enough.

However, the migration was not without pain. I decided to import only a few of my posts that dealt directly with food or food-related issues. Since I could export only a few posts to import in the new blog, I used MacJournal to select the posts I wanted and then post them to the new blog. That meant I lost all the comments, which was too bad since some of the posts generated interesting discussions. It also meant that I lost most of the categories and tags. I’ve slowly started editing the older posts to include tags/categories that will help keep the new blog organized. So, if you are interested in food and the like, check out the new blog!

I’ll eventually move this blog too to a new server but probably not before the end of the summer, when I get some time off.


Meeting another blogger


Carla lives in Rochester, NY, and is married to Ken, an American who loves Toronto and they often come for a visit. She reads my blog, I read her blog, but this is the first time we met face to face. We had brunch at Baldwin Village and as is the case with every single person I met through this blog, there was no end of conversation and before we realized four hours had gone by! Alan and I had a wonderful time.

Living online

It’s not a secret to anyone that I’m doing a PhD and that I hope to one day get a job as a university professor. Some of my friends in academia, when they hear I have a blog, ask if I’m not afraid my blog might be read by other academics or by a hiring committee in the future, if I’m not afraid I’m disclosing too much online.

The truth is – I’ve been online since 1996. There is nothing I can do about that. If you google me, you’ll get to page 9 before you get entries that are not related to me. So interacting with people online has been a basic part of my personality since I first discovered the internet, all those years ago. Why should I suppress that? Of course I know that if I write something here or on a discussion forum somewhere, someone might read it. Heck, even my parents or my supervisor might find it. But if I don’t want people to know about something or I don’t want my name to be associated with something, I simply don’t write about it.

So when I read Rochelle Mazaar’s brilliant post about how she feel about this very issue, I couldn’t help but write about it here as well. This passage particularly resonated with me:

Yes, anything you publish online can be seen by in-laws, employers, potential employers, potential dates, etc. But if you take that into account and think, yes, well, I struggled, I survived; why not talk about it? Isn’t it okay? If you accept that someone might take issue with you one day? Or if you know, if anyone WERE to take issue with you because of it, they aren’t someone you’d want to date/spend time with/work for?

If there’s one thing I won’t compromise on is on being true to who I am. Call me naive if you will, but no job, no matter how prestigious or high-paying or how long I worked to qualify for it, is worth denying my values and who I am as a person. What a google search or this blog  hopefully shows is that I am a person who likes engaging with the world in which I live.  And if there is a department or employer out there that has a problem with that, then I’m obviously not a good fit for them. It’s as simple as that.

Three years of blogging

As I have mentioned before, this blog originated as a way of staying in touch with family and friends during our year in Spain between April 2006 and May 2007. Writing a blog led me to read other blogs and in many ways it has become the way I stay engaged with the world outside university. Writing a thesis can be an isolating experience and not being the kind to like isolation, this has been my way of ensuring that my road towards the PhD remains a positive one.

Thank you to all of you who come by, visit, and leave comments. This blog has allowed me to meet some truly amazing people. I’ll leave you with a TED talk on blogging by one of the founders of Movable Type, one of the first blogging platforms.

Very smart and funny blog

A friend just made me aware of this blog. The title says it all: Worse Than Hitler: Dedicated to those lacking the imagination to make an appropriate analogy. The premise is that if people feel really passionate about something, they’ll eventually make an analogy between the issue that bothers them and the Holocaust, the Nazis or Hitler. Dont forget to read his explanation, his primer on how to make a better analogy, the Huffman’s Hitler Hypothesis and the Outrage-o-meter. It’s worth the read if you need more reasons to procrastinate.

Blog stats

The blogosphere has rules of its own when it comes to popularity and enliciting response. Sometimes I write a post that I feel will bring out a flurry of comments but is met with dead silence while others that without any planning of thought, end up becoming really popular. I’m endlessly amused at the kinds of keywords people enter on Google to get here. So today I’ll share some of those with you:

Top Posts

Jabuticaba, 2,477 views

Newfie accent, 2,250 views

Santa Claus vs the three Wise men, 1,113 views

Most Active

Immigration changes, 58 views

Jabuticaba, 32 views

I’m completely hooked…, 29 views

The Internet and foreign languages

Blogging can be a great way to practice a language. More than taking a course and dutifully applying oneself to a grammar exercise book, languages are best acquired – or maintained – by frequent use. When I’m learning a language I like to expose myself to it as much as I possibly can. I took two months of Spanish classes before I went to Barcelona and another month when I first got there but unfortunately, I couldn’t just take classes since I was there to do research all day and I simply had not time. But I was also determined to acquire a fluent – or as close to fluent as I could – command of the language during the year I was there. The answer was to use it as much as I could. I chatted with everybody I could find, I watched a lot of television and above all else, I read a lot of fiction. I adopted a rule that I would only read non-work related material (e.g. newspapers, fiction books, magazines) in Spanish or Catalan while I was there. By the end of the year most people believed I had lived there for years.

But since I’ve been back, I’ve found myself with few occasions to express myself in Spanish. At the same time, I’ve become more interested in expanding my ability to communicate in Catalan, which I can read and understand well, having taken a course, but have not practiced speaking or writing. The solution? I’ve started looking for blogs written in those languages. Blogs are good because not only I can read some really interesting texts but I can choose to participate in discussions leaving comments in that particular language. In terms of language and content my favourite Spanish-language blog is Und komisch spricht das Mulmertier… los años de la marmota en las tierras del frühschoppen, written by a Catalan who lives in Austria and who writes in a very thoughtful, poetic way. More recently I started looking for blogs in Catalan and came across La Llumenera de Nova York, a very interesting, prolific, and creative blog by a Catalan living in NYC. I should probably download some podcasts in those languages to also train the ear.

But if you have time and want to really get into a language, another option is actually writing a blog in that language. The best example of this is my friend Christian’s blog, which is written entirely in Latin!

What about you? Do you use internet resources to practice a language?

Blog’s Birthday

In the midst of preparing papers for conferences, sitting in various committees, doing Iter work, and attempting to write my thesis, I completely forgot to mark this blog’s second birthday. Its aim was rather simple, as the very first post indicates:

On 22 March 2006 hubby and I will be moving all our belongings into storage and making our way first to Montreal, then to Paris and finally to Barcelona where we will be living for a year. This blog is meant to document our trip(s) and allow us to keep in touch with friends and family in Canada, US, Brazil, and around the world. I’m looking forward to sharing all our photos, reviews of restaurants and bars, and remarks of the many places we’ll visit.

Slowly it grew as I started reading other blogs and became encouraged by them to talk about more than just the places I visited. The more politically-engaged blogs, such as Sindrome de Estocolmo or, to some extent, 42 and Bumblebee & Sweet Potato, led me to talk a bit more about issues that matter to me such as immigration, cross-cultural relations, health care and the environment. The numerous blogs written by people living in adopted countries, such as that of a Catalan in Austria or the US, Americans in Germany, Spain, or even Brazil, the numerous Brazilians in Canada, US, Spain, France, has made me fascinated by the experiences of people across cultures. It is hard to articulate exactly what it is about the process of moving to a new country that fascinates me. Perhaps the mix of wonder, surprise and recognition as people start building bridges between their culture and the culture they have chosen to inhabit. The recognition that the other is not so foreign after all.

Of course, the blogs I read are particularly open-minded and positive, not surprisingly reflecting the tone of my own ramblings here, and thus not necessarily representative of most immigrant or expat experience. But this blog may be many things but it doesn’t claim or wishes to be anything too structured, serious, academic, or scientific. It is basically the space where I can leave the depths of my academic life and be light, often airy, and simply engage in conversation with the many wonderful people I have met here. It is also a space where I can share my passion for people, photography and food. That people I have never met have found it worth reading and some have even found it worthy of awards, is a never-ending source of surprise and delight. Thank you all so much for reading, sharing your thoughts, and allowing me into your lives.

There are many other blogs I read that I haven’t cited, I hope you don’t mind. I’ll be updating the list of links on the side bar shortly to reflect more accurately what is on my bloglines rss-reader.