ESL Podcast Home ESL Podcast Store
HOME > BLOG > Archive for February, 2010

Archive for February, 2010

Tuesday - February 23, 2010

It’s the Law…Now

Every January 1st, new laws go into effect and people must begin to follow them. Last year in the U.S., 40,000 new laws were passed.  Here are a sampling of (examples of) some of the new laws now in effect in the U.S.

* In the state of Texas, a new law says that teenagers (people between the ages of 13 and 19) must be accompanied by (be with) an adult if they want to use the facilities at a tanning salon.  Tanning salons are business where people go to have special lights shine on their skin so that it becomes darker, so they’ll have a suntan.

* If you’re driving in the state of Ohio, be sure to turn on your headlights (lights at the front of a car or vehicle that allows you to see the road in the dark) while it is snowing.  If you don’t, you’ll get a ticket.

* The state of Illinois became the 19th state to outlaw (make illegal) texting, sending and receiving electronic messages, while driving.

* If you live in Kentucky and you want to get a payday loan, the new cap (limit) is $500.  A payday loan is a loan you get from a private business that will lend you money until you get your next paycheck.  Unfortunately, most payday loans require very high interest rates, so you would have to pay those high fees, too, when you get your paycheck.  Of course, we don’t recommend getting a payday loan at all, as we talked about in English Cafe 94.

* In California, it is now illegal for restaurants to use oils, margarines, and shortenings (animal fat) that contain more than half a gram of trans fat, a type of unhealthy fat.

* Also in California, it is now against the law to cut off a cow’s tail, unless it is medically necessary, that is, only if a veterinarian (animal doctor) says the cow needs to have it cut off for the good of his or her health.  So those who collect cow tails, beware!

Are there any unusual or surprising laws where you live, past or present?

~ Lucy

P.S.  The photo above is of Lady Justice, a symbol of the judiciary, the system of courts in the U.S.  Any depiction (image; drawing; painting; statue) of Lady Justice always has three things:

  • a sword (very long knife used as a weapon) to symbolize the power of the courts
  • a set of scales (device use to measure weight by putting weight on both sides until both sides are at the same level) to represent the weight of evidence on both sides of an issue
  • a blindfold, cloth over the eyes of Lady Justice, to symbolize impartiality (fairness; the ability to treat everyone the same)

P.P.S.  Thanks to all those who read and comment on our blog posts.  It’s one of the ways we know what you like and what you want to see more of on the blog. That’s why we really appreciate you taking the time to give us your feedback!

Friday - February 12, 2010

Sorry, Vancouver

Just wanted to write you all a quick note to announce that, contrary to (the opposite of) what some of you may be thinking, I will not – repeat, not – be participating in the 2010 Olympic Games that begin tomorrow in Vancouver, Canada (a little country north of the U.S., I think).  It was a difficult decision, but I decided that since I cannot skate, ski, snowboard, bobsled, luge, “skeleton” sled, curl, play hockey, or shoot a gun (it’s part of the biathalon…seriously!), there was no point (no need, it didn’t make sense) for me to try to represent the U.S. of A. in Vancouver this year.

Perhaps next time they’ll have a sport I can participate in…like watching the Olympics on TV.


Thursday - February 11, 2010

The Musician and the Writer

This is the story of Mr. Ayers (pronounced “airs”) and Mr. Lopez, the musician and the writer.

It’s “Mr.” because that’s what Mr. Ayers mother taught him when he was young, and that’s how he honors (shows respect to) her today, almost 60 years later.

Mr. Ayers is an African-American musician. When he was 19 years old, he left his home in Cleveland, Ohio, to attend the Julliard School, one of the best music schools in the world. He was filled with hopes and dreams for a future filled with music. His main instrument is the bass (the largest string instrument in an orchestra), but he also plays several others, including the violin, cello, trumpet, and flute.

Mr. Lopez is a popular writer for the Los Angeles Times. Twice a week he writes a column (a special story or article) called Points West. Many of his columns are human interest stories – inspiring (encouraging) stories about people. That’s how I met Mr. Ayers.

Mr. Lopez’ story about Mr. Ayers inspires me, but it makes me cry, at least a little. I’m a musician, too, so I can identify with Mr. Ayers in many ways. But in other ways, Mr. Ayers and I are very different. You see, while Mr. Ayers was at Julliard, he had a mental breakdown (became very depressed, anxious). His condition became worse and worse until he ended up (finally arrived) in Los Angeles, a street person living under a freeway bridge. That’s where Mr. Lopez met Mr. Ayers – on the streets of Los Angeles – and became his friend.

I’ve been following the story of Mr. Ayers in Mr. Lopez’ column for five years. It’s one of the happiest stories I’ve read. And, at the same time, one of the saddest. It’s about dreams, and broken dreams, and triumph (success) over broken dreams. It’s musical and, in many ways, magical.

Many people have become acquainted with Mr. Ayers from Mr. Lopez’ columns. And many of them have reached out (given help) to him. Someone found an inexpensive (not expensive) room for him to live in. He has gotten to know members of the Los Angeles Philharmonic (professional orchestra). Some of them give him free music lessons. And others are helping him record a CD.

Today Mr. Ayers still plays his cello on the streets of Los Angeles. His illness seems to be getting better, but it may never be cured (go away completely). He may never accomplish the dreams he had when was 19, but his life is better than it was a few years ago, thanks to his friend, the writer, Mr. Lopez.

If you’d like to learn more about the story of Mr. Ayers and Mr. Lopez, there are several things you can do:

  • Watch the 60 Minutes (a well-known and popular weekly TV news program on Sunday evening) story about Mr. Ayers and Mr. Lopez.

Watch CBS Videos Online

A final note: Mr. Ayers’ sister, Jennifer, has started a foundation (an organization created for a special purpose) called the Nathaniel Anthony Ayers Foundation. Its purpose is to help musicians and other artists who are mentally ill.

Warren Ediger – student of many things; ESL teacher/tutor; musician; husband and father; and creator of

Tuesday - February 9, 2010

A Fusion Hybrid Combination

Have you ever heard the famous saying: “Necessity is the mother of invention”? Necessity is a need for something and invention is the creation of something new, something that no one has ever made before.

Many new inventions come about (result) by combining two or more things into something new.  Cars are a good example.  Hybrid cars (often simply called “hybrids”) are cars that combine an all-electric car with an all-gasoline-burning car to create a car that runs on part electricity and part gasoline. In this case, our need for more efficient and cleaner fuel (power) was the mother of invention.

When speaking of food, we often use the term fusion to talk about the blending of (putting together of; combining of) two or more types of cooking to make a new type of cuisine (fine food; cooking).  In Los Angeles, Asian fusion is quite popular, with chefs (professional cooks) combining ingredients (individual parts of food) or cooking techniques of Asian food with those found in French, Italian, Middle Eastern, or other types of cooking. What is the necessity that is the mother of invention here?  To please curious palates (mouths; tastes)?  To lure (attract) to one place people who like different types of cuisine? The wish to create something new and innovative?  Perhaps it’s a combination (fusion?) of all of these reasons.

I recently come across a new and interesting combination in music.  You may have heard of the ukulele, an instrument used in traditional Hawaii music.  It is a small instrument with four strings.  And you all know what a guitar is, an instrument with six strings that no rock musician could do without.  But have you heard of a guitalele?

As the name suggests, the guitalele is a cross between (combination of) a ukulele and a guitar.  It has six strings like a guitar, but it is closer in size to a ukulele.  From the clips (small segments of audio or video) I’ve seen on YouTube, it sounds marvelous.  What is the necessity that prompted (encouraged) this invention?  To help smaller musicians?  To have an instrument with a really funny name that makes you laugh each time you hear it?  I’m not sure.  Unfortunately, for Americans, the inexpensive guitalele by Yamaha is not sold in the U.S. Why?  I can only guess that they are still holding the funny-looking spork against us.

(By the way, “a cross between” is a very useful general phrase meaning a combination of two things.  For example, in movies, a cross between a comedy and a romance is called a romantic comedy.  With animals, a mule is a cross between a horse and a donkey. And when describing Jeff’s looks?  He’s a cross between Brad Pitt and George Clooney, of course!)

~ Lucy

Thursday - February 4, 2010

Check out the TOEFL

toeflThis is the time of the year when students who want to study in the U.S. next fall (September) begin to worry about taking the TOEFL.

The TOEFL – Test of English as a Foreign Language – measures students’ ability to use academic English, the kind of English that is used in college and university classes. Almost all international students have to take the TOEFL before they can attend schools in the U.S. or other countries where classes are taught in English. More than one million students take the TOEFL every year.

The Problem

When students talk to me about the TOEFL, I’m often surprised by how little they know about it. They know that there are four sections (parts) – reading, listening, speaking, writing – but not much more.

The Solution

Check out (find information about) the TOEFL as soon as possible, before you begin to prepare for it.

On any test, it’s important for a student to know as much about the test as possible. If you do, you will be a better test taker. You can plan your preparation better, and you will know what to expect when you take the test. As a result, you will be more relaxed and more confident when you actually have to take the test.

Finding the Information

The Educational Testing Service (ETS) is the company that is responsible for the TOEFL. Their web site has a lot of information about the TOEFL and other tests, but it is not an easy site to navigate (to find where you need to go). Here are links to three pages on the ETS site that all students should look at when they begin to prepare for the TOEFL:

1. TOEFL iBT at a Glance – a four-page introduction to the TOEFL iBT (Internet-based Test). It briefly describes what’s new about the iBT and how it is different from the older paper-based TOEFL that many students are familiar with. It also contains answers to questions that students frequently ask.

2. The TOEFL iBT Tour – a video tour that introduces you to the TOEFL and shows you examples of each section of the test. Be sure to click on these links: Skills, Read, Listen, Write, Speak.

3. TOEFL iBT Tips – a long document – about 70 pages – that’s full of helpful information. You will find a description of each section of the test, with information about the specific skills (abilities) you need and the kinds of questions you will have to answer. There are also suggestions for how to improve your skills and prepare for the test. Rubrics (instructions for scoring) for speaking and writing will help you understand what you need to do to get good scores on those sections. Screenshots (pictures of the computer screen) show you what you will see when you take the test.

Do it now!

~Warren Ediger – student of many things, but especially language, learning/teaching, and technology; ESL teacher/tutor; musician; husband and father; creator of

P.S. I want to thank Jeff, Lucy, and all of the members of the ESL Podcast family for the warm welcome you gave me after my first post. It’s a privilege and delight to be a part of this great family!