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Archive for July, 2010

Thursday - July 29, 2010

Summer Reading: What I’m Bringing to the Beach

In many countries, August is a popular time for vacations, and for me vacations have always meant (been associated with) reading lots of books. Here are some of the books that I have either read recently or plan on reading in the next few weeks.

These aren’t necessarily recommendations for your reading, since reading books in a second language depends on (is determined by) your general vocabulary, interests, and especially background knowledge (what you know already about a topic).  (Look here if you want to get some ideas on what to read in English.)  But I always enjoy hearing what other people are reading, so I thought I would share (tell you) some of my current “reads” (books).  (And, no, my list doesn’t include The Literacy Crisis: False Claims, Real Solutions, as featured in a recent Internet video.)

Some of the topics I’m interested in include economics, psychology, technology, productivity (how to use your time best in planning projects; how to get organized), Internet commerce (business), the art world, ancient Greek and Roman history, and financial planning (how to invest your money; practical advice on money matters).  Here’s my current list:

  • The Invisible Gorilla: and Other Ways Our Intuitions Deceive (trick; fool) Us by Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons.  The authors of this book are psychology professors (I think at a little university called Harvard) who discuss recent research on the way we perceive (look at; see) and understand the world around us.  The book has a very broad range (covering many different topics), all of them related to the notion (idea) that the human mind isn’t always as powerful or as reliable (dependable) as we think.
  • 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think by Laura Vanderkam.  This book falls into (is part of) the category of productivity, specifically time management.  There are 168 hours in every week, yet (however) many of us think that we don’t have time to do the things we want to do.  The author challenges (questions; criticizes) this idea by showing that people work less and waste more time than they realize.  (Note: Still reading this one — haven’t had time to finish it!)
  • Hamlet ‘s Blackberry: A Practical Philosophy for Building a Good Life in the Digital Age by William Powers.  Powers is a journalist who looks at how computers and the Internet have changed our lives and the way we relate and communicate with each other.  (Hamlet is a character from a play by Shakespeare of the same name, and a Blackberry is a kind of  “smartphone” that allows you to send email as well as make telephone calls.)  I just started reading this one, but it looks good.  (I should tell you that I typically read two or three books at a time (at the same time), which I probably shouldn’t do, but I get bored easily).
  • Why We Buy: the Science of Shopping by Paco Underhill.  This book, written about 10 years ago, uses what we may call an anthropological approach to understanding how people make their decisions when they go to a store to shop (to buy things).  Anthropologists observe how people act and react in a certain environment, and tries to describe and understand how and why they do what they do.  This book takes an experience common to all of us — shopping — and shows how the physical design of a store influences us in small but important ways.  Why We Buy is really a mix of economics, psychology, and anthropology, but written from the perspective (point of view) of a businessperson.  (It’s more interesting and less confusing than I’m making it sound (describing it).)

So, what are you reading, either in English or your own language?  Share with the rest of us your current reading list of either nonfiction (true events; not stories) or fiction (stories; novels) books.

~Jeff

Illustration: “California Beach, 1905”  Wikipedia PD-US

Monday - July 26, 2010

Podcasts This Week (July 26, 2010)

ON MONDAY
ESL Podcast 602 – Calling for an Ambulance

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 black out” and “wound.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Emergency Medical Technicians.”
“In the United States, “EMTs” (“emergency medical technicians”) are “healthcare providers” (people who provide medical care) who help sick and injured people before they can get to a hospital…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON WEDNESDAY
English Cafe 252

Topics:  Famous Authors: Raymond Chandler; the Pony Express; to be involved in versus to be involved with; to make sense; hard on its heels

In the Learning Guide:  Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear).
In “What Insiders Know,” you will read about the “Pinkerton National Detective Agency.”
“In books and movies, the private investigator is often “portrayed as” (given the image of) a romantic character, involved in solving mysteries.  In real life, private investigators, or P.I.’s, are professionals who do a “wide array” (many different kinds) of work…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON FRIDAY
ESL Podcast 603 – Praising a Performance

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 “number” and “lead.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “How Audiences Express Appreciation.”
“When an audience enjoys a performance, it has many ways to “express” (show) its appreciation. Depending on the type of performance, it can be “rude” (not polite) or inappropriate to show appreciation during the performance…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

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Thursday - July 22, 2010

Obey the Sharrow!

As long as I can remember, I’ve had a bike (bicycle). I’ll never forget my first one, a Schwinn Phantom like the one in the photograph. My dad found it at an auction, a public meeting where items are sold to the person who offers the most money for them. It was in great shape (good condition) and we were able to get it (buy it) for only $15.00. They cost $85.00 in the bicycle shop!

We worked out an agreement: Dad would pay $7.50 and I would earn money to pay the other $7.50 by doing odd jobs (little regular jobs) around the house. At first, I was too short to sit on the saddle (seat). So until I became tall enough, I sat on a small pillow on the crossbar (the top tube of the bicycle frame.)

I rode that bike for many years until, finally, I gave it to my little brother. Later, I switched to a road bike, a bike with narrow (small) tires and designed for riding long-distances on smooth roads. Unfortunately, my bike-riding career came to an abrupt (sudden) end a few months ago when someone got into my garage and stole my nice road bike. Hopefully I’ll be able to replace it (get a new one) before too long (soon).

Two articles about bicycles grabbed (caught; got) my attention recently. The first was an article in the Los Angeles Times newspaper about the sharrows (see photo in article) that are being painted on streets used by both cars and bicycles in Santa Monica. Sharrows are a special kind of arrow, a symbol (a shape that has a meaning) painted on the street. Sharrows tell automobile drivers that they have to share the road with bicycle riders. I understand that sharrows are common in some European cities, but they are new in the United States.

Americans don’t use bicycles for commuting (riding to work) as much as people in other countries. But the number is growing, and many cities are creating bicycle lanes (a part of the road for only bicycles) or shared roads, like Santa Monica, to make bicycle commuting easier and safer. Irvine, a small city in southern California has almost 300 miles of bicycle lanes!

The second article, in the Economist, tells about the growing number of rent-a-bike services that are popping up (appearing) in cities around the world. In Mexico City, for example, the new Ecobici service provides about 1200 pay-as-you-go bicycles at 85 docking stations around the city.

A pay-as-you-go bicycle is a bicycle that you rent for each use, or trip, with cash or a credit card. A docking station is a machine that holds the bicycles and keeps them locked up until someone rents them. Perhaps you’ve seen docking stations at airports, where travelers use them to rent luggage carts. To rent a bicycle, you put your cash or credit card into the docking station, which then releases, or unlocks, one of the bicycles so you can use it. When you get to your destination (where you are going), you leave it at the nearest docking station so someone else can use it.

The London Transport Authority and Barclays Bank will introduce a new rent-a-bike program with 6,000 bicycles and 120 docking stations on July 30. The most successful program is the Velib in Paris, which has 20,000 bicycles. In some German cities you can even use your cell phone to rent a bike.

Who knows, if the bicycle commuting trend (the way a situation is changing or developing) continues to grow in Southern California, my next bike may be a commuter bike. In fact, I think I already know which one I want to get!

~ Warren Ediger – ESL tutor/coach and creator of Successful English, where you can learn how to acquire more English.

Photo by Wha’ppen used by permission under Creative Commons license.

Thursday - July 22, 2010

Fifth Anniversary Video Podcast

Today is ESL Podcast’s five-year anniversary. It’s hard for us to believe that we have produced more than 600 ESL Podcast episodes and over 250 English Cafe episodes!

As always, we thank you, our wonderful listeners for sticking with (staying with; continuing with) us.  We would like to especially thank our donors and Learning Guide members, who are the true ESL Podcast heroes.  Without you, we could not do the work that we do.  Thank you for your continued support!

To celebrate our fifth anniversary, we have produced the Fifth Anniversary Video Podcast.  In it, you will see how Jeff spends his day. We hope you enjoy it!

~ Jeff, Lucy, and the entire ESL Podcast Team

Welcome to English as a Second Language Podcast’s Fifth Anniversary Video. You know, a lot of people ask me what I do for a living, and I tell them I’m a podcaster. And they say, “But, Jeff, what do you actually do all day?” This video will answer that question.

I’m up! I’m up! Time to work!

Well, I start my morning with my favorite drink, a good, hot tea at my favorite cafe, Starbucks. Here we go!

Oh, hi! I’m starting my day answering e-mail. Just let you finish this one e-mail.
?”Dear President Obama,
Thank you for your question.
If there is time I will explain the meaning of Mickey Mouse ears on our next English Café.” (He’s always writing me!)
“P.S. Please don’t write so often. I have a podcast to run.”

Well, that’s enough work for this morning. Let’s go get some lunch!

Well it’s lunchtime, and I’m hungry. You know, I always eat a healthy meal, nothing but the most healthy food for me. Here I go.

“Hello? Lucy! Oh, right…no, I’m working very hard. I’ve almost finished that podcast. Oh, absolutely! Oh, I’ll have it to you first thing in the morning. Okay, thanks for calling.” I can never get any sleep in this job.

Well, I’m done working now, and when I’m done working, I like to relax and watch my favorite baseball team, the Los Angeles Dodgers. I have my Los Angeles Dodgers cup, my hat, and of course my shirt. Baseball, as you know, is one of the great American sports, and I think, uh…goooooooooool!

Well, it’s evening time now and I try to relax a little by reading a good book. There are lots of good books out there. The one I’m reading is pretty interesting. It’s an excellent book and the author, I think, is, well, pretty smart.

Well it’s time for bed, but before I go, I want to thank all of you who listen to ESL Podcast. This is our fifth anniversary. I want to thank you for listening over the past year, and hope that you will continue listening for many more years to come. I especially want to thank our donors and our ESL Podcast Learning Guide members. These are the people who help make ESL podcast possible, so thank you especially to those of you who are members or donors.

I also want to thank Adriano, Jessica, Sue, Warren, and all the rest of our ESL Podcast team. A special thanks to our own Dr. Lucy Tse.

Well, it’s time for bed. We’ll see you next year!

Tuesday - July 20, 2010

The Dangers of Deforestation

Forests are large areas in nature with a lot of trees. When a lot of trees are removed from the forest, we call this deforestation.

Deforestation can occur for many reasons.  It may happen because of logging, the cutting down of trees so the wood can be used for building, for fuel (source of energy), and/or to make paper products. Deforestation may also occur when people want to use the land for other things, such as for homes or for pastures (land with green grass and plants) for livestock (animals raised for food or to work).

Environmentalists, people concerned with protecting nature and the environment, have long warned us about the negative effects of deforestation, including soil erosion, or the loss of soil (the layer of dirt where plants grow), and climate and air quality changes.

However, the follow photo shows another important negative effect of deforestation.  As the old saying goes:  “A picture is worth a thousand words.”

~ Lucy

*Thanks to Emiliano for the photo.

Monday - July 19, 2010

Podcasts This Week (July 19, 2010)

ON MONDAY
ESL Podcast 600 – Talking About Sight

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 “sharp” and “to see double.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “The Use of Guide Dogs.”
“Many people who are blind or “visually impaired” (not able to see very well) use “guide dogs,” or dogs that have been “trained” (instructed; taught) to lead people around “obstacles”… – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON WEDNESDAY
English Cafe 251

Topics:  Ask an American: Obsolete; regarding versus concerning versus as for; can’t be bothered; How you doing?

In the Learning Guide:  Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear).
In “What Insiders Know,” you will read about “Obsolete Audio and Video Formats.”
“As “audiovisual” (related to things that we watch and/or listen to) technology continues to change, many audio and video “formats” (the way something is packaged and used) are becoming “obsolete”…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON FRIDAY
ESL Podcast 601 – Paying an Unexpected Visit

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 drop in” and “out with it.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about high school graduates taking a “Gap Year” before continuing on to college.
“Traditionally, “college-bound” (planning to go to college) Americans “enroll” (begin a program) in a university in August or September, in the same year they graduate from high school. However, in recent years, more and more American teenagers are choosing to take a “gap year”… – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

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Wednesday - July 14, 2010

Podcasts This Week (July 12, 2010)

ON MONDAY
ESL Podcast 598 – Suggesting a Nightcap

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 slur” and “impression.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about real “Nightcaps” worn by people in the old days.
“In this episode, a “nightcap” is an alcoholic drink drunken right before going to bed, usually to help one fall asleep. However, a “nightcap” is also a warm hat that used to be worn when people went to bed. Nightcaps were very common during the “Middle Ages”… – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON WEDNESDAY
English Cafe 250

Topics:  Comicon; Famous Americans:  Houdini; I just versus I have just; suit versus match versus fit; levity

In the Learning Guide:  Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear).
In “What Insiders Know,” you will read about “The Magic Castle.”
“In Los Angeles, there are many “private clubs” that only allow certain people to become members and to participate in its activities.  One “unique” (special; unlike others) private club in Los Angeles that many people don’t know about is one for magicians…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON FRIDAY
ESL Podcast 599 – Shopping for Warm-Weather Clothes

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 “skirt” and “figure.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Dress Codes in American Schools.”
“Most American “public” (owned by the government, not by a private business) schools do not make students wear “uniforms” (a type and color of clothing worn by all people in a group). However, most schools do have “dress codes”… – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

If you enjoy our podcasts, please consider supporting ESL Podcast by becoming a Basic or Premium Member!

Thursday - July 8, 2010

Jazz – The Ultimate* in Naked Communication

I don’t know what you thought when you saw that title. In fact, I’m not sure what I thought when I saw it for the first time. But since the article is about jazz, one of my favorite kinds of music, and it was written by Garr Reynolds, a writer I enjoy, I clicked on the link and read it.

Usually the word naked means without clothes. But the writer isn’t writing about naked musicians! He uses this familiar word in a different way to say something about jazz.  I’ll show you what he said, but before I do, let me tell you a little about jazz.

Jazz is a kind of music that began around 1900 in the southern part of the U.S. The earliest jazz musicians were African Americans. Today, jazz is popular around the world. In traditional jazz, each song is a kind of musical conversation. During the song, the musicians listen to each other, and each one adds musical ideas to the conversation. Each time they perform a song, the conversation is different. When jazz musicians add something to the musical conversation, they improvise, which means to compose (invent or make up) while they are playing or singing. This is the most important characteristic, or part, of traditional jazz.

You can listen to a very good example of improvisation in this recording of The Thrill is Gone by B.B. King. He sings in the first part of the song, but from the middle to the end, there is a wonderful, mostly quiet, conversation between King, who plays the guitar, and the piano. Occasionally, you can hear a second guitar adding to the conversation. If you listen carefully, you’ll hear them “speak” to and “answer” each other and keep the conversation going.

Now, let’s return to jazz and naked communication. Here’s what Reynolds writes in his article:

Jazz is one of the purest (most complete; not mixed with anything else) forms of self-expression. We need more jazz in this world. Jazz is also the epitome (the best example) of naked communication. The legendary (famous because of great ability) jazz musician Don Cherry said that “music is one of the arts that make a person completely naked.” … This is especially true for jazz.

Reynolds describes a CD – Lucky by Molly Johnson – he received as a gift. After he listened to it, he wrote that Johnson’s interpretation of (the way she sang) the song Summertime is a lovely example of naked communication. And then, he adds a list of words to help us understand what he meant.

According to Reynolds, naked communication is:

  • honest (not trying to show off, or make other people think you’re special or important)
  • transparent (nothing hidden, for example, she shows how she feels)
  • raw (natural and strong)
  • emotional (full of feeling)
  • beautifully simple (not decorated; without extra things)
  • rich (full of interesting ideas or facts) and meaningful (full of expression; full of meaning or purpose)

Now here’s a video of Johnson performing Summertime. When you listen to it, do you see or hear the words Reynolds used?

What do you think? Was Reynolds right? Does it make sense to use naked this way? By the way, did you notice the jazz conversation between the other two musicians when Johnson wasn’t singing?

I think Reynolds’ description is very good. And I think she’s very good. In fact, as soon as I finish writing this, I’m going to order the CD!

~ Warren Ediger – English tutor and coach; creator of Successful English, where English learners can learn how to make English a permanent part of their lives.

* In the title, Jazz – The Ultimate in Naked Communication, ultimate means the best example of naked communication.

Monday - July 5, 2010

Podcasts This Week (July 5, 2010)

ON MONDAY
ESL Podcast 596 – Applying for Unemployment Benefits

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 “qualify” and “meaning to”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “State Unemployment Offices.”
“The unemployment office reviews the application to determine whether the individual is eligible for benefits. The unemployment office contacts previous employers to “verify”…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON WEDNESDAY
English Cafe 249

Topics: Hate Crime Legislation; State Fairs; shop versus store versus department store; relative to versus related to; Down Under

In the Learning Guide:  Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear).
In “What Insiders Know,” you will read about “The Great Brinks Robbery of 1950.”
“People talk or joke about “robbing” (stealing from) a bank so they’ll have enough money and won’t have to work anymore.  In 1950, that’s just what a group of 11 men did…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON FRIDAY
ESL Podcast 597 – Describing Touch and Textures

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 “rough” and “gross.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Acceptable Types of Touching Among Adult Friends and Couples.”
“Adults in the United States don’t touch each other as often as they do in many other countries. American adults often shake hands, especially in a “work setting” (work-related environment), but other “physical contact” (touching) is unusual…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

If you enjoy our podcasts, please consider supporting ESL Podcast by becoming a Basic or Premium Member!

Thursday - July 1, 2010

Headline English: Online Bullies Pull Schools Into the Fray

The New York Times this week ran (published) a story about online bullies. A bully, as we discussed in ESL Podcast 372, is a person who uses either verbal (spoken) or physical violence to prove his or her own strength, power, or position over another person.  The term is usually associated with (connected to) schools, where some students (usually, but not always, boys) try to intimidate (scare; make fearful) other students into doing what they want.

The newest form of bullying (note that “bully” can be a noun or a verb) is online or cyber-bullying, where students use the Internet or phone text messages to scare or intimidate other students.  This usually happens when the students are at home, not in school, but some parents think that the schools should discipline (punish) online bullies even if they do their bullying outside of school.  This has always been a difficult area for schools: Should they punish students who misbehave (act badly) when they are not in school, or only when they misbehave in school?  There is no easy answer to this question, and every school in the U.S. deals with (handles; takes care of) the problem differently.

To pull (someone) into (something) means to involve someone in an action or situation when that person doesn’t really want to be involved.  A fray is an argument, fight, or contest.  So the headline means that students who are harassing (bullying) other students using the Internet or texting are forcing schools to get involved in an area where many of them don’t want to be involved — punishing students for bulling outside of school.

For some possibly tragic (very sad) consequences (results) of bullying, see our English Cafe 242.

Should schools discipline students who misbehave outside of school hours?  How do schools in your country handle this problem?

~Jeff

Photo: Scene from Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, Public Domain