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Archive for March, 2011

Thursday - March 31, 2011

The Tire Iron and the Tamale

Sometimes help comes from an unexpected source (a thing or person you get something from). Sometimes it’s free, and sometimes it changes you forever. This story is adapted (changed to make it easier to read) and shortened from a true story by Justin Horner. You can read the complete, unadapted story in the New York Times Magazine. [Note: Since many of the sentences below are taken directly from the original article, we’ve put quotes around the entire selection so you know they are (mostly) from Horner’s story.]

Here is Justin’s story:

“During this past year, I’ve had car trouble three times, and they all happened while I was driving other people’s cars, which for some reason makes it worse.

“Each time, when these things happened, I was disgusted (very upset) with the way people didn’t stop to help. People at the gas stations where I asked for a gas can told me that they couldn’t loan them to me “for safety reasons,” but that I could buy a one-gallon can for $15. It was enough to make me say stuff like ‘this country is going to hell in a handbasket (getting worse).’

“But you know who came to my rescue all three times? Immigrants (someone who has moved from another country), Mexican immigrants, and none of them spoke any English.

“One of those guys (men) stopped to help me with a blow-out (when a tire suddenly bursts, like a balloon) even though he had his whole family with him. I was on the side of the road for almost three hours with my friend’s big Jeep (a kind of car for traveling over rough ground). I put signs in the windows, big signs that said, ‘NEED A JACK (tool to lift something heavy),’ and offered money. Nothing. Just as I was about to give up (stop trying to do something), a van pulled over, and a man jumped out.

“He sized up (looked at) the situation and called for his daughter who spoke English. He conveyed (communicated) through her that he had a jack but that it was too small for the Jeep, so we would need to put something under it. Then he got a saw (tool for cutting wood) from his van and cut a section (piece) out of a big log (large piece of wood from a tree) on the side of the road. We put his jack on top of it and we were in business (ready to begin).

“I started taking the wheel off, and then, if you can believe it, I broke his tire iron (tool used to remove a tire or wheel). Damn!

“No worries: he ran to the van and handed (gave) it to his wife. She was gone in a flash (immediately) down the road to buy a new tire iron. She was back in 15 minutes. We finished the job, and I was a very happy man.

“The two of us were filthy (very dirty) and sweaty (wet from working hard). His wife brought out a large water jug (container with small opening) for us to wash our hands. I tried to put a 20-dollar bill in the man’s hand, but he wouldn’t take it, so instead I went to the van and gave it to his wife as quietly as I could. I thanked them up one side and down the other (many times). I asked the little girl where they lived, thinking maybe I’d send them a gift for being so awesome (very good, impressive). She said they lived in Mexico. They were in Oregon so Mommy and Daddy could pick cherries for the next few weeks. Then they were going to pick peaches and, after that, go back home.

“After I said goodbye and started walking back to the Jeep, the girl called out and asked if I’d had lunch. When I told her no, she ran over and handed me a tamale (a traditional Mexican food; see the picture).

“This family, probably poorer than just about everyone else on that stretch (area) of highway, took a couple of hours out of their day to help a strange guy on the side of the road while people in tow trucks just drove by.

“But we weren’t done yet. I thanked them again, walked back to my car, and opened the foil (thin metal sheet for wrapping food) on the tamale. What did I find inside? My $20 bill! I whirled (turned quickly) around, ran to the van, and the guy rolled down his window. He saw the $20 in my hand and started shaking his head no. All I could think to say was, ‘Por favor (‘please’ in Spanish), por favor, por favor,‘ with my hands out. The guy just smiled and, with great difficulty, said in English: ‘Today you, tomorrow me.’ Then he rolled up his window and drove away with his daughter waving to me from the back.

“I sat in my car eating the best tamale I’ve ever had, and I just started to cry. It had been a rough (very difficult) year; nothing had seemed to go right for me. This was so out of left field (unexpected) I didn’t know what to do.

“In the several months since then, I’ve changed a couple of tires, given a few rides to gas stations, and once drove 50 miles out of my way to get a girl to an airport. I won’t accept money. But every time I’m able to help, I feel as if I’m putting something in the bank (collecting or saving something for the future).”

Have you ever had an experience like Justin’s? How did it affect you?

~ Warren Ediger – creator of Successful English where you can find clear explanations and practical suggestions for better English.

Photo of a tamale by Anita Sarkeesian used under Creative Commons license.

 

Monday - March 28, 2011

Podcasts This Week (March 28, 2011)

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

ON MONDAY
ESL Podcast 672 – Asking for More Time

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 “slight” and “snag.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Time Zones in the U.S.”
“Excluding “territories” (areas of land that are parts of the United States, but are not states), the United States has six “time zones” (vertical geographic areas that experience the same time)…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON WEDNESDAY
English Cafe 287

Topics:  Famous Authors – Edgar Allen Poe; women’s colleges; business versus commerce versus trade; thank goodness; to be keen on (something or something)

In the Learning Guide:  Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear).
In “What Insiders Know,” you will read about the mysterious “Poe Toaster.”
“Every year on January 19, Edgar Allen Poe’s birthday, a “mysterious” (being secret or strange) person visits his “grave” (place in the ground where a dead person is buried).  This person is dressed in black with a “wide-brimmed hat”…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON FRIDAY
ESL Podcast 673 – Walking or Running as Exercise

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 break (something) in” and “to stretch.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Walkathons.”
“A “walkathon” is a “fundraiser” (an event designed to collect money for a particular organization or purpose) where many people walk along a certain “route” (path)…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

Monday - March 21, 2011

Podcasts This Week (March 21, 2011)

ESL Podcast is made possible through the support of our listeners. Get the Learning Guide and support ESL Podcast by becoming a Basic or Premium Member today!
…………

ON MONDAY
ESL Podcast 670 – To Forgive and Forget

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 “much less” and “spat.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Flowers With Special Meanings.”
“Some flowers have unusual names that “evoke” (make an image or idea come to one’s mind) certain images when people hear them. For example, there is a plant with “clusters” (groups) of small blue or “indigo” (dark blue) flowers called…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON WEDNESDAY
English Cafe 286

Topics: Ask an American – Louisville Slugger; globe versus sphere versus orb; on/by horseback; to hit one’s funny bone; to stub one’s toe

In the Learning Guide:  Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear).
In “What Insiders Know,” you will read about the movie Field of Dreams.
“The 1989 movie Field of Dreams is about a farmer in Iowa who walks through his corn “fields” (areas of land where something is grown) and hears a voice “whispering” (talking very softly and quietly)…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON FRIDAY
ESL Podcast 671 – Vacationing on an Island

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 “island” and “to be cut off from (someone/something)”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Island Vacation Locations in the Southern U.S.”
“…[T]here are also many island vacation spots in the southern United States, too, although they are less well known. Some are romantic, others are historical, and still others are simply fun to visit…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

Thursday - March 17, 2011

Statue of Liberty, Eiffel Tower . . . and RoboCop

Some are very well known. In the U.S., the Statue of Liberty. In Rio de Janeiro, Christ the Redeemer. In Paris, the Eiffel Tower. In Kamakura, Japan, the Daibutsu, or Great Buddha.

Others are not so well known. For instance, the Little Mermaid in Copenhagen. Or Mannekin Pis in Brussels.

All of these statues or structures have one thing in common: they are icons. They are identified, or connected in our minds, with each of the cities or countries; when you see one of them, you think of the city, the country, or an idea, like freedom.

Today, the best-known icons are probably the ones you find on your computer screen – the small picture or sign that you click on to start a program – like the blue “W” for Microsoft Word.

When people who come from a Greek or Russian Orthodox or Catholic religious background hear the word “icon,” they may be reminded of a piece of religious art, often a painting of the Virgin Mary, Jesus’s mother.

Someone who is famous and admired by many people, someone who represents an important idea or art form may be called an icon. For me, B.B. King, and Buddy Guy are “blues icons”; they are famous blues musicians and represent an important part of the history and development of the blues. The blues are similar to jazz; the music is often slow and sad.

In general, you can see that an icon is something that is identified with something else: a statue with a city, a picture with a computer program, a painting with a kind of worship (religious practice or ceremony), a famous performer with a particular kind of music.

In the past two months, there’s been a lively (with a lot of energy) discussion about a new icon for the city of Detroit, Michigan, here in the U.S. Detroit is known as the home of (where it started) the American automobile industry and Motown Records, a popular music recording company famous for its black singers and groups, especially in the 1960’s.

A growing number of Detroit residents (people who live there) want RoboCop to become the new Detroit icon. Are you familiar with RoboCop? He was the star of RoboCop, the 1987 science-fiction movie, and became a pop culture icon. Pop, or popular, culture, is made up of music, movies, television programs, books, magazines, and other things in the culture that are popular with many people.

In the movie, futuristic (in the future) Detroit is filled with crime. A Detroit police officer who was killed by criminals is recreated (made again) as a super-human (more than human) cyborg (part human and part machine) called RoboCop. His life and work was guided by three principles, or values: serve (work for) the public trust (what people hired you to do), protect the innocent (people who can’t protect themselves), and uphold (defend or support) the law. In the movie, he helped clean up (restore law) the city and rid it (make it free of) of crime.

One supporter of the RoboCop statue says these are good values for Detroit to promote (encourage). And he adds, “A city needs to be fun, too. It can’t be all serious…. Showing people that we can have a sense of humor and encourage our citizens to have motivation and ideas is an important message….”

Question for discussion: If you were to choose an icon for the town or city you live in today, what would you choose? Why?

~ Warren Ediger – English tutor and creator of Successful English where you will find clear explanations and practical suggestions for better English.

Photo of the Eiffel Tower taken by W. Ediger

 

Monday - March 14, 2011

The Earthquake and Tsunami in Japan

Like many people across the world, we at ESL Podcast were saddened to hear of the terrible earthquake (violent shaking of the ground) and tsunami (very high sea waves) in Japan last week. Our thoughts today are with the victims (those who are hurt by something) of this tragedy (terrible event).  There are many, many listeners of ESL Podcast in Japan, and we stand by them (support them) in their time of need.

As a rule (generally), we don’t comment or discuss events outside of the United States on our podcasts or on this blog.  However, we are making a one-time exception in this case due to the scale (size) of this disaster.

The situation is very dire (very serious and urgent) in parts of Japan.  If you would like to contribute (give) something to the Red Cross to help those in need there, please consider this or this website.

~ Jeff, Lucy, and the ESL Podcast Team

Monday - March 14, 2011

Podcasts This Week (March 14, 2011)

Our ESL Podcast members make it possible for us to continue producing podcasts.

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

ON MONDAY
ESL Podcast 668 – Having Cash Flow Problems

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 hedge” and “to hold off.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Federal Government Grants.”
“Many Americans “mistakenly” (incorrectly) believe that the U.S. government “awards” (gives to the winner of a competition) “grants” (money that is given to a person or organization for a particular purpose)…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON WEDNESDAY
English Cafe 285

Topics: American Presidents: Thomas Jefferson; celebrity roasts; to splash versus to spray versus to sprinkle; hearing; to be of

In the Learning Guide:  Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear).
In “What Insiders Know,” you will read about Thomas Jefferson’s slave “Sarah (Sally) Hemings.”
“Sarah Hemings was a mixed race slave owned by President Thomas Jefferson. While Jefferson was “in office” (serving as President) and for the years following, “journalists” (reporters) claimed that President Jefferson “fathered” (was the father of) seven children with Sally Hemings…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON FRIDAY
ESL Podcast 669 – Making Controversial Comments

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 “offensive” and “to blow over.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Sunday Morning News Programs.”
“Most Americans watch TV news programs on weekday mornings or evenings, but some prefer to watch Sunday morning news shows. Here are three of the most popular Sunday morning news shows…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

Monday - March 7, 2011

Podcasts This Week (March 7, 2011)

“What did you say?” 

“I didn’t understand that. Could you say that again?”

Does this sound familiar? Do you want to improve your English? Become a Basic or Premium Member and you’ll understand every word you hear on the podcast. Read the transcript as you listen to each podcast and you’ll improve your English even faster. Become a member today!
…………

ON MONDAY
ESL Podcast 666 – Traveling to Less Popular Sites

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 plan out” and “to get lost.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Travel Writers.”
“Each year, publisher Houghton Mifflin publishes an “anthology” (a collection of small pieces written by many different people) called “The Best American Travel Writing” and each year has a guest editor who writes the introduction…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON WEDNESDAY
English Cafe 284

Topics:  John Audubon and the Audubon Society; Famous Songs: “On Top of Old Smokey”; sign versus signal; figure out versus find out; to beat a dead horse

In the Learning Guide:  Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear).
In “What Insiders Know,” you will read about the book and the film The Birds.
“The famous English film director Alfred Hitchcock (1899-1980) often directed films based on “novels” (long stories; a book not based on true events).  One of his most famous films, The Birds, was based on a “novelette” (short novel) by the English author Daphne du Maurier…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON FRIDAY
ESL Podcast 667 – Trying to Remember

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 “combination” and “concentrate.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Popular Mnemonics.”

“Americans use many mnemonics to remember lists of things that should be in a particular order. For example, some people remember the colors in the rainbow as: “Richard Of York “Gave Battle” (fought) “In Vain” (without success)…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

Thursday - March 3, 2011

Brews from the Little Guys

If you ask my wife, she might tell you that our two sons led me astray (caused me to do something foolish) a few years ago. She and I frequently enjoy a glass of wine with dinner. But neither of us had ever developed a taste for (learned to enjoy) beer. That changed one Saturday afternoon a few years ago when the boys invited me to join them at a small pub (bar, most often used in British English) near where we live.

Around the world, beer is the third most popular drink after water and tea. It’s been around (existed) for thousands of years. The earliest chemical evidence of beer, from about 3200 BC, was found in western Iran. And the Code (laws) of Hammurabi, from Babylon (in modern Iraq) in about 1700 BC, included laws that regulate (control) beer and businesses that serve beer.

According the recent documentary movie Beer Wars, 78% of the beer drunk in the U.S. is made by only three companies – Coors, Millers, and Anheuser-Busch. It’s mass-produced (made in large quantities), like cars and many other things. So where does the other 22% come from? Most of it is imported, but about 5% comes from the little guys (small businesses), from what are known as (called) microbreweries.

A microbrewery is a brewery (a place where beer is made) that produces a limited (small) amount of beer, much less than the three large mass-producers. Some microbreweries are associated with restaurants. For example, most of the BJ’s Restaurant and Brewhouse locations in the U.S. include a brewery that produces the beer that is sold at that restaurant. A brewhouse or brewpub is a business that brews and sells beer on their premises (the building or property used by a business).

According to Wikipedia, the term microbrewery originated (began) in the U.K. in the late 1970s. And it spread to the U.S. a few years later. Microbreweries are also known as craft, artisan, or boutique breweries. Craftsmen and artisans are people who do skilled work and often make things with their hands. Boutique refers to a small shop that sells a particular type of product or products made by a specific company.

Not too long ago, the website GOOD published a map of the U.S. that shows the favorite craft beers from each state. Only one – Idaho – failed to nominate a favorite! Craft beers are becoming very popular in the U.S. and, if you read the comments about the map, craft beer drinkers are very passionate (have strong feelings) about their beers.

When I joined my sons that Saturday afternoon, this is the world they introduced me to — the world of imported and craft beers. They are both connoisseurs (someone who knows a lot about something) and frequently recommend new beers for me to try. I still don’t drink a lot of beer, but I’ll admit that I occasionally enjoy one, especially with them. And my wife doesn’t really seem to mind (care or is upset).

Someone is sure to ask if I have a favorite. It’s a hard question to answer, but if I have to pick one today, I’d probably say Chimay Bleue (Blue) from Belgium. It’s brewed by the monks (a community of religious men living together) of Scourmont Abbey, a Trappist monastery (a place where monks live) in the Belgian town of Chimay. They’ve been brewing and selling ale, or beer, since 1862 and making cheese for sale since 1876.

~ Warren Ediger – creator of Successful English, where you can find clear explanations and practical suggestions for better English.

Photo of The Red Shoot, a brewpub in England, used under Creative Commons license.

 

Wednesday - March 2, 2011

Podcasts This Week (February 28, 2011)

If you enjoy our podcasts, please consider supporting ESL Podcast by becoming a Basic or Premium Member! With your help, we can continue producing podcasts.
…………

ON MONDAY
ESL Podcast 664 – Preparing a Video Resume

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 “outside” and “stand-in.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Video Resumes.”
“Some people think video resumes are the “hot” (exciting and interesting) new way to apply for jobs. Unfortunately, many employers disagree and actually strongly dislike receiving video resumes…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON WEDNESDAY
English Cafe 283

Topics:  The FBI; Famous Americans: Margaret Mead; to splash versus to spray versus to sprinkle; hearing; to be of

In the Learning Guide:  Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear).
In “What Insiders Know,” you will read about “Gang Busters and G-Men.”
Gang Busters first went “on the air” (began broadcasting) in 1935 and the “producer” (a person whose job is to make or produce a show) worked closely with J. Edgar Hoover, the first director of the FBI, to create this show…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON FRIDAY
ESL Podcast 665 – Types of Sandwiches

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 the spot” and “to settle for.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Popular Foods Similar to Sandwiches.”
“In addition to the sandwiches described in today’s podcast, you can find many other common foods that are made by putting something between two pieces of bread. Although these foods are similar to sandwiches, most Americans don’t think of them that way…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide