Tag Archive | Kevin Korth

Making the World a Softer, Better Place

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Gracie helping Katie get ready for prom.

This past weekend I kept checking Facebook on my smartphone, waiting for news and pictures. It was a big weekend for my family. My great niece Mollie was in Fort Worth, Texas, competing at the national championships for gymnastics. Meanwhile, her twin sister Katie was on the prom court of the Cambridge High School Junior Prom. Supporting each twin was a matter of divide and conquer for the family. The father, my nephew Kevin, accompanied Mollie to Fort Worth, and took some great pictures. The mother, Shawn, stayed home, along with the younger sister, Gracie, and they helped Katie get ready for the prom. And they took great pictures, too.

It was an exciting weekend for everyone. But the abundance of blessings was really a mixed blessing. Mollie had to miss going to her junior prom because of it falling on the same date as the national gymnastics competition. Katie had to miss cheering for her twin sister as she competed in Texas because she couldn’t be two places at once. Interesting how blessings and sacrifices can be two sides of the same coin.

Shawn was the first to provide an update on Facebook. It was fun to see Katie all dressed up. It was a beautiful evening for beautiful young couples.

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Cambridge High School Prom Court – Katie is 3rd from right.

On Sunday, Kevin entered the following update about Mollie on Facebook.

Mollie is the Senior C National Floor Champion. She finished 2nd in the overall. Took 3rd in vault and 5th on bars.

Mollie was awarded an all expense paid trip back to Texas in October because she made the Junior Olympic National Team. She will meet the Olympic coaches and practice for four days.

Words cannot express how proud we are of her. Congratulations Mollie on an incredible achievement.

A tremendous thank you to Aubrie for the dedication and patience coaching Mollie. Thank you to our parents for helping Mollie get to where she is. Thanks be to God for giving Mollie this incredible talent for gymnastics. It will take her farther than she can ever imagine.

Thank you to Danielle J Lynch [Kevin’s sister who lives in San Antonio] and family for making the weekend trip! Thank you Adrienne Lacy [a family friend] and family for coming as well! Thanks to Chase’s sister Rene’ and her husband Patrick for the hospitality and friendship this weekend. It’s nice to have a fan base everywhere we go! 

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Mollie on Bars – one of four events gymnasts compete in.

Kevin posted several photos he had taken showing Mollie in action. Here’s one of the photos I lifted from Facebook.

My mom, Kevin’s grandma, would have been very proud of both Katie and Mollie. (And Gracie, too, for being a supportive kid sister.) But I think Mom would have been proudest of Kevin. Mom always worried about him. She thought he had way too much energy and creativity for his own good. He was always running. Everything he did, he did fast.

I remember one story Mom told about when she baked and decorated a batch of cut-out cookies for him to take to school to share for his birthday. As usual, he ran as fast as he could to get to the car to go to school, even though this time he was carrying a big round tin full of special cookies. He tripped and fell, and all the beautiful cookies broke into pieces. I’m sure it bothered my mom more than him. He still shared the cookies with his classmates. They tasted just as good whether they were broken or not. It seemed that nothing could slow down his speed of movement nor subdue his enthusiasm for whatever he was doing. (I think his girls all inherited those traits.)

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Kevin on stilts – 1984. Note the stepladder and electrical wires.

When Kevin was 13, he decided he’d make a pair of stilts and teach himself to walk around and see everything from a bird’s-eye perspective. After constructing the stilts, he realized that he needed a stepladder to get on the stilts. When he started walking with the stilts, he discovered he was lucky that the stilts were just short enough that he could still walk under the electrical wire that was strung from the pole to the house – without the stilts catching and pulling down the wire. Kevin’s guardian angel was kept very, very busy throughout his childhood.

Mom prayed for all her grandchildren every day. But I think she must have prayed for Kevin at least ten times a day. She knew that praying for him was the best way to keep him safe – just in case his guardian angel was taking a much-needed nap.

So why would my mom have been proud of Kevin today? In his Facebook post he demonstrated that he’s learned one of the most important lessons in life. He’s learned that we are who we are because of all the people who have helped us in our lives. Like the African proverb says, “It takes a village to raise a child.” It took a village to raise Kevin, and it’s taking a village to raise Katie, Mollie, and Gracie.

I’m thankful that I can be part of this village, that all of us are connected to each other’s lives and well-being. As Joan Chittister said in this month’s “Monastic Way” pamphlet,

There can never be too much kindness in life – either for us or because of us. Every act of kindness makes the world a softer, better place. As Aesop wrote, “No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.”

Thanks to everyone reading this post who’s making the world a softer, better place for everyone in their lives.

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Mollie and her coach

 

Implementing New Systems – the Way God Did It, and the Way We Do It

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In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. [Genesis 1:1-2 NKJV]

OMG! What did God do! He just went ahead and created a whole new system – the  heavens and the earth – and it doesn’t work! He didn’t allow enough time for analyzing all the implications of this new system. And there was NO TIME AT ALL set aside for testing the system before implementing it. Whatever made him think he could do it all in one day! Now what’s gonna happen? Space will never be the same again! I can’t believe he’ll be able to fix it. I can’t even imagine the cost of this foolhardiness.

Then God said, “Let there be light: and there was light.” And God saw the light, that it was good; and God divided the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night. So the evening and the morning were the first day. [Genesis 1:3-5 NKJV]

Fortunately, God is all knowing and all powerful. God quickly started debugging his new system and implementing new features, and by the end of six days, the system worked flawlessly according to the design he had in mind.

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Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good. [Genesis 1:31 NKJV]

If you’re not God, the implementation of a new system simply does not go smoothly. I’ve been thinking a lot about that over the past few weeks, partly because of all the news about the Affordable Care Act and the implementation of healthcare.gov, and partly because of some bugs in a new system I’m trying to learn.

I have a relatively strong systems background. During most of the years I lived in Chicago between 1972 and 1992, I worked in systems planning, development, and implementation. From this experience I understand the processes and the problems fairly well. When I had my own systems consulting practice, one of my clients was the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office. My first assignment with them was to conduct a review of a newly implemented case tracking system. Cook County had spent millions of dollars and over a year implementing a new system designed to help the 600 attorneys in the Chicago office keep track of the status of all their cases. Most of the attorneys hated the new system and claimed that the system data was unreliable. The new system was “without form and void.” Apparently the system lacked internal controls, and the natural result of weak controls was that the data was inaccurate.

My job was to interview attorneys in all divisions of the State’s Attorney’s Office to learn what the specific problems were, and then to determine whether or not the problems could be fixed or if the system should be abandoned. It was a fascinating study to conduct. I learned all about what the Criminal Division needed from the system, what the Juvenile Division needed, the Tax Division, Probate, Victim Advocates, and so on. All these attorneys needed different things from the system, and each division had different reasons for hating the system.

Upon completion of the study, my recommendations were to make a few technical changes to the system to improve data integrity and to provide more extensive training in the use of the system so that the attorneys would have a better understanding of the controls within the system and the specific benefits the system would deliver to each division.

The most important thing I learned about implementing new systems is that patience is needed more than anything else. Eventually most of the bugs will be fixed, and system users will get through the learning curve.

Abbey helped me keep at the project despite all the frustrations I encountered.

Abbey helped me keep at the project despite all the frustrations I encountered.

However, I am still learning more and more about the use of new systems and how steep the learning curve can be, especially for systems that have a few glitches. My patience was severely tested over the last few days.

I decided to put together a photo book with all the pictures from our wedding, and to include pictures from our Blessing Ceremony 25 years ago. I have never used any of those Internet services that enable you to create a hardcover book of your pictures, but I have seen some of the books my nephew Kevin has created through these services, and I’ve been quite impressed. I called Kevin to find out which services he has used and to see if he had any advice for me. He said he’s used different services, and they’re all pretty good and relatively inexpensive.

I explored several services and decided to try Shutterfly.com for two reasons – it looked like it would be the easiest software to learn, and it’s the service Kevin had used on the photo book he had lent me to look at for ideas. After about twelve hours of stumbling along, learning by trial and error, I had created a 52-page photo book online. When I tried to save and submit the book for publishing, I received an error message that said the service was still uploading my photos and it would save the photo book file upon completion of the upload. That never happened. I finally called Shutterfly for customer support. After a 40-minute phone conversation, I concluded that they didn’t know how to fix the problem. Apparently I must have encountered a bug in their system. They told me I would have to recreate the whole 52-page photo book from scratch.

So that’s what I did, but I decided not to invest any more time with Shutterfly’s system. Even though it meant starting the learning curve over again, I decided to go with mpix.com. I spent about eight hours recreating the first 32 pages of the photo book on mpix, and then I ran into a bug in their system. Even though I had faithfully saved the book after every few pages, the whole photo book was deleted when I tried to go on to page 33. I tried to call mpix customer support, but discovered that they didn’t show their phone number on their website. They wanted to force users to request help via email. They responded to my emails within about an hour and forwarded my problem to their technical team to try to restore my deleted file. Although we exchanged several emails and mpix seemed to be trying to help me, they never were able to restore my file.

This is the wedding photo that will be on the cover of the book

This is the wedding photo that will be on the cover of the book

My patience was beginning to wear a little thin. Between the two services I had worked 20 hours on this photo book, and I had nothing to show for it. I really wanted to make a photo book, or I would have simply given up. I needed to start over from the beginning again. I decided to stay with mpix rather than go through another learning curve with a different service. At least the customer support people at mpix were nice and tried to be helpful, even if they wouldn’t let me call them.

Through another eight hours of careful work I created a 44-page photo book. I did my final edits on the book yesterday morning and successfully submitted the photo book for publication by 7:30 a.m. I expect to receive the hardcover book in the mail later this week. Hopefully, when I receive the book, I’ll be able to say, “Let there be a photo book, and there was a photo book. And I saw the photo book, that it was good.”

And likewise, may Americans say, “Let there be affordable universal health care, and there was affordable universal health care. And Americans saw affordable universal health care, that it was good.”

I’m sure God is thankful that He had the foresight to create the heavens and the earth before computer-based systems were invented to “help” him build his creation. Otherwise he might still be “fixing” the system.

Oh, wait. I guess he is . . .

[NOTE: I quoted from The New King James version of Genesis to keep some of the familiar language of the creation story. To be consistent with that style, I used masculine pronouns to refer to God – even though I know better. That’s a glitch in English we still have to deal with.]