Emergency room in case sharing doesn’t work in Teams

Recently I have had the problem that my participants only saw a black screen when I tried to share something. It seems to happen after some kind of update, Windows or Microsoft, I do not know. Our IT administrator was able to fix it once, but it has recurred.

So to be on the safe side, I will post material I would like to use here, so that participants can go to my blog, open the files and share instead of me – hoping that that works.

A text or topic that is interesting for all and will get its own post is related to ‘best ways of working’. The whole complex of work quality has been in focus a lot lately, partly due to the pandemic lockdown situation that enforced many changes. Some of these changes workers would like to keep, and there seems to be quite some dispute in companies around home office and/or coming back for instance. In this context, the following text offers insights into office designs based on studies conducted. Instead of merely exchanging opinions based on personal experiences and preferences, the studies summarized in this text offer insights based on research into what kind of office design supports which kind of work. Does the open office really support more collaboration? What kind of environment is best for meaningful communication etc.

The Truth about Open Offices

Friday VHV course (posted July 15th, 2022):

A page I would perhaps like to share after our meeting last time is about dangerous sports. We had spoken about diving and reckless roller-coaster riding. This link is interesting for all classes though, and I plan on sharing it in a separate post.

Labour law

Pre-reading vocabulary

  1. to mediate (between)
  2. tripartite (e.g. relationship)
  3. to seek
  4. predictable
  5. to enforce
  6. appalling (conditions)
  7. egregious
  8. to ameliorate
  9. to be committed (to a cause e.g.)

a) to be dedicated to doing something, or being loyal to someone or something 

     (check glosbe for collocations)

b) shocking, horrific, terrible, awful, hideous, horrendous, atrocious, outrageous….

c) able to be foreseen, expected

d) to help two or more fighting parties to find a solution to their differences or conflict

e) to make better, to improve (not: ‘alleviate’ – check if word is used correctly in the text)

f) to (try to) make sure a law for instance is complied to, if necessary by force? to make sure people follow the law

g) to look for something

h) very bad, awful; causing shock or dismay; horrific

i) divided into three parts or consisting of three parties

Find the words in the text

Labour law

Labour law (also known as labor law or employment law) mediates the relationship between workers, employing entities, trade unions and the government. Collective labour law relates to the tripartite relationship between employee, employer and union. Individual labour law concerns employees’ rights at work and through the contract for work. Employment standards are social norms (in some cases also technical standards) for the minimum socially acceptable conditions under which employees or contractors are allowed to work. Government agencies (such as the former US Employment Standards Administration) enforce labour law (legislative, regulatory, or judicial).

Labour law arose in parallel with the Industrial Revolution as the relationship between worker and employer changed from small-scale production studios to large-scale factories. Workers sought better conditions and the right to join (or avoid joining) a labour union, while employers sought a more predictable, flexible and less costly workforce. The state of labour law at any one time is therefore both the product of, and a component of struggles between various social forces.

As England was the first country to industrialize, it was also the first to face the often appalling consequences of industrial revolution in a less regulated economic framework. Over the course of the late 18th and early to mid-19th century the foundation for modern labour law was slowly laid, as some of the more egregious aspects of working conditions were steadily ameliorated through legislation. This was largely achieved through the concerted pressure from social reformers, notably Anthony Ashley-Cooper, 7th Earl of Shaftesbury, and others.

The adoption of labour laws and regulations is an important means of implementing ILO standards, promoting the ILO Declaration and the Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work, and putting the concept of Decent Work into practice. Under the ILO Constitution, the Office is committed to offering technical cooperation and advisory services to member States and to assist them in assessing and, where necessary, framing or revising their labour laws. This includes assistance in the development of national laws and regulations to allow ratification of Conventions or implementation of the corresponding principles.

Analyse the verb forms in the text above and identify them

Metaphor page from TOEFL vocabulary practice

Metaphor (1)

A metaphor is a word or phrase that means one thing and is used to refer to another thing in order to emphasize their similar qualities. For example, in the sentence ‘Picasso was the father of the Cubist movement’, the word father is not used in its usual sense to mean someone’s male parent. It means that Picasso was the person who started the Cubist movement, or that he was the first one to do it successfully. Father is being used in a metaphorical way. Exercise 1: achievements, ideas, and theories Metaphorically, achievements, ideas, and theories are often seen as buildings, with an idea or the process of achieving something being similar to the process of building, and the failure of something being similar to the destruction of a building. Metaphorically, ideas are also like plants, and developing an idea is like getting plants to grow.

Complete sentences 1 – 20 with a word or phrase from the box. In several cases you will need to change the form of the words. The first one has been done for you.

1. The newspaper article threatened the whole edifice of government, from the President all the way down to grass-roots politicians.

2. The company Directors were convinced people would want their new product, but then early research and negative feedback began to ……………….. of doubt in their minds.

3. His argument was carefully ……………….. and was extremely difficult to dispute.

4. Her ideas were carefully ……………….. by a series of results showing that they had been put into practice and actually worked.

5. Superstitious beliefs are ……………….. in many cultures, and nothing can change these beliefs.

6. He was the chief ……………….. of the country’s new economic policies.

7. The new government ……………….. for radical changes to the health service, all of which would be implemented over the next five years.

8. The invention of the microchip was a ……………….. achievement.

9. The contract acted as a ……………….. for future cooperation between the two organizations.

10. The business was started in 1986, and over the next 20 years was ……………….. into one of the most powerful companies in the country.

11. The new constitution was ……………….. traditional values and a desire for progress.

12. The Web site is ……………….., but we hope to have it up and running by the end of the month.

13. The idea seemed good in theory, but ……………….. when practical tests were first carried out.

14. The new technology was revolutionary and ……………….., but was initially seen as a simple novelty.

15. His life’s work was in ……………….., but it did not deter him from starting again.

16. I put forward several ideas, but to my anger and disappointment each one was comprehensively ……………….. by the board.

17. His books were very popular because he had a ……………….. imagination and a talent for telling a good story.

18. Nobody believed him at first, but a series of unexplained events meant that his ideas quickly ……………….. and people were more prepared to listen to him.

19. Her ideas ……………….. her belief in the existence of life on other planets.

20. The discussion was very ……………….., and we all came away from it believing that at last we were going to achieve something worthwhile.

Exerpts from Bill Bryson’s Notes from a Small Island and History of Home

Check out videos with him reading, or being interviewed. Background to doing Durham Online Escape Room together.

Notes From a Small Island

Chapter 25

I was heading for Newcastle, by way of York, when I did another impetuous thing. I got off at Durham, intending to poke around the cathedral for an hour or so, and fell in love with it instantly in a serious way.

Why, it’s wonderful—a perfect little city—and I kept thinking, Why did no one tell me about this? I knew, of course, that it had a fine Norman cathedral but I had no idea that it was so splendid. I couldn’t believe that not once in twenty years had anyone said to me, “You’ve never been to Durham? Good God, man, you must go at once! Please—take my car.”

 I had read countless travel pieces in Sunday papers about weekends away in York, Canterbury, Norwich, Bath, even Lincoln, but I couldn’t remember reading a single one about Durham, and when I asked friends about it, I found hardly any who had ever been there. So let me say it now: If you have never been to Durham, go at once. Take my car. It’s wonderful.

The cathedral, a mountain of reddish-brown stone standing high above a lazy loop of the River Wear, is of course its glory. Everything about it was perfect—not just its setting and execution but also, no less notably, the way it is run today. For a start there was no nagging for money, no “voluntary” admission fee. Outside, there was simply a discreet sign announcing that it cost £700,000 a year to maintain the cathedral and that it was now engaged on a £400,000 renovation project on the east wing and would very much appreciate any money that visitors might spare.

Inside, there were two modest collecting boxes and nothing else—no clutter, no nagging notices, no irksome bulletin boards or stupid Eisenhower flags, nothing at all to detract from the unutterable soaring majesty of the interior. It was a perfect day to see it. Sun slanted lavishly through the stained-glass windows, highlighting the stout pillars with their sumptuously grooved patterns and spattering the floors with motes of floating color. There were even wooden pews.

I’m no judge of these things, but the window at the choir end looked to me at least the equal of the more famous one at York, and this one at least you could see in all its splendor since it wasn’t tucked away in a transept. And the stained-glass window at the other end was even finer.

Well, I can’t talk about this without babbling because it was just so splendid. As I stood there, one of only a dozen or so visitors, a verger passed and issued a cheery hello. I was charmed by this show of friendliness and captivated to find myself amid such perfection, and I unhesitatingly gave Durham my vote for best cathedral in Britain.

When I had drunk my fill, I showered the collection pot with coins and wandered off for the most fleeting of looks at the old quarter of town, which was no less ancient and perfect, and returned to the station feeling simultaneously impressed and desolate at just how much there was to see in this little country and what folly it had been to suppose that I might see anything more than a fraction of it in seven flying weeks.


Bryson, Bill. Notes from a Small Island (S.263). 1995


Match the words with their definitions

irksomelarge in quantity and expensive or impressive; very generous:  
lavishsomething, especially a piece of dust, that is so small it is almost impossible to see; also used for a small piece of anything  
sumptuousannoying, bothersome, galling, irritating  
spatteringsomething that lasts only for a very short time, passing swiftly : transitory  
motesthe act of splashing a (liguid) substance on a surface  
transeptact of being stupid, or foolish, or a stupid action, idea  
fleetingThe transverse part of a cruciform church, crossing the nave at right angles.  
follyimpressive in a way that seems expensive  

History of Home

From chapter two


The human past is traditionally divided into three very unequal epochs – the Palaeolithic (or ‘old stone age’), which ran from 2.5 million years ago to about 10,000 years ago; the Mesolithic (‘middle stone age’), covering the period of transition from hunter-gathering lifestyles to the widespread emergence of agriculture, from 10,000 to 6,000 years ago; and the Neolithic (‘new stone age’) which covers the closing but extremely productive two thousand years or so of prehistory, up to the Bronze Age. (…) The important thought to hold on to is that for the first 99 per cent of our history as human beings we didn’t do much of anything but procreate and survive, but then people all over the world discovered farming, irrigation, writing, architecture, government and the other refinements of existence that collectively add up to what we fondly call civilization.


It remains one of the great mysteries of human development. Even now scientists can tell you where it happened and when, but not why. Almost certainly (well, we think almost certainly) it had something to do with some big changes in the weather. About 12,000 years ago, Earth began to warm quite rapidly, then for reasons unknown it plunged back into frigidity for a thousand years or so – a kind of last gasp of the ice ages. This period is known to scientists as the Younger Dryas. (…) After ten further centuries of cold, the world warmed rapidly again and has stayed comparatively warm ever since. Almost everything we have done as advanced beings has been done in this brief spell of climatological glory. The interesting thing about the Neolithic Revolution is that it happened all over the Earth, among people who could have no idea that others in distant places were doing precisely the same things. Farming was independently invented at least seven times – in China, the Middle East, New Guinea, the Andes, the Amazon basin, Mexico and west Africa. Cities likewise emerged in six places – China, Egypt, India, Mesopotamia, Central America and the Andes. That all of these things happened all over, often without any possibility of shared contact, is on the face of it really quite uncanny.      (…)

Dogs, for instance, were domesticated at much the same time in places as far apart as England, Siberia and North America. It is tempting to think of this as a kind of global light-bulb moment, but that is really stretching things. Most of the developments actually involved vast periods of trial, error and adjustment, often over the course of thousands of years. Agriculture started 11,500 years ago in the Levant, but 8,000 years ago in China and only a little over 5,000 years ago in most of the Americas (…)

So, if people didn’t settle down to take up farming, why then did they embark on this entirely new way of living? (…)

The short answer is that no one knows why agriculture developed as it did. Making food out of plants is hard work. The conversion of wheat, rice, corn, millet, barley and other grasses into staple foodstuffs is one of the great achievements of human history, but also one of the more unexpected ones. You have only to consider the lawn outside your window to realize that grass in its natural state is not an obvious foodstuff for non-ruminants such as ourselves. For us, making grass edible is a challenge that can be solved only with a lot of careful manipulation and protracted ingenuity. Take wheat. Wheat is useless as a food until made into something much more complex and ambitious like bread, and that takes a great deal of effort. Somebody must first separate out the grain and grind it into meal, then convert the meal into flour, then mix that with other components like yeast and salt to make dough. Then the dough must be kneaded to a particular consistency, and finally the resulting lump must be baked with precision and care. The scope for failure in the last step alone is so great that in every society in which bread has featured baking has been turned over to professionals from the earliest stages.

It is not as if farming brought a great improvement in living standards either. A typical hunter-gatherer enjoyed a more varied diet and consumed more protein and calories than settled people, and took in five times as much vitamin C as the average person today. Even in the bitterest depths of the ice ages, we now know, nomadic people ate surprisingly well – and surprisingly healthily. Settled people, by contrast, became reliant on a much smaller range of foods, which all but ensured dietary insufficiencies. (…) The average height of people actually fell by almost six inches in the early days of farming in the Near East.

(…) People living together are vastly more likely to spread illness from household to household, and the close exposure to animals through domestication meant that flu (from pigs or fowl), smallpox and measles (from cows and sheep), and anthrax (from horses and goats, among others) could become part of the human condition, too. As far as we can tell, virtually all of the infectious diseases have become endemic only since people took to living together.   (…)

From chapter 4

The Kitchen

IN THE SUMMER OF 1662, Samuel Pepys, then a rising young figure in the British Navy Office, invited his boss, Naval Commissioner Peter Pett, to dinner at his home on Seething Lane, near the Tower of London. Pepys was twenty-nine years old and presumably hoped to impress his superior. Instead, to his horror and dismay, he discovered when his plate of sturgeon was set before him that it had within it ‘many little worms creeping’. Finding one’s food in an advanced state of animation was not a commonplace event even in Pepys’s day – he was truly mortified – but being at least a little uncertain about the freshness and integrity of food was a fairly usual condition. If it wasn’t rapidly decomposing from inadequate preservation, there was every chance that it was coloured or bulked out with some dangerous and unappealing substances. (…) There was hardly a foodstuff, it seems, that couldn’t be improved or made more economical to the retailer through a little deceptive manipulation.   (…)

Getting food to distant markets in an edible condition was a constant challenge. People dreamed of being able to eat foods from far away or out of season. In January 1859, much of America followed eagerly as a ship laden with three hundred thousand juicy oranges raced under full sail from Puerto Rico to New England to show that it could be done. By the time it arrived, however, more than two-thirds of the cargo had rotted to a fragrant mush. Producers in more distant lands could not hope to achieve even that much.

Argentinians raised massive herds of cattle on their endless and accommodating pampas, but had no way to ship the meat, so most of their cows were boiled down for their bones and tallow and the meat was simply wasted.

(…) What was desperately needed was a way of keeping foods safe and fresh for longer periods than nature allowed. (…)

Where ice really came into its own was in the refrigeration of railway cars, which allowed the transport of meat and other perishables from coast to coast. Chicago became the epicentre of the railway industry in part because it could generate and keep huge quantities of ice. Individual ice houses in Chicago held up to 250,000 tons of ice. Before ice, in hot weather milk (which came out of the cow warm, of course) could only be kept for an hour or two before it began to spoil. Chicken had to be eaten on the day of plucking. Fresh meat was seldom safe for more than a day. Now food could be kept longer locally, but it could also be sold in distant markets. Chicago got its first lobster in 1842, brought in from the east coast in a refrigerated railway car. Chicagoans came to stare at it as if it had arrived from a distant planet. For the first time in history food didn’t have to be consumed close to where it was produced. Farmers on the boundless plains of the American Midwest could not only produce food more cheaply and abundantly than anywhere else, but they could now sell it almost anywhere.

Developments in food preservation were part of a much wider revolution in food production that changed the dynamics of agriculture everywhere. (…)

From chapter 6

The Fusebox

We forget just how painfully dim the world was before electricity. A candle – a good candle – provides barely a hundredth of the illumination of a single 100-watt light bulb. Open your refrigerator door and you summon forth more light than the total amount enjoyed by most households in the eighteenth century. The world at night for much of history was a very dark place indeed.

From chapter 14

The Stairs

I WE NOW COME to the most dangerous part of the house – in fact, one of the most hazardous environments anywhere: the stairs. No one knows exactly how dangerous the stairs are because records are curiously deficient. Most countries keep records of deaths and injuries sustained in falls, but not of what caused the falls in the first place. So in the United States, for instance, it is known that about 12,000 people a year hit the ground and never get up again, but whether that is because they have fallen from a tree, a roof or off the back porch is unknown. In Britain, fairly scrupulous stair-fall figures were kept until 2002, but then the Department for Trade and Industry decided that keeping track of these things was an extravagance it could no longer afford, which seems a fairly misguided economy considering how much fall injuries cost society.

At Home (Bryson) . Transworld. Kindle-Version.

Bill Bryson reads from book

Bill Bryson – At Home – Bing video