Wednesday, December 12, 2012

401V: Isolation and solitude are not the same thing

Following on the theme of what goes into a happy life, two more TED lectures. First, love and the brain, according to Helen Fisher:

(See questions following the second lecture.)

Meanwhile, Sherry Turkle asks us to consider what our disembodied communication patterns (SMS, Twitter, social networks, even social robots) are doing to our souls. Is it time to overcome our fear of unedited self-disclosure in favor of actual human contact and healthy solitude?

Questions about these presentations
Sherry Turkle

  1. What is the central paradox illustrated by Sherry Turkle's story of the SMS she just received from her daughter? 
  2. She says, "People talk to me about the important new skill of making eye contact while you're texting." Why might this ability seem useful? Is it truly useful? 
  3. She goes on to say, "I think we're setting ourselves up for trouble"--in fact two kinds of trouble. What are they? 
  4. What is the Goldilocks effect? (Do you know the story of Goldilocks and the three bears?) 
  5. What was Stephen Colbert's profound question, and how did Turkle answer?
  6.  Turkle witnessed a woman being comforted by a robot in the shape of a seal, and, in her words, "felt myself at the cold, hard center of a perfect storm. We expect more from ... and less from .... And I ask myself, "Why have things come to this?" More from what? Less from what? How does she explain this? 
  7. What are the "three gratifying fantasies"? 
  8. What is the difference between isolation and solitude? 
  9. What attitude to life is symbolized by the phrase "calling in the cavalry"? 
  10. Is the situation Sherry Turkle describes limited to the West or the USA? Is this phenomenon also seen in Russia? 
  11. Why is Turkle optimistic?

Helen Fisher

  1. What three groups of people have these scientists examined using an MRI brain scanner?
  2. Anthropologists have found what phenomenon in every society?
  3. Almost 95 percent of both men and women gave the same answer—yes—to two different questions. What were the questions?
  4. What did the poet Emily Dickinson say about hell?
  5. The study of people in love found activity in the VTA, “part of the brain's reward system.” What functions are associated with this part of the brain?
  6. Among the people who have been “dumped,” these scientists found brain activity in the same region as the people who were in love. Why does Fisher say, “What a bad deal”?
  7. “Dumped” lovers also have activity in two other brain regions. What functions are those two brain regions responsible for?
  8. In terms of human reproduction, how does romantic love differ from the so-called sex drive?
  9. Fisher tells a story about a girlfriend to illustrate her point about “relapse.” What was the story?
  10. Has the spirit of scientific experimentation spoiled the concept of love for Fisher? How does she illustrate her answer to this question?
  11. What has this scientific team found out about people who are still in love after many years?
  12. What are some of the factors that will determine whether we will love this person and not that person? Is it possible to identify all the factors involved?
  13. In what different ways do men and women express intimacy and friendship?

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

401V, 501, 502: Ken Robinson, "Bring on the learning revolution"

Attention Group 401 (Evening): More from Ken Robinson. (Also see this earlier post.)

Students in Groups 501 and 502: we are also discussing these talks--Judy and I want to hear your viewpoints, too!

Update for Groups 501 and 502: We didn't have time to see this video last Thursday. We'll see it later in December. But we did see "Schools Kill Creativity."

Discussion questions on the second Ken Robinson video:
  1. Al Gore spoke at the TED conference four years earlier about the climate crisis, a crisis involving natural resources. What is the “second climate crisis” to which Robinson is referring?
  2. Robinson says, “I meet all kinds of people who don't think they're really good at anything. ” They don’t spend their lives doing what they love. Among the factors responsible for this situation, which does Robinson point to? Metaphorically speaking, how are human resources similar to natural resources?
  3. Jeremy Bentham divided the world into what two groups?
  4. What is fundamentally wrong with “reform”?
  5. “I love that word, ‘disenthrall’.” What does it mean, in Robinson’s usage?
  6. Thanks to education, we are enthralled to the idea of linearity. What is “linearity”? In contrast, how does Robinson describe life? It’s not linear, but instead it is ….?
  7. How did this linearity express itself in the educational policy statement that Robinson encountered soon after his family arrived in Los Angeles? What was his response to this policy statement?
  8. Linearity is one principle that holds us in thrall. What is the other idea, exemplified by fast food?
  9. Rather than reforming education based on copying systems, no matter how good*, Robinson advocates what approach in the future?
  10. Why are people leaving the educational system?
  11. Talent is important; what else is important for hour-long tasks to seem like five minutes?
  12. Why should we tread softly?
* KIPP (“it’s a great system”): “KIPP, the Knowledge Is Power Program, is a national [USA] network of free, open-enrollment, college-preparatory public charter schools with a track record of preparing students in underserved communities for success in college and in life.” (

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

501-502: Colbert Report, "Judge, Jury & Executioner"

An introduction to intellectual property law:

In class today, we looked at this set of questions that Judy put together for you:
  1. What did the Thai student do that made the textbook company mad?
  2. Please explain the “first sale doctrine.”
  3. What does Stephen Colbert say are the implications if the Supreme Court rules against the Thai student?
  4. Why did Stephen Colbert call Elvis Costello?
  5. Why did Costello say he wanted 15 cents? What did he settle for instead?
  6. What is Colbert's opinion of the case?
Useful phrases:
“I don't buy that”
garage sale
“my take”
“a textbook case of ….”
“board games”
British Council
Stephen Colbert mentions eBay, and so we turned to the British Council for a relevant audio text, which you can access here. We reviewed the quiz included with the British Council lesson:

Listen to David giving his presentation about eBay in a business school seminar. Listen and correct the mistakes in this student’s notes on David’s presentation:
  1. eBay was founded five years ago
  2. eBay employs 12,600 people around the world
  3. In 2005 the turnover was $ 5.55 million
  4. From the beginning top eBay management had successful computer backgrounds
  5. eBay has got shops all over the world
  6. eBay is successful in Japan and Hong Kong

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

S201-205 Homework: a letter of complaint

Here is the situation:
You went out for dinner with your friends to celebrate your birthday. You were very disappointed with the service you received. Write a letter of complaint to the restaurant manager explaining why you were dissatisfied and asking for an explanation and an apology.
Write 100-140 words. Remember the rules of letter-writing. Please bring your letter to class next week.

  • If you don't know the restaurant manager by name, you can use this format:
Radio Street Restaurant
Attention: Manager
  • First paragraph: Introduce yourself, explain why you are writing.
  • Second paragraph: Briefly tell what happened at the restaurant.
  • Third paragraph: Ask for the action(s) you want from the manager.

Exercise from Olga Afanasyeva, Virginia Evans, Victoria Kopylova, Practice Exam Papers for the Russian State Exam, 2010 Revised Edition, Moscow: Express Publishing/Prosveshchenie Publishers. 

Image source.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Layla Musselwhite, "The Days Were Made for Dancing"


More about Layla Musselwhite here.

"The Days Were Made for Dancing", Layla Musselwhite

The days are bright with promise
Like that poem by Dylan Thomas
You may be young and easy,
Oh, as I was young and easy,

The days are filled with dancing and the nighttime is a pearl,
You sleep where you’ve fallen, dreaming of time, wake up outside of this world.

When life was for cherishing,
Say yeah to almost everything,
In a white linen summer gown,
Wild as an angel in this town.

The days are filled with dancing and the nighttime is a pearl,
You sleep where you’ve fallen, dreaming of time, wake up outside of this world.

He hung over me like a hurricane,
Wasting the valley and making rain,
Nothing is built to last,
Oh, baby, I let the hurricane pass.

The days are filled with dancing and the nighttime is a pearl,
You sleep where you’ve fallen, dreaming of time, wake up outside of this world.

And the days are filled with dancing and the nighttime is a pearl,
You sleep where you’ve fallen, dreaming of time.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Arlo Guthrie, "I'm Changing My Name to Chrysler"

Arlo Guthrie performs Tom Paxton's song "I'm Changing My Name to Chrysler" ...

Background story to this song: $1.5 billion given to Chrysler by the U.S. government in 1979-80 so that this automobile maker would not go bankrupt.

Audio: purchase link

Words by Tom Paxton:

"I'm Changing My Name to Chrysler" was part of this
album by Arlo Guthrie and Pete Seeger
Oh the price of gold is rising out of sight
And the dollar is in sorry shape tonight
What the dollar used to get us
Now won't buy a head of lettuce
No the economic forecast isn't right
But amidst the clouds I spot a shining ray
I can even glimpse a new and better way
And I've devised a plan of action
Worked it down to the last fraction
And I'm going into action here today

I am changing my name to Chrysler
I am going down to Washington D.C.
I will tell some power broker
What they did for Iacocca
Will be perfectly acceptable to me
I am changing my name to Chrysler
I am headed for that great receiving line
So when they hand a million grand out
I'll be standing with my hand out
Yes sir I'll get mine

When my creditors are screaming for their dough
I'll be proud to tell them all where they can all go
They won't have to scream and holler
They'll be paid to the last dollar
Where the endless streams of money seem to flow
I'll be glad to tell them all what they can do
It's a matter of a simple form or two
It's not just remuneration it's a liberal education
Ain't you kind of glad that I'm in debt to you


Since the first amphibians crawled out of the slime
We've been struggling in an unrelenting climb
We were hardly up and walking before money started talking
And it's sad that failure is an awful crime
Well it's been that way for a millenium or two
But now it seems that there's a different point of view
If you're a corporate titanic and your failure is gigantic
Down to congress there's a safety net for you


©1980 Accabonac Music (ASCAP)

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

S201-205 Homework: Letter to Frank

For students in classes 201-205:

You have received the following letter from your pen friend Frank, who writes:
I’m so excited! I just downloaded the latest album from Orphaned Land. I’m going to load it onto my MP3 player and listen to it every chance I get. Do you like listening to music? Do you have a favourite musician or group? Where do you and your friends usually get music—do you buy disks, download tracks from music sites, or do you get music some other way?

By the way, my friends and I are going to London for a concert on the weekend.
In 100-140 words (twenty minutes), reply to Frank’s letter. Answer his questions, and ask three questions about his weekend plans. Remember the rules of letter-writing.

This homework lesson is due on your class day, November 28 or 30.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

"Memphis, Tennessee"--two versions

First, author Chuck Berry's version, then Johnny River's version. (Audio and text follows the videos.)

Прослушать или бесплатно скачать Chuck Berry Memphis, Tennessee на Простоплеере

Прослушать или бесплатно скачать Johnny Rivers Memphis на Простоплеере

Long distance information, give me Memphis Tennessee
Help me find the party trying to get in touch with me
She could not leave her number, but I know who placed the call
'Cause my uncle took the message and he wrote it on the wall

Help me, information, get in touch with my Marie
She's the only one who'd phone me here from Memphis Tennessee
Her home is on the south side, high up on a ridge
Just a half a mile from the Mississippi Bridge

Help me, information, more than that I cannot add
Only that I miss her and all the fun we had
But we were pulled apart because her mom did not agree
And tore apart our happy home in Memphis Tennessee

Last time I saw Marie she's waving me good-bye
With hurry home drops on her cheek that trickled from her eye
Marie is only six years old, information please
Try to put me through to her in Memphis Tennessee

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

"What a Wonderful World"

The most famous version of this beautiful song is the one by Louis Armstrong, but I used Eva Cassidy's version for our gap-fill exercise. Below: Louis Armstrong, followed by Eva Cassidy. Then: the texts.

What a Wonderful World Louis Armstrong from noktasat on Vimeo.

Louis Armstrong's version: audio track purchase link

What a Wonderful World - Eva Cassidy from Kevin on Vimeo.

Eva Cassidy's version: audio track purchase link

The song is by George David Weiss, George Douglas, Bob Thiele

I see trees of green, red roses too
I see them bloom for me and you
And I think to myself 'what a wonderful world'

I see skies of blue and clouds of white
The bright blessed day, the dark sacred night
And I think to myself 'what a wonderful world'

The colors of the rainbow so pretty in the sky
Are also on the faces of people going by
I see friends shaking hands saying 'how do you do'
They're really saying 'I love you'

I hear babies crying, I watch them grow
They'll learn much more than I'll never know
And I think to myself 'what a wonderful world'
Yes I think to myself 'what a wonderful world'
Oh, yeah

Eva Cassidy rearranges the song (transcribed from a live performance):

I see trees that are green, red roses, too
I watch them bloom for me and you
And I think to myself 'what a wonderful world'

I hear babies cry, I watch them grow
And they'll learn much more than I'll ever know
And I think to myself 'oh what a wonderful world'

The colors of the rainbow so pretty in the sky
Are also on the faces of the people passing by
I see friends shaking hands saying 'how do you do'
But they're really saying 'I love you'

I see trees that are green and red roses, too
I watch them bloom for me and you
And I think to myself 'oh what a wonderful world'

The colors of the rainbow so pretty in the sky
Are also on the faces of the people passing by
I see friends shaking hands saying 'how do you do'
But they're really saying 'I love you'

I see trees of green and red roses, too
I watch them bloom for me and you
And I think to myself 'what a wonderful world'
I think to myself 'ooh what a wonderful world'

S201-205 Homework: advice about learning Russian

You have seen the following announcement in an international student magazine:

We are looking for essays that give advice to foreigners about learning your language. In your essay,
  • suggest some ideas that will help foreigners to learn your language better;
  • mention what you think the main difficulties will be.
Write an essay of 200-250 words (on a separate piece of paper or by e-mail) in response. Use the following plan:
  • write an introduction (state the topic, explain what you will do in the essay)
  • make your suggestions, illustrate them with examples and results
  • list the main difficulties and give reasons and examples
  • write a conclusion 
Some ideas and phrases for your essay:
  • talk with native speakers
  • rules and exceptions
  • alphabet and spelling
  • to conjugate verbs (verb conjugation)
  • to decline nouns and adjectives (declension of nouns, pronouns, adjectives); cases ("Russian has six cases.")
  • cognates and false cognates (false friends--English-Russian and Russian-English)
  • slang
  • articles ("Russian does not use articles")
  • word order
  • verbs of motion
  • perfective and imperfective aspects (совершенный вид, несовершенный вид)
Note: In your introduction you can talk about "learning the Russian language," but afterwards you can simply say "learning Russian."

Please give me this homework next week (Wednesday or Friday). Thank you!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Institute's birthday party 2012

(Click on photo to go to the photo gallery on Facebook.)

Last but not least:

The Institute's new six-year accreditation.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

401V: "Let's Prepare for Our New Climate"

Here's the TED talk by Vicki Arroyo on the adaptations we must make, and why we can't depend on "experts."

We discussed these questions:
  1. What is Vicki Arroyo's home town? How much of it is below sea level?
  2. What does she mean when she says, "The military gets it"? Why does the military consider climate change a "threat multiplier"?
  3. How did the church that Vicki's mother attends earn their "Energy Star" award?
  4. Why did the U.S. Congress apparently think that pets were important enough to pass a special law concerning their evacuation?
  5. Why was it important for Ethiopia to prepare for heat and drought conditions? (What proportion of the population depends on rainfall for its livelihood?) What does Vicki Arroyo mean by the term "virtuous cycle"?
  6. What is one of the ways Washington, D.C., is funding the installation of green roofs?
  7. Why does it make sense to locate airports near the coast? On the other hand, what special problems do such locations cause?
  8. Why can we no longer trust "stationarity?"
We also watched and briefly discussed these three wildlife-preservation TV spots:

"When we all come together, we can do anything."

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

S201-205 Homework: "There are too many cars...."

This assignment is due on your class day in the week of November 5-9.

Exercise from Olga Afanasyeva, Virginia Evans, Victoria Kopylova, Practice Exam Papers for the Russian State Exam, 2010 Revised Edition, Moscow: Express Publishing/Prosveshchenie Publishers.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Bonnie Raitt, "Something to Talk About"

Here's the music video by the great blues slide guitarist Bonnie Raitt, followed by the audio track and the words:

The audio version we heard in class: purchase link

Something to Talk About, Shirley Eikhard

People are talkin, talkin ’bout people
I hear them whisper, you won’t believe it
They think we’re lovers kept undercover
I just ignore it, but they keep sayin’
We laugh just a little too loud
We stand just a little too close
We stare just a little too long
Maybe they’re seeing, somethin’ we don’t, Darlin’
Let’s give ’em something to talk about (x3)
How about love?

I feel so foolish, I never noticed
You’d act so nervous, could you be falling for me?
It took a rumor to make me wonder
Now I’m convinced I’m goin under
Thinking ’bout you every day
Dreaming ’bout you every night
I'm hoping that you feel the same way
Now that we know it, let’s really show it, Darlin’
Let’s give ’em something to talk about
A little mystery to figure out
Let’s give ’em something to talk about
How about love, love, love?

Groups 501-502: Financial English, part one

Financial and business English: not just the language of accounting or economics, but also the language of business journalism, often replete with jargon and buzzwords. For example:

We talked about these terms:

drill down
revenue per click
value of a click
conversion rate
quarter, Q2
consecutive quarters
quarter ending - QE2
“changes being wrought by”
click rate
year over year changes
picking up in volume (or value)
“it’s all about” smthng
“the shift to mobile”
“cost as a percent of sales”

After the video, we looked at these discussion questions:
  1. "Let's talk about the change being wrought in our lives by the move towards mobile and away from the PC." What exactly is meant by this "move"?
  2. "... While the number of clicks is going through the roof, the value of a click declines in three consecutive quarters, in a double-digit way year over year...." What could be causing this decline?
  3. "We see the exact same thing, that quarter after quarter after quarter, the value of a user on Facebook is declining." What makes the Facebook situation similar to that of Google?
In addition to the video, we also looked at a quarterly report from Judy's Lunch Truck and talked about the terms and concepts in the report:

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Thandie Newton and Erin McKean

Last Thursday Groups 501 and 502 listened to two talks. On this page, each of the videos we use is followed by the questions we discussed after the video.

First, we heard Thandie Newton delivering a talk on "Embracing otherness, embracing myself."

We considered this listening-comprehension exercise:
  1. Newton believes that we each have a self
    a. ... that has been evident from the day we were born.
    b. ... that begins to develop when we are given our names.
    c. ... that remains unformed and primitive.
    d. ... that was not there when we were born.
  2. The self becomes a vehicle for navigating our social world,
    a. ... even though it is a projection based on other people's projections.
    b. ... according to the nuns at Newton's Catholic school.
    c. ... but without it we panic and become confused.
    d. ... because separateness is all that is real in this world.
  3. "I was an anomaly":
    a. ... I was able to fit and belong.
    b. ... I was an atheist in a Catholic school.
    c. ... I couldn't hatch plans and climb the staircase of popularity.
    d. ... I was other before even being a girl.
  4. At the age of sixteen, Newton stumbled across an opportunity:
    a. ... she began to realize that she was a really good dancer.
    b. ... she began to confront her dysfunctional self.
    c. ... she applied to her university's anthropology department.
    d. ... she earned a film role.
  5. Dancing and acting allowed Newton to:
    a. ... spend time not dreading her self-hood.
    b. ... put all her emotions into her struggles with self.
    c. ... develop a stronger connection between her self and her body.
    d. ... assure her anxious parents that she could succeed despite her
    identity problems.
  6. Anthropologist Phyllis Lee's understanding of race
    a. ... asserts that all human beings are black to some degree, except
    b. ... is based on variations in skin color.
    c. ... is based on calculations of the time needed to create genetic diversity.
    d. ... deny that race has any biological basis.
  7. Academic and career achievements gave Newton
    a. ... bulimia and a therapist's couch, but led to a car crash.
    b. ... little or no relief from her desire to disappear.
    c. ... an entire value system and a physical reality to support the worth of
    d. ... a clever brain to cheat herself from the reality of death.
  8. Newton believes that healthy selves, connected with their creator and with our oneness,
    a. ... understand their origins as projections, and respect their functions.
    b. ... cannot resist the temptations of iPods, Pads, and bling.
    c. ... will continue to surge through the cracks in our constructed world.
    d. … will still be freaked out by our bountiful nothingness.

Erin McKean's TED talk on "The joy of lexicography" came next:

... And we considered these open-ended questions:
  1. "And just by saying double dactyl, I've sent the geek needle all the way into the red." What does Erin mean by sending the "geek needle all the way into the red"?
  2. As a lexicographer, Erin McKean does not want to be a "traffic cop." What does she actually not want to do? Metaphorically, what profession would she prefer to compare her job with?
  3. Describing an online dictionary, McKean says "This is flat.... There's not a lot of clickiness." What does the word "flat" mean when used about online media?
  4. "And when you improve searchability, you actually take away the one advantage of print, which is serendipity." What is "serendipity"?
  5. What is the point of the "ham butt" story? What characteristics of traditional dictionaries is McKean referring to by using this story?
  6. What makes a word real?
  7. "Newspaper archive goes back to 1759. 58.1 million newspaper pages. If only one in 100 of those pages had an un-dictionaried word on it, it would be an entire other OED. That's 500,000 more words." What is the OED and what is her point here?
  8. "One of them [the definitions of the word 'set' in the OED] is just labeled 'miscellaneous technical senses.' Do you know what that says to me? That says to me it was Friday afternoon and somebody wanted to go down to the pub." In other words, what is her explanation for this definition?
  9. "So again, lexicography is not rocket science." When somebody says "X is not rocket science," what are they saying about X?
  10. "And this is a little-known technological fact about the Internet, but the Internet is actually made up of words and enthusiasm. And words and enthusiasm actually happen to be the recipe for lexicography." What additional characteristic does McKean wish all word-collecting sites on the Internet had?
  11. The Internet could be the site for dictionaries that are not simply being regarded "synecdotichically," but include...what?

Friday, October 12, 2012

"Boys get away with everything!"

Here is the audio we used yesterday in Groups 501 and 502--first, the cherry picker story, then the British Council podcast.

"Boys get away with everything."

Truck-mounted cherry picker (Wikimedia Commons)
Cherry Picker purchase link

Selected phrases from Garrison Keillor's story:

Well, it's been a quiet week in Lake Wobegon, my home town...

... It looks like that fresh snow is going to stay around for a while, which is just to our liking....

... all the front yards in Lake Wobegon...

...Coming under the lovely spell of winter ... winter come s along and brings us to our senses...
You cannot impose your own ambitious schedule on winter...

...Shot about 15% the first half and not much better the second half... their record now on the season is 9 and 6...

She'd [Lennie Voss] been suspended for two games for being at a party last week at which some boys had bought in some alcohol--beer, I guess...

And she went into the principal's office--Mr. Halverson--this last week and she said, “This is not fair. You would not do this to a boy on the boys' team... Somebody said they had a six-pack; I didn't know, I wasn't going to go ask 'em....”

Mr. Halverson gave his school principal speech about how it was nothing personal... rules are enforced, no matter what....

And they really do need a leader because their coach is such a loser.

There is no such thing as second- or third-string....

She sat in the stands and watched the game on Friday against St. Margaret.

If I had been the star of the team, and I had to sit it out, I would be secretly pulling for them to lose by a large margin. That's the sort of person I am.

You couldn't tell it to look at him now....

“A bunch of broads with big hairy legs, that's who these feminists are... .”

And right around when she was thirteen-fourteen years old, and she was on the junior high team, and there was a little dispute over when the boys' team should practice and when the girls' team might be allowed to come in and use the gymnasium, and right there, in about a day and a half, Arnold Voss became a militant feminist.

“Boys get away with everything! ”

...The Abominable Snowman, the great Beast of the Blizzard in the winter of '76, who terrorized and wreaked damage and destruction across a good section of western Minnesota...

... This big Mack Truck with a cherry picker on it ...

... They had to head for home in their big Mack truck, and so they folded up the cherry picker and put everything back together and they headed north towards Lake Wobegon into the teeth of this blizzard....

... a complete white-out, you couldn't tell up from down...

... Arnold, who was driving, had to down-shift and the truck was struggling ...

... The cherry picker had come way up into the air. There was a tarp they had wrapped around the control levers at the base of it, and a corner of it had gotten loose, and evidently it was flapping, and every time it flapped, it got hold of a lever, and it raised that cherry picker.

They had been trying to haul tons of copper down the road!

“You back up as slow[ly] as you can back up. ”

Then he cut some alpaca out of the lining of his jacket. … He roughed up his hair.

He pounded on it [the door], and he clawed at it....

... And they saw the phone lines all dragged down, and then it made sense.To accomplish this kind of damage would take a creature about as big as would fit these footprints.

He was dubious himself but he said a lot of people there had seen it!

It made the Minneapolis paper.

That town went downhill from then on. ... He'd see houses boarded up, "For Sale" signs up.

a bad case of the jitters....

Arnold tortured himself with these thoughts for years.

...she gets kicked off the team for two days, and he goes scot-free.

... and that evens up everything.

...and at the same time you have license to complain about.

That's the news from Lake Wobegon, where all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average.

Art and Business (thanks to British Council)

The questions we discussed in class:
  1. According to the interviewer, «Art & Business is an organisation that develops ___________ ____________ between business and the arts.»
  2. Peter Jones believes that productivity now depends on what factor(s)?
  3. What can books do for us, according to Peter Jones?
  4. Jones mentions a recent survey of businesspeople. When asked which books inspired them and had a positive influence on their career, what proportion of the surveyed people cited business books? (30%, 40%, 50%, 60%, or 70%?)
  5. What critical skills (name two or three from the interview) do readers combine?
  6. The left side of the brain, according to Jones, analyzes the plot. What is interesting to the right side of the brain?
  7. Reading groups at Marks and Spencer have apparently improved working relationships in the company. Based on what Jones said, why might this have happened?

Thursday, October 4, 2012

The Minnesota State Fair

Garrison Keillor's radio "private eye," Guy Noir, from the radio program A Prairie Home Companion, visits the Minnesota State Fair.

Delights of the Subjunctive Booth

Here's the script--although, don't forget what we told you in class: the actors don't adhere exactly to the script!

Guy Noir script, Saturday, September 5, 2009

TR: A dark night in a city that knows how to keep its secrets, but on the twelfth floor of the Acme Building, one man is still trying to find the answers to life's persistent questions --- Guy Noir, Private Eye ---
GK: It was September, and a chill was in the air, the chill of mortality, which makes a guy think maybe he ought to bleach his hair and buy a Jaguar and head west and just let the repo man come and find you. Gather the rosebuds, in other words. Carpe diem. Carpe nocturno too. It was State Fair time in Minnesota, when summer ends and it's time to make something of yourself, which a guy feels even when you're on a long losing streak—I was working the Fair, working undercover out of the Security division —

TK: Okay, Noir. Got a job for you.
GK: Good. It's about time. What you got?
TK: Home Activities building. Call came in at eleven-hundred hours.
GK: You mean at 11 a.m.
TK: Right. Eleven-hundred hours.
GK: Why not just say eleven o'clock this morning?
TK: I'd rather say eleven-hundred hours. I'm in law enforcement.
GK: Okay, okay—
TK: It's the Bundt Cake competition.
GK: Okay.
TK: We suspect that the second-place winner might be fraudulent. We did a search on her ID. Two different street addresses. Look into it.
GK: What's the second-place prize?
TK: A red ribbon and $75.
GK: Who's gonna cheat for that kind of chickenfeed?
TK: We got the call and we've gotta look into it.
GK: What am I looking for?
TK: Female, blonde. Medium height, weight. In her late thirties or forties. Shorts, t-shirt, flip-flops. Carrying a shopping bag full of free brochures and giveaways.
GK: You want me to find her.
TK: Take a look around. See what you can see.
GK: Okay. (STING) So I headed out through the crowds (CAROUSEL ORGAN, VOICES PASSING, RATCHET OF RIDE), looking for a woman who looked like half the women who were at the fair that day. But it was good to walk around and smell the animal fats. And then suddenly a woman was right there, in my face—
SS (SEDUCTIVE): Hey mister, how about some....deep-fried Reese's Pieces? Huh? What do you say? They're good. Want to try some?
GK: Sorry, I'm working.
SS (SEDUCTIVE): So am I. So let's work together. C'mon, you only live once.
GK: Temptation on every hand. Except not quite every hand.
TR (BARKER): Hey step right up, and play Monopoly—America's favorite board game—here it is—only Monopoly game at the Fair—put hotels on Boardwalk and Park Place......only takes an hour—win the game and you win a teddy bear—come on, step right up—who wants to play Monopoly—
GK: He wasn't getting any takers but he still didn't give up. Had a big smile on his face. Optimism. A beautiful thing to see in other people even if you don't care to go there yourself. There was a lot of it around the Fair.
SS: Step up here and have a glass of wine. Got a nice Minnesota wine. It's a Sauvignon Honk. A dry wine with a complex bouquet of soybeans and plywood and a long finish of shellac. Here you go— (FADES)
TK (BARKER): Hey, here it is, here it is, folks—your lucky day—a dollar a chance, the more you buy the better your chances—come on, how about you, sir?
GK: What's the drawing for?
TK: Twins Playoff Tickets.
GK: Playoff tickets.
TK: They're just five games out of first.
GK: Exactly my point.
TK: A guy can hope.
GK: Five games out of first on Labor Day? You call that hope?
TK (FADING): HEY, here it is, folks—your lucky day—a dollar a chance, the more you buy the better your chances—come on—
GK: I walked around past the high striker (WHACK, DING BELL) and the lady selling juicers —
SS: Here it is, the secret of good health, the Juice-o-rama—(SERIES OF SPLATS) I put in oranges, potatoes, onions, blueberries, herring, Swiss chard (MOTOR WHIRR)—see how easy it is?
GK: And the Tilt-A-Whirl (MOTOR REV, CRIES OF PASSENGERS) and the sheep barn (SHEEP) and the poultry barn (SFX) and the Live Birth barn where a woman was in labor—
GK: Went up to Machinery Hill and there wasn't much machinery around, just a guy with some hardware--
TR: Here it is. Got your pump handles, poles, pillars, pilasters, parapets, pipes, pegs, pins, pans, plates, panels, pommels, planks, pivots—got a pendulum here— see? (SFX)—
GK: You wouldn't happen to have any plinths, would you?
TR: Iron plinths?
GK: Right.
TR: Nope.
GK: Okay. (FOOTSTEPS) I walked into the Technology barn where a man was selling P-Pods.
TK: How about it?
GK: Don't need a peapod, thanks.
TK: It's the latest thing.
GK: Don't want one.
TK: A hundred bucks, but for you, eighty-nine ninety- five. Going, going, gone.
GK: What does it do?
TK: It's the successor to the iPod. The pPod. The p stands for programming.
GK: It's tiny.
TK: The size of a postage stamp. But it's got 100,000 songs on it and 25,000 feature-length films.
GK: What am I going to do with all that? I've got a life to lead.
TK: Look at this.
GK: I can barely see it.
TK: Come in close. See— you can get any movie you want— just punch it in—
TR (BOGART): Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine.
SS (MAE WEST): Well, it's not the men in your life that counts, it's the life in your men.
TK: See? All the classics. You just text in the title and there it is.
SS (GARBO): Gimme a whiskey, ginger ale on the side. And don't be stingy, baby.
TR (OLLIE): Well, here's another fine mess you've gotten me into.
SS (WITCH): Oh! You cursed brat. Look what you've done. I'm melting! Melting!
TR (JIMMY STEWART): You want the moon? Just say the word, and I'll throw a lasso around it and pull it down. Hey, that's a pretty good idea. I'll give you the moon.
SS (SCARLETT): I can't think about that now, I'll think about that tomorrow. After all, tomorrow is another day.
GK: Thanks, but no.
TR: Now Sawyer, you listen to me and you listen hard. You've got to go on, and you have to give and give and give. They've got to like you, they've got to. Do you understand? You can't fall down. You can't. But you keep your feet on the ground and your head on those shoulders of yours and go out - and Sawyer, you're going out a youngster, but you've got to come back a star.
GK: Look— I got a job to do, Mister. Let go of my arm.
TK: Twenty-five thousand movies for eighty-nine bucks.
GK: Life isn't long enough. Okay?
TR (CLINT): So tell me, punk? You feel lucky today?
TK: Hey— come back— 75 bucks— (FADE)
GK: I headed into the Education Building for the peace and quiet and there was a booth for Arabic school and there was a Twitter exhibit—a guy doing updates—
TK: (TYPING); I am online and I am updating my updates. And now I am done with that update and ready to write a new one. Except I can't think of a new one. So I'll leave that one up for now. Until I think of something new. Which I might. Stay tuned.
GK: And then I saw a handsome woman under a big sign that said English Department, and I walked over—
SS: Step right up, it's the Subjunctive Booth—anybody can be a winner—just use the English language properly—Sir, step up, and win the big prize.
GK: She was tall with broad shoulders and dark hair and she wore a Professional Organization of English Majors T-shirt.
SS: Come on up and use the subjunctive mood and be a winner. You, sir—
GK: Yes, ma'am.
SS: Did you hear what I said?
GK: Yes, you asked that I speak in the subjunctive.
SS: So you know the subjunctive.
GK: If I didn't, I would not be talking like this.
SS: Two out of two, very good. Do you have time to go for three?
GK: If I should, who would care?
SS: Three. (DING)
GK: It is time I should go home, but I can stay.
SS: Excellent. Four.
GK: Had I known you liked the subjunctive, I would have spoken nothing but.
SS: Five. (DING)
GK: If I were an English major, I'd know more of them.
SS: Six. (DING) Would you like to know what the prize for ten in a row is?
GK: I would not be here if I didn't.
SS: Seven. (DING)
GK: If I'd known you were here, I would've studied up.
SS: Eight. (DING)
GK: If I were to get to ten, I hope the prize would involve you.
SS: Nine. (DING)
GK: Would that I could.
SS: Ten. (DING)
GK: Well, God bless America.
SS: Bonus. (DING) That was quite respectable, sir.
GK: If need be, I could do more.
SS: Heaven forbid. What do you say we get out of the subjunctive and into the future perfect?
GK: I am going to think the future is very perfect if you're in it with me.
SS: Oh my. You know how to make an English major perspire.
GK: So what do I win?
SS: The prize is $75. Cash. Here.
GK: Thanks.
SS: I could help you spend it.
GK: Now?
SS: No time like the present.
GK: We're going out on a date?
SS: You only live once.
GK: Wow.
SS: So tell me about yourself. Mr. Noir.
GK: I'm a private eye. A proud profession that died a long time ago, kid. Back in the Age of Privacy, you had to work to find out stuff about people, follow them around, sneak up behind trees, plant microphones in cocktails. Now you can find it all out on Facebook. So I'm what you might call semi-employed.
SS: So what do you do for fun?
GK: Oh. Long walks, conversation, sharing, all kinds of music, emotional intimacy, it sorta runs the gamut.
SS: What do you say we have a wild time instead? We've got 75 bucks. (BRIDGE)
GK: So we did. We rode the double ferris wheel (SFX) and we did the Swiss Sky Ride (SFX) and then we did the Magic Carpet (WILD RIDE) and then we went through the Tunnel of Love until the money ran out.
SS: Thanks, babes. It was beautiful.
GK: Wish it could've been longer.
SS: Yeah, me too.
GK: Good meeting you, kid.
SS: Same here. Keep using that subjunctive.
GK: I don't know. I feel like I'm slipping into the past tense.
SS: Naw. If you only knew— if you only knew— (BRIDGE)
GK: I watched her walk away. My English major. You never know what you'll find at the fair. You go looking for a fake Bundt cake baker and you wind up finding somebody you'll never forget. —
My baby dont watch TV
She loves the library
She goes there every day
My baby dont text or wear a pager
My baby is an English major

She is a bibliophile
She has an ear for style
Prose or poetry
She is a high-toned critic
But my baby cares for me

She loves the subjunctive mood
That is her attitude
Come what may, so let it be
I love her, how, she fills my senses
And Lord she conjugates my tenses
The dictionary she has read it
She is smart and she can edit
I hope she rewrites me
My baby knows her business
And yet she cares for me

My baby has style and glamour
And she uses perfect grammar
She's perfect as can be
She's a master of seduction
She is good at deconstruction
She has a fine search engine
Other assets I could mention
She moves me poetically
I wonder what's wrong with baby
I was unprepared for
Don't know the whys and wherefore
But I'd swim the ocean and fly through air for
My baby cares for me


TR: A dark night in a city that knows how to keep its secrets. But one man is still trying to find the answers to life's persistent questions...Guy Noir, Private Eye.


Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Thursday: We meet at last!

Greetings to students of Institute groups 501 and 502!!

Judy and I are looking forward to our first class together on Thursday. See you in Room 9!

Our class will emphasize listening comprehension, using audio texts from both British and American sources (and occasionally others), along with many opportunities for conversation in class. There will be very little homework; in return, we expect full attendance and lots of hard work in class!! We hope it will be useful and enjoyable--and to help make it so, we will be eager to hear what areas and topics you are especially hoping to cover during our year together.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Writing letters

This chart from is a helpful summary of the elements of an informal letter:

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

My summer

Dear students! I hope you had a wonderful summer and will return refreshed to the School or Institute next week. I'm looking forward to seeing you.

Judy and I spent part of the summer in the northwestern part of the USA, in the states of Oregon, Washington, and Idaho. Judy is still in the U.S. at this moment--but right now she's in the opposite end of the country, in Maine.

Among the high points of our summer was the week we spent in rural Idaho. We visited friends who own a farm. One day they invited us to come with them as they herded cattle from one pasture to another:

A few days later we were in Oregon. There I spent four days at the Waterfront Blues Festival and saw some of my favorite musicians:

I was able to photograph Charlie Musselwhite (large picture above, with his attache case of harmonicas). In the EGE class, we will be using a couple of his songs during the school year. In the row of photos below, from left to right: Booker T. Jones, whose career goes back nearly fifty years; Kid Ramos (here performing with the Mannish Boys); and Jim Wallace (here performing with the Suburban Slim Band). All of these bands were on one of the four festival stages on Portland's beautiful Willamette River waterfront:

But for now I'm glad to be back home in Elektrostal, sitting at my desk with Skripachka sitting next to me as I'm getting my papers in order for the coming school year. Come and visit me here often; I'll have information here about homework, I'll post song audio files and lyrics and (when possible) videos, and I'll also try to post other useful information. For the Institute classes, I'll post the weekly schedules here, too.

For official Institute information, be sure to visit the Institute's Web site. I hear that the School will soon have an official Web site of its own.

See you in just a few days!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Keeping you in my heart...

To all my students in Institute groups 501 and 502, and School groups 201-206:

Thank you for a wonderful year. At the start of the year, I asked you to observe two simple rules:

1) be kind
2) try

and you did far, far more than the minimum required! I will think about you often, and hope to see you again soon!



Here are photos from the Institute's Last Bell concert

Thursday, May 17, 2012

For my ЕГЭ classes: Final tests began Friday!

Here is the schedule for the final tests of the 2011-12 year for my School classes:

Groups 204 and 205:
  • Reading, writing, and lexicon: Friday, May 18
  • Grammar and listening comprehension: Friday, May 25

Groups 201 and 202:
  • Reading, writing, and lexicon: Monday, May 21
  • Grammar and listening comprehension: Monday, May 28

Group 206:
  • Reading, writing, and lexicon: Wednesday, May 23
  • Grammar and listening comprehension: Wednesday, May 30

Please let me know if you cannot come on your "normal" day and need to take your test with another group, or privately.

Monday, May 14, 2012

200-level homework: Letter to Becky about homes in Russia

Last homework of the year! Give it special care!!

You have received a letter from your English-speaking pen-friend Becky who writes:
... In towns and cities in Great Britain, houses and flats are often quite small with only 2 or 3 bedrooms. I have to share my bedroom with my younger sister. What about you—do you have to share, too, or do you have your own room? Would you rather live in town or in the country? What are homes like in Russian towns and cities?

I have just come back from staying with my uncle in Wales. He's a dairy farmer with a herd of about 200 cows....
Write a letter to Becky. In your letter

  • answer her questions (with true answers or answers from your imagination!)
  • ask three questions about her holiday with her uncle in Wales

Write 100-140 words. Remember the rules of letter-writing. Be ready to read your letter in class or send it to me by e-mail or vkontakte.

Exercise adapted from Olga Afanasyeva, Virginia Evans, Victoria Kopylova, Practice Exam Papers for the Russian State Exam, 2010 Revised Edition, Moscow: Express Publishing/Prosveshchenie Publishers.  

Monday, May 7, 2012

200-level homework: Use these words from listening exercises

More practice with new words and phrases--this time from the listening comprehension section of Afanasyeva/Evans/Kopylova chapter 17. Use each word or phrase in a full sentence. You can bring your sentences to class or send them to me (numbered 1 through 12) by e-mail or vkontakte.

  1. geeks
  2. appreciate
  3. follow advice
  4. be myself
  5. takes longer
  6. no excuse for
  7. partly responsible for
  8. there's no point in
  9. nowadays
  10. suits [suitable for]
  11. have confidence in
  12. see eye-to-eye

Happy Victory Day! (Schedule notes)

  • Today (Monday, May 7), our School groups (201 and 202) meet as usual.
  • Wednesday's group (206) meets on Friday at 6 p.m. in Room 16. We'll follow the same schedule next week. If you'd prefer to meet with one of my other groups (Monday 4:30 or 6:00; Friday 3:00 or 4:30), it's fine with me.
  • Friday's groups (205 and 204) meet at our usual time.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Bobby "Boris" Pickett, "Monster Mash"

Here's a strange but impressive animation of this "classic":

Link to purchase track

Wikipedia article

And the lyrics by Bobby Pickett, Leonard L. Capizzi:

I was working in the lab late one night
When my eyes beheld an eerie sight
For my monster from his slab began to rise
And suddenly to my surprise

(He did the mash) He did the monster mash
(The monster mash) It was a graveyard smash
(He did the mash) It caught on in a flash
(He did the mash) He did the monster mash

From my laboratory in the castle east
To the master bedroom where the vampires feast
The ghouls all came from their humble abodes
To get a jolt from my electrodes

(They did the mash) [etc]...
They did the monster mash

The zombies were having fun
The party had just begun
The guests included Wolf Man
Dracula and his son

The scene was rockin’, all were digging the sounds
Igor on chains, backed by his baying hounds
The Coffin-Bangers were about to arrive
With their vocal group, The Crypt-Kicker Five

(They played the mash) [etc]...
They played the monster mash

Out from his coffin, Drac’s voice did ring
Seems he was troubled by just one thing
He opened the lid and shook his fist
And said, “Whatever happened to my Transylvania twist?”

It's now the mash [etc]...
It's now the monster mash

Now everything’s cool, Drac's a part of the band
And my monster mash is the hit of the land
For you, the living, this mash was meant too
When you get to my door, tell them Boris sent you

(Then you can mash) Then you can monster mash
(The monster mash) And do my graveyard smash
(Then you can mash) You'll catch on in a flash
(Then you can mash) Then you can monster mash

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Homework: Use these phrases from Chapter 17

Homework for groups 204, 205, 206: Use these words and phrases from Afanasyeva/Evans/Kopylova chapter 17 in full sentences. You can bring your sentences to class or send them to me (numbered 1 through 12) by e-mail or vkontakte.

Exercise adapted from Olga Afanasyeva, Virginia Evans, Victoria Kopylova, Practice Exam Papers for the Russian State Exam, 2010 Revised Edition, Moscow: Express Publishing/Prosveshchenie Publishers.  

Friday, April 27, 2012

"Down Don't Bother Me"

Cyndi Lauper's energetic version of this song, with Charlie Musselwhite:

Audio (Albert King's original version)

Purchase track on

Lyrics (Albert King)

I've been down so long
You know, down don't bother me
I've been down so long
You know, down don't bother me
I'm gonna take all my troubles
And cast 'em in the deep, blue sea

I work hard every day
I come straight home at night
And no matter how hard I try
Y'know you never wanna treat me right
I've been down so long
You know, down don't bother me
I'm gonna take all my worries
And cast 'em in the deep, blue sea

I bought you a fur coat for Christmas
And a diamond ring
And now you've got the nerve to tell me
That my love don't mean a thing
I've been down so long
'Til down don't bother me
I'm gonna cast all my troubles
And take 'em to the deep, blue sea

Monday, April 23, 2012

200-level homework: make your own essay exercise

Once again, it's your turn to be the textbook writer!

If necessary, you can look at some of the essay assignments you've enjoyed in the past:

The best essay assignments might end up in the final exam!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

200-level homework: your favorite place

Group 206: Remember that, this week (April 16-20), we meet Friday at 18:00 instead of Wednesday at 15:00. Place: Room 16.

Exercise adapted from Olga Afanasyeva, Virginia Evans, Victoria Kopylova, Practice Exam Papers for the Russian State Exam, 2010 Revised Edition, Moscow: Express Publishing/Prosveshchenie Publishers.
Be sure to give your article a title. Articles are often more interesting if they begin with an incident or a quotation.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Buddy Guy plays acoustic guitar

Buddy Guy is best known for playing electric guitar and for making his own enormous contribution to Chicago blues. His appeal and influence go way beyond Chicago, of course: Eric Clapton acknowledges that Guy is one of the very best guitarists in the world.

I've been to maybe ten of his concerts over the years, and he always takes some time to pick up an acoustic guitar, as he did here in Des Moines, Iowa, USA: (Notice the showmanship and the rapport between musician and audience. This is typical at his concerts.)

And again at Montreux:

The song we heard him sing this past week in class was "Anna Lee," written by Elmore James, Robert McCullom, and Marshall Sehorn.

Here's an audio track of the song: purchase link

And here are the lyrics, transcribed from Buddy Guy's version:

Anna Lee, I want you for my own, Anna Lee
Anna Lee, I swear I can't leave you alone, Anna Lee
You promised to be mine, just hang around and see

Anna Lee, what's that you got, Anna Lee
Anna Lee, you got me on the spot, Anna Lee
Well, you got to be mine, you just hang around and see

Anna Lee, this is my last goodbye, Anna Lee
Anna Lee, this is my last time to cry, Anna Lee
Well, you got to be mine, you just hang around and see

Friday, April 6, 2012

Two songs: "Diner" and "Stop Crying Your Heart Out"

We played "Diner" in our last Fifth Course classes together. Here it is:

Audio: link to "Diner"
By Martin Sexton, Ned Claflin

You might have seen one out in Minnesota
Or maybe down by the sea in Sarasota
But they were made back in Worcester, Mass.
Of aluminum and Bakelite and glass

Like a locomotive they were streamlined
And the blueprints were drawn up from a
dream of mine
Slap 'em up, put 'em on the train
Out to Michigan up to Maine

You may find a diner down in Georgia or
Carolina off the Twenty by the Piggly Wiggly
In the country out of Waynesboro
Or when it's getting late and rainy out in New
York State
You hang a louie off the thru-way
And you go and grab yourself a cheeseburger
At the Little Gem diner off Sixty Niner

Refrain: Diner my shiny shiny love
In the night you’re all I’m thinking of
Diner my shiny shiny love

The cruiser pulls in where the troopers
always stop
As we dine over the chrome
and Formica table top
The cashier she always squints
By the gum and the bowl of mints
She's tapping her toe
To the Dean Martin on the Consolette
Booth service and a cigarette
we're loving it so

Side of fries a dollar
Or the haddock plate two ninety five
A rootbeer float a Pepsi
And be sure to save some room
for some apple pie
Better make it a-la-mode


Dean Martin God rest his soul
Talkin' to me from the cereal bowl
There's a couple from the Show Me State
Knockin' back a little meatloaf plate

Diner my shiny shiny love
Diner my shiny shiny love
Diner my shiny shiny shiny love

Chicken and biscuits
With a side of gravy
Peach cobbler

And here's "Stop Crying Your Heart Out" by Oasis:

Audio: link for "Stop Crying Your Heart Out"

By Noel Gallagher

Hold up, hold up
Don’t be scared
You’ll never change what’s been and gone

May your smile
Shine on
Don’t be scared
Your destiny will keep you on

’Cause all of the stars have faded away
Just try not to worry, you’ll see them some day
Take what you need and be on your way
And stop crying your heart out

Get up
Come on
Why you scared? (I’m not scared)
You’ll never change what’s been and gone

’Cause all of the stars have faded away
Just try not to worry, you’ll see them some day
Take what you need and be on your way
And stop crying your heart out

’Cause all of the stars have faded away
Just try not to worry, you’ll see them some day
Just take what you need and be on your way
And stop crying your heart out

We’re all of the stars, we’re fadin’ away
Just try not to worry, you’ll see us some day
Just take what you need and be on your way
And stop crying your heart out
Stop crying your heart out

Monday, April 2, 2012

200-level homework: use these words and phrases...

Homework due week of April 9. Print out and use this sheet--or simply write to me and send me your twelve sentences.