Thursday, December 31, 2015

Happy Holidays 2015 ! !

2015 was a notable year in so many, many ways. Perhaps it was the same or similar for you, and our hope is this note finds you safe, sound, healthy and happy.
An Oldie But a Goodie: Looking Back 11 Years, © 2004, Abe Pachikara (Click for larger images)
The boys continue their journey forward into life and living. Paul is 13 1/2, (8th grade) Sidd is 12 (6th grade) - they continue to finish each other's sentences and be confidant's in each other. Soccer is still their go-to sport, and I wish I could fully describe how inspired I am by their by their reflections, whimsy and resilience.   

Sidd is steadily becoming an increasingly voracious reader, still falling deep into his drawing and his interest in paleontology is more substantive by the day. I routinely get text messages like      
"Dad, dad!!! Giant aquatic sloths are real!!! Hunted by megalodon."
"Called Thalassocnus and 3-4 meters long. Actually semiaquatic. Seriously it's real"
Or he walks up and shows a Web site ranking the top 5 university programs for paleontology - "I am pretty sure I should go to one of these places. What do you think?"

Paul is steadily getting ahead of the pace of school and able to get back to exploring & discovering his talents and interests. He has discovered a budding interest in jazz via Vince Guaraldi's songs for the Charlie Brown Christmas specials like this one. His former verve for and depth of interest in coding & robotics in particular are materially dialed down; perhaps it is the mired chapter called the teen years. He is the bigger and more abstract thinker of the two boys, but the catalysts of those cavernous wisdoms are in a fog somewhere. To be clear, it is only for the moment.

As I look back on 2015, here's 10 observations:
  1. Travel (for Fun) is Just "Wow." It had been too long since taking a non-trivial trip and the summer journey to London reminded me how good this is for my constitution (and perhaps for yours too?). A delectable, specially purified oxygen was coursing thru my being. My memories are of a pursuit I love dearly, and this trip was even better. Why? Well, I was on a journey that was an unexpectedly spontaneous, thought provoking and whimsical time. It was the product of traveling with kids old enough to manage themselves, embrace useful travel rules of thumb, and add their own observations and ideas. Suddenly the trip was too ephemeral - again as in my younger days I was painfully aware of how soon this would end - - adding a useful urgency. Sleep, either doing too much or too little, and dickering around in the wrong ways carried a clear expense of their own.
  2. I Don’t Appreciate My Extended Family Enough. I have the sublime luxury of immediate & extended family that inspire and amaze me continuously. As example, my parents are active, healthy and fully engaged, as are my two sisters. Then there's the literally 3 scores of cousins, aunts and uncles - all vivid, good hearted characters. And yet over time I think I have increasingly slipped into taking this for granted; to being less active in these two constellations. The priceless nature of family is much more apparent not from when things are good, but from tough situations I have observed or personally experienced - a better suspension system one will not find.
  3. Setbacks Can Be Advances, Unplanned Doorways to New Opportunities. When I was 8, I still recall a quote on the cover of the Winnipeg Free Press delivered to our house, "Life's what happens when you are making plans." It has stuck with me. Perhaps more important is how one responds to such changes, no? Just one example: my younger one LOVES soccer yet this past year did not make the cut for a more competitive league. I was particularly flummoxed and noticed that Sidd said little - in my view it was proof he was dismayed but trying to put it behind him. And he did. In spades. Rec soccer opened time for other pursuits. His many curiosities has filled this void with a vengeance, be it learning Shakespearean passages for a speech and debate class, and his enjoyment of paleontology.
  4. The Battle: Unconscious Bias. At work, I have taken a couple of truly thought provoking training classes in "unconscious bias." It has elevated my self-awareness of perceptions of another person, triggered say by something they said, did, wore, etc. Actively working on this helps deepen collaboration and relationships. 
  5. The War: VERY Conscious Bias. Yet I feel the opposite is raging - - and I do mean RAGING - - in the social channels: explicit, celebrated even, "conscious bias" by like-minded tribes of people who prefer to speak INSIDE their groups, harden their points of view, and supercharge the invective with half-baked or completely incorrect examples or anecdotes. Into these cohorts, it is very hard if not impossible for an opposing point of view to be considered in a thoughtful and mindful manner. Inadvertently, conscious bias feeds extreme views. In turn, groups with extremely opposing points seem to benefit from each other. ISIS creates the fear needed by people choosing to hate Muslims, and those peoples’ actions serve ISIS' agenda that all Americans are crazy. And on and on. In this example, the extreme commentary can only put moderate Muslims in an awkward place, and confused individuals are pushed toward the seductive radical rhetoric of ISIS. The upshot: on countless topics people with moderate views are shunned and stay quiet. Sadly, crazy is just crazy, helps no one and hurts their own. Look across time: a crazy Hindu killed Gandhi; a nutty Muslim killed Sadat; an extreme Jew killed Rabin; crazy Christian Americans killed Lincoln and Kennedy. I don't know of any good solutions to widen perspectives other than venturing tactfully and firmly into these "social tribes", but it is hard work and not for the faint of heart.
  6. Technology Challenges Habits. I like taking photos which for decades has equated to lugging around a bagful of camera stuff. For us snoots, cell phones are wildly convenient for instantly sharing but not responsive enough - so many precious moments slip by. So this summer I tried a Lumix LX-100 - - it was almost too good. Very solid lens. Super-fast focusing. Handles dimly lit settings masterfully. 4k video, whatever that is. Crazy, even worrisome intelligence (it can not only find the faces in a shot but find and focus on the eyeballs). The "too much" part? Now I questioned lugging around the whole camera bag… True, some shots need a big lens but the true motivation: peace of mind. My camera bag of gear = insurance I am "bringing it all" but it's 12 pounds vs. 11 ounces.
  7. Learning is Even More Accessible. I already love YouTube, audio CDs and books, podcasts. Now comes along edX, Coursera and others to offer courses by college professors on an array of topics. I just finished "Learning how to learn" - - what a treat. On my list when it comes available next is "A beginner’s guide to irrational behavior."
  8. The future occasionally comes into view making today more urgent. At seemingly random moments, I am vividly reminded that Paul will be in college starting in a mere 4 years [ yes just four years ] and Sidd just two years after that. My breath quickens and I get stressed. I don't think much about life "on the other side" but I do think of how I we proceed until that junction including nutty college admissions. One wild card: will colleges even exist then, given the remarkable rise of MOOCs?
  9. The Delicate Balance of Individuality and Connection. The boys are getting older and as they articulate their individuality, I see clashes occurring, with more to come. Today, they are trusted sounding boards to each other and if they can handle this important chapter it will mean a lifelong collaboration on many fronts. I have seen families ties unravel - - either diluted over time or in a sudden cataclysm. It would be a tragedy if these siblings suffered the same. Given their love of math, I shared a rule of thumb equation…
    Tr [Siblings] = (L*I*H*A) / (D*D)
    That is, the value of the Tr(easure) of having a Sibling is roughly a product of the day-in, day-out demonstration of (L)ove, (I)nspiration, truly H(earing) what is being said, plus sage (A)dvice one makes the effort to think thru and share mindfully so that people can absorb hard yet valuable counsel, all divided by the D(etachment) you create via physical distance, a lack of frequency of staying in touch, and also if your interactions in general are not done with such important elements as respect, empathy, tact and heart. The Detachment element is vital - - as that # gets bigger, it disastrously dilutes the treasure's value.
  10. Confidence is One of the Wellsprings of Humor. To close on whimsy, a story from perhaps 5 years ago... I was showing the boys how to fold freshly washed, dried clothes. At the bottom of the basket, Sidd pulled out an item and in a matter of fact way said, "Oh dad, I don't think we should fold these, they are mom's breast caps." What? I asked. He stared me in the eyes and repeated, "Breast caps, dad." I chuckled. No Sidd, those are actually called bras. He erupted into laughter as I had clearly said something wildly incorrect, to the point of cute. "What? Brraaaas? No dad, that's a weird word. They are breast caps, see they go like this on your body," and raised them to his chest. He set it aside, flat, as obviously one does not fold breast caps, and continued folding the other clothes.
Here's to a 2016 that is full of new, exhilarating beginnings, creating long term goodness for you. May you whimsically explore, discover, develop and appreciate the treasures, talents and time, and find eye-opening ways to bring them to life.

Take care and God Bless You!   
Sidd, Paul, Molly and Abe