Friday, March 6, 2009

Jokes of the Day - "A man walked into a bar..."

It is common to hear jokes in English that start with the phrase "A man walked into a bar..." Here are a few!

A man walked into a bar with his dog and ordered a drink. Then he and the dog started playing darts.
"Hey, that's amazing!" said the bartender. "Your dog can play darts!"
"It's not that amazing," answered the man. "In the last ten games he's only beaten me twice!"

A man walked into a bar and sat down next to a large man with a dog at his feet. "Does your dog bite?" he asked the man.
"No," the man answered.
A few moments later the dog got up and bit the first man in the leg!
"You said your dog doesn't bite!" the man replied.
"That's not my dog," the second man answered.

A duck walked into a bar. He went up to the bartender and asked, "Do you have any grapes?"
The bartender, annoyed, said, "We don't have grapes, we serve drinks here. Get out!"
The next day the duck walked into the same bar and asked the bartender, "Do you have any grapes?"
The bartender, irritated, shouted, "I told you yesterday that we don't have any grapes. We have drinks! Now get out!"
The next day the duck walked into the bar again. He sat at the bar and asked the bartender, "Do you have any grapes?"
Now the bartender was furious. "I told you two times that we don't have grapes here. We serve drinks! Now, if you come back ONE MORE TIME and ask me the same question, I will NAIL YOUR BILL TO THE BAR! GET OUT!"
The next day the duck walked into the bar. He asked the bartender, "Do you have any nails?"
The bartender, confused, answered, "No."
The duck looked the bartender directly in the eyes and asked, "Do you have any grapes?"

A Daily Dose of English

Get your daily dose of English at English Daily. Here you can find great activities and resources for students. Below are a few of the sections you can access on this web site:

Train your ear - Listen to authentic news clips and fill in the blanks with the words that have been removed.
Learn slang - Get a start on understanding many of the slang terms you will hear people in the U.S. use. Complete with examples.
Movie lines - Great for those students who are Hollywood film aficionados. Read dialogs from real-life films.
English proverbs - Practice some of those English proverbs.
Common English mistakes - Although geared toward mistakes Chinese students of English often make, any student can learn from looking at these mistakes that are common across languages.
TOEFL vocabulary - For students who need more formal, academic vocabulary, there is a section where you can study words commonly found on the TOEFL exam.

Have fun exploring the site, and be sure to comment on any web sites you may have found that are helpful!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Carnival Celebrations Around the World

During January and February, festive Carnival celebrations take place in many countries around the world. The most famous Carnival traditions that include masquerading and holding extravagant parades can be traced back to medieval Italy and are rooted in Roman Catholicism. Historically, Carnival has been held in the days leading up to Lent, which is the forty-day period of fasting and prayer before Easter. Although the true origin of the word Carnival is disputed, it is thought that the word comes from the Italian phrase, carne leavre, or “remove meat,” which refers to the abstention from eating meat during Lent.

Today, many carnival celebrations are fusions of new and old traditions. All across the globe the Americas, Europe, Asia and Australia come alive with dynamic festivities of self-expression. Let’s take a look at a few specific celebrations.

Carnival of Venice, Italy

The Carnival of Venice, Italy is a spectacle of bright costumes and masks that dates back to the 1268. Nowadays during Carnival, crowds gather in the central Piazza San Marco and weave around the bridges and footpaths along the canals. There are street-performers, singers and entertainers throughout the city. There is no actual parade for Carnival, so anyone can join in the masquerading. The 2009 Carnival will take place from February 13 until February 24.

In the past, this celebration took place between Christmas and Strove Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday. It was also much larger and boisterous with bull-fights, bear fights and even secret assassinations in the gondolas. This holiday was a chance for people from all classes and walks of life to wear flamboyant costumes and masks.

Carnival of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

The Carnival in Rio de Janeiro has been called “the biggest show on Earth” and is perhaps the world’s most widely recognized Carnival. It draws crowds of millions every year. This celebration in Brazil originated in Rio de Janeiro back in 1641 and the festivities vary depending upon the region.

The Carnival in Rio is a fusion of European, African and Native elements and consists of organized parades full of dancing and singing. There are Samba Schools that compete in shows in the Sambadrome and also groups of people often from the same neighborhood, called blocos, who dress in elaborate costumes and sing and dance in almost every corner of the city.

Winter Carnival, Qu├ębec, Canada

Winter Carnival is world’s largest winter celebration and the third largest Carnival after Rio de Janeiro and New Orleans. With over one million participants, it begins at the end of January or the beginning of February and lasts for 17 days of festivities.

In 2009, the theme of the winter carnival was, “The Carnival Leads You into the Masquerade.” Carnival brings many exciting traditions that include a life-size Ice Palace, a Canoe Race along the St. Lawrence River, outdoor museums displaying snow sculptures, two night parades and the Queens and Duchesses of Carnival. Since 1954, the Winter Carnival has had a mascot, Bonhomme, a jovial snowman, who has helped the Quebec Winter Carnival earn international fame and recognition.

Carnival of Trinidad and Tobago

This Carnival traces its roots back to West Africa and is infused with a blend of Calypso and Soca music, drumming, dancing and exotic costumes. This vibrant holiday takes place on the Monday and Tuesday preceding Ash Wednesday. Highly prestigious music competitions are a large part of the celebration.

Many participants in the Carnival celebrations wear intricate costumes that often require extensions and wheels to help the masquerader carry it through the streets. They are decorated with bright colors, sequins and feathers. Locals and tourists participate in the street parades and dance to the beats of steel-drum bands.

This article is based on the following websites:

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

History of Halloween

Ancient Origins
Halloween's origins date back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced sow-in).
The Celts, who lived 2,000 years ago in the area that is now Ireland, the United Kingdom, and northern France, celebrated their new year on November 1. This day marked the end of summer and the harvest and the beginning of the dark, cold winter, a time of year that was often associated with human death. Celts believed that on the night before the new year, the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred. On the night of October 31, they celebrated Samhain, when it was believed that the ghosts of the dead returned to earth. In addition to causing trouble and damaging crops, Celts thought that the presence of the otherworldly spirits made it easier for the Druids, or Celtic priests, to make predictions about the future. For a people entirely dependent on the volatile natural world, these prophecies were an important source of comfort and direction during the long, dark winter.
To commemorate the event, Druids built huge sacred bonfires, where the people gathered to burn crops and animals as sacrifices to the Celtic deities.
During the celebration, the Celts wore costumes, typically consisting of animal heads and skins, and attempted to tell each other's fortunes. When the celebration was over, they re-lit their hearth fires, which they had extinguished earlier that evening, from the sacred bonfire to help protect them during the coming winter.
By A.D. 43, Romans had conquered the majority of Celtic territory. In the course of the four hundred years that they ruled the Celtic lands, two festivals of Roman origin were combined with the traditional Celtic celebration of Samhain.
Video: The haunting History of All Hallow's Eve (Halloween).
Video: Timothy Dickinson tells the intriguing tale of why we celebrate Halloween, and it's evolution from Samhain, an ancient Celtic Harvest Festival.
The first was Feralia, a day in late October when the Romans traditionally commemorated the passing of the dead. The second was a day to honor Pomona, the Roman goddess of fruit and trees. The symbol of Pomona is the apple and the incorporation of this celebration into Samhain probably explains the tradition of "bobbing" for apples that is practiced today on Halloween.
By the 800s, the influence of Christianity had spread into Celtic lands. In the seventh century, Pope Boniface IV designated November 1 All Saints' Day, a time to honor saints and martyrs. It is widely believed today that the pope was attempting to replace the Celtic festival of the dead with a related, but church-sanctioned holiday. The celebration was also called All-hallows or All-hallowmas (from Middle English Alholowmesse meaning All Saints' Day) and the night before it, the night of Samhain, began to be called All-hallows Eve and, eventually, Halloween. Even later, in A.D. 1000, the church would make November 2 All Souls' Day, a day to honor the dead. It was celebrated similarly to Samhain, with big bonfires, parades, and dressing up in costumes as saints, angels, and devils. Together, the three celebrations, the eve of All Saints', All Saints', and All Souls', were called Hallowmas.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Run for President of the United States!

Surprise your family and friends! Put the best candidate on the podium and run for the job of President of the United States.

Discuss the issues that are important to you. Pick your own party. Upload an image and get started.

Image from

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Who do you want to win?

With all the excitement of the upcoming elections in the United States, you may be wondering who you would vote for. Compare the candidates and decide for yourself who you would like to win.

Keep up with the last minute information of who is ahead at the polls. The political dashboard at Yahoo will show you who is winning and where, along with how many electoral votes each U.S. state gets.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Convert Text to Speech

Programs that convert text to speech are really fun! Make eggs talk at the Talking Egg-a-Gram web site, courtesy of Holiday Inn. Or try Monk-E-Mail. Send your message on to a friend!

Walkthrough for Friday's game Phantasy Quest is here. Follow these directions if you get stuck.