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Sunday - September 21, 2014

Podcasts This Week (September 22, 2014)

icon_51812Is 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 1036 – Farming and Agribusiness

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 edge out” and “very.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Types of Subsidies.”
“Businesses can receive many types of subsidies, but they can be divided into…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON WEDNESDAY
English Cafe 469

Topics: American Presidents – Grover Cleveland; to understand versus to grab versus to grasp versus to get (it); the suffix –hood; pronouncing words with the first letter “e”

In the Learning Guide:  Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear).
In “What Insiders Know,” you will read about “U.S. Bills in Large Denominations.”
Currently, the United States prints its ‘bills’ (paper money) in seven ‘“denominations’…”- READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON FRIDAY
ESL Podcast 1037 – Ending a 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 “to call it a night” and “to mean (something).”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Terms Used to Talk About Beer.”
“Beer is a popular drink in the United States, and many special terms are used to …” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide


Thursday - September 18, 2014

The Mysterious Moving Rocks Of Racetrack Playa

Moving-rocks-baffle-scientists-11The mysterious moving rocks of Racetrack Playa have puzzled (been impossible to understand or explain) scientists for nearly 100 years.

A playa is a dry lake. The water that used to fill Racetrack Playa evaporated (disappeared into the air) many years ago and left a three-mile-long (4.8 km) and two-mile-wide (3.2 km) layer of thick, yellowish-brown mud.

Racetrack Playa lies in between two mountain ranges (a group of mountains in a line) in Death Valley – the hottest, driest, and lowest area in the U.S. Death Valley is in the Mojave Desert in eastern California, about 140 miles (~225 km) west of Las Vegas.

Nearly 100 years ago, visitors noticed that the rocks on the playa – some larger than a man – moved from time to time. One year they would be in one place and the next year in another. And when they moved, they left tracks, or trails, in the soft mud.

The rocks’ movement was rarely the same. Sometimes they moved a few inches (1 inch = 2.54 cm), other times much farther. Sometimes the tracks were straight, other times they curved or even zigzagged (moved like a “Z”) across the playa.

Many scientists have tried to explain why the rocks move the way they do. But no one has succeeded, that is, until recently.

The mystery was solved one day last December by two scientists, Richard and James Norris, according to an article in the Los Angeles Times. When they arrived at the playa, Richard said that it was covered with ice. They also noticed new rock trails near piles of broken ice along the shoreline (edge of the lake).

The next day, the two cousins were sitting nearby when they heard loud cracking (breaking) sounds from the playa. “It’s happening,” Richard yelled.

The sun had begun to melt the ice, and when the wind began to blow, the ice began to break into floes (areas of floating ice). The wind blew the floes across the lake and into the rocks. As the Norrises watched, the large, thin floes pushed the rocks so they began to slide across the slippery (wet, smooth) mud of the normally-dry lakebed (bottom of the lake).

So, what happened? What made it possible for the Norrises to see what no one had ever seen before? The answer is that they were there at the right time, when the all the conditions (things that must happen before something else can happen) were just right. What were these conditions?

First, there was water in the playa from one of the infrequent (rare; not happening often) rains or runoff (water from melted snow) from the nearby mountains. The water makes the lakebed soft and slippery. And it was deep enough for ice to float on top of it, but not deep enough to cover the rocks.

Second, the water froze enough to form what they call “windowpane” ice – ice that is thin enough to move freely (easily) on top of the water but thick enough that it doesn’t easily break.

When the ice began to melt, it broke into floes that a light (not strong) wind was able to blow across the shallow lake. When the floes moved, they pushed the rocks in front of them, and the rocks left their telltale (a sign that shows that something has happened) trails in the soft, slippery mud.

Mystery solved (to find the right explanation for something that is difficult to understand)!

~ 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 credit: www.onlinefreecomputers.com.


Tuesday - September 16, 2014

Board Games are Back

ChineseCheckersboardGrowing up, I enjoyed playing board games, games you play with other people on a board, usually a hard piece of thick paper or wood with pictures, words, or drawings on it. I liked playing popular games like Monopoly, a board game where you travel from space to space on a square board with the goal of collecting, trading, and accumulating (adding) more and more properties or land. Also popular in our house was a game called Sorry!, a similar board game using dice (small squares you throw with dots on each of the six sides, from one to six).

But my favorite board game was always Chinese Checkers, a game where you move marbles (colored balls of glass or plastic) strategically (with a plan or purpose to win) across the board to your opponent’s (person you are trying to defeat in a game or battle) territory or area. (The game was actually invented (created) in Germany and got its name — Chinese Checkers — from a U.S. game-maker because of the pictures painted on the board.) My brother and sisters and I spent many hours trying to defeat (beat) each other.

But with the advent (invention and arrival) of video games, the popularity of board games waned (went down; decreased). Even in our house, when my mother brought home an early video game console (machine into which individual games can be placed for playing), we spent less time playing board games and more time trying to shoot aliens (beings from outer space). Today, over 60% of people in American homes play some form of video game, and over 50% own a game console, according to one report.

However, I also read an article recently that board games may be getting a second wind (becoming popular again), especially among the generation (people born in approximately the same years) called Millennials, who are now between the ages of 18 and 32.

They’re not playing the old games, but new board games that involve strategy, many using the same skills they may use in video games. Many meet in each other’s homes or at cafes to play. The appeal (what attracts them), they say, is being able to interact with other players and friends in a more relaxed, friendly, and social atmosphere. There’s still competition (efforts to win), but it’s more likely over a cup of coffee than a game console.

In fact, just last Saturday, I was at a cafe relaxing, reading, and drinking tea in the courtyard (enclosed outdoor area with no roof) where three large tables of people were gathered. Each table was had a different board game being played. One was clearly a trivia game (game asking short questions about facts), but I didn’t know what the others were. The players were very animated (showing excitement). Most of the players appeared to be Millenials, with a few older players.

Do you have any favorite board games, especially ones you still play?

– Lucy

Photo Credit:  Chinese Checkers board  from Wikipedia


Sunday - September 14, 2014

Podcasts This Week (September 15, 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 1034 – Making Changes to a Hotel Reservation

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 “party” and “to stick to.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “The National Trust for Historic Preservation and Historic Hotels of America.”
“The National Trust for Historic Preservation is a ‘nonprofit’…”- READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON WEDNESDAY
English Cafe 468

Topics: The Jonestown Massacre; Square Dancing; perspective versus prospective versus prospect; scheme versus schema; heart condition

In the Learning Guide:  Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear).
In “What Insiders Know,” you will read about the term “Hootenanny.”
“‘Hootenanny’ is a word with its ‘origins’ (beginnings) in Scotland, …”- READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON FRIDAY
ESL Podcast 1035 – Using a Self-Checkout Machine

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 “scale” and “to bag.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “History of the Use of Barcodes.”
“The earliest barcode was invented in 1948 and ‘patented’…”- READ MORE in the Learning Guide


Tuesday - September 9, 2014

Want to Become an American Citizen? Try Dying First.

Sir Winston S. ChurchillThere 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).

~Jeff


Sunday - September 7, 2014

Podcasts This Week (September 8, 2014)

icon_51812Is 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 1032 – Different Management Styles

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 “top-down” and “to back a different horse.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Layers of Management.”
“Most American businesses have three ‘layers’…”- READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON WEDNESDAY
English Cafe 467

Topics: Movies – Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs; Famous Americans – Babe Didrikson Zaharias; to deliver versus to distribute versus to ship; describing the loss of hair on a man’s head; to ward off

In the Learning Guide:  Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear).
In “What Insiders Know,” you will read about “The Fables Comic Book Series.”
“There are many children stories about talking animals, and ‘mythical’ (belonging to old stories, especially stories about how the world was created) creatures…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON FRIDAY
ESL Podcast 1033 – Discussing a Victory or Loss

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 “crushing” and “blowout.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Touchdown Celebrations.”
“Football players love to celebrate when they ‘score a touchdown’…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide


Thursday - September 4, 2014

Drafting On The Road And In Life

Tour_de_france_2005_8th_stage_olr_02A 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.


Tuesday - September 2, 2014

Learn From George, Not Pinocchio

800px-George_Washington's_birthplace_(1856_engraving)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).

Lucy

Image Credit: From Wikipedia


Sunday - August 31, 2014

Podcasts This Week (September 1, 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 1030 – Adopting a Pet

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 “breed” and “stray.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Organizations Protecting Animals.”
“In the United States, many organizations have formed to protect animals…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON WEDNESDAY
English Cafe 466

Topics: Ask an American – Being a twin; to revoke versus to nullify versus to rescind; waste; bon voyage

In the Learning Guide:  Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear).
In “What Insiders Know,” you will read about “The Olsen Twins.”
“The Olsen twins are ‘arguably’ (many, but not all people, believe it is true) the most-recognized twins…”- READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON FRIDAY
ESL Podcast 1031 – Following a High-Profile Court Case

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 crack down” and “at the expense of.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “The People’s Court.”
“The People’s Court is an American ‘reality TV show’…”- READ MORE in the Learning Guide


Tuesday - August 26, 2014

Attack of the Killer Cabbages?*

AKStateFairAlaska 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?

– Jeff

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.