Arabic Challenge Results

Well, my first Arabic conversation wasn’t a very long one, but it happened.

Here’s the result:

Basically, I’m saying to him, “Excuse me, do you speak Arabic?” to which he playfully responds, “No!”, and we both get a laugh out of it. There’s some more talk (in English), and a LOT of background noise too. The first 9 seconds covers the entire conversation. That’s it!

This was a fun challenge, and I’m glad I did it. I now have some working knowledge of the language and a (solid?) base from which to continue my Arabic learning.

I really wish I’d invested more time re-learning some lessons over again. I did this with lessons 1-4, but then time just got away from me. I also would have broken it up into 2 – 3 study times per day, e.g. morning, noon/early afternoon, and evening. I believe this would have helped my recall.I intentionally didn’t take notes, which would have helped also, but could have become a crutch.

Still can’t recommend highly-enough going with Pimsleur audio courses, especially to get up on a language fast. No, they don’t pay me, and I don’t have any affiliate links to any of their products. They’re just that effective, as long as you put in the work. (Of course you have do to that – you didn’t expect a magic bullet, did you?)

While I’m on the subject, I’m referring to the older-style Pimsleur courses, just the audio only. Not the new Pimsleur interactive software crap — that’s just them trying to copy Rosetta Stone. Oh yeah, don’t buy the Rosetta Stone software. It’s a waste of money, you get very little value for the cost of the software. I bought it once when learning Spanish. Never again.


Gandhian Principles in Kannada
Gandhian Principles in Kannada

Today I was talking with a vegan friend (I’m vegan as well) who mentioned that she had received a casual offer of work at a food truck. She said that she was considering doing it, because it would mean some extra income and she is tired of doing what she is now.

I asked her if the food truck served meat products, and she said that yeah, it does. It struck me as odd. For the non-vegan people reading this, a statement like that from a vegan is kind of disconcerting.

The vegan lifestyle is characterized by non-consumption of all animal products or by-products, up to and including all meat, fish, eggs, milk, cheese… anything that comes from an animal (even honey).

So I was a bit stunned that my vegan friend had so casually mentioned that she was considering working at a food truck which serves meat.

For me personally, as an ethical vegan, I could never support any business which explicitly supported the harm or exploitation of animals for any reason, especially one that requires killing them (obviously meat requires the death of the animal supplying it).

I automatically correlated her vegan-ness with the standard vegan principles. Having strong principles is so important to me, that someone claiming to be something, then nonchalantly considering violating the principles of that something just for a bit of quick cash really confused me.

Maybe she doesn’t have principles, or consider them when making decisions.

It occurred to me then just how important it is to have a defined set of principles, and to stand solidly on them, even be willing to stake your life on them, because if not, then it’s just too easy to be blown whatever direction the wind takes you at the time.

In Principles, Ray Dalio defines them thusly:

1) What are principles?

Your values are what you consider important, literally what you “value.” Principles are what allow you to live a life consistent with those values. Principles connect your values to your actions; they are beacons that guide your actions, and help you successfully deal with the laws of reality. It is to your principles that you turn when you face hard choices.

His next statement on why they are important is also apropos to the situation:

2) Why are principles important?

All successful people operate by principles that help them be successful. Without principles, you would be forced to react to circumstances that come at you without considering what you value most and how to make choices to get what you want. This would prevent you from making the most of your life. …

It’s possible that my friend hadn’t considered operating by principles at all — that she was just reacting to the circumstance … without considering what she (maybe?) values most. Or it’s possible that I’m just wrong — and she values money, and experience working at a food truck more than animal welfare. I do tend to see things as all-or-nothing, so maybe I should just get used to seeing things along a spectrum instead. Maybe she’s not quite as hardcore along the “vegan hardcority” spectrum. Maybe I just made up that spectrum.

Really I just think it was a good example to write about the importance of having principles and living life by them.

photo by balu

Simple Blogging Tips

Veerle's Blog at Starbucks
Veerle’s Blog at Starbucks

I decided to do an «arbitrary number»-part series on basic steps people can take to improve their basic/new blogs.

  1. Use WordPress. It really is the shit.
  2. If using blogger, migrate to I really recommend a self-hosted blog using the software from, but that’s not for everyone.

    If you’re using WordPress, you’ll get an About page, a “Hello World” post and a fake initial comment.

  3. Modify the “About” page 1st thing.
  4. The first thing people do when visiting a new blog is check out the “about” page. When I visit your blog, before reading very far, I want to know who you are. How are you qualified to write to me? (e.g. if you’re an MD writing about medical stuff, I know that you know your shit, vs. a 1st year biology major, etc…). You don’t have to have important-sounding credentials… just tell the reader a bit about who you are.

  5. Now delete the fake comment.
  6. Modify the Hello World post and the title.
  7. This will be the intro post for your blog. If you’re not ready to put up the first post, at least change the text to “this is my new blog and I will fill this out later. Oh, and if you want to know more about me then read my about page, which I have definitely filled out.”

photo credit

Kaixo, mundua!

Welcome one and all to This is the resurrected version of I’ll probably write a lot of {seemingly} random posts on various eclectic subject matter, but that’s how I roll.

My main interests are modern spoken languages, international travel, and technology (mostly sysadmin/programming type stuff), so most of my future posts will likely fall into those categories.