July 31, 2009

Music! Music! Music!

As you know from reading this blog, music is a huge part of my life. I sing in a Sweet Adelines women's barbershop harmony chorus and am also part of a quartet. A friend sent me a YouTube video of a championship men's barbershop chorus that blew my socks off! First of all, they have over 100 members onstage at the national competition. Our chorus is lucky if we can get 30 on the risers for our competition! Second, these men give an absolutely incredible performance of "76 Trombones", including singing, dancing, and a few little tricks, too.

If you think barbershop harmony is a few old guys getting together and singing old, tired songs, do yourself a favor and click on the picture of the "Ambassadors of Harmony" over in the right column. Be sure that your sound is turned up and watch it all the way through. You won't be disappointed, I promise!

July 23, 2009

There Oughta Be a Law

This link will take you to a wonderful article from Smithsonian Magazine written by William Ecenbarger. It's a whimsical description of what the U.S. Capitol might look like in 2509 if it were designed from C-Span videos collected over the years. Enjoy!

There Oughta Be a Law

July 22, 2009

Writing Experience?

I just finished an "exercise" that was quite new for me. I need a letter of recommendation for a new group I may be leading on a tour next spring and my supervisor at one of the companies I work with offered to provide one. She asked me to write something up and send it to her, which she would then sign and send to the requester.

I've never had to write a letter of recommendation about myself and wasn't quite sure how to approach it. How do you make yourself sound good without going overboard in the other direction and coming off as egotistical and vain? How do you point out your qualities without sounding like you're perfect and god-like? Do you mention your faults or do you just avoid them?

It took me a good part of the day to come up with something, even though it ended up being just three short paragraphs. I sent it to my supervisor and she said it was great. Hmmm...is that because she wants me to get the job with the other group or because she's hoping I won't, so I'll be available to work for her instead. LOL!

I've always been a good writer...or so I've been told by friends, family, coworkers and supervisors over the years. Once I get going on writing something, it just seems to come flowing out. It's the getting started that's difficult! I asked my friend, AirmanMom how she manages to write so much in her blog and still keep it so interesting. I just can't seem to come up with things to write about. That's why my blog has big chunks of time when nothing has been posted. AM said she collects things to post as she sees them, gets them ready and saves them as a draft, then goes back to them when she needs something to fill in a day. I think I'm going to try that. I do get lots of interesting tidbits of information from fellow guides. Perhaps my followers would like to read them, too.

I'm not giving up...but I'm also not going to bore the world with this blog. At least, I hope not!! Stay tuned. This is definitely a work in progress!

PS -- I just heard back from my supervisor who said she'd send the reference. It turns out that she thought I was being considered for a job in the Fall, not one in the Spring, the busiest time of the tour season. She wrote back immediately and said that her company (my favorite to work for) would schedule me for those dates right now if I would give up the other request. No problem! I guess I wasn't too far off the mark with my comments a couple of paragraphs above! Gee, it feels good to have people fighting over you. :-)

July 10, 2009

A Tour Guide's Tribute to Security Guards

The tour season is essentially over for this year -- I have just one more day this weekend and that's it. Notice I said "tour season", not "tourist season". Summer is a very busy time for tourists in Washington, DC, but the organized tours -- schools, seniors, churches, etc. -- are mostly done in the spring, and those are the types of tours I usually lead.

It was a good season for me with lots of terrific groups! There isn't a single one that I wouldn't want to guide again. In fact, several groups have already requested me to be their tour guide next year. I had some adventures, both good and bad, but no major catastrophes...at least, not with my groups.

I was leading a school group on the day of the shooting at the Holocaust Memorial Museum, but I was fortunate because we were somewhere else when it happened. That doesn't make the whole thing any less horrible! I go to that museum every week. It could just as easily have been me and my group inside when the shooting occurred instead of another guide and her/his group. I know several who were there when it happened. I've heard the stories of how they had students hiding under the metal benches in the lobby or pushing groups back into the permanent exhibit to keep them away from the shooter. I can only imagine the terror that they had to deal with that day. Thankfully, all of the visitors were safe and evacuated without harm, but that memory will stay with them forever.

What causes people to hate others so much? I have never been able to understand why you would hate anyone just because of their color or religion or political beliefs. Maybe I'm naive....or maybe it's because my parents raised me to be open-minded enough to accept people for what is inside of them and not to judge them by the way they look or act. I'm certainly not perfect and I'm sure there's no one in the world who can say they are 100% unbiased all of the time. After all, we're human! But I just don't understand people who thrive on hating others. And, of course, the greatest irony of all is that the shooting occurred at the one place in our city that has dedicated itself to teaching and showing people how horrible the world can be when we are taught to hate others!

My thoughts and prayers are still with Officer Stephen Johns' family. I didn't know him personally, but many of my fellow guides knew him well from seeing him week after week. I'm told he was a kind, gentle man. It must be true because his last act on earth was to open the door to the Holocaust Memorial Museum for an 88-year-old man who was having trouble walking....the same man who raised a rifle and shot Officer Johns dead!

As a tour guide, we tend to look at all of the security checkpoints we have to go through here in DC as a pain in the butt. It slows us down, creates havoc when you have 100+ people to get through the magnetometers and x-ray machines. People who visit Washington from other parts of the country aren't used to all of the security checks. Many of them have only had to deal with it when they go to the airport, not when they go into a building to get lunch or enter a museum! I tell the students in my groups on the very first day of a tour that we take security very seriously here and it's just something we have learned to live with.

Since the shooting of Officer Johns, I look at these security checks in a whole different light. These guards who have to tell visitors the same thing a thousand times a day -- "empty your pockets...take out all electronics, such as cell phones, IPods, digital cameras, etc....remove your belts if they have large buckles..." and on and on -- are doing this to protect us! It may seem like they're just hanging around, waiting to give us a hard time when the buzzer goes off as we pass through the checkpoint, but they are there to put their lives on the line, if necessary, to keep us safe!

Since the shooting on June 10, I have made a point of thanking every single security guard I pass and telling them how much I appreciate what they do for us! It's not much, I know, but I can tell by their reactions -- a smile, a quick "thank you", a nod of the head -- that they are grateful that I do it. It's the least I can do for them. The next time you pass a security guard as you enter a building, you might want to say "thank you", too.

If you would like to do more, please visit the memorial page for Officer Johns and make a donation to the fund that has been established for his family. Just follow this link: http://www.ushmm.org/memoriam/detail.php?content=johns