17 Aug


Who taught: Dr. Shamos and Jerome

PNC park (source: clarkservices.net)

Good Morning! My friends! I am so happy today. Do you know why? The weather is so great here in Pittsburgh. Hope you also have good weather there! So….. Summer!! It is a good time to go to baseball games. Do you like baseball? I am not that into playing it but I do like to go to the games with friends. It is very fun to watch the games and hang out. Do you know what people called the place where baseball games take place? It is called “ballpark.” In Pittsburgh, we have PNC park and it is one of the most beautiful ballparks in U.S. It is even more beautiful when there is fireworks after the game. I am not sure how many times we have fireworks at the park. But it is very crowded whenever there is fireworks. I would strongly recommend to visit any ballparks when you have a chance to visit America. You will find it is very amusing.

Yesterday, it was the first day of the orientation of the new class at the school. I was there with around 50 students, staff and other faculty members. The director of the program, Dr. Shamos, made a few presentations and one of them is a short lecture about “how to estimate?”

In U.S., if you get to have an interview with companies. It is very possible that your interviewer would ask at least one question related with estimation. When I had an interview, if I remember correctly, Jerome asked me a question, “What would be the estimated sea-level rise if the ice of the Arctic all melt down?”

There are so many different kinds of questions you would need to answer. To give you an idea, there are some examples Dr. Shamos used in his lecture yesterday.

1. How many TVs are in U.S.?

2. How many cobblers are in U.S.?

3. How many trees in the world?

Sounds very hard to estimate, right? It is quite challenging to solve these, especially when you are in an interview. But, the good news is interviewers are not looking for the right answers from you. Instead, they look into your logics to support your answers. During this kind of conversation, you would hear or need to use the word, “ballpark” again. Why? It is because ballpark has another meaning, “rough.” So, you could say, “So….. based on my assumptions, the ballpark estimate would be 100,000 TVs in U.S.”

It is quite easy to figure out why people use ballpark to mean this. You know ballpark is pretty big but it has fixed boundaries and compared to the whole city, it is quite small so that people can figure out where it is.

So, you gotta listen carefully if someone say “ballpark” in their sentences. Is it a physical ballpark or the other one, meaning “rough.”

09 Aug

break a leg

Who taught: Ashka

Break a leg (Source: http://www.risingsunofnihon.com)

One of the good ways of learning English is reading good and well-written articles. In that sense, I have a very good article that you can read today. My friend, Jerome, posted this on his facebook and I think this is really worth reading and at least spend sometime to think about it.

Last Friday, I sent an email to my friends at my previous company to say good bye. Almost all of them responded me, wishing me good luck. Once again, thank you, my friends! I wish the best of luck to you too.

Ashka also responded but, in her email, she did not say “good luck.” Instead, she said, “break a leg!!!”

Well, to be honest, I had no idea about what it would mean. The only guess I had was like, “Do your best till you break your leg!”

But, ironically, this expression means, “Good luck!” There is a dedicated wikipedia page for this expression. On the page, you can find so many different theories of the etymology of the expression. Among them, I think the second one, Bowing, makes most sense.

For your information, here is the second etymology, Bowing.

This theory is thought to be an extension of the Traditional Theory. For the curtain call, when actors bow or curtsy, they place one foot behind the other and bend at the knee, “breaking” the line of the leg. In theatre, pleased audiences may applaud in which time encore bows sometimes occur. On Broadway this is considered the highest compliment to an actor.

Which one do you think makes most sense?

And…. I think you should be careful using this expression to any non-native English speakers. They would think you are crazy when you use this. For example, if your non-native English speaker friend is about to do interview and you say, “Break a leg!”, they would be like, “What? Do you really want me to break my leg? I cannot go to the interview. What are you saying there?”

Don’t you think so? This would really happen. But, Ashka, I know what you mean. Thank you so much wishing me luck! I will do my best out there and I will miss you. Let me know when you are around the town so that we could hang out!

14 Jun

don’t judge a book by its cover

Who taught: Jerome

Brooklyn Bridge (1875)

Last night, I came back from my 4th New York City trip. The city is always fun to visit and spend a few days there. There are so many things you can do there. This time, Jessy and I decided to explore the places we have never been to, such as Greenwich village, SOHO, Middle East Side and Civic Center. On the last day, we went to the Brooklyn bridge. Initial impression of the bridge was not really good. You know, it looks like just a regular suspension bridge. (I have seen bunch of bridges in Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh is a city of three rivers and thus it is not a surprise at all to see many bridges.) After we walked to one of the towers of the bridge, we were surprised by many of stories related with the bridge. First of all, it was completed in 1883 (1883 is a long time ago, isn’t it?) and it is the first steel-wire suspension bridge. The most interesting part of the bridge was about the towers. There are two towers, one is Brooklyn tower and the other is New York tower. To build them, they used a hollow object which placed at the bottom of the tower and of course in the water, caisson, in which people actually go down to move mud and rock debris. To make people breathe, they supplied air into the caisson. And, most of the caisson workers suffered the same decompression disease of divers because they got back to the normal (decompressed) atmosphere too quickly from the compressed in caisson. Based on the record, all of the caisson workers experienced the disease and three people actually died and fifteen percent of the workers were paralyzed. That is why, the disease, bends, is now also called “caisson disease.”

So, if you go to New York City, you should really visit and walk the bridge. You also get a very nice view of the river and the city.

Speaking of the first impression of the bridge, I have a few questions for you? How many times have you ever judges people by their looking, especially by their first impression? Do you know anyone whom you thought really good and nice based on the first impression or looking but it turns out that he/she is really mean and arrogant, or vice versa? I have one person. When I first saw her, I thought she is really mean and fastidious. But, it turns out that she is very thoughtful and generous. Do you know who she is? Yeah, that is Jessica. Everybody loves Jessica.

There is a good expression you can use if your friend, not you, judges people based on their appearances. “Do not judge a book by its cover!” I mean, you can easily understand its meaning, right? But, you would be surprised that how hard to use the proper expression at a proper time if you do not know the expression. To be able to use any expression, I think you should at least hear and know and then also try to use it a few times even if you use it in a wrong context. That’s why you need good friends like mine because they will understand and help you out to correct you. Well, I can be your friend for that. So, please feel free to add any comments or questions if you have any! Remember! If you want to speak English, you should use it. You think you can speak without any practice and just thinking in your brain. That ain’t gonna work.

18 May

Knock down vs knock up

Who taught : Brian, Jerome and Kara

Do you know how many words exist in English? The answer is, I think, nobody knows the exact number. But, based on Wikipedia, the Oxford English Dictionary includes over 600,000 words. Among those, how many do you know? 1,000 or 2,000? Isn’t it crazy? 600,000 words.

OK, let’s talk about today’s expressions. There are expressions which are combination of verb and adverb. Today, I would like to talk about some of the ones that you need to be really careful and good to know for your future conversations.

1. Knock down vs knock up

In general, knock down means “hit someone or something.” There are some other meanings but I do not want to confuse you here. So, let’s just stick to this meaning here. But, when it comes to knock up, it has totally different meaning. Can you guess what it means? I do not think you can simply guess it. It means “to get someone pregnant.” So, if you hear someone saying, “Man, I don’t know what to do. I knocked her up. She told me yesterday.” Then that guy is in trouble unless he is married to the lady.

2. Pass away vs pass out

I guess you might know what “pass away” means. Didn’t I mention it in one of my old posts? It means, “die.” And, once again, it is a euphemism for “die.” So, if your friend’s parents died, it is better for you to say, “his father passed away.”

On the other hand, “pass out” is an expression you can use a lot if you like drinking. Have you experienced a total drunken and not remembering anything next day? That is the time you can use “pass out.” “Dude, yesterday, I totally passed out.” Speaking of which, there is also another expression you can use for describing the passing out situation. “I got totally wasted.” It has the same meaning. Maybe, “get wasted” is more derogatory one? Am I right?

3. Whack vs whack off

Whack is a verb and it means “hit strongly” or “assassinate.” For example, “My wife was so mad yesterday because she found I was cheating on her that she whacked me with a golf club.” Sounds like I am talking about someone we all know. What? you do not know whom I am talking about? Come on! It is Tiger Woods.

OK, how about “whack off”? Before I get to the meaning of it, I need to warn you. If you are younger than 18, please stop reading and close your browser now! Hey! I warned you. If you are still reading, it is your responsibility now. 🙂 It means “masturbate.” There is also an expression with the same meaning, “jack off.” I am not giving you any example for this. I am pretty sure you will figure it out. 🙂

4. drop a deuce vs chuck a deuce

chuck a deuce (two fingers)

Well, this one is different combination but it would be useful if you know the different meaning of them. “Drop a deuce” means “defecate.” whereas “chuck a deuce” means “a sort of gesture of saying hello to your friends.” FYI, I am adding a picture of it here.

So, what do you think? The more I write posts, the more I feel English is hard to master. But everything is possible. Good luck! My friends out there! Hoping my blog could help you out a little! See you tomorrow!