miércoles, 7 de diciembre de 2016

Talking point: Computers and gadgets

This week's talking point is computers and gadgets. 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.

Have a look at the photo below and answer the questions.
When do you think this photo was taken?
What do you think the equipment in the photo is and what is it for?
How have computers changed since your first started using them?
What do you think has been the most significant change? Why?
Which of the following do you have, a desktop, a laptop, a tablet, a smartphone?
Which make(s) do you have? Why did you choose them? Are you happy with them?
Have you ever used a computer to do the following?
prepare presentations
design things
edit videos
manage accounts
hold video meetings
code new programmes
What else do you use your computer for at work, when studying, in your free time?
What typical problems do you have with your computer?
Who do you usually turn to for help?
Do you know anyone who always buys the latest gadgets, technology or software? Give examples of what they have bought or use.
Do you know anyone who is a bit of a technophobe?
Have you bought any new gadgets, apps or software recently? What? Why did you get them?

martes, 6 de diciembre de 2016

In the kitchen with Barbara Lynch

Barbara Lynch is a gritty Boston restaurateur whose home kitchen is the height of industrial chic.

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

1 What does Barbara hate?
2 How old is she?
3 Who taught her how to cook?
4 What was she like as a child?
5 When does she cry now?
6 How many children does she have?
7 What effect does cooking at home have for her?

You may also be interested in Barbary Lynch's TED Talk in Boston Back to the Basics.

I think my approach to cooking is somewhat different from other chefs. You know, it's chaos usually here. It's fun.
Most of my life is in the kitchen, so why wouldn't I want to have a professional kitchen at home? And I wanted it to sort of look professional, but yet home, like it's been here. I like to have clean minds and clean space. I hate clutter. I hate it.
Believe it or not, I was a really shy person, a really shy kid, up until 40, so that's 10 years ago. It's so nice not to have to talk. It's so nice just to cook and just to focus on what you're doing.
My one obsession, just because I'm self-taught, is cookbooks. I mean, I don't follow recipes.  It's the food porn.  It's the beautiful photos.  I got Suzanne Goin.  I got Julia Child.  I got it all.
I'm still self-conscious, you know? Do I really cook good?  Can I… am I really doing this?  I always feel like, jeez, what the hell? How'd I get here?
So I grew up in South Boston. We were crafty as kids.  We weren't bad.  We were just creative. I was selling drugs off of like a moped, which we stole, so I kind of had that like tough attitude, but honestly, I'm really like a softy. I cry at commercials. You know, I'm a softy.  I am.
For some reason, I always felt like I'm was Italian. Here I am, I named my daughter Marchesa Fiorella Petri. I thought my mother was going to kill me. She's like, why couldn't you name a Katherine, or Denise, or Margaret?  I'm like, I don't know, mom.  I just didn't want to.
I think people have a different perception of me. I think they always think of me of Barbara the chef, but not Barbara the mother. You know, I'm a different person at home.
I have an 11-year-old girl, and she has a million friends, and my God, they're picky.  One has been a vegetarian since she's seven. One will just eat pasta with butter. But I don't hold that against them. I was a vegan once, maybe for a week.
Cooking to me is like, I don't know, if you were a runner, you get into a zone.  Your breathing is right.  You feel good. There could be chaos all around me, and if I'm working on a particular dish, I don't even look up.  When I'm home, I'm cooking, and it's therapeutic.

1 clutter
2 fifty
3 nobody, she taught herself
4 (shy), crafty, creative, not bad
5 when watching commercials
6 an eleven-year-old daughter
7 it's therapeutic

lunes, 5 de diciembre de 2016

Listening test: Gambling

Listen to a report on gambling and choose the heading A-J which corresponds to each extract. There are two headings you do not need to use. 0 is an example.

A - A ban on gambling
B – An old, popular pastime 0 Example
C - A very strange bet
D - Highest wins
E - How to achieve success in gambling
F - Hundreds of types of gambling
G - Gambling tourism
H - The longest-running bet
I - Unsuccessful gambler
J - Why lotteries exist

0 - Example
Human beings have spent large amounts of money trying to beat the laws of probability for centuries. More than thirty countries currently have legalized gambling in the form of national lotteries or private casinos. In the last ten years this addictive pastime has been generating millions more via the internet.

Back in 1873, engineer Joseph Jaggers won $300,000 dollars in three days at the casino in Monte Carlo by noticing that the mechanical faults in their roulette wheels made certain numbers come up more often than others. More recently, an Australian wrote a software programme to help him spot winners on the horses in Hong Kong and has supposedly won $150 million over the last 20 years.

What’s the biggest lottery jackpot ever? – the record is currently $350 million, won by two people in the USA in May 2000. This, of course, is peanuts. It costs $444 million a year just to keep an aircraft carrier in the water…The biggest single win on a national lottery was $314.9 million in the Powerball game in 2002 by a man who had already made a fortune in the sewer business. Another American won $39.7 million from a slot machine in a Las Vegas casino in 2003 after putting in about $100 worth of coins. The lucky man had actually only gone to watch a basketball match.

Often to make money for the state. The Chinese had a lottery over 2000 years ago to raise money to build the Great Wall. King James I of England set one up to finance the new colony of Virginia in America in the 17th century. The British Museum in London was also built this way.

Before gaming was legalized there in the 1930s Las Vegas was a small desert town; today it has 35 million visitors and earns seven and a half thousand million dollars from its casinos every year. What do they do with the profits? Build hotels, it seems – the world’s biggest is the MGM Grand Hotel & Casino with 5,005 rooms. In fact somebody estimated it would take one person 329 years to sleep in every hotel room in Vegas.

Politician and fraudster Horatio Bottomley went to Belgium in 1914 and bought all six horses in a race. He also paid the jockeys to cross the finishing line in a particular order. Then he put huge amounts of money on all the horses. Unfortunately, the race meeting was by the sea and a mist came in and covered the entire course. The jockeys couldn’t see each other and the judges couldn’t make out who had won. Bottomley lost a fortune.

There was a ten-year bet between writer Paul Ehrlich and businessman Julian Simon that the price of certain metals would be higher in 1990 than in 1980. Ehrlich lost when copper, chrome, nickel, tin and tungsten dropped in price. Simon was trying to make the point that the world is not heading for catastrophe and that we are not using up the world’s resources as Ehrlich had predicted. He refused, however, to agree to a second bet that in the following ten years there would be an increase in greenhouse gases and AIDS victims and a decrease in tropical rainforests, agricultural land and human sperm counts.

An American businessman bet a British investor $100,000 that it was not possible to walk around the world without being recognised. A certain Harry Bensley agreed to take up the challenge. He had to wear an iron mask for the whole trip and pay his way by selling pictures of himself. While travelling, he also had to find a woman who would marry him, to push a pram and carry only one change of underwear! He set off from London in January 1908 and was arrested a few miles down the road for selling postcards without a licence. He supposedly got most of the way round the world and was in Italy on his way home in 1914 when the First World War broke out and he had to call the whole thing off.

KEY: 1E 2D 3J 4G 5I 6H 7C

domingo, 4 de diciembre de 2016

Extensive listening: Your smartphone is a civil rights issue

The smartphone you use reflects more than just personal taste ... it could determine how closely you can be tracked, too.

Privacy expert and TED Fellow Christopher Soghoian details a glaring difference between the encryption used on Apple and Android devices and urges us to pay attention to a growing digital security divide.

"If the only people who can protect themselves from the gaze of the government are the rich and powerful, that's a problem," he says. "It's not just a cybersecurity problem — it's a civil rights problem."

Christopher Soghoian researches and exposes the high-tech surveillance tools that governments use to spy on their own citizens, and he is a champion of digital privacy rights.

You can read a full transcript here.

sábado, 3 de diciembre de 2016

Reading test: Does travel really broaden the mind?

In this week's reading test we are going to practise the 'insert the word' kind of task. To do so, we are going to use The Independent article Does travel really broaden the mind?

Read the text and choose the word or phrase below which best fits into the corresponding gap 1 to 12. Three of the words are not needed. 0 has been completed as an example.

Does travel really broaden the mind?

Mark Twain wrote: “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”

Perhaps, with the summer holidays upon us, and Brexit-based discussions about tolerance, immigration and our relationship with foreigners ringing in our (0) ears, it’s worth examining Twain’s quote. Does travel really broaden the mind, or does it tend to reinforce existing (1) …?
Parts of the travel industry have long been (2) … creating a “home away from home”, with English bars and familiar pizza restaurants to comfort Brits that their holiday experience will be different, but not that different. It’s perfectly possible to stay within the (3) … and have limited contact with “the locals”.
At the other end of the spectrum, parts of the industry offering more “immersive” experiences in distant places are (4) … marketing slogans such as “come back different” or “life-changing travel” – an indication that they see their holidays as transformative, (5) … is not always true.
For some people meeting (6) …, often with different languages and ways of life is very exciting, and the essence of travel, for others it’s quite naturally a little (7) … . How the tourist chooses to manage this - whether you are an experienced traveller, like me, heading to Kenya to be hosted by the Maasai on safari, or a young family on your way to Spain for the first time – is more important than how much (8) … they have or what they book.
Despite the type of holiday we choose or can afford, as Westerners we often have the habit of thinking we know (9) …, that our ways of doing things are universal. We learn little travelling this way. Travellers who, instead, develop the habit of asking questions, being (10) …, curious and respectful find their holiday is enriched.
Of course, many tourism businesses have understood this and help (11) … mutually beneficial encounters with local people, by designing trips “responsibly” with good local benefits, a (12) … welcome and open door to learn about and experience different ways of life. Perhaps it’s time to review our approach to strangers at home and on holiday.

accused of
ears  0 Example
fond of

1 prejudices
2 accused of
3 resort
4 fond of
5 which
6 strangers
7 frightening
8 money
9 best
10 open-minded
11 facilitate
12 warm

viernes, 2 de diciembre de 2016

Eagles trained to take down drones

The BBC has been given access to the airbase where Dutch police are training eagles to take down unauthorised drones. It comes amid concerns that drones are increasingly being used to commit crimes.

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

1. What is the eagle's name?
2. What is the eagle's only interest?
3. What items are criminals smuggling into prisons through drones?
4. What is the eagle's unique selling point?
5. What is the eagle being trained to do these days?

Her name is Hunter. She's been trained to join an elite squad of airborne crime fighters, and this is their mission: to bring down hostile drones. Once again, look closely. Her talons go into the propellers, and it's instantly disabled.
The people who train these birds describe it as a low-tech solution to high-tech problem.
This is nature.
So, you are tapping into the eagles' killer instinct.
Yes. Its instinct is to catch a prey. It's not interested in people, it’s not interested in other animals, it's interested only in catching that drone and also they are able to land the drones safely on the ground and that’s where we want it.
These drones are increasingly being used by criminals. They have been used to smuggle sim cards, mobile phones and drugs into prisons, and there are concerns they could be used by terrorists, too.
The police already use radio intercepts and nets to tackle drones. This bird's unique selling point is its eagle-eyed vision.
What we cannot see, it can see. His vision is five times better than a human. Don’t forget they are born hunters. They miss nothing.
Animal welfare charities have raised some concerns. The police say they are researching ways to protect these talons, and we’ve been assured no birds have been harmed during training. But plenty of drones have been.
And this is the part they are still working on teaching the eagle where to drop the drone.
We are just approaching this baby eagle. What do you have to do in order to recover this drone?
Shot it my face. We always try to keep it safe, because it could be a member of the public looking at what is going on, it can be a dangerous drone, unless someone weird, or it doesn't know, it just flies off. I show some meat, and then he is like I’ve got this drone, I’m protecting it, but it’s not really, and then I’ve got something better and then it will jump to me.
A huge chunk of fleshy meat in exchange.
Yeah we can be proud of him.
London's Scotland Yard is so impressed it’s looking into emulating this innovative use of nature.
Anna Holligan, BBC News, Balkan Bird airbase.

1 Hunter
2 Catching the drone
3 Sim cards, mobile phones and drugs
4 Its perfect vision 
5 Where to drop the drone

jueves, 1 de diciembre de 2016

What's it like being in a driverless car

The Swedish car maker Volvo is about to start recruiting ordinary people to commute to work next year in a driverless car.

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

1 How many members of the public are participating in the experiment?
2 What are the characteristics of the special roads where volunteers will be using the driverless cars?
3 If something unexpected happens, who will be in control, the driver or the car itself?
4 Where will driverless car be running in the UK?
5 What was to blame for the driverless car crash in US?
6 When will the driverless cars be operating?

Gothenburg in Sweden, home of Volvo, a place where drivers need to beware of the elks. On a test track, the company is showing me its unique experiment. And they will need members of the public to help.
They are going to ask a hundred ordinary people to commute in a car, but it’s not an ordinary car.
It’s an autonomous car. And then they’re going to tell those people they’re actually free to do anything else instead, so perhaps they'll want to send an e-mail.
From the track, to the evening commute. When next year Gothenburg's 100 volunteers will be driverless on specially picked roads. That's roads with no cyclists or pedestrians, and bearing in mind it’s Sweden, no snow. The computer needs to see the white lines. About as hands-free as you can get, the man in charge of the technology told me what would happen in an emergency.
If something unexpected happens, the car needs to be able to deal with it. We cannot count on a driver to immediately take over. So the car will be able to detect it and it will slow down in order to correct an accident.
So the car is going to do that, it’s not going to suddenly shove control back to the driver?
No, the driver may be sitting relaxed, reading, we cannot count on him or her to intervene immediately, so the car has to do it.
Things look a bit different in the UK. There are four major projects. In Milton Keynes, public-transport pods will eventually use the pavements to shuttle people between the shops and the station.
Would you happily share a pavement with one of those driven by a computer?
No, I wouldn’t, I wouldn’t. They’re like… Maybe the choice is… it has to decide, it has to decide in an instant whether it’s got to stop or it’s got to carry on going for the safety of who's in it or who is on the outside.
You don't worry about it bumping into you?
No, no because you can easily move out of the way.
In the US, Google is leading the way in driverless testing, a million miles and counting. But they’ve just had their first crash, where the computer was at least partly to blame.  Experts describe a future straight out of a science-fiction novel.
You're going to see this technology in forklift trucks, in ports, on fields, down mines. It’s the same stuff. And that, for me, is extremely interesting, that this technology is not just about transport, it’s about all things that move.
Back on the test track, time to enjoy a drama on the telly. It could still take a decade or even two, but eventually children will marvel at the idea that people actually used to drive their own cars.
Richard Westcott, BBC News, Sweden.

1 100 
2 roads with no cyclists, no pedestrians, no snow
3 the car 
4 on the pavements
5 the computer partly
6 in ten or twenty years' time