Asia Times Online carries a piece by Andrei Lankov describing how North Korea has changed over the past dozen years... after the USSR was reformed out of existence from the top down, hidden subsidies for North Korea dried up and forced similar reforms from the bottom up. Lots of historical economic insanity is included.
Off-topic -- My guess in June that media/TV coverage would shift from Iraq to social issues was fairly on-track, but I hadn't counted on the tin ear at the DNC and its aftermath... looks like they're coming around now, though. Over the next two months I predict an increase in coverage of Iran's capabilities and intentions, hoping to force public stances before the election. (But then again, while typing I'm watching Joe Lockhart's first appearance on George Stephanopolous as Kerry's "Communications Czar" right now, and he's still emphasizing Iraq, so who knows.)
BBC reports projections of world population trends over 50 years... a nice big asteroid could change all this, of course. "India is expected to grow from 1.08bn to 1.63bn people, overtaking China, which is forecast to reach 1.44bn from 1.3bn currently. The US will remain the third biggest nation, according to the report, growing to 420m from 294m people. Britain is expected to grow only slightly, to 65m, from 59.5m, while many of its European neighbours decline. In Eastern Europe the decline will be marked, if current trends continue... What the study cannot predict is how migration between nations may spread the effects of population growth." The article later goes into "but the earth's resources are increasingly stretched", and doesn't correspondingly mention how efficiencies tend to reduce resource costs for later adopters... Beeb is fed an agenda to feed to others, what else is new... the original authors is a group which has been around for 70 years, but I can't tell if they also had a coup, or where their funding comes from.
I see that a lot of people who come here are coming from search engines, with terms like "pimsleur downloads" or "audible.com downloads". Well, look no further... here's all the Pimsleur material you could ever want, and I've also got a source for audible.com too! (By the way, did you know that there are these little creatures called "mitochondria" who are hitching a free ride inside your body? It's true, I tell ya, it's true....)
Wacky resources... Chinese anti-phrasebook has lots of things you shouldn't say, like "Has your nose always been that way?", "The bellboy won't score me any coke" and "I understand your language perfectly." There's also a section on unlikely phrases from actual phrasebooks ("I can't do the cha-cha" and "I want a specimen of your urine", eg)... constructing characters for English... a long essay on language learning which contains the unique tip about the values of stress and panic... lots of good stuff here. (It also pointed me to the handy-looking Zhongwen online dictionary).
This is off-topic to learning, but I wanted to get this prediction into the public record before it was fulfilled... I suspect large newspapers and TV will, over the next two months, increasingly focus on social issues (gay marriage, stemcell research, maybe even taxatin or Prohibition), and that Iraq stories will fall in volume just as economic stories did over the previous three months. If so, then it will be interesting if there is a large aggresso-fundamentalist attack in the US before the election, because both groups will want the same outcome in the election but their means will run counter to each other (sharia vs tolerance, etc).
The mainstream media is syndicating a story today about a scientific report. The writeup says that samples from Cantonese/English, Tamil/English, and English/French groups did better on a reflexes test than did monolingual English speakers. I haven't gone to the source, but from what I pick up in a comparison of some of the syndicated stories, there are still many factors to control... hey, it's Monday, they need a headline.... ;-)
Bunch of miscellaneous observations follow. My intermediate Japanese class this week had memorization of kanji for a bunch of academic fields ("I study electromechanics", "I study pharmacology" and what-all). I bailed on it pretty quickly... I did scan each, but realized that I simply don't use those words, and would be better off putting my efforts into other areas right now. It brought home the idea that other people don't teach me... I teach myself, and I'm constantly looking for useful things in other people's willingness to help. I'm glad they're there, but they don't know my path as well as I do.
One nice thing in that class this evening was looking around and realizing how much language skill was in the class. We had two women speaking Mandarin during the break (and a few more who might have been able to)... I was sitting next to someone who I believe came from India (although I haven't sounded him out yet)... a couple of other people seemed to have roots in Europe. Perhaps a third of the class may have been using English as a second language, to learn a third... very cool.
But that gets into another thing I'm struggling with, and that's using my current language skills in the presence of native speakers. I've been very conscious this week of people in my workplace who are native speakers of Japanese, Chinese, and Hindi... I'm really quite fortunate to be working in a place with such a variety of experience. Yet I'm extremely bashful to say how much I'm interested in what they have already experienced in their lives. I like eavesdropping... it's thrilling to hear them speak among each other, matter of fact... but I feel like a dork for not stepping forward with my teeny-weeny signs of respect. I'll find a way through this eventually, I know, but right now it's bothering me.....
On the good side (for me at least), I'm starting to understand that many people in my class have been studying for much, much longer than I have, and that I'm actually making good progress. The Pimselur method doesn't take me very far very quickly, but I do have a better base than I might otherwise have... my reading sucks, but pronunciation, intonation, rhythm and flow are better than for someone who may have relied primarily on classroom experience. (My reading/writing has improved greatly over the last two weeks, but it's still nowhere near automatic.) It's hard right now, but it's very encouraging to see that I'm making progress commesurate with the effort.