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Tuesday - July 22, 2014

Not All Hobbies are Created Equal

800px-Gee's_Bend_quilting_beeAs people get older, one of their biggest concerns is the loss of memory, of not being able to remember things. Most people know that keeping active is important, but not all activities are created equal (are the same; have the same results).

In a recent study about memory, groups of older adults learned new skills, either 1) quilting, a type of sewing activity where different pieces of fabric are sewn together to make a thick blanket called a quilt–see photo); or 2) digital photography, taking photos with a digital (electronic; using a small computer) camera.

The participants took memory tests before and after they learned these new skills, and their results were compared to other groups who had participated in enjoyable social or leisure (free time) activities, such as watching movies, listening to music, and playing easy games, but that did not involve learning new skills.

After three months of doing these activities for over 15 hours a week, the group that learned digital photography made the most improvement in the memory tests, perhaps because it was the more difficult of the new skills. It not only involved learning to use a digital camera, but also involved learning the photography software Photoshop and, for some, using a computer, since some of the participants had never used a computer before.

The psychologists (researchers studying the mind) who conducted the study believe that learning new skills helps to strengthen the connections in the brain. Learning new skills is better, they believe, than the games and computer programs marketed (sold) to older adults these days that tout (say is a benefit) improvement in memory.  They say that those commercial (sold to customers) games only improve short-term (recent) memory to a small degree (a little bit), but learning new skills — such as learning a new hobby — helps to strengthen connections in larger portions (areas; sections) of the brain.

In the past 30 years or so, there have been many media (news) reports about the benefits of keeping active as we get older. Physical exercise is important and so, it seems, is exercising the mind. Picking activities that challenge (present problems and difficulties to solve) the mind garners (gets) the greatest benefits.

If you’re an older adult, do you have hobbies that challenge your mind? If you’re younger, what new skills would you like to learn when you retire and have more time?

- Lucy

Photo Credit:  Gee’s Bend quilting bee from Wikipedia


Sunday - July 20, 2014

Podcasts this Week (July 21, 2014)

icon_51812Get the full benefits of ESL Podcast by getting 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 1018 – Raising Teenagers

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 “piercing” and “to ease up.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “After-School Programs.”
“Many ‘school districts’ (groups of schools in the same area that have the same management) offer…” - READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON WEDNESDAY
English Cafe 460

Topics: American Musicals and Movies - Grease; Workers’ Compensation Laws; whirl versus swirl versus eddy; to be curious versus to wonder; beloved

In the Learning Guide:  Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear).
In “What Insiders Know,” you will read about “Greasers.”
“There are many ‘subculture’ (smaller cultural or social) groups in every country …” - READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON FRIDAY
ESL Podcast 1019 – Losing a Passport While Traveling

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 flag down” and “left behind.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “The Smart Traveler Enrollment Program.”
“The Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) is a program of the ‘U.S. Department of State’…”- READ MORE in the Learning Guide


Tuesday - July 15, 2014

How to Marry a Beautiful Woman (Half Your Age)

640px-Cranach_Ill-matched_coupleIf 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!

- Jeff

Image photo: from Wikipedia 


Sunday - July 13, 2014

Podcasts this Week (July 14, 2014)

icon_51812We 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 1016 – Doing Pro Bono Work

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 “firm” and “to fall short.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “The Law Students in Action Project.”
“The Law Students in Action Project (LSAP) is an organized ‘effort’…” - READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON WEDNESDAY
English Cafe 459

Topics: The Scottsboro Boys Trial; The Grammy Awards; so versus too; to bash; to whip the crowd into a frenzy

In the Learning Guide:  Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear).
In “What Insiders Know,” you will read about “The Latin Grammy Awards.”
“Each year, millions of Americans watch the Grammy awards on television….” - READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON FRIDAY
ESL Podcast 1017 – Driving an Off-Road Vehicle

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 picture” and “baby.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Mud Bogging.”
“‘Mud bogging,’ which is also known as ‘mud racing,’ ‘mud running,’ and simply ‘running,’ is a sport that…” - READ MORE in the Learning Guide


Thursday - July 10, 2014

Wally Byam’s Airstream Trailer

Airstream-parkIt’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.

 


Tuesday - July 8, 2014

Paid to be a Quitter

800px-FEMA_-_37931_-_Meals_Ready_to_Eat_being_moved_by_fork_lift_in_a_Texas_warehouseCompanies that are looking to (wanting to) reduce their workforce (number of employees) will sometimes offer people who are close to retirement (age when people typically stop working, traditionally 65-years-old) something called a “golden parachute.” A “parachute” is something you wear on your back that opens when you jump out of an airplane to slow and soften your landing on the ground. In the old days, when people retired, they were given a gold watch.

A golden parachute, then, is a large payment with perhaps other compensation (something worth money given for work done) that is given as an incentive (enticement; something that makes you want to do something) to quit early. With that extra money, your transition (change from one situation to another) to retirement will be easier.

But how would you like to be paid to quit your job now, even if you’re not close to retirement age? That’s what Amazon.com is doing. It’s offering employees in their fulfillment warehouses (large storage places where orders are prepared for shipping) up to $5,000 to quit their jobs if they are not happy.

The program is called “Pay to Quit” and is offered once a year.  If you quit after the first year, you get $2,000 and that figure (number) increases by $1,000 each year until it tops out at (reaches the maximum or highest number) $5,000.

Why would Amazon pay people to quit? Amazon says that workers who are unhappy and dissatisfied with their jobs cost the company money. They have lower productivity (how much work is done in a given (specific) period of time) and they don’t help to create a good working environment.

Two other large companies have tried this same strategy (plan): Netflix, a large video company, and Zappos, a large online shoe company. All three companies made their decisions based on the data (information) available and have concluded (decided) that having a workforce (all workers for one business or organization) of people who want to be there and who are enthusiastic (happy and excited) to work for the company is worth the expense (money paid) of paying unhappy or disgruntled (unhappy and complaining) people to quit.

Are you in a job you don’t like? The top amount of $5,000 isn’t a lot, but it might help you make the transition to a new job. If you were offered this golden parachute now, would you take it?

- Lucy

Photo Credit: FEMA – 37931 from Wikipedia


Sunday - July 6, 2014

Podcasts This Week (July 7, 2014)

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

Learn English even faster with the help of the Learning Guide. In it, 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 1014 – Becoming a Spy

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 live a double life” and “for (one’s) cover to be blown.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Extraordinary Rendition.”
“‘Extraordinary rendition’ is the practice of ‘apprehending’…”- READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON WEDNESDAY
English Cafe 458

Topics: Miranda v. Arizona; Famous Americans – Rube Goldberg; to heal versus to cure; to give up versus to give in; no way

In the Learning Guide:  Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear).
In “What Insiders Know,” you will read about “The Garrity and Kalkines Warnings.”
“Although you may have heard of the Miranda warning in television shows and movies, you may not be aware of two other warnings…” - READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON FRIDAY
ESL Podcast 1015 – Conducting a Search

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 report in” and “don’t look now.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “The FBI Victims Identification Project and The Charley Project.”
“The FBI Victims Identification Project, sometimes referred to as ‘VICTIMS’ is a research project…” - READ MORE in the Learning Guide


Tuesday - July 1, 2014

Videogames That Make You Cry

800px-Atari-2600-Wood-4Sw-SetThe television and movie industries (businesses) have long worked to elicit (get a reaction from) a viewer’s emotions (feelings), knowing that the more emotionally invested (feeling like you have something to gain or lose) or engaged (involved) in the story you are, the more likely you are to continue watching or to watch again. The video game industry knows that, too.

Long gone (no longer here) are the days when video games were just about shooting (using a weapon, like a gun) people and things to rack up (accumulate; add) points. Video games today, I am told, still cater to (are designed for) players’ desires to hunt (look for things to capture or kill) and hit, but that’s not all players do. For example, some games allow players to save and protect others from harm by using their own fighting powers and skills, letting players feel a sense of heroism (having shown bravery).

According to a video game research company, these are the types of games that gamers say are the most emotionally powerful:

Role playing games 78%
First person shooters 52%
Action 49%
Adventure 48%
Fighting 39%

Role-playing games that allow players to develop or assume (take on; adopt) the identity of a different person are particularly good at eliciting emotions, because of the complexity (many parts) of the story, the way the scenes (settings and situations) are introduced, and the musical scores (music used during a TV show, film, or game) that bring drama to situations.

Now, video game players want to find ways to read (detect) a player’s emotions and allow those reactions to help direct (set the direction of) the game.

Some of these new game consoles (devices that play different games) have devices that can look at players’ faces and read their reactions. Other devices being developed will be able to read a player’s physiological (related to the body) reactions, such as heart rate (how fast your heart is beating), breathing rate (how quickly you’re breathing), and temperature. Those reactions then change how the game reacts, which video game makers hope will make the game-playing experience more real and interesting for each player. (If you’re skeptical about (not believing) a computer’s ability to read people’s emotions, take a look at this report of a recent study showing that some computers may be better at interpreting people’s emotions based on facial expressions (how you move the muscles in your face) than humans are.)

I haven’t played a video game since I was 17 years old, which was, well, a very long time ago. I am of an age (old enough) that no one I know plays videos games, either.

Do you play video games? If you do, do you think games today are getting better at eliciting people’s emotions such as pride (feeling proud of yourself), anger, pity (feeling bad for others in bad situations), and horror (feeling afraid)?

- Jeff

Photo Credit:  Atari 2600 Wood fromWikipedia


Sunday - June 29, 2014

Podcasts This Week (June 30, 2014)

Get the full benefits of ESL Podcast by getting 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 1012 – Preventing Shoplifting

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 root out” and “to weigh.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Mystery Shopping.”
“Many businesses use the services of ‘mystery shoppers,’ also known as ‘secret shoppers,’…” - READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON WEDNESDAY
English Cafe 457

Topics: Famous Songs – “Mack the Knife”; Monument Valley and the Valley of the Gods; stem versus stalk versus shoot; using one’s middle name as one’s first name; indeed

In the Learning Guide:  Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear).
In “What Insiders Know,” you will read about “Nicknames of Famous Gangsters.”
“The American Mafia, also known as the mafia, refers to criminal organizations that were ‘historically’ (in the past) formed…”- READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON FRIDAY
ESL Podcast 1013 – Living With a Hoarder

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 “perfectly” and “to store.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “The Collyer Brothers.”
“In 1947, the Collyer brothers ‘became a household name’…”- READ MORE in the Learning Guide


Thursday - June 26, 2014

The Lively Morgue

tumblr_m59b96PqCe1r5568mo1_1280If you walk down two flights (a set of steps between one floor and the next) of stairs to the basement of an office building near Times Square and through some heavy metal doors, you’ll enter a place people rarely see – the morgue of the New York Times.

Lively” (full of life) isn’t a word you’d usually associate (connect) with “morgue.” Usually a morgue is a building or room in a hospital where bodies are kept until they are buried.

In the newspaper business, a morgue is something quite different. A newspaper morgue is an archive – a historical collection of photographs and information. Jeff Roth, who is the Times’ “morgue keeper,” called their morgue a “living, breathing thing” in an interview with National Public Radio (NPR). The photos and other documents in the morgue are used for historical stories and when writing obituaries – short biographies (story of a person’s life) that are written when someone dies.

The Times’ morgue is very large. In fact, huge (extremely large; enormous) would be an even better word to describe it. According to The Lively Morgue web site, the photos and other information fill 4,000 drawers. If you count all the forms (kinds) of traditional photographs, there are at least 10 million. To that you can add 13,500 DVDs, each containing about 5 gigabytes worth of images. If you have trouble wrapping your head around (understanding) all those numbers, think about it like this: If the Times published 10 of the traditional photos every weekday (Monday through Friday), it would take until the year 3935 to publish all of them.

A little more than two years ago, the Times created The Lively Morgue web site to begin to make it possible for people to see – and buy – their photographs and to share in the life and history of New York and the United States as well as in major events in world history.

Every month the Times chooses a group of photos at random (without plan or pattern) to add to The Lively Morgue web site. The most recent photos are on the home page, and you can find all the photos they have published on the archive page. When you click on a photo, you will be shown the back of the photo with a description and information about how it was used when it appeared in the Times.

Photographs like those in The Lively Morgue are great teachers. When we take time to study them, we can learn a lot about the life and history of the people and places we see in them. If you’d like to spend some time in the morgue, here is the link to The Lively Morgue home page. And here’s a short video introduction to The Lively Morgue by Jeff Roth.

~ 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 from The Lively Morgue.