“Autobiography in Five Short Chapters” by Portia Nelson

I want to dedicate this poem to all students. It is all about making mistakes and learning with them.


Autobiography in Five Short Chapters
by Portia Nelson


Chapter I

I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk
I fall in.
I am lost … I am helpless.
It isn’t my fault.
It takes me forever to find a way out.

Chapter II

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend I don’t see it.
I fall in again.
I can’t believe I am in the same place
but, it isn’t my fault.
It still takes a long time to get out.

Chapter III

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it is there.
I still fall in … it’s a habit.
my eyes are open
I know where I am.
It is my fault.
I get out immediately.

Chapter IV

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.

Chapter V

I walk down another street.


Copyright (c) 1993, by Portia Nelson from the book There’s A Hole in My Sidewalk. Reproduced with kind permission from Beyond Words Publishing, Hillsboro, Oregon.


Making mistakes is natural for us humans. It is important for all of us to understand the process of learning. I’m not saying that we have to make mistakes all the time; the idea is to analyze it, learn with it and not repeat it, in order to make new ones. That is what this poem is all about.

On the first chapter the person has fallen inside a hole and is completely lost. The person can’t see it as one’s own mistake (“It isn’t my fault”). There are times when we’ll blame someone else instead of facing reality and seeing ourselves as performers of the actions that led us to be “inside the hole”. It’s easier to blame somebody else and run from it as a victim. If we do it, we’ll be able to create a “shield” to protect us from others and their judgment. Sometimes it isn’t really our fault. Once the person is not prepared to perform a task maybe it’s because he or she was not well instructed or hasn’t studied enough. In a nutshell, this first chapter is all about getting lost.

The second chapter the person pretends not to see the hole and falls into it again. This can be understood as a form of pretending you’re not the doer. The hole is there and even if you fall into it again you are not throwing yourself inside it, you’re “accidently” falling, or even being thrown (in case you say it’s not your fault). Making the same mistake is a habit, and it must be changed. Life gives us opportunities to learn and we have to. That’s why we’re there, making that mistake. I believe, as it says in the second chapter as well, that in some cases it takes some (or a long) time for us to learn. It depends on the person and one’s learning process. Culture and knowledge counts a lot when it comes to learning things in life, but everybody has the potential. Wanting to change is the real important issue.

On the third chapter, the person recognizes the hole, falls into it, but finally realizes it’s a habit. By saying (‘my eyes are open’), one shows the awareness of the action, understanding who has just performed the action of falling, oneself. The need to get out of the hole symbolizes the will to do things differently, to escape from ignorance. At the moment we all see we are in an uncomfortable position and it’s our fault, it feels different. We get frustrated and understand the reason of our fall. Recognizing our mistakes is really important, and once we do it, we can start acting differently, taking responsibility for our own deeds. You know that if you don’t move, nothing moves. That’s when you gather all your strength and arise. In my opinion, it’s a beautiful passage. We can consider it as the climax, naming it a “wake up call”.

The fourth chapter is when the person decides that he or she is not going to fall into the hole again (make the same mistake, act the same way and get the same result). It symbolizes a new perspective.

The last chapter we can see the person taking another way, moving on with life. Probably in this new path one will find different obstacles, falling into new holes and going on new processes of learning over and over again.

One thing is certain; once you face a difficult situation, you’ll have an outcome. It’s going to be a different one according to how things happen in life and how you handle them, but it’s inevitable. What you are looking for is not the outcome, but the process. In a simple analogy, when you start studying something the end is already known. What is it? Having knowledge in it. So what’s left for us if the future is so predictable? The learning process! Trust me, it’s really worth going through it!!!


I hope you liked it! If you did (or even if you didn’t), comment and share! See you next time!

Introduction to business English vocabulary and comprehension

Hello everyone! As I mentioned, from now on I’ll be posting some things that I’m currently studying that I find important for a person to know when business is the matter. I have been suggested to study through a book named Business English Handbook by the editor MACMILLAN. The book is great! It has theory and application of it and also a CD for you to listen to some texts. Here I’ll only speak of the subjects superficially, however, if it doesn’t fulfill your needs, buy the book and practice it yourself. Writing about it makes me study it over and over again. This is also one of the reasons why I keep this blog.

The first and second chapters are simply an introduction to what the vast business vocabulary and comprehension are. So far I have only studied these two, so they are what I’m posting today. Due to my last year in the university and the amount of papers and my private classes (current work) I am pretty busy at the moment, so I won’t promise the next posts are going to be soon. What I can guarantee is that as far as I study business in English you’ll know what I’m seeing.

So, as a beginning, the first chapter of the book is called Industries and Companies. It approaches the difference between the kinds of industries and companies and what is provided by them. To start I’ll give you some explanation as the book itself does and at the end of each chapter I’ll talk more about the vocabulary that is used in these terms.

To begin with, let’s start with the way we can classify the economy:

  • Primary industries: These industries gather basically the raw material and include agriculture, forestry and mining;
  • Secondary industries: These industries receive the raw material and basically transform it. It is the constructions and manufacturing. Manufacturing itself is often divided into capital goods, durable goods and non-durable goods (don’t worry, at the end I will explain all these words).
  • Service industries: As the word itself explains, industries that provide services such as banks, cinemas, theaters, etc.

An economy can also be divided into two important groups:

  • The private sector: The private sector is made of large corporations, SMEs (Small and Medium-sized Enterprizes) that are held by individuals and individual working on a self-employed basis. It means it has no connection whatsoever to the government;
  • The public sector: On the other hand, the public sector is basically made of SOEs (State-Owned Enterprises), which means they are totally connected and ruled by the government. Examples of it are some hospitals, schools, etc.

We have to be careful under these two kinds of economy and be aware of what kind of sector some industries are because they sometimes begin belonging to the private sector but are bought by the public sector, or the other way around, having companies that were once in the public sector but bought by shareholders. An example of each is Vale do Rio Doce. It was bought and now belongs to the public sector and the subways once belonged to the public sector and now are managed by shareholders.

Moving on, now we can talk about the types of business. A business can be:

  • A sole trader (US: sole proprietorship). Here the company is owned and managed by one person. This is also called self-employment and people who work in this type of business refer to themselves as ‘freelancers’.
  • A partnership. As the word is self-explanatory, a partnership type of business is when it is run by two people. Famous cases for this kind of business are lawyers, architects and auditing firms. It is typically because these professionals have the tendency to create a network during the period they are in the university, graduation, MBA and other courses. This network creates bonds that make you trust in another person in a level to have a partnership business with him/her.
  • A limited liability company: In this case the company and the owners are connected only by the hiring procedure. The responsibilities of the company are not responsibilities of the owners. In case there is any debt from the company, the company is supposed to pay it, not the ones who manage it with their own profit. It doesn’t mean the managers are not going to pay for mistakes made as they work there. This kind of company is usually small and run by family-members. It is a private company, because the public cannot participate as a shareholder, by buying percentages of it in the stock market.
  • A public limited company (US: a corporation): Basically this kind of company is owned by shareholders (stockholders). These shareholders might be:
    • Large financial institutions;
    • Other companies;
    • Members of the public.

How does this kind of company work? Each institution, company or member of the public hold a percentage bought in the stock market and according to it get an amount of the profit of the company. These are usually large corporations made of a board. This board is run by a president, directors and people who represent the owners, regularly managers hired by them.

  • A franchise: This kind of company is very famous. A company gets big and strong enough and the ones who run it decide to share the name, reputation and products. This use is very restricted and cannot simply be ignored. Examples of companies like that is McDonald’s, (fast-food in general), English Schools (in Brazil it is very common), etc. Its reputation must not suffer anything negative, so each franchisee must respect the regulations to continue using its name. There are continuous degrees of control to check if the franchisee is keeping the quality of the product / service.

To finish we’ll see how to expand a business. There are many forms to make it happen:

  • Internal growth: stay private. The company, due to planning, communication and other forms, increases its sales, hires more employees, but continue private. Usually family-member companies;
  • Internal growth: IPO. In this case, the company becomes larger than it was initially, usually family-member companies with stock-market listing. This process is called IPO (Initial Public Offering) and is the kind of procedure where other people get interested in the company or segment it works in and invest in it, buying shares. Sometimes the ones who rule the company allow only 49% of it to be bought so they can continue with most of the percentage, making the most important decisions. Sometimes they let it go as it goes and maintain the quantity they believe is valuable to them;
  • Internal growth: ‘trade sale’ to a much larger company in the same sector. This is also very common, when the owners of the company sell it entirely, and its name usually disappears. This has been the way great and famous companies of today did to increase their way to provide the increase of orders. Many start-ups in the IT and biotechnology companies did it (Microsoft, Intel, Google grew fast by buying start-ups);
  • Merger: When two established companies join one form (Mercedes and Chrysler);
  • Acquisition (takeover): As the word says itself, one company buys another. It is common for the company to buy a large number of shares of one company, but keep its name and trading name, becoming a subsidiary of the larger ‘parent company’.

Wow! I know, a lot! I hope you got it. In case of doubts, go ahead and ask me questions. I’ll do my best to help. Now let’s go for vocabulary. What is important here?

Industry Groups:

–       Consumer discretionary: Ex.: Automobiles and components, Household durables (electronic stuff such as: TV, refrigerator, etc), Leisure equipment and products, textiles, apparel and luxury goods, consumer services (hotels and restaurant, leisure facilities and, education services), media (advertising, broadcasting, movies, entertainment, publishing), etc.

–       Consumer staples: Food, beverage and tobacco production, food and drug retailing, Household and personal products.

–       Health Care: Health care equipment and services, pharmaceuticals, biotechnology and life sciences.

–       Energy: Energy equipment and service, oil and gas.

–       Material: Chemicals, construction materials, containers and packaging, metals and mining, paper and forest products.

–       Capital goods: Aerospace and defense, building products, construction and engineering, electrical equipment, industrial conglomerates, machinery, trading companies and distributors.

–       Transportations: Air freight and logistics, airlines, marine, road and rail, transportation infrastructure.

–       Commercial services and supplies: Cleaning auditing, human resources and employment, office supplies, security, waste management, etc.

–       IT: Information Technology.

–       Diversified financials: Services, consumer finance, capital markets (asset management, investment banking and brokerage).

There is an activity from the book I liked a lot. It presents 4 similar words that can’t work for the same purpose. Appliance, device, equipment and machinery:

  1. Kitchen / office / standard: equipment
  2. Heavy / agricultural / construction: machinery
  3. A handheld / labour-saving / safety: device
  4. A household / domestic / electrical: appliance


Hope you liked it! Enjoy! Share! Comment!

Business Vocabulary and Knowledge, Everybody Needs It!

Hello people, here I am, thinking about my future. That is kind of creepy, however very exciting, because of the challenges I am facing nowadays. As my favorite book is The Odyssey by Homer, I am at the moment feeling like Odysseus, in the middle of the ocean, not knowing where to go. I asked a tip for a couple of friends and got what I wanted.

Well, to sum up, I’m looking for getting to know business English, something I have never needed and now, more than ever, I do. I guess I am not the only one who needs it, so that’s why I’m here. I would like to invite you to join me in my odyssey through the thunderstorms and ghosts of the unknown. LOL, I am making it bigger than it really is. I am not saying it is not big, I am just saying that it is not that big. Here is the thing, I am going to publish here everything I consider really interesting and relevant in terms of business English and, if it suits you, great, if it does not, it was worth trying! Let’s say it is going to be a diary.

So, welcome to Rafael’s Odyssey! It is not THE Odyssey, but I feel like Odysseus right now. Odysseus taught me something really important, “inteligence beats strength” by facing the cyclops and making a fool of him . So, let’s study and make a fool of life! Feel free to ask questions and I will do my best to gather the answer for you. If you can, give me tips too!

See you!!!

So you still think Greece was the cradle of Western Civilization? Think again!

How did Egypt come by Her knowledge? When broke the dawn of that civilization whose wondrous perfection is suggested by the bits and fragments supplied to us by the archaeologists? That no nation knew as much as herself is a fact demonstrated by history.

papyrus depicting Nefertari and Isis, private collection

The Egyptians were far better acquainted with hydrostatics and hydraulic engineering than ourselves. The Romans, at a far later period, got their notions on hydraulic constructions from the Egyptians. If we turn to architecture, we find displayed before our eyes wonders which baffle all description. These gigantic pyramids and temples have a vastness and beauty which are still impressive after the lapse of thousands of years. The mass of masonry in the Pyramid of Cheops measures 82,111,000 cubic feet, and weighs over 6 million tons. The immense number of squared stones show us the unparalleled skill of the Egyptian quarrymen. The joints are scarcely perceptible, and not wider than the thickness of silver paper, and the cement so tenacious that fragments of the casing stones still remain in their original position, notwithstanding the lapse of so many centuries and the violence by which they were detached. Who, of our modern architects and chemists, will rediscover the indestructible cement of the oldest Egyptian buildings?

Herodotus informs us that each successive king erected one pyramid to commemorate his reign and serve as his sepulchre. But Herodotus did not tell all, although he knew the REAL purpose of the pyramid was very different from that which he assigns to it. Were it not for his religious scruples, he might have added that, externally, it symbolized the creative principle of nature, and illustrated also the principles of geometry, mathematics, astrology and astronomy. Internally, it was a majestic fane, in whose recesses were performed the Mysteries, and whose walls had often witnessed the initiation scenes of members of the royal family.The Egyptians excelled in all arts. They made paper so excellent in quality as to be time-proof. They took out the pith of the papyrus, dissected and opened the fibre and made it as thin as foolscap paper, but far more durable. Before Greece came into existence, the arts, with the Egyptians, were ripe and old. Herodotus, the “father of History”, confesses more than once that Greece owes everything to Egypt. Orpheus, Pythagoras, Herodotus and Plato owe their philosophy to the same temples in which Solon was instructed by the priests. Jablonski proves that the heliocentric system, as well as the Earth’s sphericity, were known by the priests of Egypt from immemorial ages.The works of Aristotle, Diogenes Laertius and several others in which Pythagoras is mentioned, demonstrate that he had learned from the Egyptians about the obliquity of the ecliptic, the starry composition of the Milky Way, and the borrowed light of the moon. The Egyptians divided time, knew the true length of the year and the procession of equinoxes.The Greeks, young in knowledge, sounded a trumpet before them and called upon all the world to admire their ability. Old Egypt, grown gray in wisdom, was so secure in her acquirements that she did not invite admiration, and cared no more for the opinion of the flippant Greek than we do today for that of a Fiji islander.But it is in the process of preparing mummies that the skill of these wonderful people is exemplified in the highest degree. None but those who have made special study of the subject can estimate the amount of skill, patience and knowledge exacted for the accomplishment of this indestructible work, which occupied several months. Both chemistry and surgery were called into requisition. The mummies, if left in the dry climate of Egypt, seem to be practicably imperishable; and even when removed after a repose of several thousand years, show no signs of change.Egypt is the birthplace and the cradle of chemistry. Kenrick shows the root of the word to be “chemi” or “chem”, which was the name of the country — the usual ancient name for Egypt was KEMET or KEM and it is likely that CHEMI is a late form of KEM, the “t” being often dropped, especially in the New Kingdom or later. The chemistry of colors seems to have been thoroughly well known in that country. Facts are facts. Where among our painters are we to search for the artist who can decorate our walls with imperishable colors? Ages after our pygmy buildings will have crumbled into dust will the halls of Karnak and Luxor be still standing and the gorgeous mural paintings of the latter will doubtless be as bright and vivid 4,000 years hence as they were 4,000 years ago and are today.Our modern Italians boast of their Etruscan vases and paintings; the decorative borders found on Greek vases provoke the admiration of the lovers of antiquity, and are ascribed to the Greeks, while in fact they were but copies from the Egyptian vases. Their figures can be found any day on the walls of a tomb of the age of Amenhotep I, a period at which Greece was not even in existence.Egypt pressed her own grape and made wine. Nothing remarkable in that, so far, but she brewed her own beer, and in great quantity. The Ebers manuscript proves now, beyond doubt, that the Egyptians used beer 2,000 years B.C. Their beer must have been strong and excellent, like everything they did. Glass was manufactured in all its varieties. Occasionally, during archaeological researches, glasses and glassware are found, and very beautiful they seem to have been.

Likewise, the most ancient Egyptians cultivated the musical arts, and understood well the effect of musical harmony and its influence on the human spirit. Music was used in the healing department of the temples for the cure of nervous disorders. They had their sacred music, domestic and military. Various kinds of harps were invented by them, such as the lyre, sambuke, asor; some of these had upward of twenty strings. The superiority of the Egyptian lyre over the Grecian is an admitted fact. Pythagoras learned music in Egypt and made a regular science of it in Italy. But the Egyptians were generally considered in antiquity as the best music teachers in Greece.

As to their knowledge in medicine, Homer himself declares in THE ODYSSEY that “in medical knowledge Egyptians are supreme among men; they are the true sons of Paeeon the Healer” (book IV: 230). Now that one of the lost BOOKS OF HERMES has been found and translated by Ebers, the Egyptians can speak for themselves. They had their dentists and oculists, and no doctor was allowed to practice more than one specialty. In Law, it is also asserted by some authorities that the Egyptians were the first people in the world who introduced trial by jury.

In the Abbott Egyptological collection, in New York City, may be seen inumerous evidences of the skill of the ancients in various handicrafts; among others the art of lace-making; and there are also specimens of artificial hair, and gold ornaments of different kinds. The New York Tribune, reviewing the contents of the Ebers Papyrus says: “Verily there is no new thing under the sun. Chapters 65, 66, 79 and 89 show that hair invigorators, hair dyes, pain killers and flea powders were desiderata 3,400 years ago.”

(Excerpts from “Egyptian Wisdom” by H.P. Blavatsky, in ISIS UNVEILED)

(photo: papyrus depicting Nefertari and Isis, private collection)

The Cultural Contradictions of Multiculturalism by Paulina Neuding

STOCKHOLM – State-sponsored multiculturalism has failed. That proclamation by British Prime Minister David Cameron, following hard on the heels of similar renunciations of multiculturalism by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy, suggests that a page is being turned in European society. But is it?

Cameron’s attack on multiculturalism minced no words. “Frankly,” he said, “we need a lot less of the passive tolerance of recent years and a much more active, muscular liberalism.” He was not criticizing ethnic and cultural pluralism, but the idea of “state multiculturalism,” which applies different moral standards to various social groups. In the future, Cameron declared, Muslim groups that do not, for example, endorse women’s rights, defend freedom of expression, or promote integration would lose all government funding.

It is not just official multiculturalism that has failed in Europe, however; so has the multiculturalism endorsed by large parts of European civil society. Sweden, one of the most liberal countries in the world, but also one that has recently seen a surge in extremism, is a case in point.

Sweden has long been known for its lifestyle liberalism. Swedes are overwhelmingly secular and indifferent toward the Swedish church. Homosexuals have been able to register civil partnerships since 1995 and marry since 2009, and the country is one of the most radical in its understanding of women’s rights – as WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange can attest. Moreover, Sweden’s far-reaching freedom of expression is one reason why Assange located WikiLeaks’ servers in the country.

But Sweden’s freedom of expression was also one of the motives behind a grisly suicide attack in Stockholm in December of last year. According to a last testament left behind by the attacker, a Swedish citizen named Taimour Abdulwahab, Christmas shoppers in downtown Stockholm had to die in retaliation for “the Swedes’ support” for Lars Vilks, an artist who stirred outrage in the country with drawings of the Prophet Muhammad as a dog. Vilks argued that his work was a provocation aimed at revealing the selective liberalism within the Swedish intellectual establishment – its multiculturalism, one could say.

The Stockholm suicide bombing was not the first act of violence linked to Vilks. Two young men were recently sentenced to prison for trying to set fire to the artist’s home. During a lecture at Uppsala University last summer, a mob attacked Vilks, a professor of art history, while crying Allahu akbar. The then 64-year-old artist was head-butted, but escaped serious injury thanks to heavy police protection.

What is remarkable is not just the violence and threats against Vilks – anyone who doubts the determination of Islamist extremists in Sweden should watch the YouTube clip from that lecture – but also the reaction from the otherwise radically secular Swedish establishment. A number of influential Swedish intellectuals and politicians have directed their harshest criticism against Vilks, not against those who have called for censorship and even incited violence.

Only a few of the country’s newspapers and political magazines published Vilks’ drawings. Like murdered Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh and the British novelist Salman Rushdie before him, Vilks was criticized by liberals and the left for causing unrest with his art. In this respect, Vilks’ work must be regarded as having succeeded in exposing moral double standards – no matter what one thinks of the drawing itself.

In Sweden, just as in similarly liberal Holland and Denmark, right-wing populists have profited from liberals’ failure to stand up for their values. The Sweden Democrats (SD), a party with roots in the country’s white-supremacist movement, entered the parliament for the first time in September 2010, with the support of 5.7% of the Swedish electorate. The SD has sought to position itself as the sole defender of gays and Jews in the face of intolerance stoked by large-scale Muslim immigration in the past two decades. Swedes who stand far from the SD’s original platform are apparently willing to be represented by a party that until recently was full of neo-Nazis.

Thus, the lack of “muscular liberalism” in one of the world’s most liberal countries has paved the way for both Islamists and right-wing populists. Europe’s leading politicians have spoken out, and now it is time for European civil society – its newspapers, critics, curators, academics, and publishers – to declare the failure of multiculturalism and show some courage in defending the values they claim to embody.

Article found at http://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/the-cultural-contradictions-of-multiculturalism