Sunday, December 30, 2012

Top 10 Things I Appreciate About...

The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.

Pat, My mom, My Sisters Deb and Kayla

In today's "New York Times", Bruce Feiler wrote an essay that inspired me to tell the four people with whom I am closest in the world -- my wife, my mom and my two older siblings -- what I appreciate about them. He talked of Dr. Shelly Kagan's point to tell our loved ones what they mean to us sooner, rather than later.

Feiler also quoted film critic Roger Ebert, who reminded us that we shouldn't try to compare ourselves to similar scenes in the movies, since, "...those scenes are well-written, directed, and performed by professionals." In that spirit, I'll try to be fearless or at least less self-conscious in creating and posting these lists:

Pat, you are:

  1. The funniest person I know, and without being cruelly so
  2. Inclined toward doing g'milut chasadim (acts of loving kindness), for example, suggesting that we use our prayers that we were posting in the Western Wall in behalf of the sick granddaughter of a couple in our Israel tour group (who had been strangers just days prior)
  3. Lovely physically, including your green eyes, dimples, pretty mouth, tall height, appealing gait and more
  4. Jewish like me
  5. Nearly photographic with your memory; you know the answer to almost any question I ask because, "I read it somewhere," you say simply
  6. Action-oriented -- which has rubbed off on me and made me more disciplined, for example, with completing chores -- and your related, dedicated work ethic; you even treat volunteer-work like a job
  7. Innocent, rather than cynical, that is, you prefer naïveté over suspiciousness
  8. Accomplished, including having earned an M.S. in Pysch, an MBA, and an M.S. and Ed.D. in Education, and multiple executive jobs in Higher Ed. with giant responsibilities before retiring, and the incoming president of Essex County Master Gardeners
  9. Well-coordinated -- a great dancer and graceful in sports
  10. Attracted to me.

Mom, you are:

  1. Vocally proud of me, which makes me feel good and validated and encouraged and emboldened
  2. Available whenever I want to talk with you, including offering encouragement when I need it
  3. Funny and also readily amused by the world around you, including me
  4. Intellectually curious and interactive/interrogative, especially during Q&A's at lectures, always contributing a nugget as well as asking the best questions
  5. A good arbiter of what makes for interesting art/cultural experiences, including movies, music, lectures...
  6. Creative, for example, in:
    • Amassing the Jewish folk art collection you have over your lifetime so far
    • Designing cultural programs for the Jewish Historical Society of Greater Stamford and the Stamford Museum & Nature Center back in the day
  7. Stylish -- you have more flair than anyone I know
  8. Invested in my development since my babyhood, including exposing me to more experimental pursuits than any other parent I know, including tennis, acting, golf, needlepoint, oceanography, clarinet, guitar, piano, journalism, cartoon art, sculpting, skiing...
  9. More intuitive than anyone I know and routinely, you say the kindest thing at just the right time, even to people you've just met
  10. Supportive of me unconditionally, for example, though you might have wished I'd have done like you and married a man and had children, you love me actively even though I did neither, including always introducing Pat appropriately when you're acquainting us with your friends.

Deb, you are:

  1. The most original person I know, including your continual creation of unique, cool and useful silver and copper Jewish ritual objects
  2. Along with Kayla, the most dedicated sister I could wish for, including reading lesbian literature to understand me better
  3. A devoted mom, exposing your kids to cultural experiences galore and letting them be who they are, including artists, skateboarders, and Latin and Greek students
  4. The person who most informed my music-appreciation other than me, including Joni Mitchell, Judy Collins, The Crusaders, Michael Franks, and even Madonna, who you spotted super-early; I acknowledge my debt in this blog entry
  5. A great mother-by-proxy, including giving me shampoos via your "Magic Mask" invention when I was little
  6. One of our family who showed me Israel at its best, including rowing me down the Yarkon River in Tel Aviv while you had bronchitis when I was 15 and you were 24 -- I hope we didn't know it was bronchitis at the time
  7. The world's best birthday-card writer, always including a message that shows your love specifically of me
  8. The most adventurous fiction reader I know, including authors from around the world; your example inspires me to be more wide-ranging in my choices
  9. A gifted singer with a gorgeous voice, who along with Kayla, always makes me sound better at Pesach Seders
  10. Proud of me.

Kayla, you are:

  1. The best rhymer I know, including profound and hip poems tailor-made for poetry slams and publications
  2. Along with Deb, the most dedicated sister I could wish for, taking care of us whenever we got lost as children, including in the Bowery in New York City when I was five and you were 10 and a half
  3. A devoted mom, encouraging Zach to pursue whatever makes him happy, including years of playing the sitar and schlepping him to New Jersey for lessons and buying him his own sitar till he became good enough to be paid for gigs at the nicest Indian restaurant in Brooklyn
  4. The person who taught me three essential skills, to:
    • Ride a bike
    • Recite the Ma Nishtana
    • Play Chess
  5. My mentor as an educator and you inspired me to pursue a Masters by your example
  6. A brave leader who, as a high school principal, leadership consultant and vice-principal, has helped hundreds and hundreds of new immigrants and refugees have a better, more meaningful life in America than they would have had if they had not met you
  7. The first person to:
    • Teach me The Facts of Life, when I was seven and you were 12 and a half, while we waited for our school bus
    • Learn of my non-heterosexual sexual orientation, when I was 15 and visiting you at college
  8. Our family member who first taught me the value of immersing ourselves in other cultures by living in multiple countries, going to Israel for six months at 14 with our school, and then to Finland for a year on AFS at 17
  9. Resilient, surviving cancer while unwaveringly contributing to others' well-being
  10. Like Deb, proud of me.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Top 10 Hits

Of All [My] Time

The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.

Inspired by the radio stations that offer the Top 100 songs of all time around the new year, I'm going to list my top 10; they made it to the top 10 only if they were not only wonderful melody-, beat-, and/or lyrics-wise in my opinion, but also made me feel vivid emotions:


Anxiety management:"Pippin" was the second musical I'd ever seen ("Gigi" was the first), when I was 10. My oldest sister had the soundtrack and I memorized this tune from it and try to remember to sing it to myself for comfort whenever I feel anxious about my future.


Pure pleasure: Again, Deb had the record and this song, "Yo Ya", just makes me feel joyous. When I was in 3rd grade, I'd dance around the living room while it played -- one of my recent blog-posts referred to it.


Faith and Hope: A few years ago, I read an NYT article about Tonéx and was especially touched by this tune, where he reaffirms that God (well, he refers to Jesus, but I translate it in my head, since I'm Jewish) will not fail me, and that there is no failure -- essential messages to encourage my bravery -- another of my recent blog-posts referred to this tune.


Exhilirating Escape: Beep, beep, whistle -- those are my favorite parts of this perfect song for rollerskating. Growing up, I never saw any of these singers sing their songs; they were pure radio hits, or roller-rink DJ spins. Felt cool and not nerdy when I was skating, though I probably still looked nerdy.


'80s Lesbian Anthem: I always heard this song as "I just wanna be your lover, Girl," rather than "...lover-girl". Sure enough, it was among the first songs I heard in the first lesbian bar I ever entered, in Ann Arbor, Michigan when I was 19, so perhaps the DJ also heard it that way. I love so many of her songs and enjoyed posting "My Life as Teena Marie Song-titles" a few years ago.


The Balm: I think of Pat and the miracle of our finding each other when I hear this song. We were such unlikely lovers based on my upbringing, which pushed for my finding a man, and also unlikely due to our age-difference (she's 15 years my senior) and so much else, except for our values, which are practically identical. The song reminds me of how sad I was in the love-arena prior to Pat, and how lucky I am to have her.


Nerd Transportation: Another favorite rollerskating tune, and another opportunity to pretend I was glamorous and not nerdy. Used to imagine myself as a better skater than I was while I skated to this tune (and others).


Romantic Loneliness: First heard this in 1985 while living in Jerusalem for my Junior year abroad and studying at Hebrew University. That year, I was my loneliest ever at times. This song made the loneliness almost sweet. I became a huge Simply Red fan.


Romantic Awakening: Heard this on my transistor radio before or after the Dr. Demento show when I was 10 and had my first serious sense of romantic longing. The birds and the wordless ah-ah-ah-ah-ah-ah-ah-ah of her voice made me forget to breathe for a moment.


Imagination Capture: I need to acknowledge how Deb, my oldest sister, substantially informed my music taste. Interesting how three of my top 10 were from her record collection. This song immersed me in its plot. Ironic, my listening to the singer as though she were singing to me, since I was a 14-year-old suburban kid in Connecticut, listening to it in my family's warm living room.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Considering Christian History and Culture at Christmastime

The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.

Alienation and Attraction

It's practically guaranteed that if I had grown up Christian instead of Jewish, I'd have believed unflinchingly in Jesus as the Son of God. That's how I am as a Jew -- unquestioning of monotheism. I'm a loyal person to whatever I'm affiliated with; it's the best way I can explain it.

Growing up, I was taught to be wary of Christians, even as they were my neighbors and friends, because of the:

  • Grand Commission, which compelled a number of Christians to proselytize, which always felt disrespectful, even though unwittingly, to my family, faith and me
  • Crusades, Spanish Inquisition and Holocaust, not to mention the many other Christianity-affiliated (I wouldn't call them truly Christian) rulers who had ultimately exiled and/or killed Jews throughout history.

I've grown up ashamed that my parents weren't able to be more forgiving, or at a minimum, less suspicious, and also ashamed that their frame of reference informed mine, and at how hard it has been to let it go...and how I may never fully.

What bad timing and even poor taste to bring up any charged feelings about Christian history so near to Christmas! Here's what made me think of it:

  • Pat recently described Christmastime to one of our Christian friends as the most alienating time of the year for Jews in this country, since it is not our holiday, but it is the holiday of a majority of the rest of the U.S., and her stark assessment resonated with me, so I needed to blog about my associations with Christian history and culture to clarify for myself how to deal with my alienation
  • On Facebook, Sue Sena and I just connected. Sue is the head of a marvelous gay-straight alliance called Swish and before I saw her profile, which includes a quote from St. Theresa and a thumbs-up for the Gospel group, Mary Mary, who I *love*, I did not know of Sue's religious affiliation, "Protesting Catholic", and Christian in any case; it's Mary Mary's "Walking" that I love especially:
  • Yesterday, Pat and I went to a Christian rock concert by accident, and it was mostly wonderful -- we didn't love *every* song, but not because of the theme, but just because not all were stellar; Pat ordered tickets for the Trans-Siberian Orchestra (TSO) in September, not considering that December would be a Christmas show and boy, was it! (It was also our first-ever hard rock/heavy metal concert):

Sue Sena and Trans-Siberian Orchestra are doing good in the world. Sue is helping further human rights and TSO gives a dollar of every ticket sold to a relatively local charity, every time they tour. Yesterday, they gave a check for more than $21,000 to a metro-NY children's hospital. At their best, religious people of every religion, I'm confident, do good in the world.

I fear that I sound like I'm trying to convince myself. Maybe it's because the chip on my shoulder has been there for 47 years, and still moves me compulsively to express suspicion periodically. For example, I was speaking with a couple of new colleagues by phone last week and one, who had a Christian-sounding name, mentioned that he had been in the U.S. Navy, in submarines, during Vietnam. I told him that my dad (z"l) had been in the U.S. Navy during WWII.

"I'm a bit of a World War II buff," he said. My knee-jerk thought was, Creepy! How can anyone who's not a Nazi-lover refer to himself as a "buff" in association with World War II?

Accordingly, I responded, "I'm a bit of a Holocaust buff, unfortunately," I said, "Being Jewish. I took a graduate-level course in it and have done tons of reading."

"Yes, what a terrible time in history," he said, and I regained rationality and felt like a kill-joy, as I realized then that he was likely thinking of the heroism of our military, having been in the military during a war himself. I guess that's the way I'm wired....

For the rest of this blog-post, I'd like to catalog more of what I've loved from Christian culture, in addition to Mary Mary and TSO because it doesn't feel good to feel alienated and because it reminds me that life, belief, faith and I are all complex. And I want to affiliate with what I love from it while not feeling paranoid that a proselytizer will pounce on me and try to show me how close I am to accepting Jesus. There's that shoulder-chip again!

"Some of My Best Friends/Memories/Literary Experiences Are..."

  • Many friends, including Didi, Helene, Honeybee (aka Barbara), Mirja, Lisa, Jen, Rob, Clay, Stan, Jack, another Jack, Bernard, Stacy, Donna, Mia, Deb, Linda, Rahel, Esther, Joy, Pam, Suzanne, Jim, Chitra, Elizabeth, Paul, Tim, Rita, Jan, Donna and Lorraine are devoted Christians and whether we were friends especially in childhood, high school, college, when I lived in Chicago or through meeting at work, I'm fond of all of them and have enjoyed exchanges about our religions with each of them, though not having revealed -- before now -- to all of them my historical (and sometimes lingering) paranoia around the Grand Commission
  • Being an angel among my nursery-school classmates, and each of us getting to pin an aluminum-foil-covered cardboard star to the stage-curtain during the school's Christmas pageant (before my parents switched me to a Modern Orthodox Jewish day school for 1st-8th grades); it was thrilling to add my star and to be in that winged angel costume, complete with halo, and I don't recall participating in as magical a pageant of any sort since
  • Christmas mornings at Didi's and Helene's -- When I was a little kid, our neighbors graciously let me come over first thing to celebrate with them and I felt the specialness and totally included, and my parents were fine with my going there because when Didi came home from Catholic school and asked her mom, "How come the Jews killed Jesus?" her mom said, "Don't believe everything you hear," and so my mom trusted her forever based on her telling my mom the story and her response
  • C.S. Lewis and Madeline L'Engle were two of my favorite authors since childhood; they had the best brand of magic -- and I never knew the New Testament metaphor of C.S. Lewis' series till adulthood, and then I read a number of his adult works that were explicitly religious and they comforted me hugely
  • Falling in love with the writing of Flannery O'Connor and Thomas Merton in college; my favorite teacher in high school, Mr. McWilliams, introduced us to Flannery O'Connor and I included her "Good Country People" about a hypocritical and criminal Bible salesman in my senior thesis, and found Thomas Merton in an East-West comparative religion course
  • Most recently, discovering Tonéx, a gay Gospel star who was rejected by the Church when he came out, especially this hit, which re-inspires me every time I hear it and makes me believe that God and I believe in my abilities. He sings, "There is no failure":

Please, God, release me from my Christian-wariness bias and let me purely enjoy the parts that appeal to me without feeling anxious that I'm betraying my own religion, or that I'm doing anything but finding new avenues for connections with more of humanity. Amen.

Merry Christmas to all who celebrate it!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Day 2 of My Vacation

A Prose Poem

The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.

I've got everything on my mind from the
mystery of mental illness to pop tunes on
YouTube to needing to do some straightening
up/mining piles to how sunny it is, yet how cold
and how ill I feel with a sinus infection.

Once when I was ill as a young child, my dad (z"l)
bought me a toy doctor's kit and then also a roll of
Neco wafers to distract me from my illness. I wish he were
still around to distract me.

If my dad (z"l) were with me now, I would ask:
Who on your side was mentally ill, so I could
better understand some contemporary relatives who
are. And I would thank him for introducing me to
rollerskating and for buying me a pair, as they
augment my enjoyment of pop music.

And I would wonder aloud if there is a clutter-gene,
and if so, would be annoyed that having that insight still
wouldn't help me clean up the piles in my home-office any faster.

Friday, December 21, 2012

A Pair of Strange Patriots

A Pair of Strange Patriots

The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.

A Pair of Strange Patriots by sarah-siegel

Friday, December 14, 2012

A Peak and a Valley

The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.

Peak Haiku

Huge confidence-votes
Historical day at work
Wish to celebrate.

Two hours later...

Valley Haiku

Connecticut mourns --
My childhood-and-more state
-- Elementary.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Earliest Smells

The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.

The First Smells I Recall:

Last weekend, our friend David asked us about our earliest smell memories. I said, "Aiplane glue", and then thought about it some more to post this list:

  1. Playdough(TM)-- It didn't smell like food, but I had to taste it
  2. Airplane glue that my dad (z"l) used to build models -- smelled like oranges
  3. Cinammon and butter -- my dad (z"l) used to make us butterfly toast topped with these
  4. Skunk cabbage -- gross, skunky and irresistible to pluck the smelly part from the plants and toss it at our friends when we were playing in the woods
  5. Skippy(TM) Peanut Butter -- smelled salty-sugary
  6. Chlorine -- Burnt my eyes and stung my nose
  7. Jean Nate(TM) -- my mom's
  8. Old Spice -- my dad's

Friday, December 7, 2012


The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.

We're on the Way to Being Acknowledged as Human!

What will I be in the position to do when I'm in my mid-80s? By that time, in 40 years, I hope people will be talking about the inability for two people of the same gender to marry the way we talk about interracial marriage today. Same-sex couples will still be a bit exotic, but no one will question that they can marry. I interpret marriage as a basic human right and to have a number of people still suggesting that marriage is not my entitlement says to me that they do not see me as human.

Today, with the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to consider the case of Edie Windsor, who spent more than a decade at IBM, and who's Jewish and lesbian and around my mom's age -- and for all of those reasons, I relate to her especially -- makes Edie at the vanguard of the human rights movement. And I'm sure that instead of being in that role, she'd rather simply have her wife still with her, and to be going about their lives, but in the absence of that possibility, she has channeled heart-break and loss into heroism. God bless Edie Windsor.

Saturday, December 1, 2012


The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.

Missing My Friend Robert Today

Robert Kingoff of blessed memory was Southern, Jewish, funny, my friend and HIV+, and then dead of AIDS relatively swiftly 18 years ago. I wrote about him in #23 of When I think of AIDS, I think mostly of Chicago, where I lived when I first made friends who were directly affected by it and by HIV.

For once, I clicked on tags in this blog, and saw what else I've written on AIDS and HIV in the past and found and

Friday, November 30, 2012

Memories of "The Troubles"

The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.

Gone, But Not Forgotten

Called Pat's mom tonight to tell her that Pat was cooking sloppy joe's or what they referred to as slush-burgers, just like Pat's mom used to make. I mentioned the news of Palestine and the UN and said, "Bev, how did it work out for the Irish to stop fighting?"

"I don't know. I had a friend in Northern Michigan who said that when they lived in Northern Ireland, since they were Catholic, the Black & Tan guys would come to their house often in the middle of the night to see if they were harboring any southern Irish refugees."

"When was that?"

"Oh, I don't know. Around 1916 or 1919."

"So it was like pogroms were in Russia for the Jews."


So Pat had her slush-burger and we're watching the end of the Northern Illinois and Kent State football game. Pat's crazed because Kent State is one point behind her many-year, former employer. Oh, great. I think it'll go to over-time!

Prior to this game, we watched "Strangers", a film about a Palestinian woman and an Israeli man who fall in love in Berlin. I posted in Facebook that it was Happy, Sad, Happy, Sad and Happyish. Funny that that film per se arrived from Netflix today, when the UN declared Palestine's status as an observer state.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

250 Words - Day 2

The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.

Time-traveling from the U.S. to Israel to the U.K. and Back

What a great world that I can have on cross-country skiing, white-on-black, silver reflective gloves, a gray and raspberry wool hat, tortoise-shell sunglasses, a raspberry down ski jacket, and be mounting the foothills of the Watchung Mountains in Montclair, New Jersey while listening to Israeli music from the '70s that I used to play in our living room in Stamford, Connecticut from my older sister Deb's records...and it's coming to me from Cambridge University on a podcast of a show called Kol Cambridge!

"Yo Ya" by Poogy began as I reached Pat's and my garage door. I entered the code, tossed my sunglasses onto the front seat of my car and felt like an eight-year-old dancing around the house again. Never really knew what they were singing, but felt cool just by listening, and dancing to it. No one had coined the term "air guitar" yet, but they were the right group to pretend to play with had I been at all inclined.

The album was "Sipurey Poogy"/"Tales of Poogy" and I've just looked up the group on YouTube. I'm listening to "Hamakolet"/"The Grocery Store" now. When I was a kid, and now, I thought they might be singing "Kita Gimel"/"Third Grade" at one point in that song, and Kita Gimel was the grade I was in then. I loved the rest of how the tune sounded. The lead singer had a deep, sexy voice -- and for much of the song simply told a mesmerizing story. It was rap of a sort.

"Yo Ya", though, really transported me. I have tears in my throat as I listen to it again. I had no idea how life would be nearly 40 years hence when I first heard the song. The only really sad part is that my dad (z"l) is gone. Otherwise, I'm happier altogether than I was then, if a little bit less uninhibited. Then, my dad was unemployed and we nearly moved to Tehran, so that my dad could build a toy factory, but fortunately, that didn't work out. I felt unsettled during that period in any case, other than escaping into great music of the day, including Poogy.

During my hike, today, in 2012, Kol Cambridge played another song by a group that was popular when I lived in Jersualem in 1985 and '86, at 20, Mashina. The song differed from the hit I knew, which was "Rakevet Laila Le-Kahir"/"Night Train to Cairo". When I hear "Rakevet...", I think of the on-campus club, Bar Aton, where we danced on Friday nights; it was all that was open on Shabbat, and I've written here before that Arab townies routinely asked us to let them come in to the club with us, which we did, since anyone without a Hebrew University student ID had to enter as a guest. It was pure fun every Friday.

During the last blocks of my walk this evening, I was thinking that love and power are complicated, that is, my love of Israel is complicated, and power is a potential corrupter in anyone's hands, including in some bored Israeli soldiers' at checkpoints and a number of rich Palestinians who live in Ramallah; an author I met on a plane back from Dallas confirmed so in her book, which I read after meeting her, *Fast Times in Palestine*. I never knew how unconcerned a number of upper-class Palestinians were about their less fortunate comrades, according to the author. Her name is Pamela Olson and she may still be in her '20s. She's a Stanford Physics grad who happened to land in Palestine after a jaunt in Jordan during a post-college trip to see the world. And we agreed that whatever one's politics, that part of the planet is somehow addictive. It just is.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Disciplined Writing for Fun

The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.

What If I Could Write 250 Words a Day?

Around 20 years ago, a girlfriend who knew I was a frustrated-would-be-aspiring writer gave me a gift of a book called *20 Lines a Day*. It advocated writing just 20 lines a day to exercise my writing muscles.

Today, via Facebook, which I had just dissed as the lazy way out of full-on blogging, Jeff Nishball, a writer who was published in “The New York Times” last week, kindly sent me a message, encouraging me and suggesting that I’m not any lazier than most writers for not having wanted to blog, but that I’d be well-served if I tried writing just 250 words a day. He said that it was essentially just a page’s worth of writing. Of course, now, I’m compelled to check the word-count to see if Jeff meant double-spaced or single. Off I go…. 137 so far, so happily, Jeff must have meant double-spaced!

My cat Phoebe just hopped onto my lap and then onto my work-notebook next to my laptop. Her tail is doing something unusual: Just the tip is in motion; it’s like a periscope and she’s using it to decide her next move.

That girlfriend was among the most creative people I ever knew, and she still is, though we’re married to other women. I thought of her when I finally watched the viral “Gangnam Style” video on YouTube yesterday. When I was in India on assignment in 2007, I posted a link to a YouTube video I had discovered, featuring Silky Kumar. She said she loved it. I wasn’t surprised. It’s better than the Gangnam one, or at least as good, @

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Emotional Leadership

The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.

The Delegate Couldn't Know How Deeply His Comment Resonated with Me

Just prior to our saying goodbye, one of the IBM Global LGBT Leadership Workshop delegates, remarked to me one on one, "American culture has a different way of public speaking... and the way you facilitated -- I would call it -- 'emotional leadership'."

Is it part of American culture to facilitate warmly, or is it just my style, and I happen to be American?

It's true that I touch participants on the shoulder and back occasionally and also laugh easily as well as hope to move people -- to activate them -- but it's not even fully conscious on my part...until now, as I'm reflecting on what the delegate said.

In terms of emotions themselves, I always feel so many when facilitating learning, and perhaps, more than ever with this series: a summit for openly lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) IBM executives, and a global leadership development workshop for LGBT not-yet-exec. leaders.

For the workshop I co-designed and facilitated last Friday, I felt sad, desirous, anxious, competitive, thrilled, super-invested, touched and loving. And then afterward, while sitting in the hotel bar with a number of delegates, I felt the same emotions, plus exhausted.

Sad: My father of blessed memory died at ~11:20 pm, November 1st, 1982 and had grown up in D.C., 40 minutes from where I was facilitating in Baltimore. Could I do all I did on November 1st and 2nd to honor his memory? Would he be proud of me, or would we be estranged if he did not approve of my lesbian identity?

Desirous: All of the female delegates and even a few of the male ones are attractive to me. It's exciting to know that none of them is heterosexual -- never happens in any other learning arena. Please God, let me remain appropriate and not cause anyone to feel harassed verbally. Please don't let me embarrass myself by leaking any of these feelings, even as I have a pact with Pat never to act on any such feelings, and haven't in the 20 years we've been together. Don't want to express 'em either.

Anxious: Will I be able to be a great agent for their learning and activation? Am I reaching all of them, or am I leaving some behind? Will the timing of the agenda work out? Can I adjust it effectively if need be? Are they finding the exercises meaningful? Are they willingly opting in to one of the teams being formed around the 2013 Vital Few? Is this learning experience one of the best they've ever had or not? And if not, why not?

Competitive: What is it about the execs. that enabled them to lead such huge missions? What would it take for me to be recognized as worthy of leading one? Which one could it be? Will I ever be recognized as meriting the exec. stripe? Do I look as fit as the other women? Why am I one of the only women in the entire room with short hair? Who am I better-/worse-looking than? How can I stay quiet instead of revealing competitiveness by what I say? How can I remain poised and just listen and be happy for others' success?

Thrilled: What a rush to see them enter the ballroom and pick up their name-badges and tent-cards and to know that it's really happening: nearly 50 LGBT IBMers from around the world, together -- just us -- for a whole day. And thrilled by the international panel -- charming, lovely delegates from Bangalore, Moscow, Vienna and Tel Aviv. How lucky am I to get to ask questions that make me curious and to invite questions from participants! What a privilege to be the moderator!

Super-invested: I want these learners to succeed, especially because they are my people. Also, am concerned that being one of them, I will be judged even more strictly by them than I might be if I weren't one of them.

-- Disclaimer -- : I'm sitting in front of a football game on TV because Pat and I want to be together this evening after my having been away for half a week, and so it's harder to focus on my feelings for this blog-entry. By the way, her Green Bay Packers won, so the mood around here is buoyant.

Touched: When one of the executive panelists -- who's responsible this year for 3/4 of a billion dollars of IBM revenue -- responded to my moderator-question about when he first became aware of his gender identity, I was moved because he spoke of how abused he'd been as a kid by peers, since they saw him as effeminate. Most of all, I was touched that the delegates apparently bought in to my upfront premise of the workshop -- that self-awareness leads to authenticity, which leads to premier leadership -- as demonstrated by their willingness to reflect with one another so openly, especially since a good number of them had never met one another prior to the workshop.

Loving: Just before kicking off the workshop, I sat down next to a delegate with whom I wasn't previously acquainted, introduced myself and asked, "How's it going?"

"It's all sort of a whirlwind," she said, "I'm just taking it all in." She looked like I remember feeling in the early days of my coming out: bombarded. I felt flooded with compassion, listening to her. At the end of the day, when she said goodbye, I saw that she had dimples. They were visible, now that she no longer seemed overwhelmed.

And after the international panel was done, I stood and looked at each of the panelists from Austria, India, Israel and Russia, and felt tearful with a rush of affection; it seemed that they were similarly moved when I looked in their eyes.


I've been sitting on this blog-entry for weeks, wondering why I couldn't write something more perfectly expressive of my feelings post-Baltimore and as self-revealing and honest as I've been above, I didn't post the above prior to now because it was missing the full expression of my most embarrassing feelings of all (though I did leak a bit of it above in the "Competitive" section....) In the spirit of my friend Richard's belief that it's the things about which we're most embarrassed that are most interesting about us, I'll express it finally, 23 days later:

Am I a hypocrite? Am I practicing what I preached, about pursuing our potential? I invested imagination-time x 2, design-time x 2, sponsor-review-time x 2, room-setup-time x 2, facilitation-time x 2 and all-of-the-above-emotions-time x 2 in dedicating sessions to the advancement of IBM, the LGBT community at large, and very specifically to a selected group of LGBT IBMers, but when will I know when I've fully advanced and reached my own potential? What *is* my own potential? What is healthy ambition vs. unhealthy ego? How much ego do I get to have before it's unhealthy?

I am qualified and repeatedly invited to help develop premier leaders, but am I recognized as a leader myself? And if so, why am I not literally leading people again, with a title to match? And is it enough to me if I myself recognize myself as a leader? And when did I gain this craving for outward status? When I joined the company, I did not even aspire to be a first-line people manager, and then did, but for pastoral reasons -- really -- and the people-manager role did satisfy my pastoral bent. And I left management to help start up the LGBT business development mission, and didn't return. Why am I thinking so literally now?

Would it wreck the amazing experience a number of delegates told me they had if they knew that their facilitator had these questions? Or might it paradoxically reinforce my credibility?

And what will I do with these questions? How can I answer them in a way that benefits my work and me altogether? All I can do is make a personal pledge that co-designing and delivering the sessions is rededicating me to further pursue my own potential in addition to having promoted that the delegates pursue theirs. Time for more prayer, too, I think: God, please help me follow your direction. Amen.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Grief and Gratitude

The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.

Another Reflection on "Joy and Pain, Like Sunshine and Rain"

"Honey, everything's OK, don't you think? Fundamentally?" This is what I'm telling our cat Phoebe as she whimpers/kvetches while zig-zagging around the room.

And it is, thank God. It's also a sad time. Thirty years ago this month, my dad (z"l) died of common bile duct cancer. I keep thinking of him. And then this morning, I open up "The New York Times" to see that my friend Susannah Sheffer's dad (z"l) died on Friday of complications from a stroke. Reading about Mr. Sheffer, I'm 17 again. I went to the designated URL to post a memory:

Zichrono l’vrachah (z”l)/may his memory be for a blessing. The Sheffers were kind to me during the Summer of ’82 by hosting me in their home for three days a week, so that I could serve as an intern at the Museum of Philosophy at Hunter College with their daughter Susannah and other teens.

My father (z”l) who was a toy and game designer, was dying at Columbia-Presbyterian that summer and I needed a distraction. We lived in Stamford and drove in to see him daily. My mom told the museum’s director that I could serve as an intern if he found me a place to stay 3 nights a week. The Sheffers kindly took me in.

Once while at the Sheffers’, I turned Susannah’s radio to WBLS-FM and bobbed my head to “Rapper’s Delight” — R&B, Rap and Funk were also distractions from my dad’s imminent death (Groups like The Clash were more Susannah’s speed). Mrs. Sheffer walked past Susannah’s room and stood there listening, apparently amused and bemused in parallel.

I remain grateful for the Sheffer family’s kindness when I was 17, and am sorry for the loss of Mr. Sheffer; my mom and I know what it’s like to lose a dear, funny, creative husband and father.

This morning, I spent three hours, cleaning up our front-, side- and backyards, raking away dead leaves and mowing grass. I cleared away the dead stuff and enabled what was underneath to breathe more easily. My tidying up the yard was a classic example of humankind, trying to control nature and make it neat.

Nature is not neat. It is super-symmetrical and then wildly jagged, and in any case, not ultimately tameable, but I sure was trying! We wanted to control my dad's (z"l) wellness, too, and couldn't. And we wanted to keep our power during the Sandy storm, but couldn't.

Even as I mourn the loss of my dad (z"l), Mr. Sheffer (z"l) and a number of tree-limbs, I am so grateful for the life I have today, which I like to inventory every so often:

  • Pat Hewitt & I have been together for 20 years and married officially for 16 months
  • We love our mothers, who are still alive, and our siblings, and niece and nephews
  • We have two feline daughters, who delight us, Phoebe and Toonces
  • We have close friends
  • We live in a well-maintained house in a great town, just 14 miles west of NYC
  • Our synagogue is led by gifted rabbis and has lovely congregants
  • I love the work I do and mission I have, and the management and company with whom and which I'm affiliated
  • I've met some of my closest friends at work
  • I'm free to be a corporate activist for LGBT equality for our clients and colleagues
  • Social media enable me to express my creativity among new channels
  • My employer sent me to India on a 6-month assignment (and Pat was able to accompany me), and it sponsored my Master's, which I earned last May
  • My physical and mental health are good
  • I feel free to experiment at work
  • Art abounds, whether on TV, in films, museums and books, and I relish all of it
  • I know how to swim and can find a pool to use nearly everywhere I travel.

I lost my dad too early, but life has continued, and vividly, even so.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

A Picture-poem Prayer for the World's Birthday

The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.

Happy 5773rd Birthday to the World!

By the sixth day, all of the creatures and living things pictured here
were launched:

By bein ha'shmashot (the time between the sixth and seventh days)
our rabbi says that Queerness and the talking donkey from the
story of Balaam emerged.

Bein ha'shmashot, then, is when the extra-special features were

Toonces and Phoebe, mums and elephant ears, cool shrubs,
Hibiscuses, little tomatoes, smoke bushes and magenta dahlias
were part of the standard plan, by contrast, and all were captured (see
above) in post-shul pix I took today, in our home and garden.

Our rabbi delivered an interactive drash earlier. She recited three
poems by Palmachniks, all about Isaac and the ram. Then invited
our interpretations.

From Yehuda Amichai: "I want to sing a song in his memory—
about his curly wool and his human eyes,
about the horns that were silent on his living head," and from
Amir Gilboa, where Isaac says, "Father, hurry and save Isaac
And no one will be missing at lunchtime." The middle poet, I
cannot remember, other than that a congregant felt that he was
trying to guilt-trip her.

The guilt comment reminded me of our rabbi's reference to the
talking donkey and how in two out of three of the poems, none
of the underdogs had a voice...but in the third poem, Isaac, the
child, had a voice and used it. Was he as effective as the donkey?

Some years ago, when it was parshat ha'shavuah, the Torah
portion of the week, I delivered a layperson's drash that focused
on the donkey as a symbol for anyone I have a tendency to
disrespect reflexively, when I'm less than thoughtful.

Throughout this 5773rd year, may I always listen for the
historically-underrepresented, extra-special voices and heed them.
And may everyone. Amen.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Today As Normal

The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.

September 11th, the Most Like a Normal Day It Has Been Since 2001

Well, it was normal in that I wasn't thinking primarily about what happened on the day in 2001 for the first time since 2001. September 11, 2012 began with my supporting an internal conference in Bangalore virtually, from my home office in Montclair, New Jersey. I was online from 11 pm, September 10th to 9:10 am September 11th.

There was a 75-minute break and I took a walk from 6:40-7:16 am. It was the first freezing morning -- relatively freezing. Had to be in the high 50s or low 60s and I just walked fast with my hands in my pockets, a baseball cap and sweatshirt. I warmed up by the second half. My iPod kept me company and I sang along. Thought, what a beautiful if cold morning. Registered that it was September 11th, but not in a haunted way.

By 10 am, I fell asleep, awoke at noon for a few minutes and then fell back asleep till 4:15 pm. For the first time, I ushered in the day pre-dawn and slept through a chunk of its daylight. It felt so good to get six hours and I could have slept some more, perhaps, but I want to fall asleep tonight, so made myself wake up. I checked my work e-mail for a few minutes, responded to a couple of meeting invitations and then made lunch and read much of "The New Yorker".

Then I continued reading *perks of being a wallflower* till Pat wanted help with grilling. Weird and somewhat touching to read the thoughts of a fictional teenage boy.

We sat on the deck in our double-rocker, talking about the upcoming Master Gardeners conference at Rutgers and how Pat was invited tomorrow to speak about Master Gardener volunteer opportunities at a class for Master Gardeners-in-training. We looked up at the sky at one point.

"What a beautiful day today is."

"Not as beautiful as that day."

"Right, the sky's not as bright blue."


Saturday, September 8, 2012

Torrent of Consciousness

The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions. 

Observations During Rabbi Kleinbaum's 20th Anniversary Shabbat Service

Erika, the wife of my college classmate Sari, and her pre-teen daughter Ruby walk toward us as we're all heading to the entrance. And instead of being with Pat, I'm accompanied by a friend Davina -- a heterosexual ally I met through our diversity and inclusion work -- but Erika doesn't know that and wonders where Pat is. I explain.

I can see that Erika's relieved and we go in...but not before passing through the gauntlet of Rick as he hands us each a siddur, "I'm watching you!" after I introduce Davina. "Rick, Davina is a great *ally* of our community." And she's also a good sport. A very attractive good sport, who more congregants are going to notice, I'm certain, especially the female ones. He's semi-satisfied with my explanation that Pat's in Green Bay with her brother, helping their mother move.

And I do feel guilty as we enter the sanctuary. Pat should be by my side. Which is worse? Not coming with Pat for this historic occasion in the life of our congregation, or not coming at all?

Pat's and my usual seats in the center, second row are taken, which seems right -- at least, another woman shouldn't sit in Pat's seat next to me. Our view is obstructed by a pillar. Pat might have left, rather than have such a crummy view. I'm Ok with our seats and again, Davina's a sport. And she has been to CBST a couple of times before -- once with Pat and me and one time on Purim with other friends.

A pretty, single (I think) congregant comes over and I feel bad that Davina is not eligible, but also further guilty somehow, like the woman is sort of winking at me without winking, at my sheer good fortune to have such an attractive friend, but is also perhaps a bit disoriented, since Pat and I ourselves are such an established pillar of our congregation, and who is this woman anyway...? Or it could all be major projection on my part. And then I explain Davina's ally status, and then the congregant might be personally disappointed as she moves on to her seat.

I'm missing Pat, especially at the start of the service, as we're singing "Shalom Aleichem" and swaying with interlocked arms, as is the congregation's custom. Why do the women on either side of me have to be so little? I can feel the imprint of my friend's tiny hand on my back and miss the solidity of standing with Pat, who is essentially my height, and miss that I have no one to kiss on the mouth when the tune ends and we pause to wish "Shabbat shalom" to those around us. I'm *so* spoiled. Later, before delivering her drash, the rabbi will allude to having been through a hard breakup with her "ex-partner" of many, many years, and will announce that she has a new partner. And during the kiddush, another friend will tell me that her partner broke up with her recently, and they were together for at least the 16 years we've been congregants. How were either of these breakups possible?

I can't imagine losing Pat, except to death, which I imagine morbidly all too frequently, since she's 15 years older than I. My dad was a year younger than my mom and he died at 56, so the younger ones can go first, of course, but -- and my mom never re-married. When Pat turned 56, she had a colon cancer scare and had a piece of her colon removed. We got off scot-free, so I relaxed...and then I remembered that I needed to get past 56, too, without Pat dying, since 56 was the terrible age that broke apart my parents. Nine more years of pins and needles and then I can relax, until I figure out another reason to worry, assuming I'm still healthy myself then!

The place is packed. I'm smiling at people I've known since we joined upon our move to metro-New York 16 years ago: Sari, Judy, Saul, Saul, Ruth, Jack, Marni, Ilene, Abbe, Diane, Joyce, is it that 16 years later, I'm edging toward becoming among the elder congregants? Not quite yet, I guess, but when I look around me at the younger faces -- and bodies -- I feel wistful.

What a lovely trio of Orthodox women two rows ahead of us! They look like the just barely grown-up version of the prettiest girls in the Modern Orthodox Jewish day school I attended from Grades 1-8. They can't be older than their late-20s. Chestnut hair streams down one's back, another's fine, blondish-brown hair is swept up in a pony-tail that ends with a couple of sweet curls and the length of the third, dark-brunette one matches the chestnut hair's length almost exactly. Such simcha-inspiring symmetry!

When they stand for the Amidah, they supplicate themselves in all the right places. During the rabbi's drash, two of them emerge as a couple, leaning into each other's shoulders with one, tugging on the other's pony-tail at one point, twirling the curls -- ultimately, I recognize one as a far-flung Facebook friend who I'm seeing in 3D for the first time. What a chasm they've crossed to be here, as a couple, touching each other, even just a little, in *public*. How at home they must feel, to be able to do so. Again, perhaps another giant projection on my part...if only Pat were with me, so I could have my left arm around her as usual, draping my hand now visibly on her shoulder/back/neck, so that my wedding ring would flash in the sanctuary light as a literal symbol of our rock-solidness (k'ayn eyeen harah).

God, why can't Pat be here with Davina and me? It makes me so lonely to be without Pat, and it sets my imagination to catastrophizing. How sweet can this service be if we're not together to share it? How easily my mind moves like a magnet to noticing the especially lovely women in the crowd. If I do lose Pat in the future, will this one I see a few rows back from me still be single? Probably not. Nor that one. And she won't be Pat in any case. What if I'm alone by 56 and by then, no longer look at all attractive and can't find anyone to approximate Pat? Why *didn't* we adopt when it turned out that I couldn't bear a child organically? Who will pay attention to me when I'm old?

As I look over then at a baby who's cooing in her mother's lap, I see Judy, one of the long-time congregants, in the row behind them and recall my sobbing silently nearly a decade ago as Sari and Erika went to the bimah for their second daughter's baby-naming. Judy, herself a mother of grown kids at the time, knew enough to recognize why I was crying and simply paused to rub/pat my back gently as she walked by. It was the simplest kindness, and it convinced me that I was a bonafide member of this congregational community. We never spoke about it and I hadn't thought about her kindness in years, till I saw Erika, Sari, their three daughters, and Judy at the service.

It's our fate, instead, to have feline daughters, I guess, and suddenly, I want to be playing with them back at home, in our nice, suburban, split-level house, petting them and hearing them purr. Toonces, especially, has been missing her other mommy all week. If only I could train them to bentch licht....

I'm distracted from my day-dreaming by Rabbi Weiss, who is ready to recite two blessings for two families now up at the bimah -- one for the two women who just had twin boys and another for two men who've been together for 40 years and who are marrying on Sunday. Later, during remarks in honor of Rabbi Kleinbaum's tenure, Rabbi Weiss mentions that during Rabbi Kleinbaum's first month, she officiated at five AIDS-related funerals and this month, there have been five babies born to congregants.

During the kiddush, Davina says, "Every time I come here memorable things happen." And a bit later: "These things should be happening, of course, but they're in the realm of, 'Who ever thought we'd see -- What moved you about the service?'"

"Well, I'm kvelling a bit because we've come so far -- as a congregation and community, and personally. As a congregation, we now have our own building and our own prayerbook and personally, Rabbi Weiss married Pat and me two Julys ago [after 19 years together]."

As I said to Rabbi Kleinbaum after the service, "[Baruch atah adonai eloheinu melech ha'olam]... shecheyanu v'kiy'manu v'higyanu lazman hazeh!"/"[Blessed are you our God, creator of the universe] ...who has supported us, protected us and brought us to this moment."


Sunday, August 5, 2012

My letter that did not get published, in response to an NYT op-ed on online learning

The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.

Re-posted from the Center for Advanced Learning Community Blog, Behind our firewall

From: Sarah Siegel
Date: Sat, Jul 21, 2012 at 9:53 PM
Subject: "The Trouble With Online Education" - Op-Ed on July 20th

The trouble with "The Trouble With Online Education" is that it refers only to the sort of online learning that's ineffective and paints learning in physical classrooms as automatically dialogical. In undergraduate classes of 100 students, which Professor Edmundson referred to, typically, I felt that I was engaged mostly in an internal dialogue as the professor lectured on to the pit full of us. At its best, online learning enables a global dialogue among the instructors and learners. For example, in my work with global business leaders, we have engaged 970 learners concurrently via live video over the web and live-chat moderators. The leaders learn from the presenters and one another and the dialogue is richer than it would be if we were face to face, as their regional origins would be limited by travel constraints. These views are my own and don’t necessarily represent my employer's opinions.

Sarah Siegel
Social Learning Developer
IBM Center for Advanced Learning

This was my response to this NYT Op-Ed. It was not published and here is a link to the letters that *were* published. All of them make interesting observations and all are strictly academic/higher-ed-oriented.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

A Cloud Party Party

The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.

First Impressions

First heard about it from an IBM colleague when I was right in the middle of a deadline. Responded to his instant message, asking if we could look together later. The next day, I was asked by another colleague via instant message, "Have you heard of Cloud Party?"

"Just yesterday, actually." I don't recall what more my colleague wrote, if anything. That night, in front of the TV, I opened Facebook and searched for "Cloud Party". Clicked on it. Landed in-world and a stranger tried to chat with me. By default, my avatar sported a brunette, 2012 version of a bob and a body that's half my age in a tight T-shirt and faded jeans. I tested the arrow key to see if I could walk away from, presumably, him. Reminded me of the meaninglessness of Second Life before I had specific reasons to go in-world with groups of IBM managers for learning.

"Look at this, Pat," I said as I discovered that clicking my cursor anywhere in the distance would produce a red hump on the ground, to which my avatar then moved automatically. That was the cool part. Something that confused me: the mobile phone metaphor for navigation; I didn't want to click on it, as I thought Cloud Party was going to try to download itself as an app to my Android phone. The other cool part was getting there via Facebook. But then what? I didn't know, so I left.

Today was different. Almost like the old days in Second Life after my initial, individual visit, where I felt purposeful because I was with IBMers, trying to learn something -- in this case, about Cloud Party itself. One of my colleagues remarked that he liked how he could take photos that then were instantly postable to Facebook. Ooh. That sounded very cool. I went to the mobile phone icon and found the camera. Started taking photos, but discovered that it only saved like the four or five most recent photos -- after taking like 15. Oh, well.

Saved a few -- one, twice.

And then decided to start saving the chat because Cloud Party's CEO, Sam Thompson, kindly showed up and responded to questions rifled at him and his wife/sister(?) Lilli Thompson, who hosted us in Lilli's World. Decided to capture a bunch of it and post it here anonymously, other than Sam and Lilli, where names are, e.g., Yyyyy Yyyyy:

[say] Yyyyy Yyyyy: What are your current priorities?

[say] Sam Thompson: 1. Marketplace + asset transfers, 2. avatar improvements and finalization so content creators can start making clothes

Lilli Thompson cheers

[say] Sam Thompson: After that it is less clear.

[say] Lilli Thompson: As for differentiators for Cloud Party, I think the HTML5 thing is huge

[say] Sam Thompson: Xxxxx: I suppose the most obvious difference is the ease of entry... no client to download, login and account creation is basically instant (as long as you use facebook), and you can just send someone a URL to anywhere in Cloud Party and have them show up seconds later.

[say] Sam Thompson: Yyyyyy: no specific target demographic at this point. I'd say our target is 'the internet'

[say] Aaaaa Aaaa: Would HTML5 suggest that this would be a great place to run videos, integrating them into the 3D experience?

[say] Xxxxx: Full Mesh / Run in web page / No Client Download / No Firewall issues


[say] Sam Thompson: Aaaaaa: hopefully, eventually, yes. We actually got it working at one point a few months ago, but performance was terrible.

[say] Aaaaa Aaaa: (assuming sound, of course)

[say] Sam Thompson: I think it will just take more work on the browser side.

[say] Bbbbbb: @user#whatever - ease of access, better building, better 3D space (you get an island - a volume) not a surface, better integration with social media.

[say] Sam Thompson: Also there are lots of permissions issues with CORS and such.

[say] Ccccc Ccccc: I'd like to see more camera controls, like being able to change your viewpoint for the camera

[say] Sam Thompson: Aaaaaa: there is sound, it's just that most things aren't creating sound right now.

[say] Yyyyyy Yyyy: I just tried to login using my iPad, but no support yet.

[say] Xxxxx: thanks Sam

[say] Lilli Thompson: there's a video on YouTube of someone running Cloud Party on a jailbroken iPad

[say] Sam Thompson: Yyyyyy: that's on apple, unfortunately. They are being very cagey about WebGL support.

[say] Xxxxx: Yyyyyy you can use ipad if hacked and you install Cydia webgl support

[say] Sam Thompson: It'll be interesting to see how they play it.

[say] Aaaa Aaaaa: And of course we'll do nothing but flood Sam with feature requests --- interactive HTML to support in-world whiteboarding and such

[say] Sam Thompson: :)


[say] Ddddddd Ddddd: Having utterly failed to make a red shirt in a week :-) I'm finding the "world created by people like you" line a bit flat.

[say] Lilli Thompson: To some extent--the barrier to entry for content creation is higher. However the awesome thing is that the skills you learn building for cloud party transfer to the real world

[say] Lilli Thompson: it kind of hurts me to think of someone investing hundreds of hours into a proprietary non-transferrable set of skills for building

[say] Lilli Thompson: whereas any game artist can build here

[say] Sam Thompson: We are looking to bridge the gap to some extent between hard core builders and beginners. This is something we'll be looking into after the marketplace and avatar tech is in place.

[say] Lilli Thompson: or just show there stuff here

[say] Eeeeee Eeee: yeah like linden script LOL. What is the scripting language here? Javascript?

[say] Dddddd Ddddd: Ah, but right now they have to invest hundreds of dollars into 3D editing software.

[say] Sam Thompson: Andre: it's javascript with some limitations.

[say] Lilli Thompson: I also think Cloud Party is a really exciting way for 3d artists to share their work and portfolios

[say] User#133825: or go the Blender route

[say] Lilli Thompson: you don't have to--Blender and Sketchup work

[say] Mykael: You can build with tools like Carrera which is pretty cheap and Blender/Sketchup which are free.

[say] User#133825: Blender was my Best Friend in SL =)


At this point, I stopped saving the chat because it was far beyond what I could relate to personally. These colleagues were builders. And my experience in Virtual Worlds was in using what my colleagues built, so that I could include them in social learning experiences we designed for our leaders. Still, was happy to lurk and learn a bit about how the magic got built.

This evening, I spoke with one of the question-riflers, who has premier building experience, and told her, "I chatted privately with Yyyyy Yyyyy and told him that seeing you and him here were my favorite part of this virtual world so far....I imagine that this HTML 5 thing is very big for types like you, though."

"Well, yes, this is the first in Web GL, but only the first, so we'll have to wait and see."

In my Masters thesis, published late last year, I wrote that Virtual Worlds wouldn't catch on virally/universally until they were as simple as FarmVille and had much lower barriers to entry. I should mention that my Lenovo ThinkPad T61 -- which I use for work -- didn't enable me to access Cloud Party due to a video card that needed updating, but which turned out to be a hassle and undoable in the time I'd allotted for doing the update. I had to use the HP Entertainment PC I bought at Costco for home use. Also, during the dialogue with Sam and Lilli, my same colleague brought up the fact that China-based people would not necessarily be able to access Cloud Party, which was a pretty huge barrier to entry, so yes, we'll see. Still, I'm glad I went on the field trip. These in-world jaunts always expand my vista.

Thursday, July 12, 2012


The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.

For Israeli Family Photos, See Prior Blog Entry

Everyone on our tour, regardless of gender and sexual orientation, it seemed, including Pat and I, had a crush on the beautiful, brilliant, funny Odelia Shabi, our tour guide (above), who was proudly Yemenite. Abel Pann, one of Israel's premier 20th-century artists, used Yemenite models among others in his art, for example, this image above (see a larger version). If there were an Olympics for country tour guides, Odelia would take the Gold Medal for Israel. How much can I express Pat's and my adoration as fans before embarrassing ourselves, let alone Odelia?

Pat snapped this photo of me (above) looking happy and lovingly at her on our first evening in Jerusalem, when Shabbat was on the way shortly. I couldn't believe we were actually there, together finally. As I wrote in a prior blog-entry, during all of my previous stays in Israel, from 15 onward, I pursued romance with boys and girls and then men and women who might have loved Israel, but who did not love me. In this case, I was finally with someone who loved me back, if not yet who loved Israel. Perhaps for Pat, Israel would be like golf was for me; we always played together because I knew how enormously happy it made her to be on a golf course, but golf was not natively beloved to me.

These two photos (above) depicted Pat & me on our final night in Jerusalem and our fourth day in Israel, under nearly a full moon. If this was for Pat just like a round of golf was for me, then it was an atypical round, where we played the most beautiful, uncrowded course and where I had a hugely successful game and was buoyed by it...because that's how Pat seemed by then -- extraordinarily happy and sated. Or maybe Pat was still mostly loving that I loved Israel, and her extra selflessness released endorphins. I'm not sure which it was, and it didn't seem to matter, since both of us felt ultra-relaxed and pleased for whatever reason, even beyond how we feel, say, on a summer evening when we're rocking in our double rocker on the back-deck of our house.

Our first night in Jerusalem, which was our very first night in Israel together, we ate dinner at Cinematech, which was also the cool place to go in 1985-86, when I was a Hebrew University student for the year. It seemed out of reach to me then, as the place where kids with money went on dates, and I didn't have much of either back then. What a triumph to be having a romantic dinner with my wife Pat, ordering whatever I wanted on the menu and paying with our collective money. And then afterward, we caught a cab to the Kotel (Wall), to watch the dancing there (above). Since Pat & I are both women, unlike opposite-gender couples, we were able to approach the Wall together and touch it side-by-side, and to kiss the same spot of it. As we moved back from it, Pat snapped photos of gorgeous female Israeli soldiers dancing.

So much shame scattered to the winds, thank God; last time I was there at night, I was a 20 year old who felt the way I did in a Women's locker room, forcing myself to look at the ground while in the Women's section, and then who also felt impossibly awkward in the open plaza behind the prayer sections, where other young men and women stood together -- but not too closely, of course -- becoming acquainted.

Our friend Eleanor Horowitz (above, left) lives in Herzliya and is a lawyer and artist. Like me, she was a Freshman and Sophomore at the University of Michigan and also studied at Hebrew University during her Junior year. Unlike me, she stayed in Israel for her Senior year and graduated from Hebrew University, and made aliyah, also graduating from Hebrew U.'s Law school as well as studying at Bezalel, Israel's premier art school. She always seemed heroic to me -- one of the brave ones who flirted with aliyah during her Junior year abroad and then who actually made it.

Both of these books (above) are at the Mt. Scopus campus of Hebrew University, in the library where I hung out a lot as a student, and which I took Pat to visit during our one afternoon that we had free from the tour. The book with the cover in Hebrew is also by Flannery O'Connor; it's the collection of short stories, *A Good Man Is Hard to Find*, translated into Hebrew, and it has the story I chose to include in my Comparative Literature thesis upon my return to Ann Arbor, "Good Country People". I don't remember seeing that book when I found the peacock-covered one in 1986. Both could actually be from that time, since the covers of both have been reinforced with extra cardboard.

Flannery O'Connor was like a friend in Israel back then. "Good Country People" particularly gave me what I needed, a theme that mirrored my life at the time: My emphasis was on objects of desire, rather than on finding real love (and healthy desire) with a similarly-intentioned woman. The desires of Flannery O'Connor's protagonist, along with those of all of the women I compared among the four short stories of my thesis, were thwarted and ultimately damned. Cheery.

Imagine my gratification at returning with my wife Pat to the very place where everything seemed so unsettled and unsettling romantically and being able to stamp it with a happy ending. Here we are a couple of days later at the Dead Sea (above), being photographed by a lovely guy from the tour group, Ishaan.

Pat and I were fortunate to swim in six very different bodies of water during our time in Israel. On the Dead Sea, we floated like cork rafts amid heat of 40 degrees Celcius, or 104 degrees Fahrenheit -- that was the *air* temperature and the water felt around the same. I need to update My Swimming Autobiography, but meanwhile, I'll mention the Kibbutz Lavi pool here (above). Prior to our arrival at Lavi, we had been hiking and sweating in Beit She'an, which is in a hotter part of the north. Picture our relief at entering this pool, which was indoors, but which had glass doors and giant windows all open to criss-crossing breezes. Other than a pool in a mountainous Madrid suburb, where I was lucky to swim during a business trip half a decade ago, it was the nicest pool I'd ever enjoyed.

Just as I commented to my American first cousin Sari, I keep thinking about accidents of birth: My mom's friend Chaya (above) is probably 90 years old and her parents and she were born in Israel; my mother will be 87 in November and she says that Chaya is a few years older than she.

Our friends Noga and Hilla (left and right, above) also were born in Israel. Hilla's parents came from Tunisia and then took the family to Canada for eight years, but then ultimately returned to Israel. And Noga's parents were from Poland and the Sudan. I need to resist idealizing Noga and Hilla and trying to turn them into symbols of an ideal Israeli couple. They are just another couple in the world, albeit an especially lovely one, trying to take care of their family and each other, just like Pat and I are trying to do...speaking of which, it's time to feed Phoebe and Toonces, our cats.

Nothing like children to bring me back to the present. Phoebe and Toonces are our feline daughters and this photo (above) is from the day we returned from Israel, after Pat cut a bunch of gladioli that had bloomed in our garden while we were away.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Emotion Parade During Our Trip to Israel

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Ultimately, Relief Is the Grand Marshal

This dusty dirt road belies the rows and rows of spry, young avocado trees behind the hoary trees on the left, but doesn't surprise me with the village's cemetery just around the bend. My father's parents, his sister and her husband are buried there (z"l). In reliving the trip here, I'm not sure how orderly I can make the emotion parade, or how much I should try to do so. Here, I'm posting photos and writing about a place of which I have been conscious for more than 40 years, first through Sabta (my grandmother) and Aunt Tovah -- the generations of our family that moved there in 1948 and '47 respectively.

Until reading the name beneath my grandfather's on his side of the gravestone, I do not know or recall that my grandfather was the son of Chaim Mordechai haLevi, and had chosen to name his eldest son (my dad of blessed memory) after his deceased dad (z"l). One grave sits in a moshav in Israel and the other on the outskirts of Stamford, Connecticut. If my dad had stayed in Israel after serving in WWII in the U.S. Navy, rather than leaving and moving to the Village in New York City, I wouldn't be here to blog about standing in awe at the continuity.

This visit with my family, both dead and alive, doesn't happen till our last day in Israel and I am anticipating it the entire time. Instead of being anticlimactic or even somehow disappointing -- which a number of highly-anticipated events are in my experience -- it is marvelous. Relatively, my first cousins Edna and Meishe are two of seven first cousins with whom I'm the closest; siblings Sarit -- aka Sari -- and Yanai are the others with whom I'm closest. Meishe and Edna have worse luck than the rest of us in that their parents Tovah and Lulu both were buried already, and Uncle Lulu died when they were young, in 1967, just weeks after our grandfather died; Saba died of Leukemia and Uncle Lulu of a freakish bathtub fall if I remember correctly -- 50 years, so far, of Edna and Meishe, leaving stones on Uncle Lulu's grave, and Uncle Lulu never got to see his gorgeous, talented grandchildren, Dvori, Lilach, Anat, Eli and Omri. And Meishe's now a grandfather himself, twice already, of Ori and Hilla. What if Aunt Tovah were still living? She would have gotten to know two delightful great-grandchildren so far. What if my father were still alive? He would have gotten to know four beautiful, stellar grandchildren. What if Uncle Vevy (Zev), the father of Yanai and Sari, were still living? He would have gotten to know all four of his precious, brilliant grandchildren, rather than only Yanai's kids.

So much envy to trudge through: I envy Sari and Yanai for getting to have both of their parents for much longer than I did, and perhaps Edna and Meishe envy Sari and Yanai, too, as well as how my dad lasted a few more years than theirs, till 56, and how my mom, so far, has lasted 20 years longer than theirs. Or maybe I'm the only one who thinks this way. And how does it serve me? In this case, I think, envy is just another type of mourning. This family in Israel is a thick link to my father, who I miss practically continuously, no matter that this November, he'll already have been gone corporeally for 30 years. The ache doesn't lessen. The couple of random memories that Edna and I share about him in the car from Tel Aviv to Beit Herut are incalculably dear to me, including how he used to read her stories in Hebrew and then when he was done, asked her what they were about. "The difference was that your father could read, but couldn't speak, and Uncle Vevy could speak, but couldn't read as well." We leave the cemetery, which had been Meishe's and Edna's profound idea to visit. The white slabs of my lost relatives serve as a peaceful, sad contrast to all of the hopeful colors to come during the rest of my visit.

My one priority other than seeing all of my available relatives is first to stop at the community pool, where I had spent significant times at 15, during the Summer of '80, when I lived with my second cousins, Gila, Shmuel (z"l), Moti, Ron and Nitza. It is a bit out of the way and it is definitely a youngest-child-syndrome moment, where just like my older sisters Deb and Kayla had done for me my whole early life, and perhaps they think they do still, Meishe and Edna are proxies and indulge me. This is the only time Pat intervenes and says, "Sarah, the rest of your relatives are waiting to see you." In response, I feel less guilty than determined to peek at the pool.

Probably, I could pause here to wonder what else Pat was thinking of all of this -- a dimension of my history to which she hasn't had direct access prior -- but the reality is that I am fully self-absorbed and unconsciously taking for granted that Pat can be self-sufficient during the visit, beyond my making initial introductions, where I consciously refer to her as my wife; I follow our dear friends David & Gerard's advice to use the term "wife" as often as possible to make up for all of the years that we couldn't. My cousins prove to be completely, naturally, genuinely welcoming to us. Their warmth makes me feel proudly beloved.

My dad of blessed memory always talked about the *Pirkei Avot*/*Ethics of the Fathers* statement, "K'neh l'chah chaver," which was the concept that friendship is so precious, we should be willing to pay for it. With that in mind -- not knowing how warmly we'd be received -- I bring gifts for family of all ages. Though I am not satisfied that they are amazing enough -- bunches of IBM logo'ed items...a cup, toddler T-shirts, mini golf umbrellas and rebus notebooks, plus a couple of Mickey Mouse paint-sets from my mother, a child's puzzle from the Jewish Museum in New York, and a Beijing Olympics key-ring for Dvori, since I remember that she is a champion swimmer and instructor -- I hand them out quickly upon our arrival, which helps me channel my nervous excitement at being met by known and new faces.

Of course, I need to bring gifts because they always give us gifts, even when we are visiting them in their home-country. Maybe they are similarly familiar with the *Pirkei Avot* saying, or maybe they're just generous. They give Pat & me each some special Dead Sea revitalizing products as well as a fantastic 2012-2013 Israeli art calendar. The thing is, in choosing gifts for them, I can't think of anything American that they don't already have access to, and the IBM-logo'ed products, at least, are not generally, publicly available, and they really are a reflection of how I've spent nearly the past two decades in the States and and India. In fact, my IBM service counts for 22 years this month. We also wish we could have brought them bottles of the New Jersey State Fair-winning Iris honey from the Presby Memorial Iris Gardens, where Pat serves as Treasurer of the Board, here in Montclair, but we figure that it could be a Security challenge, or else disastrous if the bottles break in our luggage.

Also, I'm hoping that some of my memories are bonus gifts for them; theirs are to me, certainly. I've got an aerogramme from Aunt Tovah, dated November, 1980, that refers to Anat's precociousness as a toddler. And as I'm sitting here, reflecting now, I'm recalling how when Dvori was an infant and I was 11, I blew at her eyes to watch her long eyelashes wave at the wind and no one stopped me. Probably, no one other than Dvori saw me do it. She was smiling, or at least, not crying during my experiment, so I don't think I did any lasting harm.

And I've got a nice photo of my oldest cousin Gila with her husband, Shmuel and her parents, if I remember correctly, and me at 15, which I show to Gila and which she asks Meishe to photocopy. Of course, this being 2012, he has a photocopier in his home. And Gila's daughter Nitza recalls two memories that I had forgotten: She took me to school with her during my first or second visit, when I was eight or 11, and she remembers that I ran the 60 meter dash really fast. (It was not a trend.) Nitza also remembers how exciting it was to receive a package from me, from the United States: "You sent those [molded rubber] Sesame Street finger-puppets, and to this day, I can't throw them away. I still have them." (My dad (z"l), who was a game and toy designer, had brought them home -- enough to share some, so I did.)

When Nitza and her mom Gila, along with Nitza's darling young son, enter Meishe and Bina's living room, I spring up and hug them. I also introduce Pat, but want to sit closer to them to be able to talk and leave Pat on the couch. By now, everyone is talking with her and she is enjoying the conversation and a sort of melon that she says later tasted like a more delicious version of cantaloupe, but which isn't the same color.

Pat looks perfectly comfortable, and I take the golden opportunity to sit down especially next to Gila, who is just a few years younger than my mom and she kindly lets me speak halting Hebrew with her, rather than English, even though she understands English perfectly. It is so cool! Gila, Nitza, Edna and Bina all are sitting near me at the same time and we have a history! At this moment, I don't need the Dead Sea serum; I am 30 years younger, just reminiscing with them. And being around typically remote people who still remembered my dear father (z"l) brings him back to life for me for a bit, even if just for the length of our visit.

The time with my Israeli family is too brief, as we are meeting my mom's 90ish-year-old friend for lunch Chaya back in Tel Aviv, but it leaves Pat and me wanting more, and I hope our Beit Herut-based family feels the same way. Gila (second from the left in this last photo) says to me emphatically, "I'm all alone in that big house, so next time you and Pat come to Israel, you must stay with me." We'd love to and hope to. What a rich visit, with 22 of my emotions on parade, some internally and some externally: awe, anticipation, surprise, nostalgia, envy, mourning, ache, appreciation, amusement, peace, sadness, hope, courage, warmth, pride, love, vulnerability, nervousness, excitement, wonderment, and renewal -- with relief leading the way...relief that I could pick up with my family where we left off, that the family, including Pat, warmly received one another, relief that I could communicate in Hebrew, even if at a pre-Kindergarten level, and relief at the ease we felt, being with all of them.