15 July 2010

Wacky Wednesdays: Yesterday's Deal

Wacky Wednesdays are dedicated to whatever subject, no matter how random, I feel like discussing. Today's theme is teeth. It is a bit of a spin off from health and wellness.

I had a root canal done yesterday. My endodontist (root canal specialist) is an hour and a half drive from here. Therefore, I drove for about three hours in order to have the procedure done.

My first root canal I had in Japan. I cannot remember exactly, but I think it took about five visits to complete the task. I was not numb when my dentist poured down 200° substance into my gums. OUCH! When I came back to the U.S., my dentist said that it needed to be redone and sent me to the endodontist. My botched root canal was more expensive to have redone than yesterday's as well as more time consuming. The redo took about 2 hours and yesterday I only spent a bit over an hour in the chair. 

Overall, I am feeling better today. I am happy that I received a new root canal before getting a new crown for that tooth. I did not see the point in getting a new crown and having to drill through it for the root canal. Next week the new crown will be put in. I hope that this will end my barrage of headaches, migraines (both of which subsided greatly after getting a temporary crown), jaw pain, and slight tooth throbbing. 

Again, without feeling well, it is difficult to muster the energy to accomplish anything. I hope that now I will not have any excuses for not performing out necessary tasks. Here's to happy teeth!!!

13 July 2010

Toastmasters: Montana Girl

I completed project #6 "Vocal Variety" at today's Toastmasters meeting. There were only five of us, including myself, which made for a very different atmosphere. I was not quite feeling it, which is unfortunate but okay never-the-less.

I am now the Sergeant at Arms and it is my job to tally the votes. One vote was for somebody that did not participate in a particular category and it threw me off. I think that I should have tied for "Best Speaker" with the other person, but I do not feel right voting for myself. (It is not as though it's for a presidential race or anything.) Essentially, do to my misinterpretation, I did not win this time. I think she had the better speech anyway. I am now 5/6 for "Best Speaker," which is still quite excellent.

Here is my speech (again it is not exactly what I said) followed by the only two comments I received:

Montana Girl

I was about 12 years old when my best friend Dandy invited me along to her uncle Louie’s ranch to have one of those true Montana experiences. Being from Missoula and pretty much a Montana version of a city slicker, I leaped at the chance to be able to go horse-back riding and hang out on the ranch for a day. Little did I know what I’d be in for.

I didn’t really know what to wear. I wasn’t equipped with the usual cowgirl get-up. I had to make due with a t-shirt, jeans, and hiking boots. I figured that at least the hiking boots were good for the outdoors and had a slight heel for riding horses. Dandy was not well versed in matters of farm issues either. She was dressed in a similar fashion, but was instead shod in penny loafers without socks.

After I met the ranch crew and was shown toward the corral, Dandy insisted that I get into the manure encrusted pen that contained cows that were enshrouded in their own feces. As you can imagine, I refused. Eventually, Dandy and I were both prodded to climb into the ring with the calves to throw them down one-by-one.

As we were both small girls, we could not wrestle the calves down properly. (Demonstration of a cow being turned over by means of using your knee.) Dandy and I would chase down a baby bovine, grab its hind legs while trying not to get kicked, and essentially trip it. (Demonstration.) It was honestly a bit unnerving at first. Getting kicked in the head isn’t my idea of a pleasant afternoon on the ranch.

After we managed to take one down, one person had to sit on the calf’s neck (demonstration) and another person had to be on the back end spreading the bull’s legs apart (demonstration). After we were in place, Uncle Louie would get out his butterfly knife. (Knife sounds.) The bull was then castrated. The removed parts would go into a bucket, maybe to make Rocky Mountain oysters for later. A branding iron would also sear the flesh of any calf. They were also de-horned using a similar iron to that of the brand. (Searing noises.)

Dandy and I were starting to get pretty good at taking down the calves after we became accustomed to the smell and feel of the ever-present cow pies. We were almost done when Dandy was holding down the back end of a baby bull as Uncle Louie did some fancy cutting. Dandy’s exposed ankles were getting bloody when Uncle Louie decided to shove some bull testicles up Dandy’s jean pant legs. I couldn’t have been happier to see the look on Dandy’s face, which was not only of disgust, but also that of wanting to vomit. It served her right for making me roll around in manure all day.

Eventually, Dandy and I were rewarded by going horse-back riding with the ranch crew. As there weren’t enough horses, Dandy and I were forced to share a gentle horse named Peaches. She didn’t seem to mind Dandy in the saddle and me riding just behind on the blanket. But, I sure minded that Dandy would not let me sit in the saddle after an hour or more of riding pretty much bareback. I had the privilege of riding on Peaches’ rump for most of our journey. After a lot of kvetching, I was able to ride in the saddle for about 10 minutes. When we got to the gates of the ranch, Dandy was so angry that I was in the saddle that she walked the mile back to the house. She thought that riding on the rump was torture—as though I loved it immensely! It made me even happier that Uncle Louie decided to put some Rocky Mountain oysters up her pant leg.

After a day’s worth of hard work, a lot of complaining, a sore butt from Peaches, and Dandy and I fighting on and off all day, I was pretty tired. Being a cowgirl is not what I thought it was cracked up to be, but I found a deeper sense of appreciation and respect for what many Montanans go through. And I’m proud to say I’m a Montana girl. Oh, and that I’m still friends with Dandy.

  • "Great story of the 'true Montana experience' that most Montana kids have or should have! Watch the 'you know's' Good job!
  • "Fun story. Great job with no notes again."
My evaluator felt that I used good volume, rate, pauses, and most other vocal devices. Yet, as for my vocal pitch, it "changed-but maybe making your pitch change more." Essentially, the sentiment for improving was to use more emotion and differing pitches. 

Ultimately, I did not feel that today's speech was an improvement over my last presentation. However, practice makes perfect. I will certainly continue to improve. Plus, I am almost done with the first manual, Competent Communication. I am very excited at this prospect. Onwards and upwards!

12 July 2010

Rejection Sucks OR How Failing is Good

Every Monday is Tip Day. The tips can be general for helping in general with business concepts, job hunting, or anything that seems within the scope of this blog.

It is never a good feeling to be rejected, although it can and often does lead to bigger and better things. As you may have guessed, I did not receive an offer to teach English in Japan with a certain company that I interviewed for a couple of weeks ago. Yes, it hurts. On the other hand, it also means that I am one step closer to getting "thee job." 

In the long run I know that it is for the best to not get the job. Teaching English became very dull after three years, but I was hoping to go back to Japan, which requires a visa. There are other options. I am applying in different sectors for various jobs. 

This lesson of failure reminds me of Gretchen Rubin's post "Enjoy the Fun of Failure." I am also reminded of Scott H. Young's "Manageable Awfulness and How to Let Bad Things Happen." I feel it is important to make bold leaps to accomplish your dreams. Teaching English is something I did enjoy, but I would love to push myself and test new limits. Failing only gets me closer to my true destiny. 

Failure is a sign that you are trying. "Doing anything important, means accepting a minimum level of bad things happening. The only way to completely avoid losing is not to compete at all," Scott H. Young.

My tip: keep trying, keep failing, and you will eventually get to where you need to be. In the meantime, do try to not let "failure" keep you down. Keep getting back up on that horse and you will ride off into the sunset happily ever after. 

01 July 2010

Food for Thought Friday: The Quest for What Really Matters

Good day, all. Sorry for not posting as often as I'd promised myself. I thought it best that I get to L.A. and concentrate on my job interview. I had a group interview last week and was invited back the next day for a personal interview. Obviously, getting invited back is a good sign. I will not know for another week or so if I got the position. It is my understanding at that time I will know where in Japan I would move. 

The earliest I can start is October. This delay has to do with obtaining a visa, individuals renewing or not renewing their contracts, and other logistics. As I can re-take the Foreign Service Officer Test in October, I would rather leave in November. At this point, another month seems like it will not matter too much. 

In the interim, I have been trying to make the best of my time here in Southern California by spending quality time with my sister, some friends I haven't seen in a couple of years, and really trying to understand what I want out of life. Other personal issues have come up as well that I do not want to make public domain for the sake of those affected. 

Essentially, I have been doing some soul searching. I'm still completely in limbo here, but I absolutely believe that good things are just on the horizon for me. I have hope. I will prevail. If I do not post too often, be rest assured that I am chasing my dreams, even though it is slow going. 

11 June 2010

Food for Thought Friday: Limbo

Food for Thought Friday. I will give you something to reflect upon each Friday.

For the past almost year now, I have been in limbo. A nicer word would be in transition. No matter what spin I put on it, it never really feels comfortable. I am the sort of person who loves who expand my boundaries, but not having been employed for this long is unsettling as it is not of my own choosing. Yet, being out of my comfort zone often means growth and a deeper understanding of myself. 

I am starting to get that feeling that change is just around the corner. All signs seem to point forward, in a positive direction. I am in transition. I am trying to grasp the feelings that I have about where I am right now and remember it with fondness. It is only temporary. I must cherish all that I can while the moment exists. Limbo isn't so bad, it means change is just around the corner. 

10 June 2010

The Rapping Rain

It's late and raining yet again. There are flood warnings in some areas here in Western Montana, but not too close to me. There have been few nice, warm days lately. Perhaps it is for the best as I will not get distracted by summery weather. Rather, I focus on my up-coming interview.

For me, the biggest obstacle has always been lesson planning. In order to be invited back for a personal interview, I must demonstrate a successful lesson. Thus, I am brain-storming for ideas and trying to remember the most successful lesson plans I used previously. As a perfectionist, the esthetics of my handouts are also important to me. 

I do have about 1 1/2 weeks more until the actual interview, but I want to prepare to the best of my ability. Additionally, I am nervous. In order to rid my anxiety, I need to prepare, practice, and revise. That's the plan. That's what I'm doing now. 

09 June 2010

Wacky Wednesdays: Health & Wellness

Wednesdays are for talking about anything that's on my mind and not necessarily in the "usual" scope of this blog.

Health has been an overall concern of mine lately. If you do not have your health, then you cannot enjoy life let alone be productive. While I have not been seriously ill recently, I have been personally feeling the pinch of not having enough energy or being able to think clearly. It is a challenge. For others, it is much more serious than any of my petty issues, including a couple of people who are very close to me. 

Essentially I am learning lessons about health and its importance, from my own slight mishaps to more major issues from those around me. It reminds me of how grateful I am to be so healthy and vital as I (usually) am. I realize too that I should eat better (which I have been trying to do), exercise (typical issue for me), and appreciate what I do have. 

After some of these recent health matters, I hope to come up with a better action plan. I am a believer in that little things add up over time, including towards or against one's physical, mental, and emotional health. Thus, I hope to make minor changes that will add up into a lifetime of health and wellness. 

That being said, it's time for bed. 

08 June 2010

Toastmasters: Becoming an Officer

Usually my Toastmasters Club meets every Tuesday, but in the summer it is only every other week. I missed last week's meeting due to illness and today there was not a meeting. Last week, I was asked to become and was voted in as the Sargent at Arms. It is the lowest level of office that one can hold in the club, but I still feel honored that I was asked and chosen to do this task as I have not been a member for too long. I set the expectation that I would not be able to finish the year as I am looking for a job and may move back to Japan soon. They understood. 

As a new officer, I attended a special district meeting last night. I meet a few people from the other clubs in town, which was pleasant. And I learned some things about Toastmasters. 

The meeting was basically an introduction of the positions as officers, including Sargent at Arms. It was interesting, but I should go through the PowerPoints just to make sure I didn't miss anything. I like to carry out my duty to the best of my ability in most all situations. 

And that is my Toastmasters update. I'm the new Sargent at Arms. Cool. 

05 June 2010

Good News!

I finally have an interview. It is for another teaching position in Japan. The interview takes place in L.A. in a little over two weeks time. I therefore have a list of things to accomplish between then and now. These are the major points to complete:

  • I have to prepare a lesson plan. Part 1 of the interview is a role playing exercise where I demonstrate the lesson I have prepared.
  • I need to find frequently asked interview questions to practice.
  • I should re-write my resume as the one I sent the firm is directed at international financial service positions and not teaching.  
  • I need to arrange flights, transportation, and other logistics. 
If all works out, I think that I will return to Japan around September. The work visa apparently takes 2-3 months to obtain. I think that would be excellent timing. I could enjoy the summer with friends and family, finish some projects, and organize what I am leaving behind. 

Wish me luck!

04 June 2010

Food for Thought Friday: At 71, Will You Be Moving Pianos?

Food for Thought Friday. I will give you something to reflect upon each Friday. 

Today is my dad's 71st birthday. I am thankful that I still have him around. In fact, my dad is still stronger than me. (He helped move a piano last year and still rips engines out of cars.) He rarely gets sick. (I'm still not over whatever virus I recently caught.) He's still "with it" and has a sharp tongue and wit. (He loves to make fun of me.) My dad continues to be the rock in my family. (He is supporting me while I find a job and does most of the chores, especially since my mom has not been feeling her best.) It is honestly hard to believe that he seems so young at 71, or that he actually is 71.

I am truly grateful to my father and all that he has done for me and my family. As an adult, I appreciate both my parents more than I did as a child. I can only hope to be as generous, industrious, and solid as my dad. 

I wonder how another few decades will treat me. It is hard to say, especially as I would never have imagined the last five years of my life going the way they have. If I play my cards right, maybe I'll be moving pianos when I'm his age. How do you see yourself in your 70's? 

More and more people are living into their 100's. My great-grandma died a couple of months shy of 103. The good don't die young any more. It's important to find your own path. Live life and enjoy it. We are in for the long haul. 

"We either make ourselves miserable, or we make ourselves strong. The amount of work is the same." --Carlos Castaneda

02 June 2010

Wacky Wednesdays: Going Dark

Wednesdays are for talking about anything that's on my mind and not necessarily in the "usual" scope of this blog.

After those headaches, migraines, and general discomfort, I had a great weekend in my hometown, but that was followed by a fever. I sometimes think it is good just to unplug, get out of the house, and do something fun and/or different. It is also good to rest if you are not feeling well. Going dark is sometimes very necessary just for good mental health.

I have not felt even close to creative the last week or two. My energy levels have been zapped, and generally, seeing my friends restores my inspiration to write. Unfortunately, I seem slow to rebound this time. I see the dentist tomorrow, which I hope will cure my headache/migraine issue. Thus, I hope to be back on track and writing here 6 days per week.

Sorry for the lack of posting lately, but I am always trying to think about topics you may be interested in. I have not forgotten you.

26 May 2010

Wacky Wednesday: Ups and Downs

Wacky Wednesdays are dedicated to whatever subject, no matter how random, I feel like discussing. Today's theme is ups and downs.

As you may have noticed, I did not post Monday or yesterday. Honestly, on Monday my head was feeling a bit fuzzy and not 100%, and Tuesday turned into an almost all day migraine. Yuck! As such, I could not even look at my computer screen without feeling nauseous and having my brain screaming at me.

I believe that my recent onset of headaches and migraines is caused by a tooth. I have experienced this previously, right before I needed a root canal. It seems absolutely crazy to me that such a small thing like a tooth can cause so much agony. Health is a large contributing factor to these ups and downs. I try to be healthy, but know that it's a far cry from everything I should be doing to optimally maintain myself. Therefore, I made myself a dental appointment to get another crown done next week, perhaps eliminating all of these migraines.

I try to maximize productivity on my good days and minimize the melancholy on my bad days. I have my ebbs and flows, ups and downs, but I try to never let it stop me from accomplishing my goals. If I start making excuses, I will not strive as much as I can. I will falter. But, I am only human and I try not to be too hard on myself when I fall short. It's all about determination and persistence.

I can do it!!! Even if I'm down, I'll be back up soon enough fighting even harder!

22 May 2010

Mise en Place

Mise en place is a term used in kitchens to state that everything is in its proper place. In other words, everything is ready to roll. I find this expression useful in terms of preparing oneself for practically everything. 

When organizing and strategizing long-term it is imperative to have your mise en place. For me, having my mise en place means having proper interview attire and being ready to hop on a plane for an interview (or even to relocate). I have been working on scanning old photos and negatives knowing that I don't want to lug around those boxes if I work overseas again. I am reading books from the FSO (Foreign Service Officer) recommended reading list even if I am unsure that is in fact my calling. 

What do you do to ensure that you have your mise en place? 


21 May 2010

To Do Lists

Friday is Food for Thought day. To do lists are a part of almost everyone's modern day lives. Was it always this way? I'm not sure, but to do lists are so prevalent that it seems strange not to have one without feeling rejected by society. (Or is that just me? I do love a good list.) 

I enjoy a couple of blogs about minimalism. Zen Habits is an excellent blog on this subject. Thinking about how you manage those to do lists that we've been so accustomed to using is an interesting prospect. Kill Your To Do List has a minimalist approach on how to manage those pesky to do lists.

Personally, I have been known to write lists, lists, and more lists. It all started back at Coastal Seafoods where my manager had a list of things we needed to accomplish each day. This was in addition to the usual, everyday things that never changed. I always got such a charge from crossing a task off of the list. It has become rather ingrained in me to have a to do list, even if it only has a couple of things on it.

As for using a personal to do list, I sometimes find it more difficult to manage and even depressing at times. I am very hard on myself and often I feel that I need to cross everything off my list. I like author of Zen Habits Leo Babauta's idea of doing one thing at a time. It puts your mental faculties to use on one thing at a time; therefore, being able to focus and be more mindful. Once done with just the one thing, if you feel it's necessary, put just one more thing on the list. How easy is that? I will have to try this out.

Food for Thought: doing one thing at time and getting 'er done! Sounds great to me!

20 May 2010

Processing Time

It has recently occurred to me that I sometimes need a lot of processing time. Many things "click" logically right away, but there is an emotional lag-time in processing what it impact it will have. Or sometimes things just do not make any sense at all, and then one day, BAM, it is crystal clear. The latter was certainly true of me learning Japanese. Sometimes the light just came on after months and months of heartache. 

I am still processing and understanding my current situation. I have made a next-step life decision, but I do not know what I want for more long-term happiness. That is what I am now in the midst of processing. Sometimes only the next step is clear and two steps away is obscure. I am still in limbo, but moving from that phase into the next. 

Forgive me if I am being vague. Today's point is simply that some decisions take time--processing time. And my RAM seems low lately, but it is slowly coming together. 

19 May 2010

Wacky Wednesday: AWESOME Stuff!!!!

I decided that doing one day being dedicated to things that are of interest to me, but not necessarily related to the business/MBA side of life. Wacky Wednesdays will just be fun!

I haven't picked up a copy yet, but The Book of Awesome is on my radar. I like the blog, 1000 Awesome Things. It is really uplifting and makes me generate thoughts of gratefulness at the details in life. 

Some AWESOME stuff I realized:

  • My AWESOME new office chair. I've been having back and shoulder issues lately, so I the chair will help me feel better. 
  • Writing in my journal is AWESOME. I love putting the pen to the paper and just rambling to myself. 
  • Having an AWESOME new profile picture. When it's great, it's fabulous! 
  • Having AWESOME friends. The type of people who go out of their way for you and you for them. I love my friends dearly, they are another kind of family to me. 
The list goes on and on. 

What do you think is AWESOME? It's good to be thankful in your life. It can always be worse, there is always somebody with less than you. 

18 May 2010

Off the Deep End

I spoke yet again at my local chapter of Toastmasters, but I was actually on the schedule this time and not filling in for an absentee speaker. 

Project #5 "Your Body Speaks" has a goal of getting the speaker to incorporate gestures into the presentation. I remembered my mentor's advice from last week about ditching my notes, memorizing the beginning and the ending and just having a feel for the middle parts. I had my topic about scuba diving in mind for quite sometime, but I wasn't sure how to organize it exactly. In fact, that was something my evaluator commented upon. I had "stage 1" through "stage 3," but it would have been more properly organized had I used more stages as "stage 2" was really long and the finale was too short. Good tip. I had only thought of adding those indicators last night around 1 am. (>.<) 

Essentially, I did not have this speech memorized, so the written version is not exactly what I said. I also used a ton of gestures, made the scuba/Darth Vader-esque breathing throughout, and pretended that I was underwater. This is of course more difficult to put into the notes.

Again, I won without voting for myself. This time I thought I would certainly lose as the other speaker was AWESOME. I am 5 for 5 on the wins! Not bad.

Here is the speech, comments to follow:

Off the Deep End

(Sound of Darth Vader like breathing) There I was, on a tiny swaying boat off the coast of Bali, Indonesia. I was in full scuba regalia—immense fins made it impossible to maneuver forward out of water, the mask was clear as I had just cleaned it with my own spit and sea water, the wet suit clung to me perfectly, while the air tanks were heavy, my weight belt coming in at around 13 pounds, my BCD vest slightly inflated and pressing against my chest, and, of course my regulator. Was I really going to literally going off the deep end? Did I really need to find Nemo?

Stage 1 fear. I seemed ready to confront it. My instructor did all of my checks. For example, my air was on, my BCD could inflate, I knew the hand signals.  But, I suddenly found myself embarking on confronting one of my greatest fears—drowning. Now, the thing is not that I’m actually afraid to be UNDER water, but rather I hate holding my breath, swallowing water, and having water in my eyes. In scuba diving, these things don’t really happen all that often. You NEVER should hold your breath. It’s dangerous. Generally, you don’t swallow water as you are breathing through your mouth. And, in order to get your PADI Open Water license, you are taught how to deal with water in your mask. In the pool, we practiced having our masks partially flooded, fully flooded, and then taking your mask off, putting it back on, and then clearing the water. Essentially, I was more-or-less golden. Well, except waves makes me a bit nervous too because I’m not a great swimmer. Sigh.

But, there I was. There were two other students, a couple from Minnesota. Both, I should mention, out swam me in the pool. But my Norwegian instructor thought I should dive in first. Did I seem more fearless than the other two people? I certainly didn’t think so. My stomach was already queasy from being in the boat and being anxious. My heart was galloping at full speed.

But, there I was. I was trying not to use up all of my air above water. I was poised to go, on the ledge of the boat. I was to do a back roll into the great unknown. (Showing audience how to keep mask and regulator in tact as I pretend to roll into the water.)

Stage 2, confronting my fear. The air tank pulled me backwards. I was actually in the water!!!! The bubbles were rising to the surface, I was breathing, I could see so clearly. And, as is standard, I returned to the surface of the water and signaled that I was okay. My classmates and instructor slowly descended into the ocean. I let air out of my BCD as to sink down to the benthos. My eyes at the surface, now underneath, sinking so gently down, down, down. All I could hear was my own, rapid breathing and the water around me. I maintained eye contact with my buddy, the instructor, and followed his lead.

We went 11 meters under to do part of the scuba training, flooding and taking off your mask as to prove that you can clear the water out effectively. Upon completing that task, we swam on. We were able to see clown fish (hey, I found Nemo!!!), sea slugs, brain coral, spotted sweetlips, and a wrase. It was amazing to be underwater—I felt like Superman flying underwater, except I had trouble controlling my buoyancy and sometimes would start floating away to the surface.

The 30 minutes swiftly went by. It seemed sudden when my instructor indicated we needed to ascend, with a 5 minute safety stop. When we bouncing on top of the water, we each had to climb into the boat. Handing each fin over and the weight belt to the boat men. Being back on the bouncy boat, I made it to step 3, amazement and empowerment. I did it!!! I went off the deep end and managed to survive.


  • "Nice speech. Reminded me of my PADI class years ago. You seem relaxed and confident."
  • "Very visual, felt like I could feel & see the experience you were in."
  • "Excellent job. Great efforts--organization good. You really captured your audience's attention."
  • "Great job. You made it very realistic. I felt like I was right there with you."
  • "Great gestures! Anyone that has been scuba diving or taken a class could relate well. Good job describing the events including what you saw. Watch 'Oh God.'"
  • "Great job removing the lectern & no notes! I enjoyed your speech & could see the view underwater. Great speech!"
  • "Well don. No notes! Your comfort level is much improved! Loved your speech. Very informative. Much entertaining involved."
  • "Excellent job. Great vocal variety, expressions & actions. I felt as though I was there with you--excellent. To conquer your fear & go for the plunge. You are improving every time."
  • "Excellent job! Your gestures were fantastic which made me feel like I was right there with you. And no notes! I love the fact that you stepped out from behind the lectern." 
Ahh...shucks!!! (*^.^*) 

I just need to keep focusing on content and organization, plus I was a bit nervous about keeping within the time limits. 

17 May 2010

Skype Discovery Revealed!

Okay, it was revealed to me at least. When on a Skype video chat, I noticed to the right of the video button a box labeled "share." If you click on it you can either choose to share a part or your entire screen with the person on the other end of your conference. How cool is that? If you have something you want to show your counterpart, you don't have to send a file, you can just simply share your desktop. If, for example, you have a computer problem, you can have your wonderful nerdy friend look at what's going on and have him/her direct you as to what to do. Very convenient. 

This Jetson's stuff just keeps getting better and better. 

15 May 2010

Organizing Tips from Penelope Loves Lists & David Allen

I recently stumbled onto Penelope Loves Lists, and this article in particular. David Allen's Getting Things Done  has been on my radar for awhile now. I recommend watching the video if you are into organizing and maximizing productivity. I know that I can always use help on those fronts! (Despite the fact that I am almost OCD when it comes to organizing.)

Great stuff! As a testament to my organizational adeptness (or nuttiness), I spent about 8-9 hours today scanning old photos and labeling them. It's my goal to have all of my old photos scanned, labeled, and organized. I have a couple of projects that I want to do with them when I am finished too!

Well, I am off to find the rest of these videos in hopes of being more productive and/or more efficient. Have a good rest of the weekend. 

P.S. This is the smallest I could get the video to embed. And I don't know why it doesn't offer a "popout" option. Can anyone tell me why? Or how I can accomplish this? Thanks!

14 May 2010

Food for Thought Friday: Too Much on my Plate?

Good evening. I had a rough go of it today with a nasty migraine. I don't do well just lying around, so I thought a lot about my current situation and reflected on understanding what I really want out of life. I created a mind map. Here is my assorted food for thought today. I feel like I have too much to think about, but I'm making progress!!!

Job Mind Map

I need to consider the end result as well as the short term gains. Time to strategize and focus on what I really want!!!!

13 May 2010

Plan Z????

As I am seeking employment, it is always a good idea to have a backup plan. I must admit that at this juncture, I know that I am beyond Plan B and probably onto about Plan E or even F. I am trying to prioritize what I really, REALLY want into a definite order. 

Plan A was to get a job doing management consulting in London. It turns out that it is no easy task for an American to get a U.K. work permit, at least not for me personally. Also, I have not gotten any interest from any management consulting firm yet. That certainly means that Plan A is pretty much dead. 

I am keeping this brief as my shoulder has been acting up, therefore I haven't been getting enough sleep, and I am etching out Plan E, is it? I hope that I do not end up at Plan Z. Please send good vibes my way. 

12 May 2010

Your Opinion Counts

I would love to do a photo shoot soon, but I am scratching my head to think of any near-by volunteers to help me out. With that being said, I got my camera, tripod, and remote out and did some self-portraits. I think this one is alright, but am not entirely convinced that I like it better than the other one I was using. 

I have only asked one, dear friend about this new profile picture. She liked it and thinks it is better than the previous photo. Your opinion counts. Do you like this photo? And is it better than the last one? Please let me know your thoughts. Thank you in advance.  

11 May 2010

Toastmasters: Singing the J-Way

Today was another round of Toastmasters. Apparently, upon speaking to a friend, I had not made it clear what is the purpose of the club. The idea is to become a better public speaker. Every week, members are assigned different roles. There is a grammarian, an MC (called the Toastmaster), a timer, speakers, and evaluators of the speakers. There are other roles, but that is the gist. Lately, our club has not had enough members attending, so often we do double duty. (For example, today I gave a speech and I evaluated the other speaker. Often, the timer will also be the grammarian.) 

I was somewhat ready to speak today in that I had a speech written, but it was not as well-rehersed as I would have liked. I was not on the schedule to speak, but I think it is great practice and have resolved to be ready in case a speaker cannot attend. Today, unfortunately, I woke up with a mini-migraine, which made it difficult to memorize my speech. (Perhaps you will recall that last week I mentioned that I have difficultly memorizing speeches. It is something I am aware of and trying to improve upon.)

This week's project, #4, was "How To Say It." The objective of this presentation is to "use clear, accurate, descriptive and short words that best communicate your ideas and arrange them effectively and correctly." You should not use jargon or those big, "college" type of words. The idea is good, punchy content. 

I tied for best speech evaluator, and I won for best speaker. Yay! As a note, I do not vote for myself. I abstained from voting for both the speeches and the evaluations. I find it so interesting that I keep getting voted best speaker. (Yeah, I know it's only out of two, but still, it's a great feeling and very encouraging.) Thus, I am four for four. 

Here is my speech with comments from fellow members to follow:

Singing the J-Way

I’m sure you’ve all heard of those wacky, drunk Japanese business men getting crazy and crooning away the wee hours of twilight after some big pow-wow at the office. Ties around their heads, getting naked, and pounding the sake away as if they would never have to see their colleagues ever again…well, not until tomorrow at 8 am at least. Yep, you guessed it. It’s karaoke.

Some of us would probably rather commit “harry-carry”(that’s 腹切りin Japanese) over karaoke any day of the week. Even us Toastmasters. But, the difference in American style karaoke and the J-way is vast.

As you already know, the American version of karaoke is a rather humbling, or even humiliating, experience. Generally, you sing in a bar comprised of a motley audience, mostly strangers. If you aren’t the next Beyoncé, chances are nobody will appreciate your (coughing) lack of talent. If you don’t know the song well, aren’t well practiced, you’re probably going to have a very traumatizing realization the next day in the midst of your bottle flu episode.

In Japan, there are chain stores that are dedicated to Japan’s national past time of chanting J-pop tunes, aka places like Jumbo Karaoke or Jan-Kara for short. Upon entering your local Jan-Kara enterprise, you will be greeted with the cutest little Japanese girls that are eager to help you get sorted. First, you must choose between Drink Menu A and Drink Menu B. Essentially, one is non-alcoholic and the other is well loaded with choice beverages such as barley soda, bottom-shelf whiskey, chu-hai, and sho-chu, which is a hard liquor that comes in varying degrees of quality.

After you and your troop has decided upon what drink to be served first, you are given a basket usually containing a tambourine, an electronic remote to select your songs, and, if you’re lucky, an English song book. You are then shuffled along a narrow hallway and shown where you’ll be getting trashed for the evening. Always note your room number, unless you don’t mind stumbling into a room full of naked business men.

Your room will vary in size with in terms of your group. The one thing, at Jan-Kara, however that seems to remain constant is the décor. The walls are inevitably plastered with plastic-y, 70’s-esque wallpaper. There is a built-in air conditioning/heating unit. There are bench seats upholstered in industrial strength, never-gonna-die vinyl. Near the door is a telephone as to order more intoxicating refreshments. Libations, as it is well known, must be paid to the all-powerful karaoke god. The table will become littered with dead soldiers, possibly cigarette butts, half-eaten portions of smiling fried potatoes, various menus, and, if nobody is looking or to drunk to remember, one or even both of the devices used to choose the songs will be laying in front you so you can choose another song.
The tv’s are Jan-Kara are not top of the line like at some more up-scale karaoke lounge, the microphones have cords, and the newest English songs usually date back five or so years, but it’s cheap. It’s hard to argue with all-you-can-drink liquor, singing 80’s songs, and even getting a slight physical workout. At the end of each song, the screen shows how many calories you just bellowed off, but it doesn’t include how much you danced during your solo.

One of my favorite aspects to Jan-Kara is the shoddy karaoke videos that accompany each song. If you were to sing a Japanese song, it is very likely that you would also get to watch the real music video that the artist produced. That is certainly not the case, however, with the English tracks. After viewing hours of shaky, low budget cinematography, sometimes bordering on soft-porn, you really probably need to ply yourself with more of those liquory libations. The karaoke god can be very demanding on his followers. I try to take it in stride as I belt out with my amigos some Guns-n-Roses as the night wears thin.

And suddenly in the middle of your duo of “A Whole New World” from the Disney soundtrack, everybody swaying in time and singing along with you and Aladdin, the phone rings. Nobody wants to answer it for 3 reasons. #1 the front desk person will be speaking in Japanese #2 even if your Japanese was decent, it’s impossible to hear over Jasmine’s shreaky, drunk voice #3 they will be asking if you want to stay or go. (Imitating the Clash) Should I stay or should I go now???? If I go there will be trouble, and if I stay it will be double.

Stumbling home after a rousing round of J-style karaoke makes you never want to return to the American style. You bonded with friends over drinks, bad singing, possibly even nudity, and won’t probably have a remorseful hangover of how stupid you looked or sounded. The J-singing-way reigns supreme even at your local, ghetto Jan-Kara. Jan-Kara, 行きましょうか?Let’s go to Jan-Kara!!!!

  • "Excellent, well done, amazing for a new Toastmaster. Keep up the good work."
  • "Loved how you opened and gave us the difference between karaoke in the U.S. & Japan. Enjoyed your pronunciation of Japanese words. Great descriptions of atmosphere, vocal variety, eye contact, & gestures. Great close!"
  • "Good job, Beckie. Great adjectives (I) can totally see the rooms....Good job moving from the podium. Excellent job!"
  • "No um's or ah's. Nice job. I like your descriptions, your pace, and your vocal tone was great."
  • "I liked her flow. I thought she moved about a little too much."
  • "Did a great job to keep attention to the audience. Fun topic to hear about."
Essentially, as pointed out in my evaluation, I need to ditch any use of notes. I did move away from the podium, but still looked at my notes. I probably moved too much, as one person stated. My mentor told me after the meeting that I should try to memorize the beginning and the conclusion. As for the middle, just get a feeling for the time, which will take away my crutch use of notes and the podium. 

Honestly, I am never sure about where to stand or how much to move. During the MBA, we told by our instructors from the Dale Carnegie institute not to move. At Toastmasters I am told to move, but apparently should not move too much. I need to find a balance...and, well, stop using notes and probably ditch the podium. 

Onwards and upwards! Oh, and next week I am scheduled to speak. I am working on project #5 already. Whew!

10 May 2010

Organize & Track Your Job Hunt

Every Monday is Tip Day. The tips can be general for helping in general with business concepts, job hunting, or anything that seems within the scope of this blog.

Today's tip: use a spreadsheet while job hunting.

I have found out (the hard way) that using Excel is almost a necessity for tracking your job search progress. It helps because:

  • You do not want to duplicate your job applications within the same company. (This can result in your application essentially being disregarded as it will be seen that you are incompetent and do not pay attention to detail.)
  • Often the company's website makes it difficult to keep track of what jobs are of interest (even with the job cart) and actually some firms duplicate their own postings. (See above that you do not want to apply twice to the same posting.) 
  • You are able to see how many jobs you applied for, when you applied, and the results. If you are the analytical, geeky type, you can even graph or make reports to understand your progress. (Again the MBA creed holds true: "You cannot manage what you do not measure.")
Here is a sample spreadsheet:

You may also want to keep track of your contacts in a similar way. I suggest noting who gave you the contact, where the contact works, any of the contact's information (e-mail address, phone number, etc.), notes (detailing your conversations with dates), and when you sent your contact a thank you note. It could look something like this:

Screen shot 2010-05-10 at 2.02.58 PM

I hope that this tip helps you. I have been learning by trial and error, but the spreadsheets really help keep everything organized. I feel more in control and less overwhelmed. 

P.S. Sorry that the spreadsheets are appearing in the article so small. I cannot seem to get them to fit properly after much heart ache. I recommend enlarger your browser's window to see the detail better. Or, I can always e-mail it to you if you let me know. 

09 May 2010

Happy Blog-aversary

I just wanted to note that today marks the 1st anniversary of this blog. I wanted to say "thank you" to all of my friends and family that have been so supportive of me writing. There has been a lot of feedback that has not been on the blog, but just rather told to me or in an e-mail. Thank you so much!!!

P.S. Also a Happy Mother's Day out there to all of you awesome moms that I know!!!!

08 May 2010

The Financial Collapse: Revealed?

I am a bit behind in listening to "This American Life," which I subscribe to as a podcast. I just listened to episode #405: Inside Job, it is about 39 minutes long. (There may be a way to listen to it for free, as I said, I received it as a podcast.) Truly fascinating.

Essentially, Magnetar Capital is a hedge fund that decided to buy up the lowest tranche that comprises collateralized debt obligations (CDO's), also know as collateralized mortgage obligations (CMO's) or residential mortgage back securities (RMBS's). According to the National Public Radio and ProPublica reports, Magnetar was extremely aggressive in the amounts of which it bought the "equity" (lowest) tranche and hedged against the CDO which housed their investments. If the any part of the CDO's were to fail, Magnetar would gain more money than if the CDO were to actually succeed.

The interesting ethical dilemma is that Magentar's fiduciary responsibility is with its investors. In other words, it seeks to make money for its investors regardless of any consequences it may cause. Magnetar seized a loop-hole and ran with it, to the benefit of its investors. But, at what cost? 

Not to defend Wall Street, but there are other factors that allowed a company such as Magnetar Capital to create insanely risky equity tranches also played a hand in the "financial collapse." 

  1. There was a change in policy during the Clinton administration that allowed less equity requirements when people bought homes. Thus allowing for people getting in over their head in mortgage debt. (My friend's mother is a bookkeeper and told me that pre-Clinton, a home owner needed 20% equity before purchasing a home. That requirement dropped considerably during the Clinton administration. Unfortunately, I looked for documentation on the internet, but did not find it.)
  2. Because of the dot com bubble, the Federal Reserve dropped interest rates to new lows, again allowing for people to buy real estate that perhaps was not in his/her best interest. This, coupled with lowered equity requirements, drove a housing boom. 
    1. "Yale economist Robert Shiller said in 2005, “Once stocks fell, real estate became the primary outlet for the speculative frenzy that the stock market had unleashed. Where else could plungers apply their newly acquired trading talents?”" (Wikipedia.org).
  3. Where is the personal accountability in each home owner that knew s/he could not afford such homes? If it were only a few people, they would have ultimately only screwed themselves, so to speak, and it would not have led to any pandemic financial downfall. I know people don't like to ever blame themselves, but I feel that it is not just the system at fault. People on "Main Street" are just as greedy as those on Wall Street. 
  4. It seems obvious that if there is a weakness in the system, somebody (usually in Wall Street) will find and exploit it. That is not to say that I agree with the morality of being some sort of financial shark, but if it is legal, it will be done. 
  5. How bankers are compensated is also an issue. Many put together these low-quality CDO deals knowing that personally they would be paid bonuses based on fees that were generated just by putting together CDO's. If the CDO were to fail, the bankers had already been paid. There were no consequences if CDO's succeeded or floundered. The banks that put together were saddled in bad investments while the responsible parties had already received handsome bonuses. 
  6. I am wondering, where was the SEC during all of this? Shouldn't the agency have been a watchdog? I'm not sure, but I just wanted to mention it as something to consider.
All of this essentially led to the financial collapse. It really reminds me of Long-Term Capital Management (LTCM). In the west, we really did not feel the effects of the disintegration of LTCM, but it certainly sparked The Asian Crisis. There is a definite domino effect if you care to look for it. Wall Street is not completely to blame, but it certainly played a huge hand. The U.S. government (often times the Fed) also plays its hand in a major way with its policies and agendas. 

To me, the real question becomes how to prevent all these ricochets? One or two businesses takes down a financial system, the Fed reacts, other problems are caused. What due diligence does Wall Street really have? What personal accountability does each of us have? When should the government step into our "free" markets? I am not making any moral judgements here, but I think that it is important to understand the situation. It is complicated, and I have over-simplified it. 

The "financial collapse" continues to impact people around the globe. U.S. taxpayers are on the hook for bailing out many banks. Just consider: who is ultimately accountable? It is not a straight-forward answer, but worth contemplating.