jueves, 28 de mayo de 2015

Stories from Holiday Inn® Hotels: Casey Gerald

Each summer MBAs Across America recruits MBAs from the top colleges to work and learn with visionary entrepreneurs all across the country to help change lives. Here's Casey Gerald's story.

Just in that moment that I accepted that I was about to die, everything slowed down and there was peace. I've got my hands tied behind my back and a gun to my head. If that night had been my last nobody would have asked me "What was your after tax income?"
First time that I saw... what mattered really wasn't what I was able to get but what I was willing to give.
We launched MBAs Across America last year. We recruit teams of MBAs from top business schools. And they dedicate their summer to spending six weeks in six cities working with an entrepreneur in each city.
What we're doing is reasserting the American Dream by working with visionary entrepreneurs to create new jobs and change more lives.
So we went to Holiday Inn because we heard about this thing that they had right? This "Journey to Extraordinary". This program wouldn't exist without Holiday Inn, to be honest with you. We didn't have the money. We didn't have the support.
I never imagined I'd be sitting here talking about 32 MBAs, 48 entrepreneurs, 26 cities. "Journey to Extraordinary" is not just a slogan. It's an alignment of the spirit of a company.
I grew up in your typical inner city. Everybody was broke. Everybody had issues at home. By the time I was in the seventh grade, both of my parents were out of my life.
Growing up in Texas football is everything. And so I had big dreams, you know, of playing in the big leagues. One day my junior year a guy showed up. He said "Hey do you want to play football at Yale?" Folks started hearing about this kid from Oak Cliff, Texas being recruited by Yale. And I'd go to church and old ladies would be crying, they say "Oh man you really... you got to do this."
From the time I was a freshman to the time I was a senior was really a transformation. To see that there was this whole world of opportunity. Totally changed my view of what was possible.
We're in Detroit this week with six of our eight teams.
It was here where we met Sebastian Jackson. He uses his barber shop to really make a second chance for his city.
Jeff and Cassandra with Sweet Potato Sensations, they have built a business that is one of the most successful small businesses in Detroit.
Veronica Scott at the Detroit Empowerment Plant, the fact that she would come up with a product that is so warm as a coat and so durable and so versatile that it can double as a sleeping bag to help people survive on the streets in Detroit is incredible. But then you think about her commitment to hiring women who used to be homeless and might not have gotten a second chance.
If you just looked at the material balance sheet of Detroit, it'd be bankrupt. But what's not seen are all the people that give a damn. I've seen change in the individual. When all the signs say "You ought to leave," they stayed to build businesses not just because of profit but because of purpose. What if business leaders had been baptized in the spirit of America. Had see what our fellows have seen in communities like Detroit. I think those organizations would be far better.
What we're doing is going into the American Dream's corner and saying get back up. Not just in the major hubs, not just for the chosen few, but for everybody.
That's the plan.

miércoles, 27 de mayo de 2015

Talking point: Entertainment

This week's talking point is entertainment. Before getting together with the members of your conversation group, go over the questions below so that ideas flow more easily when you meet up with your friends and you can work out vocabulary problems beforehand.
  • What are your interests?
  • How do you spend your free time?
  • How do you spend your free time?
  • How would you spend your free time differently if you had more time or money or opportunity?
  • What are the benefits to society of giving people more downtime?
  • What films, books and music do you like? Why?
  • How often do you watch TV?
  • How often do you go to the cinema?
  • What was the last film you saw?
  • What do you think of it?
  • Do you ever go to art galleries or exhibitions?
  • What was the last one you went to?
  • What was it like?
  • Is seeing an exhibition your idea of entertainment?

To illustrate the topic, you can watch this Speakout video
Hi. I enjoy doing a lot of different things in my free time. Most of them are to do with music: I DJ both in London and internationally and I try to go to concerts and festivals whenever I can. How about you? How do you spend your free time?
My free time, when I have any, is playing golf. I discovered golf eight years ago and I’m addicted: whenever I can, I’ll get out on a golf course.
Photography; I like to watch films; really into music.
In my free time I’m an amateur opera singer and I also run an amateur opera company.
I spend my free time shopping, cooking, going to exhibitions, travelling, going to the theatre.
I exercise a lot: I spend a lot of time walking, running and boxing.
I play football, I play table tennis, I go bowling. I also do a radio show at my university.
Well, during my free time I read, I watch the news online and watch TV series and go out with my friends.
I spend most of my free time with my friends and, just getting together and watching films, listening to music. I like to read a lot and I like to draw and make clothes.

How would you spend your free time differently if you had more time or money or opportunity?
I’d travel more. I’d take my children to see more things around the world. They’ve travelled a little bit, I’ve travelled quite a lot, but I’d like to take them to see some of the things that the world has to offer.
If I had more free time, I think I’d be able to develop my own creativity.
Finding, maybe, a bit more about my heritage. I’m quite interested in that, and speaking to my parents about how they grew up and their parents and things like that.
I would spend more time practising music.
If I had more time, I would travel more.
If I had more free time, I’d see more of my friends and people that I don’t get to see enough. And I’d probably relax and go to the park a lot.

What are the benefits to society of giving people more downtime or more holidays?
I think if you had more time off you’d be able to do, you’d be able to explore your mind a lot more and people would become more educated, more intelligent and more aware of what’s going on in the world.
If we all had more free time, I think we’d all be able to let ourselves be more creative, as opposed to just work, work, work all the time.
I think that today when people don’t work from 9 to 5 so much any more: I think that more free time would do everyone a lot of good, as long as you have something to do with it, and you have, kind of, hobbies or friends to see.
They would be less stressed, I believe, because I think that people are very, very stressed nowadays.
I think society benefits from giving people more free time because it enables them to lead less stressed lives, reduces the pressures on them, and also increases interests and I think that a society that has a broad range of interests, a broad range of things that they like doing, is generally beneficial.

martes, 26 de mayo de 2015

10 Questions for Helen Mirren

A few years ago Time magazine interviewed Helen Mirren for their 10 Questions feature.

We’re here today for Times 10 questions with Helen Mirren and so Helen, welcome, thanks for coming
Thank you.
Okay so as I was saying couple of readers would like to marry you, one of them wants to invite you.
You said five readers wanted to marry me.
Well, you know,
Were you exaggerating?
I might have been slightly, you know, nervous or something. There’s somebody who wants to invite you to tea. My favourite reader was the one who said that unlike most women who lose all sex appeal when they get old, you have not. Now that was a lovely question.
That can’t be a question, a compliment, isn’t it?
I guess so, yeah.
Really like for most women. I think most women do lose their so-called sex appeal. It just shifts into a different arena. I mean, there’s no question, you know, full on sex appeal is for the young, it is. It’s… that’s nature, anyway, you know. When they say sex appeal I don’t think they really mean sex. I don’t think they’re talking about something else. Some indefinable thing that is to do appreciation of life, appreciation of, you know, wisdom and all kinds of … there should be a special word for it. I don’t think sex is quite the right word, actually.
Do you think it’s important for celebrities and the like to contribute their two cents to political, ethical or economical problems?
I mean, I’ve used my voice as an actress with the media to publicise certain issues. I’ve been involved with Oxfam. The proliferation of these illegal sales of small arms throughout the world which is causing such devastations was one issue I am involved in quite deeply. The other was Uganda, the war in Northern Uganda. So yes, I think it’s an absolute legitimate way of using the fact that for some peculiar and incomprehensible reason the media are more prepared to talk to me about Uganda than a journalist who’s lived in Uganda, an investigative journalist who has lived in Uganda for five years, but we do have a kind of an access and I think it is a legitimate use. Yes.
One of the readers has noticed the tattoo on your hand and would like to know what it is and why you got it.
Did you read my book?
I’ll have to read your book, to buy your book. Good answer, good answer.
Well the short answers I got drunk and now I do, I got drunk on an Indian reservation in Minnesota when I was working with Peter Brook.
And so it’s an Indian…?
It’s a, well, it’s a South American Indian sign. Yeah, yes.
Another reader would like to know what your favourite vegetable is.
My favourites are potatoes.
I do love potatoes.
Do you have any affinity with your father’s Russian heritage, or any interest in a kind of political climate there?
Yes, I have a great interest in the political climate in Russia. I was there not long ago and to my goodness, that’s a complicated place. But yes, of course, I mean, when I go to Russia I’ve realized I look Russian, you know. People have come up and speak to me in Russian. They assume that I’m Russian. I mean, growing up as an immigrant and especially in the situation that I was at home where we were very much encouraged to forget our Russian heritage as children, I, I didn’t, you know, make a thing about it but I’ve always felt, of course, I am, I am genetically, I’m half Russian, so of course, there is an affinity there.
If you could go anywhere tomorrow, where would you go and why?
I’d go to England and I’d find a little green corner of England with a river running through it and a tree to sit under. And I’d just sit there for the afternoon with a book and a pillow to go to sleep on.
Delphine Harris of Washington, DC asks which director or director did you learn the most from and why?
The truth is you learn a different thing from all of them. I think the best bit of advice I was ever given about film acting came from an American actor and producer and director called Bob Balaban. He said you don’t know where the arrow is going to land, the arrow of your performance, of your… of the take, of that moment. You have no idea and I had found out that to be true that you knew intensely, intensely trying emotionally express, you know, the pain of loss, of whatever, you know, of whatever you’re trying to do and then what’s on the screen is something completely different, not what you intended to  at all. You’re, where did that come from? I didn’t do that. I was doing that. And that came out and that can drive you crazy as an actor. So he taught me, he just said, let the arrow land where it will. Throw it up there, do it as instinctively and as truthfully as possible but then let it go where it goes and let go of it and let go of it. Don’t talk to yourself when you go home at night. And that was great advice and I’ve absolutely followed that. It kind of liberated me, you know what, just let it happen and then let it land where it will.

lunes, 25 de mayo de 2015

Listening test: On the buses

Listen to a short clip on the relaunch of the famous London icon the Routemaster and complete the blanks in the sentences below with the missing information. 0 is an example

0 Example
Apart from the famous landmarks, one of the most recognisble icons of London is the red, double-decker Routemaster bus.

1 Mayor Boris Johnson has decided to revive the Routemaster and has organized a competition to design ________________ .

2 Back in 1829 London’s first ever bus was pulled by ________________ .

3 The first motorised buses were introduced in London at the beginning of ________________ .

4 Graham Noakes has worked on the Routemasters both as a ________________ .

5 The modern buses that replaced the Routemasters were more accessible to  ______________  .

6 Routemasters had a ______________  , which permitted passengers to get on and off the bus.

7 Graham Noakes describes the atmosphere on the Routemasters as ______________  .

When you think of London, what are the first images that come to mind? Perhaps you picture a famous landmark such as Buckingham Palace or Big Ben; maybe you imagine a guardsman in his bearskin hat, or a black cab. Yet for many people one of the most recognisable icons of the city is the (0) red, double-decker Routemaster bus. A few years ago it seemed that the Routemaster might only be seen again in old films and on postcards. But London's colourful new mayor, the Conservative Boris Johnson, has decided that the Routemaster should be revived and he has even launched a competition to design (1) a new model. The winners of the competition have been announced and the new Routemaster should be on the streets in time for the 2012 Olympic Games.
The history of the Routemaster can be traced back to London's first ever bus — a (2) horse-drawn carriage which ran from Paddington to Bank in 1829. It was called the `omnibus,' from the Latin word meaning 'for all.' The word was gradually replaced by the abbreviation 'bus’.
The first motorised buses were introduced in the early (3) 20th century, alongside the red, double-decker trolleybuses. The Routemaster itself first hit the streets of London in 1956. Graham Noakes, who has worked on the Routemasters for 25 years, first as a (4) conductor and then as a driver, describes seeing the buses as a child:
When I was a child I used to see these old buses coming up Downham Way, where I used to live, Downham, Bromley, Kent, and I was inspired by that, and it was just the look, the fascination of them, and the commandership in the crews that worked them.
Although the last new Routemaster was built in 1968, these vehicles continued in regular service until 2005, although by then many had been replaced by one-man buses with no conductor. They were finally phased out to be replaced by modem buses which were more accessible to (5) wheelchair users.
The design of the Routemaster used techniques developed in aircraft production during World War II. It had an aluminium body, making it much lighter, and several new features for a bus, including power steering and automatic gears. (6) The platform at the back allowed passengers to hop on and off, and there was a conductor on board to take fares and chat to people. Graham Noakes explains how this combination helped to make it such a popular icon:
I personally think the reason why is because the Routemaster glorified London. It was such a fine-looking vehicle, it was a lot of memories for people. I mean, they've met each other on Routemasters and got married, the crews that worked them — they even got married together. It's so many things happening, it was just a (7) friendly, happy atmosphere on these buses.

domingo, 24 de mayo de 2015

Extensive listening: Magical houses made of bamboo

A few weeks ago architect and designer Elora Hardy gave the talk Magical Houses made of bamboo at TED. This is the way TED presented her talk:

"You've never seen buildings like this. The stunning bamboo homes built by Elora Hardy and her team in Bali twist, curve and surprise at every turn. They defy convention because the bamboo itself is so enigmatic. No two poles of bamboo are alike, so every home, bridge and bathroom is exquisitely unique. In this beautiful, immersive talk, she shares the potential of bamboo, as both a sustainable resource and a spark for the imagination. "We have had to invent our own rules," she says."

You can read a full transcript here

sábado, 23 de mayo de 2015

Reading test: Stress pushing teachers to leave profession

This week's reading test is based on the Telegraph article Stress pushing teachers to leave profession,' figures show published in March this year.

Read the text and complete blanks 1-12 with one of the words or phrases below. There are three words or phrases that you do not need to use. You can only use each word or phrase once. 0 is an example.

(0) Growing stress is the leading reason (1) … teachers taking time off work or leaving the profession entirely, new data has revealed.
In fact, stress (2) … more than double the figures of days taken off for sickness, numbers from an insurance firm specialising in covering schools against members of staff being off work showed.
The analysis of its claims showed that 55 per cent its 1,800 schools made stress-related claims in 2014. It also revealed academies experienced the highest proportion of lost teaching days (3) … stress.
“Stress in teachers is caused largely by heavy workload, a particularly pressurized (4) …, tight workforces and additional pressures not directly related to teaching like Ofsted inspections,” said the firm’s Harry Cramer.
(5) … the company's analysis of 138,500 absence days taken by 31,900 staff within the education sector, 3.5 per cent of school staff take a stress related absence every year. The (6) … length of a stress related absence is 26.9 working days, over twice the length of an average staff absence which is 13 working days. The analysis was commissioned by the BBC Radio 4’s File on 4.
Separately, a preliminary online (7) … of 3,500 members of the NASUWT teachers’ union revealed stress and poor mental health. It found 67 per cent of teachers said their job was having an (8) … effect on their mental health.
The report, (9) … is to be published at the union’s annual conference over Easter, found 76 per cent of teachers said they are “seriously considering” leaving their job in the last year, compared to 69 per cent in 2014. Separately, 68 per cent said they considered leaving the profession entirely.
Other (10) … findings include:
• 83 per cent have experienced more workplace stress in the last year, compared to 80 per cent in 2014
• 84 per cent say their job has impacted negatively on their health and wellbeing in the last 12 months; compared to 80 per cent in 2014
• 78 per cent have experienced work related anxiousness, 84 per cent (11) … of sleep, 33 per cent poor health, 25 per cent (12) … use of caffeine, alcohol or tobacco, 11 per cent relationship breakdown and nearly 2 per cent self-harm

according to
amounts for
as a result of
growing 0 Example

Photo: Alamy in the Telegraph

1 for; 2 amounts for; 3 as a result of; 4 environment; 5 according to; 6 average; 7 survey; 8 adverse; 9 which; 10 key; 11 loss; 12 increased

viernes, 22 de mayo de 2015

Redheads celebrate at convention in Ireland

People with red hair have gathered in southern Ireland for the Irish Redhead Convention.

Held over three days the celebrations include crowning the ginger King and Queen, competitions for the best red eyebrows and most freckles per square inch.

People think that red-heads are an endangered species but, guess what, welcome to Crosshaven because we are not.
I love my red hair.
We have red-heads from all over the world and all over Ireland. We are here, together, celebrating. This is amazing.
I’m a read-head and I’m proud.
Sometimes a red-head gets a hard time, sometimes they are teased. This is gingers proud together, fierce and freckly.
I’m read-head and I’m proud.
This is ginger paradise.
Hello, it’s Joleen. Yeah, no problem.
The last week has been completely insane, just the, the global interest in this is phenomenal. My phone has been hopping off the hook. I can’t, my fingers can’t type fast enough to answer the emails, but luckily enough we’ve got a great volunteer team who are going to help us carry through for the weekend.
So, yeah, we’ve invited a lot of interesting people, obviously besides the red-heads we’ve invited a few celebrities, so do… I am hoping that Prince Harry himself is going to turn up this weekend. Fingers crossed! But we did send him a letter to Clarance House, so who knows, will be great to see him. Or Ed Gerhad. I’d love to see Ed Gerhad.
People are actually travelling from all over the world, from Vermont in California, and from Ohio . We even have people travelling as far as away as Dunedin in New Zealand. There’s loads of Germans around and we’ve also got a few visitors from the UK, so it’s really…, you know, it’s become a global celebration of red hair, and I’m just so delighted to be able to welcome them to Crosshaven.
I’d like to become the queen of the redheads and take the title back to the southern hemisphere.
Being a red-head you’re usually the only one in the crowd. And here they’re just everywhere.
The Irish red-heads convention takes place over one whole weekend and you’ve got to do silly things like throw carrots down the lawn.
So much fun, just the atmosphere is great.
I entered the carrot-tossing competition and didn’t win, but it’s good fun, you know.
We’ve been doing competitions all day two days.
16 cms.
How long has it been since you had your hair cut?
I think… February or March.
There’s actually photo booths, that’s really nice as well, where people can come along and get their, their photograph taken to by some professional photographers.
Look at me, look at me, smile!
It’s a really, really nice experience to be here.
There’s quite a serious message just there as well. You hear so many stories of families and kids specially who’ve just  been picked on, and it’s really, really sad to see that, but that’s what’s really nice about this event, you know, you’re empowering like young kids to feel proud of, of who they are and their uniqueness, that’s what I think it’s really special.
So every year we crown a new king and queen to represent us gingers and I’m kind of nervously waiting to see who gets this title because it’s a really big deal, because they will have to represent us for the whole year.
I actually can’t think of any other hair colour in the world where you’ll find such a gathering, such a kind of connection or bond. So we’ve all kind of had like an association of people who are referred to your hair, and that’s the kind of common connection that we can all kind of talk to each other about.