Articles

An embarrassment of riches

In Uncategorized on June 11, 2018 by mstevensrev

T4650616190_7f186f9396he neighborhood I grew up in, no one had money and yet it was customary to wear clothes that you clearly could not afford. Many Mom’s spent a majority of their income and used layaway in order to create for the family an embarrassment of riches.

Moving to the suburbs there were some people that had nothing but the very best, and then there was my family that move simply to escape the violence of our life in the city who did not have much. Before I started school on the first day, my mom took me to Kids “R” Us to buy me the nicest clothes I have ever owned in my life. The first week at school the kids made a mockery of me and my clothes, each day being worse than the next. For me it was an embarrassment of riches.

In high school, I lived for two years in Germany while my parents were working for the government. My dad got a trip back to the U.S. and I asked him to buy me a rugby sweater from Britches Great Outdoors, which I knew were very expensive so I was selective to only ask for that as a gift from his trip. He returned having gone to Sears and bought me six rugbys, an embarrassment of riches

Today receive a update from a family that I love dearly who is going through an unimaginable health situation. The words brought me to tears as I think about my life, at this moment in life I have no material need and yet a new understanding. Here are her words from the update,

“You have embraced our boys, kept us all fed, moved children hither and yon, research all there is to know about XXXX’s condition, give us places to sleep, and continually uplifted us in payer. It is an embarrassment of riches…”

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Articles

about the rich

In art, business, Community, culture, faith, generosity on May 1, 2018 by mstevensrev

“Let me tell you about the very rich, they are different from you and me…” F. Scott Fitzgerald
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There are two parts in viewing the rich. Yes the rich have more money, by definition, which tends to allow them to live different regarding many of the rules regular and poor people have to follow. This means that simple challenges others face are not for them: How do I research something that I can’t go and visit, How do I meet that person of influence, etc.
Lack of access to the money that can get you out of an emergency is one definition often used for poverty. When in a crisis do you have a friend or family member that could lend you $2,000 to get you out? If so you are likely not poor. When my wife and I were doing non-profit work there would be regular conversations about whether we were poor, yes we were a dual master degree family living below the poverty line, but as we finally demonstrated at any point we knew that we had the means and connections to relieve ourselves from the circumstance. This is not true for people in poverty.
On a layer different the rich are exactly the same as every other human being, same problems, hang ups and often their riches only make the flaws in their personality worse. Take care of those items regardless of your stature or rank. Often my experience has been that the rich are more isolated from others and the community around them.
Trust that good is available to transform you so that rich or poor you are living as the person you have been created. Also know that the rich are same as you.

Articles

Spring…into action

In art, blogging, business, holidays, Mornings, Uncategorized on April 23, 2018 by mstevensrev

images (3)Something happens to me as the days get longer. I’m finally aware of it after the past few years it becoming extremely noticeable. My goal was always to be steady, keep up a baseline of work and activity so that regardless of external factors, I know that I kept what I could in control.

Then there is a shift, both related to waking up and getting out of bed, but also in regards to my thoughts and creativity. The energy of the spring changes the way that I engage the world. At first, I thought it was just coincidence and that other factors in my life provided this energy. The explanation seems reasonable. Now after the fourth year of this change I’m embracing it, the slow pace of fall and winter begins to transition into a flurry of activity. This physical response has helped me better understand the world of liturgy and why spirituality is broken into seasonal expressions by most major religions.

Ecclesiastes 3  1There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every [a]event under heaven—

A time to give birth and a time to die;
A time to plant and a time to uproot what is planted.
A time to kill and a time to heal;
A time to tear down and a time to build up.
A time to weep and a time to laugh;
A time to mourn and a time to dance.
A time to throw stones and a time to gather stones;
A time to embrace and a time to shun embracing.
A time to search and a time to give up as lost;
A time to keep and a time to throw away.
A time to tear apart and a time to sew together;
A time to be silent and a time to speak.
A time to love and a time to hate;
A time for war and a time for peace.

 

Writing becomes easier, thoughts flow thru more…leaving me excited for this season and the work that is before me.

In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt. -Margaret Atwood

Articles

Dear John,

In art, Books, Community, culture, design, faith, Friends, Fun, home, movies, Parenting, quote on May 19, 2017 by mstevensrev

John,

Mr. Waters there is a god and it sure might be you and I am positive it is not the first time you have been told this (though probably in different circumstances:)

I was born in 1976 at St. Agnus Hospital in Baltimore and by 5 years old I was wandering the city blocks of West Baltimore in Edmondson, a wild thing for a white boy in the 80’s. As life moved on I became a devoted follower of you even attending movies at the Senator. As a young adult, I found the director’s cut of A Dirty Shame and your glossary of sex terms extremely helpful and still recommend it to my children and strangers when they find struggles with such naming conventions. “Full of Grace” is a regular quote in my family attributed to Pecker…and thank you for indulging my fanboy-ness but this note is about divinity, not celebrity.

This morning I realized that tonight at 40 years old I have reached the pinnacle of my life. My oldest daughter is 15 years old and deeply in love with theater and last spring at the drama auction for Ingraham High School in North Seattle I bought a “walk-on role” in the musical this spring. I was delighted to learn in fall that the musical would be Hairspray.

As a sophomore, the production has been a dream come true for my daughter, in addition to landing a role she was also given the responsibly of dance captain. Due to circumstances, she choreographed and co-choreographed several the songs including Good Morning Baltimore. As horrible people say, “the apple does not far fall from the tree” as her mother is a choreographer and movement artist.

Back to me, this week I learned and this morning it dawned on me how significant it is that my walk on role for Hairspray is during Good Morning Baltimore. Not only that but I get to be “The flasher who lives next door”. Following in the footsteps of your cameo role in the recent film.

For a kid that grew up the son of window cleaner in Baltimore my life could not be better, for that I am so grateful. I may live to see the marriage of my children, grandchildren born or even become a billionaire but nothing will compare to the moment when I walk out on stage tonight. No better script exists than my own life and this moment certainly makes me consider that all of it has been choreographed for me already. Happy belated birthday, missed you when you were in Seattle a month ago, and I do hope someday our paths will cross in person as they already have in spirit.

 

Thanks,

 

 

Michael Stevens

1004 NW 130th Street Seattle WA 98177

M: 206.390.8142 michaelstevensrev@gmail.com #mstevensrev

 

*This message was originally written on the fan page @JohnWatersFanPage where I realized that you are not on Facebook. Tempted to hand write the letter to you, but I wanted you to read every expression of my heart clearly. Many blessing enlighten one!

Articles

The Ability to Not FORG UP

In Uncategorized on May 11, 2017 by mstevensrev

1024px-THERE_IS_NO_GIVE_UP._Not_today_(2776553371)

A few weeks ago a few friends and I were talking about a project, that due to a vacation over spring break and a busy work schedule after returning, I had not talked about in almost two weeks. Before the conversation, the thought had crossed my mind that it wasn’t even worth meeting with them because perhaps the project was not all that I thought it was cracked up to be. In the first five minutes of the meeting, the fire back and I was energized.

So I mentioned this shift from doubt creeping into excitement and my entrepreneurial friend, Chris, said to me, “Oh did you forg up.” and I responded with, “What did you just say.” He apologized and said that he had just blended two things from his head when he spoke, he went on, “Did you forget which led you to give up?” I said exactly, “I could have forg’d up if we had not met today.”

There are times that we don’t intentionally quit, rather we subtly walk away from something that is bringing us life. The tragedy can be if it is something we are passionate about and because we don’t have someone to share it with at the time, we forget and give up…forg up.

Thanks to all the people in my life that have been there to listen, perhaps today I will be able to be present for someone else allowing them to not forg up.

“Things may come to those who wait, but only the things left by those who hustle.”

Abraham Lincoln

Articles

Special versus Valuable

In Uncategorized on March 1, 2017 by mstevensrev

 

diamond-807979_960_720Participation trophies, snowflakes, and the cult of the special has come under criticism. I’m in agreement that the criticism is well deserved. Life does not work this way. In our jobs in our personal lives we stack rank everything from most creative to best looking to richest.

Logically everyone knows: If EVERYONE is special, then NO ONE is special. The meaning of special is set apart, different, or unique. There is no way to have shades or varying degrees of special, it is analog.

Today for the first time I was able to hear something behind the movement (or cult) of special. My hope is that what people are trying to say is people are valuable. EVERYONE is valuable. We don’t wander into fallacies with that statement, and it gets to the heart of the matter.

Zappos is a company that I respect in many areas, and in their book “Delivering Happiness” they mentioned a practice to weed out fakers during the interview process. Headquartered in Las Vegas, the office is a pretty long trip from the airport therefore Zappos provides candidates that are interviewing a ride on their shuttle. When the person has completed their interviews and returned to the airport on the shuttle, a manager will call the shuttle driver to get the drivers perspective. As Hsieh said in an interview with the Wall Street Journal in 2013, “It doesn’t matter how well the day of interviews went, if our shuttle driver wasn’t treated well, then we won’t hire that person.”

Make the change in your language, it is simple…those around you perhaps are not special but most surely valuable. And so are you.

The little things, I can obey. But the big things – how we think, what we value – those you must choose yourself. You can’t let anyone – or any society – determine those for you.

Morrie Schwartz

Articles

Machine Translation making waves and how to make sure you know how to talk about it at the cocktail party

In Books, commercials, Community, computers, culture, facebook, Technology, work on October 5, 2016 by mstevensrev

bn-cz300_google_g_20140528135745In the past month(s) some of the news coming out from major technology companies have caught the media’s attention. At the same time my co-host for the Globally Speaking Podcast, Renato Beninatto , was really pushing us to make our most complex podcast to date on the topic as part of a series on the machines taking over:) Since then I have started doing my research in preparation for our conversations with leaders in the field. At this point I’m likely to help others talk intelligently at a cocktail party.

To date much of the conversation around Machine Translation, which has been around since the 1950s, mainly consisted of statistical and rule-based systems. Rule Based systems as the names signifies is based up linguistic rules that set how words will be translated, words from target language will replace the source language. Statistical machine translation focused on pattern recognition within translation and provided target based on huge amounts of parallel texts. Most of the effective machine engines for a time ended up being a Hybrid machine translation engine that incorporated the best of both methodologies..

Now neural networks are on the scene. To understand the effectiveness and basic outline of this technology check out a this great article, From not working to neural networking. As I understand the strength of the neural network is the depth of the data that is process. Rather then being limited to a number of rules or a corpus of strings to improve the quality. Neural machine translation operates beyond a string and by exposing it to a huge number of examples it will learn without telling it what to look for. There is a sight that even allows you to demo the Neural Machine Translation by LISA, which has been trained on a lot of data from the UN and European Parliament.

So since this has been going on for some time, why the news all of a sudden? For one Alan Packer from Facebook came out and said that the other forms (specifically statistical) of machine translation have reached their usefulness and Facebook is now focusing on the use of neural networks. Check out Rachel Metz’s article, Facebook Plans to Boost Its Translations Using Neural Networks This Year. Then this month Google has come out and said that Google Neural Machine Translation reduces errors by 60 percent, cool. NPR picking it up here, they interviewed a translator naysayer who felt the need to reinforce that professional translators will be needed.

Then during Google’s “Made by Google” Event, the implications of this break thru and artificial intelligence (AI) were discussed by Sudar Pichai during the early part of the event. The part about the implications for voice technology were interest, why do we only have one voice?

With all the excitement it is important to have other voices outside of Google and Facebook, so that we don’t all get caught up in the next wave of hype. For that check out the article, Hyperbolic? Experts Weigh In on Google Neural Translate from Florian Faes at Slater. Overall the opinions are rather favorable, so check it out.

Now you are on the road of looking like a star with your friends and new acquaintances. Glad to hear about other resources you are finding key on getting you up to speed with this great technology, if it’s something we use I’ll be sure to mention it on the podcast!

Sometimes I wish that I could go into a time machine right now and just look at my self and say, ‘Calm down. Things are gonna be fine. Things are gonna be all great. Just relax.’

-Tristan Wilds