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Archive for December, 2012

Monday - December 31, 2012

Podcasts This Week (December 31, 2012)

Start the new year by doing what so many listeners have already done: Get the benefits of 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 856 – Training Salespeople

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 retain” and “back.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Automated Customer Service.”
“With the “advance” (progress; improvement) of technology, “automated customer service” or the practice of using… – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON WEDNESDAY
English Cafe 379

Topics: Famous Authors: Ray Bradbury; foreign languages taught in U.S. schools; to repair versus to fix versus to mend; to the north versus north of; food versus meal versus repast

In the Learning Guide:  Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear).
In “What Insiders Know,” you will read about the “Bradbury 13.”
“In 1984, a young man named Mike McDonough decided to “adapt” (change for a certain purpose) some of Ray Bradbury’s short stories into a radio drama…”  – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON FRIDAY
ESL Podcast 857 – Being Arrested by the Police

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 arrest” and “to release.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Types of Police Officers.”
“Most people are familiar with “uniformed” (wearing standard clothing that all employees or members wear) “patrol officers” who interact with…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

Thursday - December 27, 2012

The Hidden Subway

751px-City_Hall_Subway_stationNew York’s subway system – one of the world’s largest and busiest – was part of a grand (big and impressive) plan that would make it possible for anyone living in the greater New York area (in and around New York City) to go wherever they wanted to go.

However, the Great Depression, World War II, higher prices after the war, and other factors (causes) kept the grand plan from being completed. Parts of the subway were never built. Some parts that were built were never used. Many of those parts have been hidden from public view (can’t be seen). And they’ve never been seen by the millions of people who walk, drive, or ride just a short distance away.

One of those, the City Hall station, was supposed to have been the showpiece (something that attracts attention) of the subway system. It was designed by a well-known Spanish architect (someone who designs buildings). It’s beautiful, with curved walls and arched (curved) ceilings. The walls and ceilings are decorated with colored tiles, stained (colored) glass windows and skylights (windows in the ceiling) and brass (bright yellow metal) chandeliers (round frames that hold lights and hang from the ceiling). These photos will show you what I mean. Many people believe that it looks similar to New York’s well-known Grand Central Terminal (railroad station).

City Hall station opened in 1904. But as beautiful as it was (even though it was beautiful), it never was an important station. It was near the end of the #6 line (track that a train travels on) and most riders got off before City Hall to transfer (change) to other subway trains.

City Hall station was closed in 1941. Since then very few people have seen it. The station is in an area where trains turn around, and passengers had to get off. Recently, however, subway administrators (managers) have begun to allow passengers to stay on the train while it turns around. Even though they can’t get off the train to look at the City Hall station, passengers can see most of it while the train slowly moves past.

I haven’t seen City Hall station, but I’d like to. Would you? Do subways where you live have similar hidden wonders (something that makes you feel surprise and admiration)?

~ Warren Ediger – English coach/tutor and creator of the Successful English web site.

Photo of City Hall station courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.

Monday - December 24, 2012

Podcasts This Week (December 24, 2012)

We wish you a very merry Christmas and hope that your holidays are filled with peace and joy.

We thank those who have already donated or become members, and who are helping to keep ESL Podcast going. If you enjoy our podcasts, please consider supporting ESL Podcast, too, by becoming a Basic or Premium Member today!

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ON MONDAY
ESL Podcast 854 – Singing Christmas Carols

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 “just this once” and “to compose.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Animated Christmas TV Specials.”
“Many Americans “eagerly” (with a lot of excitement and enthusiasm) look forward to “Christmastime” (the time before and during Christmas…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON WEDNESDAY
English Cafe 378

Topics:  Redshirting; Mesa Verde National Park; to wrap up; to bother versus to interrupt versus to disturb; blind spot

In the Learning Guide:  Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear).
In “What Insiders Know,” you will read about “The Magnificent Seven.”
The Magnificent Seven is a “western film” (a film about cowboys usually set in the western part of the United States in the 1800s) that was released in 1960…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON FRIDAY
ESL Podcast 855 – Learning Fire Safety

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 “rash” and “overload.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Smokey the Bear.”
“Smokey the Bear, sometimes called just Smokey Bear, is a symbol of fire prevention and a…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

Thursday - December 20, 2012

The Christmas Tree Tradition

One of the most well-known symbols (images representative) of Christmas is the Christmas tree.

The Christmas tree in the U.S. that gets the most attention each year is the one at the Rockefeller Center in New York City. Each year in late November or early December, a very large tree between 69 to 100 feet (21 to 30 meters) is erected (put up) at the famous Rockefeller Center. It is decorated (with objects placed on it to make it look nice) with 30,000 lights on wiring (lines that bring electricity) that is about five miles (8 kilometers) long. The star that is placed at the top of tree is nearly 10 feet (3 meters) wide and weighs 550 pounds (250 kg). The tradition of lighting the tree — turning on the lights for the first time — is usually shown on television during a special Christmas show.

For regular folks (normal people) who celebrate Christmas, we simply go out to one of the Christmas tree lots (large outdoor areas) that are in business for a few weeks in late November through December to buy our  Christmas trees. Families like to decorate the tree with ornaments (small balls, figurines, stars, and other small items that are hung with a string), tinsel (thin strips of shiny metal material), strings of popcorn (corn kernels popped at high temperature and placed on a long string), and strings of electric lights. In recent years, it has become more and more popular to buy potted (in a container) Christmas trees that still have their roots (the part of a plant that attaches to the ground) and can be planted after the holiday, so the trees aren’t wasted.

I’m thinking of getting a potted tree this year, but I’m having second thoughts (doubts) because I don’t have a green thumb (am not a good gardener), and the chances of a tree surviving (staying alive) under my care are pretty slim (small). All of my other plants in my house are cacti and succulents, and even they aren’t looking too healthy. I guess, for the good of the potted tree, I’ll stick to (remain with) my little plastic Christmas tree again this year.

~ Lucy

Photo Credit: Rockefeller Center Tree from Wikipedia

Tuesday - December 18, 2012

Christmas on the Top of the Charts

The most popular album (record; collection of songs) of 2011 in the United States was the British singer Adele’s “21.” You’ve probably heard of Adele and her impressive (amazing; awesome) voice.

You probably did not know that the second most popular record of 2011 was not by Justin Bieber or Beyonce or some rapper. No, the second best-selling album of last year was  Michael Bublé‘s “Christmas.”

Never heard of Bublé? He’s what we call a crooner, someone who sings songs in the style of the great pop singers of the 1940s and ’50s, singers like Frank Sinatra.

Bublé has discovered what many other singers have learned: Christmas music is almost guaranteed (certain) to sell, and sell big (a lot), every year. Every November and December, Christmas songs sung by pop singers hit the top of the charts. (“The charts” refers to the list of the best-selling songs or albums of a certain period of time. To hit the top of the charts means to sell more songs or albums than anyone else for that week, month, or year.)

In fact, if you are a popular singer and want to make a lot of money, putting out (releasing; making available for sale) a Christmas album is a very smart business decision, no matter (regardless) of what kind of singer you are. Country music stars, old rockers (singer of rock music), crooners like Bublé – almost everyone who records a Christmas album makes money.

Sometimes the songs on the albums are original ones. Sometimes they are traditional carols (Christmas songs that have been around for many hundreds, sometimes thousands, of years). It doesn’t really matter.

I’m thinking of releasing my own Christmas album next year, maybe singing Bruce Springsteen‘s rendition (version; performance) of “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” or Rod Stewart’s “Merry Christmas, Baby.” Look for it on iTunes in 2013.

~Jeff

Image Credit: Christmas Minstral Playing Pipe and Tabor, Wikipedia PD

Monday - December 17, 2012

Podcasts This Week (December 17, 2012)

Have you been busy buying gifts for friends and family? How about getting yourself the gift of English?

Getting the Learning Guide will help you learn English even faster. And plus, when you buy a Basic or Premium Membership or one of our Premium Coursesyou also help to keep ESL Podcast going, and we thank you!

………

ON MONDAY
ESL Podcast 852 – Working in a Factory

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 “plant manager” and “every other minute.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Rosie the Riveter.”
“During World War II, many women “left the home” (got a job outside of the home) and began working in factories while the men were…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON WEDNESDAY
English Cafe 377

Topics:  The Sam Sheppard Trial; Plymouth Rock; to counsel versus to consult; to hit (one/someone) head on; to scare the crap out of (one/someone); a bee in (one’s/someone’s) bonnet

In the Learning Guide:  Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear).
In “What Insiders Know,” you will read about “The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan.”
“Bunyan wrote The Pilgrim’s Progress while he was in jail. He had been sent there because of religious crimes, such as…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON FRIDAY
ESL Podcast 853 – Reading an Obituary

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 “personally” and “lucky me.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Premature Obituaries.”
“In some “instances” (cases; occasions), the obituaries of famous people have been published…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

Thursday - December 13, 2012

Hope. Joy. Peace.

Hope. Joy. Peace.

These are significant (important, meaningful) words for those of us who remember, and often retell, the traditional Christmas story.

Admittedly (saying something that is true), hope, joy, and peace can be difficult to find today. Sometimes, however, we can find them in unexpected places. I was happily surprised to find them recently in the story of Lester Potts, a man who suffered from Alzheimer’s disease.

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, an illness that affects your brain and memory and makes you slowly lose your ability to think and behave (act) normally.

In the early stages, people with Alzheimer’s begin to have difficulty thinking and remembering, but these difficulties don’t usually interfere with (prevent something from happening) everyday activities. You may have trouble doing more than one task at a time, solving problems, and remembering recent events or conversations; difficult activities may take you longer than they did in the past.

As Alzheimer’s gets worse, the symptoms become more obvious and make it difficult for you to take care of yourself. Eventually Alzheimer’s leads to death.

The mental changes that Alzheimer’s patients experience profoundly (very much, deeply) change the way they see themselves. And the way their families and friends see them. Many of the symptoms can be embarrassing and often cause patients and their families to withdraw from (stop taking part in) social activities. The last several months I’ve watched as one of my good friends and long-time mentor (an experienced person who advises and helps someone less experienced) has gone through this struggle (difficult time) with his wife. It’s very difficult.

Several years ago, Dale Short told Lester Potts’ story in the UAB (University of Alabama/Birmingham) Magazine. He writes that the changes in Potts “hit his family like a cyclone (violent storm).” His condition was soon bad enough that he couldn’t safely stay at home alone. Fortunately, his family were able to find an adult daycare center (a place for someone to stay while their families are at work) for him, a place where he felt comfortable. It became one of the few bright spots in his life.

One day a volunteer art teacher breathed (brought) hope and, eventually (in the end) , joy into Pott’s difficult life when she encouraged him to try painting with watercolors. Soon he began to bring home different kinds of paintings: still lifes (arrangements of objects like fruit or flowers), landscapes (pictures of the countryside or land), flowers, birds, and holiday scenes. They were often painted in bright colors, sometimes brighter than real-life.

Potts’ son Daniel, a doctor, said that “the breakthrough (important discovery) was nothing short of (less than) a miracle. Dad no longer had the ability to communicate through words, but somebody cared enough to unlock (open) a hidden talent. There’s something…about art; it can form connections in the brain even when the mind is fading away (slowly disappearing). He realized what he was achieving (doing, accomplishing). He was proud of the paintings he brought home, and he’d show them to us again and again.”

What a wonderful gift! Little did that volunteer art teacher know (she had no idea) how much joy, hope, and peace she would bring to Lester Potts and his family when she encouraged him to begin painting.

You can find Dale Short’s story here; the story that gave me the idea for this blog post is here. This YouTube video – Painting in the Twilight: An Artist’s Escape from Alzheimer’s – tells the story of Lester Potts and another artist who used art to communicate when they could no longer do so naturally.

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

Photo used under Creative Commons License.

Tuesday - December 11, 2012

If I Can Stop One Heart from Breaking

Emily Dickinson was something of a recluse, a person who doesn’t leave her home very often or talk face-to-face (in person) with other people. Yet she is known now as one of the great American poets of the 19th century.

Dickinson wrote often of death and immortality (usually related to one’s soul living forever, never dying), but her poetry wasn’t always about such deep (serious) topics. Here’s one of her more inspiring (causing positive thoughts and enthusiasm) poems:

If I Can Stop One Heart From Breaking

If I can stop one heart from breaking,
I shall not live in vain;
If I can ease one life the aching,
Or cool one pain,
Or help one fainting robin
Unto
his nest again,
I shall not live in vain.

Dickinson begins by saying that “If I can stop (prevent) one heart from breaking.To break one’s heart is to become very sad, often because someone has died or left you.  (Okay, okay, so this poem talks about death, too, but it gets happier in a minute (soon).)

Dickinson says that if she can stop someone’s heart from breaking, “I shall not live in vain.” Something done in vain is done without any good coming out of it, without being successful. But if she can prevent someone from becoming sad, then her life will not be in vain – her life will have meaning.

She continues with this theme: “If I can ease one life the aching.” To ease is to make something that is painful less painful, to help someone feel less pain. Aching here means basically pain, usually related to losing or being without someone. So if the person speaking in this poem can help ease someone’s pain, then (again) we learn that she “shall not (will not) live in vain.”

Dickinson adds two more images here: “Or cool one pain” and “Or help one fainting robin/Unto his nest again.” To cool one’s pain would be similar to ease it, to make it less painful. A robin is a small bird (see photo). To faint usually means to fall down due to some temporary illness (sickness) or, more specifically, lack of (not having enough) oxygen.

We would not normally think of robins as “fainting,” but apparently it can happen. Anyway, this robin can faint, and Dickinson says that if she can help the poor bird “Unto his nest again,” she will not have lived in vain. A nest is a bird’s home (see photo), so to help one “unto” his nest would be to help the bird back into his nest, so he is safe.

Dickinson is telling us, I think, that in helping other people who need help, we can give our own lives meaning. As we approach (get nearer to) the holiday season, that’s a good thought for all of us to keep in mind (remember).

~Jeff

Photo credit: Two robins in a nest, Wikipedia CC

Monday - December 10, 2012

Podcasts This Week (December 10, 2012)

If you’re only listening to ESL Podcast, you’re only getting half of the benefits of each podcast. Get the Learning Guide and learn all you can with every podcast.

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 850 – Betting on Sports

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 “odds” and “margin.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “The Federal Wire Act.”
“The Interstate Wire “Act” (law) of 1961, usually referred to as the Federal Wire Act, “prohibits” (forbids; does not allow) certain types of…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON WEDNESDAY
English Cafe 376

Topics:  Ask an American – The Appeal of Superheroes; property versus propriety versus proprietary; trust versus believe; little does he know; suffocated; to relish

In the Learning Guide:  Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear).
In “What Insiders Know,” you will read about “The Golden Age of Comic Books.”
“The “golden age” (the period of time when something is strongest, best, and most important) of comic books lasted from the late…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON FRIDAY
ESL Podcast 851 – Finding a House to Buy

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 “yard” and “condition.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Foreclosures and Short Sales.”
“Most Americans cannot “afford” (be able to pay for) a home with cash, so they have to “take out” (borrow) a loan known as a mortgage…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

Thursday - December 6, 2012

Season of Giving…Maybe

When November rolls around (arrives as usual), people start talking about “the season of giving,” a time around Thanksgiving (celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November) and Christmas (December 25th). Thanksgiving brings to mind (makes us think) all of the things we are grateful for and about those people and families who are doing without (without the things they need), and December is the time we think about those we care about and of gift-giving.

It’s not surprising, then, that this is also the time of year when organizations send out the most solicitations (notices asking for something) for donations (money to help a cause or organization) and other support. A recent study in the science journal Nature reported in the Los Angeles Times suggests that people are inclined to help (naturally want to help) others, but the longer they wait, the less likely they are to give.

In the study, people were given some money and asked to donate to a group project, and the total amount would be split evenly (divided into equal parts) among the four group members. Those people who were given less time to decide gave more. The researchers concluded that the people in the study were inclined to contribute (give), but time made people less willing to go through with it (finish what they started to do or what they intended to do, especially after a period of being unsure about wanting to do it).

Have you found this to be true based on your experience? Do you, or other people you know, tend to give less when given the time to think it over?

I’m going to test it right now. I feel like giving away $1 million. But first, I’m going to take a nap. We’ll see how I feel about it afterwards.

~ Lucy

Picture Credit: Belisaire demandant l’aumone (Belisaire asking for alms) by Jacque-Louis David from Wikipedia