Wed, 22 May 2013
Last week we had the opportunity to spend the weekend in Spokane. It's a city of about 210,000 people, making it the second largest city in Washington State. It's about a three hour drive for us, but it's only 90 miles from the Canadian border. It's name is taken from the Native American Indian tribe that used to live in that area; Spokane meaning 'Children of the sun'. The reason we went there was for a basketball tournament. My son Cass had four games to play, two on Saturday, and two on Sunday. We set off early on Saturday morning, with everybody yawning and dozing(1) in the car. We checked into our hotel, and then made our way(2) to the High School where the basketball games were going to be played. When the second game was over, we decided to go downtown(3) and look around, as we are not familiar with the city. The center has a very large park with a river running through it that becomes Spokane Falls. This is a huge waterfall that tumbles(4) under a wide bridge. The river was high because of the recent melting of snow in the mountains, so the waterfall was extremely turbulent. In another part of the park we saw a monument that was built for the 1974 World's Fair. It was refreshing to be in a city again, especially one that is clean and interesting. We had dinner in the center of downtown Spokane, and then wandered through the shopping area. I happened to see the 'Mobius' center which is an interactive museum that I wrote about a few months ago. The streets, hotels, and restaurants were quite full, as it was the graduation weekend for both universities of Spokane: Whitworth, and Gonzaga University. So there were celebrations going on everywhere, and lots of students dressed up(5) looking very smart. Normally, our children's tournaments are only about sports, but I'm glad to say that(6) this trip turned into a cultural outing.
1. 'Dozing' comes from the verb 'to doze'; it's a sleepy verb. It means to half sleep.
a. During the university lecture I dozed.
b. We all doze during political speeches.
2. 'To make one's way..' means to find your way to a place; it can be figurative as well.
a. We made our way through the crowd to the museum.
b. She made her way through a difficult career.
3. 'Downtown' is the word we use to describe the center of a city or town. Note that it is not necessary to use 'the' with 'downtown' unless it is followed by another noun, such as area.
a. Let's go downtown and see what we can find.
b. They'll go downtown Spokane to visit the park.
c. I would like to visit the downtown area, as I've never been there before.
4. 'To tumble' is a wonderful verb that means to fall in a turning motion.
a. I opened the dryer and all the clothes tumbled onto the floor.
b. The children's toys tumbled down the stairs.
5. 'To dress up' is when a person puts on special clothes or a special costume. This is different from 'getting dressed' which is the normal, daily act of putting your clothes on.
a. You can't wear jeans to the wedding! You have to dress up!
b. We dressed up as ghosts for Halloween.
6. 'I'm glad to say' is a wonderful set phrase that can be included in many sentences, at the beginning or at the end.
a. He finally passed his exams, I'm glad to say.
b. I'm glad to say that the council approved the plans for the park.
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Wed, 15 May 2013
Liz (on the phone): Hi Mum, are you all packed and ready for your visit?
Mother: Yes darling; we're so excited to see you again.
Liz: Me too. But there's been a change of plans.
Mother: Oh, yes?
Liz: I've booked you into a hotel that is opposite my appartment.
Mother: Why? Don't you want us to stay with you?
Liz: It's not that, Mum. It's just that the appartment is tiny. You and Dad would have to squeeze into my bed or the sofa. That's not going to work.
Mother: Oh, I hadn't thought about that. Mmm, well, whatever you think is best is fine with us darling.
Liz: Your room has a King size bed; it's non-smoking, and has internet access.
Mother: Perfect. It sounds lovely dear. We'll see you in a couple of days!
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Tue, 7 May 2013
I volunteered this year to build my mother an arbor in her back garden. She has a small patio at the back of her house with three borders(1) for planting. Because it gets so hot from late spring to the middle of autumn, she decided that she'd like a cover of some kind. Parasols are not big enough to cover the whole area, and the housing rules(2) do not allow her to attach anything to the house itself for extra shade. So, the only option is to build a 'free standing' arbor, or one that stands alone. Now, I actually like building things, believe it or not. I have slowly accumulated some experience of cutting and shaping wood, using power tools, digging holes, measuring and leveling(3), and mixing and pouring concrete. It's hard work, but it's so satisfying to see the finished product. To make my mum's arbor safe, I have to use 10 ft poles(4) that go into 2ft holes, and sit in concrete(5). Then, the lateral beams(6) will be screwed across the length and width(7) of the patio on both sides of the poles. It'll be a very strong structure; well it has to be. I can't have anything falling on my mother's head! Then, when the basic frame has been made, I will attach a lattice in between the beams. A lattice is a criss-cross pattern of wood. This will create shade with a pretty pattern. I'm almost half way finished, and I need to hurry up and get it built(8), because the days are getting hotter. Shade is what we're after.
1. 'A border' is an area of land, usually in the shape of a strip. It is here that you can plant. This word is also used to represent the line of separation between two countries.
a. The border is full of flowers all year long.
b. We'll cross the border to Mexico next week.
2. 'Housing rules' are usually called 'covenants'. The limit what you can and cannot do with the outside of your house. Notice the word 'housing' sounds like it has a 'z' instead of an 's'.
a. The housing covenants don't let us paint the doors anything but brown.
b. I'll have to read the housing covenants to see if I can buid an attached arbor.
3. 'Measuring and leveling' could be one of the most important parts of building. You have to get the lengths correct. Making a pole or piece of structure level, means that it is either exactly 90 degrees, 0 degrees, or 180 degrees. A 'level' is the device which is has liquid and a bubble to show if something is level.
a. Make sure the pole is level; that way it'll be strong and safe.
b. The bubble in the level is not in the middle; it shows that the shelf is not level.
4. A 'pole' is a long, piece of wood used as a support.
a. The pole that holds up the raspberries is rotten.
b. We need lots of poles to build a tree house for the kids.
5. 'Concrete' is the white, pasty, rocky substance that we use to make side walks and floors.
a. The concrete will take all day to dry; then we can walk on it.
b. Mix the concrete with water, but don't breathe in the dust!
6. 'Lateral' is the same as saying 'side'.
a. She'll hang baskets of flowers from the lateral beams.
b. Side beams will make the structure even stronger.
7. The 'length and width' are the two most basic measurements. They measure how long something is and how wide it is.
a. She can swim a width of the pool, but not a length.
b. Check the length of the sofa before you buy it.
8. 'Get it built' is a command using the past participle. Most verbs can be used this way.
a. Hurry up and get the bathroom painted; you're taking too long.
b. Get the essay written and handed in as soon as possible.
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Fri, 3 May 2013
Peter: Hi Liz, I see your cast is off.
Liz: Yes, finally! Life is so much easier without one.
Peter: You had some bad luck breaking your arm.
Liz: Yes I had two lots of bad luck: breaking my arm and losing my job.
Peter: Wait a minute. You lost your job?
Liz: Yes, well not exactly. I quit.
Peter: Because of the lady you were working with.
Liz: Yep. I told the boss that I was doing my work, and most of hers.
Peter: And what did she say?
Liz: She told me that the woman denied it. What could I do? I hate confrontation, and I don't like complaining, but I couldn't take it any more.
Peter: That's too bad.
Liz: Well, never mind. I'll take some time off before looking for another job. My parents are going to visit soon, so I'll job hunt after they leave.
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Thu, 2 May 2013
It's 8:45 at Tom, Dick, and Harry's. The coffee's hot, the door's unlocked, and that corner table - the one by the jukebox(1), is gathering a familiar crowd. They're retired farmers, contractors, businessmen, a few old law enforcement guys(2), a former postmaster(3) and more. There are about 17 in all, with ages ranging(4) from the early 70's to 90. They meet daily, but show up(5) in greatest numbers on Fridays, when they take turns(6) bringing doughnuts. They've been around the block once or twice(7), and they love talking about it. In fact, they love talking in general, about everything from football, to politics, to how best to plant tomato seeds. "Sometimes there are three or four stories going on at once and you can't hear anything," says Kenny. "Put it this way," adds Bill, "when I started coming here I didn't have hearing aids(8). Now I do." Another of them adds, "We enjoy each other's company. We don't always agree, but we don't get too annoyed at each other." There is a real diversity of opinions and life experiences in this group. "We have a vast table of knowledge," says Sackman, a retired state trooper. His comment provokes snickering(9) and eye rolling from his friends. The first members of this group started getting together 35 years ago. When asked if wisdom does really come with age, half of the members say "yes", and the other half, at the same time say "no". And then there's more laughter.
1. 'Jukebox' is a typically American word which describes something that is very important in American culture. It is a machine which plays different pieces of music when money is put in it.
a. This jukebox takes quarters. You need to put a quarter in it before you can choose a song.
b. The diner is very retro; it has 60's style decoration and even a jukebox.
2. 'Law enforcement'/ 'a law enforcement officer' basically means a policeman.
a. He's taking his law enforcement class in order to become a policeman.
3. 'Postmaster' is the same as a postman or a mail man.
4. 'With ...ranging from ....to ....' when comparing ages, weights, sizes, colors, or other characteristics.
a. The shop has antiques with prices ranging from $50 to $3000.
b. The concert has performers from countries ranging from India to South America.
5. 'To show up' means the same as 'to turn up' which means to arrive, appear, or be present. Both imply that the opposite would be possible.
a. I'm glad that you finally showed up!
b. They didn't show up until the party was over.
6. 'To take turns' is fairly self explanatory. In a game or arranged activity of some sort, one person will have a turn, then another, and so forth.
a. When we play cards, we have to take turns.
b. If you don't take turns, it's not fair for everybody else.
7. 'To go around the block' or 'to have been around the block' means to have lived a long life. 'A block' refers to a block of houses, or a square formation of homes around 4 streets.
a. He speaks from experience; he's been around the block a few times.
b. He's too young, he hasn't been around the block yet.
8. 'A hearing aid' is a small device that you put in your ear to help you hear.
a. My hearing test showed that I need a hearing aid.
b. His hearing aid is so small that you can hardly see it.
9. 'To snicker' is a way of laughing. There are many verbs for different types of laughter, 'to chuckle', 'to chortle', 'to snigger', 'to giggle'. The most common ones are 'to giggle' and 'to chuckle'. 'To snicker' is more American, and implies that you're laughing at someone or disagreeing with what has been said.
a. The children giggled while they mixed the mud with water, and wiped it on the dog.
b. He snickered at my comment. I knew that he disagreed with me.
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Tue, 30 April 2013
At the clinic:
Doctor: So, how have you been getting along with this arm?
Liz: Fine. I can get around alright, but it has definitely slowed me down.
Doctor: Have you had any pain?
Liz: At first I had some at night, but that only lasted a few days.
Doctor: We'll take the cast off today, so you will be almost back to normal. I need to take an X-ray first, to make sure that the bone has healed completely.
Liz: Will my arm be back to normal once the cast comes off?
Doctor: Not immediately. If you have no pain, and a good range of motion, you can slowly start to use the arm, but you have to take it easy. You might have some swelling, or loss of muscle.
Liz: Okay, I'll make sure I'm careful with the arm.
Mon, 29 April 2013
In a study in The Harvard University Gazette called 'Social Activities Found to Prolong Life', scientists talk about the great importance of socializing as we get older. A healthy diet and regular exercise are the foundations of good health, but scientists now say that socializing is just as important. Thomas Glass, an assistant professor at the Harvard School of Public Health says, "Social and productive activities that involve(1) little or no physical fitness lower the risk of all causes of death as much as exercise does." So, how did the scientists reach this conclusion(2)? They studied 2,761 elderly(3) men and women for 13 years. Activites such as going to church, restaurants, and sports events, taking short trips, playing cards, gardening, cooking for others, community work, and paid employment can all impact a person very positively. Ideally, the elderly would also exercise, preferably(4) with friends or in small groups. That way they would get double the benefits(5). It is best to do both: to exercise and to socialize. Scientists admit they don't know exactly why socializing is so beneficial. Glass says he believes that keeping social and busy causes, "changes in the brain that protect against damage and keep the immune system healthy." Knowing this affects not only the individual, but also society(6) because in most societies people are living longer. Programs are developing in the U.S. to keep the elderly active in society, helping in schools, volunteering, and exercising. This way, society benefits from the wisdom and experience of the elderly, and the elderly benefit by staying healthy and happy.
1. 'To involve' is a concise verb that means 'to have something to do with' or 'to work with'.
a. Teaching involves preparing, communicating, and correcting.
b. The community project involves hundreds of people, lots of money, and lots of time.
2. 'To reach a conclusion' can also be expressed as 'to come to a conclusion'.
a. They came to the same conclusion/ they reached the same conclusion.
b. We came to the conclusion that the house had to be pulled down.
3. 'Elderly' is a polite way of saying 'old' when we are talking about people. 'Old' can give a negative impression.
a. The elderly are a great source of wisdom for the community.
b. She is elderly now and needs extra help.
4. 'Preferably' is like saying 'ideally'.
a. Arrive at the office for the interview prepared, and preferably 10 minutes early.
b. I need an internet connection for my home, preferably a wireless one.
5. 'Double the + noun' is similar to saying 'twice as much .......'
a. In his new job, he'll get double the pay that he gets now/ twice as much pay as he gets now.
b. Compared to that computer, this one has double the speed/ is twice as fast.
6. 'Not only..., but also...' remember we had this the other day; it's worth practicing again.
a. Encouraging the elderly not only affects their feelings, but also how active they are.
b. Socializing not only improves the brain, but also the immune system.
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Thu, 25 April 2013
Hi Liz, what happened to your arm?
Oh, you won't believe it. I was coming out of the cellular phone store the other day, and I slipped on something and landed on my arm. It's broken in two places!
No, I wouldn't joke about something like this. It's a pain!
What did the doctor say about the break?
Well, he said it's a bad one, and it'll take about two months to recover.
Is that your writing hand?
So, what will you do for writing?
The professors all said that I can dictate my essays, or type with my other hand. That'll be interesting!
Hey, if you need help typing, I can do it for you.
That's really sweet of you. I might just ask you for some help. Thanks.
Tue, 23 April 2013
I listen to podcasts nearly every day. Not only do I love the fact that I am learning each time I hear one, but I also(1) love the fact that they are free and accessible. It's interesting to consider(2) the differences between one podcast and another. What makes one better than another? What are the elements of a good podcast? One that I've been thinking about for a while is sound quality. For years, I have used a cheap, skinny microphone that is really basic. It has done a reasonable(3) job, but you can't expect very much from a cheapo(4) product. At times I have been editing, and have realised that the microphone records not only my voice, but also the noise of my dog barking at the cat, my children arguing in the kitchen, or even the general creaking(5) of the house. So, I've upgraded. I went on-line and looked up(6) the company called 'Blue'. I had heard that they make quality microphones. And they do. I ordered a 'Snowball' which arrived just a few days later. I was so excited to receive it; I opened its box like a child opening a Christmas present. It works beautifully, and gives digital quality sound. I'm so glad. And it's so cute! It has a big, round head, and a tripod underneath, like a mini-robot. And it's retro(7) style, so it has personality. It's my prized possession(8), and nobody is allowed to go near it apart from me. It's like my new pet, but a useful one that doesn't bark or scratch the furniture. So I'm motivated to continue podcasting. Good job Blue!
1. 'Not only....but also' is a great sentence structure which enables you to show two ideas.
a. Not only does he work all day, but he also cleans homes every evening.
b. Not only can you speak commands to the new phone, but also it can lock and unlock your house when you are far away.
2. 'To consider' is a verb that means 'to think about'.
a. Consider your options, and then make a decision.
b. Consider the differences between the two candidates; one is more experienced, the other is more personable.
3. 'Reasonable' is like saying 'logical' or 'rational'. It also means 'just okay' when you are judging a performance.
a. He made a reasonable argument; it really made sense.
b. The car's performance was reasonable, but not great.
4. 'Cheapo' is slang for cheap. It also adds the idea of something being poor quality as well as cheap.
a. This cheapo can opener broke the first day I got it.
b. Don't buy those shoes; they're cheapos and will hurt your feet.
5. 'Creaking' comes from the verb 'to creak' which means to make a noise like an old door opening.
a. I heard footsteps and then a door creaking open; who was there?
b. I can't play football anymore; my bones are too creaky.
6. 'To look up' means to search either on-line, or in a directory or list.
a. I looked up her name in the phone book, but it didn't show her address.
b. I looked up the website and bought an item.
7. 'Retro' or 'retro style' means a fashion that is no longer in fashion, but that is considered good taste, or perhaps is coming back into fashion.
8. 'My prized possession' is self explanatory. It is an item you own which you really value. If something is prized, it is considered as important as a prize even if it isn't one.
a. My grandmother's books are my prized possessions.
b. The flowers she grew from seed are her prized possessions.
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Sat, 20 April 2013
In the cellular phone store.
Customer service assistant: Hello ma'am, how can I help you today? Would you be interested in one of our 4G phones with voice command?
Liz: Oh, no thanks. Actually I came in because my phone isn't working. I dropped it in the sink, and I think the battery got wet.
C.S.A: Could I have a look?
C.S.A: I'll have to take it in the back and open it to see what I can do.
A few minutes later.
C.S.A: Here you are ma'am. It's working fine. We had to replace the battery, but I believe your insurance covers that.
Liz: Great! That's a relief!
C.S.A: You know, you've had this phone for two years, so you are entitled to a free upgrade. Would a smart phone interest you? You can access email, the web, and do word processing on it.
Liz: How much is it per month?
C.S.A: It depends on the model. Between thirty and a hundred dollars.
Liz: Well, I'll have to think about it.
C.S.A: Of course. Here's my card. Just give me a call if you're interested.
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