Friday, January 31, 2014

Red Shirts versus Yellow Shirts in Thailand

What do Egypt, Turkey, Ukraine and Thailand have in common?  

Basically all four countries have (or had) leaders who were fairly elected, but who are (or were) highly unpopular to a large percentage of the population.  This large part of the population began protesting (going into the streets in large groups to express their anger) in an attempt to get rid of (eliminate) the person who was elected to be the leader.

In Egypt protests finally caused the arrest of the president, who is now on trial (it is being judged whether or not he committed crimes) and who may be executed (killed).  Protests in Turkey and Thailand have failed to remove the elected leaders while protests continue in Ukraine.

This seems to have become a trend in the world. (A trend is something that has become common or ordinary.)  Even if a person is elected president, if enough people disapprove of the job being done, they will take to the streets in violent protests to attempt to remove the elected leader.  Of course, this is an anti-democratic process. ('Anti' means 'against'.)

Here is an interesting article about what is happening in Thailand.  Basically people from the countryside outnumber people from Thai cities and, therefore, the elected leader of Thailand was chosen by the people of Thailand's rural areas.  People from the city disapprove of this current leader, who is the sister of an apparently very corrupt (dishonest) politician who had to flee (run away from) Thailand to avoid being thrown in jail (Thaksin Shinawatra).  The sister (Yingluck Shinawatra) seems to be following the orders of her brother, who now lives in Dubai.  Again, people from the countryside support this current leader (they are the 'red shirts') while people from the cities (they are the 'yellow shirts') would like a different leader.

Yellow shirts have been protesting this leader and demanding that she resign (quit). Yet, the red shirts are saying that until this leader's brother and she took power, the very poor people of the countryside were totally ignored by the government.  The yellow shirts claim that the Shinawatras are 'using' the people of the countryside by giving them free things to get their votes. According to the yellow shirts, by giving the rural people of Thailand free services, the Shinawatras stay in power to make more money for the Shinawatra family.

(Yingluck Shinawatra)

So this invites the question:  what should people do if they live in a democracy but feel that their elected leader is corrupt (dishonest)?  Should they engage in violent protests to overthrow the leader, even though the leader was elected?  What should they do? 

The 'red shirts' say that previous 'yellow shirt' leaders didn't do anything to help poor farmers or farm workers - so perhaps the 'yellow shirt' leaders caused this.  Perhaps if the yellow shirts made promises to the red shirts that the red shirts will still receive necessary services and help from the government in the future, then the yellow shirts could gain power again and there would be no more violence.

Here is an article about Thailand:

Vocabulary to help you understand the article about Thailand:

to get rid of - to eliminate

the elite - the very best, the most privileged, people who have had the most advantages in life - in this article 'elite' means people with money from the cities

vow - promise

to take to the barricades - a barricade is some structure meant as an obstacle to prevent people or cars from driving down the street; in protests barricades are usually established to stop the police or military from moving about freely.  So the supporters of the current leader of Thailand are promising to support her and to fight against the yellow shirts.

clad - if a person is clad in something, he/she is wearing something

a cliche - in this case: a common and kind of funny example of something

a revolutionary - someone who tries to change things that are wrong

an activist - someone who also tries to change something that is wrong

to topple - to overthrow, to get rid of (unlike what you would expect from an activist, he supports the government)

to man the barricades - to be there at the barricades; to 'man' something means to place people in positions to do something

to draw the poison from the protests - to make the protests harmless: the protesters were demanding that there should be new elections as soon as possible, so to stop the protests she decided to give the protesters what they have been demanding. By doing this, she is making the protesters harmless - they have nothing to protest any more because she is doing what they want.

an unarmed war - a war without weapons

a coup - when the military (army) takes over the government and appoints a leader

the abyss - this is, literally, a large whole; to say Thailand is heading for an abyss means that the country may experience a terrible situation, like someone falling into a hole that he cannot climb out of

orchestrating - organizing

a grenade - this is a little bomb you can easily throw

clashes - fights

commensed - began

the prelude - the part before the real beginning of something; most operas have 'preludes' - this is music before the opera starts

boycotting - refusing to participate in

poll - election, vote

lose by a large margin - they will lose by many many votes

bitterly - bitter is the opposite of sweet; if something is bitter it is unpleasant

fragile - weak

to pit against - if two groups are pitted against each other, they are rivals or competitors...they hate each other

metropolitan - people in the cities

populist polices - policies meant to help the poor farmers and farm workers

exile - when a person is kicked out of his/her country

corruption - dishonest behavior

charges - complaints, accusations

poverty - the state of being so poor that you cannot live up to acceptable standards

to line the pockets of - this means to put illegal money in the 'pockets' of others - to give people illegal money

revered monarch - very respected king

a siege mentality - a siege was when an army would surround a city and attack it in a war; a siege mentality is when a group decides that they are being attacked and they do everything they can to defend themselves from a 'siege': mentality means attitude or belief

faces the same fate - they military will try to remove her

intervention - interference or action meant to get in the middle of a situation and change it

to prompt - to cause

a mass uprising - the red shirts would all take action against the military at the same time

a guerrilla war - this is a war where little groups fight and then run away so that they can kill the larger enemy but not get killed themselves


What do you think?  The rural people of Thailand love this leader and believe she is helping them.  People in the cities are protesting to remove her.  Which side are you on?


If you like this blog, please consider buying my e-book: 

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Test your higher-level English (2 vocabulary exercises)

mercurial - if a person changes his mood or temper very quickly, he/she is mercurial (The god Mercury traveled quickly between the other gods and people.)

louche - decadent, lacking in morals, corrupt, not an ethical person (pronounced loosh)

glutinous - glue-like or sticky

to ingratiate yourself with someone - to try hard to make someone like you

to be hobbled - to be slowed down (in the old west cowboys would deliberately tie the front legs of their horses together at night to make sure they would not run away - this was 'hobbling' their horses)

Answers are below the exercise:

I had heard that my current boss was a no-nonsense type of person who could be difficult to work with.  So I went out of my way to _____________________ myself with him.  I often asked his advice, complimented him and even bought him lunch sometimes.

I asked Bob how his research was going, and he told me it wasn't going well.  His team has been __________________ by the fact that the government has cut their funding in half.

I'm a rotten cook (a bad cook).  I can't even cook rice.  When I cook rice it looks, feels and tastes like some _________________ mess.

Chicago is known as one of the most politically corrupt (dishonest) cities in America. Political corruption has existed for so long that most of the politicians become ___________________ after just a short time. If you don't go along with the system there, you don't get anywhere in your political career.

Jack is an amazing guy with a good heart, but he has a significant shortcoming in his personality.  He is quite _________________ and it's hard to predict what his mood will be from one moment to the next.

Answers are below:



to indemnify, to be indemnified - two meanings: 1) to insure someone for some type of possible loss (if you buy insurance on your car, you are indemnified against damages - if your car gets damaged, you'll receive a payment from the insurance company); 2) to pay someone for some type of damage or harm which has occurred

indolent - being lazy, not feeling like working

sedentary - being seated; a sedentary lifestyle is an inactive lifestyle - a sedentary job is a job in which you sit a lot

endemic to - common to

conspicuously - obviously, noticeably

graft - illegally obtaining money

keening - this is an obscure word which means vocally expressing grief or mourning after a person's death, especially at a funeral (I found the word in the book: Empire of the Summer Moon)

resilient - able to bounce back (usually after something negative happens)

Answers are underneath the exercise:

Designer bags have become a huge industry, as women pay high prices for these luxury items and ___________________ carry them around to show others that they have money and can live the high life.

It was the summer of Bob's junior year and his parents had not pressured him into finding a job.  He felt he had the right, this one summer, to be _______________ and relax and casually do some reading and lounging around.

According to the contract, we are __________________ against any losses we may suffer due to the negligence of our partner.

Lately a report noted that those who work at ________________ jobs seem to live shorter lives than those who work at jobs that do not require them to sit for long hours at a time.  If a person has to sit for long periods, he/she should find ways to get up and move around often.

One form of political corruption involves _______________. This is when the politician is able to illegally make money through actions he/she preforms as a public servant.

The disease of malaria is _______________ to about 100 countries around the world which have not been able to control the spread of a certain type of mosquito.

The loss of her husband at an early age was devastating for Mary.  At the funeral she was literally ________________ over the coffin of her husband with tears running down her face.

Bob proved himself to be extraordinarily ___________________. Even though he was unfairly fired from a job, he soon had another job at a better company in a better position.

Answers are below:



Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Happy 4712!!! It's time for the Year of the Horse!

(Image taken from

According to Chinese tradition, January 31st of this year will be the Chinese New Year. It will be year 4712 and the Year of the Horse.

The horse is a symbol of transition or movement - it carries us from one place to a better place.  So I truly hope that this will be a lucky year for you and that the year of the horse will see you moving to a better and better situation!  Please wish me luck too!

Do you know, by the way, why, in the west, it is the year 2014? This is actually an interesting story.

At one point the Catholic Church decided to change the system of how years were recorded and set the year 1 as the year during which they believed Jesus had been born.  

The Church also wanted to imply (suggest) that before the year 1, nothing really mattered.  They wanted to divide history into 2 parts: meaningless history (BC - before the birth of Jesus Christ) and meaningful history (AD - anno domini ...Latin for "the year of our Lord" or "the year our Lord Jesus was born").

The Catholic Church literally (really) taught that before the birth of Jesus, life sucked!  There was really no hope and only after Jesus was born was there hope and the possibility of people dying and going to heaven.

Yes, it was a crazy thing for them to teach.  And, later, this system of establishing years was quite harmful to the Church.

After the 1300s people began to rediscover the ancient worlds of Greece and Rome.  They began finding amazing art and amazing books.  But the Church had said that, basically, everything before Jesus sucked - but these books and the art definitely DIDN'T suck.  In fact, the books and art were better than the books and art the Church liked.

So this made people think: "Hmmmmm...was the Church telling me the truth?  They said life sucked before Jesus, but this Greek and Roman stuff looks really good!  These people seemed to be living meaningful and good lives!  I think the Church lied to me!"  This lead to the Renaissance, where artists and writers began to value the traditions of the ancient world more than the traditions of the Catholic Church.

To all of you who come back occasionally and read the stuff I post here, thank you for supporting my blog.  I truly hope it helps you.  Personally, I think you are quite smart ---> this is the best English reading/vocabulary blog on the internet!  Congratulations for finding it! Let's have a great year together!

Here's a great article about the Chinese New Year:
(Please be aware the top of this web page has big advertisements, so please scroll down to see the article on the Chinese New year)

Vocabulary to help you understand the article:

a novelty - something new and strange

to be marked by - to be recognized by; or if it is marked by something, it is known because of these things which happen

to scratch the surface - to look more closely or to look deeper

a festival - basically a festival is a public party that occurs for a meaningful reason

to mark the beginning of - 'mark' is used differently here; it means it indicates the beginning of the new year

a legend is like a myth - it is a deliberately false story meant to teach a lesson or explain something

a beast - usually a wild animal

villagers worked out - learned through experience, or learned through trial and error

the seeds were sown - the tradition was started

to trace something back - to follow something back in time

lunisolar - moon and sun

to vary - to show differences

at the heart of - central to, most important to

in the run up to - in the days immediately preceding the New Year

prosperity - luck

to bid farewell to - to say goodbye to

to usher in - to bring in; if you go to a sporting event, an usher will take your ticket and show you where your seat is

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Do you have a high "EQ"? (Emotional 'Intelligence') {{{EXCELLENT idioms/expressions in this article}}}

(I took this wonderful graphic above from

It's one of the flaws (shortcomings/failures) of our educational system that IQ is valued highly, but EQ is not taken into consideration, to the extent it should be, in admissions decisions.

Here's an article that let's you determine whether you have a strong "emotional intelligence."

The article:

Vocabulary to help you understand the article:

to be ruled by your thoughts - controlled or guided by your thoughts

to be the master of your thoughts - to understand what you are thinking and why you are thinking it

what makes people tick - what motivates people or what makes them do the things they do; a clock 'ticks' so to find out what makes a clock tick, you would look inside of it

a personal tic - a strange type of behavior nobody else has; tic does not equal tick

a clue - a hint, a sign, an indication; detectives look for 'clues' after a serious crime - the clues help them determine who committed the crime

to walk the walk - to walk the walk means to do what you say you are going to do; some people 'talk the talk' --> they just talk without doing anything, but some people 'walk the walk'

leading behind or leading from behind - this is like a military general who hides behind his soldiers and gives orders; to lead from the front means to act like Alexander the Great - you are in front of your soldiers, leading by example

to be as weak as your weakest link - a link is something that holds different parts together - if one link is weak while the other parts are strong, you are very weak there and that can destroy your entire system of defense; so there is an expression - you are as weak as your weakest link ---> meaning you should judge your strength by how weak your weakest link is.

a moot point - something that doesn't matter or is not important

at peace with the past - you don't let things you did in the past bother you any more

to drop your baggage - baggage, literally, means the stuff you pack and carry with you on a trip. If someone says you are carrying emotional baggage, this means you have not resolved or solved very serious problems you have had - you are carrying those problems with you

to be freaked out by something - to be shocked and bothered by something that happens

a world that doesn't come with a crystal ball - some people pretend to be able to predict the future by using a crystal ball; if you live without a crystal ball, you don't need guarantees about the future, you can act without knowing exactly what will happen

a scripted routine - a script is what actors read from or memorize, a routine is what you do every day the same way

you're tuned in - you tune a radio to a particular station; to be tuned in means to receive a certain type of signal - if you are tuned in to the present, you are aware what's going on right now.

a chorus of negative self-thought - they don't tell themselves many stories to make themselves feel even worse about what happened, they move on without becoming more upset or angry

political affiliation - the political party or group they belong to

ethical - you want to do the right things, not corrupt or dishonest things

a moral compass - literally a compass can be used to determine which direction is north; so a moral compass is an inner voice that tells a person what is right or wrong (like a conscience)

govern their behavior - control their behavior

to read people like a book - to really understand what people are feeling at any given time by looking at them

a gesture is usually a hand movement

at odds with - different from

a shortcoming - a flaw in your behavior or character; if a person is too shy, that might be a shortcoming, or if a person has a bad temper, that might be a shortcoming

detach themselves from end results - they do not allow themselves to be motivated by outside rewards or things outside of themselves; they are self-motivated

Thursday, January 23, 2014

The Ukrainian opposition parties have chosen to escalate (increase) the violence in Ukraine?

 (a photo of Klitschko, an opposition leader who threatened to attack the Ukrainian government if laws, which limit actions during protests, are not eliminated)

An 'opposition' political party in a democracy is the party or a party which does not have power or control of the government.

I try not to express my opinion too much on this English blog (I try as well as I can to see both sides of an issue), but I strongly feel that the protests in Ukraine have become ridiculous.  The president of Ukraine was honestly elected by a majority of the Ukrainian people. As was his right and his duty, he made a decision to reject a European Union offer and to accept an offer from the Russian government which brought benefits to his country.  The protests seem to be organized by political parties which wish to take power away from the current president. They seem to be using his recent decision as an excuse to protest. Furthermore, the protesters are becoming more and more violent and people are dying now.

The US government, which does not have a good relationship with the Russian government, is blaming the Ukrainian government for the current problems in Ukraine (the US is stating or claiming that the Ukrainian government is causing the problems leading to the protests).  Yet, I am not so sure whether the Ukrainian government is to blame. It looks as if the opposition parties are hoping to take control of the government through these violent protests.

There are peaceful ways to bring about change, yet the Ukrainian opposition parties have threatened to attack the government and they seem to be engaged in more and more violent activities each time they take to the streets.  

In the mean time, the current president of Ukraine was elected fairly.  In a democracy the president has a right to make the decisions that he/she feels are correct and if the people do not like those decisions, they can peacefully elect another president when the time comes. Lots of Americans (including me) do not like the 'Obamacare' insurance system, but we are not burning buildings and throwing dangerous objects at the police.  

People are now dying in the country of Ukraine and I don't think these deaths are justified.  The protests seem to have been started by rival (a rival is someone who wants what you have or someone who struggles or competes against you) political parties that want to gain power in the country through violence.  The US seems to be encouraging these protests because the current president of Ukraine is supported by Vladimir Putin of Russia.  It's all political - there do not seem to be any heroes here.  

I feel that the US government should demand that the opposition party, as well as the Ukrainian government, show restraint (stop using violence) and show a desire to solve all matters peacefully.  (This is just my opinion, of course.  I'd like to think that as human beings we can use our creativity and minds and compassion to bring about change instead of creating violence.)

An article about this situation:

Vocabulary to help you understand the article:

protesters - people who gather together publicly in order to express their disagreement with a policy; protesters can also be called demonstrators

a movement - this is kind of like a process; a protest movement is when protesters continue to protest until they achieve their goal or until their protests are crushed

clashes - a clash is when there is direct physical and violent contact between two groups

the right to protest - it seems that the Ukrainian government has established new laws to try to stop further protests.  The government would argue that these laws are needed because the protests are becoming more and more violent but the opposition party is arguing that these laws are anti-democratic (against the democratic system in Ukraine).

she condemned the growing violence - she stated the violence was wrong and should stop

tensions - in this case tension means psychological stress or pressure

a repeal of anti-democratic legislation - a repeal means to get rid of or eliminate something.  legislation means a law or laws.  So the US government is blaming the Ukrainian government, but, again, the US supports the opposition political party and opposes the current president of Ukraine.

snap elections - immediate elections

a chant - when a statement is shouted over and over again

rallying - coming together to support each other and the protest movement

massed - gathered

barricades - obstacles (structures) to stop the police from traveling down the street

burned out shells of police buses - the interior of the police vehicles have been completely burned out 

detained - held temporarily by the police

escalation - when something gets worse

prompted - caused by

to spurn - to turn against, to say 'no' to

to exercise restraint - to stop themselves from doing anything violent

factions - groups

to revoke a visa - to cancel a visa

sparked concerns - caused concerns

they include provisions - these are items or details in the law. To be honest with you, they do not seem to be unreasonable provisions.  I do not believe that people in the USA have a right to wear masks either during protests.

a convoy - a group of trucks

explicitly - openly, strongly

to slash the price - cut the price by a lot; drop the price; decrease the price

tumult - disturbances, trouble, chaos

his stance - his orientation or opinion