Archive for the 'Life in the United States' Category
There are several paths (ways) to become a citizen of the United States, most of them requiring many years of waiting and, often, a bit of luck.
I think the most difficult path – one I do not recommend – is to become an honorary American citizen.
When you are made an “honorary something,” you are given a title or membership without having to go through the normal process. For example, universities often give celebrities, politicians, and other important people “honorary doctorates,” giving them the title of “Doctor” without actually having to do anything. (Some say I got my Ph.D. without really doing anything, but that’s not completely true.)
It is possible to become an honorary citizen of the United States, when you are made a citizen without having to apply or fill out any paperwork (forms; documents). Sounds like a great idea, right?
The problem with this path to citizenship is that it has only been done by seven people in the past 200+ years. And, according to the U.S. State Department, being named an honorary citizen does not give you a U.S. passport. It’s just, well, an honor to be naturalized (made a citizen), I guess.
Who has become an honorary U.S. citizen? Here’s a list of those who’ve been given this honor either by the a U.S. president or by Congress, and the year they were made citizens. Five of the seven were made citizens posthumously, which is a fancy way of saying they were dead already.
- Sir Winston Churchill (1963) – one of the great British Prime Ministers and 20th century leaders. Churchill was actually the very first person to be named “honorary citizen.” He was still alive when given the honor. The odd thing about Churchill’s citizenship is that his mother was an American, which under our current laws may have made him a citizen anyway.
- Raoul Wallenberg (1981) – a Swedish diplomat who saved thousands of Jews from being killed by the Nazis during World War II. His date of death is unknown, but he is assumed to have been killed in 1947, possibly by the Soviets in the then-U.S.S.R.
- William Penn (1981) – the founder (person who started) of what later became known as the state (technically, Commonwealth) of Pennsylvania. Born in England, he helped thousands of Quakers immigrate to the then-British colonies during the late 17th century.
- Hannah Callowhill Penn (1984) – William Penn’s second wife, who helped her husband administer (take care of) the government of Pennsylvania after William had a stroke, and then did it by herself for eight years after his death.
- Mother Theresa (1996) – a Catholic nun, born in Albania but later an Indian citizen, who worked with the poorest of the poor in India, and started the Missionaries of Charity. She and Churchill are the only two who were living when made honorary citizens.
- Marquis de La Fayette (Gilbert du Motier) (2002) – a Frenchman who fought for American independence during our Revolutionary War in the late 18th century, serving under George Washington as a general in the army. He is usually known just as “Lafayette” (one word) in American history textbooks.
- Casimir Pulaski (2009) – Like Lafayette, Pulaski fought against the British in the American Revolutionary War. A native of Poland, he is credited (said to have done something) with saving George Washington’s life during the war. (Washington later became our first president.)
Who will be the next person to join these select seven? Some say it will be a Spaniard (someone from Spain), Bernardo de Galvez. Galvez was governor of the then Spanish-controlled territory of Louisiana during the Revolutionary War, and fought (like Lafayette and Pulaski) against the British to help the Americans win the war. The U.S. Congress recently started the process to name him an honorary citizen.
Galvez, of course, is dead, so this should help his cause (the movement to make him a citizen).
A few weeks, a tired bike rider pulled alongside (close by) me and said, “Thanks, man. I’m not sure I could have made it without your help.”
He and I had been riding into a strong wind coming from the ocean. He had been struggling (having great difficulty) in the wind and was riding very slowly. But when I passed (went around) him, he was able to move in close behind me and begin drafting (following close so I could protect him from the wind). For the next two or three miles I pulled (rode in front) and he drafted. Together we made it.
Bike riders draft whenever we can. It saves energy and helps us ride faster and farther than we could by ourselves. And when we draft behind a better rider, we often discover that we can ride faster and farther than we had before or thought we could.
Drafting works in life, too. There are people who “pull” us along – encourage, inspire (make us confident and eager to do something), and help us accomplish things that we had never thought possible.
Jens Voigt has done that for many people. Jens, who comes from Germany, was a professional bicycle rider for 17 years. He spent a lot of time in the U.S. training (preparing) and racing with the team sponsored (supported financially) by Trek, an American bicycle company. To honor (show appreciation to) his many American fans, he made the U.S. Pro Challenge in Colorado two weeks ago the last race of his long career.
Fans love Jens for his aggressive (ready to attack) riding and his friendly and funny way with people. He would tell you that he’s just a common, everyday guy who works hard at what he does. But when you watch him and listen to him, you soon discover the personality (the kind of person he is) and practical way of looking at life that have inspired and encouraged so many people. Let me give you some examples.
Jens is one of the best all-around (having many abilities) riders and a valuable team member. He says “I’m not a sprinter. I’m not a time-trialer. I’m not a climber. But what I can do is pedal for a long time. I’d rather be a sprinter. But it wasn’t given to me. I’ve got to work with what I have.”
You would frequently find Jens in a breakaway – one rider or a small group of riders who breaks away from (suddenly moves ahead of) the peloton, the main group of riders. Riders who break away don’t often win, but Jens says that trying is what’s important. “If you go [with a breakaway], you can win or not win. If you don’t go for it (try), you definitely won’t win.”
Riding alone on a breakaway is one of the most difficult things a rider can do. It demands (requires) extraordinary (more than usual) physical and mental strength. Jens has the determination (mental strength), and when his body begs him to stop, he replies – using his most famous words – “Shut up legs! Shut up body! Do what I tell you!”
If you’d like to get a brief taste of Jens, listen to this short interview before his last race at the U.S. Pro Challenge in Colorado.
~ Warren Ediger – ESL coach/tutor and creator of the Successful English web site.
Photo courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.
Did you break this lamp? No.
Who ate these cookies? Not me.
Where is your homework? My dog ate it.
We all want our children to be truthful (honest; not telling lies). Let George Washington, not Pinocchio, be your teaching tool.
You have probably heard the story of George Washington and the cherry tree (see English Cafe 275). When George was a boy, he used his hatchet (sharp tool with a handle) to cut down his father’s favorite cherry tree. When his father asked him if he had done it, he said, “I cannot tell a lie. I did it with my little hatchet.” Most historians don’t believe this actually happened, but it is a story many American children are told to show the virtues (benefits of having a high moral standard) of honesty (telling the truth).
The story of Pinocchio is probably even more well known. Pinocchio is a character from an Italian children’s novel (book), and the story is known in many countries. Pinocchio is a puppet (toy moved by strings) made by a man named Geppetto. Each time Pinocchio tells a lie, his nose gets longer. This story is often told to children to show the negative consequences (results) of telling lies.
In a recent study, researchers who have spent years studying children and honesty set up a situation where it would be easy for children to lie: namely (specifically), a chance for children to peek (look when they are not supposed to) to get the right answer to a question when the researcher leaves the room. Before asking the children, ages 3 to 7, if they had peeked, the researchers told them a story. The children heard one of three stories: the story about George Washington, the one about Pinocchio, or an unrelated story. After hearing the story, the children were asked if they had peeked.
Nearly all of the children peeked, and about 65% of the them lied about it. But those who had heard the George Washington story lied significantly less. The researchers interpreted this to mean (believed it meant) that children responded better to being told the benefits of telling the truth than the negative consequences of lying.
Maybe there’s a lesson here for handling our politicians? Maybe Washington, D.C. (our national government) should have enforced (required) story time (when an adult reads aloud to groups of children).
Image Credit: From Wikipedia
Alaska is known for many things: cold weather, beautiful scenery, and, of course, giant cabbages.
Giant cabbages?! That’s right.
If you want to find a 130-pound (59-kilogram) cabbage, visit Alaska. If you’re in the mood for (feel like eating) some cantaloupe, A LOT of cantaloupe, you can find a 65-pound (30-kilogram) one at the Alaska State Fair.
Summer and fall are common times for fairs that feature agricultural (farming) contests, from livestock (farm animals) to crops (plants grown for food or to produce useful products). At the Alaska State Fair each year, you will see some things that you will not see at any other fairs: giant fruit and vegetables.
The secret is the Alaska summer. It’s not uncommon in Alaska during the summer to have 20 hours of sunshine per day because of the state’s northern latitude (location measured by distance to the equator). These extra hours of sunlight give crops extra time for photosynthesis (the process of green plants using sunlight to get food), allowing plants to grow faster and bigger. More sunlight also produces sweeter produce. It’s not surprising, then, that some of the world records (official list of the best) for largest fruits and vegetables belong to growers in Alaska.
Some growers painstakingly (very carefully) cultivate (encourage to grow) large crops, spending years experimenting with different seeds (the part of the plant that allows new growth), soil (dirt used for growing things), fertilizers (substance put on soil to encourage growth), and amount of sunlight. Some even sleep outdoors to protect their crops from foragers (people or animals who travel across a land to find food). For others, these giants (very large things) grow on their own without special effort, surprising their growers.
The Alaska State Fair is going on now until September 1st, so it’s not too late to see these freaks of nature (something with abnormal or unusual growth) for yourself. The pumpkins are certainly worth seeing, but the main attraction (most interesting for an audience) are the cabbages.
My wife often makes a cabbage casserole (dish with a mix of ingredients cooked in the oven) for dinner. I wonder how many she can make with a 130-pound cabbage. Perhaps enough for all of the ESL Podcast listeners?
Photo Credit: Alaska State Fair from Wikipedia
* The title of this post is a play on (another version of) the title of a 1978 film called Attack of the Killer Tomatoes.
Do you suffer from (have, like a disease) FOMO? Many people do.
FOMO is an acronym (a word made up of the first letters of several words) for Fear Of Missing Out. To miss out on something is to not have the opportunity to do or experience it – for example, I missed out on the party because I had to work.
People who suffer from FOMO have a constant (all the time) desire or need to to be plugged in (connected to the Internet). Even when they’re with other people, they keep their phones or tablets close at hand (nearby). They feel the need to connect with their friends on Facebook. Check their email. See what’s happening on their Twitter feed. If they can’t or don’t, they get anxious (feel nervous, worried).
Being connected digitally (using the Internet) can be a good thing. But for people who suffer from FOMO, the need to be constantly connected can have a downside (negative or undesirable effect). It can easily hurt their mental health and relationships with other people.
Several years ago someone came up with an idea, called Digital Detox, to help people who feel the need to be constantly connected. More than 300 million people have tried it.
The idea behind Digital Detox is very simple – set aside (schedule) a specific time to turn off your phone, tablet, or computer to do things that will contribute to (add to) your mental health and relationships with other people. It’s a way to help you free up time for activities and people that are truly (in fact) important.
A writer in Forbes has several suggestions for a successful Digital Detox:
- Schedule a specific time and put it on your calendar. Try starting with one day – 24 hours.
- Make specific plans. Spend time with friends and family. Go for a bike ride or take a hike (a long walk in the mountains or countryside). Volunteer (do something without expecting to be paid) your time to a person or organization that needs help. Find a quiet place to read a book.
- When the day comes, turn off your phone, tablet, and computer. Begin immediately to do what you planned for the day. Don’t turn your devices back on until the end of the day.
- Enjoy the activities you planned and the people you wanted to spend time with. Relax. Take your time (don’t hurry).
- Do it again! Don’t do a Digital Detox only once. Do it every week or every month. Make it a habit (something you do regularly).
What do you think? Is it time for you to try a Digital Detox?
* Detox; also detoxification – medical treatment for an addiction (not being able to stop doing or taking something that is bad for you).
~ Warren Ediger – ESL tutor/coach and creator of the Successful English web site, where you will find clear explanations and practical suggestions for better English.
Photo courtesy of Tell IT Media.
If you lived in the American South in the 1940s and you were African American, you would likely be very aware of the Jim Crow laws (see “What Insiders Know” in the Learning Guide of English Cafe 197). These laws segregated (separated into different groups) white and black Americans, preventing African Americans from going to the same places, using the same services, or having the same rights.
For many people at that time, the issue was black and white (very clear) — literally — and only focused on whether someone was white or black. This meant that there was some ambiguity (uncertainly; not clear distinctions) for people who were neither of European or African descent (origin; background). This ambiguity help some people avoid the harsh (tough; rough) treatment of Jim Crow laws. Take, for example, the Reverend Jesse Wayman Routté. When he visited the American South for the second time, he wore a disguise (clothing and accessories that prevented others from knowing one’s true identity).
The Reverend Routté was a minister (church leader; priest) of a Lutheran church in New York. On a 1943 trip to Alabama to officiate (perform a ceremony, usually a wedding) at his brother’s wedding, he was treated very poorly, like any other African American would expect at that time. Being from the North, Routté wasn’t accustomed to (used to) this treatment and was dismayed (upset). So when he was invited to return to Alabama to visit his brother in 1947, he decided, on the advice of colleagues (coworkers), to wear a turban, a few yards of material wrapped and tied around his head. This, they said, would make things a lot easier.
The turban is worn by many cultures in many different countries, but was not common in the U.S. at that time. If the Reverend Routté was considered foreign – not African American — would his treatment change? That’s what he wanted to find out. Instead of just wearing a simple turban, however, Reverend Routté decided to go all out (do the maximum). He went to a costume (clothing and accessories worn to appear as someone or something else) shop and rented a tall, purple, sparkling (reflecting a lot of light) turban. And when his train was about to arrive in Alabama, he put on the turban and a long robe (a long, loosely-fitting piece of clothing, similar to a coat).
He stepped off the train in his new costume and wore it for nearly the entire week of his visit. He not only saw his family, but wanted to get wider reaction. Although Routté never said he was a visitor from abroad (another country), he was treated like foreign royalty (king, queen, or another member of the royal family) or a foreign dignitary (important representative of a country). He ate in fancy restaurants where African Americans were not allowed to enter, he visited a segregated school and was given a tour, and he even visited a police station, where he was treated deferentially (with respect) and given a tour by the police chief (leader of the police). He also visited important business owners and many other places Africans Americans were not allowed to go. Everywhere he went, he was treated with respect.
Within days of Routté returning to New York, an article appeared in the newspaper recounting (describing) his “experiment” and the story spread across the country. Routté later treated the entire experience as a joke and laughed about it, but other people were not so amused (entertained), including the leaders of his own Lutheran church and important civil rights figures such as Eleanor Roosevelt.
Routté was not the only person who used the turban to avoid problems in the American South at this time, but his experience was one of the most talked about. To find out more about Routté, you can read an article about him here, and to learn about others who also used this “turban trick,” see this National Public Radio story (where you’ll also see a picture of Routté in his turban).
* There is a popular expression, “Clothes makes the man,” which means that people judge others by how they dress and the clothes they wear.
Photo Credit: Segregation 1936 from Wikipedia
(The term “colored” was used to refer to African Americans at that time, but is now considered offensive.)
Twenty-five years ago, in the movie Field* of Dreams, a mysterious (difficult to explain or understand) voice told Ray Kinsella, “If you build it, he will come.”
Ray, a young Iowa farmer, was not sure who “he” was, but he got the idea that he was supposed to build a baseball field in a cornfield on his farm in rural (in the countryside, not the city) Iowa. His wife hesitated (was nervous, not sure) at first. His brother-in-law opposed (disagreed with) the idea. And his neighbors laughed at him. But Ray built the field.
When he was alive, Ray’s father loved baseball, especially one player – Shoeless Joe Jackson – and the Chicago White Sox team. After the baseball field was finished, the ghost (the spirit of a dead person that people can see) of Shoeless Joe and other players from the past walked out of the cornfield one by one, onto the baseball field, and began to play.
Near the end of the movie, the players began to walk back into the cornfield. Before he went, Shoeless Joe glanced (looked quickly) at the one player who was still on the field, turned to Ray and told him one more time, “If you build it, HE will come.” Ray looked at the other player again, and when he did, he recognized his father as a young man.
Terrence Mann, a character in the movie, predicted (said that something will happen before it does) that “People will come, Ray. They will come to Iowa for reasons they can’t even fathom (understand). They’ll turn up (arrive) at your driveway not knowing for sure why they’re doing it. They’ll arrive at your door … longing for (wanting, wishing for) the past.”
Mann was right. Every year, as many as 70,000 people make their way (travel) to Dyersville, Iowa, drive out of town on the gravel (small stones) road, park near the white farmhouse, and walk onto the field, which is still surrounded (to be all around something) by cornfields. And they dream.
Bill Plaschke, a writer for the Los Angeles Times, visited the Field of Dreams this summer and met some of those people.
One of them, Frank, was sitting on a bench near the field, crying softly, when Plaschke found him. He and his son, who has a birth condition that makes it difficult to walk normally, had been on the field playing catch (throwing a baseball back and forth). “To connect with my son in a place like this,” Frank told Plaschke, “there are no words for it. It’s hard to explain, but it’s like we’re supposed to be here, we’re supposed to share this.”
Plaschke writes, “They come to play a first catch with a toddler (young child), or a final catch with a dying relative. They hold family reunions (a gathering after being separated for a long time) with giant games of catch. They hold impromptu (without planning) weddings after quick games of catch. They have even discreetly (carefully to avoid upsetting anyone) spread loved ones’ ashes (what remains when a dead person’s body has been cremated (burned)) when they have finished playing catch.”
They came. And they continue to come.
* A field is an area of open land, especially one planted with crops, like corn. A field can also be a piece of land, like a baseball field, used for a specific purpose.
~ Warren Ediger – ESL coach/tutor and creator of the Successful English web site, where you’ll find clear explanations and practical suggestions for better English.
Photo courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.
If you had been driving across California’s Central Valley (low land between mountains) recently, you would have seen a low-lying (just above the ground) cloud on the horizon (where the sky touches the earth).
The cloud stretched (spread out) as far as you could see on both sides of the road. And as you approached (moved closer to) it, you would have discovered that it was a cloud of dust that was being driven (pushed) by a strong wind. It looked similar to the cloud in the photograph, which was taken during the Dust Bowl of the 1930s.
Experiences like this give evidence (signs that show that something exists) that California is experiencing the worst drought in its history. Droughts, which are periods of time when an area does not receive enough water, are not unusual. Many countries and other areas of the U.S. have experienced them.
Droughts like California’s are the result of receiving less rain or snow than usual, often for several years. The annual rainfall (amount of rain received in one year) in California has been much lower than usual for the last three years. Last year, for example, our state capital Sacramento, which usually receives 18.5 inches (470 mm), received only 3.5 inches (88.9 mm). And Los Angeles, which usually receives about 15 inches (385 mm), received only 3.6 inches (91.4 mm).
The situation created by the low rainfall has been made more serious by a small snowpack – the snow that collects in the mountains during the winter. The snowpack is important, because when it melts, the water from it flows into rivers and reservoirs (a lake where water is stored) until it is needed. About one-third (33%) of the water California uses usually comes from the snowpack, but the snowpack at the end of last winter was much smaller – about 85% smaller – than usual.
The drought is a particular problem for farmers in the Central Valley, an important agricultural (farming) area. Farmers there grow tomatoes, almonds, grapes, apricots, asparagus, and other crops (plants used for food) and raise cattle (cows) for milk and meat. A significant (important) part of America’s food crops come from the Central Valley. Now, because of the drought, some of the water needed to grow the crops has been cut off (stopped).
So far (until now), farmers and farm workers have been hit the hardest (affected most negatively). Some farmers are concerned that they will not be able to continue to operate their farms.
All Californians (people who live in California) have been asked to voluntarily (because they want to) use 20% less water than usual. And the state recently announced a fine (money you pay for breaking a law) of $500 for wasting water – for example by watering your lawn more than twice a week or washing your sidewalk or driveway. If the drought gets worse, stricter (more difficult) laws may be needed.
While we try to preserve (save) as much water as we can, we wait and hope for more rain and snow next year. And we are hopeful, because meteorologists (weather scientists) believe that we may have an El Niño year (a year with more precipitation (rain and snow) than usual) next year.
~ Warren Ediger – ESL coach/tutor and creator of the Successful English web site, where you will find clear explanations and practical suggestions for better English.
Photo courtesy of History.com.
If you walk — actually, you’d more likely drive — around Los Angeles, you’ll notice one thing: a lot of successful and wealthy-looking older men with beautiful young women.
No, that’s not his daughter. It’s probably his girlfriend or trophy wife.
A “trophy” is a statue or cup, often made of metal or heavy stone, used as a prize in a contest. If you are the winner, you can show other people your shiny (bright; reflecting light) trophy for them to admire. A trophy wife is a wife whom a man marries as a sign of his success, a beautiful decoration more than a partner in life.
This is true everywhere, right? Successful men marry trophy wives, right?
Not according to a recent study looking at how couples are matched across the United States. By looking at a nationally-representative sample (smaller group that reflects the characters of a larger group or population), a researcher at the University of Notre Dame found that attractive women didn’t mainly (usually) marry wealthy men. Instead they choose attractive men. Overall, she found that attractive men married attractive women, and successful men married successful women.
But how do you account for (explain) all of those successful men with beautiful wives?
The researcher, Elizabeth A. McClintock, concluded (said based her results): “[O]n average (generally), high-status men do have better-looking wives, but this is because they themselves are considered better looking — perhaps because they are less likely to be overweight (fat) and more likely to afford (have enough money for) braces (devices put on teeth to straighten them over time), nice clothes, and trips to the dermatologist (skin doctor), etc.”
You often hear people say that Hollywood (the TV and movie business) is out of touch with (not having the knowledge or understanding about) regular people in the rest of the country. For evidence of this, you don’t have to look far to find trophy wives on TV or in films.
So instead of reflecting life in the U.S., Hollywood may simply show what life is like in — well — Hollywood!
Image photo: from Wikipedia
It’s summertime. Vacation time for most people. And for many Americans, RV time.
There are close to 10 million recreational (an activity done for enjoyment) vehicles, or RVs, in the U.S. RVs are motor vehicles or trailers (a vehicle pulled by another vehicle) with living space and some of the amenities (useful or desirable things) that you enjoy in your apartment or house.
Some RVs are as big as a bus. They have their own motor, a kitchen, bathroom, bedrooms, and many other conveniences (things that make life easy). Others are small enough to pull behind a motorcycle, with only enough space for one or two sleeping bags and supplies for outdoor living.
Most RVs are used for vacations and camping (to visit an area and, usually, stay outdoors). When they’re not on the road (driving) you’ll usually find them in RV parks (places where people with RVs can stay overnight or longer) and campgrounds (places for staying overnight outdoors).
No RV has become more a part of Americana (things associated with American history or culture) than the Airstream travel trailer created by Wally Byam. In 1931, Byam dreamed about making a “travel trailer that would move like a stream (smooth, steady movement) of air, be light (not heavy) enough to be towed (pulled) by a car, and create first-class (the best kind) accommodations (a place to stay or live) anywhere.”
Byam began to bring his dream to life in 1931 when he opened his first factory in California. Travel trailers were becoming popular and demand (need or desire for something) grew quickly in spite of (wasn’t affected by) the Great Depression (serious economic problems during the 1930s). World War II interrupted (stopped for a time) the growth of the travel trailer industry, and Byam and many of his employees went to work in aircraft factories in California.
When the Airstream factory reopened (opened again after being closed) after World War II, Byam applied (used) many of the things he had learned from making airplanes to the design and manufacture of the sleek (with a smooth attractive shape), streamlined (shaped to move easily through the air), silver travel trailers Airstream is known for.
A few years after the war, Byam and his friend Neil traveled across Europe in one of his Airstream trailers. That experience gave Byam a new dream and opened the door to (led to; resulted in) a new chapter (part) in the Airstream story.
In 1951, Byam used the Los Angeles Times newspaper to invite other travel-trailer lovers to join him in a caravan (a group of people or vehicles that travel together) from Texas in the U.S. to Nicaragua in Central America. He hoped for 35. He got 63. Unfortunately, only 14 finished the trip. The rest dropped out (stopped doing something) because of bad roads, bad weather, and mechanical problems.
Byam died of cancer in 1962, but his dreams didn’t. Airstream continued to design and make travel trailers that were ahead of the times (advanced). And his dream of helping people enjoy the travel experience continued to grow, thanks to the Wally Byam Caravan Club International, which he started in the 1950s. Especially during the 1970s and 80s, Airstream and the Club held many rallies (large public meeting) and caravans around the world.
Airstream is 80 years old now, and the Caravan Club is 55 years old. Both of them continue to help Americans and people around the world experience and enjoy the dream Wally Byam had so many years ago.
Note: Historical Airstream information was taken from the Airstream web site, where you can learn more and see photos of Airstream travel trailers.
~ Warren Ediger – ESL coach/tutor and creator of the Successful English web site, where you’ll find clear explanations and practical suggestions for better English.
Photo of Airstream travel trailers courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.