Friday, April 30, 2010

Stevia Sweetener (Powder) -- Product Review

Yeah, it seems I'm starting to follow the average blog pattern... I can promise I'm not gonna post film reviews next. That's for sure. However, there are a couple of awesome products that I've come across around the world, and I really think they're worth sharing.

So my last shopping experience in Switzerland was a very nice one. I was reaching for some baking soda when I discovered a box thrown onto the pile by some customer that had changed their mind. It was a box of stevia sweeteners. I thought I read the label wrong. But nope, it's for real. So I searched the supermarket for the original shelf and found that it comes in two kinds, a huge bottle of white powder and a little box full of the well known little white tablets, which look quite like my saccharin "pills".

I stocked on both, but have only tried the powder so I'll write about that. But first, I have to tell you why I was so thrilled to have found it. First of all, I am such a huge sweet tooth that I'd be drinking my coffee with 4 lumps if I let myself. But with a history of diabetes in the family and a figure conscious lifestyle, I simply cannot do that. I can't seem to fight down my sort of addiction to a sweet latte either. Believe me, I've tried. And failed many times.

On the other hand, I'm really fond of natural and organic stuff. In all areas of life. So I was really happy to try this one. Let's see...

It's nice, much nicer than the home-made "stevia stews" we used to have. The thing with stevia though is that its sweet taste is more like an after taste. To give you an idea, the stews we used to make at home made my coffee no sweeter actually, but it had a decidedly sweet after taste. It was really working with cakes and the like though, so I guess the problem was that the taste particles take a long time to solve.

Now this product is much better at that. It is sweet. It's still a bit after tasty, but is definitely sweet at first as well. One spoon of the powder is like one spoon of sugar. Not as sweet as sugar though and it takes some getting used to, but definitely sweet. And it's all natural.

So what I do is that I take 1/3 of my usual amount of saccharin and add the same amount of stevia powder. To get the same taste. It's a lot less sweeteners and much more natural. I feel I need the saccharin to make it taste the same as usual, but it's definitely less and the outcome is more natural. Maybe the next generation of stevia sweeteners will solve the problem completely. But I'm happy to have found this one! ;)

Thanx for reading!
Have an awesome day!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Easter Holiday: Geneva, Annecy, Saleve

OK, I can post no more photos. They're just too big for blogger :'(

So instead of impressing you with the visuals, I'll have to rely on good old words. Which is a pity, because they do no justice to these places.

During the Easter holidays, we spent some time in Geneva, with friends from Hungary. I had a hard time planning the whole thing, because I wanted to keep it (relatively) cheap but interesting, while giving them an idea of Geneva and its surroundings.

We ended up doing these:

Amazingly beautiful and enchanting medieval town on Lake Annecy, in neighboring France. If you're staying in Geneva more than 2 days, a must. I'd visited it a couple of years ago, when I spent some days in the region, and ever since I've thought of it as the most beautiful town on Earth (which is something...). I was a bit disappointed now, because there were simply too many tourists to make in enjoyable. Last time I'd visited in October, so it was much better. As the attraction lies mainly in the buildings and scenery, you don't need really hot weather to enjoy the site. So try picking a period when it might be less crowded. From Geneva, take the bus from the Gare Routiere, leaving every 2 hours or so, as this is the easiest (train takes twice as long). In about 90 minutes, you can stroll the old old streets of lovely Annecy.

It's the striped mammoth of a boulder you can see well from Geneva (and farther). There are like a thousand tracks to mount it, so pick yours wisely. The panoramic and half panoramic (lol) views of Mont Blanc and other Monts as well as Geneva city (and on clear days the Jura) are just magnificent. One of the main attractions of the Saleve is its telepherique, a 5 minute cable car ride up/down the northern face. As our guest had seen my video of it and were thrilled by the idea, we took a path towards the station. The hike up can take 1.5-4 hours (I've told you, pick wisely), depending on where you start. You can find hand drawn maps and the like on the web, and we've done OK with those, but now that I have the Kümmerly+Frey Geneva (& around) Hiking Map (#21), I really think it's a good idea to get this one. It's (very) expensive, but practically indestructible and good quality. Also, it shows the track we've taken up the Saleve's northern face: The route "Orjobet" to Monnetier and then the telepherique, and our former choice, through "Le Coin" and all along the ridge. So it's worth it, if you're planning to hike in the area.

The map also gave us the idea to visit Yvoire this weekend, which I'll also post about later.

Besides general Geneva sightseeing (you know, flower clock, lakeside, Jet d'Eau, etc.), we also visited the

UN & Jardin Botanique
You can get all sorts of info on guided tours in the Palace des Nations at the UN website. I believe this is the only way to visit the site, they won't let you just wander about (lol). So we paid the fee (student discount and so on) and joined the group (passport needed), and I even got a little badge :) I was a little disappointed. I'm no activist, I believe in thorough planning and rational and doable plans, so I was really looking forward to seeing and understanding how the UN works. Well, the tour took like an hour, much of which was spent climbing stairs and crossing corridors (so take comfy shoes, chairs are sometimes provided :D). I was expecting more... But I guess, you can always buy the various publications they have in the shop at the end of the tour. Or just surf their website, which I actually find more enlightening. Well, the others loved it, so I guess it's worth it. I do have a badge, so I've nothing to complain about. (lol)

I love Geneva's parks. Parc des Eaux Vives and de la Grange are one of my favorites, but the Jardin Botanique beats them easily. It's really close to the UN buildings, so I think it's a good option to combine the two, if you're visiting. It's actually just that, a botanic garden, with plants from all over the world, and while its totally public (and free) it's in amazing conditions. (But things don't generally get stolen in CH, unlike in Budapest, where flowering cabbages get stolen from parks...) It's stunningly beautiful too, especially in spring and summer (obviously), and is connected to another of the great parks on the northern side of the lake (rive droite). So it's a great place for strolls, which is exactly what we did.

News, Volcanoes, Time and The Mayan Calendar

The first of the posts that have been pending for a while:

Now that the wedding preparations have got to a point where things are either progressing without my supervision or are waiting for me to continue organizing them when we've got the permission, I have more time for other things.

Job hunting is going well, relatively, though I guess I'm rather picky. But I really don't want to be doing something stupefying. So that's going to be alright as well.

I've started a new blog on Motivated Learning, where I'll be discussing issues related to language learning, from various aspects. Currently I'm designing content for learners, because a lot is available on the subject for teachers and researchers. More is to come soon.

Well, almost a week after all the craze started, flights are taking off again. It's really shocking what such a relatively small eruption can do. It was no catastrophe like the ones we're sadly used to, landslides and tsunamis or eruptions that demolish cities. It was just a smallish amount of ash, scattered over Europe by the winds. Funny we still depend on those...

It all got me started. I'm not the sentimental type that likes to think of trees and volcanoes as having their own will. Nor do I think that it's the Icelandic economy that decided to strike. But nonetheless it made me think and become a little philosophic about the times we live in. It wasn't until recently that I became familiar with the concept of the Mayan Calendar, and although I do believe that much of the information on it is still about free interpretation of the calendar, I am quite intrigued by the general idea.

I could put it down to many factors and causes but I doe have the feeling that time is somehow getting... faster. Of course one possible explanation is that, as with globalization and technical development the construct of place and distance has changed considerably, it has led to changes in our perception of time as well. For a long time in history, people's immediate environment, the distances they crossed regularly, could be considered quite limited, whereas the world, their concept of the universe, was totally infinite. Now it's the reverse. We have a relatively clear picture of the universe, it's not so mystical anymore. We can travel the world in a very short time, so our possibilities seem much more limited. So this opening up of space is actually a limitation as well, because it sets limits to our fantasies and possibilities. And thus, as getting from London to Chicago is only a matter of hours, not months or years any more, the same space can be traveled faster than ever. And thus more things can be and are done in a day. And we have the impression that while we spend an hour reading a book or cooking, or whatever, the world runs on and we can hardly keep track. So it is all getting faster and there's no denying it. And it raies the question how fast it can actually get.

I'm not really the philosophy-loving kind of person who believes the doom is near. I'm just merely curious, and like understanding things. So when I hear of a new idea that actually makes sense and explains things that cannot otherwise be explained, I like to get familiar with it, understand its reasoning. It broadens one's perspective. ;) Anyway, I guess there'll be more posts like this, as the world is getting more and more understood, while giving us more and more riddles in the process. Life's all about controversies.

Thank you for reading, have an awesome week! ;)

Thursday, April 15, 2010

World citizenship as a factor affecting the motivated learning behavior of adult Hungarian learners


Changes in the status of English have led to the reconceptualization of Gardner’s original construct of integrativeness (1985). The thesis reports on the findings of a questionnaire study conducted on adult language school learners in the capital city of Hungary. The research focused on the target community of world citizens as a flexible and modern equivalent of the Gardnerian concept, identified in second language contexts. Moreover, it aimed to investigate the internal structure of the L2 Motivational Self System (Dörnyei, 2005) and its role in the broader framework of adult learners’ motivational profiles. Findings revealed significant relationships among respondents’ identification with the international community and the most important motivational factors identified by contemporary research. The results lend support to the L2 Motivational Self System, showing its relevance to learners’ motivated learning behavior. Findings concerning the Ought-to L2 Self point in new research directions, indicating that more substantial information might be attained about the self guide. Furthermore, the study provides ground for the investigation of the international community, confirming the importance of the construct in today’s globalized world and drawing attention to its potential in English language pedagogy.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

... Aaaaaand Back!

Long time, no see. I know, I know. But I've had so very much to do. The silver lining is, I guess, that now I have lots of things to write about. So let's start with the most important ones.

My thesis is done, on its way to the Head (of the department) for evaluation. So exciting! It's been really fun writing it, actually. I do feel good now that I've finished it, but I'd also love to use my new research skills in the future. I've learned so much and it feels just such a waste if I don't go on developing these newfound abilities of mine...

Wedding preparations are on their way too. We submitted the papers to the Register Office some time before Easter and got a rendezvous with the officials there for the end of April. Normally it doesn't take so long, but since you have to get married in 3 months after receiving the permission, they couldn't give us an earlier date. So doing the math I guess we're sure to get the permission at the end of April. So cool.
My dress is being made in the meantime, I'll have the first real trial in May (so far it's been more like measurements & discussions).
The venue is fixed as well, and I've started daydreaming of the whole thing, so I guess I'm becoming a real bride. :)

So what now?
Well, first of all, I'll be writing my accounts of the past couple of weeks here. :) It's been really long and lots of things have been happening.

Then, I should be looking for a job. It's also really exciting! Last time I decided to look, an invitation came before I got to the ads. I'm not expecting anything like this to happen this time, but you never know. I love the feeling of this sort of freedom. I feel I can really become anything! :)
Of course, with 5 years of experience, teaching is a good guess. I'll check in that direction. I love teaching, I do, and lots of people (other than myself) say that I'm pretty good. So I guess I'm pretty good. But really. Bragging aside, I really think that I have the makings of a good language tutor. I've probably flaunted my opinion on teaching here, as I do everywhere I go, but I seriously believe that teaching is way much more than taking something I know and putting it into someone else's head. I believe that it's essential to understand each and every student on a variety of levels before anything can happen. And then, then can the teacher act as a sort of coach, exercising and strengthening those muscles, toning and building existing abilities and helping the formation of new ones. So I guess I could be teaching again, it would be fun!
Then I have the option of looking for something that would eventually lead to me becoming some sort of a researcher. My main field is language learning and motivation and sociolinguistics, but I'd love to be involved in all sorts of projects involving social issues. So I'll also check in that direction.
But at this point I'm fairly open. We'll see what the future brings.
And yes, I'd love to live and work in Geneva. I love the city and the country. I can't really explain, it's a bit as if I'd been born a Swiss, only no one knew. I know most people are annoyed by rules and regulations and especially in Eastern Europe there's a strong tendency to ignore them or look for loopholes. But I do like regulations that make sense. And I love neatness and recycling and being economical, and I do feel bad about any kind of mess. And I love nature, almost above all. So I'd love to live in Geneva. But I'll also accept if I can't, just for now. After all, in a year, Switzerland will be open for the citizens of new EU-member states.

So wish me luck with all these enterprises! ;) Thanks for reading! And have a beautiful, beautiful day! ;)

(Keep tuned, there's more to come! Soon! ;))

Monday, April 5, 2010

We ARE getting married in Geneva! (Paperwork done!)

So we've done it. Gathered all the papers, had some of them translated (in Geneva) and submitted them, just before the holidays.

This means it's official. Well, kind of. What's left is the "interview" at the Register Office (Etat Civil), three months before the actual wedding date, where we'll sign a couple of documents attesting that we're not currently married etc. and where we'll get the official permission. So fingers crossed... But I don't think anything could turn up now really.

I'm busy rereading my thesis (which came out as an awesome little piece, btw), and then I'll be working on some nice DIY invitations and stuff like that.

We've had some friends over from Hungary, which means that I'm well behind on updating. I'll do that shortly. Stay tuned! And thanx for reading! Have a great Easter Monday! ;)