English Challenge 10

I.  Article

A. What If Contentment Were a Choice? – Link / Excerpt and Questions /

B. Excerpt to Read and Record

People really can change

“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”

If you type “People don’t…” into Google, its first guess for the completion of your sentence will be “… change.”  The world seems to want us to believe this, but the idea is quite ludicrous.  If people didn’t change, then we’d all still be running around in our Spiderman jumpsuits trying to deface our little sister’s My Little Ponies (just me?).

Of course we change.  We’re changing every moment of every day.  Our brains literally, physically change to accommodate new information.  They reshape themselves to make frequently thought ideas more efficient in the future.  So, think something like “life is brilliant” every morning, and before long, you’ll have a bespoke brain made for thinking about life’s brilliance.  On top of that, our cells regenerate, our values reorganize themselves, and we make (and break) habits all the time… We are evolving things. Change is what we do.

Working as a therapist means that I get to witness people changing on a daily basis.  I see clients letting go of phobias, addictions and other issues that have plagued their lives for decades.  Over the years, those experiences have strengthened my faith in my own ability to evolve when I want to.  It’s not effortless, but it’s a hell of a lot easier than I once thought it would be, because my clients have hypnotized me into believing that change really is possible.

So, if there’s something that you think you’re stuck with, then fear not.  You probably aren’t. It’s just a matter of training your brain to believe otherwise.

We are beings that think, not beings that are thought

Contrary to how it can seem, happy people are not happy because they just don’t have negative thoughts.  Their secret is knowing that those thoughts are not reality, and that they don’t have any real power.

When a client’s life is being ruined by catastrophic visions of the future, or an inner critic that spins torturous stories about their lack of worth, our sessions will involve work for claiming control over the more problematic patterns.

It starts with awareness.  The knowledge that we’re thinking a thought already de-potentiates it.  After that, we can play with it (quite literally) to further deny it of impact.

Human beings are programmed to learn through play.  We’ve been growing this way ever since our very first Spidey-suits.  Some of the most easy and effective therapeutic interventions utilize this fact to help people change their minds (again, literally).  Here are two of them for you to have some fun with:

  1. If you do your negative thinking in an internal voice, you can adjust its pitch or quality to change the emotion it provokes. Next time you catch your inner critic telling you that you can’t do something, make it sound like Mickey Mouse and listen to it again.  I’m willing to bet money that it’ll feel a little less legitimate that way.
  2. If it’s a visual thought — if you’re seeing yourself failing in some way — turn the mental image into an old, black-and-white photograph, so that it feels less current, less real. Then, imagine it getting smaller, or drifting off into the distance.

These things aren’t magic tricks.  They’re just ways of making meaningful suggestions that the unconscious mind can hear.  The more often you practice sending the message that you can control your own thinking, the easier it’ll be for you to automatically let go of the less-than-positive ideas that you have in the future… just like those other happy people do.

C. Comprehension Questions

  1. Does the article think that people can change?
  2. According to this article, what are two “fun” ways to help you change your mind?
  3. What does this article say is the most wonderful gift that therapy can give you?
  4. The article has a heading that “Every day can be a good day”. How can this be?
  5. Explain the term “dead people’s goals” within the context of this article.

D. Grammar Analysis

  1. List an example of this pattern: “the more…, the more…”
  2. What does “from time to time” mean?
  3. What does “get people back” mean?
  4. What does “getting even” mean?
  5. List three examples of “indirect questions” used in this article.
  6. What does “of late” mean?
  7. What does N.B. mean in the last paragraph?
  8. Who is Mickey Mouse?

II.  Song

A. Tie a Yellow Ribbon ‘Round the Old Oak Tree – Song Video / Lyrics and Questions /

B. Story

This song is about a man who has just finished a three-year prison term for a crime that is not revealed to us.  He has just been released and is taking a public bus to return home to his wife (or girlfriend).  He is unsure if she wants him to come back after his three-year absence.  Perhaps her love for him has withered and died.  To avoid embarrassing her, he previously wrote her a letter telling her to tie a yellow ribbon around an old oak tree in their front yard if she wants him back.  Otherwise, if he doesn’t see a yellow ribbon, he will stay on the bus and keep going.  He will willingly go from her life forever with no ill feelings, acknowledging and accepting the blame for their breakup as being all his fault.

After a casual conversation with a passenger, his story spreads among the passengers, and they sympathize with his situation and cross their fingers for him.  As he approaches his home, he cannot bear to look at the tree for fear of what he might, or might not, see.  He asks the bus driver to look for him and tell him what he sees.  The whole bus is in suspense as the bus rounds a turn and the oak tree comes into sight.  The entire bus begins cheering when they see the tree.  It is not encircled by one yellow ribbon… It is encircled by one hundred yellow ribbons!  She is welcoming his home with open arms!  He has a second chance at finding happiness.

After this song became popular, it started a tradition in the USA to use a yellow ribbon to welcome someone back after a long absence.

C. Lyrics

01    I’m comin’ home, I’ve done my time.
02    Now I’ve got to know what is and isn’t mine.
03    If you received my letter telling you I’d soon be free,
04    Then you’ll know just what to do
05    If you still want me, if you still want me.

06    Whoa, tie a yellow ribbon round the ole oak tree.
07    It’s been three long years.  Do you still want me?
08    If I don’t see a ribbon round the ole oak tree,
09    I’ll stay on the bus, forget about us, put the blame on me,
10    If I don’t see a yellow ribbon round the ole oak tree.

11    Bus driver, please look for me.
12    ‘Cause I couldn’t bear to see what I might see.
13    I’m really still in prison. and my love, she holds the key.
14    A simple yellow ribbon’s what I need to set me free,
15    And I wrote and told her please…

16    Whoa, tie a yellow ribbon round the ole oak tree.
17    It’s been three long years.  Do you still want me?
18    If I don’t see a ribbon round the ole oak tree,
19    I’ll stay on the bus, forget about us, put the blame on me,
20    If I don’t see a yellow ribbon round the ole oak tree

21    Now the whole damned bus is cheerin’,
22    And I can’t believe I see…
23    A hundred yellow ribbons round the ole oak tree!
24    I’m comin’ home…

25    Tie a ribbon round the ole oak tree
26    Tie a ribbon round the ole oak tree
27    Tie a ribbon round the ole oak tree

28    Tie a ribbon round the ole oak tree
29    Tie a ribbon round the ole oak tree
30    Tie a ribbon round the ole oak tree

31    Tie a ribbon round the ole oak tree
32    Tie a ribbon round the ole oak tree

D. Questions for the Students

  1. How long was he in prison?
  2. Why was he in prison?
  3. What story does he tell on the bus?
  4. How do his fellow bus passengers feel about his situation?
  5. What does Line 02 mean?
  6. What does he mean when he says he is “still in prison” and “she holds the key”?
  7. What favor does he ask of the bus driver and why?
  8. What do the passengers see when his house comes into view?

E. Grammar Points

  1. In the story description, what does “withered” mean?
  2. In the story description, what does “crossed their fingers” mean?
  3. In the story description, what does “cannot bear to look” mean?
  4. In the story description, what does “with open arms” mean?
  5. In Line 01, what does “I’ve done my time” mean?


A. Can We Build AI without Losing Control over It – Link / Excerpt & Questions /

B. Read and Record – Excerpt

  1. I’m going to talk about a failure of intuition that many of us suffer from. It’s really a failure to detect a certain kind of danger.  I’m going to describe a scenario that I think is both terrifying and likely to occur, and that’s not a good combination, as it turns out.  And yet rather than be scared, most of you will feel that what I’m talking about is kind of cool.
  2. I’m going to describe how the gains we make in artificial intelligence could ultimately destroy us. And in fact, I think it’s very difficult to see how they won’t destroy us or inspire us to destroy ourselves.  And yet if you’re anything like me, you’ll find that it’s fun to think about these things.  And that response is part of the problem.  OK?  That response should worry you.  And if I were to convince you in this talk that we were likely to suffer a global famine, either because of climate change or some other catastrophe, and that your grandchildren, or their grandchildren, are very likely to live like this, you wouldn’t think, “Interesting.  I like this TED Talk.”
  3. Famine isn’t fun. Death by science fiction, on the other hand, is fun, and one of the things that worries me most about the development of AI at this point is that we seem unable to marshal an appropriate emotional response to the dangers that lie ahead.  I am unable to marshal this response, and I’m giving this talk.
  4. It’s as though we stand before two doors. Behind door number one, we stop making progress in building intelligent machines.  Our computer hardware and software just stop getting better for some reason.  Now take a moment to consider why this might happen.  I mean, given how valuable intelligence and automation are, we will continue to improve our technology if we are at all able to.  What could stop us from doing this?  A full-scale nuclear war?  A global pandemic?  An asteroid impact?  Justin Bieber becoming president of the United States?
  5. The point is, something would have to destroy civilization as we know it. You have to imagine how bad it would have to be to prevent us from making improvements in our technology permanently, generation after generation.  Almost by definition, this is the worst thing that’s ever happened in human history.
  6. So the only alternative, and this is what lies behind door number two, is that we continue to improve our intelligent machines year after year after year. At a certain point, we will build machines that are smarter than we are, and once we have machines that are smarter than we are, they will begin to improve themselves.  And then we risk what the mathematician I.J. Good called an “intelligence explosion,” that the process could get away from us.
  7. Now, this is often caricatured, as I have here, as a fear that armies of malicious robots will attack us. But that isn’t the most likely scenario.  It’s not that our machines will become spontaneously malevolent.  The concern is really that we will build machines that are so much more competent than we are that the slightest divergence between their goals and our own could destroy us.
  8. Just think about how we relate to ants. We don’t hate them.  We don’t go out of our way to harm them.  In fact, sometimes we take pains not to harm them.  We step over them on the sidewalk.  But whenever their presence seriously conflicts with one of our goals, let’s say when constructing a building like this one, we annihilate them without a qualm.  The concern is that we will one day build machines that, whether they’re conscious or not, could treat us with similar disregard.

C. Comprehension Questions

  1. What is the gist (basic message) of this article?
  2. List at least three other ways that civilization as we know it could come to an end.
  3. Describe his ant analogy that he uses to compare AI and the human race.
  4. Describe his analogy about getting a message from an alien race.
  5. Do you agree or disagree?
  6. Explain why his “best case scenario” doesn’t end too well either.
  7. There is mention of Moore’s Law. Look it up and explain this law.
  8. There is mention of the Manhattan Project. Look it up and explain what this project did.
  9. “A god” was mentioned in this article in what context or meaning of the word?

D. Grammar Analysis

  1. In Paragraphs 5 and 6 are the expressions “generation after generation” and “year after year after year”. Create a few other phrases like these using different nouns.
  2. In Paragraph 17, what are these expressions called: no smarter than, a million times faster than?
  3. In Paragraph 22, what does “a long way off” mean?
  4. Trite phrase: Paragraph 22 says, “Don’t worry your pretty little head about it.”  When is this phrase usually used?
  5. In Paragraph 23, the Latin phrase non sequitur is used. Explain what this means and give an example if you can.



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