Sunday, January 31, 2010

Secrets to long life

Pre-listening questions:
1. What do you think are the secrets to long life? How would you rate the following, in order of importance:
diet, genetics, country or city of residence, outlook on life, gender
2. Would you want to live a very long life? Would you like to be a centenarian?

Now listen to the short video and answer the questions below:

1. What is the location of Stoccaredo? (Not quite in the Alps, but in the _________ of the Alps).
2. Is the diet is this small Italian town particularly healthy? What is the exact term used by the reporter to describe it?
3. What peculiarities does one notice about the people in Stoccaredo?
4. Of the reasons listed in pre-listening questions #1, which would the Stoccaredo case seem to support?

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

A trip to Milan

Thanks to Leticia for her mouth-watering presentation on Milan - let's all go to Navigli for some aperitivos!

Dan Brown interview

Before you watch this interview with best-selling author Dan Brown, answer the following questions:
1. Have you read "The Da Vinci Code" or any other Dan Brown books? If you have, did you enjoy it? Why or why not?
2. Do you think Dan Brown has sold more books than J. K. Rowling?
3. Do you think authors like Dan Brown make more money from their books sales or from their movie deals?

Now watch the video and answer the questions below:

1. In how many languages have Dan Brown novels been published?
2. What is the subject of Dan Brown's latest book, and where does it take place?
3. Why has Dan Brown focused on this particular subject?
4. Is it Dan Brown's intention to cause controversy (and how do you pronounce this word)?
5. How has success changed Dan Brown's life?

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

An outrageous idea?

Read this quirky news item and post a comment with your opinion. Would you hire this service if you were staying at the Holiday Inn?

LONDON - International hotel chain Holiday Inn is offering a trial human bed-warming service at three hotels in Britain this month.

If requested, a willing staff-member at two of the chain's London hotels and one in the northern English city of Manchester will dress in an all-in-one fleece sleeper suit before slipping between the sheets.

"The new Holiday Inn bed warmers service is a bit like having a giant hot water bottle in your bed," Holiday Inn spokeswoman Jane Bednall said in an e-mailed statement.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Is this America?

I'm not sure this little vignette of Stephen Fry's is altogether representative of what you might expect to find in my homeland, but it certainly is entertaining. Watch the short video and answer the following questions:

1. Why was Stephen Fry nearly born in USA? In what state was he nearly born (he uses the initials)? Where was he actually born, then?
2. What does the hunter rub on his clothes? What does his wife think of this?
3. How much does the lady gambler say she has made from gambling?
4. Wikka is a colloquialism meaning what, exactly?
5. What do "Wikka" practitioners do on Halloween and to what end?

This is outrageous!

What do you think is outrageous? Post a comment...

Saturday, January 23, 2010

A new expression

Here's a useful expression we learned in our last class. Let's try to practice it by posting comments in the form of questions. I'll ask my friend, Cookie Monster, to start it off.

Friday, January 22, 2010

A little fun

Here's a little online hangman - a bit violent, perhaps, my apologies in advance!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Presentation series

After highly interesting presentations from Adrián, Daniel, Verónica, and most recently, from Diana on the Roman mosaics in Carranque (photo), I am pleased to announce that we have another volunteer for this Friday. So don't miss our next class!

Personality test

Are you imaginative and easily absorbed? Or are you down-to-earth and logical? Or are you simply suspicious of nonsense such as this?
Take this quick personality test to find out. Then post a comment a say whether you agree with the result.

A fine idea?

In the last couple of decades the gap between the rich and the not-so-rich has increased so much that the former just park their Ferraris wherever they want, drive as fast as they please and pay fines as a cost of doing business.

In Switzerland, measures have been taken to stop super-solvent speeders in their tracks by making speeding fines proportionate to income. Now a new record has been been set, and not a speeding one: 299,000 Swiss francs, or almost US$ 300,000 against a millionaire going 35 miles over the speed limit. It raises an interesting issue: is this the way to control speeding and parking of offences by those to whom the ticket is meaningless? Do you think it's a fine idea? (pardon the pun). Your comments, please...

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Can music induce violent behaviour?

Listen to this brief video and answer the following questions in your notepad. Feel free to post a comment, BTW! I think this is a really interesting topic to discuss.
1. In the video, can you identify at least five things and people that are held responsible for violent behaviour?
2. Why did Marilyn Manson like listening to music as a child?
3. The young man at the end of the video with the blue shirt makes a case for why he believes some Marilyn Manson fans may be induced to violent behaviour. Do you agree?

Vocab review

OK, students - you know what to do! What are you waiting for?

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Let's get started!

In my never-ending effort to get you all to post comments (how's that for a hint?), I came up with a little idea. Remember that fun activity we did in class one day, in which we swap papers continuously and build several dialogues simultaneously? Well, I thought we could do something similar, but here on the blog, in order to review vocabulary and have a little fun with it (and get you all posting comments!). So take out your notepads and let's get cracking! I'll start the dialogue with a comment, and you guys continue. Answer the question, and remember to ask another one to keep the dialogue going (try to keep the comments sort of short for this purpose). Here's some vocab which you could use, in case you don't have your notepads handy:

Amazing animal or just another hoax?

This is actually not a hoax. There is a bird in Australia that can mimic not only the sounds of other birds, but also machinery and just about anything it hears - and with great fidelity! Give it a listen and write down in your notebooks the different sounds it imitates.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

When should they start?

The question of when or whether children should be given alcoholic beverages is a controversial one. In the United States it is illegal for anyone under 21 to have any type of drink containing alcohol. When I was a waiter in NYC, we had to be very careful about this because the NYPD would send in underage cops in plain clothes to catch waiters "red-handed." If you served them a drink, you would be handcuffed and taken to the station, and the restaurant would receive a stiff fine. That is why in the States you are always asked to show your ID when ordering a drink, even if you look 40. Nevertheless, this does not stop the phenomenon known as "binge drinking," which is commonplace on college campuses across the US.

In my conversations with people here in Spain, the same words usually come up to describe the American attitude towards drinking: "puritan" and "extremist." I tend to agree, at least in part, as it seems ridiculous to give a young adult a gun and send him off to war, allow him/her or vote in presidential elections, and then deny him/her a beer. Having said that, the practice known as "botellón" in Spain hardly seems like a healthy habit for young people. Teenagers, it seems, when left to their own devices, do not know how to control their alcohol intake. Then again, neither do many adults.

The top-ranking health official in the UK has an opinion of his own on this matter. Read this BBC article and watch the two short videos which accompany the article. Then answer the following questions.

  1. Are parents legally allowed to give their children alcoholic beverages in the UK?
  2. What does Liam Donaldson think about the idea that children should be given watered-down alcoholic drinks at a young age in order to prime them and teach them to drink sensibly?
  3. How does the chief medical officer (Sir Liam) feel about parents drinking heavily in front of their children?
  4. What does the mother in the second video think about the consequences of forbidding her children to drink alcohol?
  5. According to the daughter, why do youngsters start drinking?
And now your opinion (feel free to post a comment on the blog):
  1. Do you agree more with Sir Liam or with the mother, as regards adolescents being given alcoholic drinks at home?
  2. Is there an official drinking age in Spain? Is it respected? Should it be? Why or why not?
  3. What advantages would there be to a society without alcohol? What disadvantages?