Monday, May 14, 2007

Lunch with a Medal of Honor Winner

Last week I had the honor of hosting a true hero at our corporate function to which we invited over two hundred employees. The theme of our meeting was "Managing Through Adversity" and my co-host and I agreed that asking Mr. Tibor "Ted" Rubin to be the keynote speaker would be a special occasion. Our company has been going through many challenges lately and we wanted to provide seminar information and participation exercises in how to be successful managers through rough times.

Mr. Rubin is a 78-year-old gentleman with a heavy Hungarian accent. Not only was he a Holocaust survivor, he was a Prisoner of War in a Chinese POW camp during the Korean War. His actions in combat and during his time as a POW were praised by hundreds of his fellow soldiers.

He waited fifty-five years for the Congressional Medal of Honor, which was bestowed on him by President Bush in 2005.

Mr. Rubin's life story provides a dose of perspective for all of us who feel down and out from time to time.

In short, his is a story of survival. He and his Jewish family were taken from Hungary to a Nazi concentration camp when he was fourteen. He was freed by allied forces after fourteen months and vowed to repay the debt he felt he owed to America for his freedom. Mr. Rubin talks about his attempts to join the US Army, although he didn't speak English well enough to pass entrance exams, and finally making it through determination. He found himself in Okinawa and Korea in the Pusan region facing swarms of North Korean and Chinese soldiers. You can read and hear the rest of his story here.

Mr. Rubin explains all of his exploits in a self-deprecating way and with a sense of humor that takes the edge off the serious message of his life.

For our audience, the video of his story was moving and there wasn't a dry eye in the house. At the end of his presentation he fielded questions from the audience and, once again, put everyone at ease with his jokes.

Immediately after his speech, a spontaneous receiving line formed in the hall outside of the general session. Mr. Rubin shook hands with most, took pictures with others, and received more than a few hugs.

It was also my pleasure to have lunch with Mr. Rubin and his son, Frank, the next day at the hotel dining room. There were so many well-wishers stopping by that I was afraid the man wouldn't be allowed to eat his meal. But it is apparent that Mr. Rubin very much enjoys the contact and the opportunity to speak to so many "beautiful young people", as he repeated many times over the time he spent with us.

Friday, April 20, 2007


May God bless the victims and their families. We pray that our beloved Virginia Tech community will find comfort in Him.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

7 Sports in 1 Day

Last Sunday was an incredible Spring day in northern Virginia with plenty of sun and mild temps in the 60's. To take advantage of the weather I took my son Michael, who is now seven, over to a soccer field near our house to work on his soccer dribbling and shooting skills. With Michael, forty-five minutes of soccer drills without playing an actual game is plenty.

On the way home we saw a school mate of Michael's and his father playing basketball on one of the outdoor courts near the field. The father, Bill, told me that he was attempting to do what Pres. George H. W. Bush (Bush 41) challenged Americans to do back during his presidency - try to play seven sports in one day.

I don't remember that particular challenge made by Pres. Bush but I do remember he was fond of horseshoes, so I'm sure that was one of his sports. I haven't been able to find reference to it using Google or Yahoo. But the idea seems great regardless of where it came from. So I decided we'd give it a try too.

Now I should mention that if the choice were totally up to Michael, he probably would have opted to play inside or watch TV. But you can't let kids stay inside on a nice day, right? Lisa and I make it our job to keep the boys outside playing.

So when we got home we shot hoops in our cul de sac (2). Then Michael wanted to ride bikes so we rode around our street for a while and went on a ride around the neighborhood (3). I joked that next we would go swimming, but Michael called me out on that one. So we put on roller blades and went up and down the side walk. Only for a few minutes though - neither of us are strong bladers (4). Tee-ball and catch with the baseball in the back yard were next (5). We also played catch with the football and a little two-hand touch (6). Finally we took turns on our neighbors' trampoline (7). I think I'm a little heavy for it so I didn't stay on it too long. But it is more of a workout than I remembered.

The point of this is that it was easy to find at least seven sports/activities to do with my son. Kickball, badminton, tag, capture the flag, swinging, and monkey bars are other activities that are often taking place in our neighborhood. I should mention that my ten-year-old, Brett, was outside the whole time too. He prefers basketball right now because it's in season.

Which brings me to another point. While we were outside we missed the Florida vs. Oregon basketball game on TV. We did catch the last ten minutes and overtime of the Georgetown vs. UNC game while we prepared dinner. But in five years, or even in one year, I think our time spent outside together will be remembered more than who played in the NCAA tournament.

I'm looking forward to more days like last Sunday. I've been warned that some day in the not too distant future, it will be hard keep the boys around home long enough to play seven sports.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Love gadgets, but not keeping up with them...

Somewhere along the line in the last seven years or so I fell out-of-step with keeping up with the latest technology tools and toys. Long ago I had one of the first programmable universal remotes and I set it up to automatically turn on my entertainment center, stereo, CD player, adjust volumes, and turn off all at a given time. I used it to its full extent. I'd like to say that I had the very latest in home entertainment equipment as well. And a constantly growing library of CDs. Today, not so much.

Today I have an even better universal remote - the Logitech Harmony 890 - and I haven't finished setting it up to manage all my devices. Worse yet, it's easier than ever to set this thing up. You just go to the Logitech website and select all of your components and the remote will be configured over a USB cable. I did define the devices, but when I tested the "boot up" process I ran into a sequencing problem and I just haven't taken the time to go back and fix it.

I'm also one of the last people in the US who doesn't own an iPod. It must be a sign of my age, but I just don't feel the need to listen to music everywhere I go. I don't have XM or Sirius sat radio either. You've probably guessed it but I listen to talk radio and books on CD during my commute.

PlayStation, XBox, PS3, Wii? Never got bit by the gaming bug. I know it could easily have happend to me. A timing issue. If the sudden rise in my discretionary income had crossed paths with gaming boom several years ago, I'd be as addicted as anyone. I think I just missed that wave. Not to mention that I've been busy with my two sons. Playing and teaching without electronic devices was intentional for us. But now they are 10 and 7 years old and the pressure to keep up with their friends' video toys is mounting. (BTW, I can't believe how many of my neighbors let their kids play "M"-rated video games. I just don't want my boys exposed to that world yet. Am I that far out-of-touch?)

So I do what probably most people in their mid-forties do and let the majority of tech devices go unnoticed, and give only the most highly acclaimed products a second look. DVR, for example, is something I was slow to adopt. Now I strongly believe that DVR is the greatest invention since the remote control.

I bought my first HDTV last year, after waiting out most of the hype. I went with the Pioneer PDP-5060HD 50" plasma. Absolutely fantastic product. It's tough to watch sports without HD now.

My point is that I'm not as easily moved to action as I used to be. But I like to keep up with what's available. I'm just not an impulse shopper who buys gadgets just for the sake of having the latest. The Apple iPhone will need to come "way" down in price and it'll need to go through several software patches before I'll consider it.

I do have my cell phone, with a couple songs on it. And it has a camera that can take pictures and record short video. It also has Sprint's On Demand TV content, but I haven't used it yet. I also use an EVDO wireless broadband card in my laptop. That I use.

I recently heard about this trick you can do to open a locked car door with your cell phone signal. Say you've locked your keys in the car. If you call home where the other set of keys are, and that set has a keyless entry fob like most sets of keys do, your friend at home can press the "unlock" button while you hold your phone up near the car. The radio signal will unlock the car. Things like that make me wonder about all the Location Based Services that must be at our fingertips thanks to cell phones. Marketing over the air is a whole new world I want to learn more about. Those are the gadgets and services that can improve my life.

So I'm going to start visiting, (more often),,, and other sites that are known for sharing the latest in the world of technology.

Fast to learn, slow to adopt. I'm sure I fall into a specific segmentation marketing category for most companies. With age comes pramatism, I guess.