Young Engineers

What Kind of Engineers Are You Going To Be?

The calm and sunny April morning of the first day of spring break during my first year at high school was disturbed by an impatient phone ring. The urgent call my best friend’s father, uncle Kiro, had made was to instruct me to promptly go fetch his son Buba (they did not have a phone at home then but they did have a TV set so we regularly shared the technological marvels of the day!) and go with him to the vocational high school where he — and until recently my father had — worked.

First Day of School

First Day of School

Buba and I had shared many an adventure during our childhood: a childhood shaped by the close friendship our working mothers had nurtured years before we were born — just a few months apart. Though after 1st grade we had studied in different elementary and middle schools, Buba and I had ended up in the same math magnet school where the current president of Bulgaria and I competed on the same math olympics team. Our school, prestigiously focused as it was on math, programming and sciences, offered apparently not enough in terms of mechanical and material studies besides an introductory class of the different types of steel. And uncle Kiro made his opinion known as soon as we showed up, rushed and anxious, at the door of the vast hall filled with rows of machine tools.

My friend’s father looked at us sternly and asked us if we could use the metalworking lathe next to him. Of course, we could not do much more than pressing the start button on the tool. Disappointed, he asked us what kind of engineers we were going to be if we could not use the most standard tools of his generation. Puzzled, my friend and I went home wondering how could it be expected that we should know something we were never taught? We comforted ourselves with the confidence that we knew things that our parents did not…

Why my father, who was apparently a very good teacher, never taught me the skills he knew, I can only speculate, but that story has stayed with me with its potent conflict of generations and misunderstood expectations.

Can Girls Be Engineers? You Better Believe It!

“There can be no improvement unless the girls are brought up in schools and centres of learning, unless they are taught the sciences and other branches of knowledge, and unless they acquire the manifold arts, as necessary, and are divinely trained. For the day will come when these girls will become mothers. Mothers are the first educators of children, who establish virtues in the child’s inner nature. They encourage the child to acquire perfections and goodly manners, warn him against unbecoming qualities, and encourage him to show forth resolve, firmness, and endurance under hardship, and to advance on the high road to progress. Due regard for the education of girls is, therefore, necessary.” ~ Abdu’l-Baha

Now as the father of two very smart and artistic girls, I delight in every opportunity to encourage them to create, design, and be young engineers. I am rather visual and whenever I see a well designed artifact I take the time to analyze with the girls what makes the product — or piece of art — so unique and satisfying. When my Nest thermostat arrived in the mail, I knew it would be a good opportunity to work with my daughters on a fun new project.

When I asked my older daughter whether she liked helping me be an engineer, she said “I like helping you but I also like being an engineer!”

The little one volunteered to help me with the installation…

A young engineer helping me install the Nest Learning Thermostat

A young engineer helping me install the Nest Learning Thermostat

 

Her older sister chose to work on a new invention, reusing the packaging of the thermostat.

A young engineer reusing the Nest packaging to create a self feeding cat play station.

A young engineer reusing the Nest packaging to create a self feeding cat play station.

 

Her invention was a self-feeding cat play station called McMeow. When I asked her “Why McDonalds for cats?”, she explained that it was the only self service restaurant she knew to have a play station — fair enough… Her younger sister — the budding graphics designer, — promptly created a clever logo.

McMeow - the McDonalds for cats! Idea by Sofia, design by Juliet!

McMeow – the McDonalds for cats! Idea by Sofia, design by Juliet!

 

We truly had fun and while helping me install the Nest Learning Thermostat, my 8 year old daughter answered affirmatively the question: “Can girls be engineers?”

When I asked my older daughter whether she liked helping me be an engineer, she said “I like helping you but I also like being an engineer!”

When I asked my older daughter whether she liked helping me be an engineer, she said "I like helping you but I also like being an engineer!"

When I asked my older daughter whether she liked helping me be an engineer, she said “I like helping you but I also like being an engineer!”

I intend to make sure my daughters never doubt the answer: yes, girls can be awesome engineers!

Arlington Prayer Station and Spiritual Conversation “Circle of Unity”

“Bahá’u’lláh has drawn the circle of unity, He has made a design for the uniting of all the peoples, and for the gathering of them all under the shelter of the tent of universal unity. This is the work of the Divine Bounty, and we must all strive with heart and soul until we have the reality of unity in our midst, and as we work, so will strength be given unto us. Leave all thought of self, and strive only to be obedient and submissive to the Will of God. In this way only shall we become citizens of the Kingdom of God, and attain unto life everlasting.” ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Baha’i Faith

Dear friends,

What nurtures your soul? What makes your heart tender? Prayer, spiritual conversation, music, fellowship, tea poured in peace, refreshments shared with smile? Whatever the answer might be, sharing prayers and inspiration with friends gets us all closer to the Creator and recharges us for the week ahead.

This image below is from our Prayer Station last Sunday. It warms my heart with its joy and diversity. Would you join the circle of unity?

Arlington Prayer Station and Spiritual Conversation “Circle of Unity”

Arlington Prayer Station and Spiritual Conversation “Circle of Unity”

Arlington Prayer Station and Spiritual Conversation “Circle of Unity”

This Sunday, August 31th, 2014, we invite you and your loves ones to an Interfaith Prayer Station and Spiritual Conversation in Arlington “Circle of Unity”. We’ll start at 7:30 pm with light refreshments followed by reading, at 8:00 pm, of selected Holy Writings and Prayers. We have many books of prayers from different faith traditions but if you wish, feel free to bring your own prayers or inspiring writings. We will uplift and refresh our souls with inspiring musical selections and we’ll conclude with tea and sweets.

We’ll also say prayers for anyone in need, so if you can’t join us and would like to request prayers please contact me. Please let me know if you plan on coming so I can plan the refreshments!

Until then, enjoy the beautiful song “Trip The Light” and its inspiring video illustrating beautifully the oneness of humanity.

In His service,

Mitko

“Let your vision be world-embracing, rather than confined to your own self.”
(From the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh)

Arlington Prayer Station “We Fall Down But We Get Up”

“Saints are men who have freed themselves from the world of matter and who have overcome sin.” ~ ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Baha’i Faith

“We fall down
But we get up
For a saint is just a sinner who fell down,
But we couldn’t stay there,
And got up”
Donnie McClurkin

Dear friends,

What nurtures your soul? What makes your heart tender? Prayer, spiritual conversation, music, fellowship, tea poured in peace, refreshments shared with smile? Whatever the answer might be, sharing prayers and inspiration with friends gets us all closer to the Creator and recharges us for the week ahead.

Arlington Prayer Station "We Fall Down But We Get Up"

Arlington Prayer Station “We Fall Down But We Get Up”

 

Arlington Prayer Station “We Fall Down But We Get Up” – Sunday, Aug 24, 7:30 pm

This Sunday, August 24th, 2014, we invite you and your loves ones to an Interfaith Prayer Station and Spiritual Conversation in Arlington “We Fall Down But We Get Up”. We’ll start at 7:30 pm with light refreshments followed by reading, at 8:00 pm, of selected Holy Writings and Prayers. We have many books of prayers from different faith traditions but if you wish, feel free to bring your own prayers or inspiring writings.

My friend Ursula will uplift and refresh our souls with inspiring sing-along musical selections and we’ll conclude with tea and sweets.

We’ll also say prayers for anyone in need, so if you can’t join us and would like to request prayers please contact me. Please let me know if you plan on coming so I can plan the refreshments!

Until then, enjoy the beautiful song “We Fall Down” performed by Donnie McClurkin.

In His service,

Mitko

“Let your vision be world-embracing, rather than confined to your own self.”
(From the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh)

Arlington Interfaith Prayer Station and Spiritual Conversation “Healing Balm for Racial Hatred” – Sunday, Aug 17, 2014

“We who believe in freedom cannot rest
We who believe in freedom cannot rest until it comes
Until the killing of Black men, Black mothers’ sons
Is as important as the killing of White men, White mothers’ sons” ~ Ella Baker

“O thou who hast an illumined heart! Thou art even as the pupil of the eye, the very wellspring of the light, for God’s love hath cast its rays upon thine inmost being and thou hast turned thy face toward the Kingdom of thy Lord. Intense is the hatred, in America, between black and white, but my hope is that the power of the Kingdom will bind these two in friendship, and serve them as a healing balm. Let them look not upon a man’s colour but upon his heart. If the heart be filled with light, that man is nigh unto the threshold of his Lord; but if not, that man is careless of his Lord, be he white or be he black.” ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Baha’i Faith

Dear friends,

What nurtures your soul? What makes your heart tender? Prayer, spiritual conversation, music, fellowship, tea poured in peace, refreshments shared with smile? Whatever the answer might be, sharing prayers and inspiration with friends gets us all closer to the Creator and recharges us for the week ahead.

 Arlington Interfaith Prayer Station and Spiritual Conversation “Healing Balm for Racial Hatred” – Sunday, Aug 17, 2014

 Arlington Interfaith Prayer Station and Spiritual Conversation "Healing Balm for Racial Hatred" - Sunday, Aug 17, 2014

Arlington Interfaith Prayer Station and Spiritual Conversation “Healing Balm for Racial Hatred” – Sunday, Aug 17, 2014

This Sundays, August 17th, 2014, we invite you and your loves ones to an Interfaith Prayer Station and Spiritual Conversation in Arlington “Healing Balm for Racial Hatred“. We’ll start at 7:30 pm with light refreshments followed by reading, at 8:00 pm, of selected Holy Writings and Prayers. We have many books of prayers from different faith traditions but if you wish, feel free to bring your own prayers or inspiring writings. In addition to Holy Words, we shall uplift and refresh our souls with inspiring musical selections and we’ll conclude with tea and sweets.

We’ll also say prayers for anyone in need, so if you can’t join us and would like to request prayers please contact me. Please let me know if you plan on coming so I can plan the refreshments!

Until then, enjoy the beautiful and thought-provoking “Ella’s Song” performed by Sweet Honey on the Rock.

In His service,

Mitko

“Let your vision be world-embracing, rather than confined to your own self.”
(From the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh)

Andy Grammer’s “Magazines or Novels” — already #1 on iTunes — is more than a summer hit

Andy Grammer’s new album “Magazines or Novels” makes him #1 pop artist on iTunes this week!

This iTunes success delights me enormously – Andy deserves it! However, I do find the iTunes review mildly annoying with its accusation of identity crisis:

“Slick and glossy, the songs on Magazines or Novels are performed and produced with a goal — conscious or not — to match the massive success of the hit “Keep Your Head Up,” from his self-titled debut — not an easy thing to replicate, but this team gives it an honest try. As is often the case when following a successful debut, there is a bit of an identity crisis at work here: Grammer wrote or co-wrote everything here, and he seemingly did so with a careful ear to the radio.”

On the other hand, Huff Post raves that “Magazines or Novels” is a “smashing sophomore album.”

Seeing Andy Grammer and his new album promoted between this summer’s boy band of teen girls’ choice 5 Seconds of Summer and Robert Plant, the ultimate rock singer gone Nashville, is as symbolic as telling. Whether 5SOS will be around any longer than their British counterparts of last summer’s fading fame 1D we don’t know. However,  I am certain that Andy is in this music business for the long haul, and having just taken step two on his professional recording path, he will — not unlike the Led Zeppelin singer – reinvent himself more than once! Reinvention – as part of growth — and identity crises are very different: the former is based on self-reflection from within while the latter on influences from without…

Andy Grammer's "Magazines or Novels" is #1 on iTunes!

Andy Grammer’s “Magazines or Novels” is #1 on iTunes!

 

Andy Grammer’s “Magazines or Novels” — already #1 on iTunes — is more than a summer hit

As witnessed during Andy’s recent concert at The Birchmere, he is indeed reaching out for wider yet discerning audience bridging the musical gap between screaming youth and more reflective and mature listeners. His is pop music indeed with its catchy tunes but what sets him apart from the masses of artists seeking commercial success are the honest, meaningful lyrics.

To illustrate my point just listen to Andy’s response — perhaps coincidental – to 5SOS’s current hit Amnesia. Whereas the Aussie stars mourn a failed relationship in a recycled hit penned by the Madden brothers and 3 more producers, Andy’s song “Remind You” views the relationship with a loved one as an opportunity to help each other grow:

“It doesn’t mean you’re weak
Or that you’ve got low self esteem
We all got hearts that forget why they beat
We are brilliant
We are unique
We forget so, effortlessly
And when your questioning your worth
In the way that we all do
And your version of amnesia
Starts to seep on through
And you know that you are great
But you can’t remember why
I will be there by your side”

Andy’s honest song-writing is so refreshing that raised a few parental brows during the recent concert I attended. His song “Holding Out” not only illustrates the chastity dilemma that Baha’i youth — and anyone of this “generation of the half-light” as Shoghi Effendy so poignantly named us — face today but also has the distinction of managing to put prayer and porn in the same sentence!

I know so well the challenges of solitude and can only marvel what the challenges of fame might bring to any person of faith — all the more reasons to appreciate Andy’s sincerity in “Sinner”:

“And I’ve been on my knees
Praying like
Praying like a sinner

And I heard the walls are paper thin from where you are to where I am
But I don’t feel a thing, if you all keep pulling strings
Send on down a message please
Light a bull behind my dreams
I’d just like to know that you hear me, that you’re close
And I never thought that I’d live this life without your guiding light”

… and tenacity in “Masterpiece”:

“One, you get one heartbeat so, take it seriously
This is your masterpiece, don’t forget to dream
And taste the colors in the air you breathe
It’s your masterpiece, go ahead and feel it all
Don’t stop till it is beautiful”

Andy, don’t stop! It is beautiful!

Arlington Interfaith Prayer Station and Spiritual Conversation “Waves of the Holy Spirit”

“Know ye of a certainty that whatever gathering ye enter, the waves of the Holy Spirit are surging over it, and the heavenly grace of the Blessed Beauty encompasseth that gathering.” ~ ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Baha’i Faith

“O that thou hadst hearkened to my commandments! then had thy peace been as a river, and thy righteousness as the waves of the sea.” ~  Judaism / Christianity, Holy Bible, Isaiah 48:18

Dear friends,

What nurtures your soul? What makes your heart tender? Prayer, spiritual conversation, music, fellowship, tea poured in peace, refreshments shared with smile? Whatever the answer might be, sharing prayers and inspiration with friends gets us all closer to the Creator and recharges us for the week ahead.

Arlington Interfaith Prayer Station and Spiritual Conversation "Waves of the Holy Spirit"

Arlington Interfaith Prayer Station and Spiritual Conversation “Waves of the Holy Spirit”

Arlington Interfaith Prayer Station and Spiritual Conversation “Waves of the Holy Spirit”

This Sundays, August 10th, 2014, we invite you and your loves ones to an Interfaith Prayer Station and Spiritual Conversation in Arlington “Waves of the Holy Spirit”. We’ll start at 7:30 pm with light refreshments followed by reading, at 8:00 pm, of selected Holy Writings and Prayers. We have many books of prayers from different faith traditions but if you wish, feel free to bring your own prayers or inspiring writings. In addition to Holy Words, we shall uplift and refresh our souls with inspiring musical selections and we’ll conclude with tea and sweets.

We’ll also say prayers for anyone in need, so if you can’t join us and would like to request prayers please contact me. Please let me know if you plan on coming so I can plan the refreshments!

In His service,

Mitko

“Let your vision be world-embracing, rather than confined to your own self.”
(From the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh)

Multilingual Interfaith Prayer Station in Arlington at 7:30 pm on Sundays

“O ye close and dear friends of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá!
In the Orient scatter perfumes,
And shed splendours on the West.
Carry light unto the Bulgar,
And the Slav with life invest.” ~ ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Baha’i Faith

In the past few Sundays, I had a variety of friends whose languages use the Cyrillic alphabet come to the Prayer Station turning it into a Cyrillic spiritual gathering of a sort.  I expect the two brothers of Thesaloniki, Cyril and Methodius, whose students spread their alphabet and the teachings of the Gospel to the Slavs and beyond, would have been delighted.

Multilingual Interfaith Prayer Stations and Spiritual Conversations in Arlington

The next three Sundays my Russian-Turkmeni friend Aleksey will host the Multilingual Interfaith Prayer Station at its usual time at 7:30 pm. No restrictions on alphabets, languages, or religions!

So, dear friends,

What nurtures your soul? What makes your heart tender? Prayer, spiritual conversation, music, fellowship, tea poured in peace, refreshments shared with smile? Whatever the answer might be, sharing prayers and inspiration with friends gets us all closer to the Creator and recharges us for the week ahead.

Arlington Interfaith Prayer Station and Spiritual Conversation

The next three Sundays — July 20th, July 27th, and August 3rd 2014, we invite you and your loves ones to Interfaith Prayer Stations and a Spiritual Conversations in Arlington. We’ll start at 7:30 pm with light refreshments followed by reading, at 8:00 pm, of selected Holy Writings and Prayers. We have many books of prayers from different faith traditions but if you wish, feel free to bring your own prayers or inspiring writings. In addition to Holy Words, we shall uplift and refresh our souls with inspiring musical selections and we’ll conclude with tea and sweets.

We’ll also say prayers for anyone in need, so if you can’t join us and would like to request prayers please contact me. Please let me know if you plan on coming so we can plan the refreshments!

Until then, enjoy this video of the Lord’s Prayer in different languages!

In His service,

Mitko

“Let your vision be world-embracing, rather than confined to your own self.”
(From the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, www.bahai.org)

Winter Day and Summer Night

Hearing some open mic performers at Busboys & Poets bring pre-recorded soundtracks made me think that I too should probably do the same and premiere the new version of “Repeated Words” for which Eric Harper laid down the guitar track. But then I thought, what about an acoustic song, simple enough so I can play it myself on the guitar and sing?

That is when an old song which I had written in the end of winter of 1998 in North Carolina came to mind. A few summers ago, while camping in Yosemite one night near the campfire I added new verses to the song, completing it with the reverse theme of solitude during a gorgeous summer night:

The day the tired snow started falling
From the branches kissed by the sun
The day I thought ’bout my cooking calling:
To cook for just one, no more is fun

That day Segovia came home
But I wanted something new
I just wanted to write a song for you

Now this song was supposed to be impression
Of a winter day spent alone
Nothing about feeling suppression
Nor about whatever is gone

But I heard in the distance your laughter
And I took it to be a sign
That my winter day might have a spring design

In summer night the fire sparks are falling
Into the lonely dusk kissed by the moon
Marshmallows roasting, a campfire — toasty,
Then the thought of you came not too soon

Such night, and I’m sitting here lonely
Yet I took it to be a sign
That my solitude might have an end in its design

Now this song is supposed to bring departure
From a summer night spent alone
And no, it’s not a song about the archer
Whose wings might bring future unknown

But the thought of you kept coming back with laughter
And I took it to be a sign
That my solitude might have an end in its design.

So, if you want to hear this performed live, come next Friday night to Busboys & Poets in Shirlington!

P.S. Here is me on a summer night in Yosemite:

Summer night in Yosemite

Summer night in Yosemite

Is it time for Tiny Planet open mic?

If I were a corporation (and I am not!), I would be in turn-around mode, and part of my strategy would be embracing the creative arts — not as a consumer but as a co-creator.

My first experience at the open mic of Busboys and Poets in Shirlington

Recently I attended my first open mic at Busboys and Poets in Shirlington, where I sang two songs — one, a Baha’i prayer for unity, and the other, a Bulgarian folk song. A lady at the neighboring table, who herself turned out to be a talented singer, told me that her husband was Bulgarian. Between the two of us, we were the only one who understood a word of Bulgarian. Regardless, the audience was so warm and receptive to this Bulgarian singer that I plan on going back for more. The other performers offered a variety of acoustic music, hip-hop and spoken word. The performance that really stood out for me was a powerful poem “More Than You Think” by Jharmaine Boyd, shared with such sincerity and convincing force that left me breathlessly covered in goosebumps.

Jhermaine’s faith-inspired spoken word reminded me of Andrea Hope whom I met at Tiny Planet a couple of years ago.

From open mic to Tiny Planet and back!

At Tiny Planet a few days ago I met another wonderful Baha’i performer, the singer-songwriter Shaun David Gould.

With Shaun Gould at Tiny Planet

With Shaun Gould at Tiny Planet

Shaun sang a beautiful program of original songs inspired by the Baha’i teachings or directly based on the Baha’i Writings.

After the performance, I talked with Shaun and invited him to perform one day at the Musical Prayer Station which I host periodically at my home. I also spoke with Katharine Key, the current DC organizer of the Tiny Planet about the challenges of having an ongoing series of inspirational concerts. Reflecting on my experience at the open mic I suggested that it might be a good idea to alternate the single artist concerts with open mic performances where even those who might not have a full hour repertoire could share a song or two. I would love, of course, to explore this idea for the Musical Prayer Station as well.

What do you think of this idea? Are you an artist who would like to contribute a song or two for an inspiring concert or do you know of such artists? Let me know and let’s start planning!

Arlington Interfaith Prayer Station and Spiritual Conversation “Glorious in Spiritual Degrees” – Sunday, July 6, 2014

“O Thou kind Lord! This gathering is turning to Thee. These hearts are radiant with Thy love. These minds and spirits are exhilarated by the message of Thy glad-tidings. O God! Let this American democracy become glorious in spiritual degrees even as it has aspired to material degrees, and render this just government victorious. Confirm this revered nation to upraise the standard of the oneness of humanity, to promulgate the Most Great Peace, to become thereby most glorious and praiseworthy among all the nations of the world. O God! This American nation is worthy of Thy favors and is deserving of Thy mercy. Make it precious and near to Thee through Thy bounty and bestowal.” ~ ‘Abdu’l-Bahá

Dear friends!

What nurtures your soul? What makes your heart tender? Prayer, spiritual conversation, music, fellowship, tea poured in peace, refreshments shared with smile? Whatever the answer might be, sharing prayers and inspiration with friends gets us all closer to the Creator and recharges us for the week ahead.

Arlington Interfaith Prayer Station and Spiritual Conversation “Glorious in Spiritual Degrees”

American Democracy Glorious in Spiritual DegreesThis Sunday, July 6th, 2014, I invite you and your loves ones to an Interfaith Prayer Station and a Spiritual Conversation in Arlington on the theme “Glorious in Spiritual Degrees”. We’ll start at 7:30 pm with light refreshments followed by reading, at 8:00 pm, of selected Holy Writings and Prayers. I have many books of prayers from different faith traditions but if you wish, feel free to bring your own prayers or inspiring writings. In addition to Holy Words, we shall uplift and refresh our souls with inspiring musical selections and we’ll conclude with tea and sweets.

We’ll also say prayers for anyone in need, so if you can’t join us and would like to request prayers please contact me.  Please let me know if you plan on coming so I can plan the refreshments!

In His service,

Mitko

“Let your vision be world-embracing, rather than confined to your own self.”
(From the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, www.bahai.org)