sábado, 31 de diciembre de 2016

Reading test: What we hate about Christmas

Read the text about irritating modern-day Christmas traditions and choose the option A, B or C which best completes each gap. 0 is an example.

The interminable build-up
It used to be December before the distant sound of sleigh bells and ringing tills (0) ___ your ears. Classy families even waited to put up their trees until Christmas Eve. Now the festive season starts directly after Halloween. (1) ___  it’s actually Christmas, I’m bored of Christmas.

Mulled wine
Ever (2) ___ a nice glass of red wine and thought: “This would be much better if it was hot and full of woody shrapnel?” Me neither.

Christmas jumpers
Five years ago, novelty knitwear became a “thing”. Primark started selling monstrosities with snowflakes, reindeers and unfunny slogans on them. People now believe Christmas jumpers are soooo ironically kitsch. They’re not. They’re itchy and make you (3) ___ a child.

Christmas cards
The keeping-in-touch element (4) ___ by social media now, leaving Christmas cards as just a pain in the posterior. And you, of course, will offend someone by leaving them out.

Coffee chains loving Christmas
Red cups? Pumpkin spice lattes? Christmas sandwiches and “Crimble Crumble”? Just (5) ___ my coffee and misspell my name like usual.

Travel hell
Ah, the one time of year when you need to get around: going shopping, attending parties, getting to your family, getting away from them again. So obviously, railways are closed, flights are (6) ___ , roads are jammed and it’s impossible to (7) ___ a cab.

Work lunches
If you’re on one, they’re a torture chamber of forced jollity. If you’re not on one, you can’t enter a pub or restaurant without seeing a long tableful of depressed-looking people in paper hats pretending to like (8) ___ . And you can’t get to the bar because it’s two-deep with amateur once-a-year drinkers who don’t know how to order properly.

Christmas trees on social media
Everybody shares. Nobody (9) ___. I hate to sound tree-ist, but they all look the same.

Secret Santa
Why bother giving a hastily-wrapped gift to a colleague you barely know? Then forcing out a hollow laugh, pretending to like (10) ___ they bought you? Get everyone to chip into a drinks kitty instead. Boozy Santa beats Secret Santa every time.

Feeling like death for a month with so much drinking and eating
Hangovers give you a cold. Work stress (11) ___ your tiredness. The weather worsens your manflu. By Christmas Eve, you’re in danger of total physical collapse.

Finding the end of the sellotape
I’ve calculated how long you’ll spend doing this during your lifetime. I’ll (12) ___ you the answer just as soon as I’ve found the end of this Sellotape. Damn, I thought I had it then. It must’ve been the light or a hair.

Parcel delivery
“We rang the doorbell but you were out”. No, I was in. You just didn’t ring the doorbell. “We’ve left it in a safe place”. Where it’ll get wet/muddy/nicked. “Please book a redelivery.”

0 Example:
A. arrived
B. got
C. reached

A. By the time
B. For when
C. After

A. blown
B. sipped
C. sucked

A. look as
B. look like
C. to feel as

A. has been replaced
B. has changed
C. has replaced

A. cook
B. do
C. make

A. broken
B. grounded
C. stopped

A. call
B. hail
C. stop

A. each other
B. them
C. themselves

A. cares
B. matters
C. minds

A. that
B. the thing
C. what

A. adds to
B. brings
C. gives

A. inform
B. say
C. tell

1A 2B 3B 4A 5C 6B 7B 8A 9A 10C 11A 12C

viernes, 30 de diciembre de 2016

London coffee shop gives the homeless a second shot at life

From pastry chef to heroin addict and now trainee barista, Ecevit Tihsinhatga is rebuilding his life, through his job at Second Shot Coffee shop.

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

1 When did Julius Ibrahim move to London?
2 What passions does he mention?
3 How did Ecevit Tahsin end up living in the street?
4 What did he start using while he was on the streets?
5 How long has he been working at Second Shot?
6 What’s Emilio’s responsibility at Second Shot?
7 What does Second Shot also give to the homeless, apart from training people?
8 What was the increase in the number of people living on the streets in England last year?

We take people here at face value, we don’t judge, whoever you are, whatever you need, if we can help, we will.
In East London, a coffee shop has opened, employing people who have experienced homelessness in the past. Second Shot was founded by Julius Ibrahim. He dropped out of university and started a crowd fund campaign to get the social enterprise off the ground.
I moved to London in 2013 and I was just kind of surprised that there wasn’t anything more being done to alleviate the problem. So, I just wanted to kind of do something and the raise the profile of the issue, really and yeah, I just had a passion for coffee and passion for the industry.
Ecevit Tahsin, also known as Edge, works at Second Shot.
My own experience of homelessness is a very dark, very cold place. I used to be a pastry chef. I was with a partner at the time. I came home one night from work to find that she was messing about with someone in the house. We split up and because everything was in her name, I ended up on the streets. If you can imagine winter, freezing cold in a sleeping bag, trying to keep warm, trying to sleep.
During his time on the streets, Edge started using heroin.
Being on the drugs, I’m not gonna say it helped me, but it makes you numb, so you don’t feel what’s going on around you. But once my family found out I was on drugs, they kind of pushed me away. Nobody really understood me, what I was going through, what I was feeling and I was very isolated.
Edge managed to get himself off heroin and after living in hostels and temporary accommodation, he’s now being given his own flat. He’s been working at Second Shot since it opened in May 2016.
Being here has really given me a sense of purpose and helping me to re-establish my life.
Emilio is the head of coffee at Second Shot. He’s been training the homeless employees working at the café.
We started the training two weeks before we open. The idea of working with people who have been under a lot of like disadvantages, and they don’t trust people, you see, they don’t, they have a lot of issues in terms of like they don’t think that they are good enough for anything. We are trying to get the best coffee we can and at the same time helping the community around here.
As well as training people who’ve lived on the streets, Second Shot also gives free food and drink to the homeless.
With our loyalty card, after six times, each customer can get a free coffee but if they want to after three, what you can do is rip it half and hand it to someone on the street, that they can use to come in and get a free coffee. Our ‘pay it forward’ system is where our customers pre-pay for something, so that later someone off the streets can get it for free. Our customers have really embraced the idea and got behind it. We’ve given away almost 300 meals.
I’m a homeless person at the moment. I come in here every day and to get a free coffee and every time I come in here I always get a big ‘hello’. In fact, these people, sometimes wouldn’t have anywhere to get anything to eat.
The average person in the UK is only two paycheques away from becoming homeless. So, literally it can happen to anyone, and breaking down that social stigma, and getting people to understand, and getting people to give you a second shot is really challenging.
Last year there was a 30% increase in the number of people living on the streets in England. Lack of work is a major cause and consequence of homelessness.
The most rewarding part for me is doing what I love the most and also having it, making it for a good reason. Every day our customers come here and they are really happy with us, they love what we do.
I’ve been given a lot of responsibility. There is not many places like this where someone from the street can come in and feel like a part of the community. That for me really hits it home.

1 In 2013
2 Passion for coffee and for the industry
3 He split up with her partner.
4 He was on drugs, on heroin.
5 Since May 2016.
6 Training new staff.
7 Free food and coffee.
8 30%.

jueves, 29 de diciembre de 2016

Grandmother faces eviction from paradise treehouse

Shawnee Chasser has been told to tear down her treehouse home or face paying huge fines in violations.

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

1 Where’s the treehouse built?
2 How long has she been living there?
3 How many people has she cooked for in her kitchen?
4 Why is she facing eviction from her treehouse?
5 How much money does she have to pay for the violations she has committed?
6 How did her son die?
7 When did Shawnee first move out?
8 How is she collecting money for her legal battle?

Welcome to paradise!
Grandmother Shawnee lives in this treehouse, built in her son’s back garden, and she shares it with her two dogs, two cats and pet raccoon.
This is the treehouse, the famous treehouse. I’ve been living in here for 10 years. This is my beautiful home. My tine house in a tree. Actually, my mansion in a tree. There is my raccoon.
Hi, Coony. Are you being a good boy?
I have everything in this kitchen that anybody needs and there are refrigerator, my little oven, wi-fi, and I’ve cooked for 40 people in this kitchen. It is the sweetest little space and I don’t have windows or anything like that, I don’t need them. Well, you know, everyone thinks I’m a little nuts. His favourite thing in the world, blueberries. Where are you? Coony! Prrr. And I didn’t choose this, and I didn’t really even choose this battle with code enforcement. This gate is now the latest violation, they are saying it wasn’t permitted.
Despite having lived happily in the treehouse for over 10 years, Shawnee is now facing eviction having not applied for planning permission when she first built it.
For me in my life, I’ve pretty much done everything without permit. I have always lived outside of the box and it really, most of it never occurred to me. Probably a year ago, I got the first notice to knock it down and then they added five more fines, and now I’m just drowning in violations. I hear I have $30,000 in violations. It’s just out of control and I have put in about $11,000 over the year.
Tragically seven years ago, her son passed away, and now her treehouse has become even more precious to her.
He is the reason I’m here. He died of an unexpected heart attack and he was my best friend, and right now after a year of paying about $11,000 in fines with code enforcement, and crying a lot, and being so sad, we’re working every day trying to figure this out. This is the most heavenly place to sleep in the whole world. Where I get to visit with the squirrels, where the rain, I can touch the rain, I can watch the clouds and the storms come in, and hangout with my raccoon. Come here, come here, he always wants to play.
Hey, hey, hey!
My two dogs, my two cats and my raccoon sleep up here at night. The best thing about waking up every morning to this is that I can kind of pretend I’m not in Miami. I feel like I’m out in the woods.
Shawnee first moved outdoors 40 years ago after giving birth to her first child and developing anxiety around living indoors.
I’m getting diagnosed by a doctor this week because I have claustrophobia and can’t live indoors. So what do you do with somebody that can’t live indoors?
Shawnee is now raising money online so she can continue her battle to keep her very unique home.
If this was taken away from me, it would take part of me away, and I don’t think it’s going to happen, I have enough people that want to chain themselves to it. It’s my everything, it’s my little tiny living space. It’s where my heart is, it’s where I feel good. Yeah, it’s my inside.

1 In her son’s back garden
2 Ten years
3 Forty
4 She didn’t apply for permission to build it
5 $30,000
6 Of an unexpected heart attack
7 Forty years ago after her first child birth
8 She’s raising money online

miércoles, 28 de diciembre de 2016

Talking point: Learning English

This week's talking point is learning English. 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.

What foreign languages have you studied?
What languages do you know at least a few words in? What can you say? How did you learn these words?
Why are you learning English?
How long have you been studying English for?
What English courses have you done before this one?
Why are you studying English at this school?
Have you ever been to an English-speaking country?
Can anyone in your family speak English really well?
How is your English in terms of vocabulary, pronunciation and grammar?
How is your English in terms of speaking, listening, writing and reading?
What can you do to improve these different aspects?
What do you really do to improve?
What opportunities do you have to practise/use English outside the class?
When was the first time you used English outside a classroom?
How successful were you?
What’s been your best moment as an English speaker so far?

To illustrate the point, watch the Allegro Christmas ad.
Do you think this is a good way to study a foreign language?

martes, 27 de diciembre de 2016

Alice Keys -BBC's 100 Women season

US singer and songwriter Alicia Keys talks to Babita Sharma for the BBC's 100 Women season about why she is sad that girls are still fighting to be themselves, and why she is very disappointed that Donald Trump has won the US election.

No task on the video. Just watch it, enjoy it and try to understand as much as you can.

Alicia Keys, welcome to Women 100.
Thank you.
What happened with you, with the decision that you had, very publicly saying I’m not going to wear make-up anymore?
I was becoming very, very overly concerned with other people’s opinions of me, to the point where I was, you know, I would be freaked out because I was leaving the house and didn’t have make-up on. I was just realising there was so much that I had learned and that I think we all learn as, especially as women, you know, and girls from the second we’re born, from before we even come out, there’s all of these images and these expectations and all of these, you know, particular pressures that are made us to think this is what beauty is, this is what a woman is, this is what a successful woman is, or this is what a famous woman is.
What do you think we, as women, can do to push against that? I mean, what should we be telling our daughters?
I, you know, I’m one just for variety, that’s my thing. I just want myself and my daughter, if I had one, and my sons, you know, to see a variety of what people look like. Here’s what people look like, you know what I mean? And we look a vast array of ways and it’s really not about make-up or no make-up or anything like that. It’s about what makes you comfortable and it’s about also being able to explore different versions of what makes you comfortable and seeing what happens and you should be able to without your dad, your girlfriend, your boyfriend, your husband saying… Shhh! Everybody! Quiet! Just give me a second to have my own experience. It’s all you regardless.  And even for myself, when I want to wear make-up, that’s my choice, I can totally wear make-up and no one  should be able to say, oh didn’t you say you would never gonna…  No! That’s not what I was saying.
It’s a conversation you have on your new album. Congratulations, by the way, here.
Thank you.
Superbly written and performed by yourself.
Thank you.
But one track in particular that stood out for me, Girl Can’t Be Herself, it’s a beautiful song, and everything we’ve been talking about now, there’s bits of the lyric, I’m not going to do it justice by saying it out loud, but I’m wondering if… can you sing it for me?
The chorus, which is my favourite part, says:
When a girl can't be herself no more
I just wanna cry, I just wanna cry for the world
When a girl can't be herself no more
I just wanna cry, I just wanna cry for the world
It’s so beautiful.  It’s also quite sad for me, sad that even has to be out there, the message has to be given to girls.
Yeah, it is sad actually, it is sad that girls can’t be themselves, it’s sad that, you know, it is sad that through this whole election process in America that, you know, because Hillary was so strong and clear and tough, you know, how much unnecessary things were said about her being a woman, you know. We, as women, we can be anyway. We can be many ways. And it is sad when you can’t be yourself, you know, whoever that self is, whatever it is, and that’s a problem with girls all over the world, you know. And there’s so much oppression for women, and there’s so much oppression for girls. There’s so many, you know, unequal opportunities for girls and for women. And it is sad.
We’ve gone through one of the most bitterly fought elections in America’s history. You said in the past about Donald Trump that you don’t listen to anything that he says and you said you don’t care about what he says about women. He’s going to be your next president, the 45th president of the United States of American. How do you feel about that?
I’m disappointed. I’m disappointed that such, so much hateful rhetoric and sexism and bigotry and racial slurs and intolerance would be rewarded with the presidency.
Alicia Keys, thank you for being part of our 100 Women season here on the BBC. Thank you very much.
My pleasure.

lunes, 26 de diciembre de 2016

Listening test: The Christmas story

Listen to Melanie talk about what Christmas means for her. Complete the blanks in the sentences with up to THREE WORDS. 0 is an example.

0 Example:
For Melanie the Christmas season begins with the Santa Claus parade at the end of November.

1 It’s a popular tradition to watch your __________________ every year.

2 Melanie’s neighbour has a giant inflatable reindeer outside his house, which __________________ .

3 At Christmas, you’re supposed to spend lots of money to buy __________________ .

4 Melanie finds the Christmas build-up __________________ for just one day.

5 Melanie does her shopping two days before Christmas with all the other __________________ .

6 But she enjoys __________________ and seeing how people are when they open their presents.

7 For her, the fun part of Christmas now is watching her __________________ open their presents.

For me, the Christmas season begins with my town’s Santa Claus parade at the end of November. It’s a fun community event. I also enjoy watching Christmas movies on TV. It’s a popular tradition to watch your favorite Christmas movies every year. My neighbourhood always looks festive at Christmas because so many families decorate their houses. My next-door neighbour has a giant inflatable reindeer outside his house and it makes me smile! And, of course, I enjoy spending time with my family at Christmas, because that’s what’s important.
Christmas can be a lot of pressure, and there are some things I don’t like. You’re supposed to be happy all the time because “it’s the most wonderful time of the year!” You have to spend a lot of money to buy the perfect presents for everyone. And you have to be busy, because the busier you are, the more fun you’re having and the happier you are! It’s stressful and it’s a lot of build-up for just one day.
I don’t enjoy Christmas shopping. Every year I say that I will get my shopping done early, and every year I’m at the mall a couple days before Christmas with all the other last-minute shoppers! My family is difficult to buy for. I usually end up wandering around the mall waiting for gift ideas to jump out at me. I do, however, enjoy wrapping presents, and I enjoy seeing how happy people are when they open their gifts.
When I was a kid, my brother and I would wait on the stairs until our parents woke up and then we would run downstairs and open all the presents. I don’t remember what we did for the rest of the day! We may have spent time with relatives, but when you’re a kid, Christmas is all about toys. Now Christmas is all about family and the fun part is watching my niece and nephew open their presents. I spend Christmas day with my family, which includes my mom’s sister and her family, and my mom cooks a big dinner for everyone. If you celebrate Christmas, I hope you have a wonderful day with your family, too!

1 favorite Christmas movies
2 makes her smile
3 the perfect presents
4 stressful
5 last-minute shoppes
6 wrapping presents
7 niece and nephew

domingo, 25 de diciembre de 2016

Extensive listening: The origins of A Christmas Carol

Michael Slater explains the background to Charles Dickens's novel, A Christmas Carol, reveals his reasons for writing it and discusses its monumental success. Filmed at the Charles Dickens Museum, London.

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

sábado, 24 de diciembre de 2016

The Greatest Gift

Presenting the new Sainsbury’s Christmas Advert – a joyous Christmas musical created in stop frame animation featuring vocals by James Corden.

It tells the story of Dave, a hard-working and devoted Dad, who realises that the greatest gift he can give people this Christmas is his time.

Another year ______________
Where do they go to?
It's a ______________.
Now it's December
So much to remember
Before Christmas ______________.
I'm already late
And my train is __________________
Disruptions on the line.
I ____________________into work
And the place is berserk
Yes, it's Christmas time.
I want to find the greatest gift
I can give my family,
But right now I don't have time to ____________________.
The streets are chaotic,
The shops idiotic,
There's a ____________________for the ____________________.
A granny's taking her time at the front of the line
"Ninety-one, ninety-two".
There's a party at work
And the manager's twerkin' ____________________.
To top off the day
Another train is delayed.
It's a ____________________.
"Christmas time is here".
I'd like to spend the time
With the ones I love so ____________________.
I'm trying to find the greatest gift
I can give my family.
I don't have time,
There's only one of me.
Tell me how do people do it all,
I'll never get it done.
If only there was a way to be
In two ____________________at once.
"Wait, that gives me an idea!"
If I wasn't alone,
What if I had a ____________________,
I could do so much more.
It would all be a breeze,
With a ____________________more mes
I'd have time galore.
I want to find the greatest gift
I can give my family.
The greatest gift I can give is me.
Now I can meet with the ____________________
And empty out my ____________________ all simultaneously,
Leaving me time to spend
With my family and friends,
Where I wanna be.
I want to find the greatest gift
I can give my family.
The greatest gift that I can give is me.

queue; queue

viernes, 23 de diciembre de 2016

Million dollar Hot Wheels collection

A TOY cars enthusiast, Bruce Pascal, has amassed the world’s most valuable Hot Wheels collection – worth over $1million.

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

1 Where does the King of Hot Wheels live?
2 How many items does he have in his collection?
3 How much is the most valuable item, the Pink Rear-Loader Beach Bomb, worth?
4 Why was it pink?
5 Where does he keep his collection?
6 What is Bruce’s dream?
7 What did Ruth Handler invent? When?

The collection today is worth well in excess of a million dollars. I insure it, I protect it and I enjoy it.
On the East Coast of the United States lives the King of Hot Wheels.
I was 7 years old when my parents came home with a Hot Wheel. I was hooked. I collected them as a young kid and it was amazing. I currently have about 3,500 Hot Wheels in my collection. Just come into my room and sit back and look at pieces of history of the most famous toy car.
Included in Bruce’s collection is the most valuable Hot Wheels vehicle in the world, worth a whooping $150,000.
Most valuable Hot Wheel in the world is called the Pink Rear-Loader Beach Bomb and what’s unique about this car is that this was the first the attempt at Mattel to make a Volkswagen VW bus. And when they made it, they put the surf boards on the back side, they put a small sun roof on the top of the car and then this Pink Rear-Loader Beach Bomb was one of the only two made in the colour pink, which was an attempt to sell toy cars to girls. It didn’t do too well, because boys bought them, smashed them with their hammers, and today this is the finest example and the most beautiful Pink Rear-Loader Beach Bomb there is.
And Bruce hasn’t stopped at just collecting the toy cars.
At my old house, I had a small office that I never really paid much attention to. But I realised how much time I spent in my office with my Hot Wheels hobby. I decided when I moved to a new home, I hooked with a great architect and I said, ‘Design me an office that looks like the residence of Mattel in 1970.’ And this way I can come in and just enjoy every single evening, looking at 1,100 Redline Hot Wheels on one wall and cases holding another 2,000 cars made at later days. So, for me, it’s exciting to go into a Hot Wheels room that looks like a real Hot Wheels room.
It’s incredibly important for me to preserve the history of Hot Wheels. And it’s kind of funny, because I think I have more items related to the original production in my house than Mattel does in its entire factory. My dream one day would be to build a museum. To talk about the greatest boy’s toy of all the time, and I wouldn’t mind splitting it up with other collectors with the Barbie doll.
Why? It’s very simple. Elliot Handler was the founder of Hot Wheels. His wife, Ruth Handler, worked at the same company and she was his partner. She invented the Barbie doll in 1958. Imagine that, a married couple where the wife created the number one girl’s toy in the history of the world and the husband invented the number one boy’s toy in the history of the world.
Well, I must say when you tell friends that you collect Hot Wheels, you don’t get the same reaction as when you tell them you collect art work, or you collect cars or you collect baseball cards. One of my goals in life is to elevate the hobby so you get the same level of appreciation. But many people look at me with bewilderment and say, “You collect those toy cars that I played with when I was a kid myself?” And I proudly answer, “Yes, I do”.

1 On the East Coast of the United States
2 About 3,500
3 $150,000
4 Mattel wanted to sell toy cars to girls
5 In his old house
6 To build a museum
7 Barbie dolls in 1958

jueves, 22 de diciembre de 2016

The granny who lives with two bears and a tiger

A 62-year-old Texan grandmother shares her life with three unconventional pets - two bears and a tiger.

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

1 What does Bonnie Heart do for a living?
2 How did Bonnie get Anushka, the tiger?
3 How much does she spend on the animals every month?
4 What kind of food do the bears enjoy the most?
5 What weapons does she have to protect herself in case of an attack?
6 Who’s allowed to see and interact with the animals?
7 What are the benefits of owning and looking after animals for Bonnie?

Well, let’s put it this way. They are exotics, they are dangerous animals.
62-year-old truck driver Bonnie Heart keeps two grizzly bears and a white tiger in her back garden. With a combined weight of over 600 pounds, Pebbles and Bam-Bam have lived with Bonnie since they were cubs, and if that wasn’t enough, six-year-old white Bengal tiger, Anushka, lives in the pen next door.
These bears have been around a lot of people. They don’t know tricks, they don’t know to sit, lay down, stand-up on a box. But you can get in there, you can love on them and you can pat them and I’ve socialised them a lot. Me and Anushka are, you know, I’m momma and she is baby. And, I mean, I can hand feed her, I can pet her, I can do whatever I want with her.
Anushka was given to Bonnie as a gift, when she was just a cub. But surprisingly, it was her dog that one day brought the two bears into her home.
And I’m sitting on the porch, drinking coffee one morning, and I look out there by the pond, and here comes my black dog, just trotting, little trot, going across, and right him is two little black things following him. And I thought they were other dogs, and as they got closer, I went holy-moly, they are bears.
Looking after these animals is an expensive business.
You’re looking at probably $1,000-1,500 more a month, just to feed these animals. I feed her probably between 14 and 20 pounds a day and she eats beef, pork, chicken, stuff like that.
There you go. You want it? There you go. Feed the bear.
These bears, I’ve tried, I’ve tried fish, I’ve tried salmon. They don’t want it. They want their berries, their watermelons, their cantaloupe, their candy. They love cookies, marshmallows, they love anything that is sweet and they will almost mug you for honey.
Despite her close relationship with the animals, Bonnie has always been aware of just how dangerous they could be.
I have tranquilliser guns, so we can tranquillise them if we have to. Nobody is going to get hurt, not unless you just climb into the pen and be stupid. Pebbles can get a little cantankerous at times, and she’d slap me with her claws and has bit at me a couple of times, but nothing like attack me. I have the taser, I only have that if I’m out here by myself and I can’t get help.
Bonnie also lets her grandchildren interact with them.
I think it’s a little bit crazy that she likes having tigers and bears.
I think it’s really cool, I mean it’s definitely a different experience. Bears are my favourite animal, like overall. I don’t go in the tiger pen, because, you know, it’s a tiger.
Bonnie regularly has people over to see her animals.
My neighbours, the love it. They bring their families over.
But if someone tried to take them away, it would be a very different story.
I would shoot them.
Point blank?
Point blank! Come on my property and try to take my animals, I don’t care if it’s tigers, bears, horses or dogs. Somebody is gonna get shot. There isn’t one out here that I don’t care for. It has changed me. I mean, I’ve been doing this since I was a little girl. It makes you have responsibility, it makes you realise that life is precious, and you should enjoy every moment of it.

1 She’s a truck driver
2 It was a present
3 Between $1,000 and $1,500
4 Anything sweet, especially honey
5 Tranquilliser guns and a taser
6 Everybody, family (grandchildren, neighbours and their families
7 It makes you have responsibility, it makes you realise that life is precious, and you should enjoy every moment of it.

miércoles, 21 de diciembre de 2016

Talking point: Pets

This week's talking point is pets. 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.

Look at the photo and discuss the questions.
Why do you think the prisoners were given a dog?
Do you think letting prisoners look after dogs is a good idea? Why (not)?
For what other groups of people can having a pet be specially beneficial?

Have you ever had a pet? If so, what and why?
If not, why not?
What are some of the problems of having a pet?
And the benefits?
What kinds of problems can pets cause to people other than their owners?
What is the law in your country about…?
-having the dog on a lease/with a muzzle on in public places
-pets travelling on public transport
-dog mess on the street

Do you know anyone who is afraid of dogs or cats?
Which of the animals below do you like? Why?
Are you scared of any of these animals? Why?
Would any of them make good pets?
wild pig

Have you ever been attacked by an animal?
What pet charities do you know? What is their job?
Would you be willing to volunteer and lend a hand?

martes, 20 de diciembre de 2016

Disappearing glaciers

Glacier National Park in Montana has a name to live up to. But it’s a name that seems to be living on borrowed time, as Conor Knighton discovered On the Trail.

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

1 How far have Conor and Dan been walking before reaching their destination in Montana’s Glacier National Park?
2 What does Dan compare rephotography to?
3 When will the glaciers in Montana’s Glacier National Park have disappeared?
4 How will Dan feel if glaciers disappear?
5 How far has the glacier in Kenai Fjords retreated in 2016?
6 What are the photos of glaciers being used for these days?

Glacier National Park in Montana has a name to live up to. But it’s a name that seems to be living on borrowed time, as Conor Knighton discovered On the Trail.
Like most photographers, Dan Fagre is obsessed with getting the perfect shot. We’ll have hiked around 12 miles all together, up steep mountain passes, across icy streams, all to photograph a small slice of Montana’s Glacier National Park.  Visitors take snapshots of the views, but when Fagre looks through his lens, he sees something different. He’s trying to take a picture of what isn’t there, the tons and tons of ice that have disappeared.
Oh my gosh! None of it is there!
None of that is there, so…
Fagre is an ecologist with the U.S. Geological Survey. 
So in 1938 then, the glacier filled this entire basin…
Using material from the park’s archive, the USGS has been rephotographing old black and white images.
Rephotography is really interesting, it’s a little bit of a detective story. You’re trying to find the exact spot that a photographer stood decades before and shoot the exact same picture, and then compare the changes between those two time spans.
In a short amount of time, the change has been dramatic.
So 50 years ago, what’d we been looking at?
50 years ago we would have been under ice right now.
Oh, really? Right here?
Right here. We would’ve been under a lot of ice.
The sign says Glacier National Park, but some models have suggested that these Montana mountains will lose, if not all of their glaciers, by 2030. Soon there won’t be any ice left to photograph.
You know, like a lot of people, I really like the glaciers in Glacier Park, and while I will be sad to see them go personally, I think my role as a scientist is to make sure that everybody understands the pace at which they’re disappearing, and the reasons for that, so that, again, better decisions could be made societally.
The reason, scientists explain, is climate change; the planet is heating up.  Park Service Director John Jarvis has said that climate change is fundamentally the greatest threat to the integrity of our national parks that we have ever experienced.
Visiting the parks this year, I’ve experienced it first hand. At Kenai Fjords in Alaska, the massive glaciers will survive longer than those in Montana, but they’re still shrinking.   Walking into the park, there are signs where there was once ice,1899, 1926, 1961, all the way up to 2005, markers of where this glacier used to be. 
Last year, President Obama paid a visit to Kenai Fjords to talk about climate change.
That is melting glaciers and blocks of ice, that’s raising sea levels…
In 2016, this glacier has already retreated over 250 feet. That’s a new record.
Well, the glaciers have been receding, and the surprising thing, the thing that lets us know that this is an indication of climate change, is the rate of retreat has increased drastically.
At the park Ranger Fiona North also uses photos to illustrate the before and after.
So this one, this is 1992.
Wow, it used to come down. It covered this whole green area.
From Alaska to Montana, photos that were originally taken to publicize these natural wonders are now being used to publicize how they’re disappearing. It packs a punch that a chart or a graph just can’t deliver.
I think people are extremely visual and, you know the old saying about one painting or photo being worth 1,000 words. We get a lot of information visually, and we tend to trust that even more than what we hear.
With these photos, the message is clear: The pace of change is anything but glacial.

1 twelve miles
2 a detective story 
3 by 2030
4 sad
5 250 feet
6 to publicise how they are disappearing

lunes, 19 de diciembre de 2016

Listening test: Gourmet Ireland

Listen to this report on Irish cuisine and choose the option A, B or C which best answers the question or completes the sentence.

1 The introduction to the report suggests that Irish cuisine
A. has only ever had one real ingredient.
B. was based on very basic and simple foods.
C. was traditionally very bad for your health.

2) Ciaran Fitzgerald's restaurant at the Blue Haven Hotel
A. has the finest imported products.
B. is famous for its locally caught fish and seafood.
C. is well known for its elaborate dishes of meat.

3) The teams of chefs at the hotel are
A. all from Kinsale and south-west Ireland. 
B. come from abroad but were trained in Ireland.
C. nearly three quarters Irish in origin.

4) How does Ciaran Fitzgerald describe the food found at his restaurant?
A. A mixture of traditional Irish and international dishes.
B. International dishes with local Irish touches.
C. Traditional Irish food with international accompaniments.

5) Which statement best describes the population of south-west Ireland?
A. Both Irish and foreign people have lived there for some time.
B. The area's scenery has recently attracted foreign visitors.
C. There are mainly only Irish people living there.

6) How would you best summarise Jeffa Gill’s experiments with cheese-making?
A. Her success has been totally unexpected.
B. She always wanted to be a professional cheese-maker.
C. She makes enough money from it now to survive.

7) She concludes that cheese-making has enabled her to
A. have time to enjoy her hobbies.
B. live in a place where there is very little other work.
C. start a family in an area which she loves.

Many people still associate Irish cuisine with the potato, which has been a major part of the Irish diet for centuries. Generations of Irish people grew up eating potatoes, Irish stews and cottage pies — carbohydrates ruled. Over the past 10 years, all this has changed, however. At the centre of the fine food revolution is the fishing town of Kinsale, Ireland's `Gourmet Capital'. One of the most famous hotels in town is the Blue Haven. It is managed and co-owned by Ciaran Fitzgerald, the youngest in a Kinsale family of six. Ciaran was only 25, and working as an accountant, when he took over the running of the hotel last year. The hotel's outer wall is the oldest wall in town: 200 years ago, there was a fish market here. Kinsale's fishing heritage, says Ciaran Fitzgerald, is very much reflected in the Blue Haven's restaurant menu.
We have very much focused on seafood. Seafood is emphasised. You've got fresh lobster from the tank, you've got John Dory, you've got red snapper, a lot of just nice seafood dishes. I suppose, Kinsale, fishing... traditionally a fishing town, great access to some fantastic local suppliers of seafood. So we... I suppose that's what we represent here, and that's what I would see as modern Irish cuisine. I've a team of chefs in there who, who have pretty much, I'd say 70 per cent of them are Irish, but they've trained abroad.
So they take those dishes and they put some little twist on them, with the different accompaniments and different things like that. So, I suppose the basic dish itself, the roots of it are traditional Irish type of food, and then you just garnish and accompany it with more kind of international flavours.
Places like Kinsale have benefited from Ireland's new wealth. People now have more money to go to restaurants. But the beautiful scenery of the southwest has attracted both Irish and foreign residents since the 1960s.
Many started small farm businesses here, often growing organic produce. Today, more and more people want to buy high-quality food that is produced locally. Driving west from Kinsale, you pass the town of Clonakilty. This is the home of Ireland's famous black pudding, made from ox blood, oatmeal, onions, beef and six spices.
Further north along the coast, lonely Sheep's Head Peninsula sees few tourists. And yet on this rugged finger of land Jeffa Gill produces rind washed Durrus cheese. The cheese has won prizes and is even sold as far afield as Tokyo. Jeffa Gil didn't expect this to happen when she began making cheese back in 1979. At that time cheese-making was virtually a lost art in Ireland:
I didn't really intend to become a cheesemaker. I was young and enthusiastic and we had a small farm, and we had a small herd of cows. And I started to make cheese from the left-over milk from taking the milk to the diary, to the creamery. So it started very much as a hobby. It wasn’t something I intended to do. I did not intend to build a cheese factory! But it was just in the 70s, and we needed to make a living off a small farm. So I made cheese. And the cheese developed and the market developed . Because it just went from selling to friends to selling to restaurants, to sell¬ing to the local shop and selling to a local distributor. You know, going from a pan on the stove" to a vat in the comer, and then the house grew up around the cheese, and the dairy grew up. I just de¬veloped an interest in it, verging on an obsession, I suppose, but also an obses¬sion to make a living. It was a way to make a living, and live in West Cork. I always wanted to live in West Cork. Un¬less you were a writer, or you had a private income, you couldn't live here.

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

domingo, 18 de diciembre de 2016

Extensive listening: 4 larger-than-life lessons from soap operas

Soap operas and telenovelas may be overdramatic, but as Kate Adams shows us, their exaggerated stories and characters often cast light on the problems of real life.

In this sparkling, funny talk, Adams, a former assistant casting director for "As the World Turns," share four lessons for life and business that we can learn from melodramas.

TED speaker  Kate Adams spends her days dissecting digital communications to find a better way to tell brand stories and connect with customers.

You can read the full transcript here.

sábado, 17 de diciembre de 2016

Reading test: The death of saving

For this week's reading test we are going to practice the multiple choice task. Read The Daily Mail article The death of saving: With pitiful interest rates, a third of us are not longer putting a penny aside and choose the option A, B or C which best completes each sentence. 0 is an example.

Britain is no longer a nation of savers – with a third us not putting aside a single penny at the end of each month. A report into social mobility in the UK warns that families can no longer afford to put money aside for a rainy day or to save for a holiday or home. Some 31 per cent have nothing left to put in the bank when the month is over, while 4 per cent save less than £10. Overall, half of the population save £100 or less. Only 23 per cent save £200 or more.
The Social Mobility Commission, which will today launch its annual State of the Nation report, said Britain was now a country of ‘haves and have nots’. People have also been given less incentive to save by rock bottom interest rates in recent years.
In addition, banks and building societies have been accused of exploiting savers by slashing hundreds of savings rates since the Bank of England cut the official interest rate in August from 0.5 per cent to 0.25 per cent. Some accounts have been chopped to zero, or to 0.01 per cent. Britons are currently saving only 5.1 per cent of their disposable income. This compares to 7.4 per cent only two years ago, according to official figures.
The Social Mobility Commission findings are also a damning criticism of successive governments – led by the Tony Blair regime – which have failed to improve social mobility. In 2004, the then Labour prime minister promised to make the spread of greater social mobility the cornerstone of his third term. Gordon Brown and David Cameron also promised to do more to improve the life chances of the less well-off. Yet, the public remains deeply pessimistic, despite hundreds of millions of pounds being spent and a number of high-profile initiatives being launched. 
Nearly half of people – 45 per cent – believe that, in Britain today, where you end up in society is mainly determined by your background and who your parents were, according to a YouGov poll of 1,655 adults carried out for the commission.  In contrast, only 29 per cent feel that Britain is a country where everyone has a fair chance to go as far as their talent and their hard work will take them. A majority of adults – 55 per cent – believe that children from privileged backgrounds are more likely to secure a place at university than those from less well-off backgrounds. Exactly half say they are also given more opportunities to get a foot in the workplace by securing work experience or unpaid internships.
Social mobility tsar Alan Milburn, a former Labour Cabinet minister, said: ‘Britain has a deep social mobility problem and the growing sense that we have become an “us and them” society – where a few unfairly have power and wealth – is deeply corrosive of our cohesion as a nation. ‘It is no surprise that populism of Right and of Left is on the march when a growing number of people feel like they are losing out unfairly.’
The study found the most sought-after professions have become even less representative than the most selective universities. Only 4 per cent of doctors, 6 per cent of barristers and 12 per cent of solicitors have working-class origins.
In July, Mrs May pledged in Downing Street: ‘If you’re from an ordinary working class family, life is much harder than many people in Westminster realise… The government I lead will be driven not by the interests of the privileged few, but by yours.’

0 Example:
According to a report into social mobility
A. around 25% of the population can save at least £200.
B. families can’t go on holiday any more.
C. families spend all their money before the end of the month.

1 The Social Mobility Commission has said
A. the country is divided between those with economic means and those without.
B. people are being encouraged to save.
C. interest rates are getting higher.

2 Britons
A. are not saving at all.
B. are saving well over 5% of their income.
C. sometimes get no interest on their accounts.

3 The Social Mobility Commission has also concluded
A. people not having so much money improved their standard of living with David Cameron.
B. popular campaigns to improve the living conditions have failed.
C. Tony Blair’s governments fulfilled his promises.

4 In today’s Britain
A. half of the population believes talent is a key factor for a person’s future.
B. hard work has no use to improve in life.
C. the social position determines a person’s future.

5 The YouGov poll also found
A. only the rich manage to secure a place at university.
B. people from privileged backgrounds find work easily.
C. work experience will get you a better chance of getting a job.

6 In Alan Milburn’s opinion
A. British society is getting more and more extremist.
B. populist political parties are taking control.
C. power and wealth corrupt people.

7 The study also found
A. British universities are more democratic than it was thought.
B. selective universities are offering less popular degrees.
C. the social class divide is obvious in some professions.

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

viernes, 16 de diciembre de 2016

Kenya's mobile controlled greenhouses

In Africa, despite many slogans and proverbs making references to farming, young people are increasingly attracted to big city living, leading to a wave of urbanisation on the continent.
However, in Kenya, there is a band of young entrepreneurs who believe that when agriculture is paired with high-tech solutions on mobile phones, young people are seeing the benefits of staying in the villages to farm.

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

1. What is the Silicon Savannah?
2. Who is Illuminum Greenhouses trying to help?
3. How do farmers farmers connect to their greenhouse, monitor the temperature and programme the sprinkler system?
4. When did Millicent Rutere start farming?
5. Who worked the land in Millicen's family? Who got the money?
6. What is the percentage of Kenyan population that still live in rural areas?

Skyscrapers, traffic jams and throngs of people. Kenya's capital is a typical African city except that here mobile phones and digital systems are taking over. Nairobi is known as the Silicon Savannah. People often think that the Silicon Savannah is an area in Africa. In fact, it’s a building, this very building, where take-on entrepreneurs take advantage of the cheap rents and the free software that allows them to focus on the various functions and applications that they’re building. And it's something that Illuminum Greenhouses has taken advantage of as they develop the hardware that will help Kenya's smallholder farmers.
It's also from here that Taita Ngetich and his team design green houses that have inbuilt sensors controlled via mobile phone. The technology has taken off, but not without difficulties.
We're building hardware and it’s not called hard for anything and I think it's really hard, and it's very difficult to develop that in Kenya because we have a very small pool of skilled developers to work with and secondly to get anyone nice today is costly, therefore the problem of access to capital exists.
This effusion of talents here as developers, agricultural experts and investors from America partner to create this product. Through a simple text message, farmers connect to their greenhouse, monitor the temperature and programme the sprinkler system. Remotely, the water is pumped onto the crops at this farm, 20 kilometers away. The co-owner is Millicent Rutere, who has 13 green houses on her plot. She grows herbs such as basil and chives. She began farming as a child and feels strongly about the plight of women who are the majority of Kenya’s smallholders.
I grew up in the village and when I was eight years old I started seeing the challenges that my mother faced when she was raising us up because there's no other source of income apart from farming. When my mother tried to work in the field, my father would take all the money and misused the money, and I could not see the sense of women working in the field and men taking the yields in selling.
It's for this reason that Millicent farms cash crops destined for Europe and Dubai. Even though Kenya is moving towards a modern economy, more than seventy percent of the population still live in rural areas. The younger generation, who are exposed to different opportunities, have found a way to match the old Kenya with the new.

1 a building in Nairobi
2 Kenya's farmers
3 through a text message 
4 as a child
5 her mom; her dad
6 over 70%

jueves, 15 de diciembre de 2016

The tech helping you stay safe on the streets

BBC Click's Lara Lewington looks at some of the latest personal safety technology.

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

1. You always need to unlock the device before using it.
2. Only your contacts will receive your alert.
3. The alert can be activated verbally.
4. Currently, the police can receive your filming of the incidents.
5. The device is free at the moment.
6. 33% of adults are victims of violent crime.
7. The follow-me function of the device keeps track of your movements.
8. The alerts are not so easy to activate.

So this is what the finished product will look like. To avoid false alarms, you need to unlock it before pressing the buttons. At the point it’s been activated, it will send an alert with your location to the emergency services and also not just to your contacts of choice but the contacts who are closest to you at that point. It will also send an alert to other people who are on the platform who are nearby at that time, who hopefully will have phone signal and internet connection in your hour, well, seconds of need.
An alert can also be activated by a smart watch by simply using a safe word, asparagus.
We’ve got several ambitions for the future. One is that when you see somebody needs your help on your phone, but as you arrive close to where they are, the map on your mobile phone will dissolve and your camera will turn on, so we'll start… you'll start filming the incidents where, where you are and will stream back to the police.
Another shortish-time ambition for us is you want to make this as common as possible because the more people that have it, the more people can come to your rescue, so for us we’re driven by how cheap can we make this or free so when we put it in as many people's hands as possible.
The most recent figures for England and Wales suggest adults have a 1 in 33 chance each year of being the victim of a violent crime. But despite the fact that they’re unlikely to ever need to use a gadget like this, just knowing it's there may give you that extra peace of mind.
You're walking home alone or going out for the day and you want to feel that someone who cares about you is watching over you, well the follow-me function on the React app could come in handy. They’ll be alerted to keep an eye on you and track your GPS location for your chosen duration, hopefully there won't be a problem and once you arrive at your destination, they'll be able to see where you are plus you can actually tell them that you're fine.
Alerts to contact your friends, family or even the emergency services can also be activated any time by pressing this red button on the app or this physical button. This is called the react sidekick and syncs up to the app.
On first testing it seemed pretty glitch, but then it became apparent I needed to have the settings right, which weren’t obvious. You must accept the option to track your location even when not using the app, and you also need to make sure that your chosen contacts are stored with their international dialling code.
So with this and indeed all these devices, it's probably wise to do a test run before you start relying on them.

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

miércoles, 14 de diciembre de 2016

Talking point: Medication

This week's talking point is medication. 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.

What do you think the photo shows?
Do you think it shows a positive or a negative  view of health and medicine?
What kinds of things do you think pills might be good for?
What different kinds of medication can you buy in a chemist's without a prescription?
How are these conditions usually treated?
a broken bone - a rash - a sprain - a nasty cut - flu - an allergy

How often do you go to the doctor?
When did you last go? Why?
What was the treatment?
How often does the doctor prescribe medicines when you visit him/her?
How much money does your household spend on medicines every month?
Where do you keep them at home?
What medicines do you take with you when you travel?
Do you know anyone who is in the habit of taking too much medication?
Do you know anyone who refuses to take medicines and would rather have an alternative treatment?
Do you know any doctors who are reluctant to prescribe drugs?

martes, 13 de diciembre de 2016

Living paycheck to paycheck

The Vories family lives on a volatile income — not knowing how much each paycheck will contain month-to-month.

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

1. The Vories have to pay the electricty bill on the 8th of each month.
2. The Vories have been unemployed for a long time.
3. The Vories don't own a car.
4. The Brighton Center is a charity.
5. The Vories have ups and downs in their day-to-day.
6. The Vories spend around five hundred dollars a month in medications.
7. They didn't buy their son basketball shoes because they had no money.

I just look at what’s the day that it is due, what’s the mercy day, what’s the actual day that I have to pay this bill by. I don’t even look at it month to month. The electric bill is due like the 8th but I can pay it on the 25th, you know when we’re paying bills this Monday, and that’s one of the bills I’m gonna be paying.
The Vories family is one many in America that lives on a valid all income. Like thousands who rely on seasonal or contract work, money comes in each week but it’s rarely the same amount. Financial planning becomes about the near future, about paying the bills when, not if the paychecks stop. Erica works full time at the IRS as the family’s primary source of income. Her husband Alex was laid off last year from Fidelity Call Center and can only find seasonal work. His last contract ended right before Thanksgiving, so Alex returns to an employer he’d had in high school, The Rosa’s Pizza.
Hopefully the Rosa’s is enough to keep us going. An accident and a breakdown left the family carless, so Alex borrows his father’s car to deliver pizzas at night. Every week is a delicate balancing act of time, money and resources.
We don’t have a savings account or anything like that. And we have one, but there’s no money in there.
And we have like 401k’s at our work where we can put it. I have never been able to put in because…
I had to cash mine out from Fidelity to pay bills.
Hey, Josh, I brought food to eat? Are you hungry?
A little bit of income, some odd jobs, help from parents, the Vories are hardly the only family in this position. A local non-profit, the Brighton Center, provided emergency help to the Vories and over 6800 households last year. Nearly 71% of those families had income.
I started praying and asking the Lord, Lord, you know, will you give me an idea to write a play? It’s a way to tell people what I’ve been through without having the opportunity to tell somebody one on one.
And when the housing bubble came down it just crashed everything I had. I lost my job, my house.
Before that bad stuff happened to you, why would you believe all the Jesus stuff?
We will have one good, two weeks and we’ll be like okay we know these two weeks it’s going to be great but we won’t even know in advance we’ll be okay. But next two weeks, nothing.
I don’t have nothing right here, right now.
It will be hard to go to the grocery store and say, okay I only have, you know, 20 to 30 dollars to spend and I have to make it so that four of us can eat.
No, no ice-cream.
Yes! Ice-cream! I don’t want anything else.
They’ll ask for stuff all the time. ‘Can we go get an ice-cream’, and we have to be… the parents let’s say, guys you don’t understand, we just don’t have money.
Family health issues further complicate things. Alex has diabetes, Erika fibromyalgia, their oldest kid has severe ADHD and their youngest, Josh, has mild autism. It costs the family a couple hundred dollars monthly in medications alone. At time the Vories borrow ahead of their next pay cheque at a steep interest rate just to make minimum payments.
You see how things are going up and it’s like how am I gonna be able to give them a meal that is going to nurture them because, you know, cereal is not going to cut it.
I’m tired too, pal.
I was gonna pay some bills today and our son needed some basketball shoes and grandma gave us some money to buy some, but we didn’t have the chance to cash the cheque, so we took it out of the account and then we’re not going to put the money until tomorrow, and tomorrow is like the last day to pay the electric bill, so, oh thank God it ain’t raining, that’s what stinks about one car, if it’s pouring rain we are going to get soaked.
I have this tendency to say to her ‘I think we are almost there, I think we are almost there’ and then we just don’t get there.

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

lunes, 12 de diciembre de 2016

Listening test: Untidy desks

Gerry, a Briton living in Switzerland, is talking about untidy desks. Listen and complete the gaps in the sentences below with up to three words. 0 is an example.

0 Example:
Gerry’s desk isn’t beautiful, it looks a mess.

1 When working in Zurich, Gerry always wondered how some colleagues could leave their desks __________________ every evening.

2 In the system called hot desking, workers sits at a desk that happens __________________ .

3 Gerry thinks that you can waste a lot of time sorting and __________________ when you could be doing some work instead.

4 A confirmation bias refers to news and reports that reflect what __________________ .

5 Benjamin Franklin lived a life of __________________, but he tried and failed to be tidy.

6 When Franklin wrote about “let all my things have their places” he was looking, in other words, for a __________________ .

7 The principle Tim Harford describes is called LRU, which means __________________ .

Photo: Gerry's desk on Gerry's news digest

Do you have a desk or work table at home or at work? What does it look like? I’ve put a picture of my desk on the website. I have a beautiful desk with a beautiful view of the sea and the mountains, but what’s on my desk isn’t very beautiful. It looks a mess– and it usually looks that way. When I worked in Zurich my desk there looked more or less the same as my home desk today, as my colleagues could tell you. I always wondered at those colleagues of mine who used to leave their desks every evening completely clear. I never understood how they did it.
In some modern offices you have to work with a system called hot desking where you don’t have your own desk. You just come in and sit at a desk that happens to be free. I can’t imagine how somebody like me would cope with that. My untidiness sometimes makes me feel rather inadequate, but I also think that you can waste a lot of time sorting and organising and tidying when you could actually be getting on with real work.
And I was pleased to read something the other day that sort of justified the messy way that I work. It was an extract from a new book by Tim Harford, the economist and journalist. I liked what I read, but there is something called confirmation bias. We all pay special attention to news and reports that reflect what we already think.
Anyway, one story that Tim Harford tells is that of Benjamin Franklin, Founding Father of the United States, a scientist, an inventor, a geographer, America’s first Postmaster General, their ambassador to France and so on. But all through this life of endless achievement, he tried and failed to be tidy. He felt he would be even more successful if he could bring more order into his affairs. In his journal, Franklin wrote that one of his aims should be: “let all my things have their places”. He was looking, in other words, for a perfect filing system. But would it have helped him?
Tim Harford argues that filing systems often don’t work because it’s impossible to categorise everything so that everything belongs in just one obvious category. So instead of trying to sort emails, for example, you might as well just keep them in date order. Delete as much as possible as it comes in, and then regularly delete stuff that you’ve never needed to look at again. The principle is called LRU – Least Recently Used.

1 completely clear
2 to be free
3 organising and tidying
4 we already think
5 endless achievement
6 perfect filing system
7 Least Recently Used

domingo, 11 de diciembre de 2016

Extensive listening: It's time for women to run for office

With warmth and wit, Halla Tómasdóttir shares how she overcame media bias, changed the tone of the political debate and surprised her entire nation when she ran for president of Iceland — inspiring the next generation of leaders along the way.

"What we see, we can be," she says. "It matters that women run."

Icelandic entrepreneur Halla Tómasdóttir believes that if you’re going to change things, you have to do it from the inside. She infused the world of finance with “feminine values," which helped her survive the financial meltdown in Iceland and nearly made her president.

You can read the full transcript for the talk here.

sábado, 10 de diciembre de 2016


phraseup* is a useful online tool that may be of assitance with writing by finding and filling up the words we can't remember or we don't know the right collocation for.

So if we type the beginning of the saying The early bird... in the phraseup* search box, a number of options will come up:
catches the worm.
gets the worm.

We just have to choose the right one or the sentence ending that best fits for our purposes.

phraseup* can be a useful tool for English students when writing compositions if they want to make sure they are using the right combinations of words in their sentences.

viernes, 9 de diciembre de 2016

Dealing with a parent with dementia

Reporter Louis Theroux drops in at a traumatic time for new residents and their families at the Beatitudes Senior Living Campus, in Arizona.

Self-study activity:
Watch the video and anwer the questions belowl

1. What problem is Janet Cottrell having?
2. How long has she been staying at Beatitudes?
3. Why did the family take the decision to send her to the retirement centre?
4. Does Janet know that she's going to stay at Beatitudes for ever?
5. What do the staff tell residents at Beautitudes all day long?

My journey began here, at Beatitudes, a retirement community with a specialist unit for people with dementia.
I don't know where she is, if she's OK.
A resident on the second floor, called Janet Cottrell, had seen an intruder.
Janet, who was yelling at you?
The woman that was in here. She was climbing in her pyjamas and going... She was in that room.  I don't know where she could have gone so fast.
Well, if you see her again, let her know, or you can push your button.
Dawn Grant is in charge of the unit.
Do you think that was a hallucination?
I do believe so.
Why could it not be a real person?
I don't have any other small females, skinny, running round in their jammies right now.  Another resident. And they can't move that fast, either.  So it's probably a hallucination. Well, it is a hallucination.
Janet was a new arrival at Beatitudes.  Her daughter, Nancy, came to see how she was settling in.
Do you like the chair, Mom?
Do you like the chair?
Do I like the chair? Yes, very much so.
So your mum just moved in yesterday, is that right?
And how did that go?
It was pretty emotional. In the morning it was very, very difficult  when we told her she was coming.
How did you get to the point of feeling she needed to be here?
She walked away from the house one day, and she didn't know where she was, and nobody knew where she was,  so that was the end of my being able to take care of her,  because I couldn't keep her safe anymore.
Course, I keep thinking, you know, she likes to go out a lot, but we aren't allowed to go out. We don't have a car.
Once your car was taken away, was that quite a big thing for you?
It was terrible, and it still is. And Nancy says I cannot get my car back.
My mom, I hope, knows that I love her very much, and that the reason that I'm doing these things is to keep her safe, and I hope she remembers that.
See, if you just leave me alone, I do all good things by myself.
At any point did you kind of say to Janet, ‘This is basically where you'll be living now’?
Not yesterday before we left, no.  It wasn’t until… And we really actually haven't said that, I've not said that to her at all.
Do not talk about her as though she's not in the room.
Include her in, or don't have a conversation in front of her.
She's not saying, ‘When can I go home?’, or anything?
She's not, but she is under the impression she's here temporarily.
She is, but so is Sonja, her roommate.
Right, and half of the people here.
Yeah, they all think they're going.
They do?
It's just such a transition to take them from what they're so used to, to putting them in a new setting.
It's OK to tell...I guess they'd be white lies, is that the right term?
Yes. We do it all the time.
Yeah, we tell white lies all day long here, all day.

1 She says she's seen an intruder
2 Just one day 
3 They can't look after her. One day she walked away from the house and she didn't know where she was.
4 No, they haven't told her yet. 
5 (White) lies

jueves, 8 de diciembre de 2016

Moscow on the move

Choosing the right speed for exploring Moscow is vital, as this Euronews report explains.

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

1 What is the other name tube stations are known for in Moscow?
2 Why do people pat the dog's nose at Revolution Square?
3 Which two categories does Aleksis divide travellers into?
4 How far is the bike ride to see the avant-garde architecture?
5 How far off the ground are the passengers sitting on a double-decker bus?
6 How old is Moscow's tram?
7 Why is the river a key element in the city?

Choosing the right speed for exploring Moscow is vital because according to architects, the city is best seen on the move.
The underground is the fastest way to get around but take your time because tube stations here are often like palaces, or art museums. Sometimes people even call them time machines.
Let's take the Mayakovskaya station, for example. Here we see portrayals of the days of Soviet people who will soar into the sky in the future, because life will be wonderful. At Revolution Square station you see the 20 first years of Soviet history. First, you see the heroes of the revolution and then the heroes of the Civil War.
At Revolution Square people also pat this dog's nose for luck.
At first, people thought that patting the dog's nose before an exam would help you pass. This belief just expanded. Today people think it will bring you money and other things.
Aleksis thinks that a scooter is lucky. The founder of the "Arts and Culture Project" enjoys exploring the new pedestrian zones which have recently been constructed in the city centre. Aleksis has his own philosophy for exploring Moscow, and he divides travellers into two groups: the "birds", who just fly around; and the "mandarins", who do not get out of the bus.
They see the iconic buildings but not the details. I try to reach another level when I talk to tourists about the city and its history, paying special attention to those details.
To see the hidden treasures of Moscow's avant-garde architecture, Aleksis and his group have chosen another means of transport, the bicycle. But you have to be in good shape for this excursion, because it's a 30 kilometre bike ride.
Now, everyone can use a bicycle to get around Moscow. The long-awaited public rent-a-bike service has opened. And for now there are several dozen stations, but more will be built soon.
Another novelty is the double-decker sightseeing buses that have finally appeared on Moscow streets. They are not only popular with tourists but also with native Muscovites who enjoy seeing their city from a new perspective.
Three and a half metres might not seem far off the ground but you can see the facades of the so-called Old Moscow. They are unique and even magical.
And then there are the trams which give a flavour of Old Moscow, a city full of charm which inspired writers to describe the trams in their books. Moscow ethnographer Natalia Leonova created a tour on a real tram route that has existed since she was a child.
The tram is the oldest form of transport in Moscow. Just imagine, it's 114 years old. That is why it allows us to go back in time and travel around the distant parts of Moscow, uniting districts which used to be the far-flung outskirts.
But some people say that the best way to see Moscow is from a boat. The Moscow River, like all rivers in capital cities, has played a very large role in the past. And that's why the major historical buildings were constructed on its banks.
The river is a uniting element. It unites not only the city itself, but also the perception of a man who is looking at the city from the river. At the same time, the perception from the very low angles is always better and more interesting. This is why I put the boats in the first place on the list of transport for tourists.
Architects also suggest combining all the different angles to create a unique picture of Moscow that you will remember like a good film.

1 time machines
2 for luck 
3 the "birds", who just fly around; and the "mandarins", who do not get out of the bus.
4 thirty kilometres 
5 three and half metres
6 one hundred and fourteen years
7 it is a uniting element

miércoles, 7 de diciembre de 2016

Talking point: Computers and gadgets

This week's talking point is computers and gadgets. 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.

Have a look at the photo below and answer the questions.
When do you think this photo was taken?
What do you think the equipment in the photo is and what is it for?
How have computers changed since your first started using them?
What do you think has been the most significant change? Why?
Which of the following do you have, a desktop, a laptop, a tablet, a smartphone?
Which make(s) do you have? Why did you choose them? Are you happy with them?
Have you ever used a computer to do the following?
prepare presentations
design things
edit videos
manage accounts
hold video meetings
code new programmes
What else do you use your computer for at work, when studying, in your free time?
What typical problems do you have with your computer?
Who do you usually turn to for help?
Do you know anyone who always buys the latest gadgets, technology or software? Give examples of what they have bought or use.
Do you know anyone who is a bit of a technophobe?
Have you bought any new gadgets, apps or software recently? What? Why did you get them?