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Tuesday - September 1, 2015

Sleeping Through Math Class

Venice_High_School_(Los_Angeles,_small)Labor Day, observed (celebrated; scheduled) on the first Monday of each September, is the unofficial beginning of the school year at many schools (see English Cafe 49). This year, Labor Day is next Monday, September 7th.

As high school students return to school, I can predict which high schools will have students with better grades and which high schools will have students with poorer grades.

No, I don’t have a crystal ball (glass ball used to see the future). Instead, I’ve read about research findings (results) showing that schools that begin later in the morning have students who typically perform better in their classes. One study of over 9,000 students in the U.S. found that students in schools that began at or after 8:35 a.m. earned grades that were significantly higher, so that a “B” or “C” grade became “B+” and “C+” grades.

Grades are used to calculate (give a numbered total for) a student’s grade point average (G.P.A.), which is a single number that indicates that student’s overall school performance. A student’s G.P.A. is used for many things, including college admissions (being allowed to study at a college or university). Here’s how it works: Each letter grade equals a certain number of points: “A” = 4.0, “B” = 3.0, “C” = 2.0, “D” = 1.0, and “F” = 0.  A “+” added to a grade is worth another 0.5 points, so the difference between getting a “B” and a “B+” or a “C” and a “C+” is significant (important).

The explanation behind these findings may be found in teenagers’ changing bodies. When people reach ages 13-19, their circadian rhythms — their natural “body clock” — change and teenagers stay up (remain awake) later at night and sleep later in the morning. A later start time for school matches (is in agreement with) this change in the teenage brain.

Other research has found that later start times for school are also related to fewer car crashes (accidents where two cars hit each other) among teenage drivers. In a 2008 study, when a school delayed (made later) its start time by one hour, students reported fewer and fewer car accidents over the next two years, dropping over 16%. The researchers concluded that students slept more hours and as a result, were more alert (awake; aware of what is happening around them).

Some of the arguments against starting school earlier have to do with logistics (planning and organizing). American high school students often participate in after-school activities, such as sports and clubs. A later start time leaves less time for these activities. And school buses that transport high school students in a single district (collection of schools under one management) also transport elementary and middle school students, making changes in scheduling more difficult.

Every high school’s start time is different. Venice High School, the high school nearest to where I live, begins at 7:57 a.m. Jeff’s high school in Minnesota and mine in Arizona just happened to have (occurred by chance and not through planning) begun at the same time: 8:10 a.m. Now I have an excuse (reason or explanation) for my grades, although Jeff clearly overcame this obstacle (succeeded despite this difficulty).

Is the school year beginning where you live? What time did the school day begin when you were in high school? Is it different now?

– Lucy

Photo Credit: Venice High School from Wikipedia. Venice High School has been used as the location for several famous films, including Grease and Nightmare on Elm Street, and for several music videos, including one by Britney Spears.


Sunday - August 30, 2015

Podcasts this Week (August 31, 2015)

icon_51812Is your limited English standing in your way? Do you want to improve your English now?

Learn English even faster with the help of the Learning Guide. In it, you’ll get more vocabulary, language explanations, sample sentences, comprehension questions, cultural notes, and more.

Get the Learning Guide and support ESL Podcast today by becoming a Basic or Premium Member!

………

ON MONDAY
ESL Podcast 1134 – Describing Position and Location Within a Group

In the Learning Guide: Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear), vocabulary list and sample sentences, and comprehension questions.
In “What Else Does it Mean,” learn the other meanings of “at the head” and “to bring up the rear.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Neighborhood Pranks.”
“For some young people, playing ‘pranks’ (annoying jokes) is a common form of entertainment and a way to ‘get attention’…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON WEDNESDAY
English Cafe 518

Topics: American Presidents – Franklin Delano Roosevelt; to be trapped versus to be lodged; to keep it together, to keep a stiff upper lip, and as luck would have it; pardon me

In the Learning Guide:  Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear).
In “What Insiders Know,” you will read about “The Sunshine Special.”
“The Sunshine Special was the official car used by President Franklin D. Roosevelt…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON FRIDAY
ESL Podcast 1135 – Having Hearing Problems

In the Learning Guide: Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear), vocabulary list and sample sentences, and comprehension questions.
In “What Else Does it Mean,” learn the other meanings of “hearing” and “smell.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Public Services for the Hearing-impaired.”
“The ‘Americans with Disabilities Act’ requires that people with ‘disabilities’…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide


Tuesday - August 25, 2015

Ragpicker, Governor

d__images_F196809PThe Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena, California is shaped like a large “H”. If you walk across the middle of the “H” to the left leg and look left, you’ll see the Ragpicker – a painting by Edouard Manet. He hangs on the wall at the bottom of the “H” and, I imagine, keeps an eye on (watches) everyone who walks through the galleries (rooms for showing art) that display (show) the Museum’s modern art.

I’ve always been fascinated by (attracted to; curious about) this life-size painting of such a humble (not important) man. Ragpickers were early recyclers. They walked around cities, Paris for Manet’s Ragpicker, and picked up rags and other objects that could be sold to people who recycled, or reused them. Rags were used to make paper.

Manet was one of several painters of his time who painted the everyday people of Paris. They weren’t wealthy. They weren’t powerful. And many people probably didn’t notice them. But they were an important part of Parisian life.

I thought of Manet’s Ragpicker when I read about Sarah Godfrey’s recent experience. She was at the Park Street subway station under the streets of Boston, Massachusetts, when she saw what she described as “a nice old man who was picking up garbage at the train station on his way to work.”

Sarah walked up to him and remarked, “What a good citizen you are!” He was grouchy (in a bad mood), she said, and complained that the stations were always filthy. She agreed.

She was uncomfortable when she watched him reach down to pick up a “food wrapper and what looked like a used napkin” and reminded him to “make sure he washed his hands when he got to work.”

He looked at her and replied, “That’s what my wife says.”

When they got to the top of the stairs, he threw the trash he had picked up into a trash container, then turned to Sarah and asked, “How many ex-governors do you think go around picking up trash at train stations?”

Sarah said that she laughed and said, “Not many.” She thought for a moment, then asked if he had actually served as governor of Massachusetts.

“Yes, for 12 years,” he answered, and she realized that she had been talking to Michael Dukakis, the former governor of the state.

Hmm. I wonder how many ex-governors – or anyone else – go around picking up trash to try to keep their cities clean. Probably not many.

~ Warren Ediger – ESL coach and tutor and creator of the Successful English web site.

Photo of Ragpicker from Wikipedia Commons.

 


Sunday - August 23, 2015

Podcasts this Week (August 24, 2015)

icon_51812Get the full benefits of ESL Podcast by getting the Learning Guide. We designed the Learning Guide to help you learn English better and faster. Get more vocabulary, language explanations, sample sentences, comprehension questions, cultural notes, and more.

Get the Learning Guide and support ESL Podcast today by becoming a Basic or Premium Member!

………

ON MONDAY
ESL Podcast 1132 – Defending Your Ideas at Work

In the Learning Guide: Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear), vocabulary list and sample sentences, and comprehension questions.
In “What Else Does it Mean,” learn the other meanings of “defense” and “attention span.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Workplace Bullying.”
“Many people experience ‘conflict’ (fights; arguments; differences of opinion) at work, but sometimes…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON WEDNESDAY
English Cafe 517

Topics: Movies – Die Hard; American Authors – Emma Lazarus; in front of versus ahead of versus before; as if versus as though versus as for; to take stock

In the Learning Guide:  Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear).
In “What Insiders Know,” you will read about “Century City and Fox Plaza.”
“Located on the western side of Los Angeles, Century City is a 176–acre ‘commercial’…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON FRIDAY
ESL Podcast 1133 – Getting Immunizations Required by Schools

In the Learning Guide: Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear), vocabulary list and sample sentences, and comprehension questions.
In “What Else Does it Mean,” learn the other meanings of “standard” and “to bar.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Where to Immunize Children.”
“Parents who want to ‘comply with’ (follow) the standard ‘immunization schedule’…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide


Tuesday - August 18, 2015

Headline English: Hacking the IRS

Here’s another edition of Headline English, where I talk about some of vocabulary found in American newspapers. Today I talk about the hacking scandal at the Internal Revenue Service.

Note: Slight correction – the actual number of accounts hacked was around 330,000, not half a million, as I say in the video – but still double the initial estimate by the IRS.


Sunday - August 16, 2015

Podcasts this Week (August 17, 2015)

icon_51812We are grateful to our members and donors, because we are only able to produce this podcast with the generous help of our listeners.

If you enjoy our podcasts, please consider supporting ESL Podcast by becoming a Basic or Premium Member today!

………

ON MONDAY
ESL Podcast 1130 – Eating Breakfast Foods

In the Learning Guide: Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear), vocabulary list and sample sentences, and comprehension questions.
In “What Else Does it Mean,” learn the other meanings of “round” and “dead.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Morning TV Shows.”
“Many Americans enjoy watching morning TV shows as part of their ‘morning routine’…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON WEDNESDAY
English Cafe 516

Topics: Ask an American – Community policing; perspective versus notion versus viewpoint; to burst out versus to break out versus to explode; “Don’t count every hour in the day. Make every hour in the day count!”

In the Learning Guide:  Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear).
In “What Insiders Know,” you will read about “The Controversial Practice of Stop and Frisk.”
“In many ‘jurisdictions’ (places controlled by a government or police department and are required to follow…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON FRIDAY
ESL Podcast 1131 – Visiting an Archaeological Site

In the Learning Guide: Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear), vocabulary list and sample sentences, and comprehension questions.
In “What Else Does it Mean,” learn the other meanings of “to preserve” and “dig.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Archaeological Sites in the United States.”
“One of the most impressive archaeological sites in the United States is Mesa Verde National Park…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide


Tuesday - August 11, 2015

Where Buffalo Used To Roam

640px-Nebraska_Sandhills_NE97_Hooker_County_3Home on the Range (land covered by grass) – an old song from the American West – begins like this:

Oh, give me a home where the buffalo roam (wander; move from place to place),
Where the deer and the antelope play,
Where seldom is heard a discouraging word
And the skies are not cloudy all day.

The Great Plains is a large area of land in the middle of the U.S. covered by mostly by grass and farms. The Plains begin in Texas and go all the way north into Canada. There are no mountains there. Instead there are miles of flat land and what we call “rolling” hills that gently rise (go up) and fall (go down) as you drive through them.

The state of Nebraska, where I lived before moving to California, is in the middle of the Great Plains. When you drive across Nebraska from east to west, you’ll drive through the city of Omaha, then pass mile after mile of corn fields until you reach the middle of the state. When you get there, you will have arrived at the area that the songwriter might have been thinking about – the Nebraska Sandhills.

The Sandhills are exactly that, about 20,000 square miles (~52,000 square kilometers) of grass-covered hills of sand. If you leave the freeway, you can drive many miles without seeing another car or truck. But what you will see are ranches (farms where cows are raised) with large herds (groups) of cows and a few small towns.

In the small towns, you’ll find the essentials (things that are necessary) but not much more – groceries, ranch supplies, gas for your car or truck, a church or two, a bar or two, and possibly a small hotel.

It doesn’t rain much here, but there is a large amount of underground water for ranchers to use for themselves and their cattle (cows). And the cattle, mostly Black Angus (a kind of cow), provide Nebraska and the rest of the country with some of the finest beef (meat from cows) you can eat.

The deer are still there. And so are the antelope. But not so many buffalo; many of them were hunted by the American Indians and early Americans for food and for their skin, which was used for clothes.

They say the sky is bigger in the Sandhills. And the sunrises and sunsets are more beautiful. During the summer, it’s not unusual for fast-moving summer storms to form (appear and grow) and fill the sky with towering (very tall) clouds that quickly change from white to gray to black.

People who know the Sandhills talk about how peaceful it is there. Ron Scheer, a California professor, writes that “the Sandhills provide an endless supply of peace and quiet…. The best moments are spent just listening to … the birds singing from every direction, and the wind.

To learn more about Nebraska and the Sandhills, I encourage you to watch two short videos. The first, My West: The Sandhills of Nebraska, is by Professor Scheer. The second, Nebraska Skies, is by Bill Frakes, a well-known photographer.

~ Warren Ediger – ESL coach/tutor and creator of the Successful English web site.

Photo of the Nebraska Sandhills courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.

 

 


Sunday - August 9, 2015

Podcasts this Week (August 10, 2015)

icon_51812Is your limited English standing in your way? Do you want to improve your English now?

Learn English even faster with the help of the Learning Guide. In it, you’ll get more vocabulary, language explanations, sample sentences, comprehension questions, cultural notes, and more.

Get the Learning Guide and support ESL Podcast today by becoming a Basic or Premium Member!

………

ON MONDAY
ESL Podcast 1128 – Store Promotions and Giveaways

In the Learning Guide: Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear), vocabulary list and sample sentences, and comprehension questions.
In “What Else Does it Mean,” learn the other meanings of “instant” and “to find a way around.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Types of Store Promotions.”
“Stores offer many types of promotions to ‘attract’ (bring in) and ‘retain’ (encourage people to keep coming back)…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON WEDNESDAY
English Cafe 515

Topics: Historically Black Colleges and Universities; Famous Americans – Mary Pickford; to infer versus to deduce versus to derive; to clean out versus to free up; civil disturbance versus civil unrest

In the Learning Guide:  Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear).
In “What Insiders Know,” you will read about “United States v. Virginia.”
United States v. Virginia was an important legal case that determined whether schools could ‘exclude’…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON FRIDAY
ESL Podcast 1129 – Experiencing Virtual Reality

In the Learning Guide: Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear), vocabulary list and sample sentences, and comprehension questions.
In “What Else Does it Mean,” learn the other meanings of “funny” and “a host of.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Current Uses of Virtual Reality.”
“For many people, ‘virtual reality’ is simply a ‘gaming platform’ (a technology used to play video games)…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide


Tuesday - August 4, 2015

Forget That Ferrari and Opt for a Trip

Paaka_kahakai_kailuaWe’ve all had that experience of waiting to buy something we want: a new smartphone, a car, or even something simple, like a book or a pair of shoes. We want it now, but we wait in anticipation (with the expectation) of the pleasure we’ll get out of a new possession (thing we own).

But if we want to get the most pleasure out of waiting, we should opt for (choose) an experience rather than a new possession. You may have heard people say that experiences, rather than things, give people more happiness. Well, that’ true, even when you’re simply waiting for it.

In a series of studies published last year, a Cornell University doctoral (getting a Ph.D. degree) student asked people to evaluate (judge) what it felt like to look forward to (wait with expected pleasure for) experiences versus buying things. He found that the waiting period was even more pleasurable, more exciting, and with less impatience (having the feeling of not wanting to wait anymore) when buying experiences than things. Experiences could be anything from taking a trip to attending a concert to going surfing (the sport of standing on a long board on ocean waves).

The researcher suggested two reasons for this. He surmised (guessed based on the evidence) that material goods (things worth money; things with value) are easier to compare to other material goods than experiences are to other experiences. For example, it’s easy to compare your new smartphone to your friend’s and perhaps find your own smartphone wanting (not as good; less than perfect). We want to keep up with the Joneses (be as good as our neighbors and friends), and buying new things is accompanied by anxieties (worries) about not measuring up (being as good as others or what is expected).

Another reason waiting to buy things might be less pleasurable is that when we buy material goods, we know beforehand (ahead of the event) pretty much (nearly) exactly what we’re buying. If I buy a new shirt, I can picture myself wearing the shirt and looking good, but there isn’t much more to imagine. If I plan a trip, I might be able to imagine all kinds of scenarios (possible situations) that could be fun, exciting, and even life-changing.

The good news is that the older you get, the simpler the anticipated (expected; predicted) experiences can be. While you may need extraordinary (very big, major, and unusual) experiences to maximize (give you the most) happiness when you’re young, as you get older, those experiences can be quite ordinary (common; everyday; not special). The thought of taking a walk on the beach, listening to music, or enjoying a good meal with friends might be enough to give you the same level of anticipated enjoyment.

And since I’m very old, all I need is the anticipation of reading your comments to make me happy…and maybe a very small slice (piece) of cake.

How about you? What anticipated experiences – extraordinary or ordinary – gives you pleasure?

~ Lucy

Photo Credit: View across Kailua Beach to the offshore islet known as Moku nui from Wikipedia


Sunday - August 2, 2015

Podcasts this Week (August 3, 2015)

icon_51812Get the full benefits of ESL Podcast by getting the Learning Guide. We designed the Learning Guide to help you learn English better and faster. Get more vocabulary, language explanations, sample sentences, comprehension questions, cultural notes, and more.

Get the Learning Guide and support ESL Podcast today by becoming a Basic or Premium Member!

………

ON MONDAY
ESL Podcast 1126 – Visiting a Pawnshop

In the Learning Guide: Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear), vocabulary list and sample sentences, and comprehension questions.
In “What Else Does it Mean,” learn the other meanings of “to tie (one) over” and “value.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Typical Items in a Pawnshop.”
“The ‘items’ (objects) typically pawned are ‘generally’ (usually) representative of the neighborhood…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON WEDNESDAY
English Cafe 514

Topics: The Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre; American Playwrights – David Mamet; to atone versus to make amends versus to do penance; compassion versus empathy; to reckon

In the Learning Guide:  Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear).
In “What Insiders Know,” you will read about “Ford’s Theater.”
“Ford’s Theater was a ‘venue’ (a place for an organized event, such as concerts, conferences, or sports events)…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON FRIDAY
ESL Podcast 1127 – Paying for College

In the Learning Guide: Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear), vocabulary list and sample sentences, and comprehension questions.
In “What Else Does it Mean,” learn the other meanings of “grant” and “(one’s) ticket.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “The FAFSA.”
“The ‘Free Application for Federal Student Aid’ (‘FAFSA’) is a form that all ‘prospective’ …” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide