Saturday, October 31, 2015

My (humbling) experience with gofundme (so far)

Once again, it's been over a year since I've blogged.  It's interesting to me the things that inspire me to blog, and the many things that don't.

I'd heard about gofundme, have read some of the stories that people have put there, asking for help, and while I've felt sorrow and compassion for the tragedies in those people's lives, I was thankful that, by comparison, mine is a relatively worry-free life.

These last two years have been the most challenging in my life.  Divorced after 23 years of marriage.  Two of my three children struggling to find their way, one an Asperger's kid who, god love him, lives in his own unique world, with all the troubles that brings.  The other, my youngest, and of my three, the one dearest to my heart, struggling with years of self-harm, a cutter, who's gotten progressively worse, not better.  The financial and emotional blow of being divorced...  Finally, this year, after years of ignoring my own health, having to have two significant surgeries to set myself on a path to reclaiming a healthy body.  And my oldest, strong and centered as she is, struggling with her own insecurities, her own feelings of loss and inadequacy, and suffering mostly in silence, at least not sharing her struggles with me, or looking to me for support.  Still, more often than not, I've found myself counting my blessings...however bleak things might seem to be for me, there are many others who suffer so much more than I.

This time has not been devoid of brightness.  Last year, I met a wonderful woman, with whom I now live, who loves me in a way I'm unaccustomed to being loved.  Despite all of my challenges, all of my failings, she loves me for who I am, not for what I can do for her.  When the time came for my surgeries, she helped and supported me completely, in spite of having lost her mother to cancer just a couple of weeks before my first surgery.  I've lived with her since April, and together we've made a home that is full of love, even as it has its own burdens and challenges.  Her older son has just finished the second week of what will be a fairly longterm inpatient rehabilitation program for drugs and alcohol.  My youngest has just finished her second week in an inpatient treatment facility for kids who self-harm.  Two of the most difficult things either of us has ever dealt with, and yet we both rejoice that our children are finally receiving the help they need to return to health.

The blow that pushed me over the edge was learning that an investment that I was hoping...depending pull me out of financial ruin to some sort of equilibrium, and to pay for my surgeries, collapsed.  And so, having just seen another gofundme story, I wondered whether that path might help me pull myself up again.

One thing that is true about me, for better, and sometimes for worse, is that I never ask for help.  I've always tried to be self-reliant, always, even in adversity, maintained an optimism that, as my best friend from childhood used to tell me, all bad things come to an end.  This, too, would pass.  Even though in many ways I was at a particularly low point in my life, perhaps the lowest, if I continued putting one foot in front of the other, continued to keep my head down and work harder, I would find a way to muddle through and come out the other side.  It's what I do.

So, I don't know how I finally reached a breaking point, a place where I realized I couldn't move forward without asking for help.  And so I launched a gofundme campaign.  I have to tell you, it is a most humbling experience to admit that you can't do it alone, that you need help, and most importantly, to actually ask for help, from those who know you, who've been in your life at one point or another, who have no idea what your life has come to.  It's humbling (humiliating?) to admit how far you've fallen, and to ask people for support and help.

The response from my friends has been overwhelming.  From old high school buddies, some of whom I haven't seen in close to 40 years, from colleagues with whom I worked years ago, even from some who don't know me, but know people who know 24 hours, they have opened their hearts and their wallets to offer their support.  It's not only the money, which is significant enough, but the outpouring of messages of encouragement, of love, of concern.  I've used the word "humbling" a couple of times now, but I can't think of a better one.  I've been their love, and by the lesson that, in spite of living in a world that often feels devoid of concern for others, there are people who truly are concerned, and who are ready and willing to act on that concern.  In addition to the personal experience of being on the receiving end of their generosity, of spirit and of finances, I've realized that, too often, I stop short of acting on my own concern, of going the extra mile to share what I have with others less fortunate.  That will change now.

I'm reminded of a line in As Good As It Gets where Helen Hunt's character tells Jack Nicholson's character to say something nice to her, right now, and he says "You make me want to be a better man."  When all is said and done, my experience has made me want to be a better man.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Beyond Hype - Internet of Things to Enhance our World

My friend and colleague, Steve Lewis, posted a thoughtful piece on LinkedIn.  As I'm not yet able to post as lengthy a comment as I wrote, I thought I'd blog about it here...and steal Steve's title... :-)

Steve, great set of thoughts!  I think you're spot on in your observations, but I might offer that you're overlooking a much more foundational truth, which underlies both consumerism and the implementation and regeneration of strategic infrastructure.  In fact, I'd argue that both of these are examples, and only just two examples, of what results from this foundational truth.  I don't know if I can do it justice, but here goes.  The mass consumerization of IT, brought to life by the stunning proliferation of mobility (devices, as well as networks), has changed forever the relationship between technology and business (wrought in the broadest possible sense).  I've become a big fan of Mary Meeker's (Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers) annual presentation on Internet Trends (worth an investment of a couple of hours to read through it here: 

For most of our careers (mine, yours, and others our age), technology has been a supporter of business imperatives.  What I mean by that is we've always taken a business-driven approach, and then endeavored to figure out new and innovative ways to leverage available technology to support what we were trying to accomplish in whatever business we were in.  Some have lived on the bleeding edge of technology, and so have been more innovative than those who've not lived there.  But the fundamental calculus has always been "how do I leverage technology to support business objectives."  What this mass consumerization of IT has done is to flip that on its ear, I'd argue outstripping our ability to be hyperbolic about it.  For the first time in my lifetime, technology is actually driving business strategy and imperatives, rather than the other way around.

If you put together the advances in cloud-based infrastructure, with the explosion in mobile and social computing (any teenager can build more sophisticated applications on an iPhone more quickly and elegantly than people like us used to do with mainframes or servers or desktops or all three just a scant decade ago), and a shift in focus from IT to platforms (enabled more than anything else I've seen by APIs and how they're being used to expose, externalize, and combine in heretofore unthought of and unheard of ways information that used to remain jealously guarded within the walls of individual businesses), what we have today that we never had before is both a world of data, and the technology that makes it possible to combine and recombine data from myriad sources into applications that were never possible before.  And, equally, if not more importantly, the explosive growth and ubiquity of that data just begs for analysis and insight, of which your example is but one of countless possibilities. 

True, many of the stories that make people froth at the mouth about this shift tend to be consumer-focused, and I might argue that that is true because those kinds of innovative applications of technology are the low-hanging, supremely easy to conceptualize, fruit, whereas examples like yours are a bit more esoteric, and maybe need some deeper thought, as you've obviously done.  But the basic point remains:  the number of possibilities is virtually limitless, and hyperbolic as it may sound, it also has the virtue of being true, which is something new in the world of technology, at least the one in which you and I cut our teeth. 

Two things, I think, are true, and make this the most exciting time in my career:  As we begin to wrap our brains around this massive proliferation and ubiquity and approachability of technology, more and more smart people will come up with more and more ways of leveraging all of it in ways that we don't dream of today, and the curve from early adoption to mainstream adoption will flatten and compress far more quickly than at any time in the past.  And those two things will feed on each other, further flattening and compressing the curve.  As a behavioral scientist, among other things, I'm intensely curious about where the point is where that cycle reaches maximum velocity, that is, how quickly do we get to the point where change happens far more quickly than our ability to absorb it, and what happens then?  Thirty years ago, I could hardly imagine that world, much less believe that I'd live long enough to observe it.  Today, I'm positively giddy about being a part of it, and observing it firsthand!

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Reflections...on life, love, death, and other things

Once again, I find that it has been some time since I've written.  A good blogger, I suppose, is one who blogs, regularly, and by that measure, if no other, I'm not much of a blogger.  I don't often feel as though I have much to say that merits sharing here.  As I look back over the things I've written, I see a me whom I recognize, but don't really identify with much these days.

Since last I wrote, so very many things have happened in my life.  After twenty-two years of marriage, I am just a few weeks away from being divorced. How that happened is still something of a surprise and a shock to me, not because it was something that happened to me, but because it was I who blew things up, in a most unkind and unexpected way...unexpected to me as much as it was to my wife, my children, my family. Reflecting back on it, I know now (though I was asleep about it until the moment that I blew things up), that I had spent perhaps half of my marriage suppressing and sublimating my needs, my wants, my desires, myself. I did the things that I thought a good husband and father should do.  I provided. I sought to serve the needs of my wife, my children, my family, without acknowledging my own. Those rare times when I sought fulfillment for myself, when I reached out for a connection and got none, I rationalized...told myself that it was OK, that my wife wasn't in a place to give me what I needed, and, after all, a marriage is about going the extra mile when your partner cannot, and so I could wait until another day.

Awakening came in the form of another woman (how cliche!). She was a lightning bolt, an intellectual and emotional stimulation like I hadn't felt in years (or maybe ever), a personality that just lit me up in every way. Perhaps it was my own desolation, the void in my own life that made her look to me like something which she was not. Perhaps it was me seeking fulfillment in another, rather than in myself.  Regardless, I looked outside myself for all of the things that I should have sought within myself.

Also, during these months, another friend lost a daughter, to cancer.  However much I feel my own pain and sorrow, I find myself...ashamed?...that I feel so badly for myself, when my life is, by many measures, so much better.  My children are all alive, happy (mostly), intact.  How can I feel that any of my troubles are so bad when I still have them available to me?

So I sit alone in my apartment (Jesus, I haven't lived alone in nearly thirty years!), lamenting my state, and yet grateful for the opportunity to recreate myself, to step into the void that stretches out in front of me and...create...a life that I want to have.  While it feels overwhelming, sometimes hopeless, now, I know that life will go on, whether I will it or not, and so the opportunity is to seize it, to drive it, rather than being driven by the past...

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Musings and Reflections...

2013 is quickly drawing to a close (where on earth did the year go??), and I realized it's been over a year since I wrote anything here.  And so much has happened!  So many things have changed (some in quality, many only in degree), and so many others have remained, depressingly, the same...

Some highlights (there's a great list of noteworthy 2013 world events here):

  • Sarah Palin still gets news coverage.  I truly don't get it...  And Martin Bashear had to resign from MSNBC for telling the truth about how vacuous and vile she really is.
  • Speaking of vacuous...I like Alec Baldwin.  I really do.  And his show on MSNBC, Up Late, showed some real promise.  And then, Alec opened his mouth off air in a crass manner that's become all too closely identified with Alec.
  • And speaking of opening your mouth in a crass manner!  I love Duck Dynasty.  Don't ask me why...there are all kinds of reasons I shouldn't.  And I love Phil Robertson's life story of redemption, finding his own personal spirituality, and building a successful business off of something as pedestrian as duck calls.  And you know what?  I even think it's ok for him to harbor the religious beliefs that he harbors, though I think he's fairly selective about the portions of the bible that matter to him.  And I even think it's ok for him to speak of his beliefs publicly.  They're his beliefs, not mine, and whether I find them admirable or reprehensible, he's entitled to them!  But dude, go to charm school!  Talking about women's vaginas and men's anuses in a piece in GQ is, well, completely classless.

  • Politics.  Sigh...  A year ago, I wouldn't (and didn't) believe that things could sink lower than where they were in terms of comity, plain old decency, and, well, civility.  From an article that Robert Kennedy, Jr. wrote in the Huffington Post, following the shooting of Gabby Giffords and others in Tucson, "In 1964, Americans repudiated the forces of right-wing hatred and violence with an historic landslide in the presidential election between LBJ and Goldwater.  For a while, the advocateds of right-wing extremism receded from the public forum.  Now they have returned with a vengeance -- to the broadcast media and to prominent positions in the political landscape."
    • The Republicans, in what is either an act of pure stupidity, or one of anarchy, shut down the government, because nothing else they'd tried had succeeded in getting rid of the Affordable Care Act (aka, Obamacare).
    • In 2013, a candidate for Selectman in Maine (not Alabama, or Mississippi, or Louisiana, but Maine!) posted a picture of Barack Obama -- you know, the twice elected President of the United States? -- on Facebook, with the caption "Shoot the Nigger."  And there are sites and pages all over the internet that no longer even attempt to hide their racism.  I grew up in the 1960s...50 plus years later, I feel like I'm living back there again.  Truly sad...while I've never believed that we had gotten to a post-racial society, I certainly didn't believe that we'd regressed 50 years...
  • Speaking of post-racial society...Nelson Mandela died recently at 95.  His is an amazing story of endurance and forgiveness and of knowing where true power lay and how to wield it for the benefit of all.
So many things this year, some good, some bad, some personal, some professional, some private, some public.  The year has flown by, faster it seems, than years before, but that's how life works, right?  Each twelve months a smaller percentage of all the twelve month chunks you've lived until that point.  And I find as I grow older, that with each passing twelve months, I care less about the particulars of what have happened, and more about whether the world feels like a better or worse place to me, and what have I done to affect it...and how will it look when my children are my age, and I'm at the end of my time here, or close to it.  Will I leave a better world behind for my children to live in?

With each passing twelve months, I grow increasingly despondent that the world my children will navigate through with their children will be a much less welcoming place than the one I've shepherded them to adulthood in...

Saturday, October 27, 2012

I feel like I'm caught in a timewarp...

I can't believe that it's been nearly two years since I blogged.  There have been so many times I've thought about it, but couldn't figure out where to start.  So, let's start right's ten days until the 2012 election.  Let's recap, I don't know...the last 72 hours.

  • Richard Mourdock, candidate for the US Senate from Indiana said that a pregnancy that results from rape is "something that God intends to happen."  Mitt Romney studiously avoids all questions from reporters asking him if he disavows Mourdock's remarks, and if he will ask Mourdock to take down the ad that Romney had done supporting Mourdock's candidacy (by the way, the only such ad that Romney has done).
  • Following Colin Powell's (you remember him, right?  Four star general, commander of the US Army Forces, National Security advisor, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Secretary of State) endorsement of Barack Obama, John Sununu, former governor of New Hampshire (who resigned in disgrace as George H.W. Bush's chief of staff following revelations that he used government aircraft and vehicles to go golfing, go to a stamp collector's convention, where he bought $5000 worth of stamps, etc.) said, on CNN, as quoted in the New York Times"When you take a look at Colin Powell, you have to wonder whether that's an endorsement based on issues or whether he's got a slightly different reason for preferring President Obama," Mr. Sununu said. Mr. Morgan asked flatly, “What reason would that be?” Mr. Sununu responded, “Well, I think when you have somebody of your own race that you’re proud of being president of the United States, I applaud Colin for standing with him.”
  • Ann Coulter, that blight upon humanity, called the president a "retard," and then doubled down on her remarks after being called out by many, but most elegantly by John Franklin Stephens, a Special Olympics athlete, and a 30-year-old with Down's Syndrome.
  • Donald Trump, the ultimate carnival barker, offered $5 million to the charity of the president's choice if he would release his school records, his passport applications, and something else...don't remember, doesn't fucking matter...
The fights continue (and the very idea that they are happening at all makes my head explode!) over who should makes the decisions about how a woman should behave, who should get to make her health decisions for is, truly and sadly, the worst sort of clown show.  Chris Matthews finally became the first journalist to call it out for what it is:  "I don't like to [compare] anything to Sharia, but there's something about this theocratic notion that we're going to apply all our philosophical beliefs, our metaphysics, our religious training and turn it into law and turn it into criminalization." Terry O'Neil, the president of the National Organization for Women was a guest on his show, and put the sharp end on his point: "I think that it's kind of the creeping Talibanization of American policy." Speaking of Mitt Romney, she insisted that the Republican is in the "thick of this very fringe but very dangerous line of thought."

I'm reminded of the famous footage of the beginning of Joseph McCarthy's downfall, when Joseph Welch, who was the head counsel for the Army at the McCarthy hearings, had finally had enough"You've done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?"
We've had enough.  The lack of decency, the lack of decorum, civility, or even basic human appalling.  In our political discourse, we have shown ourselves to be the most vulgar and low of human beings, and in our human discourse, we are no better.  I hope and pray that we will go past this, and yet I fear that we have simply revealed ourselves over the last four years, and we truly have learned nothing about ourselves and those we share the planet with in the last fifty years.

Perhaps we're on the cusp of turning the corner...

  • Lawrence Wilkerson, Colin Powell's former chief of staff, said on Ed Schultz's show that "my party [the Republican party] is full of racists."
  • This morning, on her show, Melissa Harris-Perry delivered a very powerful and forceful open letter to Richard Mourdock on the subject of abortion and women's rights.
  • Last night, Bill Maher warned moderates that if they vote for Mitt, they'll be voting to bring the crazies back to Washington.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Phil Griffin is a fucking moron

I'm certain that, in the fullness of time, the details of Keith Olbermann's departure from MSNBC will become public, but whether it was Keith's decision to leave, or Phil Griffin's decision that he leave, allowing him to go has to be one of the dumbest decisions ever made (or not made, or bungled) in cable television history. Keith was on the vanguard of what made MSNBC into what it is today, and he was the loudest, most eloquent counterpoint to the right wing blather at Fox Noise. Don't get me wrong...Rachel and Lawrence are wonderful, but there's no replacing the original...

We'll miss you, Keith, but look forward to your re-emergence, in whatever form, in whatever medium (or media). Hurry back!