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MOOC madness...

I'm so enamored of this whole MOOC thing... I've completed three classes so far and am currently taking far more than anyone should at one time.
I keep waiting for someone to stop me and tell me "No! you're not allowed to take that many classes at once!"...but so far so good... (I hedge my bets by taking MOOCs on multiple platforms)
(...another part of me wonders if anyone will notice me in the data...I intend to be an outlier in the MOOC completion data set...)

I may, if I feel so inclined, blog a bit about the classes I have taken and am currently taking. If anyone has any interest at all.

There's some guy who is trying to complete the MOOC equivalent of a Bachelor's degree in a year. He's set that as something like 35-40 courses.
What an underachiever...
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Random Random Random...

I never post on here anymore... I need another platform...or something...

Mardi Gras was Mardi Gras...which means, 'twas pretty will eventually be forthcoming...eventually...

I've been MOOC-obsessed since about then...signed up for a whole bunch of classes with the idea of "hey, if I don't like them, I'll just drop the ones I don't like"...except they're all pretty awesome and now I'm taking them all...

Meanwhile- I've also been enjoying loads of random meetups (through including a book club, a cocktail-bar-exploration club, a parent group, a film group, and other stuff I randomly end up at.
I keep missing brunch club- which is unfortunate because- hey- I *really* like brunch.

The little dude has been being cute, as usual... he's really into his wooden train set and has been playing the builder/engineer and creating different bridges out of the train tracks and blocks... he's quite a blast to watch when he does that...

and in other news...nope, no other news...I'll come up with something in a bit...

Toldya this was random, random, random...
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Sometimes I really miss Beijing...then there are those other days...

The air has been bad there lately...horrifically bad...I worry about my friends' health...especially those with little ones :(

Here are some pics that show the scene lately:

AAt an AQI of about 300-350:

and at an AQI of about 700:

For perspective- when the AQI hits 200-250, the international schools (such as the Canadian School, the British School, the German School, etc) keep the kids inside all day- no outdoor PE or recess. On one of the days last week when Beijing was above 700, the AQI in New York City was 16.

As I said...some days I don't miss Beijing at all... or at least not the air quality issues there...
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Back in the States...

Yeah...I've been excessively lazy about my posting for the last
having a toddler does that, I suppose...

So...we are back in the US... completely against my will- I was planning at least another couple of years in China... but China wanted us no longer. They changed their visa policies and we got stuck in the morass that is the Chinese visa bureaucracy and, well, we're back in Nola.

Leo has grown...quite a bit... he's not begging to go hang out with "babies" anymore- now he's a big little boy who has just started preschool at St. Joseph's Mothers Day Out.
He got in trouble - put in timeout- for "playing rough with friends and not stopping when the teacher told him to"
I asked him about it- thinking he might have been pushing another kid or something- and he told me "NO! Bentley and me played cars!"
I asked if he pulled a toy away or was not sharing and he responded again "No! We *crash* cars!"
Ahhhh...I see...

Meanwhile, at home, he tends to tell us forcefully what he thinks we should be wanting to do.
"Mama- You WANT to play trains."
"Mama- You WANT to play with the police car. I want to play with the race car."

His language ability has just skyrocketed in the last 6 months or so...although I'm afraid he will lose most of his Chinese. We practice Chinese every few days- singing a song or naming colors or such.

Meh...I'll write more later...sometime...hopefully within a few months or weeks...
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Random Update Random Things

I'm obviously too far behind on my blogging to reasonably update anyone on anything. So...I'll just share the randomness of my life as of late.
Yesterday, as we were walking from one store to another (because the first store was completely overrun with people starting their Chinese New Year shopping and we didn't feel like waiting in the checkout line for upwards of 2 hours, so we decided to go to a different store)... a dapper elderly fellow with a cane wandered out of his old Communist-era apartment complex gate and spotted us as he came onto the sidewalk. He was in the midst of humming a tune and suddenly burst into song.
"Lao wai! Laaaoooo waiii!" he sang.
In Chinese, this is basically "Foreigner! Fooorreeiiggnnerrrr!"
He continued onward singing his new "Foreigner" tune...
as we were discussing this amusing event, we passed a group of short bare-branched trees hung full of underwear, hot pants and miniskirts.*

Thus is life in China.

*clothing is hung to dry outside here- no one here has clothes dryers and the girls at the "massage parlor"(ie brothel)  next to the trees apparently had no clothing line.

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Way too long...

It has been forever since I posted on LJ! Wow! Motherhood and work have totally thrown my blogging off the rails!
So, of course, I'm posting in the middle of the night because I was so exhausted I fell asleep at 9PM while feeding Leo and woke up at 5 because my body thinks it got a full night's sleep...

I feel like I should update on the last half-year since I wrote anything... but the update is pretty much like this:

China. Writing. New Orleans and Mardi Gras. China. Seoul. China. Writing. Toddler Group. Pusan. China. Random Toddler Stuff. Writing. China.

I'll elaborate on a few of the more recent things:

Pusan, South Korea is amazing. I really enjoyed our trip there and recommend it to absolutely anyone. Lovely city, beaches, cliffside temples, scenery, etc. The food was great, the people friendly. Simply a lovely place to vacation.
I like Seoul, too- always love visiting there- but Seoul is already on many people's radar- nobody ever thinks "Hey, let's go to Pusan for vacation"- but they SHOULD.

Toddler group- Leo loves it. When I tell him we are going to Toddler Group, he stands at the door with his shoes and says "Babies?" During the school year, his group meets at a local international school, which offers up space once a week for the little ones to meet. Over the summer, we have been meeting once a week at various people's houses or at local toddler-friendly venues. There are a lot of children's play areas at malls here- I don't know if this is a common thing in the US, as I never had a kid when I lived there...
They are usually a large room upstairs in the mall that charges a fee for the kids to go play - they have stuff like a ball pit, a bouncy house, slides, baby-sized merry-go-rounds, lots of moving structures, etc. The one at Solana mall here has a smaller room with fake house/ building stuff- like a toddler-sized kitchen to play in and a kid-sized bank. The one in The Place (the Beijing mall with the giant screen on the ceiling that is always shown in ads and articles about crazy Chinese malls) has an area with giant balloons blown around by fans for the kids to run through (it is more fun than you can possibly imagine- I'll be posting YouTube videos soon)
So, we've been meeting up at those kinds of places all summer, and also at friends' homes.
We also went swimming one week in June at the pool at Chaoyang park, which Leo loved! I'm bummed because they are closed already, though. It's still HOT! Pools should remain open until the last possible warm day when people (read- ME) might want to go swimming. Otherwise, I feel guilty that we didn't take advantage of the pool and bring Leo more often over the summer.

Ok, that's all for now...
I will try to make a more coherent post later this week... I know this one is a "5AM" kinda LJ post...

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Christmas in China

Christmas in China is affair.
Sometimes, I'm mildly confused by what they come up with here in terms of decorations.
In another sense, I am highly entertained by the sheer enthusiasm shown by their attempts.

At a local mall in Beijing (The Village in Sanlitun), for example, we have:

the giant, terrified Christmas doll head with super-tall exploding  dunce cap

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The flu takes over our brains and forces us to act weird... no, seriously...

As I'm doing research for the random articles I write to support my "being a mother" and "doing stuff I want" habits, I occasionally come across other random articles or scientific research that blows my mind.

Like this one today:

"Change in Human Social Behavior in Response to a Common Vaccine" from the Annals of Epidemiology.

Basically, the take-home is that when a virus- specifically the flu virus- infects us, we humans change our behavior. We become more social, hanging out with more people in larger groups, for the 48 hours immediately after infection. Before symptoms show up. And, conveniently, a great time for that friendly virus to spread to others in the community.

I've often bored people to death with talked about toxoplasmosis and its effect on the rats that catch it. Basically, for those who DON'T know this story- toxoplasmosis is a parasite that infects rats and gets carried by cats. When it infects a rat, it changes the rat's brain and behavior- making the rat temporarily braver and more curious- which makes it more likely to get eaten by a cat. The cat will then carry the disease to the next area it visits, where it will expel the parasite in its feces, to get eaten by rats, who will become braver... you probably see where this is going.

Up til now, I was unaware of any infectious diseases altering the brains and behavior of humans. But apparently, the flu appears to do so.

Kinda creepy, huh?

(BTW- disclaimer and mini-rant: The study looked at a live flu vaccine, which induces the same changes in behavior as the flu itself- so anti-vax people can stop their "OMG- the flu vax is evil" crap right about now cuz I don't wanna hear it. The science is not about the vax, its about the virus- the vax was a model because it is unethical to go around injecting people with an active virus that's potentially deadly just to look at behavioral changes.)
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doing it all wrong...

The temperature outside was 23 degrees Celsius (about 73 F).
The temperature inside our apartment was 24 degrees Celsius(about 75 F).
After temps in the 30s all week, this was decidedly cooler than it had been for a while.

We walked outside with the baby, wrapped in his Moby-like-wrap, for a quick trip to the store a few blocks away. His legs hang down from the wrap and he's got no socks on.

As we leave the apartment building, I remark to Justin "I wonder how long it will be before someone..."
A Chinese girl interrupts me.
"Excuse me. Isn't your baby cold?" She touches his little feet as he beams up at her.
Justin says. "About two seconds."