Friday, 30 December 2011

Bill Black Takes on the "Fannie and Freddie Did It" Meme

I really enjoyed this piece for its knowledgeable, historical analysis. Black doesn't exactly side with the "It Wasn't Fannie and Freddie" crowd, but he's more unsparing in his criticism of ideologue Peter Wallison, whose position "It Was All Fannie and Freddie" is laughable (and Black shows us even more reasons why).

I'm willing to move up Fannie and Freddie on my list of causes of the crisis to, say, number 6 or 7 from number 11. ;)

Black frames the problem well, I think. What caused problems wasn't Fannie and Freddie's mandate to help the poor -- in other words, all those do-good liberals trying to put welfare Moms in houses they couldn't afford. It was, plain and simple, accounting fraud to lavish bonuses on the top echelon of executives -- the same problem found at investment banks that were more direct causes of the crisis.

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Ashton Kutcher and Lea Michele: New Year’s Eve

Ashton Kutcher and Lea Michele:  New Year’s Eve
Lea Michele
Ashton Kutcher and Lea Michele:  New Year’s Eve
Ashton Kutcher
Ashton Kutcher and Lea Michele:  New Year’s Eve
 New Year’s Eve Movie


New Year’s Eve! The biggest party of the year!

Kutcher and Michele are featured in the romantic comedy “New Year’s Eve” directed by Garry Marshall.  Let’s check out Ashton Kutcher’s personal plans for New Year’s Eve!

Lea Michele: What are you going to do for New Year's?  Why don't you come celebrate with my big Italian family and me? They would die.

Ashton Kutcher:  I don't know where I'm going to be on New Year's, I haven't sorted it out.

Talking about your future plans for New Year’s Eve is quite common at this time of year.  The common conversation question at this time of year is:

“What are you going to do for New Year’s (Eve)?”
"I don't know where I'm going to be on New Year's,"

Some people have already made their plans and some people like Ashton aren’t exactly sure yet. 
Often as language learners we search for more difficult ways to express ourselves.  However, in this case, the use of ‘be + going to + infinitive’ is quite common and useful in the question or answer form.  However if you are looking for something new both Ashton and Lea use some common, casual expressions that might be new to you in this context.


(1)I haven't 'sorted' it 'out'. =
Same English
I haven’t clarified my plans or I haven’t put my plans in order.

Ashton feels he will go out ‘somewhere’ on New Year’s Eve but hasn’t created an exact or detailed plan yet.

(2)They would 'die'.  = 
Same English
(Longer English) They (my family) would die if you came to my family’s house.

They would be very, very excited/surprised.

Lea feels her family would be thrilled to have Ashton at their house for New Year’s Eve.
Ashton Kutcher and Lea Michele:  New Year’s Eve

Original Lea Michele and Ashton Kutcher New Year's Eve interview  (above excerpt - Time: 05:43 - 05:53)

Practice Speaking Style

Question: What are you going to do for New Year's? 
Answer:  I don't know where I'm going to be on New Year's.

Question: What are you going to do for New Year's? 
Answer:  I am going to go to New York’s Time Square and watch the ball drop.

Question: What are you going to do for New Year's? 
Answer:  I am going to be at a nightclub with my friends.

Question: What are you going to do for New Year's? 
Answer:  I am going to stay at home and watch movies.

Question: What are you going to do for New Year's? 
Answer:  I am going to go to a restaurant with my boyfriend.

Have a safe and Happy New Year’s Eve!  

Also check out related blog:
Josh Duhamel: New Year’s Resolutions



New China! Teach Abroad!
Let the Adventure Begin!

Ashton Kutcher and Lea Michele:  New Year’s Eve

Celebrity English

Monday, 26 December 2011

Joe Nocera Takes on the Big Lie

I've often thought you could make a case for Fannie Mae's and Freddie Mac's culpability in the financial crisis: a very, very small case.

So, if you started listing reasons for the crisis, they might come in, say, number 11 or thereabouts.

What amazes me is the persistence of the simple-minded Republican narrative that they were the cause of the financial crisis. Not a cause. But the cause. (And the hard-core faithful don't want any other causes entered into the record, as when the four Republicans on the FCIC voted to ban the words "shadow banking" and "deregulation" from the final report!)

This viewpoint is so ignorant and ill-informed, so contrary to "the truth on the ground" that we know from how this crisis developed and what it looked like as it unfolded, that it strains credulity. Is Peter Wallison so ideologically blinkered that he can't even process a set of historical facts in a logical way?

Joe Nocera had a good recent column about this, The Big Lie.

What I enjoyed best though was the second comment that appeared afterward. Excerpts:
I was a mortgage broker during the housing bubble. I can tell you that a "conforming" loan -- one that was run through Fannie or Freddie's "desktop underwriting" software -- always made us nervous. We got rejected for approval regularly whereas if we sold a subprime loan with a higher interest rate we got approved more easily and made much more on the loan ... rather than blame what was in essence a good government program for the housing collapse I say a lot of it deserves to go to the lenders and brokers who hustled these loans.

Once mortgages became securitized and the lenders had no skin in the game the whole system went to hell.
Exactly, and a flaw I noted in the securitization model (and I'm far from the first person to make the observation) almost two years ago.

Earth to Peter Wallison: Are you listening?

Sunday, 25 December 2011

A Comfortable Office Equals A Contented Workforce

There is a great variety of workplaces in every sector of business, from retail outlets to engineering shops and from warehouses to manufacturing plants. For many people, however, nothing beats the comfort and convenience of working in an office. Whether they earn their living in a call centre or a recruitment agency, they are generally happy to head into work on a daily basis.

For employers, it makes sound financial sense to ensure their employees’ working environments are as pleasant as possible. This can mean anything from providing comfortable break-out areas in which team members can enjoy a relaxing coffee during lunchtimes to installing top quality sound systems so the latest hits can be broadcast to workers throughout the day.

Redecoration is cheaper than recruitment

A relatively small investment in these areas can lead to higher levels of staff retention, and therefore less of a need for recruitment. The cost of placing vacancies with specialist agencies can be high, and of course there’s no guarantee that successful applicants will develop into the ideal employees of the future. A significant outlay in this area could produce very little, so it always pays to do everything to retain key staff members instead.

Office furniture is something which few company owners and directors give a second thought to, although it can be a vital factor in dictating the future health of employees. A poorly designed office chair, for example, can lead to serious repercussions for the individual and, in turn, for the company.

When it comes to furniture, invest in the best

Chairs that offer the user the best sitting position without compromising on support should always be used. Companies that don’t do so stand a chance of being sued for work-related injuries in the future, and this can prove to be an expensive outcome.

Similarly, any desks that are used need to be at the right height for all employees. Back, neck and eye-strain problems can all become major causes for concern, so it’s always best to seek out and purchase the best possible items. There are plenty of websites which offer useful tips on the best furniture to purchase, so all that’s needed for the best advice is a trip to the web.

When relocating, whether a company is looking for offices to rent in Aberdeen or suites in the centre of London, it makes sense to consider every aspect of the move. The optimum layout, the right furniture and the best facilities can all represent an extremely wise investment.

David Rice is a UK-based writer who has worked in many prestigious offices. He regularly advises companies during relocation processes.

Monday, 19 December 2011

The Benefits of Long Term Care Insurance

Long term care insurance is a type of insurance that will cover you if you become ill and can no longer take care of yourself. This long term care could consist of someone coming into your home to care for you or it could provide you with the coverage you need to live in a group home setting. These situations are not always covered by Medicare or traditional health insurances.

When to Buy Long Term Care Insurance
If you are interested in purchasing long term care insurance, it is best to shop around. There are many internet sites that will give you free online insurance quotes. It is best to not only compare rates but also the benefits that are covered. Don't be afraid to ask questions, you have to make sure you get a policy that will cover what you want. Many people make the choice to purchase long term care insurance while they are in their early 60s. Premiums will be cheaper the younger you are, but once you have purchased a policy, the premiums should not be raised because of your age.

Who Can Purchase Long Term Care Insurance?
A relatively healthy person between the ages of 18 and 84 would have no problem obtaining long term care insurance. Many insurance companies will not sell you a policy if you are already accessing long term care, have Alzheimer's disease, AIDS, or a variety of other pre-existing conditions. If one insurance company denies you benefits, do not give up; another may have a plan designed for you.

Choosing the Correct Coverage
There are many choices that you have to make when purchasing your long term care insurance. These are all important things that need to be considered before you purchase your policy. The maximum daily benefit amount will be the amount that your insurance will pay for a day of care. This can range from $50 a day to $500 a day. You will also need to choose a benefit period, this is amount of time you will be able to use your insurance benefits. You can typically choose from one year up to five years of long term care insurance coverage.
Another important decision is the amount of your elimination or deductable period. This will be the amount of time you need to receive long term care before your insurance will kick in. Your elimination period can be anywhere from 0 days to 100 days. The longer your elimination period, the higher your out of pocket expenses will be.
It is also important to take inflation into account. You can purchase an additional inflation rider. This will increase your dollar amount of insurance on a yearly basis. This is recommended for those who purchase their policy at a younger age.

Coverage Limitations
As with any insurance policy, not everything is covered. Some basic exclusions include, but are not limited to, care for services needed as a result of an attempted suicide or self inflicted injuries, alcoholism or drug abuse, or care that is provided by an unlicensed relative. Reading all the fine print in your policy is necessary to ensure that you have the coverage you want and need.
Guest post from Bailey Harris. Bailey enjoys writing about health, insurance, finance, and related topics.  

How to Get Business Insurance Quotes

When you open a business, there are many things to consider. Carrying the right type and amount of insurance is one of them. It is vital to have the coverage you need, if for no other reason than your own peace of mind. By doing a little research you should be able to find the right insurance coverage for your business. In most cases a business insurance guide such as this will help you get the best business insurance quotes available. Following are a few tips on how to get business insurance quotes.

Research Is Important
As an entrepreneur you are used to taking chances. You’re also used to thinking for yourself. Before you actually opened your business you more than likely took the time to research the market you entered. You needed to make sure there was a demand for your product, and you had to develop a plan to produce, sell, and deliver that product. You should approach finding the right level of business insurance in the same way--by doing research.

Ask Around
One of the best ways of finding out how much insurance you should carry is to ask people who have businesses similar to yours. Make an appointment with these business owners, or take them out to lunch, so you can pick their brains. Ask them what type of business insurance they have, and what company or companies they deal with. See if they are satisfied with the service and coverage they have or if they would recommend that you find a different carrier. Find out how they went about getting the quotes they needed for comparison, and then do the same thing.

Talk to Your Own Agent
Although you’re just starting out in business you more than likely already have insurance coverage on your home, health, life, and/or auto. Talk to your own agent and see what kind of business insurance coverage they would recommend, and if they offer business insurance themselves, what kind of deal they can give you. Because you already do business with them, they may be able to give you a discount--you may even be able to bundle your business coverage with your personal coverage and get an even bigger discount. Many insurance companies offer multi-policy discounts, and if you carry both personal and business insurance through them, you should qualify for a hefty reduction in insurance premiums. Your own agent may be able to guide you through the process of getting the right level of business insurance coverage, or may be able to point you in the right direction.

Shop Online
The Internet is an incredible resource for many facets of everyday life. You may even plan to make use of it in marketing your product. Another way it can be useful is for shopping for business insurance quotes. Many traditional insurance companies have an online presence, and there are other insurance companies who specialize in doing business online because it saves the overhead involved in operating out of a fancy office. Online insurance companies may be able to offer you huge savings. Use the quotes you get for comparison to insurance quotes from brick and mortar insurance companies.

Independent Agents
It may also be a good idea to contact any independent insurance agents in your vicinity. Some people don’t fully trust doing business with online insurance companies because they may not be able to contact an agent quickly enough if they need to file a claim. That alone makes dealing with a traditional brick and mortar agency attractive. By contacting an independent agent you can assure yourself that you’ll be able to reach them if you need to. What makes approaching an independent agent worth the trouble is the fact that they normally deal with a number of different companies on a regular basis and may be able to provide a reasonable business insurance quote from more than one source.

Get Good Coverage
Although you’re just starting out and want to keep your costs low, you shouldn’t cut corners on business insurance. When you’re gathering insurance quotes make sure the agents you’re dealing with understand that you want to get good coverage and a good price.
Guest post from Andy Granger.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Tom Cruise: A Christmas Memory

Tom Cruise
                                               Tom Cruise
Christmas is a time to share with family and friends.  Also people will be talking about Christmas memories from the past.  Let’s take a look at Tom Cruise’s favorite Christmas as a child... 

Interviewer: When I was a kid the time of year that I loved was Christmas because it was the only magic time.  Didn’t you one year, I read that there was a gift of poems.

Tom Cruise: Yeah

Interviewer: Tell me.

Tom Cruise:  As I said, a beautiful mother, and it was actually the first Christmas when my parents were divorced and we didn’t have any money. And really not enough to buy each other a present.  And all of the money kind of went to…well didn’t kind of, it went into paying for food on the table.  And so my mother said listen: “What we are going to do is we are not going to buy each other gifts.  We are going to pick names out of hat.  And for a month you are going to do something for that person and on Christmas day we are going to reveal who you are and we are going to write poems for each other.

Tom Cruise: It was actually the best Christmas I had as a kid! It was a great Christmas!

Interviewer: It sounds like a great Christmas.

The story is direct.  Tom starts by setting the ‘scene’ for the listener.  His parents had just divorced.  There was no money to spend on Christmas gifts.  Food was the most important item.  Tom uses past verb tenses to create the scene for the listener. 

Next, Tom tells the story from his mother’s words.  She is using ‘going to’ to express a future within the story time period.  This gives the story a change of pace.  It feels like we are there with Tom, listening to his mother’s Christmas plan.  It is a nice style and more interesting than telling a whole story with past tense verbs only.  Also, changing the pace of a story helps keeps the listener interested.  In the final two sentences Tom reverts back to the use of past tense verbs and finishes telling the story.  Tom reveals the importance of this memory to the listener with great enthusiasm and excitement in his voice:  this was the best Christmas he had as a kid with excitement in his voice.  The excitement in his voice also creates interest from the listener. 

If you want to try out Tom’s Christmas Memory/Story Style, here it is:

Tom’s Story Telling Template:

1.Set the scene in the past in your own ‘voice’ or perspective.
2.Have one of the main characters in the scene/memory tell the story.
3.Return to your own ‘voice’ and why it was important to you (enthusiastically).

Full and original interview with Tom Cruise 'Christmas Memory" 
(Counter: 6:05 - 7:01 – ‘Christmas Memory’ portion of interview)

Tom’s latest movie Trailer
Mission Impossible 4: Ghost Protocol


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 Teach English and other languages in China!

happy holidays

Celebrity English

mario maurer