Friday, December 26, 2008

A Happy Holidays 2008

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and a very Happy New Year to you.

We pray this note finds you safe, sound, healthy and happy. 2008 saw world events more delightful and dreadful things that one could have ever expected back on Jan. 1, eh? 10 pounds of eye-opening outcomes in one overworked, 5 pound bag. We hope the new presidency will nimbly respond and counterbalance both the current perils of the U.S. and the even longer term realities like a warming planet, U.S. declines in engineering & education, and not living up to the American dream in truly bold, inspiring ways.


Looking forward...

Abe Pachikara, Copyright 2008 (click for larger image)


Meanwhile, certain aspects of life will continue forward completely oblivious to these events.
  • The younger one, Sidd, started Kindergarten - - what he triumphantly calls “a BIGGER Montessori” to demonstrate how he perceives progress in life
  • Paul consistently identifies new things he can reach above him, “look at how tall I am getting”
  • Together, the boys have truly “discovered” their cousins in Atlanta, giving even the brief interactions at a wedding a new vigor and urgency
  • We had the good fortune to attend the wedding of Molly’s cousin Tara (in DC) and my cousin Anita (in Chicago) and thereby catch up with many people. The boys undertook the gallant and ambassadorial role of ring bearers in each event

A Few 2008 Observations

  • The boys continue to witness “firsts” that you forget as an adult. Bicycling. Fishing and cleaning a fish. Downhill skiing. Bowling. Journaling. Wii sports. Making an apple pie with mom. Losing your baby teeth, and the all important tooth fairy. Actually using a fireman’s firehose (thanks to my high school classmate Bobby Alexander).
  • Sticking to things is hard but rewarding. After 7 long years (that’s 1st to 7th grade, sheesh) my sister Cindy secured tenure as a professor at University of Michigan. And Molly’s brother Geoji has steadily broadened his role and experience set thru his 5 immersive years at Pervasive. How inspiring.
  • I am amazed at the abstract interpretations we must have as youngsters. Consider how Paul at 6 defines the soul: As context, during our daily evening prayers with the boys, one part is to explicitly pray for family or friends who have passed away. One evening Sidd asked with ruffled, puzzled eyebrows, "Dad, how do people go to heaven?" to which Paul interjected as an older brother can. "Sidd, Sidd, Sidd, here is what God does," and then, making a delicate motion with his hands like gathering clothes together painstakingly and lifting them upward, “He carefully takes all the most important parts of the body together. Sidd, that's the part that is called 'the soul.' He gently takes that to where he is. That's why you know the bones are not important, HE LEAVES THEM IN THE GROUND!" declaring the last part with great certainty. It was the 1st time Molly and I had heard his views on mortality. Perhaps it was the intersection of: seeing all those dinosaur bones in various books; pondering where the rest of the dinosaur went; and what was shared at his Catholic school. It did make us pause and think.
  • Memories of our youth start early. "Dad, when Sidd was a baby, he had many very cute faces" “Mom, when I was a little boy, Paul didn’t let me play with his toys.” What? He couldn’t remember such details, could he? But sheesh, it’s just plausible enough to make one wonder.
  • The Web is a remarkably large part of young lives. My dad, a Board-certified retired surgeon, is no longer Paul’s 1st resource for medical questions, “I think we should look in the computer before we call Appa.” Wow.
  • But is this surprising? Consider: YouTube shows you how to do just about ANYTHING; free interactive learning tools abound, like VisibleBody for anatomy; Facebook lets you keep up with friends; and videochats (our latest discovery) bring body language into a phone call.
  • Incredible ideas keep arising from combining old things in new ways. Two examples: SkySails, that harness massive parachutes to freighter ships, shaving 10% of the fuel costs; BetterPlace, a bold new venture that prices electric cars like cell phones - - you pay for the miles you drive and the entry level models are have zero purchase cost
  • Uncommon creations result when people refuse traditional solutions. The City Museum in St. Louis, Missouri, redefined the idea of a children’s museum. If you are passing thru, make sure to stop in and learn how to look at the same problem in a very new, unexpected ways.

In closing, Molly, the "2 chuttumbees" and I wish you a tremendous New Year, regardless the ups and downs that may persist in the world's economies and politics. May you explore, discover, develop and appreciate the treasures, talents and time at your fingertips, and find remarkable ways to bring them to life.

Take care and God Bless You!

Sidd, Paul, Molly and Abe…

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Photo Tips 1

Here are two quotes from a photo hero of mine (and many, many others) Henri Cartier-Bresson:
  • Photographers deal in things which are continually vanishing and when they have vanished there is no contrivance on earth which can make them come back again.
  • To take a photograph is to align the head, the eye and the heart. It's a way of life.
A simple thing that people often do not look at is what time of day they are taking a shot. If you can, try to take shots within 1 hour of sunrise or sunset (before or after).

As with life itself, the beginnings and the ends of the day are in many ways its more striking and most fleeting parts. The light is softer, warmer, more dramatic. Hence, all the subjects upon which the light shines benefit greatly in the shots that are taken. The inconvenience of being up so early, or breaking away in the late afternoon or dusk are well worth what you capture.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Location Certainly Helps

One common observation about the great cities of the world - - more often than not they are located in some notable place, or have made greatness out of that place. San Francisco. Hong Kong. NYC. Paris. London.

And Chicago.

The shoreline of Lake Michigan is one of the many mesmerizing parts of this grand metropolis. As example: Montrose Harbor, with its dreamy southern view of the skyline - literally miles of towering residential buildings marching off until they meet up with the downtown skyline. Go there on a slightly rainy, foggy evening and it will take your breath away. That is in part why I proposed to Molly at this fine location.

Here's Paul and Susie Auntie just relaxing and letting the serenity of Montrose harbor steep into their constitutions.


Pondering the Expanse...
Abe Pachikara, Copyright 2008 (click for larger image)


Buddies...
Abe Pachikara, Copyright 2008 (click for larger image)

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Young Ambassadors

In life, windows open up to play specific roles, and close just as quickly; ring bearer is one of those examples.

The boys were invited to be part of the wedding party for one of Molly's cousins, Tara, and one of mine, Anita. DC in August, Chicago in September.

And so for an ephemeral moment - - a mere slice of a weekend - - Paul and Sidd were awash in the limelight, showered with the sort of attention created by the intersection of toddler cuteness, and a tuxedo’s dapper regality.

To heighten matters, in just a few hours the church was transformed into a vehicle that brought excessive attention upon a these naive souls. At the rehearsal, everyone was in shorts, the place was empty, there's lots of smiles; it was a small band of exhausted people just arriving from long journeys, spurred into the relaxed conversation that comes with the reunion of friends and family. At the wedding, it was pew after pew of spectacular saris, banks of flashing cameras, even toddlers now in tuxes.

Given the August wedding was their first in this role, the metamorphosis of the church was a bit shocking. By the second event in September, they took this in stride. This ring bearer thing - easy. In fact, who's next?



There's too many people in this church...
- -Abe Pachikara, Copyright 2008 (click for larger image)


Relaxing after a great show (Sidd, Ava, Paul, Annie)...
- -Abe Pachikara, Copyright 2008 (click for larger image)


Trying to act like mature 7 year olds, before the Chicago ceremony ...
- -Abe Pachikara, Copyright 2008 (click for larger image)

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Another Remarkable Reunion

BIG family get-togethers are generally due to events that are very auspicious, or very sad. Here was yet another blessed example of a wonderful occasion - Anita's wedding, attended by a whopping 600 people! And contrary to my own fears, the entire event was just fabulous - - no outbursts from people who had underestimated their ability to juggle drinks and emotions. Below are three of 1,200 shots


Mylangee - Elsama Auntie and Johnny Uncle offer their best wishes...
- -Abe Pachikara, Copyright 2008 (click for larger image)


The moment arrives...
- -Abe Pachikara, Copyright 2008 (click for larger image)


Me and my dad take a walk...
- -Abe Pachikara, Copyright 2008 (click for larger image)

Friday, September 12, 2008

Mystical Land

How often do we live in one locale and actually neglect exploring its environs, only to move far, far away and years later, pay the price of time and money to journey to the SAME ORIGINAL place as an outsider, to finally make that day trip? What an odd behavior, no?

Here is a set of images of "Rattlesnake Ledge," stitched together, that is a mere 20 minutes drive, 2 miles walk, and 1,100 feet in elevation from our house. Just magical. Probably even more dreamy in the rain, mist and fog.


Taking in the vista...
- -Abe Pachikara, Copyright 2008 (click for larger image)

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Back to the Woods

It is nice how friends and family who nudge one to try things otherwise avoided. As a result, we have gone camping as a family 3 times, largely due to people who have convincing answers to the nicely stated objections. For example:
"We don't have a tent." That's okay, Reuben has an extra one.
"We don't know what is a good camp site."
I know some great ones. And I have
booked you with the rest of us already.

"We are not big into hiking, etc.”
But you love a good cup of tea. We will make some probably every 2 hours or whenever anyone gets a bit bored.
Add to this that the forecasters were wrong and we had good solid weather, even if the nights may have been more chilly than hoped for. All in all, a superb way to end another summer.


Group Shot,
Abe Pachikara, Copyright 2008 (click for larger image)


We are great fans of our own jokes, 1 and 2
Abe Pachikara, Copyright 2008 (click for larger image)

Chilling Out, 1 and 2
Abe Pachikara, Copyright 2008 (click for larger image)


Set shot; Lounging around with dad
Abe Pachikara, Copyright 2008 (click for larger image)

Kitchen Shift, 1 & 2
Abe Pachikara, Copyright 2008 (click for larger image)

Morning Aerobics; Laughter
Abe Pachikara, Copyright 2008 (click for larger image)


Pancakes & Sausages, 1 & 2
Abe Pachikara, Copyright 2008 (click for larger image)

Dinner; Relaxing after a hearty meal
Abe Pachikara, Copyright 2008 (click for larger image)


Endless cleanup
Abe Pachikara, Copyright 2008 (click for larger image)

Happy Camper; The evening arrives
Abe Pachikara, Copyright 2008 (click for larger image)

Stories; Singing in the Arctic
Abe Pachikara, Copyright 2008 (click for larger image)

Trekking to the beach; Brothers
Abe Pachikara, Copyright 2008 (click for larger image)

Local denizen; Local denizens
Abe Pachikara, Copyright 2008 (click for larger image)


With dad...
Abe Pachikara, Copyright 2008 (click for larger image)


Heading back, slowly (very slowly)...
Abe Pachikara, Copyright 2008 (click for larger image)


Parting shot; Too tired for T-rex
Abe Pachikara, Copyright 2008 (click for larger image)

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Lessons From a Team Exercise

I came across a set of notes from a training session in which I had the good fortune of participating, where a specific breakout session spurred nice observations. The list will not look remarkable - - it could have come from a standard Fast Company magazine article. Of note was the sheer degree of improvement witnessed from the team task: from 28 seconds the first time we tried, down to 2.4 seconds after about 12 minutes of iterating, brainstorming, etc.

Here are lessons we jotted down regarding what spurred such terrific progress.

  • Everyone is "heard"
  • Provide coaching / take the feedback
  • Ensure everyone contributed
  • Maintain constant communication
  • Incremental goals were perceived as realistic (as opposed to stretch goals that are viewed as unreachable)
  • Continuous innovation
  • Continual improvement
  • Okay to ask "what if"
  • Have permission to fail
  • Truly challenge the norms
  • Closely review of the rules
  • Continually challenge the assumptions
  • Make sure the trial and error is manifested in actual physical actions (and not "stuck in people's heads")
  • Have a healthy awareness of the competition - not so little that you are aloof but not so much as to distract you
  • Clear, measurable metrics that could be directly associated to each person
  • Always know and try to beat your personal best
  • Make it fun & interesting
  • Ensure all are equal peers in people's minds (no politics and hierarchy to obstruct the collaboration)
  • Laptops down - be a single-minded "kundun" in our discussions

Monday, August 18, 2008

"I Head Up Product Management"


"And what do you do?"

It's a question that people wind up asking one another at some point in an initial conversation. I have heard my dear wife Molly (and others in her position) answer, "I'm a stay at home mom" or something to that extent. This never sat well with me. While a true statement, well, it lacks the nuance, heft or breadth her role carries. I think a full-time mom or dad is one of the grander, elusive, frustrating and rewarding assignments one can have. Particularly those that go "whole hog" and home school their child or children. (As for those who juggle a career and raise children, that's sure looks like yet a different, intricate and at times nutty ballgame.)

Back to the original answer stated up front - it is too simplistic. Perhaps due to my days in advertising, I pondered how to re-craft it in today's language. If it was an advertising strategy, it would be something like this:
Convince: Friends and acquaintances (particularly those who don't have children)
That: A "full time" parent's responsibilities can be more challenging than meets the eye
Because: The role has many facets, similar to their own day job
The response that emerged is much different, "I head up product management at our place. That includes leading up design, development, build, test, pilot, launch, choosing the raw materials, more recalls than I care for, retooling, and re-deploying. Those are our 2 models, and I'm their mom."



Product Lead, and Her Works-in-Progress
Abe Pachikara, Copyright 2008 (click for larger image)

Thursday, August 07, 2008

"Seeing" More

Take a look at the following two creations. How would you describe them?


Most adults will say the one the right is a pretty cool vehicle perhaps out of Star Wars, or similar Sci Fi movie. The on on the left, well, it is some simple car.

When I ask this to our boys, I get the opposite answer. That is, the one on the right is a space ship, with many features, but nothing more. The one on the left is bundled details, laden with history and is actually pretty high in the current pecking order of all their toys. Both were created by Lego but the "simple car" has much of its details embedded far into their imaginations.

As such, I have gained a deep respect for what your average Lego brick unleashes in a child. What's dismaying is how this energy seems less evident as we get older, too much detail is handed to us, gets in the way of our own visions, and we see less of what is possible, and more often, only see what is here now.

To that end, I wonder if a serial entrepreneur is a child at heart (or in mind) packaged inside the shape of an adult. And how we can nurture this ability through their childhoods. One person who appears to have taken this to heart is Leonardo da Vinci. For a view into some of his practices refer to an interesting book called How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci.

Monday, July 28, 2008

The Unending Bouquet of Summer

Another summer is racing by, no different from life itself really and we are already falling out of July. How could this be so? One of the hallmarks of our house are the roses planted by a previous owner. When we bought the place, none were blooming as the renters at that time had taken no notice of this array of beauties right under their noses. (Again, no different from things in general, eh?)

But now, each summer these roses and a symphony of other bloomers come out in a fierce orchestration of colors and petals and thorns. I can see why people have such a fascination for roses - unlike other flowers, the whole summer is "their season" to show off. They don't care to be a "spring flower" or one that waits until fall or other narrow time period. Each day, another few shout to the world that they have arrived. And because we watch over them, water them, and chase away the aphids that like to dine on them, we can't but notice them. And suddenly all those roses at the florist are so bland and unremarkable, in part because ours are fairly exotic types but I think it is also due to our attachment to "our babies."

It is akin to the words in the Little Prince:

"Just that," said the fox. "to me, you are still nothing more than a little boy who is just like a hundred thousand other little boys. And I have no need of you. And you, on your part, have no need of me. To you I am nothing more than a fox like a hundred thousand other foxes. But if you tame me, then we shall need each other. To me, you will be unique in all the world. To you, I shall be unique in all the world. . ."

"I am beginning to understand," said the little prince. "There is a flower. . .I think she has tamed me. . ."

"It is possible," said the fox. "On earth one sees all sorts of things."


1. Looking right 2. Looking up
Abe Pachikara, Copyright 2008 (click for larger image)


Standing out - -
Abe Pachikara, Copyright 2008 (click for larger image)

Monday, July 21, 2008

Uncaged Ideas

Sometimes the only way one realizes you've been "seeing the same old thing" is when you finally bump into a completely different, even outlandish, solution to the same problem. The City Museum in St. Louis, MO does this when it comes to children's museums (www.citymuseum.org). The hum drum children's museum solution has the same building blocks: train section; water works; kitchen; some manner of playground.

The City Museum breaks so many rules! For example:
  • Don't obsess if what you create will nick / bruise the participant. Many of the exhibits just may scuff the knees and elbows, but how is that different from life in general (other than needing some excellent lawyers to protect your good work)
  • Don't explain. There are many places where things are presented, like cavities that either weave their way into serpentine ceiling or basement passage ways for people to discover on their own
  • Your best items are under your nose. Brilliantly, the museum staff scavenges old buildings about to be torn down for artifacts that create a rich tapestry of widgets, furnishings and exercises. For example, 2 spiral staircases that tightly wind upwards for 4 stories, sandwiching a spiral suitcase chute that looks like an Alice in Wonderland passage back to the bottom
  • Non-child items may work phenomenally. You are thunderstruck by what you see, and after a moment it is so obvious why kids love the experience. Below are images of catwalks 3 stories above the ground, connecting to gutted learjets that are then interconnected by suspended bridges to each other and to a slide that takes you whizzing back down.
  • Retain creative control. You've seen it before, be it Bramante, Michelangelo, or Jobs. One person with a vivid idea and uncompromising desire to see it come thru. In this case, it is sculptor Bob Cassilly who is fervently adding to the current work in progress.
The City Museum is a great lesson for anyone wanting to retool their view of what a fresh solution can look like. A close, analytically minded visit is among the best forms of adult education one can sign up for.


1. Catwalk to the Jets 2. Jet #1 (notice mesh bridge coming out of the cockpit)
Abe Pachikara, Copyright 2008 (click for larger image)


Jet #2 (notice suspended bridge in background)
Abe Pachikara, Copyright 2008 (click for larger image)


Colorful Spinning Bannister
Abe Pachikara, Copyright 2008 (click for larger image)

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Flouting Time

“How old would you be if you did not know your age?”

That is the introspective question I have asked countless times to people on their birthday and therefore asked myself today. The answer is meant to illuminate the personal perception of one’s youthfulness. I have found the reality is more closely tied to the actions one demonstrates. Consider Mrs. Buehler, our neighbor back in the 70’s when we lived in the Mennonite prairie town of Winkler, Manitoba.

She was of consummately sturdy Russian stock, a widow in her 70’s but with the fiber of a twenty-something. My dad, one of the surgeons in town, was called to the emergency room one wintry Saturday afternoon. It was Mrs. Buehler, who had broken her arm. Here’s how: to keep active when the weather was too harsh to venture out, she would briskly walk laps in the basement of her small bungalow house for 45 – 60 minutes. Next, she would put a small chair in the middle of the room, step on, and step off. For 20 – 30 minutes. (That’s right, step aerobics. Before fitness clubs, danskin outfits, and protein shakes.) Only this time, she pushed things a bit, got dizzy and fell off, only to break her arm. Again, this is someone in her 70's, but that clearly meant more and something different to me than to her.

The years flew by but she stayed young at heart, of mind, and in the body. Finally, well after turning 100, she was considered to have "aged" sufficiently to be granted residence in the local old age home. She is now 107 and the oldest living Manitoban.

Now how do you think Mrs. Buehler would answer the original question above? And relative to Mrs. Buehler, I am at most an adolescent, with more dreams than memories.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Free Like a Bird, Part 1

For a baby or toddler who is all too often stroller bound, what is the opposite? The best answer I can think of is swinging! It brings sunshine, wind, and exhilarating, electrifying movement (vertical, forward and backward.) No wonder kids dig it. I would too.

Perhaps the 1st time I observed such stark contrasts was the summer after my freshman year of Undergrad. I had the great dumb luck to work at Touch of Nature's Camp Olympia, a summer camp in the Shawnee Forest for special populations. It was not just the many headspinning excursions - - such as taking a set of 18 - 55 year old, wheel chair bound CP's (cerebral palsy) rappelling down a 75 foot cliff - - but the calm glee of the campers, in this case as they bumped, scratched and scraped their way down the face of the cliff, (while others controlled their descent via belay lines). The upshot: an invigorating visit with one's old friend Fear, akin to what you see from Paul below.

5035900-R1-047-22

Stretching Out - -
Abe Pachikara, Copyright 2004 (click for larger image)

Monday, May 19, 2008

Another Reduction of Services

One observation I made a long time ago is the ingenious design of sippy cups. Here is a vessel that lets you drink lying down. So you can luxuriate with that warm cup of milk, ideally delivered not just to your bed, but to your mouth, without emerging from your equally toasty array of blankets (that are slathered with your favorite story characters, vehicles and other points of inspiration). So you can drink without leaving your cocoon.

Then you turn some age that your parents have arbitrarily pegged as "too old" for that toddler stuff and foolishly, you agree. Gradually, you are weaned to head all the way to the kitchen for your morning drink. The whole seductive appeal of your former habit is insidiously diminished. Just one more way that we leave the ridiculously stunning service levels of our infancy (they feed you, bathe you, wipe your butt at the drop of a hat or for the tiniest wimper) for the self-serviced ways of our adulthood. Ah what to do...


Morning Milks, In the Cocoon, and Out - -
Abe Pachikara, Copyright 2008 (click for larger image)

Monday, May 12, 2008

Time Continues to Fly: Paul turns six

So here is a shot of Paul a couple of weeks after turning six years old. Pretty remarkable how fast a human being traverses from being an infant small enough to fit on one hand, into an introspective, inquiring and inquisitive child.


"Dad do you see how big I am getting?" - -
Abe Pachikara, Copyright 2008 (click for larger image)


6 and Very Proud of It - -
Abe Pachikara, Copyright 2008 (click for larger image)


The 2 Brothers - -
Abe Pachikara, Copyright 2008 (click for larger image)