Tuesday, January 23, 2007

sorry for the neglect

but i'm back.

it was for another very good cause...last week i ran the phoenix marathon to benefit the leukemia & lymphoma society. you can read all about it at run girl run. but that's where my head has been pretty much since right after the training. it's been a busy month.

i'll be working on the rest of the training weekend posts over the next few days...and then, it's time to start crackin'.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

2006 officially hottest year on record

we talked about it this weekend, and now it's here...

2006 warmest year on record, Science Daily

ASHEVILLE, N.C., Jan. 10 (UPI) -- Last year was the warmest in the continental United States in 112 years, prompting climate experts to express concern about climatic changes.

The warmth resulted from regional weather patterns and long-term effects of carbon dioxide buildup in the atmosphere, The Washington Post said Wednesday.

In 2006, average temperatures nationwide were 2.2 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than mean temperatures nationwide for the 20th century, reported the National Climatic Data Center of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Seven months in 2006 were much warmer than average, capped by the fourth-warmest December on record. more...


Monday, January 8, 2007

day 3, part 2: we're talking science

after the closings, tables were invited to nominate people to do their closing in front of the group - closings in particular that had good calls to action. a few of the people looked at me with a “you go!” look and my heart started to race again. a few people stood up, and i was about to volunteer when we moved on to another section. next time.

now it was time to practice some of the science slides. this is where i get really nervous. well, this and the q&a, but we’ll get to that later. we broke into smaller rooms of 50 or so per room, led by our regional mentor, a sr. mentor (both from the first 50 people to receive the training) and one of the climate project staff. we were going to try to get through 5 small sections, with the mentor demonstrating once, and then 5 of us presenting the slides to the room. our sr. mentor (tim) said if there were no volunteers he would “pick on you. why? because thousands of people wanted to be here, and YOU are the ones chosen. and it is your responsibility to get he most you possibly can out of this training.”

the first section was the “about global warming” section. compared to some of the rest of the slides, this was a relatively easy one because the science is not that difficult and everyone sort of knows how it works. now, the point of this section was presentation skills - not science questions and debates, but unfortunately our group got a little bogged down in the science of it again. does the infrared light *actually* reflect off the earth or is it emanated from the objects on the earth’s surface? does the atmosphere actually get more dense with the addition of more CO2 or is it just because of the composition that does not allow as much infrared light to get through? after a little while, we managed to get the point though, and focus on the presentation rather than the content itself.

i definitely wanted to practice presenting a section because i feel quite uneasy about how i can possibly be credible given the lack of my science background. i wanted to practice and since i figured there would be no more receptive and kind of an audience as some of my fellow trainees, now was the time. for the first section i raised my hand every time, but was not called on.

the second section is one of the more difficult sections in the presentation, if not the most difficult. in it, you are talking about temperature and CO2-concentration data pulled from giant ice-cores going back thousands, and then hundreds of thousands, of years. we present the correlation of CO2 content to the relative temperature of the earth, and how there is a natural cycle of increases and decreases. the graph also plots where we are now and where the CO2 is headed if we stay on our present course. finally, it transitions to the the actual temperatures that have been recorded since 1860, where you can see for the past 30 years, they’ve been on the increase, and how the ten hottest years since then have been in the last 14 years.

not exactly simple.

i wasn’t going to volunteer for this one because it’s hard, but then decided that it was precisely because it’s hard that i should volunteer. brace self-raise hand. two folks went and on the third, tim picked someone in the back of the room, but then looked at me and said “and then her, right there, because she has had her hand raised every single time.” ~cringe~ damn, called out.

the woman in front of me had presented the material the most clear of all those who had gone before. nerves built up and tim nodded, “okay, get up here”. there were a lot of scientists and people who were educated far more than i in science. i looked around the room and introduced myself. “hi, i’m jen and i’m not a science person, so please be nice.” everyone laughed, which put me a bit at ease.

50 people packed into small room is kind of intimidating, even if they are nice. especially when you know there are people who have probably written books (or at least articles) on the subject matter you're presenting. i went through each of the slides, explaining each at an even pace, and trying to quell the bit of nervousness that i could hear in my voice. i really want to be a conversational, accessible presenter, and i tried to remember certain things that mr. gore had instructed us to do, such as show how the top of the temperature spike is the equivalent of a nice day in chicago, and the bottom of the spike would be the city under two feet of ice. i made it though the slides without any huge slip ups.

when i finished, i got an enthusiastic round of applause, a thumbs up from my friend mike and one of the women who had been in my small group smiled and said “great job!” i was pretty proud, and continued to be so. because of all the questions, we only managed to get through one more section, one where we discuss why there is so much confusion over whether or not global warming is a reality. and then, it was back to the larger room. on the way there, one of the men stopped me, and said “hey, don’t apologize for not being a science person! you did a really great job, i mean that, and you do not have to apologize. i think you were the best presenter in there.” i blushed and thanked him.

if i can get through that on the first day, i know i can do this presentation justice once i start practicing.


Saturday, January 6, 2007

day 3, part 1: openings and closings

i was extra tired this morning and felt a little out of sorts, and with my marathon coming up i opted for oj at breakfast.

today primarily about presenting. first, were some basics such as the role of the presenter, what the general public's perceptions of global warming are, and some solutions. and then we had an immensely helpful section on presentation skills and practicing the actual presentation.

the speaker, andy goodman is a former comedy writer, and the author of a book called "when bad presentations happen to good causes." he is a great teacher and presenter himself - i always enjoy a presenter who can make good use of comedy. we went through presentation skills 101, covering both what you should (maintain eye contact but not like a crazy person) and should not (do NOT read off the slides) and then got to the presentation itself.

we were sitting in our geographically defined groups, at tables of eight to ten, and our first task was the opening. writing an opening for a presentation of this magnitude is no easy task, but we broke it down into three parts: who are we (to the audience), why do we care about global warming, and what is the presentation going to cover. we had three minutes to write our responses, and then one by one we went around and presented to our table-mates.

it's been a long time since i've written with the intent to actually speak the words i was writing. the last time may have been college. (i do not count work-related-powerpoints as that is, in most cases, not very intensive.) when all was said and done, i was relatively happy with my opening. oh! i forgot to mention - seated next to me was ted roosevelt the fourth. kind of crazy, huh?

my opening was well received by my group, which i was happy about. as we went around the table, it became clear that even with the breadth of ages and backgrounds, the group that had been assembled for this training was a really strong one. i never really liked group assignments in school, and public speaking is a really difficult thing, even in small groups, but we had a really strong table. and it wasn't just us.

after openings, we were on to the closings. i had thought the opening was hard, but it really was nothing compared to the close. you have your summary, the q&a and the prepared close. we were focusing on the third. it is here that you need to ask & inspire your audience to actually do something. yikes. how do you know if what you write is going to resonate with people, that its even going to sound okay once it's off the paper?

as with the openings, everyone was very good and by the time it was my turn, my heart was racing. what i had prepared was a very very strong call to action, and i wasn't sure if it was too strong. i'm not going to tell you the content, in the event that i present and you actually come and see me, but at the end, i was very proud. while it was not close to polished yet, it has the beginnings of what i hope is a very powerful and compelling call-to-action.

and when i was done, my table had nothing but good things to say. and of course the best compliment of the bunch was "i got goosebumps."

i was a happy girl.

that's all i can manage for tonight...last segment tomorrow, but it could be late.


day 2, part 2: i got the question blues

where did i leave off? oh, yeah, during quest-fest 2007.

while this was going on, the non-question askers and comment-givers were expressing their frustration in various non-verbal ways: shifting in our seats uncomfortably, thinking about if we could throw m&ms at the back of peoples heads, sighing heavily, and the eye-rolling could have challenged that of your most expert teenager. during a particularly irrelevant comment, i leaned over to the woman next to me and whispered "maybe i should raise my hand and ask the question 'can we cease and desist on the questions?"

finally after our coffee break, one of the sr. mentors was taking questions, and luckily for us all - my row-mate took action, and proposed no more questions! hurrah! the rest of us clapped and the mentor put it to a vote. there was an overwhelming yes victory.

from there it was pretty much smooth sailing until towards the end when the last portion - which unfortunately contained a lot of difficult transitions & science - was somewhat rushed. i couldn't help but feel bitter then, but there was nothing to be done about it then. even with the rushing, we finished late and then we were off to b.b.kings for dinner and some music.

there was some pretty good bbq, and mr. gore introduced three very talented and entertaining singer-songwriters. names are escaping me at the moment (all that science must have pushed some other info out of my brain), but i really enjoyed them. even the little sing-along parts.

then it was a stroll back to the hotel, and blogged and tried, unsuccessfully, to do some work to help out with the eco launch and just ended up blogging and passing out. it was an exhausting and inspiring day.


Friday, January 5, 2007

day 2, part 1: inspiration & frustration

after i had the best night's sleep (even if it was short) that i've had in months, the day began at 6:30. i have a king bed...ahhhhhh. because of my apartment situation (long story) i am embarrassed to say that i currently sleep on a *twin* bed. yeah, you heard right. a *twin*. so after making imaginary snow angels when i dove onto the pillow top, i slept like a baby among the downy comforter and five! pillows. zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

breakfast started at 7, and i had wanted to try to get there early to be towards the front. i ended up down there around 7:15 and of course everyone had the same idea. i ended up not too far back and in the middle.

today was going to be all day with mr. al gore. the first part of the day, he was going to give the presentation in it's current form (i'll talk about this more later, but the presentation is very very fluid). the second part of the day, al and his scientific advisor (dr. richard ali) were going to take us through the presentation slide by side, sharing both the science and the thought process of it all. truthfully, i was still a little bit in awe that i was actually here and a part of all this.

before mr. gore began, we were almost *begged* by the head of the project and one of the sr. mentors to please not ask questions during the explanation portion. there were a few reasons for this. One, we had a LOT of slides to go through. The presentation that we were given was 400ish slides. The shortened, tailored version we were going to go through was almost 250, and we weren't starting that portion until about 11. two, mr. gore is, obviously, very passionate about the topic of global warming and is happy to talk about it for as long as anyone will let him. the words his staff used were "distracted" and "sidetracked". three, mr. gore is also very gracious and we were told that he would answer questions as long as there are hands in the air and so it was up to us to exercise restraint. time was all very important because they did not want to run over into tomorrow, which is more about presentation training and techniques, which are also highly important.

at the time, i thought - but of course! we're all adults! later on, i would change my opinion, but i'm getting ahead of myself.

and then mr. gore gave us the presentation. as someone who thinks she is a pretty okay writer, i'm finding myself lacking words for the experience. i was blown away by the movie, but to see it in person, to hear it directly from the person who has been developing this thing for about 30 years...it was almost surreal.

while mr. gore is both passionate and gracious, he's a whole lot of other things. he's an amazing speaker, stronger than i had thought. he is capable of shaking his audience up. he's funny - and i don't just mean the planned jokes, but also funny in a clever-thinking-on-his-feet sort of way. he commands the room with charisma, authority, knowledge, purpose and...dare i say, optimism. he is even capable of stirring feelings of patriotism. even in me, which, at the moment, is no small task.

now before you think i'm endorsing gore for president or something (where *would* i get that idea!) let me put the record straight.

i do not think that gore should run for president.
right now.


1. i think that if he were to run in '08 he would lose a lot of the credibility on the global warming issue. there are already those who think he is using it as a platform in the political arena. i do not think this is so - it is very clear to me that the man really gives a damn about this issue, and its not a matter of presidential prep. call me naive, but i simply don't think he would risk the harm that (more) partisan politics would have on the climate crisis right now.

2. if he's considering running for president, the best thing he could do is wait and gain the trust of more of the middle/moderate republicans through how he is handling the climate crisis. already, there are plenty of republican folk that are getting a bit more open minded to gore, and as he continues to emphasize that this is NOT a partisan issue (and, it's not) , there will be a greater opportunity to open people of all political persuasions eyes to what he is really made of and what kind of leader he is.

but moving on. aside from mr. gore's oratorical prowess, the other thing that struck me was his vast knowledge of the subject and of science in general. this was both inspiring, and intimidating as i am neither a great public speaker (yet) and certainly do not have what anyone would think is a deep science background. when you watch the presentation there is no doubt in your mind that he knows precisely what he is talking about all the time. illusion or not, it feels fantastic to listen to a leader who can actually string words together all on his own.

but let's not get parisian ;)

actually, one of the many funny things mr. gore talked about in terms of the presentation (and i'm jumping ahead but it's late and i'm on a roll) is budgets. when you are presenting, you have all sorts of budgets. "everyone knows what a household budget it. unfortunately, not enough people know what a national budget is." ~giggle~ so as presenters, we have budgets on things like time, complexity, and even hope (i.e. the gloom & doom messages vs optimistic ones). we also have a "political cheap shot budget. but our maximum budget for these are two, and must immediately be followed by an apology of some kind." ha.

so after two + hours of the longer version of the ppt, we had a tiny break and then it was back to the room for the step-by-step version. again, the director pleaded with us to restrain on the questions, and made sheets available to us for us to write down any queries we might have and assured us that they would be answered. and then gore's "right hand man got up" and said "okay, you've been asked by all the nice people, and now i'm going to demand that you please restrain yourself and please do not ask questions because we will go off track. it's happened in every session and it will happen here but it is essential that we stick with the time so everyone gets the full benefit of the day. i know you all understand this, but i'm telling you that human nature is going to take over, and once one person opens the can of worms there is no turning back. so PLEASE - write your questions down." we got our question sheets, and again - i thought, surely we'll get through a bunch of slides before the questions begin.

i could not have been more wrong. do you want to guess what slide we were on when the ice-breaker raised her hand? hmmm?

slide 2.

and it wasn't even a question. it was a comment. about the notes. in our workbook. that it said "dark side of the moon" and should have said "far side of the moon". gee, that's not something that could have been handled in a note, or told to a mentor.

everything the mentors and directors said was true, and once the can was open, it was a flood gate of comments, opinions and questions just about every single slide. and if you've seen the film, the beginning isn't even the tough science!! this was not helped by al's gracious nature of taking every question, and also by his asking...anyone have questions? for almost every slide, because it was an invitation for those people who, frankly, just love to hear themselves talk.

don't get me wrong - i was in a room with a bunch of intelligent and impressive people of all ages, fields and walks of life. it's not a knock on the general quality of the comments or the questions. but we DID NOT have time for it! between 10:45/11 and 12:45 or so, we covered NINE slides N.I.N.E.

while i literally could listen to al talk for a few days straight, as a non-scientist, i was one of the many people who wanted to make sure that we got through the whole presentation because i needed to, damn it! i was immensely frustrated with each question, and even more so, the comments! while people may or may not have had a valid suggestion (remember, this is a presentation that is 30 years in the works and we were all seeing it for the 1st or maybe 2nd times), we've been told from the beginning that they want our contributions, but that was not the time. ~sigh~ can you tell i'm a little annoyed?

on that note, i must go to bed, because it's another 7 am start tomorrow, and talking about this is getting me a little hyper...so more tomorrow.


Thursday, January 4, 2007

day 1: registration, welcome dinner, pretty sweater

i'm going to preface this whole post with "i'm tired" so be patient.

after i registered and got my agenda, workbooks, special laptop bag...it was time to network. ~sigh~. i'll tell you a secret. i'm a little shy. i know, it might not seem that way, but i am.

luckily for me, it's a friendly crew, and soon i had found a few partners in crime - massimo (max), from brooklyn, and mike from nh. one of the organizers got up and spoke about what an amazing group of people we were - representing 46 states plus a few other countries; diverse in age, industry and knowledge; knowledgeable and passionate. i also bumped into a former client of mine, it was nice to see a friendly face in the crowd.

i felt a little uncomfortable and slightly out of my league because everyone i met at that moment in time seemed to be more...green? than me. not more green, but possessing more green knowledge. now, i can hold my own, but i definitely felt a little intimidated.

after that we were going to a welcome dinner at union station - a former train station now made into . me and "the boys" took the shuttle over and found that we were in the last group, and so ended up in the back of the room. oops. during the opening remarks we met the staff, our mentors, and the senior mentors. soon al gore himself was going to be there to welcome us and kick the night off.

and sure enough...there he was. mr. al. gore.

he is a great speaker. so much improved from his campaign days, when he would come off as stiff. he was poised, articulate, and funny. at one point during the speech, he was about to start talking about what i assume was when his son was hit by a car. he was saying how 18 years ago, something happened...and then the table where tipper and all the "vips" were sitting, 1/2 collapsed (no on hurt but the drinks), and al easily and even funnily made a joke of the whole thing. he welcomed the mayor of austin, who is one of our "session-mates", and said he's heard that "austin is a beautiful blueberry sittin' in a bowl of tomato soup."

for those who don't know me, i am not what you would call a huge fan of a little company called wal-mart. and that might be an understatement. i had noticed a few folks that were my classmates were from wal-mart. given their recent "green effort" i can't say i was surprised, but i wasn't really excited about running into any wal-mart employees. so of course, i ended up sitting next to one at dinner. oh, the irony of it all! of course i ended up feeling bad because he was a very very nice man. i gritted my teeth and tried to tell myself to have an open mind.

then the buffet opened, and after a bit, max wanted to go try to get a pic with al. i wasn't sure what the hell i was going to say to the man...but i figured when would i have another chance at this? ummm probably never. so we went and got in the queue to talk to al. as luck would have it my former client was in front of us, so we chatted and he needed a photographer so i said i'd take his picture.

now, poor al. he looked like he was getting tired, but was a great sport, and after bryan, he got handed a plate of food. i felt super uncomfortable, but he winked (yes, al gore winked at me) as if to say, "come on, one more". and thus i approached to have my picture with him. our conversation went like this:

me: hello, i'm jennifer
al: hello jennifer. that's a pretty sweater.
me: thank you.
al: does it have any significance?
me: no, it's just pretty.
[pose for shot]

at this point i decided i couldn't leave the conversation to sweater talk and decided to bumble onward, thanking him for everything he's doing and that i really believed that this issue was the one for my generation, and that i really understood what he meant when he said "legacy". like i said...poor al. he said graciously "thank you jennifer" and smiled and that was that.

i should have left it at the sweater. ps the picture is blurry i know. that's what i get for not letting the man eat.

and after that, finished dinner, met lots more amazing people (i fell off the wagon, but it really was necessary to loosen me up for networking!) and had some great conversations about not only what we are presenting, but *how* to present it. and now, i'm excited and really looking forward to tomorrow. we met some folks from the session that ended today who had nothing but great things to say about it all...

tomorrow is science day - al will present and then take us through all the science. saturday will be all presentation & q&a training. word on the "street" is that there could be some celebrity guests - apparently cameron diaz was in the last session.

until tomorrow...more images later too...these are taking to long so i'm just going to leave you with the money shot.


hi from nashville!

so i just arrived about an hour ago, and i'm working a bit so i can't write much, but i wanted to let you know i'm here and registration is this afternoon, so after that, i'll fill you in!

until then (or sooner...)


Monday, January 1, 2007

Giant Ice Shelf Breaks Off in Canadian Arctic

A huge Canadian ice shelf 500 miles (800 kilometers) from the North Pole has disintegrated, leaving a large floating island of ice stranded 30 miles (48 kilometers) offshore, scientists reported yesterday...more