Friday, December 1, 2017

Mesomerican Map of Mexico City

This might be of some interest to some folks out there as hung up on maps as I am. The Codex Quetzalecatzin, an extremely rare colored Mesoamerican manuscript has been digitized and put online by the Library of Congress.

The Library has scanned the illustrated document--essentially a map of Mexico City and Puebla, drawn up for both Spanish colonizers and indigenous people to lay claim to the land--in super hi-res for the public and scholars worldwide to pore over. It dates from between 1570 and 1595.

According to John Hessler of the Library’s Worlds Revealed blog, the map depicts the land owned by the de Leon family.

As is typical for an Aztec, or Nahuatl, codex of this early date, it relates the extent of land ownership and properties of a family line known as “de Leon,” most of the members of which are depicted on the manuscript. With Nahuatl stylized graphics and hieroglyphs, it illustrates the family’s genealogy and their descent from Lord-11 Quetzalecatzin, who in 1480, was the major political leader of the region. It is from him the Codex derives one of its many names.

The map is one of 450 surviving pictorial manuscripts of the Mesoamerican period, and contains natural pigments such as Maya blue and cochineal red (made from insects).

Click here to find the digitized version of the Codex Quetzalecatzin at the Library of Congress.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Mapping The Amount Of Time It Takes To Learn A Foreign Language

In most RPG's there are allowances for characters with a high enough intelligence to learn additional languages. Quite a few systems are vague on the details and allow the DM to come up with his own time frame on how long this would take. I found these real world examples quite enlightening. That and I'm a sucker for maps.

The map above  visualizes the languages of Europe (at least those deemed diplomatically important enough to be taught at the FSI), coloring them according the average time commitment they require of an English speaker. In pink, we have the English-speaking countries. The red countries speak Category I languages, those most closely related to English and thus learnable in 575 to 600 hours of study: the traditional high-school foreign languages of Spanish and French, for instance, or the less commonly taught but just about as easily learnable Portuguese and Italian. If you'd like a little more challenge, why not try your hand at German, whose 750 hours of study puts it in Category II — quite literally, a category of its own?

In total, the FSI ranks languages into six categories of difficulty, including English's Category 0. The higher up the scale you go, the less recognizable the languages might look to an English-speaking monoglot. Category III contains no European languages at all (though it does contain Indonesian, widely regarded as one of the objectively easiest languages to learn). Category IV offers a huge variety of languages from Amharic to Czech to Nepali to Tagalog, each demanding 44 weeks (or 1100 hours) of study. Then, at the very summit of the linguistic mountain, we find the switched-up grammar, highly unfamiliar scripts, and potentially mystifying cultural assumptions of Category V, "languages which are exceptionally difficult for native English speakers."

To that most formidable group belong Arabic, Chinese both Mandarin and Cantonese, Korean, and — this with an asterisk meaning "usually more difficult than other languages in the same category" — Japanese. Now if, like me, you consider studying foreign languages one of your main pursuits, you know that possessing a genuine interest in a language — in its mechanics, in its ongoing evolution, in the cultures that created it and the cultures it in turn creates — can do wonders to get you through even the most aggravating difficulties on the long journey to commanding it. Then again, I'm also a native English speaker who chose to move to Korea, where I study not just the Category-V Korean but the Category-V* Japanese through Korean; you might want to take with a grain of salt the words, in any language, of so obvious a masochist.

You'll find the full Foreign Service Institute language difficulty ranking list below.

Category I: 23-24 weeks (575-600 hours)Languages closely related to English 
Italian Norwegian

Category II: 30 weeks (750 hours)Languages similar to English 

Category III: 36 weeks (900 hours)Languages with linguistic and/or cultural differences from English

Category IV: 44 weeks (1100 hours)Languages with significant linguistic and/or cultural differences from English 
Persian (Dari, Farsi, Tajik)

Category V: 88 weeks (2200 hours)Languages which are exceptionally difficult for native English speakers 
Cantonese (Chinese)
Mandarin (Chinese)
* Usually more difficult than other languages in the same category

Friday, November 24, 2017

Mapping Thanksgiving

Here's what your part of America eats on Thanksgiving.

Who eats what where? This Survey  about Thanksgiving traditions had 1,058 respondents.

Some things like chicken, pork and roast beef got cursory shout-outs as main Thanksgiving dishes, but turkey rules, with 82 percent of respondents saying the other, other white meat is the centerpiece of their meal. When you get past the poultry and check out the side dishes, though, the regional distinctions really come out.

Here’s the most disproportionately consumed side dish in each region:

Full Article

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Navigating the Top 100 NPR SF/Fantasy Books

As much of an avid reader that think I am, there are still several works on here I have not yet gotten to. The decision tree makes it so much easier for anyone looking for their particular flavor in reading material. Have at it all you avid readers.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Veni, Vidi, Dead: A Death Map of Roman Emperors

For more on the Roman Empire, its leaders and their deaths, check out the Totalus Rankium Twitter feed and podcast. Causes of death graph found here on Reddit.

Original Article

Friday, September 22, 2017

The Hobbit Turns 80

It was exactly 80 years ago that Bilbo went There and Back Again for the first time. Bilbo, the bravest little hobbit of them all.
And in two short months the Rank&Bass animated version will turn 40.

A quick note for hardcore fans of The Hobbit—those like me who reread and try to encourage others to read it—you should know that the excellent The Prancing Pony Podcast is about to embark on an in-depth discussion of the book, with each episode dedicated to a chapter.