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Archive for June, 2013

Some Cats are Kinda Cool

In an effort post something before too much time passes, I thought I would share some information I received in an MIT Open CourseWare newsletter. MIT, as well as many other colleges and universities, offers world-class courses for those who desire the knowledge but do not require the academic credit. But this post is not about far-reaching studious types; it’s about fast cats.

I’m an unapologetic dog lover, but these facts about cheetahs are amazing. I’m not sure I want to know how scientists managed to get collars around the necks of the world’s fastest mammals, but the data achieved proves these are some very cool cats.

Cheetah Facts:

“The cheetah is the fastest mammal on earth, clocked at speeds exceeding 60 miles per hour while in captivity. Although it’s much harder to measure their speed in the wild, experts have long assumed that swiftness is what makes them such formidable hunters. But scientists from London’s Royal Veterinary College have recently discovered that a cheetah’s true talent lies more in its agility and maneuverability.

cheetah

“They actually hunt their prey at somewhere much closer to 30 miles per hour, only slightly faster than a human at top speed. Yet in stark contrast with human biomechanics, cheetahs can quickly stop, change directions, and accelerate with startling effectiveness.

“The key to the discovery was the perfection of a lightweight, solar-powered collar—a tracking device ten years in the making—that contained a GPS module, accelerometer, magnetometer and gyroscope to precisely track the movement of these animals in three-dimensional space.

“Five cheetahs in Botswana were outfitted with the collars and tracked for 18 months in the wild. Data from a total of 367 runs were recorded with remarkable precision, allowing a rich portrait of these animals to emerge.

“We learned, for example, that cheetahs hunt as much in dense shrub as open fields, and they will hunt throughout the day, rather than just in the morning, as was commonly believed.

“What the data revealed about the cheetah’s locomotor skills was most impressive: They can accelerate by 7 miles per hour in a single stride—four times quicker than the fastest human, Usain Bolt. They can also reduce their speed by almost 9 miles per hour in a single stride, which greatly increases their ability to sharply change direction.”1

Agility trumps speed, but the speed is pretty impressive too.

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1 MIT Open Courseware, http://ocw.mit.edu/index.htm

A Tribute to Small Efforts

June. Tis the season to remember and pay tribute to teachers. At graduations everywhere—from nursery schools to ivy league universities—teachers will watch their students mark their accomplishments by walking proudly down the aisle, accepting a diploma, or giving the valedictorian speech. The diligent high achievers passed in each assignment, sometimes early, participated in the classroom freely and reveled in the grades they received that rewarded their hard work. Some students required constant coaxing, prodding and perhaps a bit of psychology to get them to the finish line. There’s a spectrum of students in between to arrive at the finish using a recipe of both scenarios. As I looked down the rows of students, I thought of the hours of practice and patience that led to this crowning, emotion-filled event: the recital.

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Violin and cello students formed lines under the white tent to perform a program of classical and modern pieces, to the delight of the audience. Proud parents, grandparents, other family members and friends lounged on beach chairs and on blankets and managed to ignore the blazing heat of the June sun to watch students, whose ages ranged from four to late teens, as they performed the songs they had practiced all year.

The very little ones, holding toy-sized violins with sponges tied to them, looked serious as they played a 30-second song that I did not recognize. Who cares? They were cute. Their teacher stood in front so they could all follow her lead. She smiled at them to encourage them and melt away any lingering—or gripping—nervousness. After all, a sea of eyes was focused on them. Several scanned the audience, looking for Mommy’s or Daddy’s familiar face.

I thought about the coaxing those mommies and daddies do every week—every day—to ensure their music student practices. I wondered about the number of times the teachers had put on and participated in one of these recitals and the steady stream of students they had taught and mentored. How many of the older students who now played more complicated compositions started in that first row of beginner violinists? I wondered if the teachers could predict which students would give the violin their hearts and devote the time, sacrifice and energy required to excel.

“Success is the sum of small efforts, repeated day in and day out”. Robert Collier

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The little girl standing in the front row, dressed in her prettiest black and white outfit, holding the toy-sized violin (a “violette”, perhaps!) may have only played two short songs during the concert, but time will tell whether she will go on to delight fans of symphonic music in the distant future. As she gracefully bows to the crowd’s thunderous applause, perhaps she’ll remember her first recital on a hot June day and pay tribute in her heart to small efforts.

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Robert Collier quotation from The Success Principles: How to Get From Where You are to Where You Want to Be. Jack Canfield, 2005, p. 178.

Weekly Photo Challenge: The Sign Says

When travelling, you meet a lot of different signs. Sure, you’re used to the bold, red STOP and the cautionary YIELD. My favorite (or ‘favourite’) will always be MIND THE GAP. It cracks me up every time, especially when accompanied by the very polite female voice. Who wouldn’t comply?

Signs in different languages intrigue me because they give me the impression that I can understand them. The give away, of course, is the shape. I can’t speak French, Arabic or Hebrew, but if it’s a yellow triangle, maybe I should let the other guy go first.

IMG_0065-Danger of Death (800x600)

These two signs were hovering at the top of the heap. Two cautionary signs, of sorts:

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What do you think?

7 Suggestions for the Shy at Heart

“Some of us lack the self-confidence to say anything in meetings, especially when higher-ups are in the room. Here’s how to change that.” Anne Fisher

Friday, May 31, was my birthday. A birthday is one of those milestones that naturally lends itself to self-reflection, goal setting, and a bit of criticism. As far as self-reflection is concerned, I admit that I am naturally shy and also introverted. I am getting to the age that I accept and at sometimes defend my introverted nature. As our highly stimulated, stress-filled world races forward, the qualities of an introvert can be an oasis of tranquility in the midst of a stormy, busy environment. So being introverted is okay with me.

Being shy, however, continues to be a struggle for me, so I thought it ironic that this article, Shy at Work? 7 Ways to Speak Up, by Anne Fisher appeared on the CNN website on my birthday. (I act as if all of the good stuff is for me if it falls on my birthday!) The content of the column is a reminder that challenges can be overcome if we are willing to work on them. If speaking up, whether at work or in social gatherings, is also a challenge for you, these suggestions may help build your confidence and allow you to make the contribution that lies just below the surface. Here are a few:

1. Don’t underestimate the value of your ideas. Chances are, someone else around the table is thinking the same thing. Why should someone else get the credit?

2. Be among the first to speak. The sooner you speak up in the meeting or conversation, the more confident you will feel about your contribution. Your sphere of influence has a better chance of growing. The next thing you know, the chair will be asking for your input.

3. Ask questions. If a statement seems a bit too daunting, try asking a question. Probe. That nagging question in the back of your mind could lead to an important—almost overlooked—detail.

To read the column in its entirety, here is the link: http://management.fortune.cnn.com/2013/05/31/shyness-work-speaking/.

We shy people may not end up as stand-up comedians or the life of the party, but gee, at least we can use these strategies to raise our hands when we have something to say.

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Fisher, Anne. May 31, 2013. Shy at work? 7 ways to speak up.
http://management.fortune.cnn.com/2013/05/31/shyness-work-speaking/