Friday, December 28, 2012

How to Get Your Perfect Job

In a previous post I showed the "Perfect Job Venn Diagram."I created this because I know that life is too short to waste it working in a job you hate. Work is a huge important part of all of our lives.



I've reviewed the perfect Job Venn Diagram with many of my friends who are trying to decide which career or job to get. The other day one of my friends asked me a good question. He said, "Ok, your diagram helped me know exactly what I want to do. What next steps do I take to get my perfect job?"

"Great question," I thought, "I should write that up!" I interview people for my company and I can tell if someone has prepared for the interview and for the job. I find that many people have not taken the time to do the research. When I do see someone who has prepared, it's almost guaranteed they will be hired over the many other applicants. I typed out seven steps that I think will give an advantage to any job seeker.

The 7 steps to get your perfect job:

1. Research the Job Requirements
Google your perfect job title. Look for people résumé's, linkedin.com profiles, and job posting. These will let you read the requirements of your perfect job. It should list the educational requirements, type and length of experience required, and type of certificates required. Build your network of others who already have your perfect job. If you have friends who are in this field, sit down and ask them about the things that helped them get their jobs. If you don't already know people in this job, then search out people on linkedin.com. Use meetup.com or facebook.com to look for and join communities, societies, and user groups where people in this field meet.

2. List the Key Missing requirements
Now that you have the detailed list of the job requirements, take time to review your own qualifications. Think about how some of your experience can be shown to help you with the new target job. Identify the items that you are completely missing including education, certificates, and experience.

3. Make a Plan
The list of missing job requirements might seem overwhelming at first, but ever journey starts with the first step. Making a plan will help you achieve your goal. If you are determined to get into your perfect job and stop wasting your life doing something you hate, it's worth the time an effort. Create a time line and put each requirement on it depending on how long each takes. Make sure you coordinate them so that you do them in a way that lets you finish the most quickly. Check out pre-requisites for each. If you need to get a Masters degree, check the university's pre- requisites. Make sure you have a plan to get those first. Often your list of job requirements is end goals which in themselves will take many steps to complete. Don't get discouraged!! Just check each one and document the steps to achieve each job requirement.

4. Fulfill all the Key Requirements
If one of the requirements is experience don't fret. Often you can get experience by doing internship and volunteer work. Most of the time you have to do a job without getting paid before you get paid. Check with non-for-profit companies to see if they have openings or needs for your perfect job. Try finding someone who would be willing to let you do the job for free for them in return for a recommendation. Any experience will benefit you not only during the interviews but to give you confidence. The confidence is really the key to getting the job during the interview.

5. Target Organizations and Apply for the job
Near the start of your prepping for your new job, start looking for your target organization. This will allow you to get super detailed in your preparing. Select a company that matches your own values and offers the job benefits you need. Be picky! Know why you want to work at that organization. Then be ready to articulate those reasons during the interview. Find out what their culture values and make sure that it matches your values. Add any items to your list of requirements that might help you. For example, if they are often looking for new hires at top coder events, then think about adding that to your list of hobbies.

6. Prepare for the interview
Before you walk into the interview room you need to research the company, the department, and even the hiring managers. Linkedin.com can be a great ally by allowing you to search for the hiring managers and studying their job histories and interests. Find interests that you have in common that you can bring up during the interview. Prepare 5 real life stories where you solved problems using the key skills of the job. Have a few different friends practice the interviewing you. Create a PowerPoint for yourself (not to be shared with anyone else) that explains why you are qualified and must be hired by the organization. Make a list of your stories you prepared. Being prepared shows the interviewer that you care, and that goes a long way in selling yourself.

7. Follow up
After the interview is over, be sure to thank the interviewer and ask for an address where you can mail them a thank you card. This is so rarely done in an age of texting and emails. This personal touch really will help. Most of the time the interviewers go back to their offices and struggle with a bunch of highly qualified candidates and they try to figure out who to hire. Your card will put you over the top on their list.

These 7 steps are guaranteed to give you an advantage while trying to land your perfect job. Companies are looking for motivated entrepreneurial candidates who look for problems to solve. If you do this much prep for a job, it will show and put you in a category apart from the hundreds of others people seeking the same position.

Good Luck!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Second National Novel Writing Month Winner!!

I finished my second Novel as part of National Novel Writing month!!
I spent the last 17 days editing it and getting it into a draft that I could send to my editor. I just sent it over to him. I am so happy! I'll post as soon as I publish it on amazon.com, which I hope will be before New Years!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Update on NaNoWriMo

Today I wrote 2000 words on my iPhone!
I am now trying to fill in more details in my book Engineer Your Perfect Child because I have completed the story.
I am traveling today back from a Thanksgiving holiday and my husband is driving the 8 hours so that I can write. It was not easy. My book is very exciting and I hope to do some editing and publish it very soon.
I am now at 41783 words!!

Monday, November 5, 2012

What is Love?

Dear Readers,
I am not usually very religious on this blog, but I am a woman of strong faith in God.
Today I was reading 1 Corinthians 13, the chapter on Love. Even though I've read it lots of times it really hit home today because I had an interaction with someone that didn't go well. The person decided to cuss at me. Its pretty much the first time anyone in my whole life has done that. I was very angry. I left the situation but thought about it the rest of the day.
Now as I am reading my Bible I am reading about Love. I didn't feel any love for this person who angered me. I felt hate, but as I read it I realized that love is so powerful. Its also an action. Its funny because as I read the beginning of the chapter I feel like its talking about all my hobbies: learning languages (speak in the tongues of men), the love of knowledge ( love of reading), having faith, giving to charity (not enough, but still). But its saying that all those things are meaningless without Love. I gain nothing.
Below that section it talks about what Love is. Its not a feeling but a list of actions: patience, kindness. Then a list of what it does not do: doesn't envy, doesn't boast, doesn't dishonor others, isn't self-seaking, isn't easily angered, keeps no record of wrongs. These actions convicted me. I couldn't hold on to my anger. I had to let it go. Realize that this person is going through a tough time and is still growing as a person. Being able to let it go relieved so much stress as if a heavy burden had been removed.

I hope these words mean something to you if you need it today. I know I needed to hear it. I've included the full text below:

New International Version (NIV)
13 If I speak in the tongues[a] of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast,[b] but do not have love, I gain nothing.

4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

National Novel Writing Month is here again!!

Yeah! I love these month long challenges. Last year I wrote Engineer Your Perfect Child. This year I am writing the sequal.

Whats it about you ask?? Glad you asked...
Synopsis
In 2020 scientists are working on creating genius in the labratory. Sometimes things go wrong, very wrong.

Excerpt
Indira pulled up the violin video from right after the implant. The boy, who was about 7, picked up the violin and began to play perfectly. With the same gestures, and movements that the source boy had. He even had the same facial ticks the source boy had. Then he seized up and then crumpled to the ground. She watched her staff run to the boy and lay him on the operating table. They put monitors all over him. When he finally came out of the coma after a few hours he had significant problems understanding or reacting. Slowly after a few weeks he was able to function at a very low IQ level.


Maybe when I am done you can read it...
Write your own novel! Go to nanowrimo.org to learn more.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Why is HealthCare so Expensive- Blue Shirt Analogy

Blue Shirts Analogy

This is my thought experiment. No doubt there are some problems with it. I hope it sparks some ideas on the causes of high health care costs and what we can do about it.


On January 1st, Congress passed a new law, it said that all people should wear Blue Shirts with the exact color (#0313FF) on Mondays to work effective immediately. They put this law in place to prevent that hard decision on monday about what to wear. They said that it would create more creativity over all by reducing stress.

The impacts on the economy were huge.
About 240 million workers minus whatever the unemployment rate was at that time went to the mall/wall-mart/their favorite designer to buy a Blue Shirt. The stores quickly ran out and called their suppliers to get more . Blue Shirt prices soared and a black market quickly developed.

Suppliers including designers, manufactures had never thought about making so many Blue Shirts and quickly re-tooled their assembly lines to crank out more Blue Shirts.

Seeing the dollar signs that could be made everyone went into the Blue Shirt production business. Blue fabric became a commodity expensive than gold. The tone for fabric dye also soared. Scientists began to look for ways to make new ways to create the perfect 0313FF quicker.


Everyone in America got the Blue Shirt fever. Seniors bought stock in companies that made Blue Shirts. Schools moved their pensions over to Blue Shirt stocks. Everyone believed that blue shirts would save them. Demand would never run out since everyone has to wear them to work and they wear out quickly.

Within a few months there was a blue shirt store on every corner and everyone could buy one. Slowly the demand started leveling off. People bought a few shirts and then stopped buying them.

The price of Blue Shirts started to drop and all the people who had quit their previous jobs to go into the Blue Shirt industry saw their profit margins shrink. Soon they had to lay off and try to find cheaper ways of doing business. Those that couldn't cut their production costs had to close their businesses.

All those Blue Shirt stocks went through a sell out and fell sharply. Seniors and schools lost their investments.

After a few more months only the strongest Blue Shirt businesses survived. The prices leveled out.

Then one year later Congress said they liked that shade of blue so much that they now wanted Tuesday and Wednesday to also be a blue shirt day. Anther huge surge happened and the suppliers of Blue Shirts again ran out. Prices again soared. Industry ramped up and opened more businesses, but again after a few months those that couldn't produce to meet the falling market prices went out of business.


This analogy shows how bubbles work. Bubbles happen constantly, so watch out. But this version of the story happens without any price adjustments. It also doesn't take into government tampering, monopolies, unions. Now lets add those items in.

Lets say that right when the first law came out the suppliers of the Blue Tone quickly reacted and joined together to make a monopoly. They asked the government to make a licensing process for new suppliers of Blue Tone. The members of the approval board being the current suppliers. They would only approve a limited number of new suppliers a month. This would reduce the supply allowing them to keep their monopoly on this key ingredient of Blue Cloth.

Soon a black market emerged for everyone who couldn't get approval from the Blue Tone Licensing Board.

Meanwhile the workers in the factories became a union and they requested protection. They said that if they don't get their demands met they will all quit. They requested that the new workers brought on be limited and that they meet a certain set of requirements and be voted into the union. The management just needed to produce Blue Shirts and they saw that the unions were about to stop, so they agreed. This sharply reduced the number of new Blue Shirt makers that could be hired. The production of Blue Shirts continued at a steady pace instead of increasing to meet the new demand.

The prices soared even higher than the first story. The poor who had to buy shirts had to go to loan sharks to get money to buy the extraordinary expensive shirts.

Manufacturers with factories over seas quickly realized their opportunity to meet the huge demand. They started importing Blue Shirts. But the Unions realized this and went to Congress and had them create a tariff to protect themselves. Now Manufactures overseas couldn't make any margin, so they reduced their supply or stopped importing.

Prices continued to sore.
People mortgaged their houses, went bankrupt, others put their life savings into the Blue Shirt Stocks and kept getting richer and richer.

The congress seeing that they probably screwed up decide to drop their law.
Now all the people who were in debt and bankrupt were still bankrupt and ruined. The stocks fell right away and all those who had invested lost their investments. The companies wanted to lay off their Blue Shirt Workforces, but the unions prevented them from doing so. So they kept making blue shirts at a steady rate even though there was no demand for them. Those companies went out of business.

Which model more negatively impacts the economy? A better question is which one ruins more lives?


When an industry which is in demand puts restrictions on entry the prices go up. If we looked in our economy for an area with rising prices, we need to look for tampering and see whats causing the lack of supply. It might be unions, tariffs, of Licensing boards that restrict the number of entries into the market.
I am interested in looking at Health Care. Which of these factors are present in Health Care?
Restrictions/Monopoly in the supply of needed ingredients? Medicine, Liability Insurance, Medical School, Fellowships
Licensing boards that restrict the entry of new suppliers? And recertifications.
Discouragement of imports of doctors from over seas. Most doctors coming from abroad need to go back to school or at least jump through many hoops
Continued demand as more American's have obesity related illnesses

Medical tourism is becoming a new option that should help reduce costs.

We all need health care and we need it to be affordable. If the market was free then prices would adjust as more suppliers entered the market. Even as demand increases as the population ages and gets more sick due to our senentary lifestyle, the supply would increase and keep prices stable. We know there are forces tampering with the market due to the extremely high prices.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Someone comes to town, someone leaves town

Someone comes to town, someone leaves town

By Bett Correa
09-20-2011 performed at Tampa Writers Alliance Spoken Word event on 10-28-2012

No tears leaked from Lola’s stern eyes as she pulled on to the road in her beat up red Toyota 1991 MR2. The days of crying over her life would remain in the past like the dust her thick tires threw into her mother’s face as she left. Her mother’s face remained dry as well, Lola noted with a hollow emptiness. She watched her mother’s wheel chair bump over the uneven gravel as she pushed herself back to her wooden porch of the trailer. The wheel chair and its occupant struggled to make progress, even as Lola’s powerful mid-engine Japanese car quickly gained speed.

No tears leaked from Lola’s worried eyes as she pulled into a Cumberland Farms gas station several hours later. Mother would be taking her evening pills and giving her evening bitter pills to Lola now. Lola would be crying in her room soon, but not anymore. She pulled next to the pump and selected Regular. Regular Lola with a regular life. No more abuse.

No tears leaked from Lola’s curious eyes as she pulled into Tampa’s USF campus only twelve hours later. Mother would be waking up now with screams of terror and waking up Lola from the same happy dream. Dad ran next to the bicycle. The thrill of the air rushing threw her long black hair. The terror of realizing Dad wasn’t holding on any more- the happiness of not falling and instead flying. She was flying down the side walk. Other children were biking too. They joined her and they all flew along with the wind so loud in their ears they could barely hear each other laugh. Then the laughs would become screams and the faces would shrink away as she woke up.

No tears leaked from Lola’s amazed eyes as she pulled into her desk at her first English Composition 1 class. The other students bumped and pushed as they slide into their seats. Professor Gilders wrote her name on the white board then turned and gave the class a warm smile. She radiated a warmth which Lola sucked in a big gasp into her lungs. The warmth filled the hollow emptiness in her tummy all the way up to her neck then crept into her chin then slowly pushed the corners of her mouth up into a smile.

No tears leaked from Lola’s excited eyes as she pulled herself up on stage. Lola laughed uncontrollably as she put on a red wig and skipped into place. Dancing, singing and speaking, Lola auditioned above an adoring audience. The thrill of losing herself in a role matched the thrill of bicycling. Alone on stage or with the voices of others, she felt complete.

No tears leaked from Lola’s triumphant eyes as she pulled the flowers into her arms from the stage. The audience’s roar rang in her ears. Lola blinked away the bright lights to see her fans. She stopped suddenly as she recognized her mother’s face looking up at her. Her mother’s face no longer looked disdainfully down on Lola, but up in wonder. Lola jumped off the stage and ran to her mother. She dropped the flowers and hugged her.
Tears leaked from Mother eye’s as she whispered, “Will you forgive me?”
Tears leaked from Lola’s eyes as she whispered, “Yes. I love you.”

Saturday, October 27, 2012

What Frankenstein Means Today

Last night I joined my favorite event of the month: My book club! This month we read and discussed Frankenstein. As I drove to the event, I felt very worried about the meeting because I had recommended we read this classic about the unnamed monster that Dr Frankenstein created. Reading the book for the second time made me realize some strong themes in the book but also made me realize how romantic and almost silly of a book Mary Shelly wrote.

First lets talk about the romantic aspects. I use the word romantic as the literary meaning of the word. The longing for nature. The belief, championed by Jean-Jacques Rousseau in the 18th-century, holds we should forsake our cities, technology and weapons and return to the idyllic garden. Mary Shelly goes on and on about in her descriptions of nature in her book. Frankenstein creates The Monster by his use of science which is contrary to nature. He uses technology to create a being who never should have been. The monster too knows he should never have been and long the companionship and love of other beings.

Now let's move to the silly aspects. The Monster learns within two years how to speak with grammatical sentences by observing a near by a family! After studying Chinese for four months, I can tell you that it's not as easy to learn a language as it was for The Monster. I won't even mention the difficultly which Frankenstein overcomes so easy to make a fully working being from morgue scraps, and that he was going to make a bride for the monster with functioning reproductive system... I'd like to see how that was possible.

Let's move from the silly to the enduring piece that Mary Shelly displays so clearly for me. Responsibility for our progeny rings as the theme. Michael Crichton picked up this theme and used it as the central plot of all of his books: Man creates using his technology and his creations turn on him.  Dr. Ian Malcolm in The Lost World, "Oh, yeah. Oooh, ahhh, that's how it always starts. Then later there's running and screaming."

This idea still rings true. Today's science is finally catching up to where we expect it to be. I love the quote, "The future is already here — it's just not very evenly distributed", in an interview on Fresh Air, NPR (31 August 1993). But its starting to get more evenly distributed and affordable. You can fly into space on Virgin Galactic.

You can get your DNA sequenced and drugs made for your unique issues. Google can tell us everything we want to know. We can get any book instantly. We can collaborate on projects with anyone across the globe. We can almost travel anywhere on our globe with in 36 hours for under $5k. We can even use our technology to recapture nature with satellite images poachers can be tracked and arrested. Winter, the dolphin with prosthetic tail can swim again. Technology and science has given us supreme power that Mary Shelly could never have dreamed of.

But with all this there’s always that fear of our science turn on us and it does. The oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico put thousands out of work and cause untold ecological damage. Hackers from around the globe attach institutions they don't care for. Hundreds are dying from tainted medicine. Viruses can spread around the globe in 36 hours as we travel from one destination to another.

So what's to be done? What can we do? Dr Victor Frankenstein told Walton that he should avoid scientific discovery and exploration as the worst waste of time. “Learn from me . . . how dangerous is the acquirement of knowledge, and how much happier that man is who believes his native town to be the world, than he who aspires to become greater than his nature will allow.”

But I abandon this belief. I love technology. Just yesterday I was having lunch with an amazing local business leader and she was telling me about a device to help folks suffering from Alzheimer's disease. This device makes their lives significantly better for the care givers and the patients. I know technology can and does make the world better. We all just need to learn how to deal with it. I hope we will. I believe there is hope.

In a podcase from To The Best of our Knowlege titled "Thinking about Thinking," they were saying that people always worry about new technology. When fire was invented no doubt lots of cavemen complained that it was dangerous and would kill them. But eventually the cavemen learned how to use it and control it. The same way we will grow and learn how to manage our technology and science.

In order to make sure Mary Shelly's worst fears don't come true we need to do the following:
1.      At the most basic level we need government to get out of the way. Remove the obstacles from our economy that moves technology forward. We need to remove red tape that stops industry from developing.
2.      Next step, we need to reach for what Umair Haque calls “Betterness.” He talks about measuring a business not by its income sheet, not even by its normal its balance sheet, but by the value it creates in the community and world. In this type of paradigm board members, C-level executives and employees strive to ensure their products and services aren’t taking value out of the world by destroying environments, but instead do everything they can to make the world a better place as defined in their “Ambition statements”
3.      We need to remove obstacles from our bright young people's way and get them into science and engineering. Let them focus on the issues and create solutions. We need role models to get in front of kids and show them that technology makes a great career. Here we all can get involved. Mentor, teach, and encourage them.

Together we can make a difference and not let the progeny get away from us.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Trust for Group Creativity


Monday night I lead an improv workshop for the kids at a homeless shelter. The experience opened my eyes to the results of being homeless and living a rough life. I don’t know the histories of these kids, but I am sure it’s full of broken promises from family and teachers and friends. The results of these broken promises resulted in a lack of trust. The lack of trust resulted in poor group creativity, but I was able to build some trust in the two hour workshop I ran. I’ll go through that here.

I had a list of exercises documented before I got there, but I quickly realized that we needed to start with something more basic.

 I had the kids get in a circle with me. We went around the room and each person said a one word alterative attribute, their name and an action ie "Better Bett." The kids were very shy and didn't put much effort into their physical attribute. Most of the kids as it become their turn would look around and say, "Stop laughing at me." 

We played another game where the each kid told another kid about something "crazy" like, "I had worms for breakfast." The game quickly turned into the kid telling the other kid that they turned into an ape or a snake. I realized these kids probably didn't like each other and spent their time making fun of each other. Their was a total lack of trust in the group.

The most basic building block of an improv group, and any group which needs to work together smoothly, is Trust. The price paid clearly shows itself: lack of commitment, doubt, and lack of creativity. We kept going with different games and slowly, after an hour, the kids started getting more relaxed. We played a game called "Talk show with Good, Bad, Crazy Experts." This game was the turning point for the kids. I think because they were set up for success as "Experts" they couldn't be wrong. We all clapped at their statements and they started to smile more and more. The way the game works is one person is the Talk Show Host, three others sit in chairs as the Expert Panelists. A topic is chosen by the audience for example, "Cooking:" (the more simple the better). Then the Talk Show Host asks one question for example, "How do you boil water" and each Expert gets to answer. The first is the Good Expert, for example, "Fill a pot with water. Set it on the eye of the stove. Turn the stove on high"
The second is the Bad Expert for example, "Put the water in the pot. Put the pot in the sun and wait."
The third is the Crazy Expert, for example, "Fill a pot with water. Set it on the eye of the stove. Turn the stove on High. Put your hand inside to verify that the water is heating up."

The kids just loved this game. We kept alternating so each could get a chance to do it. Then we did group picture where everyone had to make a picture with their bodies without talking or directing each other. We ended up with a lot of folks trying to direct and talking. We eventually started doing really well (I was fully involved in this game throwing my body on the floor with the others). They were all laughing and cheering. We did a lot of these. We started with letters, then started spelling words, then moved to objects like houses and airplanes.

Finally we played a game called "Create a Room." We stood in a line and before us was an empty room. We'd each go in by opening the door and go to a spot in the room and start using an object in the room. The kids really got into this. They created a yoga room, a pedicure room, basketball court, pool table, video game console, shark tank and more.

I think trust takes a lot of time to develop, but even within an hour I saw their trust growing. I didn't lecture them until the end. I told them the following, "When you are on stage with your team members you main goal must be to make your team members 'look good.' You can't stop and make fun of them if they make a mistake because you have a paying audience watching you. You've got to keep going. In real life it’s the same way. Always make your team members look good."

Teaching this improv class to these kids who have been through a really rough time and probably have been betrayed by many people over the years showed me the trust gap. Without Trust you can't go out on a limb and try something new. The same is true in all our interactions. First build trust, then your team can be creative.


Friday, October 19, 2012

Lords Prayer 2.0

Give us this day our daily smart phone usage, and forgive us our ADD as we forgive others when they are ADD against us #lordsprayer2.0

Monday, October 15, 2012

Communication for creating

As I learn Chinese I think about the importance of language mastery to creativity. Its hard for me to communicate anything but the most basic of ideas in my elementary Mandarin. Forget about creating anything original like a poem using it. To be creative in a language you need to master the elements of the language.

There are more than just spoken languages in the world. Couple dancing also has its own language. The lead and follow must both be on the same page about the language they will use. Then they can create a dance commensurate with the mastery each has of the language and the clarity they use to communicate. A dancer travels through the same difficulties I am having with Chinese. In the beginning its amost like stumbling and stepping on each others feet. But as the dancer learns the language and then becomes a master, he can create truly beautiful dances with his partner.

Another creative endevor which has its own lanugage and grammar is Improv theater. An improv team must agree on a set of promts to manage the flow of the scenes. They must then practice them and besure they are clearly giving each sign since theres no way to stop the show in front of the audience and ask what the other person might have meant when they tagged them out. The again goes through the same struggle to communicate clearly and understand what their team members are trying to communicate. Slowly they will gain the skills and master them.

As I think about these activities I am involved in I see a strong pattern emerge.
They all center around language. In his book, The Language Instinct, Steven Pinker says that we all have an instinct to plug words we learn into a grammar as children. We crave language and learn it extrodinarly fast as small children. Its important to continue to find new areas where we can grow and learn new languages whether it be the language of photography, physics, or cooking. Don't be afraid of stumbling or stepping on a few toes to master that new language.

I look on these other areas that I've learned how to communicate clearly and know that eventually I'll get there with Chinese. In the mean time I'll stumble and communicate boring ideas.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

What I learned from teaching Improv

For the last four weeks I've taught an improv class to the 12 and 13 year old girls in my church.
I have been performing on stage since April 2011 and have been studying improv since September 2010. I got the idea of teaching the class because my improv team, The Third Thought, moved our practice nights to before our show on Thursdays freeing up Mondays. The thought of not doing improv on Mondays depressed me so much that the idea of starting an improv workshop just for girls came to mind. I knew I'd have to give it a shot.

Just as the idea came fully formed, I wanted to teach an improv class to girls, relying on recruiting them from my church,I also came up with my philosophy on teaching improv fully. I didn't have any interest in teaching them how to be funny or witty. I didn't want to teach them how to do "improv games" I wanted to teach them how to create full length plays with a group fully improvised. To me this is the height of improv theater, or as its usually called Long Form..

To teach them this I needed them to develop the building blocks of a great long form improv show:
1. Listening Skills
2. Being very Specific and detailed
3. Plots\story line\hero
4.Characters
5. Space Work
6. Scenes
7. Edits
See below for the detailed lesson plans.

My approach came from the many improv classes and workshops I've been in.
1. Don't Lecture
2. Let the class learn by doing.
3. Side coach
4. Each exercise must develop one of the 7 skills if not multiple of them.

The girls loved it. Each week I'd give them homework like pay attention to how you open a door or eat. Or watch movies and note their plot lines.

Each class was 2 hours and we didn't take breaks or rest. We went from one activity to the next. I think it was very intense, but the girls didn't complain. In fact I was surprised how good they did. I never even bothered telling them the rules of improv. I just side coached.

We started with one word story. (each person of the class adds the next word to the sentence which make up the story.) This let me assess where they were. I quickly realized that even though they were wonderful talkers and very imaginative, they were not good listeners. They also had no ability to put together a coherent story line. I'd have to stop and remind them about what had already taken place in the story.

Teaching to honor what the other team members have already added was a big lesson. I could see them starting to concentrate on listening. The next week they were much better.

Teaching them to be specific was my next challenge. I explained that the more specific the details are the better the story will be. To work on this we played a game called "Justify It." The members line up and the person at the top of the line walks down the line telling each person something crazy like, "I took all the water out of my pool and filled it with curtains." The second person must justify why they would do that like, "Of course you did because the chemicals in the pool water were drying out your rare skin disease and curtains are much healthier for you to swim in."

Teaching them to listen and honor each others ideas and to be specific really were the main things I had to work on with my class. By week three we started doing full long form sets and in week four we did two 30 minute sets. I was very impressed with my class.

Improv skills, Listening and honoring and specific are life skills. These girls will take what they learned in my class and use it in all areas of their lives. I am going to be teaching an improv class on the 22nd to the kids at Metropolitan Ministries, the homeless shelter. I hope the kids there will enjoy the class as much as I enjoy teaching it.


Full lesson plans:
Improv Workshop Week one:
Eye contact:

Name game
Pass the clap
zip zap zop
knife/bowling ball/Frisbee

Listening:
One paragraph story
One word story

Space work:
Make a room together


Wrap up:
Hot spot!!


-------------------
Week two:
Warm up:
Crazy 8's
Group Picture

Listening:
Liars game
That crazy cat Sassy

Space work:
Group is at a place and each person interacts with the space

Characters:
Waking with different characters around
Mimicking waking access the circle
Give me back my son

Scenes:
1. One person comes in and does some space work, the second joins and they talk about something else


-----------------
Week three:
Warm up:
Buzbeburkely
Stretch and share

Listening:
Justify it- each person is told something crazy and they have to
Justify it.

Space work:
What are you doing? I am doing a different action

Characters:
Advice: Good, Bad, Crazy

Scenes:
1. Three line scenes: identify relationship, where you are, whats going on.
2. Scene Edits - cuts, tag outs, cut to verbally.
3. The day something happened. Everything is important.
4. Advise from and older With cut too

-----------------
Week Four:
Warm up:
Buzbeburkely
Stretch and share
1. You have the same amount of time in your life as Marie curie, Florence Nightingale, Shakespeare
3. Be strategic in everything you do!
4. You are a product of your immediate environment


Listening:
Justify it- each person is told something crazy and they have to
Justify it.

Space work:

Characters:
Emotions 1 to 10. Two people stand at the end of the room and move up and down the scale of happy angry scared and sad.

Scenes:
1. Three line scenes: identify relationship, where you are, whats going on.
2. Scene Edits - cuts, tag outs, cut to verbally.
3. The day something happened. Everything is important.
4. Advise from and older With cut too


Saturday, October 13, 2012

I'll be speaking at 10:55 this morning on Software Architecture101.

Please come out to code camp/bar camp today! I'll be speaking at 10:55 this morning on Software Architecture101.
About the Event http://barcamptampabay.org

Monday, September 3, 2012

Our Friends in China

During the two weeks we were in China we made several friends. Almost all the friends came to us through serendipty.

First I'll talk about Candy and her family. We took two tours while we were in Xi An. The way these tours work is they pick you up at your hotels. So each person or family must be picked up and slowly the bus fills up. We left for the mountain early in the morning and soon there was a family sitting a head of us. Two girls sat in front of Tony and I. After two hours of sitting on the bus the little girl turned to us and smiled. She said, "Hello"
We responded with, "Hello, you speak English!"
She giggled and smiled proudly at the other girl who looked several years older.
Tony and I whispered together trying to decide what to ask next.
Our friend Shou was the only other English speaking person and he was sleeping. Tony and I longed to talk to someone and this little girls seemed eager to talk.
"How old are you?" I asked.
"8"
"Whats your name?"
"Candy"
We found out that the other girl was her cousin and that they were visiting Xi An on vacation with their four aunts. They let me borrow a hair tie to hold my hair back for the mountain. I felt very grateful.
We enjoyed the conversation but after we arrived at the mountain we all headed up at our own pace.
When we got back that afternoon we meet up again and now they were both even more talkative. We talked the whole way back to Xi An.
That night when we separated I felt very sad. I felt like we were meant to somehow stay connected. We said good bye when the bus dropped them off at their hotel. They all said good bye and left.

The next morning we got on another bus to go on a tour to visit several holy sites and a huge budist temple. We were resting on the bus when we got to a hotel and who got on but Candy and her family! We were all so happy. Shou's dad lite up. Candy took to Shou and he to her. We chatted and enjoyed the different sites.




When we separated that second day, I actually cried. I felt so sad like my heart was breaking. They got off the bus and we called our good byes.

The next day we went to the airport in Xi An on our way to Beijing. We were all sitting around relaxing waiting for our flight, when I saw one of Candy's tiny cousins walking by. I jumped up and ran after her. Her mom was there and she lite up when she recognized me. She said, "Fate!" in Chinese. She brought me to Candy and the other family members and we all hugged and laughed. I said I'd go get Shou and Tony. We all got back together and laughed and hugged.
We got one more picure all together. They were about to go through security to head back to their home in Sichuan Province.






It was really special. I'll never forget that wonderful family!

Visiting Xi An - Part 2

Xi An is also the home of the Terracotta warriors. These are thousands of clay life sized solders who were part of a grave of a emporor.
According to Wikipedia:
The Terracotta Army or the "Terra Cotta Warriors and Horses", is a collection of terracotta sculptures depicting the armies of Qin Shi Huang, the first Emperor of China. It is a form of funerary art buried with the emperor in 210–209 BC and whose purpose was to protect the emperor in his afterlife, and to make sure that he had people to rule over.
The figures, dating from 3rd century BC, were discovered in 1974 by some local farmers in Lintong District, Xi'an, Shaanxi province.
The figures vary in height according to their roles, with the tallest being the generals. The figures include warriors, chariots and horses. Current estimates are that in the three pits containing the Terracotta Army there were over 8,000 soldiers, 130 chariots with 520 horses and 150 cavalry horses, the majority of which are still buried in the pits near by Qin Shi Huang's mausoleum.[1] Other terracotta non-military figures were also found in other pits and they include officials, acrobats, strongmen and musicians.

We took a taxi to the location because the bus was too expensive and too slow.  There were lots of foreigners there. They built the museum right over the dig site. There wasn't AC in the building with all the warriors. We were dripping sweat.


















Friday, August 10, 2012

Visiting Xi An

Visiting the ancient city of Xi An. The first thing I noted about Xi An is the air is much drier than it was in Hangzhou. The long ride into the city on the bus showed us a rapidly developing region. There were so many 100+ storie apartment building. Row after row.




These apartment buildings reminded me of the matrix. Xi An cabs were very cheap, but they were hard to get and harder to convince to take us places.



It was very hot there and we had a long way to walk before we finally found a cab to take us to our hotel.
Our hotel was very nice, but no WiFi.
That first afternoon after checking into our hotel, we wandered around and found a place for lunch. We had lamb spicy noodle stew and it was one of my favorite meals in all of China. I wish I could learn how to make it so that I can eat it anytime.




Next we went to a temple of some sort and looked around. Very nice architecture.



And there was another pagoda:




That night we went to a market where their were lights in the trees and stores full of goods for tourists. We saw lots of non Chinese there. which was a big surpise after being the only white people in Hangzhou.









The next day we got picked up by a tour bus and travelled for three hours to the famous Mt. Huashan. We then waited in line for two hours to ride a cable car up near the top. When we got up near the top, there were plenty of more stairs to climb. The air was cool on the mountain and we really enjoyed it. But there were many people.












There were men carrying loads up the mountain for 10 yuan a package. It took us 2 hours to get down the mountain, so it must have taken them 4 hours to go up the mountain with about 6 packages. Here is a picture:

A taxi cost about 1.50 yuan and a bottle of water cost about 2 yuan.



We all climbed around for a while, then one by one folks decided to rest. Tony was first, then Shou's dad. Finally Shou and I quit and we rejoined Tony and Dad. Then we had to decide how to get off the mountain. The line to get down was another 2 hour line. So we decided to climb it!! There were stairs all the way down the mountain. It took about 2 hours to get down. That was 2 straight hours of climbing down stairs. I consider myself to be very in shape. I go to the gym three to 4 times a week. I do the stair climber at the gym, but I was sore for a full week after climbing down that mountain.













We finally got to the bottom then we relaxed in the cold springs at the bottom.


I had dropped a water bottle into the stream when we first got there and I was able to wade over and it later. I was very proud of that.

The next day we went to several temples and the tomb of Wu Zetian, the only female empress of China.



We also visted a huge Budhist temple and I'll cover that in my next post.