Thursday, June 19, 2014

E-mail Etiquette

When we converse, we expect other people to observe certain rules of behaviour. The same is true for e-mail, the most popular form of online communication. Here are a few pointers to help you communicate more effectively.

Clearly summarize your message in the subject line.

Properly titled messages help people organize and prioritize their e-mail.

Don't use the CC (Carbon Copy) function to copy your message to everyone.

This is particularly true at work. These days everyone receives too much e-mail. Unnecessary messages are annoying. If only a few people really need to receive your message, only direct it to them.
Similarly, when responding an e-mail, do not respond to all recipients. By choosing Reply to All or a similar button when responding to a message, you may end up broadcasting your response to your entire company.

Use BCCs (Blind Carbon Copies) when addressing a message that will go to a large group of people who don't necessarily know each other.

Just as it's not polite to give out a person's telephone number without his or her knowledge, it's not polite to broadcast everyone's e-mail address. For instance, when you send a message to 30 people and use the To: or CC: fields to address the message, all 30 people see each other's address. By using BCC:, each recipient sees only two--theirs and yours.

Keep your messages short and focused. 

Few people enjoy reading on their computer screens; fewer still on the tiny screens in cell phones, PDAs and other mobile devices that are becoming increasingly popular. Recipients tend to ignore long messages.

Avoid using all capital letters. 


Don't write anything you wouldn't say in public.

Anyone can easily forward your message, even accidentally. This could leave you in an embarrassing position if you divulged personal or confidential information. If you don't want to potentially share something you write, consider using the telephone.

Use a smiley to make sure that a statement is not misunderstood. 

Smileys are typically used in personal e-mail and are not considered appropriate for business. They should rarely be used in the office. If your message needs a smiley for better understanding, most likely you should not be delivering it via e-mail. Even with a smiley, someone may misunderstand you.

Avoid sending e-mail to large numbers of people unless you have a serious reason to do it. 

E-mail broadcast to many recipients may be considered spam.

Nasty e-mail should also be avoided.

These messages have their own term: flame. Flame e-mail is an insulting message designed to cause pain, as when someone "gets burned."

As a courtesy to your recipient, include your name at the bottom of the message.

The message contains your e-mail address (in the header), but the recipient may not know that the return address belongs to you, especially if it's different from your real name.

From: Learn the Net ( is Copyright 1996-2008. Michael Lerner Productions. All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Train your English with Audio Books

Hasta 20 grandes maestros de la literatura se pueden leer y escuchar en la colección bilingüe y con audiolibro en inglés que EL PAÍS ofrece este verano a sus lectores cada domingo a 4,95 euros. The Canterville Ghost (1887) de Oscar Wilde será el primer relato de la serie, que saldrá al precio de un euro el próximo domingo 22 de junio. El relato del maestro de The Picture of Dorian Gray arranca en la campiña inglesa, con la gótica mansión Canterville como escenario. Con sentido del humor, Wilde enfrenta al pobre espectro de Simon Canterville a la convivencia con una familia norteamericana, los Otis. Aunque Simon lo intentará de mil maneras distintas, los prosaicos usurpadores de su morada serán invulnerables al miedo y al fantasma irá perdiendo su dignidad y sus ganas de asustar.
Tanto a Wilde, como a Virginia Woolf o a Dickens, se lo podrá leer (y escuchar) en inglés. Cada relato enfrenta página a página la traducción con su original: a la derecha en castellano y a la izquierda en inglés. Y también habrá un glosario para recordar que accursed es maldito, tangle, maraña o que el océano mueve su piel en sea-tides, mareas. Todas estas palabras se encuentran en negrita en el texto en inglés. Además del glosario de la A a la Z, cada relato contará con una breve colección de frases hechas que se encuentren en el cuento en cuestión.
Las breves biografías de expertos como Miquel Berga, profesor de literatura inglesa de la Universidad Pompeu Fabra de Barcelona, las traducciones de Álvaro Abella o Laura Salas, los glosarios y los cedés con la versión en audio en inglés en el fondo son solo guindas. El verdadero placer es dejarse llevar, en castellano o en inglés, por las palabras de los genios. Por ejemplo, por el sonoro y suntuoso arranque de The Colour Out of Space (H.P. Lovecraft, 1927): "West of Arkham the hills rise wild, and there are valleys with deep woods that no axe has ever cut. There are dark narrow glens where the trees slope fantastically, and where thin brooklets trickle without ever having caught the glint of sunlight".

Saturday, June 14, 2014

L3 Reading Comprehension Exercise

Buy Things that Last
Everyone loves a bargain, as long as we believe it’s in good taste. And nobody does low-price, high-style better than IKEA, the world’s largest furniture retailer. IKEA passes as the anti-Wal-Mart: a company where value and good values coexist. It uses design to make up for its lack of quality, and its brand—represented by all those smiling, white-teethed Scandinavians standing next to smooth, shiny modular furniture with unpronounceable names—as a passport to a guilt-free world of low prices. But put down your 59-cent Färgrik coffee mug and ask yourself: Can we really afford to shop at a place where an item’s price reflects only a fraction of its true cost?
IKEA challenges its talented European team to create ever-cheaper objects, and pressures its suppliers—most of them in low-wage countries in Asia and eastern Europe—to get the lowest possible price. By some measures the world’s third-largest wood consumer, IKEA proudly employs 15 “forestry monitors.” Eight of them work in China and Russia, but illegal logging is widespread in those countries, making it impossible to guarantee that wood is obtained legally. (The company refuses to pay a premium to ensure its wood is legal, saying that costs would be passed along to consumers.) IKEA furniture made of particleboard[1] is not meant to last a lifetime; indeed, some professional movers decline to guarantee its safe transport. But to be fair, creating heirlooms[2] is not IKEA’s goal. Nor, despite a lot of talk to the contrary, is energy conservation: the company boasts[3] of illuminating its stores with low-wattage lightbulbs but positions its outlets far from city centers, where taxes are low and commuting costs are high. The average IKEA customer drives 50 miles round-trip. Cleverly, IKEA transfers transport and energy costs onto consumers, who are then handed the additional inconvenience of assembling their purchases. Designed but not crafted, IKEA bookcases and chairs—like most cheap objects—resist emotional involvement and are often treated as disposable. When they break or malfunction, we tend not to fix them; rather, we throw them out and buy new ones. Wig Zamore, a Massachusetts environmental activist who was recently recognized for his work by the Environmental Protection Agency, is working with IKEA and supports some of the company’s regional green initiatives. But as he put it, “IKEA is the least sustainable retailer on the planet.” And in real costs—the kind that our grandchildren will have to pay—that also makes it among the most expensive.

[1] A material made of pressed wood fragments and resin.
[2] A valued possession that is passed down in a family through several generations.
[3] To glorify oneself in speech; talk in a self-admiring way.

1. According to the author, which of the following statements most closely represents a typical consumer’s view of Ikea’s designs?
a) They hide the furniture’s poor quality.
b) They compensate for the furniture’s poor quality.
c) They aren’t as tasteful as some people suggest.
d) They are exotic because they have Swedish names.

2. The article mentions several ways in which Ikea keeps its costs down, mentioning all of the following EXCEPT:
a) Using suppliers in countries with cheap labor.
b) Locating its retail centers outside of big cities.
c) Buying large amounts of wood every year.
d) Requiring customers to assemble their purchases.

3. According to the text, which of the following is a reason why Ikea is sometimes believed to be a green company?
a) The lamps they sell use low-wattage bulbs.
b) They make furniture out of recycled material.
c) They never buy illegally-harvested wood.
d) They participate in various green initiatives.

4. According to the author, the low quality of Ikea furniture is an environmental problem for all of the reasons below EXCEPT:
a) People don’t usually bother to fix cheap things when they break.
b) People rarely feel any attachment to objects that aren’t well-crafted.
c) Ikea furniture is not designed to last a lifetime.
d) Its low quality makes it unsafe for people to transport.

5. The author’s principal claim against Ikea is that
a) its furniture is of very low quality.
b) its business model harms the environment.
c) it tricks people into believing it’s a “green” company, when in fact it isn’t.
d) the company contributes to deforestation in low-wage countries.

J'Attendrai Le Suivant_short film

J'Attendrai Le Suivant (I'll Wait for the Next One), is a highly-awarded, thought-provoking French short film. It won the Best European Short Film Award in 2004. It's truly amazing what a talented filmmaker can do in three minutes and fifty-four seconds. (With English subtitles.)

Anish Kapoor's Cloud Gate in Chicago

Cloud Gate on the AT&T Plaza in Chicago´s Millennium Park
Cloud Gate is British artist Anish Kapoor's first public outdoor work installed in the United States. The 110-ton elliptical sculpture is forged of a seamless series of highly polished stainless steel plates, which reflect the city's famous skyline and the clouds above. A 12-foot-high arch provides a "gate" to the concave chamber beneath the sculpture, inviting visitors to touch its mirror-like surface and see their image reflected back from a variety of perspectives.

Inspired by liquid mercury, the sculpture is among the largest of its kind in the world, measuring 66-feet long by 33-feet high. Cloud Gate sits upon the AT&T Plaza, which was made possible by a gift from AT&T.

What I wanted to do in Millennium Park is make something that would engage the Chicago skyline…so that one will see the clouds kind of floating in, with those very tall buildings reflected in the work. And then, since it is in the form of a gate, the participant, the viewer, will be able to enter into this very deep chamber that does, in a way, the same thing to one's reflection as the exterior of the piece is doing to the reflection of the city around.-Anish Kapoor

Do you exercise? :)

It is well documented that for every minute that you exercise, you add one minute to your life. This enables you, at 85 years old, to spend an additional 5 months in a nursing home at $5,000 per month.

My grandmother started walking five miles a day when she was 60. Now she's 97 years old and we don't know where the hell she is.

The only reason I would take up exercising is so that I could hear heavy breathing again.

I joined a health club last year and spent about 400 bucks. Haven't lost a pound. Apparently you have to go there.

I have to exercise early in the morning before my brain figures out what I'm doing.

I like walks, especially when they are taken by people who annoy me.

I have flabby thighs, but fortunately my stomach covers them.

The advantage of exercising every day is that you die healthier.

If you are going to try cross-country skiing, start with a small country.

And last but not least: I don't exercise because it makes the ice jump right out of my glass!