Share Your Spare

Have you ever thought about giving one of your kidneys – the part of your body that cleans your blood – to a stranger, to someone you don’t know?

Scientific progress has made it easier and safer to transplant organs – to move a healthy heart, liver, kidney, or other organ from someone who has died to a living person who needs it. In 2015 about 31,000 transplants were performed in the U.S.

That’s a large number. But the number of people waiting for transplants of all kinds – almost 120,000 – is much larger, and a new name is added to the list every 10 minutes. Even though transplants save or improve the lives of 85 people every day, 22 others die because they can’t get one.

Our kidney’s main job is to clean our blood. When it works well, we don’t think about it. When it doesn’t, we often have to go to the hospital or a clinic several days a week for dialysis, using a machine to do what a sick kidney can’t do.

In the U.S., 600,000 people are on dialysis, and 100,000 of them need a transplant because dialysis is only a temporary solution. But in 2015, only 16,000 people received healthy kidneys. Why so few? Not enough healthy kidneys to transplant.

We are born with two kidneys. And we can easily live with only one. That’s why many people are making the decision to donate (give) a kidney to a stranger.

Last year, Dylan Matthews, a young journalist (news reporter), gave one of his kidneys to a man he’d never met.

Matthews says that he’d thought about giving one of his kidneys for years. “It seems,” he writes, “like such a simple and clear way to help someone else, through a procedure (process) that’s very low-risk (safe) to me.”

Matthews points out that if he “kept walking around with two kidneys when there are more than 100,000 people on the kidney waitlist (waiting list) who would most likely die in the next five years if they didn’t get one,” he would be like someone who sees a child drowning (die from being under water) in a pond (small area of water) but doesn’t do anything because he doesn’t want to get his clothes wet and dirty.

Matthews became friends with one person who had become a donor, then another. And after talking with them he decided that the facts were simple: “it’s awful to need a kidney and really not that hard to give one.” And so, in 2016, he did.

The process took about five months. Testing started in March, was finished in mid-May, and in June he was approved as a donor. On Monday, August 22, he was admitted to (entered) Johns Hopkins hospital so his left kidney could be removed.

The first few days of recovery (return to normal) were difficult. But Thursday, three days after surgery, he went home. On Friday he went out with friends, and on Saturday, he and his father went to a movie.

Matthews says that “giving a kidney was the most rewarding experience of [his] life.” He talks about the choices we make – especially when we’re young – some good, some bad. He believes that this decision was one of his best. “I was…deeply gratified (thankful) to have made at least one choice in my life that I know was beyond a shadow of a doubt (absolutely) the right one.”

Note: The title for this blog post comes from Briana Zavala, a young kidney donor from California, who encourages people to “share your spare (extra)” kidney.

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

Dylan Matthews’ story comes from vox.com.
Photo: screenshot from MPD-SI Newhouse School.

 

Posted in Life in the United States | Leave a comment

Color or Colour? Spelling as a Political Act

If you’re an English learner, you may be annoyed  at (bothered by) the differences in spelling in American English and British English.

We Americans use “color” and the British use “colour.”

We write “realize” and they write “realise.”

You might think that these differences have simply come about (resulted) naturally over time, but in fact, the changes were intentional (done with intent; not an accident) and largely political.

Noah Webster was probably the biggest influence on how Americans spell today. Webster was a fascinating (very interesting) man. Most Americans know him for his dictionaries. He published his first dictionary in 1806 and later published An American Dictionary of the English Language in 1826.

In fact, the name “Webster” is today synonymous with (has the same meaning as) dictionaries to many Americans. (The Webster dictionary is published today under the name of Merriam-Webster.)

Webster lived between 1758 and 1843, and took part in the American Revolution (the war to become independent of Britain). He knew two of the great heroes of that revolution, George Washington and Benjamin Franklin. In addition to being a dictionary writer, he was also very political.

He wrote essays, letters, and pamphlets (short printed documents) that expressed his views about the need for the American colonies to break (separate themselves) from Britain.

He believed that a part of that break should be to establish an American brand of (type of) English. He thought that American children should learn from American books, not British ones.

Webster published A Grammatical Institute of the English Language, which included a reader (with short texts), a grammar book, and a speller (a list of rules on how to spell words, including word lists). Webster made many changes to spelling in his speller because he thought that British English spelling had been corrupted (changed in a bad way) by British aristocracy (highest class of people in society).

Webster wanted to standardize (make consistent by following rules) the spelling of English and simplify it (make it easier). The speller was later renamed The American Spelling Book and was widely (frequently) used by teachers around the country. It was later known as the Blue-Backed Speller.

It was through Webster’s speller and his dictionaries that American children learned American spelling, so that “theatre” became “theater,” “aeroplane” became “airplane,” and the last letter of the alphabet came to be pronounced “zee” instead of “zed,” as the British still do today.

In the end, politics played a big role (was a large part of the reason) in the establishment of American English.

Who knows how English spelling will change when California secedes (withdrawals officially) from the United States and forms its own country?

~ Jeff

P.S. Don’t confuse Noah Webster with another famous American, Daniel Webster. They were not related (not of the same family). Daniel Webster was a famous lawyer and politician in the 19th century, and also the topic of this short story sometimes read in American schools.

Image Credit: From Wikipedia
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Posted in Language & Terms | 6 Comments

Thank You Always Fits*

Several years ago, saying “thank you” got Chantel Jennings a job.

Jennings, a student at an American university, was studying in Spain when she received an award that included $500 to use any way she wanted. She used it to pay for a one-week trip to Ireland.

When she returned to Spain, she sat down and wrote a thank you note to Betsy Carter, the writer and journalist (reporter) who had created the award. At the end of her note she wrote, “If you have a chance to talk, I’d love to.”

She was surprised a short time later by an email from Carter that encouraged her to call when Jennings returned to the U.S. The two women met and talked, and when Carter discovered that Jennings was a sports writer, she said “You should really come to New York to meet my husband.” Jennings went to New York, met Carter’s husband, an executive at ESPN (a TV sports network), and was given a writing job at ESPN.

When Jennings asked Carter why she was being so nice to her, Carter told her that she had been giving the award for 20 years and that Jennings had been the first person to write a thank you card. She continued, “Journalism – especially sports journalism – needs more people who write thank you notes. I want you in this business.”

Not too long ago, after more than six years, Jennings lost that job and said “thank you” again.

ESPN recently laid off (let go from their jobs) about 100 people to lower their operating costs. Jennings was one of the people who lost their jobs.

Before she left, Jennings wrote: “I’m excited for this next chapter of my life. Don’t get me wrong. This hurts. A lot. But I am profoundly (very, extremely) thankful for the last six and a half years at ESPN and whatever comes next will be built on the foundation (a base, something to build on) I laid there.”

Reading Jennings’ story reminded me of a letter written by C.S. Lewis, who wrote The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and the other Chronicles (stories) of Narnia. In it he wrote (in my words): We should be thankful no matter what happens. If something good happens, we should be thankful because it is good. On the other hand, if something bad happens, we should be thankful because it teaches us to be patient (able to wait calmly for a long time or accept difficulties), to be humble (not thinking that we are more important than other people), and to recognize what’s really important in our lives and what isn’t.

I think Chantel Jennings would agree.

* fits means that it’s always appropriate.

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

Story credit: A quick thanks as I go by Chantel Jennings
Photo used under Creative Commons license.

Posted in About ESL Podcast, Uncategorized | 13 Comments

Crime Bills

dollar-1362243_1920Let’s talk about money, lots and lots of money.

Currently, the United States prints its bills (paper money) in seven denominations (amounts):  $1, $2, $5, $10, $20, $50, and $100. There was a time, however, when higher denominations were printed for specific kinds of transactions (actions related to buying and selling).

In 1861, the U.S. government issued interest-bearing notes (money used as a loan between a lender and a borrower) in four different denominations of $500, $1,000, $5,000 and $10,000. In 1878, they were released as United States notes (an older term for paper money).

These notes were actually physically larger in size than our current bills (it wasn’t until 1929 that paper money were produced in today’s size). The larger denominations were meant to be (were intended to be; were designed to be) used by banks and the U.S. government for large transactions.

However, people involved in unlawful (against the law) activities such as drug trafficking (selling and buying large amounts of illegal drugs) and money laundering (hiding the source of illegally-made money) often used these bills as well. In fact, one report a few years ago found that up to 90% of American currency had trace (very small) amounts of cocaine on them!

The use of these bills for illegal activities was one of the main reasons the government decided to stop producing them. They were last printed on December 27, 1945, and were officially discontinued (stopped being used) on July 4, 1969.

Most of the bills started to disappear, and only private collectors (people who buy valuable things for their own enjoyment or as an investment) were successful in preserving them (keeping them in their original condition).

One of those private collectors was Benny Binion, owner of Binion’s Horseshoe Casino (place for entertainment where people play games of chance in hopes of winning money) in Las Vegas. Binion preserved 100 of the old $10,000 bills, and beginning in the early 1960s displayed them for many years in a clear case (box for display). Tourists would often make a special trip just to see them.

Unfortunately, you can no longer see this “million dollar display” at the casino, since it was sold to other collectors. But you can easily lose a million dollars in Las Vegas if you try hard enough!

~ ESLPod Team

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* This post was adapted from “What Insiders Know” from Cultural English 469. To see the rest of the Learning Guide, including a Glossary, Sample Sentences, Comprehension Questions, a Complete Transcript of the entire lesson and more, become a Select English Member.
Posted in Life in the United States | 6 Comments

Charging Bull, Fearless Girl

Monday, October 19, 1987, was not a good day.

On that day, called Black Monday, the value (amount of money something is worth) of stock markets around the world dropped very quickly. A stock market is a place for people to buy and sell shares of stock – small parts of a company. The idea is to buy the shares, hold them for a while, then sell them for more than you paid when you need some money. Black Monday began in Hong Kong, then spread to Europe and the U.S.

The U.S. stock market, often called Wall Street for a street in New York’s financial district (area), lost about 25% of its value that day. Many people panicked (became extremely frightened), but by the end of the year, the stock market’s value was greater than it had been at the beginning of the year.

Arturo Di Modica, an artist from Sicily, responded to Black Monday in an unusual way: he made a sculpture (statue) of a bull (a male cow) and placed it in the middle of New York’s financial district.

Why a bull? On Wall Street, a bull is a person who thinks the stock market, the shares of a specific company, or even the country’s entire economy is going to continue to grow or improve. We’d say that someone like that is “bullish on Apple” or “bullish on America.” A person who thinks things are going to get worse is called a bear.

Di Modica, who had become an American citizen, wanted to send a message that he was bullish on Wall Street and on America. His sculpture, named Charging (attacking) Bull, is no ordinary bull. It is large – 11 feet (3.4m) tall, 16 feet (4.9m) long, and weighs 7,100 pounds (3,200 kg). It is strong and full of energy.

Charging Bull became an “instant hit (immediately popular)”, according to the New York Times, and one city official said that “people are crazy about the bull.” After almost 30 years, many visitors to New York still include it on their must-see lists. Some say it’s almost as popular as the Statue of Liberty.

The story might have ended here except for one thing: a second sculpture, of a small girl, appeared a few weeks ago on the morning of International Women’s Day. This sculpture, called Fearless Girl, stands in front of Charging Bull and appears to be trying to stare it down (look at someone so long that they feel uncomfortable and turn away). A Wall Street company paid to have her made and is using her to promote one of their products and show support for women in leadership.

Di Modica is insulted and upset. He thinks that Fearless Girl is attacking the bull, and that she changes Charging Bull’s message of hope and prosperity (to have enough) into something negative. He wants the city to move her.

The artist who made Fearless Girl disagrees. She said she made sure to keep her soft. She’s brave, proud, and strong, yes, but she doesn’t want to argue or fight.

For now, Fearless Girl will stay. The city of New York has given her a permit (official permission) to be there for 11 months. We’ll have to wait and see what happens after that.

~ Warren Ediger – ESL coach/tutor and creator of Successful English website.

Photo by Anthony Quintano is used under Creative Commons license.

Posted in Life in the United States | 5 Comments

Tax Time, Jail Time?

tax-evasion-226717_1280Today is Tax Day in the United States. It’s the last day Americans can file (submit) their personal income tax forms to the U.S. government. (Tax Day is normally April 15th, but since the 15th falls on a Saturday this year, the deadline (date something is due) has been moved to the 18th.)

Every American is supposed to pay his or her personal income taxes, but sometimes people hide their money to avoid paying. That’s why the U.S. government created tax amnesty programs.

A tax amnesty program is a program that allows taxpayers (people who pay taxes, or who should pay taxes) to admit to having committed tax evasion (the crime of trying to avoid paying taxes) and pay a penalty (punishment, usually money to be paid) that is less than what the penalty normally would be.

For instance, under a tax amnesty program,  a taxpayer may be allowed to disclose (share information about) previously unreported income (money earned or received that was not reported to the government) and pay the taxes owed on it without having to pay interest (a percentage of money owed calculated every month or year based on the amount owed) or fines (money that must be paid as a punishment).

The IRS offers offshore amnesty programs specifically for taxpayers who have hidden money in offshore accounts (bank accounts in other countries). The Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program was offered in 2009 and 2011, and then as an open-ended (without an ending date; continuing until further notice) program in January 2012. In 2012, the IRS commissioner (head or leader of the agency) announced that the IRS had collected (arranged to received) more than five billion dollars ($5,000,000,000) in back taxes (taxes that should have been paid in the past, but weren’t) as a result of voluntary (according to a person’s will or wish, without being forced to do something) disclosures (telling others about secret information).

Why do taxpayers voluntarily disclose their offshore holdings (things you own that has value or worth)? Because the penalties they pay for voluntary disclosure are significantly (a lot) less than the penalties they would pay if their wrongdoings (the bad things people have done) are discovered and prosecuted (taken to court and charged with a crime) by the IRS.

So if you have been hiding money from the U.S. government and are afraid of getting caught (having your crime discovered), you can fess up (confess; tell others about your wrongdoing) before the cops (police) get wind of it (learn/hear about it).

~ ESLPod Team

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* This post was adapted from the “Culture Note” from Daily English 1124. To see the rest of the Learning Guide, including a Glossary, Sample Sentences, Comprehension Questions, a Complete Transcript of the entire lesson and more, become a Select English Member.
Posted in Life in the United States | 9 Comments

See Less, See More

Seventeen (17) seconds. That’s all.

That’s about how much time people spend in front of a piece of art as they walk through an art museum. An organization, called Slow Art Day, is trying to change that.

Every year in April, Slow Art Day encourages art museums in the U.S. and around the world to choose five paintings for people to look at “slowly” for 5-10 minutes and to show them in a place that makes it easy to do.

They believe that if people take more time to look at fewer works of art, they will learn more about the art, understand it better, and appreciate it more, even if they know nothing about it. They believe that if people see less, fewer artworks, they will see more in each piece of art.

I used to do something similar with my adult ESL students. Let me use one of my favorite paintings – Claude Monet’s Portal (doorway, entrance) of Rouen Cathedral in Morning Light (the photo at the top of the page) – as an example. It’s at the Getty Museum in Los Angeles (If you want to look at a larger photo of it, it’s here).

When you first see the painting, it’s easy to see that it’s a cathedral, but there are many things about the cathedral that look different than if you saw it. The lines are soft. Some things aren’t clear and others are missing. The color isn’t what you would expect.

As my students and I talked about the painting and thought about its name – Portal of Rouen Cathedral in Morning Light – they began to think differently about what Monet was doing. He wasn’t painting the cathedral. He was painting the light shining on and around the cathedral, the kind and color of light you find early in the morning.

Monet was interested in the mixture (combination) of air, light, moisture (small amounts of water in the air), and temperature around the cathedral. As that mixture changed during the day, so did the way he saw the cathedral and the way he painted it.

Monet made about 30 of these paintings while looking out of the window of a room he rented across the street from the cathedral. He worked on each one for only about 10 minutes at the same time every day so the light was always the same.

Whenever my students looked at a new work of art, I asked them where their eyes went first and where they went after that. And to think about why. With this painting, the answer was almost always the same. They looked first at the dark area at the bottom and moved up from there. The change from dark to light “pushed” their eyes up to the top of the painting. So did the triangles (shapes with 3 sides) at the top of the doors, the one above that with the small circle for the clock, and the one at the top of the cathedral.

My students discovered that they could learn a lot about works of art by practicing “slow art,” taking time to look at them and think about what the artist did and why. The next time you go to an art museum, choose a few works of art and spend some extra time looking at them and thinking about them.  Remember: see less, see more.

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

Photo of Monet’s Rouen Cathedral in Morning Light courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.

 

Posted in Life in the United States | 4 Comments

NEW Daily English and Cultural Lessons – April 2017

icon_51812New lessons are released the first day of each month.

Here are a few of the new lessons available for April 2017.

To listen to these and other Daily English and Cultural English lessons, become a Select English Member today!
………

DAILY ENGLISH 1302 – Complaining About Parents

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 “permissions” and “to come up short.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Emancipation of Minors.”
“The word ’emancipation’ means setting someone free and is often used to talk about the end of ‘slavery’…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

CULTURAL ENGLISH 602
Topics: Questions Answered – To head-butt a curb, to thin the herd, and to sound like a blue chip; to mock versus to jeer versus to taunt versus to deride; background versus backdrop; to turn out to be; to be on fire; pronouncing “Is he?” and “Is she?”

In the Learning Guide:  Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear).
In “What Insiders Know,” you will read about “Beavis and Butt-Head.”
Beavis and Butt-Head was an animated television show that ‘aired’ (was shown) on MTV, the music television cable television station,…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

DAILY ENGLISH 1303 – Disputing an Incorrect Bill

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 “statement” and “look.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Consumer Reports.”
Consumer Reports is an American magazine that publishes ‘detailed’ (with a lot of specific information) “reviews”…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

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Thomas Edison’s Talking Doll

We can thank the inventor (person who creates new things) Thomas Edison for many inventions, including movie cameras, phonographs (early record players), light bulbs, and so many others.

In his lifetime, he had near 1,100 patents (government licenses for an idea or invention)! He was also a businessman and was able to turn some of his inventions into commercial (business; financial) successes.

But not everything Edison invented was a success.

In 1890, he invented a talking doll (see photo). The doll had a mini (very small) phonograph inside of it. Edison had hoped that the talking doll would help him sell more phonographs.

But the doll was a flop (failure).

First, the doll itself wasn’t very lifelike (looking like a real person) compared to other dolls sold at that time.

Second, and more importantly, the doll’s “voice” sounded very . . . well, listen for yourself. (Warning: If you don’t want to have nightmares (bad dreams), you might not want to listen to this!)

“Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep” (a bedtime prayer (message to God))
“Little Jack Horner” (a nursery rhyme (children’s poem))

The doll’s voice was a recording of a woman imitating (trying to sound like) the voice of a little girl. Edison himself thought the recordings were very unpleasant to listen to and everyone else agreed. The doll voice was creepy (frightening), perhaps something you would hear in a horror (intended to be frightening) movie.

The final flaw (problem) was the price: it cost about $200 in today’s dollars.

Edison stopped making dolls after only a month. His experience just reminds us that even very talented people have failures.

But it’s just a good thing for us that he didn’t stop inventing after this setback (failure after having some success) or we might be writing this in the dark!

~ Jeff

Photo Credit: National Park Service
Posted in Life in the United States | 2 Comments

NEW Daily English and Cultural Lessons – April 2017

icon_51812New lessons are released the first day of each month.

Here are a few of the new lessons available for April 2017.

To listen to these and other Daily English and Cultural English lessons, become a Select English Member today!
………

DAILY ENGLISH 1300 – Diversifying a Workforce

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 “stale” and “to tackle problems.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “The Job Accomodation Network.”
“The United States Department of Labor created the Job Accommodation Network (JAN) in 1983…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

CULTURAL ENGLISH 601
Topics: Questions Answered:  Whose Line is it Anyway?, to shiver versus to tremble versus to quiver; something versus something else; to bite the bullet; to blow (something) apart; to shy (away) from

In the Learning Guide:  Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear).
In “What Insiders Know,” you will read about “The Actors Studio.”
“Most professional actors, theater ‘directors’ (the person who is in charge of the actors and staff), and ‘playwrights’…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

DAILY ENGLISH 1301 – Describing Very Large and Small Sizes

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 “size” and “to bolt.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Clothing Stores for Large or Small People.”
“Most ‘department stores’ (large stores that have for sale clothing and household items, usually within a shopping mall)…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

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