Today at sunset I’m asking Rebecca to be my wife! If you don't read any further, at a minimum read this: There's a possiblilty you're reading this before the plan goes down, so please wait until Sunday if you'd like to call us, just in case. Thanks :) As I post this, I’m about to surprise her with a trip to our favorite beach resort, Villas Del Pacifico. We’ll leave school right at 2:30, and when I miss the turn for home, I’m going to have to ask her to just stop asking questions. The plan is this, in a perfect vision: At sunset we go for a walk on the beach, and when we return to the stretch of black sand near our resort, she finds an uncommonly large and beautiful shell on the beach. Curiosity gets the better of her, and when she picks it up, it will has a five-foot long string leading to a small, shallowly buried treasure chest. I’m still collected enough to be playing dumb as she opens the chest to find a titanium and cubic zirconium tension mount ring that she can wear in Guatemala. Inscribed on the inside are the words "Yesod, Nuestro Año, Our Eternal Love". "Yesod" is Hebrew for "foundation", referring to our families and the time before we met. "Nuestro Año" is Spanish for "Our Year". When I take a knee, I insist on placing this on her right ring finger. Mid-protest I retrieve our real engagement ring from my pocket and tell her that this one is for back home. We’ll leave it in Chicago over winter break. When we return to the resort, she finds a few of our close friends waiting for us with smiles, drinks, and hugs, and she discovers that they video taped the proposal with us in front of the sunset. I’m really excited! I hope everything comes together, it’s sort of a complicated plan. She has no idea, in fact I’ve taken great care to make her think I’m broke, and that I feel like we haven’t spent enough time with each other’s family and friends, and "the timing is just off". About a month ago we were having a really great moment and she jokingly begged "When are we going to get engaged?" I got to ham it up as the commitment-fearing bachelor and cite all my reasons again... :) It’s been hard to maintain this charade, but I know that she wants to be surprised more than anything else. I have an entire page written for her about how-in-the-world I’ve been hiding this since May, how/when I got a chance to ask her parents and email our moms pictures of the ring, and a few close calls when she almost caught my chicanery. We’ve been dating for a year and a half. I couldn’t have asked for more in a companion, a love, a wife. She means the world to me and I've never been happier. Since I’m teaching multimedia, I used this as an excuse to practice macro photography. Here are the rings. Thanks to all our friends and family for your love and support!

New Ascent: Acatenango

Volcano Acatenango, Guatemala Elevation: 13,041 feet (3,976 m), third tallest in Guatemala Last eruption: 1972 Good view of highly active twin volcano named Fuego MapNov 20 - Sat, 4PM. Expedition begins at Soledad (8,530 ft) with 15 people from school. We reach base camp 3hr 20min later and camp overnight. acatenango1.jpgSun, 3AM. Seven of us wake up and climb 45 degree grade by headlamp and moonlight. Nothing is more frustrating than climbing loose volcanic scree in the dark in very thin air. 5:30 AM. Summit Reached. The following picture was taken with a 15 second shutter, which is why the lava, stars, and sunrise appear this way. Temperatue est. to be -15 degF; we could only bear it long enough to catch sunrise at 6AM. I'll let the pictures tell the rest of the story. acatenango2.jpgacatenango3.jpgacatenango4.jpgacatenango5.jpgacatenango6.jpgacatenango7.jpg

Business Book Roundup

Chad G. / Merrill Lynch Obviously I'm not in consulting, but here are some books others outside my industry (finance) have found interesting: A Random Walk Down Wall Street by Burton Malkiel - A must for anyone who invests or saves for the future, whether independently or in a 401K...layman’s terms of how Wall Street thinks and explains why the general public is at a disadvantage. The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand - Just read them, it will all make sense then. Fooled by Randomness: The Hidden Role of Chance in the Markets and in Life by Nassim Nicholas Taleb - How we perceive and deal with luck in business and life, extremely entertaining The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey - Been around forever but still very relevant and interesting read When Genius Failed by Roger Lowenstein - Seems like a fictional drama, difficult to put down. The scary thing is it is all true and happened just over six years ago

Varun T. / UIUC (Personal Experience) Consulting Demons, The Art of the Deal, Liar's Poker (Consulting) Flawless Consulting, McKinsey Way, McKinsey Mind, Clients for Life, Outsourcing: A CIO's Perspective, the SAP Handbook (Finance) Not a book, but a great resource - Warren Buffett's Letters to Shareholders on, Fixed Income Securities/Mathematics (I actually met the author, Frank Fabozzi - tremendous individual)

Ron A. / JPMC As for reading suggestions, I read McKinsey Mind a LONG time ago, and I’m sure that you found it to be as commercial and common sense as I did. Here is what I have been reading lately, and I recommend all of them to you, because I think our minds and approaches are similar. The real good McKinsey books can never be written, because they are too busy working. However, the new book on Enron is interesting to me, as lately I’ve been fascinated with markets in general. Must Read: Fooled By Randomness, Taleb - An excellent book on randomness from a traders perspective, a must read. The Tipping Point - forget the author, you and I want to run our own companies, this too is a must read as marketing will be more than half the adventure. On a side note, everyone I speak with that has tried a Segway would give an arm for one, yet they are nowhere. I’m reading a lot of banking and financial theory books, most of which are for my edification and offer really no value of important things. I have heard the series First Break all the Rules (FBATR) is great. There is a follow up to that book I believe, Now Discover Your Strengths.

John H. / Bain Consulting / Business books (mainly Bain books... go figure): &nbsp&nbsp&nbsp□&nbspBeyond the Core (Chris Zook) &nbsp&nbsp&nbsp□&nbspAligning the Stars (Tierney, et al) &nbsp&nbsp&nbsp□&nbspA Passion for Ideas: How Innovators Create the New and Shape Our World Mastering the Merger (Sam Rovit) &nbsp&nbsp&nbsp□&nbspLoyalty Rules! How today's leaders build lasting relationships (Reichheld) &nbsp&nbsp&nbsp□&nbspWhen Genius Failed &nbsp&nbsp&nbsp□&nbspBarbarians of the Gate &nbsp&nbsp&nbsp□&nbspMonkey Business Other random books, mainly recco's from friends: &nbsp&nbsp&nbsp□&nbspRich Dad, Poor Dad &nbsp&nbsp&nbsp□&nbspFast Food Nation &nbsp&nbsp&nbsp□&nbspLife of Pi &nbsp&nbsp&nbsp□&nbspHow full is your bucket? &nbsp&nbsp&nbsp□&nbspBorn to Buy: The Commercialized Child and the New Consumer Culture Books I've already read that I'd really recommend: &nbsp&nbsp&nbsp□&nbspTipping point, by Malcolm Gladwell &nbsp&nbsp&nbsp□&nbspConsulting Demons, by Lewis Pinault

Evan H. / Deloitte I haven’t read any of these books (besides some of Covey’s books), but my dad does a lot of work in Organization Change and Leadership, and here’s what he recommended: Two books by Dr. Jim Collins: Built to Last and Good to Great. These books by Collins are very good. Here are a few others:

  • Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done by Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan
  • What Really Works: The 4 + 2 Formula for Sustained Business Success by William Joyce, Nitin Nohria and Bruce Robertson
  • Grow Your Own Leaders: How to Identify, Develop and Retain Leadership Talent by William C. Byham, Audrey Smith and Mathew Paese.
  • Also the books by Stephen Covey: The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, First Things First, and Living the Seven Habits
  • Books by Ken Blanchard. His are quite good.
  • Let’s Get Real or Let’s Not Play: The Demise of Dysfunctional Selling and the Advent of Helping Clients Succeed by Mahan Khalsa
  • Leading at the Edge by Dennis N.T. Perkins

Oren L. / Hewitt Associates 1 – Leadership by Rudy Giuliani I read this a while back; it's a fairly well written book that pieces together his overall leadership strategies with good real-life anecdotes to illustrate his points. Not that we're mayors or anything, but his focus on analysis and planning is a good model to emulate. 2 – Moneyball by Michael Lewis Currently reading this one; baseball teams aren't really that much different from your typical client- managers making decisions without real facts, old methods & people vs. new, and how technology can be a catalyst for change.

Trent F. / Accenture The 48 Rules of Power The Art of War Influence : The Psychology of Persuasion -Robert B. Cialdini - Quick read, marketing slant. The Project Manager's Desk Reference - James P. Lewis - Decent reference for "checking" yourself as a project is in process. Fiction: Snow Crash by Neil Stephenson

Matt M. / Mars & Co. Consulting Required reading for new associates: Business Overview: Competitive Advantage - Michael Porter Strategy: Wharton on Dynamic Competitive Strategy - Georges Day and David Rebstein Competing Against Time - Georges Stalk and Thomas Hout Corporate Level Strategy - Goold, Campbell, and Alexander Thinking Strategically - Avinash Dixit and Barry Nalebuff Six Sigma - Mikel Harry and Richard Schroeder Value Migration - Adrian Slywotzky The Alchemy of Growth - Baghai, Coley, and White Organizational Strategy: Foundations of Organizational Strategy - Michael Jensen Reengineering the Corporation - Michael Hammer and James Champy The Balanced Scorecard Strategy - Robert Kaplan and David Norton Finance/Economics: Valuation- Copeland, Koller and Murrin Strategic Cost Management - Shank and Govindarajan Security Analysis - Graham and Dodd Power Pricing - Robert Dolan and Hermann Simon Competitive Intelligence: Competitive Intelligence - Larry Kahamer Manufacturing: The Goal - Goldratt Technology: The innovator’s Dilemma - Clayton Christensen Unleashing the Killer App - Downes and Mui

Arm Hair for Children

Yesterday I went with Beck to volunteer at an orphanage. We played with the kids, mostly between 3 and 7 years old, and took ten of them to the park. I don't know why I was imagining such horrible conditions. They were clean, wonderfully behaved, clothed and fed. All they want is a little attention like a hug, smile, or push on the swing. It's amazing how happy this makes them. We played Red Rover Red Rover (Spanish Remix), so I'm holding hands with a kid on either side. In a lull in the ruckus, I felt the strangest sensation. The little girl on my right was gently putting her mouth as close to my forearm as possible without touching skin, closing her lips, then pulling her head away to feel my thick, soft, bushy arm hair slide between her lips. Even when she saw me giving her a funny look, she continued doing it with a guilty look on her face that said, "I know I might get in trouble, but this is AMAZING and I'm not giving up this sensation." Imagine you have 6 years and have never seen anything but black hair. Never seen fair skin or arm hair longer than a 1/4".

Most Unhealthy Food Invented in Guatemala

It's actually a fact that the McDonalds Happy Meal was invented by a Guatemalan woman who used to throw large parties for her children and would order McDonalds for all the kids. She used to call over to McD's ahead of time and say "Please put them all in separate bags, and can you throw in a toy?". But a Happy Meal is not the most unhealthy food in the world. It's called a Shuko, and it's coming to a heart attack near you. Start and get your carb on with a hearty hot-dog bun - white, not wheat. Grill this toasty while you slice a hot dog in half lengthwise and throw it on the barbie as well. Spread mayonnaise on the bun, toss the dog halves on, and drown this in guacamole. Dollop some mustard on it all and pile on some sour kraut (this makes it healthy). Wrap this up and deliver it to a screaming child who is late for class. They're sold every Thursday during passing periods by the moms who run the findraiser "Tienda Day".

'Tis the Season

I was raised with solid family values, like: Don't even think about Christmas until after Thanksgiving. In this country, since neither Halloween nor Thanksgiving is really celebrated, there are no limits to how early businesses and the city can start decorating. I saw my first christmas tree on October 15th. That's one-fifth of the year spent with Christmas decorations up. They go nuts. Although it's never snowed here, we have Christmas lights, styrofoam snowballs and snowmen, Santa figurines, even fake icicles. snowman.jpg No wonder it's on their mind - it's been COLD here this week, quite the snap frost. It would be so brazenly [US] American of me to be insensitive and apply my standards of "cold". I got emails forwarded to me about clothing drives and the need for coats. The students are wearing scarves in class. Rebecca's kindergartners come to school in overstuffed down coats, mittens, wool hats, arctic boots. The coldest day was Monday, it hit 66 degF in the Morning. Brrrrrrrrrrr. I wore long sleeves.

Commentary from the Peanut Gallery

From: Dad [mailto:] Sent: Monday, November 08, 2004 3:24 PM To: Jeff Cc: Mom Subject: Blogs Hi Jeff, I've been reading your blogs lately. You're doing a great job of writing them--much better than your usual email correspondence. You must be writing with the mind that they are being read by many people. They sound so authoritative, almost straight out of National Geographic. I was particularly interested in you multimedia account of climbing Pacaya. I had no idea that there were so many people in Guatemala that enjoyed shooting clay pigeons. In this country skeet shooting is usually pretty expensive. It's mind boggling to think that there should be the remains of so many clay pigeons that high up on the mountain as to cause you difficulty climbing. Good thing Mom sent you my mountaineering reference book. I'm sure that with all the noise of the volcano that you probably had to scree-m to be heard. As a teacher whom students take as an authority, may I refer you to Merriam-Webster. Perhaps you should check out Definition of Scree and Definition of Skeet. Interesting that both words are of Scandinavian origin. Maybe you had a blond moment. Love, Dad

Posada de Santiago, Atitlan

We went to what has to be one of the nicest resorts in Guatemala - $15 per person per night. Great food, fireplace with wood in each bungalow, massage, horseshoes, pool right on the lake, sauna, hot tub, canoes and a hobie cat. The pictures will speak for themselves. santiagosm5.jpgsantiagosm1.jpgsantiagosm4.jpgsantiagosm2.jpgsantiagosm3.jpg

Illicit Materials at School

I've had some great first-year-teacher experiences. Like the first day of class when I wrote on the dry erase board with an unlabeled permanent marker. Rebecca and I are noticing that the kids are really falling apart lately when it comes to knowing what is inappropriate to bring to school. My multimedia class is putting together a composite project that will be a promotional movie poster of the class. It will feature each of them dressed in superhero gear, looking tough. Photoshop it all together, put it on a slick background, add a WordArt title, A+ for everyone. Unless you bring a real gun to school for the photoshoot. All I could say was, "What the... What is that? Give it to me. This is REAL. What the hell are you thinking? Now I have to walk over to the dean's office packing heat." Of course we reviewed the other options he had: ask permission first, take the picture at home, or bring a fake plastic gun. Discipline was easy: his mother worked at the school. Administration informed her that in the States her son would've been expelled. The Kindergarten Principal recently sent home a note to all parents for a similar problem. Rebecca has been dealing with many Kindergartners bringing makeup to school, hiding it in their bags, and sloppily applying it to each other during recess. Detection of this offense is relatively straightforward.

Technical Support in Education

Most teachers are fairly tech savvy. I know education doesn't have a reputation for being on the bleeding edge or anything, but most teachers are expected to use technology fairly regularly, and integrate some technology basics in their curriculum. That being said, I feel that there's a certain rare stupidity that runs just a little deeper and truer; one that can slip through the cracks in education (and other demographics of course, such as chefs, janitorial engineers, and Alaskans). Evidence is mounting, but perhaps the most telling is an anecdote (or vignette, as we call them in educational research) born just yesterday. The pre-primary area has a closet lab with two computers. An educator was using both computers simultaneously. When approached about the availability of a computer, the teacher responded, "I need to use both because I need to type something while I use the web to search on the other". In the tech department, we've decided to downgrade her system to DOS, then install Win3.11 in a month when she's ready for the new "multitasking" capabilities of Windows.