Ten years ago I was a jobless student in Osaka. I was almost broke but I still wanted to go to Japanese-Korean BBQ joints and bars, so I had to come up with a solution to give myself personal allowances on a consistent basis.

I set up an Excel spreadsheet where I had cells for each day of the month that would be filled with daily subtotals. I also wanted to set up weekly budgets (mostly because I needed the extra money for weekend parties) so I appended a column that automatically calculated and showed the amount of money I had saved, or exceeded, relative to the weekly budget. I figured the most realistic way would be to start tracking every single expense because then I’d know exactly how much I was spending, and I could more accurately predict the weekly results.
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Kāfēi by Bridget Coila

Here’s a list of words I recently came across while flipping through the first few chapters of Teach Yourself Chinese and Chinese Made Easy:

  • pen 筆
  • Beijing University 北京大學
  • garage 車庫
  • curtains 窗簾
  • duck’s tongue 鴨舌
  • faucet 水龍頭
  • bloody nose 流鼻血
  • school bus 娃娃車

This is a common plague that affects many (if not most) textbooks: they’re full of impractical crap that you’ll never need. I suspect this is simply because they just want to amass enough volume to get their books published. But if you really want to speed up the progress, you need to identify what is truly worth learning and what is merely a waste of your time.
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Chinese Fast Food and a Book

I’ve had a complicated relationship with Chinese languages. I learned my first Mandarin words 15 years ago when I was in junior high school. I managed to remember a number of words and expressions but never really got to any point where I could say I was actually studying the language.

Then came Cantonese. I was enamored by Jet Li’s early kung fu flicks as a teenager (which also kindled my interest in Chinese kung fu), so I naturally started picking up words from movies like Shaolin Temple and Fong Sai Yuk. But as with Mandarin, I didn’t progress much.
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Camel Driver

This is a bulletproof checklist I go through every time I travel. It allows me to completely skip the mental work of figuring out and deciding what to take with me. I just go through the list and make sure I’ve packed everything on it. Boom, ready to hop on the plane.

I’ve been using the checklist religiously for the past three years. It was first battle-tested when I was traveling in Europe for two months, and I’ve used it on every trip since.

Take a look. I’ve bolded the items that should be worn on your person.
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