martes, 31 de enero de 2017

The West 90’s in New York

The West 90s may not be everyone's ideal of New York, but it's a New Yorker's ideal of New York!

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

1. You can see all sorts of people in the West 90s.
2. You will find products from everywhere in the world in the West 90s.
3. Four parks surround the West 90s.
4. Times Square in 50 minutes.
5. Vehicles, bikers and pedestrians coexist without a problem in the West 90s.
6. Streets and roads are now wider than they used to be.
7. The Upper West Side is really affordable.

The West 90s is quintessential New York.
If you think of Woody Allen's New York, Seinfeld's New York, or Nora Ephron's New York, that's the West 90s.
When you're walking down the street in the West 90s, I think what you're struck by are the people.  Young, old, from every walk of life.
You've got the street life, which is so intense.  But then you've got the sort of tranquility of Riverside Park and of Central Park. It's perfect.

The West 90s is this precious nugget.
What's great about this neighbourhood is that it has brought in different people at different times. What's resulted is a very nice diversity of people.
We have these great mom and pop shops lining Broadway and Columbus and Amsterdam. You'll find Asian markets, Hebrew markets, Polish markets, Hungarian markets, Spanish markets.
There's Gabrielle's, there's Carmine's, there's Gennaro's.
We've really been able to maintain this very local, approachable culture. The biggest retail to move into the 90s is really the mall on Columbus Avenue, while right around the corner you have the Judaica shop. Architecturally, it's absolutely stunning. We have all of this great Beaux-Arts and Art Deco architecture and the great brownstones that line all of our side streets.
And then we're sandwiched between two amazing parks.
The north part of Central Park, I think, is a part of the park that people really don't frequent.
You've got the tennis courts, we've got the reservoir, which I used to run around in my youth.
Riverside Park in the 90s. You can start in the south with the Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument, and then you go along the north and you get to the Joan of Arc part and then the People's Garden.
Riverside Drive has this wonderful dinosaur park where in the summertime the kids are running in and out of these water fountains that run constantly.
I mean, I couldn't imagine a better place to grow up as a kid.
Getting anywhere from here is very easy. You can be in Times Square in 15 minutes.
You've got the one, two, and three train, and then you can go over and get the B and the C train over on Central Park West.
And we just got select bus service.
But also the bike infrastructure is terrific. I think we have the best bike lane in New York City, which is the Hudson River bike lane.
You can literally ride your bike from the George Washington Bridge all the way down to Battery Park City.
The trade-off of being this hub is that there can be tragic conflicts between the vehicles and the bikers and pedestrians.
When I first came in to office within the first couple of months, there were five pedestrians who were struck and killed right around 96th Street. We really did a complete street redesign.
There's been a lot of narrowing of the streets and left turn signal changes. So my husband, the driver, complains. I think they've made it safer.
The West Side was developed about a generation later than the Upper East Side. And it just happened to align with the period in New York, the City Beautiful Movement. And so you had the grid already established, but then you had Olmsted, Frederick Law Olmsted come in and carve out Riverside Drive out of that grid, departing from the grid and following the contours of the landscape. In my opinion, you have the best residential architecture of New York City is right here in the West 90s.
To me, there's no part of the Upper West Side that's really affordable. When apartments become vacant in this building and then I hear what they're asking, it's just…
It's not the trendiest neighbourhood. It doesn't have the hottest restaurants. It doesn't have such a great night life. And that's what we like about it. The West 90s is not everyone's ideal of New York, but the West 90s represents a New Yorker's ideal of New York.

1T  2T 3F 4F 5F 6F 7F

lunes, 30 de enero de 2017

Listening test: World news

Listen to five international world news items and choose the heading A-G which best suits each extract. There are two headings you do not need to use.

A - Agreement reached to end war
B - Companies to help with gender issues
C - Conference over a divided island
D - Fighting the enemy for over 75 years
E - Happy ending for adventurer in difficulties
F - Real hope for a country devastated by war?
G - Stability vs authoritarianism

Photo: Wikipedia

1 Companies to help with gender issues
They only employ men, but in Saudi Arabia Uber and local ride-hailing firm Careem are helping women get into the workplace. As women in Saudi Arabia we are not allowed to drive and we do not have enough money to pay a chauffeur. The Careem app has solved all these problems. In some cities Uber has provoked protests, with taxi drivers fearing their businesses will suffer. But Saudi Arabia is offering state investment to both Uber and Careem. It’s hoping the companies will get 1.3 million women into work by 2030. Uber
and Careem say they’ll create up to 200,000 jobs for Saudi men in the next two years. That’s almost three times the number of employees at state oil giant Aramco. All the new jobs must also be given to Saudi nationals. And there’s another reason for the success of ride-hailing. Many of the vehicles in the existing taxi system are considered too old for some of the wealthier women. There’s a three-year age limit on all Uber and Careem cars.

2 Stability vs authoritarianism
Turkey’s parliament has voted to press on with a controversial debate to reform its constitution. If adopted, the proposals will expand the powers of President Tayyip Erdogan and get him one step closer to an executive presidency. Erdogan and his supporters argue that Turkey needs this sort of strong leadership, saying an executive presidency would prevent a return to the fragile coalition governments of the past. The prime minister insisting it would resolve the problems of Turkey having two executive authorities, saying
two captains sink the ship, there needs to be one captain. But Erdogan’s opponents fear the reform will fuel authoritarianism. If changed, Erdogan would be able to appoint and dismiss government ministers, take back the leadership of the ruling party, and govern until 2029. The initial vote was passed with 338 in favour and 134 against. Debate on the individual articles will start on Tuesday. The AKP plans to finish this by the 24th January. A referendum is expected by the spring.

3 Real hope for a country devastated by war?
Bashar al-Assad promising everything will be on the table at proposed Syria peace talks, including his own presidency. With the caveat though: Assad saying only Syrians can determine his fate at the ballot box, though his opponents want him out under any peace deal. Assad clearly feeling himself to be in a strong position. Three weeks ago, his army dealt the rebels their biggest blow in nearly six years of war by driving them from Aleppo. Assad defending that bloody, drawn-out battle by saying it had liberated civilians from
what he called terrorists. No date has yet been set for the peace talks, which Russia, Iran and Turkey proposed last month. But Kazakhstan is the planned venue.

4 Conference over a divided island
It’s the start of a week of intensive talks. Leaders of ethnically split Cyprus meeting in Geneva, hoping to succeed where others have failed. The goal is to reach an outline of a peace deal to end decades of division. The island was split in a Turkish invasion in 1974 triggered by a brief Greek-inspired coup. Mediators are keen to capitalize on the momentum of two moderates at the helm. Greek Cypriot leader Nicos Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci are seen as being very pro-settlement. But the talks will be difficult, there are dozens of disagreements to tackle; power-sharing, territorial adjustments and security issues. First on the agenda is how to handle property disputes stretching back more than 40 years. On Thursday, talks are scheduled to broaden to include other nations with a stake, Britain, Greece and Turkey. Conference organizers have already begun suggesting the process might be more open-ended than initially thought.

5 Fighting the enemy for over 75 years
He’s one of Belgium’s most famous exports. So it’s no surprise that a crowd of Tintin fans turned up in Brussels to meet their hero, sort of. An actor dressed as the literary adventurer arrived to Belgium’s capital city Grand Place, driving in an old-fashioned car. The stunt was to celebrate the oldest comic book of Tintin’s adventures , ‘Tintin in the Land of the Soviets’ being published in colour for the first time. Fans, many of whom were dressed as Tintin or his fictional best friend Captain Haddock, were thrilled at the new release. Some fans also brought their dogs to the event – particularly those that looked like Tintin’s canine companion Snowy. ‘Tintin in the Land of the Soviets’ was first published by author Herge in 1929. It sees the intrepid adventurer narrowly escape death in Berlin, then being pursued by Soviet secret police.
It’s one in a series of publications by the author. As many as 230 million Tintin books have been sold worldwide and they’ve been translated into 77 languages.

1B 2G 3F 4C 5D

domingo, 29 de enero de 2017

Extensive listening: A better way to talk about love

In love, we fall. We're struck, we're crushed, we swoon. We burn with passion. Love makes us crazy and makes us sick. Our hearts ache, and then they break. Talking about love in this way fundamentally shapes how we experience it, says writer Mandy Len Catron.

In this talk for anyone who's ever felt crazy in love, Mnayd Len Catron highlights a different metaphor for love that may help us find more joy — and less suffering — in it.

Originally from Appalachian Virginia, Mandy Len Catron is a writer living and working in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Catron writes about love and love stories at The Love Story Project and teaches English and creative writing at the University of British Columbia. Her article "To Fall in Love with Anyone, Do This" was one of the most popular articles published by the New York Times in 2015.

You can read the full transcript here.

sábado, 28 de enero de 2017

Reading test: Austria village churches hire bouncers to block tourists

Read the BBC article Austria village churches hire bouncers to block tourists and choose the word or phrase A-N that best fits into each of the gaps in the text. There are three words or phrases you do not need to use. 0 is an example.

Austria village churches hire bouncers to block tourists

A (0) … Austrian village has brought in "bouncers" at its churches (1) … stop tourists disturbing services, it's reported.

Visitors from all over the world (2) … to the lakeside village of Hallstatt, a Unesco World Heritage Site, and it's particularly popular with tour groups from Asia. But some have been (3) … the locals with their eagerness to document church proceedings, even whipping out cameras and selfie sticks (4) .. funerals and photographing the mourners, the Heute website reports.

In response, the village's two churches have started to (5) … their doors before services begin or put someone at the entrance to block tourists. "Bouncers" are also posted to the local cemetery when funerals are being conducted, the meinBezirk news portal says. Church leaders stress that visitors are (6) … welcome at other times.

Parish council head Reinhard Kerschbaumer adds a touch of self-criticism when explaining the problem. "We should sometimes (7) … more moral courage and have the heart to (8) … something and not just grumble after the fact," he tells meinBezirk, adding that the tourist barrier might then not be needed.

Hallstatt's appeal is far-reaching: in 2012, a replica of the village was unveiled in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong. Mayor Alexander Scheutz overcame initial (9) … to fly to China for the opening ceremony, telling the BBC that locals found it amusing that their little village was "important (10) … to get a copy".

A - already
B - annoying
C - do
D - doubts
E - during
F - enough
G - flock
H - in order to
I - lock
J - make
K - picturesque 0 Example
L - show 
M - still
N – when

Photo: Nick Csakany/Wikimedia

1H 2G 3B 4E 5I 6M 7L 8C 9D 10F

viernes, 27 de enero de 2017

Introducing Amazon Go

Amazon Go is a new kind of store featuring the world’s most advanced shopping technology.

Self-study activity:
Watch the video and complete the blanks in the transcript with the missing words.

Four years ago, we started to (1) ... : what would shopping look like if you could walk into a store, grab what you want, and just go? What if we could weave the most advanced machine learning, computer vision, and (2) ... into the very fabric of a store so you never have to wait in line? No lines, no (3) ... , no registers.
Welcome to Amazon Go.
Use the Amazon Go app to enter, then put away your phone and start shopping. It's really that simple. Take whatever you like. Anything you pick up is automatically added to your (4) ... ... . If you change your mind about that cupcake, just put it back. Our technology will (5) ... your virtual cart automatically.
So how does it work? We used computer vision, deep learning algorithms, and sensor fusion, much like you'd find in (6) ...-... cars. We call it just walk out technology. Once you've got everything you want, you can just go. When you leave, our Just Walk Out technology adds up your virtual cart and (7) ... your Amazon account. Your (8) ... is sent straight to the app, and you can keep going.
Amazon Go.
No lines, no (9) ... . No, seriously.

1 wonder
2 AI 
3 checkouts
4 virtual cart
5 update 
6 self-driving
7 charges 
8 receipt 
9 checkout

jueves, 26 de enero de 2017

China's toxic smog

For much of the past month, a huge swathe of northern China has been shrouded in a thick layer of toxic smog. Pollution has reached such high levels that Beijing's met office this week issued a warning against venturing out into the snow because of fears it's dangerously contaminated. With pollution now thought to be the cause of more than a million premature deaths a year, our correspondent John Sudworth travelled to China's most polluted city.

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

1. How far is it from Beijing is Shijiazhuang?
2. What record has Shijiazhuang held over the past month?
3. How is the smog impacting children's health?
4. What is the Chinese government investing in?
5. What are the two main sources for all of this toxic smog?

Well, welcome to Shijiazhuang, a city a little less than 300 kilometers from Beijing, and one that over the past month has had the rather unenviable honour of being China's most polluted. In fact, by some measures, it is the most polluted city on the planet over that period.
Of course, it is just an extreme example of a problem affecting a huge swathe of northern China at the moment, with a pollution cloud hanging over this country from the Russian border in the far northeast all the way down to the central cities of Chongqing and Chengdu, a sweep of a few thousand kilometers or so.
Of course, underneath the cloud live hundreds of millions of people, and they are currently struggling with the impact of this toxic air on their lives and livelihoods.
It can be completely dark, as if you're walking in the clouds. The smog impacts my children's health. Coughing is the usual symptom.
I heard some people say they are considering leaving Shijiazhuang, moving to the south of China. Have you ever thought of doing the same?
Of course, I want to leave, but I cannot afford to. I live here. The whole city and the whole country is polluted. You have to go abroad.
Over the past 30 days, the average air quality level in this city has registered as hazardous on the official scale. Amid mounting public anger across China, the government is pledging to clean up the air and is investing heavily in renewable technology, but there are good reasons for caution and some scepticism. The two main sources for all of this toxic smog are the heavy reliance on coal, as the dominant form of power generation, and the high and still-growing levels of car ownership. And neither of those things look set to change anytime soon.

1 300 km 
2 the most polluted city in China
3 coughing is the usual problem 
4 renewable technology
5 coal (as the main form of power generation) and car ownership

miércoles, 25 de enero de 2017

Talking point: Teams

This week's talking point is teams. 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 are the qualities needed to be a good team player?
What different roles do team members perform in a team?
What problems usually arise in teams?
What teams have you been in?
(You can also talk about your experience with team sports)
How successful were they?
What was your role and contribution to those teams?
Does a team always need a leader?
Is team learning more beneficial than individual learning for you?

To illustrate the point you can watch the video 5 Golden Rules for building a Great Team.

martes, 24 de enero de 2017

Meet the women who teach financial skills to the homeless

Anita Saville and Kathy Brough formed Budget Buddies in 2010 to help homeless women lift themselves out of poverty. Learn how they created a network of everyday financial coaches who support low-income women in learning money management and achieving self-sufficiency.

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

1 Name two reasons why women end up in poverty
2 Who are the buddies?
3 Where did Kathy start volunteering 23 years ago?
4 What work does Anita do? What work does Kathy do?
5 Apart from financial workshops, what other workshops are organised?
6 Why did they manage to get so many professional to volunteer for their project in the first couple of years?
7 What do ‘275’ and ‘400’ refer to?

So, Nancy is coming back to us to coach. I believe this is her seventh time coaching.
Well I have somebody here who says that they don’t know how to make a budget, they don’t have a bank account.
I wonder if we should put her with a tough buddy.
A lot of women end up in poverty for various reasons. Their families have been living in poverty for years, and years, and years. They have little financial education. Then you couple that with poor role models, lots of personal financial challenges, and women are just overwhelmed by, by money issues.
Jasmine Torros, she wants to get her life back on track.
Budget Buddies provides financial education for low-income women through an innovative program that combines 12 instructional workshops with one-to-one coaching. The women who are the clients, who come to us through social service agencies, we call them the buddies.
You don’t have to have a financial background to be a coach in Budget Buddies. You just have to care about women helping women.I’ve always done finance and operations for small businesses. 23 years ago I started volunteering at a homeless shelter and became a client advocate ’cause I felt I could offer them help applying for benefits.
I worked for Fidelity Investments as an editor, but, while I was writing for upper income and middle-income folks, what was happening for the folks who didn’t have advice on how to manage their money?
We realized that we worked pretty well together and we complemented each other in terms of the things that we liked to do.
Yes. It’s lucky that, you know, I don’t like the podium and Anita does. So I do the finances and she does the writing so, perfect.All workshops are about an hour and they’re scheduled every two weeks. On the in between week the coach and her buddy can meet and apply what they learned in the workshop to the buddy’s individual financial situation. We also have workshops that deal with self-esteem, changing behavior, and really giving the women the confidence that they need in order to be able to go on and manage their money after Budget Buddies stops.
The first couple of years it’s hard to convince funders that you’re going to be around, because you’re the new kid on the block and we started our organization just at the top of the recession so people were laid off, people were, you know, they were closing nonprofits. That actually worked to our benefit because a lot of professionals who were out of work said, “Well, what am I going to do with myself? Well, I’ll go volunteer,” so they brought their professional talent in.
And they’ve been meeting with them about Budget Buddies, they’ve been trying to talk to them about their goals.
It was like a learning base between the both of us, you know. Step by step. Like I’ve shown her stuff, she’s shown me stuff, you know, we kind of give and take.
There’s a tradition we have at graduation. Because it’s the last night that the group is going to be together, we have the buddy say something to the coach and the coach say something to the buddy.
Our graduations are very special. We get to every graduation.
You have done something that a lot of people never do. Never make a budget, never really put money away for savings, never track their expenses to see how much they’re spending. So you are so far ahead of most of the people in this country. And for that, we give you applause. 

1 little financial education, poor role models, lots of personal financial challenges
2 The women who are the clients, who come to us through social service agencies
3 at a homeless shelter
4 Kathy does the finances and Anita does the writing
5 workshops to give women self-esteem, confidence and change their behaviour
6 Because of the recession there were a lot of professionals out of work
7 The programme has trained 275 coaches to help more than 400 buddies.

lunes, 23 de enero de 2017

Listening test: Man breaks the world record for slowest marathon

Listen and complete the blanks in the sentences below with up to THREE WORDS. 0 is an example.

source: Deep English

0 Example:
We rarely hear about the weakest or slowest athletes in the world.

1 Shizo Kanakuri took over ______________________ years to finish the Olympic marathon.

2 Before going to the 1912 Olympics, Shizo had set a ______________________ time of just 2 hours, 32 minutes and 45 seconds.

3 Shizo Kanakuri was a fast but ______________________ of 20 years of age.

4 When Kanakuri and his teammate arrived in Sweden, they had problem with ______________________ , which resulted in his teammate getting ill.

5 When Kanakuri collapsed on the marathon race, some ______________________ looked after him.

6 Out of the sixty-eight marathon runners who had taken part in the race, only ______________________ finished it.

7 When 50 years later the Swedish authorities discovered that Kanakuri was ______________________ in Japan, they invited him to finish the race.

The Olympics are a chance to honor the strongest and fastest athletes in the world, but we rarely hear about the weakest or the slowest. Shizo Kanakuri is the exception. He holds the world record for the slowest time in the Olympic marathon. He finished the race after 54 years, eight months, six days, 5 hours and 32 minutes.
Kanakuri was not a slow runner. On the contrary, before going to the 1912 Olympics, he had set a world record marathon time of just 2 hours, 32 minutes and 45 seconds. He was the favorite to win the marathon at the Stockholm Olympics. It was the first time for Japan or any Asian nation to participate in the Olympics. Kanakuri was one of just two athletes sent to represent his country.
Despite being the favorite, the odds were stacked against Kanakuri from the very beginning. He was fast, but an inexperienced athlete of just 20 years of age. On top of that, to get to Stockholm, he had an 18-day ship and train journey to deal with. Kanakuri ran around the ship and around each train station at every stop to get in some training time during the exhausting trip. When he finally arrived, both he and his teammate had trouble dealing with the local food. His teammate became ill, and Kanakuri had to take care of him, further cutting into his training time.
The day of the marathon was a scorcher. Twenty-seven kilometers into the race, Kanakuri collapsed from overheat and was taken care of by some local farmers. Kanakuri was not alone. Runners were dropping like flies that day, and fellow runner Francisco Lázaro even died. Sixty-eight runners from around the world entered the race, but only half crossed the finish line. Unlike the other runners who dropped out, Kanakuri never reported his failure to finish to the race officials. He was listed as missing.
Kanakuri returned to Japan, continued his training and ran in two other Olympics in Belgium and France. In his home country, he was known as the Father of Japanese Marathons, but in Sweden, he was known as the missing marathoner.
After 50 years, the Swedish authorities discovered he was alive and well in Japan. In 1967, they invited him back to finish the race. At 75 years of age, he finally crossed the finish line. He said, “It was a long trip. Along the way, I got married, had six children and ten grandchildren.”

1 fifty-four
2 world record marathon
3 inexperienced athlete
4 the local food
5 local farmers
6 half / 34
7 alive and well

domingo, 22 de enero de 2017

Extensive listening: Are you a giver or a taker

In every workplace, there are three basic kinds of people: givers, takers and matchers. Organizational psychologist Adam Grant breaks down these personalities and offers simple strategies to promote a culture of generosity and keep self-serving employees from taking more than their share.

In his groundbreaking book Give and Take, top-rated Wharton professor Adam Grant upended decades of conventional motivational thinking with the thesis that giving unselfishly to colleagues or clients can lead to one’s own long-term success.

Grant’s research has led hundreds of advice seekers (and HR departments) to his doorstep, and it’s changing the way leaders view their workforces.

Grant’s new book Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World examines how unconventional thinkers overturn the status quo and champion game-changing ideas. 

You can read a full transcript of the talk here.

sábado, 21 de enero de 2017

Read Listen Learn

Read - Listen - Learn is a collection of graded reading activities ranging from elementary to advanced level.

Most of the texts have audio recordings, so learners can read and listen at the same time. Similarly, the stories have a glossary and some graphic aids to help the student understand the most complex vocabulary in the stories.

The stories can be either fictional or non-fictional and they range  between 1,000 and 2,000 words.

To select which story to read, just click on the Find articles tag at the top.

Read - Listen - Learn is free, but you have to log in with through Facebook.

viernes, 20 de enero de 2017

Meeting the child brides of Ethiopia

A major report by Save the Children has found that one girl under the age of 15 is married every seven seconds. The study says girls as young as 10 are forced to marry much older men in countries including Afghanistan, Yemen, India and Ethiopia. Model Poppy Delevingne has been to Ethiopia to talk to some young girls about their experiences.

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

1. Why is the reporter in Ethiopia?
2. How old was Selam when she was propositioned to get married?
3. What position is she at her school now?
4. How old was she when she married?
5. When did she get pregnant for the first time?
6. Why didn't Selam go to school after she got married?

We are here in beautiful Ethiopia, somewhere that I’ve always wanted to travel to since I was a little girl. And here we’re going to be investigating child marriage and female genital mutilation and the issues that concern us around these topics.
So, we've just arrived in …, which is a small village in Lalibela. This is where they run the Save the Children programme Keep It Real, and I'm going to be speaking to some young girls about child marriage.
Pleased to meet you, how are you?
OK, so right now I am with the beautiful Selam. We are at her school, and she's just been telling me all about her stories about child marriage. She was 11 years old when she was propositioned to be married. And with the help of Save the Children's Keep it Real programme, she learned about all the problems within child marriage, and with the help of her brother and sister, they managed to persuade her parents that child marriage was not a good thing.
She is now at school, and is number one, number one in her class and she even told me that I should ask the teacher if that was true, and it was true.
Selam, I hear that you were married as a child. Would it be OK for me to come to your home and hear all about it?
So, I spent my afternoon with the lovely Selam, who was a victim of child marriage. When she was just 13 years old, she was married. By the time she was 14, she was pregnant with her first child, but when she was nine months pregnant, she left her husband as he was physically abusive, and moved back in with her family. But not only that, when she was engaged to him, he promised her that she would still have an opportunity to have an education, something he totally went back on, and instead, she did house chores and had to work unbearable hours, something a 13-year-old really shouldn't have to do. I have a 13-year-old cousin, and the idea of her getting married and then even next year having a baby, to me, is just... totally incomprehensible, and something that I can't believe
is happening in this world today still. Lovely Selam has got a bright future ahead of her, and it was truly an honour that she shared her story with me.

1 to investigate child marriage and female genital mutilation
2 eleven years old 
3 number one
4 thirteen
5 at fourteen
6 she had to do house chores and worked very long hours

jueves, 19 de enero de 2017

Welcome to the spa run on human waste

A waste treatment plant in Hong Kong has opened its own spa, to make use of the human waste it uses to generate electricity. The unlikely combination of sludge processing and thermal pools has been created at the T. Park facility, but some are concerned about its impact on the environment.

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

1. Where in Hong Kong is T. Park?
2. What idea has Hong Kong's government had to treat sludge?
3. How many households receive electricity from T. Park?
4. Why do some people complain about T. Park?

This may look like a normal spa but there's more to it than you'd expect. The water is nice and warm but it's heated by burning sludge, that's the waste you get from treating sewage.
This is T Park, a plant on the outskirts of Hong Kong. It treats sludge, the thick mud waste from the sewers and toilets.  Sludge is smelly and it's been filling up Hong Kong's landfills. But the government says it's found a solution: turning the sludge into energy.
T Park incinerates more than a thousand tons of sludge each day. Burning the sludge makes it ninety percent smaller and easier to bury. It also generates enough electricity for the whole plant and 4000 households. Even the waste water is treated, so it can be used to water the plants. The government says T Park is key for sustainability in Hong Kong.
T Park is the first waste-to-energy facilities in the Hong Kong. It’s the first step of Hong Kong government's waste-to-energy journey. It reduces the burdens to the landfills. It provides a sustainable solution to the sewage sludge disposal in Hong-Kong.
Hundreds of people visit the plant each day for an educational tour or for a free spa session. But critics say not everyone has benefited.
There are lots of smells from the sludge when it’s being transported and incinerating the sludge causes air pollution too. This affects local residents.
The government says it follows stringent standards and that all emissions are tested before being released, and they'll be hoping visitors leave the plant feeling pampered and with a new interest in sustainability.
Helier Cheung, BBC News, Hong Kong.

1 ont eh outskirts
2 turn sludge into energy 
3 4,000
4 because of the smells and the air pollution

miércoles, 18 de enero de 2017

Talking point: Change

This week's talking point is change. 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.

Compare today’s lifestyles with those of the 1980’s. Think about the differences in:
Working practices
Transport and travel
The ability to be patient and wait for things to happen
Communications at home and at work
Subjects people can study at school and university

Discuss the changes the main characters have in the films below.
Can you think of any other films, books or stories where the protagonist is transformed in some way?

Do you know any real stories of transformation?
Do you think change is important?
Is change always good?
Have you made any recent changes in your life?
(You can talk about appearance, relationships, something you have bought, some decision you have made.)
What is the most difficult change you have ever had to make?
What is one thing that you think you will never change about yourself?
If you won a million dollars, what would you change about your life?

martes, 17 de enero de 2017

The Art of Shoji

At Miya Shoji, a father-son team takes a different approach to business and to life, keeping craft as the guiding principle.

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

1. What analogy does Hisao Hanafusa, the father, use to describe a business?
2. What did Hisao Hanafusa make for his mother and father as a child?
3. How did Zui Hanafusa, the son, apply for the job in his own father's shop?
4. How big was the workshop back in the 70's?
5. What is Hisao Hanafusa's approach to his work?
6. What do they not think about when they talk about their business?

Our business philosophy is something like every day we go to work, we try to make something beautiful, so it’s more of an artist’s way of thinking through business.
Many people ask about how we run the business or how business is successful or how does it actually revolve within the shop itself. My father always said it was like a bicycle business. You pedal, bicycle can move. No profit. But sometime, down he'll come. You don't have to pedal.  Still go. Then hit the bottom. Then you have to get off.  You have to push the bicycle with it. So it's going this.
Woodworking.  I'm always interesting philistine.  I was maybe nine years old. My mother said, I wish I had a window here. So I was nine years old. Cut the wall.  Made the window for her. Then my father say, I wish I had a fireplace. So I made a fireplace. I liked it something to make.
When I was in the corporate world, I was there constantly. One day I was walking down the street, heading towards the shop. And everything looked very not kept well. And my father was actually working on some designs. But you could see him from outside. I thought, one day, I should hang out next to him. Not just learn in depth about the business itself, but learn more about our family itself. That's where the whole thing kind of took off. Like, maybe I should just be here full-time. I applied for the job with a resume. And my father actually thought it was a joke, since most of the times I'm kind of taking everything for fun. I started the next week.
Growing up back in the 70s wasn't exactly like the situation we have now. Workshop was maybe 3/4 of the space. And the showroom was only 1/4. But every day after school, come back to help out, clean up, watch several carpenters working.
Why I create? Fun. Fun.  Should be fun, not serious. I check all my family.  They don't have a business mind, traffic mind. Nothing. Just art kind of stuff.
When people talk about certain things like, what's your business model? Do you have any annual reports?
You know, it's not about money that we're thinking. Actually, the first thing we're thinking is about the business itself, which would be the design.
With nature it’s easy. We don't have to work anything. We don't have to design anything. Just find a nice old wood. Slice it. Beautiful, you use it. If not beautiful, you don't use it. Very simple. We never learn business. More like a craftsman. 

1 He compares a business to a bicycle.
2 A window for his mother and a fireplace for his father 
3 He sent a resume.
4 Three quarters of the space
5 He wants to have fun and doesn't have the business in mind
6 Money

lunes, 16 de enero de 2017

Listening test: Blaenavon, the Book Town boom

Listen to a news report on the Welsh city of Blaenavon. Choose the option A, B or C which best completes each sentence. 0 is an example.

0 Example:
A. is an industrial village.
b. is in a prosperous region.
C. is trying to become rich and successful again.

1 For James Hanna New Orleans (...) than Blaenavon.
A. has better food and weather
B. has more honest people
C. is more violent

2 According to the reporter, Blaenavon
A. has never been known for its cultural life.
B. has tropical weather.
C. is well-known for its sophisticated cuisine.

3 James Hanna’s plan
A. consists of opening 40 bookshops.
B. involves selling second-hand books.
C. met the local council’s objections.

4 According to John Rodger, Blaenavon
A. declined because a lot of supermarkets were opened in the town.
B. had around 6,000 inhabitants in 1985.
C. has lost half of its population.

5 James Hanna's idea of transforming Blaenavon resulted from his
A. fascination for the Welsh landscape.
B. friendship with Richard Booth.
C. love for books.

6 Hay-on-Wye, the famous book town on the Anglo-Welsh border,
A. attracts literary tourists from around Britain.
B. became well-known in the 1970’s.
C. has a literary festival that lasts for 20 days.

7 Blaenavon
A. is a World Heritage Site.
B. is not attractive to tourists these days.
C. still has the most advanced ironworks in the world.

8 About the local population James Hanna says
A. hardly any of them reads books.
B. they are now outnumbered by foreign visitors.
C. they represent about 50% of bookshop customers in the town.

A visitor to the Welsh village of Blaenavon would never guess that it played a leading role in creating modern Britain. Today, the industrial activity that brought prosperity to this remote region has entirely disappeared. However, the community is now attempting to revive its fortunes with an unusual approach. The architect of its plan for regeneration is a bookseller called James Hanna. He has come a long way to revive Blaenavon's fortunes and now faces a series of formidable challenges. One of the least of these is to adapt to a way of life radically different from that of his native New Orleans.
Well, the weather, of course, is much better here and the food is superb! It is a jolt. It is a culture shock. I grew up in the American South and, frankly, I think being here is comparable to the '50s, or maybe `60s, in the rural South. So it's different, it's enjoyable. The people are honest and open and there's not the... in New Orleans, well, we were, for a number... I think two or three different times, we were the murder capital of the States and, you know, there may be a Saturday night fight here, but that's about it.
James Hanna was, of course, being sarcastic about the weather and the food. Relentless rain is the typical forecast for the valleys of South Wales, and their working-class communities are not known for sophisticated cuisine. In fact, the poor reputation of the area's cultural life was one reason why considerable skepticism met James Hanna’s plan for reviving Blaenavon — to open 14 shops selling second-hand books. But even if local residents are not great readers, the local council welcomed James Hanna with open arms. John Rodger, a council project director, explained why.
This community grew over 100 years. It was a kind of Klondike based on the iron and coal industry and these industries declined dramatically. So the population of this community fell from about 12,500 in 1921 to about 6000 in 1995; a town which was economically in decline, socially in decline and physically in decline. When you add to that the changes in distribution, the pressures from out-of-town supermarkets and this sort of thing, we ended up with half of the shops in town boarded up. We were looking for some sort of re-use for these shops, which would be of interest to tourists, and Book Town fits that like a glove.
The challenge facing James Hanna might seen immense, but he has a blueprint to follow. Hay-on-Wye, the famous book town on the Anglo-Welsh border, has already established itself as a Mecca for bibliophiles under the leadership of its unofficial 'king', Richard Booth, a close friend of and major inspiration for James Hanna. Since the '70s Hay-on-Wye has attracted literary tourists from around the world and its flourishing bookstores have stimulated the growth of hotels, restaurants, cafes and a literary festival. Booth's formula is now being applied in over 20 communities around the world. A major boost to Blaenavon's chances of enjoying similar success to Hay-on-Wye is its unique industrial heritage. The local ironworks — once the most advanced in the world — and the nearby Big Pit mining museum are the core of an officially designated World Heritage Site, and they already attract a steady flow of tourists. James Hanna is optimistic that he can induce many of these visitors to buy books. In fact, the village's recently-opened bookshops are already attracting a strikingly cosmopolitan range of customers and some of them even come from the surrounding area.
We had people here from Cyprus, India, South Africa, Italy, Greece, literally around the world. We have 50 per cent what I would call local, meaning within 30 or 40 miles of here, then 50 per cent coming from, literally, every place. It is really interesting, when we opened, because I had heard from some of the locals, "Why are you opening a book town in Blaenavon? Nobody here reads." Well, in fact that couldn't be more untrue. When we did open, we found that (the) valleys were flocking to us like they'd been hungry and we were feeding them. It was absolutely amazing. They came in thanking us for coming here.

KEY: 1C 2A 3B 4C 5B 6B 7A 8C

domingo, 15 de enero de 2017

Extensive listening: Don't ask where I'm from, ask where I'm a local

When someone asks you where you're from … do you sometimes not know how to answer?

Writer Taiye Selasi speaks on behalf of "multi-local" people, who feel at home in the town where they grew up, the city they live now and maybe another place or two.

"How can I come from a country?" she asks. "How can a human being come from a concept?"

A writer and photographer of Nigerian and Ghanaian descent, born in London and raised in Boston, now living in Rome and Berlin, who has studied Latin and music, Taiye Selasi is herself a study in the modern meaning of identity.

In 2005 she published the much-discussed (and controversial) essay "Bye-Bye, Babar (Or: What Is an Afropolitan?)," offering an alternative vision of African identity for a transnational generation. Prompted by writer Toni Morrison, the following year she published the short story "The Sex Lives of African Girls" in the literary magazine Granta.

Her first novel Ghana Must Go, published in 2013, is a tale of family drama and reconciliation, following six characters and spanning generations, continents, genders and classes.

You can read a full transcript for the talk here.

sábado, 14 de enero de 2017

Reading test: Lark or owl, working nine-to-five will make you tired

Read The Guardian article Lark or owl, working nine-to-five will make you tired on the way our natural circadian rhythms doesn’t agree with the typical working day. Choose the best sentence (A - J) for each gap. There are two sentences you do not need to use. 0 is an example.

A - a stressful commute to reach a fixed point
B - and embracing flexible working
C - individuals have very different sleep-wake patterns – 0 Example
D - many expect workplace flexibility in the workplace
E - to beat their wings to a different rhythm
F - to fit the workplace around the worker
G - to reach peak alertness at around noon
H - what if that commute were simply eliminated?
I - when we experience jetlag, or a lack of sleep
J - which isn’t possible under a fixed structure

Lark or owl, working nine-to-five will make you tired

Every day, 21.18 million people in the UK work nine to five. This may seem intuitive – we all know people tend to work best during daylight hours. But even within these parameters, (0) … .

Our internal body clock is a natural process governed by circadian rhythms that regulate levels of energy and alertness throughout the day. So (1) …, this interferes with our ability to think.

Much research has been done on when we work best, but little of that knowledge has filtered through to the workplace. The average employee will take a few hours after arriving at work (2) … . This peak then subsides until around 3pm. After this low, alertness tends to increase again until a second peak at 6pm. Then it’s a steady decline until the ultimate low at 3.30am. Finally, alertness climbs again and the cycle repeats.

This, however, is the average cycle with people deviating hugely. Some fall into early morning achievers (larks), while others work better in the evening (owls).

Consider the typical working day: a 7.30am start; (3) … before 9am; an hour for lunch often spent at the desk; and a tiring commute home leaving work at 5pm each day.

The notion of the nine-to-five working day was established in Victorian times, not an age much aware of worker welfare, and it is easy to see the conflict between this fixed structure and our natural circadian rhythms. So how can businesses adapt? Already numerous companies are rejecting this outdated idea of a fixed working routine (4) … .

With the early evening peak of alertness occurring precisely when a vast majority of workers are wrestling with motorways or public transport on their commute home, (5) … . It’s won’t work for everyone, but there are a large percentage of professionals travelling unnecessarily to a fixed location.

Solutions are available today. Businesses of every size and in every sector are consuming flexible workspace and a new pattern is emerging which aims (6) …, rather than vice versa. Business leaders are listening to workers struggling with the daily cost and frustration of commuting. And they are embracing flexible working to attract the best employees.

Whether employers are quite ready to allow individuals to nap during the day during low-energy spells is a debatable point. But there is certainly receptiveness for improved workplace wellbeing and for trusting employees to maximise their productivity on their own terms.

Giving a little scientific thought to the process of productivity – and allowing owls and larks (7) …– works best for everyone.

1I 2G 3A 4B 5H 6F 7E