My thoughts


Happy New Year!
January 10, 2008, 3:37 am
Filed under: Beginner

On January 31st, we celebrate the new year by going out and partying. Some people go to house parties, some go to a bar, and some just celebrate on the street. Many cities have fireworks when the clock strikes midnight. Some people also pay to go large, organized parties usually held in clubs. You usually have to pay a large price for the ticket or cover charge, and in my experience you get little in return. It is usually very crowded and you ended up spending lots of money on drinks, very few of these places give you anything but a hat. It is common for people to wear a New Year’s hat, usually a colorful and sparkly hat made from cardboard with “2008” written on it.

On January 1st, it is customary to sleep in late due to a hangover from drinking the night before. Some people go shopping, although the after-Christmas sales actually start December 26th. January 1st also means that Christmas is over, so people start taking down their holiday decorations, lights, and tree. There are some organizations that have a service where they will take your tree and recycle it, otherwise it is collected by the garbage man. The garbage day after January 1st is a heavy one, due to all the wrapping paper, boxes, packing materials, and holiday decorations that are thrown away.

I suppose I should explain about our garbage system, as it is different from other countries. Once a week, the garbage is collected. You have to pull your garbage can to the curb before they garbage truck comes, which is usually early in the morning. Many cities also provide a larger container for recycling, which you must also pull to the curb. About once a month, the yard waste is also collected. In Seattle, recycling is collected every other week, on the same day as the garbage. We have a new law that says if your garbage has a large portion of things that could have been recycled, they can charge you a fine. Some places do not have a recycling program, and people have to take their recycling to a recycling center, but this is mainly in the country. However, if you live in an apartment building, you put your garbage and recycling into large dumpsters, which are emptied about once a month.

Last week, the garbage men were very busy as their work was delayed by one day and most people had a lot of garbage!

The beginning of the new year also means work for some companies and departments of companies. It is the beginning of tax season, and companies must start to prepare the forms they must send to their employees and vendors to report their income. Employees receive a from called a W-2, which reports all the money they were paid in the year, and how many taxes were withheld from their pay. Vendors receive a 1099 for all the money they were paid over $400. Companies must send a copy of the W-2s and 1099s to the employees and vendors by February, and they must also send this information to the IRS (Internal Revenue Service) by March. Some people pay an accountant or tax service such as H&R Block to do their taxes, but recently many people do it themselves with a program called Turbotax. Turbotax is very easy to use, and you can even submit your taxes electronically to the IRS. Some banks even offer a version of it on their website. However, companies must use a certified accountant as their taxes can be quite complex. Some people have to pay additional tax, and others get a refund. It usually takes a few weeks to a month to get the refund, and some tax services advertise a faster refund or that they can get you a bigger one. Some companies also market products or services that you can buy with your refund from about February. All taxes must be sent to the IRS in April, or there is a big fee to pay!



What is Halloween?
October 29, 2007, 1:50 am
Filed under: Beginner, Uncategorized

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Halloween is on October 31st every year and is a time for kids to dress up in costume, and to go “trick-or- treating.” In the evening on this day, you can see many children going around to homes in their neighborhood. They knock on the door, and say “trick or treat?” This means that you either give a treat (sweets) or they will pull a trick (do something mean). Sometimes the children say “trick or treat, smell my feet, give me something good to eat.” You give them a treat so they do not do something bad.

When I was a child, trick-or-treating changed. In the 1980’s, there was a scare with the drug Tylenol. Someone put poison in the package, and it was sold. This is called the “Tylenol scare,” and it brought people’s attention to poisoning. Around this time, there was an increase in people poisoning sweets for Halloween, some even put razor bladed in them. So parents were very afraid for their children, and they started checking all the candy to make sure it looked safe. They would not allow their children to eat homemade sweets like popcorn balls and cookies.

Nowadays, many businesses, malls, and schools have trick-or-treating, so that the children have a safe place to go, and the parents do not have to worry about their safety or the sweets.

Adults also dress up for Halloween, and some go out the weekend before Halloween. Some bars and clubs have special events for Halloween. Instead of sweets, we get drinks (but we have to pay). If you go out at night, you can see many interesting costumes. This weekend I saw a shark with legs hanging out if its mouth, Thing 1 and Thing 2 from Dr. Seuss, a mascot from a restaurant in the ’80’s, animals, pirates, the Incredibles, Superman, a Christmas tree, Courtney Love (a guy dressed as her), men dressed as women, and people who looked like they had some accidents.

I dressed up as autumn, with leaves in my hair and wrapped all around me. This was taken by friend, who is a photographer.

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Bewitched
October 21, 2007, 7:33 am
Filed under: Beginner

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Halloween is coming soon, and soon you can see people dressed up in costumes. You will see witches, ghosts, monsters, etc. When I think of witches, I think of a the TV show “Bewitched.”

Have you ever seen Bewitched? It was on TV in 1960’s-1970’s. The main character was Samantha, who is a witch. She is married to Darren, who is mortal (a normal guy). He makes her promise him that she will live like a mortal, without using witchcraft and spells in their lives, but sometime she uses her magic to help Darrin and herself. Sam’s mother, Endora does not accept her mortal son-in-law, hates him and hardly can speak his name correctly. Their snoopy next-door neighbor Gladys Kravitz suspects of Samantha, but can never prove the weird situations she sees to her husband Abner Kravitz.

Samantha was an uncommon name in the United States until Bewitched came along. My name is Samantha, and people always asked if I was named after the TV Show, but I actually was not. These days, the name is more common, and there have been other TV Shows such as “Sex & The City” and “Who’s the Boss?” with characters named Samantha.



Free and Cheap Stuff!
September 9, 2007, 8:11 pm
Filed under: Beginner

This time of year, there are many people moving. You can easily get free or almost free things for your home, such as furniture. In some countries, people do not like having used things, but here in the U.S., it is popular. One person’s junk is another person’s treasure.

In my neighborhood, you can find many pieces of furniture sitting outside. People leave sofas, chairs, dressers, etc. when they are moving out, knowing that someone will take them. Over the weekend, I got a free reclining chair and bar stools.

Recently it has become popular to post free things or things that you want to sell on craigslist. When I moved into my apartment, I got almost everything that I needed for my apartment from craigslist. The only problem with craigslist is that you have to take it away yourself, so you need a big car or truck. It is great if you need to get rid of stuff, you just post an ad, and people will come and take everything away.

If you can’t find it on craigslist, you can also go to thrift stores or second hand shops. I went to Goodwill and got dishes, an office chair, a vacuum cleaner, and things to decorate my apartment. I spent $40.00 and got a lot of stuff. many of the things looked almost new, and if I bought them brand new, I would have spent much more money. Also most thrift stores and second hand shops give their profits to a charity. Goodwill has programs that teach adults job skills and basic education (such as English, how to pass the American Citizenship Test, how to get a high school diploma, etc.)

Garage sales are popular too. These are where people sell the stuff they don’t want in their garage, on their driveway, or in their yard. You can check out the newspaper for ads, but most people just drive around in the morning looking for them. For some people, it is a hobby, they do it every weekend. The prices are cheap, and if you are the seller, you can make some money.

Some people also like to buy used clothes, they get them from thrift stores. You can also get used clothing from consignment shops, which have nicer clothing. If you have some clothes that you do not want anymore but are in good condition, you can take them to a consignment shop, and they will give you a percentage (%) of the price that they sell it for.



Labor Day Weekend
August 30, 2007, 3:55 am
Filed under: Beginner

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Next Monday, September 4th is Labor Day, which is a holiday for us in the U.S. Most companies give their employees the day off, so it is a three day weekend. The holiday is to honor workers. Many people travel over the weekend to other cities, go camping, or hang out with their friends. Many cities have festivals. In Seattle, we have Bumbershoot, which is a music festival.

One reason that it is a big weekend for us is because most public schools and some colleges and universities start right after Labor Day. Most students have had three months off, and Labor Day is the last part of summer.

It is also a big weekend for “back-to-school sales,” many parents have to buy clothes and school supplies for their kids. Over the summer, the schools send out lists of school supplies that the students should have. Often schools do not have much money for supplies, so the parents are asked to buy things for the whole class such as Kleenex tissues, glue, pencils, etc. In many countries, children wear uniforms to school, but not in the U.S., so it is a big shopping weekend. Some families spend a lot of money on clothing, especially if they have teenagers.

I am not sure what my plans are yet, but I will probably get together with my friends and perhaps go to a county fair. Do they have these in your country? Think of the book and movie “Charlotte’s Web.” The purpose is for farms and people in rural areas to compete against each other. The competitions involve animals, fruits and vegetables, baked goods, art, clothing, and other contests. You can see the results of the competitions displayed with the ribbons for 1st, 2nd , and 3rd place. There is also good food and fun exhibits, and rides for the kids. Some fairs also have a rodeo. You can see real cowboys in action!

Whatever your plans are, have a good Labor Day!

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American Food
August 19, 2007, 5:07 am
Filed under: Beginner

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Many people from other countries think that Americans eat at McDonalds everyday. This is certainly not true, sometimes we eat at Taco Bell or Subway! I am joking of course. Many Americans do eat “fast food,” but it is certainly not everyday for most of us. Many of us prefer to get our fast food from coffee shops such as Starbucks and Tully’s. You can get nicer, healthier food, but it is also more expensive.

People who eat at restaurants like McDonalds because it is much cheaper. You can get a lot of food for about $4.00. I do not go to McDonalds because there is little on the menu that is healthy. Even their fruit has something on it which makes it taste funny. If I eat “fast food”, it is usually a sandwich or something from an Asian restaurant, like teriyaki chicken or a Thai dish. These foods are healthier and fill you up more than other fast food. However, I live on the west coast of the U.S., where healthy food is popular. It is not so in other parts of the U.S.

Have you ever heard of the movie “Supersize Me?” In this movie a man goes on a McDonald’s diet and has some health problems as a result. I think that one problem in the U.S. is that the sizes of things is often too big. I was suprised when I went to a Japanese McDonald’s, at how small things were. I think the smaller sizes were good.

However, even in regular restaurants, it can be difficult to eat healthy. Many things have fatty sauces and cheese on them. Salads have salad dressing and cheese with high calories. Although recently, many restaurants have a healthy menu, some restaurants even have menus for certain diet plans like Atkins and Weight Watchers.

Also in restaurants, the size of the meal is very large. I usually eat half and take the rest home and eat it for lunch the next day. We call this “leftovers.” I also used to take my food and give it to a homeless person sometimes. They need it more than me.

We also have some good food too. We have food from all over the world and make it our own. I guess it depends on what you like!



TGIF
July 28, 2007, 3:44 am
Filed under: Beginner

Do you know what TGIF means?  It stands for Thank God It’s Friday!  We say this on Friday, it basically means: YES! THE WEEKEND’s about to start! 

As far as I can tell, this is purely an American expression.  There is even a restaurant called TGIFridays, I guess by going there, you are supposed to have fun.

TGIF to everyone!  What a week this has been!  How can it be August next week?

http://linguaespresso.com



Harry Potter Mania
July 23, 2007, 2:29 am
Filed under: Beginner

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The last Harry Potter book was released this weekend.  People were waiting in long lines for the book.  I went past a Barnes & Noble bookstore on Friday, and the line of people went all the way around the store.  Some people pre-ordered the book from websites like Amazon.com, which guaranteed the book to be delivered by Saturday morning.  I know someone who did this, it came in a special box, which said “ATTENTION MUGGLES – DO NOT BEFORE JULY 21!” Do you know what a “muggles” are?  They are regular people, non-witches.   I thought this was cute. 

I have not read the books myself, but I have seen most of the movies.  The latest movie was released about 2 weeks ago.  I was in L.A. on that day, and was suprised to see the road closed off.  It turned out that it was because of the Harry Potter movie premier.  I could see a bit of the Harry Potter cast on the street.  There were many people, so all I really saw was the back of Daniel Radcliffe(who play Harry Potter)’s head!  I saw the movie a week later, and thought it was pretty good. 



Hello world!
July 14, 2007, 1:44 am
Filed under: Beginner

spaceneedle1.gifspaceneedle1.gifspaceneedle.gifThis is my first time blogging.  I will be coming to you everyday from Seattle, Washington. 

Do you know Seattle?  It is located in the Northwest corner of in the U.S.A. in Washington State, not to be confused with Washington, D.C., which is on the East coast.  Most people think of Micrsoft, Bill Gates, Boeing, Starbucks, and rain when they think of Seattle. 

We do have our fair share of rainy days in Seattle, our annual rainfall is not so much.  The summers make up for all the rainy days, Seattle is really fun in the summer.  We go from a dark, gray city where most people stay indoors to a sunny, bright place where it seems like everyone is enjoying the weather.

People from Japan know Seattle because of Ichiro, the Seattle Mariners baseball player.  We also have a football team, and a mens ‘and womens’ basketball team.