East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai


A way to keep the brain going: learning a foreign language (or five!)

The subject of languages came up in the comments section of my last post, when Floodmouse asked about my fluency in both English and Italian.
And I thought that for a blog that has the Silk Road as one of its themes, together with exotic adventure and history, then languages should be an interesting and pertinent topic. And languages have always been an interest of mine – and I learned a few, and I might have some dubious wisdom to share.

3592844F00000578-0-image-m-32_1466643151552And talking of dubious wisdom…
I can’t remember in which of the Flashman novels1, Flash Harry gives some good-natured suggestion to young men abroad in need of learning the local lingo in a haste.
Flashman’s suggestion boils down to shacking up with a local prostitute for the time needed, and do some conversation between… ehm, sessions.


Now I never tried that one, but I do have a few languages in my CV, and I am absolutely certain that knowing a different language (or three) is an essential life skill.
It helps us communicate with others, of course, and it provides us with the opportunity of seeing the world through other people’s eyes – by reading their books and newspapers, by listening to their songs and their radio news, by talking to them.
Practicing a foreign language is also an excellent method to keep the dust off our brain.
And it can be quite fun, if done with the proper attitude.
And indeed, the web provides a lot of opportunities for learning another language, and practicing it. Because practice is the important thing. Continue reading


Writing Tools

Ok, this is the usual boring “tools I use for writing” post which they tell me is a must on an author’s blog.
But then who knows, someone out there might find it interesting, or useful.

First thing first – the only piece of hardware you need to be able to write anywhere/anytime is a paper notebook (aka “the platform”) and a pen (aka “the input device”).
And please take notice – this is not some form of silly nostalgia thing, but a simple statement of fact: in the middle of the wilderness, with no energy grid and no hi-tech, good old pen-and-paper works.
meadOne has to spend some time to find the right notebooks and the right pen – because writing is also a phisical activity, and the tool must fit the hand.
But given some times, anyone can find his fave low-tech writing environment.
For me, it’s Mead Composition Notebooks and BIC black-ink pens.
But I’m developing a sort of fetish for the sort of rough, blank-pages hardbound notebooks you find at IKEA or other such places.

Incidentally, a notebook can be used for two good writing practices
. keeping a journal
. keeping a commonplace book, to use H.P. Lovecraft’s definition – a book in which you jot down ideas for future reference.

Moving on to computers and software, now… Continue reading