Recently, a Czech linguist named Jakob Murian came up with an estimate of the number of languages your average European speaks. The study is complicated, however, by the question of how much you need to know to really understand a given language. At the LRB’s blog, Glen Newey asks: are you fluent when you can order a beer, or when you can translate Virgil? Pair with: Abigail Rasminsky on learning to speak German.
"Her pincers tore at me... I stormed her openings as if she was a beleaguered fortress." We're wincing-slash-laughing at Lapham's Quarterly's infographic of authors' attempts to put sex down on the page throughout history. Pair with author Julia Fierro's great piece about trying to *do it* in her first novel.
We've been back from our holiday travels for a few days, and I've finally had some time to catch up with some online reading. Here are some articles and links that caught my eye. (Several of these come from Arts and Letters Daily)From Scientific American, a look at last year's tsunami and how scientists have used this real life event to validate and augment various previously untested theories about these rare, cataclysmic events.The 2005 Dubious Data Awards: the Statistical Assessment Service (STATS) at George Mason University highlights several examples of overhyped news stories based on dubious numbers.From Wired: Will the impending bird-flu pandemic be a global version of "the boy who cried wolf?" Scientists are trying to assess the real danger using supercomputers to play out fantastically complicated simulations that remind me of SimCity.In the Washington Post, Jonathan Yardley "reconsiders" C.S. Forester's Horatio Hornblower saga. He suggests Beat to Quarters as the best in the series.I've definitely become very interested in the business of newspapers in the last few years. Mike Hughlett's article in the Chicago Tribune is a little "inside baseball," but it lays out how important classified ads are to newspapers, and explains why newspapers aren't as imperiled in the in online classified arena as some might suggest.Another tough business is opening a coffee shop. Michael Idov shares the harrowing details of his experience at Slate.A no-frills list of the bestselling books from 1900 to 1998, year by year.
Nemesis, the latest from Philip Roth is now out. Other new fiction this week includes Nicole Krauss' Great House and Myla Goldberg's The False Friend. In non-fiction, Steven Johnson takes on a thought-provoking topic with Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation. Also new are Ron Chernow's massive biography of George Washington and a new book from Bill Bryson, At Home: A Short History of Private Life.