Monday, April 29, 2013

"Wow!" - A Prisoner (Inmate) Enjoyed His Execution?

Here is a story either about spite or ecstasy.

A spiteful action is an action taken just to bother, annoy or even harm another person.  Ecstasy is a feeling of extreme joy (or euphoria).

In America many states have capital punishment. This is an extreme form of punishment in which a prisoner (a murderer) is executed.  To be executed means to be killed by the government.

In America, we use a system of execution called "lethal injection."  Lethal means deadly.  An injection is when a needle is inserted under a person's skin to administer a drug.  So lethal injection refers to the process in which an intravenous drug (a drug administered through a needle) kills a person who has committed murder.

However, the person who is going to die usually has two different needles inserted into his arm, connected to two different types of drugs.  One drug will put the prisoner to sleep and then the second drug will kill the prisoner.

In the following story, after the sleeping drug was released into the prisoner's system, he smiled and yelled out "Wow!" and expressed that the feeling of the drug was pleasant and that he was thankful for the experience!

But, was he really thankful, or was he being spiteful?

At an execution, the family of the victim is often present.  So the family members of the person this murderer killed were there to watch the execution.  They, obviously, wanted to see the murderer of their family member suffer - even if he just suffered emotionally facing an early death.  But by yelling out that he enjoyed the experience, and thanking people for giving him the experience, the family members of the victim were denied (not given) the satisfaction of seeing him suffer.

As you can see in the following article, one family member said this death was too easy.  It looked as if the prisoner had just fallen asleep.

1)  Do you believe in capital punishment?

2)  Do you think that capital punishment should be "painful" so that the family members of the victim can feel some sense of satisfaction?

3)  Why do you think this system of execution was made to seem so safe and painless?

4)  Do you feel that an early death is enough suffering for a murderer who will be executed?

Saturday, April 27, 2013

A U.S. Parent Complains about The "Pornographic" Nature of Anne Frank's Diary

Pornographic material is material that is sexual in nature and that does not have any deeper meaning than a sexual meaning.

When I was teaching a 7th grade reading class in the Bronx, I once put together a summer reading list of books for my students.  These were books from which they could choose 4 books which they would read and write about before the next school year.  One of the books I chose was "The Color Purple."

One very religious parent, however, came to school to question my choice of this book.  She pointed out that there were a few passages in the book that were sexually explicit, and she seemed especially upset that there were descriptions of lesbian sex acts in the book.

I told her, of course, that her son did not have to read anything she objected to and I sent a letter home to parents telling them that there were sexual actions described in the book.  Many students had, however, already read the book and had seen the movie.  Many wrote reports about the book.  It was really no big deal to most parents.  Meaningful literature often contains references to human sexuality.

In the following article, we see that a parent in America is very upset that her child is reading The Diary of Anne Frank.  Interestingly, when Anne Frank's father had the book published after the war, he took out passages dealing with the sexual feelings Anne felt as an adolescent.  When the father died, however, new editions of the book came out with the previously removed parts included.

As you can see from the following article, and comments after the article, the sexual scenes in Frank's Diary do not seem to be a big deal either.

The article:

Vocabulary to help you understand the article:

inappropriate for school - it is not 'right' or 'good' material to be used in a school.

to file a complaint - first you have to write out your complaint - 'filing' a complaint merely means you have submitted the complaint to the proper authority.  The assumption is that your complaint will be read, acted on and filed in their system for future reference.

the definitive edition - the best edition of a book. The most complete edition.  Actually, it's the edition that has everything Anne Frank wrote in it (it includes material the father didn't want people to read).

labia - this is a scientific term for a part of the female reproductive system.  Basically 'labia" comes from the Latin language and labia means 'lips." Anne is referring to the outer portion of the female vagina here.

urine - pee.  Liquid waste material that you flush down the toilet.

the clitoris - this is the little spot in the vagina that really gives a woman pleasure if it is touched or stimulated.

cushiony - like a pillow

fleshy - thick with flesh

a fold of skin - to fold a piece of paper you bend it over and run your hand across it to make it flat.

a blister is a little bump or lump that forms on, for instance, your finger if you burn it.  Usually a blister is filled with water. It's strange she would say a clitoris looks like a blister, but that's how she described it.

the curriculum - a curriculum is the set of instructional materials used to teach a group of students.

to be sheltered - to be protected too much. 

to live in a bubble - this means to live inside of a place where you cannot be affected by the outside world.  If a person hasn't had many experiences in his/her life, you might say, "You have lived your life in a bubble!  Break out of your bubble and experience life."

to ban books - to prohibit people from reading books.  Actually, I think she lives in a bubble and wants to ban books.

a permission slip - a piece of paper the parent signs to give the teacher permission to show some type of movie or material.  "I give my child permission to watch _________."

a swear word - a curse word, a dirty word

when concerns surface - when someone complains. So basically the high-ranking administrator is saying, "Please talk to the teacher about this issue.  If you are still not satisfied, we have a process in which a group of people will look at the book you don't like and they will decide whether it should be used in your child's class."

stiff criticism - strong criticism

too explicit about sex - too detailed

1) What do you think about this issue?  If you have/had a child, would you want your child to read this book?

2)  Do you think the passage shown in the article is 'pornographic'?

3)  How old should a child be before he/she is exposed to sexual material?

4)  What's interesting to me is that the murder and torture the Nazis committed in Europe seems to be the worst form of 'pornography.'  Yet the mother doesn't object to her child being exposed to the "holocaust;" she doesn't want her child exposed to details about a sexual organ of the human body.   Do you also see something strange here?


Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Hubble Telescope Photographs An Amazing Comet

Here's a science story. 

A comet is an object in space, made, apparently of a type of ice, that follow a particular path through space.  Halley's Comet is probably the most famous type of comet.  It passes by the earth every 75 years or so.

This, apparently, is an amazing comet that will pass by and which will be visible in November.

The article:

Vocabulary to help you with the article:

iconic -  literally, an icon was a type of religious painting showing a facial image of a Christian saint (holy person).  Figuratively, an icon is something famous and important that has lasted a long time.  So the Hubble Telescope is "iconic" - it is one of NASA's most famous and important projects and it has been around for a long time.

to snap a picture - to take a picture

stunning - amazingly wonderful.  If a woman is wearing a very elegant gown and she looks amazing, her date might tell her that she looks stunning.  Literally, you be stunned means to be shocked.  But stunning has a good connotation (meaning).

to zip through - to go through very quickly

the icy wanderer - a comet is made of icy material and it "wanders" through space

to take a bead on - to get an accurate measure of something.  This term comes from people who like to shoot rifles.  To get a bead on something is to line your rifle up perfectly toward an object so that you can shoot it.

to pose a threat - to be a threat.  'pose' is used idiomatically here.  An example of this phrase:  Nobody realized that the two brothers who had immigrated to America posed a threat during the Boston marathon.

dusty head - the front part of the comet is called the 'head' here.  It is not just made of ice but also dirt.  So dust is just another term for dirt.

it sports a dust-blasting jet - to sport something can mean to wear something.  i.e.  Yesterday he was sporting a nice new jacket.  So this comet was 'wearing' a type of feature that allows it to blast out or shoot out a tail of dirt/dust.

a nucleus - the central part of something

complicating the forecast - making it more difficult to predict what will happen

to live up to its billing - to live up to its reputation.  A billing is a reputation.  It is a show business term.  If an actor has "top billing" that means his/her name is shown first when a movie is shown or advertised.

to fizzle out - to die slowly and quietly.  When you open the top of a bottle of soda, the soda fizzles.

pristine - pure, new

an upside - a good aspect or point of something

sublimates - this seems to be a specialized astronomical term. From context I am guessing it means for the dust and ice to come off the surface of the comet.

insight -  this is a good word to be able to use.  i.e.  After I read The Golden Bough I gained a greater insight into what religion was like before cities developed.  An insight is a special type of knowledge about yourself or something else.

composition - what something is made of

an observatory - a place where there are earth-bound telescopes and you can look at stuff in space.

amateur astronomers - unpaid astronomers, not profesionals
Yes, I'm the guy who wrote the very funny ESL book: New York City Sucks, But You'll Wanna Live Here Anyway.

If this page is useful to you, please buy the book (it's quite inexpensive and useful!!!!). If you don't have an e-reader, drop me a line at and I'll send you a free copy via Word file. Let me know whether you have Word 2010 or an earlier version.

How The Dinosaurs Might Have Died

Here's an interesting article about how the dinosaurs might have died:

Sunday, April 21, 2013

"Sting" Operations in NY City

A "sting" operation is when the police create a situation in order to catch people committing a crime.  However, no real "crime" is committed.

For instance, in the past, New York Police have left bags of groceries in the subway system, and if a person picked up the groceries and tried to take them home, that person would be arrested.

So this is not really "theft" because there is no victim.  But the police claim that they can find and arrest dishonest people using this type of method.  Others who oppose (do not believe in) this tactic (method) claim that honest people make honest mistakes and then get falsely arrested. 

If you saw a bag of groceries lying around on a bench in the subway system, would you take it home?  If you saw a wallet on the ground, would you pick it up?  Be careful!  You can get arrested by the police for doing this in NY City!

Why is it called a "sting" operation?  A bee or wasp stings a person - such insects have stingers.  So I'm guessing that this type of operation is called a sting operation because people get "stung" (harmed) by the police.

It looks as if this type of procedure might have to be eliminated, however.  A judge recently determined that a woman was not guilty of such a "crime."  Very few New Yorkers believe that these NYPD sting operations should exist.

The article:

Vocabulary to help you understand the article:

take the bait - if you go fishing, you have to use bait to catch the fish.  A worm is often bait.  The worm is placed on a hook.  The bait is the thing that is attractive to the fish, which will make the fish swallow the hook.  So bait is anything attractive that causes a person to be caught.

anti-theft tactics - anti means "against" something.  A tactic is a strategy or method.  Theft is when someone steals something.

to criticize something -  to say negative things about something.

a stray wallet - a wallet is a little leather pouch in which a man usually carries money and credit cards and ID. A stray wallet is a "lost" wallet or a wallet that doesn't seem to belong to anyone. A stray dog is a lost dog or a dog with no home.

can do the trick - if something "does the trick," it works.  Lets say you have a headache.  Someone might say, "Please take these aspirins - they will do the trick!" 

unattended - if something is unattended, it is not being watched, or nobody who owns the object seems to be near by.

to deter something - to stop something from happening. If a person is punished for committing a crime, this punishment is supposed to deter other people from doing the same thing.

throwing out a larceny case - basically, larceny means 'theft.' If a judge throws out a case of larceny, the judge is saying that it is not a legitimate or valid or good case.  Therefore the person accused of larceny is considered innocent.

to cast a harsh light on something - to reveal that something is bad.

to sweep up innocent people - to capture or arrest people who did not do anything wrong.

she was framed - if a person is "framed," this means the person is innocent but the police have made the person look guilty.

to take the tactic way too far - to start with a wrong method and to make the method even worse

upholding the charges - a charge is an accusation of some type of wrong-doing. If charges are upheld, that means that the charges are considered valid or legitimate or right.

and rightly so - So the judge basically said that if he allows these charges to go forward in the court system, people will lose faith in the court system.  By saying, "and rightly so," he also stated that people SHOULD lose their faith in the court system if these types of charges are approved of by a judge.

to sue s/o - to take someone or some organization to court in order to get money from them (because they did something wrong).

to be traumatized - to be shocked.

a wrongful arrest -  an arrest that should not have been made.

to feel humiliated - to feel deeply ashamed because someone did something wrong to you

a brush with the law - having some type of event or situation with the law.  i.e. I had never had a brush with the law until the police office stopped my car and accused me of speeding.

had its roots in - roots means origins in this case.  Basically the first case of this type of sting operation was when the police left groceries in the subway and arrested people who picked up the groceries.

a typical scenario - a typical situation.

a plainclothes officer - a police officer who is dressed in normal clothes.

to be locked up - to be put or thrown in jail

to credit the operation with - if you credit something for something, or credit something to something, you claim that one thing caused a positive result.  We can often credit an increase in employment to a lowering of taxes.

a spike in thefts  - a quick rise in thefts.  You often see a spike in graphs.

evidence of intent -  evidence means a trace of something, or some indication that something happened.  Intent means the motive for doing something.  i.e. We don't know the murderer's intent yet, but we do know he killed three people.

an arrest - when the police take a person to their station.

stashed inside - placed inside, pushed inside

a pending case - a case which is going to be heard; a case which hasn't been heard yet

a plea bargain - when a person agrees to plead guilty (to say he is guilty) in exchange for a small punishment

a bait car - a car used as bait, a car used to attract someone who might want to steal something from inside it

to combat something - to fight against something

chronic - it won't stop, it keeps going

working class - a social class of people who work but are poor

police plant property - subject + verb + object: subject = police, verb =plant and property= object. It means that police place property at a certain location

on the stoop - on their front stairs of their building

when the sting unfolded - when the operation or event happened

to monitor - to watch closely

theater staged by the police - this was not a real event, but an event created by the police to provide 'bait' to catch a person

the officers gave chase - the officers chased after someone

peered inside - looked inside hard

a bundle of cash - a bunch or collection of cash rolled up

took them into custody - arrested them, took them to the police station

it dawned on her that - it occurred to her, she realized, she suddenly understood

"The Twilight Zone" - a TV show in which strange and unexplainable things happened

to be charged - to be formally accused of a crime, to be officially accused of a crime

petty larceny - small scale theft

fighting charges - arguing against the charges or complaint

conceded - agreed to

to appeal the judges ruling - to go beyond the judge and ask a higher judge to make a different decision

decoy cars - cars used to trick people into believing something

a bizarre attempt to set somebody up - a strange attempt to catch an innocent person; to set a person up is to frame a person

like lucky bag on steroids - "lucky bag" was the term police used for the bag of groceries they left in the subway for innocent people to pick up (so they could arrest them).  "lucky bag on steroids" means a worse or more harmful version of "lucky bag."  Steroids are substances a person can take to develop extra strong muscles.


Yes, I'm also the guy who created the scandal in Asia two years ago :P

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Tools of Terrorism in The USA

This is an article concerning the types of materials that terrorists have used in the past to manufacture small scale bombs.

An ex-mayor of New York states, in this article, that he is surprised that there were not any previous terrorist attacks given how easily these types of bombs can be made.

However, it looks as if they have killed one person and captured the other person who planted some of the bombs.  Therefore, terrorists have to consider the fact that ultimately they will get caught if they do this.  There are too many surveillance cameras in public places.

In New York City there is a saying which you see on subway posters:  "If you see something, say something!"  This is good advice.  From now on we have to be more vigilant in America and we need to report suspicious behavior and packages which could be bombs.  Too many people were killed and are suffering due to this attack in Boston.

The article:

Vocabulary words to help you understand the article:

a tool - something you use to make something or to fix something.

we're counting on - The poster says, "There are 16 million eyes in the city. We're counting on all of them."  That means the police are relying on the people, or expecting the 8 million people of NY City to be 'vigilant' (watchful) and to report activities or things that look dangerous.  The poster also says, "Tell a cop or an MTA employee."  A cop is a police office and an MTA employee is someone who works for the subway system.

to plant a bomb - yes, it's true that a person "plants" flowers.  So how can this word also be used to mean: to place a bomb in an area?  I don't know.

ultimately - finally, consequently

surveillance cameras - cameras which usually take video recordings in public places

to be vigilant - to be watchful.  I use this word in my intro and it is used in the article as well.

suspicious - if something doesn't look right, it looks suspicious

IEDs - "Improvised Explosive Devices"  Improvised, in this case, means put together quickly with common materials.  Something which is explosive, obviously, explodes.  A device is a thing.

law enforcement - police.  To enforce the law to make sure that people who break the law are punished.

a bulletin - a notice.

to alert someone to something - to make someone aware of something

to be on the lookout for - to search for something, to watch out for something

a pressure cooker - a device in which you can cook things more quickly due to extra pressure inside the container

an appliance -  something you use in the house: an oven, refrigerator, vacuum cleaner, toaster etc.

to wound s/o - to hurt someone (s/o = someone, s/t = something)

to seem out of place - if something seems out of place, it doesn't look as if it belongs somewhere.

passersby - people who walk by.  A bystander is someone who is just standing and looking.

authorities - people in positions of power or authority or responsibility

the presence of something - the existence of something.  The opposite of presence is absence

troops - soldiers

to be stuffed with - to be filled with

a cache - a collection of something which is usually hidden

an insurgent - someone fighting against a stronger country

rebar -  a piece of metal

to head an agency - to be in charge of the agency; to be the boss

to disrupt - to interrupt, to stop from operating smoothly

to make their way to - to go to

domestic - in the USA.  The opposite of domestic is international.

a threat - when something makes others feel unsafe

a subcommittee - a smaller committee than a main committee

an artillery shell - a type of large object shot out of a canon, meant to explode when it hits the ground

fertilizer - this is used to make soil more fertile; fertilizer is used on soil or the ground to help plants grow.  Certain types of fertilizer explode easily.

crude - not sophisticated, not complex

a convoy route - a convoy is a line of vehicles (cars, trucks); a route is the direction in which they are traveling

to convert/conversion - to change into something else

incendiary - it can start a fire

a homegrown copycat - someone who imitates something else is a copycat. A homegrown copycat would be someone born in America who chooses to imitate the actions of a foreign terrorist.

A mistake in the article: American counterterrorism officials and other leaders have warned that it might only be a matter of time before a terror network or a homegrown copycat attempted to use those kinds of tactics inside the U.S.

to reinforce something - to make something stronger.

to be vulnerable - to be at risk. To be capable of being harmed.

a tragedy - something terrible which happens in which someone or many people die

to ensure - to make sure

resilient - if you are resilient you will bounce back; you will come back

a hazard - a danger

to bolster something - to strengthen  something


1. Do you think this attack should have been anticipated by the Boston police?  After all, any time there is a major event in New York City, the police are EVERYWHERE.

2.  Who do you think did this?  A terrorist group or an individual?

3.  Do you think the person who did this should be executed (killed)?


Yes, I'm the guy who wrote the very funny ESL book: New York City Sucks, But You'll Wanna Live Here Anyway.

If this page is useful to you, please buy the book (it's quite inexpensive and useful!!!!). If you don't have an e-reader, drop me a line at and I'll send you a free copy via Word file. Let me know whether you have Word 2010 or an earlier version.
Yes, I'm also the guy who created the scandal in Asia two years ago :P

Sunday, April 14, 2013

How Stupid Can A Celebrity Be? Justin Bieber Was Pretty Stupid

Justin Bieber visited the Anne Frank Museum in Holland and instead of being emotionally moved and leaving a humble, sincere and heartfelt message in the guest book, he wrote something like: "I wish Anne Frank had lived and become a fan of mine!"

The universe does not revolve around Mr. Justin Bieber.  Compared to people of substance like Anne Frank, Bieber is a nobody.  Indeed, this is the paradox of celebrities: most celebrities are the biggest nobodies you'd ever imagine.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Anthony Weiner Wants To Run for Mayor of New York City?

This is a weird story.

Anthony Weiner used to be a US Congressman.  Congressmen and women make the laws in the USA. They work in Washington D.C.

Anthony Weiner also used to enjoy having cyber-sex (sex over the internet).  He sent 'dirty' email messages to various women around the country and on one day he accidentally sent out a photo of his penis to thousands of people on his twitter account.  What's a penis?  Boys have penises, girls don't. :P

He might have been forgiven for that, but he publicly lied to cover that matter up.  Basically, he said, "That's not my penis! Someone hacked into my twitter account and sent another guy's penis to the world!!!"

No.  It was Weiner's penis. Weiner had to admit it was his penis.  Even Obama encouraged him to resign (quit his job).

So he lied to the people of New York to try to save himself.

Now, he's back.  Actually, he has to try to make a come-back because he has never held a real job in his life.  He has been a career politician since his early 20s (when another career-politician - Chuck Schumer - helped him enter NY politics).  Basically Weiner has no job skills - he is just a politician. He has always lived off the money of New York tax payers.

Yeah, he's got a tight body, you would too if you spent 20 years living off our tax dollars and hanging out at the gym! :P :P :P

So now he wants to run for office in New York City. Indeed, he wants to become mayor of New York (the leader of New York).

I will try to list interesting vocabulary words and define them when I have some time.  Sorry - I'm a little overwhelmed these days...I have to do my taxes and a few other things. :P


Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Is Google Evil?

Google is being sued again in Europe.  If someone or some company is being "sued," that means they are being forced to appear in a courtroom and can potentially lose a lot of money.

Basically Europeans and European governments are upset about Google for a number of reasons.

1)  The "right to be forgotten."  If there is material on Google which a person does not think is accurate or which a person finds embarrassing, Google will refuse to remove it unless the person obtains a court order.

Google claims that they believe in "freedom of speech," but, in reality, Google does not seem to want to hire and pay for extra staff to make sure that its search engine provides accurate information.  Europeans feel that Google wants to make money from them, but doesn't want to act responsibly in return.

Basically European governments are arguing that Google is turning the internet into an unreliable sewer.  What's a sewer?  When you flush your toilet all the stuff in your toilet bowl goes down into the sewer system.  So Europeans are saying that because Google loves money so much, it has turned the internet from an information super-highway into an information sewer. It's getting to the point where you can't trust ANY information to be found on the internet.

2)  The theft of private information.  It looks as if Google regularly "steals" private information and then sells it to make money from Google users.

3)  Google is becoming a monopoly.  Monopolies are businesses that dominate a market.  Monopolies are terrible for any economy - they make huge profits, but consumers are forced to pay whatever the monopoly wants them to pay.  If you own a business, you need Google to get your business online, and you have to pay what Google wants you to pay to get online.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Americans Are Being Thrown in Jail for Not Paying Their Debts

Here's a shocking article.  Every civilized country has ended the system of "debtors' prisons."  In the old days, if a person could not pay his/her debt, he/she was thrown in jail.

(By the way, debt is pronounced 'det' - the 'b' is silent.)

Also, when we talk about "jail" we often use the idiom - "to throw someone in jail."  So "throw" is the appropriate verb here.  i.e. A corrupt politician from New York was recently thrown in jail.  You could also say 'to send to jail.' He was sent to jail for various crimes.

Even though the concept of throwing people who owe money in jail is unconstitutional in the USA (the Constitution is the primary legal document for the USA and was created in 1789), judges are throwing people in jail in various states if they cannot pay certain debts.

The article:

Vocabulary to help you understand the article:

to flail - in this case, to flail means to perform weakly or badly.  If the economy is flailing, it is not working properly.

a debtor - someone who owes money

a prison - a place where people who have broken the law are placed so that they are no longer a threat to others in society.

to thrive - to do very well

traffic tickets - if you drive your car too fast, you might get a traffic ticket.  Traffic refers to the act of driving on a public road.

a relic - some object from the past which is no longer needed or wanted.

to abolish s/t - to get rid of something; to eliminate something

violating the Constitution - The Constitution is a document which was meant to protect the rights of American citizens.  If something violates the Constitution is is against the Constitution or is not supported by the Constitution.  If something is not supported by the Constitution, it is supposed to be illegal.

to incarcerate - to place in jail, or throw in jail.

a lock up - a place where prisoners are held.

roughly - in this case, roughly means "about" or approximately.

a fine - a punishment that requires a person to pay some money to the state.

to incur - to  receive

to stem from - to come from. A stem is the main part of a flower.

a conviction - if a person is found guilty of something, he/she is convicted of a crime.

driving under the influence - driving after a person has had too much alcohol.

other offenses - other crimes.

a correctional facility - a prison.

to outrun - to go faster than something else.

municipal - dealing with a city; something involving the city

a stint - a period of time

to criminalize poverty - to make it seem as if being poor is a crime.  If I cannot pay a bill because I am poor and they arrest me for this, they are treating me as a criminal just because I am poor.

to contravene - to violate, to go against

The Constitution's Equal Protection Clause - basically this means that a state cannot violate a US citizen's rights as established in the Constitution.

a surcharge - an extra charge.

a public defender - a free lawyer provided by the government.

to forgo s/t - to avoid doing something; to not do something

a fiscal shortfall - not having enough money

to replenish their coffers - this is a way of saying that the government needs to find ways to replenish (to add to) the money they have spent.  If you need to replenish your coffers, you have spent a lot of money and need to make money quickly..

drawing blood from a stone - this is something impossible.  You cannot get blood from a stone. So the author is saying that by trying to get money from poor people you are trying to do the impossible.

revenue - money

counsel - a lawyer

to derive from - to get from

willful non-payment - deliberately not paying; choosing to not pay

food stamps - certificates that allow people to get free food because they are too poor to earn their own food

the clink -  another term for a jail

The ACLU - The American Civil Liberties Union. This is an organization that tries to protect the rights of Americans.

rampant - all over the place.

a resurgence - a rebirth, or a coming again

a suspended license - if a person has been found guilty of a driving offense, his/her license might be suspended. That means the person cannot use his/her license.

the indigent - the poor

to foot the bill - to pay the bill

the tab - the bill

to accelerate a downward spiral - to drop toward the ground faster

Some judges have had enough - some judges are upset and will not tolerate this any more

to rebuke - to punish

a private probation company - a company that makes money from situations like this

to sanction something - to condone something; to say that something is acceptable or OK

an extortion racket - extortion is an illegal way to make people pay you money; a raket is an organized crime activity.

a critique - a criticism

to be exempt - if you are exempt, something does not apply to you

to relent - to give up, to stop trying to do something

scrutiny - if someone is under scrutiny, he is being watched very carefully
Yes, I'm the guy who wrote the very funny ESL book: New York City Sucks, But You'll Wanna Live Here Anyway.

If this page is useful to you, please buy the book (it's quite inexpensive and useful!!!!). If you don't have an e-reader, drop me a line at and I'll send you a free copy via Word file. Let me know whether you have Word 2010 or an earlier version.
Yes, I'm also the guy who created the scandal in Asia two years ago :P

Facts about Immigration in the USA

Here is an article that presents a lot of interesting facts about the current immigration situation in the USA.

For instance, it's common knowledge that the USA is the number one choice for immigrants in the world.  But which country is number two? You might be surprised to read the article and find out! In fact, given the fact that the number two country for immigrants is struggling economically, and has various social problems, I was really surprised to find it listed as number two.

Actually, Russia is listed in this article as the number two destination for immigrants!  Why Russia?

Another interesting fact is that about 25% of all immigrants coming into the USA are from South or East Asia.  (South Asia = Bangladesh, Pakistan, India; East Asia = China and Korea...I don't think many Japanese people are immigrating to the USA - in New York City it looks as if there are a lot of Chinese and Korean immigrants.)  Why do you think this is the case?

The article on immigration:
Yes, I'm the guy who wrote the very funny ESL book: New York City Sucks, But You'll Wanna Live Here Anyway.

If this page is useful to you, please buy the book (it's quite inexpensive and useful!!!!). If you don't have an e-reader, drop me a line at and I'll send you a free copy via Word file. Let me know whether you have Word 2010 or an earlier version.
Yes, I'm also the guy who created the scandal in Asia two years ago :P

Friday, April 5, 2013

New York City's Rise to Power and Fame (Historical Stuff about NYC)


Why did New York City become so powerful and famous?  Two reasons:  geography and money.  The geography led to the money.

What’s so special about New York City geographically?  Well!  It has the deepest port/harbor in the western hemisphere.  Huge ships from Europe and all over the world could sail right up to land and unload their cargoes (the goods or stuff that they carried). In regard to other cities on the east coast, sometimes the ships had to anchor out to sea and send the cargo in to land on smaller boats.  That was a real pain in the ass.  It was much better to sail right up to the land and unload or load up a ship.

Also, New York City did not really have any type of crop nearby. The soil sucked and no real crop could be grown.  A crop is a type of food that is grown: wheat, rice, barley, corn etc.  People could not survive as farmers so they became highly aggressive traders.  They built roads and canals to help farmers and manufacturers get their goods to New York City’s port, where the goods could be shipped overseas.  Once goods arrived in New York, they were easily transported out to various other regions of the country.  For example, the southern part of the USA was heavily dependent on New York City to ship its cotton overseas to England and other countries.  The South then also received various goods from England.  So the first stage of New York City’s rise was located at South Street.  This is where the main port was.  You can still go there and see some old ships.  They have lots of stores and restaurants there and few people even know that this area is what gave New York City its early boost toward wealth and fame.
People who engaged in trade out of New York City became fabulously (hugely) wealthy.  America’s first millionaire – John Jacob Astor – was one of these guys.  Astor came to America right after the Revolution, from Germany.  He began to buy animal furs from Native Americans and he would sail his ships all the way to China to trade these furs for Chinese silk, tea and porcelain. He would then sail to Europe to sell these Chinese goods.  When Astor died it was estimated that he had so much wealth that if his money were converted into contemporary dollars, he would be considered the third wealthiest person to have ever lived! (I don’t know who the first two were.)

OK, so that’s the geography part.  Guys like Astor were making so much money trading that they literally couldn’t use most of it.  Even with the fanciest houses in the USA and every luxury, they still had too much money just lying around.  So, basically, they began building banks.  This way they could loan money they didn't need to others and make a profit by collecting interest on these loans.  Where did they start building these banks?  Wall Street.  One bank after the other was built along Wall Street by the guys who made money by trading.  As I mentioned earlier, Trinity Church is the only building that still exists that existed before they began tearing down houses and churches to build banks on Wall Street.  A stock market was also set up on that street and it is now the famous Stock Exchange (get your picture taken next to the giant statue of a bull there).

So these guys who had been traders began to realize that it was a lot easier to make money by building banks and loaning out money for interest.  Within a relatively short time New York City started to become the financial capitol of the world.  So do you see the development here?  New York City started out as a trading center but was so successful as a trading center, it evolved into a banking center.

It took the Civil War, however, to really launch New York City into the stratosphere.  At this time, 1861, America had two different economies – a northern industrial economy and a southern agricultural economy.  The industrial economy was based on folks who owned factories and folks who worked in factories while in the south the agricultural or farming economy was based on folks who owned land and the slaves who were forced to work on this land for free under inhumane conditions. 
The interesting thing is, traders and Wall Street bankers in New York City were making a huge amount of money from the cotton that was being produced by slaves in the south.  The cotton had to be transported up north and then it had to be shipped across the Atlantic Ocean, primarily to England.  So, believe it or not, initially folks on Wall Street wanted to support the South in the American Civil War.

In fact, southerners joked that once the south stopped sending its cotton up to New York City, grass was going to start to grow in the streets of lower Manhattan and Wall Street because there would be no business any more.  Wrong.  Once the southern states left the United States and stopped shipping cotton to New York City, the northern economy paradoxically took off.  Why?  New York City traders and bankers realized that, in reality, the southern method of doing business was not very efficient and the exporting of cotton was a good source of making money but not the best source of making money.  New York City traders soon began gathering grain and various food products from the Midwest and other northern areas and began exporting this.  At that time Europe had been experiencing a drought and desperately needed food.  So New York City lost the cotton trade but discovered a much more lucrative food trade.  The economic situation for the Wall Street bankers blossomed.
Furthermore, the United States government needed money to fight the war.  They got virtually all of the money they needed from Wall Street.  Basically, Wall Street bankers paid for the North to win the civil war.  They loaned the United States government an immense amount of money and the government paid that money back with interest.  And, now that the south was gone, the Congress was made up entirely of northern congressmen.  Southern congressmen had been stopping northern industrialization by blocking various laws that the north needed to develop technologically.  Such laws would have hurt the south.  Now that the south was gone from the Union (the term for the United States of America) the north began to pass laws that allowed the development of many new industries and technologies and the development of a transcontinental railroad system. 

Getting rid of the south for awhile and then beating the south in the Civil War was the best thing that ever happened to America!  Unfortunately hundreds of thousands of people died in this war brought about by ignorant southern racists.  Without the South the Wall Street economy really took off!  It went through the roof!  The south had been dead weight to the American economy and without the South, America was now free to fulfill its economic potential.  Or, at least, lots of bankers and factory owners got filthy filthy filthy rich.  Filthy rich means really rich. 
So this is another paradox that I realized when I got to America.  Basically New York City is the most exciting city in the world primarily because of the bankers and factory owners who lived from around 1861 to 1900.  They created so much wealth in the United States of America that all kinds of things could be developed and created.  Great universities, museums, concert halls, huge department stores, skyscrapers etc.  I mean, the Metropolitan Museum, which has to be one of the greatest museums in the world, was started by these wealthy guys who made a fortune between 1861 and 1900.  Oh! Did you ever hear of The Frick Collection?   

There was a guy named Henry Frick who lived during this time and he was a steel guy – he worked with Andrew Carnegie to produce some of the best steel in the world.  Steel is the strong metal you need to build railroad tracks and skyscrapers.  He made so much money that he bought a lot of great works of art from Europeans who were desperate for money.  When he died he had so many masterworks of world art that they just turned his house into a frigging museum!  And it’s one of the nicest museums in the city!  There are paintings by Rembrandt and Velasquez and Goya and Holbein there!  Virtually every painting is a masterwork! 

So these greedy white guys who lived for money and were super aggressive, and who often treated their workers like garbage, endowed this city with great art and great services.  That’s why I say it’s a paradox.  You would think that greedy behavior would lead to corruption and decline, but New York City seemed to develop amazing institutions.  In fact, economists have an expression for this paradox: private vice leads to public good.  So basically the more greedy people are, and the more they pursue their own economic interests, the more wealth will be generated for the public to enjoy. Yet, New York City has a huge gap between the rich and the poor, so, obviously, this system isn’t as perfect as the economists might suggest.

So there have been various incarnations of New York City.  The first incarnation was when the Native Americans lived here and farmed and hunted.  Then the Dutch came and lived pretty peacefully with the Native Americans (for awhile).  They were interested in getting beaver skins from the Indians so they could make money by making and selling fancy hats back in Holland.  So there was trade and peaceful coexistence.  If you look at the flag of New York City you’ll actually see two beavers on it.  

So we can say the second incarnation of New York City involved the Dutch, and later the English, who stole New York City from the Dutch in a war, and this incarnation was a pre-international trade New York.  Then we get the third incarnation, which was centered around South Street.  This is the big trading period where New York City’s excellent port came in handy and helped traders develop excess (more than was needed) wealth.  This period led to the fourth incarnation, which was the banking incarnation.  The excess wealth developed through trade was used to create banks which allowed more wealth to be created more easily.  These days New York City seems to remain the off-spring of these wealthy, greedy, aggressive white guys who turned to banking. Of them, J.P. Morgan was the most famous and powerful.  They turned his house into a museum as well – it’s near the Empire State Building. 

How does that make you feel?  Basically NY City kind of owes its prominence to a few guys who made zillions of dollars through trade, oil, steel and banking. I’m not sure how it makes me feel.  Should I feel grateful to these guys who were not interested in creating wealth for their society but who accidentally created it while they got filthy rich? 

Will there be another incarnation of New York?  Probably.  Who knows? I can feel New York City struggling toward something else, but without proper leadership, and New York City hasn’t had any leadership in a long time, the struggle might be in vain.

Definitions of terms

geography – the physical features of an area; i.e. Chicago is near a lake and on a flat area of land.  The city of San Francisco is located geographically in a hilly area.

a port/harbor – this is a place where ships come in to shore (land) or the place from which ships depart from the land.

right up to – some students are confused by two prepositions next to each other.  Right up to means directly up to something; practically touching something.

anchor out to – again, two prepositions…no big deal.  To anchor out to sea means that a ship drops its anchor out in the middle of the sea or far from land.  An anchor is that huge and heavy cross-shaped thing that ships drop into the water to stop the ship from moving.

in to land – again, two prepositions…moving in toward the land

a pain in the ass – this is a "dirty" or slang expression.  If a person is a pain in your ass the person bothers you.  If something is a pain in the ass it is a nuisance or a bother.  Don't use this expression formally - it is only for very casual conversation among friends.

a boost - this is a lift off the ground; it means assistance or help, to help someone get off the ground or to help someone or something to get started.

The Revolution – this is the American Revolution, which was fought against England from 1775-1783.  Basically, this was a revolution started by wealthy people living in America at that time, but fought primarily by brave farmers and city workers.  The wealthy people did not want to pay taxes to a far-away English government that wanted to use its American colonies to support the English economy.  Basically, England wanted Americans to produce raw materials that would be processed in England and sold back to Americans.  That wasn’t fair, was it?  Of course not!  Americans wanted to process and export their own goods.  Some people have said that this “revolution” was more of a “Civil War” since the Americans had considered themselves English citizens.  That’s an interesting argument.  It’s not true, though.  By 1775 Americans and Englishmen were totally different types of people.

fur – this is the skin of an animal that helps to keep a person warm when it is worn by the person.  Many women own fur coats made of mink, for instance.

to convert – to change.

contemporary – right now.

interest – if you take out a loan, you will be charged interest.  This is extra money you have to pay back in addition to the amount you borrowed.  This allows the loaner to make a profit.  If you take out a loan you are a borrower.  Many students get confused when they use the terms “borrow” and “loan.”  If you give the money, you are loaning.  If you take the money, you are borrowing.

The Civil War – this was the war that was fought between the north part of the US and the south part from 1861 – 1865.  Basically the USA had two economies at that time.  There was a northern industrial economy and a southern agricultural (farming) economy.  The southern economy was based on slave labor.  The big issue which really caused the war to start, however, was the issue of tariffs.  A tariff is a tax on imports to a country.  The north always wanted high tariffs because they were good at producing goods and the south always wanted low or no tariffs because they liked importing stuff from England.  When Lincoln won the presidential election of 1860 the south realized he would promote an economic policy favoring the north and they left the United States and formed their own country: The Confederate States of America.  Ultimately they lost the war because of Wall Street, Lincoln, Ulysses S. Grant and many brave northern soldiers who died because they believed the world could be a more just place (a "just" place is a place with justice - real justice). God bless them for believing that.

the stratosphere – this is an upper layer of the earth’s atmosphere.  To say that something went into the stratosphere means that something really did well or really soared; it did unbelievably well.

inhumane – not showing human or humane values. If someone acts in a cruel or nasty way, he is inhumane.

a paradox – when you expect one thing and something opposite happens.

a drought – a long period of time without rain.

lucrative – if something is lucrative it generates a lot of money.

Congress – The US Congress makes the laws.  There are three parts to the US government: the Congress, The President and the Court system.  Each of these parts can control or limit the power of the other parts.  This is one reason why the USA has never had a dictator.  Even though the president is called the most powerful person in the world, his power is really quite limited by the Congress.

transcontinental – going across the continent of North America.

to take off – to soar, to rise, to increase.

through the roof – a figurative term.  If something goes through the roof it increases quickly and more than anyone could have expected.

dead weight – something unnecessary that might hold back a person’s progress.  Let’s say that you go hiking in the mountains.  You don’t want to take high-heeled shoes with you – those would be dead weight because you can’t use them.

sky scrapers – tall buildings found in cities around the world.

frigging – a term just a little less dirty than fucking.  It’s still kind of dirty.

to endow – to fund or to provide resources to.

vice – immoral behavior, behavior which seems evil or wrong.

an incarnation – a version of something.

beaver skins – the skins from the fat little animal that likes to build dams in small streams.  You know the type of animal – he likes to float on his back.

coexistence – to live together.

to come in handy – to be useful.

the off-spring – something born from something else.

Prominence/to be prominent – if something is prominent, it stands out from other stuff.  A prominent doctor is more famous or well-known than other doctors.  

to be in vain – if something is “in vain,” that means that an effort was made but nothing was accomplished. i.e.  Jack had studied for 3 years to pass his CPA exam, but each time he took it, he failed.  All of that studying was in vain. 

Grammar stuff: the subjunctive

The subjunctive is dying in English.  It is really only used when “was” is changed into “were” in situations which are unreal.  But because formally educated Americans tend to use the subjunctive, you should know about it. 

If I were that fat guy, I would not eat so much fried food.  You would think it should be “If I was that fat guy”…however, to indicate unreality “was” is changed to “were”.

Basically, the rule for the subjunctive is that you always change “was” to “were” after “if.”  This helps more clearly indicate that this is an unreal situation.

It’s the same for the third person singular as well. 

If he were feeling better, he would go to the baseball game. 

If she were not interested in literature, she wouldn’t be writing a book about it. 

If he were a bit more relaxed, he would live longer. 

Just remember that if you use “if” and the verb “to be” in the past tense in the first clause, you should use “were” and not “was.”  Many Americans use “was” anyway.  As I said, the subjunctive seems to be dying out. 

If he were more handsome, he would be able to date more women.

15 essential vocab words  Fill-in-the-blanks

geography, a harbor, fur, to convert, contemporary, in vain, inhumane, a paradox, a drought, lucrative, to endow, an incarnation, to coexist, vice, skyscraper

Many people who object to the usage of fur coats feel that the animals used for this fur are treated in an ______________ or very cruel manner.

Tibetan Buddhists believe that the Dalai Lama is the actual, literal ___________ of the God of Mercy; the God of Mercy lives within his body.

I am an open-minded and tolerant person and I respect everyone’s religious beliefs, but I hate it when people try to _________ me to their religion by taking me to their church and trying to make me believe what they believe.

A society’s definition of what constitutes (makes up) ____________ often changes.  At one point drinking alcohol was considered immoral and wrong in America, but now alcohol is drunk freely in the States.

Henri did not want to give up the dream of owning his own business. He had worked hard and saved money for many years and he did not want all of this effort to be _____________.

Although the differing races and ethnicities in America don’t always mix with each other socially, at least they seem to ____________ with each other peacefully.

Due to scientific farming techniques, farmers do not need to fear ____________ as much as they used to.  Even if it doesn’t rain, water can be stored or transported long distances.

Some people like the artwork of the old masters but for those who like more ___________ art, the Guggenheim Museum or MoMA might be more interesting.

J.P. Morgan, an incredibly wealthy banker from the early 1900s, helped to ___________ a number of cultural institutions with his huge amount of wealth.

America not only has a diverse population but also a diverse __________; there is everything here from deserts, to mountains to prairies to marshlands.

A great transition occurred in the history of the economy of New York City when it was discovered that banking could be much more _____________ than trading; bankers made more money more easily than traders.

Although New York’s ____________ is the deepest in the western hemisphere, it is not used as often as it was when thousands of ships would sail up to the pier near South Street.

The origin of the universe seems to involve a puzzling __________: how could something come from nothing or how could something always have existed?

The Empire State Building used to be the world’s tallest ____________.  Looking at it now, it still seems tall, but that that huge.

John Jacob Astor became America’s first millionaire by obtaining animal ________ from the Indians and trading it with the Chinese for tea, silk and porcelain.

Answers: inhumane, incarnation, convert, vice, in vain, coexist, droughts, contemporary, endow, geography, lucrative, harbor, paradox, skyscraper, fur