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Thursday - April 17, 2014

An Anniversary For Remembering

1st_Boston_Marathon_blast_seen_from_2nd_floor_and_a_half_block_awaySome anniversaries are for celebrating  – like wedding anniversaries. Some are for commemorating – for recalling (remembering) and to serve as a memorial (to remind people of an event or person). This week we commemorate an anniversary.

One year ago two bombs hidden in backpacks spread death and mayhem (an attempt to seriously and permanently injure someone) among people near the finish line of the Boston Marathon. Three were killed. 264 were injured. And 14 required amputations (removal of an arm or leg).

Jeff Bauman was at the marathon to cheer for (to give encouragement to) his girlfriend Erin, who was running in her first marathon. He was there, standing next to one of the backpacks, when it exploded and destroyed both of his legs below the knees.

Jeff has become an icon (something or someone that represents something) of what happened in Boston. The photo of two emergency workers and a bystander (someone who is watching what is happening) in a cowboy hat pushing Jeff – with no lower legs – to the medical tent in a wheelchair was one of the first photos many of us saw.

The story of Jeff’s battle to recover from his injuries and regain (get back) his strength have kept him in the public eye (seen on TV, in the newspapers, etc., a lot). We followed as he endured (to be in a difficult or painful situation for a long time) the amputation of both legs above the knees. We watched and cheered when he took his first steps using artificial legs made especially for him.

Jeff and Erin are now engaged to be married, and they’re expecting their first child. They recently bought a house and spend a lot of their time preparing it for the arrival of their baby. He says that he knew he loved Erin when she laughed after he jokingly told her not to worry because “our kids will have legs.”

In a recent interview, Jeff said that he sleeps a lot, which doctors say is good because it helps his body heal (recover from the injuries). He still has trouble walking on his artificial legs, so when no one is around (nearby), he wears what he calls “stubbies.” They are small platforms (thick pieces of wood) that attach to the bottom of his thighs (upper leg) and make it possible to walk and stand for several hours.

Jeff says that “the things normal people take for granted (don’t think about) – going to the bathroom on their own, getting out of bed without falling down, making a latte for friends – once seemed insurmountable (too large or difficult to do).” There were times that he wanted to give up (stop trying) because he thought he would never be able to take care of himself, no matter how hard he tried.

But he didn’t give up. He continued to try. And he’s slowly improving (getting better). He says that “doing household chores (small regular tasks), being helpful, living a normal life … is what matters. It is what I worked so hard for. And right now, it’s all I really want.”

Jeff has written a book – called Stronger – about his experiences this last year. It will be released this month.

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

Photo of Boston Marathon bombing courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.


Tuesday - April 15, 2014

Spring Break!

220px-Beach_Party_Annette_Funicello_Frankie_Avalon_Mid-1960sWe are in the middle of the spring break season. I say “season” (period of time), because in the U.S., there are no set (fixed; firm) dates for spring break, and each school, school district (collection of schools under the same management), or region decides when to take this typically one- or two-week vacation. For students, this break (temporary stop; short interruption) occurs near the middle of the spring term (period of schooling) and is a welcome respite (short period of rest).

Spring break occurs in early spring, usually near or around the Easter holiday, which is April 20th this year. The most popular dates include the week before Easter, although they may occur anytime within a four- to five-week period in spring. If you take a look at a popular student travel site, you can see that spring break occurs this year anytime between February and April.

Spring break occurs at all levels of schooling, from kindergarten (for children ages five to six) all the way through college. For younger children, spring break may just be a week or two home from school, or it is a time for a family vacation. For college-age students, it is something else entirely.

For college students, spring break is a time to go on vacation with friends, often to a vacation destination (popular location) where many other spring breakers congregate (meet; also go there). This is typically a week-long party, with a lot of drinking of alcohol and a lot of hooking up (casual sexual experiences). Not all college students party during spring break, of course, but this type of spring break activity is so popular that there are places in the U.S. that cater to (are designed for) college students on spring break, earning most of their money during this four- to five-week period each year.

Beach or lake locations are among the most popular for spring break holidays. The typical image of spring break is of a lot of young people in bikinis (two-piece swimsuits for women) and swim trunks (swim suit for men, similar to shorts). Some of the most popular in the U.S. include Lake Havasu, Arizona, Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Daytona Beach, Florida,and South Padre Island, Texas.

Is there a spring break where you live? What are the most popular “party destinations”?

- Lucy

Photo Credit: Beach Party Annette Funicello Frankie Avalon Mid-1960s.jpg from Wikipedia


Sunday - April 13, 2014

Podcasts This Week (April 14, 2014)

Is 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 990 – Being Socially Popular

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 “bash” and “to go against.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Social Cliques.”
“Many high school students ‘long’ (want very much) to ‘fit in’…” - READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON WEDNESDAY
English Cafe 446

Topics: Ask an American – La Brea Tar Pits; until versus till/‘til versus by; to restore versus to recover; CCU (coronary care unit)

In the Learning Guide:  Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear).
In “What Insiders Know,” you will read about “The Flintstones.”
“The Flintstones is an ‘animated’ (made with drawings, not with actors) TV show that was originally ‘broadcast’…” - READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON FRIDAY
ESL Podcast 991 – Describing Distances

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 “remote” and “hike.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Methods Used to Encourage People to Walk and Bike to Work.”
“Many cities across the United States are trying to ‘encourage’…” - READ MORE in the Learning Guide


Tuesday - April 8, 2014

Rethinking Tattoos

400px-Tattoo_artist_with_latex_glovesAmong some groups in the U.S. today, having a tattoo is becoming more and more commonplace (not unusual; ordinary). A tattoo is permanent writing or drawings made under your skin. Tattoos can be made in almost any shape and size, from a fierce (dangerous; tough fighting) animal or other symbol to words or phrases (often, comically, misspelled or incorrectly written).

About one in five (21%) of Americans have at least one tattoo, up from 16% in 2008, according to a 2012 Harris poll. A separate poll found that among people 18 to 29, the figure (number; percentage) is closer to 40%.

While it’s true that tattoos have become more socially accepted in some parts of American society, there’s still one place where you might want to keep them covered: the place where you work.

Many employers (company owners or bosses) prefer to hire workers without tattoos. That’s almost certainly because, for many people, tattoos continue to carry a stigma (negative views and opinions). According to the Harris poll mentioned above, 45% believed that people with tattoos were less attractive, 27% thought they were less intelligent, and 25% thought they were less healthy.

(Apparently (It seems), companies don’t want to give jobs to people who they think are ugly, stupid, and in poor health. For those like me who are all three of things and who don’t even have a tattoo, this is very bad news indeed!)

Many workplaces actually have policies for people who want to get tattoos or already have them. The U.S. Army, for example, issued new restrictions (limitations; rules on what is allowed) last year on tattoos. The new rules say that tattoos are not allowed on parts of that body that aren’t easily covered, such as the arm below the elbow (where the arm bends) and above the neckline (skin area below the neck and above a shirt). Many hospitals require that employees cover their tattoos, especially ones that may offend (insult) people or frighten children.

Do you have tattoos? Are there rules about tattoos in your workplace? What are your opinions of people with tattoos?

- Jeff

Photo Credit: Tattoo artist with latex gloves from Wikipedia


Sunday - April 6, 2014

Podcasts This Week (April 7, 2014)

Get 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 988 – Playing Fair in Business

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 “account” and “to play fair.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “The Ethics and Compliance Officers Association.”
“The Ethics and Compliance Officers Association (ECOA) is a ‘nonprofit organization’…” - READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON WEDNESDAY
English Cafe 445
Topics: Movies – Titanic; The Ford Motor Company and the Model T; holiday versus feast versus celebration; impunity versus retaliation versus notoriety; to think of versus to think about

In the Learning Guide:  Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear).
In “What Insiders Know,” you will read about “The Sinking of the Steam Ship Andrea Doria.”
“The Steam Ship Andrea Doria was an ‘ocean liner’…”- READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON FRIDAY
ESL Podcast 989 –Dealing with a Mass Transit Strike

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 “mass” and “to be restored.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Transit Strikes.”
“Transit strikes are very ‘disruptive’ (creating problems and interrupting people’s routines)…” - READ MORE in the Learning Guide


Thursday - April 3, 2014

Too Close For Comfort*

LHearthquakesI had never sat on top of an earthquake. Until last Friday.

Last Friday evening was interrupted (to stop someone from doing what they were doing) by what sounded like the rumble (deep sound) of a large truck outside our house, followed quickly by what felt like a giant hand angrily shaking the house.

It happened again an hour later. Only this time the truck was much larger and the hand much stronger and angrier.

We had experienced the beginning of a series (one happening after another) of earthquakes, more than 200, which have continued through (including) today.

Fortunately, these were not major** or strong earthquakes. The first was a minor 3.6 on the Richter Scale (a measure of the strength of an earthquake). The second, the largest, was a moderate 5.1 earthquake. And Saturday afternoon there was a light 4.1.

Fortunately, Friday night’s earthquakes caused only minor damage. Store windows were broken. Large cracks (narrow spaces between two parts) appeared in the walls and foundations (the layer of cement or other material that a building stands on) of some houses and apartment buildings. Water mains (large pipes cities use to distribute water to different neighborhoods) were broken. Many items on the shelves of stores in the area were shaken onto the floor. And many, like us, had books, vases, and other items knocked off of shelves in our houses.

We’ve lived in California for 27 years and have experienced many earthquakes. California, as you may know, is sometimes called “earthquake country.” Shortly after we moved to California, we experienced the Whittier Narrows earthquake, a 5.9 earthquake in the city next to ours, which killed eight people and caused millions of dollars of damage.

Two things made these earthquakes different from our previous experiences. First, the largest of them, the main earthquake, was very nearly under our house. The epicenter (the point directly above an earthquake) was only about 1 to 2 kilometers away. Second, many of the more than 200 aftershocks (a smaller earthquake that occurs after an earlier large one) were very shallow (near the surface of the earth).

These two factors (something that causes a situation) – the nearness of the earthquakes and their shallowness – dramatically (greatly) changed our experience. Because we were so close, we experienced more of the earthquakes’ force, or energy. An earthquake’s force dissipates (becomes less) rather quickly as you move farther away, and you experience less of it. And when an earthquake is near the surface, its energy is concentrated (held together) in a smaller area. So for us, these earthquakes have seemed (appeared to be) much louder, stronger, and more violent than stronger earthquakes we have experienced from farther away.

As you may imagine, the earthquakes of the last few days have given us an unsettling experience (made us feel uneasy). You never know when the next one will hit (occur, happen). And when it does, you always wonder how strong it will be and how long it will last.

* Too close for comfort = to be dangerously close. For example, “That car almost hit me! That was too close for comfort.”
** Minor earthquakes are from 3-3.9; light are from 4-4.9; moderate are from 5-5.9; strong are from 6-6.9, and major from 7-7.9.

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

Photo: map of recent earthquakes near La Habra, CA courtesy of SCEC.


Tuesday - April 1, 2014

Americans No More

Us-passportMany people would like to be American citizens, legally becoming “members” of the United States. However, last year a record number (more than in any other year) of Americans renounced (gave up; ended) their American citizenship.

About 3,000 people last year renounced their American citizenship, up sharply (very much and suddenly) from about 500 each year in recent years. Why the spike (sudden rise)? It’s because it’s getting more expensive and difficult to be an American, especially one living abroad (in another country).

Politicians (people with elected government jobs) are always promising Americans before elections that they will close tax loopholes, weak points or “holes” in the tax laws that allow people, especially rich people, to avoid paying taxes. That’s what the government tried to do with people taking their money abroad.

In 2008 and 2010, the government passed laws that require foreign banks and other institutions (businesses) that hold American money to comply with (follow) new laws. The purpose of the laws was to prevent (not allow) Americans from hiding money in overseas (foreign) bank accounts or investments, and thereby (as a result) avoid paying taxes on that money. These new laws, including the Foreign Accounts Tax Compliance Act of 2010, affected all banks and other businesses accepting American money. The trouble was, many banks and financial institutions decided that the requirements for compliance were too much trouble. They started closing the accounts of many Americans, deciding that it wasn’t worth the hassle (trouble).

Added to this are the higher tax rates on rich Americans since President Obama has been in office (in the job as president). Unlike many other countries, if you are an American citizen, no matter where you live, you must pay U.S. taxes. This includes people who have lived outside of the U.S. for 20 or even 50 years. In the eyes of the American tax system, you’re still an American and must pay American taxes, even if none of your earnings (how much money you get from a job or other business) are made on American soil (in the U.S.).

With the increased difficulty of getting financial services abroad and higher tax rates, more Americans than ever who live abroad are opting (choosing) to stop being Americans. Government officials say that while this is an unintended consequence (unexpected and unwanted result) of recent new laws and regulations (rules), those laws and regulations are stopping tax cheats (people who successfully avoid paying taxes they owe).

If you were in a similar situation in your country, would you renounce your citizenship? If not, are there any circumstances under which you’d do so?

- Lucy

Photo Credit: US Passport from Wikipedia


Sunday - March 30, 2014

Podcasts this Week (March 31, 2014)

We 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 986 – Buying and Selling Family Heirlooms

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 fetch” and “to proceed.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Places for Antiquing.”
“Some people go antiquing as a ‘hobby’ (something enjoyable that people do in their free time)…” - READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON WEDNESDAY
English Cafe 444

Topics: American Authors – J.D. Salinger; Comedy in Print – Mad Magazine and The Onion; scanty versus inadequate versus deficient; inquiry versus investigation versus research; so-called

In the Learning Guide:  Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear).
In “What Insiders Know,” you will read about “Famous Authors Publishing Only One Book.”
“Authors who experience a great amount of success with one book often ‘follow it up’ (do afterwards) by writing…” - READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON FRIDAY
ESL Podcast 987 – Taking Prescription Drugs

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 “pill” and “interact.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “The Controlled Substance Act.”
“In 1970, the United States ‘Congress’ (law-making part of the government) and…” - READ MORE in the Learning Guide


Tuesday - March 25, 2014

Let Me See Your ID Again

Passport_cardWhen we think of IDs (identification documents), we often think that having our photo on it makes it impossible for anyone else to use it. That’s not necessarily (100%) true.

A study published recently tested how well people spotted (identified; found) fake (not real or authentic) IDs, especially in real-world (true; actual) situations. For example, one place where you want to know if someone is using a fake ID is in an airport security line.

But in that sort of real-world situation, the person looking at IDs is unlikely to come across (see) many fake IDs. The overwhelming (by a large amount) majority of people use their real IDs at an airport.

And that’s precisely the problem. According to the results of this study, the less frequently a person comes across a fake ID, the less likely he or she is able to spot one. In the study, when the frequency of fakes was high, the study participants were wrong only 20% of the time. But when there were fewer fakes, they were wrong 40% of the time.

Part of the difficulty in using photo IDs to identify people is that people age (grow older), change their hairstyles, wear glasses or not, or wear make-up or not (cosmetics worn on the face to improve one’s appearance). In the study, many of the photos were taken months or years before the time of the study, which also match real-world conditions. In the U.S., many passports and drivers licenses are valid (acceptable by law or rule) for 10 years or more.

I recently renewed (extended the period for) my California driver’s license. When I got my previous license, it was good for (valid for) 10 years. I was able to renew my license for five more years using the government website without having a new photo taken. This means that at the end of the five-year period, my picture will be 15 years old. Without plastic surgery (medical procedures to improve my appearance) or a wig, I will look very different and much older than when I first had the picture taken back in the Clinton administration (when Bill Clinton was president of the U.S.).

Who might be good at spotting fake IDs? In other words, what kind of person sees a lot of fake IDs as part of his or her job? One answer will not surprise you: bouncers, people hired by nightclubs and bars to keep out people who are underage (younger than the legal drinking age, usually 21) or who are causing problems. They encounter fake IDs all the time, especially here in the U.S.

Perhaps the solution is simply:  Hire more bouncers as security screeners (people who check documents to be sure that person is safe to allow into a place)!

- Jeff

Image Credit: Passport card from Wikipedia


Sunday - March 23, 2014

Podcasts this Week (March 24, 2014)

Is 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 984 – Competing in Business

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 go under” and “to slash prices.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “How Small Businesses Fight Undercutting Prices.”
“Many ‘mom and pop businesses’ (small, family-owned businesses) are being…” - READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON WEDNESDAY
English Cafe 443

Topics: American Musicals – Fiddler on the Roof; How to Sue Somebody (How Civil Lawsuits Work); reporter versus journalist versus correspondent; expense versus expenditure versus cost; bottom line; to run (something) by (someone)

In the Learning Guide:  Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear).
In “What Insiders Know,” you will read about “The Streisand Effect.”
“The Streisand Effect is a ‘phenomenon’ (unusual or remarkable event) that occurs when a plan to hide…” - READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON FRIDAY
ESL Podcast 985 – School Fundraisers

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 hit up” and “brick.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “School-Business Partnership Fundraisers.”
“As ‘school funding’ (the amount of money available to pay for schools) is ‘cut’ (reduced)…” - READ MORE in the Learning Guide