Monday, July 30, 2012

Culture in Translation

By Heidi Noroozy

Don’t you love seeing your familiar world through the fresh lens of a stranger’s eyes?

I do.

So do my husband’s relatives in Iran, who are amused at my take on things they accept without question. They grin at my naiveté when a shopkeeper at the bazaar repeatedly insists that my purchase is a gift for a guest to his country, and I believe him. In fact, he’s dissatisfied with the price we’ve negotiated and wants more money. Or my fascination with the way the small bags of garbage people put out daily seem to vanish overnight. And my puzzlement over why people put out bones for the feral cats that no one would allow inside their homes—to catch rats, naturally.

Firoozeh Dumas flips the coin for me in her book, Funny in Farsi, a memoir about growing up Persian in Southern California. Born in Abadan, Iran, an oil town on the Persian Gulf, her family moved to a suburb of L.A. in 1972. In this slim volume and its sequel, Laughing without an Accent, Dumas points out the idiosyncrasies of American life with an irony that is often laugh-out-loud funny.

She is bewildered by the unappetizing names we give to food: hot dogs, catfish, Tater Tots, and sloppy Joes. “…no amount of caviar in the sea would have convinced us to try mud pies,” she writes.

Her first trip to a public lending library introduces the book-loving Firoozeh to a concept so wondrous and perplexing she doesn’t quite believe it at first. Surely no one would actually lend her a book for free! She brings her purse and a few coins along just in case. At seven, Dumas learns that there is such a thing as a magic carpet, only it’s called a library card.

One of my favorite chapters in Funny in Farsi is “The F Word.” And no, she doesn’t mean that f-word. The essay is about her name and the difficulty many Americans have in remembering or even pronouncing it. In Persian, Firoozeh means turquoise. “In America, it means ‘Unpronounceable’ or “I’m Not Going to Talk to You Because I Cannot Possibly Learn Your Name And I Just Don’t Want to Have to Ask You Again and Again Because You’ll Think I’m Dumb or Might Get Upset or Something.’” And so she tells everyone her name is Julie. Nice and simple. Problem solved. Or at least until her American friends meet her Iranian ones and she can’t remember who knows her as Julie and who calls her Firoozeh.

Boy can I relate to that! But for me, the problem is reversed. I’m often confused by the various Persian/American configurations of names my Iranian friends and relatives use, but usually the Farsi versions are easier for me to remember. They are the ones I learn first. When I’m used to people calling themselves Shahab, Faribourz, or Sharzad, it throws me when they call on the phone and say, “This is Dean.” Or Freddy or Sherry.

In both her memoirs, Firoozeh Dumas writes with a gentle, wry humor. She pokes a gentle fun at Americans and Iranians in equal measure, pointing out not just the oddities of American culture through her non-native eyes but also the absurdity of her own reactions to it.

Whether you’ve lived abroad, married into another culture, or just have immigrant friends, these books offer something we can all relate to—with a smile and a chuckle.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Off the Beaten Track: Jules Older

This week, we are delighted to welcome back Jules Older, a travel writer and videographer who hangs out at He opines about San Francisco restaurants and New Zealand life on the apps, San Francisco Restaurants and Auckland Insider. He films the world, in brief snatches at And he’s published his first ebook: SKIING THE EDGE: Humor, Humiliation, Holiness and Heart. What Big Teeth You Have! is a chapter in Jules Older’s new ebook, DEATH BY TARTAR SAUCE: A Brave Travel Writer Encounters Gargantuan Gators, Irksome Offspring, Murderous Mayonnaise & True Love. It’s available on all ebook platforms and at

What Big Teeth You Have!

by Jules Older

“Timing is everything,” I muttered, as I tried and failed to hide the Miami Herald from my wife’s sharp eyes.

“What does it say?” Effin asked, peering over my shoulder. “And what’s up with that gigantic alligator?” She shuddered.

“It’s not an alligator, it’s a crocodile. They're, uh, making a comeback.”


“In Florida.”

Where in Florida?” She gave her loving husband a look of deep distrust. “Not by chance in the Florida Everglades?”

But the Everglades is just where the crocs were coming back. The Everglades also happened to be exactly where we were headed the next morning. At my insistence. Against her better judgment.

Timing is everything.

We drove in silence toward the Everglades. The road was straight; the surrounding foliage, wet and wild. I kept my eyes on the road; Effin scanned the swamp beside the road like an O’Hare air controller. “Relax, honey,” I said. “No sense worrying about crocs and gators before we even get to the Everglades.”

Never taking her eyes off the swamp, she answered, “I suppose that’s why they call this road Alligator Alley, Mr. Smart Guy.”

“You're overdoing this, Effin. The article in the Herald said they pose no threat to people as long as nobody pesters them.”

“Oh? Then tell me, Dr. Large Reptile Maven, just exactly what constitutes pestering to a 15-foot-long crocodile with a brain the size of a walnut? Tell me that, and I'll stop worrying.”

“In my opinion —”

“Yes, and I'd like your opinion on why these crocodiles pose no threat when crocodiles in Australia are EATING PEOPLE!”

Some husbands take their wives to Disneyworld, some to Gay Paree. In retrospect, it may have been insensitive, even unfeeling, to take mine to a mega-swamp infested with jumbo-sized, snaggle-toothed, carnivorous crocs.

Still, when we reached the Everglades, the first thing I did was march up to the park naturalist and demand, “What threat do these creatures pose to my wife and, incidentally, just in passing, to moi?”

He looked me right in the eye. “None at all, sir; none at all. They’re shy creatures, reclusive reptiles who want to be left alone. They never bother tourists.”

From behind me, Effin muttered, “Uh huh. And what about Australian tourists?”

The ranger smiled, as one might smile at a visitor from a distant planet who was confusing, say, Scandinavian women and Florida manatees. In a soothing voice, he answered, “You must be talking about the Indo-Pacific crocodile. They grow up to 25 feet long and apparently do take their fair share of human lunches. But the American crocodile is smaller and much less of a threat. We’ve never had a problem with crocodiles or alligators here in the Everglades.”

Well, that seemed to cheer her up. And sure enough, the next day, she unbolted the motel’s door and, clutching my arm like a python squeezing the life out of a piglet, allowed me to walk her down to the canal.

“I've got a great surprise for you, honey,” I said. “I've rented a canoe. Now you can photograph all those big tropical birds, up close and personal. Isn't that wonderful?”

OK, maybe I should have thought this out. Maybe I should have considered what else besides big tropical birds she might photograph up close and personal. But she was game — when I climbed into the stern of the aluminum canoe, Effin climbed into the bow. We both started paddling.

Barely half a mile later, she leaned as far back in her seat as the laws of physics would allow, and whispered, “Get me out of here!”

“What’s the matter?”

“It’s a g-giant alligator, and it’s swimming r-right across the r-river!”


Her voice rose to an octave that was only fully audible to bats. “R-r-right in front of me!”


Sure enough, a dozen feet of black, glistening gator was swimming in deadly silence a dozen feet from the canoe. “Honey, remember what the ranger said. I don’t think it will hurt—”

“Get me out of here!”

While my bride sat rigid as a hayfork, I began to back-paddle with a vigor I didn’t know I possessed.

As I churned up vast quantities of canal water, I thought, What if the ranger’s wrong?
What if, to a gator, the very sight of us constitutes pestering?

Or worse, what if, to that walnut brain of his, people in a canoe look like a Mars Bar — crunchy on the outside, creamy on the inside?

I kept right on paddling.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

In the Center

By Patricia Winton

An Italian television program called S.O.S Tata, based on the American show Nanny 911, offers some uniquely Italian views on childrearing. In one memorable show, the stay-at-home dad can’t cope with two small children behaving badly. He feeds them dinner around five PM and has them tucked into bed before his professional wife returns home from work. The parents enjoy a relaxing evening alone.

The Tata identifies this practice as the root of all the family’s troubles. She modifies the household routine by having the children stay up much later and participate in dinner preparations. The children set the table although one is so small that she can only manage to carry one plate at a time from the cupboard to the table, with dad’s help. In this scenario, the meal preparation takes much longer and the children stay up much later, but the Tata approves. Like most Italians, she believes that children must not live separate lives.

And in Italy, children are central to almost all aspects of daily life. People seek children’s opinions and respect their ideas. I often see a grandfather accompanying his granddaughter to school, for example. When they exit the building, he’ll ask, “Today should we go this way or that way.” The child usually ponders for a moment and chooses a route, which they follow.

Children are included in conversations. I remember observing a couple of women conversing on a subway platform in Washington, D.C. a few years ago. One of the women had a small child in a stroller in front of her. The child was struggling to remove her sweater, grunting with the effort. The adults paid no attention. That would never happen here. The conversation would include all three people.

Adults make children feel important. I recently walked down the street behind a woman pushing a stroller. An acquaintance approached and bent down to talk to the child, saying “Ciao, how are you, Elena,” before standing upright to greet the mother. A three-way conversation ensued. When the man took his leave, he reached down to caress the child’s cheek and say “Ciao” again before shaking hands with the mother.

In Italian restaurants, children accompany their parents—even to the most elegant ones. The waiters fawn over children, often bringing them a special treat. If there are few children, a waiter might even pick up a child and take her into the kitchen for a quick tour (and a sample of the dessert to come). The idea of an "adults only" restaurant is unthinkable.

Family includes multi-generations, and family occasions include everyone. At these events, everyone gathers around the dining table; children aren’t sent to separate children’s tables. At anniversary parties and promotion celebrations, children are on the guest list. Children, not just flower girls and ring bearers, attend weddings and receptions, too.

Do Italian children misbehave? Absolutely. Do Italian parents chastise their children for that behavior? Definitely. But Italian adults don’t expect perfection from their children. They expect them to run and jump and get dirty, and they provide ample opportunities for these activities.

As a result, Italian children grow up with oodles of self-esteem. Sometimes the result produces behavior in adults that can seem self-centered. People hate waiting in lines and push through crowded streets as if they were empty. But in a strange way, it also produces a generosity of spirit that continues to be passed to the next generation.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

When We Were Young

That phrase started a lot of sentences, yes, when I was young. When my parents were young, they were nice to their siblings. When they were young, they never talked back to their parents. They didn’t have that many toys nor did they complain about it. They didn’t….they didn’t….they didn’t.

I’m exaggerating, of course, but that’s the kind of sage advice you try dredging up from your memory when you’re expecting your own kids and wondering what important things you’ll need to teach them.

So imagine my surprise when my kids, and a lot of others their age, seem to have a lot of things already figured out. Wanna know how to download an app? Ask my then-5-year-old, who had to teach me. Because I’d been writing a mystery novel, my then 8-year-old decided to try her hand at it. A few weeks later, she had about a whole series written plus several more outlined. “Mommy, it looks like I’m going to get published before you!” (Smirk.)

More recently, we had an enlightening coincidence. I was at work one day, stumped over how to use algorithms to check a colleague’s math. When I picked up my kids from summer camp afterwards, it turned out they had learned algorithms to solve the Rubik’s cube. Yes, algorithms. They also learned about robotics at a couple camps this summer, and surprisingly, it’s not a unique concept. The instructors themselves are getting younger in some cases.

Stab in the gut? Not at all.Totally impressive. I wanna be like these girls!

“How about we just pretend we’re sisters?” I ask them once in a while when I need to draw from the wisdom of their confident outlook.

“Sure,” they answer. “Do you want to be the middle one this time?”

“No, make me the youngest. You guys can take care of me.”

“No problem, Mom. It’s done.” They exchange a furtive glance, as if to ask, is she for real?

I am. For certain, today’s youth are inheriting a lot of our big scary problems—in technology, health, civil rights, the environment, the business world, ethics, you name it. No doubt about it—our generation and the one before us—have done some serious damage to the world. And yet something tells me my daughters’ generation will be the one that gets it right. They have the world at their fingertips, and all the know-how and confidence we may have lacked. This is the generation that will tackle these challenges, be courageous and do the right thing, and smart enough to find real solutions.

Remember Angela Zhang, and her awesome story from earlier this year? It still gives me shivers. In January, Angela was a 17-year-old high school student who had decided to use her free time to study, what else, cancer. She’d been reading the advanced medical literature since she was a high school freshman, and about the time she was a junior, she got the hang of it and was able to start working the puzzle out on her own. This past January, she won a $100,000 award from the national Siemens science contest for her research paper on the topic, which scientists say just may hold the cure to cancer! Check out her amazing story here

Closer to home, one of my neighbor’s kids, a 12-year-old also tackling the world’s problems in his spare time, invented a car sensor that sets off an alarm when it detects the car leaking carbon monoxide. Car makers are seriously looking into this technology, which oddly enough, has no counterpart in the car industry. Yet this amazing invention didn’t even take the top contest prizes, because despite its innovative safety function, it turns out other kids in this age group are making advances in more critical life sciences, in the study of diseases and cures, for example. Go figure. When I was 12, working on the yearbook at my junior high school was a pretty big deal. 

I’ve blogged about this little anecdote before a couple years ago, but I can’t help thinking about it again now. I once walked in on my daughters rapidly pounding the little pink keys on their toy laptops and asked them what they were up to. “Just reading up on all the ways we’re making the world a better place, Mom,” the little one immediately answered, not even pausing to look up or think about my question.
And no doubt, we’ll all be reading about their successes soon. Quite possibly in a field you and I have never heard of. Maybe one not yet invented. I, for one, can’t wait.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

It’s A Small World After All

By Alli Sinclair

As a mother of two young children, I’m always interested in how parenting styles vary from family to family, culture to culture, and country to country. I’ve been lucky enough to visit friends with kids in various parts of the world and along the way I’ve observed a myriad of parenting styles. Some methods have appealed so much I’ve adopted them into my own style of parenting and so far, the results have been pretty good!

From the moment most people announce their pregnancy, people flock to give advice—whether the pregnant woman wants it or not. The same goes when the children arrive into the big ol’ world. In-laws, old men, cousins, aunties, strangers… everyone has something to say about the way you are interacting with your child. Sometimes the advice is helpful, but most of the time, it’s just someone trying to shove their opinion down your throat (yes, yes, this is a touchy subject with me!).

For the same reason, I’m not one to run to a parenting book every time a challenging situation arises. I tend to take a more organic approach and run with intuition and assess the situation and the individual child as to what outcome I am aiming for. But I did find a very good parenting book called How Eskimos Keep Their Babies Warm by Mei-Ling Hopgood. I honestly had a hard time putting it down.

Mei-Ling covers many cultures and interviews anthropologists, educators, and child-care experts and even tests out some of the theories on her lively toddler, with some pretty amazing results. Her narrative is non-judgmental, something that is not always seen in parenting books.

Here are some examples of what Mei-Ling discovered:

This one I can vouch for and it amazed me even before I was a mother. In Argentina, it’s not uncommon to find young children dining with their families close to midnight, or attending a wedding and dancing until two in the morning. Seriously. I could never understand how the young ‘uns could function the next day, but they do. Toddlers tend to sleep in later than North American children, and sleep experts say that as long as children are getting the required amount of sleep for their age, late nights are not a big deal. The other bonus is children who socialize at functions from a young age adapt better to new social situations as they grow older.

Food… ah, one of the great joys of life but as a busy mum, it can be difficult to prepare interesting meals the kids will actually eat without a fuss. I’ve always been keen on exposing our kids to a variety of food from many cultures, and luckily, the kids have been (mostly) pretty keen to at least give it a go. We do have a rule in our house that it’s okay not to like a food, but you have to try it at least once (and the French chef in the book thinks the same way with his kids). According to Mei-Ling, it’s not unusual for French children to have duck or asparagus in their lunch box, and they tend to drink water rather than fruit juice.

Polynesian Islands 
This one takes community caring to a new level. Siblings, cousins, and family friends, form a group to take care of the younger children. We’re not talking adults here. For example, in a group of 10 people, there might be four children between the ages of eight and twelve, and they look after the other children who might range in age from two to seven. The older children prepare food, change nappies, supervise, play games… all things an adult normally does. Meanwhile, the parents are free to go and do the tasks that are needed to keep the community fed, such as fishing or farming fresh fruit or vegetables.

Duking it out doesn’t sound like an ideal way of handling a situation where two children are fighting, but in Japan teachers sometimes turn a blind eye (unless it gets really out of hand). The theory is the children learn to handle a situation without having to resort to a third party (a parent or teacher). Now this may go against the beliefs of many parents out there, but I can see how people believe this theory has value. It took me a while as a parent to work out that when two young children are fighting (arguing, not punching!) that the situation dissipates much faster than when an adult gets involved. As for the physical side of sorting something out… well… I’m not sure what to think about that, but it seems to work well in the Japanese culture.

In small towns in the Yucatán (as with many parts of the world), young children are involved in daily chores. A child of two may help his mother with the washing or collecting fruit and this involvement helps the child build confidence and know they can contribute in a meaningful way—something that is so important for all of us to feel, including little ones. I know sometimes I tend to do chores by myself because honestly, it’s just easier, but when my kids show an interest in helping, I slow myself down and allow them to get involved, even if I’m busting to get the job done. The look of joy on their faces when they complete a task really is wonderful and reminds me this is all part of their growing and learning and sense of self-worth.

In our house, we like to embrace ways from many cultures and Mei-Ling Hopgood’s book is an excellent resource to see how it’s done elsewhere. Not all of the methods will appeal to all readers, but that’s the beauty of this world and experiencing so many cultures. We can adopt the methods that work for us and our children, and ignore the ones that don’t appeal—all the while maintaining a healthy respect that everyone is different and that’s what makes the world a pretty amazing place.

As we have such an array of readers from many cultures, it would be lovely to learn about any parenting styles you’ve grown up with or have adapted.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Born Into The Cultural Divide

By Heidi Noroozy

As the child of a German immigrant mother and an American father who grew up in an ethnic Swiss community in Boston, cultural roots have always been a fascinating subject for me. How much does the culture of a person’s childhood shape attitudes later in life? Quite a lot, I think.

Growing up, I always had a keen sense of my German-Swiss heritage, reinforced by trips to visit relatives in Germany and holidays at my Swiss-American aunt’s house in Boston. Her home always felt more European than American, with its small rooms crammed with heavy furniture, lace antimacassars on the backs of chairs, and letters she’d read aloud to me from Swiss cousins, translating as she went along.

Although English, not German, was the language spoken in our home, learning German came easily to me when I studied it in high school and college. That’s what “mother tongue” really means, I thought. The language was in my blood.

It wasn’t until years later when I moved to Germany for a while that I realized just how American I really am. The way people thought and interacted with each other did not come as naturally to me as the language had. The formality of social interactions and the obsession with rules and Ordnung (order) irritated me at times—not to mention those little old ladies with sharp umbrellas who liked to butt in line at the grocery store. To this day, I’m still never sure at what point in a relationship one moves from the formal you (Sie) of an acquaintance to the informal one (Du) of a friend.

Some years ago, a conversation with an Iranian friend confirmed my belief that we are shaped by the culture we grow up in. My friend was born in Tehran but moved to California with her family when she was just a year old. On a trip to Iran as a teenager, she discovered just how American she was. “Everyone expected me to know exactly how to behave,” she complained. “But I was clueless.” She found the experience quite disconcerting.

But then, on my most recent trip to Iran, a new acquaintance poked a big hole in my theory. At a dinner party in Tehran, I met a woman who’d been born in Iran and moved to the States at the age of 17. When I met her, she was back in her home town visiting relatives and confessed to feeling disconcerted when people treated her like a foreigner. “Everyone can tell I’m not from here,” she said. “Taxi drivers, shop keepers, bank tellers—they all ask me where I’m from, and they don’t mean what part of Iran.” Okay, maybe this issue is more complicated than it seems.

As a writer, the question of cultural identity fascinates me so much that I’ve been exploring it in the fictional life of a bicultural woman who was born in Tehran and grew up in California. I constantly ask myself how she’d feel in one situation or another. Is she more Iranian or more American? How does she juggle the expectations imposed by one culture with her need to make a life for herself in another? And what will happen if I send her back to the country of her birth after spending half her life in another culture?

While I still believe that our original culture has the biggest influence in shaping who we are, I think that every new culture we experience more than just in passing also leaves its mark. So what does that make me? An American with German, Swiss, and Iranian layers.

What about you? Did you grow up in more than one culture, or have you lived in another country? If so, how has it changed the way you view your own identity?

Friday, July 20, 2012

Off The Beaten Track: An Ode to my Sony eReader

Our guest today is Mary Ellen Siegford, an American teacher living in Cairo, Egypt.  When she isn't volunteering at animal shelters, riding horses or caring for her myriad pets, Mary Ellen can often be found with her nose in a book. Or, as we learn today, in her ebook reader.

My family and I packed our bags and left Aurora, Colorado, for Cairo, Egypt, in June 2009. Cairo is my husband's hometown, but I'd only been there a few times to visit my in-laws. I imagined our life in Egypt would be a chance for me to learn a new language and help people less privileged than myself. Plus, it would be character building. My parents and siblings had reservations but my husband and daughter were ready to go.

Before I stepped on the plane my sister gave me a going-away present, a Sony eReader. She said that she wasn’t sure how easy it would be for me to get my hands on books in Egypt and since she knew I was an avid reader she thought I should have an e-book reader so I could download novels as often as I liked. I was thrilled at this generous gift but wasn’t aware of how valuable the reader would prove in the months ahead. 
We arrived before my daughter's school year started and so got to spend a month at the beach along the northern coast of Egypt. It was glorious. The sand is made of sea shells finely ground into tiny white beads and the Mediterranean sea is such a brilliant blue that the sky looks pale and dull in comparison. We stayed in a chalet that had a 180-degree view of the sea and gorged ourselves on mangoes. I walked along the beach a lot and read a bit of the Twilight Saga on my eReader as I sat on the beach sipping lemonade and listening to the crashing waves. However, it wasn’t until I was settled into Cairo and I started work at a nearby school that the eReader became my best friend. 
Life in Cairo wasn’t easy and my reactions to the cultural differences were much stronger than I expected. I found myself reacting badly in situations that made me uncomfortable, and then embarrassed in front of those who had witnessed my discomfort and bad behavior. My eReader became my escape. I jumped into Julia Quinn romances like onto a life raft, reading one a day for a break from the overly exotic world around me. A co-worker recommended Downtown Owl or the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo but I couldn’t handle anything weightier than the chick lit novels of Sophie Kinsella and Marian Keyes. 
Then the swine flu frenzy hit Egypt and I truly felt that I was living an episode of the Twilight Zone or was on Candid Camera. In trying to discuss the Ministry of Education's policies regarding swine flu with the school administration, I was flabbergasted by the randomness and bureaucracy of Egypt. The schools were closing and reopening at random. You couldn’t plan a trip somewhere because no one could tell you the dates you would be working or not working. No kids that I knew were actually sick. Pigs were slaughtered en masse although I don’t think they really had anything to do with the swine flu but they were guilty by association. YouTube video clips showed live pigs piled on top of other live pigs in trucks until they were all suffocating each other as they were loaded up to be removed from Cairo. I sank farther from the world and further in love with my eReader. I now had to get more storage space to hold all of my books and I began reading everything ever written by Juliet Marillier.

Luckily summer came, classes were finished and I went to the USA to rejuvenate and reassess myself and Egypt. I gave my reader a break and got active with many outdoor activities. Heading back to Egypt in August I was sure I would do better. My job was going much better; I was interacting with people more and reading less--and then the Revolution happened.
People like to say “you are living in exciting times,” but exciting times can be quite boring when you look at it closely. Yes, there was the debate “do I stay or do I go” that occupied a bit of time. However, the question of leaving Egypt was kicked out the window when I realized I wouldn’t have the funds to stay abroad for an extended period of time and couldn’t get home because the east coast of the US was being slammed by winter storms. The Egyptian Revolution for me was a period of house arrest. I did not live near enough to colleagues from work to join them and the most I got out was to get groceries. The TV was on constantly, showing news stations that repeated themselves ad nauseum and my reader was back in my hands. I read The Marriage Bureau for Rich People, and the Empire Trilogy by Raymond Feist, and some P.D. James--but still the schools didn’t reopen. I read some Sue Monk Kid and North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell--and still no school.

Eventually things calmed down and school resumed. I emerged from my home (pasty white despite the Egyptian sun) and finished up the school year. We are now in Egypt for the third year. I am expecting more ‘exciting times’ ahead as Egypt works toward transitioning from a military dictatorship to a democracy. I have graduated from light fluff and chick lit and am now reading a bit tougher stuff. My ebook reader has on it Jed Rubenfeld’s two books, Water For Elephants, The Game of Thrones, City of God, and finally I have read The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

The culture shock that I struggled with still pops its head in now and again to say hi but for the most part I get by okay. I thank my sister for the foresight to buy the eReader for me and I thank the manufacturers for the brilliant machine--and I also love the brown leather case that holds it so that, whether what I am reading is a schmucky romance or a New York Times Best Seller, nobody knows but me!