jueves, 30 de junio de 2016

And the secret to happiness is...

Happiness isn’t just a pleasant thing you feel. Science proves it’s much deeper than that. Feeling happy also makes you live a long and healthier life – but how? Well, a large part of our happiness is tied to our social connections. In fact, if you don’t have at least one close friend, you’re less likely to be happy. Each of us have these things called telomeres. Those are tiny caps on our DNA chromosomes that measure our cellular age. It turns out they also measure how many friends we have. No friends equals shorter telomeres. So by simply being social, you can actually slow down your biological age; living longer and happier. Another way to boost your level of happiness is by meditating. Research shows as little as twenty minutes a day can lower your stress hormones. Have you ever heard of a Buddhist monk named Berry Kerzin? Barry meditates with such focused attention he says he can instantly generate his own bliss. People believed him but doctors wanted some scientific proof. So they did an MRI scan of his brain and they showed that, while he meditated, he activated the area of the brain where happiness lives – the left prefrontal cortex. Time of a pop quiz: Is this glass half empty or half full? If you said half full, you’re on your way to feeling happier and healthier. A Harvard study found that optimists are 50 percent less likely to have heart disease, a heart attack or a stroke. Keeping an overall optimistic attitude actually offers protection against cardiovascular disease. Science doesn’t fare as well for pessimists. They not only have lower levels of happiness compared to optimists but research shows that people with negative thoughts are three times as likely to develop health problems as they age. So what do you do if you’re not a naturally happy person? Well experts say the key is to act as though you’re an optimist, even if you’re not.

miércoles, 29 de junio de 2016

Talking point: Ageing and health

This week's talking point is ageing and health. 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.

‘Ageing is one of the most profitable fears of our time’. How do you interpret this quote?

Which of these anti-aging treatments would you be willing to try? Money is no object:
  • Snail slime cream –potents anti-ageing treatment that helps to reduce acne and skin rashes as well as smoothing wrinkles
  • Emu oil –Used for centuries for its healing powers, emu oil leaves you with a glowing complexion
  • Bee sting venom –The venom from the sting is tranferred into a gel and then rubbed on the face as part of an intensive facial.
In the future, how likely do you think it is that medical science will keep people alive for much longer than today?
Would you like to live for 1,000 years? Why (not)?
Why do people follow special diets?
Have you (or has someone you know) ever had to follow a diet? How was it?
What are your opinions of these statements? Talk about your own experiences.
-How old someone feels depends entirely on their health.
-TV ads represent older people in realistic ways.
-It’s easier for people under 40 to get a job than those over 40.
-The longer you live, the more eccentric you become.
-Companies which sell anti-ageing products don’t want people to feel good about themselves.

INTERACTION -Choosing a diet
You and your partner have decided to start a diet. Read about the diets below and choose the most convenient diet for you to go on. If none of the diets is of your liking, suggest another one.

The 5:2 diet
The 5:2 diet is based on a principle known as intermittent fasting (IF) – where you eat normally for five days a week and fast on the other two days. On top of losing weight, fans claim the 5:2 diet can improve lifespan and brain function, and protect against conditions such as dementia and Alzheimer's.

The Dukan diet
The diet has four phases. During phase one you can eat chicken, turkey, eggs, fish and fat-free dairy. This is for an average of five days to achieve quick weight loss. No vegetables are allowed and seriously restricts fat. The next three phases of the plan see the gradual introduction of some fruit, veg and carbs, and eventually all foods. There's no time limit to the final phase, which involves having a protein-only day once a week and taking regular exercise.

The alkaline diet
The alkaline diet, whose celebrity fans reportedly include Gywneth Paltrow, Jennifer Aniston and Victoria Beckham,  recommends cutting back on meat, wheat and other grains, refined sugar, dairy products, caffeine, alcohol and processed foods in favour of "alkaline foods": Plenty of fruit and vegetables. Some followers adopt the "80/20 rule", consisting of a diet based on 80% fruit and veg and 20% grains and protein.

The Cambridge diet
It iis based around buying and eating a range of meal-replacement products. There are six flexible diet plans ranging from 415 calories to 1,500 calories or more a day. The bars, soups, porridges and shakes can be used as your sole source of nutrition or together with low-calorie regular meals. While on the programme, you receive advice and support on healthy eating and exercise from a Cambridge adviser.

martes, 28 de junio de 2016

What Oysters Reveal about Sea Change

Head out with ​M​ark Bittman as he braves the elements and cruises along the waters off of Marshall, CA. There, UC Davis researchers are helping local food producers like Hog Island Oyster Farm monitor the effects of ocean acidification on the marine ecosystem.

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

1 Mark Bittman  lives in San Franscisco.
2 Oysters were discovered 2,000 years ago.
3 Ocean water is being deprived of carbon dioxide.
4 The high acidity in the water is happening all year round.
5 Terry cultivates oysters all year round.
6 Tessa Hill is conducting nationwide research into the acidification of ocean waters.

Mark Bittman: I've been to the San Francisco Ferry Building many times since its reopening as a food destination. But now that I'm living out here, Saturday morning visits have become routine. The views never get old, and the markets and the raw bars are big draws.
For the most part, you can't get fresher seafoods than an oyster. Shucked raw on ice, grilled or fried, oysters have been cultivated for at least 2,000 years and consumed since prehistoric times. But there are troubled waters ahead for oysters, in large part because of ocean acidification. This is basically a change in the chemistry of ocean water brought about by absorption of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. And it's affecting the marine ecosystem, including the shellfish so many of us love.
Tessa Hill of UC Davis is helping monitor the impact of ocean acidification on marine invertebrates all along the Pacific Coast, including oysters harvested at the Hog Island Oyster Farm. So I met Tessa at the farm along with Terry Sawyer, who's one of the co-owners of Hog Island Oyster Company.
Let's see. I'm going to guess that water is sequestering carbon.
Tessa Hill: Right, so 30% of what we put into the atmosphere ends up in the ocean. When you add that carbon dioxide into the sea water, it changes the acidity of the water. And animals have a harder time finding their building block to make a shell.
Mark Bittman: You're changing their environment, and you're robbing them of the level of pH that they want.
Terry Sawyer: A lot of these stresses that we're talking about are also bringing about disease or bacterial effects. So you got hatcheries over there, very high densities. These animals get stressed, your hatchery would just be completely wiped up.
Tessa Hill: What you end up with are animals that are weakened. They take longer to get to reproductive age.
Mark Bittman: For now, the research shows that high acidity in the water is seasonal and related to upwellings. So hatcheries, like Terry's, are responding by not spawning new oysters when conditions are bad. But by 2030, upwellings are expected to last longer, and they may even be year-round in many places by 2050. Tessa's collaboration with Terry has become a model experiment.
Tessa Hill: What we started by doing is just deploying an extra set of sensors out on his sea water intake lines. The idea was, "Look, we're learning some interesting things from this data. Terry can plan around some business decisions. We're learning about the Tomales Bay Watershed, and the oceanography in this bay." And people started to take notice. Our regional system got money from the National Ocean Observing System to pick this as a site to monitor for climate change and ocean acidification.
Mark Bittman: What's next on the national project?
Tessa Hill: The West Coast program will extend from California all the way up to Alaska. The northeast coast and the Gulf Coast, in particular, are very susceptible to these impacts of ocean acidification, and so I would expect that monitoring systems like these will start to crop up in those locations as well.
Terry Sawyer: So then it's policy. It all has to be taken to the state and national levels to put money towards alternative forms of energy, transportation, whatever.
Tessa Hill: Absolutely.
Mark Bittman: As we headed back to shore, I could see tourists at the farm. Shucking oysters by the bucket and settling in to eat out al fresco. We joined in. As we gobbled out a few dozen just shucked oysters, I thought about the impact of this research. One thing it will do is help keep such delights on the table, but this type of collaboration will also lead to policies that will promote a healthier marine system and planet. That's something we can all hope for.
University of California Global Food Initiative Berkeley Food Institute
Wondering what I'm doing out in California? Find out. Click the subscribe button, and watch more episodes.

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

lunes, 27 de junio de 2016

Listening test: Message in a bottle

Listen to envinronmentalist and writer Bea Johnson talking on the ways we can reduce our food waste and complete the blanks in the sentences below with up to three words. 0 is an example.

0 Example:
Bea Johnson is the author of the book Zero Waste Home.

1 The bottle with waste Bea carries with her wherever she goes is the size of _________________ .

2 The five rules Bea and her family follow are refuse, _______________  and rot.

3 The first rule of the zero waste lifestyle is _________________  to the things we don’t need.

4 Bea works a _________________  and has a busy life.

5 Making other people have access to the things you don’t need boosts the _________________  and allows you to share your resources with other people.

6 In Bea’s opinion, those things that we don’t have won’t need to be _______________  maintained and eventually discarded and repurchased.

7 People who live in apartments can leave their compost system on their balcony or in a spot in _________________  .

8 Waste-free products can be found in both health food stores and at _________________  .

Bea Johnson is a zero waste guru and an author of a best-selling book called Zero Waste Home. She proudly carries a bottle around with her which contains all the waste she and her three member family have created over the last year. It’s about the size of a marmalade jar. And Bea was one of the stars at the Zero Waste conference, hosted by the non-profit organisation Bezobalu, which took place in Prague this week. I met her prior to the conference I asked her if she could outline the main ideas behind the philosophy:
Zero waste aims at eliminating a maximum waste from your life. So we have been able to eliminate ours to just one jar per year. All we do is simply follow five rules in order: we refuse, reduce, reuse recycle and rot, so at the end we are left with very little waste.
So first rule, for example, is to refuse what we do not need, because in the consumerist society we are the targets of many consumer goods that are free, but every time we accept them, we are creating a demand to make more. So every time we take a free plastic bag, for example, it is a way for us to say that we love plastic bags, and we want more oil to be drilled from the ground to create a replacement and the replacement will be created. So we’ve simply learned to say no to these things and that’s the first rule of the zero waste lifestyle.
Isn't it too complicated, because that’s what many people say, that it’s time-consuming to live this way of life?
People that say that it’s too complicated do not know zero waste lifestyle and I am here to share all the misconceptions that are associated with this lifestyle. I work a full time job and I have a very busy schedule. If I am able to do it, I believe other people are able to do that too.
What takes the most time is actually to find a system that works for you. It also takes time to declutter your life from the things that you do not really need. That’s the second rule of the zero waste life style: to reduce the things that you do need.
So it takes a while to go through the things that you have so that you can let them go and make other people have access to them, so then you are boosting the second-hand market and sharing those precious resources with other people.
But once the system is in place you'll discover that it really saves a lot of time, because it is a life-style that is based on simplicity. Simplicity, by definition, is not there to complicate your life but to simplify it, to make room in your life for what matters the most. What you don’t have won’t need to be cleaned, stored, eventually repaired, maintained and then eventually discarded and repurchased.
Some people also say that it’s complicated, for instance, if you live in a city like Prague, there are no package-free shops. If you live in an apartment you can’t compost your biodegradable waste.
There is a compost system out there for every situation. For people that live in an apartment have a choice of either a worm bin, some people put it on their balcony or they find a spot in their cupboard. It actually doesn't smell. People are afraid of it because they think it is going to smell, it does not smell, so don’t worry about it.
Otherwise, there is actually a system that can be plugged. It’s a kind of composter that you plug in, it does require electricity but it is much faster than a worm composter and you can even add meat and fish bones to it.
And then as far as the bulk food stores, well there is one here in Prague, but also people need to understand that waste-free products is not just what we find in health food stores. It’s also at the farmers markets. It’s anything that you find without packaging, so it’s the bakery shop, your local butcher shop or your local fish shop. You just bring your own containers to these things to stop packaging at the source.

1 a marmalade jar
2 reduce, reuse, recycle
3 saying no
4 full time job
5 second-hand market
6 cleaned, stored, repaired
7 their/a cupboard
8 (the) farmer markets

domingo, 26 de junio de 2016

Extensive listening: The passing of time, caught in a single photo

In this TED talk, photographer Stephen Wilkes crafts stunning compositions of landscapes as they transition from day to night, exploring the space-time continuum within a two-dimensional still photograph.

Journey with him to iconic locations like the Tournelle Bridge in Paris, El Capitan in Yosemite National Park and a life-giving watering hole in heart of the Serengeti in this tour of his art and process.

You can read a full transcript here.

sábado, 25 de junio de 2016

Listen Current

Listen Current is a US education website that selects the best clips of American public radio, mainly from the National Public Radio (NPR) for use by teachers, who can use them to both build their students' listening skills and help English-language learners and others who need a boost with language literacy.

Listen Current brings authentic voices and engaging non-fiction stories to the classroom on a range of topics ranging from immigration to science to literature.

You can sign up for free and gain access to the almost one thousand audio clips in the platform, together with their listening comprehension questions and discussion themes.

Some extra features on the platfrom include transcripts, lesson plans, key vocabulary in the stories and extra materials, although a subscription is needed to gain access to them.

All in all, Listen Current is an excellent platfrom for students in the intermediate-to-advanced level to develop their listening skills.

viernes, 24 de junio de 2016

Why are UK train tickets more expensive than in Europe?

Train fares have gone up in the UK and new research shows that it has some of the highest season ticket prices in Europe. Some passengers spend up to 13% of their monthly salary just to get to work. Graham Satchell looks at how UK rail fares compare with the prices elsewhere in Europe.

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

1 How long will the train journey take?
2 What is the average cost of a season ticket in the UK?
3 How much does an annual season ticket for that journey cost?
4 And a season ticket in Germany?  
5 What's the difference in money between what the German government and the British government put it on the railway systems? 
6 What three adjectives are used to described the British rail industry?

It’s 7.30 on a wild wet morning in Lancashire. This is the commute from Tooley to Manchester. We’re travelling about 25 miles. It will take forty, forty-five minutes. We are trying to answer this question, why are rail tickets in Britain the highest in Europe? We’re going to get some help from my colleague in Germany, Damian.
Thanks, Graham. I’m in Ausberg on my way to central Berlin. It’s just coming up to 8 o’clock here, so people are rushing on their way to work. I’m also travelling 25 miles.
The train to Manchester fills up quickly. It’s standing room only. You can understand why some passengers are less than happy.
It’s like sardines in a tin. They charge us full prices and then we’re supposed to stand up every day.
It surely can’t be right for us to be crammed in like cattle.
The average cost of a season ticket is now just under two and a half thousand pounds, but some can be much more. 11, 12, 13 thousand pounds. And for this journey, an annual season ticket has just gone up to £1,884.
Train tickets here in Germany are much cheaper than in the UK, typically around a third of the price. A season ticket, for example, costs 936€, that’s about £700, but does that mean that travellers here on German rail are happy with the service?
It’s cheap, and normally it’s fast.
Often too late, it’s dirty, not so good.
So it seems that German railway is not quite as punctual as you might think. Now the main reason the German railway network is so much cheaper than in Britain is because of the amount of money the German state puts into it.
Last year in Britain the government put in about 5 billion pounds to the railway network. It’s about half what the German government puts in. But this is not all about the amount of taxpayers’ money. Experts say the British rail industry is fragmented, inefficient, overregulated.
We’re on time. And the German system is far from perfect, but most experts agree that because the way the ownership is set up and because that’s much clearer, the end result is a service to passengers which is simpler, more efficient and generally just a bit better than the British service.
This is Manchester Piccadilly, our journey’s end and we’re on time too, but these commuters have paid more than double for their annual season tickets than commuters in Germany who travel exactly the same distance.

1 forty-five minutes
2 (just under) two and a half thousand pounds
3 £1,884
4 936€
5 Twice as much money in Germany / Half the money in Britain 
6 fragmented, inefficient, overregulated

jueves, 23 de junio de 2016

Is this safest place in the world?

A special vault has been built in the Arctic to store thousands of seeds, as scientists fear the impact of climate change and prolonged conflicts could have devastating consequences on food crops around the world.

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

1 How often do scientists get the deliveries of seeds?
2 How many lines of securities are there?
3 What has the store been designed for?
4 How long can the crops survive?
5 What's the temperature in the last barrier to the store?
6 How many plastic packets with seeds are there?
7 Apart from drought, what other threat is mentioned?

In the punishing cold of an Arctic mountain, in the remote Svalbard islands, a doorway leads to what is meant to be the safest place on earth. Scientists are on their way, approaching through this isolated and hostile terrain. And I am with them. As they are carry a precious cargo of seeds, to be kept out of the way
of whatever climate change might bring.
How often do you get these deliveries?
We have deliveries three times a year.
The box of seeds is about to go through the first line of security. There are half a dozen in all. I have just come down the access tunnel that is cut into the mountain. This place is 130 metres above sea level, because if the worst happens and global warming melts all of the polar icecaps, this project will still be safe. The deeper inside the mountain we go, the more the temperature drops. The store is designed to survive any natural disaster.
The seeds can last here for a very long time. It depends on what the crop is, but some of the crops may survive for more than 4,000 years.
You're really imagining this place functioning, keeping the seeds safe for 4,000 years?
It's difficult to say. I'm sure that the pharoahs thought their pyramids would last long, and they did.
The last barrier to the store itself. Inside here, it is minus 18 Celsius. The rows of shelves are filling up with seeds from all over the world. There are samples of nearly half of the most important food crops, brought here just in case. Samples of seeds used to be held in glass test tubes. Now they are kept in little plastic packets and there are more than 800,000 of these in this vault. Everywhere you look there are examples of why this place matters.
There are seeds from Syria, plants that are good at coping with drought, and some have just been returned to the Middle East. When harvests are ruined by extremes of weather, having backup copies of key seeds is essential.
Another threat is flooding, which can damage national stores of seeds. This happened in the Philippines. And with industrial scale farming, most food comes from just a dozen varieties of plants, so keeping different genetic types helps to guarantee supplies.
It is for the survival of mankind in the future. We need diversity. All the different kinds of plant material, to get food for the future. We have a lot of problems now, climate change, environmental problems, and to tackle that, we need genetic variation.
So, in these remote mountains, this place is meant to be a safeguard against apocalypse, an insurance policy for a warming world.
David Shukman, BBC News, in Svalbard in the Arctic.

1 Three times a year 
2 Half a dozen (6)
3 To survive any natural disaster
4 (For more than) 4,000 years 
5 -18ºC
6 800,00
7 Flooding

miércoles, 22 de junio de 2016

Talking point: Sleep

This week's talking point is sleep. 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.

Why do all animals, including human, need sleep?
What percentage of life does the average person spend asleep?
How long is it possible to go without sleep?
How many hours a night should adults sleep?
What about newborn babies?
What advice would you give to someone who has asleep problems?
Do you ever wake up at night?
What do you do if you find it difficult to go back to sleep?
Do you have specific sleeping habits?
How different are they from those of the people you live with?
In what situations does your sleep pattern change?
Do you know someone with particularly unusual sleeping habits?

INTERACTION –Segmented sleep patterns
(sleeping in two distinct four-hour chunks)
Imagine that most people have segmented sleep patterns.
What impact would it have on the way our lives are organised?
How would society need to adapt? Consider these factors:

travel and transport 
entertainment and socialising
leisure activities
meal times

Plan a typical day for a student who wants to start a segmented sleep pattern.
How can they make the best use of their time?
When should they…?
eat - work - relax - learn - exercise - spend time with friends

To illustrate the topic, watch the video How do you solve hotel insomnia?

How do you solve hotel insomnia?
Welcome to the waking nightmare that is hotel insomnia. I get it, and according to credible research one in four or five people at some point suffer from regular insomnia. That figure rises massively for frequent travelers who cross more than one time zone usually for business.
When it comes to difficulty in sleep when you are travelling, then the main problem is that your body clock is out of sync, so you are on home time but when you travel you are in a different time zone but you have not retuned your own body clock just like you haven’t necessarily tuned your own clock when you are on the plane.
Of course jet lag is a major factor in hotel-related insomnia, but so, experts say, it’s the first night effect. It’s all becoming so overwhelming for the modern traveller that hotels like this one are actually offering sound sleep packages, a bespoke science-based service that looks at the causes of insomnia, then examines the body’s ability to recover. Oh, and prices start for a minimum of $1,000 a night for two.
First of all you get a scan, to compare the left and right-hand sides of your brain.
You find a lot of people when they get into bed they will start focusing on “Will I get a good night’s sleep?, What if I don’t get a good night’s sleep?’ And automatically it starts waking us up.
At that price I’d be guaranteed to have a sleepless night, but luckily, residents’ sleep coach Tej gave me a previous sample.
By measuring the body over a of 24 hour period, by measuring what we call it the automatic nervous system over the twenty-four hour period, we look at that particular individuals’ ability to not only sleep but to recover. So If we find there is any imbalance, we can look at specifically what time that’s happening, where that’s happening and what’s causing that.
Just relax your head.
By giving you this insight, that your brain activity can be calmed down by your mind, the aim of the consultation is then to give you a routine, a control over your capacity to sleep. Next you get a whole armoury of tools and techniques to conquer your insomnia like an alpha sleep pot with comforting audio frequencies and a rather comforting head massage.
We carry into our sleep all the stress of the day and the muscles of the neck are probably the worst affected and leads to a lot of discomfort in sleep.
Beats counting sheep, I’ve got to say.
It’s not cheap, is it, so if I, for instance, didn’t get a good night’s sleep after it, could I have my money back?
Sure. No.
As Tej did say he would be willing to refund a disappointed customer as long as the hotel would, but the simple fact is that up until now every one of its customers has had a good night’s sleep.
There is, of course, a whole mini-industry dedicated to tackling insomnia: from herbal cures to high tech gadgets, from meditation to yoga. But then again, what’s wrong with the good old-fashioned sleeping tablet?
In the UK the medical establishment tends to be a little bit suspicious of using sleeping tablets. In other countries, there is much more freer use. I think a very good rule is that you try other things first but actually if they do not work using short acting sleeping tablets in the lowest dose that works for you can make all the difference.
But it’s not quick fixes, but countering the pressures and strains of frequent rapid travel and a bombardment of artificial stimuli that increasingly interest sleep therapists about insomnia dealing with modern life, basically.
You´re fond of hawthorn just look at this pink one, isn’t it lovely?
If you are a therapist like Ella prescribe books.
Reading during the day particularly at lunchtime or if you can have a break during the day just for 10 minutes 20 minutes, well actually slow your brain down at a crucial point during the day, so that then when you come to go to bed you can get back into that mindset and relax yourself again.
Having dealt with 1,500 clients Ella and her colleagues are convinced: The simple act of reading encourages sleep.
If you can have the luxury of someone reading to you while you are going to sleep, that is incredibly helpful and restful because it takes you back to a time probably when you were nurtured by your parents or someone who read to you before sleep and you really associate the human voice reading to you in a gentle maybe deliberately soporific way to help you go to sleep.
Ultimately, if none of these solutions work for you or you can’t afford them, and yet you still miss the familiarity and warmth of your own bed, well, why not just pop it into a bag and bring it with you!
And just for that extra help from home touch, a cuddly friend.

martes, 21 de junio de 2016

Author of Spinster talks about single women

Kate Bolick joins Today to talk about her book, Spinster, and says we should rethink the single woman experience. Unmarried women share their thoughts on what the term “spinster” means to them.

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

1 The first woman interviewed says a spinster is usually in her 50's.
2 The third woman interviewed says a spinster wears black.
3 Kate Bolick does not have a positive idea of spinsters.
4 In Kate Bolick's opinion, a lot of spinsters have been successful.
5 There are more single women in US than ever before now.
6 Many unmarried woman are focused on their professional life, and they do not prioritise marrige.
7 Kate Bolick had dreamed of marrying when she was younger.

We are back now. It’s 8:38. With an unprecedented shift in 2014 for the first time singles outnumber married people in the US. Kate Bolick wrote a book about it for The Atlantic and it’s a piece that quickly went viral. She’s now following that up with a book called Spinster, making a life of one’s own. We’re going to talk to Kate in just a moment, but first we asked a few women what the term spinster means to them.
When I hear the term spinster I think of the little lady who’s alone living in that house at the end of the street with 50 cats and she’s by herself, lonely and sad, it’s a bit scary.
I think of a woman who is independent and she doesn’t need a man to survive.
When I was growing up the image of spinster that I had was a school teacher from Little House on the Prairie and a black Victorian dress, who was not always happy and sometimes bitter with her lot in life.
Kate Bolick, good morning to you.
Starting a conversation again. Spinster is not a word, as we just saw, that most people associate with positive things. Are you trying to kind of reclaim it in this book?
I am. I think that spinster is an excellent way to broadcast our conflicted attitude around single women, and a way to think about how we can rethink the single woman experience.
And that’s what this book, your article, of course in The Atlantic, really caused disturb, takes it to the next step I guess it’s sort of in praise of a single life that you choose.
Exactly, I wanted to show that the state of being that many women avoid, unmarried and childless, has been a state of being which many women have thrived, past and present, and amazing things can happen when people are alone.
But there’s so much cultural pressure to pursue that certain course. You write at one point in the book, “whom to marry and when will it happen, these two questions define every woman’s existence and govern her until they are answered, even if the answers are nobody and never”. Is society ready for women who decide to, you know, I think I just kind of, maybe I’ll just have relationships, maybe I just won’t get married.
I think society is catching up that, you know. It’s hard to bring attitudes up to date with demographic shifts, it always takes a while, where we still have attitudes that our parents and grandparents dealt with and they were dealing with a different reality on the ground. But now we have more unmarried women than ever before, and it’s really changing the landscape and changing the conversation.
There is a distinction to be made. So is this a question of women who are saying I don’t want to be in any relationship or I just don’t want to be married, that marriage is obsolete in my view.
It’s a lot of things, actually. In all of my reporting I only talked to a handful of people who say I never want to get married, that’s not for me. Mostly the story is about women who are really excited about their careers or their educational pursuits and just keep pushing marriage off, that still feel like something is wrong with them or feel that they are alone in that decision.
And generationally it also must make a real difference.
Yes, absolutely. I see that women of my generation, they are the ones who, we’re a transitional generation, so we tend to grow up thinking that we’ll get married some day because that’s what people do, and then we hit our mid 30’s and go through this internal paradigm shift for like, wait a minute, I’m not married and I love my life, so who knows what’s gonna happen?
There’s a lot to be said for it. I have to say you have a part in the book where you’re talking about walking down the street in the middle of the night, you’re eating a big mac, I remember those days, those are good days. Absolutely. The book is called Spinster, by the way we asked folks to weigh in the Orange Room, our viewers, that asked them the question whether or not being married was easier than being single and 59% said, no, actually that being single was harder, yes it was wait... Is it easier for a woman to be married than single? No, 59%. I think I had that all tops and curvy. But anyway, it’s a good discussion to have, one that will continue online. Kate, thank you very much.
Thanks so much.

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

lunes, 20 de junio de 2016

Listening test: Social entrepreneurs

Listen to a radio report on social entrepreneurs and match extracts 1-6 with their corresponding heading. There are two headings you do not need to use.

A - In the public eye
B - Main priority
C - Money for the projects
D - Part of the education system
E - Receiving lots of awards
F - Some disadvantages too
G - Some examples
H - Who are social entrepreneurs

Social entrepreneurs – people who create startup companies that would help the environment, healthcare or agriculture – are on the rise. These entrepreneurs use innovation to tackle important economic and social problems. They can be for-profit or non-profit entities.

Funding for social entrepreneurs is increasing. This is coming from foundations, institutional investors and individuals. Kiplinger is a personal finance publication in Washington, D.C. It reported that the amount of assets in socially responsible investing – focused on companies doing good in the world – almost doubled,
from $3.74 trillion in 2012 to $6.57 trillion in 2014. Globally, interest in socially responsible investing is growing even faster. The 2014 Global Sustainable Investment Review said that between 2012 and 2014, global assets rose to $21.4 trillion from $13.3 trillion – an increase of 61 percent.

The Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship, in Geneva, Switzerland, is an example of a foundation that advances social entrepreneurs around the world. Each year, working with the World Economic Forum, the foundation searches the globe “for outstanding social innovators, with business models that are proven to drive social and environmental change,” said their website. Getting rich is not the primary aim of social entrepreneurs. Instead, their focus is on fulfilling their mission to improve society. “While profits are ideally generated, the main aim is not to maximize financial returns for shareholders, but to grow the social venture and reach more people in need,” said the Schwab Foundation website. Usually, social entrepreneurs reinvest their profits in the enterprise to expand it.

Kristin Groos Richmond is co-founder of Revolution Foods and one of the social entrepreneurs selected by the Schwab Foundation. Her company, in Oakland, California, is dedicated to providing fresh food, prepared daily, for families and schools, and is active in 11 states across the U.S. and Washington, DC. Richmond said social entrepreneurs are driven by their values. She gave the following advice to aspiring social entrepreneurs: “Align yourself with a team, a board and investors who believe in your mission.” Many social entrepreneurs create novel solutions to solve world problems. Bart Weetjens, a Belgian social entrepreneur, is an example. He kept rats as childhood pets, then realized they could be put to work detecting land mines. He founded the non-profit organization APOPO in 1997. APOPO has used specially trained rats on leashes to clear more than 13,200 unexploded bombs from minefields in Tanzania, Mozambique, Angola and Cambodia, according to the National Geographic. APOPO uses African giant-pouched rats, which are huge, cat-sized rats native to central Africa. They have “an extraordinary sense of smell,” said the National Geographic. The rats are lightweight enough to walk across the mines without setting them off. And their sensitive noses can sniff out explosives buried in the ground, even decades after a war has ended.

In addition, many business schools – both in the U.S. and other countries – now offer courses in social entrepreneurship. The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania is an example. It is ranked by US News & World Report as one of the nation’s top business schools. Wharton Online offers a five-week class on social entrepreneurship, four to six hours a week, through Coursera, a global e-learning platform. Graduates of the course receive a certificate and “learn how to develop, test and deploy high-impact solutions to society’s toughest problems,” according to Coursera’s website.

Social entrepreneurs have also won increased media attention. For example, Forbes showcased “30 Under 30” – the top social entrepreneurs younger than 30 from around the world. One honoree, Sejal Hathi, age 25, was a molecular biology student at Yale, who sought to help girls globally. She founded Girltank, a for-profit start-up, to identify and develop girls with potential to be high-impact leaders. The website refers to it as “the she lab for social entrepreneurship.” “Girltank creates a virtual tank for young women interested in social entrepreneurship to utilize the collective genius of the group to brainstorm ideas and solutions, crowdsourcing funding for their ventures, and receive peer-to-peer mentoring,” according to the website.

1H 2C 3B 4G 5D 6A

domingo, 19 de junio de 2016

Extensive listening: The truth about healthy eating

BBC reporter Fiona Phillips teams up with leading scientists to look at how to eat and drink to good health, and she uncovers some surprising truths.

She reveals which cheap, everyday foods can give us all the benefits of so-called superfoods at a fraction of the price and why frying can be the healthiest way to cook.

Fiona becomes a human guinea pig to test some of the top-selling health drinks and supplements. She investigates whether antioxidant smoothies really give us the healthy boost we think and discovers why multivitamin pills might do us more harm than good.

In a unique experiment with scientists from Aston and Liverpool John Moores universities, she sets out to find the healthiest breakfast, and discovers why we'd be better off with bacon and eggs rather than cereal and fruit.

To find out whether we can really detoxify our bodies, she puts some popular detox foods and drinks to the test and reveals why we're better off with fresh foods and the odd glass of wine.

sábado, 18 de junio de 2016

Reading text: The best adventure holidays in Europe

Read the descriptions below of the best adventure holidays in Europe according to The Guardian article 10 of the best adventure holidays in Europe and choose the heading A-I below which best corresponds to each of the texts. There are two headings you do not need to use. 0 is an example.

A - Don’t go for it if you are afraid of heights
B - For participants with a different level of expertise
C - If you don’t mind very cold temperatures
D - Not if you are at beginner’s level Example
E - Slow travel
F - Spotting something unusual
G - Vestiges of past eras
H - Walking on very unusual terrain
I - You might get sick eventually

Text 0
The Persians named Cappadocia “the land of beautiful horses” after its wild mountain ponies – and the striking landscape of deep canyons and strangely shaped rocks is perfect for an unusual horseback adventure. Ride Worldwide has an eight-day group trip that crosses plateaux, canters along valley floors and explores remote villages. With up to six hours in the saddle each day, it’s best for intermediate riders and above. Riders camp each night in a tipi (putting them up themselves), and dine in traditional style on kilims and rugs in the central tent. There’s also an option of guesthouse or boutique hotel accommodation.

Text 1
A walking and cycling trail, the Via Dinarica, launched two years ago and runs for 1,000km from Slovenia’s Dinaric Alps in the north to Macedonia, via Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro and Albania. There are three options: the high mountain White Trail, the Green Trail, which is ideal for cyclists, and the easier Blue Trail, along the Dalmatian Coast. Local company Green Visions has tailor-made guided trips on the White Trail, and a Best of Via Dinarica group hike through Montenegro and Bosnia.

Text 2
The Iberian lynx once roamed over half of the Iberian peninsula. Today it’s the rarest cat in the world and only found in two locations: the vast, coastal Doñana national park south of Seville, and the rugged Andújar natural park in the north of Andalucia. There’s plenty of adventure to be had in both parks – from 4x4 safaris to guided hikes – but for a good chance to see the elusive lynx, The Travelling Naturalist has a seven-night, expert-led group trip to both parks, where visitors also learn about conservation, and might spot other wildlife such as mouflon wild sheep and Spanish imperial eagles.

Text 3
With ancient forests, high mountains and Unesco-protected villages where life hasn’t changed for centuries, Transylvania offers one of Europe’s last great wildernesses, and plenty of fascinating history and culture, too. Adventure doesn’t need to be fast-paced; British firm The Slow Cyclist has new group and independent trips for 2016, lasting from three days to three weeks. Its four-day Enchanted Saxon Transylvania trip covers 90 miles, from the Saxon village of Cund south-east to Viscri at an unhurried pace with plenty of time to stop at local homes, visit shepherds on hilltops and discover little-visited historic sites.

Text 4
Estonia’s Baltic coast is wild and unspoilt. Many of its 1,500 islands, which were used in the 1950s for Soviet military testing, are now wildlife havens. Explore by kayak, paddling between islands with eerie remains of Russian watchtowers and abandoned farmhouses, and prolific birdlife. Adventure operator Reimann Retked offers several kayaking group trips, with hikes and camping on remote isles. Its two-day Prangli and Kolga Bay Islands tour visits four islands, with a stay on Prangli, still home to about 150 people. Scuba diving is an option on some trips.

Text 5
Mountain walkers have plenty of options in Europe, with countless adventurous routes (Switzerland alone has over 30,000 miles of marked trails). For a less expensive alternative to the Alps, try Slovakia’s High Tatra, which runs along the border with Poland, offering dramatic walks with 20 summits of over 2,500m in just 26km. The soaring views of rocky peaks, lush valleys and sparkling lakes are reward for burning thigh muscles. To plan an independent trip, slovak-republic.org has details of routes and hotels. Alternatively, Utracks offers a new challenging guided eight-day group hut-to-hut trip: a head for heights and ability to walk with your own backpack for up to eight hours a day is recommended.

Text 6
With its mix of mountains, fjords, remote villages and quiet coastal roads, Norway is a strong contender for an adventurous self-drive. Go in summer when the days are long, pack a tent and wild camp along the way (it’s legal here, though there are great campsites and cabins, too). Among the most spectacular drives is from Bergen north to Trondheim which includes a stretch on the Atlantic Road, with eight bridges linking islands, and the chance to spot seals and whales. It’s about 430 miles, and winds through the longest road tunnel in the world and the zig-zag bends of Trollstigen. Fly back from Trondheim or, time-permitting, head back to Bergen via Sogndal. Norwegian flies to Bergen and Trondhein from Gatwick.

 Horse riding in Cappadocia, Turkey. 
Photograph: Keren Su/Corbis for The Guardian

Text 1 – B
Text 2 – F
Text 3 – E
Text 4 – G
Text 5 – A
Text 6 - I

viernes, 17 de junio de 2016

Celebrating freckles in all their glory

London-based photographer Brock Elbank is on a mission: to photograph as many freckled people as possible. A self-confessed lover of the skin feature, he wants to celebrate freckles in all their glory. For #Freckles he has so far photographed 90 people from around the world

I’ve always liked freckles. I think they are very fascinating. It’s a bit like marmites, it’s the sort of thing you either love the more you hate them.
Because the light dusting certainly is attractive to most people… Who’s that?
That’s Josh Hardwick who’s a… my wife spotted him at an organic farm in Gloucestershire. Yeah, he’s mixed race. He’s got this curly mop of red hair, this sort of honey-coloured eyes. I mean, just incredible-looking kid.
What did the freckled tell you about the reaction of the non-freckled to them, particularly if they’re heavily freckled. Here’s a woman, for example, who’s very heavily freckled, it seems all over her body.
Yes, Leah. We’ve probably done around 90 portraits now. She’s by far… I mean, she’s completely covered, you know, I said, have you ever been teased? No. Have you ever struggled with them? No. I mean, she’s like an exception to the rule because everybody else is kind of, have a love-hate relationship with it I see. One thing I’ve found is that it almost becomes not a therapy session, but people kind of chat and talk about their experience of being teased, as the series is growing I get more emails from people saying how much they struggle with freckles. As a child, you know, they’ve grown to sort of live with them or even like them in later life, and that sort of fascinates me because I don’t understand why people don’t like them.
Were you ever shocked, did you ever walk into a room and think, that is unusual?
Dony, I love unusual. So many people kind of blend in, you walk down Oxford Street, Regent Street, you know, most people, you know, I like people that stand out, they are the kind of people I’m drawn to photograph. The more individual, the better for me.

jueves, 16 de junio de 2016

Twin teens -one black, one white- celebrate their differences

Twins Lucy and Maria Aylmer are twins but most people wouldn't believe it based on their appearance. They have the same mom and dad but Lucy has pale white skin with red hair while Maria has a caramel complexion and thick curly black hair.

These pretty teens are best friends and they're also something else, something that may surprise you.
We’re twins.
Believe it or not, they're twins.
Yeah, we’re twins. We’re twin sisters. With same mom and same dad.
You heard right. They have the same mom and dad. What are the odds that one would be black and one white?
A lot of people are just in shock.
Lucy and Maria Aylmer live in Gloucester, England. Maria has a caramel complexion, brown eyes and thick curly black hair. Lucy has pale white skin with ginger red hair, blue eyes, and freckles. Most people have the same reaction when they hear they are twins.
They say, ‘How did it happen? We don’t believe you.’
So how did it happen? Their mom, Donna, is half black and half white. The twins' dad, Vince, is white. The couple was thrilled when a sonogram revealed they were expecting twins.
I just cried. It was shock.
Mom did a double take when she delivered one black and one white baby.
I’m so glad mom dressed us in such cute little outfits.
Mom dressed her adorable twin daughters in matching outfits, just like twins everywhere, but by age 10, Lucy says she didn’t feel like a twin, so why dress like one?
We don’t look alike. So why should we have to wear the exact same thing.
Maria says she once wished for Lucy’s straight hair.
I used to cry about it. I hate my curly hair.
And Lucy says she was sometimes taunted at school.
They thought I was adopted. They called me a ghost.
Now 18, the twins not only look different. They have very different personalities.
We’re completely different.
Maria loves getting dressed up in chic clothing. She is very outgoing.
I love meeting people. I’m not scared to approach people or anything so...
Whereas I am. I’m terrified of like going up to random strangers.
Lucy prefers casual clothes, but they've come to embrace their uniqueness as black and white twins.
If I have kids one day, they might come out looking like Lucy.

miércoles, 15 de junio de 2016

Talking point: Buildings

This week's talking point is buildings. 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 you seen these buildings before?
What countries do you think they are in?
What do you think they were built as?
What do you think of each building? You can use some of these adjectives: imposing, nondescript, graceful, innovative, tasteless, dated, out of place, stunning

Triumph Palace

The Crooked House

Torre Velasca

Museo Sumaya

Talk about the most impressive building or monument you have ever seen. You are going to tell your partner about it. Choose from the list below the things you want to talk about.
Which city and which country is it in?
When did you first see it?
What is it called?
Why was it built originally?
What is it used for?
Is it modern or old?
Do you know who designed it?
What do you most like about it?
How does it affect the environment?
Is it a popular tourist attraction?

There is a derelict warehouse in your community that was built in the early 20th century. You are a member of the local council and you have to help make a decision about how the warehouse or the land itself could be repurposed. Consider the following factors:
The needs of your community
Demolition and rebuilding
The benefits of a new, iconic building
A high-profile architect
Your community’s architectural heritage
The warehouse’s architectural features