Monday, December 24, 2012

Oppa Santa Style

I wish all my followers and visitors a Merry Xmas! T@PT is taking a short break to enjoy the Holidays season but I shall be back in January. In the meantime, enjoy your Christmas and celebrate the arrival of the New Year dancing the 'Oppa Santa Style'!...

Click HERE
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Friday, December 21, 2012

The Winter solstice & Doomsday

In 2012, the earliest winter since 1896 arrives with the solstice at 6:12 a.m. on December 21 (EST). Here’s more about the first day of winter:

Photo via winter desktop wallpapers
There's an English proverb that says: A fair day in winter is the mother of a storm. Winter inspires both joy and woe. Some people can't wait for the cooler weather, snow, skiing and ice skating, curling up by a fire, and the holiday spirit. Other people dislike the frigid temperatures, blizzards, and wild weather. The word solstice comes from the Latin words for 'sun' and 'to stand still.' In the Northern Hemisphere, as summer advances to winter, the points on the horizon where the Sun rises and sets advance southward each day; the high point in the Sun’s daily path across the sky, which occurs at local noon, also moves southward each day. At the winter solstice, the Sun’s path has reached its southernmost position. The next day, the path will advance northward. However, a few days before and after the winter solstice, the change is so slight that the Sun’s path seems to stay the same, or stand still. The Sun is directly overhead at 'high-noon' on Winter Solstice at the latitude called the Tropic of Capricorn. In the Northern Hemisphere, the solstice days are the days with the fewest hours of sunlight during the whole year.
Source: The Old Farmer's Almanac (abridged and adapted)

What about the end of the world?
CartoonStock
The Mayan calendar finishes one of its great cycles in December 2012, which has fueled countless theories about the end of the world on December 21, 2012 at 11:11(UTC). One theory suggests a galactic alignment which would create chaos on Earth because of the gravitational effect between the Sun and the Black hole called Sagittarius A, which is located at the center of our galaxy. Another theory involves a 'polar shift', which means a reversal of the north and south magnetic poles. Scientists believe that the Earth is overdue for a geomagnetic reversal. However, this can take up to 5,000 years to complete and does not start on any particular date. NASA scientists have thoroughly studied and analyzed the possibility of the Earth ending in 2012, and have concluded that 21st December 2012 will be nothing more than a normal December solstice. There is simply no scientific evidence to support any claims of an apocalypse on Earth on December 21, 2012. Yet, if you want to know more about this alleged end of the world, check out these best prophecies of doomsday prophecies in history!
Source: timeanddate.com (abridged and adapted)
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Thursday, December 20, 2012

UK Christmas Cooking Customs

MINCE PIES
Photo Elaine Lemm
Mince pies are the first sign of Christmas in the UK. These tiny tartlets, often served with mulled wine, start popping up everywhere, from workplace canteens and coffee corners to the local Starbucks. Shops advertise late opening hours and fashion shows accompanied by mince pies and mulled wine, Every pre-Christmas gathering, cocktail party and tea party will have a supply. Newspapers usually have features rating this year's supermarket and packaged variations. It's supposed to be good luck to eat a mince pie every day of December and most people don't turn them down when offered. So, by the time the holiday season is over, most people are well fed-up with mince pies. But whether they like deep or shallow mince pies, or simply can't stand them, most Brits know it's Christmas from their first mince pie of the season. 

TURKEY
Photo via Britain on View
Smoked salmon, served with buttered brown bread and a slice of lemon, or wrapped around some prawns, is a typical festive starter. Turkey long ago replaced goose as the most popular main course. But it is what the turkey comes to the table with that make it especially British. The accompaniments include: chipolatas (small sausages) wrapped in bacon; roasted root vegetables, especially roasted parsnips which are sweet and moist; brussels sprouts, often with chestnuts or bacon or both; bread sauce, a mixture of bread crumbs, milk, cream, onions and seasonings. 

CHRISTMAS PUDDING
Photo: RFB Photography
The traditional British Christmas pudding is a bit like a cannonball made of dried fruit,nuts, flour, eggs, suet or butter, spices and loads and loads of alcohol. It comes to the table sprigged with holly or winter cherries and flaming with brandy. Rich and heavy, a little bit of Christmas pudding goes a long way. A good Christmas pudding is started months before Christmas, steamed for several hours, then tightly wrapped and left to age. Whisky or brandy are used to plump up the dried fruit and are added to the cooked pudding from time to time. On the day, the pudding is once again steamed for a few hours. Then hot brandy is poured over it and set alight. Traditionally, a three-penny (thruppence) or six-penny (sixpence) coin, both long out of circulation, is baked in the pudding. Finding it is considered good luck. In some families, silver or porcelain charms are kept for this purpose.

CHRISTMAS CAKE
Photo via Sainsbury's
Like the Christmas pudding, the traditional British Christmas Cake is started months before the holiday. It is a very rich fruit cake which is 'fed' with brandy or whisky - a few spoonfuls at a time, every few days for weeks. Before Christmas, the cake is wrapped in a rolled layer of marzipan and topped by a thick layer of rolled white icing. Then the whole thing is neatly wrapped in a red ribbon and topped with a holiday motif. In effect, the cake is sealed, airtight, in all that marzipan and icing. That, plus the amount of alcohol it has absorbed, should make it last a very long time. And, kept in a biscuit tin or a plastic food box with a sealable lid, Christmas cakes have been known to be edible for months, even years. The Christmas cake is not usually part of Christmas dinner but is kept to be offered at tea time and for snacks during the holidays.

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Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Make Everything OK

One last entry on The Students' Corner in 2012, by Joana Silva, 10th form student.

Make everything ok
Dealing with some problems? 
Feeling like everything is going wrong? 
What if there was a magic button to make everything ok?
Hum, I think I might have found one… Give it a try, make everything ok!
And just for the fun of the animated cartoon, Joana also suggests you: LOLZ

Click HERE
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Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Ice skating in London

Britain’s seasonal ice rinks welcome everyone from experts to absolute beginners and those with two left feet and a fear of the cold. Here are 4 of the most beautifully located in London, from November 2012 to January 2013.
Skate in the shadow of the show-stopping Victorian Natural History Museum in London’s Kensington, one of the capital’s most elegant districts. If you’re not keen on skating, lounge on the viewing platform with a mulled wine or warming hot chocolate. Afterwards, don’t miss a visit to this huge museum celebrating the natural world with dinosaurs, interactive exhibits and more.
Get your skates on and head to London and one of Britain’s most famous icons. Skate beneath the ramparts, towers and battlements of this spectacular Norman fortress, home of the crown jewels, historic arms and armour and nearly 1,000 years of British history.
Somerset House
visitbritain.com
One of the most beautiful skating backdrops in Britain, Somerset House is the neoclassical arts venue sitting between the Thames and the Strand in London. This year you can enjoy spiced mulled wine in the cool and cosy Tom’s Skate Lounge, lunchtime workouts and even winter-themed club nights.
Winter Wonderland, Hyde Park
Weekends at Winter Wonderland are very busy. During peak times we may have to control the crowd flow, putting in place a staged entry procedure. Ticket-holders for the pre-bookable attractions will be fast-tracked through the gates. For families with young children and those who prefer a more relaxed experience of Winter Wonderland, come along in the mornings and during the week. We open at 10am daily.


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Friday, December 14, 2012

Yo!santa@pole

                      A cartoon by Dave Granlund

To all my students, I wish you enjoy the most of this school break!... As for us, teachers, we still have hard work ahead! Yet, time will come to wish my peers Merry Xmas! See you next week!...
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Thursday, December 13, 2012

End of the term resources

Having all the assessments done, these two videos by Zeitgeist might be an interesting choice for a conversation activity at our last lesson before the winter break. I'd suggest this activity for older students. We could check their general knowledge of the world they live in, inducing them to talk about 2012 major events. I would ask them to identify the public figures that appear in the video and their relevance for the year that is about to end. To finish the activity, I suggest showing the video about 2011 and ask the students to make comparisons between the two years, which one they prefer and why, and their predictions for 2013





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Wednesday, December 12, 2012

12-12-12

And then there was the 12th day, on the 12th month in the 12th year of the new millennium. 12-12-12 is not just a triple date sequence on the calendar, it's the last one we'll see in our lifetimes. Easy to remember for an anniversary, the date means luck and good energy for some South Floridians who are penciling in the rare numerical lineup for special events from weddings to holiday parties. 'That date resonates with the vibration and characteristics of beauty, love, laughter and fun,' said Marcy Heller, a numerologist in Delray Beach . 'Twelve is the energy of creativity, artistic beauty, harmony, celebration.' In that spirit, county clerks are expecting a wedding rush this Wednesday. 'It's a historic kind of day since there's not going to be a 13-13-13,'' said Jackie Halderman, communications manager for the Clerk's Office. 'We are offering the Historic Courthouse for folks who want to mark this wedding day in a historic way.'

photo credit: Daniel*1977 via photopin cc
Non-wedding events are also taking place including '12.12.12: The Concert for Sandy Relief,' a music fundraiser at Madison Square Garden in New York City. And Dec. 12 is also World Hoop Day, an international event that raises money to buy hula-hoops for needy kids. That event has been held on previous sequential dates such as Nov. 11, 2011 and Oct. 10, 2010.

It's funny that such a special date takes place before 'the end of the world', which will happen on December 21, 2012, according to the Mayan prophecy. Nevertheless, 12-12-12 is very popular among lovebirds, who are counting on the date to be ever-lasting.
Source:NewsChannel5 (abridged and adapted)
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Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Conversation activities

BusyTeacher presents the following as '7 Great Go To Activities for Conversation Class'. These tips might be useful when the time comes for our students' oral assessments. They need to practise, and practise, until they're ready for the moment in which they show how much they master the English speaking skills. And for us, teachers, it's great to have a reminder of how to vary our activities in class!

Click HERE to view the image in full size

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Friday, December 07, 2012

An announced royal baby

Photo credits: AP
Bob Englehart, from The Hartford Courant, wrote on December, 4th 2012, as I quote: 'Nothing like a new baby on the way to spark paternal and maternal instincts across the globe. The fact that it's being born into the royal family makes it even better. It allows each and every one of us to feel like an aunt, uncle or cousin. Distant maybe, but still involved in an emotional way. We all wish Kate good health and a successful birth because that's what she's chosen. Those of us of a certain age remember like it was yesterday when this baby's father and uncle were born. They were cute little kids and now they're handsome men. There are plenty people alive who remember when this baby's grandfather was born, too.' Due to a severe pregnancy sickness, the Duchess had to receive hospital treatment. Fortunately, she has been discharged from hospital after a three-night stay and has told reporters that she is feeling much better, reports The Telegraph. You can read the full news HERE.


The cartoon above, also by Bob Englehart, is about the announcement made this week related to the Duchess of Cambridge's pregnancy. The cartoon is a comment on the media frenzy surrounding the news on the fact that the Duchess is expecting a baby. The bird which is delivering the royal baby (and being followed by the major U.S. news channels) is a stork. For centuries the stork has been a symbol representing birth, and children were told that babies arrive carried by a stork. If you have ever wondered why a white stork was chosen for this honour, wiseGEEK has an explanation which you can read HERE. I came across this information through The English Blog.

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Thursday, December 06, 2012

Tips on oral presentations

Adressing a large group of people is always a complicated situation, and, when you are a student, and the audience is your teacher and classmates, it is even more complicated. DO NOT PANIC! Here are a few tips to help you prepare a good speech and be successful in your task.
1. Practise makes perfect: the more times you make a speech, the more confident you will become.
2. Always prepare in advance. Do some research work, know your facts and take some notes.
3. Your notes should be built by topics and not a written speech. Use cards, one point to each card.
4. You can also use visual aids (posters, pictures, facts on an overhead projector) to emphasize your points.
5. Make each point clearly. Involve your audience. Use eye contact and gestures.
6. Start with something shocking. Surprise your audience. Make sure you have a strong beginning and ending to your speech.
Source: LINKS 
(10th form courseboook by Porto Editora)

Found picture at Talk Nerdy Blog
These tips might help our students when time has come for oral assessments in each term. Let us not forget that 30% of students' evaluation is about their speaking skills. It's not easy for them, but it isn't easy for teachers either, as most of our students read written notes, instead of speaking when presenting their points. For many, addressing an audience is torture; and they can't simply pronounce a word without looking at their papers. I believe practising is one of the keys. It's like playing the piano: the more you play, the closer you'll reach to perfection.
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Wednesday, December 05, 2012

ELT resoursces for Xmas - part II

Larry Ferlazzo presents on his website an endless list of resources to teach and learn about Christmas. Among his suggestions, I found particularly interesting this slideshow on how Christmas is celebrated around the world, by The New York Times. The Watshington Post presents this fun video on Decorating For Christmas using time lapse photography. Santa Gone Wild is a fun slideshow from Time Magazine that shows peolpe who dress up like Santa Claus and make fools of themselves. MES Games has an online Christmas vocabulary learning activity and game. Oxford University Press has another Christmas vocabulary game. What’s Christmas without music? The British Council has a Christmas Song. And, of course, don’t forget about Jingle Bells! Larry suggests many other resources. You can read the full article HERE.
Busy Teacher has gone wild and has 135 free Christmas worksheets at your disposal. From the story of Rudolph, the red nosed reindeer to the song worksheet Last Christmas by Wham and storytelling the Christmas story 'The Night before Christmas', all these materials are free for download. If you have great worksheet about Christmas, busyteacher.org asks you to tell them about it and become a BusyTeacher contributor. 

Picture via Google Images
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Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Have a Hug

Have a hug @ http://www.thenicestplaceontheinter.net/
Another interesting text written by Joana Silva, a 10th form student, attending Science and Technologies studies.

Feeling down? Here, have a hug.
The nicest place on the internet is a website created to spread love and comfort. Everyone has those days when things aren’t so good and all we need is a hug. If you have someone to hug you when you’re feeling down, you should feel very special! There’re plenty of people who don’t have anyone to turn to when they’re sad… This website is a proof that we can still have faith in humanity; it shows us that people care about the others…
In this website, people record themselves hugging their camera or their computer. I know, it sounds silly at first, but when you give it a deeper thought, it makes sense and it’s beautiful gesture. There are nice people out there in the internet after all!

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Monday, December 03, 2012

ELT resources for Xmas

If you teach kids, or simply have them at home, I would suggest you a visit to the North Pole. I mean, to www.northpole.com! 'Enjoy Christmas with Santa Claus at the North Pole' is an award-winning Christmas website, which you can join for free. You can send a letter to Santa Claus or a Christmas card to a friend; chat with some of Santa's elves or read stories about your favourite North Pole elf; enjoy reading children stories about the elves' adventures in the workshop in Santa's Secret Village; choose any of the online games and activities which include checkers with Santa, Trim the Tree, crossword puzzles, word search, concentration, mazes and dragging decorations onto the tree to make the tree beautiful. This website also features yummy recipes, Christmas traditions around the world, activities both for parents, teachers and students, and especially, loads of fun for kids, as there's always something fun to do at the North Pole!...

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Thursday, November 29, 2012

A virus named Christmas...


Tânia Sousa, 11th form student
Tânia would like to pursue a career
in physiotherapy
At Christmas, adults indulge at the mall trying to find not only the perfect, but also the ideal, not to mention the best wonderful Christmas present. During this season, adults become children once again.  We see them singing carols, playing cards with the kids, drawing with the children… Basically, we see them doing things they usually don’t have the patience to do in their everyday lives. We see grandparents taking a nap, while sitting at the Christmas table, men serving their best wine to the guests, women exchanging recipes... Adults are more aware of society problems and become more helpful and thoughtful, especially when it’s about trying to bring some comfort to people that are at the hospital with rare diseases. At Christmas everybody helps everybody and promises become reality. People stop drinking or smoking, especially after New Year’s Eve. Christmas is a magical time but once it’s over, adults become adults again, and nothing changes.

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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Rockfeller Center Xmas Tree

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, and by that, it's meant the 80th annual Christmas at Rockefeller holiday extravaganza, including the lighting of the Norway Spruce Christmas Tree. NBC will celebrate the lighting of the world’s most famous Christmas tree with a live broadcast from Rockefeller Center in New York City on Wednesday, November 28 (8-9 p.m. ET). Ornaments won’t be the only things shining, as this holiday special will feature performances from artists, such as: Trace Adkins, Mariah Carey, CeeLo Green, (NBC’s 'The Voice'), Chris Mann Music, Victoria Justice, Rod Stewart, and Il Volo, and special appearances by Billy Crystal and Bette Midler. Open to the public for all to join, everyone is invited to celebrate the holiday season as it brightens up the city with the 80-foot-tall, 80-year-old, 80th anniversary tree. For more information, you might like to pay a visit to rockfellercenter.com.
Source: Rockfeller Center FB Page, 
November 15, 2012  (adapted)

Photos: Will Steacy
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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The history of Christmas Trees

The first Christmas tree was the centerpiece of holidays festivities in fifteenth century Latvia. Young men and women danced and sang around the tree before setting it on fire the last night of festivities. From those early traditions, to the first American tree in 1816, and into the present Christmas season, Christmas trees have been the focal point of holiday cheer. The following infographic takes a look at some of the significant moments in the modern history of the Christmas icon. May I suggest this timeline as a possible resource for one of your lessons about Christmas. I've found this information in Visual History of Christmas Trees. Due to the dimensions of the infographic, I only present a print screen of the timeline. Just follow the previous link to access the timeline in full size.



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Monday, November 26, 2012

T@PT is 1 year old

Yep!... It's been a year since I started blogging!... And you've been there all the time, reading, laughing, and thinking over with me!... By following T@PT, you are giving it life! Thank you so much! I hope it has been of worth value for you! It has surely been for me! Have a piece of cake and let's hope for another year of newsreports about the Anglo-saxon world events, ELT & web 2.0 tools suggestions, British & American traditions reminders, inspirational people and thoughts, cartoons and the never to forget homage to the work done at schools both by teachers and students!... Before starting our celebration, may I suggest you a tour around T@PT's timeline, as well as the Index, so that it is easier for you to look up for posts at this website. I'd also suggest you to take a look at T@PT's newest page: The Students' Corner. As the name itself says, it is a place in which students write about whatever topic they feel like, in order to develop their writing skills. Having said this, let the celebration begin: Happy Birthday, Teaching @PineTree!...

Picture via Google Images
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Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thanksgiving Day in the US and UK

Thanksgiving Day in the United States is a holiday on the fourth Thursday of November. It precedes Black Friday. Most government offices, businesses, schools and other organizations are closed on Thanksgiving Day. Many offices and businesses allow staff to have a four-day weekend so these offices and businesses are also closed on the Friday after Thanksgiving Day. Public transit systems do not usually operate on their regular timetables. Thanksgiving Day is one of the busiest periods for travel in the USA. This can cause congestion and overcrowding. Seasonal parades and busy football games can cause disruption to local traffic.
There are claims that the first Thanksgiving Day was held in the city of El Paso, Texas in 1598. Another early event was held in 1619 in the Virginia Colony. Many people trace the origins of the modern Thanksgiving Day to the harvest celebration that the Pilgrims held in Plymouth, Massachusetts in 1621. However, their first true thanksgiving was in 1623, when they gave thanks for rain that ended a drought. These early thanksgivings took the form of a special church service, rather than a feast. In the second half of the 1600s, thanksgivings after the harvest became more common and started to become annual events. It was celebrated on different days in different communities and in some places there were more than one thanksgiving each year. George Washington, the first president of the United States, proclaimed the first national Thanksgiving Day in 1789.

Source: www.timeanddate.com (abridged)

Thanksgiving Day Macy's Parade, NY City - photo credit: asterix611 via photopin cc
Across the Atlantic Ocean Thanksgiving is also celebrated in London with American food and fun! Also known as Turkey Day in London, the American holiday of Thanksgiving is celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November, as well. In Britain, while it's not an official holiday, lots of American expats and tourists, their friends and relatives, like to mark the occasion by coming together to eat a traditional Thanksgiving feast. Festive food for Thanksgiving includes turkey, pumpkin pie, chowder and anything with an American theme. Thanksgiving menus are available on the day from lots of London hotels, pubs, clubs and restaurants. For more information about Thanksgiving events in London, just follow this LINK.

Pumpkin pie @visitlondon.com official visitor guide

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Wednesday, November 21, 2012

What is Graphic Design?

Daniel Martinho,
11th form student
Graphic Design is a creative and technical process that uses images and text to communicate messages, ideas and concepts. A phenomenon of the 20th century, it is currently the most widespread conceptualized activity on the planet. With commercial purposes, Graphic Design is used to inform, identify, signal, organize, encourage, persuade and entertain, resulting in improved quality of life.
The resources of a Graphic Designer are embedded in everyday society through brands, logos, symbols, packaging, newspapers, magazines, posters, brochures, t-shirts, openings, web sites, software, games, products and events, exhibitions, as well as advertising.
Daniel is a Science and Technologies student who loves ICT and drawing. He'd like to pursue a career in the Graphic Design area.


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Tuesday, November 20, 2012

ELT resources for Thanksgiving

Image: Betty Crocker photo gallery
via Flickr
Thanksgiving Day in the United States is a holiday on the fourth Thursday of November. This year it falls on November 22nd. Thanksgiving Day is traditionally a day for families and friends to get together for a special meal. The meal often includes a turkey, stuffing, potatoes, cranberry sauce, gravy, pumpkin pie, and vegetables. It is a time for many people to give thanks for what they have. Thanksgiving Day parades are held in some cities and towns on or around Thanksgiving Day. Some parades or festivities also mark the opening of the Christmas shopping season. Some people have a four-day weekend so it is a popular time for trips and to visit family and friends.

As U.S. Thanksgiving is just around the corner, you might want to teach a lesson about The First Thanksgiving. The Plimoth Plantation website has some resources that you will want to check out. You Are the Historian: Investigating the First Thanksgiving is an interactive exploration of the facts and myths associated with the story of the First Thanksgiving. Students can explore the facts and myths through the eyes of a Native American child or through the eyes of a female Pilgrim. Through the eyes of each character students discover the culture of giving thanks in the Native American and English cultures. 'The Path to 1621' is a part of the investigation in which students hear the perspectives of Native Americans and Pligrims about events prior to 1621. For more information, just check the Free Technology for Teachers, a website written by Richard ByrneScholastic also has put together a nice little collection of online resources to help elementary school students learn about Pilgrims, Native Americans, and The First Thanksgiving.

Finally, Larry Ferlazzo suggests the best sites to learn and teach about Thanksgiving. He mentions among many activities, a Thanksgiving Crossword Puzzle from the Internet TESL Journal and Thanksgiving listening exercises, just to mention some. You can read about Larry's suggestions HERE.
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Monday, November 19, 2012

Your future

Sara Barbosa, 11thB, 
Science & Technology
Sara's dream is to pursue
a career in Criminal Investigation
Sometimes we talk about what job to follow in the future. And we often hear that it is still early to think about it or that it is better not follow that particular area, because if you do, you're going to  face unemployment, you will not find a job, bearing in mind the way the country is. But the truth is that it's too soon, and we cannot think negatively. The fact that the country is currently going through hard times does not mean it will stay that way forever. We have to think that things will improve. 'Positive thinking', as my teacher Céu Leça says. In my opinion, we should have one goal as far as our future is concerned. And that is giving our best throughout school and fight for our dreams in order to be someone with a smiling future, someone who works in a profession one likes and have success in a career. We should always fight for our dreams, never give up on them. To sum up this post, I'd like to share with you some inspirational thoughts I came across in the web: 'Unless we can make our dreams reality, reality takes them away.' 'Do not expect the encouragement from others. The first to believe in your dreams must be you.' 'Do not fool yourself, because you will only reach the peak of the mountain if you´re determined to face the effort of walking.'

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Friday, November 16, 2012

Thursday, November 15, 2012

London is getting ready for Xmas

On Thursday November 1st, Harrods unveiled its extravagant windows, displaying 10 stunning dresses created by world-leading designers including Oscar de la Renta, Official Versace, and Elie Saab – each based on their glamorous interpretations of the original Disney Princess dresses. Later that evening, the festivities came alive as Harrods welcomed some very special Disney friends. Following the entertainment, customers were treated to a magnificent spectacle as the 11,000 light bulbs which adorn its iconic façade were switched on. To complete the magical evening, customers were treated to a spectacular fireworks display as colourful explosions ascended from the roof to light up London’s night sky. (Source: Harrods FB Page) On the weekend that followed, Londoners and tourists were delighted with the arrival of Father Christmas at the annual Harrods Christmas Parade. You can watch the highlights of the Harrods Christmas Parade HERE, as well as an exclusive interview with Father Christmas. The pictures below are Harrods Facebook Page courtesy and they portray the moments of magic lived in London, on November  1st and 3rd. 


Covent Garden, London
photo credit: Oliver Joe via photopin cc
On November 5thOxford Street Christmas Lights Switch-On kicked off from 5pm that evening with live performances from Robbie Williams, Leona Lewis, Lawson and the musical cast of Scrooge. Watch the video HERE. And on November 7th Christmas Lights were switched on in Covent Garden centred around the piazza but also taking in some of the streets radiating from it. To see the Christmas Lights all around London, just follow this LINK and get ready to be dazzled!...

Oxford Street Chritsmas Lights
photo credit: Gabludlow via photopin cc
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Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Diwali - the Festival of Lights

November is huge in celebrations!... This time, it's Diwali! Better said, it was Diwali Day yesterday, November 13th. But what is Diwali? Stina Backer and Eoghan Macguire for CNN celebrates answer this question: 'Diwali is one of the most important events in the Hindu spiritual calendar. It is known as the 'Festival of Lights' and takes place between mid October and mid November each year. The name 'Diwali' is a contraction of the word Deepavali, which means row of lights in Sanskrit. During the holiday, candles and oil lamps called 'diyas' are lit to commemorate the legend of the return of the Hindu god Rama to his kingdom after 14 years in exile after murdering the ten-headed demon Ravana. In India the goddess Lakshmi is also celebrated during the holiday and colorful rangolis - decorative floor designs made of sand - are made in her honor. 'Most people buy the sand and make their own, or they buy ready-made stencils,' said Manish Kanojia, whose stunning photos from in and around Delhi are represented in this gallery. Read more about Diwali: 'One festival, many customs' HERE. Diwali is not just celebrated in India. In cities around the world that have substantial Indian populations Diwali is part of the events calendar and is celebrated by Indians and non-Indians alike.' 


That's precisely the case of the UK where you can find a large Hindu community. If you happen to be in Leicester, you will witness one of the biggest Diwali celebrations outside India. Up to 35,000 people attend the switch on of the lights on Belgrave Road and even more attend Diwali day itself in the heart of the city's Asian community. People enjoy the fireworks display and live cultural entertainment on stage as the festival of light marks the start of the Hindu New Year. This year, Diwali Switch On was on Sunday, November 4th and Diwali Day on Tuesday, November 13th. (Source: Leicester City Council).

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Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Remembrance Sunday

November is the time of the year when we wear a red poppy in memory of those who sacrificed their lives for us during wars. The eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month marks the signing of the Armistice, on 11th November 1918, to signal the end of World War One. At 11 am on 11 November 1918 the guns of the Western Front fell silent after more than four years continuous warfare.
Remembrance Day is on 11 November. It is a special day set aside to remember all those men and women who were killed during the two World Wars and other conflicts. At one time the day was known as Armistice Day and was renamed Remembrance Day after the Second World War. Remembrance Sunday is held on the second Sunday in November, which is usually the Sunday nearest to 11 November. Special services are held at war memorials and churches all over Britain. A national ceremony takes place at the Cenotaph in Whitehall, London. The Queen lays the first wreath at the Cenotaph. Wreaths are layed beside war memorials by companies, clubs and societies. People also leave small wooden crosses by the memorials in remembrance of a family member who died in war. A poem called 'For the Fallen' is often read aloud during the ceremony; the most famous stanza of which reads: 
photo credit: Owen Benson Visuals via photopin cc

'They shall grow not old, 
as we that are left grow old: 
Age shall not weary them, 
nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun
 and in the morning
We will remember them.'

(fourth stanza of For the Fallen, by Laurence Binyon, 1869-1943)



Remembrance Day is also known as Poppy Day, because it is traditional to wear an artificial poppy. They are sold by the Royal British Legion, a charity dedicated to helping war veterans. At 11am on each Remembrance Sunday a two minute silence is observed at war memorials and other public spaces across the UK.
In, Remembrance Day in Britain (abridged and adapted)

Image credits: AP
This Sunday, November 11th, Britain fell silent to remember its war dead at services across the country as the Queen led the nation in honouring the fallen. At the Cenotaph memorial in London the monarch laid the first wreath to commemorate members of the Armed Forces who died fighting in all conflicts since the First World War. In brilliant autumn sunshine, senior members of the monarchy joined Prime Minister David Cameron, military chiefs, servicemen and women and thousands of watching spectators in paying their respects. You can read the full article on this venue HERE, and watch a photo gallery of the ceremony, as well. 


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Friday, November 09, 2012

The Best is Yet to come



At a rally on Wednesday (Nov. 7) in his hometown of Chicago, Barack Obama delivers a victory speech after being re-elected to serve a second term in the White House. President Obama reaffirms his belief in the strength the United States derives from its diversity and reiterates the need for Washington to work in a bipartisan way. 'Tonight in this election you, the American people, reminded us that while our road has been hard, while our journey has been long, we have picked ourselves up, we have fought our way back and we know in our hearts that for the United States of Amercia the best is yet to come'. You can read the full transcript of his speech HERE.

                                          
lkjl
Barack Obama is now the 45th US President. In case you want to know who the
US former Presidents were, follow THIS LINK.              

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Thursday, November 08, 2012

Why the UK would have voted on Obama

An interesting text by Coring Faife, in which he states 10 reasons why the Brits would vote Barack Obama. The text was published November 6th, the elections day, before knowing what was the American people choice for the 45th US President.

Illustration: tsevis/flickr
'Well, my American friends, you may know it already or you may not, but my country quite likes your president. On this day, of course, as citizens of the United States go to the polls – notwithstanding the 90 million who may not even bother with voting – most of the American public will be focused on internal affairs. But given America’s influence on the rest of the world, there’s no doubt that citizens of many other nations have strong opinions about who sits in the Whitehouse. This, you probably realised. But did you know that if the British public were to vote in the elections today, they would overwhelming support another term for Barack Obama? While the result in the US hangs in the balance, a recent poll by AngusReid found that Britons would vote 10-1 in favour of keeping the incumbent in power. And when Obama toured Europe a little over a year ago, a ComRes poll of the British public found that 70 percent thought he was doing a better job than George Bush, and 60 percent thought he was 'proving to be a good president.'Some of the shimmer of his 2008 victory might have worn off by now, but on the whole, it’s an inescapable fact that Britain is still very much pro-Obama. So here, if you can spare the time to read before you cast your vote, are ten reasons why:
1.Because He Replaced George Bush
In recent history, no American president has had such a significant impact on British politics as George W. Bush. Collective opinion is that Bush dragged the UK into the Iraq War, thanks to Tony Blair’s unwillingness to stand up to him. The war was deeply unpopular with the British public – it initially sparked the largest demonstration in the country’s history – and effectively put the nail in the coffin for Blair’s political career. It haunted him throughout the rest of his term in office, and cemented our deep dislike of Bush Jnr. When the latter left office in ’08 we were glad to see the back of him, and thrilled to welcome in a less bellicose president – and the memory of how much we prefer Obama to his predecessor persists to this day.
2.Because He Keeps His Nose Out Of Our Politics
Although David Cameron and Barack Obama have met on numerous occasions, and profess to admire each other greatly, their relationship couldn’t be described as close. Whereas Blair and Bush were BFFs, Cameron and Obama seem to have a more distant, professional relationship, and Obama rarely comments on British affairs. Given what the Bush-Blair partnership meant for the UK’s foreign policy, we’re completely happy with that.
3.Because He Supports Universal Healthcare
Although ‘Obamacare’ was hugely controversial in the US, here in the UK (where every citizen enjoys free healthcare) it was seen as simply common sense. It may have its faults, but the British public is highly protective of the NHS, despite attempts of the current ConDem government to privatize large swathes of it in the name of ‘austerity’. In Britain, Obama’s plan to introduce universal coverage to the US was seen as a brave political battle to fight, and his final success in implementing the programme – albeit a watered down version – won him much admiration.
4.Because We’re More Suspicious Of The Very Wealthy
Whilst British society might still be riven with economic inequality, we have not yet reached the extreme polarities found in the United States. Being wealthy is generally acceptable – a high profile member of a previous Labour government famously declared that they were 'intensely relaxed about people getting filthy rich' – but to be truly super-rich is more problematic, especially in the field of politics. David Cameron, with an estimated net worth of £30 million, came under scrutiny for a statement in which he claimed to be middle class – an attempt at downplaying his privileged background to seem more in touch with ordinary folk. Mitt Romney’s net worth, estimated to be somewhere in the range of $200-250 million, would likely prove an obstacle to his election were he running for office in the UK. Obama, with a more modest fortune of around $6 million, is a much more palatable option to the European public in this respect.
5.Because We’re Fine With The Idea Of Being Aloof
Opposition campaigns and political pundits alike have often criticized Obama for being aloof, cerebral, and somewhat lacking in warmth, a flaw that could count against him in the coming vote. But over here, we’re British, remember – being aloof in social situations is pretty much the cornerstone of our culture! That whole folksy, touchy-feely politics beloved of the Bidens and Bushs of the American establishment just doesn’t come naturally to us. Though we have a lot of respect for politicians who can be down to earth and in touch with the people, in British public life it’s by no means a crushing handicap to come across as slightly cold.
6.Because We Don’t Have Fox News
We may have some decidedly right-wing newspapers, but for the most part British television sticks to the political centre. The BBC has a number of internal checks and balances set up to ensure balanced coverage of political issues, and other news outlets tend to follow suit; in general, this means it’s rare to see a one-sided political rant on British TV. What we definitely do not have is anything on a par with Fox News’s virulent anti-Obama agenda, the extent of which is almost unbelievable to British viewers. The channel continues to characterise the President as a socialist, give weight to fringe rumours about his origins, and systematically distort his words again and again and again. Fox propagandists executives have directly admitted lying with intent to sabotage the Obama campaign. Without these kind of partisan interventions from a major media outlet, a good many more Americans might support Obama than currently do.
7.Because Romney Doesn’t Like Europe (And Vice Versa)
Mitt Romney’s European tour this summer was widely hailed as disastrous. He made gaffe after gaffe, questioning the readiness of London to host the Olympics, raising hackles in the Middle East with ill-informed comments on the Palestinian economy, and being snubbed by Polish trade unions due to his anti-union stance in America. By the end of the tour, even the conservative French daily Le Figaro was asking, 'Is Mitt a loser?' Furthermore, when back at home, Romney criticized Obama for wanting to 'turn America into a Euopean-style entitlement society.' Unsurprisingly, that kind of comment doesn’t win you any friends over here, Mitt…you can just leave us Europeans to our ‘entitlement’ and surrender and bad teeth and whatever else it is you think we do, and stay on that side of the Pond.
8.Because We Don’t Mix Religion And Politics
Compared to the the States, Britain is a far less religious society, and a more quietly religious one at that. It’s unthinkable (and faintly ridiculous) for us to imagine a modern British Prime Minister ending a speech with 'God bless the United Kingdom', for example, whilst a parallel comment from an American president is par for the course. Though freedom of religion is enshrined in the British legal system, you seldom hear it referenced as a pillar of our society. And the role of religion in public life is complicated – former PM Tony Blair only formally converted to Catholicism after leaving office, fearing that to do so earlier in his career might have proved divisive. In this context, it’s hard to imagine a Mormon (or member of any other such sub-sect of Christianity) holding the highest office in the UK, another point that counts against Romney.
9.Because We’re Unhappy With Our Own Leaders
As US-based British journalist Gary Younge writes: Europeans don’t just love Obama more than Americans do. They love him more than they love the people they have elected themselves….Smart, charismatic, telegenic and unencumbered by sleaze Obama still, by comparison, represents the possibility of a popular form of electoral politics led by intelligent and public-spirited citizens as opposed to opportunists, egomaniacs and sleazemongers. Obama comes across as a man of genuine integrity, at a time when British leaders have been hit by scandal after scandal. In 2012, Brits may not trust the people leading our country – but we still trust the man leading yours.
10.Because He Represents The Best Side Of US Politics
In the UK, when we caricature American politics, it’s often as brash, intolerant and reactionary. The arguments of the religious right, particularly relating to the rights of women over their bodies, and the broader knee-jerk Republic reaction to any suggestion that ‘Big Government’ wants to interfere with their freedom to make money as they please, do not come over well here. In contrast to all this, Obama’s position as pro-choice, pro-gay marriage, pro-welfare state endears him far more to the British public. To us, he represents a more compassionate side of American politics, one that tries (not always successfully) to balance the rights of the ‘little people’ against those of wealthy oligarchs. I and many others have reservations about some of Obama’s shortcomings – particularly his failure to close Guantanamo Bay as promised, for example, and expansion of the drone strike programme – but ultimately, most of us on this rainy isle conclude that on balance, he’s a force for good in American politics.
Tonight, as I stay up into the early hours to watch the results come in in London time, I’ll be far from the only one here rooting for four more years.'
In, Urban Times

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