October 29, 2007

Sopranos Last Episode Theory

Last night the final episode of the Sopranos was finally aired in the UK. If you haven't seen it please don't read any further as I don't want to be responsible for ruining the end for you.

At first I was really upset with ending and I stormed out of the living room disgusted that we had waited for so long in anticipation of a big conclusion. Stephen commented that at least it was better than the end of Will and Grace. True.

However, because we had watched the first episode (pilot) just an hour earlier I was able to make a grand conclusion that now allows me to sleep without Sopranos Frustration. Here it is...

The first episode begins with Tony starting therapy and discussing the anxiety attack he had after watching the wild ducks fly away from his pool. They had arrived a few weeks earlier, had some ducklings and he lovingly watched them learn to fly and even built a ramp so that they could get in and out of the pool. He got into the water and started talking to them as though they were his friends. But when they finally grow big enough to fly away he passes out.

The therapist says to him, "they were just ducks until they had ducklings and then they became a family." That says it all.

In the final scene of the final episode Tony waits for his family in the diner. First he looks around for them, as he did when looking for the ducks in the woods and then each family member arrives, one at a time just as the ducks flew away one at a time. As Meadow walks into the diner the show goes to black. It is the full circle of his family of ducks leaving and then returning.

Well, it allowed me to sleep peacefully. In fact, I'm sure you can write an entire thesis with this as the theme. There are many times that Tony faces wilderness, friend, foe or even bear at the side of his pool. AJ even tries to drown himself in it in an earlier episode. There is also the time Tony was in a coma and he saw the bushes rustle with the ghosts of his dead relatives - just as the bushes rustled as the ducks emerged to visit him in his pool. The most telling shot of Tony is in one of the final episodes when he sits by his sister's lake house looking out in contemplation. In that episode he looks on lovingly at his niece and how she is encouraged to tentatively dip her toes into the lake. But then her mother, his sister Janice, gets furious with the nanny for allowing the little girl near the water - near family.

Tony's pool is his family circle. At the start of the series his children are leaving him and flying the coop as the ducks did. At the end they return - to the diner, a public pool. He plays the song "Don't Stop Believing" which is actually an optimistic premonition of how his family unit will continue having passed the trials and tribulations of each flying off on their own. They are now back together.

October 27, 2007

Making the connection

I've started a new network on Linked In called American Arts & Culture Managers in UK. If you are interested in joining visit my website and register your interest www.artsmanagementconsulting.com/usuk.

The kick-off networking gathering is on 29 November from 7-9pm. It is an Americans for the Arts Creative Conversation and details can be found at www.artsmanagementconsulting.com/usuk.

Starting this network has given me a feeling of finally being back on my own two feet after leaving the stability of the US.

October 26, 2007

British Gas is Commitment-phobic

Well yes, the soap opera of our sordid love affair with British Gas continues. Although I think I have now been officially dumped. Perhaps I mentioned that their district supervisor called and told me that we HAD to meet with a technician yet one more time to sort out our boiler's problems. Sounds like divorce court.

Over the past 10 weeks we have scheduled four appointments with British Gas with each one being cancelled last minute as in I am sitting and waiting and they cancel the date.

Today I took the entire day off from work and sat on the couch waiting for my British Gas technician to arrive. Now it is 4.45pm on a Friday and he still hasn't called, written or shown up. No flowers, no notes, no emails, nothing. I've been dumped. What's a girl to do on a Friday when her date has blown her off?

You are reading it here first - my affair with British Gas is over. They can call and beg for another date but I'm done. I'm not going to sit around and cry about it. I'm going to take a shower and go out into the world.

Oh wait, the boiler may explode. Well, I'm okay with that.

Wifi Detector T-Shirt

Every time I check the GeekSugar blog there is something amazing to behold. This time it is the Wifi Detector T-Shirt which lights up when you are in a wifi signal area. How cool is that? I bet if you have braces on your teeth you can probably use your teeth as keys and even send emails without a computer. Receiving could be an issue.

October 25, 2007

Conversations not to have at cocktail parties

Last night I attended a cocktail party at which I was the photographer. In other words, it was a work event and I was the photographer, caterer, intern manager and bartender.

One of the guests stopped me mid-photo to introduce me to his friend. He pointed out that we had a lot in common since we were both from the States. I politely chatted for a few minutes and then began to make my move to return to the photo assignment. However, "introducer" stopped me and said, "you both like photography".

The woman then went into how she would like to raise some funds for a sick child. I commended her on the effort. Then she told that her idea was to do a risque calendar that could be sold for charity. Hum, what could possibly be next? An invite to pose? Guess again, she asked if I would take the photos.

Now how do you respond to that? Well, being the learned diplomat that I am - from years of working in the not-for-profit sector, I was able to think quickly on my feet.

Amy: Well, actually you would need special studio lighting for that to make sure the photos are very flattering. I don't have lights with me here in the UK.

Woman: Oh yes, that makes sense. Well, if I were to look up photographers on the internet would I search under boudoir photos?

Amy: No, no, I would look up environmental portraiture. You want photos that are flattering and taken in a comfortable environment.

Woman: Okay, I see, environmental photos.

Ah yes, never a dull moment.

Beoing Boeing

There is no excuse for living near good theatre and not going. Our friend John suggested that we "take in some theatre" while he was visiting from San Francisco. Using the internet, within five minutes we had tickets booked, half price, for the next day to see a West End hit.

We jetted off to see Boeing Boeing which is a traditional British bedroom farce. A French man figures out how to maximise the travel schedules of flight attendants so that he can have three women - one from Italy, one from America and one from Germany.

As you can guess it went wrong. The results were very amusing. What I really liked though was how the American flight attendant was depicted - big everything, little girl voice, blonde hair, sex crazed and a good business woman. She was inspirational.

October 22, 2007

Whirlwind Arts & Culture

Our friend Nicole is visiting from San Francisco and we've been doing a whirlwind tour of British arts and culture.

We started with the Affordable Art Fair where every piece of art is under 3,000 GBP. Next we watched the Rugby World Cup in which England was defeated by South Africa. This we watched while eating Texas BBQ in a new restaurant that we loved so much we ate there two nights in a row.

Yesterday we continued the adventure with The Golden Age of Couture at the Victoria and Albert Museum with our neighbour Laia. Followed by the premier of Sir Richard Attenborough's soon-to-be released film Closing the Ring. This was part of the British Film Institute's London Film Festival. There was a red carpet and Sir Richard spoke before and after the film. We didn't love the film but it was really cool to be at a premier in London. We completed our evening with the penultimate episode of The Sopranos. Painful to watch.

Now Nicole is heading off to Barcelona and John, another friend from San Francisco, arrives for two days following his trip to Warsaw. Like ships passing in the night. It is so easy to pick up our conversations as though we see each other every day.
Photos: Amy & Nicole being silly. Sir Richard on stage (he's on the left).

October 19, 2007

Migraines and NLP

Every four to six weeks I get a headache that lasts for several days. This has been going on for the past six years. Although I can still get my work done it is dreadfully painful. As I mentioned in an earlier post I went to the City of London Migraine Clinic and now I've been seeing a physiotherapist as well. What I've learned is that many "things" can trigger a migraine - food, posture, stress, muscles...almost anything. Usually a migraine is caused by a combination of these "things", there is no exact route.

The GP at the Migraine Clinic noticed that I have a very painful neck and recommended that I address this with my physiotherapist. When I told Michael he started feeling around my neck and noticed that it is hard as a brick with lots of little painful nubbies. Plus, he recognized that when he touched my neck it immediately turned red - a sign of lack of blood circulation. This was all very sobering and has helped me see the link between my physiology and the migraines.

Last night I took a risk. I always have an underlying headache and for once it didn't feel very strong. So, I had a glass of red wine and then sprawled out on the couch to watch TV with Stephen. My head was tweaking my neck in the exact bad position that I'm supposed to avoid. Did I get up? No, I kept laying there and then the red wine must have been the topper to trigger the migraine. All through my sleep I could feel it in my right eye/temple.

This morning when I awakened I tried all kinds of techniques to start to alleviate the pain. First I massaged my neck how Mike had instructed me to do. It helped a bit. Next I practiced yoga breathing in one nostril and out the other and then reversing the air flow. This too offered some help. Then I remembered the NLP techniques I learned a few weeks ago on my INLPA course. Instead of giving into the pain and creating more stress - evidenced by my neck being even tenser than normal - I started to pinpoint the pain, to give it shape, color. I envisioned the connection between my neck and the pain in my eye/temple.

Suddenly I felt the need to get out of bed and play this out. In our spare bedroom I stood by the window and started pulling the pain out of my head as though it were a series of wispy strings. It was in my hair, on my face, in my neck. Then it became a long rope that I kept pulling out faster and faster. I saw it as a big pile of knotted cables on the floor. I picked up the mass mess and threw it out the window.

Next I asked myself - what do I get by holding on to this headache? What does it do for me? I realized - nothing. I can let go. Six years of a giant knot is a lot to get rid of so I pulled some more of the rope out. Yes, there is still a headache but I feel like I control it instead of it controlling me. Instead of scrunching up in pain I am slowly releasing the tension every minute. It is a tremendous feeling.

Now I know this all sounds a bit like black magic stuff. But if you have the brainpower to create tension why not use those same powers for good instead of evil? This in combination with avoiding my triggers - bad posture, red wine...will allow me to address the situation proactively.

If anyone is interested in exploring some NLP techniques with me, I need the practice, please email me at amy@amykweskin.com.

October 17, 2007

Are You Speaking My Language?

Have you ever had the experience of you're words being translated during a conversation? An interpreter seems to be obligated to interpret everything and suddenly you see you're words coming to life. More than that, you see you're speech nuances in all their idiosyncratic forms.
That's what happened today when I met with a woman who works for the Royal National Institute for the Deaf. My work associate and I invited her to meet with us to discuss our training courses, which she had recently attended, to determine if we could make them more accessible for people with specialised learning requirements. Next week we meet with the Royal National Institute for the Blind about our books.

Coordinating the meeting was easy enough over email. That immediately broke down a latent fear I must have been holding of not being able to understand someone who is deaf. Her emails were casual and fun.

For the meeting she came to our offices and brought along an interpreter. Another fear broken down - she looked like someone I would hang out with - a potential friend. Even her high energy was something I could relate to.

We started our meeting and that's when I had the most difficulty. Although I was talking to her she had to look at the interpreter. Then I started to talk to the interpreter instead of her. But she could speak her response clearly so it was like a three way conversation with my work associate looking on in wonderment.

Suddenly my casual meeting-banter was being translated and I began to stumble, pause, repeat myself. I found myself saying "proactively" a lot. Then I pointed it out and the translater translated it, with all my facial expressions. Luckily it was an easy-going conversation and it seemed that she got my humour - or at least was polite enough to giggle along with me. Yes, I think she got it.

The net outcome (how's that for biz speak?) was that we came up with some good ideas for making our programmes (how's that for British spelling?) more accessible, proactively. I was so inspired that I took the moment beyond the meeting and was able to get the title sponsor for our next event to hire a sign language interpreter.

Later I was thinking about how difficult it must be to make friends if you can't verbally communicate. Yes, there are other ways of communicating but for me hanging out and chit-chatting is really important. Maybe I can learn sign language - then the next question is American or British?

October 15, 2007

O Canada!

Its official, people think I'm from Canada. Three times over the past two weeks I've been asked if I'm Canadian. Is Connecticut close enough to the border to pass as Canada? Apparently I "don't have a harsh American accent." Interesting.

I've explained to all these folks that they can tell if someone is from Canada if they pronounce "about" as "a boot" - its that Scottish accent peaking through.

One woman who mistook me for a Canadian apologised repeatedly because she knows how insulted Americans become if they are called Canadians. Really? Frankly, I never think about Canada. How Central North American of me.

October 12, 2007

Run Al Run!

Reading that Al Gore won the Nobel Peace Prize gave me chills and that's not because of global warming. It is because he is taking leadership into action. Run for President Al!

October 11, 2007

Being Decisive

I meant to post this on the Career Goals: Take the Lead blog. You can read it there.

Getting into Rapport

A big thing I learned in the NLP course about being a good communicator is getting in rapport with an individual or group. This means matching them physiologically without looking like you're doing it. You can match by crossing your leg the same way, pacing your breathing, the tone, pitch, speed of your voice, hand gestures, tilt of the head and tilt of the body are a few examples.

You will know you're in rapport when you can make a subtle change in any of these and the other persons unconsciously responds. Give it a try with a friend who is willing to give it a go. Try having a conversation about a topic on which you disagree but you're deliberately being in rapport. It is really hard to disagree! Now try it with a subject that you both agree about and be out of rapport. You'll see that it is really hard to agree when you are out of rapport.

Recently I've noticed that I'm a head nodder. My head bobs up and down all throughout conversations and meetings. I don't think I noticed it while living in the States but here I feel like a bobble head doll. This past weekend I tried not doing it and I found it really hard to stay still.
Over the past two days I've had face to face conversations with American women who are my age and definitely my energy level. You know what? They bob too. It must be an American thing, a way of building rapport. There we went, bobbing away, stepping closer to each other, matching our breathing. I hope they didn't know I was NLPing them.

October 9, 2007

Poll Results

How well do you know The Kweskin Report?

George - the name of Amy's Toyota Scion
Ike - the name of Amy's folding bike
Fred - the name of the goldfish Amy had as a kid (not mentioned in blog.)

October 8, 2007

INLPTA Diploma

What the heck is a INLPTA Diploma? Well, it is a diploma in Neurolinquistic Programming certified by the International NLP Trainers Association and it is what I earned this past weekend.

I'm very excited by what I learned. Can't tell you too much at this point because my brain is now mush after sitting in a classroom for 28 hours. But I do feel like it is an expert set of tools that will come in useful in my current post and as an arts management consultant.

October 6, 2007

The English Countryside

This morning I realised that this is really my first visit to the English countryside. The location of the NLP coaching training is in Latimer which is about 40 minutes outside of London and yet still accessible by tube - the Metropolitan Line.

We are nestled on top of a hill in a conference facility that is built around an old English mansion. All around us are rolling hills dotted with horses, cows and criss-crossed with streams and walking paths.

I went for a brief walk this morning and just down the road there is the heart of the Latimer Parish. Six Tudor cottages of differing sizes encircling a green island with a well for watering your animals. Each house has a name such as Old School House or Village Cottage.

It truly felt as though I were walking through a painting, especially when six white doves flew up into the trees. A few minutes later I was near a whispering stream that hosted swans and geese and just nearby cows were nibbling the grass.

The smells here are great too. It reminds me of camp. I remember the smells of grass and soil. When you live in a big city you close your nose. Out here it suddenly re-opens and you enjoy the surroundings with all your senses.

NLP is about using all your senses. I notice here that I've mentioned site, sound, movement and smell.

I'll upload photos when I get home.

October 4, 2007

NLP Coaching Diploma

Over the next four days I'll be at a coaching training program doing a degree in NLP coaching. Here's what Wikipedia says about NLP...

Neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) is an alternative to psychotherapy and a "model of interpersonal communications"[1] based on the subjective study of language, communication and change. It was co-founded by Richard Bandler and linguist John Grinder in the 1970s as a method of personal development. They developed a set of practices and techniques based on modeling successful psychotherapists of the time. However, its application was not limited to psychotherapy, rather they attended to the patterns of interpersonal communications that could be applied generally. Its theoretical foundations borrowed from a range of disciplines, including various psychological fields, linguistics, cognitive science, and occupational therapy. NLP and its many variants are taught through seminars, workshops, books and audio programs. The field is loosely spread and resistant to a single comprehensive definition. There is also a great deal of difference between the depth and breadth of training and standards.

Don't worry. I'm sure I'll still be cynical and sarcastic upon my return.

Drowning in Tech Overload

Our vonage phone line died. My wireless internet connection is gone. The laptop is getting slower each day. I've had to buy a skype phone number and skype credit so that I can keep living my dual life of US/UK. It was all in balance but when the techie stuff went pear shaped I kinda lost the plot (how's that for British speak?)

The Skype sounds really computer-ised. Plus, I can't figure out how to type to people instead of calling them. In fact, I accidentally called my friend Lori at her job. My call was broadcast across the office. She managed to get me into the writing function. When I hung up, I called her again on the office loudspeaker.

London Calling.

Am I getting old or is this stuff just confusing?

October 1, 2007

Streamlining my web presence

I've taken a big step and have streamlined my web presence. Up until about 30 minutes ago I had five blogs (although I was only writing on two of them) and three websites (only using two). Yes, I was hogging the Internet.

Unfortunately www.regenxers.com didn't make the cut. It is a concept but doesn't need a website...yet.

Here's what's left:


That should keep me busy.

Poll Reveals Why YOU Read The Kweskin Report

Well, the results are in and most of you who chose to participate in the survey revealed that you read it to spy on me. I'm supposing those are mostly family members.

Why do you read The Kweskin Report?
Distraction from work
1 (6%)

Surfing the web
2 (12%)

Spying on Amy
11 (68%)

Pearls of wisdom
2 (12%)

Votes so far: 16 Poll closed

Apple Raisin Oatmeal Pancakes

Apple Raisin Oatmeal Pancakes
Comfort food for a cozy day

1/2 cup oatmeal
1/2 cup water
3/4 cup rice flour
2 eggs
2 tbs cup vegetable oil
1/2 tsp Cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 apple chopped (or any fruit)

1 tbs vegetable oil
Frying pan

In a large bowl soak oatmeal in water for 20 minutes. Add rice flour (or any flour that you like) and stir. Add egg and vegetable oil and stir. Add Cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla extract and stir. Add water if too thick. Set aside. Put frying pan on medium heat, add oil. When surface is hot (oil spreads easily) scoop 1/4 cup of the mixture and pour into pan. Add a handful of apple slices and spread around surface. When bubbles start to appear (2-3 minutes) flip the pancake. Cook on second side for another 2-3 minutes.

Remove from heat. Cover while you cook more. Serve with maple syrup, honey or jam.