Providence, Rhode Island

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LocationProvidence, Rhode Island

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A Lifetime of Learning

Contrary to popular belief, one’s education does not stop when you finish high school, college, or even graduate school. While formal education is often necessary and useful especially for skilled and professional fields, it is not the end all be all for actual learning. Even if you have been through 12 – 18 years of formal schooling, that doesn’t mean that you should stop learning. If anything, you may have the time, the money, and the ability now to study and learn about subjects that you never had the chance to before. Learning doesn’t stop in your teens or in your 20’s. It’s a lifelong process and you should never want to stop learning.

In a previous article titled, “A Wealth of Knowledge”, I highlighted a number of ways and places where you can continue to learn new things to broaden your horizons and expand your interests. As I mentioned previously, we are currently living in a time where knowledge is seemingly infinite, more affordable, and easier to access than ever. While information, data, and subject matter is limitless in the ways that it can be obtained and analyzed, the ways in which you can stand out as a learner is in how much time you devote to the learning process and how dedicated you are to absorbing this knowledge.

Whether it’s coding, learning a language, or developing financial literacy, the amount of effort you put into it will decide how much you get out of it. Even if you’re just learning a new skill or subject as an interest or hobby, it will help you to stand out from the crowd. If you use part of your free time to develop yourself by learning a new skill or trade, it is guaranteed to help you both personally and professionally. There are also different types of learning so if you happen to decide to revisit subjects you forgot about from high school like algebra, physics or chemistry, you may be doing your brain a favor. If you’re not so much into math and science but enjoy the written word much more, perhaps you would be better suited for strengthening your reading, writing, and editing skills. You may want to start your own blog like I did, or become a freelance editor to make extra money, but you are using your personal interests to further your learning to make yourself well rounded.

Reading a new book each month, learning a language for one hour each day, or doing a daily crossword puzzle takes both discipline and effort. A lifetime of learning is not for everyone because it takes some characteristics that some people aren’t capable of implementing. You have to set goals when you’re learning outside of a university or a class setting. Only you will be accountable for your actions and how far you go when it comes to your outside the box learning experiences. It can be difficult to learn new things when you don’t have a teacher or professor looking over your shoulder but you’ll develop more self-confidence, maturity, and intellectual depth by being able to learn and study on your own.

When it comes to learning by yourself, in addition to no one holding your hand through the process, don’t expect others to recognize the work or effort you put in to it. You should be learning for yourself and not for the approval of other people. If you’re expecting recognition just for reading a lot or creating your first website, the world doesn’t work like that. Being confident in your abilities, proud of your efforts, and seeing the fruits of your labor change the world in some way is the icing on the proverbial cake when it comes to taking the initiative to learn.

To make the excuse that you don’t have time or you’re too old or it’s going to be too hard are not good enough. There’s a popular expression that you never know until you try. How can you know that you’re going to fail if you haven’t even tried yet? Don’t limit yourself based on your educational background as well because you may find that you were bad at mathematics but ended up becoming a great coder when you gave it a shot. If you find that you don’t like what you’re learning or that you’ve made little progress over the period of at least a few months of serious effort and hard work, then it may be a good idea to do something else.

You should always be learning something, especially when it’s something new. Letting your creative and intellectual juices stagnate is not good for either the mind or the body in my opinion. Even if learning new things may become more difficult as you get older, it’s still not impossible and it would be good for your mental dexterity. Do not let pressure from your friends and your family prevent you from learning. If they love and care about you, they’ll support your thirst for knowledge. Reading a book, learning a foreign language, or playing an instrument are activities that we should always be encouraging in people regardless of their age and background.

Learning new skills has many mental benefits especially for the brain. ‘Myelin’, the white matter that makes up a good portion of our cerebral nervous system becomes denser when we learn new skills allowing us to improve our performance when it comes to processing new information. In addition to your brain chemistry seeing a boost, the more you learn, the more neural pathways are formed in the brain allowing the electrical impulses to fire off quicker than ever making it continually easier to learn new things. It’s a positive feedback loop for your brain when you learn on a consistent and unyielding basis.

Existing knowledge that you’ve compiled is also more easily retained because you’ll be making connections between the new information you’re learning and the old information that you remember clearly. Having more knowledge and more learning experiences is proven to make you a more interesting person as well. Being able to discuss a wide variety of books or have a detailed conversation with another person in a foreign language are great ways to form deeper connections with people and to boost your self-esteem.

If you’re bored and don’t have much of a challenge in your life, then try something new! Putting yourself to the test with learning a new skill is perhaps the most rewarding thing you can do in your life. In this hyper-technological age, adapting to change is a key trait that you’ll need to take on in order to succeed both personally and professionally. Adapting to the times often means learning new skills so if you embrace this process, you won’t be as afraid of change and you will be better able to meet those challenges.

As mentioned before, your brain is full of muscles that need to be exercised like any other part of the body. You don’t want one of your most important organs to atrophy and stagnate. A good way to prevent the onset of dementia and Alzheimer’s is to keep learning throughout your life to make those degenerative, painful diseases less of a possibility. Learning is contagious so if you have a friend or a family member who seems bored by life or wanting to pursue something new, give them a few suggestions and see what they do with them. Practicing a new language or joining a book club are examples of ideal social activities that are focused around these new learning experiences. A lifetime of learning can truly do a world of good.

SourcePreventing Alzheimer’s Disease

Book Recommendations – Volume VI

As we go into the month of December, the winds start to blow, the snow starts to fall, and the cold begins to set in, it’s no better a time during the year to crack open a book to catch up on some reading. The three books I’ve read at this time and am highlighting in this ‘Book Recommendations’ post focus on current events. I tend to stay away from politics but these books do a good job of reflecting upon the political moment we are living in here in the United States.

All three of these books come from authors who have a wealth of life experiences and are considered to be experts in what they do. If you’re not into non-fiction books, you may want to skip these ones but if you want to understand more about the United States in 2017, you should give each of these books a honest read.

edwardluce

1. The Retreat of Western Liberalism by Edward G. Luce is an excellent take on the current state of liberal democracy in Western countries. Due to growing income inequality, the failure of institutions to handle complex issues involving immigration, health care, infrastructure, etc. causes more and more citizens to doubt the benefits of the current democratic system. Luce pulls no punches and does a good job summarizing the pressing problems that ail the United States and Western Europe.

While not the cause of these problems that have been building up for decades, Donald Trump, Brexit, and the rise of far-right parties throughout Europe are symptoms of a virus that is weakening the fundamentals of liberalism. For every action, there is a reaction and the negligence shown by political and economic elites in the Western world has caused there to be a backlash against our system of governance. Luce believes that there has been a lot of doing away with the principles that made democracy work for the past couple of centuries. In the 21st century, the current political system has not adapted to technological, economic, and social changes that have occurred at a quickening pace. Unless more attention is paid to those men and women not succeeding in today’s globalized economy, there will continue to be political dysfunction within the democratic system.

Unless the Western countries can guarantee that political liberties and freedoms can go hand in hand with an economic system that works for the many and not the few, the status quo will not last. Mr. Luce is not hesitant in using the rise of authoritarianism in countries such as Russia, Turkey, and the Philippines to draw a distinct parallel as to an alternative form of government that is becoming more prominent. The Western system used to be an example of good governance to the rest of the world but is that still the case today?

tribe

2. Tribe by Sebastian Junger deals more with modern psychology than modern politics but you can gain a lot of insight into what drives us as human beings from reading this book. Mr. Junger is a war correspondent that has covered the front lines for over a decade in America’s wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. From his experiences, he was able to form the hypothesis that there are certain living conditions that bring out the best of us. When a person is surrounded by the members of the same ‘tribe’, usually about 20-30 people, who he or she has something in common with and for whom survival is not guaranteed but fought for every day, that goes back to our early days on the planet as hunter-gatherers.

Mr. Junger makes excellent points throughout the book that we started out thousands of years ago as a communal society moving from place to place and relying on each other to survive against the elements and against other creatures. He argues consistently that we may do best when we work with each other instead of against each other for a common goal or purpose. The alienation, individualism, and me-first culture in modern Western societies is out of line with our evolutionary history and may be the cause of the mental illnesses and anxieties that have been shown to be on the rise. Combat veterans who come home from war often miss the bonds of brotherhood that were formed from fighting for the guy or girl on the left or the right of you. They often miss the bonds created during battle that are impossible to recreate after re-entry into modern society.

The author uses an example from early American history when some English settlers would leave the colonial towns to join the Indian society, which was exactly like the tribal lifestyle, and the reverse would never be the same. There were no Indians who would leave their tribe to join the English settlers in their more modern colony set-up. In tribal communities where everybody has a say and where everybody has a role to play, it’s easy to make the argument that there would be less stress, less anxiety, and more purpose for those apart of it. Mr. Junger also brings up the example of Great Britain’s citizens during World War II and how only adversity would bring that modern society together.

A lot of Britons felt more patriotic and more cooperative each other during the war than compared to before and after the war. Adversity, struggle, and the fight for survival can be more meaningful to people than the safe and sanitized existences that make up the modern West. The time spent living through natural disasters like earthquakes or hurricanes can stir up people’s memories more than the average vacation or wedding. Tribe is an excellent, must-read book that pulls different elements of history, anthropology, and sociology to make a compelling argument that the average person should think deeply about.

fantasyland

3. Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire – A 500-Year History by Kurt Andersen is not your average American history book. Mr. Andersen spends about 500 pages summing up 500 years of American history through the lens of what’s fantasy and what’s real. Fantastical thinking, Andersen argues, has been apart of American culture since the first pilgrims arrived on Plymouth Rock in Massachusetts. In order to understand what’s going on in the America of 2017, he does a good job of bringing out examples from past centuries to explain how we got to this unique point in our history.

The ‘fake news’, ‘alternative facts’, and other fantastical phrases that have become part of the national dialect are not outlandish in the sense that they have always been apart of the national character. Citing examples such as the extremes of Puritan beliefs, the Salem witch trials, P.T. Barnum and show business, the anything-goes ‘cultural revolution’ of the 1960’s, the spread of Hollywood and celebrity culture, etc., each century in America has brought about new fantasies to become part of the national fabric.

The individualistic nature of American culture has led to dreamers, believers, and magical thinkers being indulged rather than the other way around as done in other countries. The idea that you can be whom you want and believe what you want in America has become a national rallying cry, especially in recent decades. Our belief in the stuff of fantasy (ghosts, extraterrestrials, is the Earth flat?) has made America an international outlier among the industrialized nations.

Mr. Andersen argues that with the rise of Donald Trump and the excessive polarization along cultural and political fault lines that we may have hit a point of no return. The lines of fantasy and reality are becoming increasingly blurred whereas in our past, fantasy and reality were competing ideas in American society but never overtook each other to reign supreme. An amazing and timely non-fiction book that is an easy page-turner, Fantasyland is a must-read in 2017 and will help you understand how we Americans ended up here over the span of centuries.

The Blog Turns Two

Today, September 16th marks the 2nd anniversary of www.benjweinberg.com, my personal blog and website which I have been proud to create and build up over the past two years. I have to say that it’s been the most successful year yet in terms of both overall viewership and unique visitors. I am proud to note that I have reached thousands of people from around the world each month, and have published over one hundred and fifty and photo-blog posts total over the past two years.

In the last year, I’ve documented my travels throughout Colombia and have really made the ‘English Corner’ series a cornerstone of this blog. In addition, I have reviewed many films and analyzed them such as ‘Collateral’, ‘Traffic’, and ‘Lord of War.’ I continue to write about psychological themes that are highlighted in articles such as ‘How You Think Affects Everything You Get’ and ‘Reaching the Gold Standard.’

In this 2nd year of blogging, I have done my best to improve my writing and editing skills in order to create useful content for my site visitors. In the third year of my website, I hope to write longer-form posts at 2,000 or 3,000 words total in order to dive deeper into topics of my choosing. I continue to devote a lot of time and effort into this blog and I am very thankful to all of the readers, friends, and family who have supported it by reading my articles, leaving comments, and giving me constructive feedback.

I’ve recently moved to Boston, Massachusetts so I do hope to focus on some cultural aspects of living in this historical New England city and to highlight some of the destinations that are popular here. I will continue to write about ESL topics in my ‘English Corner’ posts but also focus more on personal and professional development ideas that I think will help my readers to succeed and advance themselves in different parts of life.

As this blog enters year three, I will continue to produce consistent content on a weekly basis, and to also update the layout and design of the website to be more viewer friendly. If you’re new to this blog and don’t know much about me or my writings, I have an archives section which has the location of all one-hundred and fifty of my posts which have occurred in the past two years. I also have a ‘Best Of’ Articles page where I highlight the ten-blog posts that I like the most when it comes to culture, lifestyle, traveling, music/movies/books, and personal development. You can find the individual links to these ten top posts here: https://benjweinberg.com/best-of-articles/.

Lastly, the biggest changes that I’ve made to my website are to incorporate the ability of ESL students to sign-up and take private English lessons with me if they are interested in doing so. If you go to the ‘Learn English With Me’ page, you can find out more about which kinds of private lessons I’m offering as well as my pricing per lesson. There’s a sign-up interest form at the bottom of this webpage, and you can also check out my ESL teaching background and experience here: https://benjweinberg.com/learn-english-with-me/.

I also have advertised my freelancing services in writing and editing. I have done freelance writing and editing jobs for clients over the past couple of years and am looking to expand my clientele. If you would like to find out more information about my pricing, experience, and see my portfolio, you can check it out at this webpage: https://benjweinberg.com/freelance-services/. There is a sign-up interest form at the bottom of that webpage too so you can get in touch with me through an e-mail message.

In this third year, I hope that my website will continue to grow in terms of audience and produce better and more useful content. I want to say thank you to all the readers and supporters of benjweinberg.com. I look forward to keeping in touch with you throughout the rest of the year and into 2018. As always, you are free to comment on any and all of my articles, give me helpful feedback through a direct message, or to show interest in my freelance and teaching services by completing a sign-up form. Thank you again for your readership and I think that this 3rd year of benjweinberg.com will be the best one yet. Cheers!

Hyde Park on the Hudson

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Camera: Canon PowerShot SX710 HS

Location: Hyde Park, New York – Franklin Delano Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum, and The Culinary Institute of America

English Corner – Definite and Indefinite Articles

When it comes to using ‘definite and indefinite articles’, this grammar concept in English is a lot easier to use and master when compared to other languages such as French, German, and Spanish. There are only four examples of definite and indefinite articles in the English language so it is pretty easy to remember them all. Most other languages tend to have more than ten unique articles, definite and indefinite, compared to the four that are commonly used in English.

On top of all that, there is only one definite article used in English, which is quite surprising considering how diverse and versatile the language is especially when it comes to structuring a sentence in different ways. While not the most interesting of grammar topics, both definite and indefinite articles are used so often that it’s necessary to master both their formation and usage in order to become a better English student.

You may be asking yourself: What exactly is an article? That’s a good question with a simple answer. Any definite and indefinite article whether it’s ‘a, an, some, the’ can be used to give information about the noun in a noun phrase. A noun phrase usually includes a noun and an adjective together with the article coming before both the noun and the adjective to form the complete basis of the sentence. I’ve listed below two examples of a noun phrase (article, adjective, and noun):

  1. The brown paper bag
  2. A golden retriever

If you so choose to use a noun phrase, remember that they can also include numbers, possessive adjectives or demonstratives such as this, that, those, these, etc. When it comes to the purposes of the definite and indefinite article in the English language, there are quite a few of importance that you should be aware of.

Definite and Indefinite Articles should:

  1. Tell us how many of a person, place, or thing that you’re dealing with. (a, an à for one, some à more than one)
  2. Tell us if the noun being referenced is a specific one or a general one.
  3. Show the reader or the audience listening that the noun is being introduced for the first time or has appeared before and is a familiar one from a story or another paragraph.

Now that we know what definite and indefinite articles are used for, let us take a look at the similarities and differences between the two types of articles.

Indefinite Articles

When it comes to indefinite articles, there are three of them total. Two of them are to be used with singular nouns and the other one is for plural and uncountable nouns. Singular nouns use the indefinite articles of ‘a’ and ‘an’ that go with the next word, which has to be singular in nature. Unlike other languages whose articles depend upon factors such as gender, spelling, and other factors, the only thing that matters for indefinite articles in this case is the numerical value of the noun being referenced.

Also, when it comes to the next word, the indefinite article ‘a’ is used with nouns that begin with a vowel sound and the other indefinite article ‘an’ is used with nouns that start with a consonant sound. Here are some examples below of ‘a’ and ‘an’ being used with nouns and adjectives to form noun phrases.

‘A’

  1. A poor man
  2. A green jacket
  3. A public beach
  4. A private university

‘An’

  1. An apple
  2. An unbelievable party
  3. An hour
  4. An ostrich

When it comes to plural nouns, there is one specific indefinite article that is to be used with the noun and/or adjective. The indefinite article in this case is ‘some.’ This indefinite article of ‘some’ can be followed by any kind of adjective, adverb, and uncountable or plural noun as long as the noun phrase can be completed successfully.

Let us take a look at some examples with the indefinite article ‘some’:

  1. Some brave men
  2. Some courteous women
  3. Some money
  4. Some black hair

There are numerous examples you could use with ‘some.’ You are not restricted with the usage of nouns as long as they are plural and uncountable in their nature.

When it comes to the reasons for using the indefinite article like ‘a, an, some’, there are two main ones:

-You are introducing a noun for the first time.

For example: A boy learns how to ride his bike.

-The specifics of the noun are not important. The noun ‘boy’ is simple and direct.

For example: Can you go to the supermarket and pick me up some milk?

-The indefinite article ‘some’ with milk doesn’t refer to any particular brand or kind of milk, just ‘some milk’ in general making it easier for the person doing the grocery shopping.

Indefinite articles are not usually supposed to be used for specifics and are much more general in their formation and usage. When it comes to definite articles, that’s a different story however.

Definite Articles

Luckily, there’s only one definite article that we need to cover in this blog post and that’s the very popular word of ‘The.’ ‘The’ is very flexible in terms of both its’ formation and usage within a sentence. You can use ‘The’ for singular, plural, and uncountable nouns making it very versatile. Both the reader and the writer should have a good understanding though of what the word ‘the’ is being used for. There are three main uses for the definite article of ‘The.’

  1. You have introduced it already in the story or paragraph. “The old man, Jerry, thought about his future, and decided that he needed to retire.”
  2. There is only one of ‘the’ object, person, or place in existence and is unique in its’ existence as well. “I visited The Roman Coliseum last summer and it was magnificent.”
  3. You have to describe which thing you are specifically talking about or referencing. “Let’s pop open The 2014 Sauvignon Blanc to celebrate your recent college graduation!”

Here are some examples of the definite article, ‘The’:

  1. The red fox
  2. The happy students
  3. The scary truth
  4. The kind doctor

When it comes to the similarities that definite and indefinite articles have in common, it is important to remember that ordinal numbers can be used with both ‘a, an, the’ under different circumstances.

Examples:

  1. A third book
  2. The second floor
  3. An eighth of an ounce

Lastly, the innate differences between definite articles and indefinite articles can be summed by the fact that a definite article like ‘The’ can be used with specific places such as rivers, monuments, cities, and countries themselves while ‘A, an’ are used with general objects, groups of people and places.

While not the most popular or well-known grammatical subject, having a good grasp on definite and indefinite articles will help you immensely to become a better English language student.

English Corner – Future Perfect Tense

We’re going back to the future for this edition of ‘English Corner.’ The ‘future perfect tense’ is our last main form of the perfect tense. The future form of the perfect tense is the most specific in terms of its’ usage and formation. While not the most important grammar tense to learn, if you want to be able to describe actions in the future that have already been completed, it’s necessary to have a good working knowledge of the ‘future perfect tense’ and to be able to use it proficiently. First, let’s take a look at its’ formation and usage before looking at some examples of the future perfect tense in action.

The future perfect tense is a very specific grammatical tense and is only used in a few situations. The 1st situation in which it is used is to describe how long an action will take until some point and time in the future, regardless if its’ near or far from the present time. The 2nd situation is when it’s used to describe at what time or point will a specific action be finished in the future.

Often times, the future perfect tense is used in conjunction with the present simple tense in order to form a grammatically accurate sentence. It’s important to note that when using the future perfect tense, you should have a good knowledge of how to utilize days, weeks, months, years, and other time-related vocabulary in order to be successful in making these kinds of sentences.

Let’s take a look at some examples of the future perfect tense utilizing the simple present tense + the word ‘for’ to describe the length of time in which a specific action is being taken.

Examples

  • When we finish our group project, it will have taken us three weeks total.
  • At five o’clock, I will have worked in this office for eight hours straight.

A good ‘future perfect’ sentence should include a future indicative word, which deals with a period of time such as ‘by.’ This is imperative because you can then describe an action being done by a certain time in the future but being more specific with using ‘by’ to hold yourself or other subjects to a general deadline whether it’s on an hourly, daily, weekly timetable.

Examples

  • By the time I’m 30 years old, I will have completed my Masters’ degree.
  • By next Tuesday, Your boss will have needed you to finish your environmental report for the office.

In addition, it should also be pointed out that the future perfect tense is formed with a combination of the simple future tense with verbs like ‘to be’. In the future perfect tense, ‘to be’ becomes ‘will be’ combined along with the past participle in the regular form (verb + -ed) to go after the verb being used to complete the sentence.

Here are some other examples when the future perfect tense is being used in the positive form:

Examples

  • Jane will have cooked dinner by 7 PM tonight.
  • We will have left the stadium before the lightning storm comes.
  • By Christmas time, parents will have bought presents for their children.

If you would like to shorten the word ‘will’ and combine it with the subject phrase, you can do so quite easily. All you have to do is change ‘will’ to ‘ll’ and put the subject word (I, we) together with ‘ll and then make the future perfect sentence as you normally would.

Examples

  • I’ll have studied the English grammar tenses for many months before taking the TOEFL exam.
  • They’ll have left China by the time you arrive in Japan.

In order to make the future perfect tense ‘negative’ in its formation, you simply need to put the word ‘not’ in between the future indicative word of ‘will’ and the verb ‘to have’, and then the past participle would follow afterwards towards the end of the sentence. You can also make the negative form of the future perfect tense contracted by combining ‘will’ and ‘not’ together to form ‘won’t.’ It’s all a matter of preference but if you’re choosing to use this grammatical tense in formal settings, you should err on the side of caution and use ‘will not’ instead of ‘won’t.’

Examples

  • I will not have surprised her at the birthday party because she already knew about it ahead of time.
  • She won’t have helped me out with my paper because she’s been busy doing other things.
  • It will not have stopped snowing by the time I leave my meeting at 9 PM.

When you have to put the future perfect tense into the question form, you simply need to place the word ‘will’ before the subject word especially if you’re focusing on simple yes or no questions. English learners should not hesitate to use the future perfect tense with ‘Wh-‘ based questions because that is acceptable in its’ formation and usage as well.

Examples (Yes or No – Questions)

  • Will I have improved my test scores by next semester?
  • Will it have snowed in New Hampshire by December?
  • Will you have told the truth to the Grand Jury for the next trial?

Examples (Wh – Questions)

  • Why will he have got married to Luisa before this Fall?
  • When will she have been in Colombia for two months?
  • How will you have met your girlfriend by tonight?

During those times when we think about ourselves, other people and the actions that we take in the future, we need to be able to understand, use, and master the future perfect tense. While these actions may be completed, we need to have some insight into what circumstances did these actions occur especially when it comes to time and place. To project ourselves into the future, we need the future perfect tense to make that happen.

The future perfect tense can make us reflect upon an action or an event that will be completed sometime into the future and beyond the present, but it’s not certain as to when that will happen. Using time expressions are a necessity with the future perfect tense, so make sure that you practice a lot so you can be able to merge these two grammatical concepts together to form functional and unique sentences.