Greetings from Kyrgyzstan

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Привет из Бишкеке! (Greetings from Bishkek!)

My name is Rachel, and I am a content moderator at Sporcle. For the next three and half months I’ll be finishing my degree in Russian Studies by studying advanced Russian (and basic Kyrgyz) in the wonderful city of Bishkek. Since I know how much Sporcle loves Kyrgyzstan, I’ll be sharing my experiences in a series of blog posts.

First Impressions of Kyrgyzstan

Within hours of arriving, I was struck by how the people here are kind and caring. While smiling on the street and small talk is still not common (a holdover from Soviet times), Kyrygz are incredibly helpful when you have a question or need directions (a common experience– since many streets have multiple names.)

Kyrgyzstan is a relationship-centered culture, and the door to my host family’s house is constantly open to an endless stream of family members, neighbors and friends. I have given up trying to mentally keep tabs on who is who, and just assume everyone is family somehow – since even I’m introduced as the ‘American daughter’ of my Kyrgyz host ‘mother’.

Cookies, Intellectual Discourse and the World Nomad Games

Hospitality is an art here, and the Kyrgyz are experts. There is a never-ending supply of tea, cookies and other yummy food that make me feel at home (or, if not at home exactly, at least very well fed). Conversation is very important, and Kyrgyz are generally very interested in the world at large and love to discuss and debate current events.

Just recently, Kyrygz hosted the World Nomad Games, which featured such sports as falconry and Kok Boru (a sport similar to polo, but involving a goat). Football is also popular (note: soccer) and many bars are dedicated to clubs here. The faces of Pele, Ronaldo and Messi adorn many, many posters along the streets. The cinema is also big, and the largest budgeted Kyrgyz movie of all-time is currently playing in theaters.

A Bit o’ Kyrgyzstan History

As you probably know, Kyrgyzstan is located in Central Asia. Once part of the Silk Road, Kyrgyzstan has a history that is both unique and complex. Living in the former lands of the Huns, Turks and Mongols, Kyrgyz were traditionally nomadic peoples. They came under Soviet rule during the 20th century, and became fully independent in 1991. Since then, Kyrgyzstan has become the most democratic of all Central Asian countries, running four successful elections. Today it has strong political ties to Turkey and Russia, as well as a strong economic relationship with China.

People of Kyrgyzstan

The population of Kyrgyzstan is composed of primarily ethnic Kyrgyz, with a sizable community of Russians, Uzbeks, Dungans, Germans and other minority groups. Kyrgyz and Russian are the national languages, and it is not uncommon for a Kyrygz to be trilingual (to include either English, Turkish, Chinese or another ethnic language). Not only do they speak multiple languages, often these languages are from completely different language families. They make it look so easy.

The vast majority of the country is Muslim, which many communities adopted sometime between the 11th and 16th centuries. While Islam is dominant here, remnants of older pagan traditions still remain, such as ancestor worship. There is also a small community of Orthodox Christians here.

Up Next

Stay tuned to the next update, which features my encounter with Kymiz, a local delicacy that consists of horse milk that’s been fermented in a sheep’s stomach. Truly unique.

Top Tweets (7/29/14)

toptweetsv65oai7fxn47qv9nectxWhen you see something you really like, sometimes retweeting and favoriting isn’t enough – that’s why @Sporcle has this weekly blog post. Congrats to the tweeters who made the cut this week!

Remember, you can always reach us on Facebook or Twitter with any questions or comments you have.

 

Sporcle Top 5: Playground Features You’re Too Old For

Sometimes at Sporcle HQ we get the chance to talk a little nonsense, and lo and behold, a Sporcle Top 5 is born. Keep checking back on the Sporcle Blog to see what we think of next.

Many things suck about growing up: you don’t get as many Christmas presents, the toys today are way cooler than when you were a kid, and you can’t eat loads of candy without getting sick.  But one of the worst things is that you can’t enjoy the playground anymore like you used to. We’ve collected the 5 most pressing reasons below.

1) Slides

The last time you tried to go down the slide it took a full five minutes. It was like a can of cranberry jelly slinking into a pile of wood chips.

2) Monkey Bars

While the novelty of being able to stand perfectly straight and still touch the monkey bars was awesome at first, most of the challenge now is not spraining your shoulder while reaching above your head.

3)  Merry-Go-Rounds

If you wanted to get the spins and feel nauseous, you could have just stayed at the local bar.

4) Plastic Playgrounds

Plastic crap everywhere.  Gone are the days of wooden splinters and metal burns. Congratulations: you’re old.

5) Swings

Just because you have a hairy back, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ever get a push. Wait, yes it does.

If you have other playground features you can no longer enjoy because you’re too old, be sure to add them in the comments!

 

Sporcle Top 5: Reasons To Be Glad Samuel L. Jackson Is Not Your Dad

After our 100th viewing of the cinematic classic “Snakes on a Plane” a few days ago, we came to a startling revelation: It would really suck if legendary actor Samuel L. Jackson was your dad. While we certainly think  he is one seriously cool dude, we decided to come up with what we think would be the biggest downsides to having such a bad-ass dad.

1) Having a pet snake would be a no-go.

 

 

 

 

 

2) You would probably be forced to watch all of the Star Wars Prequels.

 

 

 

 

 

3) You might get shot for saying “What?” one too many times.

 

 

 

 

 

4) Your teachers just haven’t been the same since the PTA meeting.

 

 

 

 

 

5) Let’s put it this way, your little sister’s first word isn’t going to be “dada”.

 

 

 

 

 

If you have other reasons to be glad Samuel L. Jackson is not your dad, be sure to add them in the comment section!

Friday the 13th on Sporcle

If you’re reading this blog post and you’ve been on edge today, you might be one of the many people with paraskevidekatriaphobia, or rather, an unnatural fear or phobia of Friday the 13th.  Don’t worry, you’re not alone! Friday the 13th is a day that captivates many imaginations and locks into our superstitious fears, no matter who you are or where you are in the world. While its origins remain unclear, and a quick Google search will pull up millions of theories, one thing is sure: more people are superstitious towards this day than any other. It might have something to do with the unfortunate combination of the unlucky number 13 and the unlucky day of Friday (just a hunch),or the fact that we tend to pay more attention to misfortune on this day more than any other. Spilled coffee on Tuesday the 10th is just inconvenient, but spilled coffee on Friday the 13th carries the inevitable foreshadowing of doom and misfortune.

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When You Wish Upon a Star (Make sure it’s not being eaten.)

This article has made Sheldon very nervous.

No matter what you were doing March 28th, your day couldn’t have been as bad as a star in a distant galaxy that was recently eaten (EATEN!?) by a black hole.  I mean think about it this way, you’re just some awesome star, radiantly shining in the galaxy, minding your own business, and then you aren’t.

On that day Nasa’s Swift satellite captured footage of a gamma-ray blast (dubbed Sw 1644+57), that was brighter and has lasted longer than any other similar flashes ever seen by scientists. How bright? Oh, about the equal to a hundred billion of our own suns. I don’t think anyone makes sunglasses that can match that yet.  They believe the burst of light occurred the moment when the black hole began to wrap its tendrils around the star, about the size of our sun, slowly sucking it in another galaxy 3.8 billion light years away. While the star is slowly being ripped apart, energy is continuously being released. The show is still going on two and a half months later because, apparently, this black hole likes to play with its food.

The actual paper was published in Science , although if you’re like me and don’t understand astronomical terms very well – National Geographic has a good article summarizing it.

Scientists claim that events like this only occur every now and then, so we’re pretty much safe from this kind of phenomenon (Though 2012 is coming up…). If you’re like us, this whole article has probably left you intrigued (and a little hungry), so check out some related Sporcle quizzes below:

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Summer Movie Madness

lantern

Sorry Ryan, that magic ring won't help you unlock a Sporcle Safe Cracker

While you’re sitting inside, recovering from that 2nd degree sunburn because you *yet* again forgot to put on sunblock, you have a few options about how to spend your summer. You could stay at home and play Sporcle all day OR you catch some of the big hits coming out this summer and then go back to playing Sporcle. Not sure what is coming out? You’re the type of person that watches all their television programs on Netflix , immune from previews, aren’t you? I know how you feel.  When I realized the other day that a new X-Men movie had sneaked into theaters right under my very nose, I knew I had to take action. I mean, I can’t play Sporcle all summer. At some point I need to get out and, you know, do stuff…like go see a movie. Here is a not-nearly-complete list of some of the biggest, most anticipated movies of the summer, compiled by yours truly:

X-Men: First Class kicked off the summer movie madness on June 3rd. Again, how did I not know about this movie until the very last minute? I must live under a rock. The latest installment in the saga stars James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender and Kevin Bacon and is directed by Matthew Vaughn. Pre-Wolverine and Storm, it tells the story of the origin of the X-men. Professor Charles Xavier (McAvoy) and Erik Lehnsherr, aka Magneto (Fassbender) are the best of buds until they are forced to use their powers to save the earth, and in the process have a falling out about how to do that.

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O Oprah

Oh Oprah! I can’t believe that the end is almost here. On May 25th, the “Oprah Winfrey Show” will air it’s finale and the countdown is on. After 25 years we will be saying goodbye to the Queen of the Talk Show. Along with her beau Stedman Graham and her BFF Gail King, power couple Will Smith and Jada Pinkett-Smith are scheduled to appear. So far though, that’s about all that has been revealed. I’m sure there will be a montage of some sort, although I think it would be awesome if Tom Cruise could come back and jump on the couch one more time, or perhaps Nelson Mandela could make another appearance?
Also – I’m curious if she plans on giving away any more gifts to her audience members. Although it’s getting harder and harder for her to top her past philanthropic acts  – how do you top cars or houses? …but a few hundred islands somewhere and pass them out? Vacations to space? (and if so, is anyone willing to sell me their ticket?)

There is no denying that she is real life 20th Century mover and shaker. Born into poverty in rural Mississippi and rising to become the richest African American in the 20th Century, she really represents the American dream. Arguably the world’s most powerful woman, she has been featured on TIME‘s “Most Influential People”  list eight times. As an actress, she’s moved us in various roles, like that of Sofia in Stephen Spielberg‘s “A Color Purple”. Her book club has millions of followers and one mention by her and any book hits the NY Times  Best Seller’s list. She revolutionized the Talk Show industry in the mid-90′s with her “Oprahfication”, starting the trend of public confession as a form of therapy. At one point her show was receiving 14 million daily views. Not only a woman with a razor-sharp mind who brings attention to social dilemmas, she is also highly compassionate and generous. Over the past 25 years she has put her heart into loving and healing the world, encouraging everyday people  to make their voices heard and believe in the power of positive thought, love and dreams.

So what’s next? Well, there is always her magazine “O” and now her own television network OWN, in between which she is still busy running her many philanthropic organizations like Oprah’s Angel Network, or her Academies for girls in South Africa. I have no doubt that although her show is coming off the air, it is by no means the end of Oprah. Maybe Professor Farnsworth of Futurama is on to something when he says “If only he had joined a mainstream religion like Oprah-ism or Voodoo.”…. ? Who knows.

Here Comes the Bride

Wannabe Princesses, this is your last hope.

April 29th is a big day for United Kingdom. That’s the day Prince William of Wales is set to marry the lovely Kate Middleton, his long-time college sweetheart. The couple, who have been together for eight years, became engaged this past November in Kenya. England has been in an excited uproar in preparation of the big day, which is proving to be one of the most exciting events to take place since the marriage of Prince Charles to Princess Diana 30 years ago. In fact – according to Reuters – it’s getting 90,000 mentions a day on the Internet (We’re jumping right on that bandwagon).

 

In this time of war, earthquakes, poverty and disease – it’s nice to have something positive to look forward to, and every where you turn you’re bound to run into gossip, trivia and new facts about the royal wedding. Some stuff is interesting – such as what the royal carriage will look like, who all is attending, what the family is doing etc. Some information isn’t as relevant (but still interesting) like the article I read in the supermarket about the avid fan who knitted a wedding cake for the couple. (at least it won’t spoil?)

It’s a little sad that another Prince is off the market. I love royalty, and will readily admit that as I young girl growing up I harbored secret fantasies about one day becoming a Princess. It’s not in my destiny, so I’m comfortable living vicariously through Kate Middleton. I wish them a long and happy marriage, and eagerly look forward to watching the procession April 29th… through a live stream on Youtube (oh Youtube, where would I be WITHOUT you?!).

And good luck Harry – you’re the last hope for thousands of young girls. My Advice? Double-up on your security.