Thursday, February 27, 2014

Organizing Your Office Christmas Party

One of the most beloved holidays of all is Christmas. In fact, for most people, it is their favorite time of the year. This is, of course, quite understandable. There's just nothing quite like the joyful and warm spirit that the Christmas season brings, not to mention that it celebrates and commemorates the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ.
During the first week of December, offices worldwide are abuzz with party-planning activities to celebrate what a song calls as 'the most wonderful time of the year.' If your office is planning to get into that holiday spirit, here are helpful tips on how to put together an awesome office Christmas party:
Set a budget - This is quite basic in any party-planning. There has to be a set party for the event. Depending on the company, there are those that plan first and consider the expenses later. These are companies that are prepared to splurge on an extravagant bash. However, if your office has an allotted budget for it, make sure you work with that budget.
Set up committees - It's always fair and even enjoyable when tasks and responsibilities are shared. No one person has to be assigned to do the planning alone. You can assign an overall chairman for it then set up different committees to handle specific assignments. There also has to be a timeline and deadlines to ensure that everything will come together during the day of the event.
Make the party a time for good tidings - You can hold off those announcements on promotions and salary increases until the party comes (that is if it's near the party date). It would also be a perfect time to hand out Christmas bonuses. You can also give rewards to those who have performed beyond expectations.
Deck the halls - Whether you're holding the event right at your workplace or at a posh venue, get the holiday spirit going by putting up Christmas decorations. And even if you assign a specific committee to handle the decorations, you can have everyone involved in it. This can help foster better camaraderie among the employees.
Think twice on serving booze - We've all heard about parties that have gone awry or have turned into a disaster just because of one employee having a drink too many. If you decide to serve alcohol, get a professional bartender to serve drinks and have a rule on the maximum drinks for everyone. Or you can have a rule that whoever wants to drink has to pay for it. The idea is to have the alcohol consumption under control.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Are You Creative? - A Creative Program

Have you ever asked yourself if you have what it takes to be creative?
Does being creative mean for you that you have to be an artist, an author, a designer or in some other related artistic line of work?
The answer is NO. Creativity actually has nothing to do with a single activity. Doing something does not have to be creative or uncreative. You can be a painter although you may not be creative, as well as you can sing even if you are not creative. In the same way you can clean the floor in countless creative ways and you can be a creative cook. Creativity is a quality, which has nothing whatever to do with an activity. It's more an inner stance, an attitude with which you chose to do something.
We are all creative beings. Creation is effortless. Take a look at nature - the power of creation unfolds so effortlessly. Flowers blossom miraculously, grass grows without it being pulled out of the ground. It's true, creativity is our very own nature also!
We were made to be creative. It is a gift from our very own creator and as such it is a spiritual issue. It's like oxygen for our souls. The use of our creativity is our gift back to creation itself. If you can accept this bargain, it is the beginning of true acceptance. If someone is really creative, no matter what he or she does, it will be done as an act of creation.
We are individuals, each and every one of us completely different. I think we could agree on that. The energy of creativity flows through us, shaped by us, like light flowing through different crystal prisms. To learn to be creative, you don't need to go to a school. All you need is to connect deep inside with yourself and be present.
As children, we were artists, totally creative. So how can we get back to our natural creative state as an adult? We can reawaken to the sense of wonder in us - something so often lost in adulthood. A child's excitement and reaction to a first time adventure is magical. Watch the broad smile of a toddler patting his first puppy. Drink in the joy of a child dipping its toe in the ocean for the first time. Who better to learn from than a child? They are great teachers.
Children are innocent.
Children are non-judgemental.
Children are resilient to change.
Children are trusting.
Children love unconditionally.
As a child I loved to go within myself. I would paint and cut things out of paper or magazines. My mother's friends would comment on how well I did this. But somehow it wasn't thought of as being a worthwhile past-time. Daydreaming wasn't accepted as "doing" something. At school I would have loved to have taken art as a subject in the higher classes, yet I chose mathematics and computer science, as I thought that I could better make a living when I left school. I denied my urge to be creative, envying those who continued with art.
After leaving school, I started work in an insurance company but it made me unhappy. I had met the love of my life and decided to leave the country I had been born in and where I had grown up to be with him. He recognized my creative spirit and urged me to apply for art school. To my sheer delight I was successful, and I found myself studying communications design. From that time on I've been clearing my artistic path from the childhood blocks I've been holding onto. It's a continuing journey, which I'm going to tell you about in this course. I have realized over the years that the very creative process I have come to know so well as a designer can be applied to all areas of life. That's what this program is about.
Creation is only the projection into form of that which already exists. Imagine the universe as vast, pure, unboundless creative energy, in which you are immersed in. This energy has formed you and all of nature. Opening to your creativity makes you into a fully functioning, conscious, cooperative part of existence. You dip into this source and you can give it permission to flow through you, just as the most creative people of our time were able to do. You invoke the Great Creator when you invoke your own creativity.
The force of creativity has the power to change lives, to answer your dreams and to fulfill destinies. It is an almost mysterious, paradoxical state of consciousness and being. Creativity is doing by not doing. It means that something is allowed to happen through you. It's not doing, it's allowing it to happen. You become a channel through which creative energy flows through you, you allow yourself to be used as an instrument.
Nature gives everyone energy for creativity. When you try to stop its natural flow it can cause unease and unhappiness. Relaxing, playing, meditating and not trying are the best receptors for creativity. Einstein said: "Imagination is more important than knowledge". It is said that he received his theory of relativity whilst not trying at all, but during his sleep, when the creative energy was able to effortlessly flow through him.
Here again are the basic principles of creativity, quoted from the book "The Artist's Way" by Julia Cameron:
"1. Creativity is the natural order of life. Life is energy; pure creative energy.
2. There is an underlying, in-dwelling creative force infusing all of life - including ourselves.
3. When we open ourselves to our creativity, we open ourselves to the creator's creativity within us and our lives.
4. We are, ourselves, creations. And we, in turn, are meant to continue creativity by being creative ourselves.
5. Creativity is God's gift to us. Using our creativity is our gift back to God.
6. The refusal to be creative is self-will and is counter to our true nature.
7. When we open ourselves to exploring our creativity, we open ourselves to God: good orderly direction.
8. As we open our creative channel to the creator, many gentle but powerful changes are to be expected.
9. It is safe to open ourselves up to greater creativity.
10. Our creative dreams and yearnings come from a divine source. As we move toward our dreams, we move toward our divinity."
So trust the still, small voice inside you trying to find a way to release itself!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The Cutty Sark Tall Ship Races

At the end of each of the Cutty Sark Races, a major prize was awarded - the Cutty Sark Trophy for International Understanding - to the Master of the vessel which, in the opinion of all Masters of the race fleet, had done the most to promote better international understanding during the race.
The trophy was a valuable silver replica of the clipper Cutty Sark, and each member of the winning crew also received a commemorative medallion. The first holder of this magnificent award was the Russian barque Kruzenshtern which received an overwhelming vote in 1974 after taking part in the race from Copenhagen to Gdynia. It was the first year that the USSR had competed in
the event.
In 1976, the Belgian 61 ton ketch Zenobe Gramme was awarded the trophy during the race from Tenerife to Bermuda when the skipper of the vessel went to the aid of two smaller vessels which had been drifting on windless seas and were in danger of running out of food and water. Captain Lt. George Saille of the Zenobe gave up any chance of winning the race and towed the two laggers more than 800 miles to port.
Another recipient of the trophy was the Polish fully-rigged ship Dar Pomorza. Built in 1909 in Hamburg as the Prinzess Eitel Friedrich, she entered every Tall Ships race from 1972, when she won the Cowes to Skagen leg, to 1981, when she was laid up as a museum ship after 72 years of service.
Her replacement is the Dar Mlodziezy, built between 1981-82 at the Gdansk Shipyard and owned by the Polish Merchant Navy Academy. Shortly after her launch she was able to visit the port of Southampton, in England, for a grand Parade of Sail which took place in the Solent.
A magnificent replacement for her predecessor, the Dar Mlodziezy is considerably larger at nearly 3,000 tons. She carries a crew of 38 plus about 140 cadets and measures 357.5 ft overall. Her rig is that of a fully-rigged ship and is easily recognized by her somewhat unusual flat transom. A number of labor-saving devices were installed on board; modern winches hoist the sails and brace the yards; and her yards are fixed on modern lightweight, pole masts, obviating the need for their raising and lowering when sail is set or taken in.
The Russian three master Druzhba was built in 1987 and is the same size as the Dar Mlodziezy. She is based in Odessa, but like all of the big Russian ships, will compete in the annual events wherever they may take place. South and Pan American countries such as Argentina, Uruguay, Chile, Columbia, Venezuela and Mexico were also keen supporters of the annual Cutty Sark events. In 1979, the Venezuelan government launched the Simon Bolivar, the first of a generation of new windjammers. She is a barque measuring 270 ft overall, and was built at Bilbao in Spain, her distinctive grey and black paintwork give her a fine appearance despite her flat transom.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Famous Tall Ship Wrecks

Records over the last few hundred years show that some 4,000 ships have been wrecked at the back of the Isle of Wight off the English coast, on a treacherous stretch of coast which runs from the Needles on the western end to Bembridge Ledge in the east.
Of this number, a great many were sailing ships which drifted ashore in fog, sailed up the beach through navigational error, were stranded on rocks while trying to cut corners, dragged their anchors, or were in collision with other vessels.
The list of casualties reads like a telephone directory: the fully-rigged 900 ton Underley, bound for Melbourne in 1871 with 30 migrants and a cargo of cotton goods, ended up on the rocks off Bonchurch when a spirited south easterly pushed her ashore; the iron built barque Alpheta ran onto Bernbridge Ledge in 1877 and became a total loss; the 1,588 ton Sirenia fetched ashore on Atherfield Ledge in a storm in 1888; the Irex became a total wreck off the Needles in January 1890, some of her timbers eventually being salvaged and used for the construction of cottages in the nearby village of Freshwater; the fully-rigged ship Alcester, out of Liverpool and sailing from Calcutta to Hamburg, was lost on Atherfield Ledge in 1897 - she broke in two and became a total wreck.
In the same place, the German barque Auguste met her end in February 1900; the Carl, a fully-rigged ship, was driven into Fresh-water Bay by high tides and gale force winds, her crew scrambling to safety over the bowsprit. Her fate was more fortunate, however; she sailed again after a channel had been blasted through the shingle and the vessel have off by tugs.
Wreckings and strandings such as these were commonplace wherever tall ships sailed on the trade routes of the world. Their safest haven was the deep ocean. Land was a menace; a sailing ship master needed all his skill to keep his ship from driving ashore in inclement weather, although occasionally it was not only weather which was the menace.
When the Glasgow-built fully-rigged ship Glenesslin fetched up on the rocks beneath Neahkahnie Mountain on the Oregon coast of North America, she did so in style. She was 176 days out from Santos, Brazil in ballast for the Columbia River when on 1 October, 1913, a clear and fine day, the ship drove ashore with all sails set. At the hearing which followed, the blame for the wrecking was laid to incompetence, a patch of calm inside a nearby headland, and drink.
Ships which have survived to this day, and which have been lovingly restored for the public to see, are the lucky few. These were either converted to steam by shipowners when it became obvious that steam would take over the world's merchant ship fleets, or ended their working lives being used as bulk storage hulks, or, as in the case of the Peking, passed into more benevolent hands and were put to good use as static training ships.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Artisan Vases of Central America

Deep in Central America, there is a place called San Juan de Oriente. Like many small towns, it has a preschool, an elementary school, a middle school and a high school, each sufficient for its citizens. But there is no university. The town has a bar and pool hall popular with local residents. It has a beautiful church of pure white, built in the colonial style in 1612 by Gervasio Gallegos de Galacia and Juan de Bracamonte y Peñaranda. The town claims John the Baptist as its patron saint, and celebrates him annually.
Geographically, San Juan de Oriente is distinct because it is situated on the shore of a volcanic, saltwater lagoon - a crater lake. The town is nearly two hours from the nearest big city, and it relies on that city for electricity. So, not surprisingly, there are blackouts from time to time. Water access comes from a plant servicing several municipalities, so they all take turns with service; as a result, San Juan de Oriente gets running water every other day. They have a new health clinic, and ample cellphone service. Such is life in this small, Central American town.
What truly distinguishes San Juan de Oriente is its thriving population of artisans, who have been specialists in ceramics for centuries. Though their production techniques are more updated - potters today typically use a foot-powered wheel instead of hand coiling clay - these artisans still make their pieces by hand. Further, most contemporary potters learned their craft and the specific details of the art from their parents and grandparents.
The process is painstaking, in that their clay is essentially "raw" and must be picked clean of twigs, roots and rocks. It is softened and pounded over days of preparation, and then thrown on the wheel, after which it is burnished and smoothed by hand with smooth stones until all surface imperfections are removed.
Metal oxides are often used to color the clay surface, but they also use a black slip (liquid clay), which they prepare via an elaborate straining process, especially for coloring the pieces. Additional paints are used to apply beautiful designs, many of which are consistent with pre-Columbian motifs. Drying time varies according to season.
The artisans maintain a deep reverence for a particular technique dating back 2,500 years or more; known as "inciso," the method amounts to a relief style carving that removes only the smoothed, painted surface of the clay, exposing the rough surface just beneath. The result is a highly artful, often geometric effect that outlines or enhances the painted design.
Finally, the piece is fired in an extended, low-heat process, with gradual increases in temperature, until the final firing time is reached. The kiln is left to cool, and only then is the finished piece removed and shined by hand. It's a small industry, but it sustains whole families from these regions.
Online you can find companies that are proud to represent and promote the unique, collectible, and truly beautiful work of these artisans. In fact, each piece is signed by its creator. Your purchase supports a certified fair trade effort, and ensures continued prosperity for the families of artisans honoring the traditions of centuries of craftsmanship.