Conquer the Savage question

HQ trivia screen

On Friday, my most awesome co-worker Jess invited us to a secret meeting at 3 p.m. The meeting was to play HQ Trivia.

HQ Trivia is a live trivia game that broadcasts each night at 9 p.m. and on weekdays at 3 p.m. You play along on your phone and the prize money is split between all the winners. The prize tonight, Sunday, February 18this an epic $25,000, their biggest prize ever.

I played twice on Friday and was hooked immediately.

There were six of us playing at 3…along with 668,000 other people. You read that right. Six hundred and sixty-eight thousand people! At 9 p.m., there was Clare and I….and just under a million other people playing.

Both times, we killed it on the first three or four questions, but here’s the skinny—they make the first questions really easy to hook you in. After each round, the questions get harder and harder. Just when you think you’ve got this, the host lays it on you–the Savage Question–the question that knocks out hundreds of thousands of people.

Not only is HQ Trivia fun and addictive, it’s a social and technological marvel. It boggled my mind to think I was online with hundreds of thousands of other people at the same time doing the same thing and watching the elimination numbers each round: from 998,000, to 924,000 to 762,000 to 682,000 then down to 324,000 (after the Savage Question) until the final round when only a handful of players claim victory to split the $2,500 jackpot.

This week’s #HappyAct is to download the HQ Trivia app and play along tonight. And whatever you do, don’t call our house at 9 p.m. We won’t answer the phone.

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Epic fails and lessons in writing from the school of hard knocks

Mark Zuckerberg

This week, on the 14th anniversary of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg shared a posted about his failures. He wrote, “Over the years I’ve made almost every mistake you can imagine. I’ve made dozens of technical errors and bad deals. I’ve trusted the wrong people and I’ve put talented people in the wrong roles. I’ve missed important trends and I’ve been slow to others. I’ve launched product after product that failed.”

There are many days when I feel like an epic failure as a writer (or mother, or wife for that matter). The other day I read something I wrote a year ago. It was crap.

Writing for someone else’s voice is probably one of the hardest things for a writer to do. I need to do this a lot in my work. Here are some of my epic failures in writing over the course of my career.

  • Assuming someone’s spoken voice is the same as their written voice. I worked with one leader who was personable, funny and engaging in person, but whose written prose was formal and stilted.
  • Creating a narrative that wasn’t the narrative of the person giving the presentation. I prepared a presentation once for a leader and weaved a theme through it that I thought would resonate with the audience, using references to popular culture. It fell flat because it was my narrative, not their narrative.
  • Not using enough stories in my writing and not digging harder to find stories. Everyone has a story.
  • Slipping into corporate puffery. If something I’ve written sounds like a company wrote it, not a person, I’ve failed at my job, and I have.
  • Being too wordy.
  • Not being able to convince people to use clear language; people will often default to language they are used to or think others want to hear.

Yes, I have failed miserably time and time again. But there is one thing that makes me happy. I’m in good company.

 

Ten inventions that would make the world a happier place

Jetsons comic of the family of the future

The other day I read about a new invention: a tiny implant for your brain that injects medicine. Modern technology has led to advances in communications, medicine, and business. And yet, there are still so many basic necessities of life we still struggle with.

Here are ten yet-to-be inventions I’d like to see in 2018:

  1. A dryer that automatically sorts your socks
  2. A zip-up bathing suit top so you don’t have to wriggle out of your wet clingly suit like Houdini trying to escape from a straightjacket
  3. A teapot that doesn’t spill when you pour it
  4. A massage jacket that gives you a soothing massage when you wear it
  5. A device that could magically remove moles so no one would ever have to worry about skin cancer again…while you’re at it, a cure for cancer, Alzheimers and diabetes please
  6. A jet pack like the Jetsons so you never have to be stuck in traffic or drive your kids anywhere ever again
  7. A blender that doesn’t spout hot liquid like lava from a volcano
  8. A toilet paper roll that automatically refills itself
  9. A duvet cover that has zippers or buttons at both ends so when your husband tosses and turns and all the duvet winds up on your side of the bed and he blames you, it’s easy to fix
  10. A robot that will go around the house and pick up all the mitts, scarves, hats, markers, dishes and clothes that your kids have just left even though you tidied the house twenty minutes ago

Maybe for Mother’s Day, I’ll get my robot. In the meantime, if some smart inventor out there can work on numbers one to nine, that would make me happy.

Spice it up

carrot and squash soupWhen it comes to food, I have a terrible handicap. I’m Scottish.

Scots aren’t exactly known for their culinary prowess. I had a meat and potatoes kind of childhood. Growing up, the only spices I remember in my house were salt, salt, and more salt.

Today we are blessed to live in an era when delicacies and aromatic spices from around the world can be found in any market. We just need an adventurous spirit to experiment with different flavours and combinations.

My favourite “go to” spices these days are cumin, curry and coriander. This weekend I made a yummy carrot squash soup with coconut milk with these three spices from Greta Podleski’s new cookbook, Yum and Yummer. I was too lazy to roast the sweet potatoes and carrots, so just dumped them in the pot. It was spicy and delicious.

When Dave and I were in Zanzibar, we toured a spice plantation. Zanzibar is known as the Spice Island—it was a key trading route and stop in the nineteenth century for slave traders and spice merchants off the coast of Africa. We learned about the medicinal properties of spices, ate cinnamon shaved right off the tree, and brought back a treasure trove of spices in our suitcases. I still use all of these spices in my dishes.

man in coconut tree

Our guide climbing a coconut tree in Zanzibar

Most spices have medicinal properties. Cinnamon has been called a medical powerhouse, lowering blood sugar, aiding digestion and battling ailments like bronchitis. I sprinkle cinnamon on my coffee at work every day for a healthy, tasty start to my day. I even use cinnamon in some of my rice dishes and most of my baked goods.

And then there’s the Italian spices—oregano, basil, thyme. So many spices, so little time!

Four spices that I haven’t cooked with as much are cardamom, tamarind, saffron and garam marsala. If any of you have any great tips or recipes for these spices, please share.

This week’s #HappyAct is to spice it up. Put the salt shaker away and discover the spice of your life.

Inspired reading and viewing: I watched a movie a few weeks ago that will inspire you to spice up your culinary creations—The Hundred Foot Journey. It’s the story of an Indian family that starts a restaurant directly across from a French haute cuisine restaurant in the French countryside. The story centres around Hassan whose secret spice box propels him to become one of the top chefs of France. It was one of the best movies I’ve seen in a long time—I’m reading the book right now.

Let’s hear it for the cheap seats

Face off at centre ice

Yesterday, we watched two great hockey games. And it didn’t cost us a dime.

We cheered on the Queen’s University women’s hockey team to an 8-1 victory over Windsor at the Memorial Centre. There were only about 100 people in the stands.

Then we watched one of Grace’s friends, who plays competitive hockey take on Ajax. It was amazing to me even at that age (14), at that level, what great hockey it was. Kingston came out on top 2-1.

Entertainment costs today have spiralled out of control. According to Forbes magazine, the average ticket price for a Toronto Maple Leafs ticket is now $368.60, the highest in the league.

Last year, the Toronto Blue Jays announced they’d be hiking ticket prices for the 2018 season. 200 level seats within the bases will cost over $50 a ticket.

My brother recently attended the Canada vs. Finland World Junior Hockey game in Buffalo. They paid $120 a ticket and the stands were half empty.

empty hockey stadium

Every week I see Facebook posts of people who have taken their kids to $100 concerts.

It’s almost become cost prohibitive for a family of four to go to any of these events.

In every community, there are local sporting events and concerts for free or that are relatively cheap. You can also get much closer to the action.

Yesterday, I sat right behind the penalty box and Queen’s bench for a period of the game. It’s cool to see the interaction of the officials, coaches and players—you could hear all the conversations and see the coaching staff in action.

And unlike at a Blue Jays or Maple Leafs game where you’d pay $12 a beer and $8 a hot dog, we spent $4 for four bags of popcorn.

So let’s hear it for the cheap seats. If you like hockey, here are some cheap events coming up in our region:

  • The Carr-Harris Cup at the KRock Centre on February 1st—watch Queen’s take on RMC for just $12 a ticket
  • The Queen’s Women’s hockey team is taking on the Western Mustangs today (Sunday, January 21) at the Memorial Centre at 2:30 p.m. Tickets are $7 each and a bag of popcorn is only a buck. You can check out all the Queen’s sports games at gogaelsgo.com. I’ve taken the kids to their basketball double header nights (women and mens) and it’s a great night of entertainment.

Queen's hockey bench

Timing is everything

Time's Up poster

There is a new book on my reading list for 2018: best-selling author Daniel Pink’s When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing.

Pink’s book focuses on the science of timing to help us make smart decisions in our lives.

Our lives are a never-ending stream of “when” decisions. There are little “when” decisions: when is the best time to study for an exam, when are you most productive at work. And there are the big “when” decisions: when to start a business, start a family or change careers.

Both the Wall Street Journal and Toronto Star have written articles on Pink’s new book. The article in The Star focused on New Year’s resolutions and why “fresh starts” like at the beginning of the year, really work.

To establish a fresh start, people use two types of “temporal landmarks”— social and personal. Social landmarks are those that everyone shares Mondays, the beginning of a new month, national holidays. The personal ones are unique to each person: birthdays, anniversaries, job changes.

These time markers allow us to clear the slate on the past and help us see beyond the minutiae of day to day living to see “the forest beyond the trees” for a fresh start.

I am hopeful that 2018 is a fresh start for all of us and that #TimesUp.

You don’t have to tell Tarana Burke timing is everything.

The founder of the #MeToo movement has been quietly, tenaciously, devoting her life for ten years promoting empowerment through empathy, raising awareness of inequality and sexual harassment against women.

But it wasn’t until actress Alyssa Milano urged women this past fall on social media to speak up using the hashtag #MeToo that we were able to crest the tipping point to create a wave of support and change the dialogue and power imbalance between men and women on sexual harassment.

The wave became a tidal wave this January with the creation of #TimesUp, a legal organization formed to pay for and provide legal support for victims of sexual assault and the platform and voices of powerful women like Oprah Winfrey and Reese Witherspoon.

Yes, timing is everything.

I am hopeful it is finally our time—time for women to be truly viewed and treated as equals.

I am hopeful that every organization will look within its own walls with a microscopic lens and make changes to ensure equal pay for equal work, and equal representation of women on boards and in the C-suite.

That every government implements policies to ensure women are protected, can receive an education, and can live freely without fear of retribution or harm.

That every father and grandfather teaches their sons and grandsons to treat women as we deserve.

And that some day soon, every woman will feel finally, it is our time.

52 Walks in 52 Weeks

Author in front of her office ready to walkThis year, my New Year’s resolution is to take 52 walks in 52 weeks in 2018.

Let me explain.

I have many friends at work, but work is so busy, I often don’t have time to catch up with them. Occasionally, we meet for lunch, but this eats up our lunch hour and budget and adds unwanted pounds.

So here is my plan. Every week this year, I am going to invite one co-worker to walk with me for half an hour one day a week at lunch. It may be a good friend, someone I’ve met I want to get to know better, or maybe even a complete stranger.

My goals are to get in shape, save money, and stay connected with my co-workers and what’s happening in the company, which will benefit my job.

What’s your New Year’s resolution? Leave a comment. Don’t miss next week’s post on the secret to being successful at keeping resolutions.