New Year’s Resolutions

Our first meeting for 2010 – and may it be a year of great eloquence and growth in confidence to everyone reading this – was held at the Morningside Country Club on Monday, 11th January. A small and enthusiastic group of members explored the theme of New Year’s resolutions.

The year started off very well with two members returning after an absence of many months. Kay Kotelo had a baby about 7 months ago and Jerry Goodman simply went into hibernation after completing a year as Vice-President Education in July.

It appears that New Years resolutions date back to 153 B.C. when the Roman god Janus was placed at the head of the calendar, January. He is portrayed as a god with two faces; one looking forward into the New Year and the other looking back into the year past. Janus became know as the god of resolutions. A tradition of giving gifts for good luck started in Rome when 1 January was assigned as the start of the New Year. The New Year and with it the exchanging of gifts, however, moved about a bit with Christians in the Middle Ages changing New Year to 25th December and then to the day of Annunciation, 25th March before Pope Gregory XIII returned it to 1st January.

Our president proposed the toast of the evening, not to resolutions but rather to a helpful way of keeping resolutions: to bite-sized chunks. Jerry responded to the toast, true to form, by resolving to “find a better place to hide the bodies” during 2010 and suggested that we should forgive ourselves for our failures.

The first of the prepared speeches was given by Kay in fulfilment of the second project towards a competent communicator. Her New Year’s resolution is to “shut up and get rich”. Her speech entitled obesity was a heartfelt plea to everyone to be aware of obesity and to adjust one’s lifestyle to prevent this chronic, worldwide problem caused as much by culture as by the media’s promise of an instant solution. In his evaluation of this speech, John-Peter Gernaat praised Kay for not only presenting a well structured speech but adding delightful humour and vivid word images. An example was Kay recording that she had been 33 kilograms overweight in the past and on reflection realised that this had been her weight at age nine so that she was a whole 9 year old overweight.

The second prepared speech by Rod Taylor fulfilled the requirements of the 6th project for a competent communicator. Entitled “The last 6 ball”, Rod compared the adventures and successes in his life to a game of cricket. Small achievements being equivalent to a single run while the success of catching his wife, Ruth equivalent to a resounding six. We had intimate glimpses into the private person in some of Rod’s achievements as well as sharing the disappointments of some of the “dropped balls” of his life, such as refusing an opportunity to crew on a Cape to Rio yacht race. Rod, by the way, does not make New Year’s resolutions believing that the time to act is NOW. Keith Bowen had ample scope to heap praise on Rod for an excellent speech within the requirements of this project, but was able to offer some guidance on gesture and body language.

The Table Topics, handled by John Russell, required six speakers to chose from an alphabetical list of the ten most popular New Year’s resolutions corresponding to the rank number they has elected. The impromptu speeches were either so good or so poor that a three-way tie resulted for the best impromptu speaker of the evening shared by Ryan Ebedes, Jerry Goodman and John-Peter Gernaat.

In the grammarians report, John-Peter was able to present an admirable list of well used expressions and word images. The word for the evening, like New Year’s resolutions, did not stick and ‘tenacity’ or ‘tenacious’ was only used by three people on five occasions.

Rod completed the core of the programme with a general evaluation of the evening.

The next meeting of Transformers Toastmasters will take place on the 25th January and everyone is most welcome. Transformers is also looking forward to the 22nd February which will be our 2010 Club Contest Evening with three competitions: English Prepared; Impromptu and Evaluation taking place. Only the English Prepared contest has prerequisites for entry (completion of project 6 for competent communicator), the other contests are open to everyone.

Looking forward to seeing guests are our next meeting.

Transformers Survivor 2009

Transformers Toastmasters Survivor 2009

The 2009 Transformers Toastmasters Survivor is ………..

We walked into a room that looked a little different to the usual Transformers meetings. We were greeted by a large earthenware pot poised on a table to right of where the podium usually stands and a slide projector and screen in the place of the podium. “Please write your names as large as possible on this card and hand it back”, was the instruction given.

The meeting started as usual but looking around the table it was evident that something was afoot. Many of the assembled group of 12 (9 members, 2 return guests and 1 new guest) were wearing unusual hats and brightly coloured attire. Call to order, introductions and the loyal toast were followed as usual by a toast for the evening. Cheryl-Lynn Langley toasted all South Africans as survivors for making it through this year of economic turbulence and the usual crime, she having been robbed the previous night. Glenice Ebedes offered the response. The scheduled prepared speech for the evening was postponed for logistical reasons.

Transformers Toastmasters Survivor Contest
Survivor Host Ryan Ebedes
Our toastmaster for the evening, Ryan Ebedes, adopted the title of ‘Survivor Host’ and explained the rules of the game of Survivor in which we were all about become participants. The first round of Transformers Survivor 2009 was open to everyone, and everyone participated. The purpose of the round was to demonstrate proficiency in the use of visual aids. Easy, you might think. However, our Survivor Host had created slide presentations of meaningless, but fun and colourful, pictures, graphics and quotes for the speakers to weave into a story spontaneously as the slide show unfolded. No preparation!

Here is a sample presentation. See whether you can invent a story to entertain your audience as the slides follow one another (starting with the Survivor logo).

Transformers Toastmasters Survivor Contest
Round 1 Impromptu slide show

Names were drawn from the earthenware pot.
Transformers Toastmasters Survivor Contest
Einstein .....
First up: John Russell; with the first slide depicting Albert Einstein with tongue protruded, he bravely commences a speech on the Laws of Relativity only to find the next slide stating E=MC3.
Transformers Toastmasters Survivor Contest
My uncle .....
Second up: John-Peter Gernaat who thought he’d beat the system by introducing his family and adapting the story as the quirky slides unfolded. Cheryl-Lynn spoke on success and brain power and somehow had to find a way of including a picture of a Bay Watch babe into the formula for success. Rod Taylor masterfully introduced the concept that the world is best understood through science which is not Mickey Mouse (to a picture of this lovable cartoon character).
Transformers Toastmasters Survivor Contest
... from the graph....
Faruk DuPont tried his best to offer a factual talk to each slide while
Transformers Toastmasters Survivor Contest
My son watches too much TV!
Ruth Taylor demonstrated the effect watching TV has on her son. Glenice manoeuvred Nemo through the teeth of sharks and Solani Bvuma deftly expanded on personal growth through life experience. First time guest, Jéan Joubert, turned the tables on the topic and used the presentation as an example of how to prepare a speech with visual aids: well done!
Transformers Toastmasters Survivor Contest
Extract yourself from difficulty
with humour...
Jim Powell explained the use of humour to extract oneself from difficulty and last of all
Transformers Toastmasters Survivor Contest
You choose rebirth.
You can die and not be reborn...
Mary Byrne explained rebirth from the time of recession as a matter of choice.

What fun as one after the other the speakers were caught out by unexpected images in the presentation that required very quick thinking to integrate them into a flowing speech. Seven contestants survived to the second round: Keith, Cheryl-Lynn, Rod, Ruth, Solani, Mary and John-Peter.

Round 2 required the contestants to demonstrate vocal variety and body language in the most unlikely of scenarios: Noah, about to seal the ark against the rains that have already started, is confronted by a pair of late-comer animals at the foot of the gang plank. In a 2-minute speech the speaker had to alternate between motivating for this pair to come aboard and against such a decision at the ring of a bell. Cheryl-Lynn had to argue for saving the ostrich; Ruth really did not want a pair of tarantulas onboard; Mary capsized the ark with a pair of elephants; Rod was faced with rotting sheep’s wool; Keith wanted to prevent the elephants being consumed by boa constrictors (trust you have all read/seen “the Little Prince” by Saint-Exupéry); Solani fended off flesh eating piranha and finally, John-Peter had mosquitoes buzzing around his ears – why couldn’t they just fly on in? The photos don’t do justice to the antics of the speakers.

Transformers Toastmasters Survivor Contest
Ostriches ... No!
Transformers Toastmasters Survivor Contest
Tarantulas .... pretty webs, but ...

Transformers Toastmasters Survivor Contest
Boa constrictors might swallow elephants...

Transformers Toastmasters Survivor Contest

What do we do with the shorn wool?

Transformers Toastmasters Survivor Contest
Three finalists.
Only three contestants made it through to round three: Cheryl-Lynn, Mary and John-Peter.

Well that sorted out the top three: could have handed out the chocolates and gone home……..

Round 3 required the contestants to demonstrate the best use of props. Speaking to an auditorium of archaeologists each contestant was asked to open a box that contained an unknown artefact and to present same to audience as the archaeological find of the century!

Transformers Toastmasters Survivor Contest
.... excavated on Planet 3 ....
Mary presented her artefact to a Martian audience as a find from Planet 3.Transformers Toastmasters Survivor ContestCheryl-Lynn cleverly had her audience touch and feel the artefact she had unearthed to show how weird humanity had looked way back when.
Transformers Toastmasters Survivor Contest
... artictic skill ....
Lastly, John-Peter demonstrated the artistic skills of an advanced civilisation that pre-dated Great Zimbabwe.

By audience vote the final results were:

Transformers Toastmasters Survivor ContestThird prize: Mary Byrne

Transformers Toastmasters Survivor ContestSecond prize: John-Peter Gernaat

Transformers Toastmasters Survivor ContestAnd the Transformers Survivor for 2009: Cheryl-Lynn Langley.

This pretty much means that an annual contest has been added to the Transformers calendar.

Transformers Toastmasters Survivor Contest
Winning the raffle.
Chocolates were handed out all round and the prize winners received more chocolate. - And I’m certain very little of this made it home, let alone to the Festive Tree. - The first prize was a Lindt Christmas Father. Group photos were taken and a bottle of bubbly was raffled off. Then normalcy returned as the gavel returned to the club president to wrap up the evening.

Under Hall of Fame, Glenice reported her first 2 paying assignments as an events photographer. Well done.

Toastmasters’ year runs from July to June. This was the last meeting for the calendar year but marks the mid-point in the Toastmasters year. The first meeting for 2010 takes place on Monday, 11th January at the Tennis Pavilion of the Morningside Country Club and everyone is welcome. If you would like to attend as a guest to investigate Toastmasters give John-Peter a call or drop him an email (just click Contact Us/Map/Directions in the grey box alongside). The committee of Transformers wishes everyone, Toastmasters, guests and casual readers of this website, a wonderful and safe festive season.

Transformers Toastmasters Survivor Contest
Transformers Toastmasters Survivor 2009

Obama the communicator

Barack Obama won the US Presidential election on the basis of his ability to communicate rapidly and honestly. The turning point of his campaign was a speech he delivered on 18th March 2008 at Constitution Centre Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in response to the attention given to controversial remarks made by the Reverend Jeremiah Wright, his former pastor and, until shortly before the speech, a participant in his campaign. The speech's title was taken from the Preamble to the United States Constitution: “A more perfect Union”. Responding rapidly and decisively to a situation that could have scuppered his presidential race, resulted in the words of chief speech writer becoming prophetic: "This is why you should be president."

Toastmasters teaches the ability to think rapidly on one’s feet and respond to any situation. The Table Topics are typically an occasion where quick thinking is required. On this particular evening our Sergeant-at-Arms was called upon at the last moment to offer the toast of the evening.

An intimate gathering of six toastmasters and two guests was held on Monday 23rd November. Last minute apologies resulted in the toastmaster for the evening taking on the role of timekeeper as well and no one evaluating the use of words, grammar and idiom for the evening.

The toast of the evening was to the Spirit of South Africans in light of the soccer world cup that is now fast approaching.

Transformers Toastmasters Oxytocin
Oxytocin (ball-and-stick) bound
to its carrier protein (ribbons)

Siyabonga Ndlovu presented his second prepared speech in fulfilment of the second project of the Competent Communicator. He spoke passionately about the benefits of a hug, exhorting everyone to adopt the habit of showing affection and causing the release of oxytocin: the hormone of love and bonding.

John-Peter Gernaat used his voice to fulfil project six of the Competent Communicator: this project requiring vocal variety. He enthralled his audience with a narrative of an encounter with a black mamba on a quite Sunday afternoon while going out to feed a collection of endangered parrots. Although entitled “Snakes Alive!” the mamba ended up dead and measured in excess of 2.3m. No the usual Sunday afternoon encounter….

The Table Topics Master had us guessing at the meaning of obscure words. In most cases, unable to guess the meaning, the speaker invented the most implausible story. Taking the cue from Barack Obama’s “We can” slogan Faruk DuPont explained what we do when “We can rowel”. In fact we rowel with the waves of live and prosper! (I’ll leave the intrepid reader to Google the true meaning of the words for themselves.) Siyabonga explained that locusts sawder fields of grain with their hind legs: over- flattering the locust’s destructive ability. John-Peter unfroze the word regelate by enjoying reggae late into the night. Jim Powell flensed insects from his aeroplane by flying through the clouds, leaving the grubby work of stripping blubber to the Norwegians. (Sorry, can’t resist cryptically alluding to the real meaning of the words.) Mary Byrne sang the praises of Dilbert as the King of Knapping or catching 40 winks with eyes open.

The highlight of the evening was an educational session by Mary Byrne on the purpose of offering Speech Craft to the public. Speech Craft teaches the skills of Toastmasters, i.e. the skills of public speaking: structuring a speech, use of body and voice, in a concentrated form and the participants have the opportunity to prepare at least three speeches to hone these skills. Speech Craft courses permit Toastmasters clubs to raise funds for their clubs.

Well deserved awards for the evening went to Siyabonga for most improved speaker, John-Peter for his impromptu speech, Rod Taylor for his evaluation of Siyabonga’s speech and best contribution to Ryan Ebedes for regaling us with the highlights of Barack Obama’s presidential campaign.

The year is rapidly drawing to a close. All members and past guests are invited to our year-end function on Sunday, 13th December. Confirmation of attendance is required and should be sent to Keith Bowen at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

The final Transformers meeting will be held at the Morningside Country Club on Monday, 14th December and everyone is warmly invited to participate in “Transformers Survivor 2009”. So don’t sit in front of the TV watching Survivor, come and participate and become a survivor yourself. Guests are warmly invited.


Google, the internet search engine, is named after the googol which is 10100 or ten duotrigintillion on the short scale, ten thousand sexdecillion on the long scale, or ten sexdecilliard on the Peletier long scale or 10,000,000,000, 000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000, 000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000, 000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000. Amazing the things one learns at Toastmasters!

Oh! By the way, Google calls their corporate headquarters the Googleplex. Guess what …. also names after a mathematical term – googolplex. A googolplex is 10 raised to the power of a googol - 10(10100). Carl Sagan estimated that writing a googolplex would be physically impossible, since doing so would require more space than the known universe provides and it would take longer than the time since the creation of the universe.

Our meeting on Monday, 9th November was themed Google. Our toastmaster for the evening, Keith Bowen, kept us thoroughly entertained with information on this theme and was awarded best contribution for the evening for his efforts. Our appointed Wordmaster failed to make the meeting and Mary Byrne, Sergeant-at-arms, added this task to that of Timekeeper for the evening. She gave us the word “correspond” to use as often as possible. Such a common word and it only received three utterances during the entire evening.

Second-time guest, Jim Powell, toasted “all those who would make South Africa a better place” in the toast of the evening reminding us of everyone who goes the extra mile to make other people’s lives better.

Back to Google for a moment: Since ‘1984’ by George Orwell was published we have all been on the alert for Big Brother. Google, with 24 server farms and 450 000 servers (round numbers I guess), had created a wonderful thing called the Google Cloud where we can store information, we use GMail, Google Chat and Google Voice for communication. Soon all email and social networking application will become obsolete with Google Wave. We store our contacts on Google and keep up with our appointments, which, by the way, we can share with the world, on Google Calendar. Our lives are stored with ONE corporation – friendly, non-threatening, helpful – and all-knowing!

The Table Topics for the evening were inspired by Google and six people had the opportunity to speak on one of the Google application: Pedometer, Voice, Translate, Earth, Chat and Maps. Although most speakers tried to provide more information on the Google application Rod Taylor, speaking about Earth spoke eloquently about our planet and the soil with till that gives us life. Ruth Taylor speaking about Chat also chose to steer well clear of Google and spoke about conversations. Notwithstanding their valiant defiance of Google the award for best Impromptu Speaker was shared by Ryan Ebedes and John-Peter Gernaat.

Two prepared speeches formed the core of the evenings proceedings. Ruth Taylor’s speech entitled “The Power of the Tongue” fulfilled the requirements of the sixth project for a Competent Communicator and required the use of vocal variety. She spoke about the damage that our words can do to others and exhorted her audience to use the power of our words to build people up and raise their self-esteem. She ended with a wonderful quote that she spoke in the most delightful way: “Death and life are in the power of the tongue” (Proverbs 18:21).

Rod Taylor fulfilled the requirements of the Interpersonal Advanced manual and Asserted Himself. He explained the steps of being assertive and then enacted a role play with Cheryl-Lynn Langley in which she was the animal hospital supervisor and he was bringing in his pet dog to be spayed but had misunderstood the timing and arrived 2 hours late. As a result of his assertive approach he may have been successful in having his pet spayed on the day. We did not find out…..

We were a small and intimate group for this meeting and look forward to seeing many more people at our last meeting for the year on 14th December 2009.