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Nature scene

“I wish I had the balls to do that, I thought, as I enviously watched the juggler.” [Brett Andy]


My favourite saying guy in the world is a guy called Jack Handey… if you don’t know who he is, then you probably have not hung out with me long enough.

Classics such as:

I guess of all my uncles, I liked Uncle Cave Man the best. We called him Uncle Cave Man because he lived in a cave and because sometimes he’d eat one of us. Later on we found out he was a bear.

Why do the caterpillar and the ant have to be enemies? One eats leaves, and the other eats caterpillars. Oh, I see now.

I remember how, in college, I got that part-time job as a circus clown, and how the children would laugh and laugh at me. I vowed, then and there, that I would get revenge.

And probably a life time favourite: “Before you criticise a man, walk a mile in his shoes. That way, you’ll be a while away and have his shoes.”

That inspired me a couple of years ago when i was in Americaland to try and come up with my own Jack Handey styled comments and while the majority of them were not nearly as good as the majority of Jack’s, i did have a lot of fun and a number of them came pretty close. Thus Brett Andy’s were born:

‘Do you think if minutes were edible, they’d taste good enough that we’d want to go back for seconds?’
[Brett Andy]

‘I would imagine a horse drawn carriage would be a really ugly thing. For starters, it must be almost impossible to grip a pencil with hooves. Plus there is all that fine detail around the edges to consider.’ [Brett Andy]

‘People who live in glass houses, shouldn’t.’ [Brett Andy]

‘I heard “Thyme heals all wounds” but when I rubbed some of it into my cut last night it just left me with this nasty rash.’ [Brett Andy]

‘I started a business designing and manufacturing shoes for circus clowns using the lead from discarded pencils. But I had to stop once I was made aware of the huge carbon footprint I was creating.’ [Brett Andy]

i have not come up with any new Brett Andy’s for a long time and perhaps i should because it was fun to play around with words and in particular puns and misdirection. i do have a Brett Andy site where they all live and started improving it by adding random nature pics alongside the thoughts, but it still has a long way to go.


i also enjoy coming up with my own sayings and back when i was a youth leader at Claremont Baptist there were a couple of guys called Taylor [Julian and Stephen] and also a Fritz and Mark Baker and some others who we used to come up with these with. One of my favourite and most successful at the time was, ‘Hey mann’.

i know a lot of people. i used to write for a very popular Christian magazine in South Africa called ‘Truth’, at one time i was a DJ called The Penitent Guppy [i know!] on a Christian radio station called CCFM and i used to do a lot of youth, school and church speaks… but i didn’t always know their names. This has always been one of the toughest lines of maintaining integrity for me [which i often get badly wrong] as Honesty is one of my biggest values, but when someone comes up and so obviously remembers you and greets you with a huge, “Hey, Brett Fish!” and you respond with, “i’m sorry i don’t remember you” that can be tough, and people get disappointed to.

So the more generic ‘Hey mann’ which incidentally worked for women two as double-M man was the gender-neutral ‘guys’ type word. And any time someone walked up to us we would be like ‘Hey mann’ and it became a warm and you’re-part-of-the-group inclusive greeting. And saved me a lot of lying. Because once you’ve been ‘Hey mann’d you feel like you are known.


We actually came up with a whole bunch of other fun sayings as well. One of my favourites was to randomly point wildly behind someone and as they turned to look, shout, “LOOK, A DISTRACTION!”

Another one we used to do when we’d be in a restaurant with a bunch of mates and a really obviously particular band song would start playing, say Queen’s ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ and one of us would loudly exclaim, “Aw man, I LOVE The Pet Shop Boys” or some band clearly far removed from the actual one. Private little joke for us but often people will explain and point it out which makes the joke funnier as you sincerely, “Oh? Wow. Flip. Cool” their ‘knowledge’.

The third one that comes to mind that we had a number of variations of, was to look at someone and say, ‘Don’t take this the wrong way, but…’ and then follow it up with a compliment that was virtually impossible to take the wrong way:

Please don’t take this the wrong way, but i really like your shoes.

And it was so great cos people didn’t know what to do with it. You brace yourself for the insult that is obviously coming and then you hear a compliment and then you get confused and typically peoples’ response would be, “How could i take that the wrong way?” by which time the laugh was already there. These always worked much better if a Julian or a Stephen or Fritz was nearby to enjoy it with you, but sometimes it was worth whipping it out on other occasions.


i love making sayings up. If i was completely honest i guess i would love for there to be people all over the country or world quoting me like Jack Handey, which may have happened if Brett Andy had taken off a little more.

One of my more random sayings i came up with years ago, which is completely ridiculous, but which i love and made into a Brett Andy by association, is this one:

You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it throw stones in glass houses.

i’m not sure why but i just dig it.

i would love to say stuff more deeply that lines from my talks would become sayings in cards and on bumper stickers as well, but i’m not sure that’s going to happen either. If you’re saying stuff for the purpose of people repeating it, then you’re probably quite misdirected anyways, so probably not a good one to aim at. And totally a feel-good pride thing of ‘hey that person said my thing’ so completely unnecessary.

i did ALMOST get a Hip Hop Dance video made of the one saying i often start camps with though:

God, you’re bigger than my box

You’re bigger than my theology

You’re bigger than my understanding

You’re bigger than me

We got the demonstration [Houseboat Camp 2014 on Lake Shasta] but never quite got the video, which is probably for the better cos it was one of the most bizarre things that has ever happened to me. But it was also completely GREAT so i’ll file that in the memory box.

i just suddenly thought about movie quotes and in particular, Monty Python, but i think that will have to be saved for a different Highlight Post cos that will be a long one by itself.

No, it won’t.

Yes it will.

I’ll come in again…

Jack Handey quote

[For others of the 100 Highlight Moments of My Life, click here]

Continuing with the conversation about ‘How to be an Ally’ with my friend Alexa Matthews who has a huge heart for this kind of thing and the humility to understand that we are trying to figure it out as we go along:Alexa

I have sat with this for a little while – and was hoping to send it off before leaving South Africa for a holiday. I am still wrestling with whether I as a non-black person should be writing this. Simply as part of me knows that this is something that some days I get horribly wrong rather than just right.

Being an ally, for me, doesn’t mean simply choosing to mindlessly go along with the loudest voices shouting about what is happening in the black community – that is not being an ally.

It’s about being willing to listen, hear and acknowledge that on my own, or only surrounded by people who think like me I have an incomplete story or picture of what is happening in our country and being willing to hear why people think the way that they do – whether it is the same or different to me.

There are seemingly obvious ways of being allies to people who don’t look like me: Listen, hear, respect, honour, acknowledge and figure out how to do this so that it is appropriate to them, not just to me.

I think though, that a more pointed way of being an ally is to take on things in the community that looks like me, that sounds like me and that assumes that I will think like them.

It’s about calling out behaviours, conversations or interactions that aren’t honouring of the other.

It’s about being willing to be challenged to ask myself more pointed questions. It’s about having friends sit together and ask what is it that makes me uncomfortable about what is going on around me.

It’s about being willing to acknowledge my own fear, anger and frustration and being open to hearing uncomfortable feedback in return.

Aboriginal quote

I am currently sitting in a (black) friends’ home – we are in the minority in the community where we are on holiday. Since being here, I have been struck be the confidence that the youth have in this community in particular. In the sense of being okay in who they are – regardless of their race and ethnicity and the way in which they have engaged with each other around it. I say this after listening to my younger friends who are still in school engage with their friends, after being in the school context for different things and seeing how people engage with each other at church.

My burning question is HOW did they get this right? The only thing that makes sense is that they had to push through the space of discomfort to form an “us who are different yet together” dialogue in this country.

I believe that it’s only when we can push through that space that we will get to a new sense of together, of being willing to share resources, of being willing to hear that while perceptually some of our lives are feeling challenged in new ways, that actually we are still the minority with a lot more than the majority – something which is research backed & not just the chanting of angry voices. Yes, there have been shifts, but how significant are these?

I believe that being an ally means that when these conversations emerge, that we don’t pushback by highlighting allegations of corruption or commenting on the up and coming black leaders in business or elsewhere- this isn’t just about a class thing, it’s about acknowledging the complexity of the issues and that we are willing to hear. Despite the reality of a strong emerging black middle and upper class, in South Africa, we still have a majority of black people whose life experiences are defined by race in a way that as non-black people are hard to comprehend.

This isn’t a single issue with a single solution – at times the complexity and size of it all feels overwhelmingly big.

At times I wish that I could bury my head in the sand and hide

At times I want to simply walk away from hearing this all.

quote 1

Being an ally means that I don’t. It means that I have to learn to live in the tension of holding a space which might feel foreign to me, uncomfortable to me and still live life in a way which honours justice, mercy and humility.

Being a Christian ally in this means looking at the role that the church played in perpetuating differences, and still does in how we engage with each other.

As I said at the start of writing this, I am sitting with more questions than answers. These things that I know for sure are:

Being an ally is uncomfortable some days

Being an ally is more about what I allow in my own space when surrounded by people who look like me rather than just being the person who engages with people who don’t

Being an ally doesn’t mean I have to agree with everyone, it means that I have to be open to listen with an open heart and the possibility that I might not be right

Being an ally means that we are seeing complex issues that deserve more than simplified pushbacks.

Being an ally means being intentional.

Being an ally means being. Just that – rather than seeing this as some of kind of project for a select few.

Be an ally.

[To return to the beginning of this series and see some more thoughts on How to be an Ally, click here]


In the previous post i spoke about the process of crafting this presentation, titled ‘Lost in Translation’ that i did last night for the Outliers ‘Step Up’ evening, and here is the talk itself:


Anyone who knows me well, knows that my default talk setting is long [51 minute wedding speech anyone?] and so short is a challenge. But i practised my talk and timed it twice on the day and both times came in at around 9 minutes, which gave me a whole minute to play with. Schweet.

[Side Note: While my wife, tbV, knew the overall vibe of what my talk was about and how it was going to go, i decided to keep this intro part secret from her so that she would have a surprise, and possibly some extra stress for a moment]

So i had my intro slide notes on my tablet, i had a set of 14 speech cue cards in my pocket which didn’t contain a word of my speech, except for the Title ‘Lost in Translation’ on the top one and then i wrote a story about why i had to put writing on the cue cards because i didn’t want people to see blank cards and think i was faking it [i told you – layers upon layers] and my actual talk notes in a notebook [upside down – so the audience would see that i was holding the book upside down when the notes were right way up]

As Heidi introduced me, i snuck in the line, “Because i only have ten minutes i don’t have time to introduce you to the world’s most famous stuffed dolphin, No_bob and so i’ll just leave him here’ [thus covertly introducing him].

And then it was on to the slides…

10 Slides in 10 Minutes [in six languages and eight accents]


Sometimes we have in our hands the most powerful message ever for our audience to hear. And too often that doesn’t matter in the slightest. One of the organisers of this event asked me if I would do a presentation related to education and I felt completely out of my depth.

Then, having watched one of my Improv shows, she added: “Oh and it would be great if you could do each of the slides in a different accent.” Really, Heidi? You want me to do a serious talk using different accents? That is incredibly ridiculous and close to impossible… Challenge accepted.

The next eight slides are going to be quite possibly the most…. In-te-resting presentation you have ever seen. I want you to look attentively. I want you to listen carefully. Whatever is happening on the screen or from my mouth, do your best to pay attention and hopefully at the end it will all make some sort of sense. I was asked to do each slide in a different accent, but I thought I would try and go one better…

[At which point i made a comment that my tablet had frozen and said something about having to wing it. At which point tbV had a mild heart attack in her mind. But then i whipped out the speech cards i had prepared with an, “Or i could use these which i planned as back up just in case.”]

Ladies and Gentlemen i give to you, ‘Lost in Translation’ [And this was probably the only part of my talk i wish i could redo cos it didn’t work with the flourish i was hoping but as i was saying the words ‘Lost. In. Translation’ i was shaking my right hand which was holding the speech cards on the beat of the words and as i said “Translation” i let all the middle cards fly out of my hand and scatter all over the floor. The idea was good but in reality they all just landed pretty much in one place so could have been better but had a mini desired effect]

Then i pulled out my notepad, looked at it, turned it right way up [which to the audience then looked upside down] and went on with the presentation:


[In my best Australian accent and no, this does not make a lot of sense at all but is all genuine Australian slang apparently, which i played around with a little bit to make it flow nicely]

Oi mate.  I got the wog over the weekend. I would have to say that it would be considered a Fair-go if my Chalkie caught me away with the pixies and made me write up lines with my texters and I was thinking about Waggin it. Perhaps you should Dinkie-Di  with Av-a-go-yer-mug. Fair Dinkum. He’s got tickets on him. But at least e’s not a larrikin. Some might say A fair suck of the sav.


[Switch to Xhosa – thank you Nkosi]

Ngamanye amaxesha kungakhona unobangela woba abanye abantu abasegumbini bawuve umyalezo owunikezayo babe abanye bengakuva. Kwi lizwe apho kukho ilwimi ezilishumi elinanye ezisemthethweni. Kubayiyo ke inyhweba ukuba ubesegumbini apho umntu onikeza ngentetho ze alindeleke ukuba anikeze nfawo ntetho ngolwimi oluviwa nguwe nelilelakho. 

[Sometimes there might be a reason that some people in the room understand the message you are giving while others do not. In a country with eleven official languages, it is the height of privilege to be in a room where someone is giving a talk and expecting that talk to be in your first language.]

The Xhosa was probably the language i was most nervous about as i didn’t want to offend anyone but once i got started it felt like being an evangelist in a township church with a large number of the audience agreeing and nodding and it was so great knowing that the formerly marginalised community was in that moment empowered to receive an extra message just for them and the majority of white people were sitting there with no idea what was going on.

Because it was received so well, i decided to throw in some of my own isiXhosa at the end. So i apologised to the group [Uxolo nonke] and told them i was still learning [Ndisasifunda] and finished with a slower drawn out questioning ‘I am trying at least’ [Ndiyazama Noko] which would have been a mic. dropping moment if i hadn’t had another seven slides to go. But really loved how this section was received.


[Moving on to German which i literally shouted at the audience – thank you Ewald and with apologies for all the missing dots above letters – ]

Die Worte die wir benutzen sind oft genau die dinge, die Menschen Zuruckhalten, um die eigentliche Botschaft zu empfangen. Wenn wir Worter benutzen die zu direct oder zu technisch sind, oder wir zu fachbezogene Worter verwenden, dann konnen wir sehr leicht einen groBen Teil unserer Zuhorer ausklammern bevor diie Botschaft sie erreicht hat. Deshalb must du dir bewusst sein zu wem du sprichst, und was dein Ausgangspunkt ist. Wahrend ein kleiner Teil der Zuhorer verstehen moge was du sagen willst, und begeustert sein wird uber dein Wortwahl, das ersetzt night den Verlust dass so viele andere Zuhorer abgeschaltet sind.

[Often the words we use can be the thing that cuts people off from receiving the message. If we use language that is too specific or technical or jargon-filled then we are likely going to isolate a huge majority of our audience before our message even reaches them. Hence the importance of being aware of who you are speaking to and where is a good place to pitch your message. While a small number of people in the audience may understand what you are trying to say and probably be impressed by the way you have said it, that doesn’t make up for everything you lose by switching so many other people off. ]


[Next up was Spanish with thanks to Westley]

Usted podría incluso encontrar que es el sonido de su voz que puede distraer a la gente.

Esta diferencia que hace que se pierda lo que está tratando de decir.

Alguien que habla con un impedimento del habla podría luchar para no ser una fuente de distracción.

Alguien con una voz sexy hablando un lenguaje atractivo como éste podría traer sus propios obstáculos.

[You might even find that it’s the sound of your voice that can distract people.

This difference that causes them to miss out on what you are trying to say.

Someone who speaks with a speech impediment might struggle to not be a source of distraction.

Someone with a sexy voice speaking a sexy language like this one might bring their own obstructions.]


[Next up was a Chinese accent and the slide was so small that people could not read it and the volume was loud when it was CAPS and a whisper or nothing when it was the normal type]

VOLUME CAN BE A VERY IMPORTANT PART OF A PRESENTATION because if you CANNOT HEAR what the person is saying, or if you have to KEEP STRAINING TO HEAR because you might be CATCHING A WORD here and there or even just MISSING OCCASIONAL WORDS then the overall experience can become QUITE STRESSFUL and you are likely to find that a lot of people will JUST SWITCH OFF until you say SOMETHING THEY CAN HEAR.


[This is starting to feel a little Mambo Number 5 with a little bit of Dutch next, thanks Hanneke, and an appropriately upside down, back to front slide and an Einstein quote which reads: ‘Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.’]

Technologie kan een mooi versterkend middel zijn bij een goed gesprek of voor een presentatie. Maar als dingen mis gaan, kan dat enorm afleiden. Daarom is een goeie voorbereiding van cruciaal belang als je afhankelijk bent van techniek, anders kom je nog mooi op de koffie. Het kan ook wenselijk zijn om een back-up plan te hebben voor als de elektriciteit het laat afweten of een andere onverwachte gebeurtenis zich voordoet.

[Technology can be a great enhancement to a talk or presentation. But when things go wrong, it can really be a huge distraction as well. Thus is becomes more important when you are relying on technology to check every little thing beforehand to make sure it is not going to bite you in the butt. It may also be super helpful and wise to have a backup plan for if the electricity goes out or some other problem emerges.]


[This slide sadly came out quite dark and so while everyone could see the thing you want them to initially see, i’m not convinced everyone realised what was actually going on in the picture. Go on, give it another look, but while you are you might be missing out on the Afrikaans that Kari provided]

Somtyds sien jy iets wat jou oe uit jou kop uit laat skiet. Dit kan veroorsaak dat jy opstaan en weg loop. As jy bly sal jy miskien besluit om harde na die ding te kyk en dan besef jy dat die ding wat jy gedog jy’t gesien is nie waarlik wat jy gesien het nie. Dit is iets so heeltemal anders en onskuldig. Jy sal gelukkig wees dat jy gebly het. Maar terwyl dit alles gebeur het, miskien het jy heelwat gemis die meeste van wat die aanbieder vir jou wou gese het.

[Sometimes you see something that causes your eyes to almost pop out of your head. This may cause you to get up and leave. If you stay, you might decide to take a closer look and realise that the thing you thought you saw is not in fact what you saw. It is something so completely different and innocent. You will be glad you stayed. However, while all of that was happening you may have missed most of what the presenter was saying to you.]

[That’s a baby lying on that lady and it’s the baby’s feet. I mean, that’s what we all saw, right?]


[This was my original second last slide but i phoned Heidi on the day and got her to remove one of the ‘L’s and at least one person checked with me that i had noticed that, which means it did the trick. Thanks to Patrick for the French and for a Dummies Guide to French Pronounciation on the phone on the day of the presentation. And especially the phrase “police de la grammaire”]

Une chose qui peut ruiner une présentation est des fautes inutiles de grammaire ou de frappe. Elles peuvent devenir une distraction pour ceux qui regardent, surtout ceux du type « police de la grammaire ». Plus il y a de fautes, plus on est tenté de se déconcentrer du sujet présenté et de se concentrer plutôt sur les erreurs qu’on veut voir corrigées.

[One thing that can mess up a presentation is needless mistakes in grammar or typing. These can prove a distraction to those watching, especially those of the “Grammar Police” type. The more mistakes you have in your presentation, the more likely people are to zone out from your message and simply focus on the errors they want to see corrected.]

= = = = = = = = =

Before jumping to the last slide, i had this to say:

Which brings us to the last slide and what has this whole mess really been about? My last slide, and this whole presentation really, answers the question, ‘What is the greatest message in the world?’


You can have the greatest message in the world, but what is most important is the message that is received.

There are so many things that can come in the way of what you have prepared and what people walk away with – Language, Distraction, Volume, Technology, Word Usage, Context, the Physical Hunger of the audience, and more.

You can have the greatest message in the world, but what is most important is the message that is received. Held on to. Continued with. Learned. Embraced.

As educators and teachers we need to make sure that we spend sufficient time in our planning ensuring that the communication methods we choose and how we deliver them are going to be the most effective for the particular audience we have.

Otherwise you might find that your incredible message may well find itself, Lost. In. Translation.

[To return to the first part and the premise and planning of this presentation, click here]


My friend Heidi asked me a few weeks ago if i would be one of the presenters at an event that her organisation ‘Outliers’ was putting on called Step Up. The idea was 9 presenters each given the space for a 10 minute talk using 10 powerpoint slides with a broad theme of Education.

Not having too much – in the official sense – to do with Education since i got my Primary School Teacher’s diploma at a no-longer-existing Teacher’s Training College [about 100 years ago] i felt a little out of my depth. Seeing a name like Craig Stewart [someone i really respect and admire in the field of social justice, who helps lead the Warehouse] on the speaker’s bill made it a little more so.

Then Heidi [who had recently seen me performing Improv with my Improguise team] added, “You know what would be fun. If you did each slide in a different accent.”

i looked at her. You want a serious talk with each slide being done in a different accent?

“That’s ridiculous bordering on Impossible”, i said, “Challenge accepted.”


The next day, i was looking back at our interaction and thinking that the best possible way to describe it was, ‘I Panic’d’.

i was going to be taking part in a serious evening where serious people would come to listen to educated and influential and legendary people doing legendary things talking about them seriously… and i was going to… WHAT?

But then i had the thought that has been revolutionising the world for centuries: But what if i can? 

And so i started to seriously consider it, and the more i thought about it, the more possible it started to become… in my mind.

i eventually came up with an idea that if it worked would quite possibly be genius and if it didn’t would quite possibly be hide-in-the-toilets-for-the-rest-of-the-night embarrassing. And i would only be able to tell about 6 minutes into my 10 minute talk which of those it was… Sounds like my kind of risk.

The plan was simple – if i was going to pull off slides in different accents then there needed to be a starting Introduction slide and a really strong finishing slide. So the maximum accent slides would be 8.

i figured out what my point would be and the title of my presentation went through some drafts but ended up as ‘Lost in Translation’ with the main point and message being this punchline [which was also the last slide]:

The Most Important Message Is The One That Is Received

The idea being that no matter how amazing and incredible you think your message is, what your audience leave with after they have seen and heard you is really the only thing that is important and so what can you do and not do to make your message as clear and heard as possible?

The eight slides following my introductory slide [which needed to include a duck-face posing picture of me to prove i was taking this seriously] had to be complete chaos representing a whole host of things that could ruin a presentation – messed up slides, wrongly pitched volume, typo and grammar errors [for the grandma police lurking in the audience], language only a small percentage of the group would understand, language that the majority of the group but not everyone would understand, distracting pictures etc


The accents made me a little nervous. Speaking in different accents is one of my Improv strengths so i can pull a bunch of them off, but the line between capturing the heart of an accent and offending someone in the room by seemingly mocking their accent felt quite thin. There were immediately some i knew i needed to stay away from.

i also realised that it would perhaps be easier for me to attempt a foreign language in the accent as opposed to speaking English with that accent and so five of the slides instantly switched language. The Australian slide [which was the first of the 8] would be a collection of Australian sayings and phrases that would sound like complete gibberish to the audience and the Chinese slide would be English in a Chinese accent where i would mess around with the volume and for the most part people would not be able to hear what i was saying, with occasional words being said at full volume, but mostly being mumbled [and yes, i may have been inspired by the movie Picture Perfect for that idea].

My brother in law, Ewald, speaks German, so he was the first person that came to mind. We have a family joke of me reading children’s books to his daughter Sofie, which are in German, by shouting the words at full volume and so that slide was an easy one. Sent the words off to him for translation.

My wife, tbV, and i have just finished studying a beginner’s course of isiXhosa and so i sent off another section to Nkosi, who has been my faithful practice partner.

Then it was an open ask to Facebook to fill in the gaps. Kari [who we recently met at isiXhosa classes] volunteered to do the Afrikaans for me. My friend Patrick Cordery was an obvious choice for the French. Westley volunteered to do Spanish [which i had no idea he spoke] and i managed to source a number of friends and friends-of-friends to supply me with a host of Australian slangerisms [the only slide that didn’t make a lot of sense at all].

i should point out at this time, that after years of speaking at churches, camps, schools etc this is probably the most work by far that i have put into a talk or presentation, and it was so much fun.

Last up was Dutch and i was able to eventually find an old friend, Hanneke, who jumped in and translated that for me.

Because the paragraphs i gave them all were quite technical i did stress to them that the translations could be quite loose. i just needed the gist of what i was saying in a foreign language with the idea that not many people would understand most of them.

Probably one of the best aspects of the talk was the crowd sourcing, social network volunteering that happened meaning that the final product was a completely collaboratory one. Thank you to everyone who gave so generously of your time and skill.


Anyone who knows me really well, knows that i enjoy my layers. My favourite joke to tell is one where only a tiny percentage of people in the room get it because it is so clever or obscure or random. So i will do a lot of humour for the crowd and everyone will laugh and then sneak in a higher grade gem and get the satisfaction of seeing the four smiling faces dotted around the crowd. That and the delayed laugh which suggests someone has just explained the joke to the person sitting next to them. The ripple effect. i LOVE it.

So that became the idea with this talk as well – there is one message that is for everyone, but every individual who understands one of the languages used will get a bonus talk or point.

i selected the slides and the languages at the same time and some of them informed each other. The Chinese done with no or little volume was paired up with the slide that was an amazing quote but so ridiculously tiny that no one could read it. The Dutch section talking about the dangers of messing up technology was paired with an Einstein quote that i had on the screen upside down and back to front.

The French was my last slide [and when i saw what Patrick sent through, realised was my biggest challenge as i could not simply phonetically wing French like i had been hoping to] and dealt with slides containing typos and bad grammar which meant i got to use the most incredible expression, the in air quotes “police de la grammaire”. On the day of the presentation i had Patrick on the phone reading out my paragraph to me so i could take notes and practice and try to get it close to right.

THE PRESENTATION [slash ‘présentation/presentatie’]

10 slides in 10 minutes in six different languages and eight different accents. The impossible and ridiculous was in arms reach.

i was going to be speaking 6th and one of the immediate bonuses was not going immediately after Craig Stewart [who i knew was likely to have a ‘drop the mic’ presentation even though i could not see someone with his temperament actually ever dropping a mic] and the second was that with three sections of three speakers, i was just before a tea break. If it all went horribly i could hide in the toilets until everyone had gone home.

tbV was probably more nervous than me. There was a certain moment when i had my idea and started pulling the plans together when i really believed i was very likely to pull it off well, but there was still the potential for it to either crush or be crushed. If i didn’t think i could pull it off i would not have tried to, so believing in it was important, but it probably doesn’t help my wife that one of my techniques for avoiding stress is to simulate being overstressed. So i am not stressing inwardly but in a sense pretend to be stressed and say things like “What if this is a complete mess?” which for some strange reason helps me become calm and relaxed internally and has her thinking, “Wait? What? You think this is going to bomb?”

By Wednesday evening 5.30 we had arrived at the venue and were partaking in before presentation snacks and wine [being one of our non-meat weeks this meant a whole lot of different pieces of cheese!] and there was no going back. i thought i had it, but it could completely still be the weirdest [very likely] and worst [didn’t think so but possible] presentation the academic world had ever seen.

The talks started to happen. There were some that were really good and one or two that had great material but could have had a stronger presentation. Craig Stewart got up [4th] and gave the brilliant presentation i expected from him. Then a guy spoke about fish farming and then, “Keeping with ‘fish’, here is Brett “Fish” Anderson and his presentation, titled ‘Lost in Translation’…

[For Part II which contains the slides and dialogue of my Presentation, click here] 

Make sure you check out the Outliers Facebook group and get connected to the great work they are doing and helping resource and you can follow them on the Twitterer at @OutliersEdulab 

i have been enjoying these conversations with Trevor Black from Swart Donkey. Back and forth five times on a topic with about 100 words a time. This is our third collaborative blog conversation, this time with a focus on Listening to the Listeners. i hope you will enjoy it.

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Trev: I loved the Free Speech board at my university residence. Most of the time it was empty, but occasionally it would burst into activity. View full article »

their pain

no words

just empty-feeling



after the service

has ended

and possibly

a small plate

of scones.

[for more Micropoems, click here]


This is a complex one. We don’t presently have a maid/domestic worker but have spoken about the possibility of employing someone in that role. And this is not a witch hunt to try and make anyone feel bad [unless you need to be feeling bad and then don’t feel bad but just change how you’re living!].

A number of months ago i was chatting to a domestic worker at a friend’s house and just hearing some of her story View full article »


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