Are they an underutilized teaching tool, or do their underlying assumptions result in misunderstandings?

Screencapture from the video game Crusader Kings III

If you ask most people who know me to list one fact about me, I’d wager the first thing that’d come to their mind would be, “he’s a huge history nerd.” History has been a life-long passion and, unlike most interests, I can trace it back to a single event: playing the video game Civilization III as a child. The mythic characters that stood as synecdoches for civilizations enthralled me. Ever since playing that game, I’ve indulged in untold hours of reading academic books, parsing through…


If you’re anything like me, an outdoorsy travel bug who loathes staying in one place for more than a month, the past year has been psychologically rough. My household was fortunate in that neither of us got sick or lost our jobs, but staying at home every day became a war of attrition on our minds. I noticed bouts of moodiness set in around September 2020, and the see-sawing grew severer over the course of the winter.

After extended walks and working out at home failed to remedy things, my partner suggested, “how about meditating?”

“Does that work?” I asked…


Personal stories from an American who fell for trains and car-less streets

Taiwan’s High-Speed Rail in Zuoying Station: Image Source

Among my friends, I’m typically known (with much eye-rolling) as “the one that’s lived everywhere.” My twenties were a wobbly time where I ended up moving very often. Yet, there was one constant commonality in the United States: from my childhood home to Los Angeles, and in even New York City, I’ve always owned a car. To my non-American readers, owning a car in a city may seem like an anathema, and I can understand why after living abroad.

I didn’t think much about trains before then, nor did I mind gridlock traffic; but, after experiencing life in places where…


When I visited my partner’s family in Tokyo last winter, I knew about three Japanese words: “hello,” “thank you,” and “please.” Perhaps that’s a slight exaggeration, but I certainly couldn’t have conversed with them in their native language (mercifully, they speak English fluently), nor could I have navigated during our road trip in Kyushu without my partner.

One year later, that has changed.

Sure, my grammar isn’t perfect and I continue to forget vocabulary words mid-sentence, but I can now get by in Japanese. Considering the language’s difficulty for native English speakers, I’m happy with my progress.

As I neared…


This is not a normal writing topic for me, but I feel compelled to share this story since I’ve become a yogurt-making evangelist.

See, my household eats yogurt with fruit every single day for breakfast — other than coffee, it’s pretty much the only ritual food or beverage in my life. And because of that, I’d usually spend about 30 USD a month on buying the stuff. It’s not astronomically expensive, but it’s basically two Netflix subscriptions a month for a good gut microbiome, so I was open to change.

One evening in February, a microbiologist friend in Boston mentioned…


The metacognitive notetaking app that brought me out of a slump

Around November of 2020, I hit a low-point in productivity. I was planning a second novel (that I’ll hopefully publish) and trying to keep up with my other passions while working a full-time job; however, once I was “off” from teleworking, I just felt — blah. It was hard to keep my creative self energized because every day felt like Groundhog Day. My environment never changed, save for the occasional trip to a grocery store.

But in 2021, my productivity suddenly skyrocketed to new heights. Not only did I…


Two tricks to elevate your spoken Japanese

When on a trip to Japan, I visited the small town of Karuizawa, an hour’s ride from Tokyo. While I had a great time there, I remember encountering difficulties finding my way back to the station. I had wandered well off the beaten path into a beautiful wooded suburb and my phone battery had died. On the street was a stranger, a middle-aged man sweeping leaves beneath a gate. It was contextually obvious that he lived there and since Karuizawa is not a very large town, I figured he’d know how to get…


For novelists with an architect’s mind and a gardener’s soul.

Photo by Karolina Grabowska — Own Work

In 2019, I decided to embark on a journey I’d fantasized over for years: writing a novel. It was an aspiration of mine since high school, and one that I’d planned for and studied over the following decade— watching vlogs and reading books on how to construct plots, pace stories, edit, revise, and so on. But one February morning when I was barricaded in my New Jersey townhouse by a mountain of snow, I decided to act on my dream. …


Explanations and reflections from a former Smoky Mountain local

View from the Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina — Own Work

Over the years, I’ve brought many friends back to the county where I grew up. These people came from a variety of backgrounds — different regions, countries, native languages, ethnicities— but one consistent thread between the experiences has been their surprise at the local dialect.

See, I’m originally from a region of the United States known as the Great Smoky Mountains. It comprises the highlands of southern Appalachia, split between western North Carolina and eastern Tennessee. The mountains are, in a word: beautiful, a nature lover's wonderland. Millions of people flock…

Blake Anderson

San Diego-based writer. Interested in urban planning, languages, cultures, travel, history, and fiction.

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