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Archive for October, 2011

Monday - October 31, 2011

Podcasts This Week (October 31, 2011)

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ON MONDAY
ESL Podcast 734 – Believing in Scary Things

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 “one’s own doing” and “cross.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “How Adults Celebrate Halloween.”
“Children usually “go trick-or-treating” (knock on doors to ask for candy) on Halloween, but many adults like to celebrate the holiday, too. Many people have “costume parties”…” - READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON WEDNESDAY
English Cafe 318

Topics: Famous Americans:  Warren Buffet; The Chicken Soup book series; few versus little; only so many; to be due

In the Learning Guide:  Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear).
In “What Insiders Know,” you will read about “The Four Marx Brothers and Duck Soup.”
“The Marx Brothers were an American “comedy” (entertainment to make us laugh) team originally from New York City. Between 1900 and 1950, they made 13 films…” - READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON FRIDAY
ESL Podcast 735 – Getting a Visa to Travel

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 give (something) a shot” and “to shape up.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Visas for Temporary Visitors.”
“There are many types of “non-immigrant” (not intended to live in the United States permanently) visas for people who want to visit the United States for a short period of time…” - READ MORE in the Learning Guide

Tuesday - October 25, 2011

Fall Festivals, Part 1

Many countries have a tradition of the harvest festival, a point we mentioned recently on ESL Podcast 723. Harvest refers to the food you take out of the fields (places where food grows) to sell or eat.  A festival is a celebration, usually with a large group of people. I grew up in the great state of Minnesota, where agriculture (the growing of food) is an important part of the economy.  Each autumn (fall), local community and church organizations sponsor a small celebration (usually called a fall festival), even when no one in the organization is actually a farmer or has a field! Fall festivals are fundraisers for the school, church, or community group. Fundraisers are special events that where a group raises (collects; gets) funds (money) for their group.

I was visiting Minnesota recently and attended the fall festival held by my old high school in Saint Paul, located in what was once a German American part of the city called Frogtown.  I thought I would share some of the activities that you might typically find at one of these very Midwestern events. In Part 1 of this post, we’ll talk about the games and fun activities.  In Part 2, we’ll discuss the kind of food you can eat at a Minnesota fall festival.

Typical at a fall festival (at least in Catholic schools such as the one I attended) is playing a game of chance (luck) called Bingo, a game I discussed in an earlier blog post. The Bingo game I went to at the fall festival was a little different, however. Notice in the photo that they make special bottles of ink to mark your cards. These are used instead of chips (small pieces of paper or plastic) to mark the squares on the card. Of course, this means you need a new, clean paper Bingo card for each game.  Each card costs 25 or 50 cents, and the winner gets a small prize.  I played one game where the prize was a mug (a large glass for drinking beer).  I lost.

Another game of chance is called the Cherry Tree. Several dozen small gifts are put out on display (so people can see them) with numbers next to them (see photo).  You pay $1.00 to get five stapled pieces of paper.  Some of the pieces of paper have a number on them, which matches (is the same as) one of the prize numbers.  If you get that number, you win that prize.  I bought 5 tickets at the festival.  I lost.

My favorite game at a fall festival is the Cake Walk. All of the prizes in this game are – you guessed it – cakes! There are 10 numbers on the floor, arranged (placed) in a circle. One person stands on each number (it costs $1.00 to play).  Music plays and you begin to walk around the circle, stepping from number to number. When the music stops, you stop on the nearest number. Then one of the players picks a number from one to ten from a basket or hat. The person standing on that number wins the cake.  Every game has a winner, and of course there is no skill (knowledge or special expertise) needed to play.  (You can even describe some action in English as being a “cake walk,” which means it is very easy to do). I played the Cake Walk once at the festival (see photo).  I lost.

Enough of me losing! In the next post, I’ll talk about something I did get at the festival – food.

~Jeff

Photo credits: Jeff McQuillan

 

 

Monday - October 24, 2011

Podcasts This Week (October 24, 2011)

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ON MONDAY
ESL Podcast 732 – Preferring Different Work Styles

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 clash” and “to pool.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Collaboration Between Thomas Edison and J.P. Morgan and the Vanderbilts.”
“Many people know that Thomas Edison “invented” (created something for the first time) the first “practical” (able to be used in real life) “light bulb” (the round, glass ball that produces light when screwed into the base of a lamp). But that is only part of the story…” - READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON WEDNESDAY
English Cafe 317

Topics: Movie:  Mr. Smith Goes to Washington; Detroit and the Rust Belt; to knead versus to mash; the infinitive versus gerund form of a verb (to look for versus looking for); bona fide

In the Learning Guide:  Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear).
In “What Insiders Know,” you will read about “Smith – The Most Common Last Name in the U.S.”
““Smith” is a very common last name in the United States.  In fact, it is the most common last name in the U.S., the United Kingdom, and Australia, and second most common in Canada…”  - READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON FRIDAY
ESL Podcast 733 – Voting in an Election

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 “race” and “to read up on.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Voter Eligibility.”
“Voter “eligibility” (determinations of who has the right to vote) is determined through a combination of “federal” (national) and state laws…” - READ MORE in the Learning Guide

Thursday - October 20, 2011

Los Angeles … World Art Center

Los Angeles Stakes Its Claim as a World Art Center. That was a headline a few days ago in the New York Times. To stake a claim means to say publicly that you believe you have the right (authority or power) to do something, in this case the right to call yourself a world art center.

I wonder how many people think of Los Angeles as a world art center or, simply, an art center. We usually reserve (keep, hold) that right for cities that are home to the Louvre, Prado, Tate, Hermitage, or other well-known museums.

When many of the people I’ve talked to think of Los Angeles, they seem to think first of Hollywood. Or Disneyland. Or LAX (Los Angeles International Airport) – often on their way to Las Vegas. But not art.

That may all change if Pacific Standard Time: Art in L.A. 1945 to 1980 (PST) is successful. PST is a six-month series (similar events that happen one after another) of exhibitions (art shows) at 130 museums and galleries (places where you can see and buy art) from San Diego to Santa Barbara – cities that are south and north of Los Angeles. The New York Times article calls PST “an exhaustive (complete) accounting (description) of the Los Angeles-area art scene (area of activity).”

I was happy to see that the Times writer feels that Los Angeles deserves (has earned the right) to be considered an “art capital in the same league as (to be as good or important as) New York, Berlin, and London.” And he explains why: “Los Angeles these days has [many] ambitious (determined to be successful) museums, adventurous (not afraid to try new things) art galleries, wealthy collectors, top-notch (excellent) art schools and – perhaps most important of all – young artists….”

Let me tell you about a few of my favorite places for art-gazing (looking at art) in the Los Angeles area:

The Getty, two separate museums, is probably the best-known of the Los Angeles-area museums. The Getty Center sits high above Los Angeles in the Santa Monica hills. The buildings and garden are as impressive as its art collection. The Getty Villa, a recreation (built to look like) of an ancient Roman country house, overlooks the Pacific Ocean in Malibu. The Villa’s collection gives visitors an unusual look at life in ancient Rome, Greece, and Etruria (now Tuscany and Umbria in Italy).

The Norton Simon Museum, probably my favorite, holds the private art collection of Norton Simon, a southern California businessman and philanthropist (a rich person who gives money to help other people).  Many people believe it is the best private collection of art in the world. It includes 14th-20th century European, modern and contemporary, and Asian art. If you visit, you’ll find works by many of the world’s most famous artists. My adult ESL students used to enjoy visiting the Norton Simon as part of my summer art history class.

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) is best known for its collection of modern and contemporary art, American and Latin American Art, and art from Asia – China, Korea, and Japan. LACMA also has frequent special exhibits. On such exhibit, which includes several of Monet’s Rouen Cathedral paintings just opened (began).

The Museum of Contemporary Art, in downtown Los Angeles, features art created since the 1940s.

From time to time (occasionally), my wife and I like to sneak (go quietly) down to Laguna Beach – an ocean-side (next to the ocean) village (small town) about one hour south of Los Angeles – for art and food. Many small galleries there display art by living artists. And when you tire (get tired) of walking from gallery to gallery, you’ll find a large variety of food in restaurants on (next to) the beach.

If you ever visit southern California, give the Los Angeles art scene a chance. You won’t be sorry; I promise.

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

 Photo of the Getty Center by Christopher Chan used by permission.

Tuesday - October 18, 2011

Liquor Stores and Libraries

According to a recent study (research investigation), the closer teenagers (those ages 13 to 19) live to places where alcohol is sold, the more likely they are to binge drink. Binge drinking is when you drink excessively (too much) over a short period of time in order to get intoxicated (drunk) as quickly as possible.  Binge drinking is dangerous for many reasons, and has become more common in the U.S. in recent years among teenagers and college-age adults (ages 18-25). (We talked about this issue on English Cafe 167.)

The study found that living within a half-mile of a liquor store (a place that sells mostly alcohol in bottles and cans) significantly increases a teenager’s likelihood (chances; odds) of drinking too much and of driving while intoxicated.  If you can walk to the liquor store, you are more likely to use it.  (It is illegal for teens to purchase alcohol in the U.S., but that doesn’t prevent some stores from selling it to them.) We can think of the distance you live or have to travel to get something you want as being part of the “price” of that thing. If something takes a long time to get to, I may decide it is not worth the cost (of my time) to get it.  When you decrease the distance, you decrease the “price,” and the lower the price, the more likely someone is to buy something.

This basic principle (idea) of smaller distance –> lower price –> more consumption (more using or buying of something) works for all sorts of activities, and can often be a good thing.  If you live closer to your gym, you are more likely to go there to work out (exercise).  It is also true for the topic of this week’s English Cafe, public libraries. Several studies have found that the closer you live to a public library, the more likely you are to use it.  This is true for people at all levels of education, from college graduates to young children.

In fact, the magic number (important or significant number) seems to be about a half a mile (about .8 kilometers) for both libraries and liquor stores.  Kids who live more than half a mile from a library are much less likely to use it than those who are closer.

Although the advent (coming; arrival) of digital readers like the Kindle or the iPad may make the physical presence of libraries less important some day, distance still matters (is important). Back in my hometown (place where you were born) of St. Paul, Minnesota, I grew up only 1/3 of a mile from the nearest public library, and used it frequently.  I now live less than one-half a mile from my public library, and am there almost every week. If I had to travel 30 minutes to get the library, I may still go, but would probably go less often.

Do you have good public libraries where you live? Did you use them when you were growing up?

~Jeff

Photo credit: St. Paul Central Library, Appraiser CC

Monday - October 17, 2011

Podcasts This Week (October 17, 2011)

Is your limited English standing in your way? Do you want to improve your English now?

Get the Learning Guide and you’ll 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 730 – Waiting For Exam Results

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 “toss up” and “to bomb (something).”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Professions Requiring Continuing Education.”
“For many “professions” (jobs; fields of work), graduating college with a degree is all that is necessary to begin work. Some professions, however, require the passing of an exam…” - READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON WEDNESDAY
English Cafe 316

Topics: Ask an American: Libraries Using Ad Campaigns to Improve Image and Funding; making introductions; stack versus stock

In the Learning Guide:  Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear).
In “What Insiders Know,” you will read about “The Google Books Controversy.”
“In 2004, the Internet search company Google announced that it would do something very “ambitious” (with very high goals for doing something difficult).  It would “scan” (use a machine to copy electronically) and “digitize”…” - READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON FRIDAY
ESL Podcast 731 – Hints and Innuendo

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 “coming up” and “clue.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Teenage Milestone Birthdays and the Selective Service System.”
“In a typical American’s “lifetime” (the period of time a person is alive), he or she experiences several “milestone” birthdays.  “Milestones” are significant periods or events “indicating”…” - READ MORE in the Learning Guide

Tuesday - October 11, 2011

Nobel Committee Reminds Me Why I’m Not an Economist

The Nobel Prizes are among the most prestigious (highly respected or honored) awards given to people who have accomplished something great in their field (area of work or study). Yesterday the Nobel Committee awarded the 2011 Nobel Prize in Economics to two American professors, Thomas Sargent and Christopher Sims.  Both are 68 years old, both studied at Harvard University, and both helped me decide not to study economics thirty years ago.

In 1981, I was a freshman (first-year college student) at the University of Minnesota.  My declared (official or stated) major (main area of study) was economics.  I had read several books on economics in high school, and had hoped to study at the University of Chicago, famous for its economics department. But I didn’t have enough money to attend (study) there, so I went to what everyone in Minnesota simply calls “the U” (the University of Minnesota).  The U also had a very good economics department, headed by (led by) one of the chief economists for President John F. Kennedy (who is the topic of this week’s English Cafe), Walter Heller. But there were also a pair of young professors in the department who had some new ideas about economics, and especially the role (function; use) of statistics (mathematical approach to studying information or data) in studying economic behavior (the way people act).  Their names were Sargent and Sims.

Sims in particular wrote a famous paper (scientific article) the year before I arrived at the U on something called “vector autoregression,” an advanced statistical tool he thought would help economists better understand the way people reacted to economic policy in the “real world.” (Don’t ask me to explain it, because I can’t!) One of the teaching assistants (graduate students who help the professor grade papers and lead discussions) for my class explained to me that these complex statistical approaches were the future of economics. Well, I didn’t know much about statistics, didn’t really like math very much, and believed that the human behavior that economics is supposed to explain could not be reduced to (simplified to) a few numbers.  So I quickly decided I would change my major (major in something else).  There ended my brief career as an economist.

It wasn’t until years later that I discovered I liked statistical analysis, and began using it in my own research.  By then, however, I was already in the area of second language acquisition, and Professors Sargent and Sims had left the U for other places (Sargent is currently at New York University and Sims at Harvard).  Now they have both won a Nobel Prize for their work.  I congratulate them on their achievement, and thank them for changing my mind about studying economics.  If they had not done so, I wouldn’t be working here at ESL Podcast, which I love more than any job I’ve ever had.

~Jeff

Photo credit: Nobel Prize Medal, Wikipedia PD

Monday - October 10, 2011

Podcasts This Week (October 10, 2011)

Do you want to learn English faster? We designed the Learning Guide to help you do just that. 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 728 – Describing One’s Skill Level

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 “basic” and “master.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “The Internship Experience.”
” Students and “recent graduates” (people who recently earned a diploma or finished a course of study) can participate in internships to “obtain” (get) valuable job experience and “network” (meet; make connections) with people in their “chosen industry”…” - READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON WEDNESDAY
English Cafe 315

Topics: American Presidents: John F. Kennedy; Great Britain versus Britain versus England versus United Kingdom; hot shot

In the Learning Guide:  Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear).
In “What Insiders Know,” you will read about the “Lincoln-Kennedy Coincidences.”
“John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963. A year later, an article appeared in an American newspaper “purportedly” (supposedly) showing many “coincidences” (things happening at the same time and/or in the same way, without explanation) between…” - READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON FRIDAY
ESL Podcast 729 – Being Blunt and Stubborn

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 “direct” and “to speak up.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Animals Associated with Personality Traits.”
“In this episode, we talked about “pigheadedness” and being as stubborn as a “mule” (an animal born to a female horse and a male donkey). Many other animals are “associated” (connected) with “certain” (specific) personality traits in English…” - READ MORE in the Learning Guide

Thursday - October 6, 2011

Ah, The Memories

Childhood memories are never far away. A New York Times article triggered (caused me to remember) one of mine recently. The article – about Ava Drug in Ava, Missouri – brought back memories of the corner drug store and, especially, its soda fountain.

Years ago, before stores become more specialized, the corner drug store (many were on a corner near the center of town) was a fixture (something that’s always present) in most American towns. In many towns they were a popular gathering place (a place for people to get together), much like a British pub, or public house. People met at the corner drug store to get a sandwich, enjoy a milk shake or soda, pick up a prescription, and buy a magazine, some candy, a small gift, or greeting card to give someone on their birthday.

The heart (most important or central part) of the corner drug store was the soda fountain (a machine that serves bubbly drinks, or the restaurant area in a store with a soda fountain machine). Some were very simple; others were ornate (highly decorated), often with a large wall mirror framed (surrounded) by dark wood. All of them had a bar (counter, a long narrow area for serving food or drinks) – similar to the one in the photo above – with stools (a seat with no back or arm) for customers to sit on. Usually there were a few tables and chairs for small groups of customers.

My cousin and I often hung out (spent time together) at the corner drug store where he lived. We enjoyed sitting on the stools at the bar. Deciding what to eat or drink was always a challenge (difficult)! The soda fountain offered ice cream cones and sundaes (ice cream, in a cup, covered by a flavored syrup like chocolate), and shakes (milk, ice cream, and flavored syrup mixed together). The menu (list of available food) also included a variety of drinks – sodas, like Coke; flavored sodas, like cherry Coke; and phosphates, a mixture of carbonated (bubbly) water and flavored syrup. While we waited for the soda jerk (old word for a person who worked at the soda fountain) to prepare our food or drinks, we’d often spin (turn around and around rapidly) around on the stools.

The corner drug store isn’t exactly making a comeback (returning to popularity). But there are some, like Ava Drug and Fair Oaks Pharmacy & Soda Fountain in Pasadena, California, that are trying to keep the tradition alive. Fair Oaks opened as the South Pasadena Pharmacy in 1915; Ava Drug first opened in 1950. Both have been restored (returned) to their original decor (the way the inside of a building is decorated). At Ava Drug you can even get an ice cream cone for the original 1950 price – 5 cents! Take a minute to visit the Fair Oaks web site – it’s fun!

If you ever come to the U.S., see if you can find a corner drug store. And if you can, stop and check out (visit) the soda fountain. Get yourself a cherry Coke or chocolate milk shake or … okay, you decide.

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

Photo by cobalt12 used under CC license.

Tuesday - October 4, 2011

#SortofInteresting

Almost everyone on the Internet has heard of Twitter, a micro-blogging (a mini or small blogging) service where you are able to send short, 140–characters–or–less messages to people who “follow” you on the service. (We talked about it briefly here.) You can follow people by using a web browser and going to www.twitter.com or by using a piece of software on your phone or computer. I first started using Twitter a few months after it began in 2006, although it really didn’t become popular until a few years later. Now, some people credit Twitter (say it caused or is responsible for) with helping spread both good news and bad about politics, culture, and even earthquakes.

Twitter, however, has its own particular language that you need to understand if you’re going to use it successfully. Everyone has a username (a screen name; a name that identifies you), but the special character @ is used before your username. So, for example, English as a Second Language Podcast has the username @eslpod.  When you use software for Twitter, clicking on a username will take you to that person’s page. Then you can read that person’s tweets (messages) if they are public, or request to follow that person so that you can read what they say.

A more interesting feature (characteristic) of Twitter is the use of the hashtag, a special character that looks like this: #. Similar to the tags that are used on regular blogs, a hashtag usually indicates a broader category or topic that the message is related to. So, for example, if I am writing about the city of Santa Monica, I would add to my tweet: #SantaMonica (notice that it is all spelled as one word). The advantage of this system is that when you click on something that has been “hashtag-ed,” you can see all the other messages on that same topic that have been tweeted.

Many people, however, have begun using hashtags to add humor (comedy) or additional commentary on their own messages. This often involves irony, where you say one thing but really mean another. If my tweet is, “Just saw a dog inside of a car with no owner,” I might add the hashtag: #ReallyBadIdea. The hashtag is what I really think about the situation, what some people referred to as meta-commentary or commentary about the commentary. Somewhat bizarrely (strangely; oddly), some people have begun to talk this way, using the word hashtag in front of words or phrases to provide a meta-commentary in real life. Earlier this year, a Canadian politician attacked the prime minister of Canada’s policies (ideas and actions) on crime, calling them “a hashtag fail.”

The ultimate (best or greatest example) in hashtag use is to cross the fingers of your hand together to form what looks like a hashtag before something that you say (see photo). I love Twitter, and I think hashtags are very useful, but I can’t see (I don’t think I will be) using them with my fingers.

~Jeff

P.S. Follow us on twitter at @eslpod.