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Archive for September, 2011

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You can tell a lot about a hotel by how it is “equipped”. How was my lodging on this trip? Pretty nice, to be honest. The place my colleagues and I stayed was a small Inn located in a quaint Silicon Valley hamlet not far from our “secret” meeting locale. Aside from there being no coffee in the room, I can’t complain.

I found it interesting, however, to find the restroom equipped with an
ultra modern push button phone right next to the toilet. Ultra modern, maybe, when it was installed in 1985, that is. I wonder when the last time was that this phone set was used.

And it got me to thinking. (sorry to spoil the fun)

This visit to sunny CA was all about educational delivery systems, transformation versus substitution, pedagogy, and such. Our university has long prided itself on being a leader and innovator in putting technology to use in promoting student learning.

In the 60’s, we had a nationally recognized reel to reel tape dial up system where every student had a private assigned study carrell to use for accessing recordings of professors’ lectures. It was still in use during my freshmen year, and it seemed cool even then, although dated and old. That same year, we put the first computer lab on campus. They were Apple IIe computers, and my life was changed forever once I discovered the back room where they were set up.

Fast forward 26 years. My same university, where I am now a bleary eyed administrator instead of a wide eyed freshman, is using the latest Apple technology. But, much like the “Bat. Phone”, is it misplaced and unnecessary? iTunesU, anyone?

A laptop for every student; a chicken in every pot. Is that what the masses really need; is that what they are clamoring for? Is that what we need in order to transform?

They say the only things guaranteed in life are death, taxes, and change, and for many Republicans, only a partial subset of that list is necessary. (you choose)

To quote the past philosophers of Jefferson Starship/Airplane fame, “winds of change are blowing by”. We need to get on board that bird.

No matter the format, I have faith my colleagues and I will navigate the changing climate and find a way to step it up a notch.

If you have some thoughts on that, feel free to give me a call to discuss. During our call, please ignore if you hear water running in the background. In this modern era, there’s no telling where I might be when you call…

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I was sitting on an airplane with some colleagues earlier today, and I noticed how one of them was using an iDevice to help look up information on another iDevice. One device for each hand; once touch screen for each thumb….

I looked across the aisle at another colleague, and he too was working just the same way. It got me to thinking: “how did we get anything done before our plethora of devices?”. Maybe, more appropriately, “how do we get things done today, despite our plethora of devices?”. Multi-tasking 101, anyone?

I like a good iDevice as much as the next guy. I’m writing on one now, and near Cupertino, California (read, Apple Mecca) of all places.

Opposable thumbs helped Eve pick up the first Apple long before Steve Jobs came onto the scene with his Compubox in the 1970’s, and we’ve been paying for it ever since.

So what’s my point here? As Little Frau might say, put down your device and live life. Engage. Love on your cat. Odds are, it does not care what you can do with your phone, so long as you can open a can…

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Heartplatz…

Platz = Place.    Strasse = Street.    Gasse?    Same thing.    No, Herrengasse is not a man who had something bad for lunch.

Which brings me to this short, hopefully fun, topic.   My friend and co-worker have been all over the city this week, and when we see something unusual, noteworthy, or funny, the language butchering comes alive.

George Michael Strasse.     Insane Gasse.    Grandpaplatz.     The good ones from the week all escape me at the moment, as it is late and I should be in bed.

Accordingly, here’s “one for the road” before we fly off from The Continent:   Heartplatz.

Matthew 6:21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

My Heartplatz is waiting for me in Oklahoma.   Time to go.

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 I’ve decided that blogging is often times essentially a conversation.   One person talks, and another person listens.   Without the listener, there is no conversation.   Other times,blogging may be a soliloquy on a street corner.   Either way, you want people to listen because they are interested, not because they are in the area and can’t escape the conveyance of the message.

Which brings us to this morning’s thoughts…

Matthew 25: 34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

   37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

   40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

Das ist alles.   “That is all”.  We said it enough times, and he finally walked on.   Gratitude was obvious, but so was the want for more, and more we could not provide.   He was from Romania, as we understand, and we understood little more.   “Nicht Vertsehe?”, he kept asking.   “You don’t understand?”.    We understood that he wanted money.   A few moments earlier, we understood that he was hungry.    That much was obvious.

As our student group was finishing dinner in a resturaunt with large windows opening out to a nearby street corner, and you could see if you were outside paying attention that there was a lot of food on the table.   “Two wheelbarrows, and two swords”…”that is what you should order”.   Those were the directions from our co-worker back in the states who had planned all of the logistics of this trip.   And there was plenty of food to be had, and plenty left over.   Not twelve baskets full, likely, but twelve to go bags?    Maybe.    And out students would not need the food in their refigerators, for they were leaving at dawn for a retreat to the woods, and my co-workers and I were leaving for a return trip home.   Most, if  not all, of this leftover food would go to waste.

He entered the restraurant under the guise of trying to sell us some tabloid newspapers.   People are present all over Vienna trying to do just that.   I don’t know what they get paid, but it is likely off books and well below the minimum wage and work standards guaranteed by the State in Austria.   As mentioned before, we learned he is from Romania.   Not much else was known, but his hunger was evident.   His sales pitch was dismissed, “Nein, Danke”, but he did not leave the table.   His eyes said it all.   Most in my party had their side turned by the alignment of the tables, but I could see his eyes.  

In all due respect, it reminded me of my dog and my cat.    He was almost beyond containing himself as the food was bagged.   “We need to give him some food”, someone finally said.   He took the first few bags and with enthusiasm promptly left, but within minutes he was back, the same look written on his face.  This man was hungry.   It was not a comfortable moment.    As he took the second set of bags from us, he began to eat in front of us, very quickly.   After finally filling up, he place the remaining bags in his shoulder bag/satchel.    And he appeared grateful, kissing his hand and pointing to heaven, but then he would kiss his hand again and hold it out to us.

Mark 7:24 Jesus left that place and went to the vicinity of Tyre. He entered a house and did not want anyone to know it; yet he could not keep his presence secret. 25 In fact, as soon as she heard about him, a woman whose little daughter was possessed by an impure spirit came and fell at his feet. 26The woman was a Greek, born in Syrian Phoenicia. She begged Jesus to drive the demon out of her daughter.  27“First let the children eat all they want,” he told her, “for it is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.”  28“Lord,” she replied, “even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.”  29 Then he told her, “For such a reply, you may go; the demon has left your daughter.”

This issue is hard for me.   In the States, we most often equate beggars with wanting money for beer or drugs, and it is obvious.   There are far fewer beggars seen around in a Socialist system like Austria.   The State provides, and the Poliza arrest and detain.   But, they are here, and the few you see appear more desparate.   We have responsibilities.   This night, it was to our students, and they had finally left before my co-worker and I were alone with the man from Romania.   We each finally gave him the coins in our pocket.   For me, it was not hard to part with the 2,50 or so in Euro coins in my pocket (about $3.90, U.S.).   I had planned to stop at the market on the way back to the hotel and exchange the coins for some candy bars.   After all, you can’t spend Euro in the U.S., nor can you eat it when craving Schokolade.   But this money was better in the pocket of this man than being spent in satisfaction of my sweet tooth.

Matthew 25: 34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

   37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

   40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

I only hope and pray I can respond appropriately the next time some situation is presented, not looking out for my wants or needs, but rightfully discerning when to help someone before me…

Das ist alles. 

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“Outlive Your Life”.   The latest and greatest book by Max Lucado bears just that title.   As we look around Vienna this week, I can’t help but think that being remembered into perpetuity was at the heart of those with money and power over the ages.

One of the largest “tourist spots” in Vienna, ironically, is the Cathederal in the city center named after Saint Stephan, Stephansdom.   The Holy Roman Emporer Frederick, who died in 1494 shortly after the time Columbus discovered “the new world”, is entombed inside the cathederal.   The following is what Wikipedia has to share about his burial site: The construction of Emperor Frederick’s tomb spanned over 45 years, starting 25 years before his death. This impressive sarcophagus is made of the unusually dense red marble-like stone found at the Adnet quarry. Carved by Niclaes Gerhaert van Leyden, the tomb lid shows Emperor Frederick in his coronation regalia surrounded by the coats of arms of all of his dominions. The body of the tomb has 240 statues and is a glory of medieval sculptural art.

Interestingly enough, I’ve been inside Stephansdom several times over the past few years, but I’ve never been motivated to make a pilgrimage over to Frederick’s tomb, nor did I even truly realize who he was or that he was buried there until reading about the history of the building on the web last night.   I wonder how many visitors to Stephansplatz can say the same thing?   Whatever his intentions, which seem fairly obvious by the devotion to constructing his tomb, I’m not sure Frederick is outliving his life, in the truest sense of the phrase.

While I have yet to read Lucado’s book in its entirety, I have been through the first chapter, and understand the spirit of the message to be that by making a difference in the lives of others today, specifically with the example of trying to stamp out world hunger, we are changing the world, and thereby we are outliving our life.

Gutenberg is another great example.   Here is someone who created the ability to print and place copies of the Bible into the hands of the common man and woman.    Dare I say that Gutenberg has made a huge difference in the world and in the lives of countless millions?   Certainly more that Emporer Frederick.    And yet, how many even realize who Gutenberg was?   We don’t have his picture, although we have painted portraits.   The Europeans have been kind enough to erect statues.   But when you open your Bible in Oklahoma, or Vienna, Austria, or Xian, China, you don’t see his picture and a link to his blog or other writings.    All the same, he truly did outlive his life.

What about us today?   We blog.   We take pictures.   We leave mementos for others.   But, may I argue, that is not what outliving our life is all about.   On the plane over the other night, my neighbor in 38E talked about his view of Heaven, and that it is the memories we leave behind with our friends and family, but that when those people are gone, so are we.   No real Heaven exists, essentially, in his view.   How sad.    In recent years I have collected pieces from the homes of my now deceased grandmothers.   I have black and white portraits from generations of family, some whom I remember, some whom I never met.   But they all tell a story.   I have a few tangible mementos, from furniture to small decorative pieces, from both homes in my office.   I have my grandfather’s New Testament that he carried with him into the Pacific Theater in the 1940’s.   I have a few of my other grandfather’s engineering guides, even though I’m not an engineer, and I unfortunately never saw enough of his life to develop a relationship.     And yet, they continue to outlive their life, not through these tangible “hand me downs”, but through the impact they made in the lives of their children and others.    I continue to encounter people in my walk who knew my grandparents, and who say great things about the difference the relationship made in their lives.   And, these people are changed for the better, and they will hand that down, and those people will hand that down, and so on, and so on.

So, to my point?   How do we outlive our life?   We can try to make a difference in stamping out world hunger, as Mr. Lucado suggests.   That is good.   But, each of us can’t do that alone.   May I suggest we take it one moment at a time, one person at a time, and do our best to make a lasting impression for the good, and not for bad.   There is, and has been, enough of that in this world.   Which leads me to and leaves us with the greatest person to walk this earth in human form and outlive their life.   Amen.

Hebrews 9:23 It was necessary, then, for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these sacrifices, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. 24 For Christ did not enter a sanctuary made with human hands that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence. 25 Nor did he enter heaven to offer himself again and again, the way the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood that is not his own. 26 Otherwise Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world. But he has appeared once for all at the culmination of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself. 27 Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, 28 so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.

I will now go about trying to outlive my life this day.   Along the way, I’ll have to succeed in outliving yesterday’s Wienerschnitzel…

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Four days down; Four to go.   Here a just a few random thoughts and reflections on a Wednesday on a foreign shore.

Never discount the impact you can have at any specific moment in time.   God places people in our path, and places us in their paths, likewise.   I don’t acknowledge or attend to that reality as I should.    Whether it is a few hours on a plane, a few moments of time in a subway, or simply stopping to say hello to someone standing all alone, you can make a difference for good.   Likewise, ignoring those moments can serve the counter purpose. 

I’m reading the Gospel of Mark this week, and am trying to read it like I would a new paperback, as if I don’t already know the story.   A few things have stood out, already.    Criticism is not a product of the Enlightenment, the Renaissance, or even Modern or Post Modern thinking.   People were pretty busy with it in 30 AD, just as we are today.   For as many people that liked Jesus, there were many more who did not understand, appreciate, or care for him.   According to 5:17, many were down right afraid and wanted him to go away.    How much does that reflect in us, today?

In 9:50, we all hear the verse quoted “Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can you make it salty again?”, and we hear lots of discussion around what that means, what salt is good for, how we can be salt, etc.   What I had forgotten or not attended to was the preceeding verse: “Everyone will be salted with fire”, and the following “Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with each other”.

My task for today is to try to be a “salty dog”, to borrow a phrase.   A good dog is loyal, faithful, and fun loving.   I need to be the same.

I miss my Little Frau, und miene kinder.   I wish I could hop a quick flight (only 9 hours!) from here to China and back the next day to see the original Von of the family, but it will have to wait.

Love to all, from the other side of the world.

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What if these walls could talk…

Oh miss Elphaba, the things one hears these days. Dreadful things!
 I’ve heard of an ox a professor from Crox no longer permitted to teach who has lost all powers of speech.
And an owl in Munchkin loch a vicar with a thriving flock forbidden to preach how he only can screech.
Only rumours but still enough to get pause from anyone with paws something bad is happening is oz
Something bad happening in Oz
Under the surface, behind the scenes something bad…

…Nothing all that bad
 Nothing truly bad;… It couldn’t happen here in Oz…

The dialogue above is from the musical Wicked, and I could not help but recall these lyrics as I walked the streets of Vienna earlier today.

You see, the area in the city where our student facility is located is the former Jewish section of town.   The bronze memorial plates shown above are in the pavement on the sidewalk just a few feet from the front of our student’s building.  In the late 1930’s and early 1940’s, an estimated 65,000 Jews were deported from Vienna to concentrations camps around Europe.   Only 2,000 survived.   Another 800 managed to hide out in the city and were spared from torture or death.   Our students visit a concentration camp site with the program each year, and it is always a sobering experience, but even moreso this year.   Not only will our students have stood in the actual rooms used as gas chambers, as I experienced over 20 years ago as a student, but they currently call home the same streets and even likely the same building as did many Jewish citizens of Austria.   What if you were taken from your home and separated from your family?

Moreso, what would you do if you were a non Jewish citizen of Vienna at the time?   What would you do if you were a non Jewish citizen of Dachau in Germany, or Mauthausen in Austria, or Auschwitz in Poland?   Some protested or helped, at great personal risk or cost, but many turned a blind eye.

As Bernhard reminded me on the plane the other night, it is easier to be a good man when times are good, but hard to not be a bad man when times are bad.   What would you have done?   What would I have done?    What should I be doing now to not promote, or ignore, things that just should not be?   We live in a time of increasing greed, jealousy, and intolerance for human beings.   Maybe it is just part of the cycle of life and society, and a continuation of the hatred spawned by Cain toward his brother Able and the confusion of different tongues spawned at the Tower of Babel.

Regardless, as I sit here tonight, in this building on Gruentorgasse, I can almost hear the ghosts of that time calling out.   It’s something we should not forget.   The residents of this neighborhood in Vienna are doing their best not to, as well.   There is a memorial under glass in the sidewalk about two blocks from this location, and it contains keys taken from residents and shop owners as they were arrested and deported, and the names of their former owners.    Each of these is a stark reminder of the power of hate, and the duty of love.

And may we never sit silent and assume that all is well, when…

Something bad happening in Oz
Under the surface, behind the scenes something bad…

…Nothing all that bad
 Nothing truly bad;… It couldn’t happen here in Oz…

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