everydaysparks

Stuff I see, which you might not.

Capitol A for Amazing

I feel like I have seen a lot in my two days in Washington DC. Equally, I feel like I have seen hardly any of what’s possible to see in Washington DC. Suffice it to say, I hope to come back for more visits as I had a fantastic time. Even if it was super hot and humid weather!  

The Capitol. Adding to my collection of pics of landmarks under scaffolding when I visit.

 
Given my short trip, I knew I’d be happy if I got to spend time at Newseum (which I have been wanting to see for years), see some of the city, and maybe get to geek out at some other museums and historical places. Yesterday was a great day, but I’ll tell you more about that another time. 

Today was very interesting, with a case of (accidental) great timing leading to a pretty special experience. I was on the hop on-hop off city bus, and, given the furnace that awaited outside the air-conditioned bus, I definitely had to psych myself up to hop off at all. But of course I did, with less than a day left before I hopped on the train back to NYC.   

The Abraham Lincoln Memorial.

 

View from Lincoln Memorial to Washington Monument.

 
Great views, sure. But mostly, I wanted to see this big guy. And he was just as awesome as I’d hoped he’d be… 

Honest Abe.

 

And, for scale, here’s a normal-sized man next to President Lincoln… 

I shall name the other man Honest Gabe. Little pixie man that he is.

So that was all very interesting and in a stunning location. Then I headed down to the Korean War Memorial, and that’s where the magic happened. The memorial itself is incredible – 19 life-sized statues of men dressed in the heavy cold weather gear they would’ve worn during the war. Their faces are modeled on 19 actual US soldiers from that war, apparently. And they are set in a beautiful green garden. Very moving stuff – and proof that traditional art still works: you don’t always need a clever hologram or techno trickery to make your point.   

And then, I noticed a group of Korean gentlemen (mostly old timers, all in uniform) and one young Korean lady (in uniform) gathering, along with a couple of old American gentlemen with service medals and partly dressed in uniform.

I had happened across the beginning of a service of some sort. Some words were said (in Korean), a large wreath was laid, and they all saluted as the anthems of both countries were played. Then a bugler played (bugler, not burglar, to be clear) and everyone that was lurking and watching the scene like me was as quiet as a mouse. It was very moving.  

And a reminder that sometimes when you’re traveling, the unplanned experiences are the best.   

   

And after that, I went to the Museum of American History – yet another interesting museum, and so well designed and presented. These guys know how to do a good museum, that’s for sure. Too many cool things to mention, so I’ll just share this: Al Capone’s mug shot. Doesn’t he look like a nice young man, who would maybe serve you in a bookstore, or sit next to you on the bus to work? 

   

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Greetings from here 

Ah, the glamour of travel. Greetings from this place, which is not quite in Baltimore, but somewhere close, apparently. The train has been stopped for more than 30 minutes, which could be seen as an annoying thing, delaying our arrival at our destination.  

But I bet very few international (or domestic, for that matter) travelers have had such a close look at this exact place. As the sun sets on the last day of summer (that’s official, as it’s 31 August, that’s not me being romantic), it’s catching the yellowing leaves on the big trees here. 

The announcements from the poor lady running this train service are sounding increasingly desperate as the wait time for our unscheduled stop spirals out of control, with no end in sight. I suspect the passengers on this busy service aren’t as content with the delights of the ‘cafeteria car’ as she thinks they should be. 

Calm yourselves and look out the windows, people! There are things to be seen, I tell you. For example, I can see a caravan under covers and a car under covers in the backyard over the wire fence here. And a Jeep and a van. Who are these people? Doomsday preppers, maybe? 

Guess I shouldn’t mock, as we may need to call on them soon to ask for dinner or a shower or a bed if this delay continues…

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Village oasis

On Friday, I met my lovely friend Sophie for lunch in NYC. Soph and I used to work together, joining our professional services firm on the same day around six years ago. Fortunately, we have remained friends long after our interesting challenges at that place were over. (But those days will be a chapter in my book one day: the working title for that section, “Mon Dieu! Surviving the GFC and a crazy French Canadian boss”.)

Anyways, Soph is now living and working in New York, so it was great to get the chance to catch up while I’m in town. We met at a great little restaurant, Rosemary’s, near Soph’s home in the West Village. (Not that this is a food blog, but I definitely recommend Rosemary’s for a casual meal – they even have a rooftop garden that supplies some of their delicious fresh ingredients.)

[Image from rosemarysnyc.com]

 
I arrived early, so spent time wandering around the Village and discovered an amazing oasis amidst the bustle of the busy city, where sounds of sirens, car horns and construction can be kinda overwhelming. This magical place was filled with the sounds of birds, insects and quiet chatter (plus one man talking loudly on his phone for a loooong time). Turns out it’s also the site of Miranda and Steve’s wedding in Sex and the City. And normal people can get married there too, just fyi.    

    
    
    
 Jefferson Market Garden. An amazing place, staffed by volunteers, and well worth a visit if you’re in town – a perfect spot to take a break, take a breath, and enjoy this oasis in the Village.

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Some New York Snaps

Here are some pics from my night and day in New York so far. Lots of walking today on a beautiful sunny day. Including around the 18 miles of books that the amazing Strand bookstore claims to have.

 

I discovered Flying Tiger today. if Ikea, Daiso, Smiggle and Kikki k opened a store together, i think this would be it. Crazy times!

  

Making amazing tunes with buckets, pots and pans.

 

Shortly after I took this snap, a mouse chased this squirrel away in Central Park. Bullies are everywhere.

 

Not even physically present? Wow, this psychic near Central Park must be very very good.

 

Hello Kitty store in Times Square.

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All business

I have found my new tribe. Well, they were my people for about 24 hours, at least. You can recognise us by our uniform, a pair of grey pyjamas with a black kangaroo emblazoned on the front of the shirt. (One of life’s great equalisers – truly, everyone looks terrible when they return from the bathroom with these pjs on.)

imageYou may also spot our HQ, we call it a lounge, far from the busy airport food courts, where it is perfectly acceptable to pop the champagne – even though it’s not quite 8am. That’s just how we roll. When in transit, this pyjama’d tribe resides in the upstairs cabin, while the normal folk cram in downstairs. And it was a big bus this time – an A380 from Sydney to LA.

I was fortunate to be able to use frequent flyer points to upgrade to the dizzy heights of business class, where the beds are flat, the cutlery is metal, and the menu is totes fancy. Except vegetarians don’t get to choose from the menu, so lunch was an entree of felafel bathed in hommus and surrounded by baby spinach, followed by tandoori tofu (yep), Dahl and cauliflower and other assorted veges. An interesting choice of strong flavours and daring ingredients for people cooped up in this plane for the next 12 hours… Oh, and dessert was a chocolate mousse sort of thing with churros. Well played, Qantas.

[Image from the amazing Dallas Clayton]

[Image from the amazing Dallas Clayton]

Then they switch the lights out in an elaborate trick to get you to sleep, even though your brain is screaming, IT’S ONLY MIDDAY, MAN! Yet most of the tribe seem to sleep, with only one snorer and a little baby to break the silence. And even they seemed to do so in a dignified, restrained sort of manner. There’s an interesting mix of humanity here, as there was in the lounge. Young children who are clearly seasoned travellers don’t bat an eye as they settle back and enjoy travelling in style. If you kids only knew how the rest of us normally travel…

This is the life, I tell you – hopefully I get upgraded on the way home too, or I might have to wear these pjs in Economy and reminisce.

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There is no I in Team. But there is one in Silly.

I am very fortunate to work with some fairly nutty folk. When I think about it, I’ve always been pretty lucky to work with people who are smart, but who also have a capacity for silliness and fun, which makes for a very enjoyable workplace.

[Image via @lilfitmiss]

[Image via @lilfitmiss] 

Although, when you’re working in an open plan office, it becomes clear that we humans don’t all have the same sense of what’s funny. Especially when the workspace is shared with many consultants engaged via a subcontinental company. Judging by the bewildered and sometimes frightened looks that I catch from time to time, I suspect they believe my job to be some strange combination of circus clown, town crier, counsellor, and policewoman. Which, as I reflect on it now, is probably a pretty accurate summary, I guess!

I would like to work with these guys. [image from Pixabay]

I would like to work with these guys too.

I am a terrible eavesdropper, which is a challenge in the super-open-plan office that we share. And when I say I am a terrible eavesdropper, I actually mean I am really really good at it. It’s one of my gifts. I can focus on a conversation with Person A (the conversation I am actually IN), but can also tune into the conversations of Persons B, C and D around me. It also helps to fill in details when people-watching in restaurants, airports, funerals and the like.

The openness of the open plan has certainly made the old tradition of office gossip a lot more challenging. Not that I engage in office gossip, obvs, as I am an HR professional. But I have heard that the super-open-plan environment has driven office gossip from the hallways to the email and the instant messaging. (Which, as a reminder, also means it is now recorded and can be monitored. A switch from the olden days of safely whinging about the Boss Man in the privacy of the tea room during a smoke break. Yes, I worked in the 1950s too.)

Anyways, I digress. I wanted to talk about my colleague Louise, who has started an email tradition, delivered to a small (but appreciative) group each Friday. I’m not sure how it began, and there was quite a long break in transmission there, but it is now back in action and it is making the world a better place. The distribution list is growing as word spreads of this underground movement that’s shaking things up, pushing the envelope and challenging the status quo.

LOLKeeping the emails short, but inspirational, the author knows the target market and stays true. Other Harvard Business Review fads may come and go, but this content has been fine-tuned over generations (and years of Christmas crackers). The email title?  Just three little words that warm the heart and the workplace: Friday Dad Joke.

Here’s a sample of some of our community’s recent treasures:

What’s the difference between an alligator and a crocodile?

  • You see one later and one in a while

What do you call cheese by itself?

  • Provolone

What do you call a girl with a frog on her head? 

  • Lily

You’re welcome. Happy Friday!

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Two anniversaries today

Today is a special day for two reasons – it is our lovely Dad’s birthday (77! Imagine!) and it marks two years since my friend Steph and I took our first steps on the Camino de Santiago. Both anniversaries include wonderful people, and bring back many fantastic memories of fun times and lots of laughter. With a few challenges along the way (if you were a blog reader two years ago, I am recovering well from The Insect Attack of 2013, thank you).

I reckon it’s always important to celebrate and remember on a day like today, so here are some snaps for today that make me smile.

All dressed up - LIttle Jim and Little Pat. (That's my Dad on the right, circa early 1940s, I guess.)

All dressed up – LIttle Jim and Little Pat. (That’s my Dad on the right, circa early 1940s, I guess. He still has good hair.)

Dad / Dadoo / Dooey. Or you can call him Pat. Our lovely Lauren's portrait (on an etch-a-sketch) from a few years ago.

Dad / Dadoo / Dooey. Or you can call him Pat. Our lovely Lauren’s portrait (on an etch-a-sketch) from a few years ago.

Steph on the Camino. I am available to photograph weddings, parties, etc on my iPhone.

August 2013. Steph on the Camino. And yes, I am available to photograph weddings, parties, etc on my iPhone.

Fields of smiling sunflowers along The Way. Sometimes cute, sometimes very creepy.

Fields of smiling sunflowers along The Way. Sometimes cute, sometimes very creepy.

Cruz de Ferro on the Camino, at sunrise. This should be on more bucket lists, I reckon.

Cruz de Ferro on the Camino, at sunrise. This should be on more bucket lists, I reckon.

IMG_5634

And we made it! After 800km, our arrival in Santiago de Compostela, September 2013. [Unfortunately, this pic is missing Shane and some of our other Camino family.]

So many good times. So many good people. Happy Birthday, Pat, and Buen Camino, Steph and our Camino family!

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A snack food revelation

So, last week when I was at the airport in Melbourne, I accidentally wandered into a little shop called The Chocolate Box. And, while I bought some chocolates for a friend, I saw a lady clear out a large number of bags (the entire range) of something at the counter. It caused a bit of a kerfuffle amongst the staff, I tell you.

When I asked the ladies behind the counter what the lady had bought in such dramatic fashion, they whispered, “have you heard of chocolate chips?” Errr derrr, ladies. I like to bake and I have a massive sweet tooth, there’s nothing I don’t know about chocolate chips. “We mean salt and vinegar crisps covered in chocolate.” Really? Yes. Apparently they are one of their best sellers.

Here they are. [image from chocolatebox.com.au]

Here they are.
[image from chocolatebox.com.au]

So, today I bought a bag (ok, maybe two) to bring in to the office so we could experience this phenomenon. The verdict was mixed – but I vote YES for this snack food. A bit too much chocolate masking the flavour, but every now and again there was an unmistakable salty/vinegary kick. Like chocolate covered pretzels, only better, I reckon.

If you’re in Australia, you can stock up at The Chocolate Box. Or I guess you could make your own, if you’re so inclined. Chocolate Chicken Crisps, anyone? Anyone?

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A psychic HR solution, to be sure

So there I was, watching an episode of 90210 that TiVo had kindly recorded for me (the later version of 90210, not the original – it’s still on at peculiar hours in Sydney from time to time). And before I could speed through one of the ad breaks, I saw this bizarro ad.

It’s for an Australian company offering ‘psychic solutions’ over the phone, for the lofty price of $2.97 per minute (even more if you call from a mobile phone). The business was started by Liz, but it’s called Aliz’s. I am guessing the ‘A’ was added to boost Liz’s psychic ranking. Alphabetically, at least.

Anyways, the ad is possibly offensive to the Irish, to be sure, but it’s also given me an idea for an ‘HR solutions’ hotline. For $2.97 per minute (even LESS if you call me from a mobile phone, rather than coming to see me in person), I will listen to you about the same thing that Aliz’s people do: “career struggles”, “business issues”, and “money matters”. I draw the line at “love or relationship problems” though, sorry.

To sharpen my HR Solutions hotline approach, I clicked the link to the testimonials on Aliz’s You Tube channel. I found this most extraordinary “testimonial” there. And by extraordinary, I mean unbelievably freaky and quite a bit disturbing. Crazy voices, a puppet, and they even provide an incorrect number for the hotline. Nailed it.

Inspiration for ACate’s HR Solutions hotline, to be sure. I’ll let you know the correct number to call, just as soon as I finalise the set up of this Swiss bank account…

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Bringing nonsense back

Hello, how are you? I hope you are well. It’s been a while since I’ve been here, but I thought I’d try to get back into sharing more nonsense. That was always the intention of this blog, really: noticing and passing on everyday sorts of sparks that I saw and liked. Because sometimes it’s nice to have a light diversion from normal everyday life, right?

So, here’s some nonsense that I found last week – an excerpt from the menu at the not-so-great Melbourne hotel I stayed in whilst in town for work. The other dishes sound normal enough, but WHY HAVE THE APRICOTS INTERCEPTED THE LAMB CUBS? And what actually are lamb cubs? Offspring of bears and sheep? WHAT IS GOING ON HERE?

The other dishes sound normal enough, but WHY HAVE THE APRICOTS INTERCEPTED THE LAMB CUBS? WHY?

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