Friday, June 9, 2017

Two Decades On


Today marks 20 years since I joined Nielsen! Because of the location (Schaumburg, IL), I assumed my time with the company only last two years at most. Three continents and two decades later, I’m still happy to be here.

I hope in that time I have brought a lot to Nielsen, but there’s no question about how much the company has given me. First, there’s the career development, worldwide travel, and industry know-how, all predicated upon being able to analyze numbers and talk about those analyses. I love the challenge of simplifying my nerdier passions, and lucky for me there’s been a market for it.

After 10 years in my hometown, I have been sent to live in Argentina and Switzerland. Again, that first assignment was supposed to be a fun and challenging two–year stint before a return home. Yet that mission has, thus far, incorporated 1½ new languages (French is a work-in-progress), two completely different cultures, and being a founding member of an ultimate frisbee club team. Much more importantly, I’ve also encountered the love of my life, and built a family with two great little kiddos who are growing up as American/Argentinean/Swiss hybrids. I hope we are not confusing them too much.

But on this arbitrary milestone I think most about all of the excellent colleagues at Nielsen. Nearly every friendship I have made since college has been at least indirectly due to Nielsen. Friends who share the same intense interest in music, friends I’ve met playing Ultimate Frisbee, and of course arriving in the hospitable community of Buenos Aires… It’s likely none of these relationships would have happened without the connections built via this company.

As a rookie I was trained by the very best, and have tried to pass along what they taught me at each stage since then. I’m proud and fortunate to say that I hired in some amazing people who have grown to become excellent leaders thanks to their considerable talents and drive. And moving around in the world has allowed me to bridge the partnership between old and new associates. The second project I ran as an analyst was delivered to the guy who is now my boss. (He’s been around a bit longer than I have.)  Our CEO says “It’s a great time to be at Nielsen,” and I agree. I can’t wait to see what the next decades have in store. At the very least, I have confidence that I will have superb teammates.



Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Why I'm voting for Donald Trump*

Election Day is nearly here, and though I have scant time for blogging these days, I felt compelled to weigh in once again. I’m not exactly excited to do so, but these are the times we live in. Devoted readers may recall that I called the 2012 election a “miserable slog.” Who was being naïve then, Kay?

Not impressed

Hillary Clinton is one of the weakest presidential nominees we have seen in a very long time. Barack Obama took her by surprise in 2008 because she is inept at putting forward a vision, does not inspire confidence in anything, and comes across as fake and foolish. She learned no lessons from her 2008 campaign, and if it weren’t for the pressure and passion of Bernie Sanders and his supporters, she would have had no raison d’être in this one. Sanders at least gave her something to push against and a reason to adopt some of his vision. Without that influence she would have been even more adrift.

Her supposed scandals do not interest me as they are not exactly scandalous. Her handling of them tends to be relevant. For instance, she did not initially reveal she had pneumonia because she is short-sighted, defensive, and has no perspective on how these things play out in public. Look no further than her idiotic campaign slogan: “I’m With Her.” What kind of vision for America is that? She may well have just used “Follow Me.”

She deserves credit for her performance in the debates, but aside from those three victories, the rest of her campaign has been full of backward thinking, defensiveness, and clumsy instincts. From the start of the general election, the strategy has been to pick up Republican voters when it should have been focused on turnout all along.

Therefore it is fair to assume that her presidency will be one full of missteps, questionable decisions, defensive posturing, and bad prioritization. I believe she is probably a good person who on many levels means well. But she’s a mediocre public figure who will never inspire the nation. And I doubt she will take the needed steps to fix what is broken in our politics, chiefly the corrupting influence of legalized bribery which influences all policy nowadays.

On the other hand

There is another choice. Unfortunately, that choice is Donald Trump. This is one of the most despicable, self-serving individuals on the planet. He lies more easily than he breathes. To call him willfully ignorant would imply that he's even capable of looking beyond his own nose. He’s a scam-artist who has filed for multiple bankruptcies to avoid paying his debts. Some billionaire... We know for certain that a Trump administration will be the most incompetent, least accountable, and likely most scandalous in history. He is a small, pathetic man who told Clinton at the debate that under his administration “you’d be in jail.” Of all the people in the world, it would be hard to think of a more unacceptable candidate.
Image result for trump dumb
OK, nobody’s perfect. I lied in the title of this posting. I was trying to be provocative. Because what kind of sensible person in their right mind would ever vote for Donald Trump? Can you seriously imagine me doing that? How ridiculous! I would vote for George W Bush, Ross Perot, Warren G Harding, Calvin Coolidge, Ann  Coulter, or Britney Spears before I would cast a vote for this moronic clod. But I wanted to put that down in virtual ink just to see how absurd it looks. Funny joke, eh? Except…

But here we are

Somehow, more than 40% of the United States disagrees with me about Trump. So many people choose to put their faith in a boorish, inept buffoon. To be sure, part of the problem has to do with his opponent. And of course there are a lot of idiots and crazy people out there.

But still. There is clearly something very wrong with the United States of America. Most brainy folks have spent this season trying to understand the Trump supporters. Why do they follow this gasbag? Why do they ignore his interminable faults? Why do they excuse his vulgarity? Is it because they’re racist? Because of economic anxiety? Because they prefer an authoritarian figure?  Who the hell cares? When Trump threatened Clinton with jail at the debate, it was followed by hootin' and hollerin' from his supporters. Seriously.

The Republican Party has long ago dropped any pretense for reason, honest debate, or even a belief in democracy. We all live in our echo chambers now, but it just so happens that in the US the right-wing echo chamber has the doors shut tight to truth and light. Belief is more important than honesty, and the party has been gradually exploiting it further and further. So of course their supporters went for the most mendacious blowhard on the stage. During the chaos of their primary, it was fun to throw their 2012 slogan back in their faces: “You built this.” Funny, eh?

As others have written more eloquently than I can, Trump is not the cause of these problems, he is merely a symptom. His arrival was inevitable. Again, the GOP brought this not only on themselves, but to all of us. Thanks a lot, guys.

What to do


As mentioned, I’m not #withher, but I am sure as hell not with them. I no longer care to understand why they behave the way they do. I'm done trying to find sympathy with those who willfully embrace ignorance. If you live in America, you have to live with the rest of us. You don't get to blame everyone else for everything that's wrong in your life, especially if you purposefully avoid truth and reason. We need to repudiate them, not seek greater understanding. They have to hear that racism, xenophobia, ignorance, and hate are not congruent with the concept of America.And that means voting the GOP out of office for starters.

But it goes deeper than that. There is a sickness in our country, and ceding legitimacy to feelings based entirely on bullshit is what has been feeding the sickness more than anything else. Freedom of religion and thought is critical. But it does not mean freedom to believe in alternative realities and let those fantastical beliefs drive real-world decisions. And how could someone vote for Donald Trump if they weren’t buying every fantasy?

I do not arrive at this point easily. I feel I am condemning nearly half of my nation. But just look at that loser nutjob at the top of the ticket they keep making excuses for. And when he loses they will still claim belief in Paul Ryan’s absurd tax plan, that climate change is a hoax, and that ACORN stole the election. Enough already. 

I always like to end these with a fitting tune. Here you go:


Monday, February 1, 2016

In Memoriam : Walter W. Reed


I have made only a few mentions of my father in this and my other blogs. Though if you look at many of the postings, you will see his comments spread across all kinds of topics, always with an encouraging message of support. He passed away two weeks ago, and as low as I feel right now, I have the urge to do something. And so writing a post about his life is what feels right to me. I’ll start at the beginning.

Lucky to survive

My father was born Werner Rindsberg in 1924 in Germany. His devout Jewish family lived in the small town of Mainstockheim. He played a lot of soccer and helped his father with the family wine business. As Germany fell into the hands of the Nazi party, their lives quickly changed. On Kristallnacht, he was arrested along with my grandfather. Because he was only 14 years old, my dad was returned home after three days My grandfather was sent to Dachau for several weeks and returned weakened and silent about what had happened to him. My grandparents then took the courageous step of sending my father to Belgium with a group of refugee children. He would never see his parents or brothers again.
Kurt, Werner, and Herbert Rindsberg
When the Nazis invaded Belgium he fled with nearly 100 other children to the south of France. They found refuge in a small farming community that still has fewer than 100 inhabitants. After nearly two years, he had the good fortune of receiving a visa and arrived at Ellis Island a just few months before the Pearl Harbor attack.
Werner Rindsberg and best friend Walter Strauss
He began work as an apprentice in a tool and die shop in New York, but was soon drafted into the army. That gave him the right to US citizenship, and he took the opportunity to change his name to Walter Reed. He then returned to Europe, arriving in Normandy less than a week after D-Day. Thanks to his skills in French and German, he was moved in to a position as a translator and interrogator. When the war ended he remained in Germany in support of the denazification efforts. He returned to his village to find more questions than answers about his family’s whereabouts. Much later he would learn that they perished in gas chambers in Poland.

An American

Returning to the US, he attended the Missouri School of Journalism, and in time various jobs across Midwest brought him to Chicago. Until he proposed to my mom, all who knew him believed he was born in New York City and that his parents had died in a car accident. He was always open and honest with us about his past, but we also understood this was something we kept within the family. He long felt that the Nazis had already taken so much away from him, that he did not want to let them ruin anything else in his life. That meant a conscious choice to be an American and fit in. On top of his career, he was always an active member of the community, working with various groups to help make a positive impact. This ranged from serving on boards of service organizations, to award-winning leadership in the Rotary Club, to he and my mom taking in Hmong refugees in the 1980s.

Accidental Historian

Some time after his retirement, with all us kids grown up, a return to the place where he and those 100 children were hiding opened up a new chapter in his life. He learned that most of them had survived and were in regular contact with each other. They had been looking for him for a long time. He soon “came out of the closet” as a holocaust survivor and began to tell his personal story publicly. What followed was nearly two decades of education, story-telling, and documenting his and others’ history. He organized reunions of his former companions in Chicago and at the site itself in France. He spoke to high schools and colleges in the US and across Europe. We are fortunate to have audio and video of some of these discussions. I can’t wait to share them with my children once they are old enough to appreciate them.
A high school classroom in Germany
As part of this process, my father became actively involved in a project to tell the story of these refugee children. An author who had previously published work about Jewish rescuers wanted to write a book detailing the history. My father enthusiastically offered his support with the research. Unfortunately, the author died rather early in the process. When no other option availed itself, my dad decided he would write the book himself. After ten years of research and writing plus another four hustling to get a publisher, his book came out last November.
Proudly unveiling the book cover

Always There

The above is an amazing story of a life truly lived, one I’ve told many times. But it’s not really what’s on my mind or why I’m writing this now. I’ve always wished I were more like my father. His innate ability to focus and continuously get things done ahead of time never came easily to me. I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone more reliable. Regardless of his age, he continued to deliver. Seriously, who publishes a heavily-researched non-fiction book at the age of 91?

As a father, he never missed any of our sporting events or concerts. He and my mom went to my brother’s post-punk shows at the Fireside Bowl and later his electronic shows at nightclubs, even when they took the stage at 2AM. Whatever I needed that he could provide, I usually didn’t even have to ask. He just took care of it.
When I was 14 he decided it was high time for his sons to learn to ski. So he drove us out Colorado and skied the week on his own while we took lessons. He was 65 at the time. He kept skiing well into his 70s. He and my mom did biking trips across Europe every summer. Every summer including the last one when he was 91.

When I got married in Buenos Aires, he gave a phenomenal speech in Spanish. This, even though my father did not speak Spanish. It was all anyone could talk about for weeks.
He was probably too strict with me and my brothers when we were young. But he did us the great favor of evolving as we grew up. That may have started shifting when he had a heart attack in 1985. (1985! He made it another 30 years beyond that…) Or perhaps opening himself up to his true past allowed his softer side to emerge and eventually take over. That trajectory continued over decades only to reach its pinnacle in his interactions with his granddaughter. How fortunate that we visited Chicago over the holidays and had two more weeks of fun. In our last conversation, he said how much joy being with her provided him. My dad went out the way he would have wanted. He didn’t suffer, and he was at one of the most content periods of his life.
Of course I have all the typical feelings, taking for granted that he would live forever. After everything he had survived and how capable he still was… what else was I going to think? (Some of my friends in Argentina called him “Highlander.”) I know. Everyone does this. That doesn’t make it any less frustrating.
I feel his absence at every moment of every day, even though I’m an ocean away. I think about how their house is emptier. My family is emptier. But I reflect on all the guidance and wisdom he passed on to me, and feel overwhelmingly lucky to have received it all. I can’t yet fathom that he won’t be able to do that for me anymore.

A series of sacrifices and miracles granted him survival, and without question he made the most of his life. I'm so proud of him, and I know my grandparents surely would have been, too. So many of his friends and acquaintances in these last two weeks have told me that my father was a great man, and I agree. But they don’t know the half of it.


For those interested in my father's book, I personally found it gripping and relevant, biased though I may be. You can buy it here.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Expectations


When I was 10 years old, my school had us participate in an extensive project that amounted to a more realized simulation of the computer game Oregon Trail. We were assigned to families and grouped into wagon trains with our fate determined by our decisions and simple luck (i.e. whatever the computer said). Cross-continental expeditions were beset by attacks from natives, inclement weather, and illnesses. This exercise went on over the course of a few weeks and culminated in a performance for parents where we acted out all that had occurred. In my wagon train, one girl’s simulated baby was near death due to an infection. During the performance, galvanized by some commendable overacting on the young mother’s part I was tasked with bringing the baby to her. The frantic screams of “MY BAAABYYYY!!!” were all the motivation I need to run as fast as I could to the part of the stage where the baby was and deliver it back to her. Of course, we didn’t use a real baby on stage as we were 10 year-olds and nowhere near responsible enough for such cargo. Instead it was a plush baby doll that in this case had diphtheria or some other such malady. I don’t know if I was hoping to save this little guy, since we already knew the sad outcome of the simulation, but the girl playing the mother was really quite hysterical. So I did what any ten year old boy would do to get that baby back in its mother’s arms. I threw it at her. The way I remember things this was a pretty good throw, possibly even landing in her lap. But, again, fate had spoken previously and the plush baby doll was doomed regardless of my efficient fling.

In school the next day, the teachers went over what had gone well and what had not. My decision to throw a sick baby some 20 feet was decidedly in the second column. At that age verisimilitude was not a strength I possessed. This was technically my first attempt at child care, simulated as it was. In front of a lot of people who knew how to get into character better than I did (and their parents), it was not an Oscar-worthy performance. It was also not the way to treat any sick baby, simulated or not.

This blog has been nearly dormant for the last two and a half years. I haven’t even posted any wedding pictures. But I finally have some news that might not be mind-blowing to you, but is certainly a life-changer for me. My wonderful wife Belu is pregnant, and we’re expecting a girl the first week of November. We’re both extremely excited, and can’t wait for all the impending changes even though we can’t really grasp what they will do to our lives.

The morning we received the happy news, the first thing I did upon leaving for work was glance at the mirror in my elevator. I probably look at myself in that mirror every morning, just to make sure I have nothing in my teeth and that my hair is at least presentable. But on that day, I felt like I was looking at some other, unknown person. I think I blurted out “that guy is going to be a father” with a grin comprised of equal parts nervousness and giddiness.

Since that moment six months ago, there has been a steady progression of newfound understanding. To be sure there are all the mechanical thought processes… What are the most important features to look for in a stroller? How many bibs are we gonna need? How does one complete the legal procedures for the birth of a baby in Switzerland who has parents from two other countries? How do birth-related contractions actually work, and what am I supposed to do about them? Where’s she going to go to college? And so forth. But beyond that I find I’m viewing the world in an entirely different way. We’ve all come into being through the same painful process before being liberated to find our own path. The impact that I’m going to have on this person’s entire life and how she fits into everything else in the world is constantly tumbling around in my head. I fully realize that once she’s born there will be no time for such thoughts. But all of the energy from this eager anticipation has to go somewhere.

I’m thinking about what kind of person she’ll be. Whether she will appreciate or curse us for forcing three languages upon her from the very beginning. Will she be fun, surly, goofy, selfish, sweet, caring? Will every last thing we do affect her? I think about wanting to be sure to do all the superb things my parents did right while improving upon the ones I wish they’d done a bit differently. I’m asking everyone I know who has children what to expect and what to do – constantly making mental notes. It’s not only that I don’t want to screw this up. I want to be a great dad and set her up for a happy life. I never really planned to for this moment, but I think I'm finally ready to be in it.

More than anything I rest assured that having such a strong relationship with Belu will make all of this easier and more successful. I’m not naïve enough to assume that having a baby won’t test us. But as long as we’re together, I know we’ll do the best we can. These next three months will surely pass quickly and my life will change all over again. Any lingering nerves are easily overwhelmed by excitement. And besides, I know that no matter what happens, I can’t do worse than I did at age 10.
Belu modeling the latest baby-bump fad in Chianti

Monday, July 1, 2013

Missing Dan

I hadn’t been in close contact with Dan since college, and I now suddenly realize just how long that’s been. Nearly all of my memories of him are from high school when we overlapped for three years. When he entered as a freshman, I’m pretty sure the first thing everyone noticed about him was, “Wow this kid can run!” It didn’t take long to see that he was an exceptional teammate with a radiant personality. In short, he was someone everyone loved being around.

Dan passed away last week of a rare form of cancer at age 37. The warnings in recent weeks that his condition wasn’t improving hasn’t made the news any easier to take. In some ways I feel I have no right to this post or to comment at all. It’s not that we grew apart in our 20s – better said that we simply found ourselves on different paths. I always thought that one day those paths might intersect again if we ever found ourselves in the same place.

His passing is a shock in so many ways. I can’t seem to let go of how unfair life can be. This was a guy with an incredibly positive spirit, good heart, and as tough a mettle as anyone I’ve known. Like I said, we were no longer very close, but I am certain that in these ways he never changed. He should have lived to be 100.

Danny, as we all called him then, never saw a challenge he couldn’t take on. Even in the rare cases where he was outmatched, he gave his all. In track meets he dabbled in hurdles and shot-put even though he was one of the shortest guys on the team. He was one of the smartest people I hung out with, but never once showed it off – an extremely rare type of humility where I grew up. He would often playfully obsess about trivial minutiae, successfully convincing everyone that, for instance, the team glider we won playing skee ball at Chuck E Cheese was something to be cherished forever. And he was a confidant who would listen to anyone’s worries. I know it’s cliché, but I really cannot believe he’s gone.

Throughout the last week, waves of memories are coming back to me as if they just happened. In all of them, Danny’s just being himself. I don’t often think about my high school days, perhaps because I often didn’t like who I was or how I carried myself at that point in life. I can say quite confidently that whenever I was around him, I liked myself a lot. He brought out the best in me before I had any idea what that was going to be. That’s why and how I always want to remember him. And why I feel so much sadness for someone I didn’t even know how much I missed.

Dan is on the bottom right and was our #1.

A cancer research fund has been set up in Dan’s name and can be accessed here in case you would like to donate.

Popular Posts