This Is Not Goodbye!

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

In July I lost a dear friend, Norbert Eggert.WordWeavers (my Toastmasters club) held a meeting after his funeral where a couple of us reflected upon what Norbert. Below you'll find the text that my speech was based on.

Norbert: This Is Not Goodbye!

How do you say good bye to a friend? As we grow older, we all face this situation more and more often. Last week was the funeral for our dear Norbert, several of us said our goodbyes, tonight we’re honoring Norbert and giving Word Weavers a chance to think about what he has meant to all of us.

Norbert was one of the first Word Weavers I met. When I decided to check out area Toastmaster clubs, Norbert was one of the first people that I met. I remember that we were meeting in Alt Wiesbaden back then and on a pleasant Summer night after a Word Weavers meeting and we were able to enjoy a very pleasant Wiesbaden night, sitting outside. It was this very socializing that I really liked about Word Weavers. Norbert was always enthusiastic about talking to guests and to everyone.

You could tell right away with Norbert that public speaking wasn’t a problem for him. He was “a real people person” (as we say in America). He amazed me with the seemingly effortless way he did Table Topics. No matter what the question, he would often start out with “that is a good question”, no matter what the question actually was. He was good at thinking on his feet and often he would find a surprising way of answering his question.

At Toastmasters we’re often using the term “Authentic”, but this a good word to describe Norbert. He reminds me a lot of my grandfather. What you see is what you get. He has seen a lot and been through a lot but Norbert always seemed cool, calm, and collected. I have the feeling that he wasn't distracted by all the “noise” that surrounds us today.

I didn't know Norbert before his heart attack, but I know that he got a second chance at life and he used it and he savored it! He gave a few speeches about his near-death experience. His views on life changed and he looked at the day of his heart attack as another birthday, a rebirth if you will. He was a living example that we should all enjoy and savor our own lives.

Music In Norbert's Life 

There were a few songs played at Norbert’s funeral that struck me, because there were so many people at the funeral, I wasn't able to be inside the chapel where I could properly hear the music played, so I listened to the songs and I heard the versions of the various songs that I was familiar with.

I heard “I Can’t Stop Loving You”, (made famous by Ray Charles in 1962). This song reminded me of the speech Norbert gave about growing up in Frankfurt, how he liked Rock and Roll, how he enjoyed listening to record albums with an early girlfriend and that she left him her records, when she moved away.

When I heard “My Way”, I naturally heard the Frank Sinatra version from 1969 and I thought how great it would be if at the end of our lives we could all say that we did our ways. I believe that Norbert did it his way!

When I heard “Time To Say Goodbye”, I hear the version sung by Andrea Bochelli and Sarah Brightman from 1996.This song was already a bittersweet song for me (I’d be happy to tell you about that, but I’ll save that for another speech), but now this song will forever have an additional link to Norbert and I’ll think of him.

For me, remembering the lives that we’ve lost is important. I would like to do something to help keep the memory of Norbert alive after today. I think it would be great if we could do something as a club to this end. I’m open to ideas, so let’s think about this and see what good things we can do to honor Norbert’s memory.

In closing...

I’m reminded of the death of Spock in Star Trek II, where he said to Captain Kirk,...

„I have been, and always shall be, your friend.”

I found a great quote from Isabel Allende in her book Eva Luna, that fits very well..

“There is no death, daughter. People die only when we forget them,' my mother explained shortly before she left me. 'If you can remember me, I will be with you always”

Norbert might not be physically with us any longer but he made quite an impact on many of us.

Thank You, Leonard Nimoy!

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

February 27, 2015 was a sad day for humanity but it has given us all an opportunity to look back at Leonard Nimoy and reflect upon what he has meant to us. Mr. Nimoy had the opportunity to play a character that is known in all corners of the world (maybe even beyond our own, who knows). Mr. Spock, with his Vulcan ears and his "Live Long and Prosper" is known to people who've never even watched a scene from Star Trek. I decided to take this opportunity to reflect on what Leonard Nimoy has meant to me.

This will make me old, but I was born in the year that Star Trek debuted.  I don't remember seeing episodes live, but I do remember discovering reruns and I was hooked. Star Trek gave my a love of science and technology and a belief in a brighter future, where anything was possible. Star Trek had everything, aliens galore, space travel, endless adventure, cool gadgets, everything a young boy could want. I created the presentation below, inspired by things I have learned from Leonard Nimoy.

Leonard Nimoy was a key part of the power trio at the center of  the Star Trek universe. He was given the opportunity that many actors would love to have and that is to shape direction of a character. In Mr. Nimoy's case, he made lots of decisions that forever shaped how the Vulcan race would be played. Since the Vulkans were one of the central races (besides humans that is), how Vulkans were portrayed would have a big impact on the direction that the series (and subsquent series and movies) would go. There are lots of actors who have followed in his footsteps that can thank him for shaping the essence of  who Vulcans were. Imagine, if he had decided to change how he had portrayed Mr. Spock?

Captain Kirk, Dr. McCoy, and Mr. Spock were the heart of the series. The chemistry between these three characters was going to drive how well the series did and play into what what happens in every storyline. Dr. McCoy and Mr. Spock had an old maried couple feel to their relationship, they were always bickering about anything and everything but you knew that the friendship between the three characters was solid and could withstand anything.

One of the appealing aspects of Mr. Spock and the Vulkans was that they applied logic to everything. At the time series was produced there was a lot of turmoil (there has certainly been a lot of turmoil since) and the idea of applying some logic in a non-logical world was rather comforting. When you look at our own humanity, we often do a lot of illogical things and act purely on emotions and instinct. Throughout the series we'd often see scenarios where the logical thing was not the right thing to do and where we would need to let more of our humanity shine through. Since Mr. Spock was half Vulkan and half human, he could tap into both sides (although the Vulkan side was dominant).

Leonard Nimoy created a Pinochio type character who was trying to discover who he really was. This self-discovery is something that the fans can relate to very well. It is also a theme that would be played out through various Star Trek series. In each subsequent Trek series there always seems to be at least one character who is trying to find out who they are and this can be traced back to the way that Mr. Nimoy portrayed Mr. Spock. In Star Trek: The Next Generation, it is often said that Data was playing this role. In all of us there is a longing to find out who we are and what we're going to contribute to the world.

Leonard Nimoy not only had a great relationship with William Shatner (Captain Kirk) and Deforest Kelly (Dr. McCoy) but with the other series regular characters (Scotty, Uhuria, Sulu, and Chekov). In an article at People magazine, it is mentioned that Mr. Nimoy spoke up when he found out that Nichell Nichols (Uhuria) wasn't  getting paid what the actors playing Sulu and Chekov were getting paid. In the same article it mentions that he refused to do the voice of Spock in the animated series unless Nichols and George Takei (Sulu) were hire.  Mr. Roddenberry apparently started referring to Mr. Nimoy as the conscience of Star Trek.

When N.B.C canceled Star Trek after three seasons, logic would have dictated that this was the end of Star Trek,.but something funny happened on the way to the forum. There was the emergence of the Star Trek fandom.  The fans did a letter campaign during when NBC canceled it in the second season, which resulted in the series coming back for a third season. When NBC again pulled the plug after the third season, they mounted another letter writing campaign, but this time without success. The fans managed to keep the fires burning which resulted in a series of Trek movies, and 4 more television series. There is no doubt that Star Trek fans made history when Star Trek returned from the dead. Star Trek fans have done many innovative things that have been picture up by other fandoms. I wouldn't be surprised if Star Trek fans created the first real fandom. Most of us have known a few "Trekers" (Star Trek fans prefer to be called "Trekers" and not "Trekies"), who've seen downright off the deep end in their devotion to Star Trek. There is a great skit from Saturday night live (you can read the transcript here), showing the extreme devotion and nerdiness of some of the fans. I have one friend who can tell you want episode any quote is from and another who can see a picture and tell you what episode it comes from, my brain isn't wired that way. There isn't a company or organization out there that wouldn't like to be able to engage into the devotion of their consumers/users/(fill in the blank) the way that Star Trek has.

For many actors they always have to consider if playing this or that role will typecast them, that is to say that will they have problems finding other roles because people have associated them with a certain character and can't imagine them in a different role. There have been some actors who have played a role and never been able to come out of the shadows of that role. At one point Mr. Nimoy tried to distance himself from Mr. Spock writing a book called "I Am Not Spock", later he would write another book called "I Am Spock". Mr. Nimoy said, "Spock is definitely one of my best friends.  When I put on those ears, it is not just another day. When I become Spock, that day becomes something special." Mr. Nimoy has had quite a life outside of Star Trek, I like to think that it has been enriched by his experience with Star Trek and the people that he has gotten to know via Star Trek.

One thing that isn't lost on me is the inspiration that Mr. Nimoy has had a Mr. Spock and the the Trek universe has had. Wil Whetton (who played Wesley Crusher on Star Trek: The Next Generation) wrote in his eulogy, "When I was a kid, long before I put on Wesley Crusher's sweaters or piloted the Enterprise, I loved Star Trek.  I watched it all the time in syndication on our black and white television, and when the other kids at school wanted to play CHIPs or the A-Team on the playground, I wanted to turn the jungle gym into the Enterprise. On those rare occasions that I convinced my classmates that we were bodly going toward new worlds on luch recess, one of the Cool Kids would claim the role of Captain Kirk, and I would always happily assume the role of Mister Spock... I wanted to be Mister Spock because if I was, I could be myself-quite, bookis, alien to the people around me - and it wouldn't be weird. It would be awesome."  You don't have to look to far to see people doing things that they might not have had the courage to do or because they were influenced by Mr. Spock and the other characters in the Star Trek universe. NASA named one of the Space Shuttles "Enterprise", no doubt in honor of the place in their heart for Star Trek. I find this inspiration totally amazing.

I could write so much more but all good things must end. I hope that you'll take the time to think about what Nr. Nimoy has meant to you and I hope that you too will be inspired by these words from Mr. Nimoy the commencement he gave at Boston University in 2012, "You are the curator sof your own lives. You create your own life and work. Give us your best...give us the best of your art. We crave it. We hunger for it. Help us to see know ourselves. Illuminate our lives" May we all "Live long and prosper"(you can read the text here).  Thank you Mr. Nimoy!

Photo credits: The picture above is from Flickr the license can be found here.

The Wall Came Tumbling Down!

Friday, October 3, 2014

Nearly 25 years ago a most amazing thing happened, the Berlin Wall fell! This was one of the most visible signs that the Cold War was ending and really brought the world to a point that it hasn’t quite adjusted to. As Germany celebrates its “Tag der deutsche Einheit” (German Unity Day), its 24th such celebration, I thought that I’d take a look at that event.
First of all, has it really been 25 years? I have two daughters that were both born in Germany after that historic day and they only know about what life was like before the Wall Fell, by stories that they hear or discussions that they have in school. How wonderful it is that there are generations of people that don’t know what it was like to live in the Cold War! I personally watched the events unfold from America, so I didn’t experience what life in a divided Germany was like firsthand and ever since I moved over to  the Frankfurt, Germany area, I’ve had a sense of wonder when I visited Prague, Dresden, Berlin, Warsaw, Krakow and any other area that I visit that was under the “Iron Curtain”. I was studying at the university when all those revolutions happened and I had one political science and one economics class that focused on these events and it truly was an amazing time, so full of hope for the future.
I’ve always been fascinated by history and dates and one thing that hasn’t been lost on me is that World War 1 started in 1914 and we also will have the 25th Anniversary of the “Fall of the Berlin Wall” in the same year. Some people would point out that Word War II was largely a result of the way that Word War I ended. I’ve been listening to a fascinating account of World War I by Dan Carlin (someone who really makes history fun) on his Hardcore History Podcast, in a series that he has been doing called “Blueprint for Armageddon”. There are currently 4 episodes in this series and I’m eagerly awaiting the next episode. I would also propose that way that Word War II ended set the stage for the Cold War and we still haven’t found our way in the Post Cold War Era. Maybe some of our leaders were looking for another meaningful long-term conflict to latch on to, but it is pretty obvious that we weren’t ready for the end of the Cold War and are still trying to find our way.

In the IT world, when we’re following best practices, after we make a big change (i.e. to our infrastructure or to software) we should take some time to review what happened, did the change go the way that it should have, are there any steps that need to be taken to correct effects from the change? When changes are planned, there should be a “change freeze” to make sure that the change being implemented can be rolled back and that a root cause analysis can be done on any resulting problems after the change. I would argue that we need to do this as a society and think about where we really want to go before we get sucked into the next Great War. After the Cold War ended, we should have done such an assessment before we got sucked into a “War on Terror”. Many of the international conflicts that we have today are at least in part due to the way that the maps were drawn after World War I and World War II and governments that were supported because they were deemed strategically necessary because of the Cold War. President Eisenhower warned us of the “Military Industrial Complex” in his farewell address…
Until the latest of our world conflicts, the United States had no armaments industry. American makers of plowshares could, with time and as required, make swords as well. But now we can no longer risk emergency improvisation of national defense; we have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions. Added to this, three and a half million men and women are directly engaged in the defense establishment. We annually spend on military security more than the net income of all United States corporations.
This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence -- economic, political, even spiritual -- is felt in every city, every State house, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society.
In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.
We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.” (Text of President Eisenhower’s speech from Coursera)
It doesn’t take a genius to realize that a lot of other things could have been done with the money spent on the Arms Race and the money spent on arming this or that party. Add to this that we’re now developing a “Security Industrial Complex”, can there ever be enough security when the enemy is the bogeyman? How do you ever win a “War on Terror”, when is the “Mission Accomplished”, truly?  Where is the treaty signed that ends the War on Terror”? Now, imagine that the money and energy pumped into endless wars were directed at problems that need solving instead. Can you imagine what amazing things we could do with the technology and the problems we could solve?
The human element is often overlooked when talking about the conflicts and fighting that we’ve had. Imagine the families and friends torn apart in the divided Berlin and Germany. Not knowing when they’d see each other again (or even if there would even be a “when”). Imagine the hopelessness of it all. What kind of future did the kids have to look forward to?  And yet, the human spirit somehow prevailed, family, friends, and countrymen were reunited and what was unimaginable not that long ago came to be, a reunited Germany! The people have been able to celebrate all these things for nearly 25 years!
Before we go building more walls, it’s time to tear some more down, to reach out and build some more bridges and connect more people. My grandfather, in his eternal wisdom used to say how people everywhere were good and could get along, it was just our politicians that couldn’t get along. To Germany and the world, I wish you a happy “Tag der deutsche Einheit“ and I hope that we can unite more people that are torn apart and learn some lessons from the Cold War. 

Darryl Heron

You might be interested in the 20th Anniversary of the Berlin Wall and German Reunification

Note:  The picture above "Thefalloftheberlinwall1989" comes from Wikipedia.