Thursday, May 30, 2013

Virtual people, real friends

Another week, another survey claiming to reveal great truths about ourselves. This one says that – shock, horror – people are increasingly open to turning "online" friends into people they'd think worthy of calling real life friends. To which I can only say good: Quite right too. If there's a more perfect place for making real friends, I have yet to find it. However, when surveys like this are reported in the media, it's always with a slight air of "It's a crazy, crazy world!" And whenever the subject crops up in conversation, it’s clear that people look down on friends like these. In fact some members of my family still refer to my partner of six years as my "Internet Boyfriend".

It's the sense of shock that surprises me, as if people on the internet were not "real" at all. Certainly, people play a character online quite often – they may be a more confident or more argumentative version of their real selves – but what's the alternative? What's the thing that's so much better than making friends in a virtual world? Meeting people at work? Perhaps, but for some, a professional distance between their work selves and their social selves is necessary, especially if they tend to let their guard down and might do or say something they will later regret. And are people really much more themselves in pubs than online?

Far from being the home of oddballs and potential serial killers, the internet is full of like-minded people. For the first time in history we're lucky enough to choose friends not by location or luck, but pinpoint perfect friends who have similar interests and senses of humour or passionate feelings about the same things. The friends I’ve made online might be spread wide, geographically, but I'm closer to them than anyone I went to school with, by about a million miles. They’re the best friends I have.
For people like me who might be a little shy – and there are plenty of us about – moving conversations from the net to a coffee shop is a much more normal process than people who spend less time online might expect. The benefit is clear – you cut out all the boring small talk. What could be better? There's no trying to slowly work out whether you think similarly or have the same kinds of life experience, or whether you really do have enough in common to sustain the friendship – all that is done by the time you meet because you've read their comments or their emails or their blog.
Obviously, there will always be concern about the dangers of online friendship. There are always stories going around about "man runs off with the woman he met on Second Life" or people who meet their soulmate online and are never seen again. But people are people, whether online or not. As for “real” friendship dying out, surely social networking is simply redefining our notion of what this is in the twenty-first century?

So, is it really that odd that we're increasingly converting virtual friends to real, physical ones as well as the other way around? Frankly, I now think it's weird to do much else. Call me naïve, call me a social misfit, I don't care. Virtual people make the best real friends.
 Adapted from an article by Anna Pickard, The Guardian, Friday 2 January 2009 

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Travel Tips

These websites might help you plan your trip or find some good offers. Travelzoo (www.travelzoo.es) offers its registered users (registration is free)  a selection of the best 20 travel offers on the Internet at the time every week. Villanao (www.villanao.es) puts together on one single website more than 100,000 deals from real estate agencies, holiday resorts and lodging companies, as well as apartments form private owners. Trivago (www.trivago.es) searches and compares hotel prices (applying 250 selecting criteria and data from more than 30 travel agencies and hotel chains). Tripadvisor (www.tripadvisor.es) compiles and publishes online more than 30 million opinions and recommendations from travellers around the world about accommodation, organized tours and guides. Trabber (www.trabber.com) and Mirayvuela (www.mirayvuela.com) track hundreds of traditional and low-cost airlines to offer you the best deal. Finally, the Official Travel Guide (www.officialtravelguide.com) lists 1,200 official tourist offices, with links to their websites. But before your book your flight, check out the latest online travelling tool: Google Flights. Bon voyage!

Thursday, May 09, 2013

El relato del viajero


ANTONIO MUÑOZ MOLINA

El corazón de La Odisea es el relato que hace Ulises de sus aventuras y sus infortunios delante de los feacios, que lo escuchaban asombrados y atónitos, agradecidos a ese extranjero que les trae noticias de un mundo exterior del que ellos no saben nada. Son páginas que, una vez leídas, nadie puede ya olvidar, que parecen contener dentro de sí todas las situaciones y los sentimientos que la literatura ha ido contando a lo largo de los siglos: el náufrago que llega a una costa desconocida, la muchacha que lo sorprende en la playa, el rey que lo recibe hospitalariamente en su corte y le pide que cuente sus viajes. En las narraciones antiguas, lo mismo que en los cuentos tradicionales, hay siempre ese pasaje en el que el recién llegado, el hermano que vuelve después de mucho tiempo o el desconocido misterioso, relatan lo que han vivido, responden a las preguntas ansiosas de sus anfitriones, que quieren saber cosas del mundo, que se quedan inmóviles alrededor del fuego, bebiendo las palabras del viajero, pidiéndole que continúe, que les explique más cosas. Ulises y Eneas no son sólo héroes, sino también narradores, su heroísmo personal es inseparable de su voluntad de contar, y lo que los otros admiran en ellos, aparte de los actos, son las hermosas palabras que tienen la virtud invocar lo que ellos han visto y han vivido, lo que permanecerá desde ahora en la imaginación de los que escuchan, convertidos también, sedentariamente, en viajeros. Lo que los griegos le pedían a La Odisea y los romanos a La Eneida es lo mismo que los musulmanes de la Edad Media buscaban en las aventuras de Simbad o en la crónica prodigiosa, y no mucho menos fantástica, del viajero Ibn Battuta, y también lo que cualquiera de nosotros, ahora mismo, desea encontrar en un libro de viajes, o en las cosas que le cuenta un amigo recién llegado de alguna ciudad lejana. Mi primer entusiasmo por Lisboa se lo debo a mi amigo Juan Vida, que estuvo allí antes que yo, y que me contó con su precisión de pintor los colores de los tejados y del cielo y la maravilla a la vez arqueológica y futurista del ascensor público que lo lleva a uno desde la Baixa hasta el barrio alto. Madrid o Sevilla, cuando yo era pequeño, eran ciudades de bellezas y amplitudes fabulosas de las que hablaban mis mayores al volver de sus breves viajes rituales, sus viajes de novios o de médicos, sus regresos del servicio militar. Queremos que nos cuenten cosas de los lugares donde no hemos estado y de los tiempos que no hemos vivido. Queremos o queríamos. Porque yo vengo observando que, a medida que se ensanchan las posibilidades de viajar y de lo que antes se llamaba ver mundo, parece que se estrechan simultáneamente los ángulos de la mirada, y que la vieja curiosidad va desapareciendo justo cuando más fácil resultaría alimentarla y satisfacerla. Observo que ahora voy a algunos sitios y las personas con las que hablo se interesan sobre todo por la impresión que tengo de su tierra, no por los relatos que yo pueda hacerles de las tierras ajenas que yo haya conocido. Al viajero no se le pregunta: ¿qué has visto? La interrogación tiende ahora a ser la inversa: ¿cómo nos ves, cómo nos ven fuera? Observa uno con desgana una especie de exaltación gozosa de lo que cada cual es o quiera ser o imagina que es, un narcisismo tan pegajoso en lo personal como en lo colectivo, tan desinteresado por las vidas ajenas como por los lugares forasteros. 

Según dice una encuesta que se ha publicado por ahí, la mayoría de los andaluces están tan encantados con su vida y con su tierra que, de todos los españoles, son los menos aficionados a viajar. Hace poco, en este suplemento andaluz del periódico se dedicaba una página entera a entrevistar a Francisco Ayala, que a lo largo de los noventa y dos años de su vida ha presenciado más cosas y conocido más países que la inmensa mayoría de nosotros, y sobre lo único que se le preguntaba era sobre Andalucía: sobre si tiene identidad o no, sobre si los andaluces han de formar grupos de presión, sobre si existe la célebre cultura andaluza, incluso se le recordaba con cierto tono de reproche que al volver de su exilio no se había instalado en Andalucía, sino en Madrid. En ningún momento el entrevistador mostraba la menor curiosidad por las gentes, las ciudades, las épocas que Francisco Ayala ha conocido, y de las que guarda, como puede atestiguar cualquiera que haya conversado con él, una memoria exacta y luminosa.


No sé si somos capaces de darnos cuenta de lo que nos está pasando, de la intoxicación de ignorancia y narcisismo que crece cada día y que por no servir no sirve ni para que nos conozcamos mejor nosotros mismos. Los relatos de los viajeros se quedan sin público: al náufrago, al recién llegado, lo miramos en todo caso con un poco de lástima, porque no tiene la suerte, como nosotros, de haber nacido en nuestra isla, de no salir nunca de ella.
El País, 11 de marzo de 1998

Thursday, May 02, 2013

L3 Self-correcting Verb Exercises

Exercise A. Verbs. Fill in the blanks, using the appropriate tense/form of the verbs in parentheses and incorporating any other words given along with them. Do not add any non-verbal forms.

Sally: Oh hello, Mum. You’re at home at last! I was beginning to think you _________________ (go) away for a few days. I ____________________ (try) to phone you all day.

Mother: I was out in the vegetable garden. I’ve spent the day ___________________ (dig) up this year’s new potatoes. How are you all?

Sally: Fine. Peter ____________________ (just/give) an enormous pay rise, which is wonderful because now we can afford to move house. We would both like __________________ (live) in the country. The only problem is that __________________ (commute) to work on the train every day __________________(be) really tiring, so we’ll have to think about it. If we __________________ (have) a car, life ___________________ (be) much easier.

Mother: Why doesn’t Peter take his driving test again? He _____________________ (probably/fail) last time if he ____________________ (stop) at the red light. After all, it was the first time he _______________________ (take) the test and hardly anybody ___________________ (pass) the first time.

Sally: Yes, I know. I just wish he ____________________ (see) that awful accident last year. He’s been terrified of ____________________ (drive) since then. Anyway, I must hang up as I need to go and pick up the kids from school. I’d better __________________ (get) there late again.

Mother: OK, dear. Give my love and congratulations to Peter when he ____________________ (come) home.

Exercise B.

A couple of weeks ago, I _____________________ (invite) to a friend's birthday party. Although she said it _____________________ (be) better to take a taxi if I wanted to drink, I decided to drive, which I now deeply regret. _____________________ (Find) a place to park in the centre is never easy, especially on a Saturday night and I _____________________ (drive) round and round in circles for ages before.
I finally found a parking space. I left the party in the early hours of the morning and was just turning into the street where I ____________________ (park), when a car driven by two teenagers came round the corner at high speed. If I __________________ (get) out of the way in time, I __________________ (probably/kill)! Can you imagine how I ____________________ (feel) on realising that it was my own car? The police are quite optimistic and are sure that the car ______________________ (find) soon.


Exercise C. Modal Verbs. Complete with the appropriate tense/form of a modal auxiliary verb (e.g. CAN/MAY/SHOULD/MUST/NEED etc.) and the appropriate form of the verb in parentheses. Do not add any non-verbal forms.

A: How did the party go?

B: Great! Nearly everybody from work went. It was really crowded; there ______________ (be) at least 50 people there. We all missed you. You _____________ (come). Why didn't you? You ______________ (forget) about it because we were only talking about it yesterday.

A: I _______________ (go) because I ________________ (stay) at home and look after the children. My husband was ill with gastro enteritis. He's not certain what caused it but he thinks the beef he ate yesterday _________________ (be) bad. By the way, do you know where the boss is?

B: I'm not sure. I saw him go out the door a few minutes ago. He _________________ (have) a drink in the canteen or perhaps he's gone out for an early lunch.

Exercise D. Fill in the blanks, using the appropriate tense/form of the verbs in parentheses and incorporating any other words given along with them. In this exercise, some modal auxiliaries may be necessary. Do not add any non-verbal forms.

A: Hey, listen to this. There’s an advert here for female detectives. They ___________ (look) for single women, aged between 18 and 35. It says that, although a certain degree of physical strength ______________ (require), you _____________ (be) a karate expert or anything like that but you ___________ (have) patience, determination and good intuition. I think I ____________ (apply).

B: You ____________ (do) that! You ____________ (never/do) anything like that before and you’re hopeless at _____________ (keep) your mouth shut. If the agency ____________ (give) you some secret information, you ____________ (tell) the first person you ____________ (speak) to.

A: But it’s different when it’s your job. Anyway, I need a change. I ____________ (do) boring office jobs for over a year now and I _____________ (have) enough of them. I’d rather ____________ (do) something more exciting.

B: Yes, but you never know, ___________ (be) a detective ____________ (be) as exciting as you think. I think you ____________ (do) some kind of course and look for a more secure job at the end of it. I don’t know why you ____________ (drop) out of university anyway. You ____________ (finish) your degree and then you’d have stood a much better chance of ____________ (get) a job you are interested in.

Exercise E. David is in his first term at university. Read his account of being a student and fill in the gaps with either be used to + GER or used to + INF and a suitable verb.

At the moment, it’s a bit hard because I _____________________ away from home. I have to do everything myself, like cooking, washing and ironing. When I was at home, Mum ____________________ all that! Studying here is very different from school. We choose which lectures to go to and plan our own timetable. At school they ______________________ you what to do and when to do it. I ______________________ that kind of freedom, so I often leave my essays to the last minute. Then I have to work right through the night!

Exercise F. Fill in the blanks, using the appropriate tense/form of the verbs in parentheses and incorporating any other words given along with them. In this exercise, some modal auxiliaries may be necessary. Do not add any non-verbal forms. 

I had an accident the other day while I ________________ (drive) to the country for the weekend. I ________________ (never/be) involved in an accident before, so I certainly wasn’t expecting it, but I suppose that if I ________________ (ever/stop) (think) about it I would have realized that something was likely ________________ (happen) some day, as I drive a lot. In fact, over that last five years I ________________ (drive) at least 150,000 miles. I’m a commercial traveller, you see, and ________________ (be) for several years now, so ________________ (travel) all over the place is an essential part of my job. Anyway, I suppose you ________________ (like) (know) what ________________ (happen). Well, it was around 11:30, and I ________________ (make) my way to the coast in very heavy traffic. I ________________ (be) at the wheel since 8 o’clock and ________________ (have) very much for breakfast, so I ________________ (probably/lose) a bit of my concentration by then. Suddenly, I realized I ________________ (overtake) by a lunatic: there he was, right beside me, on the wrong side of the road, with another car ________________ (come) towards him. I suppose I ________________ (brake) and let him ________________ (cut) in in front of me, but I was too tired ________________ (react) properly and I just ________________ (keep) going at the same speed, hoping he ________________ (return) to his own lane just behind me. I must admit that my own speed was perhaps a little excessive: I ________________ (do) at least 70 m.p.h. when the accident ________________ (occur). Luckily, however, the driver in the car coming towards him ________________ (can/break) in time, and, although my car collided with the one alongside, the damage was not very serious and nobody ________________ (hurt). Nevertheless, I had to stop and wait for the police ________________ (arrive) to give my version of what had happened. The police, in fact, ________________ (be) very interested in what I had to say.
KEY
A
had gone; I’ve been trying; digging; has just been given; to live; commuting; would be; had; would be; probably wouldn’t have failed; had stopped; had taken; passes; hadn’t seen; driving; not get; comes

B
was invited; would be; Finding; had been driving; had parked; hadn’t got; would probably have been killed; felt; will be found

C
must have been; should have come; can’t have forgotten; couldn’t go; had to stay; might/may/could/ have been; might be having

D
are looking; is required; needn’t/don’t have to be; have to have/should have; will/should apply; can’t do; have never done; keeping; gave; would tell; spoke; have been doing; have had; do; being; might not be; should do/ought to do; dropped; should have finished; getting

E
am not used to being; used to do; used to tell; am not used to (having)



was driving; had never been; had ever stopped to think; to happen; must have driven; have been; travelling; would like to know: happened; was making; had been; hadn’t had; had probably lost/must have probably lost; was being overtaken; coming; should have braked; cut; to react; kept; would return; must have been doing; occurred; was able to break; was hurt; to arrive; was.