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Archive for October, 2012

Tuesday - October 30, 2012

Taking Candy from a Baby

Tomorrow is Halloween, a night traditionally (typically; usually) associated (connected; related) in the United States with young children dressing up (putting on clothes) in costumes (clothes that make you look like someone else) and going door to door (house to house) asking for treats (sweets; candy). (We talked about it here, here, and here.)

Halloween has usually been thought of (considered) as a holiday for young children. Not any more.

When I was growing up, you stopped celebrating Halloween sometime in junior high (grades six to nine). Adults sometimes had parties where they would also dress up in costumes, especially in college, but the focus of the holiday was almost always on the children.

According to a recent article, however, this has changed dramatically (significantly; a lot) in the past few years. Consider the following facts on what has been called the “adultification” (making of something into an event for adults) of Halloween:

  • Adults will spend $8,000,000,000 on Halloween costumes and parties this year (yes, you read that correctly: eight billion dollars!).
  • In 2005, when asked if they were going to celebrate Halloween, 52% of adults said yes. This year, in 2012, it’s 71.5%.
  • Ten years ago, fewer than three out of 10 Halloween costumes were purchased (bought) for adults. In 2012, it’s more than six out of 10. More Halloween costumes are now sold to adults than to children.
  • The average Halloween customer (buyer) will spend $123 on a costume this year. That’s more than double what was spent only one year ago!
  • Halloween is now the #2 holiday for spending on decorations (things you put in a room to change its look or appearance), after Christmas. It’s also the #2 holiday for spending on alcohol, after New Year’s Eve (celebration on December 31st).

Why this sudden popularity of Halloween for the 18 and over (adult) crowd (group of people)?

Some attribute (give as the cause or reason) it to the success in the late 1970s of the Halloween franchise (a collection of related films, books, and products).

Others have claimed (stated; said) that Halloween is something you celebrate with friends, whereas (while) the other holidays are more for your family. The thinking goes (The idea is) that as families become less important in the lives of adults, friends take on (acquire; get) more and more importance in one’s social life (non-work activities).

I last celebrated Halloween more than 30 years ago by going to a friend’s party. Most of the people there didn’t even wear a costume (I didn’t).

I don’t plan on celebrating this year, either. But apparently (it seems), I am in the minority (a group with less than 50% of the population).

~Jeff

*The title of this post comes from an old expression, “It’s like taking candy from a baby,” which refers to something that is very easy to do. Here I am talking about literally (actually) taking candy from the babies and giving it to the adults!

Photo credit: Jack-o’-Lantern, Wikipedia CC

 

Monday - October 29, 2012

Podcasts This Week (October 29, 2012)

Don’t just listen to ESL Podcast. If you want to do the most that is possible to improve your English now, get the Learning Guide for each new episode.

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 838 – Talking About Immigration

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 “crop” and “dodge.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Border Control.”
“In recent years, the United States has “amped up” (increased) its efforts at “border control” (knowing and limiting who enters the country). These increased efforts…” - READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON WEDNESDAY
English Cafe 370

Topics: Movies - Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid; Mount Rushmore; threat versus menace versus peril; using “should” with “have to”; role reversal

In the Learning Guide:  Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear).
In “What Insiders Know,” you will read about “The Sundance Film Festival.”
“The Sundance Film Festival is one of the most well known film festivals in the United States. It is held every…” - READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON FRIDAY
ESL Podcast 839 – Getting a Divorce

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 “a long time coming” and “to come out swinging.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Types of Divorce.”
“There are several types of divorce, and the types that are available depend on the state in which the husband and wife live…” - READ MORE in the Learning Guide

Tuesday - October 23, 2012

Don’t Smile Before Christmas

I remember clearly the thoughts running through my head (what I was thinking about) the week before beginning my first job teaching at a high school. I was terrified.

One of a high school teacher’s greatest fears is losing control (not being able to keep order) of his or her classroom, with students talking loudly and behaving (acting) rudely (not nicely). Your first concern as a new teacher in almost any elementary or high school classroom is therefore discipline, the ability to control your students.

Since my father had been a teacher for more than 30 years, naturally (logically) I looked for advice (helpful suggestions) from him.

“What should I do to keep control of my classroom?” I asked.

My father looked at me with a serious face and said, “Don’t smile before Christmas.”

“Don’t smile before Christmas” is the traditional advice given to new teachers, the idea being that you can’t be nice to your students at the beginning of the school year (the school year starts in September in the U.S.). If you are, then your students will not respect you and won’t listen to you.

Recent research has found that whether you smile or don’t smile is, in fact, related in some ways to your position of authority and power. In one study, scientists looked not at whether smiling would make people fear and respect you (like your students might), but whether you smiled if someone else smiled at you.

The researchers found that if you do not think of yourself as very powerful, as having a lot of influence or importance, you usually smile back at anyone who smiles at you. This is something you do unconsciously, without really thinking about it.

However, if you think of yourself as an important person with a lot of power, and another person who is powerful smiles at you, you typically will not smile back at them. You will suppress (not allow yourself) your smile.

This is probably due to the competition you feel with another powerful person in the room. Perhaps you don’t want to seem like you are weak by indicating any kind of friendliness to another powerful person.

Choosing to smile or not to smile communicates how powerful we are in relation to those around us, so perhaps my father’s suggestion was a good one. Luckily for me, I didn’t have any problems with discipline with my classes that year, even if I did smile once or twice before December.

~Jeff

Photo credit: Two children with diving goggles, Ortwin Eversmeyer

Monday - October 22, 2012

Podcasts This Week (October 22, 2012)

It’s easy to get ahead in your English. Listen to ESL Podcast and read the Learning Guide for each new episode.

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 836 – Working Shifts

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 “shift” and “to cover.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Types of Shift Patterns.”
“‘Shift work’ allows employers to run their business ‘around the clock’ (24 hours a day, seven days a week). The day is divided into…” - READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON WEDNESDAY
English Cafe 369

Topics:  Ghost towns of the Wild West; dime novels and pulp magazines; kidding versus joking versus teasing; television show versus television series; phrase

In the Learning Guide:  Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear).
In “What Insiders Know,” you will read about “Five and Dime Stores.”
“From the late 1800s to the mid-1900s, “five and dime” stores were very popular in the United States…” - READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON FRIDAY
ESL Podcast 837 – Driving While Calling and Texting

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 “better yet.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Efforts to Stop Distracted Driving.”
“Many organizations have “launched” (started; implemented) “campaigns” (efforts involving many people) to reduce or…” - READ MORE in the Learning Guide

Thursday - October 18, 2012

iPhone Killers

I pulled into the carport (a protected area with only a roof) at my mother’s house late one Sunday night last year, tired after a long difficult day. While driving, I had used my iPhone to talk to my brother who had left early that morning to drive home, almost 500 miles (about 800 km) away. After I stopped, I picked up my phone – leaving the earbuds (small headphone worn in the ear) in my ears – and opened the car door. As I got out, the earbud cord caught on the door and jerked (suddenly pulled) the phone out of my hand.

I remember thinking, “This is not going to be good,” as my iPhone flew several feet and fell to the concrete (hard material sometimes called cement).

I walked to where my iPhone had fallen, picked it up, turned it over, and had my fears confirmed (to show that something is true). The face (front) of my phone had shattered (broken into many pieces). Several long cracks (thin lines) divided the glass face into large triangles and, in the corner the phone had landed on, several small pieces of glass had already fallen out. My phone still worked, but that was the only good news.

I’m sure that many people have had accidents with their smartphones. Where do you think most of these accidents happen? In the car? In the house? And, if in the house, in which room? Who’s responsible for the accident? The owner? Or someone else?

The web site Squaretrade just released (published) the results of a survey about fatal (having a very bad effect) iPhone accidents. For this post, I’m going to assume that owners of other smart phones have had similar experiences.

The main finding (result or discovery) of the survey is that about 70% of accidents are caused by the owner. And about 50% of them happen inside, at home.

The most dangerous rooms for phones are the kitchen (21% of accidents), living room (18%), bathroom (16%), driveway (10%) and bedroom (8%). I’m a member of the driveway group.

Spilled liquids are responsible for much, perhaps most, of the damage to phones. Water (43%) is the greatest culprit (cause). Together, soda (19%), beer (12%), and coffee or tea (12%) account for (are responsible for) another 43%.

About 5% of phones met their fate (have something bad happen) when their owners put them in the washing machine, 9% when their owners dropped them into the toilet, and 6% when their owners put them on top of their car and drove off.

Fortunately, my story has a happy ending. Several months after my accident, I took my iPhone to an Apple Store to see if it could be fixed. The woman at the customer service counter (place where you pay or are served) told me it couldn’t, but that she could give me a new one. I’m not sure why she decided to do that, but, as you can imagine, I was delighted to walk out of the store with a new phone!

Have you had a serious accident with your smartphone? What happened? Was it fatal?

~ Warren Ediger – creator of Successful English.

Photo courtesy of TedsBlog used under Creative Commons license.

 

Monday - October 15, 2012

Podcasts This Week (October 15, 2012)

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

………

ON MONDAY
ESL Podcast 834 – Breaching Computer Security

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 render” and “to serve (someone) right.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Types of Hackers.”
“There are many types of hackers who use their “exceptional” (very strong; great) computer skills for many different purposes…” - READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON WEDNESDAY
English Cafe 368

Topics:  American Presidents – Ronald Reagan; using suffixes; to persuade versus to convince; to bring around/round

In the Learning Guide:  Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear).
In “What Insiders Know,” you will read about “Foods Associated With Presidents.”
“Most United States presidents are known for their tough politics or their “scandals” (bad behaviors or decisions that the public finds out about). Some presidents, however…” - READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON FRIDAY
ESL Podcast 835 – Getting Shocking News

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 “shock” and “one way or the other.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Types of Custody Arrangements.”
“Today there are many types of “custody arrangements” for “couples” (pairs; groups of two people) who have children…” - READ MORE in the Learning Guide

Thursday - October 11, 2012

Fake Online Reviews

In the old days, if we wanted to get a recommendation for something, we would talk to our friends and acquaintances (people we know, but not well). These days, we go to the Internet. If you want to know about a business before you visit or about a product before you buy, you may look at online reviews, written opinions posted on the Internet.

Online reviews have become a huge influence in the global marketplace (world of buying and selling). Good or bad reviews, for example, can make or break (make successful or unsuccessful) a new restaurant, product, or hotel. It’s not unusual for businesses to post positive reviews about their own business, and even write unfavorable (negative) ones about their competitors (business competing for the same customers). The savvy (knowledgeable) customer knows that this happens and ignores a certain number of glowing (very positive) or very negative reviews.

Weighing (deciding what is useful and what isn’t) online reviews has become harder, however, because writing fake (false; untrue) online reviews has become a business. There are now companies that a book author (writer) or business owner can pay to get fake positive reviews. One company will give you 20 positive reviews for about $500 and 50 reviews for $1000.

Major online sellers do try to spot (find) fake reviews by doing linguistic (related to language) analysis. For example, if the same string of words (words in the same order) appear in multiple reviews, that’s a dead giveaway (an easy way to tell). If an anonymous (without showing one’s real identity) reviewer only writes one glowing review, that may also be a fake review.

A recent National Public Radio story gave some tips on how to spot fake reviews. Some of these suggestions are fairly obvious (clear; apparent), but may be useful as a reminder.

  1. Don’t just look at the reviews on one site. Look for the same product or business on different websites.
  2. Many sites give special status to people who are longtime reviewers or who are verified (confirmed to be real). Their reviews are more trustworthy (reliable) than anonymous ones.
  3. Don’t pay as much attention to how many stars a business gets. Instead, look for specific information about a visitor’s experience.
  4. Read reviews for specific, helpful information that fake review writers or business owners might not think of, such as how late the swimming pool stays open at a hotel.
  5. Pay attention to what the majority of reviews say, rather than outliers (an opinion that is very different from the majority).

Do you read online reviews, and if so, for what types of products, services, or businesses? In your opinion, what are good tip-offs (pieces of evidence) of a fake review?

~ Lucy

Photo Credit: Stipula fountain pen from Wikipedia

Monday - October 8, 2012

Podcasts This Week (October 8, 2012)

Do you want a better job, but your English level is holding you back? The Learning Guide is here to help you get to the English level you want.

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 832 – Creating an Online Store

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 pour in” and “to capture.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “The CAN-SPAM Act of 2003.”
“The CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 was the first law in the United States that “dealt with” (was related to) how businesses can send email…” - READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON WEDNESDAY
English Cafe 367

Topics:  American Authors – Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein and All the President’s Men; Famous Songs – “Over There”; to borrow versus to debit versus to lend versus to loan; using ago with since; ambivalence versus conflict

In the Learning Guide:  Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear).
In “What Insiders Know,” you will read about “The Term Yankee.”
“Over the course of history, the word “Yankee” has come to mean many different things to Americans…” - READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON FRIDAY
ESL Podcast 833 – Shooting Travel Videos

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 “motion” and “left behind.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “National Geographic.”
National Geographic, which was previously known as National Geographic Magazine, is the main monthly magazine…” - READ MORE in the Learning Guide

Thursday - October 4, 2012

Lunch At The Top

In October, 1932, the U.S., like much of the world, was in the middle of the Great Depression. It was the worst economic time of the 20th century. Many Americans didn’t have jobs. And many of them had to get their food from soup kitchens or bread lines (places where food is given for free or at a low price).

Eighty years ago, on October 2nd, 1932, the New York Herald Tribune newspaper published a photograph that has become one of the most famous photos in American history. It shows eleven men relaxing, casually eating lunch, smoking cigarettes, reading newspapers, and chatting (talking) with their friends. However, nothing else about the photo is usual.

The eleven construction workers (people who build things) are seated on a steel beam (a piece of a building; part of the frame or skeleton) which appears to float (stay in the air without anything to hold it up) above the city of New York. You can even see Central Park behind the men, in the top right corner of the photo. The beam, which is more than 800 feet (244 meters) above the ground, is a part of the Rockefeller Center, one of the most famous buildings in New York City. Construction on the Center started in 1930 and was completed in 1939.

This photo, which has come to be known as Lunch Atop (on top of) a Skyscraper (a very tall building), has become an American icon (a person or thing that represents or becomes a symbol of something). It represented hope for workers in the middle of the Depression and the difficult, dangerous work that many of them did to earn money for their families. It represented opportunity: the men in the photo are probably all immigrants – Irish, Italian, Newfoundlanders – and members of the Mohawk Native American tribe. And it represented the optimism and progress that helped lead America out of the Depression. When we look at it today, it continues to represent those same ideas.

Much about the photo is a mystery. No knows who took the photo. Three photographers were working at the building that day, but no one knows which one took the photograph.

We also don’t know the names of the men sitting on the beam. Over the years, people have said, “That’s my uncle,” or some other relative, but it’s been impossible to confirm (make sure about) any of those claims. Last year, an Irish filmmaker named Sean O’Cualain found evidence that might help identify the men at each end of the beam, but we still aren’t sure.

As an amateur (not professional) photographer, I’m impressed by what the photographer had to do to take the photo. The camera was large and heavy and probably needed to be placed on a tripod (a stand to hold it). The photo was taken on a heavy, fragile (easily broken) piece of glass, not the plastic film that most of us used before the beginning of digital photography. And remember, this is 800 feet above the ground!

You can learn a lot about American history and life in the U.S. at the time of the photo by going to the Lunch in the Sky web site. On this page you will find links – Lifestyle, Sports, Politics, etc. – that take you to short video clips (short pieces of video or film) and photos about each topic. The Architecture link includes a clip filmed near the top of the building. It’s scary if you’re afraid of heights (high places)! The last link – Film – tells the story of Sean O’Cualain’s film about the photo.

~ Warren Ediger – creator of Successful English.

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.

 

Tuesday - October 2, 2012

Peaking at the Right Moment

To peak means to reach the highest point of something, usually the highest level of your abilities or capacities. We sometimes talk about sports teams “peaking” at the right time or right moment, meaning that they seem to play best exactly at the best possible time (such as during the championship game).

An article I read recently reviewed (talked about) evidence that suggests (indicates; supports the idea) that all of us have “peak times” when certain activities are most likely to be performed at the highest level. For example, for most people the late morning (two or three hours after waking up) seems to be the peak time for doing intellectually (using the mind to reason and think) difficult or challenging work. The explanation for this is related to the fact that our body temperature increases in the morning, and this increase improves our memory and concentration. (Taking a warm shower in the morning can speed up this process (make it go faster).)

Dr. Stephen Kay of the University of Southern California here in Los Angeles says that our body has a natural clock that it follows. If we follow that clock, we will be able to perform better at our daily tasks (things we do).

Here are some other suggestions based on the research on your body’s natural clock as to when you should do certain things during the day:

  • 9:00 AM: Have a tough (difficult) talk.
    We need a lot of energy and concentration when we discuss a difficult issue with friends or coworkers (people at our job).
  • 2:00 PM: Naptime.
    A nap is a short period of sleep during the day. People get drowsy (sleepy) around two o’clock in the afternoon, so taking a short nap is recommended.
  • 3:00 – 5:00 PM: Work out (exercise).
    Muscle strength peaks during the late afternoon, as does the ability of your lungs. This makes it a good time to do physical exercise.

So now you have your schedule for today!

I’m writing this post in the late morning, so so far, so good (I’m doing well up to this point, but I’m not finished yet). Now I’m looking forward to my afternoon nap.

~Jeff

Photo credit: Soldier Running in Water, Wikipedia PD