Ten Magic Phrases when Travelling

When visiting another country, I love to enhance the experience of being there by speaking a few phrases in the local language.  It makes my experiences in Germany seem more authentically  German.  Greeting someone with “Dobrý den” in Prague makes my den that much more Dobrý.    And successfully  speaking to a someone in their native tongue enriches the experience for both people.  Using a foreign language stimulates your own brain in a new way, but it also alters the way you are perceived by your new comrade.   People genuinely appreciate even a feeble attempt at speaking their language.  They suddenly smile and open up, anxious to help you learn their language and their culture.

When visiting a new country, here are ten phrases that will enhance your travel experience.


1) Hello

If you only learn one phrase, this is it.


Now you know how to greet people in Russian!

The photo site Flikr greets you with hello in a different language every time you log in, a cute tribute to the way the internet has made our world smaller.   After spending hours learning Vietnamese on some great language sites like book2.de, watching dozens of  Vietnamese greeting videos, plowing through Vietnamese chapters of Rossetta Stone and continually referencing Google Translate , the only phrase the stewardess on Vietnam Airlines understood me say was “Xin chào!” or Hello. Unless you count the word bia or beer which fortunately is the almost the same in many languages.

2) Please

You’ll never feel so polite as when you say “s’il vous plaît” in France.  When you’re travelling, you’re going to be asking for help quite a bit. And people are generally happy to be of assistance.  Saying please in their own tongue is almost irresistible.  And if you picked up the word for “Beer” from the link above, you can now say “Beer please!”

Mon Ami en Lyon

3) Thank You

Just a bit of travelling and you’ll be amazed at how much people around the world love to help their fellow human being.   The least you can do is say “Merci”.

4) What’s you’re name?

The first step in getting to know  new person is finding out their name.  You’re also learning how question’s are structured in the new language.  In Vietnamese the question word, in this case What, appears at the end of the sentence.  “Tên bạn là gì?”  translates literally to “Name yours  is what?”  In some languages The preferred phrase is  “How are you called”.  In Spanish  ¿Cómo te llamas? and in German “Wie heißt du?”  Either way you’re being introduced to your first “Question word” What or How, Words that you’ll hear often in conversation.  Still, the hardest part of all this is actually remembering the persons name you just met.

5) My name is …

Hand in hand with the question is the answer.  Notice the similarity to the question, and how the pronoun ‘you’ is replaced with ‘my’.  You can practice these phrases as a call and response.

“Tên bạn là gì?”  ….  “Tên tôi là Mike.”

¿Cómo te llamas?  … “Me llamo Mike”

“Wie heißt du?”  …  “Mein Name ist Mike.”

6) How are you?

Now that you’ve made a new friend you can find out how they’re doing.  A common variant is “How’s it going?”  or even “You good?” In Chinese via Google Translate , that’s 您好?, pronounced “ni hao”.  Translate makes a rough attempt at pronunciation.   To hone your dialect in your language of choice try some of the many helpful “How are you” videos.

7) Nice to meet you.

This is another phrase with various local flavors, such as “good to see you”.  In Finnish “I am glad to see you” translates to the succinct Hauska tavata.    With the last four phrases , you’re ready to have a simple conversation.   “Hello, How are you, What’s your name?,  My name is …, Nice to meet you!”.  Make it a goal to try this full conversation on your trip.  Locals usually realize what you’re doing, and have a lot of fun with it.  Here’s a clip of me trying conversations at  Oktoberfest in Munich:


8) Excuse me

Excuse me is another polite phrase that smooths interactions.  “Entschuldigen Sie” is my opener with the couple sitting down in the video above.

9) I’m sorry/ No Problem

Sometimes an  apology is in order.  “Klein Problem” got me out of trouble in a dive bar in Esslingen when I was having a little fun with waterpistolcamera.

10) Goodbye

Goodbye  is a warm blessing that translates to every language.  In Spanish adiós  is literally “with God”.  In Italian it’s addio. In Arabic الله معك. means “Allah be with you”.  So without further “adieu” , Safe travels , and God by ye!.

Blog of the Week: Cobbled Toolbox

Cobbled Toolbox is a photography blog.  I noticed it through the Daily Photo Challenge.  I love the photo blogs particularly since I’m not a photographer. All my pics are haphazard cell phone shots.  Cobbled Toolbox however has serious skills.  Great colors and clever subjects.

This photo Peace should be in a museum.  These Bright photos were taken in Brazil.  They make me want to sit in one of those chairs and do nothing.  Enjoy the great photos!


Obama kills Thanksgiving Turkey with a Predator Drone

WASHINGTON  — Just back from Asia, President Barack Obama has ordered two predator strikes  on White House turkeys in a modern variation of an annual Thanksgiving rite.

Cobbler, the newly designated national turkey, and his alternate, Gobbler, are getting roasted.

Both are 19-week-old, 40-pound turkeys from Virginia. Their names were selected from submissions by an F.B.I. terrorism task force.

The tradition of pardoning a Thanksgiving turkey at the White House started with President John F. Kennedy in 1963.  Over the years the tradition has been altered to keep up with concerns of the time.  In 1996 President Clinton had the turkeys smoke one of his cigars. Then in 2004 President Bush had the Turkeys secretly flown to mountains in Nepal where they were moistened by submerging their heads in water for several seconds.

Relax everyone, Twinkies aren’t going away

As thousands of headlines declaring the death of the Twinkie have already said, Hostess is filling for bankruptcy.   What few articles mention is that they are filling Chapter 11 which allows for reorganization.

What happened is this:  Striking union workers wanted more from Hostess, and the company claimed they have none left.  Unions didn’t believe them and kept striking.  Hostess apparently wasn’t bluffing about being low on cash, so they filed for chapter 11, and began closing factories.

So now what? Since there is so much value in the name recognition of brands like the Twinkie, someone will wind up those rights.  There’s so much money to be made by selling those tubes of sugar soaked in  fat stuffed with fat soaked in sugar that they will still get melded together.  Most likely by a Hostess that emerges from bankruptcy.  So go ahead, gorge yourself on the 6 month Twinkie supply you’ve hoarded.  There’s plenty more where those came from.  The Twinkie is too big to fail.


Leo in Google Sky

I was all set to get up and then write a wacky blog post about the Leonoid
meteor shower. According to Google Sky, the constellation Leo should be
visible right now aout 45 degrees up in the sky just to the east right
outside my front door. So I went outside and it’s freaking raining. The
only way I would see a meteor right now is if one was big enough to survive
the trip through the atmosphere and then hit my house. So no meteors

via Flickr http://flic.kr/p/dtZnXh

Blog of the Week: Mikeybalzzfishing

This weeks blog is Mikeybalzzfishing.  Mikeybalzz has great videos that effectively capture fishing techniques. I’ve learned some great tips watching the videos alone.

Mikey also has a really cool and straightforward voice to his writing. So you end up learning in three ways. Watching him fish, hearing him discuss what he’s doing, and then reading about it.

As Mikeyballz says, “The world is small, and most people like to fish” .

Blog of the Week: Add Grain On Earth

One fun thing about blogging is the interactions with other bloggers.  Fellow bloggers can be very supportive, even when their style is very different from ours.  I had no idea there were so many varied things being done with sites like WordPress.  One of the most interesting and enjoyable is today’s “Blog of the Week” , Sydney Fong‘s Add Grain on Earth.

Sydney writes very nice poems and occasional prose. The short pieces of ethereal music that accompany each post seem to last just long enough to read each piece.  He skillfully employs personification and allows us to hear from anything from bridges and statues to shark fins cut for soup. He’s quite prolific , sometimes posting twice a day, yet all the pieces are lovely works of art.  Sydney lives in Singapore.  It’s great to be able to taken on a journey from a writer so far away.  So enjoy some beautiful stories at Add Grain on Earth.

Why the Stock Market is Down

Yesterday the day after President Obama was re-elected stock marked declined. Immediately news articles appeared titled “Wall Street Dips on Obama Win”.  This kind of thing happens every morning.  The market moves in one direction, and articles assign a reason.  IT would be just as easy to write “NASDAQ falls from #whyRelationshipsEnd Twitter Tag Trending.” But does anyone check for causation?   As any student of Math or Science knows. “Correlation does not imply causation

NASDAQ, SP and The Dow Jones all down about 5% over the past month.

So why did the market go down yesterday?  The answer is, the market is a complex system that reacts to an almost infinite stream of data analyzed by hundred of millions of investors. Several notable things have pushed  the market down recently, and particularly caused it to dip yesterday.  It’s hard to tell what effect the re-election had, but it certainly didn’t move the market up.

1)  Missed Earnings and Expectations

Several companies have had disappointing earnings this quarter IBM, Apple  APPL, Amazon AMZN , Toyota TM.  These misses are being absorbed by the market. When major companies like these move down, they pull down their  respective indexes, and the over all market drops.

2) EU Debt Crisis

The day after the election, the EU issued a report raising concerns that IMF austerity budgets for struggling countries like Spain and Greece are deepening the recession in Europe. Many analysts felt this prompted a sell off in the markets .

3) Sandy’s  financial Impact

More than a week after the hurricane hit the New York area, analysts were still assessing Sandy’s impact, and the market is still dropping. Wall Street and the people and companies in the financial industry are still struggling from the storm.  Still not everyone can get to work, and even those who can are struggling to help friends and family with basic necessities. Those who have started to return to normalcy are still helping those who haven’t. Hard working families on Long Island are tripled up in house with power.

So we are still in a Bear market that has been going on for several months now.  As for the impact of the re-election, time will tell.

Final Electoral Vote Count

Here’s my prediction.

Obama: 332
Romney: 206

This map gives virtually every very swing state to Obama, with the exception of North Carolina. This outcome is very possible since Obama has led in most polls in each of these states.

I’ve also taken into account momentum, which has been in Obama’s favor recently. His polling number s have improved since Romney’s momentum seemed to peak around the time I posted Congratulations President Romney.  Note that in that map, Romney still had to win 2 of 4 states in which he now trails in the polls.  Also,  I gave him Virginia and Florida which I now give to Obama.

 Congratulations President Obama shows a scenario with Obama winning without Florida or Virginia.  In this case he needs Ohio (or Colorado and Nevada).  Ohio remains critical.

In short, Romney needs to win several states where he is trailing.  Obama has many paths to victory where he doesn’t need a particular state, yet he leads polling in most of the states he doesn’t need.

Finally, further evidence of Obama’s momentum is found in the online gambling sites, which last week had Obama as a 3 to 1 favorite, and now show him ahead as much as 45 to 1.

So it looks like Obama gets to keep his job, which should boost employment figures at least by 1.