Moving On

Before the November 8th US presidential election, I wrote an article about why it’s important to vote, and why I had voted for Hillary Clinton.

As you have probably heard, Donald Trump won the election.

Where do I go from here?

Nowhere, really.

Living in Europe, Trump’s victory has very little impact on my day to day life. Other than hearing about it incessantly in social media and on the radio, that is.

It’s interesting to hear the media issuing mea culpa after mea culpa, and asking themselves how they were so completely blindsided by Trump’s election.

The answer is pretty easy: the media is biased. We are all biased. We live in our echo chambers and hear what we want to hear. We’ve become so polarized that we can’t stand to hear opinions that differ from ours.

Trump said sexist, racist, and horrifying things. And we liberals wanted to make those the main campaign issues. The cultural issues, the media is calling them.

But for a huge part of the country, the economy was their main issue. This article from the Harvard Business Review is an extremely informative and interesting read.

I find it hard to separate the man from his despicable behavior, ideas and remarks, but a lot of Americans didn’t.

Americans wanted change, but did we get it?

So we voted for change. (Actually, most of us voted for Hillary, but don’t get me started on the Electoral College). But will we get it?

Trump has said he will drain the swamp. I’m pretty sure Obama wanted to do that, too. So far, Trump hasn’t gotten off to a roaring start. He’s hired lobbyists (and fired some), and he’s scaled back on some of his campaign promises already.

So it remains to be seen if the Trump presidency will be the big change factor lots of Americans hoped it would be. I am not optimistic.

Unless, of course, we mean change for the worse for large portions of the American population.

How can we make it better?

With Thanksgiving coming up in just one week, many of us may be dreading the family get-together. Maybe you’re the only cousin who voted for Trump. Or you voted for Hillary and the rest of your family went for Trump.

Either way, it’s going to be awkward.

The only way to make it better is to listen to each other. And I mean, really listen.

That means, listen to what a person is saying without thinking of your comeback, put-down or counter-argument. Just listen. If you can, let that person talk your ear off, then take some time to digest what you’ve heard. Formulate questions on things you haven’t understood, and come back and ask them respectfully and non-combatively. Listen. And then listen some more.

Hopefully, if we listen enough, we may understand. And others may pay us the respect of listening to us in return.

Another way to make it better…

If you see something, say something.

I don’t mean suspicious activity in an airport or a public place. I mean, if you see lawmakers moving to enact unethical laws, then write. Write to your congressperson. Make noise.

Don’t let us wake up in a few years and wonder how on earth we got to where we are. Let’s fight Trump’s (and anyone’s, for that matter) bigoted policies.

I have faith that our system and our institutions will not allow Trump to become what others have predicted he will. But that faith counts on the attention, the engagement, and the willingness to speak up of the American people.

Let’s pay attention. Let’s stay engaged.

Let’s keep listening.

Election 2016: Get Out and Vote!

November 8th isn’t really Election 2016 Day; it’s the Election Deadline.

Something like 37 States have allowed early voting, and NPR analysts estimate that up to one third of votes will be cast before November 8th.

It also feels like the final submission date for all the crazy that has been this election cycle. I listen to NPR out of Boston (WGBH) for my US news, and it seems like the insanity has been building up to a fever pitch. As a result, I’m convinced that Election 2016 Fatigue Syndrome is a thing.

Fighting Election 2016 Fatigue Syndrome

Here is my handy-dandy guide to fighting Election 2016 Fatigue Syndrome. It’s super simple. There’s just one step:


If you can’t stand the tension, and you’re sick of the coverage, get it all over with early and vote now.

If you’re registered to vote, and you can vote early, do it.

If you’re registered to vote, but you can’t vote early, get out and do it on Tuesday November 8th.

If you can’t stand the sight of Hillary or Donald, and you’re sick to death of their bickering, get out and vote to shut at least one of them up.

If you can’t bring yourself to vote for either one of the major party candidates, vote anyway. Vote for someone else. Write someone in if you can. But vote.





You No Vote? You No Kvetch.

Voting is a privilege and a responsibility.

We are privileged to be able to vote. It is our responsibility to get off our lazy butts and do it. There are people elsewhere in the world quite literally dying for the right to vote. Don’t take it for granted.

It doesn’t matter if you don’t like the major party candidates. You still have a responsibility to vote, either along party lines, or according to your conscience.

If you don’t get out and vote, you have no right to complain about who wins. I don’t buy the, “I didn’t vote out of protest” line. That’s (pardon me) bull cookies. Protest by voting. Rebel by voting.

Just vote.

Why Is It So Important to Vote in 2016?

It’s always important to vote. Not just for president, but midterm elections are important, too.

It seems particularly important in 2016, because one of the major party candidates is an immature, bat-shit crazy, racist, sexist, unhinged, Twitter-trigger happy, wall-building, conspiracy-theorist, repugnant demagogue.

We need to keep this man out of the White House, and prevent hate and fear from taking over our country.

For a great anti-Trump propaganda project, check out @trumplemonde on Instagram, and download the DIY kit for printing up posters and stickers here on DropBox.

Why #ImWithHer

I’ve never been a big Hillary Clinton fan. I don’t like the dynastic trend of recent presidencies (Bush Sr. & Bush Jr., now potentially Mr. Clinton & Mrs. Clinton). I don’t like her economic neoliberal ideas. Historically, she has been much friendlier to big businesses than to working Americans. I lean much more towards Bernie Sanders’ socialistic ideimwithheras. Having grown up and lived most of my life in Europe, it’s only natural.

But Hillary Clinton has experience. She knows her stuff. On social issues, she reflects my values. She has worked successfully across the aisle. I don’t know if she’ll be able to break the deadlock that is polarized American politics, but I firmly believe she has a better shot than any other candidate.

Gary Johnson is, by his own admission, not ready to be president. Admittedly I don’t know much about Jill Stein, except that she is an anti-vaccine physician. That gives me enough pause right there to keep me from voting for her.

I Voted. Please Do the Same.

I sent in my Massachusetts absentee ballot weeks ago. Please join me and vote, too.

How to Learn a New Language and Sound Like an Idiot

You read that right. You WILL sound like an idiot.

You’ve heard what they say: learning a second language, especially early in life, has all kinds of benefits. It makes us smarter, can help stave off dementia, and is great for showing off in bars.

The New York Times recently published an article about the “superior social skills of bilinguals.” In a nutshell, researchers showed that bilingual children as young as 14 months demonstrated more empathy and awareness of others than their monolingual peers.

But what about people who weren’t exposed to another language as children? Is it too late for them? Are they doomed to low intelligence and poor social skills?

Not at all. It just depends on your approach. Here are 5 tips to help you learn a new language without worrying about the fact that you’re going to sound like an idiot.

1. Forget about perfection.

First things first: If you’re learning a language as an adult, you are probably never going to speak it perfectly. You will always have an accent. You will always make grammatical mistakes. You will probably do as I do, and make embarrassingly hilarious vocabulary mix-ups (like the time I mixed up “arbusto” and “buitre” in Spanish. Look those words up.)

Just accept that and move on. It will take the pressure out of learning a new language.

2. Fluency is about perception.

A friend once asked me if I was fluent in Spanish. I said I definitely wasn’t. Then he asked if I could be dropped onto a street in Spain and ask someone the way to the train station. I said, “Yes, of course I could!” “Well, then,” he said. “You’re fluent.”

My perception then of fluency was speaking fluidly, without making any grammatical mistakes or searching for words. But actually, my friend was right.

Language is about communication. If you are able to communicate what you need, and make yourself understood, and understand with relative ease, then you have achieved fluency.

3. You won’t learn a new language until you’re forced to.

If we’re honest, most of us are too lazy to work on learning a language until we’re in a situation where we’ll be forced to use it.

Despite being born in Switzerland, I didn’t really learn French until I was thrown in at the deep end and started in public school at age nine. Same with Spanish. I didn’t really improve until I lived in Spain for a month, and I wouldn’t have said I was fluent until a few months after meeting Chico.

This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t study language in a course setting, work on vocab, or anything like that. You definitely should.

But you will probably find that you won’t be able to do much with it until you’re thrown from the frying pan into the fire, and you’ve got to find your way to the train station in a foreign city.

4. Train your brain to think in the new language.

People say I have a gift for languages. The one thing that might be considered a gift, though, is the ability to think in the language in which I’m speaking. Even if I don’t really speak the language.

It wasn’t until I started an intensive German course in January, that I realized just how valuable this is. Even though I stumbled through sentences, and searched for my words, I found that I was actually thinking in limited German in my head.

Thinking in the language you’re studying will help you to practice using the vocabulary you know. It will also help you to speak without worrying about producing perfect, complete sentences. And that leads me to:

5. Just go for it.

Seriously, don’t try and come up with the perfect sentence in your head before speaking. By the time you’re ready, the conversation will have totally changed course, and you’ll be that awkward dude harping back on a topic that’s been over for ten minutes.

Yes, you are going to sound like an idiot sometimes.

No, no one cares.

Have a sense of humor about it, and be ready to laugh at yourself as heartily as the next guy. If you are timid and hold back from throwing yourself into a conversation, you’ll never get far.