Don’t back down.

9 Nov

A part 2 of my post-election reflections.

There is a ton of despair out there – just roll through social media today and you’ll see it everywhere. People saying “I don’t know what to think, I don’t know what to do.”  Folks are concerned that all the progress that has been made, millions having health insurance they never had before, gay marriage, Roe v Wade, the threatened deportations for millions, etc. will all start happening and disappearing in the blink of an eye.

I’m here to say, no it won’t. It can’t.  The good news is our government has a lot of inertia. And the better news is the GOP realizes that this time, they can’t fuck it up or this will be a very short ride.  Trust me, they know they lost the popular vote.

Is the GOP out to now pursue their own agenda?  Of course they are! But, they are at odds with much of Trump’s views – which is good.  If they can’t get their own shit together, they certainly will have issues getting things done. And they will face fierce opposition from all points. There is another round of elections just 2 years away. We will prevail – we have the majority. But that’s the politicians. What about us?

Here’s what you should do:


There are those that think that because Trump won, the other side must now be silent. I can’t tell you the number of people telling me “are you going to shut up now because, hey we won.”  No. Not a chance.

That whole “the other side must be silent now” thing? Nothing could be further from the truth. Because the other side won, now we must be louder than ever. We must call things as we see them. We must call out injustice at every turn and remind them of what they are doing and compare them to those that have done those things before. (Hint, that’s a conservative-like dogwhistle for “I’ll take ‘Famous Fascists’ for 40, Alex”.). Again, do not back down – let your voice continue to be heard.

Now, how do we do it? Graciously. Are we going to give Trump a chance to lead? Absolutely. Like him or not, he is the President. And if he does things that are right, we will support him. We’re not a movement that makes statements like “It is our goal to make him a one-term President” or a movement that considers it a loss when the economy recovers because it happened on the watch of the other guy.  It is the domain of the GOP and the right wing to obstruct and obfuscate, and hold interminable hearings that waste millions of taxpayer dollars.  The left acts through words, through actions, through social justice. And we do support what is right.

So … more:


Everywhere you normally do.  It used to be letters to the editor, town hall meetings, casual conversation, but nowadays, it is social media.  But you need to also do more. GET INVOLVED. Don’t let this loss take away your energy. Let it energize you to make sure that we don’t lose our progress. And that we ultimately win again.


Become a grass roots activist and volunteer for social justice and action. Concerned about the hungry? Go volunteer at a food bank or homeless shelter and feed some folks. Write your congressman, go to meetings and townhalls being held by politicians and make sure they know your viewpoint. Got a few bucks? Donate to causes that support your views.

What else?

BLOG!  Blog, Blog and Blog some more.  All of the written content becomes indexed history on the internet. It becomes content that shows the world just how large the Progressive movement really is.  Socialize your viewpoints in social media – make sure that the voices for social equality, equal rights and justice for all are louder than those who want to practice xenophobia, prejudice, bigotry and hate.

There are those on the winning side who are saying they are “taking back the country” from people like us.

No, they are not. They will not. We won’t let them.

It’s our country too.

Don’t back down.

As you were,


Reflections on the Election

9 Nov

Hi Friends and readers.

Yeah, it’s been awhile since I last posted in my blog.  Hope you’ve been well. I think I’ll be getting back to this as it is a source of pleasure and happiness for me.  Hope you enjoy my writing as much as I enjoy writing it.

Let’s see, what’s been going on?

The Cubs Won the World Series!

So there was that – and that was cool.

We also just got back from visiting my son in California last week, and got to tour Tesla’s plant and spend an evening cruising the San Jose area in a Tesla Model S P85D with Insane Mode and Autopilot. That was cool too.

And then there was last night.  Yikes. Not so cool.

If you’re a friend on Facebook, you might have read this already – I wrote this with my thumbs into my iPhone sitting at my kitchen table at 5:30 this morning, in the dark, with a hot cup of coffee.  My reflections on last night.

A few thoughts on what is for much of America, a sad morning for our country.

First, we are better than one individual. What makes this challenging is the clear and present threats to the freedoms for minorities, for women, for the LGBTQ community, to freedom of and from religion and more. I truly hope that the ugly and bigoted rhetoric that Trump sowed on the campaign trail is just that – rhetoric. That said because the GOP holds all three elements of the legislative process, there is much to be concerned about here.

I am deeply concerned for our economy here and globally and the steady, if not stellar, recovery that has happened since the horrible 2008 recession.

I am also deeply concerned for our foreign policy and our national security. Let’s face it, a man who has this short of an attention span, this thin of skin, and who has demonstrated shockingly little knowledge of foreign affairs is very concerning.

Everyone is seeking a “whose fault is this” and I have my own view, starting with the profession of journalism, my college major, which has failed our country in its mission to report the truth and to not report that that is not truthful. I fear for that profession as well as our new President Elect has indicated that he would seek to change libel laws and limit the freedom of the first amendment.

I do think as well that the Democratic Party got way too wrapped into the paths of the inevitable. While earlier in the process I didn’t think that Bernie could have gone the distance in the general election, nor do I agree with his policies, upon further reflection, maybe I was wrong. We will never know.

There are a few truths about elections in America: first, we are passionate; second, there is no “undoing” the result; third, the result is what it is – all we can do is begin the work anew to shape our country in the model that fits our views.

This is my country and while I don’t like the result of this particular election, this is my country. I always have been and always will be a very vocal person in the political process and this election has only served to further strengthen my resolve to promote progressive and liberal viewpoints. If you don’t like that, your option is to tune out.

To those that voted for the new President Elect, congrats. Be magnanimous in victory, and know that success lies in the middle.

But know this: you reap what you sow. If this doesn’t go well, and I am deeply concerned it will not, you will only have your mirror to complain to.


As you were,



The Ever-Changing Family

31 May

Well, it has been a LONG time since I’ve posted to my blog – going on a year, it seems.  Part of the break was just, well, I needed a break, and part of it has been a total change in my career.  Rather than working in the city and having an hour morning and evening commute, I drive 18 minutes to work. I used to write on the train … and now no train.

That said, I do like my blog – it’s a great outlet for my mind, I constantly think of things I want to blog about, etc.  So, I’ll try to work in time to write every few days.  We’ll see how that goes.

There’s a ton happening in our lives – the biggest news is that our oldest son, Joel, has moved to California where he works at Tesla Motors.  His long time sweetheart, Jordan, joined him there after about six months and she also works at Tesla – and like young couples often do … they are getting married next summer!

So, after never having had a daughter – we’re getting one!  And she’s a real sweetheart – she and Joel are a wonderful couple.  She even has figured out how to get him to pick up his socks!

So, the title of this blog post is “The ever-changing family” – and that’s because even though it seems like family is the one constant in life, it is ever changing and ever evolving.  People are born, people die, people get married, have kids (sometimes not in that order), etc.  And our family has definitely changed.

Joel now lives in California – is he still part of the family? Yes, absolutely – and he calls us frequently, we text and email, etc. But it’s different not having him here. And when he’s here it’s different as well.

Alex is a full time student at Northern Illinois University – where he will be for another 2 years – so during the school year, he’s not here.  Again, very participatory in the family, but it’s different.

Brian, even though he lives at home and works and attends community college also has a changed role.  Summing it up, it feels like he’s more of a roommate than our son, and well, he’s an outstanding roommate.  I hope when he does eventually either go off to an away college experience or moves out because he’s working and financially stable, that whoever he rooms with enjoys him as much as we do.

But this past weekend, it was back to “the five of us” for one glorious long weekend.  What we did isn’t noteworthy to the story – if you’re friends with me on Facebook, you’ll see we barbecued, had fun with friends, went to the Indy 500 (the impetus for Joel’s home visit), saw family, etc. But what was noteworthy is that it was a rare “just the five of us” event. Most visits now include his fiancé, Jordan, and often we also include Alex’s longtime girlfriend, Liz. Our family has grown nicely. But to experience the “just us 5” thing one more time was an extra special treat. It’s possible it may not happen again – Joel gets married next summer. And that’s OK – we love our changed family dynamic.

So the moral of the story? Well, as I have blogged about numerous times before, there’s nothing more constant than change. You can fight it, you can hate it, etc., but it’s going to happen whether you want it to or not.

As I am fond of saying, on the rollercoaster that we call life, you can either hold on for dear life and pray you get through, or you can throw your hands in the air and scream at the top of your lungs in enjoyment.

As often as I possibly can be, I’m the guy with his hands in the air.

As you were,


(and I will make a concerted effort to get more blogging done)

From left – me, Brian, Robin, Alex and Joel


Guns: Time to face the truth

5 Oct

Here’s the truth: The US has a horrible gun problem.  HORRIBLE.

The Oregon shooting, Sandy Hook, Charleston, etc. Problems with violent crimes in the cities. A rate of gun violence that is 100X higher than 20 other developed nations and makes the US more like Yemen than say, the UK or another major economic power.

It is time to face the facts, folks. Despite what the NRA and other folks would tell you: “more guns with more people equals less gun violence”; “the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun”; “guns don’t kill people, people kill people”; “if you take away the guns the bad guys will find another way to kill”; “it’s our Godless society that is to blame” “It is mental illness that’s to blame, not guns” … if we as a country do not become as outraged about this as we are about say, abortion or gay rights (on both sides of the ledger mind you), this problem will continue.

Every single argument put up by the NRA and parroted by the right wing can be proven wrong with simple data and facts. And the simple fact is, our country has a horrible gun violence problem.

We have utterly gutless lawmakers – they are far more concerned about their mealtickets on the backs of the taxpayers and their donor sponsors (and yes, this is again, both parties) than they are about doing anything about this. The Republicans are afraid to piss off the NRA because then the NRA will just fund another guy to replace them. The Democrats are also afraid to take a strong anti-gun stand and introduce legislation for the same reason.

We, as citizens need to take this up. We must decide that enough is enough.

Why aren’t we holding our legislators truly accountable for this?

It seems so futile. President Obama said it best when he talked about how routine this is.

The difficulty is, the vast majority of American gun owners ARE responsible.

While I am very liberal in my political views, I enjoy shooting firearms. I don’t currently own any sort of weapon, nor do I have plans to – but as I kid, I learned how to shoot and responsibly handle a firearm between boy scouts and going with my neighbors, grandfather and father. As an adult, I will occasionally go to a range, rent a gun and shoot. It IS fun. But every time I do I have to remind myself that the same thing I am using to make a loud noise and punch holes through paper targets, if pointed at a human, will tear a large hole completely through that human, and very likely will end that person’s life. Because that is what guns are designed to do. Kill. Period.

Like everything else, we can’t solve the entire problem all at once. But we can attempt to put greater controls on who can own a firearm and how we hold those firearm owners accountable and responsible for their weapons. Will it completely stop the madness? No. Will it completely stop the flow of illegal weapons? No again. But it will help. Data proves it.  Here’s my view on where go and what we need to do.

And a caveat: These laws must be applied universally across all states.  So here goes:

1) Close the distribution channels:  Start with closiing every gun transaction loop hole. Private sales must be reported, and gun show sales must be reported as well and must follow the same procedures for registration, licensing and background checks as a retail store.

2) Universal background check:  A background check must be performed at the time of tramsaction and the 3-day loophole must be immediately terminated.  The three-day loophole allowed the Chaleston shooter to get his weapons.  Things that disqualify you: mental health history including treatment with prescription drugs, being a convicted felon, being convicted for any sort of gun violence, being convicted for domestic battery, and I’m sure many more.

3) Registration of owners:  Every firearm owner must be registered – Illinois, for example, has the Firearms Owner’s Identification Card – having a FOID is required if you purchase a firearm or ammunition.  A federal equivalent is the answer to this.  And you must renew your card every 2 years.  But, this should be strengthened to the level of a driver’s licence – you must take a written test to renew it every 6 years and to get it initially, you must also pass a proficiency demonstration of weapon safety.  Just like a driver’s licence.

4) Registration and Insurance of individual weapons:  Weapons should be treated like cars – the FOID card is like your driver’s licence, and you must insure and register your weapon, and your weapon must carry an unremovable registration sticker that shows it is registered.  The insurance is liability insurance – cause mayhem with your gun, and your insurance covers the victim and the victim’s families.  I’m sure the insurance industry will figure out a way to make money on this and make it tough to get.  On the registration, you must renew your registration of every weapon annually.

Now, doing all this won’t eliminate our problem, but it will put an enormous dent in it. We also must get rid of stupid things we’ve done like making it illegal for the CDC to compile statistics on gun violence and its costs/problems it causes in society.

But we have to act. The time to do it is now. I encourage you, if you care about America, care about our children and care about having a world where “normal” doesn’t include lockdown drills for KIndergarteners, then we have to act. And it is time for responsible, law-abiding gun owners to get behind this. You fear that regulation is a “slippery slope to the government coming after your guns” – tell you what, this path of mass shootings and violence going unchecked is far more likely to result in the government coming for your guns than any effort to register and manage firearm ownership. We must move move the needles.

To anyone that comments: please know I moderate the comments and I operate by the stick and stones dictum. In other words, posting a hate-filled diatribe will not make it into my comments and it will be deleted without me even reading it. If you disagree though and you make a reasonable comment and present a point of view that is based on factual information about why you disagree, then I may post it.

For the longest time, I have chosen to make this blog non-political.  I’m sure this post will cost me readers, but if that’s the price of putting my voice out there calling for our representatives to get off their asses and act, well that’s a small price to pay.

As you were,


The Show Must Go On

18 Feb

I had the opportunity to see John Mellencamp in concert last night. For those not familiar, you’re dead to me. Ok, not so radical, but seriously, this guy has been around in the rock music scene forever, so you’d have to be either really living under a rock or something to not know him.

At the start of the show, he came out with the band, and they head off into some new material that I wasn’t familiar with – but three or four great songs with that familiar Mellencamp sound to them. The band – two guitarists, bass, drums, keyboardist that also played the accordion and a violinist – were tight and delivered that distinctive sound that he’s become associated with – interesting phrasings, mixes of major and minor chords, relaxed tempos, etc. That said, during this opening, clearly something was amiss with Big John’s voice – very raspy, very raw sounding. Since I had never seen him before, I was thinking that perhaps age wasn’t being kind to him, or the road, or something.

At the end of the 4th song, he stepped to the mic to greet the crowd and then said “Well, we talked this afternoon about cancelling this show because my throat is all fucked up. But then I said to everyone, ‘Hell no, we’re not cancelling. I can’t let those people down! Besides, I want to play.’ So folks, this is what we got. I sound like shit, but I’m here to play. If you can handle my croak, I can handle my croak.The band will rock and you guys will fill in when I can’t hit it. Deal?” Well, as you can imagine, the crowd went nuts.

Which made me like this guy even more. His music is all about “regular guy” real life, life in small town America, little Pink Houses for you and me, vacationing at the Gulf of Mexico, fighting authority (but authority always wins), thinking back on the good times and sitting and smiling. I love his songs – sing a few of them myself. And rather than being a diva and calling off the show because he has a scratchy throat, he just motored on through it and delivered for his fans.

The show must go on. A lesson for all of us.

As you were,


Apple Store Soho Presents Meet The Creators: Stephen King, John Mellencamp And T Bone Burnett

Love me a good snow!

2 Feb

Ok, I’m crazy and stupid, but I’m honest. I love a good, whompin’, ass-kicking snowstorm like the one we just got. And this one was “historic” – officially 20″ at the weather reporting site at O’Hare Airport, making this storm the 5th largest in Chicago recorded history. “Locally” as in my yard, it’s hard to tell exactly how much we got other than to say “an assload”.  In sheltered spots, there’s about 2 feet of snow, but in places where the wind was depositing it, there are drifts up to five feet tall.

We started yesterday in Wisconsin, 100 miles from home – we knew this was coming but we made a calculated risk assessment of being able to get home. Truth be told it was both about as bad as I’d ever want to be out in, and well, not terrible at the same time. We were only 100 miles from home, we got an early – 7:30 AM – start, we had a driving partner (another car from our group) and we motored along fairly slow and steady. The storm was worse in Illinois, as were the roads – the Tri-State Tollway – I-94 – was covered with loose snow. But we made it home – and got busy with the snow.

Big snows like this are both to be savored and conquered. I have a great big snowblower and I enjoy using it to remove big snows. I actually get disappointed when it doesn’t snow up to a storm’s potential.  This one was worse than “potential”. Big snows like this are also to be enjoyed. I am decidedly wishing I were a kid, not an adult who has to board a plane for NYC in 4 hours, because today is spectacular – it’s bright and clear, very light wind, temps in the 20s – perfect day to go play in the snow. Sledding, making snow forts, tromping and rolling in it, going skiing … all would be on the activity board.

I also love how snow completely transforms a landscape. A number of years ago, after a bit snow, I just headed out with my camera to a local forest preserve to trudge through the foot-deep snow and just shoot pics – one of the most wonderful days I have ever spent.

If you’re lucky enough to be home with a snowday today – get the hell outside! Enjoy this. It is a rare treat.

But I’m crazy.

As you were,


Roll The Credits

30 Jan

This was a momentous week in the Stew’s Brew household – our oldest son, Joel, has officially headed out of the nest and into the real world. He moved this week to the Bay Area of California to start his professional career with Tesla Motors as a process engineer in their big plant that turns out all the awesomeness like the Model S P85D with Insane Mode. He will be working on the paints and finishes team integrating new products into the production stream. Pretty amazing stuff!

His mom, Robin and I, would love to take all the credit for his success, but as Hilary Clinton most famously said, “It takes a village to raise a child” and Joel truly is the product of that. Obviously whatever we did as parents either a) didn’t screw him up that badly; or b) was great parenting (somewhere in the middle is the truth), and his own amazing hard work, singular focus, putting himself into position for success, etc., had a everything to do with it too.

But I’d like to acknowledge some of the tons of positive influences he had on his life as some of these folks really helped guide him. There are many, many others that I’m sure I’m not putting on the list.  As in the usual practice, I’m not going to use full names, but I’ll use first names, nicknames, etc. to identify folks.

We have to start with his grandparents, including one who never met him, his grandfather Donn Campbell. Starting with my Dad – Joel entered this world about 5 weeks after my Dad’s passing. He is so much like his grandfather Donn, as to be uncanny – his love of sports, obsession with making lists, success drive, general kindness, easy to meet people, etc. – all of that was expressed in my Dad too. None of us truly know how things work beyond this life, but we like to think that perhaps there was a meeting somewhere prior to Joel’s being born where he got some great coaching. My Mom, LindaC also has been a huge positive influence. From Joel’s love of cooking and the finer things in life, his crossword obsession, to the great experiences of going to “Camp Grandma” during the summer (and allowing Robin and me to travel and keep a great marriage) – and so much more – lots of Grandma Linda went into making Joel.

Robin’s folks, Julie and Merle, being the local grandparents, have had an enormous influence. Merle took care of Joel shortly after he was born to allow Robin to continue working – Robin used to go to her house to feed Joel on her lunch breaks – this daycare, at a time when we were struggling financially was just enormous. They also were big contributors to childcare for us – allowing us to travel and do things that couples should have time to do, and helped us out in so many ways. Thank you.

The rest of the family also continually provided such positive influences -his aunts and uncles Becky & Tom, Shari & Micah, Jon & Erica, his cousins, “greats and grands” like Steve & Linda, Reisa & Warren, and his departed great grandparents that he adored so much. The family is filled with secure, successful people and huge collection of long-lasting, great marriages. Much to emulate for him.

Joel, of course, loves his sports and is a soccer player, loved playing baseball and basketball – all of his sports coaches contributed – from his BGRA coaches like Ray, Steve (the Starbucks man), Elliott, and more; to his soccer coaches – Sherm in particular who coached him mulitple seasons – all of them instilled competitiveness in him, a sense of fair play and taught him the importance of playing on teams.

His work experiences of course have really guided him – and I’d like to call out two special couples.  Dave and Lucia, who own Tamarak Day Camp in Lincolnshire, were Joel’s first “bosses” – Joel started out as a camper at their camp – an experience all our kids enjoyed – immensely positive – and then as soon as he was eligible to do so, he started working there as have his brothers who continue to work there. Joel learned early on the value of a fair but firm boss in Dave and Lucia and the value of hard work, teamwork and more in his formative years there. Dave and Lucia, I hope you understand how important your mentorship is of not only your campers but your employees – all of my kids have said they enjoy working there even more than being campers there, and that they have learned so much from both of you.

The other special couple I’d like to call out are Mark and Ellen. Mark is a high school mate of mine, and despite not having seen each other in pretty much more than 30 years, he took on the role of “how to navigate the car business” advisor for Joel as he is an engineer at Nissan. He guided Joel early on as he was heading into Engineering school at Illinois, and then continued to guide him as he got involved in Formula SAE racing (crucial to his success) and finally, applied a bit of “runway foam” as Joel went after his first internship at Nissan’s tech center in Detroit, where Mark works. Which would have been plenty! But there’s more – that summer, when Joel was interning for Nissan – Mark’s wife Ellen took Joel under her wing, fed him dinner once a week, took him shopping when he needed it and generally adopted him as one of her own. Amazing! You two are truly special people.

Lastly, and not leastly, we’d like to thank all of our friends – we are firm believers that the family you choose is as important as the family you have – and you all are the family we choose. Our close friends, Chris & Gail, Bill & Robin, Steve & Pam (Faltese and Mitzi), Jason & Andrea, Les & Angie, Mark & Jodi, Harry & Liz, Gary & Jill, Joel & Tammy, Marc & Susan, Greg & Molly, and many more have all had such a positive influence on Joel in so many ways.

We always like to joke that Joel is one of the luckiest people we know and that “the universe works for Joel” – but that discounts his hard work, and that discounts the influences of all the people who positively influenced him for his growing up years. We have to chalk this success up to his intelligence and hard work, shaken and stirred with a lot of wonderful people who all rubbed off a bit of themselves on our dear son.

Thank you friends and family! We wouldn’t be at this point without you. And we love you all.

As you were,


ChristmaChannukah – ’tis the season for confusion. Or not.

15 Dec

As many who know me know, I am Jewish but came to being Jewish not by birth but by choice. I married the girl of my dreams, she was Jewish, we started raising our kids Jewish, after a few years my friends said I was more Jewish than them, etc. Sometime, I’ll tell you the whole story.

Anyway, as Robin and I were creating our blended life, we attended a discussion group at a local Reformed synagogue entitled “Let’s Talk – a discussion group for interfaith couples”.  Let’s Talk was designed to create a safe forum to open up normally sensitive topics in a group environment and to you help you sort out your own directions. While it was presented from a Jewish point of view, it didn’t advocate any dogma or direction – but was merely offered as a way to ensure that couples, in whatever form they became, were successful together as a couple.

Robin and I really enjoyed going to them, although it became readily apparent after a few visits that we had done a ton more talking than other couples that were miles down the road already. We laughed that we were the “most well-adjusted ones in the group.”

Onward to the topic – one of the topics they presented was “Christmas Vs. Hannukah – the December Dilemma” – and it was a discussion of all things related to that – “To tree or not to tree”, how Jews struggle with the crushing onslaught of the most visible and pervasive holiday on the Christian calendar, how to manage families, etc. I hadn’t thought much about it though for more than 15 years now – I’m Jewish and we celebrate Hannukah in our home, although we my family celebrate Christmas in Iowa.

However (and I’m sorry I missed this in person), I just had the pleasure of posting to the blog for our Jewish congregation B’Chavana (we don’t call ourselves a synagogue) an interesting missive on how ALIKE Christmas and Hannukah are. It was written by Karen Jacobs, whom I find to be a very fascinating person. Since I administer the B’Chavana website, I thought it would be great to share with all of you, my friends and followers.

Please click on over to B’Chavana’s website and read Karen’s words.  There is a short “preamble” that I added – this is part of a new feature we’re introducing so I needed to explain that to our members – feel free to skip down the page to Karen’s story. I hope you enjoy it.

As you were,


Starting Launch sequence in 3 … 2 … 1 …

7 Dec

Remember that fairly bad movie a few years ago, Failure to LaunchMatthew McConaughey, Sarah Jessica Parker and Kathy Bates were in it, and it was about a 30-something year old who was still living with his parents and a plot to hook him up with a nice girl to get him to leave.

Yeah, well that’s not happening at my house, at least in the case of our oldest son, Joel. What a crazy week or so he’s had – and in keeping with the idea that “The Universe Works for Joel” (he’s just one of those folks where things continuously work out in his favor, for the most part), he received two job offers this week – one from Tesla Motors, the other from Ford Motor Company

A brief backstory, in case you’re a WordPress reader not familiar with the goings on in my family – I have three sons, ages 23, 19 and 19.  The younger twin sons, Alex and Brian, are sophomores in college – Alex at Northern Illinois University and Brian at College of Lake County IL. Our oldest, Joel, is completing his final/third semester of his senior year at University of Illinois.

Coming back to the story now – Joel started his college career in mechanical engineering – his GPA and ACT performance scores coming out of Stevenson High School won him direct admission into the MechE program at Illinois, a very tough thing to get into, and directly into their honors program. That said, after being in the program for nearly two years, it became clear to him that a) being a mechanical engineer wasn’t what he wanted, and b) he would be a better educational and career fit into a program called Technology Systems Management at Illinois. Given through the “ACES” department at Illinois, otherwise known as the College of Agriculture, Consumer, and Environmental Sciences, he would be able to pursue a career in applied engineering – working on things that do things, versus designing things. Making a major change like that, however, could have derailed his career plans to work for a car company, something he’s always wanted to do since he was a little kid.

What delivered Joel to this past week is very simple – a combination of hard work, his personality/leadership abilities, and his four years of engineering team work on the University of Illinois Formula SAE team – aka Illini Motorsports. For those not familiar, Formula SAE is sponsored by the Society of Automotive Engineers, and is part of the SAE’s Collegiate Design Series – a program designed to give engineering students around the world the opportunity to work as engineering teams and gain real-world experience.  The Formula SAE team at Illinois creates and builds a “formula style” (think Grand Prix/IndyCar on a small scale) race car from scratch every year – they do things like use “out of the box” engines and other items, but the frame, bodywork, wiring, etc., plus key engine components like intake, exhaust, etc. are all designed and built by the team. Once they design it, they must fabricate/manufacture it, source non-fabricated components like brakes, shocks, engine computers, etc., arrange sponsorships and everything else.

The competitions are amazing – in addition to actually driving and racing the car (the sexy part) there’s also design competition, business case competition (how can you manufacture this in volume), etc. The “formula” is that you’re building a club-level race car that could be purchased by someone like me who is interesting in doing weekend amateur racing and wants to drive something more than a street car.  Here’s Joel at the wheel of the 2013 season car in a test session at the former air force base in Rantoul IL.


Going into Joel’s freshman year at Illinois, he also had come out of the band program at Stevenson as a pretty accomplished trombone player, and enjoyed marching band. He tried out for the Illini Marching Band program and got in, much to my pride and excitement. We also knew that he wanted to be in the Formula SAE program but we didn’t realize the time that might take. To his credit, Joel did some research about the program, realized that a) it was his ticket to the career he wanted and b) that it takes a significant amount of time and decided to not go into the band, even though he made it. We had quite an argument about it, but he played the “Dad this is my life and career we’re talking about here.” Once he played that card, I was out of the argument.

As it turned out, best card he ever played. The Formula SAE program at Illinois has an amazing track record of getting kids employed in all sorts of areas. As the team has engineers of every stripe, plus non-engineers, the real-world work experience they get in the program is truly amazing. Joel has friends from his program now working in places like Boeing, SpaceX, Scaled Composites, Ford, GM, BMW, Mercedes, Nissan, Tesla, Grumman Aerospace, plus engineering firms, other tech firms like Google, Microsoft, etc. and more.  It truly boasts a 100% “employed by graduation” rate.

Joel was able to leverage his FSAE experience first into an internship at Nissan the summer before his senior year, and then into an internship at Tesla this past summer (before his final “senior semester”). These companies value people from this program in a way that his mom and I never imagined.

And so to this week – Joel came out of the Tesla internship with the promise of a job upon graduation. He kept in touch through the fall, and in the last few weeks, things accelerated – he had a phone interview or two with them, took a trip to San Francisco/San Jose to meet in person with them again.  He got Tesla’s formal offer at the end of last week – and it’s amazing. I won’t quote numbers, but suffice to say, took me quite a few years in my career to hit the number he’s starting at. Plus additional benefits and bits like stock options, etc.  Truly a stunning offer. In a parallel path, he also interviewed with Ford both on the phone and in person, and like things always seem to work out for him, he got their offer just literally moments before he was going to call Tesla to accept theirs. And Ford’s offer, while structured differently was equally lucrative. Talk about choices!

So, he had a huge decision to make – there’s lifestyle issues like being in the midwest and closer to family, job issues like the job at Tesla being more to his liking, and the known quantities of working on the same team where he was this past summer. Ford’s offer put him on a track to potentially have a 40-year career there – he could easily drop into their programs, and be there until retirement. Tesla’s at the bleeding edge of the tip of the spear and their growth rate is going straight up.

At the end of the week, after much wrangling, many conversations with us and his girlfriend, etc. – he knew what he had to do – he’s going to Tesla. The job is just too exciting, the growth opportunity too great, etc. He got great advice from a bunch of folks, even including a gent who was the head of Volvo Cars North America for a lot of years. All of them said “gotta go to Tesla – you just have to”.  In the end for Joel, though, it was the combination of the job, the boss, and the team that he went for. Yes, Tesla is on the road to amazing things, but Joel being Joel – he wanted to rejoin his team.


Obviously, we’re as proud as we can be of him. While we always joke that “the universe works for Joel” I would also say that Joel works the universe harder than anyone else I know, and that when he puts his eye on the prize, he will not be denied in the least.

Are we proud of this kid?

Yeah. We’re proud.

He’s launched.


As you were,





30 Nov

By now, Sunday morning of Thanksgiving weekend, most people will have spent the long holiday period (not exactly a weekend) getting hammered (Wednesday night – AKA “Black Wednesday” – the drunkest night of the year – even worse than New Year’s eve)j, overeating (Thursday, natch), overspending (Friday), overwatching football (all weekend long), drinking even more, etc. etc.  Many people approach Thanksgiving weekend with both excitement and dread and the dread comes from a variety of sources – time spent with family you don’t care to see, travel worries and hassles, dividing time among various family members (Thanksgiving is considered to be the most complicated holiday for that), etc.

Notice the key missing element of the above is what the core of the holiday is supposed to be about? Giving thanks?

It seems like in our efforts as a country to over-program everything (admit it, we do) is extracting the basics of this holiday. The “first official shoppng day” of the Christmas season is now the day where everything USED to be closed, and people were home with family. Black Friday was officially usurped this year by Thanksgiving Day, according to the National Retail Federation’s tracking.

I have to admit to participating a lot in the overindulgence – but at least I think it is focused on family and friends. Wednesday before Thanksgiving, Professor Troutstream and I, plus our families and some select close friends gather at a pub for our annual “Burgers, Beer and Bourbon (and Tots)” fest. We do get a wee bit, umm, happy there, but the biggest feature is just great stories and tons of laughs.

Thursday, Thanksgiving Day, Robin and I hosted 22 for dinner at our house Thursday evening. We choose to do our big TG dinner in the evening – and that conveniently allows those who are having to split time, to hit multiple Thanksgiving celebrations. Most of our crowd was family – my mom, Robin’s parents, her aunt and uncle from Ohio, their kids and spouses – but we also had two couples that are among our best friends there – both couples are empty-nesters with no local family to go to. Happy to be their “local family”.

Friday was a chill day – I used it to get some house projects done, the most notable was getting my music studio organized in the way I have been planning to organize it since we redid our basement 2 years ago. Have a small PA system set up, a dedicated computer for playing and recording music, mutliple amps for visiting players, etc.  Pretty sweet. Still need to get all the guitars on the wall, but step by step. Friday evening, my inlaws hosted a wonderful dinner for the whole family plus a few more at a local Greek restaurant – and it was a huge treat and much fun.

Yesterday, on the idea of son #1, I got The Fanbulance out of storage, piled the three sons into it, and headed to Evanston IL to pick up Professor Troutstream and watch the Illini of U of Illinois play the Wildcats of Northwestern. The Prof and I enjoyed a bit more Kentucky “brown water” at the tailgate (goes great with Egg McMuffins!), and then left the game about halftime and headed to a pub where his wife joined us and we waited out the rest of the game and the arrival of the sons.  Last evening, was just a chill night – my mom made a delicious gravy to accompany the leftover turkey and we made “stuffing waffles” (heat up stuffing in a waffle iron – best idea ever!) to put all the good stuff over. Our local high school, Stevenson, was in the state championship football game and I watched them win that – enjoying the 4th quarter from bed.

Today, it’s just another chill day although we need to put the house back in order from the bash Thursday night as well as I need to put away our patio, run the gas out of the power lawn tools, etc.

So, now that I have bored you with a rundown of my weekend, I’ll return to the point of this post. I spent the entire weekend in the company of all of those I love the most – family, closed and dear friends, and more. Did we overeat and overdrink? Bet your ass we did. To me, that’s what Thanksgiving weekend is all about though – spending the time in the company of your friends and family.

And I have so much to be thankful for – my wonderful wife of 28.5 years, the three amazing young men that are my sons, my mom, and the fact that at 78, she is as sharp as ever and in generally good health and able to travel to us, live on her own, etc., Robin’s family and how they all travel in to make this such a fun weekend, my great pal Professor Troutstream, all of our other close friends, the fact that I have a challenging and rewarding career with a continued upwards trajectory, a nice home, a loyal dog, etc. etc.

Overindulge I did. Did I gain a few pounds this weekend?  I’m sure of it – back onto track with my Weight Watchers program this week. Do I creak and ache like a typical 50-something person? Sure do. But that’s how I know I am alive.

If you follow my blog, you most certainly know that my focus is on living life. It is entirely too short. I’m thankful for the opportunities I have to be able to live life so well with people I love.  There’s the sentence I was looking for.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

As you were,



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