Thursday, December 31, 2009

Quick Response: Kiplinger 2010 Stock Reprt Special

I would like to say this tidbit of stock info is only $4 to get the opinion and analysis of several different pros in the stock game. It actually gave me some new concepts when it came to consider the perfect company to invest in and it crosses over into frugality nicely. There were some consistencies with the stocks I have read up on in the review, many of which discusses the principle in which you should be stock.

One of the things it advocates is search for a company that has little to no debt! The say this is calculated is assets minus liabilities for the duration of ten years. This is textbook Oracle of Omaha bidding. Buffett uses this same principal to weed out the companies with overall negative earnings. For a ten year duration is good to measure the company's debt. The best way according to Kiplingers is to "try to access the this record through publicly traded stock". The ones with privately traded stock will be harder to track their debt.

There has to be consistency in how the earnings are reported. If those numbers zig-zag and fluctuate and there is inconsistencies in the debt reports, there is too much volatility in its earnings ratio.

To buy stocks your overall personal portfolio has to be the same to be able to buy the stock. To buy more stock, you need consistant earnings. To do so it is recommended that you live a frugal life style and invest over 10% per month until you have built a small nest egg. Once you get that nest egg, then you can start investing in a more aggressive manner so as long as you do the research. Without doing research on a company's profile, you are no longer investing; you are gambling. Keep that in mind when choosing stocks for your portfolio and Happy New Year.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Happy Holidays

Happy Holidays from the staff at Chuckiesblurbs! I would like to say that this year has been kind to Chuckie and it seems next year will be as well. I would like to give an end of the year thanks to the following people: NightVisionPhantom on YT. Despite our differences, I feel that we still are able to have meaningful conversations about life, ethics, and what success means to you.

In Ohio, I would like to give a shout out to Laoshu505000. We met through Yahoo and he is certainly a hard core language enthusiast. If you are interested in hyperpolyglots and languages, he is the go to guy for rare languages like Hmong, Taiwanese, Urdu, and a few others. Definately the go to guy for language materials.

Navgeet, Palkin, and Praveen, we have not met up this much this year, but may each of you never stay from your path in life. JL, hope law school in Mass. is working out. David the guy I met in JLPT 3 examination hall, a special thanks for showing me around Japan Town and San Francisco. Grigory aka Nightrunner, we have gone through some serious stuff with room mates so I understand your trails and tribulations. At Job Corps I went through room mates like toilet paper. Stephen, you are a weird one at times, as your room mate I question your habits and mannerisms, but overall I would never change a thing about you. Keep it real man.

Cindy 'Shekey' Harris, thanks for keeping me entertained. It has been a pleasure. Charles Chumonga, and the other Charles Eggleston in Australia. Majitah and Brehnen, thanks for checking up on me even though I have been extremely busy. Hopefully we will meet sometime next year. Loki of YT, I have to say thanks as well. It is nice to see more open-minded people on their that also tries to practice a degree of frugality.

To all the Japanese people that have been following this blog, thanks. It honestly means a lot. I actually got a lot of my concepts toward frugality from the Japanese. So a special heart felt welcome goes out to the Japanese and Okinawan communities. Jocylen (I think I'm spelling it right), thanks for being a role model. I honestly would have have any direction as to which next step I should take my frugality. Bruce, Brian and Dean get a thank you for hanging around when things seem the gloomist and the darkest for me. You guys can succeed to if you just focus. Phoebe<---你和你的朋友都真班助了我的中文了!谢谢您!I can go on for like 3 decades as to all the people I want to thank, but there are some people who I do not know that I would also like to thank. I would like to think all those people who taught me the ways of frugality over the years and those people who contributed with comments to the website. But lastly, I would like to thank, you the reader for putting up with all the grammatical mistakes and subtle errors I did not catch until later. Thank you!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Beating the Market 2009

Overall I did pretty good. I have came out of the market 1,000 give or take than I put into it. I cashed out the WMT a little late, but just lost a little. For those of you that got the AMZN when I suggested it, (November 2008 to be precise) congrats to you guys. I do not think I mentioned it here, but this was perhaps a personal discussion with my Sushi Social crew. At that time I did not have enough to do so, but it is perhaps better to say I should of than shouldn't of. For those of you who did not have the means last year or perhaps are running to the store to buy tissue and a sit-com from not taking my advice there is always next year. Oh by the way, gold was nice to me too ;).

No, I knew e-readers were going to take off when I saw them. Especially with the increased usage of net books. I still am typing on the same Acer Aspire One I got a year ago and it still works the same! It is an amazing little device. When I saw people getting the I-pod touch for reading, it just made sense that there will be a demand for that as a stand alone device. And on the 7th day, the big box companies begatted e-readers! They decided to name their children "Kindle" and "Sony e-reader". It was a matchmade in e-marketing heaven.

People are probably wondering which stocks am I going to get next year. Of course WMT will be in the arsenal as it goes near the 40s. I understand two things: how fast technology moves and retail trends. This is what I pay close attention to. I really try not to follow the news too much unless the stock is at a highpoint and something will cause a market panic and drive it down. I want to get off the train ride because it is going downhill and I just want it to go uphill because my "house" is just past the next "valley". When I buy my ticket I want it to go "downhill" to the point at which risk is low and then "transfer" at "Selling bvld."

Three things I look for is structure of the company, aggressiveness, and image. All this information can be found for free. Buffett said it himself "the best information he has obtained about the market happens to be free". Study the companies before even think of investing a single dime into their servicies. If you do not like anything about the company then you will be wary of the company and too paranoid to even know when to buy and sell. And follow the golden rule: buy low; sell high. While I am not into shorting stocks are doing anything towards asking, I will say that in the future I will probably stick with what works. Investing in stocks work for me, but I will probably go into other ventures in the future. Currently at this moment I am trying to go to Japan to teach English, but that is not to say I will just turn a blind eye to an investment oppertunity.

Now I know that the best marketing wins; so I am not going to say that it was all based on product, but marketing think tanks. Apple was not the first one to come out with a MP3 player, but they are definitely the ones that made owning one the "in thing". Now look at the I-Pod: it is a device that has literally thousands if not million of applications for it, especially in languages. I might have to get one for the various pod casts that supports learning a foreign language since I love them so dearly. I am also impressed with the freshness that is the Flip Mino. I like some of the YouTube videos that are being made with it. Pure awesomeness in my opinion. While the amount I got was perhaps low compared to some investors the important thing is to stay in the black, not in the red.

May 2010 be profitable for all my viewers and thanks for supporting me this year. Your views and comments has kept me motivated enough to keep posting. I will continue to provide more blogs in the future.

Friday, December 11, 2009

2010 New Year's Resolution

Glad to be back in the blogosphere again with another blurb for another New Year. Last year I made two resolutions: I wanted to reach over 100 books read and I wanted to save $10,000. Well I did both of these goals. I have to say it was actually tough at first to sit down and read 8-9 books per month, but then I adjusted to it and started cut through books quickly. Especially language and e-books.

For 2010, I want to try to do something different: I will try to learn 5 different languages and obtain basic proficiency in them. Three I have decided on are Russian, Fu'shah Arabic, and Uchinachuu. For those of you that do not know what Uchinachuu is it is the language of the Okinawan people. It relates to Japanese and is part of the Japonic Language Family. I also want to hit low advance proficiency in Japanese itself. In 2010 I will attempt the N2 unless I do not feel I am ready. Since I will try to move to Japan and moving and settling in costs money I will not set a quota on money I have to save, but rather have "getting over there" as the "goal" with a "job". To be more concise, I wish to be able to give myself a detailed introduction in each of the languages.

I just want to prove that you really do not need a school to pick up a foreign language. I might enroll for intensive Japanese training, but not so much in the other languages. I will also be going at it more in Chinese. I am actually heading toward low intermediate-intermediate but I need more conversation partners.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Facebook Response: Japanese Kanji Are Difficult to Memorize

This is a response to a friend I have on Facebook. I am just going to summarize the statement. He basically said at one point he memorized 600+ Kanji and have forgotten them. There are some key points I would like to address: this guy is bilingual like me except his Japanese is better than mine. I have a deep understanding, but by far he is conversationally fluent except for some instances with economic or medical terminology. A little background on him: his schedule is intense at times with working in the IT field. It is also at graves too. Sometimes he works 12-16 hours.

I think the best thing to do with that schedule is study during the breaks. I use short books like Read Real Japanese during my 15s. We have extended holiday hours so my study time has also kind of short. Since he has a since of fluidity already, I would basically go with half a Kanji lesson to 1 a day. Since 250 Essential Kanji volumes 1-2 are heavy books to lug around, I would probably use something a little more portable, but definitely get the writing time in. You can also use the website which has the Kanji broken up into various levels for the JLPT. Probably the perfect books would be Kanji drill series. (漢字ドリル) Since I have other things for the JLPT to study for (i.e. grammar and listening) I use the 1000plus Kanji books 1 and 2.

I know how difficult it is to memorize different Kanji. In fact I try not to. What I do instead is either read them in context, memorize radicals, or try to consistently write out example sentences. I also try to real as much natural Japanese as possible so I do not come off as sounding too text bookish. If any one else has anything they wish to leave a comment providing additional information, please feel free to do so.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Reflections on the JLPT (日本語能力試験)

Long time no blog. I just wanted to address some questions that was asked about the JLPT (Japanese Language Proficiency Test). I understand that a lot of my viewers are interested in learning a foreign language and are interested in cuisine. I, in fact, get the most comments whenever I write about these topics. So to not disappoint anyone, I will discuss these questions in as a detailed manner as possible.

What is on the JLPT and how will it help my Japanese?

First of all the JLPT is broken up into 4 levels this year; soon to be 5 levels in 2010. The best way probably to discuss this is to perhaps talk about each of the levels I have taken.

Level 4 (四級)- I have taken it. If you are starting out in Japanese and put some effort into at least 3 months, you can pass level 4. I did my Japanese starting out through the university system at UNR. I would say unless you want to study abroad, save your money and just study hiragana (ひらがな)and (カタカナ)which can easily be studied picking up a Teach Your Self basic Japanese script or a book that specializes in either Hiragana and Katakana. The Kanji (Japanese version of Chinese characters) should also be studied. It is perhaps best to know 50 by the time you take this test. Hearing would be a key point to focus on when doing the level 4. The hearing portion of the test has specific orders in which to bubble in stuff sometimes.

Level 3- (3級) This is a test that should be taken after about 2 years of classes in the states. While that is the case, it is not impossible to take this test after learning all the grammar points in the textbook Minna no Nihongo (みんなの日本語) books 1 and 2 of the elementary level. Also you will have to be good at basic conjugation and causative passive forms and know a little bit of honorific and polite Japanese. Again the trick part is listening where there is a certain amount trickiness to the questions. I cannot go into further detail other than say the best book to nail all the grammar points is the Kanzen Master (完全マスター) series. But I will say I will try to take either the N3 or the N2 next year. This will be level N4 the next year. You will need about 300 plus Kanji to get through this one. Also reading is important too.

Level 2- (2級)This test however, I can talk about. I received a total beat down from this test. I was taken out back, slapped around, and was forced to do things no man should do. And that would be the optimistic side of the story. Okay, the nuts and bolts of this thing is pretty gruesome. I counted at least 171 grammar points out of the Kanzen Master level 2 and yes you actually need to be on a 6th grade Kanji level. While I knew 1200 Kanji when I took this test, I did not know the mandatory government issued Kanji administered for this test. Honestly, do not even take this test unless you know all the required Kanji for this test. It would be a waste of time. Key points for this is probably bringing up your reading speed and level, nailing all the grammar points, and Kanji. Again listening does count for 25% of the points but it actually was one of my higher points so I would say that listening get easier if you actively seek out material to listen too like the news or variety shows or manga with a lot of complex Japanese being used. Also pay attention to time because it is precious towards the end. Especially with grammar.

Level 1-(一級)Let me talk about the nightmare that is formally known as Level 1. Kanji level has to be at the 2000s. Now I know the official site says only 1945 Kanji is needed. It is talking about just daily use Kanji (常用漢字), you will need to know some Name Kanji as well (人名用漢字)and I actually like studying Kanji. In fact is one the most favorite parts of the language. There is however a sense of urgency that should be expressed here. That is 1945 Kanji in different word combinations, compound Kanji combinations, and special readings. I think the amount of word usage is around 10,000. I could be wrong on that but that actually sounds about right. There is also the reading. If you can read complex university papers and manuscripts then you might be on the level to take this beast on.

This is a test that usually about 27% of the people overseas pass. And a lot of the Japanese here is not even used completely by natives. But, if you are up to it, level 2 and level 1 will open doors in certain employment firms. Sometimes, they will give you money for taking on such a challenge. Also the level 2 is good for getting into universities but you can also take the university student test (留学試験). The only thing is that a lot of this test does not cover practical Japanese. The level 3 and parts of 2 go over that.

The change in levels  
It is coming up July of 2010. The levels will officially change for the JLPT. Levels 1-4 will be changed to N5 for level 4, N4 for level 3, N3 for a new bridge level to accommodate people struggling between level 3 and level 2. N2 will be the current level 2 and N1 is supposed to become slightly harder for level 1. Okay now you can break out your handkerchiefs and start weeping. Overall it is hard to gauge the new N3 but from what I am looking at so far I would probably be able to pass it. If I do not feel totally confident in my ability to pass the N2, then I will probably go for this one. This level covers 800 Kanji supposedly. I do not have any clue as to how many grammar points.

Study Method
Whether or not I can nail the N2 will all depend on how much blood sweat and tears I put into studying. I am not totally certain going through mock test will completely help. I think it is best to focus on reading more complex magazines and articles and try to find unfamiliar grammar and study it in context. I would use the Unicom and Kanzen master series in conjunction with this method. With this I would use the Intermediate and Advance Japanese Grammar Dictionary for the sake of cracking the vagueness that is from learning in another language. This is by far one of the best dictionaries I have bought. Also I am going to try the Kanji in Context work books. I looked at the textbook and was disappointed by the fact that it is basically a Kanji dictionary which I got like 3. I will also be using various listening materials for the listening portion of the test. There is however a basic way to study for each exam:

1. Study the vocabulary and Kanji first. If you do a lot of reading you will naturally pick up words and if you can write the Kanji words can be formulated naturally from the Chinese pictographs. This honestly shaves down a lot of study time doing it this way.

2. Listening- I would get a book that goes over this part because at this point it honestly because one of the easiest parts of the test except for the lining events part of taking notes. You should practice taking notes prior to the test.

3. Reading- This is the next part that should be tackled. I think this part here is not so bad if you use materials that are actually meant for the next step up. You will pick up a lot of grammar points too because it will be naturally used in the sentences. I actually recommend Read Real Japanese for all levels. On the basic level you can pick up some basic phrases but on the higher levels you can absorb the more subtle nuances of Japanese culture and all the grammar points are discussed. All you would have to do is read a grammar dictionary uses the sentences and practice grammar with a native speaker of the language. Like I said before, chat rooms like MSN and Yahoo are cheap, affordable ways to meet native speakers of the target language of study.

4. Grammar- This is the perhaps even more difficult than learning all the government issued Kanji. I will say this: if you do not know the vocabulary and Kanji then I suggest you to go back and study those harder because the N2 and N1 will bombard you with vocabulary. It will also bombard you with Kanji and more Kanji and alternative Kanji for the written Kanji. N2 might have around 190 grammar points total and N1 has everything from the previous 4 levels so contrary to popular belief you cannot really take this test without knowing a lick of grammar. It probably has around 500-600 different points of grammar just to give you a compilation.

If you get these four things down for each test, you will have it made coming test time. There is no reason why someone (including me) cannot get down all the necessities in order to take the JLPT. It is just laziness on their end. I failed because I underestimated the gravity of the test prep books. You will need detailed resources for each one. That is the best way I can put it. It is what it is.

Is the Japanese on the JLPT practical?
I would say yes and no. There are key grammar points in 4 and 3 that you cannot even have a conversation without and a little can be said for 2 as well, but there are some grammar points that even the Native Japanese speakers have trouble with. The same goes for Kanji because in the computer age many native speakers of Japanese are starting to forget the rarely used Kanji for the ones that are common to their daily vocabulary. For example the Kanji (薔薇) or rose is a Kanji that many Japanese natives cannot write. I taught myself how to write this one for a calligraphy contest and it was tough because I had to basically figure out the stroke order myself.
The IT age is certainly simplifying language in general and that also goes as well for my English. I cannot read Old or Classical English because mainly it is not a standard any more and my grammar certainly has suffered a little from learning multiple languages. So in short, I would say the practicality of the JLPT is what you make of it. If you think the test will make you sound like a native speaker, you will be let down. There is just bubbling in the answers. No speaking, no writing. If you want to do a test like that, I suggest the JETRO. Wikipedia more than likely has an article on it.