Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Driving 70mph in traffic

Since 1971 I feel like I've been driving at 70mph in traffic.

We were prepared for anything, but not this. We had to make it up along the way. That's what an education is for.

I tell people I was too young for Viet Nam but too old for Desert Storm. My selective service number was 300+. My grandfather was glad he didn't need to pay for me to move to Canada.

My memory is not what it used to be. But I remember growing pot in my grandmother's backyard (and going to a garden supply store with Greg Fraize and asking about fertilizer for weeds as a science project. I still crack up about it!) I remember drying it on my Buick Skylark GS V8 manifold and rolling it with Zig Zag rolling papers. My dad only noticed the smell after a cop presented at his Optimist Club and burned some to make parents aware of the smell.

My grandkids don't know what a V8 is. (Maybe a juice?) I still crave a Z28 or Mach 302.

Sex outdoors? There are few memories that would convince the EMTs I was still alive if I was otherwise unresponsive.

Wine - I promised I'd never drink Boone's Farm again after getting drunk over the night shift at a convenience store where I was working on the East side where I grew up. Now I drink IPAs - thank God for craft beer. It's not the same - but I'm 50 years older now.

My younger brother died ten years ago. I haven't talked to one of my sisters for years. Families are complicated.

We had the BEST MUSIC! Starting with the Beatles when we were in grade school. Then Led Zeppelin. Pink Floyd. Yes. Jethro Tull. Do you remember Wood Stock? Nothing like it since. We had the best music.

I've been drinking too much but my doctor hasn't told me to stop yet. Blood pressure and cholesterol under control. Modern meds let you do things you shouldn't do. (Cialis to the contrary.) I've had the COVID vaccine and I'm not worried about it. How can people not get that? 

Medicare is great. Too bad you need to be old to get it. Social Security is good too. My dad didn't live long enough to get his. 

Married 46 years. Lucky pick. Divorce is expensive. 

6 grandkids + one on the way - they are proof that the world should go on. (Actually, nature wants you to have kids and get out of the way ASAP.)

And we have the Internet now - curiosity's wet dream.

You must have a story! Tell us! Have a few beers (like I just did) and write something for the Class of 71 Legacy Compendium. Maybe you'll get invited to Prep to tell your story. It won't be as good as a Maines or Zarnowicky lecture, but relevant just the same. (God bless them.)

Driving 70mph in traffic. Pretty soon they won't have cars. Better hurry.

Kim

P.S. This was written to the remaining members of the Brebeuf Class of 71 - to motivate them to attend the 50 Year Class Reunion.

Friday, June 25, 2021

Driving 2.0

I drive a lot - about 2K miles/month around town. Fortunately I have a hybrid that gets 40+ miles/gallon. I laugh at gas stations and no longer hunt for gas at a few cents cheaper/gallon.

Since the pandemic has abated, I've noticed more cars on the road. With road construction obstructing nearly every highway, street and alley in Indy, the driving experience has degraded precipitously. Luckily, I drive a nice car, have books/music/NPR to listen to am usually not in a hurry.

That said, the proportion of poor drivers seems to have increased. Maybe the folks who srayed home during the pandemic are emerging like Cicada's with only one thing on their mind - and it's not good driving.

I've come up with a three element model for thinking about driving skills. I'd like to teach Driver's Ed 2.0. You  may think these skill may be useless as the age of autonomous vehicles is upon us! But trust me, idiots will be driving for a very long time and we should endeavor to help them improve themselves . . . if not for their own sake, then for the sake of fellow drives (our children!) who must share the road with them.

Here are the Driving 2.0 skills we should teach:

  • Planning
  • Networking
  • Teaming

Planning seems fundmental - but in this model it covers a spectrum of planning. From planning for a trip on one end of the time scale; but also planning your moves in traffic and being ready for problems that develop in real-time which can be anticipated or not. 

You may browse your mapping app to see where traffic is congested and plan to take another route. You may plan to get gas. You may plan, like UPS, to almost never make left turns!

Taking a moment to plan has many benefits. It settles your mind and focuses your attention. You can use the moment to remind yourself that you don't want to die today. (Or get injured or hurt someone/something else.) Maybe it's planning for car maintenance? Revisiting your goals for not taking/making calls or texts while driving.

Networking may not seem obvious but actually, you do it all the time when you drive; maybe just not so well. A highway through the lens of an autonomous vehicle's artificial eyes is a constantly evolving network of moving vehicles, obstacles, roadways, signals and targets. (Having no experience writing software for autonomous vehicles I'm speculating about this.) Humans should be doing the same - and have the potential to do it even better on a good day and in some circumstances - they just have to pay attention.

My concept of networking includes signaling your intention by communicating your moves to other drivers, observing and anticipating their moves and integrating that data that into your moves. You should constantly be taking in data about driving conditions, your vehicle's performance, your own behaviors, idiots, rage-rovers, slowpokes and impared drivers. Looked at from this perspective your driving 'program' looks a lot more like a node in a network constantly communicating with other nodes. Cool! (And which requires millisecond to millisecond attention, really.)

Teaming is the pinacle of a well run network. Our social goal for driving should be teamwork. By communicating what you intend to do and observing what the other guy is doing (or needs) to do you become a member of a team all trying to get somewhere safetly an quickly. Giving up a bit of the 'me first' attitude and realizing that teamwork helps everyone may seem like a fantasy. But it is a standard that could be taught in Driving 2.0 classes. At least it could become a goal. 

If the seed is planted early - a part of the education of every driver (even including questions on the test!) - then we may someday be able to drive with autonomous vehicles and be proud of our results!



Monday, February 15, 2021

Winter of Discontent - Rotary Moment of Reflection

 

Rotary Moment of Reflection – February 9, 2021

Kim Brand, Indianapolis Rotary Club

Winter began December 20th of last year. It added insult to the injury of COVID and a literal and figurative darkness to the election that held on like a bad flu.

It was like the Winter of our Discontent.

Hump day was February 3 – we’re better than halfway through it now. Never mind the single digit forecasts, the days are getting longer – a couple minutes or more every day – like bookends moving apart to soon make room for another volume of sun!

Saturday, March 20, 2021 will be the first day of Spring. Foreknowledge about the angle of the earth with respect to the sun and our orbit gives me hope in a sort of astronomer-geek way!

I think with this Spring will come hope that a vaccine will finally flatten the curve – crush it hopefully - of COVID and, whatever else happens in the political arena, the fever will pass.

Returning too, I hope, will be crowded face to face Rotary meetings, fairs and farmers markets. I can’t wait for dinners out and to play with my grandkids at the park. Birthday parties! Going maskless – having to shave every day again (with a mask on it just didn’t matter.)

And most of all: fewer Zoom calls!

I believe we’ve made it through the worst. We’ll need rebab – to our embattled health care system and our sense of trust in our political systems and each other. We’ll get there. Rotary can make a difference. Our relationships, the things we think, say and do, our mission, will be even more relevant when we put these twin pandemics behind us.

But most of all our hope – when we recite the pledge today pay the most attention to the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, ONE NATION UNDER GOD and know that the sun has always returned to shine bright on our country and our people – even after the darkness of winter.

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Pandemic Post

Timing is everything.

This is the Moment of Reflection I presented at the Indianapolis Rotary Club on March 31, 2020. The first on Zoom. It was a shadow of the networking event I know the Rotary Club produces. But these times are a shadow of the recent past.

The 'strike-throughs' are due to time constraints.


Indianapolis Rotary Club Moment of Reflection
March 31, 2020
Kim Brand
These are times that try men’s souls

On December 23, 1776, Thomas Paine said ‘These are the times that try men’s souls’ during the early days of the American revolution. He was giving a report on the Revolutionary War success of the Continental Army and at the time didn’t have a lot of good news. He was frustrated by delays in prosecuting the war, and setbacks what they may have meant to the prospects for success, but he was sure that Providence was on the side of the Americans, and that if needed, God would intervene.
He commented: “Tis surprising to see how rapidly a panic will sometimes run through a country. All nations and ages have been subject to them. . . . Yet panics, in some cases, have their uses; they produce as much good as hurt. Their duration is always short; the mind soon grows through them, and acquires a firmer habit than before.”
Indeed, America is rapidly acquiring a firmer habit than before. This was predicted by Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto after the attack on Pearl Harbor when he said: “I fear all we have done is to waken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve.”
Our great America’s thinkers and doers, everywhere, are rising to the Coronavirus challenge in ways we couldn’t possibly have imagined. Our hospitals, health care providers, industries, and a united government, are marshalling our great talents, resources and determination to bend the curve of innovation upward as fast as flattening the curve of the spreading virus. We will conquer this threat, as we have so many before. Not without loss, not without change and not without fear.
156 years later, at Roosevelt’s first inaugural, he said in response to fear: surrounding the continuing depression,
Let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is...fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance. In every dark hour of our national life a leadership of frankness and of vigor has met with that understanding and support of the people themselves which is essential to victory.
Roosevelt’s oath was made with his hand on his family bible, opened to I Corinthians 13. At verse 12 it says: “For now we see through a glass darkly.” How appropriate for our times.
The future is rarely seen with clarity. But with a laser focus on success inspired by our resolve, we will emerge from this crisis more connected to each other, more prepared for the future and unafraid of whatever new challenges we may come to face.



Sunday, December 29, 2019

Rotary Moment of Reflection - 12-3-19


Rotary Moment of Reflection
You are more complicated than you know
Kim Brand
December 3, 2019
(redacted due to time constraints)

I’m reading a great book titled The End of Average. It’s made me think of all the ways we measure ourselves and other people by someone else’s yardstick. The book explains that some measures are possible, like height & weight for example. But most are impossible like heart and character.

We have become a number for the convenience of computers: Age, Credit Score, GPA, zip code. The problem is when we believe that those numbers tell the whole story – especially when we believe them about ourselves.

You may not know that the concept of average is a fairly recent invention. Lots of smart people with high IQs measured lots of physical and personality traits and then summarized their findings using new math – they invented averages. It’s called averagarianism.

Being average was once considered the pinnacle of evolution because nature surely intended for average to be the target. Being average was cool!

In 1943 a doctor sculpted a statue of the average woman, named Norma. They launched a contest to find any woman matching her dimensions. Nearly 4000 contestants applied, none was average.

Their research implied authority. But although you can calculate the average type nobody is really average!

Later, the distance from average – above and below – was studied. Depending on the scale, either could be more or less desirable. Consider a golf score vs IQ – I’d be happy to hit 100 on either one!

Within the last couple generations it was believed that if you were good at anything you’d probably be good at everything. That’s why high SAT scores and GPAs used to get you into any school. Microsoft and Google don’t care about SATs or GPAs anymore, they don’t even care so much if you graduated. Now they care about what you’ve done and what YOU care about.

Maybe you’ve been measured by the Myers Briggs personality test. ENTP or ISFJ or whatever. The End of Average claims this is psychological mumbo jumbo. Researchers found that context is critical. Were you measured in family situations, work settings or social environments? It matters a lot. People are just more complicated than the combination of four letters would predict. (That would be 16 types by the way – I got an above average score in combinations & permutations!)

The truth is that our personalities, potentials and physical and mental abilities – and those of everyone you know – are just too complicated for averages - or - to be able to judge a person by his or her type – otherwise known as prejudice.

I’m making this little book report today to encourage you to celebrate the end of averagarianism. Stop comparing yourself to anybody else. 

Russeau said “I may be no better but at least I am different!’ Be a little easier on yourself and more tolerant of everyone. There’s more to our human stories than you can measure.

And finally: You are not average . . . I can prove it!



Saturday, November 02, 2019

Advice to a college student regarding career options

A friend's son asked me for advice about what to do after graduation. Here is what I said:

I envy your options!
Once I told a friend’s son he should get his merchant seaman’s license and travel the world. He went on to graduate from Yale and is now a nuclear sub engineer in the Navy. Not exactly the swashbuckling option I dreamed about – but for the few days a year they are in port he gets to see the world anyway!
There are many people who could give you much better advice than me. You probably have access to experts at your school. Talk to your friend and family – what a great conversation starter! Your choices may be constrained by student loans or a girlfriend  
The concept of constraints is really important – your life is as open now as the sea – everything that happens after this freezes a part of it.
Life is simultaneously long and short. Poets and playwrights have pondered the best use of it over and over. I like the advice of Seneca, Shakespeare and Emerson.
As for careers: they are temporal. I’d keep my options as open as possible. I understand people your age will have over a dozen . My advice is to make the next career more interesting than the last.
You’ve got to be comfortable with the mission, meaning, rewards, work:life balance and risk.  I just made that up – please don’t infer any metaphysical importance to that list 😊
That said, I believe being a lawyer is no longer the right career choice for most people. It’s expensive to get a law degree and many of my friends think the decline in income prospects combined with the debt service/opportunity cost has made it a bad investment.
You’ve got to be excited about whatever you want to do – even if it’s for a little while (1-2 yrs.) The major benefit may be experience. There may never be another time in your life when your tolerance for risk is as high as it is now. (No kids, mortgage, roots, etc.) So go for it!
Ask yourself: do I want to find adventure or vocation? What have you already done that interested you? What networks have you plugged into with the most interesting people? I’d look at the quality of the people you work with as a form of compensation. They will also help you create your professional network.
Do you have a calling? Some are motivated by their religion, an internal quest or desire to help solve a problem in a charitable way. Some only keep score by the money they make. At your 10th or 40th reunion what do you want to say to the friends that remain when they ask: What do you do?
At my age I think about epitaphs 😊  What 3-5 words will define you?
With your education and family you truly have unlimited potential. DO NOT LET YOUR DEGREES LIMIT YOU. Don’t be put in a box. Most of the smart people I know had no clue about a plan for life until it happened to them.
I’ve gone on too long and don’t think I’ve answered any of your questions.  Here are a few more places to look:
Good luck!


Trump's Twitter Feed

A great article in the NYT appeared today: Trump's Twitter Feed. President Trump is the first to employ this social media platform to such advantage and it would be safe to say society is having a hard time dealing with the consequences.

There were many fine comments posted by readers of the Times. I felt compelled to post mine. These ideas have been rumbling around in my head for a couple years.

Two problems of social media: anonymity & free. These twins breed unrestrained hate like garbage rotting in the sun.  
Force every account to be verified and add a nominal cost to use the platforms. Traditional TV, Radio, magazines and newspapers employ writers and, if they deliver valuable information, attract subscribers and advertisers. They spend money to create and distribute their news/views which are curated by experts with standards. 
We stumbled into electronic media platforms and became drunk on free.
Anonymity has unleashed our id. The movie Forbidden Planet from 1956 foretells this story and its consequences. It doesn't end well.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Be the change you wish to see in the world

I got to do another 'Moment of Silence' sooner than normal because I couldn't do one on the regularly scheduled day.

Inspired by Ghandi . . .

Be the change you wish to see in the world.

August 20, 2019 - Indianapolis Rotary Club

You may have heard or seen this bumper sticker feel-good quote a million times. You may know that it is attributed to Mahatma Gandhi. A little research shows that he may have truly said:

“If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. ... We need not wait to see what others do.”

Not a contradiction, but no longer a bumper sticker. Perhaps the idea for the phrase came after his actions - almost like a surprise - he may have been summarizing his experience not inspiring change. The results of an experiment summarized to a conclusion; not advice really.

Here are the experiments I have conducted for the past few years in the spirit of Gandhi

  • Tip fast food workers - don’t wait for minimum wage to help them
  • Pick up some trash every day - not your trash - trash in the McDonald’s or Walmart parking lot (I find it more interesting!) - don’t wait for the trash collector
  • Drive like you are a driver’s education coach - don’t reserve hand gestures for bad moves - say thank you and wave to drivers who exhibit courtesy and skill
  • Smile at everybody. A smile truly is contagious - and while it may make them wonder what you are thinking, it may just may them believe for a second that the world is a more friendly and caring place.

The evidence that I am changing the world may be weak but I believe that I’ve undoubtedly improved a few very small corners of it. I always get a delightful smile of surprise when I hand a counter worker a tip, the parking lot has a few fewer pieces of trash for a moment, my drive to work is a little happier and I see a lot more smiles everywhere I go.

The results of my experiments are the same as Gandhi’s: We need not wait to see what others do before we act to make a better world.