Thursday, November 07, 2013

Make it a Great Speech

I attended Ryan Avery's Make it a Great Speech this evening. Here are my notes from the speech.

Three Items:

    1. Simple
    2. Impactful
    3. Relatable

1. Simple always wins. i.e. keep the speech simple.

Intro should always tie back to conclusion.

Body should be three stories that all match the same theme.

You can't be the hero of your own story. Someone teaches you something.

In each of the three stories there should always be a constant object, place or person. In the Trust is a Must speech the constant was the bunny slippers.

Write your speech like a poem instead of by paragraph. When writing your speech create a new line for each pause you want to take. Write it like a poem. It will be much easier to remember the text and also remember when to pause.

Number one sense that links us is smell. Can you smell your speech? Use a different colored highlighter for each of the five senses and read through the speech and highlight where each sense is used in the speech.

Drop the prop. Let the audience create an image in their own in their own minds, you don't need to take props onto the stage.

Active voice vs passive voice. Tell them what is happening. Leave "was" out of the speech. Use active voice.

Book coming out: Speaker, Leader, Champion by Ryan Avery

2. Make it impactful. Look for opportunities and not excuses.

Video all your speeches.

Never give a speech again, only send a message from the heart.

Simon Sinek's golden circle
Why, how, what
Why do you want to do something?
How will you do it?
What will you do to change the world?
This is the right order to ask these questions. Find your why and the rest will follow. Most people go in the opposite direction which is 1. What 2. How 3. Why

Chelsea's blog:

Ryan's blog:

You don't have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great - Zig Ziglar

Make an impact on yourself first. Setup visualization stations all over the house. Not about assuming to be champion but training to be it. Ryan had his name as the 2012 world champion written in prominent places like on the white board and a print out in a binder at work so he was always seeing it.

Triangle of success. Reduce what you are doing to focus on the one item you want to succeed at. Top says success and bottom says focus. Need to reduce doing too much and focus on one thing.

3. Make it relatable.

Never tell a joke again, tell a failure.
The best way to be relatable is to use your family. Using anything else could be offensive to someone.

Dress to relate. Dress appropriately for the audience.


How you practice is how you will play. i.e. practice every speech like you're giving the final one on stage.

Insanity is doing the same thing over and over expecting a different result.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Banana Update October 2013

Our banana has already started to have babies and it's only been in the orchard for 4 months. You can see a small one at the base here and there's another peeking out from behind.

The banana now stands at 5 feet tall. That's 60 inches. It was 18 inches tall when I planted it 4.5 months ago: Goldfinger Banana

What you see around the base of the banana is our first batch of compost that has been brewing in our compost barrel since 14 June 2013.

30 September 2014 Update

In the 12 months since the last update on the banana 2 more babies have sprouted and we now have 5 strong stems all of equal size creating the banana palm "grove" that you see.

They are doing a great job at propagating but very little in the vertical direction and we still haven't seen a bunch of bananas from it yet.

Something that I learned is that once a banana palm flowers and produces its fruit then that stem is done and you can cut it down. It's just like a flower.

Moro Blood Orange

We have a new tree in our orchard as of 10/10/2013. A Moro Blood Orange.

It currently stands at exactly 3 feet tall and comes from Willits & Newcomb Citrus Nursery. We bought it from Costco about 2 weeks ago.

Costco are clever. They know how blazingly hot Arizona gets so they only sell their citrus trees in the fall. The last one that we bought was a Navel Orange from them around a year ago, also in the fall.

The blurb on the ticket on this orange tree reads: This Italian variety is the earliest ripening blood orange. Medium size fruit has reddish-orange rind and deep burgundy flesh. Juicy fruit has rich orange-raspberry flavor, a distinctive aroma and few seeds. Fruit ripens December to April. Medium size tree produces fruit in clusters near the outside of the tree. An attractive ornamental.

Care instructions: Water regularly during first growing season to establish a deep, healthy root system. Do not over-water! Feed monthly during growing season with a citrus fertilizer. Remove all growth below bud union.

30 September 2014 Update

The blood orange produce great flowers in the spring and lots of small fruit but none of it set. Over the last few weeks of milder weather and rain it has started growing rapidly but more outwards than up with is great.

Strangely it seems to have shrunk and is now 5 inches shorter at 31 inches.

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Big Travel - Toastmaster Speech #10

Mister Toastmaster, fellow toastmasters and guests. Today I want to inspire you to do Big Travel. I define Big Travel as anything beyond a vacation, usually six weeks or more. Typically between three and six months. Let me describe a couple of days during one of my travels.

It was already mid-morning when we started hiking up Tajumulco Volcano. At 13,845 feet it’s the tallest point in Guatemala and Central America. Remember that Mexico is not part of Central America.

We had set off at 4am that morning and had to catch three different busses to get to the base of the extinct volcano. I could still smell the chickens I had to share a seat with on the last bus and I was sure that one of their small fluffy feathers was stuck in my throat. Of course, it could have been the altitude and dry air. We hiked all day with few breaks and heavy packs. There was no water on the trail which meant we had to carry two days worth of water. The sun was setting as we reached a hollow just below the summit where we camped. During the night a fierce wind descended on us and our tent collapsed. We were too exhausted to put it back up.

The next morning we picked up our scattered belongings and left them in the camp while we hiked into the crater of the extinct volcano. It was beautiful and haunting at the same time. We were standing on a white sand beach with scattered black lava rock around us.

One of our team members has been suffering from altitude sickness ever since we got near the summit. He hasn’t been doing well so we’re carrying most of his pack and helping him. Luckily we only have half our water left and we are now hiking downhill. Once we drop a thousand feet off the summit the soroche, as the locals call it, that he’s suffering from, evaporates like water droplets on a hot stove and he’s able to pull his weight again.

When we get to the road we had to wait a few hours for the only bus that day that comes by there. It’s already packed and it looks like there’s standing room only and even then I can’t see where we’re going to fit. The conductor convinces us that there’s plenty of space and throws our packs on the roof. He pushed my travel companions towards the back of the bus and the ushered me to the front. There was no room there. The seat next to the driver that was made for two already had three people on it. He pointed to a two inch sliver on the edge of the seat. My only option to balance on this edge with my knees against the drivers seat and one leg on each side of the gear stick.

When the driver had the bus in first or third gear my right leg was pinned against the dashboard but it worked. The first time he tried to change the bus into fourth gear I screamed like a girl. The angle that I was sitting at didn’t allow for me and the gearstick to coexists in that position.

The experience was amazing. None of them were as valuable or as enriching as the people that I met along the way. Everywhere I went I experienced acts of kindness and philanthropy. Most of it was in countries where they had no money. The times that I felt most rewarded were when I could give back during my travels. Spending time in an Orphanage playing with the kids.

Before you commence on Big Travel think carefully about what you want to get out of it or what you want to give of yourself. Make sure that you have an objective and have a plan to achieve that on your travels.

I want to be completely transparent with you. Not everyday will be a barrel of laughs. It might be two o’clock in the morning and you’re holding onto the steering wheel of a yacht in the pouring rain and a flying fish hits you in the face. The flying fish drops down inside your oilskins and starts fibrillating against your stomach and slips into your pants. You have no choice but to disrobe and turn the storm into a freezing shower. You know that this is just part of the journey and at the end will be a crystal clear bay where you’ll spend each morning swimming with dolphins and a friendly manta ray.

The most difficult part of Big Travel is not the traveling itself. It’s the getting away from where you are now. Most of us are either employed or run our own business. In either case getting away for more than 6 weeks is very difficult. If you’re employed then usually, your only option is to do this between jobs. If you’re self employed then you have to plan this months or even years ahead to make sure that someone is covering your business and your clients.

A lot of people have a notion that you need to travel around the world. Airlines capitalize on that and they will sell you an around the world ticket. It’s valid for 1 year and you can usually change dates and flights on each segment at no charge so long as you continue in the same direction. I did this the first time I circumnavigated the world and can unequivocally say that it’s the wrong thing to do. The reason is that you end up doing too much traveling and not spending enough time in one place.

From my experience, you should pick a country or region and dedicate three to six months there and then return home and go back to work. Three to six months is long enough to get to know the country, culture and language and still allow you to come back to work with current up-to-date knowledge and reenter the workforce.

I leave you with the challenge. Find the time, plan for the time. Go and do Big Travel.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Left is Right - Toastmasters Humorous Competition 2013

This is a speech that I gave in the Toastmasters Humorous Speech competition. I did it twice on 8/20/2013 and 9/9/2013 and placed second on both occasions. The video below is from the second competition at Showtime Toastmasters.

Bang [shout and clap hands together], the 747 touched down at Phoenix Sky Harbor airport 2nd October 2005. My wife and I had arrived as immigrants in the United States of America.

Madam contest chair, fellow toastmaster and guests.

In Britain and other commonwealth countries we drive on the left and the steering wheel is on the right. A lot of people think that the first challenge we face as immigrants is learning to drive on the right. It’s not. It’s finding the steering wheel. Getting out of the habit of going around the right of the car is a tough one to break and after you open the door and notice that there’s no steering wheel you shut it, walk around to the driver’s side and get in. On a bad day would climb into the passenger seat and shut the door before I noticed that the steering wheel was missing. Depending on how athletic I felt I would either climb over the console or get out and walk around.

On one occasion I looked up from this misstep and noticed a couple of police officers watching me. Is it illegal to climb over the console? I had no idea. I opened the glove box and rummaged through the papers in there. Grabbing a handful of papers I got out and smiled at the officers “found them,” and walked around to the drivers side.

They followed me for about a mile before the lights came on. Those lights are as bright as the sun. How someone could ever use the excuse that they didn’t notice the lights is beyond me.
“Sir, I need to see your Driver’s License and Registration.”
This guy had a gun and handcuffs on his belt and his partner was standing next to him with his thumbs hooked into his belt like John Wayne; about to draw a six-shooter and riddle the car with bullets.
“Sir you’re going to have to get an Arizona drivers license within the next 7 days.”
In Britain the police don’t have guns. I was terrified and would have done anything he told me to do. Later that day I had my Arizona drivers license.

The biggest driving challenge when switching from the left to the right is the left turn. Your instinct is to immediately turn onto the left of the road. Most of the time I did this at traffic lights where the oncoming traffic was stationary.

Seeing all the cars facing me brought me to a screeching halt and a western style standoff. The other drivers would be staring at me waiting to see what my next move was. How can I possibly recover gracefully from this.

I remember a passenger in one of the cars pointing at me [mouth some words turning head from left to center] ...damn Brits.

We spent most of our first few weeks in Phoenix getting lost. In many respects that was fun and we got to see parts of Phoenix we may never have seen. At one point we came across a giant building with a big sign outside it that read The Candy Store.
“Do you see the size of that candy store? Only in America would a candy store be that big,” my wife said.
“We have to take a look at that, though strange that they have a silhouette of a woman above the front door and no windows. This country still doesn’t make sense to me,” was my reply.
“We have to pay to go into a candy store? These must be very special candies in this store. Perhaps part of it is a museum and and there’s candy that’s only on display that you can’t touch.”
Oh my Gosh, the sales assistants are topless.
“Darling, I think we’re in a strip club,” my wife said.
“Act cool, pretend we knew that,” was my reply
A lady walked up to us, “Would you like anything to drink?”
Me: “blabbering for a few seconds.” We had to get out of there. I turned straight into the oncoming traffic. Luckily the local drivers expect that type of driving from people leaving that [air quotes] store.

Since our arrival in America my wife and I have produced two new American citizens; I have a daughter and a son. A couple of weeks ago we were driving past the Candy Store and my daughter pipes up from the back. “Daddy, I like candy. I’m going to work at that shop one day.”

The shock of that statement made me swerve into the oncoming traffic. I've done that so often that it was an easy recovery.

America and Americans, I’d like to thank you for tolerating my mistakes, my misunderstandings, and my misdirections. I leave you with the following thought. If you see someone driving on the left side of the road remember that it might be right for them; or they've just come out of The Candy Store.

Madam Contest Chair.

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Happiness - Toastmaster Speech #9

Happiness and productivity. How can we achieve both every day?

Madam Toastmaster, fellow toastmasters and guests. The answer is simple. Daily Exercise.

When you exercise, a protein called BDNF, Brain Derived Neurotropic Factor, is release to protect yourself and your brain from stress. This acts like a reset switch on the memory neurons. At the same time, another chemical, also to fight stress, called endorphin is released to the brain. These endorphins minimize the discomfort of exercise, block the feeling of pain and give you a feeling of euphoria. These two chemicals have the same addictive behavior as morphine, heroine and nicotine except that they're good for you. They lead to a sense of calm which makes you happy and productive.

When I think of exercise I think of serious exercise. I think of keeping my heart rate over 120 beats per minute for one to two hours. And I think that I need to do this around three times a week. This is very wrong. The mental benefits of exercise are:

1. Gained in the first 20 minutes of exercise and,
2. It needs to be done daily.

A study at Penn State University found that to be more productive and happier you must have worked out on that particular day. If you work out regularly you will be more productive and happier than someone who is sedentary but not as happy and productive as someone who has worked out on that day.

Convincing you that exercise if good for you both physically and mentally is an easy sell. What's not so easy is convincing you to go out and do it. If the first thing that you do when you wake up is to exercise for around 20 minutes and you do this every day then you can stop listening. I have nothing more but admiration for you.

To get us to exercise first thing in the morning we need three things:

1. Motivation
2. Ability
3. Trigger

There's an inverse relationship between motivation and ability. If motivation is high then your ability to do something can be low and you'll still achieve it. Conversely, if motivation is low then it has to be super easy to do something in order to achieve it. It's important to note that even if motivation is high that motivation may not always be there which means that it's important that you make doing exercise as easy as possible. Motivation may disappear once you've achieved your goal.

You also have to have a trigger in place that will change your behavior. I read about someone who puts their workout clothes on top of their alarm clock so they have to pick up those clothes before switching off the alarm. This is their trigger to do exercise.

For me my trigger is also my alarm clock and my exercise is to swim. I set my alarm clock an hour earlier at 6am and as soon as it goes off I pick up my swimming goggles and swim-watch, switch off the house alarm and get into the pool and start swimming.

If you take up my challenge to exercise first thing in the morning every day then I suggest that you think about starting small and then start even smaller. The most important thing you can do right now is not just the exercise but the formation of a life long habit. When I decided to swim in the morning I was thinking of doing half an hour each morning and after discovering this advice I cut it right back to 5 minutes. After a couple of days of that I started to ignore my countdown timer when it beeped at me to stop and kept on going because I knew I didn't have to. Since then I've been increasing it and I'm now swimming around half a mile in about twenty minutes each morning.

We all have challenges when it comes to executing. One of my challenges is that I sometimes have my kids rattling the pool gate asking to be let in while I'm swimming. They heard the door open and now know what I do in the mornings. When this happens it becomes a game and they take turns at hanging on my shoulders as I continue to swim and we all have fun.

I leave you with a challenge to do a tiny bit of exercise each morning. Start off small. One star jump or one push-up.

Finally, you need to reward yourself after each workout. By reward, I don't mean a doughnut. Walk up to the mirror and lift your fists up and tell yourself how awesome you are.

Remember that modifying your behavior to make this a lifelong habit is the most important goal. Feel free to email me if you need inspiration or if you want to brainstorm some ideas. Good luck!

Sunday, September 01, 2013

Anna Fender Calling

Got this voice mail transcription in my inbox today:

"Anna Fender at a correctional facility attempted to make a collect call to this number. But the call could not be completed due to billing restrictions. If you wish to receive these calls. You must contact our automated system for credit card deposits to a pre-paid account. Our other deposit instructions at 18004838314 or go to and set up an account. If you have already done so please disregard this message. Hear these instructions again press one. To go through our automated credit card payment system press two. To end this call please hang up now."

This was somewhat surprising because I don't know anybody in a correctional institution and have never met or heard of Anna Fender.

Listening to the recording reveals that "Anna Fender" is actually "an offender." How such a simple transcription error can cause wifely suspicion in a paradise.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Time - Toastmasters Speech #7

Mister Toastmaster, fellow toastmasters and guests. Today I'm talking about time. More specifically I'm talking about the Toastmasters Timer.

I've been a member of Toastmasters for almost a year now and this has given me the opportunity to present a few speeches but even more opportunity to practice speeches. Each person has their own way that they like to practice. For me, it's in front on my computer. I've found that my computer has been exceptionally supportive. If I say something that I think is funny I can play the laughter sound file and the computer always responds. I have one laughter sound file that goes on for 15 seconds, one that gives riotous applause and another that says "ahhhhhhhh" if I were to say something cute.

Another important support function the computer provides is that of video recording. I used to record all my practice sessions and play them back and count the ums and ahs and measured improvement. Although I still do that every now and then I find that in the time it takes to play back the video I could have practiced the speech again and we all know how precious time is.

The final support function that the computer provides is that of timer. Here you can see the timer that I use during practice sessions. If you wish to use this timer I would be happy to send you a link.

When I discovered that I needed a screen based timer I searched for an online timer and came across a couple of them. The two that I found had some drawbacks. The times were difficult to configure, the time and color changes were small and difficult to see when you are pacing up and down in front the screen. I needed big time and big color. The only option was to write a timer that addressed those concerns and this is what you see here.

When I was researching this speech I went off to find as many different timers as I could find and this is what I came up with:
Seventeen online web browser based timers.
One windows downloadable application.
Two iPhone applications
Three Android applications

I had clearly not done sufficient research when I originally wrote this timer. On examination of each of the browser based timers I was happy to note that none of them fulfilled my requirements and they were all very similar so it turned out that my time wasn't wasted.

I installed one of the timers for the Android Phone and discovered some functionality that I had not expected. My idea of a computer based Toastmaster Timer was to perform the single function of keeping the time for one speech. The Android App allows you to add a person's name once the timing has completed and will keep track of each person speaking during that meeting. That got me thinking that you could expand this application to allow members to keep track of all their speeches over time if you extended the functionality of the application.

One of the big advantages of a web based timer is that it will run on any device that has a browser. This means that you can use this timer on your iPhone, your Android, your PC, your iPad, and your Mac.

Once I’d done my research and decided that I had to create my own timer to satisfy my needs I then had to do some more research and determine the language in which I was going to write the software. This is a somewhat misleading statement because in a browser the only language that will work is JavaScript.

Has anybody heard of JavaScript?
Has anybody heard of Java?
Who knows what the difference between these two languages are?

Java is to JavaScript as ham is to hamster or car is to carpet. They are very different languages that share part of name for marketing purposes.

Because JavaScript is the only language you can use in the browser and because it’s such a popular language there are a number of languages like CoffeeScript, ClojureScript, Dart, and TypeScript that compile, or more accurately transpile, into JavaScript.

I chose to use the variant TypeScript to create the functionality on this timer. I picked it because it had just been released and I wanted to learn a new language.

This timer is a great tool to practice against. At a toastmasters meeting the objective of the timer is to communicate time to the speaker in the most efficient, reliable and unobtrusive manner as possible. This tool will do it but the stoplights might be more practical and appropriate. Of course there are also other methods. You could hold up different colored cards or even shout out the colors. Here's a link to it: Toastmaster Timer.

This speech was about time and how I created a tool to communicate the time to me. That tool as well as the stoplight being operated by the timer both confirm that it is time for me to stop talking and thank you for your time.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Le Pigeon Portland

Just had an awesome dinner at Le Pigeon in Portland, Oregon. Pigeon for starter, how can you not have pigeon at a restaurant with that name? And salmon for the main course. I had forgotten how tasty pigeon was.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Wild Fiction - Toastmasters Speech #5

"Who are you?"
"I'm the author."
"If you're the author then who am I?"
"You, are a fictional character that I created to help me write a bestseller."
"I'm skeptical, what's my name?"
"Your name is Sherry?"
"You're wrong. My name is Rebecca. Do I really look like a Sherry to you?"
The author paused, fingers dangling like cocktail sausages over the keyboard, he realized that he'd already lost control of the first character that he'd created.

Madam Toastmaster, fellow toastmasters and guests. What you just heard was the beginning of the very first version of a book I wrote called Wild Fiction.

Who has written a book or would like to write a book one day?

My desire to write a novel gnawed at me from about the age of 8. I made a few feeble attempts in my early twenties but those novels never got further than a couple of pages. Then one day I enrolled in a writing course at a place called The City Lit in London's West End. It was an evening course, once a week over several weeks. One of the assignments we were given was on dialog and how to write it and the short story that I came up with turned into the first chapter of my one and only novel.

I loved the character that I'd created in that short story so much that in the next few weeks I wrote another three chapters to take the book to a total of four chapters. I was rapidly on my way to writing my first novel. This happened over a few weeks in 1996 and three year years later, in 1999, I was still only four chapters into the story. Writers block had settled in, or so I thought, and the story was frozen in time.

Let me tell you a little bit about writer's block. In his first self-help-book for writers titled How to Write a Damn Good Novel, James Frey describes writer's block and how to resolve it. In his second book How to Write a Damn Good Novel II he tells you that he made a mistake in the first book and there's no such thing as writer's block and you just need to stop feigning it and write. He gives the example of a bricklayer that wakes up one morning and tells his wife that he has bricklayer's block and won't be able to go to work that day. His wife would kick him out of the house and send him to work without a second thought with a lame excuse like that.

I have to agree with his advice in his second book. If you feel uninspired or uncreative then there are a number of exercises that you can do to get the creative juices flowing again. So long as you're writing something, doesn't matter if it's your novel, it will eventually lead you back there.

At the beginning of 1999 I set off traveling around the world. One of my objectives was to complete the novel I'd started and in that time I certainly made some headway but not as much as I thought I would. I got another 20 to 30 chapters further into the story and shared it with people that I was traveling with and got some great feedback. What I hadn't counted on was the fact that when I landed in each of these exotic destinations it was my duty and obligation to myself to go out and seek adventure and explore my new habitat and not spend my days sitting in the hostel writing. What's the point in being in the middle of the Amazon if you're not going to see the Amazon?

After three years of traveling I still hadn't finished writing. I was getting to a point where I was running out of money and needed to return to London and find a job. I knew that there was no way that I'd ever finish the novel if I went back to work so I made myself a promise that all I was going to do was write until the book was done and then return to work. I went off and stayed with a friend who had nothing of interest near to where he lived and he was never at home and for four months I wrote until the novel was finished and then I started the process of revising it until I'd revised it four times and was sick of the story.

Writing a story is fun because just like when you read the story you have no idea what's going to happen next. A misconception that people have about writing fiction is that the author knows where the story is going. This is completely untrue. The author has no idea where the story is heading in the next chapter. Sure, the author might think that they know where the story is going but by the time you get to the next chapter something else has happened that changes the story’s direction.

Revising the story is rereading a story you just read and when you have to do it four times you are sick of it at the end.

I tried to get the book published. I bought a big thick book which listed the literary agents and wrote to one hundred of them. Twenty five of them replied saying that they weren't interested but five replied asking for a sample. I picked one and sent them a sample. One of the tricky things with literary agents is that you can only submit your sample chapters to one at a time. I waited three months for them to reject my sample and by then I was working eighty hour weeks and didn't have the time or inclination to submit to another publisher.

It lay in a bottom drawer for a couple of years and then I found time to publish the book on the web and make it freely available to anybody who wants to read it. If you are interested in a finding out what happens to the author and Rebecca you are welcome to read the novel at I’ve printed out some sheets with links to the books that I referenced.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Flowrider at The Westin Kierland

Here are some videos of me on the Flowrider at the Westin Kierland recently. If you like to ski, snowboard, skate or surf then you'll love this, it's a blast.

Sunday, July 07, 2013

A busy ceiling

I'm used to lying on a bed and looking at a ceiling and seeing one or two items. Perhaps a fan and a light. Our master bedroom has 14 items:

8 lights
2 fire sprinklers
1 fire alarm
2 a/c vents
1 fan

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Panic Action - Toastmasters Speech #4

Imagine the feeling that goes through your stomach when your one-year-old falls backwards into a swimming pool without any flotation and starts sinking into the water. Madam Toastmaster and fellow toastmasters. Today I'm going to talk to you about something I call panic action.

A couple of months ago at the beginning of our spring when the water was still too cold to swim in but the days had started becoming balmy I was sitting on a chair at the pool steps with my wife next to me and the kids playing around us. I was putting together a fiberglass rod and had completed three pieces and had this one piece left when I heard my wife scream and out of the corner of my eye I saw our one-year-old fall backwards into the swimming pool like a sack of potatoes. A very small sack of potatoes. Everything then went into slow motion.

There is a concept called Slow Motion Perception. Typically in an accident scenario a person involved in the accident will experience everything going into slow motion just before and during the accident. To a bystander, however, the accident will take place in a split second. To a person in the accident it will last for several seconds which will allow them to think and act faster.

There is no mention of slow motion perception prior to the industrial revolution. Only after this period when faster transportation was made available and people started undergoing car and motorbike accidents did reports of slow motion perception start to appear.

The first time that I experienced slow motion perception was while traveling on a highway in a torrential downpour. The highway had a treacherous stretch with a curve with an inverted camber. Water was washing across the road. The highway was around 5 lanes wide and I was on the inside lane and a black BMW came through at high speed in the middle lane. As he hit the corner his car started to aquaplane and like a ballet dancer's pirouette he started to spin in 360s on the road. Everything went into slow motion. Even my vision seemed to be better as I could make out the driver's terrified face. It appeared to last for about 10 seconds but I'm sure it was just a couple of seconds. Luckily he didn't hit anyone and came to a stop against the outside curb facing the wrong way.

The second time this happened to me was in a very different situation. I was in a pub in London and had just been given a full pint of beer which I'd placed on the corner of the bar. Now I know what you're thinking. Someone in the bar started choking on something and I did the Heimlich maneuver and saved their life. That didn't happen. It was far more serious than that. Someone elbowed my beer off the bar. Out of the corner of my eye I saw the pint glass slide off the bar and start dropping to the floor. Everything went into slow motion and I swept my arm down and back and caught it around the rim spilling only a couple of drops. I have no idea my mind thought that was an emergency situation that required slow motion perception but it did.

Let's return to my one-year-old falling into the swimming pool. For the third time in my life my world went into slow motion. The first part of the incident that I remember is my wife's scream. As he hit the water I was already moving towards him and I looked straight down at him as he was sinking towards the second step. What I saw gave me immediate elation as I saw that his tiny eyes and mouth were squeezed tightly shut; I knew that he wasn't taking in water. I could see my hands stretched out towards him in an almost out-of-body experience. They grabbed him under the armpits and pulled him to the surface faster than he fell in. We estimate that he was under the water for a quarter to half a second. There wasn't even a cough or a splutter from him as he hadn't taken any water in his mouth. The fright of falling in and the shock of the cold water made him cry but all was well.

Later I found the fiberglass rod at the bottom of the pool about 10 feet from where I had been sitting. I have no recollection of throwing it there.

If you have never experienced slow motion perception and especially if you have never heard of it then I'd like to leave you with the task of asking your friends, families and coworkers if they have ever experienced it. I guarantee that it will be accompanied by an interesting story and you'll get to know that person much better. It's also a great ice breaker at a party. A word of caution though, because this experience most frequently involves an accident, the story won't always be a happy one.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

The Art of Photography

The first exhibit from today's artsy photo shoot  is called "Chair and Zodiac."

The next is a sequence called "Child and Chair."

And finally, some behind the scenes never seen before footage of how it was all done.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Mesquite Flour in Pictures

Here is the mesquite flour making process in pictures.

1. The raw pods that we collected from under the mesquite tree. I assume that the holes in the pods are from insects. I couldn't find anything when I opened the pod though.

2. The Vitamix blender used to powder the pod (seed casing).

3. The sees and some chaff left over after blending. These don't pulverize.

4. The flour from the process

If you want to know what the raw flour tastes like then put your whole hand into the bowl and carefully examine it and consider if you're going to put it in your mouth.

Ask an adult if it's okay to eat it. (Not really, just be amazed that it's sticking to your hand and say "look.")

Put your fingers in your mouth. It has a slight sweet and distinct taste. Personally I don't dislike it but don't love it either. I think that it's an acquired taste that could grow on me.

Once you have the mesquite pods total time to get the flour is about 15 minutes so pretty quick.

How to make Mesquite Flour

Before you make Mesquite Flour you will need:
  • A mesquite tree with plenty of mesquite pods falling to the ground
  • A Vitamix
  • A sieve or colander
  • A bowl
  • A two-year-old (optional)
  • A four-year-old (optional)
Some people pick the mesquite pods directly from the tree or put down a tarp and shake the tree. All our pods are freshly on the ground so we picked them up off the crushed granite.

Since the pods were clean and dry no further processing was necessary. Next you put them in the Vitamix. The most efficient way to do that is to use a two-year-old and a four-year-old if you have them handy.

Now put the jug on the base and switch it on until you have a collection of seed and powder.

Sieve the seeds and chaff and let the powder fall through into a bowl.

Now you have mesquite flour.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Fuji Finepix XP60

I recently bought the Fuji Finepix XP60 to capture our pool activity this summer. As in the link, I opted for the yellow one as I thought that would be easiest to find. Here is one of the recent videos I got of my daughter swimming across the pool. Mostly underwater. She's almost four.

As I get better at using it I'll start posting more of my results.


On 14 June 2013 we received this composter from Costco online. We assembled it in about four tough hours. Probably the most difficult assembly I've ever had to do. The are so many improvements that Lifetime could make to the process and the way that it per-assembles this product.

It's already about a third full in as little as a week due to the lawn grass going in there. Hopefully it'll provide some good mulch for the orchard when it's ready.

The cool thing about this composter is the tumbling action. You don't have to use a fork to turn the compost but instead pull out the lock pin on the left hand side and then spin the barrel using those big fat handles. The latches at the front release the top  one-third of the barrel which  is the lid.

You can also get this from Amazon: Lifetime Compost Tumbler. If you mentally prepare for the four hour tool-intensive assembly required before arrival it will be okay.

Another thing we did this last week was to stop by our local Starbucks and ask them for their used coffee grounds to add to the composter. It turns out that they don't keep them unless you specifically call ahead and ask them to. Be prepared for a couple of cups that were accidentally put in with the coffee grounds so fish those out when you see them in the tumbler. Also, all the filters will go in as well but that doesn't matter as those will decompose. It certainly gives the compost a great scent.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

The Ultimate Cell Phone

I saw the draft menu item in the blog's admin panel and found this post which I'd started writing in 2007 (I think) and never finished:

I don't have a cell phone. I have, in the past, owned and operated a cell phone but I no longer have one and haven't had one for almost a year now. This is partly because of apathy (I can't be bothered to go out and research and find the best one for me) and partly because of need (I don't need one - no one ever calls me).

I have however, spent time thinking about what I'd like in a cell phone and what would be my ultimate cell phone and I've discovered that all I would like it to do is receive and place calls. I've heard about watch cell phones and this is probably what I'd want. Something that does the basic and exact functionality that it is supposed to do and is so amazingly small that you don't need a pocket to put it in - you can wear it on your wrist.

My dilemma at the moment is that I want one gadget that will do it all. It will be a cell phone, PDA and MP3 player. The PDA needs to have 802.11g and Windows CE. The cell phone, well it needs to receive and make calls, and the MP3 player needs a fair amount of memory for song storage. So far I don't think the animal exists. I will wait.

The Village People

If you want a really good laugh you need to watch a couple of the original Village People music videos:



Rock Shandy

A rock shandy, pictured above, for those who don't know is:
I remembered drinking them on hot British summer days and wanted to try one again in the Arizona desert but I couldn't for the life of me remember the name of this drink so couldn't track down what went into it.

When I finally identified the ingredients and their proportions a couple of weeks ago I went out and got everything and was very disappointed with what I made. Turned out that the soda water that I'd bought was orange flavored and I hadn't noticed that little subtext on the bottle.

Today I put the right stuff in the glass and it was the perfect refresher after a hot day.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The Unproposed Marriage - Toastmasters Speech #3

Do you know that you never asked me to marry you?
Do you know that you never asked me to marry you?

Madam Toastmaster, fellow toastmasters and honored guests. On a balmy Saturday afternoon four years ago my wife asked me this question:
Wife: "Do you know that you never asked me to marry you?"
Me: "That's ridiculous. How could we possibly be married if I didn't ask you to marry me?"
Wife: "Okay, describe the place and time and how you proposed to me."

I was silent for a while. Then a while longer. Then I realized that she was right. I had never asked her for her hand in marriage and yet, we had successfully become married. In my defense I was very busy.

We'd been dating for a while. Let me rephrase that. We'd been half-dating. Each time we went out the first thing she'd say to me was "remember, this is not a date because my parents would never allow this." In public I was not permitted to hold her hand. If we went to a restaurant I would have to find a table in the corner while she scouted the area to make sure that nobody she recognized was there. Then like a fighter pilot she would swoop in, sit down, put up a wall of menus and duck down behind them. If we went to the movies then she would come over and sit next to me when the lights went down and would even let me hold her hand.

While we were half-dating she was in the process of completing her papers to immigrate to the United States and she wanted me to come with her and I wanted to go with her. On the immigration forms there's a question "Are you married?" with the options of Yes and No. There was no option for "relationship unapproved by parents." US Immigration is fussy about that. We agreed that the only way we were going to do this was to get married.

I went full steam ahead to arrange a legal marriage. In my mind a marriage was an hour off work at lunchtime where you rushed down to the courthouse with some identification and signed some papers and you were married. Nothing complicated in that.

It turned out that the courts were so backlogged with marriages that you had to make a reservation and the earliest was three months away. I started looking for alternatives and found a priest who was the Chaplin at my old school and whose daughter, coincidentally, had gone to school with my wife. I ran this idea past my whatever-she-was and she pointed out that as a Hindu the church wasn't her first choice of venue for a marriage. However, she agreed that we didn't have any alternative.

Now came the biggest hurdle. Luckily I didn't have to do that. My wife had to tell her parents that she had 1. had a boyfriend and 2. that he was not Hindu and 3. and that she was soon to marry him. Her mother cried for three days.

Initially her parents were not going to come to the wedding but on the day my father-in-law called and asked my wife is she was really going to go through with this. She said yes and he asked if the wedding could be pushed back by a couple of hours so that they could make it. We got married with everyone there and my wife was able to tick the box on the immigration form that said married.

Let's return to the time where my wife has insensitively, but accurately, pointed out that I had never asked her to marry me. Once I realized that I was in a corner I said "will you marry me?" Her answer was "no, you need to do this properly. You need to put some thought into this and make sure that it's in the right setting." Over the ensuing years, when the subject came up, I would immediately ask her to marry me. Each one was rejected because I hadn't put enough thought or effort into it.

Yesterday, I finally put some effort in and went off to Costco and spent a lot of money on this ring. The reason that I bought it from Costco is because if she says no I can always return it and get a refund.

[Walk down aisle towards my wife and get down on one knee.]

Prea will you marry me?

Wife: No answer but there was a lot of smiling.

Ladies and gentlemen I think that smile is a yes, thank you.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Chocolate Cherry Banana Orange Smoothie

I think that I've finally cracked how to mix the chocolate flavored whey protein powder into the smoothie. In an earlier blog post Zumba Chocolate Cherry Smoothie I just threw the powder in and set the speed of the Vitamix to high. The protein powder mixed in well but also drew in a lot of air making the smoothie thick and airy and not a great drink.

This evening's smoothie started off with my typical core ingredients:
  • Banana
  • Frozen dark pitted cherries
  • Acai berry juice
  • Water (same quantity as Acai berry juice)
  • Cube of ginger
  • A navel orange
I mixed that on high speed for about 45 seconds and then I set the speed to the lowest setting. I took the lid off the Vitamix and slowly poured one scoop of the protein powder into the middle of the vortex and it mixed in perfectly. No bubbles, no extra thickening. The smoothie was refreshing, easy to drink and had a nice twist of chocolate flavor on top of the cherry which is the dominant flavor and on top of that it was a good jolt of protein.

Sunday, June 09, 2013

Stars and Stripes as Shade Cloth

Some years ago +Daniel Marlow (Twitter) kindly gave me a 5' by 8' US Flag. For a couple of years it hung in my garage until I moved and then it lay folded in my new garage for a year until I desperately needed some shade cloth for my Ramada against the afternoon sun and hung it up. Take a look at the photo and see if you can see the potentially disastrous mistake I made if the bottom anchoring of the flag were to come loose while I was barbequing. Yes, the flag would have caught on fire like it almost did yesterday when the wind detached it from its anchor. With my accent it would have been pretty difficult to convince someone that it was an accident.

I'm now trying to work out if I should buy more flags to cover the rest of the area or get some real shade cloth. Perhaps I should put a Union Jack where the Stars and Stripes is in case it catches on fire...

Friday, June 07, 2013

Semi-Dwarf Navel Orange

We bought this semi-dwarf navel orange from Costco around September 2012 and planted it immediately.

It remained green throughout the winter and has been getting plenty of water but doesn't seem to be making much progress. I was expecting it to have grown a bit more by now with all the sun and heat and water it's been getting but it still remains at about the same size.

Here is an image from around when it was planted taken on 25/September/2012 about 8 to 9 months ago.

Dragon Fruit

The dragon fruit plant is correctly referred to as a pitaya (or pitahaya). We bought two types of Dragon Fruit for our orchard. One with red flesh and the other with white flesh. The images of the fruit below are not from our plants as they were planted on 1/June/2013 and I write this on 7/June/2013.

They are called dragon fruit because the red scaly leaves that cover the fruit look like the scales of a dragon.

Our white dragon fruit plant is the smaller of the two but when we got it there was a beautiful flower on it which has subsequently been knocked off.

The red dragon fruit plant is bigger and I'm not sure how we're going to train it along that fence yet.

We also broke off a couple of segments from each of the plants and have planted them in the ground to see if they will grow.

When I traveled through Vietnam I ate a lot of the white fleshed dragon fruit. I loved how easy it was to peal and consume and its kiwi fruit like texture and taste. When you can find them in the supermarket they frequently cost around $10/pound which is fairly pricy. I'm hoping that this will develop into a fence of fruit bearing cacti.

I've always associated the dragon fruit with Asia but apparently it's of Mexico, Central and South American origin and was probably taken to the Far East by the Europeans.