Sunday, March 31, 2013

Water welcomes the New Year

It’s time to think about celebrating New Years – not in nine months from now but 13 days from now.  April 13 is the first day of Thailand’s traditional New Years festival Songkran.    While Thailand also counts January 1 as the start of a new year it doesn’t diminish the importance of Songkran.    

The rituals that are part of contemporary celebration  date back to pre-Buddhist times when the focus was the hope for good crops for the new year.   Then and now water was thrown a symbol of good luckOriginally the good luck wished for was for rain to insure a good harvest.  Over time the water also became  symbol of washing away all that was bad so the year would be good. 

 A visitor to Thailand who associates a new year celebration with laughter and champagne may find it surprising to see crowds of people happily throwing water at each other .

Discovering this holiday reminds me once again that a little research before a trip - whether business or pleasure - should include a search for holidays that occur during our stay.  A handy site is  Will the people you need to meet with be in their office or on holiday?  Will you find yourself in the midst of a parade, marching along or drenched with water?

Sunday, March 24, 2013

The Food is From Where?

A common food question today in the market, at a restaurant, dinner at the home of a friend is “Where’s it from”?  A question not about the country of origin of the food as in the place it was first found rather the question seems to be:  How close to home (our home) was the farm, the ranch?  Did those blueberries come from Chile or California?  The kiwi from New Zealand?  Beef from Japan, Texas or Central California ?  From a farmer or ranch within driving distance from our city? We want our food to be fresh and fresh means local.
However, If your curiosity goes beyond the travel time from source to your table, you may enjoy reading something about the history of foods. If so check out the History Kitchen a website (complete with receipes) and a companion blog.  You can read the history of Nutella and sushi plus learn about what Thomas Jefferson ate.  (  What shall I eat and where's it from?


Sunday, March 17, 2013

It Tastes Like What?

Jason Chow wrote an intriguing article in the March 14 edition of the Wall Street Journal  - Lost in Translation:  The Lingo for Tasting Wine (   

The article is about how differently Americans and Chinese wine drinkers describe the wines they taste.   It isn’t simply that they use different words but that they have different points of reference to draw on.   How does someone who has never tasted a raspberry or Chuiuchow master stock understand wine when those taste references are the description?

This article reminded me it isn’t enough to avoid slang, acronyms and sports references to be sure our emails racing around the world are easy for the reader to understand.  We need to think carefully about the reference points we use to describe everything.   Blue like a blueberry?  As potent and fragrant as a durian?  Tall as the Eiffel Tower?  As old as the Great Wall?  Don’t send your readers on a Google search to try to translate your meaning.  Make it easy to catch your message.  

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Spring Forward: What Time Is It?

Today, March 10, if you live in the United States and most of Canada time changed.  It is the beginning of  the annual move to Daylight Savings Time.  It was the time to “Spring Forward” which really means move your clocks ahead one hour.  Now it will be dark longer in the morning but it will be light longer at the end of the day - until we “Fall Back” on November 3.  

This change of time isn’t only a North American ritual.  Clocks Spring Forward and Fall Back in places throughout the world.    In Europe time changes  moving to "Summer Time" the last Sunday in March.  In Brazil it’s the third Sunday in October, Honduras changes May 7 and in Namibia it’s the first Sunday in September.  For a list of countries that do (or don’t) make the shift look at the Web Exhibits Daylight Savings Time Overview (

Over the next few weeks, whenever I plan to call outside the US,  I will certainly need to verify what time it is wherever I’m calling and for that I’ll use  the site -  Time and Date (  Their timetables and meeting planner functions are invaluable as we Spring Forward, Fall Back or Stay in Place.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Where Does Your Country Rank?

This week The Globalist posted a quiz asking the question:  which emerging economies have the most corruption in the public section?  They gave the reader four choices:  China, Russia, India, Brazil.  The four original members of the BRICS (the “S” South Africa wasn’t included.).    The answer?  Russia not, as you might have expected, China.

The source for their answer?  Transparency International’s 2012 Corruption Perceptions Index.  Their 2012 report ranking 176 countries was the 17th annual report.  They began in 1995 reporting on only 45 countries.   Check out their site ( to see the full results presented as a table and as a map of the world color coded to show levels of perceived corruption.  Sunshine yellow for the “cleanest”, dark maroon, almost brown, for the ones at the bottom of the scale.

Wondering which are the seen as the least corrupt?  Denmark, New Zealand and Finland tied at as the best, seen as having the least public sector corruption. The BRICS ranking?  Brazil and South Africa 69, China 80 and India 94 with Russia far behind at 133.  The GUTS countries?  Germany 13, US 19, South Korea 45 and Turkey 54.   At the bottom are Afghanistan, North Korea, Somalia tied at 174.  

It’s an interesting way to view the world.   What country will you visit next and where is it ranked?