Saturday, March 28, 2009

Burgos Blues

After finishing the last program and feeling SO ill, I was not sure about starting this one. I have no idea what happened my guess is food poisoning. Luckily, when I awoke the next day I felt considerably better, just a little “dodgy”.

This week’s program took place in Burgos. It’s a beautiful city in the north of Spain; and not too far from where I now live. However, like Salamanca the hotel is in the middle of the city and, in my opinion, far from suitable for the programs objective.
I believe the students learn more and quicker if they are really immersed in the sounds of the English language and not led astray by bars and other influences around them, all too tempting to drop back into Spanish!

Being in the middle of the city meant issues with people going out at night, everynight (however, to be fair, they were up the following morning to do the program), but it is a potential problem.
Also being a city people have friends and family who come to visit, when they are in the middle of nowhere that doesn’t happen.

The hotel as expected had lots of silly problems for us; no suitable music system, changing rooms frequently, changing of bedrooms, 500+ guests for a congress conference, extortionate internet access, not to mention the fact the food was awful (at least for the first few days).

At one point I thought we were going to have a mutiny on our hands, due to the bad food and service in the hotel. Really, I don’t understand how a hotel cannot get the simple things right?
You inform said hotel what our requirements are, advise them of any possible changes that may take place and you agree on the details ahead of time. This doesn’t seem to be happening which in itself, is creating further problems.

The program itself works, it really does; but the external issues are having a bigger and bigger affect on the program and it is being noticed by everyone, staff, anglo’s and of course the Spaniards. Someone needs to address this, BEFORE it’s too late.

This week’s level of English for the Spaniards was low and to me that came across very clear (especially after last weeks group) – the way it manifested itself was in frustration, confusion, tiredness, lack of involvement in the different activities and little socialising outside of their classmates. Really this is a wonderful opportunity that is to be savoured, where else in the world would you meet 15 English speakers who wanted to help you, speak to you, and about you (apart from an A.A. meeting).

The party (if you could call it that) took place in a bar close to the hotel, due to the congress conference, which again was just another issue, the hotel should have never agreed to take the group if they had prior engagements.

Several participants complained about being moved from venue to venue at the last minute, and of course the service and hotels location. I feel for them, they give up their time, travel here under their own steam and invest themselves in a product they may know very little about, I don’t want to start a week with problems as they carried throughout the week.
I want both Anglo’s and Spaniards to have the best time they can have and leave with only happy memories, not complaints and lingering issues. Can this be addressed of course, it takes some planning and communication; which is what our business is all about, afterall, so lets get it right: FIRST TIME, EVERY TIME!

The photos can be found here
Vaughan Town - Burgos - Program 145

Ps Pilar I’m sorry for being an OGRE! ;)

Friday, March 20, 2009

Language, Leprechauns and Learning

I have now been with Vaughan Systems for 2 years. When I first joined them, I could see so much room for growth and opportunity. Sadly I must say this has depleted over the years. The opportunities have not been seized and office politics are getting in the way of work and the good staff.

I have worked for MANY companies and held MANY positions, usually supervisory and managerial levels and typically it’s the B.S. in a company that ruins it for the people on the ground (who are the people that matter and who are also far more attuned to whats going on than anyone else).

The latest ideas and changes are pushing my buttons a little too much. I'm find myself now bitching and whining every week about some new stupid idea that someone in the office has implemented that inhibits us doing our jobs properly - what's worse is it is unfounded, there is NO problem, they're simply looking to create something that doesn’t exist, why?? The million dollar question.

Given the economy I understand savings need to be made and costs cut, but it IS possible to cut corners without affecting the program, sadly the corners that are being cut ARE.

Enough ranting, Spring has clearly sprung here in Spain. With it comes sunshine and pickpockets! Yeah that's right. After meeting the Anglo's last week, I caught the Metro back and two guys walked on, one of them trying sneakily to pick the other guys pocket by hiding his actions under his jacket. Luckily (for the victim) I saw what was happening and grabbed the thief's arm, squeezing his bicep hard and asking him what does he think he's doing, to which he simply replied "que pasa" (what happen), of course this annoyed me and we exchanged glances until the next stop where I ejected him from the Metro.
So be warned! Perhaps as the economic crisis continues in Spain the problem will escalate?

As for the week: It was good we had all Masters, good levels, good personalities and eager to work on their English.
Again a few issues with the hotel, they have decided now to offer a buffet for every meal. Not sure I like that option and due to the fact that the food was almost the same daily it didn't work as well as it could of. Even worse
(for me) is the wonderful desserts they used to serve were taken away!
Everyone got to see Salamanca about 50 times due to the weather being so nice, I barely got out of my office.

I was surprised by what some people thought was acceptable to do within the program, perhaps they didn't read what their roles were clearly enough? Needless to say when things go awry, is when new rules get implemented; so expect changes.

It was St Patricks day this week, so we managed to involve a little of the Irish festivities into the program, it was also Marisa Birthday, so we all shared her cake ;)

Emma is here in Spain now starting the Vaughan Teachers program, so good luck with that!
UPDATE: I just heard she has decided to move on from the teaching, hopefully she can find something rather than returning to the UK?

The photos can be found below ;)

Vaughan Town - Salamanca - Program 143

Friday, March 13, 2009

Put on your running shoes

In a recent online conversation with XANADU we spoke briefly about the inequality between men and women, and even though it has come some distance it still isn't equal.
Then, in a typical world conspiring kind of way - this advert appeared on TV and made me smile - maybe we have come further than we think?

Come on, I'm sure we have all been seduced by TV adverts and now own at least a moisturizing lotion if not more products. Sadly of course, it's all commercial and nothing to do with the balance of equality - 30€ for a pack of razors, scandalous! (cue Hovis music) I remember when I could buy a packet of razors and still have change to get the bus home for a fiver!!
I used to laugh when women would pay £50 for a hair cut, now men are following suit!?

It's a journey for sure, but times they are a changing.
Metrosexual males and strong women do exist - and lets face it, they always have they simply didn't have labels.

Thursday, March 12, 2009


I do believe in balance (really i do and Karma!)

So in order to lighten the darkened doorstep of mine with the last post - here is something that I think is wonderful

What have you done today?

Whats wrong with this picture

After the latest in what seems like a scary trend in school shootings, I looked a little further and the finding are pure horror!

Time Line of Worldwide School Shootings

The following table lists the worldwide school shootings from 1996 to the present.
Find the date, location, and a short description of each incident.

Feb. 2, 1996
Moses Lake, Wash.
Two students and one teacher killed, one other wounded when 14-year-old Barry Loukaitis opened fire on his algebra class.
March 13, 1996
Dunblane, Scotland
16 children and one teacher killed at Dunblane Primary School by Thomas Hamilton, who then killed himself. 10 others wounded in attack.
Feb. 19, 1997
Bethel, Alaska
Principal and one student killed, two others wounded by Evan Ramsey, 16.
March 1997
Sanaa, Yemen
Eight people (six students and two others) at two schools killed by Mohammad Ahman al-Naziri.
Oct. 1, 1997
Pearl, Miss.
Two students killed and seven wounded by Luke Woodham, 16, who was also accused of killing his mother. He and his friends were said to be outcasts who worshiped Satan.
Dec. 1, 1997
West Paducah, Ky.
Three students killed, five wounded by Michael Carneal, 14, as they participated in a prayer circle at Heath High School.
Dec. 15, 1997
Stamps, Ark.
Two students wounded. Colt Todd, 14, was hiding in the woods when he shot the students as they stood in the parking lot.
March 24, 1998
Jonesboro, Ark.
Four students and one teacher killed, ten others wounded outside as Westside Middle School emptied during a false fire alarm. Mitchell Johnson, 13, and Andrew Golden, 11, shot at their classmates and teachers from the woods.
April 24, 1998
Edinboro, Pa.
One teacher, John Gillette, killed, two students wounded at a dance at James W. Parker Middle School. Andrew Wurst, 14, was charged.
May 19, 1998
Fayetteville, Tenn.
One student killed in the parking lot at Lincoln County High School three days before he was to graduate. The victim was dating the ex-girlfriend of his killer, 18-year-old honor student Jacob Davis.
May 21, 1998
Springfield, Ore.
Two students killed, 22 others wounded in the cafeteria at Thurston High School by 15-year-old Kip Kinkel. Kinkel had been arrested and released a day earlier for bringing a gun to school. His parents were later found dead at home.
June 15, 1998
Richmond, Va.
One teacher and one guidance counselor wounded by a 14-year-old boy in the school hallway.
April 20, 1999
Littleton, Colo.
14 students (including killers) and one teacher killed, 23 others wounded at Columbine High School in the nation's deadliest school shooting. Eric Harris, 18, and Dylan Klebold, 17, had plotted for a year to kill at least 500 and blow up their school. At the end of their hour-long rampage, they turned their guns on themselves.
April 28, 1999
Taber, Alberta, Canada
One student killed, one wounded at W. R. Myers High School in first fatal high school shooting in Canada in 20 years. The suspect, a 14-year-old boy, had dropped out of school after he was severely ostracized by his classmates.
May 20, 1999
Conyers, Ga.
Six students injured at Heritage High School by Thomas Solomon, 15, who was reportedly depressed after breaking up with his girlfriend.
Nov. 19, 1999
Deming, N.M.
Victor Cordova Jr., 12, shot and killed Araceli Tena, 13, in the lobby of Deming Middle School.
Dec. 6, 1999
Fort Gibson, Okla.
Four students wounded as Seth Trickey, 13, opened fire with a 9mm semiautomatic handgun at Fort Gibson Middle School.
Dec. 7, 1999
Veghel, Netherlands
One teacher and three students wounded by a 17-year-old student.
Feb. 29, 2000
Mount Morris Township, Mich.
Six-year-old Kayla Rolland shot dead at Buell Elementary School near Flint, Mich. The assailant was identified as a six-year-old boy with a .32-caliber handgun.
March 2000
Branneburg, Germany
One teacher killed by a 15-year-old student, who then shot himself. The shooter has been in a coma ever since.
March 10, 2000
Savannah, Ga.
Two students killed by Darrell Ingram, 19, while leaving a dance sponsored by Beach High School.
May 26, 2000
Lake Worth, Fla.
One teacher, Barry Grunow, shot and killed at Lake Worth Middle School by Nate Brazill, 13, with .25-caliber semiautomatic pistol on the last day of classes.
Sept. 26, 2000
New Orleans, La.
Two students wounded with the same gun during a fight at Woodson Middle School.
Jan. 17, 2001
Baltimore, Md.
One student shot and killed in front of Lake Clifton Eastern High School.
Jan. 18, 2001
Jan, Sweden
One student killed by two boys, ages 17 and 19.
March 5, 2001
Santee, Calif.
Two killed and 13 wounded by Charles Andrew Williams, 15, firing from a bathroom at Santana High School.
March 7, 2001
Williamsport, Pa.
Elizabeth Catherine Bush, 14, wounded student Kimberly Marchese in the cafeteria of Bishop Neumann High School; she was depressed and frequently teased.
March 22, 2001
Granite Hills, Calif.
One teacher and three students wounded by Jason Hoffman, 18, at Granite Hills High School. A policeman shot and wounded Hoffman.
March 30, 2001
Gary, Ind.
One student killed by Donald R. Burt, Jr., a 17-year-old student who had been expelled from Lew Wallace High School.
Nov. 12, 2001
Caro, Mich.
Chris Buschbacher, 17, took two hostages at the Caro Learning Center before killing himself.
Jan. 15, 2002
New York, N.Y.
A teenager wounded two students at Martin Luther King Jr. High School.
Feb. 19, 2002
Freising, Germany
Two killed in Eching by a man at the factory from which he had been fired; he then traveled to Freising and killed the headmaster of the technical school from which he had been expelled. He also wounded another teacher before killing himself.
April 26, 2002
Erfurt, Germany
13 teachers, two students, and one policeman killed, ten wounded by Robert Steinhaeuser, 19, at the Johann Gutenberg secondary school. Steinhaeuser then killed himself.
April 29, 2002
Vlasenica, Bosnia-Herzegovina
One teacher killed, one wounded by Dragoslav Petkovic, 17, who then killed himself.
October 28, 2002
Tucson, Ariz.
Robert S. Flores Jr., 41, a student at the nursing school at the University of Arizona, shot and killed three female professors and then himself.
April 14, 2003
New Orleans, La.
One 15-year-old killed, and three students wounded at John McDonogh High School by gunfire from four teenagers (none were students at the school). The motive was gang-related.
April 24, 2003
Red Lion, Pa.
James Sheets, 14, killed principal Eugene Segro of Red Lion Area Junior High School before killing himself.
Sept. 24, 2003
Cold Spring, Minn.
Two students are killed at Rocori High School by John Jason McLaughlin, 15.
Sept. 28, 2004
Carmen de Patagones, Argentina
Three students killed and 6 wounded by a 15-year-old Argentininan student in a town 620 miles south of Buenos Aires.
March 21, 2005
Red Lake, Minn.
Jeff Weise, 16, killed grandfather and companion, then arrived at school where he killed a teacher, a security guard, 5 students, and finally himself, leaving a total of 10 dead.
Nov. 8, 2005
Jacksboro, Tenn.
One 15-year-old shot and killed an assistant principal at Campbell County High School and seriously wounded two other administrators.
Aug. 24, 2006
Essex, Vt.
Christopher Williams, 27, looking for his ex-girlfriend at Essex Elementary School, shot two teachers, killing one and wounding another. Before going to the school, he had killed the ex-girlfriend's mother.
Sept. 13, 2006
Montreal, Canada
Kimveer Gill, 25, opened fire with a semiautomatic weapon at Dawson College. Anastasia De Sousa, 18, died and more than a dozen students and faculty were wounded before Gill killed himself.
Sept. 27, 2006
Bailey, Colo.
Adult male held six students hostage at Platte Canyon High School and then shot and killed Emily Keyes, 16, and himself.
Sept. 29, 2006
Cazenovia, Wis.
A 15-year-old student shot and killed Weston School principal John Klang.
Oct. 3, 2006
Nickel Mines, Pa.
32-year-old Carl Charles Roberts IV entered the one-room West Nickel Mines Amish School and shot 10 schoolgirls, ranging in age from 6 to 13 years old, and then himself. Five of the girls and Roberts died.
Jan. 3, 2007
Tacoma, Wash.
Douglas Chanthabouly, 18, shot fellow student Samnang Kok, 17, in the hallway of Henry Foss High School.
April 16, 2007
Blacksburg, Va.
A 23-year-old Virginia Tech student, Cho Seung-Hui, killed two in a dorm, then killed 30 more 2 hours later in a classroom building. His suicide brought the death toll to 33, making the shooting rampage the most deadly in U.S. history. Fifteen others were wounded.
Sept. 21, 2007
Dover, Del.
A Delaware State Univesity Freshman, Loyer D. Brandon, shot and wounded two other Freshman students on the University campus. Brandon is being charged with attempted murder, assault, reckless engagement, as well as a gun charge.
Oct. 10, 2007
Cleveland, Ohio
A 14-year-old student at a Cleveland high school, Asa H. Coon, shot and injured two students and two teachers before he shot and killed himself. The victims' injuries were not life-threatening.
Nov. 7, 2007
Tuusula, Finland
An 18-year-old student in southern Finland shot and killed five boys, two girls, and the female principal at Jokela High School. At least 10 others were injured. The gunman shot himself and died from his wounds in the hospital.
Feb. 8, 2008
Baton Rouge, Louisiana
A nursing student shot and killed two women and then herself in a classroom at Louisiana Technical College in Baton Rouge.
Feb. 11, 2008
Memphis, Tennessee
A 17-year-old student at Mitchell High School shot and wounded a classmate in gym class.
Feb. 12, 2008
Oxnard, California
A 14-year-old boy shot a student at E.O. Green Junior High School causing the 15-year-old victim to be brain dead.
Feb. 14, 2008
DeKalb, Illinois
Gunman killed five students and then himself, and wounded 17 more when he opened fire on a classroom at Northern Illinois University. The gunman, Stephen P. Kazmierczak, was identified as a former graduate student at the university in 2007.
Sept. 23, 2008
Kauhajoki, Finland
A 20-year-old male student shot and killed at least nine students and himself at a vocational college in Kauhajok, 330km (205 miles) north of the capital, Helsinki.
Nov. 12, 2008
Fort Lauderdale, Florida
A 15-year-old female student was shot and killed by a classmate at at Dillard High School in Fort Lauderdale.
March 11, 2009
Winnenden, Germany
Fifteen people were shot and killed at Albertville Technical High School in southwestern Germany by a 17-year-old boy who attended the same school.

Credit Crisis?

If you want some light-hearted relief check out -

It's an internet based reality show - kinda feels like the office meets internet; I like it!
They have paid a mans debt off for a year and now own him! - he's their monkey!!

Hey, if nothing else, it's a giggle!!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Mac Madness

Im currently driving myself crazy trying to get my hands on an iBook. You know the ones, the white laptops that were SO infamous at making Mac standout.
I have been bidding for what feels like a lifetime on ebay only to have the things snatched from my grasp on several occasions now.

As it is simply to replace my tired old heavy PC laptop and will be used mainly for work i dont want to spend a great deal, having said that I also don't want something that will need more spent on it to make it workable.

My aim is to pay around 240€ and have a spec something like this - G4 model, 12 - 14" screen, 1.33 ghz, 1 gig ram and about 60 gig HD; which I think is about standard and a good price, especially considering the iBook is no longer going to be supported by Apple.

Well on with my search - if you happen to have one you want to offload, do drop me a line... ...but dont wait too long, I wont!

Friday, March 06, 2009

Stuff the white rabbit: update

If you recall, I did a recent post about a Magic Convention in Blackpool (HERE)
well this is the feedback of that event as posted on Magicweek as I couldn't attend, but thought you too may be interested in how it went.

Wow! This year's Blackpool Convention was really special.
There were just so many talented magicians, in all departments, that many convention goers were rating it as the best Blackpool Convention ever. Highlights for me included the Saturday night $10,000 Intercontinental Stage Magic Championships, which featured outstanding performances from Kyoko (chic and charismatic), Dirk Losander (superb technique), Marc Oberon (stunning UV concepts), and eventual winner Han Seol-Hee whose speed, skill, dexterity and magical showmanship took CD manips to new heights. He possessed fantastic control, captivated the entire audience and was rewarded with a standing ovation and the first prize of $10,000.

In Sunday's International Gala Show Jerome Murat's magical Living Statue act, Tony Chapek's playful interactive television routine and Jeff McBride's superb Miser's Dream, Water Bowls and Card work, totally did it for me... and that was just in the first half!
Korea's An Ha-Lim (cards) and France's Tony Frebourg (diabolos) respectively took the art of card manipulation, and the skills of the diaboloist on to a whole new level. It was a brilliant gala show.

125 magic dealers from all over the world exhibited!

An added pleasure this year was seeing David Blaine, taking some time out from a busy schedule to enjoy the convention too. Despite being virtually mobbed on occasion by groups of camera-wielding magicians he took it all with humour and in his stride. David Blaine gave magic a much needed kick-start into the 21st Century some ten years ago, and 'street magic' (as we now know it) was born.

So it sounds like I missed yet another wonderful event, I do so much miss the Magic scene, but I dont think I will return - just dabble now and then and watch with admiration.

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