Monday, July 6, 2015

Speaking in other tongues

Sometimes you just can't beat a good infographic. Hats off to Joe. My. God. for cluing me into this one -- "What Are the Hardest Languages to Learn?". Perhaps unsurprisingly, the US government has a breakdown of how long it thinks Foreign Service personnel should take to learn certain languages. From the Wikibooks entry:
The Foreign Service Institute (FSI) of the US Department of State has compiled approximate learning expectations for a number of languages based on the length of time it takes to achieve Speaking 3: General Professional Proficiency in Speaking (S3) and Reading 3: General Professional Proficiency in Reading (R3). The list is limited to languages taught at the Foreign Service Institute, minus languages which don't have their own Wikibook. Note that this only states the views of The Foreign Service Institute (FSI) of the US Department of State, and many language learners and experts would disagree with the ranking. It must also be kept in mind that students at FSI are almost 40 years old, are native speakers of English and have a good aptitude for formal language study, plus knowledge of several other foreign languages. They study in small classes of no more than six. Their schedule calls for 25 hours of class per week with three or four hours per day of directed self-study.
The aforementioned infographic is below the fold.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Don't believe everything you read


When you see reports of a possible transfer falling apart over a player's "outrageous" demands, be a little skeptical. For example, today news emerged of Gervinho's reported move to Abu Dhabi club Al Jazira collapsing because of the player's demands for a helicopter, a private beach, regular airplane tickets back to the Ivory Coast, and other perks.

To be sure, such shenanigans are not unheard of. Players and their agents would ask for the keys to the club chairman's car and vacation villa if they thought they could get away with it. That said, it is also not unheard of for clubs to fudge a little (or a lot) when leaking a player's demands if negotiations don't go the way they want or if they hope to save some face after a high-profile deal crumbles – a little strategic bum-covering, if you will. Anyone who has read The Miracle of Castel di Sangro will be familiar with such tactics.

Big paydays are one of the primary drawing cards in bringing talented foreign players to the Arabian Gulf League, but the silly money rumored to be thrown around here isn't as silly as you might think. Clubs still want value for money whenever possible, and if someone with a proven track record like Mirko Vucinic or Asamoah Gyan isn't receiving those kind of inducements, someone like Gervinho has no chance. Odds are today's revelation is nothing but sound and fury from Jazira officials who invested a little too much political capital in bringing Gervinho to Abu Dhabi.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Doing my part for cultural awareness

It's Ramadan here in the UAE, which means observant Muslims refrain from doing anything enjoyable during daylight hours and the rest of us pretend like that's something resembling a good idea. But still, I feel like I need to do my part. That's why I have taken it upon myself to help make this country just a little more pious by alleviating it of those nasty, sinful pork products and stashing them where no one would think to look -- in my belly.

(Actually, given the size of my belly, that might be one of the first places they look.)

After the rousing success of my curry rice recipe, I thought I'd share with everyone my take on Filipino spaghetti. It's taken a few iterations to settle, but I think I've hit upon a good formula. You should be able to find most of the ingredients fairly easily, and those that are more specialized can be substituted without losing much in the way of flavor.