Sunday, May 31, 2020

SpaceX Inspirations

SpaceX launched a two-astronaut crew yesterday, on a mission to dock with the International Space Station. It was the first human spaceflight launch from the US in almost ten years. It was exciting and inspiring.

This is the first of several posts inspired by SpaceX that will tie back to data strategies in healthcare, and my lessons learned inside a startup company that raised $500M in venture capital funding. SpaceX raised $500M in new funding, in March 2020, bringing their total to about $4B.

Half of my United States Air Force and TRW (now Northrop Grumman) career was spent in Space Operations. My teams were involved in eight different satellite systems, in one form or another. The missions of these satellite systems included photographic, electronic, and signals intelligence; space-based sensors; and communications relay. The DSCS III satellite system, posted below, was one of those eight. Those same teams were also involved in Space Shuttle operations-- tracking the launch and mission, and supporting flight operations as one of several alternate emergency landing sites.

All of this early-career Space Operations experience had a profound impact on how I've approached data strategies in healthcare. Conceptually, monitoring the health of patients and monitoring the health of satellites has many overlaps.

Saturday, December 28, 2019

Spirituality and Children

This post is a combination of a book review and thoughts about how to raise our children with a sense of spirituality in a way that still allows them the freedom to find spirituality or religion on their own.

I’ve read more great books and watched more great documentaries this year than any year in my life. 2019 was a great year for learning. I plan on the same for 2020.

Laure and I are trying to figure out how and to what degree we expose our kids to spirituality, philosophy, and religion. "Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion" by Sam Harris, is one of the best modern (post-1950) philosophy books that I’ve ever read (2nd Fire: A Fresh Approach to Healing, by Bruce Relly, father to friend Tristan Relly is another). I credit Dr. Paul Pixler, professor of philosophy at Ft Lewis College, for opening my mind to philosophy and changing the course of my life. If I could’ve made any money at it, I would have been a philosopher theologian. (See the irony in that? True philosophers and theologians don’t value money.:-)

We want to raise our kids with a sense of spirituality, for reasons described below. Even though Harris' book is written as an atheist philosopher, I believe everyone who belongs to a religion would be a better member of their religion by reading and learning from this book. The author has a great academic background with a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from Stanford and a PhD in cognitive neuroscience from UCLA, plus “time in the real world” exploring philosophy and theology. The oversimplified summary of his message is this: Spirituality resides in each of us… in the purity of our consciousness and conscience, and the only barrier to experiencing that purity is our ego. Our ego, which is the flip side on the coin of insecurity, stands in the way of our pure spirituality. If you think about figures of influence like Jesus, Buddha, and Lao Tzu, they epitomized a completely ego-free consciousness, which enabled their ultimate manifestation of spirituality.

Our mom, Ruby Aveline Sanders, was a Christian of various flavors-- Methodist, Presbyterian, Episcopal. As kids, we were raised the same, but rarely going to church. For the most part, we were Two Holiday Methodists… Christmas and Easter services. When you boil it down, Mom’s religion and philosophy of life was based on a 1926 book (revised in 1938) by Ernest Holmes, “The Science of Mind: A Philosophy, A Faith, A Way of Life.” Mom’s wonderful influence on her children and many friends beyond our family, is embodied in her interpretation and practice of that book.

Which leads me to this: How do we raise our kids with a sense of spirituality? Maybe the right question is, why do we raise our kids with a sense of spirituality? Here are the Why’s that resonate with me… we’ll figure out the How, later.

The Anchor of No Matter What: Spirituality, whether internal or through external religion, provides an anchor during life’s troubled waters. No matter what life throws at you, you can anchor to the center of your spirit, you can weather the storm, and emerge better and stronger. Each storm thereafter becomes easier. Your confidence, peace, and comfort grow with each storm. No matter how alone you might feel at times, you can always return to the companionship of your spirit…the purity and peace of your consciousness.

Three Good Tears: A sense of spirituality is the force behind the tears of empathy you cry when you watch a nurse caring for a dying baby as if it were hers. It’s the force behind the tears of joy you cry when you see the smiles of achievement and self-esteem at the Special Olympics. It’s the force behind the tears of gratitude you cry in the silence of a forest during a snowstorm… or the tears you shed when you thank your best friend for being your best friend. These three types of good tears can wash away life’s tears of sorrow and heartache. I want our kids to experience all of this, the juices of humanity. In my observation, the true atheists of the world rarely shed these good tears—or tears of any kind. Paint me judgmental, but devout atheists are missing some of the best experiences of humanity—of our short time on this planet. It’s a bland and benign life, in my eyes.

How do we expose Anna and Luke to spirituality in a way that also allows them to find their own answers? What day-to-day things do we do, planting the seeds of their spiritual growth, which they can harvest when they feel the time is right?

There you have it. If you’ve managed to read this far, I’d love to hear from you, how your parents approached this topic, and, if you have kids, how you’ve approached it for them.

Friday, November 15, 2019

Remembering Veterans Day, Again

For the sake of Anna and Luke, I wanted to capture these pictures and comments:

These are a pictures of their Grandad Amos Doyle Sanders' World War II unit, somewhere in France:

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This is their Grandad and Grandma Ruby Sanders, soon after WWII, in Germany.

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Far left is their Uncle Gene, my brother, saying goodbye to his girlfriend. His best friend, Jimmy Robinson, is going with him; saying goodbye to his girlfriend, too. They are leaving Durango on the bus behind them in 1962, joining the Air Force. Gene would be killed in an accident shortly after, while working on aircraft maintenance equipment. It was devastating to Mom and Dad; the loss of their second child, both to tragic accidents.

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This is me, standing in front of one of our Looking Glass aircraft. That was a fun, intense, meaningful part of my career. I had two roles on the aircraft... Airborne Launch Control Officer, responsible for turning the keys to launch all 1,000 US nuclear ICBMs; and Airborne Command, Control, Communications, and Intelligence Officer, responsible for all the data and information technology associated with the mission of the Looking Glass. It was a very complicated network of systems and data, spanning those on the aircraft, the major command centers on the ground, and the space-based assets. Very challenging and fun.

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This is me, on the aircraft, standing in front of the nuclear launch control panel, giving a briefing and tour of the aircraft to a visiting Colonel. I remember him being a very nice, very smart guy.

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Wednesday, October 30, 2019

The Beauty of Making Your Bed

This post is for my kids to read someday, but others might find this lifehack helpful, too.

As bizarre as it sounds, the Air Force Officers' Candidate School turned bed making into a peaceful event for me that's lasted to this day. 

When I make my bed in the morning, I turn it into a moment of quiet prayer and meditation, giving thanks for my warm bed and home, the fact that I'm awake for another day; giving thanks to the wonderful partner and kids (with bad dreams) who share it with me-- when so many people have none of that. I don't rush when I make it. I go slowly and thoughtfully, feeling the texture, smoothing the wrinkles, making it a piece of art, like a sculpture of sheets, pillows, and blankets. I set my prayerful intentions for the day, asking for help, and hoping that I stay connected to guidance from the Mighty Spirit.

The Air Force OCS was a mind-game. It was basically psychological warping with purpose, by design. You could approach bed making with dread, which I did, just waiting for the upperclassmen to find the smallest flaw and tear it apart. But, after a week of that I was like, "OK, I'm going to take a completely different approach to this, otherwise, I'll lose my mind and go postal on this process." It worked.

As my sisters can attest, making my bed when I was growing up was not one of my strong points; e.g., I started sleeping in a sleeping bag on top of my bed in the 6th grade so I didn't have to make it. Very efficient. :-)

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Monday, September 9, 2019

Nuclear Adventure in former Soviet Union

Came across this, searching old files today. I jumped the chain of command by contacting Sen Orrin Hatch with this, but it worked.

In 1992, I was working for TRW, on contract to NSA, involved in nuclear weapons security. When the Soviet Union collapsed, their control of nuclear weapons in places like Kazakhstan started to crumble, so the race was on between the good guys and bad guys to reach those nuclear assets first. Since our TRW team was involved with securing US nuclear assets, I figured we could do the same in the former Soviet bloc, so contacted Senator Hatch directly and did a little "marketing." Long story short, Project Sapphire (Google it) ensued two years later. Healthcare has never been quite the same level of... adventure. But it'll do for now. :-)

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Father's Day 2019

For our kids who didn't have the benefit of ever knowing their grandfather... #fathersday

Dad taught me things in life that profoundly impacted my to swing from dead serious to a prankster joke in the same conversation; the fun thrill of adventure and exploring; paying early attention to emerging details that otherwise tend to be dismissed; how to solve a serious problem when you're on the backside of a thousand acres with no tools or help... and that common sense really is common sense and don't let anyone talk you out of it.

This is Chief, The Wonder Horse. Strong, fast, and smart. He was not quite 2 yrs old in this picture, taken at the Durango Fairgrounds around 1971. Dad LOVED this horse. They were inseparable... until a British fellow, who was new to horsemanship, offered Dad $1,000 for him, which was a bunch of money in those days. Dad sold Chief and, I think, always regretted it.

Monday, September 24, 2018

Musings About Life's Purpose from Yellowstone

"Spiritual (or immaterial) inequity is now as great a problem as material inequity, perhaps even greater. People have enough to live, but nothing to live for. They have the means, but no meaning." --Robert Fogel, Nobel laureate

How many times a day are you genuinely fascinated?

What empathetic causes, greater than yourself, do you passionately live for?

For many years, my causes were the mission of national defense and security; better and more affordable healthcare; and do my best to give her a sweeter life that would somehow make up for the many tragedies and hardships that she endured.

When Mom passed away it left a big gap in my sense of purpose... And then we were blessed with Anna and Luke and my sense of deep purpose returned. But I want to raise them in the context of purpose and cause that is larger than our family. It can't be religion and the promised Glory of Trumpets in a Gold Plated Afterlife. Ultimately, that's a selfish motive anyway.

It has to be in the here and now of this life.

Sunday morning musings in Yellowstone. 🤟😊

SpaceX Inspirations

SpaceX launched a two-astronaut crew yesterday, on a mission to dock with the International Space Station. It was the first human spaceflig...