A return to blogging

Well, I let my blog drift again.  I guess I did warn people that it would probably happen.  But while I was silent, a number of visitors showed that some of the posts were useful.  Oddly enough, my post about the Backstreet Boys in concert in Guadalajara was the most viewed.  I reckon the boy band fan base is a lot larger than people think.

I hope to get back into the whole website/blogging thing.  Now winter is coming, maybe there’ll be more late nights to do it.  Stay tuned …

Two underrated albums

I have two albums in my iTunes collection that I think deserve a bit a positive press. The first I downloaded last year was a freebie called We Are Smug, by Darren Hayes (of Savage Garden fame) and Robert Conley.

Darren Hayes is a pretty arrogant little artist, who perhaps let fame get to him a little much. Since finishing with his Savage Garden partner and brand and launching off on his own, his career has fallen with every album, despite them being overall very good pop albums.

Darren Hayes suffers from a curse in that he’s known for writing cheesy pop love songs, and his voice often suits that style, but his art wants to take him in a more electro-alternative direction. In an interview, he sounded almost grumpy that his new album (Secret Codes and Battleships) had to be another sweet pop album, albeit (again) a very good one.

We Are Smug was done pretty much only by Darren and Robert, released as a free download on the net with no publicity or marketing, so Darren was free to let loose and create songs just like he wanted. And it shows – the album is more of a true mirror to Darren’s art and personality. It’s snarky and sarcastic, fun and risqué, full of experimental and old-school electronic elements, bewilderment at lost fame, yet unapologetic and brash. I love it.

Because it’s not promoted, only hard-core fans had probably looked for this album. It’s not generic pop music for the radio. But it’s well worth the download, not least because it’s still free.

The second is one I’ve just bought – Joe Jonas’ Fastlife. I’ve read a couple of reviews who said things like ‘he’s trying to be R&B’ ‘it doesn’t work’ ‘he doesn’t sound like he means what he’s singing’ ‘it falls flat’. Now I’m way too old to be a Jonas Brothers fan, but now that Joe Jonas is all growed up, I can at least be a Mr Joe fan. I reckon that most reviewers have pre-judged him “Oh look, a Jonas brother trying to make a real record.”

In reality, this is a very good pop record. Like Britney Spears (who he’s currently touring with), he’s harnessed a bunch of great producers and musicians to make his songs sound good. Unlike Britney, he can write clever, mainstream, catchy pop songs that work really well within the R&B/dance/pop pastiche that is applied over them.

So get over the whole teen-screaming J-Brothers thing and crank up Fastlife on the radio when you want a cool up-tempo beat and some smooth pop.

Time Zone Refresh Part III – The United States of America

The USA really does have a grand name, doesn’t it.  Unfortunately it’s not an entirely accurate name, as the country doesn’t even unite the states of North America, let alone all of America.  Only the 48 states in a central zone of North America, Alaska, the Hawaiian Islands and a few other territories are included.  But as currently the most powerful country on earth, the USA deserves its grand name. 

Many people inside and outside the USA grumble that the country just can’t seem to get some essential things right: debt, healthcare, immigration, plutocracy.  I can’t help the US with these problems, but at least I can fix their time zones!

Go here to see my Time Zone Refresh for Mexico and Canada.

At the moment, the USA has the following time zones:

Hawaii Time Zone (-10 GMT):  Hawaii

Alaska Time Zone (-9 GMT):  Alaska

Pacific Time Zone (-8 GMT):  Washington, Oregon (excluding an eastern segment), Nevada, California, North Idaho.

Mountain Time Zone (-7 GMT):  Montana, Idaho (excluding the northern panhandle), Wyoming, Utah, Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, El Paso Texas, southwest North Dakota, western South Dakota and Nebraska, and a sliver of west Kansas.

Central Time Zone (-6 GMT):  The remainder of North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska; almost all of Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas (excluding El Paso), Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana, Wisconsin, Illinois, the northwest sliver of Michigan, west Kentucky, west Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, and the western part of the Florida panhandle. 

Eastern Time Zone (-5 GMT):  Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Delaware, West Virginia, most of Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, east Kentucky, East Tennessee, Maryland, District of Columbia, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida.

Daylight Savings is used by most places, except Arizona (excluding some First Nations in the northeast), and Indiana. 

There is a strong possibility I got a few details incorrect, missed a few exceptions to these time zones, or even missed an entire state.  If you know of any problems, please let me know and I’ll update this post.

Here are the changes that should be made.

Alaska needs to move one hour back, to join Hawaii at -10 GMT.  The Alaskan panhandle however should stay at -9 GMT – also called the new Yukon Time Zone. 

All of Oregon and Idaho need to be in the Pacific Time Zone.  Also, Montana west of the Continental Divide/Helena should be there too.

Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas need to join the Mountain/Plains Time Zone, as does the remainder of North Dakota, South Dakota and Nebraska.

The following states need to move into the Central Time Zone: Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee and Georgia.  The remainder of Kentucky, Tennessee and all of the Florida panhandle west of Highway 75 need to do the same.  If Georgia really compains, maybe the coastal third of the state could stay in the Eastern Time Zone.

All in all, the USA hasn’t done too badly in their interpretations of time zones, with the exception of Alaska.  The states just need to be moved around some to better align with the real time zones.  I haven’t split states by time zones, except where there’s a clear geographical split like a mountain range or a panhandle. 

As usual, I dislike Daylight Savings, but if a state decides to adopt it, they should exercise their power and apply it over the entire state.

The Price of Milk

I was stunned to hear that the cheapest price for 2 liters of milk in New Zealand is now $4.30 ($USD 3.30, or 3.7 grams silver.)  Here in Mexico, the price of 2 liters of milk is 15.8 pesos ($USD 1.29, or 1.4 grams silver.)

One of New Zealand’s largest export earners is dairy products.  It’s famous for its green rolling pastures, long growing season, few diseases, highly efficient farms, and advanced dairy technology.  Mexico has only a few dairy farms, is a semi-arid country, and is known for needing to bring in cow feed most of the year, hot, dry summers, inefficient farming methods, and low use of technology.

Neither country uses subsidies or tariffs for its dairy products anymore.

What am I missing here?

Good small urban spaces

Brandon at mastersplanning posted this old New York City study by the Municipal Art Society of New York.  It has a whole bundle of clips illustrating what makes a good city public space.  I found it fascinating. 

Here’s the video: 

The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces

Some of the key lessons I learned from it:

  • Big empty spaces, by themselves, are very unpopular.
  • People want to be seen by people.  Social interaction happens at the centre of other people’s attention: the street corner, the subway entrance, the square’s main feature.
  • Basic durable geometric shapes are great for sitting, playing, and talking.
  • Places to sit are most important: at least a 1:30 ratio of space needs to be given to objects you can sit on.
  • Make everything people-friendly:  different sitting combinations, water you can touch and grass to play on, sculptures and windows to inside activities, and so on.  
  • Give people lots of choices.  Even something as simple as being able to move a chair makes people feel better.
  • Keep a close relationship to the street.  Don’t separate public spaces from movement and action. 
  • Water features are great, especially moving water.  Greenery is nice too, even token amounts.
  • Build spaces in proportion to buildings.  Don’t over-scale either of them.

The interesting thing for me, watching this video, was seeing how well Mexico towns and cities do all this instinctively.  Many public works in Mexico are dismal, but public spaces are not.  Whenever you go to a downtown, there will be fountains, plenty of places to sit, lots of activities for the kids, food stalls, exhibitions and shows, shops all facing the street, good public transport, pedestrian malls, underground or behind-wall parking, friendly security, historic buildings - and many more things that make Mexico plazas a joy to hang out in.  Rather than field trips to Old Europe, urban design students would do better to go to Mexico.

Time Zone Refresh Part II – Canada

Canada is a country that’s dear to my heart.  There are many great good things about Canada: the Rockies, the friendly people, the liberal attitude, the multicultural, dynamic cities, but its time zones need a bit of a refresh. 

Go here to see my Time Zone Refresh for Mexico.

At the moment, Canada’s provinces have the following time zones:

Yukon Territory: Pacific Time (-8 GMT).  Daylight Savings – yes.

British Columbia: Pacific Time (-8 GMT).  Daylight Savings – yes, except for Fort St. John, Charlie Lake, Taylor and Dawson Creek in northeast BC, and Creston in southeast BC.

Northwest Territories: Mountain Time (-7 GMT).  Daylight Savings – yes.

Alberta: Mountain Time (-7 GMT).  Daylight Savings – yes.

Saskatchewan: Mountain Time. (-7 GMT)  Daylight Savings – no.  Also, the town of Lloydminster is on the border of Saskatchewan and Alberta, so it joins Alberta’s time.

Manitoba: Central Time (-6 GMT).  Daylight Savings – yes.

Nunavut: Nunavut east of 102° West, and all communities in the Kitikmeot Region, follow Mountain Time (-7 GMT).  Central Time (-6 GMT) is followed between 85° West and 102° West, except for western Southampton Island.  Eastern Time (-5 GMT) is followed east of 85° West, and for Southampton Island.  The land east of Iqaluit is on Atlantic Time (-4 GMT), with a few exceptions.  Daylight Savings – yes, except for Southampton Island.

Ontario: Central Time (-6 GMT) is observed west of Thunder Bay, excluding Atikokan, and Eastern Time (-5 GMT) is observed by the rest.  Daylight Savings – yes.

Quebec: Eastern Time (-5 GMT), except for far eastern Côte-Nord and the Magdalen Islands, which are on Atlantic Time (-4 GMT).  Daylight Savings – yes, with a number of municipal exceptions.

New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Labrador: Atlantic Time (-4 GMT).  Daylight Savings – yes, except for land east of 63° West. 

Newfoundland: Newfoundland Time (-3.5 GMT).  Daylight Savings – no.

What a mess!  There is a strong possibility I got a few details incorrect, or missed a few exceptions to these time zones.  If you know of any problems, please let me know and I’ll update this post.

Now for the easier part – giving poor ol’ Canada a better set of time zones. 

Yukon: sorry, but you really do need your own time zone.  And since you’re the only decent-sized piece of land within your GMT, let’s call it Yukon Time -9 GMT.

British Columbia and Alberta: you should both be in Pacific Time.  While parts of BC and Alberta are east and west of this time zone, most of the population is within it.

Saskatchewan should be in the Mountain Time zone.  The name doesn’t make much sense, with Saskatchewan being as flat as a pancake.  So lets call it “Plains Time” zone.

Manitoba is difficult to place, as it is halfway between Plains Time and Central Time.  Winnipeg has 60% of the population and is closer to Ontario than Saskatchewan, and Manitoba is already Central Time, so let’s keep it there.  But if they want to switch, or divide their province into two time zones, I have no problem with that.

Ontario should still have two time zones (Central and Eastern), but the boundary should be in a different place – at 82.5° West, in other words from the town of Timmins westward.  This keeps Toronto, the Great Lakes peninsula and Ottawa in the Eastern Time zone, but puts more of hinterland Ontario in the Central Time zone.

Quebec is perfect where it is, in the Eastern Time zone.

The Maritime provinces likewise are perfect in their Atlantic Time zone, except for Newfoundland.  Why it is still half an hour ahead of the rest of the Maritimes I’ll never understand.  I know Newfoundland was still a dominion when the time zones were set up, but let’s rectify that now.  Newfoundland needs to be Atlantic Time, -4 GMT.

The territories of Nunavut and the Northwest Territories are impossible to place into any one time zone, as they are so large.  So let’s make it easy and simply apply the four main time zones where they fall, and fit the northeast and northwest corners of these territories into their nearest zone.  West of 112.5° is Pacific Time, between 112.5° and 97.5° is Plains Time, between 97.5° and 82.5° is Central Time, and east of 82.5° is Eastern Time.  After all, the combined population of both territories is less than 75,000, mostly spread out among tiny towns isolated from each other.  It makes sense for each town to have its appropriate time.

And Daylight Savings?  I dislike the notion, but if a province decides to adopt it, they should exercise their power and apply it over the entire province.  All these exceptions are ridiculous.

Julian Assange

Julian Assange, Wikileaks founder


I am very concerned for Julian Assange, the founder of Wikileaks.  His website used to be an amusing outlet valve for delicious little secrets that organisations had tried to keep hidden.  But now he’s releasing information about major world governments, and they are pissed.

Granted, I haven’t read anything so far that has really surprised me.  The latest news explosion, where U.S. diplomats think that Mexico’s armed forces are bureaucratic, corrupt, untrained and unfit to take on sophisticated drug trafficking organisations (DTOs), won’t be news to anyone in Mexico.  And remember, the army was sent in because the police are even worse. 

All the Wikileaks cables are releasing is information that is already known, or at least suspected, but is just not talked about in offical government circles.  To show that such things ARE talked about in non-official government circles is apparently a big deal.

The U.S. has been most strident in its condemnation of Wikileaks.  Crazy Tea Party Lady Sarah Palin has called for his blood to run, as have government officials and leaders.  They’ve been putting pressure on other governments and agencies to do their part in cornering Julian Assange, with the hope that this particular snake won’t be a Hydra

I know there are some concerns that Wikileaks is harming diplomacy and putting lives at risk.  That may have been a problem with previous releases of Iraq war information and details of informants, but I understand that since the first contentious release Wikileaks has been very careful to edit out details that would risk combatants lives.  It is sadly amusing however to see that the greatest outbusts of condemnation have not come after publishing accurate war data, but after revealing the words of world leaders to their subjects.

I believe that on balance Wikileaks is supporting democracy, and the right of citizens to find out the truth of what their governments are actually doing behind their back, the better to hold them to account.  We can applaud the governments who are actually doing in private what they said they’d do in public, and shame those who are doing the opposite. 

Yet the self-righteous, hypocritical politicians appear to be very thin-skinned.  They have schemes to take down the public face of Wikileaks, and hopefully the organisation with it.  Julian is a brave man.  He has done what many of us would dare not.  And he will probably pay a major price for it, beyond being forced into hiding.  I just hope that he’s set up his organisation to survive and thrive after he’s gone.  Our world is more open and just with Wikileaks around, however much it hurts the pride of national leaders. 

I’m rooting for Julian.

The Summer Olympics Needs to Go on a Diet

The brilliant Vancouver Winter Olympic Games last month triggered memories of recent summer Olympic Games and how massive they were.  I was going to begin this blog with a blaze of statistics and graphs on the numbers of athletes, events, and budgets of the Summer Olympic Games, and how they have grown over the years.  However, such statistics aren’t that easy to come by in a collective form, so rather than spending hours collating the statistics myself, I’ll rely instead on hyperbole and conjecture.  Sorry.

The number of events in the Olympics need to be cut.  The head-count of athletes participating is now around 10,500, and the number of individual events is over 300.  This means massive infrastructure investments by the host city and nation, and rarely does the spectacle turn a profit.  It also restricts all but major wealthy world cities from hosting the Games. 

Don’t get me wrong, I love the Olympic Games.  But I’m concerned about the cost of the games, which limits the number of cities that can host them.  I also think that the Olympic formula and schedule is set up for individual competitors, not multi-game team sports.

A way to reduce the current bulk of the Games is to return the Summer Olympics to its focus on efforts by individuals, and also units (like doubles or quad rowing).  So although the events for the London 2012 Olympics have already been chosen, if it were up to me, these would get the cut:

Basketball, football, handball, hockey, synchronised swimming, water polo, and volleyball (beach and regular).  I’d also get rid of rugby sevens which is coming to Rio de Janiero 2016.

To further reduce athlete numbers, the “team” events in running, swimming, cycling, and other speed sports should also be taken out. 

I don’t advocate a forced raising of qualification standards to reduce athlete numbers, as this would reduce the number of athletes from small nations and diminish worldwide interest in the games.  And in some events like the 100 m running, the athlete skill level range is so narrow that cutting back the number of participants may cut out a potential medal winner.

The Winter Olympics, Paralympics and Youth Olympics don’t seem to be as clogged with sport events and athletes, so there’s no reason to trim things out there. 

At least the IOC seems to be cutting back on some team events.  For example, baseball, polo, rugby, softball, and bizarrely, tug-of-war, have been taken out of the Olympic canon.  It should keep up this trend.

First Olympic opening ceremony

The modern Olympic Games' first opening ceremony in Athens 1896.

Beijing 2009 Olympics opening ceremony

The latest summer Olympics opening ceremony in Beijing 2008. The pitch is getting mighty crowded!

Five Ways for Mexico to Improve its Natural Environment

After living here for 6 months, it’s apparent that Mexico’s natural environment is not in the best of shapes.  Other Mexicans I talk to freely admit it as well.  The country is running out of water, smog and forest fires clog the cities and drift through the countryside, and I haven’t yet seen one natural body of water that isn’t polluted.

So here are five practical ways for Mexico to make substantial environmental improvements that would (in the long term): increase agricultural productivity, increase lifespans, and improve the quality of life for most Mexicans.

1.  Sustainable tree plantations

Mexico, like many less developed nations, has already cut down most of its forests over the past centuries.  However the remaining vegetation cover is still decreasing as trees are cut for firewood.  Vegetation is regularly burnt for short-term soil productivity with little thought for the long-term consequences that are evident today.

The removal of vegetation is now mostly done by subsistence farmers and villagers.  I don’t see an easy way to hinder this practice without offering some economic incentive.

Mexico should start wide-scale plantations of fast-growing, drought-resistant trees on land without existing forests.  Pines seem to do particularly well in the higher altitudes, and perhaps some broadleaf species in the tropical areas.

This would have many benefits.  It would create many higher-paid labouring jobs.  Mexico would have a local timber source, making wood cheaper than its prohibitive price at the moment.  People living nearby could use the waste material for firewood.  Soil would erode less, protecting waterways that are now silt-laden.  And over time, the micro-climates of these areas would become wetter and cooler, or at least help protect against the drying and heating effects of the changing climate. 

2.  Algae biomass energy

Northern Mexican states in particular have a lot of sun and open plains with not much wind.  These are ideal conditions to grow algae.  Specifically, algal strains that have a high oil content and can be harvested for ethanol and petroleum substitutes. 

If this know-how was distributed among locals, towns could set up their own small production areas and refining plants.  They would start small for local resale, and build up to large-scale production if there is investment potential.

This would generate new jobs, new skill sets, and would create a clean, renewable, and efficient fuel source.

3.  A limit on particulates from vehicles and factories

With not much wind, particulate pollution is a major problem in Mexico.  Mexico City has been famous for it for decades, and the blight has spread to other major cities and many inland farm areas. 

A regulatory solution needs to be put in place here.  A smog check every year for example as in California, and allowing police to pull cars and trucks off the road permanently if their exhaust particulate levels are above a certain level.  Of course this would need to be phased in over time so people get used to the idea and to limit economic impacts on the poor, but eventually the air would start to clear.

The industrial pollution is tougher to deal with, given the entrenchment of volatile unions and endemic corruption. I think a small, national agency of well-paid and educated officers could be commissioned to enforce pollution standards.  They would need wide-ranging powers, such as forcing factory closures and imposing (collectable) fines.  These fines should make the agency self-sufficient for income. 

This agency could be sent out to target the worst offenders that can’t be arsed to voluntarily clean up their emissions, while educating other industries about effective ways to meet the standards.  This technique is not “fair”, as some polluters will be ignored while others are targeted.  But this is the only way I see to make sure the agency doesn’t become bloated, inefficient and ultimately corrupt.

Hopefully the threat of prosecution would be enough to turn the tide of significant industrial air pollution.

4.  Secondary and tertiary treatment of point-source water pollution

This is a given in developed countries, and Mexico must follow their lead.  At the moment most sewage and industrial toxins are drained into the nearest waterway or harbour.  This renders almost all water sources polluted for drinking or swimming without extensive, expensive treatment. 

Yes it costs money to remove these pollutants, but I suspect the cost of the status quo is worse, both in economic and social (not to mention environmental) terms.

Point-source pollution is the easiest and most efficient to remove.  The major cities should lead the way, followed by the smaller cities and towns.  Heavy industry should also be comprehensively targeted to clean up their act. 

5.  Follow through on good ideas

Mexico is littered with great ideas by Mexican governments and organisations that start well, but aren’t given the necessary resources and monitoring to make them successful even in the medium-term.  And ok, maybe this isn’t a “practical” thing to improve the environment, but if the previous four things, and all the other well-intentioned large-scale programmes in Mexico, are to have any hope of making a real improvement in Mexican life, managers need to realise that starting the project is usually only 10% of the effort needed. 

I think Mexicans know what needs to be done.  Most likely these ideas and better ones have been thought through and trialled.  But the more insidious problems of poor project management, limited funding and corruption hamstring them.

Sometimes I bemoan the lack of common sense about many things in Mexico.  Simple things sometimes, like not planning for cyclists and pedestrians when building a road, or piling industrial trash in a residential area.  But perhaps the actual problem is a lack of big-picture thinking.  Long-term thinking.  Integration.  Sustainability.  And placing the public good above private gain (which for environmental issues leaves everyone better off). 

How to introduce this?  Well, that’s a much longer blog post for another time.

English Around the World

I’m not biased.  At least, I don’t think so.  But English really does seem to be becoming the new “lingua franca”.  Almost every country in the world is full of people wanting to learn English.

Here in Mexico, the cities are loaded with language schools teaching English.  other languages are taught, but the classes are overwhelmingly English.  Bilingual schools are becoming more common.  Most secondary and university courses have compulsory English classes.  People here truly believe that English is essential to them advancing in the workplace and in life.  Almost no-one speaks English in everyday life here.  But many know English to a greater or lesser extent for their job or for travel. 

The need for English follows from Mexico’s economic dependence on the United States.  Mexico has a large proportion of the U.S.’s manufacturing, call centres and casual labour.  Other latin american countries perhaps are not so closely linked to an English-speaking country, but as the language of business it is becoming more common in those places as well.

I’m going to Europe for the first time in a month, for two and a half weeks.  I’ll visit the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland and France.  I know virtually nothing of Dutch, French or German.  But I’m not worried.  The majority of people in Europe know at least two, if not three or more languages, and English is the primary second-tongue.  They say that the French dislike speaking English, and understandably so given their history.  But I’m expecting that most can still communicate with me in English if they want to. 

India, China, Japan, Korea – the major asian nations are teaching their citizens English.  The demand for native English speakers to do the teaching is high.  Many young people from English-speaking countries head to these countries to teach English to adults and kids alike.  It’s a common way to experience a different culture and get paid for it.  Unfortunately teaching English in Mexico is paid poorly.  But some countries pay a lot more – a friend of mine taught English in Dubai, and was paid $US 60,000 per year, with minimal taxes. 

The other language that is starting to challenge English as a business (and therefore worldwide) language is Chinese (Mandarin and Cantonese).  Two schools here in Guadalajara are trilingual – they have classes in Spanish, English and Chinese.  China is rapidly becoming a world superpower with approximately 1.4 billion inhabitants, a massive and exploding economy, and increasingly more influence on the world stage.

Excluding a few schools that are up with the play, most schools in New Zealand still only offer three language classes – French, Japanese and Maori.  Maori is important as an official language of the country.  However my recommendation is for schools to 1) make a second language compulsory and a third language optional, 2) broaden the language options available to students, and 3) make the compulsory second language a choice of Maori, Spanish or Chinese.

But that’s a side topic from my main observation – how much English is dominating as a global language.  A science-fiction series Dave and I are listening to on audiobook describes “Common” – a slightly-modified English – as the language of the world.  Give it a decade or so, and this could well become science fact. 

I’m not exactly sure why this is happening.  I have a few theories though.  Maybe the dominance of the United States of America in the world economy has pushed it, combined with the reluctance of native English speakers (from the U.S., New Zealand, Australia, England etc.) to learn a second language.  If you need to communicate with someone, and he/she is arrogant enough to not bother to learn your language, you have to learn English.

“So if English is going to become the world language, why bother learning other languages?” you may ask.  A few reasons to think about:

  1. Knowing a language is an entry into a culture.  You can appreciate songs, sayings, idioms, stories, and values of different cultures.
  2. Not everyone will be able to speak English, especially less-educated people.  More importantly, foreigners may not want to speak English.  If you do not speak the language of the people you are visiting, your ability to influence, to understand, to enjoy, to effectively interact, will be limited.
  3. It is arrogant to assume that just because most people will be able to speak English, that English is the language that should be spoken.  If you truly believe this, you are a poor citizen of the world. 

So if you’re not bilingual, try to become so.  If you’re bilingual, try to become trilingual.  But if you have to travel or do business and you only have one tongue to talk in, just be grateful that English is becoming the common language of the world.