foreign language immersion and links



The phone rang, and my stomach clenched when I heard her voice. “Daddy? I want to go home,” said my 8-year-old daughter, Arden. Two hours earlier, I dropped Arden and her two siblings off at their new school in a squat building in a forest of Soviet-era apartment blocks on Krasnoarmeyskaya (Red Army) Street in Moscow. They hugged me goodbye, clinging a little too long, and as I rode the metro to my office, I said a kind of silent prayer to myself that they would get through the day without falling apart.

My Family’s Experiment in Extreme Schooling

Great read.  My wife moved to America as a first-year college student, but her younger sister (much younger) was just starting kindergarten.  She struggled to adapt but is today fully Americanized and fluent in English.  In my case, I credit my brief immersion in German schools with my continued more-0r-less fluency in German (I am generally able to read and hear German without any trouble comprehending, although I do stutter speaking it).  It’s a terrifying thing to land in a town where your host parents don’t speak English, your school is conducted entirely in German.  It’s also an amazingly empowering feeling after a few weeks to realize that you are rapidly acquiring a huge vocabulary in a foreign language out of necessity.  I’ve always said that one of the most astonishing mental events in my life was the first night I dreamed in German.  Not in translation – the dream was in a foreign language, and it felt natural.  I’ve seldom dreamed in Russian – unfortunately I learned it later in life so I’ve always felt it’s an “artificial” language for me – but German still feels like it’s burned in my head.  It’s a worthless language – almost every German person I’ve met speaks English better than I speak German – but I’m glad I know it, because it was a useful intellectual effort and because it made me understand and appreciate German culture.


Photo By dicktay2000

why we work, I’m on amazon, and links

Happy Labor Day.  It’s one of the most pointless holidays we have now, the celebration of labor in an increasingly labor-unfriendly economy; much like Thanksgiving, it’s been transformed into a celebration of consumerism through sales and quick vacations.  I’m as much a participant as I am a critic, so I don’t consider myself above it all.  I love football and Labor Day, to me, is as much the harbinger of football season as anything else.  But be proud of work.  I’m proudest of my work when I do a good job and help others out.  I’m good at technological solutions for finance problems, and when I can help a company get better at what they do through my skills, I’ve done my bit for labor.  It’s not putting hoe to soil… but it’s what I can offer in America circa 2011.

I have a couple of interesting interviews coming up – I’ve been lucky to get in touch with a few good authors recently, and I’m looking forward to talking with them and sharing the results once I manage to suss out the spare time to read the books.  But in other exciting developments, brip blap is now available via on the Kindle…. click here.  I thought that was great, although Amazon’s insistence on forcing me to charge $.99 per month for the subscription was annoying – I would have offered it free if that was an option.  But it’s not, so I apologize for that and appreciate anyone who chooses to subscribe that way, it supports my efforts here.

As always, I really appreciate comments and emails, so keep them coming!

Links… these are my friends and other interesting sites online, so check them out.

(No attribution for the art since I got it from a site which seemed to indicate that it was free usage – it’s tricky getting artwork sometimes!)

the silence of the fingers, and links

You may have noticed the link posts missing the past few weeks.  Or maybe not, I’m not sure how many people read link posts – I know I seldom do.  I had to have minor surgery a couple of weeks ago, and the time leading up to that surgery and the time immediately afterward I didn’t really feel like working on these posts.  Usually, they seldom take more than a few minutes to complete, but that’s because I’ve been going through my Google Reader starring a few posts for inclusion later.  I hadn’t been reading blogs for a while.

But I do hope to return a bit more to active updating of links and if I can start working up the enthusiasm for it a few posts on off-topic subjects (gasp, didn’t see that coming, did you)…


the chairs and links

I’ve been stuck for blogging topics recently, and I realized that part of the problem is that I’m less interested in personal finance and productivity now than I was in the past since I feel I’ve reached a bit of a plateau.  I understand some of the core lessons, and while I’m not perfect in implementing them, I’m confident that even when I do the wrong thing I’m clearly aware I am and have some reason for doing so.

What I am excited about these days is the concept of sustainable living, which encompasses a lot of areas.  I’m heavily influenced by a few sources:  Early Retirement Extreme (see my review), The Good Human, and several other websites.  I’ve realized that while I’m always happy to save money and do things more efficiently, I feel better when I waste less and do more for myself rather than having others do it for me.  I have a long, long way to go in this area – I still have a lawn service cutting my lawn, for example, although I plan to change that soon – but doing better in this area makes me feel, well, better.

Case in point:  thanks to Bubelah, on the way home from somewhere one weekend a few weeks ago we saw someone was throwing out lawn chairs.  Now, they looked nasty: plenty of dirt and bugs and leaves ground into them.  They were on the curb and ready for trash pickup.  Bubelah asked me to turn the car around and take a quick look, and after examining them I hauled them into the back of the minivan and voila:  lawn chairs will get a second life thanks to us, scrubbed and cleaned and ready for sitting for another decade.  And we’ll do our best to pass them on to someone else who can use them.  That’s better than seeing that plastic in a landfill, right?

On to the links:

late Memorial Day thoughts, and links

I thought I’d get around to this post in time to make it a Memorial Day post, but apparently I didn’t. I’ve had some health issues – to put it mildly – over the past week related to an allergic reaction, so I have been distracted from blogging. The good news is that I still managed to slog through some blog posts, and some of my finds follow:

just try, and links

moby:into the blue

Chlorine is still stinging my eyes.  Pools bug me.  It’s like taking a bath with the public, plus toxic chemicals.  I haven’t enjoyed the pool in 20 years.  I’d much rather swim in the ocean, simply because it’s less “chemical.”  But the kids love it, so I decided I need to grit my teeth and get over myself.

It’s one of the toughest things to do, I think: to get over yourself.  I was a bachelor living on my own for about 14 or so years.  I didn’t really have to do anything I didn’t want to.  Sure, I had work, and sure, I had girlfriends or family or other pressures to do things I didn’t like, but by and large I set my own schedule.

In a way, you don’t grow if you set your own schedule. If you ONLY do what you want to do, you may never be pushed to try something new or do something different.  I was badgering into trying sushi by a fraternity brother – now I love it.  I was pushed to try a cruise by my girlfriend-at-the-time-now-wife and was surprised that I enjoyed it.

Now, there are some things that you can reject. I still hate beets.  I’ve tried.  But I do.  I don’t like opera.  I’ve tried.  I fell asleep twice at opera performances.  But I tried.  And don’t get me wrong – sometimes you should pursue what YOU want, whether or not that means rejected other reasonable options.  I’ve established for myself that I love reading fantasy literature – and I’m not going to stop reading it to pick up mysteries at this point.  But trying something new has to be attempted from time to time.  That effort – trying – is part of being human.  If you aren’t trying, you’re just a robot.  It’s easy to avoid the new, or the different.

On to the links….

How to Get Retiree Health Insurance Before 65: I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again – it’s the great shame of America that we even have to have this discussion.  No other advanced Western country has blog posts about how to avoid medical bankruptcy, or deal with being old and not being able to afford health care, or being too sick to afford health care.  The recent reforms tweaked some of the problems, but the fact that Americans live in financial terror of medical conditions – rather than medical terror of medical conditions – is absurd, shameful and frankly ridiculous.  We have a brilliant, entrepreneurial, productive country that’s being killed by silly things like health care costs and worries over retirement. Argh.

The ERE book has now sold 2500 copies :  Jacob was kind enough to give me a copy of this book.  I’m still working on a review, but my short review is:  read it.  It’s thought provoking.  I don’t agree with 100% of it, but it gave me a lot of food for thought, and maybe it will for you, too.  Perhaps I’ll do a giveaway if anyone expresses interest.


And more…

Photo credit: visualpanic

growing blogs and vegetables, and links

About a month ago I wrote a post giving my thoughts on blog monetization, and talked about how I was going to aggressively monetize my blog but try and keep some of the personal aspects alive. As an experiment I put up a few guest posts and decided I wouldn’t worry about revenue and just write creatively on any topic I chose. And I found that it wasn’t really happening – I can’t just start talking about politics or my thoughts on travel locations or whatever. So I’m going to go back to trying to stick to personal finance and productivity and career for the most part. I’m really waffling on all this, but I guess it’s what happens to most bloggers four plus years in. Plus I’ve found some of the writing energy I used to throw solely into the blog being sucked up by Facebook and Twitter, which is an interesting phenomenon (neither good nor bad).

On the plus side, we’ve been saving a lot of money: our little garden is yielding a HUGE crop of vegetables, meaning lots of fresh salads: we have dozens of tomatoes, cucumbers, salad, peppers, jalapeno peppers, etc. etc. right now not to mention abundant herbs. We didn’t have much luck last summer but so far this year we’ve had a bumper crop.  So we have some nice salads:  here’s a simple one.  Plus I’m having jalapeno egg white omelets every morning – one of my favorites.


On to the links:

Osama bin Laden is dead, and links

I consider myself a pacifist and I’ve definitely been anti-war and continue to be so. I’ve voted Greens Party several times, and I’m consistently pro-life in the sense that I don’t believe we should lightly kill anyone, innocent or not.  That having been said, I was and still consider myself to be a New Yorker.  I walked past the smoldering ruins of the twin towers every day for weeks on my way to work.  I had friends who had to dodge falling bodies to escape.  I watched the towers fall in person, and in my lower Manhattan apartment watched them burn for days.  And listen – I was lucky.  I didn’t lose anybody close to me, my brother who lived in New York at the time met up with me on a street corner while F-16s roared overhead, and we were OK.  I was not deeply impacted.  But I was surrounded by human tragedy, from my friend who cleaned up body parts at ground zero and drank himself into a stupor because he couldn’t deal with that to the crying people who’d lost loved ones who were standing near Ground Zero handing out flyers.   I worked maniacally at a loading dock for a couple of days with the Salvation Army putting together loads for the responders at Ground Zero – mostly loading cases of beer, cigarettes, gloves and socks.  People around me spontaneously wept.  And you know what?  It happens everywhere in the world – Darfur, Bosnia, and on and on.

But in the end this is it:  I was (and am) a New Yorker, and despite my peaceful leanings I am glad, glad, glad Osama bin Laden is dead of unnatural causes. I’m glad he wasn’t allowed to peacefully die in a cave.  I’m glad he died in violence like so many of his victims.  I’m happy that an American man put an American bullet in his head. I’m sorry – it’s not in accordance with a positive mindset that I preach so often – but I’m glad to know he’s gone.  Nothing is restored – we still have a decade of permanent war and the horrors of 9/11 which won’t go away just because he’s dead – but he’s dead, and that’s not a bad thing.  We’re all still animals at our core, but – to paraphrase Orwell although not in the spirit in which he intended – some of us are more animalistic than others.  Good riddance to bad rubbish.


Off to links.

I had a guest post up at Dough Roller:  We Are All Consultants Now

new reality of deprivation and links

old tv with open door @ chinook motel

There’s a good read by Bret over at Hope to Prosper titled Living on Less is the New Reality for Millions of Americans. The glass ceiling will keep rising, because no company can afford to hire ineffective executives.” I’m not 100% sure I agree with that – seems like a lot of ineffective executives fail forward.  And I’m not sure people are living on less.  Income inequality is becoming far greater in America; middle class wages are stagnant and actually declining when inflation and other factors are considered.

However, I’d argue that we’ve added far too many “new requireds” to our lives. I often complain that I had more disposable income when I was a young urban professional than I do now.  Then again, I had dial-up internet ($15 per month) instead of high-speed cable ($60 per month).  I had a landline with an answering machine instead of a smart phone.  I had books from the library instead of purchased.  I ate grilled cheese for lunch instead of organic turkey breast.  I didn’t have or Netflix and so on.  I drank tap water instead of filtered water (and occasionally bottled water).  You get the picture.  “Living on less” is partially because of skyrocketing health care costs but it’s also because of poorer eating habits.  It’s partially because of gas prices but also because of video games.  It’s easy for the paycheck to feel tighter when you have 267 cable channels instead of rabbit ear antennas and 4 channels.  I’m not saying I don’t have those things; I’m just trying to admit to myself that I have a lot of “wants” that I classify as “needs” (I’m looking at you, Blackberry).

Somewhat in the same vein, Where You Can Go To College For Free $4 Gas and Fragile Finances: Not so much for the article, but the comments – some get really out of hand. Trent’s main point is extremely valid, though: if you can’t handle a 10% increase in the price of gas, your finances are in bad, bad shape.

And more:

a brief roundup on tuesday

I missed the roundup this weekend, and I doubt I should apologize for it.  We spent a full weekend at the park, playing soccer, making pizza, and then – frankly – cleaning up the house.  If that’s not productivity, I don’t know what it is.  But I do feel like I should get out the links, so here they are.  And if you are a personal finance blogger (or productivity/lifestyle blogger, which is closer to my general theme) who wants to be included in my roundups, don’t be shy – send me an email, I’ll be happy to share an article.

happiness and links

I have a bit of cognitive dissonance when I hear that it’s still snowing in parts of these Americas.  We’re already knee-deep in summer here, walking in shorts and t-shirts outside all the time.  I know that climate isn’t the sole factor of happiness, but it does help greatly, in my opinion.  On a related note, I’ve just finished reading The Happiness Project and it’s given me some good ideas on how to force happiness, rather than hoping it will come around.  As someone who’s writing about the moody side of life – hence the name brip blap – I’d recommend this book as something that might be useful.



the free versus the paid web, and links

I usually feel that I need to apologize when I post a roundup without an extensive analysis of each one of the posts I put up, but this is one such week.  A hectic schedule surrounds my son’s birthday and, coincidentally, the birthday of a classmate, making this a hectic week.  Add some chores and errands and an actual day job and whew, time flies.

I will make one passing comment/question:  who besides me thinks that the New York Times’ plan to charge $15 a month for online access is doomed to semi-failure?  By semi-failure, I mean that I think they’ll make enough to survive a bit longer but they’ll certainly remove themselves from the wider set of online eyeballs.  I hate the idea.  If I have to start paying $15 per month per website the number of websites I visit is going to drop to 1 or 2 if not none. 

The free vs. paid debate will rage on for a while, I suspect, but as long as I have 10,000 potential news sources using advertising to keep themselves free, it’s hard to see how I’ll be persuaded to use that one that does charge.  Will they be reporting on the news that much better?  Hm.

On to the big list of links: