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Tuesday - September 27, 2016

When Losers Are Winners

la-sp-sn-cycling-road-olympics-day-2-20160807Mara Abbott could see it.

The finish line. Her life dream. An Olympic victory. A gold medal.

Two hundred meters more and her dream would come true. Two hundred meters more and the Olympic gold medal would be hers.

Unlike many others, Abbott had survived the Rio Olympic cycling (bicycle riding) road race course (streets used for the race).

The course was one of the most difficult ever. A smooth, fast ride along Rio’s famous beaches took the riders to a series of small hills connected by cobblestone- (small round stones) covered roads so rough that riders’ water bottles flew out of the holders on their bikes. A return ride along Rio’s beaches took the riders to the big mountains, leg-killing ascents (going up) that took riders into the cloud-filled skies followed by dangerous, high-speed descents (going down) with turns that could easily throw a rider off the mountain. Riders who made it up and over the mountains had only a few fast, smooth kilometers to the finish line.

The course was perfect for Abbot. She is not a big, strong rider. She can’t ride as fast as many others. But she can climb. She may be one of the best climbers in the world of women’s cycling. And she had counted (depended) on her climbing ability to help her win Olympic gold. She believed that she had a good chance (possibility) to win if she were leading (in first place) at the top of the last mountain.

And she was. But shortly after beginning her final descent, another rider passed her and disappeared down the road.

Abbot descended as fast as she dared (felt she could safely ride). A few minutes later, while making a high-speed turn, Abbott saw the other rider on the ground at the side of the road. She had turned too fast, lost control of her bicycle, and crashed, breaking several bones in her back.

Abbot was in the lead again, alone. Her nearest competitors (other riders in the race) were 45 seconds behind her. She safely finished the descent and turned onto the final few kilometers of smooth road. The finish line, and her dream of Olympic gold, was in front of her.

As one writer wrote, “In cycling, one is often a condemned (impossible to succeed) number.” One rider cannot ride as fast as several riders working together. When several work together, one and then another pull (ride in front) and the others follow closely, hiding from the wind. It’s called drafting.

The three riders following Abbott began closing the gap (distance between) – 30 seconds . . . then 20  . . . 10. Abbott rode as fast as she could – riders call it “turning yourself inside out.” But the other three riders kept gaining (getting closer).

With 200 meters to go, the other three riders swept (went quickly) past and finished 1-2-3. Gold. Silver. Bronze.

Abbott finished fourth. No medal. Just a broken dream.

Abbott was heart-broken (very sad). But I was impressed by what she wrote a few days later:

“Would you rather have some excuse (reason to lose) . . . sick last week, got a flat tire . . .? Or, would you rather honestly know you had ridden a race to the very best of your strength and ability, know that there was nothing else you could have done and have that be . . . not . . . quite  . . .  enough?

Here is what actually matters more than a medal: “. . . creating a performance that was truly your best.”

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

Photo of Mara Abbott from the Los Angeles Times.

 

 

 

 


Sunday - September 25, 2016

Podcasts this Week (September 26, 2016)

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 1246 – Getting a Gynecological Exam

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 “lump” and “discharge.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Health Education in Schools.”
“Most public schools offer some “form” (type) of health education…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON WEDNESDAY
English Cafe 574

Topics: Classic TV & Movies – Mission: Impossible; Famous Americans – Alfred Stieglitz; satisfactory versus satisfying; damaged goods and majorly unfair

In the Learning Guide:  Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear).
In “What Insiders Know,” you will read about “MacGyver”
MacGyver is an “action-adventure” (with exciting storylines with a lot of movement and events) television series that was produced for…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON FRIDAY
ESL Podcast 1247 – Doing Meal Planning

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 map out” and “full-grown.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Meals on Wheels.”
““Meals on Wheels” is a ‘charitable organization’ (a nonprofit organization that tries to improve society and serve others in some way)…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide


Tuesday - September 20, 2016

Clearing Your Conscience

insomnia-1547964Are you unable to sleep at night because your conscience is bothering you? Your conscience is the feeling you get or the voice in your mind that tells you you’re doing wrong. If your conscience is bothering you, you’re feeling guilty (with a feeling of having done something wrong) about something.

Instead of taking sleeping pills, what you might need is the Conscience Fund. The Conscience Fund is an account (place to collect money) the United States Treasury Department (the government department in charge of the country’s money) created to accept gifts of money from people. The U.S. Treasury created this fund or account for people who have stolen money or have committed fraud (crime of cheating others out of money) against the U.S. government and have a guilty conscience. To make ourselves feel better, those who have committed fraud can donate or give money to the Conscience Fund without giving any details or identifying who they are.

The Conscience Fund first began in 1811 when the government received $5 from someone who said he had defrauded (cheated) the government. Since 1811, the fund has collected over $7 million, receiving about $200,000 a year. The money is put into the government’s general fund and used for general expenses (spending).

Most people send in money anonymously (without giving a name or revealing their identity). Some money is sent without any note at all, as in the case of a $155,000 gift from someone in 1990. But others have included a note to explain their transgression (wrong action; action against the rules or the law).

Most money received is in small amounts. For example, one person sent in money and included the note: “Please accept this money for two postal stamps I re-used.” Stamps are those small pieces of paper you purchase to be placed on letters and packages to be mailed. They’re intended to be used only once, but this person used two stamps twice.

Another person sent in this note with their money: “About eight years ago I took from a railroad station an item worth about $25 and this has been on my conscience since, so I’m enclosing $50 to clear my conscience.” To clear (one’s) conscience means to do something to correct something wrong one has done or to recognize one’s mistake so that one no longer feels guilty.

My favorite is this note from a person with a guilty conscience:  “‘Dear Internal Revenue Service*, I have not been able to sleep at night because I cheated on last year’s income tax. Enclosed find a cashier’s check (a piece of paper that can be exchanged for cash, a way of sending money in the mail) for $1,000. If I still can’t sleep, I’ll send you the balance (the remaining money; the rest of the money).'” It’s not clear whether this guilty person ever sent in the rest of his or her ill-gotten gains (money earned by cheating or through crime) or if this confession (statement of having broken the rules or committed a crime) was enough to allow for a good night of sleep.

The Conscience Fund is an indication that, as a nation, we value honesty (being truthful). But the relatively (fairly) small amount it collects each year suggests that we are either a nation of very honest people or very dishonest people.

~ Lucy

* Internal Revenue Service = the U.S. government department that collects taxes


Sunday - September 18, 2016

Podcasts this Week (September 19, 2016)

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 1244 – Preparing Packages for Shipping

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 “layer” and “label.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “USPS Shipping Restrictions and Prohibited Items.”
“The United States Postal Service (USPS) has a long list of ‘shipping restrictions’…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON WEDNESDAY
English Cafe 573

Topics: American Authors – Kurt Vonnegut; Famous Songs – “When You Wish Upon a Star”; to knock up versus to knock down versus to knock over versus to knock off; new versus brand new; give and take

In the Learning Guide:  Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear).
In “What Insiders Know,” you will read about “The Union Stock Yards.”
“The Union Stock Yards in Chicago, Illinois, were an important ‘meatpacking’…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON FRIDAY
ESL Podcast 1245 – Measuring Mass and Volume

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 “cup” and “pound.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “United States Customary Units.”
“In the United States, people use a system of measurements known as ‘customary units’ or the ‘traditional systems of weights and measures.’…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide


Tuesday - September 13, 2016

How Hot Is It?

hot-159386_1280Summer is winding down (coming to an end) in the U.S., and Matt Pace is probably glad to see it end.

Pace is the weatherman for a TV station in Phoenix, Arizona. And in a recent interview, he said that he has a problem: finding different ways to describe how hot it is in Phoenix every day.

Phoenix is the hottest city in the U.S. It is hotter than 90 degrees F (32° C) almost 170 days every year. In July the average temperature is 106° (41° C); in August it’s 104° (40° C). In 1990, Phoenix experienced the hottest temperature ever recorded (measured and written down) in a U.S. city – 122 degrees F (50° C).

When Pace was asked about his dilemma (problem), he said, “I go, ‘It’s hot,’ or, ’It’s above average,’ or, ‘It’s going to be extremely warm today.’” He continued, “There’s always, ‘It’s really hot out there,’ or, ‘It’s hot, hot, hot,’ or just, ‘Triple (3x) hot!’” One day this summer, Pace asked his Twitter followers: “Tired of hearing us say ‘It’s hot?’ Me too…so what are other ways we can say ‘It’s hot’.”

There are a number of different ways to describe hot days – to avoid saying “very, very, very hot,” and to make your description more interesting and informative.  Here are some that I thought of:

  • blazing | a blaze is a bright, hot fire | a blazing August afternoon
  • roasting | to roast something is to cook it in an oven or over a fire | a roasting hot day, or, I’m roasting in this coat.
  • scorching, scorched | to scorch is to burn the surface of something; when you scorch fabric, it usually turns brown | the scorching July sun; the desolate (empty), scorched landscape (area of land, usually with grass and other plants)
  • searing | to sear something, like meat, is to burn it quickly with a sudden powerful heat | the searing heat of the desert
  • sizzling | sizzling is the sound when you drop water on a very hot surface and drops of water “dance” on the surface | a sizzling afternoon
  • stifling | so hot that it’s difficult to breath | It’s stifling outside today; The stifling heat made it difficult to be outside yesterday.
  • sweltering | uncomfortably hot; so hot that you feel weak (less strong) | the sweltering afternoon heat
  • sultry or muggy | hot and the air feels humid (wet) | It will be sultry (or muggy) today.
  • unbearably hot | so hot it’s almost painful; you can’t bear it (take it) | It was unbearably hot yesterday.

Another possibility is to compare the heat to something that people might be familiar with, for example: Stepping outside today is like stepping into a blast furnace – a blast furnace is a very hot furnace used to melt metals (make them liquid).

Can you think of other ways to say “it’s hot” in polite conversation?

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

The photo of the thermometer is in the public domain.

 


Sunday - September 11, 2016

Podcasts this Week (September 12, 2016)

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 1242 – Difficulty Reaching a Decision

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 lose heart” and “to hold out.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Grounds for Mistrial.”
“A ‘mistrial’ happens when a ‘trial’ (legal proceedings; a court case) is ‘rendered invalid’ (found to not be proper or legally applicable)…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON WEDNESDAY
English Cafe 572

Topics: Famous Americans – Eli Whitney; The Ziegfeld Follies; ROFL, straight outta, and meme; shack versus shed; to take advantage of versus to seize

In the Learning Guide:  Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear).
In “What Insiders Know,” you will read about “Whitney Museum of American Art.”
“Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, a member of the ‘wealthy’ (rich; with a lot of money) Vanderbilt and Whitney families…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON FRIDAY
ESL Podcast 1243 – Getting an Anesthetic

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 wear off” and “needle.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “The Classic Game ‘Operation.'”
““Operation” is a ‘table game’ (a game played at a table, not while moving around) that was created in 1965…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide


Tuesday - September 6, 2016

“Welcome to the Fourth Grade”

The kids are back in school! Hooray! (Great!) Most schools in the U.S. begin their school year either in last two weeks of August or right after Labor Day, celebrated on the first Monday in September (yesterday).

To get you and especially our youngest listeners in the mood for (in the right emotional state for; ready for) school, here is a song created by a teacher who works just outside of Chicago, Illinois, that’s making the rounds (being shared by many people). He made this video and sent it to his new fourth grade students (ages nine and ten) and their parents to introduce himself and get students excited about the new school year.

I give it an A+! It’s fun and entertaining. (See the words to the video below to help you understand it.)

~ Jeff

Welcome to the Fourth Grade
by Dwayne Reed

Welcome to the fourth grade
So happy to meet you
Can’t wait ’till I see you
We’re gonna have a good time (have fun)

We’ll learn about science
Find ways to apply it (use science in the real world)
I bet (I’m sure) that you’ll like it
We’re gonna (going to) have a good time

Welcome to the fourth grade
Hello, I’m your teacher
My name is Mr. Reed
It’s very nice to meet you

I’m from Chicago
I love eating pizza
I dress to impress (to get others to have a good opinion)
But I still rock (wear and look good in) sneakers (tennis shoes)

This is my first year teaching
So it’s all really exciting
Got some ideas
And I’d really like to try them

Like making songs to remember what you hear
We’ll be learning so much by the end of the year

To my friends and my peers, the parents and the students
I’m ready, you’re ready, we’re ready, let’s do this (let’s begin) [yeah!]

But absolutely no daydreaming (not paying attention and thinking of other things)
Working hard until the bell starts ringing*

Welcome to the fourth grade
So happy to meet you
Can’t wait ’till I see you
We’re gonna have a good time

We’ll study mathematics
Division (÷) and adding (+)
And don’t forget fractions (for example, {\tfrac {1}{2}})
We’re going to have a good time

Welcome to the fourth grade

I’ll always greet you (say hello) with a smile
I’ll always try to make the lessons worthwhile (have value; worth learning)
When you do good work, I’ll acknowledge (show appreciation of it)
(Be)cause you’re headed off to (going to) work or to college
So we’ve got to keep it positive, that’s the key (most important thing)

Have respect for (be kind to and behave well toward) each other, and don’t forget me
Have respect for yourselves and the staff (workers in the school) and the school
Having fun can be cool when you’re following the rules
Time’s going to fly (time will go by quickly)
Before you know it you’ll be moving into grade five

But for now we’ll be working and learning and singing
All the way ’till the bell starts to ringing

Welcome to the fourth grade
So happy to meet you
Can’t wait ’till I see you
We’re gonna have a good time

We’ll learn about English
Write papers and read them
A-plus (A+, the best possible grade) and we’ll see them
We’ll have a good time

Welcome to the fourth grade
Go teacher [repeat]

* Schools ring (make sound) bells at the beginning and end of classes in U.S. schools


Sunday - September 4, 2016

Podcasts this Week (September 5, 2016)

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 1240 – Giving Correct Change

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 “in a pinch” and “coin.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Bank Promotions.”
“Many U.S. banks offer ‘promotional items’ (things that are given away to customers or ‘potential customers’ (people who might become customers in the future)…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON WEDNESDAY
English Cafe 571

Topics: Classic TV Shows –  The Addams Family; The Hoover Dam; “Silence is only frightening to people who are compulsively verbalizing.”; to blow (something) apart; pronouncing “man” and “men”

In the Learning Guide:  Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear).
In “What Insiders Know,” you will read about “Elvira, Mistress of the Dark and the Midnight Movie.”
“A ‘midnight movie’ can refer to any ‘B movie’ (a movie produced inexpensively, with poor or medium quality)…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON FRIDAY
ESL Podcast 1241 – Breaking an Arm or a Leg

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 “bone” and “cast.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Breakdancing.”
““Breakdancing,” also known as ‘breaking’ or ‘b-boying’ is a style of ‘street dance’ (dance performed on the street, not in a theater)…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide


Tuesday - August 30, 2016

Our Best Idea

Hawai'i_Volcanoes_National_Park_HAVO1837Here’s a question for you: In the U.S., what is as large as the United Kingdom (the countries of England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland) and was visited by more than 300 million people last year?

The answer: our 59 national parks.

A few days ago, we celebrated the 100th birthday of the National Park Service (NPS), which is responsible for taking care of our national parks and other national sites (important places). One 20th-century historian (someone who studies history) called our national parks “the best idea we’ve ever had.” Many would agree.

Our national parks are as diverse (very different from each other) as the people who live in the U.S. You’ll find rocky cliffs (side of a mountain that drops straight down) and waterfalls in Yosemite. Seven small islands surrounded (to be all around) by clear blue water in Dry Tortugas.  Wooded (full of trees) hills in Smoky Mountains and Shenandoah. The lowest, hottest, and driest place in the U.S. in Death Valley. Rain forests in Olympic, one of the wettest places in the U.S. Some of the world’s largest trees in Sequoia and King’s Canyon. Wetlands, crocodiles, and Florida panthers in Everglades. Glaciers (slow-moving sheets of ice) with deep crevasses (cuts in the ice) in Kenai Fjords. The deep, colorful walls of the Grand Canyon. A palace (home for an important person) built by early American Indians in the side of a cliff in Mesa Verde. A quiet path along a slow-moving river in Cuyahoga. Fiery volcanoes in Hawai’i Volcanoes. Trees that are different than any trees you’ve ever seen in Joshua Tree. Trees that have been dead for hundreds, maybe thousands, of years in Petrified Forest. And that’s just a sample (part of the whole group).

There’s no better way to explore the parks than to visit them. But if you haven’t, or can’t, the Internet is a good place to get a taste of them. I invite you to take some time, look around, and discover them for yourself. Here’s how you can do it.

For an overview (quick look) of the national parks, watch See all U.S. National Parks in One Minute (Note: there’s a short advertisement at the beginning.). You may want to watch it more than once! And to whet your appetite (make you hungry) for more, look at Mark Burns’ beautiful new black and white photographs.

Next, look at the short National Geographic Best of… videos from the five most popular parks – the links are below. You’ll enjoy the scenery, see some unusual animals, and pick up (learn) some new “park” vocabulary (Note: there’s a short advertisement at the beginning of each one.).

For a closer look, the NPS website is the best place to go. Here are the NPS home pages for the 10 most popular national parks. When you get to the home page, click on Plan Your Visit > Places to Go to explore the park.

Here they are:

If you want to visit other parks, you can use the NPS Find a Park page to find their home pages.

My favorites from this list are Great Smoky Mountains, Yosemite, Rocky Mountain (I used to live next to it), and Acadia. Which do you like?

~ Warren Ediger – ESL tutor and coach. My website is Successful English.

Photo from Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.

Note: For a list of all the national parks we’ve discussed on our English Cafe, see here.


Sunday - August 28, 2016

Podcasts this Week (August 29, 2016)

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 1238 – Making Accusations

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 trash” and “I’d sooner.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “The Los Alamos National Laboratory.”
“The Los Alamos National Laboratory is a U.S. ‘complex’ (a group of buildings) in Los Alamos, New Mexico….” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON WEDNESDAY
English Cafe 570

Topics: Famous Americans – Shirley Temple Black; Famous Songs – “Taps”; paper versus report; internship versus externship; to march (someone) to front of the class

In the Learning Guide:  Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear).
In “What Insiders Know,” you will read about “Kennedy Center Honors.”
“The Kennedy Center, named after former president John F. Kennedy, is a well known ‘performing arts center’…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON FRIDAY
ESL Podcast 1239 – Sharing an Online Account

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 “by any chance” and “all right.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Parental Controls.”
““Parental controls” are electronic tools that help parents ‘control’ (place limits or restrictions on) how their children use electronic ‘devices’…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide