Sunday, December 30, 2012

Boxing Day is When?

We all remember the advice about communicating when working with people whose language isn’t the same as your own.  Keep the sentences short and the vocabulary simple.  Avoid acronyms and slang.  For American English speakers skip the sport references.  What do  “we’ll hit it out of the ballpark” or “that’s a slam dunk” really mean? 

But it isn’t just words or phrases that can puzzle people. I was reminded of that when I read through my friend Liz Danziegr’s book “Get to the Point”.  It’s an excellent book filled with humor and practical advice.  In it she writes about being more precise when writing and speaking. (  The point is clear in a section called “See You at Whitsuntide”.   (Wondering when exactly that would that be? It’s the 7th Sunday, approximately 50 days, after Easter.)

Think about holidays and how we often use holidays as markers for planning.  We say we’ll do something before Christmas or after Bastille Day. Or that the deadline is Halloween, plan the trip after Chinese New Year or don’t plan to come for Independence Day.  Remember that not everyone knows about these holidays much less the dates, even the time of year,  when they are celebrated.  For help with finding out about holidays and their dates check the website   The site lists holidays world wide through 2070. 

 Make it easy for your colleagues to understand what you’re trying to say. Add the month and date to the name of the holiday you’re referencing.   More precision, more clarity, better communication, clearer understanding of what we're saying.  A good way to start the new year.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Candy Canes

Candy canes have always been one of my favorite parts of the Christmas season.    The simple brightly colored - red and white, peppermint flavored candy makes me smile.    Like a lollipop you can savor one for hours.  As much as I like them until this week I’d never wondered about their origins.  Little did I know that there is a website dedicated to candy canes, (, that December 26 is National Candy Cane day or that over two billion candy canes are sold annually in the US alone.

The origins of this red and white striped candy date back to 1672.   The story is that a German choirmaster wanted something to keep the children in the choir quiet.   He enlisted a candy maker to create something special.  The originals were solid white.  They were used to please the children and to serve as decorations on Christmas trees.  It wasn’t until around 1900 that the red stripe was added creating the candy we know today.  Although there can be a religious interpretation to the shape and colors of the cane, for many it is simply a holiday treat. (

If you want to see how a candy cane is made travel to Columbia, California and reserve some time at Nelson’s Columbia Candy Kitchen.  In 2010 Nelson’s was voted one of the best Sweet Shops in the US by USA Today.  One of their specialties are handmade candy canes.  They make them in the traditional size and shape but more exciting are the ones as big as two feet tall or wreaths woven from the the red and white candy,  If you’re at the store in late November you can watch them being made or join the candy makers and create your own.   That’s a real holiday treat.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Travel to Change the World

What do Mauritius, Lithuania, Ghana and Palau have in common?  They are 4 of the countries designated as The World’s 10 Best Ethical Destinations.  The list is compiled by the Ethical Traveler a non-profit organization founded to "empower travelers to change the world." (

The complete list of winners, in alphabetical order, is

  • Barbados
  • Cape Verde
  • Costa Rica *
  • Ghana
  • Latvia *
  • Lithuania
  • Mauritius *
  • Palau *
  • Samoa
  • Uruguay *
(* = also on the 2012 list).

According to the Ethical Traveler website, these countries “have all demonstrated a clear and continuing commitment to environmental protection, human rights and social welfare”.
Think about your next trip as a way to support the efforts of countries to create a great environment for the citizens and visitors from around the world.  If our travels can change the world by supporting the work of these countries where would you go first?   

My choice would be Mauritius an island in the Indian Ocean, off the south east coast of the continent of Africa.   Discovered by the Portuguese in 1507, then ruled by the French, Dutch and British.  Today is an independent nation, a member of the Commonwealth nations.   Not only a tourist destination famous for the Dodo bird, white sand beaches and warm hospitality -  it is also known for its textile and apparel industries and increasingly as a financial center.  To complete its description we can now add  its new standing as a two-time winner of the Ethical Traveler award. 

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Cities and Food


A recent edition of The Very Short List, ( a site that describes itself as “cultural gems from different curators brought to you daily” delivered an enticing title:  "LA through the Lens of Food".  How could I not take the time to read it that?

It turns out that "LA through the Lens of Food" was the title of a seminar and related activities put on by the Foodprint Project ( Another new name for me. 

According to their website Foodprint Project is "an exploration of the ways food and cities give shape to one another". Founded by Nicola Twilley and Sarah Rich, the project is punctuated by a series of events in physical space.  Further,  "foodprints look beyond the plate to the spatial, political, cultural and economic forces that shape the way we eat". 

Fascinating way to think about a city.  The titles of the sessions at the LA seminar, held at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art carried such unusual titles as Culinary Cartography, Edible Archaeology, Feast, Famine and Other Scenarios.

But aside from the general topic, this interesting way of thinking about a city, what intrigued me was that this is already an international project.  Events have been held in the US (LA, Denver, New York City) and Canada (Toronto).  How far, I wonder, will it spread?  Will the Foodprint Project follow in the path of Ghost Bikes (, Fete de la Musique (, Play Me I’m Yours/Street Piano ( and become truly global?  Will it move around the world, inspiring, educating and engaging people across borders and cultures?  Let's watch and see what happens.


Sunday, December 2, 2012

Red-Bean drinks and Christmas Cups

As Starbucks advances its plan to more than double its locations in China in three years they are working on that delicate balance between maintaining their authentic, American image while adapting to the tastes of the local population.  

Laurie Burkett’s recent article in the Wall St. Journal (, “Starbucks Plays to Local Chinese Tastes”  reports on some the steps they are taking.

This article isn’t startling new news.  Rather it reminds us again of the challenges of being global and local – finding ways to change and be the same simultaneously  - and the cost of not being able to do that well.  For two American companies the cost was high.  Home Depot and Best Buy left China in the last two years.  They failed to adapt their model to the local environment. 

When we read that Starbuck’s now has red bean drinks and Hainan chicken and rice wraps on their menu we may think it’s all changed. But no, the author tells us, they still use their U.S. Christmas cups in their Chinese stores.  A touch of home.  Local and Global.  Expanding their footprint by finding the balance.  Wherever one goes remember Starbucks:  Red beans and Christmas Cups.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Listen to Hear

A recent article about Hiliary Clinton “Hillary’s Next Move” “( mentioned that part of her success comes from listening.  “Lots and lots of listening.”
After reading that I was curious about Seth Horwitz’s article “The Science and Art of Listening”, that appeared several pages later in the same section of the paper.
(   In it he clarifies the difference between hearing and listening.  A distinction we don’t often make.  Hearing is one of our basic senses, on all the time, even when we’re sleeping, monitoring the world around us.  Listening is a skill, sorting out what we hear, focusing our brain so we can discern the meaning of the sounds we hear.

As we increasingly follow in Hillary’s path, engaging with people from around the world, we need not just to listen but to prepare for and think about the listening.  We first have to consider what we’ll hear.  The order of the words, the shape of the messages we’ll receive, how people convey information.  

In some places like the US, Germany for example, culture shapes communication that Is direct, based on data, facts, where the meaning is carried in the words spoken (known as low context).  In others such as China, Spain the appropriate approach is subtle, indirect, with the significant of the message shaped in part by gestures, the environment (known as high context).  

Remember that listening is a skill and we build skills with knowledge and practice.  Do some research.  Be prepared.  You'll be surprised how much you'll learn, how much you'll hear,  how effective the listening can be. 

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Give Thanks for the Harvest and remember the Jello

The American celebration of Thanksgiving is just days away.  In almost any conversation next week people will inquire about your plans for celebrating the holiday and ask what foods will be on the menu.  Every family seems to have a special dish.  For one of my friends it’s a recipe for green Jello mixed with  whipped cream.   (Jell-O is a brand that has become the generic name for gelatin dishes.)  In my family, the Jello is pink and the recipe is considered brilliant or odd depending on who you ask.    

Thanksgiving often seems as only an American holiday  - one that is concerned mainly with sharing elaborate turkey dinners and beginning the holiday gift shopping period. It’s history as a harvest festival, a time to give thanks is often lost in the preparation of the meal and stress of travel to reach ones family.  Certainly the idea that Thanksgiving takes places in other places is seldom considered.  But around the world, there are other celebrations. 

In Korea the holiday similar to Thanksgiving is Chuseok. It is also a fall festival but one that lasts three days.  It is a time to give thanks to ones ancestors for an abundant harvest.  Traveling home, sharing food and drink are an essential parts of the celebration with a crescent shaped rice cake a traditional dish.

There are also Thanksgivings, harvest festivals, in Canada, Germany and Grenada.  In The Netherlands, Japan and Liberia. And in the Australian territory of Norfolk Island where the holiday tradition came via sailors on American whaling ships.

No matter where you are, or what the holiday is called, its good to take a moment and remember to be thankful for the good things in our lives, enjoy the foods of the season and of the holiday.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Ladies on Bikes

It’s so easy to take for granted our internet access.  Smart phones.  Tablets.  Laptops. Desktops.  We talk and tweet, chat and check facts, find recipes, and book our travel.

We forget the early moments when we first searched and found information without having to trek to a library.  When we could suddenly communicate by email instead of just by phone, or by writing a letter. 

A recent article about the Internet Bike Ladies in Bangledesh reminded me of what a powerful, sometimes life changing, tool the internet, or more properly, access to it, can be.    For people in these remote villages it provides a means to connect, find information.  It's allowed people to create new businesses.   Click on the link, read the story.  Take a minute to remember how your life has changed thanks to access to the internet.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

What does the world think?

What do people from around the globe think of the US?  Read through the Pew Global Attitudes Report and you’ll be able to answer that question. 

But before you do take their Global IQ Quiz.  Check your impressions against the survey results.  Do you know what people around the world like most about the US?  You may be surprised at the answer.

But the report isn’t just about the US.  It looks at how people rate world leaders, countries and institutions.  When surveyed these respondents drawn from 20 countries expressed the most confidence in President Obama when compared to other world leaders,  a generally favorable impression of the United Nations and negative one of Russia. 

Check it out  - what do people in these 20 countries agree upon and where do they differ? 

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Time for Ghosts, Goblins, Pumpkins and Candy

It’s Halloween time.  Time to worry about what funny costume to wear on October 31 the day of the holiday.   (I prefer all black with a witches hat covered with silvery spider webs) - to share lots of silly pumpkin shaped candies and decorate with images of ghosts, goblins and witches flying through the air.  This year the celebration comes as a welcome respite from sad and worrisome news, ads for political candidates and terrible weather reports. 

Best known in the US and Canada, Halloween is a holiday with roots dating back to pagan times.  Celebrated around the world, in most countries it is a holiday to honor ancestors, friends and relatives who are no longer living.   However, here in the US the focus is on fun, a time for children to collect candy as they ask:  Trick or treat? expecting a sweet treat in return.