Thursday, October 28, 2010

I'm speechless

When I was about my son's age, I recall that the only after-school class was the one for detention, where you had to color in the little squares on graph paper for an hour. Even now I can't look at mosaic tiles without feeling slightly guilty!.

Nowadays there is a whole range of after-school activities available (for a fee of course), but even so, there are a lot of options; Cross-country, Lego robotics, speech, leaders of tomorrow, skiing, lacrosse, math counts....This year my son has decided to try the Speech class.

I am amazed at what is required of these kids! Not only do they have to give a speech in a competition setting, but they also have to write and memorize their speech. It has to be 8 minutes long and address something other than "10 reasons why I hate school" or "my favorite Wii game" or "How to get a high score on Bejewelled Blitz". Robert's chosen topic is "How technology at work causes stress at home". Surprisingly he has needed very little help from me in writing the speech, but I did find myself doing some research on the causes of stress - actually, I didn't have to research that much, I found I had a whole bunch of real-life examples at my fingertips! The speech is written now so all he has to do is memorize it and learn how to deliver it, all in the next 2 weeks. No small feat to fit in amongst all the homework he has in 8th grade. I hope he doesn't get too stressed about it all...

Saturday, October 23, 2010

SkyMall - "The Litter Kwitter"

Another post in my series of commentaries on the SkyMall magazine. On the flight home yesterday I was intrigued by the SkyMall advert for the "The Litter Kwitter" - this is a series of toilet seat inserts that you can use to potty train your kitty - no more litter boxes...the cat uses the toilet like the rest of us. I have images in my mind of the owner banging on the bathroom door shouting "get a move on Fluffy, I'm bursting out here!"  Next step is to teach Fluffy how to flush....

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Slap yo Momma Chilli!

For the final evening of our leadership forum in Tucson we had a "chilli cook-off". Medals were awarded to the team that cooked the best chilli, had the best presentation and had the best "team chant". My team did not win any medals. Now I don't want this to sound like sour grapes or anything, and I promise you I would say the same if my team had won medals, but quite honestly and sincerely, hand on heart and all that, the winners must have bribed the judges.....

How could you not award first prize to the "Slap yo momma Chilli" team? (ok, ok...I don't get it either, it must be a Texas thing - thank you Mark). To be fair, our chilli was the only one that had some kick to it. Everyone's else's chilli was wimpy. In my opinion a chilli needs to have some bite to it. Who the hell needs that extra skin on your tongue anyway.

Our 'Chilli chant' was both moving and profound; I can hardly bring myself to repeat it here, but for the sake of providing you with a full pcture of the evening I will....

"You wanted the best, we've got the best, the hottest chilli in the West, Slap yo momma chilli!"

Brings a tear to your eye right?

Anyway, my team don't need a medal to tell us how awesome we are. Nice job to Scott(head chef), Mark (chant chief), Steinar (server), Larry (....ummm, I'm sure Larry did something) and myself (apron designer).

I'm sure the whole episode taught us a lot of useful stuff. Give me a few days and it will come to me what that was....

Next time don't go on fire

I had to include this YouTube clip - taken from the BBC comedy Big Train.  It was shown at our leadership forum to illustrate that feedback, when given,  should be useful.


Funny video from comedian Brian Regan.

Bug off, you critters!

This week I am in Tucson, Arizona for a conference. The weather is beautiful, as are the views and the hotel. However there is one thing that concerns me;  Arizona is known for its bugs, snakes, and generally scary wildlife. You know you are "not in Kansas anymore Toto", when there are signs dotted around the hotel grounds saying "Beware, wildlife is dangerous". The signs I am more used to in the UK are "Beware, bar closes at 11pm", so this is a bit of a shock to me.

The hotel staff cheerfully told us about the family of bobcats that live around the hotel, and I also heard tales of mountain lions that come visit in the mornings. A collegue here at the conference was running on the treadmill in the hotel gym when he spotted a 'hand-sized spider' run under his treadmill. He had two options: to cut his run short or to finish it with the treadmill cranked up to 20 miles per hour in case the critter decided to surface. Being a true man he chose the latter. That'll teach that spider....

So far I have spent my week bent over scrutinizing the floor for bugs; people think this is how I walk naturally. All I know is, when I go to bed at night in my hotel room, I make sure I close the toilet lid down and make sure the plugs in the sink and shower are fully closed before I turn out the lights...the last thing I want is to wake up eye-to-eye with a furry tarantula or with a scorpion clasped to my nose.....

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

33 brave men

I can't let today pass by without a mention for the 33 brave miners who were trapped 2300 ft underground in a collapsed mine in Chile, since August 5th (69 days). The whole rescue effort from start to finish has been amazing and I've been glued to the TV and the internet at every opportunity, following the events in real time.

For 17 days the miners were cut off entirely, with no light, minimal food and little hope of rescue. The shift leader, Luis Urzua established rationing of the food they had. They survived on 2 spoonfuls of tuna, half a biscuit and a cup of milk every 48hrs. And then a vital link was established through a bore hole no wider than a grapefruit. The men attached a note to a microphone probe saying that all 33 men were in the shelter and were well.

That single event initiated a number of extensive drilling efforts, with one of the drills ("Plan B") finally breaking through into the shaft where the men were. The rescue operation to winch the men throough the shaft to safety started yesterday evening and culminated tonight with all 33 men rescued safely.

What an amazing, emotional event to witness, and today's technology meant that we not only had media coverage at the surface, but could also see the scenes below the surface in the mine.  What the miners must've been thinking as this rescue effort progressed is anybody's guess. I was very happy to see the last man emerge safely. It is definitely something that people will be talking about for a long time to come.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

A Good Movie

Watched a movie for the first time in ages. We've just got Netflix setup (yes I know, most people have been using it for years) so I'm enjoying browsing and selecting things to watch. We watched "The Kite Runner" tonight, based on the book of the same name by Khaled Hosseini. Its been out for 3 years so I expect everyone except me has already seen it, but for the one or two that haven't I can recommend it, especially for those who have read the book. The Kite Runner tells the story of Amir, a young boy from Kabul, who befriends Hassan, the son of his father's Hazara servant. The story is set against a backdrop of tumultuous events, from the fall of Afghanistan's monarchy through the Soviet invasion, the mass exodus of refugees to Pakistan and the United States, and the rise of the Taliban regime.Good acting and very interesting to see how people live in these countries. Highly recommended.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

A modern intercom

To add to my previous post on the overuse of technology in my household, I do admit to being a fan of Skype, which I use to communicate with my parents in the UK. However I probably take it a bit too far when I "Skype" my daughter who is upstairs in her bedroom, to tell her to get ready for bed. Lazy or what?!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

The art of conversation is dead

In years past people used to comment that TV killed the art of conversation. Nowadays, I believe that computers have taken over this role. I say that based on the fact that its Saturday night and my son,  husband and myself are sitting together in the Family room, no more than 3 feet apart. We each have our laptop on our, well, on our laps (duh!), and we are communicating via Facebook. Is there something wrong with this image?

Friday, October 1, 2010

Easy for you to say!

My daughter brought up an interesting point. If you were traveling around Wales using a GPS/Sat Nav, I wonder if it would allow you to type in "Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch"? This is the name of a village on the Welsh island of Anglesey that has the longest place name in Europe and one of the longest place names in the world. The name means: St Mary's Church (Llanfair) in a hollow (pwll) of white hazel (gwyngyll) near (goger) the swirling whirlpool (y chwyrndrobwll) of the church of St Tysilio (llantysilio) with a red cave ([a]gogo goch). The approximate pronunciation in English orthography is given as: Llan-vire-pooll-guin-gill-go-ger-u-queern-drob-ooll-llandus-ilio-gogo-goch.