Ask the grumpies: What icebreakers do you use?

Leah asks:

What icebreakers do you like to use when getting to know a group/class?

#1:  I make them exchange contact information (of any kind– doesn’t have to be a phone number or email address– just someway to get in contact about class work) with at least 2 other people.  That’s about it.  Lately that has led to them all signing up to the same groupme. (I don’t understand why they don’t use blackboard but they’ll use groupme or email me personally.  Like… what is it about only having your message seen by EITHER your fellow classmates OR your professor, but not both at the same time?  I really don’t get it.  But I digress.)

#2:  F* icebreakers. Hahaha I never have to teach againnnnnnnn

What icebreakers does the grumpy nation recommend?


Toothpaste Sommelier

There was a lot of hype around the Royal Wedding this past spring (gag).  I took no part in it and missed the whole thing [#2 totally looked at the “10 weirdest hats” kinds of picture documentaries on EW, linked off CNN].  However, it did get me thinking about pomp and how unrealistic it all was, and what kind of jobs REALLY need doing in a royal palace if you are super-rich.  Behold, my awesome idea: the Toothpaste Sommelier.

(If this already exists, don’t tell me.  Let me have my dream that I am creative sometimes.)

This job is one of those high-falutin’, strange, silly jobs that linger in the British Monarchy from times gone by, like the person whose job it used to be to help the king put his shoes on or whatever.  The Lady-in-Waiting-in-Charge-of-Combs.  Minister-of-selecting-the-king’s-scarf.  That sort of thing.  You know you want your own Toothpaste Sommelier.

The Toothpaste Sommelier is always mixing up custom, hand-crafted micro-batches of toothpaste.  Her or his job is to give the sovereign the exact toothpaste that will best complement her or his day.  What flavour will best complement or eliminate the lingering aftertaste of dinner, depending on the type of dishes served?  Maybe an invigorating scent for morning and a soothing cleanse for evening?  Which stiffness of toothbrush will best hold which type of toothpaste?  Can the flavours of the mouthwash and the toothpaste be made to harmonize?  Something extra-effective for sensitive teeth when the Majesties are in a hurry?  What is the sovereign’s favourite flavour?

The Toothpaste Sommelier spends years perfecting his or her craft.  She or he has lots of recipes hand-written on little cards, filed and cross-referenced.  Perhaps she grows her own herbs for health, flavour, or healing, or perhaps he works closely with the royal gardens to procure the freshest ingredients.

This person has traveled all over the world, always on the lookout for new ingredients that traditionally convey benefits, along with the latest scientific breakthroughs vis-a-vis tooth decay.  She or he may also have an assortment of flosses and flossing devices to fit diverse needs.  Should the handle match the royal bathrobe?  Can we engineer a shield so the royal fingers don’t get spit on them?  The Toothpaste Sommelier probably has a degree in chemical engineering and probably also some medical training.  The job is damn hard to get, as turnover is very low and many people apply.

Hobbies:  brewing beer; corresponding with historical scholars; competitive modern mixed martial arts.

The Toothpaste Sommelier has an interesting life, working between 2 and 6 hours per day in the search for the most effective and pleasing toothpaste.  There’s plenty of opportunity for travel and hobbies, good pay, great job security, potential for personal growth, and the knowledge that one is keeping the head of state’s head from decaying.  All good things.


[sidenote:  we were an editor’s pick in this week’s carnival of personal finance.]

Where have you traveled?

Which are your favorite places?

My parents had a bit of a wanderlust, so I’ve been all over the US, and a good part of Mexico too (though I don’t remember Mexico so well, other than it being so dirty). I’ve also been to Spain on my own twice and Germany (and a day trip to Luxemborg) once since growing up.  #2 has been even more places over the world.

My favorite places that really stand out are places of natural beauty.

The gardens of the Alhambra. I think the most beautiful place I’ve ever been. In its full mid-summer glory.

The redwood forests.

Mt. Tamalpias– this is where my parents met. We visited many many times growing up.

Mount Shasta for camping.  (#2 hates camping.  And the outdoors.  Mine are all cities.)  (#1 notes:  cabins, running water, toilets, showers)

The Grand Canyon. Vast and deep. Beautiful colors.

Somewhere in the desert along Route 66 there’s a natural cave that sticks strongly in my mind, though I spent much of the tour with a little old lady about my height who kept me back from the railing that was too tall to protect either of us. (My dad often entrusted me to little old ladies when we traveled without my mom.)

Santa Barbara with its constantly perfect weather.

Other places have awesome food.

Little Rock, Ark has the most amazing cake lady at their weekly big market. I’d give a lot for another piece of that cake.

Rowland Heights (and related suburbs) in Los Angeles for my favorite favorite Chinese and related food. Especially shaved ice! I’ve had it other places but it’s been different.

Houston, TX has a great ice cream shop that only has chocolate ice cream. There’s another chocolate shop I really like in Harvard Square in Cambridge, MA.

Luxembourg, for street waffles.

A Vietnamese place in Mountain View, CA.

Valencia, Spain for street helado. Madrid was pretty good too, but I remember it most for this amazing shrimp stuffed salmon with cream sauce.

Anywhere in Europe for croissants.. though we did find one place in California that was almost as good as the average European croissant.

So much Chicago stuffed pizza…  Great places in Chicago.

Did not really care for Disneyland.

Vancouver, BC was gorgeous, so gorgeous, and had extremely delicious Dim Sum.  I admit to being a food wimp in Beijing, though.  I would go back to Hong Kong for fun, though it’s a reeeeeeeeaaaaaaaallllllllllyyyyy long trip.  The Bahamas were ok.

Seattle, oh so nice.  I want to stay in a B&B there for, like, ever.

We both LOVE San Francisco.

Who can forget the soul-sweetening glory of Powell’s City of Books in Portland, OR?  (I would also like to go to Maine some day and PEI in Canada, but this is about the Portland in Oregon.)

Where have you been and what sticks in your mind most?  The good memories, here, not the places where you remember being totally miserable… that’s another post!

[unrelated, but nifty:  We were an editor’s choice in this week’s carnival of personal finance]