Twitter Follow me | Instagram Follow me | Pinterest Follow me | Facebook (The Weekend Traveler) Like | Facebook (Alice Teh) Like

Inspirational Quote of the Day

"Very little is needed to make a happy life; it is all within yourself, in your way of thinking." —Marcus Aurelius

MY INSTAGRAM (Mouse-over to unfade picture)

Sunday, May 24, 2015

A Fun Day with Friends (InterNations Penang)

Yesterday evening was an InterNations dinner night in ‪‎Penang‬, but first, I hung out with new friends from Sweden, Argentina, and Germany during the day together with my old Malaysian friend, Shawn. They all came from Kuala Lumpur and it was a road trip for them. The first few pictures were taken along Armenian Street, the Chew Jetty, and the last few were the dinner and drinks.

The gang at Armenian Street, Penang.

The dragon painting in one of the temples we visited.

The staircase at Yeng Keng Hotel.

Old shoes turned into pots for plants!

Now, which way do you want to go?

The dragon boat at Chew Jetty.

The gang at the InterNations dinner.

Then off we go to The Canteen at China House for after-dinner drinks.


You can find out more about InterNations here. And if you're an expat, all the more reason why you should be joining!


Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Alice Studies: My FOURTH Coursera Certificate

Today I received my fourth certificate from Coursera for the course  Miracles of Human Language: An Introduction to Linguistics by Leiden University! My first one dated  way back in 2013 (check it out), the second and third one in March 2015 and April 2015 respectively.

I encourage you to also sign up for the courses because Coursera has really interesting offerings from many renowned universities. And the best of all is... they are FREE. Go for it!

ABOUT THE COURSE: This course gives an introduction into the field of linguistics. Topics that are discussed are sounds, words, sentences, meaning, and social context.

Please also check out my other post on this course. Buono studio e buon lavoro!

My current courses-in-progress are:
  1. Ser más creativos by Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México
  2. Chinese for Beginners by Peking University
  3. Introduction to Philosophy by The University of Edinburgh


Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Travel Flashbacks

After much studying and all that intense reading, I suppose it's a good time to revisit the fun times I had during my most recent travels. Come with me to...

HONG KONG (April 2015). Here, I am Bruce Lee's sister stealing my brother's star at the Avenue of Stars!

AUSTRALIA (October 2014). Meditating in my "cave" at the Three Sisters, Blue Mountains, Katoomba...

ITALY (August 2014). Riding my red Ferrari in a local neighborhood park in southern Italy!


Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Fourth MBA Module: Project Management (Specialization)

I thought I knew about Project Management (PM) until I attended the first class of my fourth MBA module on PM. The course instructor is Dr. Ari and he makes us work hard! After weeks of perseverance and hard work, heaps of reading and trying to make sense of certain parts of PM, it's coming to an end this weekend. In the same tradition as in previous MBA-related posts, here's a short one on PM.

I've heard of WBS (Work Breakdown Structure), but this is the first time I really go deep into the subject I chose for my specialization. In an attempt to simplify the definition of WBS, I took the easy way out and all credit goes to Wikipedia:

I am also fortunate to have a boss (my new boss from the UK) that is a certified PRINCE2 Practitioner (more details here). I wanted a  different perspective on PM and he's so graciously given me lots of useful tips and materials to chew on when I asked him. Thank you, Tony D!

PRINCE2® (PRojects IN Controlled Environments) is a process-based approach for project management providing an easily tailored and scalable method for the management of all types of projects. The method is the de-facto standard for project management in the UK and is practiced worldwide.


Sunday, May 10, 2015

Alice Studies: The Miracles of Human Language

It's a wrap! This weekend is my final weekend in geeking it out for the Coursera course on Miracles of Human Language by Leiden University! The course deadline for all quizzes and final exam is May 11. All good things must come to an end and I must say I LOVED THIS MOOC!

This MOOC (massive open online course) is perfect for me in that it has one final deadline (great for busy working adults), and you don't have to worry about being penalized for not meeting a deadline. It contains digestible short videos, really useful reading materials, and quizzes that make you think. They're hard!

Now, about the Professor. For the curious ones who would like to get a taste of the Happy Dutch Guy, Marc van Oostendorp, here's a glimpse of how our dear professor sounds and looks like in his mini lectures and sessions. He's a real joy to listen to and watch. More about him at the end of this post.

One of the funny moments:
Passion fruit is not about feeling passion while eating a fruit. Got me laughing there. We were on the topic of morphology. The passion fruit example is about the three criteria for a sentence, which is a string of words. The three criteria are spaces, meaning, and pronunciation. So back to the passion fruit: It's one thing, a passion fruit. It's one concept (see the criterion on "meaning").

What I particularly liked about this MOOC:
  • The active involvement of the professor's students, Marten and Inge. They're in the weekly discussions asking questions and conducting interviews, as you can see from the snapshots with Prof. Chomsky below and with other interviewees too. 
  • The downloadable transcript of each week. (This is SO handy!)

Some of the points I picked up along the way:
  • In the beginning, you just hear people speak and you have no idea where the word boundaries are. You learn this only by experience, by being exposed to it enough. (Learners of foreign languages such as Yours Truly can definitely relate to this...)
  • It is interesting to note that when a person is asked to gesture "the girl is catching a fish" (like when you play a guessing game), people tend to gesture the girl (S), followed by the fish (O), lastly, the action of catching (V). The word orders then is SOV (subject-object-verb). This seems to be the natural order that we humans like. (So... the next time you play the game, try to observe what's being done!)
  • It is important to distinguish the pragmatic layer of meaning next to the semantic layer of meaning.
  • Pragmatic is always there; always different. Every sentence we say has a pragmatic meaning. We change the world by saying the things we do. (Let us all say positive things and think positive thoughts! Change the world in a positive way while we're at it.)
  • Sometimes it (pragmatic) is not so explicit but it's still there. Even when we don't say something, that can have a meaning. By not saying something (or the right things about something) the other person is going to infer that we mean something else than what we are actually saying. (Sounds like a dangerous ground to thread on. Don't assume...)
  • If you want to know how language works in the mind, we simply can't avoid meaning.
  • Language is not just there to convey semantic and pragmatic meaning. It also reveals many things about us. Language varies and changes. I liked the prof's demonstration using his attire and the red tie. He looked really dashing there, by the way.

I really enjoyed the interview with Prof. Chomsky. I'm looking forward to receiving his book, The Architecture of Language, from Book Depository! I placed an order last month and I'm so glad I did because now I get to read his words after listening to him.

Meet the Happy Dutch Professor's sidekicks, Inge and Marten. In this snapshot, they're interviewing Prof. Chomsky on Skype (if I'm not mistaken).

I have particularly enjoyed Roberta's videos as one of the informants in the course. She gives us everything Abruzzese and because I understand Italian, I kind of get this Neapolitan language from the Abruzzo region. Her video demonstrating politeness in the final week's (Week 5) video was hilarious and so true! Italians could go on and on about something...

I've learned so much in this five-week introductory linguistics course. It is the perfect launchpad for my further exploration with language and linguistics. My first language-related Coursera course is The Bilingual Brain by the University of Houston System (check out my posts here). I can't get enough of language and linguistics, and can't wait to dig deeper! Who knows, one day I may end up in Leiden University to pursue a linguistics BA...

ABOUT THE COURSE: The Miracles of Human Language introduces you to the many-faceted study of languages, which has amazed humans since the beginning of history. Together with speakers of many other languages around the world, as well as with famous linguists such as Noam Chomsky and Adele Goldberg, you will learn to understand and analyse how your native tongue is at the same time similar and different from many other languages. You will learn the basic concepts of linguistics, get to know some of the key features of big and small languages and get insight into what linguists do.

This course gives an introduction into the study of languages, the field of linguistics. With the support of the basic linguistic terminology that is offered in the course, you will soon be able to comment both on variety between languages, as well as on a single language’s internal structure. Anyone who wishes to understand how languages work, and how they can give us insight into the human mind is very welcome to join.

The course is useful if you want to get a fairly quick introduction into linguistics, for instance because you are considering studying it further, or because you are interested in a neighbouring discipline such as psychology, computer science or anthropology. Furthermore, the course will help you develop analytical skills.

ABOUT THE PROFESSOR: Prof. Dr. Marc van Oostendorp was born in Rotterdam, The Netherlands, 1967; he took an MA in Computational Linguistics at Tilburg University, 1991, and a PhD in dialectology at the same institution in 1995. He is currently employed at the Meertens Institute/Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (as a Senior Researcher; since 1999) and at Leiden University (currently as a Professor of Phonological Microvariation; since 2008).

Academic Prizes and Awards include the AVT/Anéla Dissertation Price for the best linguistics dissertation in the Netherlands (1996), and the LOT Oeuvre Prize for Popularisation of Linguistics (2007). He serves on the Editorial Boards of (among others) the journals Phonology (CUP) and Language Problems and Language Planning (Benjamins), and at the organizing board of the Old-World Conference in Phonology and the Manchester Phonology Meeting.

He has written books and articles on language variation, phonological theory, computational linguistics and language policy. Many of these can be found through his website:  Here are some recent key publications:

Key publications:
  1. M. van Oostendorp, C.J. Ewen, K. Rice, B. Hume (eds). (2011). "The Blackwell Companion to Phonology." Oxford, UK: Wiley-Blackwell
  2. Oostendorp, M. van. (2014). Selective Lexicon Optimization. in "Lingua" 142:76-84.
  3. Oostendorp, M. van. (2014). Phonological and phonetic databases at the Meertens Institute. In: Durand, J. & G. Kristoffersen (ed.). The Oxford Handbook of Corpus Phonology. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 546-551
  4. Oostendorp, M. van. 2014. Introducing a scansion machine for Dutch poetry and prose. In: Loquens 1.1, e001. Doi:
  5. Oostendorp, M. van. (2014). Rhyme as phonological multidominance. In: Nasukawa, K. & H. van Riemsdijk (eds.): "Identity relations in grammar". Berlin, Mouton de Gruyter. pp. 39-58.


Sunday, May 03, 2015

OTTAVIA E I GATTI DI ROMA, di Claudia Cerulli

Ottavia e i gatti di Roma

Ottavia é una gattina adorabile col pelo marrone striato e soffice e con macchie bianche sul torace e sulle zampine. Vive a Roma con sua madre e con i suoi fratelli. Non conosce ancora la sua cittá molto bene perché è troppo piccola per uscire di casa da sola, ma non importa perché la sua casa è GRANDE! Si chiama "Colosseo" ed è uno dei più grandi monumenti romani della città. È fatto di pietre ed è alto, tondo ed ha molte porte e finestre dalle quali sì gode una magnifica vista.

Ottavia is an adorable little cat, with soft brown striped fur and white patches on her chest and paws. She lives in the city of Rome together with her mom and siblings. She hasn't seen much of her city yet, since she is still too young to be allowed outside her home. But that is not a big problem, because her house is BIG! It is called "Colosseum" and it is one of the largest Roman buildings in the city. It is made of stone and is tall, round, and has so many doors and windows that you can enjoy a great view no matter where you are.

My very brief Italian review: Mi è piaciuto molto la storia. È bella e i gattini sono carinissimi! Mi è piaciuto anche l'avventura... C'erano la gente gentili e un vecchio gatto bravissimo che ha aiutato i gattini persi. Mi manca Roma... (In English: I really liked the story. It is beautiful and the kittens are so cute! I also like the adventure... There were nice people and a great old cat that helped the lost kittens. I miss Rome...)

Ottavia e i gatti di Roma (Octavia and the Cats of Rome) by Claudia Cerulli and illustrated beautifully by Leo Lätti is a delightful bilingual children's book. I found the book on Amazon Kindle while hunting for Spanish books, and read it for free as I subscribe to Kindle Unlimited. This book is perfect for my Italian language revision and for read-aloud practice! I did not depend on the English translation as I am already fluent in the Italian language, but there are still certain new-to-me words such as rabbrividendo (shivering) and fiancheggiano (line, plural, as in "trees that line its banks").

Although rather lengthy for 3-year-olds (that is the recommended start age for this book) to read on their own, I think it is perfect for parents or older readers to read to them. The story is charming and educational. It brought back fond memories of my trip to Rome where I stayed for a month. Octavia (Ottavia) and her friend Julius (Giulio), the resident kittens of the Colosseum, have gone to all the places I've been during my trip!

The kind people of Rome who regularly feed the cats are called "Gattare" (in Italian that means "Cat Ladies"), even though there are also many men who love and feed the Roman feral cats.

Apart from the wonderful story of the two little cats (gattini) that venture out on their own to explore their city, Rome, and get lost as a result of that, it is also a fun, informative read. I particularly enjoyed the "Did You Know...?" section at the end of the book where the author points out brief interesting facts about who Octavia and Julius are, the Colosseum's history, the feral cats of Rome, and many more.

Cats are very dear to my heart and when I read that in the city of Rome live hundreds of thousands of free-to-roam feral cats and that the city protects them, I am so happy! More reasons to love Italy!

The resident kittens of the Colosseum: Giulio (orange) and Octavia

The map showing the little kittens adventure in Rome. They have covered many places in one day! I'm glad the map is included because I did think of doing one myself but I was saved from the effort because the author has already done it.

I highly recommend this book. Apart from it being a great read, the book also carries a good message of friendship and family, the kindness of strangers, and the spirit of adventure. There is no place like home!


Friday, May 01, 2015

THE ARTISAN'S STAR, by Gabriella Contestabile

I've visited Italy twice. The first time was in 2013 and I based myself in Rome for a month making day trips to Naples, Siena and Florence, but stayed for a few days in Pisa. I was in the region of Tuscany mainly for the Pisa Book Festival. The second time was last year in southern Italy (based in Puglia) for three months. So when I got the chance to be a part of this book tour, I was elated!

There are two parts to this post: A guest post with the author and my book review. Please join me in welcoming author Gabriella Contestabile to Hello, My Name Is Alice!

GUEST POST: WHY BOOKS MATTER by Gabriella Contestabile
The last great I read was “Elizabeth Street” by Laurie Fabiano. It does what great books do –it wakes us up. I came to the U.S. as an immigrant many years after Fabiano’s grandparents. And while conditions for Italians in the late 50s had improved, the perceptions were the same. It’s hard to imagine today that there was a time when beautifully crafted Italian men’s shoes were vilified as “Mafia style,” and bread dipped in olive oil considered a barbaric practice. Fabiano’s book took me back to those times, when I was actually ashamed to claim my heritage, when my mom was criticized for wearing high heels and lipstick to work in a factory, and the school nurse called us in to ask my parents why I was given caffè latte at breakfast, and wine mixed with water instead of soda or milk for dinner, and the time a priest inside the confessional shut the portal on my mother because she couldn’t speak English.

More importantly, however, “Elizabeth Street” brings into focus the painful plight of immigrants then and now. The nationalities change over the years, but not the stories or the pervasive injustices. Fabiano takes us deep into the material, so much so you feel the anguish of people who left their families to go to a foreign country to earn so very little because they had no choice. As a reader you are inside this family’s world. You watch Nunzio wave to Giovanna from the ship holding one end of the yarn unspooled from her mother’s blanket. She holds the other until the boat pulls away.

But it’s the aftermath that makes this book the revelation that it is. I now pay more attention to the manicurist who tells me her daughter is in Ecuador, to the painter who just missed his son’s first birthday, and I realize, as they click through photos on their cell phones, how very painful this all is, and how unjust.

This is why art matters, why books matter. Art goes beyond the day-to-day flow of information and social media commentary. It hits us in the gut. It peels away the layers of indifference and bias, teaches us perspective and compassion. And more than any other medium it compels us to act. Family histories, portrayed so expertly by Laurie Fabiano and others, ensure these life lessons are not lost. They unite us as members of the human race. They make us better people.


Elio Barati pushes open the bedroom shutters to an awakening Florence. The irises are everywhere now, on his dresser, in the windowsills, in the markets, in the fields, in his mother's garden. Soon the contests will start and his flowers will be among the contenders. In his sixty-plus years he's placed in the International Iris Competition three times—with the Ballerina bulbs unfurling throughout the room.

Its colors match the brushstroke of gauzy rose light spreading across the sky outside. Down below the Arno moves along its sludgy course as its bridges show signs of life; solitary figures walk or ride across to the click of a stiletto or the purr of a

Florence is close to my heart. I made a last-minute, crazy decision to go to Florence for a day-trip from where I was in Pisa. That was in 2013. This book, The Artisan's Star, is set in Florence so the place is not foreign to me. It makes me so happy to be able to revisit it this year through this novel!

The Artisan's Star is also a fabulous read; rich in characters. Although I am not a big fan of perfume, I do use it (especially Italian perfume) and I loved that the author goes into detail about perfume making. I also like the slow pace of the book and because I have been to Italy and stayed there for months, I could really relate to the lifestyle portrayed by the author. I miss Italy. Very much.

This is a picture I took of the Arno River, Italy in 2013 when the sun was setting

So readers, be ready to be swept away by the rich memories, relationships, and the struggle to move on from the past to the future. I loved the storyline and since it is already well elaborated in the book synopses below, I will not go into the same details again. Suffice to say, there are many layers waiting to unfold and I invite you to embark on this Italian journey. I am a lover of Italy, I practice yoga (yes, yoga is in this story too!), and the complexity of human emotions resonated with me on so many levels when I read it. The Artisan's Star will always have a special place in my personal collection of Italian books.

Book Synopses: Elio Barati’s perfumery shop in Florence marks its entrance with a mosaic star. This shop immerses Elio in the artisanal world he loves, but he harbors a regret. As a young man he created a full-fledged perfume of jasmine, iris, and cypress at the renowned Ecole des Parfumeurs in Grasse—a fragrance his idealism and stubbornness boxed away before ever bringing it to light.

A second star now brightens Elio’s life, his daughter Romina, an artist. She has her father’s unrealized talent, a precise and intuitive sense of smell. She's also inherited more challenging traits of Elio's: unbridled ambition and an insatiable wonder for the world.

But changes ripple through modern-day Florence. Artisan traditions wane; and when Romina tells her father she has no intention of running the family business Elio fights to hold on to the Florence he cherishes. Confronting the lost opportunities of his youth, Elio is thrust into this journey by five spirited women: his Greek mother, Elena; his mentor Palma; his soul mate, Marina; his astronomer wife, Sofia; and finally his beautiful artist daughter, who like the city of her birth, shows him how tradition and modernity can and must co-exist.

Now he must alter his own path by harnessing the transformative powers of the fine and artisanal arts. 


Gabriella Contestabile is an author, educator, and owner of SU MISURA JOURNEYS, a boutique travel company connecting people to the artisans of Florence. She emigrated, with her parents, from Italy to New York City in 1959. In her pre-writer life, she worked as a foreign language teacher, management development specialist, and fragrance/cosmetics executive. Gabriella is a strong advocate of the arts, of multiculturalism, and of social justice—a passion inspired by reading Dickens and Dante at a very young age. She has been an active volunteer with Dress for Success for over eight years and is a member of the Slow Food NYC Food and Farm Policy Task Force. She lives on the Upper West Side with her husband, her daughter, her mom, and a furry Shih–Tzu named Oreo. The Artisan’s Star is her first novel. She is currently working on a collection of short stories, also set in Italy, and a screenplay.

Connect with Gabriella: Website  ~  Facebook  ~  Twitter  ~  Su Misura ~ Amazon Author Page

Barnes & Noble

Many thanks to Laura Fabiani from Italy Book Tour for the opportunity to be a part of Gabriella Contestabile's book tour.

Thank you, too, for stopping by! Your comments are most welcomed.


Curious about a word? Search its meaning here!