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Archive for January, 2013

Thursday - January 31, 2013

Yelp It!

In the old days, we learned about new restaurants, stores, and other businesses through word of mouth (one person telling another). We still do that these days, but many people have taken that online (on the Internet) to websites that allow user reviews (comments written by users or customers). One user review website that has become very popular in recent years is Yelp.com.

The word yelp means a short, sharp cry that comes out of your mouth when something suddenly gives you pain or surprises you. I associate yelping more with animals, like dogs, than with people, but if someone stepped on my foot, I would certainly yelp.

The website Yelp started in 2004 and allows people to post user reviews about restaurants, stores, services, and even prisons.  What?!  Prisons??  Yes, even U.S. prisons are listed on Yelp’s website and anyone can post a review of these “graybar hotels.” I don’t think anything could induce me (attract and convince me) to check in to a graybar hotel, but it’s interesting to read what former (in the past) or current inmates (prisoners) and those who visit inmates think of the prisons.

More commonly, people use Yelp to read about customers’ experiences before going to a new place or using a new service, and it’s a place where people can write laudatory (praising; complimentary) reviews or gripe (complain) about their experience. It’s so popular these days that it’s not uncommon to hear people use the verb “to yelp” to mean to read reviews on Yelp (or even other websites) similar to the way people use “to google” to mean to search the Internet, no matter what search engine they use.

In the past, I’ve used Yelp to get recommendations on all kinds of places and services: restaurants, car repair, plumbing repair, movers, hair salons, and many more.

Is there a popular user review website where you live? Do you use it, and if so, for what types of businesses or services?

~ Lucy

Photo Credit: Cele.jpg from Wikipedia

Tuesday - January 29, 2013

A Drinking Song

423px-WeinWeibUGesangWilliam Butler Yeats was one of Ireland’s most famous poets in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. I came across (discovered without trying to find it) a short poem of his that made me smile, and I hope will do the same for you.

It’s called “A Drinking Song,” but unlike most drinking songs, it is not meant to be sung while you are drinking beer with your buddies (friends) at the bar or pub. Instead, the “drinking” refers to the first image of the poem.

A Drinking Song
By W.B. Yeats

Wine comes in at the mouth
And love comes in at the eye;
That’s all we shall know for truth
Before we grow old and die.
I lift the glass to my mouth,
I look at you, and I sigh.

The poem begins noting (remarking; observing) that wine comes in at the mouth. To come in here simply means to enter. Wine enters your body through your mouth.

Yeats then compares this to how love “comes in” to you: “And love comes in at the eye.” We typically fall in love (at least many do) because we like the way someone looks – his or her beauty. And since we see with our eyes, love “enters” us through the eyes the same way wine “comes in” at the mouth.

And, of course, both a good glass of wine and the sight of a beautiful woman were, for Yeats, pleasurable things.

Then Yeats tells us that this simple truth, this simple fact, is “all we shall (will) know for truth (for sure; with certainty)” before we “grow old (get older) and die.”

Yeats ends by lifting (raising; bring up) his glass of wine to his mouth, and looking at “you,” the person to whom he has written this poem. “I look at you,” Yeats says, and “I sigh.” To sigh means to breathe out without saying anything, but making a small noise when you do. We usually sigh when we are sad or disappointed about something.

But it is also possible that Yeats’s sigh is one of relief, of being happy that something he feared or hoped might not be true really is true, and so now he is content (satisfied; at peace).

Which is Yeats – sad or happy at the sight of his love? If the woman in the poem loves him back, surely (of course) he will be happy.

~Jeff

P.S. The 19th century illustration (drawing) seen above has the expression, “[He] who does not love wine, woman, and song/Will be a fool (idiot; stupid) for his lifelong (for his entire life).”

Photo credit: Kimmel and Voigt, 1873, PD

 

 

Monday - January 28, 2013

Podcasts This Week (January 28, 2013)

Do you sometimes miss words when you listen to ESL Podcast? Get a complete transcript of every word spoken on the podcast in each Learning Guide.

In addition, you’ll 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 864 – Going to Business School

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 take the plunge” and “deal breaker.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “The Case Studies Approach.”
“Many business schools have adopted the “case study approach” for teaching “principles” (main ideas) of management, marketing, finance, and…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON WEDNESDAY
English Cafe 383

Topics:  Famous Americans – Bobby Fischer; Kiss; barely versus scarcely; polite phrases used to refer to death; situation versus circumstance

In the Learning Guide:  Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear).
In “What Insiders Know,” you will read about “Kissing Games.”
“Kissing games are games usually played by “teenagers” (people ages 13 to 19) or “pre-teens” (children just under the age of 13). These games are usually…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON FRIDAY
ESL Podcast 865 – Believing in Predictions

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 “in the stars” and “to shake.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Fortune-Telling Tools.”
“‘Fortune-tellers’ (people who predict the future) use many tools to predict the future. The simplest reading is probably…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

Thursday - January 24, 2013

Will Too Much Energy Send You To The Hospital?

Energy_drinks180 gallons (681.5 liters) a year. That’s how much The Atlantic says the typical (average) American drinks every year. That’s five small cups (or three large cups) of Starbucks coffee a day. Or it’s five cans of soda, like Coca Cola, or five glasses of milk. Does that sound like a lot? Maybe, but maybe not.

To me, the interesting part of The Atlantic article wasn’t how much Americans drink. It’s what they drink and how that’s been changing. The Atlantic tells us that “American drinking habits have undergone a major shift (change) in the last decade (ten years).” The consumption (to eat or drink something) of soda is down (has decreased) more than 15%. Bottled water is up (has increased) 50%. Energy drinks, like Red Bull and 5-Hour Energy, are up 100%. Cheap light beer is down, but craft beers are up. And wine and spirits – strong alcoholic drinks like brandy, whiskey, bourbon, and gin – are up.

The energy drink statistic (a number that represents a fact) caught my attention (made me stop and think). I’m not surprised that energy drink consumption has doubled in the last ten years. I wouldn’t have been surprised if it had tripled (increased three times) or even more. Energy drinks seem to be everywhere, including in the news.

Many people believe that energy drinks give them more energy and help them think better. Or, as the manufacturers say, they “provide consumers (people who use them) with a physical and mental edge (advantage).” However, there may be a problem.

According to a recent government study, reported by The New York Times, more than 20,000 people went to the hospital emergency room (ER) because of problems related to using energy drinks in 2011. The problems included anxiety (the feeling of being very worried), headaches, irregular (not regular) heartbeats, and heart attacks. In 2007, the number of ER visits was only 10,000.

The problem isn’t only with the energy drinks. The study also shows that nearly half of those who went to the ER “for problems related to energy drinks had consumed the drinks along with alcohol or other substances (drugs)….” Many of these are 18-to-25-year-old young men.

The government study says that “consumption of energy drinks is a rising (growing) public health problem because medical and behavioral (how someone acts) problems can result from excessive (too much) caffeine intake (consumption)…particularly for children, adolescents (teenagers), and young adults (18-25-year-olds).” The manufacturers, on the other hand, insist that their products are safe.

Probably the safest thing to say is that we need more research about the benefits and the effects of energy drinks. And probably the wisest thing to do until that research is done is to exercise caution (be careful) with them.

Are energy drinks popular where you live? Do you use them?

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

Photo of energy drinks courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.

Monday - January 21, 2013

Podcasts This Week (January 21, 2013)

We are grateful to our members and donors, because we are only able to produce this podcast with the generous help of our listeners.

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

………

ON MONDAY
ESL Podcast 862 – Getting a Massage

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 “knot” and “to speak up.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Massage Techniques.”
“Massage therapists offer many types of massages, each of which is designed to meet a specific need. Some of the most common types…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON WEDNESDAY
English Cafe 382

Topics:  Famous Songs – “Chicken Fat”; Hells Angels; through; it’s a given versus it figures

In the Learning Guide:  Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear).
In “What Insiders Know,” you will read about “Easy Rider.”
“In the 1960’s, the United States was changing quickly socially.  The new “generation” (group of people about the same age) had very different…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON FRIDAY
ESL Podcast 863 – Limiting Free Speech

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 exercise” and “to abuse.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “The Heckler’s Veto.”
“A “heckler’s veto” describes a situation where the government asks a person or organization to not do something in order to…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

Thursday - January 17, 2013

Snowy California

When you think of California, you think of snow, right? Well, maybe not. But California actually has about 30 ski resorts, vacation places that cater to (is built for; is intended for) skiing (see photo).

There is a popular ski resort area only two hours from Los Angeles called Big Bear. I’ve skied there before. Okay, in my over 20 years in Los Angeles, I’ve skied there three times. But other Angelinos (people who live in Los Angeles) frequent (visit) this area a lot during the winter months for skiing, snowboarding (going over snow on one wide board), and other winter sports.

But in some years, the weather does not cooperate. According to a recent Los Angeles Times article, the 2011-12 ski season had the lowest national snowfall in 20 years, which caused many of the resorts to open later in the season or close early. During these less-than-perfect (flawed; not good) years, the temperatures don’t get cold enough and there isn’t enough precipitation (wet weather).

So what do you do if you own a ski resort in dry, warm, unpredictable (unreliable) California? Well, if nature won’t provide what you want, make it yourself.

More and more, ski resorts here are investing in (paying money now to earn more money in the future) snow-making systems, and those systems are more sophisticated (fancy and complex) than ever. You can even control your snow-making system using your computer or smartphone these days (now). And while snow making used to be a difficult, labor-intensive (using a lot of workers and time) process, it’s much less work nowadays.

So unless those of you who live in places with surplus (more than you need) snow can transport (move) some of it to California, many Californians will likely ski more and more on artificial (not real) snow. We here in Los Angeles are used to artificial things, so we probably won’t notice.

Are you enjoying snow where you live? Do you ski or participate in other winter sports? What do you think of artificial snow?

~ Lucy

Photo Credit: Wilmot-ski-racer-cmsc.jpg from Wikipedia

Monday - January 14, 2013

Podcasts This Week (January 14, 2013)

We are grateful to our members and donors, because we are only able to produce this podcast with the generous help of our listeners.

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

………

ON MONDAY
ESL Podcast 860 – Insider Trading

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 “tip” and “shady.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Martha Steward Insider Trading.”
“In 2001, an “experimental drug” (a medicine that is being tested) produced by a company called ImClone was not approved by the…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON WEDNESDAY
English Cafe 381

Topics: Ask an American –  Participatory Science; to attend versus to take part in versus to participate in versus to join; standalone versus to stand alone; hair of the dog that bit me

In the Learning Guide:  Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear).
In “What Insiders Know,” you will read about “Popular TV Science Shows.”
“Many Americans enjoy watching science shows on TV. One of the most popular science shows is…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON FRIDAY
ESL Podcast 861 – Planning a Children’s Party

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 “icing” and “to turn.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Inflatable Castles.”
“Inflatable castles, also known as “bounce houses” are becoming “increasingly” (more and more) popular in the United States…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

Thursday - January 10, 2013

Your Plastic Brain

Smi32neuronWhen Fred (not his real name) turned sixty-five, he retired and did something he had always wanted to do: he returned to school. Fred joined students more than forty years younger than he and began studying for a Master of Divinity (M.Div.) degree, the degree that many pastors and priests earn (complete the requirements for) before they begin their work. Most M.Div. degrees require students to learn Hebrew and Greek – the original (at the beginning) languages used to write the Bible – well enough to read them. Fred did, and he earned his degree.

Last year, Gary Marcus wrote a book called Guitar Zero. In it he described learning how to play the guitar after he was forty years old. He succeeded and has played for audiences in Brooklyn, New York, where he lives. After his book was published, Marcus discovered that other people had had similar experiences. A journalist wrote to tell him about her seventy-six-year-old father. He had learned to play the guitar when he was older and had recently written her to say that he and two friends had formed a band called “The Three Grandfathers.” An engineer in Portland, Oregon, told him how he had returned to the guitar after he had a heart attack when he was in his sixties (60-69 years old).

Should we be surprised by these stories? Some people would be. Some people believe that you have to start when you’re young if you want to do certain things, like learn a new language or how to play a musical instrument. They believe that the connections in our brains have become permanent by the time we are adults and can’t be changed. If that’s true, you’ll never be able to do these things very well.

Marcus, a psychology professor at New York University, says that scientific evidence for this belief, called the critical-period theory, is far weaker (less strong) than widely supposed (believed). James Old, a neuroscience (brain science) professor at George Mason University, agrees. He says that the adult mind is “very plastic.” In other words, it can be changed, even when you’re older; old connections can be broken and new ones made. According to Olds, “The brain has the ability to reprogram itself on the fly (while being used), altering (changing) the way it functions (works or operates).” That’s good news, especially for older adults!

Near the end of his book, Marcus makes another point (states another fact or opinion) that applies to (affects) language learners. He points out (tells us) that the process of developing a new skill can bring as much pleasure as accomplishing the goal. This is especially true for language learners because the key to language development is reading and listening – to ESL Podcast, for example – for your own pleasure. More good news!

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

Photo of neurons courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.

Tuesday - January 8, 2013

This Will Probably Never Happen to You

GoldeagleAt first glance (when we first look at the situation), Walter Samaszko, Jr. did not appear to be a rich man when he died a few months ago in Carson City, Nevada. He had less than $1,200 in his bank account. He lived alone in the house where he and his mother had lived since the 1970s. He was something of a recluse (someone who doesn’t talk to others, usually living alone and isolated).

After he died, people came to clean up his house. When they did, they found something amazing in his garage: a box full of gold.

More cleaners came in (entered the house to work) and started searching other parts of the house for gold. They found gold coins from Austria, Mexico, and the United States. They found gold money that dated from (from the year) the 1840s. Gold, gold, and more gold.

By the time (When) they finished, the cleaners had found close to $7,400,000 worth of gold.

Samaszko and his mother had collected gold for many, many years, keeping all of it in their house. They had very detailed records (lists) of all the gold they bought.

No one knows what Samaszko did for a living (what his job was). He lived in a small house in an average neighborhood. But most of the gold appears to have been purchased (bought) by his mother many years ago, when gold was relatively cheap. Gold in the early 1970s was only $100 per ounce; today, the price is $1,700 per ounce.

What happened to all the money? Samaszko had a first cousin (the child of one of Samaszko’s aunts or uncles) living in California who works as a teacher. She will inherit (receive from someone who dies) it all.*

~Jeff

* = That’s the part that will probably never happen to you.

Photo credit: Gold Eagle Coin, Wikipedia CC

 

Monday - January 7, 2013

Podcasts This Week (January 7, 2013)

A new year and a new resolution to improve your English?

Don’t just listen to ESL Podcast. Get the maximum benefits by getting the Learning Guide for each 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 858 – Donating an Organ

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 “heart” and “bank.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “The History of Organ Donation.”
“Organ donation has a long history, dating back to 1869 when the first skin transplant was performed…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON WEDNESDAY
English Cafe 380

Topics:American Presidents – Andrew Jackson; Redwood National Park; safe versus save versus to save; to be implicated in versus to be involved in; one and only

In the Learning Guide:  Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear).
In “What Insiders Know,” you will read about “Esperanto.”
“Esperanto is a language created by a doctor and “linguist” (person who studies languages) named L. L. Zamenhof in 1880’s…”  – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON FRIDAY
ESL Podcast 859 – Attending an Ex’s Wedding

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 have the nerve” and “to harbor.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Components of Traditional Weddings.”
“Wedding “receptions” (parties after the wedding ceremony) can be “elaborate” (with many parts or details) events, especially when they include all of the traditional…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide