ESL Podcast Home ESL Podcast Store
HOME > BLOG > Archive for February, 2012

Archive for February, 2012

Tuesday - February 28, 2012

Leading Economic Indicators: Longer Skirts, Empty Tunnels, and Uglier Waitresses

Is the economy getting better or worse? Many Americans are still trying to figure out (determine) the answer to that question. We don’t know if our economy is recovering (getting better) yet from one of the worst economic downturns (recessions; declines) in the past 50 years. What happens in the next few months could help determine who our next president will be (a good economy favors (is a good thing for) President Obama, a bad economy is good for his opponent (person running against him)).

An indicator is a measure of change, whether something is getting bigger or smaller, better or worse. A leading indicator is usually something that changes before the larger thing you’re interested in changes. For example, if you are interested in whether it will rain or not today, a leading indicator might be a lot of dark clouds in the morning. (The opposite of a leading indicator is a lagging indicator, which changes after the main thing has changed.)  For the economy, there are also leading indicators, such as the price of stocks (partial ownership in a company). Stock prices typically go up before the rest of the economy improves.

Some people have come up with (invented) other indicators of the health of the economy which are less scientific but still may be true. I wrote about some of these a few years ago here, but I found a few more recently I thought I would mention to you. The classic (the best or most typical) example of this is the length of women’s skirts, sometimes called the Hemline Index (a hemline is the bottom of the dress), invented by economist George Taylor back in 1926. When the economy is bad, Taylor observed (reported; said), women wear longer dresses, and when it is good, shorter ones. The reason may be that when the economy is about to get worse, people are anxious and fearful, causing them to dress more conservatively.

Here are a couple of other odd (unusual; strange) economic indicators people have invented:

  • Second Street Tunnel Index – If you travel down Second Street in downtown Los Angeles, you will go through a tunnel (long hole in a hill or mountain for cars or trains) that is very popular for making television commercials (ads) for cars. When there are a lot of production (movie- or commercial-making) companies that want to use the tunnel for filming (making the commercial), the economy is getting better. (This index or indicator was invented by the Los Angeles Times newspaper.)
  • Hot Waitress Index – One writer claims (says is true) that when the economy is getting worse, there are more beautiful, “hot” (sexually attractive) women working as waitresses in restaurants and bars. His theory (of course, it’s a man!) is that when the economy is doing well, attractive women who may not have a lot of other skills or education can more easily get jobs in sales, since companies that sell things like to have attractive women working for them. This may including selling houses or condos, beer, cars, even drugs to doctors (some say drug companies often hire attractive young women to sell to doctors, who are still mostly men). When the economy is poor, these beautiful but perhaps untalented (without other skills or abilities) women work in more demanding (diffiult) jobs like waitressing, where their beauty is still a benefit.
  • Big Mac Index – The Economist magazine tracks (follows; watches) the price of McDonald’s Big Mac hamburgers (available in 120 countries) to compare the relative purchasing (buying) power of different currencies (types of money, like the dollar, the euro, the yen, the yuan, etc.).

Do you know of any economic indicators like these? Do you think the world’s economy is getting better or worse?

~Jeff

Photo credit: Pencil skirt, Wikipedia CC

 

Monday - February 27, 2012

Podcasts This Week (February 27, 2012)

ESL Podcast relies on the support of its listeners. If you enjoy our podcasts, please consider supporting ESL Podcast by becoming a Basic or Premium Member.

By becoming a member, you’ll get the Learning Guide.  We designed the Learning Guide to help you 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 768 – Negotiating Price

 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 “bid” and “to trim.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “How the Government Awards Contracts.”
“The “federal” (related to the national government) government often hires “private” (not part of the government) companies to complete work.  Federal “agencies” (parts of government; departments) must…” - READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON WEDNESDAY
English Cafe 335

Topics: Spy trials of the 40s/50s – Alger Hiss & Julius and Ethel Rosenberg; Johnny Appleseed; feeling versus emotion; expression versus term; drop dead

In the Learning Guide:  Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear).
In “What Insiders Know,” you will read about “Mission: Impossible.”
“Most people are familiar with the Mission: Impossible movies released in recent years “starring” (with the lead actor) Tom Cruise.  However, Mission: Impossible had its beginnings on the ‘small screen’”… - READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON FRIDAY
ESL Podcast 769 – Trying Unusual Foods

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 “bite” and “foul.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Unusual American Foods.”
…”[T]here are some unusual American foods that were developed in the United States and/or are eaten in only certain parts of the country…” - READ MORE in the Learning Guide

Thursday - February 23, 2012

It’s About Time

C’mon (come on), it’s time to go. We’re gonna (going to) be late.”
Just a second (wait a short time), I can’t find my keys.”

“Just a second” is a common time phrase. It’s also the title of an interesting new children’s book by Steve Jenkins. The book’s full title is Just a Second: A Different Way to Look at Time.

The second is interesting, Jenkins writes, because it “doesn’t relate to (isn’t connected to) any cycle (something that continues to happen) in nature – it’s a human invention (created by humans), and the shortest interval (unit or period) of time most of us use in our daily lives. The Babylonians came up with the idea of the second about 4,000 years ago, but they had no way to measure such a short interval of time.”

Maybe the Babylonians couldn’t come up with (think of) a way to measure a second, but Jenkins has. He’s done it by filling this fun little book with examples of things that happen in one second. Here are some of them:

In one second, “a meteor (rock from space) entering Earth’s atmosphere (air around the earth) can travel 44 miles (71 kilometers), a human can blink (shut and open eyes) seven times, a humpback whale‘s song travels 5,085 feet (1,500 meters) through water, and light travels 186,000 miles (300,000 kilometers).”

In one second, “a hummingbird beats (move together and apart) its wings 50 times, a bumblebee beats its wings 200 times, a midge, a kind of gnat (very small flying insect), beats its wings 1,000 times, a woodpecker hammers (hits hard) a tree trunk with its beak (hard pointed nose) 20 times, and a rattlesnake shakes its tail in warning (sign of danger) 60 times.”

In one second, “a cheetah sprinting (running a short distance) flat out (as fast as possible) and a sailfish swimming at top (highest; fastest) speed both travel 100 feet (30 meters), a dragonfly cruises (flies casually) 50 feet, a very fast human can run 39 feet (12 meters), and a black mamba snake slithers (slides over a surface by moving back and forth) a frightening 24 feet (7 meters).”

In one second, “the Apollo 10 spacecraft traveled almost seven miles (11 kilometers) during reentry (when it came back into Earth’s atmosphere) – the fastest humans have traveled in a man-made vehicle.” In one second, “Earth advances (goes forward) 18.5 miles (30 kilometers) in its orbit (circular path) around the sun, while four babies are born, and two people die.”

Sometimes time flies (goes very quickly). But time can also move very slowly. A science blog called It’s Okay to Be Smart recently featured (included or showed) an infographic (information picture) about geologic time – the history of the development of the earth. It’s what we might call very slow time.

The infographic includes more than three eras (very long periods of history) of earth history, about 4.6-billion years. If you want to compare that to Jenkins’ book, that’s more than 145,000,000,000,000,000 seconds (if my math is correct)!

What happened during this long period of time? Some scientists believe that at first there was only one continent (large mass of land surrounded by ocean), called Pangea. Later Pangea split (broke or divided) into two parts, north and south. Eventually (after a long time) those two parts split again into the seven continents we have today. And that took only 250-million years – a relatively (compared to the total) short time.

By the way, the title of this blog post contains a little time joke. The blog is about time, so it’s a good description, a good title. But we also use “it’s about time” another way. If someone is late coming to an appointment or finishing a project, when they finally arrive or finish, we sometimes say (and not too happily), “It’s about time!”

And now, it’s about (almost) time for me to stop.

If you’re interested, you can read more about Just a second at the New York Times or Brain Pickings web sites.

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

The hourglass photo is courtesy of Wikipedia Commons

Monday - February 20, 2012

Podcasts This Week (February 20, 2012)

Do you want to understand every word you hear? Get the Learning Guide and you’ll see a transcript of every word spoken on the podcasts.

We designed the Learning Guide to help you learn English better and faster. In addition to a complete transcript, get more vocabulary, language explanations, sample sentences, comprehension questions, cultural notes, and much more.

Get the Learning Guide and support ESL Podcast today by becoming a Basic or Premium Member!

………

ON MONDAY
ESL Podcast 766 – Describing Shapes and Sizes

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 “conservative” and “odd.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Home Makeover TV Shows.”
“In recent years, “home makeover” (the process of dramatically changing the appearance of a house) shows have become increasingly popular on television. One of the better-known shows…” - READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON WEDNESDAY
English Cafe 334

Topics: Grand Teton National Park; Famous Songs: “She’ll be Coming ‘Round the Mountain”; congratulations versus thanks versus kudos; literally; to take the time

In the Learning Guide:  Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear).
In “What Insiders Know,” you will read about “Plains Indian Sign Language.”
“It may surprise you to know that in North America, there are “approximately” (not exactly, but close to) 300 “indigenous” languages spoken. The word “indigenous” means…” - READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON FRIDAY
ESL Podcast 767 – Taking Care of Your Teeth

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 “drill” and “gum.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “How to Become a Dentist.”
“According to the “Bureau of Labor Statistics” (part of the U.S. Department of Labor), people who want to become a dentist need to have at least two years of…” - READ MORE in the Learning Guide

Thursday - February 16, 2012

School Music Programs

I recently read an article that got me thinking about my elementary, junior high, and high school days. An article in the Los Angeles Times reported on a rash of (many instances of something happening in a short period of time) thefts of tubas from schools in L.A. The article attributes (gives as the reason for) the thefts to the growth in popularity of banda music in Southern California, a type of traditional Mexican music using brass instruments (musical instruments often made of brass and uses the air from your mouth and body to make music).  Unfortunately, the stolen instruments can be sold for a lot of money on the black market (the illegal buying and selling of things).

I was very sad to read this article because I remember how much the school music program meant to me when I was growing up in Arizona.  In our school district (group of schools under the same administration) in Tucson, there was a school music program in elementary school, junior high, and high school.  Since every state and school district is different, it’s hard to make generalizations about what school music programs are like, so I’ll just talk about my own experience.

Our school music program was not an after-school program, but a part of the regular school day.  For one hour a day (or two or three hours a week in elementary school), students whose parents allowed them to participate in the program met with the music teacher.  Our orchestra (group of musicians playing together) teacher taught us to play our instruments and conducted (led a group of musicians, usually standing in front of the group) us all to play together.  Students could bring their own instruments from home or they could borrow a school instrument for the year.  This way, students whose parents could not or did not want to buy instruments could still participate.

Starting in the fifth grade (age 10), I played the violin, a beautiful instrument in skilled (with ability) hands, but in mine, an instrument of torture. Still (even so; despite this), I enjoyed learning to play and most of all, I enjoyed being with other students out of the traditional classroom.  Our orchestra, like many school orchestras, played concerts for the school and also played in the community at special events, such as holiday festivals and celebrations.  As a group, we also traveled to play in other cities when we could raise (earn; collect) enough money.

Money to pay for the school instruments, our teacher (shared with other schools), and other classroom resources were paid for by the school.  Everything else was paid for by parents or, more often, through fundraising.  It is very common for students in school music, athletic, drama (theater), or other activities to have school fundraisers. We had car washes: We would convince a nearby gas station to let us wash cars for a day or for the weekend on their premises (at their location) to earn money.  We sold candy: We sold candy to other students, our friends, and went door-to-door (from one house to another) to sell to neighbors.  We sold lottery tickets: These were tickets, usually for $1, for a chance to win a prize (something valuable you can win) that someone — a parent or someone in the community — had donated (given without receiving money).  I cannot tell you how many things we did or sold to earn money.  But for me, it was all part of the fun of being part of this group.

To be honest, our school orchestra was never very good.  With the exception of one or two really gifted (talented) students who went on to study music, we just bumbled through (did without any skill) the music.  (Some who are less charitable (kind and giving) would say we murdered (killed)  the music.) But for me, and I imagine for a lot of students, it was good experience and it exposed us (gave us access) to music and instruments we would never have played otherwise.  Sadly, with poor economic times, many schools have or will need to eliminate (remove) their school music programs.  This is especially sad in neighborhoods where buying musical instruments and paying for private music lessons is beyond the means of (more money than can be paid by) the parents.

Are there school music programs where you live, and do students participate in fundraisers for music or other activities?

~ Lucy

Photo Credit: Violin from Wikipedia 

Monday - February 13, 2012

Podcasts This Week (February 13, 2012)

You work hard. You study hard. You deserve to get the best help in English you can get.

We designed the Learning Guide to help you 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 764 – Being Unsure and Unready

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 “bug” and “at best.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Tap Dancing.”
“In today’s episode, “tap dancing” referred to the act of moving or speaking quickly, especially to distract or mislead someone. But “tap dancing” is also a style of dance where the dancers wear…” - READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON WEDNESDAY
English Cafe 

Topics:  Movie: Star Wars; the Security and Exchange Commission; shame versus pity; reading numbers aloud; to be left cold

In the Learning Guide:  Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear).
In “What Insiders Know,” you will read about “Star Tours.”
“If you are a Star Wars fan and “can’t get enough” (want more) of the movies, you might want to visit Disneyland.  In 1987, George Lucas established a…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON FRIDAY
ESL Podcast 765 – Annulling a Marriage

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 “of (one’s) own free will” and “on (some) grounds.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Celebrity Annulments.”
“Celebrities” (famous athletes, musicians, actors, etc.) have a “reputation” (the way someone is known or thought of) for entering very short marriages that end in divorce or annulment”… - READ MORE in the Learning Guide

Thursday - February 9, 2012

Not Your Ordinary Dog*

I’m a dog guy. I mean, I like dogs. Always have, probably always will. I got my first dog when I was two or three years old. If you count the dogs our children have had while they were living at home, I’ve shared my life with seven or eight dogs. We don’t have one now, but we occasionally babysit our daughter’s two dogs, Jameson and Kahlua – that’s Jameson in the picture, wondering why the teddy bear (a toy bear) won’t play with him.

I hadn’t planned to write about dogs this week, but a few days ago I read a moving (creates strong emotions or feelings) story – Wonder Dog – by Melissa Green. It’s about Iyal and Chancer, a little boy and a service dog. And I decided their story needed to be shared.

Service dogs are trained to help people with disabilities (difficult physical or mental condition). In the past, seeing-eye dogs, which help people who can’t see, were the most common. Today a growing number of service dogs are being trained to help people with mental disabilities and severe depression (feel very unhappy and anxious). Some are even trained to help people with seizures (when someone can’t control their body) or similar problems.

Service dogs need to have a good temperament (personality), be healthy, obedient (obey commands), and trainable (able to learn). Some come from breeders (people who raise dogs), others from shelters (places for animals with no owner). Early seeing-eye dogs were often German Shepherds, but today many different breeds (kinds) or mixtures (combinations of breeds) are used as service dogs. Wonder Dog is the story of one of these dogs.

Donnie and Harvey dreamed about raising a family, but they couldn’t have children. So they did the next best thing: they adopted (became the parents of) a boy and a girl, Iyal, and Morasha, from an orphanage (a home for homeless children) in eastern Europe.

Donnie and Harvey lived their dream until, when he was three, Iyal began to throw tantrums (became angry and unreasonable) and try to do unexplainable things, like jump out of a fast-moving car. For more than a year doctors tried unsuccessfully to determine why he acted like this. A pediatrician (children’s doctor) finally concluded that Iyal’s brain and central nervous system had been seriously damaged before he was born. The cause was alcohol: his mother had been a heavy drinker.

Knowing why Iyal acted the way he did didn’t solve the problem, though. Few medications or therapies (treatments) can treat this disability. Donnie and Harvey wanted to help Iyal, but it was difficult. Even though they loved their son, they were often angry and frustrated by his strange behavior (actions).

Chancer, a service dog from 4 Paws for Ability, helped helped make Iyal’s and his parents’ lives much brighter (happier). Two weeks after Chancer arrived, Iyal surprised his parents by using new words and expressing new ideas. When Chancer is nearby, Iyal relaxes and acts differently than he did before.

As Greene wrote, “Chancer hasn’t cured (made the illness go away) Iyal.” He is thirteen but acts like someone much younger. He still can’t control his feelings and actions. But Chancer doesn’t care. He doesn’t know that Iyal is mentally impaired (damaged). He knows something more important: “that Iyal is his boy.” He “loves Iyal in a perfect way, with an unconditional (without limits) love….” And you can see it when they’re together, running, laughing, and sharing happiness – “just a boy and his dog.”

You can find the entire story about Ilya and Chancer here: Wonder Dog – A Golden Retriever Reaches a Raging Boy. It will be difficult for some, but it’s a wonderful story!

* “Not your ordinary…” – When we use this phrase, we are suggesting that there is something special about whatever follows. So “Not your ordinary dog” suggests that this post is going to be about a special dog, and it is.

~ Warren Ediger – English tutor and coach and creator of Successful English where you can find Lessons for better English.

Photo by W. Ediger.

Monday - February 6, 2012

Podcasts This Week (February 6, 2012)

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

We designed the Learning Guide to help you 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 762 – Eating a Family Dinner

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 “seconds” and “to round up.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Customs at Family Meals.”
“Traditionally, American families ate their meals together. However, in recent years, “hectic” (busy) schedules have led to fewer opportunities to share meals, and many families report…” - READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON WEDNESDAY
English Cafe 332

Topics: Famous Americans – Michael Jordan; the Quakers; tag questions; the derivation of “okay”; to learn versus to study

In the Learning Guide:  Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear).
In “What Insiders Know,” you will read about “Bonnet Fiction.”
“Romance novels “feature” (has as its main theme) love stories of many kinds.  One recent trend is to “set” (place) romance stories in Amish or other close-knit…” - READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON FRIDAY
ESL Podcast 763 – Dealing with an Apartment Super 

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 “super” and “to catch (someone).”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Working as a Building Super or Building Manager.”
“A building super is a “jack-of-all-trades” (a person who is fairly good at doing many different things, but not an expert in any area) who needs to know a little bit about…” - READ MORE in the Learning Guide