Blog Archives




Kristin Szremski is a 53-year-old mom from Palo Hills, Illinois. Born into a Missouri-Synod Lutheran family, she first converted to Catholicism before finding her place in Islam. This year, Szremski was one of the hundreds of thousands of Muslims who were drawn to Mecca between October 2 – 7 to complete the fifth pillar of Islam, the Hajj.

She tells Huffington Post about her experience below. Some answers have been edited for length and clarity.

Read the rest of this entry

Subhana’llah: Sawfish (IMAGES)


info-pictogram1 The sawfish has a flattened shark-shaped body, brown to bluish-grey in colour, with a white underside, and wing-shaped pectoral fins. The saw is a quarter of the total length of the body and has between 25 and 32 pairs of small, sharp teeth which are longer and less broad towards the end of the saw.

Read the rest of this entry



info-pictogram1 This yellow-eyed, black-beaked white bird is easily recognizable. It is 52–71 cm (20–28 in) long, with a 125–150 cm (49–59 in) wingspan. Also, these birds can weigh anywhere from 1.6 to 3 kg (3.5 to 6.6 lb). It is one of the largest species of owl and, in North America, is on average the heaviest owl species. The adult male is virtually pure white, but females and young birds have some dark scalloping; the young are heavily barred, and dark spotting may even predominate. Its thick plumage, heavily feathered taloned feet, and colouration render the Snowy Owl well-adapted for life north of the Arctic Circle.

The moon is drifting away from earth at a rate of about 3.78cm per year (IMAGE)


How to Run Productive Meetings


If you ever need to hold a meeting and you want to make it a success, use the 40-20-40 continuum. Focus 40% of your attention for each meeting on preparation and getting everything right before you meet, then 20% of your attention on the meeting itself — the time you’re all together — and then spend 40% of your attention on the follow-through.

40% Preparation

Get the preparation right and you will make the meetings you hold seem like magic. Here are a few ways that good preparation can pay itself back in spades.

1. Begin with the end in mind

When planning your meeting, start with the end in mind. Rather than waiting until halfway through a meeting to work out what you think the outcome should be, start there. You can even add this to the agenda, and as a chair, make sure it is part of your introduction. By being clearer from the outset, a lot of thinking will have been done before the meeting even gets under way.

2. Flow

Think about the meeting as a journey. The starting point is setting the scene: Introductions to one another, the topic and to the endpoint in mind. The middle stage is the exploration: Discussion, questioning and beginning to form some agreements. The end of a meeting should be where you are into decisions, actions and agreeing the next practical steps forward.

3. Schedule difficult agenda items immediately before breaks

When working out the agenda and meeting length, it is useful to schedule difficult agenda items immediately before breaks. This will hopefully keep things brief as it is a brave person who delays everyone’s lunch, and if things do get a little heated, the break offers time to calm everyone down.

4. Length — allow time for wiggle room

Make sure you are sensible, yet realistic, with the length of the meeting. If you are a disciplined chair, you can probably get it done in a shorter time than would be expected, though always allow time for wiggle room.

5. Control your Outlook, don’t let Outlook control your meetings

Meetings should rarely be exactly 30 minutes or 60 minutes long — the default times from Outlook — so make it 20 minutes or 45 minutes. It may only seem like ten minutes here and there, but ten minutes of proactive attention time is like gold dust.

6. Prepare — create the culture you need

Print agendas, bring background papers or information and use PowerPoint to provide a professional ‘feel’ and structure. Create a culture where preparation is absolutely expected. I did some interim management work where we were expected to have read all the papers in advance. As a result, the conversations were focused on opinions and actions rather than on clarifications or long explorations.

20% is the Meeting Itself

You have prepared meticulously and encouraged others to do the same. How do you ensure that the meeting is productive?

Read the rest of this entry



The Frill-necked Lizard got its name for the large ruff of skin which usually lays folded back against its head and neck. The lizard may grow up 3 feet in total length. Australia and Papua New Guinea are the main places where you will find this creature.