Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

2013 Goals

Posted: January 12, 2013 by Keith Townsend in Uncategorized

So, I like that Scott Lowe created a project list and shared with us the readers of his blog his progress throughout the year and a final update.  It was a pretty balanced list which included some tech stuff and learning German.  I decided to create a similar list of Goals for 2013 as they were in my noodle to begin with.  I promise to update you guys on my efforts and hopefully be as transparent with you as Scott has been with us.

2013 Goals

  1. Run 1500 miles – More so than most people, I have to maintain a healthy weight to stay off medication.  I’ve found over the years that the only effective way has been to run.  It’s going to be a combination of treadmill and outdoor running (hey I live in Chicago).  You can track my progress via RunKeeper here
  2. Obtain my PMP – I have a Masters in IT Project Management and I might as well
  3. Renew my CCNA – I don’t do much networking any more but it expires in March and the knowledge comes in handy
  4. Read the Entire Bible – One of the every year goals
  5. Learn to Speak Spanish – Paid a lot of money for Rossetta Stone a few years ago.  It’s about time I put it to use
  6. Become proficient in Linux – I’ve avoided this since 1999.  I don’t think I can continue to put it off

I think the learning to speak Spanish goal might be a little tough.  I’ve attempted it before and it’s just difficult.  I actually wrote a paper on it for school.  I might just dig it up to remind me of some of my lessons learned (See how I brought the project management thing into it).  The certifications are relatively low hanging fruit but I feel the other 3 goals are pretty tough and should really challenge me.  At the end of the year I have to be able to look back on this list and at list be able to present it to my parents without worries of getting disciplined 🙂

What are some of your Goals for 2013?

A little Holiday Fun With my Kids

Posted: December 30, 2012 by Keith Townsend in Uncategorized

I have a tradition of giving my kids gag gifts inside of real nice boxes.  I go through the whole wrapping thing.  It’s become a thing upon itself where the kids actually expect me to do it every year now even when they are all adults.  This year’s was a classic as I wrapped my son’s faux gift inside a iPad box.

Why I moved from Chicago and why I’m moving back

Posted: December 12, 2012 by Keith Townsend in Uncategorized

If you are a middle class black family, it’s a tough debate on if to leave the city for the suburbs.  Our communities need strong middle class families to help improve the community.  The men are needed to mentor boys without dads at home and give vision and overall leadership.  While at the same time you now have the means to provide better opportunity for your own family.  If you have an heart for others it’s a difficult decision.  I had to make the decision on if to leave or stay.

Keith_Kevin_MarcusI knew it was time to move from the City of Chicago when my son came home with all A’s and B’s.  My son will be one of the first to tell you that he’s not a scholar.  He has learned to work really hard at school and get out of it what he needs.  I’ve always known this about him.  We’d sit at the kitchen table for hours teaching him how to round numbers and develop critical thinking skill.  That’s why after his first semester at Hales Franciscan, a private school on the south side, I knew something was wrong.  He hadn’t really worked or studied particularly hard that semester but came home with his best grades ever.

I went in to have a conversation with the principle and staff and it became clear that I was going to have to find different options for him.  The school’s mission wasn’t focused around academic metrics.  They were located in a part of the city that really suffered from a lack of male leadership.  Their focus was to help develop boys that didn’t have strong male figures into men that could lead the community.  They were trying to provide my son with something he was already getting at home.  The same theme had already played itself out with my oldest.  My daughter went to Hyde Park and found that the public school education left her ill prepared for college life.  I had another son in middle school which meant the problem wasn’t going away anytime soon.  So, we moved in December of 2005.

We went 50 miles outside of Chicago to the suburb of Plainfield and school district 202.  It has paid off.  Both of my sons are well on their way to obtaining degrees from NIU. One of the things that I’ve drilled into them is that they have an obligation to pay forward their blessings.  There are plenty of middle class black families in the suburbs but I think my skill and presence will be much better felt in the actual city.  I’ve looked at the experience as an investment.  My family is overall stronger and God has opened an opportunity for us to return to the home that we moved out of in 2005.  I’m anxious to get back in there and build up the community as well as get back involved with our original church.

I’m pretty excited about the next few months and hope to have a positive impact on the city I love.

Save my Son

Posted: November 9, 2012 by Keith Townsend in Uncategorized
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I’m watching “Save My Son” on TV ONE and its reminding me of what it was like growing up in Chicago with a limited lens of success.  When you grow up in the inner city your view of what’s a hero and success is warped.  The other day, I got into spirited debate on FB with someone I was in elementary school with on the merits of the teachings of the leader of a major street gang in Chicago.

His argument is that a man’s teachings should be independent of a man’s past actions or the actions of his organization.  If the laws of the organization are good then it’s not relevant that the organization has warped the views of those teachings.  He likened it to Christianity.  Christianity in itself is pure but so much bad has been done in its name.  My challenge to him was to at least show me a single organization that was doing inspiring things because of this man’s teachings.  I’m still waiting on an example.

This is important because children and especially young men don’t respect teachings that are not backed by actions.  They look at the life of the men behind the teachings.  If you have children and have ever thought or said, “Just do what I say and not what I do” you get the point.  Just as unscrupulous ministers can use the Word of God to achieve their worldly goals, I believe this man and his followers are doing the same with his teachings.  We are seeing the results of their leadership and it’s hard to fight.  I remember talking with my peers at the age 16.  Success to us was getting a nice used car with a nice sound system and maybe some nice wheels.  Note that this didn’t necessarily include moving out of your parent’s house. That was a bonus.

This was and I believe still is the definition of making it.  And what did the lives of the men that “made it” look like in the Englewood neighborhood of Chicago?  Some had good jobs but the majority sold drugs.  When they achieved the goal of buying their nice used care with “rims and sounds” they were honored in the same way you’d honor someone at work for getting a big promotion.  They’d get slapped on the back and congratulated and other men would look at it and the vicious cycle would continue.

We couldn’t see the world beyond the borders of our neighborhood.  I’d sit and have conversations with my cousins on how we’d make it and continue to live in the hood.  There’s nothing wrong with living in the

Don Thompson – CEO MacDonald’s Corp

This is what was so inspiring about the TV program I watched tonight. Dr. Steve Perry has always impressed me as a dedicated educator but he gave a great framework for what’s needed to snatch our young men from the influence of these people.  Young men need other men to look up to and push and inspire them.  They need purpose and a feeling of family.  Both examples I saw tonight were inspiring.  I know that it takes a lot more than what was provided in the few days he was involved in their lives but it was still a great framework for success.

neighborhood that we grew up in but we just couldn’t see beyond it.  So, when a man who leads an organization of thousands of men gives you hope backed with a message that seems principled then I can understand the desire to follow. But they’ve had years and years of leadership in these neighborhoods and not much has changed in a positive way.

This is why the success of men like Collin Powell, Barack Obama and MacDonald’s CEO Don Thompson is so inspiring.  They are the difference in what true hope and change looks vs. a marriage of hope.  They help to provide visions of what possible for minorities who with some help and hard work are able to reach the highest levels of success in our nation.  But as I look back on my own life I realize that it’s not easy.  I had my mom and dad and a slew of social program and church to help mold me into the man that grew beyond the boundaries of the neighborhood.

More opportunity to make poor decisions

Posted: October 3, 2012 by Keith Townsend in Uncategorized
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I remember before I moved out to the burbs the conversation I had with my teenage and middle school aged sons.  I warned them about the difference is peer pressure and the types of challenges that they would face in the suburbs versus the inner city of Chicago.  The challenges within Chicago were kind of obvious.  They needed to stay clear of drug dealers, gangs, not wear the wrong colors and make sure they kept their hat on straight.  It may seem weird to some of you but that’s part of being a male minority in Chicago.  But the rules were pretty basic and engraved into them as part of my training and the training from the neighborhood.

I warned them that the challenges that they would face in the suburbs would be much different.  The kids in the suburbs had different problems.  In most cases their new peers would have excess material wealth.  Some of their friends would have a couple to a few hundred dollars a month in deposable income just from lunch money etc… This opens a whole new world of temptation for trouble that’s not apparent.  The obvious one would be drug use.  I warned them that drug use among suburban teens would be much different than drug use among inner city teens.  The options are just greater and even more dangerous.  It was these types of challenges that I feared the most.  The city was kind of easy for me to understand and navigate as a parent.  I grew up with similar challenges and could help my kinds avoid them where the suburbs were a completely different animal.

Both kids are now off to school and doing well but as I reflect on our transition, I’m grateful that both of them had strong morals and were good kids.  I don’t know how I would have handled the same transition.

I don’t always vote Democrat.  I have very conservative Christian values and believe like many other Christians struggle with who to vote for from election to election.  I was on the fence for a while with Mitt Romney.  I don’t necessarily agree with his take on Christianity but from afar he seemed to have some of my same Christian values.  I’m going to be honest and say like most other politicians, I don’t particularly trust Barack Obama.  I do believe he’s very intelligent and capable leader (and was born in the U.S.).

I come from a part of America where Mitt Romney’s 47% is much larger than 47%.  I grew up in the Englewood and Bronzeville neighborhoods of Chicago.  Most families including mine were poor and required government assistance.  We darted in and out of the lower middle class.  My mom had my brother at 14 and me at 15.  I eventually had 3 younger brothers.  My dad was a hardworking but poorly educated man.  They did the best that they could with what they were armed.

I’m not ashamed to say we needed help.  We took advantage of every private and public program we could including Food Stamps.  As we got older my mom got stronger and eventually went back to school and completed her GED using private and public assistance.  She took a job driving a school bus making I believe about $147 a week in the mid 80’s.  She kept at it and was eventually promoted to a dispatcher and later a supervisor.  I got a chance to work with her for about a month and was amazed at how good she was at her job.  We always said she should start her own business.

She later actually did start her own transportation company with her new husband.  They run Threpar Transportation out of Chicago.  They provide safe transportation for school age kids to and from school.  Depending on the peaks and valleys of business they can employee anywhere from 3 to 5 full-time drivers.  They are examples of true job creators in an area of Chicago that needs jobs.

This wasn’t a benefit from some trickle down policy by giving a tax break to “job creators.”  It was a combination of long term government aide and private support working together to help educate my mom and give her a chance.  I picture Mitt Romney and his supporters looking at little girls today like my mom and thinking they are a waste on government resources.  The thought sickens me that someone would call people in these situations victims.  My mom didn’t feel like a victim.  She made some poor choices (I’m glad she did) and understood that no one put her in the situation.  But, I promise you she has given much more back than she received.  Are there people that abuse the system?  Sure, just as long as there’s money to be made their will be cheats.  It doesn’t matter if it’s $200 a month in food stamps or sub-prime mortgages.

I don’t have to see the debate to know who I’m voting for this year.  It’s the guy that didn’t call my mother a victim.

By Mark Dyson of Competetive Resumes and The Voice of the Job Seeker

If you are unable to walk your toddlers through your neighborhood, where you live, then you’re missing
out on knowing your children. There were times when it told me who they would become. It told me
what I needed to teach them as growing young men.

We lived in a beautiful co-op near 69th and Jeffrey in the 1990s. I strolled both of them through the
hood, good parts and bad parts. We also walked throughout the neighborhood including 71 st street.
They were un-phased by the homeless, the belligerent, and the Metra train noise.

What intrigued them the most? Dogs.

None of our relatives had dogs at the time. A few friends, but we have relatives that hate dogs. Despise
them. Abhor them.

All of the dogs on our block were friendly. Even the big dogs melted when they saw the boys walking
through the neighborhood. Dogs were friendly, and the boy adapted until one day a loud and mean dog
came really close to them barking, snarling, and seemingly infuriated. Fortunately, this dog separated us
by his owner’s gate.

There was no need for panic I thought. Both of the boys were startled, and couldn’t grasp that nothing
was going to happen to them. What happened next was the first major revelation of the character that
appeared out of both of them.

The oldest was crying hysterically, but stood between the dog and the youngest. The youngest was
startled and wasn’t crying, and no longer afraid.

We kept walking, but that was a preview of who they are now. My youngest keeps asking my wife and I
for a puppy.

And I didn’t teach them that.

If I had the chance to have a conversation with my 14 to 16 year old self I’d kick my butt.  I had to be one of the most frustrating kids ever and if I could apologize to my high school teachers back at Gage Park I would.  I leaned greatly on my natural ability to achieve just enough to get by in school while other kids struggled so much just to achieve what I didn’t even have to try hard to accomplish.  I didn’t have to study very hard most of the time and I did OK.  Not great just OK.  I didn’t have much going on as far as a social life and my grandmother taught us not to be idle in the summer so, I went to summer school every year of high school.  This allowed me to graduate from HS a year early.  The feat wasn’t anything really special.  I mainly went to summer school because classes like Chemistry were much easier to pass in summer school.  It wasn’t something I needed to stretch to achieve.

I tell this story because this is the reason I ended being shown how to mop a floor.  When you live off just your ability and not the desire to strive for something great the ultimate result will be something much less than what you hoped.  This is now my fear and driver in everything that I do.  I don’t want to look up in life again and having some guy in a short sleeve shirt showing me how to mop a floor because I didn’t apply myself.

People look at my life today and see that I have a lot going on and that I don’t seem satisfied with my accomplishments.  That’s because I’m not.  I can do so much more.  I can help more people achieve their dreams, I can bring more people to Christ, I can push myself to be a great example to my own children if I just apply myself.  When this life is done, I don’t want people to say I was effective, I want them to say “He left it all out there!”

Examples of using basketball to better a kid’s life

Posted: September 15, 2012 by Keith Townsend in Uncategorized

By Keith Townsend

Growing up on the South Side of Chicago basketball is huge.  It’s a big deal at every grammar school and high school no matter if the basketball programs are any good or not.  My grammar school had a big tradition of putting out some talented teams.  There weren’t many years where we didn’t compete.  My family actually had a history of playing for the team.  All of my mom’s brothers played for the same coach.

I and all 4 of my brothers pretty much made the team on reputation.  It was expected that we’d be on the team whether we were good or not.  My older brother was decent and my younger brothers actually lived up to the billing.  I was never really any good in comparison.  I was athletic but basketball just wasn’t my passion.  Not like my youngest too brothers.  Both went on to play basketball in both high school and college, with the youngest going to a Final Four.

Both of them used the skill to take them to places I’d never been.  The older of the two went to California where he basically grew up.  Big Al was a beast on and off the court.  I wish I could have went and seen him play in college.  We did get a chance to play together in my church’s league.  I hyped him up to all of my team mates before the start of the season and he didn’t disappoint.  He was definitely one of the best players in the 7 or 8 team league.

Al’s college career took him all the way to California.  This was the equivalent to going to Europe and slumming it as you find yourself.  He used the time to grow and understand who he is as a person.  He came back to Chicago like any other young adult who goes off to a foreign area does.  He had some additional growing to do but the results are pretty evident.  He’s a great family man raising his 3 daughters along with his wife in the burbs of Chicago.

My youngest brother had the greatest passion for the game.  Todd is by far the most talented athlete in our family.  He was able to leverage an opportunity to live with a great family in the affluent part of the Chicago land area to get exposure to big time Division I basketball programs.  He was eventually recruited to go play for Marquette where he started all 33 games the year they went to the Final Four.  I’m happy to say I was there for a good majority of those games.  He’s now an assistant coach for Northern Illinois where he’s watching after my two sons.

The point is that both of my brothers used their talents to improve their situations.  There’s nothing wrong with basketball being a big part of our culture.  We just can’t be consumed with it as a “way out.”  I didn’t have the talent for it to better my own situation.  I’ve always been a geek and computer science has served me well as long as I’ve put the time into my passion.  I’m proud of both my younger brothers.  They weren’t afraid to follow their hearts and take full advantage of the opportunities presented to them.

Uncle Chuck Stories – “You have to tap it to get it in”

Posted: September 8, 2012 by Keith Townsend in Uncategorized

I have a crazy uncle just like everyone should.  My uncle Chuck is now up there in age and had no choice but to slow down.  Somehow, I’m thinking if he had a choice he’d be still doing his thing.  One of my favorite Uncle Chuck stories was when I was a late teen with raging hormones.  I had brought a Rambler Rebel car for 500 bucks.  The car ran extremely well.  The only thing wrong with it was that it had bad brakes.  Bad brakes and a teenage driver is a bad combination.  You may note that you never heard of the Rambler car brand or the Rebel for that matter.   This was an old car even back in the 90’s.  It was a ’68 so finding parts for it was difficult.  The entire brake systems needed to be replaced.  I had tracked down most of the parts to the brakes except for the rear caliber on the passenger side.  You might wonder what this has to do with my uncle and why I remember such minor detail from 20 years ago.

Well my Uncle Chuck could fix anything, boilers, electrical panels and cars for example.  He was especially good at brake systems.  Brakes were his “hustle.”  He used to say $20.00 per wheel to do brake pads and rotors.  I actually learned how to do brakes from watching him.  But like most people my Uncle Chuck was only good at fixing things when he’s sober.  He wasn’t a very good drunk mechanic.  This brings me back to my Rebel.

I had scoured junk yards and classic car parts stores looking for this stupid caliper.  I finally found another Rebel (evidently it wasn’t a very popular car) in a junk yard that had a good caliper.  The timing was perfect.  I had a hot date (I use the term loosely) with a girl I met a few days earlier.  I was having trouble putting the caliper on and walked away from the car.  While I had stepped away my uncle walked up and looked at what I was doing.  I looked over with a cautious eye because my uncle had a little more than a “one and one” (a wine and a beer).

He said, “Nephew”.  Now when my uncle says “Nephew” in the way that he says “Nephew” after having a few, I know I’m about to have an Uncle Chuck Story moment, some of which I’d never share online.  Uncle Chuck yells “You have to tap it to get it in.”  I’m yelling, “NO!!!!”  I’ve seen my uncle Chuck “tap” things before and it usually meant something was going to break.  He picks up the hammer and does that old close one eye and attempt to line the hammer up drunk thing people who have had too much to drink do.  I start running back to the car.  This is all happening in that Bionic Man slow motion effect.  Before I can get back to the car my uncle has tapped the caliper and yelp, I don’t have to tell you the rest.

I missed my hot date and I look back and thank God (and my uncle) that I did.  I had no business going on a “date” with this girl.  I didn’t feel this way back then but now I’m OK.