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World Languages

Author: Marc

Date: 2011-12-03   

I have been watching a lot of soccer lately. My son posited that Spanish spoken outside Spain was somehow non-standard. I told him that by most measures, the "real" Spanish ought to be that spoken in Mexico. Mexico does, after all, have the highest Spanish-speaking population of any country. It was the first empire conquered by Spain and it lies between Spain and the other Hispanophone countries of the New World.

That made me think of the some other major world languages. Where does each Mother Country sit among the speakers of its tongue?

Chinese is spoken significantly only in a couple of small Southeast Asian countries outside of China.

English, on the other hand, is spoken over quite a swath of the planet's surface:
United States 267444149
India 125226449
Philippines 89800000
Nigeria 79000000
United Kingdom 59600000
Germany 46272504
Canada 25246220
France 23000000
Pakistan 18000000
Australia 15013965

Spanish holds sway over a less diverse but still appreciable group:
Mexico 112336538
Spain 47150819
Colombia 46000000
Argentina 40900496
United States 35468501

I will skip some Hindic languages. Mostly this is because these languages are restricted to the immediate vicinity of South Asia. I couldn't similarly exclude Chinese, as it is the most spoken first language in the world. But I also don't know any Hindi. And I'm a jerk.

Democratic Republic of the Congo 60800000
France 60578600
Côte d'Ivoire 12740000
Canada 6741955
Haiti 5664000

Also, Portuguese is spoken by Brazil, then Portugal. It is interesting that the great colonizers of the world mostly play second (at best) fiddle to former colonies in terms of their "share" of the language.

Comments: 0
The End of Fall

Author: Marc

Date: 2011-12-02   

The sky had lightened to the hue of early twilight. Rather than the fiery bands of color that often accent the eastern skyline after dawn, the cloud cover left everything dull blue to gray. The shoulders of the jagged peaks of the Organ Mountains were draped in a flowing ashen shawl. A crashing wave was nearly frozen in place surmounting the spires. As I approached the mountain pass, even the mightiest peak succumbed to the flow. From the vantage of the pass, all elevations over a mile disappeared cleanly into the dense blanket above. Some 50 miles to the east, the far mountains were bathed in light even as darkness lingered on the valley floor. The howling winds of night had given way to a gentle breeze bearing the faintest hint of impending snow. Winter is upon us.

Comments: 1
David Frum on the Radicalization of His Party

Author: Marc

Date: 2011-11-22   

Charles Johnson at LittleGreenFootballs had a link up to a New York Magazine article by David Frum. You may remember David Frum as one of Bush, Jr.'s speechwriters. He is a credentialed movement conservative of some note, but we find him here voicing real concert for the state of his party:

...as I contemplate my party and my movement in 2011, I see things I simply cannot support.
The abject fantasy of many of his former colleagues is apparent to all but themselves:
Some of the smartest and most sophisticated people I know—canny investors, erudite authors—sincerely and passionately believe that President Barack Obama has gone far beyond conventional American liberalism and is willfully and relentlessly driving the United States down the road to socialism. No counterevidence will dissuade them from this belief: not record-high corporate profits, not almost 500,000 job losses in the public sector, not the lowest tax rates since the Truman administration.
Indeed, he finds this a party wherein old ideas have been
discarded to make way for a new and more radical ideology, assembled from bits of the old GOP platform that were once sublimated by the party elites but now roam the land freely: ultralibertarianism, crank monetary theories, populist fury, and paranoid visions of a Democratic Party controlled by ACORN and the New Black Panthers.
As I have previously stated on this blog, the obvious candidates for a competent Republican administration, Huntsman and Romney, are constantly and consistently attacked for lack of radical right wing credentials. I have even heard Romney referred to as "Obama Lite."

On the topic of governance, Frum details some of the obvious measures that should be taken in pursuit of a resolving current economic conditions, but points to conservative unwillingness to even address them. He points out that whites, particularly among those without a college degree, are the most pessimistic about he direction of the country, quoting statistics found in the National Journal. It is something I have suspected, but on which I had never seen data.

While it is easy to blame an outright propaganda effort, Frum notes that
We used to say “You’re entitled to your own opinion, but not to your own facts.” Now we are all entitled to our own facts, and conservative media use this right to immerse their audience in a total environment of pseudo-facts and pretend information.
Republican billionaires are not acting cynically; they watch Fox News too.
Frum describes how voicing such concerns left him ostracized from the GOP elite and GOP instruments. Intransigence has been displayed on both sides of the isle, he says, but
in the interests of avoiding false evenhandedness, it must be admitted: The party with a stronger charge on its zapper right now, the party struggling with more self-­imposed obstacles to responsible governance, the party most in need of a course correction, is the Republican Party.
I find more and more that I am in the boat with conservatives who just want a return to sanity. If the GOP were to hit the emergency shutoff on the "crazy" valve, they would easily walk away with the next election. But they have invested so much of the last decade in it, that perhaps it is too late. It's an insightful article and well worth the read.

Comments: 1
I'm Such a Nerd

Author: Marc

Date: 2011-11-13   

I was listening to a podcast and heard the following quote, "I would lay down my life for two brothers or eight cousins." I laughed out loud. Ah, genetics and kin selection humor...

Comments: 2
Huntsman, Maybe?

Author: Marc

Date: 2011-11-10   

I recently wrote about my wish that Romney get the nomination. Unfortunately, he has made a point of bending over backwards lately to prove right wing nut credentials. I still think he would be a competent president, but I would probably not vote for him.

More recently, I have been looking at Mr. Huntsman. While still a long shot, he seems to be the only one in the race with any integrity. Like Romney, he seems to at least understand the issues. Like Romney, he seems electable versus Obama. He has a long history in politics, dating from the Reagan Administration through the Obama Administration. He has seen foreign service with appointments to Singapore, Indonesia, and China. He has been a governor and a CEO, both of which seem to excite the right wing nuts.

Some might claim that the religion he shares with Romney may be a weak point. I would argue that, unlike the case of its Christian forebears, at least the con man who founded the Mormon church was an American. Where the money skimmed from gullible Catholics ends up in Rome, the money skimmed from gullible Mormons remains in the United States.

Yes, I think if Huntsman gets the nomination, I will vote for him.

Comments: 2
My Career Arc

Author: Marc

Date: 2011-11-09   

I am at the point in my life where I consider my own mortality often. Not because I am particularly old or unwell. Rather, the statistics tell me that there are more days in my past than in my future. By itself, this is not of much interest. But the thought occurs to me that I must begin to plan. To this point, my entire life has been conducted on the fly. That is to say I have been living from one day to the next bereft of any plan longer than the next few days. Most people my age who do what I do have completed a graduate degree some time ago. Recent encounters with three old friends (isn't it odd how broad the definition of "friend" can be?) have really stricken a chord. Until about a dozen years ago, I spent most of my time flailing in seemingly random directions. Then I settled into a stable career. Now I'm at the point where I cannot progress in my career without abandoning the technical aspects for the mind-numbing tedium of management.

I like what I do, but the nature of my job leaves any potential professional growth at the mercy of the whims of management. Given the state of the economy at present, my management feels that any investment in personnel is money wasted. So I can not expect to actively pursue any higher education while attempting to maintain some semblance of a family life.

This all leads me to one conclusion: I peaked years ago. I began my downward slide in my 30s. Sad.

Comments: 0
Review: The Reapers are the Angels by Alden Bell

Author: Marc

Date: 2011-11-04   

The Reapers are the Angels
by Alden Bell
240 pages
Holt Paperbacks (August 3, 2010)

I have always been a zombie movie watcher. In the waning years of the last century, my girlfriend (now wife) and I amused ourselves with numerous zombie movies of the 60s and 70s, both classic and obscure. Until reading Seth Grahame-Smith alteration of Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, I had never read or even considered horror-type novels (notable exception: Dracula by Bram Stoker). I liked that one enough to go back and read the original Pride and Prejudice. I wondered, then, about the zombie portion. A blogger I like, Tbogg, described this book as

... what you would get if you asked Harper Lee, Flannery O’Connor and Cormac McCarthy to collaborate on a Walking Dead script.
I'm not familiar with Flannery O'Connor, but the rest of the description sounded intriguing.

The desolation was not as bleak as we often see in stories of the ruined society genre. It is not a cheery picture by any stretch, but it is somewhat less hopeless than most. We follow the path of a somewhat bright illiterate teen aged girl named Temple. The author sprinkles background information throughout the story, but just enough information is given to leave some sense of mystery. She had been born when society was already in deep collapse, which provides for an interesting perspective.

Unlike most stories of the genre, Temple is not on a quest. She is simply living. In the course of her travels, the protagonist encounters characters that are fully developed, rather than the simple hollow characters that often fill in the background. When she finally does acquire a purpose, it is almost ancillary to the narrative. Imaginative and rich (as much as can be expected, given the state), the story was never silly or over-the-top. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a simple adventure story and is not turned off by the intrinsic darkness of the topic.

Comments: 0

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