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Thursday 7 April, 2022

The Perfect Host

The most important qualities of a good host.

    Assertiveness
    Always pro-active
    Uses initiative
    Has organisational skills
    Is always welcoming
    Easily connects with people

But many other qualities are also required.

    Approachable personality
    Ability to keep calm at all times, not easily flustered
    Is both sympathetic and empathetic
    Willing and available at all times to help and smooth over any issue that arises
    Uses common sense
    Is aware at all times of what is happening
    Is adaptable to all situations
    Always inclusive
    Advance preparation
    Always willing to share knowledge with others
    Listens attentively and absorbs the message   
    Exudes friendliness to all, not just "significant" people
     Good at remembering names
    Engaging speaking voice
    Ensures people are introduced to others
    Has knowledge of speaker and audience
    Keeps smiling!

The Perfect Host has a Perfect Check List>>>

What should be considered:   Before,    During   and   After   an event.

 Before:   

    Is a committee required?   If so, what will be delegated to whom?
    What venue?  If necessary have contacts who can help with finding most appropriate one
    Visit the venue, with president/chairman, familiarise yourself with layout and meeting rooms
    Liaise with president at all times re all details and information required
    Prepare map or directions to venue
    Parking - at venue?  nearby?  capacity?
    Meet liaison person at venue, discuss requirements,  arrange meeting dates
    Investigate disabled access, and location of fire escapes and toilets
    Any Health & Safety issues relevant
    Find out how to operate blinds, curtains, air conditioning in meeting room
    List of those to be invited, when invitations should be issued and RSVP date
    What information should be sent to participants, eg: what, where, when, etc
    Any special requirements for any participant - diet?  overnight accommodation?
    Is catering required?   Who organises it?
    Programme - timings, start, finish, breaks, meal, identify speakers
    Know the names of key personnel, especially correct pronunciation and spelling
    Know the correct title and address of those to be introduced
    Obtain short bio details of those to be introduced
    What aids required?  Screen, OHP,  White board, Laptop, Microphones, extra cables?
    Are there to be questions from audience at any time?   How will they be dealt with?
    Ensure that guests will not be left alone at any time.
     
During
   
    Be early at venue
    Check room - layout, water and glasses - especially top table
    Check final arrangements with venue liaison contact
    Be at door to welcome guests and take to chairman
    Make attendees welcome, give special attention to special guests
    Keep constant watch on what is going on
    Inform everyone of housekeeping - toilets, disabled facilities, fire exits, etc
    Know how to deal with distractions - noise, sunlight, air conditioning, room temperature    
    Keep discreetly checking on chairman and guest speaker - any requirements?
    Have someone at door to prevent unwanted entrance
    Look out for any potential problems and be prepared to deal with them
    Have pre-arranged signal to chairman if items seriously over-running time
    At ending of meeting:  gifts/ payment to guest/s  readily at hand?
    Be a gopher - go for this, go for that
    Smile!!


After 

    Feedback forms as participants leave?  or later?
    Say goodbye to any that the chairman is not attending to
    Make sure the room is left tidy, no papers, files, bags etc left
    Check bill is correct and pass to treasurer
    Thank you letters to be sent?   Or does chairman do that?
    Liaise for final time with venue
    Be the last to leave the room - final check!

********************************************************************************
    Nancy Sanderson and Stirling Club workshop


Tuesday 16 November, 2021

The Windmills of My Mind

Some months ago, I was asked to find a speaker for a charity dinner.  I consigned the question to the windmills of my mind, in the firm belief that the sails would turn, wheels and cogs would interlock and a speaker would be found.


Now I’m a sucker for ‘freebies’ and last week I picked up a free Rotary magazine from Sainsbury’s.
One of the articles was about leprosy. The very word conjures up fear. It is a wasting disease where the peripheral nerves die, causing pain and numbness, but also leaving the body vulnerable to damage. For millennia it was recognised as infectious and a sufferer was immediately banished from the community.


I was reminded of a famous letter written by Robert Louis Stevenson concerning leprosy. Stevenson had gone to the South Seas in the hope of recovering from tuberculosis, then an infectious and incurable disease. In Britain at the time, families were often ostracised if one of their members had the illness. He empathised with the social rejection of the lepers and decided to visit the island of Molokai where a famous priest, Father Damien, had just died.

 
A Belgian missionary, Damien had volunteered in 1878 to go to live in the leper colony on Molokai, a lawless place, ruled by violent gangs. Sixteen years later at the age of forty-nine he contracted leprosy and died, but not before establishing a civilised community, providing care, justice and peace. His total commitment to the lepers of Molokai gained him world-wide acclaim.

Father Damien

Stevenson was greatly moved by the care shown by the doctor and nuns in the hospital but repelled by the smell and sight of the lepers with their disfigured faces and bodies. Back in Hawaii a public figure, who had never visited the island of Molokai, wrote a letter in answer to a colleague’s enquiry about Fr. Damien. In his response he referred to the colony’s insanitary conditions and maligned the name of Father Damien. The letter was published in an Australian paper.


On reading the letter, Stevenson was outraged. In a lengthy open letter to the world’s press, he publicly humiliated the writer in a stinging rebuke. Stevenson’s invective was so severe, that he thought he might be sued.  He never was. In the letter Stevenson suggested that Damien might someday be made a Saint. The Vatican officially declared Damien a saint in 2009.


The treatment of leprosy advanced, but up until 1916 the only effective medication was injectable chaulmoogra oil, which had very unpleasant side effects. In 1916 a black American chemist, Alice Augusta Ball was working at Hawaii University.  She was the first woman and first black American to teach chemistry and obtain a master’s degree at the University. At the age of 23, Alice discovered a method of radically improving the medication. Her discovery, led to the most effective treatment for leprosy until the 1940s, when a full cure was found. Sadly, Alice died in 1917. Four years after her death, her notes were published and her superior, the Dean of the University, was exposed as trying to claim the discovery for himself. He had even given the new medication his name.

Today leprosy has been almost completely eliminated globally. Any pockets are quickly identified and treated.
From an article in a Rotary magazine, my windmills had interlocked.  I had journeyed from Glasgow to Molokai and Hawaii, encountering en-route, saints and sinners, writers and reprobates, chemists and cures.
At the end of the article there was, written in small type: 
‘Anyone requiring an after-dinner speaker should contact ‘administrator@stfrancisleprosy.org.’
In the words of the song,
“As the images unwind, like the circles that you find in the windmills of your mind.”
My windmills had finally resolved the initial question and provided me with a potential speaker.


P.S.
The full text of R.L. Stevenson’s letter can be viewed online.  There are several films about St. Damien on YouTube.
A film was made of Alice Augusta Ball’s life ‘The Ball Method’. 

Brendan Berry


Saturday 13 November, 2021

Beyond the Fifth Element

Was Sean Connery the 'quintessential' Bond or was Daniel Craig? Personally, I don't care because I want you to focus on the strange word 'quintessential'. It means 'the perfect example'. The 'essential' part makes sense, but what about the 'quint-' prefix? It's Latin for 'fifth' but why?

The origins of the word go back to ancient times and early attempts to understand what the world is made of. I shall explain why it divided astrologers from alchemists and how it gained its modern meaning. Finally, I'll move on to what the world is really made of and some important ideas we have to consider today.

The story begins in ancient Greece in the sixth and fifth centuries BC where the pre-Socratic philosophers were thinking about the primordial substance from which everything else was made. In time they decided it was not just one substance but four: earth, water, air and fire. These correspond to what we would now call three states of matter: solid, liquid and gas plus energy.

Aristotle felt that the heavenly bodies were composed of a fifth element. Although he did not use the term himself, it came to be called the Aether. So why, even today, do people talk about four elements when the idea was outdated when Alexander was a lad? Probably because twelve is divisible by four, but not by five, and there are twelve signs of the zodiac. So, three star-signs share one element.

In medieval alchemy the fifth element was very important and they called it 'quintessence'. Quintessence was thought to be a panacea for curing illnesses or even the philosopher's touchstone that would transform base metal into gold.

Incidentally by medieval times alchemists recognized two more elements, sulphur and mercury. So, according to astrologers you could be fiery, earthy, wet or windy but if astrology ever moved on you could be vitriolic, mercurial or ethereal. Of course, the adjective we are missing is 'quintessential'. Alchemists saw the fifth element as the purest element so the term 'quintessential' came to mean the perfect example of something.

Sulphur and mercury are real chemical elements. There are another ninety naturally occurring elements. Water isn't one of them but gold is. There is no Rumpelstiltskin out there spinning gold out of straw so let's ditch fairy tales and antiquated philosophical concepts because we need to look to the future not the past. We need to understand the modern concept of an element to deal with the state of the planet.

sulphurgoldmercury

To be clear, the modern definition of an element is a substance that cannot be broken down using chemical reactions. These are the fundamental building blocks of our world. If you search the Internet for 'periodic table' you will see them listed from the simplest to the most complex.

The first element is hydrogen, meaning the water-former and you are going to hear a lot about green hydrogen from now on. If you pass a direct current through water you can break it down into its component elements, hydrogen and oxygen. The hydrogen is 'green' if the electricity is generated by renewables. When you burn hydrogen it recombines with oxygen to produce water. Green hydrogen will one day power aircraft.

Lord Bamford, the chairman of JCB argues that it would be better to run all vehicles on green hydrogen. His company has developed a kind of internal-combustion engine that runs on hydrogen rather than fossil fuel. Bamford says that you cannot use electric engines in the type of heavy plant machinery his company produces. He also claims that his new engines are closer to the kind of engines that mechanics are used to. The counter argument from Energy UK is that the expense of hydrogen production and the cost of deploying new infrastructure rule out the use of hydrogen-powered cars at least in the next decade.

The real fifth element is not particularly exciting. In fact, it is named boron. Boron is found in the mineral borax and in the heat-resistant glass used for casserole dishes. The sixth element is a different matter, much more important. The adjective should be 'sextessential' but that sounds like a late-night Channel Four programme. A web search suggested an interesting alternative, 'existential': of, or relating to existence. The existential element is carbon because all life is based on carbon and its ability to form long-chain molecules such as proteins, fats, carbohydrates, DNA, RNA etc..

carbon

 

I have given you a few definitions to ponder. I have shown you how the concept of elements has developed from ancient times to our modern understanding and how the latter feeds into climate debate. The carbon cycle is out of balance and we have to be careful to be balanced in our response. Language matters. Campaign groups overuse the term 'existential threat' to justify anarchic behaviour and terrified teenagers believe they may see the end of the world. No, Greta we do not need 'blah, blah, blah'. Not even from you. In Classical Greek, words are 'lexeis' but logical reasoned arguments, or words that lead to actions, are logoi. The success of COP26 will be judged by how many logoi it produces.


Wednesday 3 November, 2021

Speaking at a formal function – getting organised.

Grinning Chimp

You don’t remember why you said yes – you’re not even sure you did – but now your  ‘best friend’ has reminded you that you agreed to get them out of  a hole by speaking at their formal club event / college prize giving /  fund raising dinner or whatever. My advice – return the monkey now to your friend’s back and let them take at least the initial strain.

 
So this is a list of ten questions – and none the worse for it. Give it to your friend, or work your way through it together; once you know the answers to these questions, you’re more or less organised - just throw in some words of wisdom or suitable jokes, and you’re there. Or at least, that’s my theory. Good luck with it!

  1. Numbers – how many people will be at this function and what sort of people? What links them? (E.g. students, Rotarians, parents, members of a particular club … ).
  2.   Dress – is there an appropriate or expected dress? Are medals to be worn? 
  3. Timing – how long is this speech to be?
  4. Opening – what’s required? (E.g. My Lords, ladies and gentlemen; Lord Lieutenant, Principal, ladies and gentlemen, … )
  5. Is this speech either a formal toast or a reply to a toast? If so what’s required? Who’s replying or if that’s you, who’s making the toast? Get their contact details – can be useful to consult each other in advance.
  6.    Are there any peculiar customs you should know about? (E.g. loving cup or similar ceremony, interruptions to speeches, spontaneous singing … )
  7. Seating – where will you be sitting, who’s beside you, who are they?
  8. Speaking – when during the function will you speak, where do you speak from, do you have a lectern, what’s the lighting like?
  9. Microphone – is there one? What kind (e.g. table mike, throat mike … )? How does it work – where’s the on / off switch? Can you get a quick try-out before the function?
  10. Who will introduce you? Try to take control of your own introduction – write it yourself (ideally short, topical and amusing), send the person introducing you a copy in advance and carry a paper copy to thrust at them on the day.  
Ruth Maltman