Iron sharpens Iron

Posted: April 3, 2013 by Keith Townsend in Uncategorized

I had dinner with my youngest brother the other night and was reminded why it’s important for men to have other men in their lives. We are both extremely busy but when we get together our conversations are usually pretty substantial. He reminded me of a conversation we had a couple of years ago that completely changed the course of his life. It wasn’t long at all but the impact was lasting.

This is the value of deep relationships. Over a period of years you build capital with each other that can be used to sharpen one another unlike any other type of relationship. When you feel like someone actually cares for you then even advice given in casual conversation is so much more meaningful.

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Today is opening day and my Sox (WhiteSox) put it on the Royal’s with a dominating pitching performance.  Opening day and this performance reminded me why I love baseball and the White Sox.

Sox

There’s not many more memories that stick out more to me than going to a White Sox game with my mom.  My mom knows about as much about baseballs as she does installing servers.  But, every season since Harold Baines (I’m guessing because his of his swing?) played for the White Sox my mom would take me and my older brother to White Sox Games.  We lived on 45th and Indiana while Old Comisky was about 3 miles away.  My mom would pack me and my brother up and we’d make the walk to the ball park.

I remember one standout pitching performance.  I was maybe 6 years old and hadn’t really caught the fever for baseball.  It was the top of the 7th inning (maybe 6th) and there was a base hit by the other team.  Everyone in the stands got up and starting clapping.  I remember tugging at my mom and asking her why was everyone clapping for the other team.  She explained that this was the first hit the other team had the whole game.  I remember thinking, “Wow that’s really nice of Chicago fans to encourage the other team.”  Let’s just say that since then I’ve learned a little more about the importance of a no hitter.

I remember the bad sight lines, the smell of old beer and the horrible bathrooms (reminds me a lot of Wrigley).  But most of all I remember the time spent with my mom and my brother.  We had some really good fortune.  I can’t say that I remember going to a game with my mom and the Sox ever losing. I wonder if my mom would be interested in Season Tickets?  🙂

Let’s GO WHITE SOX!!!!

Chicago School Closings – Keep the kids safe first

Posted: March 22, 2013 by Keith Townsend in Uncategorized
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I really respect Dr. Steve Perry.  He’s truly someone to admire for the work he’s done in creating a model school in CT.  His work on the TVOne show Save my Son is ground breaking.  However, he has strong opinions on what should be done with the schools in Chicago that I don’t entirely agree with him.  In general, I believe that chronic under performing schools should be closed.  Why keep a school that just can’t cut the mustard open?  However, Chicago is in a situation where the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) is strap for cash.  They are in a budget hole for 1 Billion Dollars.  One of the ways to help close the gap is to close almost 60 under utilized/under performing schools.  This will force students to potentially go to schools outside of their district.  This isn’t an insignificant number of kids.  Some of the argument from”experts” has been parents and kids just need to deal with the inconvenience in order to provide a better educational environment for the children.

 

 

Perry Quote

 

This isn’t just an issue of “convenience” for parents and kids.  I don’t know if you’ve noticed but kids are getting shot in Chicago.  If you are a single parent and you have to leave to get to work at 6:30 and leave your child on the bus stop at 7:00, this is an issue that needs to be addressed.  We can’t even protect our children when they are going around the corner to the neighborhood school.  How in the world are we going to protect them going to in some cases a marginally better school miles away?  All due respect to Dr. Perry but, I’ll listen to him on this issue when he puts his son on the bus stop by themselves on the corner of 59th and Wood St. in Englewood at 7:00 in the morning for an entire school year.

In choosing between two evils, I choose the option where my child has a higher chance of being safe.  We have to figure out a way to efficiently manage capacity while ensuring we are protecting these kids on the way to school. We can’t just say “shut them down” without considering child safety first.

 

My son almost made me cry

Posted: March 22, 2013 by Keith Townsend in Uncategorized
Tags:

Image

So, I’m back in Chicago.  Part of the motive is financial as I get to reduce my living expenses moving back into the old place.  But, I could have rented the house out and still saw a benefit.  The main reason I’m back is to help bring about change.  I moved because the city was dangerous and I had teenage boys.

My sons are prayerfully safe and off to college living near campus.  So, me and my wife are back in the city.  My oldest son really is concerned about our safety and didn’t understand why we made the decision to move back.  I sat him down and talked about why we moved in the first place.

The phase of life where I need to protect my sons in that way is over.  Now the phase where I need to help raise other boys and provide leadership within the community has come.  After having this conversation with him he said, “You don’t have to do it alone.  I’ll help you too.”

This is all a father can ask of his grown son.  Not that he takes over the family business or is a success in corporate America but that he grows to be a man of integrity.  It almost brought a tear to my eye when he said these words.  But, we don’t have time to be sentimental.  We have to get this house in order so we can start having people in our home and making a difference in our community.

Happy 59th Birthday Dad RIP

Posted: March 19, 2013 by Keith Townsend in Lessons from dad
Tags: , ,
My Dad

My Dad

Today my dad would have turned 59.  He died 4 years ago of complications from diabetes of all things.  He had a great deal wrong physically but in the end it was a heart attack attributed to diabetes.  Today, I honored his memory by running 13.5 miles.  It’s the furthest and longest time I’ve ever run.  My dad had a saying he would tell me and my brothers ALL the time, “Your body may give out but don’t ever give up.”  That saying had driven me and my brothers for years.  We basically just know one speed and that’s “hard.”  We may not have been the brightest, fastest, strongest or most talented but there were very few people that could out work us.

This is always an emotional time of year for me.  Not only is it my dad’s birthday but 10 years ago my little brother reached the apex of college sports by being a major part of the Marquette team that went to the Final Four.  My brother started all 33 games that year.  His work ethic reminded me of the lessons my dad would teach us about being physically tough.  I’d like to think when the picture below was taken after they beat #1 Kentucky to reach the Final Four he thought of those words.

Todd Townsend

Todd Townsend

To this day we just don’t know how to turn that voice off in our heads.  It drives all of us as fathers, husbands and employees.  The fact that my dad died of diabetes and I’m inflicted with the very same decease forces me to work harder on my physical fitness than almost any other area of my life.  That’s why I ran 13.5 miles in his honor.  I’ve always had this goal in my mind.  A few years ago, I came pretty close to it but came up lame at about 11 miles.  I actually didn’t set out to run over 13 miles when I started but as I got to thinking about my dad I just physically couldn’t stop running.  All I could think about were the cold winters in Chicago when my dad had us in the alley helping to change engines and transmissions to help make ends meet.  I wanted nothing more than to go in the house.  But then he’d say, “Keith, your body may give out but don’t ever give up.”

I remember him teaching me how to lift weights and just after a few reps I’d want to sit the weights back on the rack and go and relax and then he’d say, “Keith, your body may give out but don’t ever give up.”

I remember in high school waiting to the last minute to write that computer program for the science fair and falling asleep at the keyboard and he’d peek into my room and say, “Keith, your body may give out but don’t ever give up!”

I remember coming to him as an adult and telling him how tired I’d become from working 2 jobs trying to support my family. “Keith, your body may give out but don’t ever give up!”

College as an adult and work – “Keith, your body may give out but don’t ever give up!”

Getting diagnosed with diabetes – “Keith, your body may give out but don’t ever give up!”

That 10th mile of running tonight – “Keith, your body may give out but don’t ever give up!”

Me in tears at the 11th mile –“Keith, your body may give out but don’t ever give up!”

My whole life, I’ve heard these words.  I may not always be able to push my body past the limits but I know the speed at which my dad lived his life and how me and my brother go. – Hard!

Me and My Brothers

Me and My Brothers

Happy birthday Dad, we love and miss you dude.

Posted: March 12, 2013 by Keith Townsend in Uncategorized

This is an awesome testimony of raising a man as a Single mom in Chicago. Great job Kimmah and thanks for sharing!

The Hitt List

I was an unhappy child growing up. Always wanting more time and attention than my single mom could spare to give me. I was one out of four kids and she hardly had time to sleep much less devote to my childlike whims. My birthdays were always lack luster because for some reason money was always slow in the summer time. My mother, like me, was an entrepreneur. I can remember only a few happy birthdays. One where we spent the night at the Embassy Suites and another where a friend of hers with a boat took us out on Lake Michigan on a warm summer afternoon. I also remember birthday cards with food stamps and I.O.U’s.

I became pregnant at 20 and I brought my son into the world shortly after my 21st birthday. My mother passed away less than a year later. My father was never involved in…

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How a “toy” changed my life

Posted: March 5, 2013 by Keith Townsend in Lessons from dad

10 Print “Hello World!”;

20 Goto 10

That was on of the first computer program that I ever wrote.  It came straight out of the programming manual that came with my Color Computer 2 (CoCo 2).  Actually, I had just watched War Games with Matthew Broderick a couple of weeks before and was pretty disappointed that this thing didn’t include an AI interface.  My father brought me this few hundred dollar toy that changed my life forever.  I was in 5th grade and wanted to be a chef to this point in my life.  I loved baking and thought that was what I wanted to do for sure.

That was until that faithful Christmas and I hooked my computer up to my black and white 13” TV via an RF modulator.  My dad spared no expense.  He had no idea what he was buying and got the tape drive so I could save my programs.  He had no idea of what a tape drive did.

I gradually got better at programming.  By far the most complicated application I wrote on my CoCo was a hit the target game.  I spent many of nights debugging code so long that my father would come wake me up the next morning for school with the machine in my lap.  This eventually grew to my x86 (8088) programming experience where I actually made computer games that worked their way across my high school campus.  There’s something uniquely satisfying about walking into the computer lab and seeing the jock playing a game I developed using ASCII graphics.  I even had a psuedo little software company that I was in competition with my best hacker friend.  The name of my company was H.A.C.K. (Hackers Against the Common Knerd) Software and my buddy Sheldon Pasciak’s company was Dog Star software (I know lame).

I probably couldn’t program my way out of paper bag today.  I’m completely an infrastructure guy now.  Of course I’m completely comfortable with a command line; that is when anyone is naive enough to let me get in front of a production machine anymore :) .  But, outside of the occasional script no programming for me.

I’m so grateful to my dad for his sacrifice and investment.  This is one of the reasons I blog.  To pay it forward.  So you can thank my dad for all the technical posts.

Virtualized Geek indeed.

I’m not dumb. I just talk funny.

Posted: February 27, 2013 by Keith Townsend in Uncategorized

So, I’ve been doing short videos on Youtube talking about different topics in enterprise technology. This is the first time in a few years I’ve actually listened to myself talk. When I was a kid I spent 45 minutes a week for 8 years going to speech therapy. My teachers had a hard time understanding me because I would cut off or slur together words instead of taking the time to fully enunciate my words.

This got me a rap of not being very bright and effected my confidence in and out of the classroom. I never really fully developed the skill of fully enunciating my words but I remember a distinct time when it affected me as an adult. I went on a job interview at a fast food restaurant and eventually got the job after hounding the manager. A few months after proving myself to be a pretty good employee the manager confided in me that he thought I had a mental development problem. He said I turned out to be one of his best hires. As politely as I could I told him, “I’m not dumb. I just talk funny.”

Watching the video’s reminded me that I still talk funny but, I’m much more confident and it kind of goes with the whole geek thing that I’ve embraced in the portion of my life.

Chicago rated 4th worst city to live in

Posted: February 23, 2013 by Keith Townsend in Uncategorized

I was surprised to see that New York, NY made the Forbes 2013 List of America’s Most Miserable Cities.  Then as I went down the list I saw Chicago was number 4 on the list.

Chicago which has to following things going for it.

1. Taste of Chicago

2. More than 27 museums

3. One of the most vibrant downtown’s in the nation

4. More biking trails than almost any other city

5. Lakeshore Drive

6. A lake that doesn’t look like any “lake” you’ll ever see

I love Chicago.  It has more going on than any other city that I’ve been in excluding maybe New York.  I moved for a while to MD and completely missed the city with big shoulders.  However, in my travels I can see why Chicago can get a bad rap.  The political corruption is infamous.  Our former mayor (Daley the Son) was known as the Teflon Don.  He had more political allies take a fall for him than bowling pins in The Big Lebowski.  The weather is among the worst.  And the gun violence is quickly making Gary, IN look like a safe haven.

I was still amazed to see that we made this notorious list and ranked so high.  I hate to pick on other cities but have you visited Baltimore or even seen The Wire? I once got lost in Baltimore.  And all I have to say is Baltimore ain’t Chicago.

Baltimore

Don’t trust the trustworthy

Posted: February 21, 2013 by Keith Townsend in Uncategorized

It’s never the shady character we need to worry about.  It’s always the guy we trust that is our downfall.

jesse-jackson

Jesse Jackson Jr.

We all know a slippery slope when we see one.  However, it’s funny how we think just because we see the slippery slope before taking the road we believe we can navigate the most dangerous parts of the path.  The point of the warning isn’t to help navigate through the slop but to avoid the slop all together.  I’m sure once he shares his story Jesse Jackson’s warning will be much like all of the other disgraced  public figures prior to his own tale.  I’m sure he reasoned to himself why he should help himself to campaign funds but, I’m more interested in those he convinced to take part in his scheme.

Why would they help in such an obviously illegal plot?  Why wouldn’t his wife raise a red flag.  She is after all a seasoned lawyer.  Why didn’t Jackson Sr. recognize something was afoot with his son’s life style (maybe a whole different topic)?

Stealing $750,000 in campaign funds is not a simple task that one person or a couple of people can do.  It takes a corrupt organization to pull off the scheme.  There are checks in balances in place that prevent things like this from happening.  So, the Jacksons needed collaborators to help them in their fraud.  The Jacksons were a very well respected couple within their district.  The community and their supporters counted on them to help move the community forward.  With this comes a trust that is extremely dangerous when betrayed.  But danger in the traditional sense.  The worry isn’t that you will be cheated out of money or benefits.  But this betrayal goes to the heart of human nature.  The ability of people you trust to get you to do things you would not normally do.  To go against your own morals.

The Jacksons’ story reminds me of a report I heard on NPR Planet Money some months ago.  A mortgage lender was sharing how he went to several people for help in creating fake mortgages.  To his surprise every person that he asked to support his criminal activity didn’t hesitate in saying yes.  The reason they gave was that they trusted him.  Over the years, like the Jacksons he built a reputation as a man of integrity   He had done so much good to this point in his life that the people he approached with the scheme didn’t give it a second thought.  They figured that if a man that has displayed such integrity to this point would ask them to do something unethical or even illegal it must be OK.  He was in a sense their moral barometer.

You see, we know not to trust the untrustworthy.  It’s the trustworthy we have to question.  So many people fall for cons because the Bernie Mahoffs of the world seem extremely trustworthy.  Their record’s are impeccable so, when they come to us with opportunities that seem too good to be true we take them at their word instead of following our normal logic.  The lesson in this tragic fall from grace is that you have to stay grounded in your own morals.  You have to constantly run scenarios through your mind like, “If this was on the front page of the NY Times would I be embarrassed.”  You may not just save yourself but also the very person that you respect and is asking you to betray your shared morals.