lunes, 29 de agosto de 2016

Listening test: Life without wireless

Listen to a man talking about how it is possible to live without technology in US today and complete the blanks in the sentences below with up to THREE words. 0 is an example.

source: Deep English

0 Example:
In today’s technology-saturated world, it’s hard to imagine living life without a wireless connection.

1 The Quiet Zone in Green Bank is a ____________________ mile area that protects two telescopes from any signal interference.

2 Restrictions mean that not even ____________________ in this area.

3 People who suffer from electromagnetic hypersensitivity experience headaches, nausea, ____________________ problems.

4 Diane Schou started experiencing the first symptoms of the disease when a new ____________________ was installed near her home.

5 She started looking for a place in US where she could escape ____________________ .

6 Diane didn’t find it easy to adjust to Green Bank and suffered ____________________ at the beginning.

7 It is difficult to imagine how long we could survive ____________________  of modern technology.


Invisible rays are all around us, and most of us never even notice. In today’s technology-saturated world, it’s hard to imagine living life without a wireless connection. But in one American town, wireless is actually illegal. Green Bank, West Virginia is a small town located in the United States’ National Radio Quiet Zone. The Quiet Zone is a 13,000 square mile area that protects two telescopes from any radio or wireless signal interference. That means no Wi-Fi, no cell phones, no Bluetooth, no microwave ovens, no TV, and even no radio is allowed in this area.
While many of us would shudder at the thought of pulling the plug on our cell phones, laptops, and televisions, the wireless ban has attracted people who suffer from electromagnetic hypersensitivity. Many of these people have decided to live in the town to get relief from their condition, which causes severe headaches, nausea, pain and heart problems.
Diane Schou is one of these people with electromagnetic hypersensitivity. In 2003, after a new cell-phone tower was installed near her home in Iowa, Diane began to experience an onslaught of negative symptoms. First came heart palpitations, then fatigue, nausea and migraines. After learning about electromagnetic hypersensitivity, Schou set off on a journey across the United States, looking for a place where she could escape wireless signals. When a park ranger told her about Green Bank, Schou went out on a limb and moved to the town, and she hasn’t looked back. In Green Bank, she says, she can finally live a life free of pain.
Living in Green Bank is no easy feat, Schou says. Coming to the town is a culture shock, and adjusting to a world with little technology beyond electric lights and heating is hard for many. But for people suffering from electromagnetic sensitivity, it is one of the only places where they can find relief. Today, the town has become a gathering place for a few dozen electrosensitives from around the United States.
While most of us couldn’t imagine life in Green Bank, for the electrosensitives who live there, it’s hard to imagine life outside of it. How long could you survive without all of the conveniences of modern technology.

Key:
1 13,000 square
2 radios are allowed
3 pain and heart
4 cell-phone tower
5 wireless signals
6 (a) culture shock
7 without the conveniences

domingo, 28 de agosto de 2016

Extensive listening: The surprising science of happiness

Dan Gilbert, author of Stumbling on Happiness, challenges the idea that we'll be miserable if we don't get what we want. Our "psychological immune system" lets us feel truly happy even when things don't go as planned.

Dan Gilbert is a Harvard psychologist who says our beliefs about what will make us happy are often wrong — a premise he supports with intriguing research, and explains in his accessible and unexpectedly funny book, Stumbling on Happiness.

You can read a full transcript for the talk here.

sábado, 27 de agosto de 2016

Reading test: Ways to be a fabulous grandparent

In this week's reading test we are going to practise the heading-matching kind of task. To do so, we are going to read part of The Guardian article 10 ways to be a fabulous grandparent.

Read the text and match each of the paragraphs 1-6 with its corresponding heading. There are three headings you do not need to use. 0 is an example.

A - Accept that you have no control
B - Avoid jealousy
C - Be clear about cash
D - Break the rules a bit
E - Brush up on your skills
F - Don’t admit your fears 0 Example
G - Don’t Project
H - Don’t spend a fortune
I - Manage long distance
J - Only offer what you can give

0
Your beloved adult child is about to embark on a lifelong commitment about which they understand nothing. So it’s not surprising you’re as alarmed for them as you would be if they were sailing the Northwest Passage in flip-flops. Whichever phrase of warning or concern springs to your lips, however, hold it in. Your child needs support, not panic. So if you can’t pretend you’re thrilled, find something supportive to say. It will be appreciated.

1
Perhaps you had a nightmarish birth, featuring forceps, hallucinations and seven junior doctors moving around like women of the bedchamber. Maybe your baby was a shocking sleeper, or refused to eat anything but peas for the first three years. None of this, however, means that your children will have the same experience of parenthood. So while empathy and practical support are useful, constantly referring back to your own parental traumas is not.

2
“I really don’t understand why she buys our grandson those terrible clothes …” If you’re not careful, your remarks about the other grandma could turn you into a obsolete Mrs de Winter in Rebecca, constantly obsessed with your counterpart, living with the building paranoia that she’s somehow better, more loved, and more of a gran than you’ll ever be.
Nobody wants to be juggling a new baby and your easily bruised feelings, so biting remarks about the tastes or childcare practices of the other gran are unacceptable. It’s not a competition – it’s a family, although there’s often a fine line.

3
The general assumption is that grandparents are selfless. But even if you’re retired, you’re used to owning your time and offering flexible childcare can fast become a very long piece of string indeed. So it’s vital to consider how much time you can provide – and make the arrangement as formal as possible. Nobody wants to be sitting round the table with a lawyer; equally, you don’t want your loving arrangement of two afternoons a week turning into three days, two evenings and a Saturday morning, unless you’re willing.

4
While you may have been able to change a nappy with one hand and puree a cauliflower with the other 30 years ago, it’s likely that you have forgotten more than you ever knew. Although some of it will return, there are some areas where times have changed. What babies can eat, for example. Where they sleep and how pushchairs work. So don’t go in unprepared – do some research before the baby arrives.

5
After sweets and bedtimes, perhaps the most difficult issue of grandmother-hood is money. Nobody wants to quote a babycare price to their nearest and dearest, but with almost half of families with children reliant on grandparents for at least part-time childcare, if you spend between three and six days a week doing the hard work, is it reasonable to do it all gratis or should you be demanding some recompense for your labour? There’s no rule, though many grandparents find the whole idea of charging distasteful. Plus if you take a wage, you need to be a registered childminder and then it becomes complicated. Some avert the issue by accepting expenses, others just view their costs as part of the grandparental lot. What you must do is clarify your position at the outset.

6
Spoiling, of course, is often just another word for spending. And as a new grandparent, watching your adult children struggle to afford the raft of baby equipment and clothes and toys required can start an avid credit-card finger. Not only will this diminish your resources, it may also make your children feel inadequate.
Few parents like to feel that they can’t manage so if you want to buy a gift, consult them first. Keep presents appropriate and affordable.



KEY
1G 2B 3J 4E 5C 6H

viernes, 26 de agosto de 2016

Why are so many Americans behind bars

More people are in prison in America than anywhere else in the world. President Obama and politicians from both parties want to change that. Rajini Vaidyanathan looks at how the US prison population got to record levels.

Self-study activity:
Watch the video and answer the questions below.



1 Which country has the world’s largest prison population?
2 How much money does American spend on incarcerating people?
3 How much time have the 46 non-violent drug offenders whose sentences president Obama commuted served?
4 How much time had they been sentenced to serve?
5 When were tougher penalties for non-violent drug offenders introduced?
6 What race is the largest proportion of non-violent drug offenders?
7 What does ‘$31,000’ refer to?

America has the world’s largest prison population. More than half of those in federal prisons are serving time for non-violent drug offences. Many people think that’s too harsh a penalty, including President Obama.
Over the last few years a lot of people have become more aware of the inequities in the criminal justice system. The fact is that we spend over $80 billion a year incarcerating people, oftentimes who have only been engaged in non-violent drug offences.
The president commuted the sentences of 46 non-violent drug offenders who’ve served more than a decade, bringing the total to nearly 90 throughout his presidency.
These men and women were not hardened criminals, but the overwhelming majority had been sentenced to at least 20 years, so their punishment didn’t fit the crime.
What the president is doing he is sending a strong message to the American public that we need to rethink how we deal with drug offences.
This is the change of course for America’s war on drugs in the 1980’s, when tough penalties were introduced for non-violent drug offenders. This graph shows how the prison population rocketed after many states introduced three-strikes policies and mandatory minimum sentences, putting more people behind bars.
And race placed a big part. The largest proportion of non-violent drug offenders is black.
The war on drugs had a tremendous impact on African-American community, turning of the public’s eye to how those incarcerations have negatively impacted the community as a whole, not just the African-American community. It’s a big important step that the president has taken.
Another big reason people are pushing prison reform is money. It costs around $31,000 a year to house every inmate, and with Republicans and Democrats struggling to balance budgets, President Obama believes now it’s the time for reform.
But I believe at its heart America is a nation of second chances, and I believe these folks deserve their second chance.

Key:
1 America
2 $80 billion a year
3 (more than) a decade
4 (at least) 20 years
5 in the 1980's
6 black / African-American
7 money spent on each inmate every year

jueves, 25 de agosto de 2016

Utility vs Homeowners Over Solar Power

In Hawaii, where 12 percent of the homes have solar panels, handling the surplus power is putting pressure on the state’s biggest utility, which is fighting to reduce what it pays for the energy.

Self-study activity:
Watch the video and answer the questions below.



1 How long has Joyce been waiting to have solar panels installed?
2 How much does Joyce’s neighbour pay for their electricity bill?
3 What kind of power does the American public want?
4 What problem does the traditional utility circuit power have?
5 How long did Michael John take to have the system installed and running in his home?
6 How much does he pay for electricity in June and July?
7 How much does the maintenance of the power system cost?
8 When will Joyce have her panels finally installed?

I have been waiting three years, three years, to have solar panels installed. My neighbour across has solar panels. The ones that already have solar panels, they just pay $18 a month. I pay 395, almost $400. They say that the grid is full and I have just to wait and so… I’m still waiting.
Hawaiians have some of the highest electric bills in the country, and so they have rushed to install photovoltaic or PV systems on their rooftops, so they can make their own power.
We’re not just talking about saving the planet here. We’re talking about saving the paying from being held hostage by the utility companies. The American public wants solar energy. I don’t care whether they’re in Oklahoma, New York, California or Hawaii. Whatever happens in Hawaii is gonna happen in the main land. It’s just a matter of waiting.
Nationwide, Hawaii is on the forefront of solar adoption, and other states are watching to see how HE Co, Hawaii’s main utility, reimagines its business.
We don’t have the luxury to look at another state and say how was it done there and instead we sort of have to figure out on our own. The traditional utility circuit power starts off at Hilla substation and flows power one way to each home that we serve.
And the challenges the grid was designed to handle the power flowing in one direction but now it’s going back and forth between our customers’ rooftops back into the rest of the grid.
The combined output of all of our rooftop solar systems up the circuit back into our substation feeding into the grid can really potentially bring the entire island’s system out.
Infrastructure upgrades to avoid that worst-case scenario are expensive and HE Co has moved slowly, some critics say too slowly.
What should have been a ninety-day project turned into five, four months to yet completely install, set up and running. And now I make more electricity than I use, usually June and July it’s free, so that was great.
But, of course, if you play the model business out to the end whereby you get full credit for every bit of electricity that you produce, then the utility company doesn’t make any money and they go out of business. And, of course, we don’t have the grid that we can have the solar energy.
Providing basic electric service, power at night, back-up power, all of that PV customers are not paying for fully and instead of being paid for by customers of ours who don’t have PV systems, and right now it’s to the tune of over $50 million.
Hawaiian Electrics wants to cut the rate it pays customers for their solar energy in half so that the solar customers will be paying their fair share of overall service costs.
Now I’m a total abdicate for this because what it does to us it allows the business model play out to the end. The utility companies, their job becomes store the energy, manage it, move it where is need it, let the public create generation facilities by benefitting everybody.
So it’s an extremely interesting time, you know, it creates a lot of burden for us, a lot of pressure. We have some customers who have been waiting for quite some time. We committed to caring 90% of them by April of this year.
I’ve waited, I’ve waited so long but when you say it’s April, and so I’m all excited. I’ll save lots of money, am I correct?

Key:
1 three years
2 $18
3 solar energy
4 the grid was designed to handle the power flowing in one direction
5 five, four months
6 nothing
7 $50m
8 in April

miércoles, 24 de agosto de 2016

Talking point: Cashless society

This week's talking point is cashless society. Before getting together with the members of your conversation group, go over the questions below so that ideas come to mind more easily the day you get together with your friends and you can work out vocabulary problems beforehand.

Think of things you’ve bought in the past week. Why did you buy them? How did you pay for them?
What does the expression ‘Money doesn’t grow on trees?’ mean?
When do people say it?
Do you and your family have a weekly budget?
Do you know the typical interest rate on your credit cards?
Do you try to put aside savings? If so, how often? If not, why not?
Do you feel that you know how to make investments?
Have you ever taken out a loan? If so, what for?
Who do/would you turn to for advice before making an investiment? 

We seem to be getting close to living in a ‘cashless society’, where all payments are made by putting a plastic card into a machine and entering our pin code, or by simply waving the card in front of the machine. What are the advantages and disadvantages of a ‘cashless society’ as opposed to the traditional ‘paper money’? You can talk about convenience, health (bacteria in notes), saving/spending, crime/dishonesty.

Do you agree with the statements below? Explain your reasons.
Which advice do you think is most relevant?
1 The reason people get into financial trouble is that they’re not taught how to manage personal finance. This needs to be introduced as a subject in schools.
2 Financial experts tend to oversell the need to save money. They forget that people need to enjoy life and that often means spending money.
3 There are too many financial experts saying too much about personal finance. This doesn’t help, it just creates confusion and people feel under pressure.
4 A lot of people are so obsessed with their personal wealth that they forget  about giving money to charities that can help people who are less fortunate.

martes, 23 de agosto de 2016

Brooklyn’s Most Cluttered Bookstore

John Scioli, the owner of the Community Bookstore, in Brooklyn, prepares to shutter a neighborhood institution.

Self-study activity:
Watch the video and say whether the statements below are true or false.



1 John Scioli has a bad reputation in the neighbourhood.
2 He knews where each book is.
3 Nobody knows how many books there are in the bookshop.
4 John Scioli is making a lot of money.
5 His second wife died in 2002.
6 John is turning 69 next month.
7 John is planning to open another bookshop.
8 He's planning to keep living in the same area.

I don't know if I'm allowed to curse on here, but the first impression was holy shit. It's like a cavern of books.
It's my first time in here. I've gone by this place several times in the past seven or eight years.  I've never come in.  And tonight, we had dinner across the street. The door was open, the lights were on, and this place is definitely incredible. It reminds me of my grandmother's basement.
What's up with this guy?
Wh… what is… like, what is this black hole of a hoarder's nest?
I… I don't know.  I… I don't know if I could work through that, but whoever owns this… clearly, it works for them.
He has a compulsion, obviously. 
Certainly not a neat freak.
I would imagine him to be a bit of a pack rat.
In my mind, it's somebody who lives somewhere in the building and, like, never leaves. That's what I want it to be. 
He seems nice.
An eclectic man of the neighborhood. He's always extremely helpful.
Yeah, it's just a person who knows that, like, the place that we find ourselves is in literature.  Even if it were better organized, it's kind of like, well, no, fuck it, like, let's just give them as much as we can possibly give them.
How do you find anything?
He knows where every book is, this guy.
"Man's Search for Meaning," Viktor…
Frankl.
… Frankl.
All the way in the back.  I might have a new one, a new paperback. I don't think I have a used one.
Take a look.
Don't…
Yeah, I have one. I have a new one.
Oh, good.
Now…
How many books do I think are in here?
Oh, this is like a jelly bean jar question?
Oh, my god, millions. 
Infinite.  There are an infinite amount of books in here.
This is like high-stakes Jenga in here.
You don't have to worry about knocking anything over, because it's going to happen.
Oh.  I did not do that.  I didn't even touch a book!
Fuck!
Sir, I'm telling you right now…
I didn't even touch a book.
No, OK, all right.  That's all right.
Oh.
I'm attached to it. Yeah.  I love it and I hate it.  It's a lot of work.  It's a very difficult business, yeah. It gets harder and harder to make ends meet. You know, one year at a time.  It's like… I came here in 1985.  Then I met my second wife in about 1988. She helped a lot with the store.  She passed away in 2002.  It was hard just to live, not just to go on with the bookstore.  She was like the opposite of me, because she was always straightening everything out. Now it's gotten to the point where even she couldn't straighten it out.  It's just too much. It's too much work.  I'm 69 years old.  I just can't go on doing it. You can make a lot of money and kill yourself. And what good is that?
Every time I pass here, I think, I mean, I wonder how John's doing.  I haven't seen him in so long.
I'm still half sane.
You have so many more books than even a couple years ago. This is amazing to me. 
I sold the building, so…
Oh, you did?
Yeah, next May, I'm gonna close the store.
Oh, no.
I have to close the store.
Yeah.
So is it gonna be like a… like a restaurant or something?
And I heard that it's somebody… the people who bought it own a Victoria's Secret or something in Herald Square, which is really sad.  I find it really sad.  I mean, it's sad to lose things like this, but I feel like it's more of a responsibility on the next generation to make things like this happen. We can't just expect them to, like, stick around forever.
Where do you see yourself going?
You mean to live?
Not as a bookstore. I wouldn't start another bookstore.
Yeah.
Yeah.
Perhaps eventually buy me a small apartment. But I'd like to stay in the neighborhood, because it's a wonderful neighborhood.
Yeah.
It's fun and then it's very difficult, too. So I just decided to stop.
Good for him.  That's sad, though, for us. 

Key:
1F 2T 3T 4F 5T 6F 7F 8T