16 June 2006

Mind Your Step!

Be careful when walking into someone's bathroom!

15 June 2006

With Liberty and English for all

I think everyone should have the attitude to want to learn the language of whatever country they want to live in and that they should be proficient in the countries national language before being allowed to apply for citizenship.
Making new laws to learn English, eliminates those who are simply too lazy to want to learn and believe me, this was very evident in Florida, where English is being pushed into second place in some schools and sends the wrong signals.

Here's an article from Yahoo, on the current events in the U.S.:

In the highly charged debate on curbing illegal immigration, one idea generates a bright display of sparks: mandating English as the US language. It's dubbed either racist or jingoistic, but between those crackling positions there's room for reasoned discussion.

Last month, the Senate sparred over this subject, and sadly, the racist shot was fired. But is it racist to be concerned about the ascendancy of a non-English language in this melting-pot country? Nationally, that language is Spanish, but locally, it can just as easily be Ethiopian or Russian.

Common civic values, not ethnicity or race, unite America. And it takes communication of those values through a single language to hold together the diverse cultures that make the US unique and strong. Look no further than Canada and secessionist-minded French-speaking Quebec to see the splits that develop in the absence of language glue.

Neither is the preservation of English merely overly patriotic. For immigrants, English is the path to a better future – to higher-skilled jobs and meaningful citizenship.

As Congress considers legislation to preserve English as the nation's language, and as English-only bills are pending in nine states (27 states already have them), it's worth examining how endangered English is.
According to the 2000 Census, 92 percent of the US population age 5 and older has no difficulty speaking English. And a recent Zogby poll shows that a vast majority (84 percent), supports English as the national language, including 71 percent of Hispanics. English is the most studied second language in the world, preferred in many venues.

But this reassuring big picture obscures a troubling close-up. The same Census reported that only a little more than half of those who speak only Spanish at home – by far the largest foreign language group in the US – reported speaking English "very well." That's a worrisome skill deficit. Also, a 2004 poll by the Pew Hispanic Center shows 41 percent of Hispanic immigrants do not think newcomers have to speak English to be part of American society. That's a significant minority for whom a melting-pot recipe lacks flavor.

It's no wonder that state and national politicians are unsure whether to pass English-only laws that are purely declaratory or ones that require official government communication to be in English – the latter having been successfully challenged in court. Last month, US senators couldn't decide, and passed two English-language measures, one tougher than the other.

Complicating the issue are factors that encourage large and long-lasting Spanish-only enclaves: The size and duration of Hispanic immigration – legal and illegal – is historic, with no pause for full integration.

The best government action is to make it easier for immigrants to learn English. That means finding the right bilingual or English-immersion mix in public schools, and providing the necessary training and funding for English adult-ed. Such classes have long waiting lists in parts of the country, yet federal funding for this instruction has remained flat despite rapidly rising immigration.

English-language laws are one approach, but a problematic one. The more practical idea is to better facilitate English learning.

13 June 2006

Cat vs Bear

Jack, a 15-pound orange-and-white cat, cat sits under a treed black bear in a backyard in West Milford, N.J., Sunday, June 4, 2006.
When the bear climbed down, the cat chased it up another nearby tree.
Neighbor Suzanne Giovanetti thought Jack was simply looking up at the bear, but soon realized the much larger animal was afraid of the hissing cat.
The cat's owners called it away and the bear ran off!

09 June 2006

The World Cup Has Arrived!

As the World Cup turns: Making the globe spin like a soccer ball
By JIM LITKE, AP Sports ColumnistJune 8, 2006

The ball has stopped wars and started them, whipsawed financial markets and sent shivers of ineluctable joy and cardiac arrest rippling across entire countries at the same moment.
And the way it rolls at the World Cup means everything.
Because of it, a tenuous truce between the government and rebels in the Ivory Coast holds firm, politicos in Mexico worry voters will ignore a presidential election, and several more in Ecuador gladly shelved their campaigns for the coming month.
"Soccer is first. The craziness surrounding soccer is second," Latin American writer and social critic Carlos Monsivais summed up recently. "Then there is the rest of the world."
From Friday until July 9, the globe will spin according to the rhythms of that ball. Teams from 32 qualifying nations will kick it in a dozen German cities for the singular honor of hoisting a cup. The trophy stands 14 inches tall, weighs 14 pounds and is made of 18-karat gold. The real measure of its heft, though, can be found in the scene it depicts: two human figures holding up the Earth.
More than the Olympics and anything short of actual war, it crowns the world's reigning superpower for the next four years.
At least a third of the planet will tune in at some point, making the Super Bowl -- what Americans still stubbornly call "football" -- seem like a pre-party. Everywhere but at taverns and cafes in practically every place but the United States, business will get done only when broadcast schedules allow.
"On June 14 at 4 p.m. we expect an epidemic of unexplained illnesses to appear," Ukrainian Prime Minister Yuriy Yekhanurov said, referring to his country's opening match against Spain, its first-ever in the World Cup.
In the home of the defending champion and only five-time winner, Brazil, both the mood and the economy could hinge on the outcome.
On the eve of the 2002 Cup, a study by HSBC Bank found the stock markets of developed countries that won the World Cup since 1966 outperformed the global average by 9 percent. And a working paper by three business professors cited recently in the Washington Post found "an economically and statistically significant negative effect on the losing country's stock market."
Wall Street, however, need not worry.
Even when its team does well, as in the 2002 tournament, America is singularly oblivious.
Writer Adam Gopnik tried to explain why by contrasting the boundless optimism of American sports -- plenty of scoring, action for its own sake -- with the low-scoring, often defensive mindset dictated by the game the rest of the world calls football.
"The World Cup is a festival of fate -- man accepting his hard circumstances, the near-certainty of his failure. There is, after all, something familiar about a contest in which nobody wins and nobody pots a goal," he wrote in the New Yorker. "Nil-nil is the score of life. This may be where the difficulty lies for Americans, who still look for Eden out there on the ballfield."
This time around, the U.S. team is bolstered by a handful of world-class players and promoted by sponsorship dollars from Nike.
This time around, there are expectations, muted though they might be.
In Japan and South Korea, the Americans successfully surfed a wave of upsets all the way to the quarterfinals. But it's both the curse and blessing of soccer in America that not enough people back home even noticed. A team used to being ignored suddenly turned up on magazine covers, network TV and President Bush's call list.
The Germans, staging the Cup for the first time since reunification, have the opposite problem.
The three-time Cup champions and runners-up to Brazil four years ago were handed a place in the field without having to qualify. Now all that remains for the host country is to walk a fine line between exhibiting too much nationalism and too little, keep hooligans and racist fans from disrupting the matches and terrorists from wreaking havoc, and recoup a $12 billion investment in infrastructure, security and marketing costs -- and win. That's the plan, anyway.
Only last month, an interviewer from Der Spiegel asked national team coach Juergen Klinsmann one more time whether "your declared goal of winning the world championship was just a trick to get people excited?"
Klinsmann, a steely sort who won a Cup playing for Germany in 1990 and now lives much of the time in laid-back California, responded coolly.
"If we talk only about the quarterfinals or the semifinals, people will get it into their heads that all is well even if we get no further than that," he said. "It's important to always be hungry for more."
Football has never lacked for motivated players.
Once described as "rude turbulence" and played at varying times down alleys, over roads and across the countryside by teams ranging from a dozen soldiers to entire villages, the game's quadrennial championship has evolved into sports' grandest global spectacle.
It was codified in England in 1863 and carried to the far corners of the world on the wings of an empire, taking hold almost everywhere but the United States. There, a few dozen student-athletes from a handful of Eastern universities quickly grew impatient with the lack of scoring and devised a game of their own.
Despite England's proselytizing abroad, nowhere was more attention lavished on the game than at home, It became a different kind of opium for the industrialized masses. Laborers spent their week in the drudgery of the mines and mills; on Saturday, they left work at noon and went straight to the pub, then to the match.
For all its early glories, the game's stature grew as word of the "Christmas truce" of 1915 spread. During World War I, near a snowy village in France, a British mortar battalion huddled in its trenches 100 yards from German lines. A year earlier, British and German troops had agreed to a brief cease-fire, ending when commanders on both sides cut the fraternization short. This Christmas Eve, the two sides exchanged carols, then shouts of "Hello Tommy, Hello Fritz," and finally, they met and swapped cigarettes.
"Somehow a ball was produced," Bertie Felstead, the last known member of the British battalion recalled a few years ago. "I remember scrambling around in the snow. There could have been 50 on each side. No one was keeping score."
That changed 50 years later when England, no longer an empire nor even the undisputed master of its game, prepared to play Germany in the 1966 Cup final on home soil.
"West Germany may beat us at our national sport today, but that would be only fair," columnist Vincent Mulchrone wrote in The Daily Mail that morning. "We beat them twice at theirs."
To be fair, football has caused at least as many conflicts as it halted, however briefly.
In 1967, both sides in Nigeria's civil war agreed to a a 48-hour cease-fire so that Pele, the Brazilian forward considered the most magical player ever, could show off his skills in an exhibition match. Last October, after Ivory Coast clinched a trip to Germany, President Laurent Gbagbo acceded to the entreaties of his football federation and restarted peace talks in a country riven by conflict since 1999.
On the other hand, a series of disputes between El Salvador and Honduras boiled over in 1969 when their national teams met to begin a three-game World Cup qualification series. A riot during the second game ruptured diplomatic relations and was followed two weeks later by the 100-hour "Soccer War" that claimed 2,000 lives.
It has been said there is no greater drama in sports than watching a team trying to validate its national character in a World Cup. That is as true today as it was in the game's formative years.
More than a half-century ago, Uruguay, the original South American power, upset Brazil, the emerging one, and eight Uruguayans were said to have dropped dead from heart attacks as the country erupted in celebration.
That depth of emotion, like the game itself, still seems hopelessly foreign to most Americans. But all it requires is a paradigm shift.
"Soccer was not meant to be enjoyed," Gopnik wrote. "It was meant to be experienced."

05 June 2006

England in the World Cup

Sven-Goran Eriksson has assured the England supporters of his determination to provide a glorious finale to his five-and-a-half-year stint as national coach by winning the FIFA World Cup™.
The Swede received an ovation from the crowd after his team hammered Jamaica 6-0 at Old Trafford on Saturday, and Eriksson admitted he is determined to succeed for these same fans.
"I am desperate to win the trophy for you," Eriksson said via the English press. "The support you have given me since my first game in the job has been very special.
"You have made me feel English. I am proud to wear the Three Lions.
"Lying ahead of us is the biggest challenge in football.
"I am so determined to achieve something special and I see no reason at all why we can't.
"When you know that over the next few weeks everybody will be watching the England team, you realise more than ever what a privilege it is to have this post.
"To have the entire nation behind you is an amazing feeling and you should not underestimate how special that makes England in football.
"I have lived and managed in different countries in Europe, but the love you have here for the game and for England takes my breath away."
England head for Germany with six wins and 17 goals from the last six games.
The next time Eriksson sends a team out, it will be against Paraguay in Frankfurt on Saturday in their tournament opener.
He seems to have settled on his team for the first game as long as defensive trio John Terry, Ashley Cole and Gary Neville overcome their injury scares.
Cole needed a scan on a thigh muscle after the Jamaica game, but it showed no damage and he should be ready in time to play.
Jermain Defoe, meanwhile, will fly to Germany with the squad as cover for Wayne Rooney, but the rest of the stand-by players have been released.
England are likely to take on Paraguay with a 4-4-2 system with Peter Crouch partnering Michael Owen up front.
Crouch claimed a hat-trick against Jamaica, although his first was helped over the line by defender Omar Daley.
The trio took his international tally to five in eight games and Owen also found the net for the first time since he broke his foot in December.