Mon, 2 December 2013
'Luminous', 'glowing', 'radiating' are the words which came to my mind(1) after reading an article about a very special, new technology. It's called 'Starpath', an earth-friendly(2), inexpensive, and efficient way to light our streets. A company in England called Pro-Teq Surfacing, has developed a material made out of ultraviolet particles. These particles are spread onto a path, where they absorb sunlight during the day, and then they glow(3) blue at night. The first public demonstration of this took place in the city of Cambridge. I found a photograph of the path in the newspaper called 'The Telegraph', and it does show the path glowing at night. This is a very exciting development in lighting because it is clean, sustainable(4), and very cheap. I can imagine the cost of lighting our streets with traditional street lamps. However, this Starpath technology could cut our national lighting costs by hundreds of millions each year. We certainly cannot do without(5) light at night, to keep us safe, to help us find our way home, and to discourage crime. What a fantastic development. And this is just the beginning. Starpath technology offers the possibility of different colors of light as well. Also, the material used can last up to seventy years, so it is very sustainable stuff. As councils are turning off street lamps to save money and to meet carbon emissions targets, Starpath could be a valuable solution to both problems.
1. 'To come to mind' means that something reminds you of something else; it could be an image, a word, even a color.
a. When I think of my Kindergarten students, a tornado comes to mind.
b. When I think of my good friends, a garden of flowers comes to mind.
2. 'Earth-friendly' is a very popular and very important phrase. It means something that doesn't harm the natural environment.
a. This plastic bag is earth-friendly; it decomposes quickly and is not toxic.
b. My earth-friendly light bulbs take a few minutes to produce bright light.
3. 'Glow' is one of the main ideas in this podcast, and it means the same as 'radiate', or 'emit light'. It can be used figuratively as well.
a. His face was glowing with success when he found out that he had passed the exam.
b. The moon glowed through the clouds.
4. 'Sustainable' comes from the verb 'to sustain' which means 'to keep going' or 'to support'.
a. That forest is sustainable because the trees that are cut down are quickly replaced.
b. We need an educational program for prisoners that is sustainable.
5. 'To do without' is interchangeable with 'to go without', but the latter often means that a person lacks some basic necessity.
a. The homeless shelter cannot do without funding, even for a day.
b. The play cannot do without the main actor; it just wouldn't work.
c. People can only go without water for a few days, but they can go without food for about a month.
d. I can't do without/ go without my coffee in the morning.
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Tue, 12 November 2013
Brian: "What are all these boxes doing out in the hall?"
Liz: "I decided that it was finally time for me to get organized?"
Brian: "You? Organized?"
Liz: "I'm not that bad, am I?"
Brian: "Well, I don't know anyone else who loses her keys everyday, or her phone, or her bag."
Liz: "That's called being normal."
Brian: "Well, I don't lose my things everyday."
Liz: "That's because you're not normal, ha, ha! I've made a resolution: I will be more organized. I'll use my iPhone calendar. I'll get rid of my junk, and become more efficient."
Brian: "Wow! God help us all! An efficient Liz is hard to imagine."
Liz: "That's because overly organized people like you lack imagination."
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Mon, 4 November 2013
Recently, when I was substitute teaching in a local school, I came across a very unusual creature. It was an Austrian leaf bug. It was in the elementary classroom, along with(1) other animals such as a corn snake, a hampster, and an old display of tarantulas, moths, and beetles. This particular(2) insect didn't catch my eye at all at first because it was perfectly camouflaged. It was hanging from a raspberry branch, but it was so still, and looked so much like a dry leaf, that I thought there were no creatures in the cage at all. I asked the students about their classroom pets, and they had lots to say. They called the bugs, "gross", "wierd", "freaky", and even "boring". "They don't do much," said one boy. "They just hang there all day. They eat, and they poop, and that's all." I took a video of one of them and then looked them up on the internet. I found out that they are not as boring as they seem(3). They live a long time: 18 months for females, and about 6 months for males. The females produce huge amounts of eggs, and what's amazing is that(4)they don't even need the males. If there is no male, their eggs will all be female bugs; it's called parthenogenesis. The females are also twice as big as the males, but unlike them, they cannot fly. Poor males, they may aswell fly if they're not needed. So, for a classroom, the female Australian bug is an ideal and easy pet: cheap, durable, static, and 'wierd'.
1. 'Along with' is similar to saying 'as well as' or 'close to'.
a. Cats are perfect hunters. They are fast, quiet, and along with their sharp claws, they have nocturnal vision.
b. The kitchen drawer was a mess. In it were coins, wires, papers , and pins, along with old receipts and pebbles.
2. 'This particular..' is a useful short phrase used to emphasize a noun that you then describe.
a. There was a man in the crowd in a red coat. This particular man was well known.
b. Snakes can dislocate their jaws; this particular ability enables them to eat animals larger than themselves.
3. 'as ......as' praticing comparisons:
a. He's as tall as the man.
b. It's as sunny as it was yesterday.
c. She's as capable as anyone in the class.
4. 'What's amazing is that..' Here, 'amazing' can be replaced with any adjective, and often 'that' is omitted in speech, and after 'who', 'when', 'where', 'how' and 'why', or the infinitive or gerund of a verb.
a. What's tragic is (that) he doesn't study for his tests.
b. What's funny is how he eats so fast.
c. What's encouraging is seeing their progress.
5. 'Durable' means that it either lives a long time, or that it doesn't wear with age or use.
a. The new, efficient light bulbs are durable; they last up to 7 years.
b. those cheap tires are not durable; they'll wear out in a year or two.
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Fri, 18 October 2013
John: Hi Liz, are you still playing with that thing?
Liz: Oh yes, hi John. I'm still getting used to my new iPhone. I'm getting to know the apps really well.
John: I can see that. I was standing next to you for 5 minutes before you looked up.
Liz: Oh gosh, sorry! It's just so fascinating. I actually missed the bus yesterday because I wasn't paying attention.
John: Well, at least you weren't waiting to catch a plane!
Liz: Ha! Yes! It's absorbing a lot of my time at the moment. But, once I get used to it, I'm sure I'll be back to normal.
John: Sure, it takes a while to get used to new technology. How are you liking the bigger bill?
Liz: Not much. But I suppose you get what you pay for. Why do they make cell phone bills so complicated: data, minutes, plans, taxes, surcharges? It's more confusing than my Science teacher!
John: I know. I just pay the bill, and hope that they're being honest.
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Tue, 15 October 2013
In the United States, young men and women are allowed to start driving lessons when they are fifteen. They apply for an 'Initial Permit', take lessons, and have the opportunity to drive the family car. They have to be accompanied by a parent or guardian(1) who is over 21 and who has a proper(2) driver's license. After a year of good driving, on their sixteenth birthday, they can get their driver's license. None of this meant anything to me until my oldest son, Hudson, asked me if he could apply for his initial permit. "What!" I said to myself. "This is crazy! He's only fifteen! His brain isn't fully developed yet!" When I had calmed down, I realised that everybody starts young over here. And, the best way to keep my son safe, is to allow him to get proper training, and lots of experience. So, even though(3) I would like to say "No", I haven't. I am actually the one who sits next to him when he is driving around. Thankfully, he is very careful. It's nerve wracking(4), however, as a parent, to sit there in the passenger seat, and have no control at all. I'm definitely more nervous than he is in that situation. I have to control my breathing, bite my tongue(5), and try not to slam my foot onto my imaginary brake. As he is enouraged by his driving instructors to drive everywhere, in the morning, he drives his three siblings to school, and then goes on(6) to the High School. So, first thing in the morning, I find myself sitting in the passenger seat in my pyjamas, heart racing, wild eyed like a trapped cat, just hoping for it all to be over soon. I smile, of course, and say things like, "That was a really good corner, Hudson. You used the brakes really well." By the time I get home, though, I look like I've seen a ghost. So I destress with some Yoga, and a long shower.
1. 'Guardian' is a person who looks after someone, even though he is not a parent.
a. Tell your parents or guardians about the school meeting tonight.
b. Their aunt became their guardian.
2. 'Proper' is often used in English to mean, the 'actual', 'real', 'authentic'. It is also, occasionally, used as 'neat', or 'fully prepared.'
a. The little boy has a toy computer, but his older brother has a proper one.
b. He has become a proper baker, with his own business and delivery van.
3. 'Even though' is worth practicing:
a. Even though it's raining, we should go for a walk.
b. Even though it's late, you should do your homework.
c. Even though they didn't want to, they stayed behind after school.
d. She decided to quit her job, even though she had been offered a raise.
e. We went by train, even though by car would have been quicker.
4. 'Nerve wracking' is a common expression that expresses extreme stress.
a. I can't go on roller coasters anymore; it's too nerve wracking.
b. All the noise and demands of running a preschool can be nerve wracking.
5. 'To bite your tongue' means to deliberately keep quiet in order to not say the wrong thing and cause a problem.
a. He was going to say that she looked fat in her new dress, but he bit his tongue.
b. Please bite your tongue instead of arguing.
6. '...goes on' here is used instead of 'continues driving to'. Using the verb 'to go' + on is a quicker and more informal way than repeating the original verb.
a. We'll drive to the park first, and then go on to the shopping mall.
b. They skied to the valley, and went on to the hotel.
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Thu, 10 October 2013
As I look at the calendar, I realise that I have about five weeks left, five weeks before the snow 'flies'(1). There are lots of things to do before the beautiful, white blanket of snow covers our town. I'm a gardener, a self-proclaimed (2)addict. But that's not a bad thing. As I sit here typing, looking out at the back garden, or 'yard' as they say here, I see a transformation slowly evolving. There is a long, raised bed(3) of soil, two trees, and one, two, three bushes. Soon, I hope, that amount will be multiplied by four. So what is my goal? It's a mini-forest that will have a seating area in the middle, accessed only by two windy(4) paths. It will also hide the neighbor's ugly white barn that looks over my garden. To take on a project like this, you have to have a vision. And my vision has helped me to continue working hard. When the soil or 'dirt' was delivered, I thought, "Gosh, that's a lot of soil. Will I really be able to transport all of it from the front garden to the back garden?" The thought was intimidating. My children helped me a little bit, but I think they did that just to keep me happy(5). They had their own agenda. They took possession of this mountain of soft soil, like it was powdered gold. Before I knew it(6), they were digging tunnels, building rooves, and having battles right in the 'dirt pile'. In fact, my son Cass, who had just celebrated his birthday, suggested that next year I buy him his own dirt pile for a birthday present. My! How life has changed! When I was young, I played in dirt all the time, and drove my mother crazy. Now, in our ultra-clean, ultra-scheduled society, children are requesting dirt piles as presents. They are abandoning their computers and iPads, and waiting for Santa to pour three cubic feet of soil down the chimney. I applaud their connection with the soil. It's magnificent stuff, the foundation of nature's architecture.
1. 'Before the snow flies' is a phrase used here in the U.S which really means 'when the snow comes'.
a. I must get the bulbs planted before the snow flies.
b. After the snow flies we will build a snowman.
2. 'Self-proclaimed' is when a person calls himself or herself something.
a. Michael Jackson was the self-proclaimed 'Kind of Pop'.
b. She is a self-proclaimed authority on fashion.
3. 'A raised bed' is an area of soil that has been built up. It can be used for flowers, vegetables, or trees. However, planting beds do not have to be raised.
a. The raised bed will help to hide the neighbor's barn.
b. There is a bed of roses around the corner.
4. 'Windy' note the spelling. With a sharp 'i', as in 'ink', it describes weather that has a lot of wind. With a longer, softer 'i', as in 'hi', it describes a curvy line or path.
a. Hold on to your hats! It's a windy day today.
b. To get to the abandoned house, you must follow a windy path that goes through the forest.
5. 'To keep someone happy' means to appease them, usually for a purpose.
a. Walk your dog and feed him everyday. That will keep him happy, and stop him from misbehaving.
b. Big speeches with lots of promises often keep the voters happy.
6. 'Before I knew it' is a great phrase that communicates something quickly happening, taking you by surprise.
a. The carpet cleaner arrived while I was cooking, and, before I knew it, he had finished the carpet and left.
b. Dark clouds gathered while we walked, and before we knew it, we were in the middle of a storm.
Fri, 4 October 2013
John: What have you got there?
Liz: Oh, it's a new cell phone.
John: Nice. Is it a smart phone?
Liz: Yep. I decided that it was about time for me to get one.
John: What kind is it?
Liz: An iPhone 4S; it's quite basic really. There are newer models, but this is all I need.
John: Well, you've got internet access and a camera. I think those are so useful.
Liz: And don't forget the apps. They really make life easier. My favorite is Google Maps. It's free, and there is a pleasant voice that tells me exactly where to go and when. I never get lost!
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Thu, 19 September 2013
Sam: So Liz, are you going to go to the doctor, or do I have to take you myself?
Liz: Yes, yes, I'm planning on going. You don't have to force me; believe me, I feel terrible.
Sam: Well, you look terrible.
Liz: Oh thanks! That makes me feel better.
Sam: You know what I mean. Look, you've had a temperature for two days, you have a sore throat, and you have no energy. If I were you, I would go immediately.
Liz: Yes, I suppose you're right. It's just that....
Liz: I hate hospitals, and clinics, and needles, and pills....
Sam: So do I. I don't even like smell of hospitals, but what choice do you have? If you delay seeing a doctor, you might end up with an infection. And you know what that means.
Liz: Yes, antibiotics. Okay, you've convinced me. I'll call and make an appointment.
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Thu, 12 September 2013
These September days are glorious. They are still extremely sunny, but there is a coolness in the air which makes it easier(1) to be outside. On Sunday, we took a trip to Leavenworth, a nearby town. I often go there for a change of scenery. It is very mountainous and well kept(2). The town has been deliberately made to look German, and the calendar in Leavenworth is full of special German-style(3) celebrations. The reason we went, was to go to the park. What makes it special, is that part of it is an island, called Black Bird Island. It is surrounded by the Wenatchee River, and accessible from one bridge. As you cross the bridge, you enter into a gentle forest that has a maze(4) of pathways. We walked until we could see the river through the trees, went down an embankment, and chose a spot on one of the rocky, sandy beaches. I found a shady area to sit and take photos, while my kids took off their socks and shoes and got straight into the water. They became hunters, hunters of fish and unusual stones. We also took our metal detector, to see if we could find some treasure. Well, a coke can and an old nail aren't exactly treasure, but it was fun to hear the metal detector come alive and make noise. The embankment next to us was actually full of natural treasures. We found a snake, empty birds' nests, a bird's egg, and a little den full of seeds; it must have belonged to a mouse or some other rodent. The hours flew by(5); and before we knew it, we had to leave. It was a perfect day of simple relaxation and childlike discovery.
1. 'To make it easier' is a phrase that we use often in English.
a. The new parking area makes it easier to access the shops.
b. On-line shopping makes our lives much easier.
2. 'Well kept' means 'well looked after' or 'neat and tidy'.
a. My neighbor's garden is so well kept; it looks like a park.
b. The baskets of flowers outside that shop are really well kept.
3. 'German-style'. The use of '-style' is very common, and almost any noun can be put in front of it to add sense to a sentence. It is correct to do this, even if you the phrase appears 'made up' or 'newly created' by you. It is an informal grammar structure.
a. I love their French-style house; their English-style garden compliments it.
b. Their 1920's-style wedding was very classy.
4. 'A maze' means the same as 'a labyrinth'.
a. You can pay to walk around the corn maze, and try to find your way out.
b. The hotel was like a maze; there were so many hallways that you could get lost easily.
5. 'The hours flew by'. Time is often expressed with the verb 'to fly' to give the meaning of it going quickly.
a. The summer flew by; before we knew it, it was over.
b. The time I spend with my sister always flies by because we have so much fun.
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Mon, 9 September 2013
Samantha: Hello Liz!
Liz: Hi Samantha! How are you?
Samantha: Really well thanks. I'm calling because I have a question.
Liz: Oh, go ahead.
Samantha: Do you want to join us for the protest tomorrow?
Liz: What protest?
Samantha: Haven't you heard? The teachers' salaries are going to be cut by 30%, and the cost of tuition is going up.
Liz: Oh my gosh! No, I hadn't heard. When will the changes take effect?
Samantha: In a month. So, tomorrow, at noon, the teachers and some students are going to walk from the university to the governor's building in protest. We've got some banners to carry; it'll only take about two hours.
Liz: There won't be any trouble, will there?
Samantha: Oh of course not; it'll be totally peaceful. Nobody wants to cause any trouble. But something has to be said about the cuts, those poor teachers!
Liz: I agree. And students can't afford another rise in tuition. That's crazy! Well, count me in. I will definitely be there.
Samantha: Excellent. We'll meet at the fountain just before noon. I'll see you there!
Liz: Ok, thanks for letting me know. I'll see you at the fountain.
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