February 28, 2005

Imagine: 500 Miles Per Gallon

Imagine: 500 Miles Per Gallon
There have been many calls for programs to fund research. Beneath the din lies a little-noticed reality—the solution is already with us
By Fareed Zakaria

March 7 issue - The most important statement made last week came not from Vladimir Putin or George W. Bush but from Ali Naimi, Saudi Arabia's shrewd oil minister. Naimi predicted that crude prices would stay between $40 and $50 throughout 2005. For the last two years OPEC's official target price has been $25. Naimi's statement signals that Saudi Arabia now believes that current high prices are not a momentary thing. An Asian oil-industry executive told me that he expects oil to hit $75 this decade.

We are actually very close to a solution to the petroleum problem. Tomorrow, President Bush could make the following speech: "We are all concerned that the industrialized world, and increasingly the developing world, draw too much of their energy from one product, petroleum, which comes disproportionately from one volatile region, the Middle East. This dependence has significant political and environmental dangers for all of us. But there is now a solution, one that the United States will pursue actively.

It is now possible to build cars that are powered by a combination of electricity and alcohol-based fuels, with petroleum as only one element among many. My administration is going to put in place a series of policies that will ensure that in four years, the average new American car will get 300 miles per gallon of petroleum. And I fully expect in this period to see cars in the United States that get 500 miles per gallon. This revolution in energy use will reduce dramatically our dependence on foreign oil and achieve pathbreaking reductions in carbon-dioxide emissions, far below the targets mentioned in the Kyoto accords."

Ever since September 11, 2001, there have been many calls for Manhattan Projects and Marshall Plans for research on energy efficiency and alternate fuels. Beneath the din lies a little-noticed reality—the solution is already with us. Over the last five years, technology has matured in various fields, most importantly in semiconductors, to make possible cars that are as convenient and cheap as current ones, except that they run on a combination of electricity and fuel. Hybrid technology is the answer to the petroleum problem.

You can already buy a hybrid car that runs on a battery and petroleum. The next step is "plug-in" hybrids, with powerful batteries that are recharged at night like laptops, cell phones and iPods. Ford, Honda and Toyota already make simple hybrids. Daimler Chrysler is introducing a plug-in version soon. In many states in the American Middle West you can buy a car that can use any petroleum, or ethanol, or methanol—in any combination. Ford, for example, makes a number of its models with "flexible-fuel tanks." (Forty percent of Brazil's new cars have flexible-fuel tanks.) Put all this technology together and you get the car of the future, a plug-in hybrid with a flexible-fuel tank.

Here's the math (thanks to Gal Luft, a tireless—and independent—advocate of energy security). The current crop of hybrid cars get around 50 miles per gallon. Make it a plug-in and you can get 75 miles. Replace the conventional fuel tank with a flexible-fuel tank that can run on a combination of 15 percent petroleum and 85 percent ethanol or methanol, and you get between 400 and 500 miles per gallon of gasoline. (You don't get 500 miles per gallon of fuel, but the crucial task is to lessen the use of petroleum. And ethanol and methanol are much cheaper than gasoline, so fuel costs would drop dramatically.)

Here's the math (thanks to Gal Luft, a tireless—and independent—advocate of energy security). The current crop of hybrid cars get around 50 miles per gallon. Make it a plug-in and you can get 75 miles. Replace the conventional fuel tank with a flexible-fuel tank that can run on a combination of 15 percent petroleum and 85 percent ethanol or methanol, and you get between 400 and 500 miles per gallon of gasoline. (You don't get 500 miles per gallon of fuel, but the crucial task is to lessen the use of petroleum. And ethanol and methanol are much cheaper than gasoline, so fuel costs would drop dramatically.)

If things are already moving, why does the government need to do anything? Because this is not a pure free market. Large companies—in the oil and automotive industry—have vested interests in not changing much. There are transition costs—gas stations will need to be fitted to pump methanol and ethanol (at a cost of $20,000 to $60,000 per station). New technologies will empower new industries, few of which have lobbies in Washington.

Besides, the idea that the government should have nothing to do with this problem is bizarre. It was military funding and spending that produced much of the technology that makes hybrids possible. (The military is actually leading the hybrid trend. All new naval surface ships are now electric-powered, as are big diesel locomotives and mining trucks.) And the West's reliance on foreign oil is not cost-free. Luft estimates that a government plan that could accelerate the move to a hybrid transport system would cost $12 billion dollars. That is what we spend in Iraq in about three months.

Smart government intervention would include a combination of targeted mandates, incentives and spending. And it does not have to all happen at the federal level. New York City, for example, could require that all its new taxis be hybrids with flexible-fuel tanks. Now that's a Manhattan Project for the 21st century.

February 27, 2005

Non-native English-speakers now outnumber native ones 3 to 1.

Not the Queen's English
Non-native English-speakers now outnumber native ones 3 to 1. And it's changing the way we communicate.
By Carla Power
Newsweek International

March 7 issue - The name—Cambridge School of Languages—conjures images of spires and Anglo-Saxon aristocrats conversing in the Queen's English. But this Cambridge is composed of a few dank rooms with rickety chairs at the edge of a congested Delhi suburb. Its rival is not stately Oxford but the nearby Euro Languages School, where a three-month English course costs $16. "We tell students you need two things to succeed: English and computers," says Chetan Kumar, a Euro Languages manager. "We teach one. For the other"—he points to a nearby Internet stall—"you can go next door."

The professors back in Cambridge, England, would no doubt question the schools' pedagogy. There are few books or tapes. Their teachers pronounce "we" as "ve" and "primary" as "primmry." And yet such storefront shops aren't merely the ragged edge of the massive English-learning industry, which in India alone is a $100 million-per-year business. They are the front lines of a global revolution in which hundreds of millions of people are learning English, the planet's language for commerce, technology—and, increasingly, empowerment. Within a decade, 2 billion people will be studying English and about half the world—some 3 billion people—will speak it, according to a recent report from the British Council.

From Caracas to Karachi, parents keen for their children to achieve are forking over tuition for English-language schools. China's English fever— elevated to epidemic proportions by the country's recent accession to the World Trade Organization and the coming 2008 Olympics—even has its own Mandarin term, Yingwen re. And governments from Tunisia to Turkey are pushing English, recognizing that along with computers and mass migration, the language is the turbine engine of globalization. As one 12-year-old self-taught Eng-lish-speaker from China's southwestern Sichuan province says, "If you can't speak English, it's like you're deaf and dumb."
Linguistically speaking, it's a whole new world. Non-native speakers of English now outnumber native speakers 3 to 1, according to English-language expert David Crystal, whose numerous books include "English as a Global Language." "There's never before been a language that's been spoken by more people as a second than a first," he says. In Asia alone, the number of English-users has topped 350 million—roughly the combined populations of the United States, Britain and Canada. There are more Chinese children studying English—about 100 million—than there are Britons.

The new English-speakers aren't just passively absorbing the language—they're shaping it. New Englishes are mushrooming the globe over, ranging from "Englog," the Tagalog-infused English spoken in the Philippines, to "Japlish," the cryptic English poetry beloved of Japanese copywriters ("Your health and loveliness is our best wish," reads a candy wrapper. "Give us a chance to realize it"), to "Hinglish," the mix of Hindi and English that now crops up everywhere from fast-food ads to South Asian college campuses. "Hungry kya?" ("Are you hungry?"), queried a recent Indian ad for Domino's pizza. In post-apartheid South Africa, many blacks have adopted their own version of English, laced with indigenous words, as a sign of freedom—in contrast to Afrikaans, the language of oppression. "We speak English with a Xhosa accent and a Xhosa attitude," veteran actor John Kani recently told the BBC.

All languages are works in progress. But English's globalization, unprecedented in the history of languages, will revolutionize it in ways we can only begin to imagine. In the future, suggests Crystal, there could be a tri-English world, one in which you could speak a local English-based dialect at home, a national variety at work or school, and international Standard English to talk to foreigners. With native speakers a shrinking minority of the world's Anglophones, there's a growing sense that students should stop trying to emulate Brighton or Boston English, and embrace their own local versions. Researchers are starting to study non-native speakers' "mistakes"—"She look very sad," for example—as structured grammars. In a generation's time, teachers might no longer be correcting students for saying "a book who" or "a person which." Linguist Jennifer Jenkins, an expert in world Englishes at King's College London, asks why someAsians, who have trouble pronouncing the "th" sound, should spend hours trying to say "thing" instead of "sing" or "ting." International pilots, she points out, already pronounce the word "three" as "tree" in radio dispatches, since "tree" is more widely comprehensible.

Not everyone is as open-minded about English, or its advance. The Web site of the Association for the Defence of the French Language displays a "museum of horrors"—a series of digital pictures of English-language signs on Parisian streets. But others say such defensiveness misses the point. "This is not about English swamping and eroding local identities," says David Graddol, author of the British Council report. "It's about creating new identities—and about making everyone bilingual."

Indeed, English has become the common linguistic denominator. Whether you're a Korean executive on business in Shanghai, a German Eurocrat hammering out laws in Brussels or a Brazilian biochemist at a conference in Sweden, you're probably speaking English. And as the world adopts an international brand of English, it's native speakers who have the most to lose. Cambridge dons who insist on speaking the Queen's English could be met with giggles—or blank stares. British or American business execs who jabber on in their own idiomatic patois, without understanding how English is used by non-natives, might lose out on deals.

To achieve fluency, non-native speakers are learning English at an ever-younger age. Last year primary schools in major Chinese cities began offering English in the third grade, rather than middle school. A growing number of parents are enrolling their preschoolers in the new crop of local English courses. For some mothers-to-be, even that's not early enough; Zhou Min, who hosts several English programs at the Beijing Broadcasting Station, says some pregnant women speak English to their fetuses. At Prague's Lamea children's English-language school, 3-year-olds sing songs about snowmen and chant colors in English. Now 2-year-olds have a class of their own, too.

For the traditional custodians of English—the British and, more recently, the Americans—this means money. The demand for native English-speakers is so huge that there aren't enough to go around; China and the Middle East are starting to import English teachers from India. The average price of a four-day business-English course in London for a French executive runs 2,240 euro. Despite—or perhaps because of—all the new Englishes cropping up, it's the American and British versions that still carry prestige, particularly with tuition-paying parents. Australia and Britain, in particular, have invested heavily in branding themselves as destinations for learning English. More than 400 foreign English-teaching companies are trying to break into China. On a visit to Beijing last week, British Chancellor Gordon Brown said the Chinese thirst to acquire the language was "a huge opportunity for Britain," which already boasts a 1.3 billion pound English-teaching industry. Says Jenkins, "Owning English is very big business."
To see big business in action, one need only walk down London's busy Oxford Street, where ads hawk instant access to the language of success: DOES YOUR ENGLISH EMBARRASS YOU? BUSINESS ENGLISH FOR BEGINNERS; LEARN ENGLISH IN JUST 10 WEEKS! Above clothing stores, bustling English-language schools are packed with eager twentysomethings from around the world. Ben Beaumont, a buoyant 28-year-old Briton, presides over a class that includes a South Korean business manager, a nurse from rural Japan and an Italian law student. "Do you want a lot of homework or a little?" he asks. The class is unequivocal: "A lot!"

Why such enthusiasm? In a word, jobs. A generation ago, only elites like diplomats and CEOs needed English for work. "The ante on what's needed is going up year by year," says Graddol. "Throughout organizations, more people need more English." In China, the Beijing Organizing Committee for the 2008 Olympics is pushing English among staff, guides, taxi drivers and ordinary citizens. For lower-middle classes in India, English can mean a ticket to a prized call-center job. "With call centers, no longer is speaking English one of the important skills to get a good job," says Raghu Prakash, who runs an English-language school in Jaipur. "It is the skill." At the new Toyota and Peugeot plant in the Czech Republic, English is the working language of the Japanese, French and Czech staff. Says Jitka Prikrylova, director of a Prague English-language school: "The world has opened up for us, and English is its language."

Governments, even linguistically protectionist ones, are starting to agree. Last year Malaysia decided to start teaching school-level math and science in English. In France, home of the Academie Francaise, whose members are given swords and charged with defending the sanctity of the French language, a commission recommended last fall that basic English be treated like basic math: as part of the mandatory core curriculum beginning in primary school. As it turns out, the minister of Education didn't agree. No matter; French schoolchildren are ahead of their government: 96 percent of them are already studying the language as an elective in school.

Technology also plays a huge role in English's global triumph. Eighty percent of the electronically stored information in the world is in English; 66 percent of the world's scientists read in it, according to the British Council. "It's very important to learn English because [computer] books are only in English," says Umberto Duirte, an Uruguayan IT student learning English in London. New technologies are helping people pick up the language, too: Chinese and Japanese students can get English-usage —tips on their mobile phones. English-language teachers point to the rise of Microsoft English, where computer users are drafting letters advised by the Windows spell check and pop-up style guides. In the temple town of Varanasi, India, Sanjukta Chaterjee says she's astonished by the way her 7-year-old son learns the language, through CDs and video. "Our teachers were strict that we should practice, and speak the language till we were near-perfect," she says. "Now there's an additional technological finesse to learning English."

Schools are becoming more and more creative. Last August, South Korea set up its first English immersion camp. The Gyeonggi English Village, built on a small island in the Yellow Sea and subsidized by the provincial government, comes complete with a Hollywood-style fake bank and airport, where students must conduct all transactions in English. "Through the camp, we want to train capable global citizens, who can help Korea win international competition in this age of globalization," says Sohn Hak Kyu, governor of Gyeonggi province, who started the program. In one class, eighth grader Chun Ho Sung, wearing a long black wig and posing as British heartthrob Orlando Bloom, sweats under the lights of a mock television studio as he prepares to be interviewed. "Do you think you are handsome?" asks the anchorwoman. Shyly, in broken English, Chun responds: "Yes, I do. I am very handsome." The audience of other students collapses in giggles.

While courses like Gyeonggi's sound simple, English and its teaching are inexorably becoming more complex. Ilan Stavans, an Amherst College professor, recently finished a translation of Cervantes's "Don Quixote" into Spanglish, the English-Spanish hybrid spoken in the United States and Mexico. Writing in the journal English Today last spring, Hu Xiaoqiong argued for reorientating China's English curriculum toward China English, incorporating Chinese phrases like "pay New Year calls," a Spring Festival tradition, and "no face," to be ashamed—as Standard English. In countries like Germany, where most kids begin English as early as the second or third grade, the market for English studies is already shrinking. German language schools no longer target English beginners but those pursuing more-expert niches: business English, phone manners or English for presentations. Beginning-English classes are filled with immigrants from places like Turkey and Russia, eager to catch up with the natives. As with migrants the world over, they're finding that their newfound land is an English-speaking one.

With Sudip Mazumdar and Hindol Sengupta in Delhi, Paul Mooney in Beijing, Katka Krosnar in Prague, Emily Flynn and Marie Valla in London, B. J. Lee in Gyeonggi, Tracy Mcnicoll in Paris, Stefan Theil in Berlin, Henk Rossouw in Johannesburg, Maria Amparo Lasso in Mexico City and Jaime Cunningham in New York

Avocados and Ice Cream - Mexican Spanish

Because I woke up at 730am and can't sleep, I want to share the history behind the word aguacates straight from a Mexican website.

AGUACATE-AHUÁCATLSu traducción etimológica es “árbol de los testículos”, en clara alusión a la forma de estos frutos. De ahuácatl, “testículo”, y cuáhuitl, “árbol”.

So if we got them from Mexico, then how come it is translated into avocat(French) and avocado(English,German, Italian)? That just shows how words can be completed mutilated from language to language, etc.

Anyway talking about Mexican Spanish, last night at my party I said 'nieve' referring to ice cream. I was chuckled at by my Catalan/Spanish friends because that means 'snow' over here. Then I thought for a second. I remember learning that was the word for ice cream in Mexico. So, this morning when I couldn't sleep I realized I was right but the word 'nieve' is used for sherbert in Mexico. But, I think 'nieve' was used on the street for ice cream and sherbert like there was no difference( from what I remember).

So, now I will to continue to check out the website. Funny how I have to keep relearning Spanish from the Mexican to the Spanish version.

February 20, 2005

Baby stable after second head removed

Updated: 6:25 a.m. ET Feb. 20, 2005
Nasif Hifnawy, head of pediatrics at Benha Children’s Hospital, told Reuters that 10-month-old Manar Maged could move all four limbs and showed no signs of paralysis.

“Manar is now breathing normally and has a normal heartbeat and blood pressure,” he added. The baby remains in intensive care at the hospital, 25 miles north of Cairo, and doctors expect her to stay there for at least seven days.

Manar was born with a rare condition known as craniopagus parasiticus, which occurs when an embryo begins to split into identical twins but fails to complete the process. One of the conjoined twins fails to develop fully in the womb.

As in the case of a girl who died after similar surgery in the Dominican Republic a year ago, the second twin had developed no body. The head that was removed from Manar had been capable of smiling and blinking but not independent life, doctors said.

The 13-strong surgical team separated Manar’s brain from the conjoined organ in small stages on Saturday, cutting off the blood supply to the extra head while preventing increased blood flow to Manar’s heart, which would have risked cardiac arrest.

Benha was chosen for its equipment and proximity to the girl’s family.
Last February, seven-week-old Rebeca Martinez died in the Dominican Republic after surgery to remove a second head.

For a picture:http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/6998205/

February 12, 2005

February 10-14 in Paris, France

Ok my dear friends, I have been a bit lazy and haven't written an update. I will upload my new website soon. I just learned I can't upload it from my home connection and need to go to an internet cafe.

So, we flew to Paris on Thursday with Ryanair. First of all, if all American airlines ran like Ryanair, maybe they wouldn't be bankrupt! But that is another story.

The only problem with Ryanair, yes we bought two round trip tickets for only 73 euros, but we had to buy two roundtrip bus tickets to the airport from Barcelona to Girona and two round trip bus tickets from the Beaveau (sp) airport to Paris. That adds up to 4 hours of travel time plus about 1.5 hours of waiting which equals 5.5 hours to get from my apartment to Paris and it costs about 170 euros. Which is American dollars is probably about 200$. I guess that isnt too bad if you have the time.

Burak has been sick so I forced him to come. He is getting better. We are staying the weekend with a friend from AIESEC in Austin, Luis, who happens to be working in Paris right now. He has an awesome place with a great bed so we just stayed at his place the first day. He was in Madrid and didn't arrive until the next day.

While Burak slept, I took the liberty to check out the grocery store. Those are so much fun to find out about the people and culture. I was in heaven when I saw 2-3 aisles of cheese!! I love cheese. So I started looking into sampling a lot of different ones. The other thing I realized, this place is more expensive that Barcelona. The vegetables and all were more. So, I decided to limit my cheese expenditures.

I also saw that the wine selection was various but it was more expensive than Spain. In Spain, Burak andI have found a nice wine for only 1.09 euros. Here in Paris, I was scared to buy something to cheap. I bought something for 3-4 euros and I could tell it wasnt very good. So even though they have good wine here, it isnt as cheap as Spain's selection.

I also noticed these people seem to be really healthy. A lot of the food choices told you what else to eat to have a complete meal. I bought a pizza for Burak and it said that he should eat a salad and something else to make it a complete meal.

I also found a store called Ed, it is actually called Dia in Spain. I also noticed it had a different name in Portugal but it was the same chain. How funny. It is the cheapest grocery store you will find in Europe. It is the same type as Aldi and Lidl. Anyway, I had fun looking in there too. I bought a flan tart because it looked so good. I am going to gain weight here. The food is so darn good!

Friday, we woke up late. We went to the top of the Eiffel Tower. I was eating an apple and afterwards Burak wanted to throw it off from the top. So he did. It took a long time to get to the bottom. Luckily, it fell on a tree or something and not a person.

At 5pm, I had an interview for a job. It is for a travel company in PA that is looking for someone to travel to vacation properties and report to the company about them. They are looking to opening up their options for their loyal customers and their business and need someone to travel and report between February and May. They would pay for food, lodging, travel, and 10-12$ an hour. Their profits go to good causes so it also makes the job sound inticing. I had to speak in French for 3 minutes and Spanish for 3 minutes to prove I could communicate in those languages since I say I can. I felt very comfortable in both. I was luckily I lived in Belgium for the holidays and most of my French had come back to me recently. Also, I was in Paris during the interview and I was having to speak French occasionally on our trip.

It sounds like I might get the job. It is such a great opportunity. They need someone to go to Italy, Greek Islands, Malta, Turkey, and other places in Western Europe.

Today is Saturday and it is 2.21pm and Burak is still sleeping. We hope to get to the Louvre today and see the Mona Lisa. It will be my 3rd time and Burak's first time. Also, we plan to meet up with an Austin friend, Ben, and his gfriend tonight and also a DC Rotex friend who is on exchange this semester in Paris.

Tomorrow, Sunday, we plan to go to Versailles just outside of Paris. In the evening, we plan to hang out with Emily, a former exchange student to El Paso from France, who lived with the Powers, Burak's host family, for a while. She actually stayed with us in Austin a few years ago too.

So, we have lots to see and about 4 friends to visit here. It makes me feel special to know so many people here.

I am off to wake up Burakus Maximus and persuade him to go to an art musuem. Wish me luck!

Take care my friends and family and other people who like to read my blog...
ciao, rubes :)