Wednesday, January 23, 2008

On the road dispatch January 23, 2008: The Tale (tail??) of Lester the Cat Part I

I am happy to report that the debut of Gourmet Geeks (GG) was held last night and came off without many hitches besides some delays/hiccups from the challenges of the internet here in China, but my fellow Gourmet Geek Jeff Utecht is working to fix it in some way, and the recipe (seen at the end of this post) was a great hit with the back channel girls Uma the Sous chef and Hetta the Happy Homemaker (better known as our wives). Both Hetta and Uma had seconds of the soup.

The reason that the delay of the GG was due in part to many things, but primarily is blamed on my cat. The now famous and infamous three footed cat Lester. Now, before the winter holiday, Lester was a four footed cat, like most cats, but his curiosity got the best of him again, and he got caught in a large rat trap and spent a full week of very chilly nights being stuck in the bushes around our house. Thanks to the persistence of our housekeeper and nanny Ms. Zhou, Lester was saved from certain death and rescued. Sadly for Lester, having a foot caught in a trap for almost a week did its damage and he has been “enjoying” a week at the vet after having his foot trimmed back to a single toe. He now embodies the old joke that reads…

A three legged cat walks into a bar. He says to the bartender, ‘I am lookin’ for the man that shot my pa.’

The thing about Lester is that he was really adopted to keep our dog entertained when we lived in Saudi Arabia. This is really where the story begins…

We spent the first few months in Saudi Arabia without our dog and family member Jake, but he eventually found his way through a multi-continent trip and a lot of hassle by a whole bunch of people who really, really love us a lot. That is a whole 'nother post.

Jake was a Chocolate Labrador Retriever who just left us for a better place just a few weeks ago. Jake was a huge dog weighing in at 110 pounds. He was the Moosehound for us, and his heart was filled with the kindness of a hundred dogs. Sweet and loyal, he lived for one single purpose and that was to bring back to his owners anything that happened to be thrown or dropped for him. Tennis balls were his favorite thing to fetch, but sticks, rocks, toys, and shoes worked just as well. Jake was also smart and knew how to relax. We would leave him at home for the day when we went to work (taking him along only about once a week) and we would return to a house where all the cushions on the couch on the floor, all the beds unmade and entire loaves of bread being eaten.

In short, Jake was bored, and he was entertaining himself, and knew full well he was doing big no, no’s! We would enter the door from the street where we parked our car, stepped into a house with a whining and embarrassed, head down, tail between his legs, recalcitrant dog. We just had to laugh and we needed a solution. We tried leaving the TV on for him. It worked for about one day. We locked all the doors to protect the bedding, but that didn’t protect the couches and our food supply. Frankly speaking I was worried Jake was going to learn how run a can opener!

A couple of weeks went by and it came time for Jake to go to the vet for some shots. The vet we went to was in Jeddah, which was a 3 hour drive through the Saudi desert to the south. We jumped up early in the AM, drove to the Vet. Jake’s check went well, and we were awaiting some medication to be dispensed to us along with a hefty bill when we spotted this homely, skinny kitten with ears too big for his head and a tail that seemed to be two feet long. We asked the price of the cat and they responded with the word that should never be associated with pets and in particular cats. The gentleman from the other side of the counter said twice in fact. He said, “Free. Free sir.” We decided that the kitten would keep Jake occupied and entertained and we took this “free” cat home.

The story gets good from here. Jake, the HUGE Lab cowered in the back seat while this little kitten first crawled all over him and then fell asleep in Amanda’s lap. He then made his way to our house where made himself at home falling asleep in the sunshine, using Jake as a scratching post. We named him Lester because he was so homely and skinny, and it seemed to fit him well. We also learned quickly that Lester had an evil side and seemed to be accelerating to kitty adolescence quickly, and his neutering cost us 300 dollars on a compound visit from the traveling vet a weekend a few weeks later. That was just the first dispatch of funds from my wallet for Lester and I will continue the “Tale (tail??) of Lester the Cat” in my next posting.

As promised… the recipe

Gourmet Geeks Tortilla Soup
6 cups of Chicken Broth (Homemade is best)
1/3 cup of lime juice
3 chilis (Hot ones!)
5 Chicken breast halves
4 cloves of garlic
1 onion
1 tbs of ground cumin
1 tbs or more of Italian seasoning or Oregano
4 cans of Mexican Stewed Tomatoes
Fresh Chopped Cilantro
Tortilla Chips

1. Cook chicken breasts in broth 20-25 minutes till well cooked.
2. Remove chicken to cool.
3. Turn broth to simmer
4. In sauce pan sauté garlic, onions, chilis. When softened add spices.
5. Add cans of tomatoes to sauce pan. When warm, add broth and lime juice
6. Season to taste with Salt and Pepper
7. Shred chicken, add to soup.
8. When heated through add fresh coarsely chopped cilantro and, serve in large bowls topped with tortilla chips, shredded cheese and sour cream.

Friday, January 11, 2008

January 9, 2008…. On the road again!

Whew… it was a great holiday. A nice long one with those of us in Shanghai enjoying a three week break! The family and I headed back to the homestead with snow, and grandparents, and “real” Christmas trees. One can complain a lot about living overseas and being away from life in the states, but I am still convinced that working in international schools is the way to go.

A few things keeping my motivated and focused this coming year and I want to share. I am not one to make New Year’s resolutions, but I do try to keep a list in my head of the things that I am looking forward to facing and meeting aggressively this calendar year.

  1. My school is in the midst of an accreditation self study through the Western Association of Schools and Colleges. We have some clearly identified outcomes that should come out of this effort which include:
    • the transformation of the way we do our work (more on this later),
    • a clearly articulated measure of the current operating state of our school based upon our own
    • the establishment of a set of metrics of which we can measure our progress toward our vision points that can be reported out to our community regularly (more on that one as well!)
  2. It appears as if we are moving toward a new school information system installation at our school. This will be a big logistical and motivational challenge for our school as we move into the mess and muss of data migration, learning of software, establishing new procedures and systems….. should be fun!
  3. Planning and subsequent implementation of a one to one computing initiative. I don’t think this one will be realized till the fall of ’09, but with the selection of the right teachers and leaders we can make this organizationally transformational for our classroom programs.
I have mentioned challenge and fun earlier in this post, but I have some other REAL fun to look forward to as well.
  1. I am looking forward to attending the NECC conference this summer. I think that this will be my first educational computing conference I have attended in over 7 years besides the Learning 2.0 conference this last fall in Shanghai.
  2. I am looking forward to beginning a video podcast series with Mr. Jeff Utecht which is a spin off of the famed “Cooking with Jeff” Twitter session that he has been doing on a regular basis. “Cooking with Jeff…. and ANDY!” will premier next week and we are going to shoot for a bi-weekly effort. Our wives think we are nuts, but frankly speaking, this is how I learn best. I combine a fun, self-motivated activity AND I will learn the nuances of video podcasting.
  3. Spend more time with my wife and children. I am hoping and praying that the road will not consume me. I don’t think it will as I see changes on the horizon on how I am going to work my “work” in the months to come.
  4. Spend some time in the gym and get some exercise. Yes… that is fun too.

Communications note:

In early December I did a post about positive communications practices and thanks to Jeff “The Thinking Stick” Utecht drawing some attention to the post, I got some nice responses.

One respondant wrote...
I am a superintendent who celebrates our positives/achievements whenever I can. I even structured a commitment to celebrate into the beginning of every report I give to the school committee. A reminder goes out the week before each meeting for things administrators and teachers want me to celebrate. I summarize them for the committee, the press, and the public.

But, why do it? Competition? Economic gain? Politics? You have to watch a video that Dewitt Jones produced to understand why. I showed it to every faculty and parent organization and many community group when I began in my current school district. It was fundamental to my theories about leadership and learning. The video is Celebrate What's Right with the World. It is expensive, but the vision in the video is transformational. I've watched it close to thirty times, and the message never grows old and never loses meaning for me. You can read about it and see it at Don't miss it.

And Darren Draper linked me to his blog post as an example of stressing the positives to create change! Drapes Takes has some great content and I have enjoyed reading it! Thanks Darren for the comment which you wrote....

I think that if we were doing a better job at celebrating the positive, newspaper articles like the one I recently responded to would have a different slant.

Thank you to all... until the next car trip across Shanghai! Keep the focus on Common Sense!