Tuesday, November 11, 2014

When She Smiled

Ritoban Chakrabarti is an author, entrepreneur, online marketer, and avid traveller. He has finished writing his first fiction novel, titled "When She Smiled" and we have conducted a short interview with him.

What inspired you to write your first fiction novel ''When She Smiled''? Who is 'she’?
About eight months ago, I picked up JD Salinger’s ‘Catcher in the Rye’ and read it in a few hours. It was a very simple story driven around one teenage guy and how a few days changed his perception about life.

We have all had such moments. I’ve had mine for sure. There was a story that needed to be written. After reading that book, I had an epiphany.

I reflected on the choices I made as a teenager and how they influenced my future. My novel is about a fifteen year old guy who had no clue how falling in love would forever change his life. ‘She’ is the girl he falls in love with. Her name is Akanksha. The entire story is set in Shimla, which is a beautiful hill station in India.

What is your favourite quote? What does it mean to you?
There’s this quote I read in a Reader’s Digest edition over a decade ago that stayed with me all these years.

"Look towards the sun, and your shadows will fall behind you."

I have always believed in leading an ambitious life, because a life of purpose is a life worth living. I have a dream-board with images representing all the things I want to achieve in this life. From getting married to the love of my life, to publishing a novel, to owning a beach house. When you have high goals to look forward to every day, it gives meaning to your actions and you strive little by little every day to achieve those goals.

We all go through hardships and make the best of whatever little time we have on this planet. I believe this quote means that if you work towards achieving big things, then all the negativity and the noise fades away. The unfortunate truth is that the world is full of people who are jealous of you and pass on their frustrations and negative energies onto you. All of that renders meaningless when you set yourself big goals to work on.

What is the one ingredient that was very critical in part of your entrepreneurial journey?
Happiness. I always approach my staff and company as a close knit family. The people I hire are the ones who I know will gel with the company culture.

The work we do is fun and driven around helping others achieve success. It has been an amazing five year journey. I still remember working late nights during college while my friends were out partying. I guess it helped shape me and the way I do business.

I’ve always maintained a sync between my personal passions and the work I do. I love the work I do because it’s also my passion. While others simply consider work as ‘work’. I consider my work ‘happiness’.

How do you contain excitement? Which strategies works best to keep your focus?
Its really difficult to keep focus especially when your mind is a nest of ideas. Ideas keep propping in my head on a daily basis and sometimes it gets difficult to focus on the tasks at hand, because the new shiny idea tingling in my brain overtakes the responsibilities of my ongoing projects. The way I deal with the excitement of a new idea, is by noting down every single idea I ever have. I keep looking at the idea diary for inspiration whenever I’m feeling down or demotivated. I let my ideas speak to me. If an idea keeps coming to me again and again, and IF I notice I have free time to work on that idea, only then do I begin to pursue it.

There’s no point pursuing every single idea you have because if you do, you’ll get nothing done properly. Focusing on your strengths is very important, not only in business, but also in your personal life.

Writing the novel has been on my mind for a while now, but only after I finished some of my projects, did I get some free time to contemplate and start work on the first draft.

What is more challenging? Writing a novel or starting a new business?
In a way, writing a novel is very similar to starting a new business. In my company, we have launched several products. Every single one of them is like a new business in its own right because you have to dedicate resources, personnel, time, and effort into each product. Not only these two things, but I believe EVERYTHING you do in your life follows the same basic principles.
If you have a new baby in the family. If you shift to a new city. If you fall in love and get married. If you want to lose weight.

To write the novel:
I had to leave all the distractions and outside chatter.
I had to focus on the task at hand.
It felt extremely difficult at times and I almost gave up on many occasions.
It took a lot of time and patience.

On some days, after a nice long writing session, I felt a sense of achievement.
Finishing the first draft was just the beginning. That’s when the drama of editors, publishers, marketing, and media begins.

If you think about it, everything you do in life is very similar to writing a book.
If you’re interested in getting a copy, you may sign up on www.whenshesmiled.com
Its releasing in digital and print on February 2015.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Learn Chinese with QK Chinese

Queenie Kawabe is the founder and teacher at QK Chinese. As she was brought up in a multilingual family, she is able to speak several languages. Now, she is a Chinese and Cantonese teacher, and she also occasionally teach English as a Second Language (ESL) using high-tech educational tools in her courses.

How is it possible to Learn Chinese with you through digital whiteboard nowadays? Is it very different from learning face-to-face with a live teacher?
There is no significant difference in learning outcomes. I have teaching Chinese to children and adults in class and online since 2006. However, I have found that no evidence that Chinese online learning is qualitatively inferior to that obtained in a traditional classroom.

As an online Chinese teacher, one of my support features to teach in a digital classroom is online whiteboard. Advances in information technology now make it possible to offer an online whiteboard that it looks the way you want it to be in the classroom. For example, as a Chinese learners, you can read and write on the online whiteboard as well as I can correct your mistakes using the online whiteboard. In addition to that, it given the “anytime, anywhere” nature of online instruction, as opposed to fixed time and place classroom formats.

With this learning method, I believe that online learning can surpass that of the typical classroom because I create an interactive and fun learning environment using the online whiteboard. Apart from that, students can hear my voice and see my body language when I teach in the digital classroom.

How long have you been teaching Chinese, can you share with us the good experiences you get from teaching someone your language?
Since I was brought up in a multilingual family, I am able to speak five languages. Thus, now, I am a Chinese teacher. I have been teaching my students and working with people from all walks of life since 2006. I worked with one of the well-known universities in Australia as an Chinese instructor of English adults. Additionally, I worked in several childcare centres to teach Chinese to Australian children.

There are too many great stories to share with you all. I recently received a good new that two of my students passed their Youth Chinese Test 2014. This is the latest achievement I had. 

However, here are some testimonials from my former students:

Ni Hao! Queenie taught me Mandarin Chinese for a little over 2 months. In that time, she put great efforts into tailoring my lessons for me, so that I could use my new skills in a clinical setting as a dentist. Having now arrived in Singapore, I have found her teaching extremely useful, and I can communicate well with my patients and in social situations. Queenie taught me not only the language, but also the attitudes and habits of the people of the countries of South East Asia. She also made the lessons both educational and whole lot of fun. I would recommend her to anyone wanting to learn a language. Zai Jian! - Dr. James Keys - “

Queenie has been my Mandarin teacher since March 2010. Over the course of the year I have acquired a sizeable vocabulary, I'm able to build sentences and converse across a decent range of topics. Queenie has really helped with my pronunciation through teaching me Pinyin. I have progress to reading and writing characters. My listening skills are really improving - late 2010 I tested my language ability in China, it was really fun, I could hear the locals talking about me, I had no problems interacting. If your wanting to learn Mandarin quickly and thoroughly I recommend Queenie. - Ben Price -“

I have learned Mandarin from Queenie Kawabe for around 6 months having no prior knowledge whatsoever. What I found really useful was to start with fundamentals and easy core concepts. This was important to grasp an idea of structures and basics from which to build upon. Each week was structured and saw a gradual progression of building upon core ideas. With each lesson, we would begin by recapping previous concepts and important structures which provided a great way to warm up and engage further. I also enjoyed learning about social and cultural things from Queenie about China and also other areas of Asia. This helped in providing a context to compare and understand at a greater level. Queenie provided us with a tailored approach to learning as we wanted to focus on learning language and conversation skills. Pronunciation was key to this and we practiced this a lot in the beginning stages to form good habits. Queenie was very patient and nice to us, we had a lot of fun in the process. - Matthew -“

Is it more relevant to learn to write Chinese characters at the start of learning Chinese language? What are the ways can someone overcome the learning difficulty of writing the Chinese characters (Hanzi)?
As a Chinese learner, you should learn to write Chinese characters and learn Chinese PinYin (Pronunciation ) at the start of learning Chinese language. However, it is a tremendous difficult task to English speakers due to the step by step Chinese characters writing. When I teach Chinese characters to my students, I break down the bricks and show it to them.

There are three bricks you need to know before you learn to write Chinese characters. Firstly, you need to know each stroke of the Chinese characters. Secondly, you need to know the radical of the Chinese characters. Lastly, you need to know how to pronounce the Chinese characters. Without the Chinese PinYin (Pronunciation) of the Chinese characters, you do not know how to say it in Chinese.
To be honest, there is no short-cut way to learn the Chinese characters. It takes time to master it but with my HanZi Writing Made Easy program, I break down the bricks in order for you to follow the steps.

In your opinion, comparing Chinese and English, which is a more difficult language to master?
To be honest, Chinese is easier than English because Chinese has less grammar rules than English. If you are not interested in learning Writing Chinese characters, you can learn to speak and listen to Chinese in 10 months thought you know nothing about Chinese language. All you need is to find a right teacher to teach you the basic Chinese rules or the right techniques, and you will be survived in Chinese societies.

In fact, the majority of my students told me that learning Chinese is easier than learning English, though they are English speakers.

In part of your course, do you teach pinyin (pronunciation)? How much are your courses for beginners?
Yes, I offer Chinese PinYin (pronunciation) in my lesson. I am currently working on a new content for early 2015. It is called “QK Chinese Online Academy”. It is a 12 weeks course with 36 hours live lesson - Anyone can speak basic Chinese in 36 hours. Also, I am working on a new series of videos on Learn Basic Chinese in 21 days. Apart from that, I also offer Tuesday Chinese Lesson Podcast (it is free, but you need to subscribe it).

If you are interested in Chinese language and culture, and looking for online lessons, I offer a 25 minute lesson for $10.

You can contact Queenie through her:

Friday, October 17, 2014

Interview with SimonTheSorcerer

Simon is a 27 years old online marketer from Budapest, Hungary. We have conducted a short interview with him.

You make money by creating blogs. What kind of web skills and strengths do you possess that makes your online business successful?
I'm an online marketing professional with 5 years of experience. I have worked for a multinational company, was a freelancer for a while, and worked for an online marketing agency, where we worked with such big names as Atari, Expedia, Macy's etc..

And I was also the founder of a startup online marketing agency for a while. I have seen online marketing from every angle, and I believe this is my biggest strength.

Which are the best opportunities on the internet to make money?
I think that’s the wrong way to look at it. If you want to be successful online you need to be able to add something new and unique to the conversation.

Every niche online is already saturated and highly competitive. If you want to succeed, you need to have passion and genuine expertise.Therefore you can only write about topics you are interested in and are an expert of. And if you are really good at it, then you will make money.

Someone said that in business attitude is everything. What kind of attitude is needed for an online business?
It’s very easy. Hard work. 50+ hours per week in the first 1-2 years.

What sets you apart from the competition?
I focus on difficult niches (gambling, legal highs, Forex, alcohol, tobacco) things most webmasters are afraid to touch. What sets me apart from all the others is that I do this 100% ethically. This is from my LinkedIn profile and I believe it describes my approach perfectly:

“Changing people's perception of online marketing for websites in difficult niches. No longer should "online gambling" or "Forex" be synonymous with SPAM. There is a right way, a better way, there is a way to do online marketing in a difficult niche that works.”

My visitors seem to appreciate this approach. However, I do hope I will also inspire my fellow bloggers to change their ways and do things the right way. Yes, you can make money without compromising your moral integrity! But for now there is still a lot of SPAM, and there are still a lot of unethical bloggers. I hope I can make a difference.

Which one is your most popular blog?
I think people know me best for being the owner of the number one online casino blog. If you type in Google “gambling blog”, “casino blog”, “online gambling blog” etc… my little blog comes up as the first result. And as you can imagine, every online casino wants to be featured on my blog. Not a day goes by without getting 5-10 emails from online casino representatives. 

However, that’s not my favorite blog. I’m most proud of my legal high blog. It is the only legal high blog online, which is committed to safe and responsible legal high use and education. Mine (Simon’s Legal Highs) is probably the only legal high blog, which does not promote research chemicals, bath salts and designer drugs. I only focus on safer and natural herbs and ethnobotanicals. 

There was a desperate need for a legal high blog that is committed to safe alternatives to research chemicals. It has become the most popular legal high blog and I’m proud to make a difference in the legal high scene.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

The Angry Viking

Eric Ericson is an actor, writer and artist. Eric got the name “The Angry Viking” while doing stand up comedy in Los Angeles. He is a direct descendant of the Yngling Viking Dynasty. In 2013, after a series of eye opening personal events, Eric underwent a life change and dropped over 60 pounds. It has reenergized his acting career as he is now being cast in action roles and performing stunts and fights, as well as opening up modeling opportunities. We have conducted an interview with him:

How does having the name 'The Angry Viking' makes an impact in your career so far?

I got the name The Angry Viking when I was doing stand-up comedy. One night after my set, the host called me an “Angry $^%& Viking.” The name stuck, minus the “$^%&.” People seem to remember the name, but it definitely creates a pre-impression before someone gets to know me. Sometimes that’s a good thing, sometimes not so much.

What is the role you play in the 'David & Goliath' action film? Do you like this character?
I play The Lion Warrior. In the Biblical tale, David comes up against a lion and a bear. In this film, the animals are replaced by warriors that David must battle. The movie is incredibly gritty and visceral. I don’t think anyone has ever approached the story this way.

It’s a cool concept and I had fun playing Lion. It was action heavy, but there are still fun ways to make the action unique and character based with quirks and personality traits. We worked closely with stunt director Luke Lafontaine and really tried to maintain that warrior mentality through the entire fight, which is a long drag out battle in the desert. I’m excited about the final project, scheduled to be released this spring.

When did you start to get involved in performing and which kind of gigs do you enjoy doing most?
I’ve been performing and writing since I was a teenager, although I did take same time off after becoming a bit disillusioned. I started writing and shooting photography before circling back to acting.

I’m really enjoying the current action and stunt work I’ve been doing. This year I started training in muay thai, so I can bring that discipline and knowledge to my stunt work and it’s helped me grow as a performer.

To lose more than 60 pounds is not an easy task, what caused such a great change? And which perspectives in your life have change the most after you lose weight?
As I said, I had moved away from performing and had been working behind the camera. I finally reached a point where I missed performing and starting acting again. But something just wasn’t right. I was doing ADR (additional dialogue recording) on a film I was in and I saw myself projected up on the screen and for the first time really noticed how much weight I had gained.

Around the same time a friend of mine from college dropped dead at his daughter’s soccer game and it was a wake up call. I decided I wanted to restructure my entire life- diet, exercise and my overall look.

In mid 2013, I began a strict diet and workout regiment and was able to drop from my high of 250 pounds down to nearly 180 pounds in less than six months. Then I began a rebuild program adding muscle, adding about 20 pounds of it.

My entire life has changed. I’m auditioning and reading for roles I never thought I could and I have opportunities I’ve only dreamed of. In the spring, I will be featured on the cover of a romance novel as well as being “Mr. May” in the 2015 Man and Machine calendar.

If you can choose to work with someone famous, who would you choose?
I would really like to work with one of the greats on a character driven film. A film where you get to spend a great deal of time with another actor. Not just to perform, but to learn from them. Pacino, DeNiro. Or Matthew McConaughe, who has hit an amazing groove right now. Working with him would be amazing. To feed of that energy.

Plus, I would love to work in the large ensemble universe of a DC or Marvel comics project. The inner geek in me trembles with excitement at the chance to play Lobo or Vandal Savage or another legendary comic character in the cinematic sandboxes they are creating.

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