lunes, 30 de noviembre de 2015

Listening test: Tacoma Transformed

Listen to a report on the US city of Tacoma, Washington, and choose the option A, B or C which best answers the question or completes the sentence.

1) How do Tacoma and Seattle compare?
A. Tacoma and Seattle are equally well known.
B. Tacoma has been overshadowed by its neighbour Seattle.
C. Tacoma is better known than its neighbour Seattle.

2) Tacoma became known as the City of Destiny…
A. as it was the western terminus for the North Pacific Railroad.
B. because it had very good ‘publicity people’.
C. because many people from the East dreamed of going there.

3) What happened in Tacoma some years ago, according to Jane Shafer?
A. A new mall meant the end of the smaller department stores.
B. Tacoma's main street became popular because of its new shops.
C. The city became more prosperous with the new mall.

4) Tacoma's revival began to take place when…
A. people realized what the city's city centre had to offer.
B. property in Seattle became too expensive.
C. the local authorities redesigned the city centre.

5) Penny Grellier argues that…
A. artists brought with them some gang activity.
B. Tacoma has always been a more interesting city than Seattle.
C. Tacoma was dangerous and only became attractive recently.

6) What has happened to Tacoma in recent years?
A. It has become something of a futuristic city.
B. Its population has grown and a new cultural life has started up.
C. Some industry has moved back from Seattle.

7) How does Penny Grellier describe the new architecture?
A. A mixture of modern art and restored old factory buildings.
B. Some of the best new buildings in the US are here.
C. Very much influenced by the city’s industrial past.

Seattle, Washington, in the USA's Pacific Northwest, is known the world over, thanks to grunge music, Boeing aircraft, Starbucks coffee, and Microsoft. Relatively few people around the world have heard of its neighboring city, Tacoma, which has tended to stand in Seattle's shadow. Yet all that appears to be changing. Historically, Tacoma should have been the major city and Seattle the minor one. It was founded as a logging and shipping settlement in 1864. Its unusual name was taken from 'Tacobet' — the Native American name for Mount Rainier, clearly visible some 50 miles (80 kilometres) to the southeast. When Tacoma was chosen as the western terminus of the Northern Pacific Railroad, it even became known as the `City of Destiny'.
Yet this was not to be. Jane Shafer, a volunteer at the Washington State History Museum, says that "Seattle had better publicity people and Tacoma got left behind. This continued in the twentieth century. She grew up in the town and remembers what it was like when she was a teenager:

Jane Shafer: There were several department stores' in downtown Tacoma, all of which are gone now. A big change carne along when they built a mall to the south of here... Tacoma Mall, I guess it's called, it may have a new name by now. But the department stores disappeared one by one! And for a long time the main street in downtown Tacoma, Broadway, was just empty.

Seattle became particularly trendy in the 1990s and this actually helped its less fashionable neighbor. When property prices in Seattle became increasingly expensive, people started looking south towards Tacoma. As often happens in ‘post-industrial society’, the artists were the first people to take advantage of the city's low-rent spaces. The local authorities also decided it was time to clean up the ‘City of Destiny’ and make downtown more attractive to visitors, explains Penny Grellier, volunteer at the Tacoma Art Museum:

Penny Greitier: Well, Tacoma began as a really industrial city and it hasn't been until... probably only 10 years ago that it really wasn't a very attractive area to come to. It's getting a lot better because it used to be fairly dangerous, there was a lot of gang activity in Tacoma. And so people weren't focused on things like art, they were focused on not being shot and things like that! So...

Today Tacoma has a thriving tourist industry, focused on the Museum District around Pacific Avenue. Restaurants, bars and shops now fill the warehouses that stood empty and abandoned for almost half a century. The population of the city has expanded to over 200,000. The museum areas are linked by the colorful Bridge of Glass, which features the work of world-famous local glass artist Dale Chihuly. The bridge also links the city's downtown and port areas. Penny Grellier says that the new Tacoma hasn't forgotten its industrial past:

Penny Grellier: But in the architecture that's going up now, you see this kind of marriage between modern art, or architecture, and what already exists here. For instance, the design of this museum, the architect, Antoine Predock, wanted to make it a very modern structure. Kind of like: here's the new Tacoma, and then also include a lot of windows, not only for natural light, but so that you could see what came before, all these old factory buildings and the layout of the city.

1C 2A 3A 4B 5C 6B 7A

domingo, 29 de noviembre de 2015

Extensive listening: Back to the wild

In March this year CBS 60 Minutes released Back to the Wild which dealt with controversial conservationist Damian Aspinall, who wants to close all zoos, including his own, and free the animals to the wild. But is it a good idea? This is the way reporter Lesley Stahl introduced the segment:

"More Americans go to zoos every year than to professional baseball, football, hockey and basketball games combined. We get to encounter the dangers of the wild from the safety of suburbia. But increasingly zoos see their mission as not just displaying animals, but also saving endangered species. And that raises an interesting question: can endangered animals born and bred in captivity be released into the wild? As we first reported in March, a conservation group called the Aspinall Foundation is trying to find out. It's run by Damian Aspinall, a multimillionaire who owns a chain of casinos in England but his biggest gamble involves his animals."

You can read a full transcript for the segment here.

sábado, 28 de noviembre de 2015 is a site that allows you to build up your reading skills and vocabulary in a language of your choice (there are 17 languages to choose from, English included). You can use the desktop version of or its app.

To start using, first you have to log in through your Facebook account or through your Google account, then you choose the language you want to study and your level (beginner, intermediate or advanced) and off you go.

You are given a selection of articles from the international press and once you have made your choice, you start reading it. You can build up your own personalised dictionary by selecting individual words that you want to learn. will store them for you and will show you how to pronounce them. You can use these words for revision purposes later on.

This short video will show you how works.

viernes, 27 de noviembre de 2015

A Chinese woman has saved over 3,000 dogs from being killed for food

Renowned Chinese dog rights activist Yang Xiaoyun has saved thousands of dogs from the slaughterhouse, and continues to raise them.

Self-study activity:
Watch the clip and anwer the questions below. The activity is suitable for Intermediate 2 students.

1 What did Yang Xiaoyun use to make for a living?
2 What does 'twenty' refer to?
3 Why are so many pets sold and killed?
4 How does Yang Xiaoyun get the funds to help the animals?
5 Why do many Chinese people support the idea of killing animals?
6 Why do animal rights groups oppose Yang's project?

Pensioner Yang Xiaoyun has gone from (1) school teacher to one of China's most well-known and controversial animal rights activists, lauded and vilified for her direct approach to rescuing pooches in distress.
(2) Over the past twenty years Yang has saved thousands of dogs from the slaughterhouse and the streets, and continues to raise many of them in her home.
The former teacher is just one of many members of China's growing middle class now beginning to fight what they see as a barbaric abuse of man's best friend, in a country where pets can be rounded up and (3) sold for meat and an animal protection law has yet to be introduced.
For 20 years she has woken up at the crack of dawn to take care of hundreds of stray cats and dogs. (4) She has sold her home and remortgaged her son's home. She is in 800,000 yuan worth of debt buying the 200kg of food needed every day to feed the animals. Now that she has sold her home, Yang lives in a shack next to one of her dog compounds.
She had originally hoped to set up a home for the rescued dogs but was given a frosty reception by (5) locals, most of whom fiercely support what they see as a cultural tradition no different to consuming turkeys at Thanksgiving.
Some within animal rights circles also worry that by buying up dogs en masse (6) Yang is simply encouraging more people - be it lazy owners or dog snatchers - to sell their animals to activists.
The day Yang visited Yulin's dog market, many there said they had come with the explicit hope of selling their dogs to Yang and her helpers. Although countless dog lovers and volunteers are constantly at Yang's side to help her and her dogs, Yang has on occasion found herself at odds with some other animal rights groups.
Yang said that such clashes between volunteers and activists have become more common in recent years in China but she will continue her fight to save the helpless animals from ending up on someone's plate.

jueves, 26 de noviembre de 2015

Taxi Hotel Tourists sleep in converted cabs to avoid pricey hotels

An American entrepreneur is offering accommodation with great views to those on a very tight budget.

Watch the video and answer the questions below. The activity is suitable for Intermediate 1 and Intermediate 2 students.

1  How much do you have to pay to stay the night at a taxi cab?
2 What two kinds of vehicles are offered as hotels?
3 How far is Times Square?
4 How are these 'hotels' popularly known?
5 What happens if a guest needs the toilet?

Travelling to New York City can be an expensive business but a new venture aims to cut the cost of accommodation dramatically. For (1) less than $40 the night budget travellers can enjoy million dollar views of Manhattan from the back of a taxi cab.  Entrepreneur Jonathan Powelly started offering (2) vans and New York taxi cabs as overnight rentals on the Airbnb website in April. Each of the vehicles has been converted to accommodate a large bed, a fan and not much. 
I think it's just an adventure. No one's ever done it before. It's different, it's safe, you have a view of just the beautiful Manhattan right here and it's convenient. You're only one stop from Grand Central Station. (3) You're only 2, 3 stops from Times Square, less than 10 minutes, and I think the people that do it are just the type that want to try something different. It's really fun, it's really comfortable and not many people can say that they purposely slept in a taxi. 
The (4) so-called rolling rooms have already attracted plenty of attention from tourists seeking a central location without the big city price tags. 
I think it's really exciting because, first, the view is awesome and second we don't have that much money for our normal hotel in Manhattan and so this is a really nice opportunity for us. 
Guests may enjoy the views but they're reminded that the rooms don't have all the comforts of a Manhattan hotel. Powelly has helpfully made a list of all (5) the restaurants in the area that allow his guests to use the bathroom.

miércoles, 25 de noviembre de 2015

Talking point: Design

This week's talking point is design. Before getting together with the members of your conversation group, go over the questions below so that ideas flow more easily when you meet up with your friends and you can work out vocabulary problems beforehand.

Is design important in our lives? Consider the following fields:
gadgets and technology
interior design 
food design 
graphic design

What or who influences our choices in design?
What makes a design fashionable?
Is it important to you to have unique or personalised things? Why (not)?
What kind of talent do you need to design clothes or gadgets that catch on?
What's the best designed house or flat you have ever seen?
Describe the room in your house or flat you like the least and get ideas from your partner to change its design.

To illustrate the point you can watch this interview with Vivienne Westwood.

Nice to see you, Vivienne. Looking fantastic.
Yes, really good to see you, nice to see you, yeah.
Have a seat. What do you think about the clock, do you like it?, Do, do you think it's high fashion?
I don't know, it looks like clock and it’s a big one, and I don’t know if this works.
I hope so, I hope so. You see, you see. That’s part of the fun, well, it’s a giant alarm clock. Let’s start.
How are you?
I’m well, I have just giving this sort of talk and then… sorry.
It’s quite late in the evening.
Sorry, yes, sorry. And it went well, and I’m pleased
You're reading from your manifesto that you’ve written.
Yes, yeah, yeah. I’ve tried the most important thing about it that I was trying to do is to convey a sense of urgency about the dangers we face from the ecology and I have really, the most important thing I can say quickly is read James Lovelock’s book The vanishing face of Gaia, you've got to.
You've always been very passionate about current affairs issues, haven’t you? You see yourself a bit of a freedom fighter I think.
I'm, you are right and I'm a bit embarrassed at having admitted that, but but even as a child that is what seemed to mark me out, is what I've understood about myself, yeah.
What sort of childhood did you have, Vivienne?
An ideal childhood, a mother who just adored me, living in the countryside.
This is in Derbyshire.
Yeah, the boundaries keep changing, it was in Cheshire at the time, 12 miles from Manchester but the bottom of the Pennants most fantastic countryside, yeah.
Have you got any top tips for fashion in a recession?
Dress up, wear your old favorites over and over again, don't buy new clothes, take the tablecloth but look great, you've got… by less, choose well, okay, and, and add things and just do it, make it very personal and don't buy all this generic clothing that just needs lots of time in the washing machine.
And how do you know what to wear on any given evening, how do you choose from your array of clothes?
Well, I have not, I don't take something from every collection but I do borrow it and so I'm very, very fortunate, I've, I can look different all the time…
Oops someone is coming in the door, carry on Vivienne, carry on.
What are you wearing tonight?
Can you just shut the door then? Sorry, ‘cause I get so easily distracted. I'm wearing the…
This is the glory of five minutes though.
Yeah, yeah.
Any interruptions we just hammer on ahead. Okay, tell me, Vivienne.
This is from a collection called Chaos point because we're at this chaos point. It was a lot to do with the Brazilian jungle. I don't know whether this looks like the Brazilian jungle. It reminds me slightly of tribal things and body painting and then I don't know, it's just it's just this great, great dress that is just, you know, you can I don't know you you sort of, it's a bit bondage.
Can you tell me something, you (told) what you said earlier, you spoke earlier about you never wash your bras. Is that true? I can’t quite believe it.
Yeah, because I, I my husband uses our washing machine, I've never actually used it ever, and I just wash little bits of things said that get dirty but a lot of the time but if it got a grease spot, just put talcum powder on it, absolutely disappears, it’s brilliant, and I, of course I wear these particular bras that give me a bit more uplift than, than I’m due, I, I don't wash them, otherwise they're not very nice after. I just put talcum powder on them to clean.
Where'd you get your inspirations for your designs, do you have a muse?
I think that without culture, without a deep interest in the most wonderful models of excellence that the human race has ever produced, I don't think you can have ideas. This is why people run out of ideas because it's like having a fridge with no food in it. You have to get your ideas by studying art and the way people saw the world in the past.
I've got a confession to make. This clock is so unclear, I don't quite know whether we’re four minutes in or five minutes in, so if we are five minutes in, you get a bonus minute, we're going to carry on. Tell me about your hair color. What’s the inspiration behind that?
Well I don't know, I just… I don't have any inspiration. I just, just… the way… what I do is I just put henna on it, a bit of bleach where the brown still is and then and then henna.
When, when you walk around…
…and that makes it kind of natural you put henna, mix it with flour because then you could control it, doesn't get too shocking.
We’ve only got 25 seconds. When you are out and about in London or in other cities or in the countryside in the UK, what do you make of the way the Brits dress, what do you make of the way we dress in this country?
Well mostly I don’t notice people. I only noticed people when they look great and usually it’s older people that can look wonderful. I saw a man at a concert last night, a music concert and he just looked brilliant …
I have to interrupt but time is up, time is up and the alarm didn’t even go off, so I think maybe we did do six minutes.
Okay, alright.

martes, 24 de noviembre de 2015

10 questions with Carrie Fisher

Star Wars actress Carrie Fisher about the films that made her famous, her future plans and motherhood in this Time interview.

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

The activity is suitable for Advanced students.

1 Carrie Fisher is a Libra.
2 Carrie Fisher's daughter dislikes her mom's job.
3 Carrie Fisher didn't like the third Star Wars film because she had to wear a metal bikini.
4 She liked Empire because the actors' skills were put to the test.
5 She's proud of having worked in the Star Wars films.
6 Carrie Fisher will never star in a TV show.
7 She regrets not having had more children.

I was born to simple folk. As your age, it’s about dignity…
No way!
If my life wasn’t funny, it would just be true.

I’m Ari Karpel with Time and I’m here today asking ten question of Carrie Fisher, whose one-woman show, Wishful Drinking, about her life in Hollywood is about to come to HBO. Carrie, thank you so much for welcoming us into your home.
Well, thank you for coming to my home.
So now, you could probably spend hours answering this question. From Ernie Barrera of Lakeside, California, what was it like growing up in a show-business family?
The answer to this is, you mean compared to when I didn’t grow up in a showbiz family? I don’t know. It’s like saying what’s it like to be a libra? I guess I was on movie sets more than other kids. But again, what I mainly can say is, compared to what?
Now Susan Browman of Belle Plaine, Minnesota, wants to know what single event in your life you’re most proud of.
I’m proud that my daughter turned out to be as well as she has, and certainly and I can’t take credit for all that, by any means. But I don’t know that my daughter, she’s kind of an event for me. Maybe I’m more of an event for her. But… I don’t know. I think I never thought I would have like a real life in a way. I… That’s something that comes from growing up in a kind of showbiz family… is that you have these fantasies of having a real life, but I’m proud of… that my daughter has… she’s survived me.
Okay, it’s time to get down to some Star Wars.
All right.
Daniel Johnson, of Rockaway, New Jersey, wonders which Star Wars movie was your favourite.
Which was your least favourite?
Of my three?
Of yours and those that are…
I didn’t like the third one but I liked the metal bikini. I wish I could still get into it. I didn’t like Jar Jar Binks, and I could never get into that.
And why was Empire your favourite?
It was the most emotional one. It was the most spiritual one. And Irv Kershner who passed away just the other day, he really was very thorough with the new… there was character work to do. We didn’t have just to recite this impossible dialogue: “I have placed information vital to the survival of the rebellion into the memory system of this R2 unit”. Make a character, give that layers. I’ll wait here.
That one’s definitely my favourite, too. Ramon Salas of Venezuela asks… he wonders whether the Princess Leia character was the dark side of the force in your professional carrer.
No. It’s a… those are great movies. They’re milestones. I love movies. Why shouldn’t I be proud of being in that?
The dark side? You’ve ever seen… let’s see, Hollywood Vice Squad? Or The Star Wars Christmas Special? That’s really good. Was Star Wars the dark side? I think there’s so much competition for that one.
Li Bingyang of Harbin, China, loved your performance on 30 Rock. Are you interested in starring in a TV show?
No…ish. Maybe. Who knows? Not really. I don’t like to learn lines and I don’t like reality TV, but there’s something in the middle that might interest me. But who knows what I’m gonna do? And also I can’t… worse looking so there’s not a lot of… well, you know, you age. It’s not my fault.
You know, God set it up this way or somebody did. Anyway, so I’m gonna get worse-looking so I’m not gonna get as happy to watch myself but also I’m not really selling the house so much as the furniture, so…
If you could go back and visit yourself at the age of 22, what advice would you give yourself and would you listen anyway?
Put those pills down. No, I wouldn’t listen. Have more kids. Put the pills down. Be kind to others and obey the Girl Scout laws.
Carrie Fisher, thank you so much for speaking to us and for having us to your home.
No, thank you for coming.
It’s so nice to meet you.
You too.

1F 2F 3F 4T 5T 6F 7T

lunes, 23 de noviembre de 2015

Listening test: Multilingualism

In this week's listening test we are going to deal with the heading-matching kind of task.

Listen to seven people expressing their opinion on multiculturalism and match the headings A to I with the corresponding speaker. There are two headings you do not need to use.

A - A lingua franca is needed
B - Better educational opportunities
C - Important for several reasons
D - Important if you’re on the move
E - It helps you to integrate in other societies
F - It opens up your mind
G - Many people can already speak more than one language
H - To speak out for yourself
I - We should all be polyglots

Speaker 1
Well let me see … German, Italian, French, English … I can get by in Spanish because of Italian. I like languages; I study them for fun. I’m teaching myself Japanese, believe it or not. But I also think we should all speak one common second language – and that one should be Spanish. It’s the easiest language to learn – even easier than Italian, and I’m Italian!
Speaker 2
Three. English, French and a little bit of Spanish. Err … it’s important to be able to talk with other people and err … erm … can discuss and err … and share your opinions with, err, other populations.
Speaker 3
So, I speak French as my mother tongue. I speak English and a little bit of German … err … and I think that … err, speaking different languages is very important because you … when you want to travel or do anything else nowadays, it’s just, err … essential. You cannot do anything if you do not speak at least two languages, yes.
Speaker 4
Err, I speak erm … two languages, English and Afrikaans – I’m from South Africa. Erm, I’m holidaying in this region. Err, I speak a smattering of French, I’m busy learning the language. And I think it’s very important to try and speak more than one language because it broadens the scope of your interests. You’re able to speak to French people. There are parts of Switzerland and other countries in the world where they speak French and, of course English is an international language – so yes I do think it’s important to speak more than one language.
Speaker 5
Erm … I speak two languages. I’m English and I also speak French … because I live in France. I think it’s very important to speak the language because it enables people to join in in their local community … and … to … show the people that you’re serious about being part of the village or the town where you live.
Speaker 6
How many languages do I speak? Err, I do my best to speak English, my native language is French and I can speak err … decent, err … German. And, err … is it important to know foreign languages? Yes, I think today it’s essential and, err … for young people I think they even have a hard time to find a job if they don’t speak foreign languages. So, it’s amazing now how many young people, how many languages they can speak, so it’s not anymore that you need to speak maybe another one, you … everyone should probably be able to speak at least three, err, if not four.
Speaker 7
Err, in terms of speaking, err … a foreign language, I, I speak, err … English as my main, main language of course … and French. Now, I think it’s very important. You can get more out of life, more out of your travels, if you speak another language. And it also can present, err, good job opportunities to somebody who speaks a foreign language. So, yes. A very big yes. I think it’s important to speak another language, other than your native language.

Speaker 1A 
Speaker 2H 
Speaker 3D 
Speaker 4F 
Speaker 5E 
Speaker 6I 
Speaker 7C

domingo, 22 de noviembre de 2015

Extensive listening: The mathematics of love

Mathematics and sex are deeply intertwined. From using mathematics to reveal patterns in our sex lives, to using sex to prime our brain for certain types of problems, to understanding them both in terms of the evolutionary roots of our brain, Dr Clio Cresswell shares her insight into it all.

Dr Clio Cresswell is a Senior Lecturer in Mathematics at The University of Sydney researching the evolution of mathematical thought and the role of mathematics in society. Communicating mathematics is her field and passion. Dr Clio Cresswell has appeared on panel shows commenting, debating and interviewing; authored book reviews and opinion pieces; joined breakfast radio teams and current affair programs; always there highlighting the mathematical element to our lives. She is author of Mathematics and Sex.

You can activate the CC subtitles on the player to read a full transcript of the talk.

sábado, 21 de noviembre de 2015

Reading test: How to pull yourself back from the brink

This week's reading test is based on the BBC article How to pull yourself back from the brink, by Matt Chittock, which we are going to use to practise the multiple choice kind of task.

Read the article and choose the option a, b or c which best completes each sentence. 0 is an example.

How to pull yourself back from the brink

Imagine trying to bounce back after losing your marriage and potentially the highly successful business you built from scratch, overnight. That’s exactly what happened to lingerie impresario, Michelle Mone, when her husband, co-owner of £50m ($78m) multinational company, Ultimo, walked out and left her fighting for the business she’d started after he tried to wrest away control following his affair with the company’s chief designer.

But, after a very public divorce and court battle, after which Mone had to find new backers to buy out her husband, Mone lived to fight another day. Appointed by the British government in August to carry out a wide-ranging review into how best to encourage start-ups in areas of high unemployment she’s faced her own set of struggles to get to the top.

“I’ve faced some big dramas in my life where I really could have lost everything,” she said, calling her experience the epitome of resilience in business. “I just had to work harder and find a way through. If you never give up you’ll find a way — it’s a feeling I’ve had my whole career.”

Learning from experience builds resilience, but it’s possible to develop the characteristic without, say, facing bankruptcy or failure, according to Derek Mowbray, chairman of leadership consultancy the WellBeing and Performance Group.  Merely developing the right attitude is a big part of becoming resilient, he said. “Resilience is an attitude towards challenging events — it’s basically a choice you make,” Mowbray said. For instance, you probably already have the presence of mind needed to run a client presentation without crumbling if your favourite meeting room isn’t available, or the skills to wing it if you’ve left some notes at home. The true test of resilience comes when something outside of the norm happens: the meeting room is invaded by angry placard-waving shareholders or the vice president of the firm falls seriously ill during the presentation.  That self-belief is at the core of a resilient approach, Mowbray said.

Much of the time, there are some subtle, but crucial, differences in self-reflection that separate resilient people from others. “[Non-resilient] people see the story of their life stopping when they reach a certain point; maybe their business failed or they became ill,” said Belgium-based executive coach Olivier Schobbens. Such people might spend a lot of time thinking about or discussing that setback.  “Resilient people tend to think ‘OK — that’s a hiccup, but now the story continues’.”

The ability to stay positive and in control under periods of high stress are the hallmarks of resilience. They are also the mark of some of the most successful entrepreneurs. Take dual Jamaican-American citizen Andrea Johnson, founder of Serra Trading Company — a family-run business that sells single estate Jamaican coffee turning over around $300,000 of coffee a year.

Johnson took the plunge into entrepreneurship when her New York-based job at fashion house Giorgio Armani disappeared during the 2008 recession. “In retrospect it was the kick in the pants I needed,” Johnson said. Changing industries was a challenge, and Johnson had to become an expert in the global coffee industry quite rapidly. Johnson believes she has a resilient nature overall and attributes that partly to the way she approaches obstacles. “I’ve got a very logical mind and break down any problems into smaller parts,” she said.

Resilient people also tend to have a strong sense of purpose. “People find it easier to rebound from challenges when they have a clear idea of what difference they want to make in their professional life,” Schobbens said. That passion both builds resistance and can carry you through a variety of obstacles.

Australia-based entrepreneur Stephan Ibos knew he had a great business idea, but he ran into numerous roadblocks when he looked for investors for his cloud computing start-up. “We spent a year approaching people who told us ‘what you want to do is technically impossible, you’ll never succeed — and what on earth are you doing a start-up in Australia for?’,” Ibos said. It took eight months of pitching meetings before Ibos found someone who believed in the idea and helped secure the funding that allowed him to create Maestrano, which provides cloud computing services to small- and medium-sized businesses. The company, which is almost two years old, now has two offices in the US and one planned for London.  “Our team all went from big corporate jobs making big bucks to do this,” Ibos said. “It was a risk. Let's be honest: every day is about facing a new challenge that you didn't even imagine you would have the day before.”

Resilience is — above all — about accepting and embracing risk, rather than trying to avoid it, according to Mowbray. Exposing yourself to new challenges and unfamiliar experience helps build the resilience muscle. “That way you’re extending the portfolio of experiences that you know you can deal with,” Mowbray said. What’s more, finding the bright side of failure is at the heart of developing resilience in business.  “If people see a failure as a success waiting to happen, that’s generally what happens,” said Mowbray.

0 Example:
Michelle Mone…
a) had an affair with the company’s chief designer.
b) is a high-tech businessperson.
c) started her business from nothing.

1 After her divorce, Michelle Mone…
a) didn’t keep her business.
b) she was unemployed for a while.
c) started working with new businesses.

2 According to Derek Mowbray…
a) experience is the best way to gain resilience.
b) resilience is when something outside of the norm happens.
c) unexpected situations help us find out how solid we are.

3 Resilient people are…
a) inclined to analyse carefully why things went wrong.
b) likely to look forward.
c) reflexive.

4 Andrea Johnson…
a) has always been a businesswoman.
b) runs a company that sells property.
c) tries to solve problems little by little.

5 Having a clear idea in mind will…
a) help you recover from difficulties.
b) help you start new projects.
c) make you more resistant.

6 Stephan Ibos…
a) faced technical difficulties in his project at first.
b) found it difficult to fund his project.
c) is Australian.

7 To succeed in the business world...
a) being familiar with a variety of experiences will be of help.
b) you have to deal with failure at some stage.
c) you must be a risk-loving person.

 Stephan Ibos

1C 2C 3B 4C 5A 6B 7A

viernes, 20 de noviembre de 2015

Should parents be banned from smacking?

Should parents be allowed to smack their children?

Self-study activity:
Watch this short video and answer the questions below. The activity is suitable for Intermediate 2 students.

1 What has the United Nations report recommended?
2 What does '18' refer to?
3 According to the report, what is smacking similar to?
4 What forms of discipline should parents use?
5 When can parents be prosecuted under the current law?

A United Nations report has recommended that (1) Britain should pass laws to ban parents from smacking their children at home. The directions were issued by the UN Human Rights Committee as it published an assessment of legal and cultural issues in the UK. (2) 18 experts - who make up the body - found that the UK should take practical and legal steps to put an end to corporal punishment. Meaning it believes smacking at home to be (3) a form of corporal punishment. The report also says Britain should encourage campaigns which back (4) non-violent forms of discipline. Parents are not explicitly banned from striking their children. The law currently allows for "reasonable chastisement" to control a child's behaviour. But parents can be prosecuted (5) if their actions result in injuries such as bruises, cuts or scratches. On the current policy, a Government spokeswoman said:
Their policy on smacking is clear. They do not condone violence towards children. At the same time, they don't wish to criminalise parents for issuing a mild smack. The review is made up of international experts who monitor the implementation of civil and political rights. It's the first review of Britain since 2008.

jueves, 19 de noviembre de 2015

How Sporty Is Your Sport?

From baseball to dancing, here's how many calories some popular sports burn for the average American woman.

Self-study activity:
Watch the video and complete the transcript below with the missing words. The activity is suitable for intermediate students.

Kids play a lot. Adults, not so much, which makes us (1) ... how sporty are the sports that we play. Are they doing us any good health-wise?  Some sports demand a lot of cardiovascular fitness. Others need (2) ... , stamina but even just sitting, the average American woman is burning 79 calories an hour. Her (3) ... is ticking away, her lungs are expanding, blood is being (4) ... throughout her body. All of this takes energy. She can end that up by going fishing, feeding a hook and (5) ... a line are all small movements that incrementally increase the amount of energy (6) ... . And yes, golf is a sport. Walk an 18-hole (7) ... and you walk five miles. Take the cart and you're still burning calories by playing. Now, shall we dance? Whether it's ballet or that jitterbug, dancing isn't just beautiful. It’s (8) ... -bearing exercise. Fighting gravity to stay upright needs stronger bones and (9) ... . Biking, swimming and other non-(10) ...-bearing sports are easier on the joints. Some team sports demand a lot. Take coordination, time. Other sports, you can do them whenever you feel like it. But when it comes right down to it, the most helpful sport is probably the one you love to play.

1 wonder 2 strength 3 heart 4 pumped 5 casting 6 burned 7 course 8 weight 9 muscles 10 weight

miércoles, 18 de noviembre de 2015

Talking point: Living traditions

This week's talking point is living traditions. Before getting together with the members of your conversation group, go over the questions below so that ideas flow more easily when you meet up with your friends and you can work out vocabulary problems beforehand.
  • Describe traditional dress from your country or region.
  • Are there different costumes for different occasions?
  • What festivals, events, traditions are there in your country or region?
  • Do you think they are relevant to the modern world? Why (not)?
  • Should we work hard to maintain our traditions or should we allow them to change or disappear over time? Give reasons.
  • Are/Were there any traditions or rituals at your school or college?
  • Why do you think some organisations have initiation rituals?
  • What personal rituals do you follow in your daily life (while doing sports, before exams, when cooking or having meals, when shopping)?
  • What traditions does your family have?
To illustrate the point you can watch this video about the celebration of 'Batalla del Vino' or Battle of Wine in the Rioja region in Spain.

Haro is the capital of northern Spain’s famous La Rioja wine region and boasts a viticultural tradition that dates all the way back to the Roman era. Spain has more land planted in grades than any other country and Haro is home to some of its busiest wineries.
Every June Haro's hard-working grape-growers let down their hair for a day and go berserk at a traditional festival in the foothills of nearby Mount Bilivio. The ‘batalla del vino’ or battle of wine is a raucous celebration where the dress code is white and the weapon of choice is ‘vino’. The locals load up their weapons with wine and attack with abandonment.
There’s a march of clean pristine white people going up the hill and an exodus of destroyed but joyous purple people wandering down. Outsiders and foreigners are favorite targets but everyone gets drenched in these hedonistic free for all.
The ‘batalla del vino’ is based loosely on a 10th century land dispute between Haro and a neighboring village but it's also the celebration of the catholic festivals of Saint John, St Peter and St Felix, mashed into one fiesta of bacchanalian debauchery. It’s a carnal release of energy and excess guaranteed to leave a smile on your face and a stain on your shirt.

martes, 17 de noviembre de 2015

10 Questions for Neil deGrasse Tyson

Neil deGrasse Tyson is the director of the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History and host of Nova Science Now. Here he talks about the universe for Time Magazine.

Self-study activity:
Watch the video and answer the questions below. The activity is suitable for Advanced students.

1 What should be done about the fact that US kids are behind children in other countries in physics and mathematics?
2 How old are Tyson's children?
3 What do most people do when faced with an impending disaster?
4 What does a scientist do in the same situation?
5 Why does he feel big when he looks up at the sky?
6 What kind of question is 'What’s the square root of a pork chop?'
7 How did Newton discover calculus?
8 What does '26' refer to?

We’re here with Dr Neil deGrasse Tyson, astrophysicist at Manhattan’s American Museum of Natural History and host of PBS’s Nova Science Now for Time’s 10 Questions. Neil, thanks for being with us today.
I’m ready for you.
What should be done about the fact that our kids lag lowfully far behind children in other countries in the areas of physics and mathematics?
You know, my first reply is, as a parent, (1) get out of the way. When you’re a kid, you’re born a scientist. What does a scientist do? We look up and say, I wonder what that is. Let me go find out.
Let me poke it. Let me break it. Let me turn it around. This is what kids do. You can’t let a kid alone for a minute without them laying waste to your couch, okay? Because they’re grabbing stuff off the shelters, what do we do? We prevent that. We prevent these depths of curiosity from revealing themselves, even within our own residences. And so, I swore that when I had kids, and I do have kids, (2) I got an 11-year-old and a 7, but when they were young, and still today,… if they see something they wanna experiment with, even if they might break it, I just let it go, let the experiment run its course., because therein are the souls of… is the soul of curiosity that leads to the kind of mind you would want as a scientist.
So you talk about events that can cause the end of the world. Does this knowledge keep you awake at night?
Yes, yes. It might keep me awake in a different way than others. There are many people who, when faced with disaster, impending disaster, they say to themselves, okay, (3) let me buy emergency food, let me find a shelter to go to, let me alert the authorities, let me… Okay, when you’re trained as a scientist or an engineer, that’s not the first thing you think of. (4) First thing you think of is, how can I prevent the disaster? Here comes the asteroid. You’re gonna, right, run away from it or you’re gonna say,  how can I figure out how to deflect it? That’s why you want scientists and engineers in your myths. Otherwise, you’re just running away from every possible disaster that could affect life on earth. And what kind of life is that?
What is the most astounding fact you can share with us about the universe?
The most astounding fact…
The most astounding fact.
… is the knowledge that the atoms that comprise life on earth, the atoms that make up the human body are traceable to a crucible that cooked light elements into heavy elements in their core under extreme temperatures and pressures. These stars, the high-massed ones among them, when unstable in their later years, they collapsed and then exploded, scattering their enriched guts across the galaxy. Guts made of carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, and all the fundamental ingredients of life itself. These ingredients become part of gas clouds that condense, collapse, form the next generation of solar systems, stars with orbiting planets. And those planets now have the ingredients for life itself so that when I look up at the night sky, and I know that yes, we are part of this universe, we are in this universe, but perhaps more important than both of those facts is that the universe is in us. When I reflect on that fact, I look up, many people feel small because they’re small and the universe is big. (5) But I feel big because my atoms came from those stars.
If you could meet and talk with any scientist who’s ever lived, who would it be and why?
Isaac Newton. Isaac Newton.
No question about it. Isaac Newton. The smartest person ever, ever to talk the face of this earth. You read his writings, the man was connected to the universe in spooky ways. The most successful scientists in the history of the world are those who pose the right questions. If I ask you, at what temperature does the number 7 melt? What’s the square root of a pork chop? (6) These are meaningless questions. Maybe philosophers would deal with them, but scientific, they’re scientifically meaningless. Abandon and go on to the next problem. Newton, his questions reached into the soul of the universe. And he pulled out insights and wisdom that transformed our understanding of our place and the cosmos. (7) Somebody said, Ike, why is it that planets orbit in the shape you call ellipsis rather than circles? Why that shape? And he says, you know, I’ll get back to you on that. I’ll get back to you. Goes away for a few months, comes back, here’s the answer, here’s the answer. Here’s why gravity produces ellipsis for orbits. The guy said, well, how did you finally figure it out? Well, I had to invent this new kind of mathematics to do it. (8) He invented calculus. Most of us sweat through it for multiple years in school just to learn it. He invented it practically on a dare. He discovered the laws of motion, the laws of gravity, the laws of optics. Then he turned 26. Okay?
I’m with you.
And I own everything he’s ever written, most of which written in his day. I commune through time as I read Isaac Newton transporting me into a time and a place where people were just figuring out how this universe worked. And for me, that’s thrilling and humbling.

lunes, 16 de noviembre de 2015

Listening test: Sport in America

Listen to two radio reporters talk about the main sports in US and complete the sentences below with up to three words. 0 is an example.

0 Example:
There are four main team sports in America, Basketball, Baseball , Hockey and Football.

1 When talking about sports in US we have to be careful not to mistake ………………… with ………………… .

2 All the main sports are popular because ………………… don’t overlap and each is played at a different time of the year.

3 The NFL is played ………………… .

4 When talking about the Super Bowl the reporters say that apart from the game, fans really enjoy the ………………… , held between the second and third quarter of the match.

5 Advertisers pay extraordinary amounts of money for Super Bowl ………………… .

6 Baseball is the sport that attracts the most ………………… because the competition takes longer.

7 One of the reporters, who’s also a singer, couldn't start her ………………… in Michigan until the Stanley Cup finals were over.

8 Watching a game creates a ………………… that brings families and friends together and unites the country.

M - Let me tell you one thing that I noticed about team sports in the States: there are four main team sports. Not one but F o u r !
C – Yes, Basketball, Baseball , Hockey and Football.
M – And when you mention Football you don’t mean European Football that is soccer to Americans, do you?
C – No, soccer has grown in The States, but it still doesn’t carry the fan base it holds in the rest of the world.
M – So 4 team sports that have an incredible number of fans.
C – That’s possible because the championships are played throughout the year, so the sporting seasons don’t overlap each other much, giving each sport its own season. For example Major League Baseball runs roughly April through October, while American Football the NFL (National Football League) is played September through January.
M – …..ending with America’s biggest TV sport event.
C – Yes, the famous Super Bowl ! Everyone watches the Super Bowl game and of course the Half Time show! Friends and family gather in pubs or at home to watch. Great food is prepared. Rivalries intensify. Truthfully it’s mainly about food and breaking your friend’s balls on facebook. It’s a lot of fun.
M – Well Maybe you should tell our listeners about the The Half Time Show …
C – It’s a concert, a performance given during the break between the second and third quarter of the game. Great performances, artists like Bruce Springsteen, U2, The Rolling Stones, Michael Jackson… This year we saw The Black Eved Peas Usher and Slash from my personal favorite Guns and Roses.
The Super Bowl is always an exciting event. The TV commercials are famous too. Advertisers pay extraordinary amounts of money for Super Bowl air time. Last year 30 seconds of advertising time was expected to cost 2.6 million US dollars.
You know, we may say that in general football attracts more television viewers than baseball, although baseball attracts significantly more ticket sales due to its much longer schedule.
M – And there are also Basketball and Hockey, as well. (NHL) National Hockey League runs October though April and the NBA National Basketball Association November through April.
C – Hockey is more popular in the colder climates of the northern United States such as New England and in the Midwest. And our neighbors in Canada are crazy about Hockey!
M – I can tell you for sure that Hockey is very popular in Michigan, I was there a couple of years ago during the Stanley Cup finals and I was supposed to perform a live concert, because you know I’m a singer, well, that night I had to wait for the match to be over before the music could start, because everyone was glued to the TV screen!
C – Awesome!! Isn’t that what sport is about? Supporting your favorite team . Going crazy when they win or lose? Wearing those T-shirts proudly, cheering on your heroes and supporting them when they’re down. It’s a great atmosphere. It really brings family and friends together, and it even unites countries.

1 football (with) soccer
2 the (sporting) seasons
3 September through January
4 half-time show
5 air time
6 ticket sales
7 (live) concert
8 great atmosphere

domingo, 15 de noviembre de 2015

Extensive listening: Mindfulness

One year ago CBS 60 Minutes Anderson Cooper reported on what it's like to try to achieve mindfulness, a self-awareness scientists say is very healthy, but rarely achieved in today's world of digital distractions.

This is the way Anderson Cooper introduced the segment:
"Our lives are filled with distractions -email, Twitter, texting we're constantly connected to technology, rarely alone with just our thoughts. Which is probably why there's a growing movement in America to train people to get around the stresses of daily life. It's a practice called "mindfulness" and it basically means being aware of your thoughts, physical sensations, and surroundings.

Tonight, we'll introduce you to the man who's largely responsible for mindfulness gaining traction. His name is Jon Kabat-Zinn and he thinks mindfulness is the answer for people who are so overwhelmed by life, they feel they aren't really living at all."

You can read the transcript here.

sábado, 14 de noviembre de 2015

Learn English through Movies

Learn English through movies is a platform that allows to practise English through film trailers.

You can choose three different types of activities to do with each video clip, which will also help us to get to grips with the dialogues in the trailer:
1. Listen and put the words in order
2. Fill in the Blanks Quiz (easy)
3. Fill in the Blanks Quiz (difficult)

Learn English through movies also has a comprehensive collection of 'movie sites for English learners' and 'Best movie and film websites'.

H/T to Cristina Cabal.

viernes, 13 de noviembre de 2015

The benefits of a bilingual brain

In this TED-ed lesson Mia Nacamulli details the types of bilingual brains and the benefits of being bilingual. Drop by Ted-ed to watch the lesson, do some comprehension tasks, get ideas to explore the topic further and discuss the topic.

Self-study activity:
Watch the video and say whether the statements below are true or false. The activity is suitable for Intermediate 2 and Advanced students.

1 A bilingual brain and a monolingual one are different.
2 Most bilinguals around the world master the two languages equally.
3 If you are a coordinate bilingual, you filter the second language through the first.
4 Our emotional and social side lies in the right hemisphere.
5 The flexibility of their brain enables children to learn a language more easily.
6 If a person is bilingual he/she will not suffer from dementia.
7 In the past bilingualism was considered an obstacle for a child's development.
8 Bilingual people are cleverer.

¿Hablas español?
Parlez-vous français?
If you answered, "sí," "oui," or "是的" and you're watching this in English, chances are you belong to the world's bilingual and multilingual majority. And besides having an easier time traveling or watching movies without subtitles, knowing two or more languages means that your brain may actually look and work differently than those of your monolingual friends.
So what does it really mean to know a language? Language ability is typically measured in two active parts, speaking and writing, and two passive parts, listening and reading. While a balanced bilingual has near equal abilities across the board in two languages, most bilinguals around the world know and use their languages in varying proportions.
And depending on their situation and how they acquired each language, they can be classified into three general types.
For example, let's take Gabriella, whose family immigrates to the US from Peru when she's two-years old. As a compound bilingual, Gabriella develops two linguistic codes simultaneously, with a single set of concepts, learning both English and Spanish as she begins to process the world around her.
Her teenage brother, on the other hand, might be a coordinate bilingual, working with two sets of concepts, learning English in school, while continuing to speak Spanish at home and with friends.
Finally, Gabriella's parents are likely to be subordinate bilinguals who learn a secondary language by filtering it through their primary language.
Because all types of bilingual people can become fully proficient in a language regardless of accent or pronunciation, the difference may not be apparent to a casual observer. But recent advances in brain imaging technology have given neurolinguists a glimpse into how specific aspects of language learning affect the bilingual brain.
It's well known that the brain's left hemisphere is more dominant and analytical in logical processes, while the right hemisphere is more active in emotional and social ones, though this is a matter of degree, not an absolute split. The fact that language involves both types of functions while lateralization develops gradually with age, has lead to the critical period hypothesis.
According to this theory, children learn languages more easily because the plasticity of their developing brains lets them use both hemispheres in language acquisition, while in most adults, language is lateralized to one hemisphere, usually the left.
If this is true, learning a language in childhood may give you a more holistic grasp of its social and emotional contexts. Conversely, recent research showed that people who learned a second language in adulthood exhibit less emotional bias and a more rational approach when confronting problems in the second language than in their native one.
But regardless of when you acquire additional languages, being multilingual gives your brain some remarkable advantages. Some of these are even visible, such as higher density of the grey matter  that contains most of your brain's neurons and synapses, and more activity in certain regions when engaging a second language. The heightened workout a bilingual brain receives throughout its life can also help delay the onset of diseases, like Alzheimer's and dementia by as much as five years.
The idea of major cognitive benefits to bilingualism may seem intuitive now, but it would have surprised earlier experts.
Before the 1960s, bilingualism was considered a handicap that slowed a child's development by forcing them to spend too much energy distinguishing between languages, a view based largely on flawed studies.
And while a more recent study did show that reaction times and errors increase for some bilingual students in cross-language tests, it also showed that the effort and attention needed to switch between languages triggered more activity in, and potentially strengthened the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. This is the part of the brain that plays a large role in executive function, problem solving, switching between tasks, and focusing while filtering out irrelevant information.
So, while bilingualism may not necessarily make you smarter, it does make your brain more healthy, complex and actively engaged, and even if you didn't have the good fortune of learning a second language as a child, it's never too late to do yourself a favor and make the linguistic leap from, "Hello," to, "Hola," "Bonjour" or "您好’s" because when it comes to our brains a little exercise can go a long way.

1T 2F 3F 3T 5T 6F 7T 8F

jueves, 12 de noviembre de 2015

Mi city Kigali

Kigali es the capital of Rwanda.

Self-study activity:
Watch the video and answer the questions below about it. The activity is suitable for intermediate 2 students.

1 When did the fights between Hutus and Tutsis take place?
2 What is the idea to pacify the country the presenter talks about?
3 Why has the woman forgiven the man?
4 Compared to other African cities, how does Kigali stand technologically speaking?
5 Why did the woman dump her husband?
6 Why is Kigali one of the cleanest cities in the world?

Green and gleaming. A city that is buzzing, but continues to be haunted by a traumatic past.
Hi, I’m Kassim Kayira and this is my city.
The population is young, and growing rapidly. Modern buildings compete with ancient hills for a spot on Kigali’s skyline.
(2) Two decades ago, it was so different: The darkest episode in our history. Two ethnic groups at war, Hutu versus Tutsi, close to one million people murdered in the genocide, including members of my family. The challenge we faced was how to pacify the city after such horrors. One idea: (2) reconciliation villages, survivors and perpetrators living side-by-side.
It was very difficult for me to confess to murder. But after being preached to whilst in prison, I felt the urge to repent and move on.
I was hurt, I was angry, but he never gave up asking for my forgiveness and eventually, it paid off. I forgave him (3) because it was clear he had been forced into the killing. We have been living happily ever since.
We are not shy. We do things in style.
And this is why I love my city.
Technologically speaking, (4) Kigali is well ahead of other African cities but some prefer to do things the old-fashioned way.
These fingers have been tapping out hasavis for over 30 years. They have typed up everything from government documents to love letters.
Exchanges between married couples often contain very interesting details. Some stick in my mind. There was this one letter I typed out on behalf of a woman writing to her husband. In her letter she said that she had decided to dump him (5) because he had not shown enough love.
Once a month, everything grinds to a halt. It is called Umuganda, a communal clean-up, a communal clean-up where everyone gets involved. This is why we are one of the cleanest cities in the world. (6) It is compulsory for the entire population, even the President.
I hate people dodging the clean-up. Some even choose to pay the fine instead of coming to help. It’s in our best interest, I wish they would see that side of things. Umuganda is very important. It brings the community together.
This city has reinvented and rebranded itself for the better. Kigalians are strong in body and mind, proud to be Rwandan through and through. Kigali is my city.

miércoles, 11 de noviembre de 2015

Talking point: Water

This week's talking point is water. Before getting together with the members of your conversation group, go over the questions below so that ideas flow more easily when you meet up with your friends and you can work out vocabulary problems beforehand.

Which of these ways to collect or process water are you familiar with?
Which of the systems re already in use in your country?
What are the advantages and disadvantages of each system?
desalination plants - dams - underground water collection - 
fog nets - residential water collection tank
Do any areas in your country have problems with water shortages?
What is done about it?
What kinds of water problems have you experienced  in your home or community?
Think of a water-related disaster you remember and talk about it. Mention the following:
event - area affected - damage cost - lives lost - reconstruction done or being done
What's the most you have paid for a bottle of water? Where? How much?
Should we really drink bottled water?
Do you prefer drinking bottled water or tape water? Why?
How much water do you usually drink?
What is your monthly water bill?
Why do you think it is important to clean up polluted rivers and lakes?
What different ways do people use water every day?

To illustrate the point you can watch the National Geographic video below on drought and water shortages in Lompico, California, which is forcing locals to rethink the way they are using water.

1 Lois Henry President, Lompico County Water District Board
Mark Twain said, "Whiskey's for drinking and water is for fighting." We're going to have wars
over water one of these days because water is vital. Here in Lompico, we have about five-hundred
households. It's not really a town, it's just a canyon in the Santa Cruz Mountains. The only business is...
the Water District. It's just a bunch of homes that started off as a resort area. Our claim to fame here is
that Jerry Garcia lost part of a finger in Lompico Creek with an axe.
2 Kevin Collins, Conservation Activist and Lompico Resident
I measure rainfall. We got less than twenty inches this winter. The average here, long term average,
is 45-50 inches. This is a third year of a below average series of winters. So if the stream dries up
since my house is dependent on it for a water supply, I'll have to pay to have water trucked into a fire-
fighting storage tank that I have. The creek hasn't dried up in the 25 years I've lived here, but this is an
unprecedented rainfall year.
3 Andrew Fisher Hydrogeologist  University of California, Santa Cruz
We have clusters of dry years and clusters of wet years as well. There's an additional level of variability
you can now layer on top of all of that which has to do with climate change. One of the big areas of
the planet that's being affected is the hydrologic cycle. There are changes in the way air is moving and
the way water is moving. We see in the San Francisco Bay area, for example, in the last hundred years
there's been an increase in the intensity of storms. So what that means is during a given year, we're now
more likely to get a larger fraction of our rain during a smaller number of events. You tend to get more
run off with those big storms. The streams tend to peak and flood. They tend to deliver more of that
water to the ocean. There's less opportunity for that stream water or the water coming off of hill slopes
to soak into the ground and recharge aquifers.
4 Lois Henry, President Lompico County Water District Board
I've cut my water usage in half. Come on in. One of the things I did to conserve water was to buy a new washer. I collect water in a bucket while the water is heating up and then I bring the water in the house. And then I'll take some of it and heat it up in this teapot and I will take that hot water and wash my dishes. And then I take that water and I water my plants. California Department of Public Health contacted me and said it would be possible for us to get a grant for an emergency intertie with San Lorenzo Water District.
5 Richard Rogers Director of Operations San Lorenzo Valley Water District
They really squeaked by in these last couple of weeks. I mean it was a day away, I think, from trucking
water in. This pipe will climb up approximately 700 feet in elevation to get to the Lompico water
system. Because the state's in an unprecedented drought, we're all having water conservation. San
Lorenzo Valley water starts May 1st with a 20% mandatory restrictions. Lompico, they're in and out
right now, of rationing. When your neighbor knocks on your door and says you need water, you help.
6 John Stipes Fire Chief Zayante Fire Protection District
From maybe October through January there was probably 70 different vegetation fires that were lit in
the county this year, where typically we'd have maybe a dozen. These fuels out here, these grasses out
here, are probably twice as dry right now as they normally are this time of year.
7 Kevin Collins Conservation Activist and Lompico Resident
California's entire landscape has been modified over the last hundred years. It's been plumbed. Every
major river system in the entire state except for one on the Oregon border is dammed and there's a huge
network of aqueducts and gates and pumps that move water from one part of the state to the other.
The farmers are going to be screaming bloody murder this summer because their water allocation just
doesn't exist. And so there will be fights over what's going to happen in the Sacramento Delta. They'll
be accusing conservation advocates of putting them out of business because we don't want the salmon
to go extinct and other species that are blinking out in the delta. There's going to be a huge political
battle this summer in California over who gets what water that still exists.

martes, 10 de noviembre de 2015

10 Questions for Nobel Laureate Daniel Kahneman

Psychologist and Nobel Laureate Daniel Kahneman discusses his new book, Thinking, Fast and Slow and why our gut instincts are usually wrong.

Self-study activity:
Watch the video and say whether the statements below are true or false. The activity is suitable for Advanced students.

1 Daniel Kahneman is not an economist.
2 The answer to what's 2+2 falls into the slow thinking.
3 The reporter has read Dr Kahneman's book.
4 Intuition falls into the fast thinking.
5 Meat 90% fat-free is more expensive than meat 10% fat.
6 People are obsessed with terrorism.
7 Most people think they cannot be wrong in their ideas.
8 We know less than we really think.
9 Dr Kahneman got the Nobel Prize because he influenced some people in economics.

Hi, I’m Belinda Luscombe. I’m an editor-at-large at Time Magazine. Daniel Kahneman has wom the Nobel Prize for economics even though he’s actually a psychologist. He has a new book called Thinking Fast and Slow. And we’re going to talk, probably knowing me, reasonably slowly today, about that for ten questions. Welcome Professor Kahneman.
I’m glad to be here.
Now, in the book you frame the way we think into two different systems. There’s the fast system, system one, and system two, the slow thinking. Can you explain the difference?
Yes, I mean, you know everybody is aware of that. There are things that just come to your mind, you know, if I say 2+2, the answer comes to your mind. You don’t have to decide to do it, it just happens. But if I say, you know, what’s the product of 17 times 24, probably nothing comes to your mind.
You’ve got to generate.
But I read your book. It’s actually 408.
So, but, yeah, but you pulled that out of memory and even that was an effort.
Are there people who best represents like, you know, public figures that you can think of... this guy is typical of like, slow thinking and this is typical of, of fast? Or is it within all of us?
I mean, you know, you can compare the current president and, and his predecessor. And one of them...
The current president, being much more judicious.
...much, well, you know, I mean certainly much more reflective and much more deliberate. And the previous one quite explicitly trusting his intuition, trusting his gut, and very much following what system one was telling him what to do.
What then are the most common decision-making mistakes involving this?
We are biased to like some people and to dislike other people. We are biased by, by words so that, you know, you are not going to have the same attitude towards a cold cut of mean if it’s described as 10% fat or as 90% fat-free. People are actually willing to pay more for the latter.
You don’t seem in the book, just from a surface reading, to be like a huge fan of intuition. Is it idiotic to go with your gut?
No, it depends, it really depends on the situation. I mean, there are conditions where you know that you are very likely to make a mistake. If somebody has just put a number and you are negotiating and somebody has mentioned a number, you should be very wary because that number looks more reasonable the moment it has come on the table. So there are mistake that people do. You can recognize the circumstances under which those mistakes occur.
Of all the demonstrations your, your book lists a lot of really fantastic demonstrations that you did to illustrate this blindness we have to our own biases, what is your favourite?
During the period when there was a fair amount of terrorist activity in Europe, people were asked to consider travel insurance. There were two conditions, and they were asked to, how much would you pay for a policy that pays $100,000 in case of death for any reason. And other people were asked, how much would you pay for a policy that pays $100,000 for death in a terrorism incident. And people pay more for the second than for the first.
Even though it’s less likely.
Even though it’s much less likely but, of course, they are not comparing the two. They are seeing only one of them, and so they are more afraid. People are certainly more afraid, more frightened by the idea of dying in a terrorist accident than they’re frightened by the idea of dying. And the willingness to pay simply reflects fear.
What are the biggest mistakes that people make in thinking about themselves?
Well, in the first place they think that other people have biases but that they don’t. So they’re, well, normally blind about their own blindness. We’re generally very overconfident in our opinions and in our impressions and judgements. Many people, not all, but the people that make the most difference to the lives of other people are very optimistic. And they have an illusion of control. And then there’s the illusion, which is very important, that the world is more knowable. I mean, we exaggerate how knowable the world is. So, for example, you know we think there are people who knew that there was going to be a recession or, you know, a severe event. And I’m skeptical because I think they didn’t know it, they thought it and then it happened. But there were other equally knowledgeable, equally intelligent people who knew the same thing and didn’t think there  was going to be a recession. So we use the word know in peculiar ways and that’s strengthened the illusion that we understand the world when we really don’t.
I’m aware that you have a Nobel Prize for Economics but do you think the field of economics has been responsive enough to your discoveries and theories?
Well, you know, I’m a psychologist and not an economist and I am actually very surprised that they have been as responsive as they have been, I mean, Behaviour Economics is now definitely part of the establishment. It’s a dominant approach in some of the best departments of Economics in the country.
So which Nobel are you going for next?
Well, no, you know, I mean, what happened to us was an accident and, it’s you know, it’s basically we did psychology and we influenced some people in economics and I hope that the people that we influenced that the get the Nobel Prize in Economics. So I have very strong favourites in that field but otherwise I don’t have any other recommendations to the Nobel community.
Dr Kahneman, thank you so much for being here.
Thank you.

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lunes, 9 de noviembre de 2015

Listening test: News report

Listen to six BBC news items and choose the option a, b or c which best summarizes each. 0 is an example. You may need to pause the player after each item to have time to choose the corresponding option.

0 Example
a) Taylor Swift is going to pay technology company Apple for using her music for a three-month trial period.
b) Technology company Apple has agreed to pay musicians for a trial period for songs that customers download.
c) Technology company Apple is going to pay artists for their music during a three-month trial period.

a) An American company is planning to sell car batteries charged with energy from the sun which will change the way the world uses energy.
b) An American company is making plans to sell batteries charged with energy from the sun which will be able to provide enough power for a whole house or company and change the way the world uses energy.
c) An American company is making plans to sell solar panels which will be able to power houses and cars and change the way the world uses electricity.

a) Smoking has been made illegal in Beijing. Similar laws have been passed previously.
b) Smoking has been made illegal in some places in Beijing. It's the first time this type of law has been tried.
c) Smoking has been made illegal in some places in Beijing. Similar laws have been passed previously.

a) A new report has shown that greenhouse gas emissions by China will end in 10 years' time.
b) A new report has forecast that China will produce the world's biggest emission of greenhouse gases in five years' time.
c) A new report predicts China is going to reduce its emission of greenhouse gas earlier than expected.

a) The Queen and senior members of the royal family are introducing some new laws to commemorate the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta.
b) The Queen and senior members of the royal family are going to a ceremony to celebrate the sealing of the Magna Carta by King John, 800 years ago.
c) The Queen and senior members of the royal family are sealing a scroll originally made by King John, 800 years ago.

a) Fishermen in Indonesia are asking for more resources to help rescue drowning migrants.
b) Many migrants are heading for Indonesia but fishermen there say they have been told not to help them if they get into trouble.
c) Migrants from Myanmar and Bangladesh are drowning and the Indonesian government want fishermen to save them.

a) Scientists have discovered that some animal mummies from ancient Egypt are just cloth with no remains of the animal inside.
b) Scientists have discovered there is more under the cloths of mummified animals than just the animal.
c) Scientists have discovered that religious people in ancient Egypt demanded to be given mummified animals as gifts.

The technology giant Apple has agreed to pay musicians for songs played on its new music streaming service after singer Taylor Swift threatened to boycott it over the issue. She condemned Apple's decision not to pay artists during a three-month free trial period it's offering its customers.

The US electric car manufacturer Tesla Motors has announced plans to sell battery technology capable of powering individual homes and businesses. The batteries use energy drawn from solar panels. Tesla's billionaire founder, Elon Musk, said they'll allow homeowners to go off the electric grid and will change the way the world uses energy.

A smoking ban has come into force at all indoor public places in the Chinese capital, Beijing.
It will be supervised by thousands of inspectors and fines will be imposed in venues that don't comply. Previous bans in the capital have not been successful.

A new study of China's greenhouse gas emissions suggest they could start to decline within the next 10 years. The research by the London School of Economics indicates that the fall could happen five years earlier than forecast. Despite being the world's leading carbon polluter, China is also the biggest investor in solar, wind and nuclear power.

Here in Britain, events are getting underway to celebrate the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta – the document that introduced some of the key rights enjoyed in modern democracies. The Queen and senior members of the royal family will be attending a ceremony in the meadows at Runnymede, where the scroll was sealed by King John in 1215.

There are reports of more boats filled with migrants from Myanmar and Bangladesh heading towards Indonesia. Jakarta's warned that it's running out of resources to care for the large numbers who have already arrived in recent days. Fishermen in the Indonesian port of Langsa have told the BBC that they've been warned by officials not to rescue migrants even if they're drowning.

British scientists studying animal mummies from ancient Egypt have discovered that many of them are little more than bundles of cloth. Mummified animals were used as religious offerings and researchers believe Egyptian mummy makers may have struggled to keep up with demand.

0C 1B 2C 3C 4B 5B 6A