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Archive for November, 2009

Tuesday - November 24, 2009

Giving Thanks

Thursday is the Thanksgiving holiday in the United States. We’ve already talked a lot about Thanksgiving in the podcast and on the blog.  Listen to ESL Podcast #91 and English Cafe #60 for more details about how Americans celebrate this day.   Today and tomorrow will be very busy on all of the freeways and at the airports throughout the United States, as well as Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.  If you live here in the U.S., be sure to leave early or else you may not make your flight (arrive in time to get on your flight)!

We have, as always, much to be thankful for here at ESL Podcast.  We thank our listeners throughout the world, in more than 100 countries, for their encouragement and emails.  We thank our blog readers and commentators, who every week come to the site and give their ideas and opinions.  We especially thank our ESL Podcast Learning Guide members, both Basic and Premium, as well as those who shop in our ESL Podcast Store.  Without you members and Store customers, we would not be able to provide the free audio files the way we do now.

On behalf of the whole team here at ESL Podcast, we hope those of you who celebrate Thanksgiving have a good day with friends and/or family.

~Jeff & Lucy


The First Thanksgiving by Jeannie Brownscombe

Thursday - November 19, 2009

What Does Swine Flu Have to Do with Neckties?

Andover_tiesYou probably already know about the H1N1 virus, also called the swine flu virus. The word swine refers to pigs, which scientists believe are the origin of this particular influenza or flu virus. Although pharmaceutical (drug-making) companies have developed a vaccine (a drug you take to prevent you from getting or catching a disease), there have not been enough vaccines produced for everyone to get one. This is a serious problem in most countries, especially here in the United States, where the government projected (predicted) that 120 million vaccines would be available by this month. In fact, less than 50 million vaccines have been administered (given) to children and adults in the United States this year.

I went to my doctor’s office two weeks ago and no vaccines were available. In fact, my doctor was also out of (did not have) the seasonal flu vaccine. Each year, scientists produce a vaccine specific to the kind of virus that is most common for that flu season (period of time when something happens). This is separate from the swine flu virus, and is usually called the seasonal flu vaccine. I’m still waiting to get both the seasonal and swine flu vaccines, but I am not very optimistic (hopeful) that I will get it before the end of the flu season.

Today I read in The Wall Street Journal about a new problem related to the swine flu: the necktie that your doctor wears (that is, if your doctor is a man). Some studies have indicated that these ties are in fact dangerous to patients (people who go to see the doctor or who are sick) because they can actually carry germs and viruses. When the doctor leans close (moves close to, moves toward) to your face with a tie on, you have a greater chance of catching (getting) these germs and viruses.

Why is the necktie a particular problem? The reason is simple: Men rarely wash or clean their ties, unlike their shirts and pants and other clothing. For this reason, some hospitals have recommended that male doctors stop wearing ties. Many doctors, however, believe that the threat (danger) of neckties carrying germs and viruses is exaggerated (considered greater than it really is). Some have even suggested that younger doctors who don’t want to dress more formally are using this new finding (discovery) as an excuse to dress more casually (informally) at hospitals and clinics.

A real problem, I suppose, is the following situation: You go to see your doctor to get a swine flu vaccine, and the doctor is wearing a tie. What do you do? You could get both the vaccine and the swine flu all at the same time!


P.S. I’m joking in this last paragraph, of course.  If the vaccine is available to you, you should definitely get it – or send it to me.

Thursday - November 12, 2009

Mexican Coke

Modern_coca_cola_bottleAs some of you may already know, I spent some time in Mexico during the late 1980s (it’s scary (frightening, surprising) for me to think that that was more than 20 years ago!). As a young man in my 20s, I participated in my share of (several) games of Dominoes, which was very popular in Mexico in those days (and perhaps still is?).  Part of the ritual (specific actions done in a certain order whenever this particular activity occurs) was to drink some Bacardi rum (a type of alcohol) and Coca-Cola, a drink known as a Cuba Libre (literally, “Free Cuba”).  Needless to say, I had the chance to drink a lot of Coca-Cola during the games, although I always limited my intake (the amount of something you drink or “take in”) of the rum.  I soon discovered that the Coca-Cola made in Mexico tastes different than the Coca-Cola made in the United States.  (Similarly, the Bacardi dark rum made in Mexico tastes different than the rum from Puerto Rico, which is what is sold in the United States.)

When I returned to the United States, I began to notice even more this difference between the taste of Coke in Mexico and in the U.S.  In fact, sometimes I would go down to the local Mexican market back in St. Paul, Minnesota (and yes, there are Mexican markets in St. Paul) and I would buy some of the bottles of Coke from Mexico.  Coke in Mexico was and still is sold in glass bottles, unlike the cans and plastic bottles that are used in the U.S.

Recently, I read an article in the New York Times Magazine about Mexican Coke.  I discovered that, in fact, although Coca-Cola is an international product with the same recipe or formula, the ingredients used in different countries may vary (may be different).  This is the case for Mexican Coke, which is made from sugar in order to make it sweet, and different from U.S. Coke, which is made from something called high-fructose corn syrup.  Fructose is another word for sugar, and high-fructose corn syrup is a special kind of sugar made, well, from corn.  These different ingredients definitely have different tastes, and many people who have tried both Mexican Coke and American Coke find the Mexican variety (type) tastes a lot better.  Certainly that was my experience.  Others think the difference in taste is due to (because of) the glass bottle, which may also be part of the reason.

Having reached a point in my life where I can no longer drink or eat what I want without getting fat, I rarely drink regular Coke anymore (although I do sometimes drink Diet Coke, which has artificial sweeteners (a sweetening substance made without real sugar or corn syrup)).  But reading this article reminded me of those days drinking rum and Coke and spending Friday evenings playing Dominoes with friends.

If you’ve traveled to the U.S. or to other countries, have you noticed a difference in the taste of the Coke?  Are there other “international” foods that taste different to you from one country to another?  Do McDonald’s hamburgers taste better in Berlin than in Boston, for example?


Thursday - November 5, 2009

50 Questions

A teacher, Robert, just sent me a link to something called 50 Questions, which is a website where you are asked to answer 50 questions about yourself and what you are doing (or have done recently).  I’m not sure what the purpose of these questions really is (most of them are a bit silly or stupid), but for some reason they have become very popular on YouTube, with people recording their answers to the 50 questions for others to see.  If you go to YouTube, you can listen to different people respond to these exact same questions.  There are dozens of videos with these answers.

I went on this website and answered the 50 questions.  My responses are below, along with some explanation of the questions themselves, where needed.  I’m not sure if you really know more about me after seeing my answers, however.


1. Where were you 3 hours ago?
Sleeping in my bed.
2. Who are you in love with?
My wife, who is the true love of my life.
3. Have you ever eaten a crayon? (Crayon = coloring stick made of wax that children use for drawing)
No – why would I?
4. Is there anything pink within 10 feet of you?
5. When is the last time you went to the mall? (Shopping center)
About 2 weeks ago, to buy a book.
6. Are you wearing socks right now?
Yes, since it is sometimes a little cold in the morning in my office.
7. Do you have a car worth over $2,000?
Yes, but it is about five years old.
8. When was the last time you drove out of town?
If by “out of town” you mean staying overnight somewhere else, probably last Thanksgiving visiting relatives (family members).  However, I drive to places near Los Angeles all the time.
9. Have you been to the movies in the last 5 days?
No, I rarely (very infrequently) go to movies at a theater anymore.  I rent a DVD or watch it on television.
10. Are you hot? (Hot is slang for attractive in a romantic or sexual way.  However, “Are you hot?” can also mean “Do you have a high temperature or are you feeling warm?”)
My body temperature is normal, I think.
11. What was the last thing you had to drink?
A cup of tea (English Breakfast tea), with milk and sugar (I drink one every morning and whenever I go to Starbucks).
12. What are you wearing right now?
My green shirt and black pants.
13. Do you wash your car or let the car wash do it? (A place you take your car for other people to wash it)
Car wash.  My first job at the age of 15 was at a car wash, so I believe in supporting them.  Plus, I’m too lazy to wash my own car.
14. Last food that you ate?
Breakfast cereal (Cheerios with about a cup or so of milk).
15. Where were you last week at this time?
Right where I am now – at my computer working.
16. Have you bought any clothing items in the last week?
No, I hate buying clothes.
17. When is the last time you ran?
Yesterday on the treadmill (a machine that you can walk or run in place on).
18. What’s the last sporting event you watched?
World Series game last night (the New York Yankees won, beating the Philadelphia Phillies). (The World Series is the baseball championship in the US.)
19. What is your favorite animal?
20. Your dream vacation? (ideal, fantasy)
Sitting on a beach in Hawaii.
21. Last person’s house you were in?
My friend’s.
22. Worst injury you’ve ever had? (harm to your body)
Cut my thumb and needed to go to the hospital.
23. Have you been in love?
Yes (see #2).
24. Do you miss anyone right now?
My father.
25. Last play you saw?
I don’t remember.  I used to go see plays more frequently, but have not in the past few years.  I’ve seen a few “experimental” plays but I don’t remember their names.
26. What is your secret weapon to lure in the opposite sex? (to attract)
Be funny.  This is, in fact, my only weapon, since I am not very hot.  Nowadays I don’t lure in anyone – even if I wanted to (which I don’t – see #2).
27. What are your plans for tonight?
Read, watch television, read some more.
28. Who is the last person you sent a MySpace message or comment?
No one – I’ve never had a MySpace page.
29. Next trip you are going to take?
Going to Arizona for a few days.
30. Ever go camping?  (Sleep outside in a tent)
I last went camping in 1989, and have no plans to do so again…ever.  The next time I want to be horizontal outdoors is when they bury me in my grave (put my dead body in a hole in the ground).
31. Were you an honor roll student in school? (Students with the best grades)
Yes, but I went to a very small school, so it wasn’t very difficult to get on the honor roll.
32. What do you want to know about the future?
Will the Dodgers ever win a World Series again? (The Dodgers are Los Angeles’s professional baseball team, and last won the World Series in 1988.)
33. Are you wearing any perfume or cologne? (Another name for perfume, used to describe the scented liquid that some men wear to make them smell nice)
No, I never do.
34. Are you due sometime this year for a doctor’s visit? (Need to do something, are expected to or have to do something)
Yes, in about a month.
35. Where is your best friend?
At work (my wife).
36. How is your best friend?
You’ll have to ask her.
37. Do you have a tan? (Brown skin due to being in the sun)
No, I don’t tan. I’m Irish!  We don’t tan; we get sunburn (red skin after being in the sun) instead.
38. What are you listening to right now?
Nothing. I sometimes listen to classical music or popular music in the car.  At home, I typically (usually) listen to music when the children are screaming outside and I need to block out the noise.
39. Do you collect anything? (Save or buy certain objects, such as stamps or toys for fun)
No.  I do sometimes save the front page of the newspaper if it is an important historical event, however.
40. Who is the biggest gossiper you know? (Someone who gossips likes to talk about other people, usually things that are none of their business.)
I don’t know anyone I’d classify as a gossiper.
41. Last time you got stopped by a cop or pulled over? (Had a police officer require that you stop your car because you broke or violated some law, usually a traffic law)
About two years ago, I was pulled over for speeding (going to fast).  In my defense, I was trying to get home because I left the oven on accidentally and didn’t want my house to burn down.  I told that to the officer, but he still gave me a ticket (a fine I had to pay – $150!).
42. Have you ever drank your soda from a straw? (Long tube of plastic people use sometimes to drink things from a cup)
Of course.
43. What does your last text message say?
“See you tomorrow.”  I don’t text very often, however.  I don’t know that many (very many) people.
44. Do you like hot sauce? (Liquid you put on your food to make it spicy or “hot”)
No.  I don’t normally like spicy food.
45. Last time you took a shower?
Yesterday after exercising.
46. Do you need to do laundry? (To wash your clothing because it is dirty)
Not right now.
47. What is your heritage? (Where your ancestors are from originally; the country where they lived before coming to this country)
Irish and German.  They arrived back in the middle of the 19th century to the US.
48. Are you someone’s best friend?
I’d like to think so. (I hope so!)
49. Are you rich?
Not really.
50. What were you doing at 12AM last night?
In bed.  I’m usually asleep by 10:30 – 11:00 PM, and wake up around 6:00 AM.
Tuesday - November 3, 2009

Poll: How Do You Get Your News?

398px-newspapersizes200508It wasn’t long ago that the main sources of news were the daily newspaper and the daily television news broadcast (show).  Things have changed, and both newspapers and television news continue to lose readers and viewers as more and more people get their news on the Internet.

I know this is true for me.  I’ve never liked reading the large format (shape and size) newspaper of most U.S. newspapers, which for me, is too big and unwieldy (difficult to manage), and I don’t like getting newsprint (ink from newspapers) on my hands.

I’ve always preferred news magazines.  I still read news magazines today, but more and more, I get my news from the Internet.  I get daily emails from major newspapers and news magazines with the headline (most important) stories of the day, and I usually visit the websites of several major news agencies each day.  I also visit several news-related blogs regularly.  I still read the newspaper in print (on paper) on Sundays, and I’ll occasionally watch the evening news on TV, but I get most of my news from online sources these days.

How about you?  How do you primarily (mainly; mostly) get your news?

~ Lucy

Where Do You Get Your News? (Select as many as you'd like)

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