Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Call Me Maybe

So what is it the Kurt family does when everyone gets together as a family? We got together on Labor Day and my sister-in-law Kris had the brilliant idea to make a lip-dub video. We started messing around and after a bit decided to make it a continuous shot around the house. The whole family got into it, and we had a great time doing it.
 If you've never seen the "Call Me Maybe" Lipdub by the US Olympic team, here's what it looks like when it's done right:
 The world record for the longest continuious shot Lipdub goes to this video shot in the city of grand rapids:

Monday, August 06, 2012

Results of my Social Media Fast

During the Month of July, I fasted from social media, which included Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Blogging. I'm a very active guy (probably a bit of an understatement)in terms of social media, and my question going in was 'how big of a role does social media have in my head?' I'm a guy who checks their Klout (social media impact) score on a regular basis, and probably tweets more just to increase it.

Someone smart once said that if you want to see how tightly coupled you are to any kind of habit, stop doing it for a while and see what happens. So I did. To sum it up: I missed social media a lot, I was amazed how tightly linked to it I was, and in the end, I came out slightly less linked to it. Here are a few thoughts that I jotted down as I went through the fast:

  1. My brain was trained to think in terms of statuses.  I found myself reading something, seeing something or doing something and feeling compelled to think of the event in terms of a twitter post, or posting a picture.  I noticed how I took pictures just to document the event and post it.  I noticed how many of my posts were to present the highlights of my life in the way I wanted my life to be perceived.
  2. Living in the present moment.  I think I did a much better job of this while not being on FB.  I was less concerned about checking in, posting a picture or a status, and more concerned about just enjoying what I was doing.
  3. I missed keeping up to date with friends.  I learned just how dependent on FB I am to keep in touch with lots of my family and friends.  People would ask, "Did you see what so and so said/did on facebook?" and I felt like I was missing out.  My close friends and family, I would call or text.  That mid-circle of friends, I missed out on what was going on in their world by not being on facebook.
  4. Facebook is tightly linked to my communications and authentication.  I use the 'log in via facebook' capability a lot in my applications, and without facebook, I was hosed.  I also depend on FB for communications - lots of people's e-mail addresses that I don't have, and need FB to reach out en-masse.  It's also easier to post something amusing than have to send it via SMS or e-mail to friends, which I found myself doing.  I also use the facebook event invite feature, and without any kind of calendaring integration, I missed out on this functionality.
  5. I used Facebook to placate bordom.  I was amazed how many times I would grab my phone when bored and not have facebook to go to.  I found other things to do on my phone when I was bored, like check e-mail, but wow do I do that a lot.
  6. No place to vent. I missed out on having a channel to vent on when something went wrong, or being able to use twitter to post a complaint about a product issue that needed resolution.
In the end, I think I was able to reset some pathways in my brain in a good way.  I feel less compelled to post every thing I do, and less concerned about the world knowing what I'm doing or thinking at any moment.  I actually ask myself, 'why would anyone care?' before posting something, or just don't think to post things in general.  I never really did anything to deal with my constant going to my phone when I'm bored - I just changed what I do on my phone, not really dealing with the core issue at all.

Sunday, July 01, 2012

July Break from Social Media

Not that I've updated my blog much in the past year, but for the month of July I'm taking a break from updating my blog as well as posting and reading facebook and twitter. My brain gets so engaged in thinking about letting the world know what I'm doing in a given moment that I forget to enjoy the moment for the moment's sake. I'm hoping that I can reprogram my brain a bit to be more actively engaged with my friends and live more in the present moment, and spend less time thinking of how to share my world in 140 characters or less.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Attack of the killer swan

Nate and I went out kayaking at my friend Brad's cottage in Pickney, off Gallagher Lake. As we kayaked over to the channel, we saw this swan flying over from all the way across the lake, over to about 50 feet from where were at. I started telling Nate how mean swans could be, and how you never wanted to mess with them, because the strength of their wings could brake a man's arm. Nate's next question was, 'Dad, why are we trying to intercept him?' The thing is, we weren't - but the swan was. We were paddling towards the channel, and he was on a line to meet us about 50 feet ahead. The swan got to a point about 10 feet ahead of us, and continued paddling diagonally, and I swear it looked like he was doing it so he could always keep one of his eyes (located on the sides of his head) on us at all times. We joked about how the swan was trying to follow us in reverse. He kept turning around and honking at us, but we figured it was because we were too close. We slowed down, and so did he. We would go to pass him on one side of the channel, and he would move to that side to prevent us from passing him. He did this each time we' would try and pass him. Odd. We decided to turn around, because the swan was freaking us out a bit. As we did, the swan flew at us, flying around our boat, hitting the kayak with his wings. This completely freaked us out. The bird was huge, with he neck alone being as thick as my leg. For the next 15 minutes, he continued to dive-bomb us. I would try and smack him with my paddle (without hurting him), just to keep him from getting too close. He hit our boat a few times, but never hit Nate and I. We had no idea what we'd done to tick him off, but he hated us. We kept kayaking back towards Brad's cottage and he kept following us, from the front, and occasionally flying at us. When we got within 50 feet of Brad's dock, he left us alone. We decided that no one would believe it without video, so we grabbed my phone, and came back out to get some video of the crazy swan Apparently we're not the first person.... This guy was killed recently after a swan attack.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

My new bike


Last year I bought a motorcycle.  Another one really.  I'd owned two bikes, and as a young dad with three little kids, decided that it was probably time to stop skydiving and riding motorcycles for a bit.  When my friends Bob and Brad got bikes, I got the bug for one.  I didn't want anything big or fancy, or even a Harley at that point. I was interested in a bike for occasional riding.  My friend Bob knew a guy that had a Harley Sportster that had sat in his garage for 15 years: a 1992 Sportster to be exact, with only 2,500 miles.  I got a great deal on it, put about $1000 to have it overhauled and put back into mint shape.  I loved it.  It had a stage one kit and a great sound and rode nicely - for a bike made in 1992.  The suspension was rough, especially for two people, the engine was carborated, but it was still great.  I got brought into the harley family hook line and sinker.  I fell in love with the sound and the style of bikes, not to mention the harley davidson stores.  I slowly got the HD shirts, the hat - everything but the trucker wallet.

Last fall, my friend Mike came over with his new bike.  I took my riding buddy (Emily) for a ride and she was sold, and so was I.  The bike was so smooth and handled beautifully.  I started looking.
My friend Matt and Mike both advised me on what to get, and after lots of looking, I found a deal too good to pass up at badmc.com, a harley davidson dealership in Chicago. I bought a 2011 Harley Davdison Street Glide in February and was waiting until we had some nice weather to bring it home. Mid March, we had some freakishly warm weather, and on a Tuesday, I booked a one way ticket to fly out to Chicago to pick up my bike from the dealership.  I drove it the five hours back, meeting my friend Mike mid-way in Kalamazoo for an escort.
My beautiful new babyNew motorcycle

The bike is magical.  It's smoother than butter on a bald monkey.  It's got an amazing sound system, which I love as much as any feature.

California Father/Son Trip

California Trip
In March, Nate came with me on a business trip I had to California.  Nate was pretty excited to take my first class seat all the way out to Los Angeles, and I was equally thrilled to sit in coach for the long flight.  National was kind enough to give me a Camero as a rental car (which Nate never actually drove, for the record).  First class and a sports car.  Beat that.

We found all sorts of fun stuff to do after hours, including a go-cart track with 50mph electric go-carts, sushi in Laguna beach and Universal Studios.  As Nate put it, "It was like having a guys night (aka, his sisters and mom are out of the house) for 3 days straight."  We were going non-stop and had a blast exploring California together.
California TripCalifornia Trip
Universal Studios was different than we expected.  We both were thinking more like Florida's Universal Studios, with lots of roller coasters and rides.  Universal Studios in California is much more about shows and the movie lot experience.  The movie lot tour was fun, but most of the stuff they showed was more old-school stuff like Jaws and Psycho, but had some cool stuff from War of the Worlds and The Grinch.
California TripCalifornia Trip
The best part of Universal was The Simpsons ride, complete with an actual Kwik-E-Mart.

California TripCalifornia Trip

Nate and I are both huge Simpsons fans, so we were loving ever part of it.

California TripCalifornia Trip
We stayed that night in Santa Monica, and had a chance to walk down onto the infamous pier that you see, and Nate got to see his first Hare Krishna's dancing and singing.  A real rite of passage.
California TripCalifornia Trip
We hit Venice Beach as well to people watch and grab lunch.  Nate got a piece of deep fried Pepperoni Pizza, which was good for the first 3 bites, and then got a little nasty.
California TripCalifornia Trip
We happened to stumble across the taping of American Ninja Warrior, which is a show on G4 that Nate and I have both watched.  We talked to the security guy and finagled our way into the studio audience.  You can't beat 75 degrees in March, on Venice Beach, watching the taping outside of a show you like.
California Trip
We finished up the trip heading up to Griffith Park.  You've seen it in the movie Terminator or Rebel without a cause, or read about it in the Divinci Code Books.  It has a beautiful view of Los Angeles's smog, and of the Hollywood sign.
California TripCalifornia Trip

Our flight was at 11:30pm that night (2:30am EST), so we crashed hard on the red eye flight home after a busy few days.  I'd waited a long time for Nate to be old enough to do a trip like this with him, and it was everything I'd hoped.  I'm so grateful to have a son like Nate that I love spending time with, with lots of  in common to enjoy together.

Animal Safari Park

Animal Safari
As a part of the kids spring break last week, the whole family went down to Ohio to check out the African Safari Wildlife Park.  I know what you're thinking - the only reference you've ever heard to Ohio and Safaris is the story that was in the news around the escape of wild animals.  I had no expectations on what we'd see, other than some random feedback from others and the web site.  I bought five tickets via Livingsocial.com and we jumped in the car to check it out.
Animal SafariAnimal Safari
The safari park is essentially a drive through park where you drive through and the animals stick their heads in the car looking for food.  Sounds boring, until you realize that they've got giant water buffalos, yaks, giraffes, zebras and camels all poking their head in your car.  We were their in cold weather, so we missed out on the last three types of animals.  During the warm season, the place also has a zoo you can walk through.  Fun, but not worth the money in the spring time based on the limited activities and animals.
Animal SafariAnimal Safari
The Yak blew me away. It was giant, but that didn't stop it from trying to stick his head in the window - or stopping me from trying to kill it from 200 yards using only mind bullets.
Animal Safari
The buffalo was equally huge, and equally intrusive.

 Animal Safari

The llamas and alpacas were the must amusing to me.  They were just funny to look at, with their crazy hair and buck teeth.  We had fun, got our car scratched up and had animal slobber covering all of us.  I recommend you don't go with a mini-van that only has two front windows that roll down, otherwise you do what we did - which was pile all five of us into the front two seats for the drive.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Em's 5th Grade Talent Show Skit

This is Emily and her friend's skit/song for the elementary school talent show last night. Yes, the song lyrics really are, "On the road down the farm, where the bears come to maul you, this is where I want to be, on my anniversary". You've got to give them credit for the enthusiasm they had... People in the audience were actually singing along by the end. Cathie Lebbon Kurt, Nathan Kurt, Maddie Kurt and Michaela Lee all went last night and laughed hard at all of the skits, especially the kindergartner singing Tenacious D's song 'Tribute'.

Unfortunately, this song is stuck in my family's head. Just when you think it's out, someone will break into song and back in your head it goes....

Friday, March 16, 2012

Nate's Wrestling Banquet

Nate's wrestling banquet was last night. Cathie and I couldn't have been more proud of the coach's comments on Nate:

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Nate's Freshman Wrestling Season

Nate's in his third season of wrestling, his first on the South Lyon High School wrestling team.  I don't think he had any of what he was getting into when he decided to wrestle in High School, but I know as a parent, I was nervous for him.  I wrestled for one year in middle school, but I had nowhere near the commitment to it that Nate has, or the talent and speed he's achieved.  Being 6 feet tall and 112lbs gives him some unique factors as a wrestler - including really long arms and legs.  Growing that much in such a short amount of time, it's amazing how his nervous system has kept in line and the speed Nate has on the mat.

The practices are a huge commitment - 5 days a week for 3 hours of grueling work, followed by the occasional 10 hour weekend tournaments and four hour tournaments throughout the week, not to mention the pre-season workouts they have.

Nate is in the best shape of his life, and loves wrestling, even the practices.  Their Coach, a teacher from Centennial Middle School by the name of Brian Wilson seems like a great coach and he's built a team with a ton of camaraderie.  They're a young group, with almost 30% being brand new to wrestling this year.

Nate's having a great freshman year.  He started out wrestling JV and won about 80% of his matches.  He's wrestled Varsity for his weight class twice this year and last night won his first Varsity match last night.

One of the parents shared this poem on wrestling (never thought you'd hear those two words go together, did you?) that really struck me after watching Nate wrestling for 3 years:
What high school sport makes the demands on the individual that amateur wrestling does? When a boy walks onto the mat, he stands alone. No one will run interference, no one will pass him the ball when he is under the net, no one will catch a high fly if he makes a bad pitch.  
 He stands alone. In other high school sports, where individual scores are kept, the contest is determined in time, distance, and height. But in wrestling, the score is kept on a boy's ability to overcome an opponent in a hand to hand contest, where a two second interval at anytime can mean a loss or a win. if an opponent gains an advantage, there will be no help, no substitute; there will be no time out and all can be lost in two seconds.  
Yes, the boy stands alone. There is no place on a wrestling team for the show off, the halfhearted, or the weakling. When the whistle blows, a boy puts his ability, his determination, and his courage on the line. We who are close to the young men on our high school wrestling teams have watched the range of human emotions from elation to heartbreak. We have seen coaches with tears running down their cheeks as they try to console a young man who has given his all. . yet lost. Wrestling is a tough, hard sport, a life like, it is the survival of the fittest. The young men who enter and stay with the team know this. They also know that the time comes and the whistle blows . . .  

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Now that's a fire!

Hanging out up north, working out of my friend Bill's cottage with a group of guys, we figured it'd be a good night to have a fire. Frozen wood is tough to light, so we brought in a little gasoline to get things moving.

Monday, November 21, 2011

"I will wait for you" Spoken Word

This spoken word piece on dating and marriage sent shivers down my spine.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Few..The Proud..The Salesmen

I laugh every time I see this video... and try and show it to my operations and finance teams every chance I get.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Amazing Letter to the Editor

One of the finest letters to the editor ever, from one of the old people in South Lyon who have too much time on their hands, and too small of a world. This is Dan Bruci's second letter on the subject. How dare the track team ignore his first letter?

"Pick another route"

Oh, look! Here comes the track team. I see you all chose to ignore my last letter. Obviously safety is not a concern.

You have the right to run on 11 Mile and through Hornbrook Estates, they'll like that, and how about Pontiac Trail, the shoulders are gravel.

I think cars and trucks are still pretty heavy. They're made of steel and glass and a lot of plastic, and they go fast, too. Are you waiting for one or more big kids to end up in a pine box or a wheel chair for the rest of their lives? Hey, then you can sue somebody.

I'm done! Thank you.

Dan Bruci

South Lyon

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

New York City Village Halloween Parade

Zach Headapohl and I went into the village to check out the big Halloween Video down 6th avenue. It was packed getting off the subway, but once we made our way through, we got to see quite the freak show. Lots of transvestites, a literal tooth fairy and a bunch of fairly impressive costumes

Monday, October 24, 2011

What I learned from Eko

This is Eko. He's one of my favorite people in the world.  Eko is 24 and has down syndrome.  He went with me pretty much anywhere I went throughout the week.  I learned so much about joy from him last week in Haiti.  The closest he's ever been able to pronounce my name is "Kame"

Eko has a way when he walks into a room that he makes everyone feel important.  He walks in with joy radiating out from him (most of the time), walking up to each person and giving them this special kind of Eko hug and pronouncing each person's name in a way that sounds sort of like their actual name.  If you hang out with him long enough, you learn to understand him. Speaking creole seems to helps - which I don't.

Tom informally adopted him when he got to Verette and has helped him learn to communicate more clearly, and given him a place to hang out.  Tom has also unofficially donated his entire CD collection to Eko, who will sit for hours listening to music, and singing along with everything from James Taylor to worship music.  One of my favorite moments in Haiti was driving through the streets of Verettes with just Eko and I.  He wanted to start singing a song, "Come, now is the time to worship" so I joined in.  You had a tone deaf guy and a down-syndrome guy who doesn't understand most of the words singing a worship song at the top of their lungs together.  I'm sure God smiled as he put cotton balls in his ears.

"Tout mon konnen Eko" in Haitian Creole means "Everybody knows Eko", which they all seem to in the town of Verettes.  You'll be driving through the streets and you'll hear a random "Eko" shouted out as someone recognizes him. If you drive by the police station, you see the local police yell out his name.  Kids in Haiti are no different than kids in America, and some of them can be mean and it kills me to see them being mean to Eko.

Eko has a great sense of when others are getting into tough situations and will redirect you away.  Sometimes it's because I can't understand what's being said, sometimes it's because he thinks I'm doing something dangerous.  I reached out to pet a horse and he grabbed my hand back and demonstrated that the horse could bite my finger, by putting his own finger out in front of the horse.  A group of teenagers were being rude to a woman in our group, and Eko grabbed her hand and led her away.

Tom explained to me that the Haitians don't understand sarcasm.  I'm pretty sure Eko does - at least he gets me and he never failed to make me smile when I saw him.

Reflections on my second Haiti Trip

Haiti Dave - 0818I'm back after my second week long trip to Haiti.  This trip was radically different than the first trip for a few major reasons, which created a very different outcome for me.  Cathie commented that when I got home I was a whole different person than the first time, that I'd come back full instead of empty.

One of the biggest differences was that fact that I went down to Haiti with a large group of people (14 of us) this time.  On my first trip, I'd gone with Bill, a 70 year old man that I'd just met from church.  Bill had been to Haiti on and off for 10 years and Tom had been down in Haiti for 15 years.  I stayed right with Tom and his family, but it was still a little overwhelming and lonely - though I wouldn't change it for the world.  I think both Bill and Tom appreciated seeing Haiti through a fresh set of eyes, but it was tough not having anyone with whom I could process what I was seeing and feeling.  Having a broader group of friends around this time me to think through what was going on, to see others going through what I had went through and even to have some levity at times about what we were seeing made it easier to process.
Haiti Dave - 0810
The fact that it was my second trip made all the difference in the world.  My first trip, so much energy seemed to go into processing the huge paradigm shift I was going through in terms of what I saw with the poverty, the culture, the language and coming from being the majority to a minority. I almost felt guilty for not being shocked by what I was seeing this time, but it was interesting watch the others in my group process what they were seeing - what shocked them, what silenced them and what blew them away.  I laughed so much this trip, which may sound trite, but it was wonderful.  By not spending all of my energy on the paradigm shift, I was able to spend more time enjoying and learning from the people I came into contact with.  I focused on learning the language prior to the trip, and even that little bit of extra creole was a big help in terms of conversations with people.

Haiti Dave - 0788I went into this trip with a whole different mindset thanks to a book that our pastor had us read before we went: When Helping Hurts.  The book flipped me 180 degrees on my purpose of going into Haiti.  My first trip, I had gone down focused on the question "How can I help the people of Haiti?".  I was all about taking in everything in order to fix it: absorbing the culture, talking to several missionaries and tried to understand where I could apply myself to help with the plight. I brought stuff to give out and analyzed inefficiencies and inadequacies that I saw in order to help.  I left feeling very helpless, that what was broken with Haiti was too big to fix.

Haiti Dave - 0812This time I went down with the question, "What can I learn from Haiti?"  I can't begin to explain the freedom that came with my asking a different question.  I begin to see the beneficial aspects of poverty, including the of lack possessions.  I realized how much what I thought would be helping was actually hurting the Haitian people.  I watched the joy that my friend Eko, a down syndrome man of 24 brought to a room.   I saw the freedom in a lack of urgency and lack of focus on time as a finite quantity.  I wondered what it would be like to not have the burden of my stuff, to build pieces of a house as I could afford it, and even to not know that people existed in the world with so much more than me as a measuring stick.  I did a lot more reflecting, I walked away without any real solutions, but a couple of ideas, but a lot to think on and even more motivation to move forward.

Haiti Dave - 0841I came away with a vision of how I want to retire, inspired by my friend Bill.  Instead of playing golf and sitting on a beach in a retirement community, I'd like to live down in Haiti for a few months at a time with my wife and help out somewhere, doing something bigger than myself.  My Dad has been a great model of this for me - pouring himself into helping others, making a gigantic dent in the world around him for good.  I want to follow his example... Only 25 years until retirement, and the small task of getting my wife to love Haiti as much as I do.

So what am I going to do with what I learned?  That's what I'm chewing on and praying over now.  Something in my heart is connected to Tom, my friend in Haiti and helping him with his vision around Faith in Action.  I'm trying to figure out how I can bring to bear what I do well to intersect with the needs of the organization.  Another thing I'd like to do is bring back my family to Haiti to experience it.  I think that Cathie, Maddie and Nathan would get a lot out of going to Haiti for a week with me.  I'm not sure Em is ready.  I really would love them to experience the people and the culture the way I have and fall in love with both.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Decompressing at the beach

We left Verettes today and stayed at something I've never seen in Haiti: a bit of luxury. We're heading back to Port Au Prince later today and flying home tomorrow.

Jesse had a Jellyfish run over her arm in ocean. Without missing a beat, Rodney quickly responded, "do you need me to pee on it?"

Leaving Verettes, Heading to Port au Prince

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Rodney is too tall for Haiti

Barb wire is everywhere down here. The convent had tiny old nuns and low barb wire that nearly gave Rodney a haircut.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Hunting Tarantulas at Night

Justin discovered the spider holes in the yard, so we went out tonight looking to catch ourselves a pet tarantula. We didn't have much luck other than this big fella.

Justin is riding dirty

How many people have a motorcycle in their kitchen?

Day old baby goats

There are goats everywhere in Haiti. I have no idea how the Haitians know who they all belong too. You have to dodge them when driving down the road. This pair had just been born near where we're staying.

French Nuns with Problems

Rodney and I are over at a local convent helping French nuns with computer problems. This keyboard is killing me. Can you see why?

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Giant Moth

Can't beat the view: Verettes, Haiti

The view at night from the mountains is equally amazing. You see 5 or 6 lights across the valley; the opposite of what you would see in the states where you would have millions of lights everywhere.