domingo, 26 de marzo de 2017

Extensive listening: What I learned from 2,000 obituaries

Lux Narayan starts his day with scrambled eggs and the question: "Who died today?" Why?

By analyzing 2,000 New York Times obituaries over a 20-month period, Narayan gleaned, in just a few words, what achievement looks like over a lifetime. Here he shares what those immortalized in print can teach us about a life well lived.

Lakshmanan aka Lux Narayan mans Unmetric, a social media intelligence company that helps digital marketers, social media analysts, and content creators control social signals to track and analyze competitive content and campaigns, and to create better content and campaigns of their own.

Outside of work, he is a perpetual learner of various things, from origami and molecular gastronomy to stand-up and improv comedy. He enjoys reading obituaries and other non-fiction and watching documentaries with bad ratings. Narayan makes time every year for trekking in the Himalayas or scuba diving in tropical waters, and once he learns to fly, he hopes to spend more time off land than on it.

You can read a full transcript for the talk here.

sábado, 25 de marzo de 2017

Reading test: Lent 2017

In this week's reading test we are going to practise the insert-the-sentence type of task. To do so, we are going to use The Telegraph article Lent 2017 starts today, here's everything you need to know about Ash Wednesday.

Read this text and choose the best sentence (A - K) for each gap. TWO of the sentences do not correspond to any of the blanks. 0 is an example.

A - angered some traditionalists
B - as a reflection of Jesus's sacrifice in the Judean desert
C - fall on the same date each year
D - for prayer and penance
E - it can fall on any Sunday
F - it is determined by when Easter falls
G - to give up a particular vice
H - to use up rich, indulgent foods like eggs and milk
I - which comes before Easter in the Christian calendar
J - which marks the start of Lent in the Christian calendar – 0 Example
K - which means 'spring'

When is Ash Wednesday 2017?
Ash Wednesday, (0) … , has been observed by Britons for centuries. Its exact date changes every year, because (1) … . But it is always the day after Shrove Tuesday, or Pancake Day, and it always falls in February or March. This year, it is on Wednesday, March 1.
In January last year, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev Justin Welby, suggested that Easter should (2) … . The plan, which would schedule the Christian festival on the same Sunday each year, was welcomed by parents and schools but (3) … .
At present, Easter falls on the first Sunday following the first full moon after the vernal equinox around March 21. This means (4) … between March 22 and April 25. Archbishop Welby said that Easter should most likely be fixed for the second or third Sunday of April.

What is Lent?
Ash Wednesday marks the first day of Lent, a period of 40 days (excluding Sundays) (5) … .
Christians who observe Lent use it as a time (6) … . By observing Lent, Christians are remembering the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, who withdrew into the wilderness and fasted for 40 days before his crucifixion.
Traditionally, pancakes are eaten on the day before Ash Wednesday (7) … before the 40-day fasting season of Lent begins.
This year, Easter falls on Sunday, April 16. The English word Lent is a shortened form of the Old English word 'lenten', (8) … .

 Photo: Wikipedia

1F 2C 3A 4E 5I 6D 7H 8K

viernes, 24 de marzo de 2017

I always wanted to grow Christmas trees

Clive Collins used to have one of the most physically active jobs there is - a forester but one day he fell out of a tree, which paralysed him from the waist down. After the accident he was determined to keep working outdoors, following his dream to start a Christmas tree farm.

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

I’m Clive Collins, from Catsfield Christmas Tree Farm. My business is growing Christmas trees and selling them. I worked as forestry contractor in Sussex and I was pruning a tree and I fell out of this tree, (1) ___ feet, and landed on my feet and broke my (2) ___. This ended up with me being paralysed from the waist down and it meant I couldn’t walk.
When I was lying in hospital, I thought to myself, I’ve always wanted to grow Christmas trees. I started growing some Christmas trees but I was really… didn’t take any advice from anybody, so I made a lot of mistakes. I became quite (3) ___ about the great change in my life. I did tend to rely on drink a little bit, which didn’t do me any good either, made me more (4) ___.
I think I really started getting my business together when I met a Christmas tree specialist who came over, looked around my farm and gave me a business plan and he was definitely at a place in his life where I wanted to be.
We have a retail business which sells about (5) ___ trees. They are grown on (6) ___ acres and we have about (7) ___ trees in all.
Looking back on my career so far, I would say you’ve got to look for people who can help you to make your business successful, both listening to them and taking their (8) ___, and usually following it to the letter.

1 30
2 back 
3 depressed 
4 depressed
5 3,000
6 25 
7 25,000
8 advice

jueves, 23 de marzo de 2017

Nokia 3310 mobile phone resurrected at MWC 2017

Nokia's 3310 phone has been relaunched. Many consider the original handset iconic because of its popularity and sturdiness.

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

1. When was the Nokia 3310 last on sale before its comeback?
2. How long does the Nokia 3310 battery last?
3. What is it said about smartphone Chinese market?
4. Who has launched the BlackBerry Keyone?

Barcelona and, as the mobile phone industry arrives for its annual jamboree, there is nostalgia in the air. Nokia, a name that used to rule the mobile world, is making a comeback. For the Finnish firm which has licensed the brand, this was its first chance to make a big splash and, along with a range of new smartphones, it unveiled something very retro, last on sale in 2005.
Let me reintroduce the iconic Nokia 3310.
You can't do much with this phone except make calls and play a game of Snake, but the battery lasts forever. Well, almost.
We were just listening to our consumers. We asked, "What is the most iconic device that you have ever seen from Nokia?" And we thought, why not? Let's have some fun and we created this device for the consumers.
Now this may be fun, but let's face it, it is a bit of a gimmick. If Nokia is to become a major force in the mobile world again, it won't through the 3310, but for its new range android smartphones.
The company claims this model is already selling well in China, but competition in a market where all smartphones look much the same is tough. So, perhaps, it was smart to look back as well as forward.
By bringing out this truly iconic device, which has got bags of nostalgia, for many people it was
their first mobile phone, it catches their attention and people will know Nokia is back.
But will the new and old Nokia appeal to the phone-buying public?
Maybe with my parents that would work, but I don't think with our generation that that would be something people would be interested in.
I would switch my Apple phone for that thing.
Even if it couldn't go on the internet?
No internet? Oh, well, then, I think I will change my mind!
And here's another phone trying for a comeback. This is the BlackBerry Keyone, launched by a Chinese firm which has licensed the brand. Two once-great names making an unlikely bet that they can be big again in our mobile future.
Rory Cellan-Jones, BBC News, Barcelona.

1 in 2005
2 (almost) forever
3 all the smartphones look the same
4 a Chinese firm

miércoles, 22 de marzo de 2017

Talking point: Food waste

This week's talking point is food waste. 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.

Do you usually write a shopping list before you go to the supermarket?
Do you ever buy more food than you really need or are you careful?
Do you look for special offers, such as ‘buy one get one free’, or ‘two for the price of one’?
Do you check the shelf life of food as you buy it?
Do you end up throwing food in the bin every week?
If so, how much money do you think you waste?
If not, how do you avoid throwing out food that’s past its sell-by date?

Look at the following suggestions for reducing household food waste. Which of these…
do you already do?
would you like to start doing?
would you never do?

1 Plan your meals for the week and then write a shopping list.
2 Don’t shop when you’re hungry.
3 Make sure your fridge is at the right temperature.
4 Use old fruit and vegetables to make smoothies or soup.
5 Use your leftovers for lunch the next day.
6 When you buy new food, bring the old food to the front of the fridge.
7 Serve small portions and give people more if they actually want it.
8 Only buy what you need- avoid ‘buy one get one free’.
9 Use the freezer- defrost food as you need it.
10 Use a compost bin.

To illustrate the topic, watch the video of Selina Juul, a key part of Denmark’s food waste revolution.

martes, 21 de marzo de 2017

Melinda Gates on making a successful life

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has spent tens of billions of dollars to fund improvements in global public health. Melinda Gates sits down with Jane Pauley to discuss her long-held commitment to science and data, and how it is vital to combating hunger, maternal and infant mortality and malnutrition, and to improving access to education and family planning.

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

1 Microsoft has made $40 billion this year.
2 The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation headquarters are worth $500 million.
3 According to the United Nations, since 1990 global poverty has doubled.
4 One million children are the number of babies that die on the first day of life.
5 Polio has been eradicated worldwide.
6 The Gates Foundation has been successful in raising the education standards in US.
7 Microsoft wasn’t the first company Melinda got a job offer from.
8 Bill Gates asked Melinda out on a date for the following weekend.
9 Mary Lehman, Melinda’s friend, found Bill a bill dull.
10 Melinda made a point of being a working mum.
11 Melinda doesn’t like being the focus of attention.
12 Melinda got in trouble with the Vatican because of her position on contraceptives.
13 Bill Gates doesn’t devote much time to philanthropic work.

Melinda Gates is a name to reckon with in the world of philanthropy, just as the company started by her husband is a force to reckon with in the tech world, reason enough to sit down with her and him for a Sunday morning conversation.
They are the richest, and among the world’s most influential power couples. The foundation that bears their names has given away nearly $40 billion, so far.
Your name is carved in equal-sized letters in the front. Is it a partnership of equals?
It’s absolutely a partnership of equals, and it’s important to both of us that the world understands that we are running this place together. This is our joint values being played out in the world.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is the largest private charity in the world. Its $500 million headquarters was intended to make a statement as bold as its mission. Inside they are literally trying to save the world.
I’ve asked an employee or two if to work here you have to pass an optimism test. Do you?
Well, yes, our work, the number of lives saved, I think just the exposure here would remind you that the plight of the poorest, as tough as it is, is improving. And we get to be a big part of that.
We are seeing progress. And I think that those points of progress are points of light that employees can point to and say, ‘I was part of that. We did change the world. We are changing the world.’
According to the United Nations, since 1990 global poverty has been cut in half. 122 million children’s lives have been saved through immunization, better nutrition and disease prevention, areas in which the Gates Foundation has been a leading funder.
What we’ve done as a world is we’ve done an incredible job of bringing down the number of deaths of children under the age of five, and that’s because of, basically, vaccines getting out there finally, and these malarial bed nets. This is the great thing about math and why data is so important. Not only does Bill like data; I’m a computer scientist. I like data because data tells us where to go and how to act.
For example, 1,000,000.
One million children are the number of babies that die on the first day of life. Can you believe that? Still a million children die on the first day. So now we know we need to work on that piece of the problem.
This number may astonish you: last year there were 37 cases of polio worldwide.
It’s the lowest number of cases we’ve ever had on the planet. And we think by next year we can drive that number to absolutely zero.
The Gates Foundation has a more modest domestic agenda, focused on improving public schools. They’ve invested in charters and promoted education standards. But success has been more elusive.
This is a tough problem. I don’t care how big your philanthropy is. We can set up experiences and points of light in places where we can show what can be done. Ultimately, everything that we’re doing takes government funding to lift it up and to fund it.
Raised in Dallas, Melinda French was valedictorian at a Catholic academy for girls in 1982. Five years later, she graduated from Duke University with degrees in computer science, economics and a masters in business… and a job offer from IBM, when a little known start-up caught her eye.
I came out and interviewed with Microsoft. And I just thought, ‘Oh my gosh. I have to work at this company. They are changing the world. And if I get an offer, there’s no way I’m not going to take it.’
Speaking of offers, you married the CEO!
Wasn’t… that wasn’t part of my life plan!
I met her at a New York City sales meeting. And then it was only a week or so after that, that I went up to her in the parking lot and asked if she wanted to go out.
A week? Were you ready for that?
No. I wasn’t! When we met, and Bill is CEO of Microsoft and I was, you know, all of 23, he actually, at that first date, asked me out for two weeks from Saturday night. And I said, ‘Two weeks from Saturday night? How could you possibly know what you’re doing? My schedule doesn’t go out that far.’
I thought, ‘Wow, wouldn’t she know, she’s hardly met the CEO and he likes her!’
Mary Lehman and Melinda have been best friends since high school.
Did you imagine that she was going to marry him?
No. Probably not then. But I thought, you know, great for her.
She got to see what it was really like. I mean, games and puzzles. We played water volleyball one night in his pool, just the three of us!
What impressed me the most when I met him was just how down-to-earth he was and how fun.
After a seven-year courtship, they married in 1994.
The next year Microsoft released Windows 95, revolutionizing the personal computer, and at 39 years old, Bill Gates was named the Richest Person in the World.  The following year, pregnant with their first child, Melinda surprised Bill with news that she meant to be a stay-at-home mom.
Am I right that Bill was supportive but maybe a little surprise himself?
He was surprised, he was definitely surprised. But I said to him, ‘You know, it just doesn’t make sense. You can’t be the CEO and go as hard as you’re going and… somebody has to be at home, right? We didn’t want our children raised by somebody else. I said, ‘You know, if we want them to have the values we have, somebody has to be home.’
Their three children grew up in a 66,000-square-foot mansion overlooking Lake Washington in suburban Seattle. Since creating the foundation in 2000, Bill and Melinda have travelled the world seeking out the places their money can do the most good.
But Melinda shunned the spotlight, until five years ago, when she took on a cause of her own, and discovered how harsh the spotlight can be.
When you think about family planning from the perspective of a woman, it will change the way you think about family planning.
Once you became a public figure, in fact the first time you set foot on the public stage, I believe you discovered how controversial contraceptives can be, as only a Catholic girl who got in trouble with the Vatican over it would know. You got slapped down by the Vatican.
It’s okay. I’m doing the right thing. There are 225 million women asking us for contraceptives. They’re asking us. And I meet women who’d die because they don’t have access to contraceptives. I meet women who beg me to take their children back to the United States.  I had a woman say to me, ‘Take two of my children.’ I said, ‘I’m so sorry, I can’t.’ She said ‘Well then, take one.’ I mean, these are people living in extreme circumstances. You can’t turn your back on people like that. And so I grew up in the Catholic church that has a social justice mission. In fact, they used to talk about the cries of the poor. I’ve heard the cries of the poor. And we need to give access to women to contraceptives.
What did Bill say? He admits that he thought women’s issues, including contraceptives, were ‘soft’ issues. Now, it’s, like, a priority for him.
It’s a huge priority, because he sees the data.
What do the two of you separately bring to your individual partnership that strengthens your capacities?
We both go out and try and see the people we serve. But she does that even better than I do, does even more of that than I do.
When I come back from a field visit, the first person I want to talk to about on the phone or at home is Bill about it, both to tell him the stories of their lives, but then also for us to put our brains together and say, ‘Well, what else could we do? How could we make it better? Do we really know that what they’re saying to us in the field, does that add up to the data that we’re seeing or not?’
Ultimately the key to the Gates’ legacy may be their philanthropy. Which makes you wonder: Would Bill Gates be having the most impactful second act since Andrew Carnegie without Melinda?
I read this poem that I loved at my high school graduation speech about what a successful life was to me. And it’s to know that one life has breathed easier because you’ve lived. To me, that’s success.

1F 2T 3F 4T 5F 6F 7T 8F 9F 10F 11T 12T 13F

lunes, 20 de marzo de 2017

Listening test: The Chrysler Building

In today's listening activity we are going to find out information about one of the most iconic buildings in New York, the Chrysler Building.

Choose the option A, B or C which best completes each sentence.

1. The Chrysler Building
A. was not taller than the Eiffel Tower.
B. was once the tallest building in the world.
C. was taller than the Empire State Building.

2. Frankie J Campione
A. designed the Chrysler Building.
B. has offices in the Chrysler Building.
C. is a futuristic architect.

3. For Frankie J Campione the Chrysler Building
A. inspired the automobile industry in the 1920’s and 30’s.
B. is a symbol of American industrialism.
C. preserves the idea of speed and excitement.

4. The Chrysler Building
A. is much more appreciated today than when it was built.
B. represented the 1930s tendency that buildings looked like the industry they were built for.
C. was well liked when it was built.

5. Charles Weiss
A. is an architect.
B. is still working.
C. lives in the Chrysler Building.

6. Charles Weiss says
A. he’s lived in Japan.
B. people identify New York with the Chrysler Building.
C. the Chrysler Building looks like a ship.

This year marks the 75th anniversary of the Chrysler Building, a landmark on the New York skyline. At the time of its opening in 1930, it overtook the Eiffel Tower as the world's tallest building, only to be overtaken by a New York rival, the Empire State Building, the following year.
The Chrysler Building, which was designed by maverick architect William Van Alen, was also striking for its futuristic structure. In order to find out how it had withstood the test of time, SPEAK UP went there and met with Frankie J Campione, whose Create Architecture Planning & Design company is based in impressive offices at the top of the tower:
I think after 75 years the building doesn't necessarily preserve the idea of speed and excitement, but it preserves the idea of American industry. The building was designed as the headquarters for Chrysler and throughout the building there are images that are prevalent that show inspiration from the automobile industry from the late 1920s and early 1930s. The building remains that same sort of icon that speaks to American industry: not so much speed and excitement, but American industrialism.
The Chrysler Building was considered ridiculous and discredited when it was first built because it was a folly, it was, by terms we now use, ‘entertainment architecture’. That is something that's new to architecture in the past 20 years. Back in the late 20s and early 30s, buildings did not necessarily resemble the industry that they were built for. However, by today's standards, it was considered very foresightful and ahead of its times.
The top of this skyscraper also houses the splendid offices of Charles Weiss, a 78-year-old dentist who has no plans to retire. We asked him why New Yorkers were so fond of the Chrysler Building:
You look at this tower at night when it's lit up and it's just so different and so beautiful, it's like a rocket shooting into the sky but, as much as New Yorkers like it — and it really is the icon building in New York City— all the years, there's just nothing like it. Overseas, it is New York City. I've been to Japan over 62 times, I've been all over the world teaching, you know, implant dentistry every time I pass a travel bureau, in any country, and they're saying "Go to New York," there's a picture of the Chrysler Building. It's the most famous building around the world: the Chrysler Building means New York to a whole lot of people.

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