Never judge a dwarf by his fingers

Original Post Date: 10/30/2014  3:54:35 PM

Roughly sixteen years ago, I was budding Irish whistle player and living in Prince George, BC. I knew about a dozen songs, and had even worked up the courage to play at a few open-mike sessions. But what I really wanted was to play in a band, even if it was just for a song or two. Eventually an opportunity arose when a nice lady invited me to attend a practice session for a band that she belonged to called “Out of Alba”.

When practice time arrived, I was pleased to realize that she played Irish whistles also. I was also very excited, my reasoning being that if she invited me, it meant at least SHE thought I was good enough to play in a band. At break time, she introduced me to all her band mates, including their erstwhile leader, who also happened to be a doctor.

The first thing that came to his mind when he met me was to ask critically “You play the Irish whistles? How do your short fingers affect your playing?” He then dismissed me, casually stating that his band’s practice sessions were for members only at this time, since they had a concert coming up soon.

To say that I was devastated would be a major understatement. I felt crushed, humiliated, all alone, and feeling like I would cry. But, in no time, I thought to myself “Oh yeah good doctor? Just watch me!”

Instead of giving up, I used my anger to fuel my determination, and I practiced playing like never before in my entire life. Soon, Carolyn and her band-mates, without the good doctor there on that particular day, invited me onstage to join them in a performance.

I had such a blast, and felt so supported, but my two or three songs went by much too quickly. Carolyn and I also played a few duets at a charity event, and I will be forever grateful for her kindness, and the fact she recognized that musical spark within me so long ago.

And to that doctor, all I can say is: Never judge a dwarf by his fingers!

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Funny Language Mistakes # 5

Original Post Date: 3/21/2014  10:46:10 AM

My father-in-law recently bought a Proscan PLT-1066 tablet for our daughter Annika.  Reading the user guide feels like you are taking dance lessons for the first time, where you sort of understand some of the steps being shown to you by an instructor who is South American, and has a very thick accent.

Once in a while, you do a double take, wondering if you heard correctly, as you try to replicate the dance instructions and hoping you don’t wind up looking like a pretzel, or injuring yourself during an impossible maneuver. Only instead, you are reading a technical manual about an electronic device, and it is your mind that winds up in a pretzel.

There were oh so many examples of bad writing in this tablet manual, but here are my top three pics in reverse order.

# 3: You can set up the font size according to individual’s favorite, there were respectively: small, ordinary, big, huge.

My smartass comment: “there were” different font sizes, but most of them are gone now.  The only size we have left is huge.

# 2: Storage capacity that dishonest nominal for android system occupies about hundreds of MB storage capacity, also in order to install the software needs, the system must lay off certain storage capacity, so the actual usable space and nominal space have deviation.

My smartass comment: You just can’t trust those dishonest nominals anymore, let alone understand just what the heck they are!  I also love how precise they are NOT being when they say how much storage the operating system needs: HUNREDS of MB.  Since when is guestimating acceptable in the profession of electronics engineering?  (This might not be totally the fault of the technical writer.  If the engineers gave that estimate, then how can the writer argue with them?)

# 1: When CPU in high-speed operation, especially in 3D games or in long time playback high-definition video, the fuselage will have the phenomenon of fever.

My smartass comment: Is this a jet plane, or is it a tablet?

Also, I can hear it now: “My tablet’s fuselage has a fever!” said the end user.

“No worries, take two virus checkers, and call me in the morning” replied the technical support specialist.

Considering how much money was spent developing and manufacturing this tablet, you’d think they could afford a few writers who know how to actually WRITE. I know, I know, there I go being unreasonable and unrealistic again.

I think I’ll go work out my frustrations on an unsuspecting dishonest nominal.

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Funny Language Mistakes # 4

Original Post Date: 1/26/2014  11:18:26 AM

The following is from a package of Turkish Delights, a delicious jellied candy that originated in Constantinople (now Istanbul), at least according to Wikipedia. What I don’t get is, considering how nicely done the label is and how much money they spent on printing it up, you’d think they could afford better English translation.

Closeup_MamuluWhat on earth is a “bag mouth”, and where the heck did the sewage system come from?  Most alarmingly, how and why would I close my “air contact” with said sewage system ?

Seriously, after reading this confusing label, I think I’ll just keep my bag mouth closed before I eat a candy that has anything remotely to do with a sewage system. Bon appetit indeed!  (And thanks Ioanna Solomatina for sending this funny label, and letting me post it).

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Funny Language Mistakes # 3

Original Post Date: 1/11/2014  3:31:46 PM

While visiting my family in Sherbrooke over the recent holidays, Bonnie spotted the following sign at our hotel.  Although their usage of the word “consummate” might be considered technically correct in one sense when used as an adjective, the more common usage as a verb leads to a much more salacious scenario.

DoNotConsummateAs the character Inigo Montoya said in one of my favorite movies of all time (The Princess Bride):  “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

Methinks perhaps they meant to use the word “consume”.

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Chihuly (Glass Art) Exhibition

This gallery contains 26 photos.

Original Post: 9/8/2013  11:58:16 AM We went to the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts in the summer of 2013, to see the Chihuly glass exhibition.  WOW, fantastic stuff ! Cameras were allowed, but, flashes were not permitted, and the lighting … Continue reading

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Expo CreateAbility – Set List

Met so many fantastic people at ExpoCreateAbility, and I just wanted to share the music I played there, for the folks who may have missed it, or those who would like to listen to it again. And many MANY thanks to Jason Goldsmith, Lisa Marcovici , and anyone who volunteered to put this fantastic event together!)

Music Credits:

  • Bonnie and Frank

    Bonnie and Frank

    Bonnie Sonnenschein (my darling wife) plays Fiddle

  • Frank Verpaelst (yours truly) plays:  Hammer Dulcimer, Irish whistles (both D and Low D), vocals, and Bodhran (Irish drum)

To listen to a song, LEFT CLICK your mouse on the song title. To DOWNLOAD any track you want to keep, or transfer to an MP3 Player (like your I-Pod), RIGHT CLICK on a song title, and select “Save Link As” from the popup menu.

Frank Playing Hammer-Dulcimer

Frank Playing Hammer-Dulcimer

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NOT A Motivational Speaker

Champlain Lennoxville Student AmbassadorsThe following is a speech I shared with the Cougar Ambassadors for Champlain College, Lennoxville, on Friday August 15, 2014.

When Sheila asked me to speak to you good people today, I decided she must come from another planet. What could I, a fifty-something year old, out of work computer geek, possibly say to a group student leaders? Despite my fear and mounting self-doubt, I then realized, that I deeply admire the alien planet Sheila comes from.

Sheila has accomplished so much despite, or perhaps because of, the challenges that she has faced. Sheila must see something positive in me and wants to share that with other people. So here I am today, at the request of Sheila from Planet Q., to talk about leadership, and team building.

To put it bluntly, I do not consider myself to be a leader. I also do not consider myself to be a motivational speaker, at least, not like most common “positive thinking” new age gurus out there. I will NEVER use terms like “vibrational alignment”, or “intention setting”, or any such other gargantuan galactic gobbledygook terminology.

The reality is, life is messy and complicated, and no amount of mystical thinking will EVER change that, or magically align the stars for you. But sometimes, when we do the right things, for a long enough period of time, good things can happen.

Note: At this point, I told the story of how I coached a lacrosse team that won a provincial bronze medal.  If you want to read that story now, you can click on the following link:

Coaching Part 2: The Provincial Lacrosse Tournament

The Real Job of a Good Leader (as I see it)

Be a good person

The world is already full of “leaders”, and look at the state it is in. In Quebec especially, it appears that leader is synonymous to corruption.  Winning isn’t everything: Take a stand, be a good person.

REDEFINE LEADERSHIP BY PUTTING OTHERS FIRST

You are there to help OTHERS excel, not raise your own profile, or build a good resume.If you have ulterior motives, you will NOT be the type of leader this world needs most.

Example: Considering how crazy most minor league parents are, I was certainly not coaching for my own ego gratification. I was there to help the kids.

You are there to DO

Some people dream of being a leader, thinking that the only thing they will have to do is wave their arms, and command people to do stuff. That could not be further from the truth. In order to succeed, you must be willing to do whatever it takes, on top of every other duty a leader has.

Even with the best people on your team, at some point or another, you will have to jump in, and get your hands dirty. You might not be able to replace a key member, but you will at least have to be familiar with every person’s role and duties.

Example: Some coaches like to show up at the last moment before a game, commanding the team and his assistant coaches, and never do anything else. My approach was different.

For every practice, and every game, I called every player to ensure they would be attending. By doing so, I got to know each player better, and also, a bit of what life was like for them at home. I organized our practice drills, I fixed equipment, organized transportation, etc. Coaching became an unpaid full time job, not just a “game day” experience.

KNOW THE DECK YOU HAVE BEEN GIVEN

Most often, you will be handed a team. (Oh, it would be so nice to choose everyone on our team). Get to know each member of your team.Find your Aces as quickly as possible, and assign them accordingly. Most Aces never need to be told what to do.The same goes for all the rest of your other team members, rank and assign them according to their abilities and talents. King’s, Queen’s, Jacks and so on, down to the 2’s. Even 2’s serve an important role, just like a pawn in the game of chess can become the most powerful piece on the board.

Example: Our youngest and smallest player became our best defender, and “giant slayer”, especially during the last period of that bronze medal game.

You are there to TEACH

If you don’t like teaching, do not be a leader. Leaders who want their teams to excel have to be willing to share their knowledge and experiences. Spinning off powerful partners through teaching is critical to success.

Example: I always made sure my assistant coaches had all the information to do my job. My practice and game plans, the player lists with phone numbers, parent names, starting lineup, EVERYTHING, just in case I was ever unable to attend.

You are there to LISTEN

As a leader, you will never have all the ideas and information required to do the job. You must listen to everyone on your team, gathering the knowledge and channeling it, like a river gathers water from all the tributaries and channels it to its final destination.Example: I always listened to my assistant coaches, and my players. I had my own ideas to be sure, but, each player knows themselves best, and who am I to argue with that?

You are there to SUPPORT

Good leaders love supporting people. It is your job as a leader to remove any roadblocks your team encounters. Sometimes those problems are real, sometimes those problems are imagined.You must be willing to not only be a leader, but also, a motivator, den mother, sister, brother, friend, confidant, whatever it takes to get your team moving forward.In essence, each person on your team is unique, and you will have to get to know each one of them, and present unique approaches to maximize each person’s potential.

Example: As coach, the variety of problems I had to tackle were INSANE: The tears of a ten year old player, the unreasonable fears of a parent, bad refereeing, broken equipment, the problems never stopped coming.

You are there to TAKE THE BLAME

A good leader listens to their client, and takes the blame when things go wrong. You listen and then make corrections: It is the only way to make your team better.

NEVER MAKE EXCUSES, and NEVER THROW SOMEBODY UNDER THE BUS. This is also known as FIX THE PROBLEM NOT THE BLAME.

Even if someone is truly to blame, fix the problem internally by coaching that person. If coaching does not work, eventually, you will have to fire the person who continually fails, or the whole team will suffer.Example: In my first years as a coach, we always lost at the major tournaments. Even though the teams from Montreal were always bigger than ours, I never used that as an excuse. I kept digging deeper each season, listening to other coaches from older teams, and kept getting better at coaching.

BELIEVE IN YOURSELF, BELIEVE IN YOUR TEAM

Although I poked fun at “new age positive belief gurus” earlier, believing in yourself and your team is fundamental to success. Positive thinking ALONE is not a cure-all for poor leadership, poor preparation and poor execution.

The true definition of success is not whether we win or lose, but HOW we win and lose.  There are many people in the world who are considered “winners”, but leave behind them a wake of utter devastation. Just one example of these types of false winners are CEO’s who run large corporations that are killing this planet. Success to me is always giving it your best effort, while trying to make the world and the people around you even just a small percentage better.

With that definition of success in mind, I’d like to close with little reminder I keep in my daily “to do” list:

BELIEVING – HARD WORK = DREAMING
HARD WORK – BELIEVING = SURVIVING
BELIEVING + HARD WORK + CARING= SUCCEEDING

 

Author’s Note:  Response to the speech has been very positive.  Here’s what the organizer of the days festivities, Sheila Quinn, had to to say:

“YOU ARE INCREDIBLE!!!!!!!! Frank, Nancy and Richard specifically spoke to me about how incredible you were – Nancy as Dean of Student Services has a huge amount of responsibility on her plate – she really holds the college together – so to see the students so dumbstruck and in awe was SO great! THANK YOU!!!”

And thank YOU Sheila, without you, this would never have happened!

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Posted in Miscellaneous | 1 Comment

Funny Language Mistakes # 2

Original Post: 10/7/2013 10:59 AM

I can’t remember who received these box of chocolates in my family, but it is obvious they were knock-offs of Guylian’s Belgian “Chocolate Seashells”.  No matter, they got the description wrong in both English AND French, and that takes TALENT !

Translating the French caption, it reads “Belgian Chocolate Covered Seafood”.  Yum yum, my favorite. Looking at the English caption, it did not get much better (Belgian Chocolate Covered Seashells), but at least they’re crunchier.  Very Spécial indeed!

Chocolate_Seafood_Side1

 

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Important Conversation

Original Post: 7/6/2014  1:25:25 PM

When Annika was about a year and half old, before she was able to speak in sentences, she grabbed a toy, and pretended to be on the phone with someone.  This is the conversation she had:

 

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Posted in Annikdotes, Humor, Podcast | 1 Comment

Marriage Proposals and Butterflies

Original Post Date: 6/29/2014 10:04

I find voice recordings lead to more natural results when it comes to capturing a person’s true nature. Record conversations with your kids (and grand-kids) while you can, you won’t regret it.

When Annika was three years old, I decided to record the ensuing conversation while we sat down and looked at family photos on my computer.  When I have trouble falling asleep, I listen to this, and am instantly soothed by her voice, and her words which express pure love for her family.

 

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Posted in Annikdotes, Humor, Podcast | Leave a comment