Monday, July 14, 2014

Told ya so

The World Cup is over -- let the real dog days of summer commence. Before the tournament fades into the mists of time, though, I thought it might be fun to update a previous post.

I said in that post that teams from Concacaf -- the region that encompasses North America, Central America and the Caribbean -- did more with their places in the World Cup than their African or Asian counterparts and thus did not deserve to have World Cup bids taken from them and given to other regions. The events of this year's World Cup did little to shake my confidence in that assertion. Four Concacaf teams qualified for Brazil, with three advancing out of their group and one reaching the quarterfinals. Just two of Africa's five teams reached the last 16, and Asia's four qualifiers combined for a paltry three points between them.

Below are my updated numbers for each region, both for this year's tournament and overall since the World Cup expanded to 32 teams in 1998. As a reminder, in an attempt to quantify how much return each region provides for each place it gets at world soccer's biggest event, I added up the points earned by each team from each region during the group stage and divided that total by the number of berths that region received. The idea is that trends in performance should emerge over the span of several World Cups. You can find the breakdown for 1998 through 2010 at the first link.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Well, damn

So, the World Cup. It's 24 hours later and I still can't even. My real-time thoughts say enough.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Entering the hypothetical realm

I hesitate to speak too much about having children, in part because I am mostly ambivalent on the topic and in part because it's an endeavor that requires (at least) two willing parties. Still, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a little curious on how that would go -- poorly, more than likely.

That is probably why I spent more time than I normally would mulling over this interactive article from PBS. It's based on the results from the 2010-2014 World Values Survey, in which 82,000 adults across 54 countries were surveyed to gain a better understanding of what they consider most important when raising a child, whether or not they were parents themselves. The respondents were asked to select which of 11 qualities they considered to be especially important for children to learn.

In the PBS article, readers were asked to rank each of the 11 qualities -- determination/perseverance, responsibility, imagination, self-expression, independence, tolerance, unselfishness, thrift, religious faith, obedience and hard work. Their answers were then matched to which country's values most closely corresponded with the reader's.

My list is below.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Another one from the 'Privilege Files'

If embassies and consulates did all the things people believe they do, it might be hard to keep people in their home country. Singapore's foreign minister, K. Shanmugam, recently made a Facebook post in which he detailed some of the stranger requests Singaporeans abroad had made of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. While those listed are undoubtedly outliers, it may also betray a certain level of entitlement felt by travelers.
In one instance, Shanmugam said a Singaporean sought Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) intervention "for a refund after he had gotten illegal sexual services in a foreign country".
"He wasn't satisfied with what he had gotten. We had to tell him that MFA could not help!"
Shanmugam said the ministry also declined to intervene when a man demanded an investigation over alleged racial discrimination while overseas.
The man had claimed "he received a smaller piece of KFC chicken compared to what the locals had".
"He wanted MFA to investigate this instance and seek justice in that foreign country for the unfair treatment he claimed to have received," Shanmugam said.
Say what you will about eating at KFC while abroad, but sometimes there's just no other option.

As the bottom of the article suggests, Singapore followed the lead of the UK, which released a similar list a few years ago. It's easy to have a chuckle at the expense of these travelers, of course, but given the sheer number of Americans out there and the vast array of embassies, consulates and missions the country has, there must be just as many – if not more – such requests by Americans abroad.

Odds are we'll never hear those stories, though. After all, that's classified information that could be integral to national security.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

More fun with maps

Following on from an earlier post, I've found a couple more maps that make for interesting reading. Of immediate interest to me are these maps by eCollegeFinder that highlight the most selective and most desirable college by state -- and there isn't as much overlap as you might think.

The map of most desirable schools is fairly straightforward. Big state schools dominate the list, ranked by which four-year colleges receive the most undergraduate applications, with a handful of notable exceptions for private schools. UCLA is by some distance the overall winner (72,676 applications in Fall 2013), followed by New York University, Penn State, Northeastern and Michigan. Of the 50 schools on the map, Alaska-Anchorage received the fewest applications (3,062), with Wyoming, South Dakota State, North Dakota State and Hawaii-Manoa next on the list.

Some of the exceptions to the big state school rule include Tulane (30,122 applications received, 8,357 total undergrads), Washington University in St. Louis (30,117 applicants, 7,259 undergrads), Vanderbilt (31,099 applicants, 6,796 undergrads) and Marquette (23,432 applicants, 8,293 undergrads). The presence of Ivy League schools and BYU on the list is hardly a surprise.

If the law of supply and demand always held true, one might think that desirable schools and selective schools would be a 1:1 ratio. Looking at which school in each state has the lowest acceptance rate, though, some different names pop up on the list.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Klinsmann, Party of 30

Few things set tongues wagging across the soccersphere like a roster announcement, especially when it's right before a World Cup. There weren't too many surprises when Jurgen Klinsmann released his 30-man preliminary roster for the US national team, but the ones that were there were enough to raise more than a few eyebrows. Let's look at the World Cup hopefuls, position by position.

GOALKEEPERS (3): Brad Guzan (Aston Villa), Tim Howard (Everton), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)

Duh. Injuries aside, this group could've been chiseled in stone months ago. No worries here.

Saturday, April 26, 2014


If your ideology requires keeping people ignorant, fearful and submissive, the odds are good it's not an ideology worth having.
The families of more than 230 Nigerian schoolgirls abducted by Islamist insurgents more than 10 days ago say they are fast losing hope of seeing their daughters again despite government assurances they will be found.
The mass abduction of the girls watched over by government soldiers is the most devastating in a series of recent attacks on state schools – and comes as the government debates extending a year-long state of emergency across three north-eastern states from which the militants have operated for five years. On the same day as the kidnappings, a massive bombing by Boko Haram insurgents killed more than 75 commuters hundreds of miles south on the outskirts of the capital.
The girls, who were mostly between 16 and 18 years old, were rounded up at gunpoint after militants overpowered a military guard assigned to a boarding school in Chibok, in north-eastern Borno state. They had just finished their final school exams. The school was the only one still open in the area following threats and attacks by Boko Haram, whose ideology opposes both so-called western education, and particularly women's education.
This kidnapping of 234 girls taking a physics exam was brought to you by Boko Haram, whose name translates to "Western education is sinful". Can't have those ladyfolk learning -- next thing you know, they'll start getting ideas above their station and want to be more than obedient baby factories. It seems the men running Boko Haram would prefer living in a simpler time when their way of life and behavior would go unchallenged, rather than this modern, increasingly secular world. Would this be an awkward time to remind them that the good ol' days weren't actually all that good?

Unfortunately, unlike certain tragic events in South Korea or Malaysia, coverage of the kidnappings largely has been relegated to the back burner. The people of Nigeria are uniting against Boko Haram, even as the country's military makes a fool of itself and the government does little but wring its hands and call more meetings. What can those outside Nigeria do? It's not much, but watch this video and sign this petition. Every little bit helps.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Taking in the sights

Had a day off of work and was tired of just lounging, so I thought I'd visit one of the most iconic sights in Abu Dhabi -- the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. Without spoiling too much, let's just say it lives up to its billing.

Clearly Sheikh Zayed loved him some Allah. More pictures -- including some of the nicest chandeliers I've ever seen -- can be found here.