The Hacking of Hollywood

As I’m sure most of you have heard by now, Apple has been in the news a lot lately. Much of the talk has focused on new products to be released soon; the fruit company is widely expected to unveil the new iPhone(s), their first smartwatch and possibly an improved iPad at their press event scheduled for Tuesday afternoon at 1pm ET.
 
But while Apple has enjoyed ever-increasing hype for the past few months, they have also recently found themselves in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons. With about a week until Apple’s big payoff, individuals breached the security of Apple’s iCloud system and accessed the accounts of some high-profile celebrities. Once the hackers were in possession of revealing/nude photos and videos Celebrity victimsof these stars – a list purportedly including actress Jennifer Lawrence, model Kate Upton, singer Ariana Grande, and even Major League Baseball pitcher Justin Verlander – they proceeded to post them on the Internet for all to see.
 
This has obviously caused a firestorm of outrage and damage control both at Apple and in Hollywood. It has also sparked a lot of conversation amongst the general public about the victims, our culture, as well as the overall risks and the role of law enforcement in the digital age. As someone who has become a resource when it comes to technology, I have been approached a number of times since last weekend by people who have asked me questions regarding these topics, like the ones below:
 
  • “How could these people pull off such a thing?”
  • “Aren’t those celebrities partially responsible, or didn’t they bring it on themselves for taking such photos in the first place?”
  • “Does this mean that other platforms such as Android, Windows or Blackberry are safer or less susceptible to hacking than Apple’s systems?”
  • “Is my information protected?”
  • “What should I be doing now to prevent something like this from happening to me?”
 
The truth is that those are very real, valid and complex questions which require thorough and honest answers. Since people have trusted me for such things in the past and present, I feel responsible for at least trying to shed some light and clarity on these matters.
 
Over a series of blog posts I’m going to attempt to do this subject justice. I’ll cover technical components such as the actual theft, the risks of our technological era and what we should be doing as consumers as a result. I also plan to delve into more human sectors such as privacy, consent/victimhood, as well as the role of big corporations and the government/law enforcement. Feel free to engage in honest feedback and dialogue with myself and others in the comments. My only ask that we all respect each other’s viewpoints in an open dialogue and avoid attacking each other.
 
All set? Then let’s get started!
 
 

The Heist

Original image via blog cloudsherpas.com

Original image via blog cloudsherpas.com

The appropriate place to start would be with how the hackers managed to pull off such a theft. While authorities are still searching for who exactly breached iCloud, Apple has stepped up with some partial answers regarding how they might have done so. As with most of tech-related matters, there’s a whole lot of terminology and processes behind the way Apple’s system works and how the perpetrators achieved success. But for the purposes of this discussion, we’re going to keep it simple…
 
The bulk of security on most peoples’ Apple accounts hinges on a user-created password. Apple had allowed people make up any password they wanted in the past, but for the last year or two (at least) they have enforced a set required parameters in order to ensure users’ passwords were more complex:
 
– at least 8 characters (letters, numbers or permitted special characters)
– at least one capital letter
– at least one lower case letter
– at least one number
 
The reason for these requirements is straightforward: if someone has the correct password, they can do anything the owner of the account could do… They could sign into another device as the owner and read messaging conversations in real time, access contacts or calendar information, track the real-time GPS location of the owner (or any associated devices in Find My iPhone), see the most recent 1,000 photos taken in Photo Stream, access/restore from iCloud backups (essentially cloning the owner’s entire device from the date & time of the backup) and more. Pretty scary and definitely a good reason for requiring a secure password, right?
 
Now… Apple’s system has a process for allowing the owner to reset their password in case they forget it. This process can be performed online by having an email sent to the owner for verification, or by entering the birthdate and answers to security questions set up by the account holder (in case they no longer have access to that email address).
 
Basically, the hackers didn’t fight their way into Apple’s systems; they used this forgotten password reset system against Apple instead. It appears that they had somehow previously obtained the email addresses used to create one or more of the celebrities’ Apple accounts, and then allegedly created a computerized script which essentially sent a continuous stream of password/security question guesses until one of them was correct.
 
Obtaining the scandalous photos and identifying more celebrity accounts to target became easy once the hackers could access the owners’ accounts. Device backups within iCloud were allegedly downloaded and cracked opened via a software tool “intended for law enforcement agencies” which are able to access such protected data. The worst part about this particular tool is that apparently it’s developer – a Russian forensics company called Elcomsoft – doesn’t even perform checks to ensure that the parties paying the $399 online for the software are even legit law enforcement agencies prior to selling the tool to them.
 
So according to Apple’s CEO Tim Cook and the tech blogs covering this tragic and unfolding story, that’s how the photos and videos were likely stolen and leaked… The even more unsettling part within the last 72 hours is the revelation that an underground black market for hacked iCloud backups – against celebs as well as average personal accounts which some hackers would do by request for monetary gain – has existed for some time now…
 
 

Next up: Who’s To Blame?

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For more info on iCloud backup ripping, there are accurate and extremely straightforward write-ups on the subject from Mashable or Business Insider (warning: there is quoted profanity in the Business Insider piece…)

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One Year Later

It’s extremely hard to believe it’s been a whole 12 months since Katie’s medical event… May 14th will be forever etched into my mind as the anniversary of calamity; the day I arrived home from work to find my wife lying on the floor. She wasn’t just unconscious; death had occurred. There was no heartbeat or pulse. She had no breath. We all know our lives on earth won’t last forever, and in that moment it appeared her time had run out and come way too soon… But the awesome thing about God is that He is the master of turning tribulation into jubilation.

If you missed this incredibly amazing story last year and are in need of a recap, I’d encourage you to read the posts from last year at the links below (they’re pretty quick reads). Seriously… You can’t get much better than a modern day tale of death, resurrection, and prophetic fulfillment such as this one. Or if you already know this story, you can check it back out as a refresher.

ambulance_blurryhttps://thedevicedr.wordpress.com/2012/05/20/day-zero-the-moment-of-truth/

hospital

https://thedevicedr.wordpress.com/2012/05/26/while-you-were-sleeping/

photo-jun-01-1-11-31-am

https://thedevicedr.wordpress.com/2012/06/01/let-love-explode/

ostracized

https://thedevicedr.wordpress.com/2012/06/11/along-for-the-ride-part-1/

online-dating

https://thedevicedr.wordpress.com/2012/06/24/along-for-the-ride-part-2/

inscription3

https://thedevicedr.wordpress.com/2012/11/30/fusion/

Instead of retreading the events of last May, I will be evaluating them through the lens of the 365 days which have occurred since that seemingly fateful day; a virtual and verbal monument of sorts to memorialize what God did that week as well as all that He’s been doing since then. I hope you join me over the next few days of blogs posts…. A lot has happened, and the ride has been just incredible!

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UPDATED: Introducing the iPhone 5

[This article has been updated. Watch for entries in red for additional goodness!]

Image courtesy of BGR

Everybody’s favorite fruit-shaped company held their annual iDevice launch event today in San Francisco, California. Here’s a breakdown of what to expect from Apple’s newest iPhone.

 

The Outside

Screen and form factor

The newest flagship device from Apple will be 18% thinner and 20% lighter than the iPhone 4S. Its screen has been extended to be 4 inches in height but will maintain the same width, resulting in basically a taller iPhone. Not only will the device support an additional row of icons on the homescreen and sport more real estate for performing all usual functions of the device, but it will also now offer an experience much closer to full 19:6 widescreen aspect ratio for video playback.

Rather than continuing to layer two separate components on top of each other, the touch panel will now be embedded into the display. This allowed Apple to reduce the thickness of the smartphone, and will also reportedly result less glare in sunlight. The company also said the new screen would additionally offer 44% more color saturation for more vivid colors; a welcome upgrade to the Retina display given the more vibrant AMOLED and Super AMOLED displays available on more recently released smartphones from Apple’s competitors. 

The iPhone 5 will remain available in both black and white models. But they will now feature a “two-toned” unibody metallic finish on the back.

 

 

The Inside

Processing Power

Traditionally, Apple rarely gives specifics regarding the chipsets that actually run their products. When they announced the iPhone 4S last fall, they spoke of the new A5 processor responsible for making the device operate and compared its performance to the processor found in the iPhone 4 (twice as fast and up to 7 times more powerful with graphics). They made no mention of memory, which remained a mystery until third parties later tore the 4S down and found 512MB of RAM inside. With the iPhone 5, Apple adopted a similar approach. The new A6 processor should perform any tasks up to twice as fast as the A5, although  graphics will only receive an additional boost of up to 2 times the A5’s quality this time around. Rumors swirling prior to the announcement of the iPhone 5 purported it to have 1GB of RAM inside; speculations which will again remain an unknown until the public is able to get their hands on the device and look under the hood…

Connectivity

According to Apple, the iPhone 5 will have a modified antenna design similar to the one previously used in the iPhone 4S. It will still utilize the traditional 3G network technology used by all US-based carriers, as well as the 4G HSPA+ (21Mbps) network speeds available through AT&T and authorized resellers such as HTC. But the newest iPhone will also take advantage of the up & coming 4G LTE standard; network technology which offers download speeds much faster than those offered in the past. 

[Update: Despite other current-gen smartphones’ ability to process both voice and Internet traffic over LTE at once, the iPhone 5 will – by design – only allow the processing of voice calls over LTE.

This means that both the Verizon Wireless and Sprint 3G CDMA/LTE versions of the iPhone 5 will not support simultaneous voice calls and data transmissions over cellular services; a WiFi connection will be required to access the Internet while on a call. Meanwhile, the AT&T version of the iPhone 5 will support simultaneous voice and data traffic by processing the calls using LTE and then falling back on 4G HSPA+ to process the data.

Sources: BGR – http://bit.ly/PfR9UP  and  iMore – http://bit.ly/TPWuXk%5D

The WiFi antenna in the iPhone 5 has also received an upgrade according to Apple. The new, enhanced 802.11 a/b/g/n dual-channel WiFi antenna should now support the latest WiFi technology and theoretically support download speeds up to 150Mbps.

iPhoneography

captured using an iPhone 4S

Apple will look to improve upon the iPhone 5 by adding in additional features such as: dynamic low light mode (which will evaluate nearby pixels to give up to 2 f-stops greater low-light performance), a “sapphire crystal” lens cover (both durable and clear), an even better image processor in the aforementioned A6 chip (to reduce noise and improve color-matching), and 40% faster image captures. A new panoramic capture mode will also capture 28 megapixel images and will also smooth out image blur from camera shakes or object movement.

An upgrade to the lower quality, VGA front-facing camera was – at this point – a necessity given the emphasis Apple has put upon their FaceTime video calling functionality (not to mention the ease of use for self-portraits, and use by women who need to spot check their appearance at times when a mirror isn’t handy). The iPhone 5 will sport a new 1.2 megapixel front sensor featuring backside illumination, face detection, and the capability to record video in 720p HD.

Microphone Management

Apple has built three separate microphones into the front, bottom, and back of the iPhone 5. They will work together to provide better voice recognition and noise cancellation. Apple also briefly touched upon the microphone system’s ability to support “wideband audio” for more natural voice sound & quality; specific carrier partnership would be required for this additional benefit however (carriers refer to this feature as “HD Voice”.

[Update: According to a statement given by Sprint, they will not support HD Voice for use with the iPhone 5. There has not been any official word from AT&T or Verizon regarding whether they will expand HD Voice beyond their experimental Voice-over-LTE attempts in order to support the iPhone 5. Source: iMore – http://bit.ly/OiHaf9]

Battery Life

One area in which the iPhone 4S struggled in comparison with its predecessor was in relation to battery life… While both the iPhone 4 and the 4S offered only about 6 hours of talktime or browsing, the iPhone 4 had previously allowed for up to 300 hours of standby time. But with the introduction of the 4S, iPhone owners saw the available standby time plummet to 200 hours (at best). This forced more heavier users to begin carrying a charger with them just to provide their 4S some additional juice to make it through each day.

Even with the addition of the battery-sapping LTE tech within the iPhone 5, Apple seems to have improved this situation slightly. The newest iPhone should provide 8 hours of 3G/4G HSPA+/LTE talktime or browsing, 10 hours of use via WiFi, or 225 hours of standby time. While this isn’t a massive improvement – and doesn’t come close to returning the 300 hours of standby time found on the iPhone 4 – hopefully it will allow users more flexibility and peace of mind than is currently found with the 4S.

 

The Accessories

Charging Conundrum

The 30-pin dock connector has been used by Apple for charging all of their mobile device products for more than a decade. Additionally, Apple has made lots of money licensing out the use of that proprietary connection method to the manufacturers of all the accessories for those iPhones, iPods, and iPads over that time. But its time in the sun has apparently run out…

Apple announced that the aging peripheral will be replaced by a new, 80% smaller, all digital, 8-signal – and also proprietary – mini-dock connector which they have dubbed “Lightning”; a connection method which will also be used for Apple’s entire refresh of their iPod device lineup (and will likely become the new standard for the iPad as well). Previous cables or accessories may still be used with the aid of an adapter, which Apple will sell for between $29-$39. Otherwise, all new accessories would need to be purchased for use with Apple’s newest products.

[Update: Information available on Apple’s website has confirmed that new “Lightning” mini-dock connector does not support video output on its slimmer 9-pin configuration. Additionally, the new adapter that will be immediately available for purchase from Apple will not remedy this lack of output support.

Any Apple products using the new connection method will only offer video output by streaming to an AppleTV unit from Apple by using AirPlay until Apple rolls out a different adapter to provide video output capabilities; a notion to which Apple has committed themselves but only offered an ambiguous “in the coming months” with regards to a time frame. Source: iMore – http://bit.ly/RUcANS  and  http://bit.ly/RNVlz2]

Listen Up

After spending over 3 years working on their development,  Apple is releasing a new version of their iconic white “earbud” headphones. The manufacturer went to great lengths to scan hundreds of different ear sizes and shapes in order to design the most optimal earphones. The fruits of their efforts (pardon the pun) are the EarPod. These new shapely sonic slip-ins promise to give you the most comfortable fit possible while also improving audio quality.

[Update: A more complete description of the EarBuds – including their additional benefits to sound quality – has been posted online. Source: iDownloadBlog – http://bit.ly/QJuCBp

 

The Important Info

Pricing structure (2-yr contract pricing)

With the introduction of the iPhone 5, Apple will finally phase out the iPhone 3GS. The iPhone 4 will now become the reduced-cost offering on a 2-year service contract with your carrier of choice, and the iPhone 4S will slide into the $99 price point (but will retain its 16GB of storage!). The 16GB, 32GB, and 64GB iPhone 5 models will debut at $199/$299/$399 respectively.

[Update: A Verizon Wireless representative has confirmed that Big Red will allow customers still using grandfathered unlimited data plans to keep them when changing to the iPhone 5. However, the mobile carrier will require those subscribers to pay full retail price for the phone (16GB – $649, 32GB – $749, 64GB – $849).

Meanwhile AT&T – who has also transitioned away from unlimited data – will allow customers to retain their unlimited data but will allow them to pay the 2-year subsidized pricing.

Source: 9to5Mac – http://bit.ly/QTJABy]

new iPhone pricing structure

Availability

Apple and supporting cellular providers will begin taking pre-orders for the iPhone 5 on Friday, September 14th, 2012. The actual launch date for the device is set for the following Friday, September 21st, 2012.

Posted in Apple, AT&T, iOS 6, iPhone, Sprint, Uncategorized, Verizon | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Fusion

After a delay of more than 5 months – which seems much more like 1 month to an ADD person like myself – I’m back to round off my account of Katie’s medical event and my personal backstory. I apologize in advance for the delay, and for the length of this post; an entry which has been difficult to put into words either sufficiently or succinctly.

Jackie-chan-memeWhen I last left off the story of my life, I was a depressed and struggling young man who had just met my future wife. But you may be wondering what did any of that have to do with Katie’s sudden cardiac arrest? The simple answer is that the story of Katie’s resurrection has a much more amazing and relevant context, if you believe that’s even possible…

After meeting Katie, I began to recognize that my life was actually plagued by deeply rooted and fundamental issues. I was not happy with who I was. I lacked confidence in myself, my abilities, or my looks. I possessed no sense of self value or freedom. And although I had met an amazing friend and found my future wife, those same themes from my past continued to haunt me. I needed something more; something beyond just myself or my circumstances that could radically change me. I was simply unable to resolve these issues on my own, and nothing I tried ever impacted them.

As a depressed young adult who was in dire need of more, I began to ponder the concept of God. I had grown up hearing about God and knowing that my parents said they believed what was written in the Bible. But I had not been to church growing up, and I had no working knowledge of anything other than a concept of a being greater than realities of time or space. Even as my grandmother told me of her desire for one of her grandsons to become a pastor during one of my birthday dinner outings when I was younger, my immediate concerns were more relative to ice cream and gifts than pondering my inevitable adulthood.

Questions filled my mind… “What is He all about? Are these promises in the Bible true? Can He really change ME? Am I really worth enough that Jesus would have died for me?” I had no answers to these questions. But while people, things and experiences had left me feeling lost and adrift, it was clear to me that it was going to take something significant to give me hope and change me that deeply. So based upon my past experiences and failures, I decided to seek out answers, see if God was real, and just believed in faith that life could be different.

And while I cannot tell you all of the many times and ways in which that one decision has completely changed by life, I can say for certain that I am not who I used to be anymore… I have been changed forever because of that decision. For instance, centering my life on something other than myself has given me larger perspective. I have learned to view situations or interactions based upon more than just how they will affect or benefit me. I also do not struggle as much with resentment, and depression is a trapping of the past which not longer holds sway over me.

Additionally, I now understand that I don’t have to be great at everything I set out to do; perfection is an unattainable goal. There are instead specific things I am wired for and made to do, and I have peace and patience with myself when confronted with those things in which I am not so skilled. I also recognize that if I am such an imperfect person and can receive forgiveness for the stuff I do wrong, then I should most certainly extend that same grace to others.

I’ll be the first to admit that none of this took hold in an instant; this slow and steady progression has been working itself out within me for more than a decade, with the more monumental changes coming in the most recent years. The past 5 years or so have introduced personal issues, martial struggles, family drama, lost loved ones and health crises. And yet in those times in which I lack control to singlehandedly influence the outcome, I have hope and a certainty which transcends those moments and carries me through them.

While most of this wouldn’t seem terribly original or something beyond what could be found in today’s self-help society, what sets it apart are the times in which God has proven Himself to be real in the midst of those struggles. He has shown me that He is with me, and that is what has dramatically changed my life. For example…

Just as my personal story has explained, I have always struggled to accept myself. This is a problem which has plagued me for most of my life. Even as recently as the weeks prior to Katie’s health crisis, God was making progress to change me in this area… Katie’s father & stepmother have always been extremely generous, and they unexpectedly paid for us to attend a Big Daddy Weave concert with them in early May. I recall that for some reason it was confusing to me at the time. I couldn’t understand why they randomly invited us to go to the concert with them, or why they paid for our tickets. But as I stood there at the concert and listened to the songs and personal experiences from the artists, certain themes stood out to me: self-acceptance, redemptiona proper understanding of our own true value, and hope.

During the intermission, the band offered to take time to talk and pray with people who were grappling with such struggles. Then I finally realized why I was at the concert… God wanted to address my issues head-on. After remaining in my seat and fighting with myself for quite a while, I took them up on the offer even at the risk of what Katie or her family might think of me. At that time I told God I was ready to stop running from who He made me to be, and I asked Him to help me see myself as He did.

In the two weeks that followed, my wife was found dead and then made alive again. As my accounts of those events stated, I walked in at just the right moment to perform life-sustaining CPR on my wife. The crisis occurred with precise timing that ensured I would be instrumental to saving her life, and also contained enough outlandish medical impossibilities that God would have to receive credit for her instantaneous recovery. And although I didn’t realize it at the time, God was using this whole situation to reveal that His handprints were all over our entire lives…

When Katie & I married, we decided to pray over messages which we would inscribe into each other’s wedding rings. My inscription in her ring read, “I promise to”; a message I had planned to finish in various ways on other inscribed jewelry later in our marriage. I know… Clever, right? But little did I realize that Katie’s message would make my plan look like clumsily gift-wrapped Lego block… Katie had inscribed two simple words into my ring:

Katie's inscription inside my wedding ring

Katie’s inscription inside my wedding ring

Two words that were God-inspired and utterly prophetic. I literally WAS her heartbeat for about 4 minutes. As if that wasn’t crazy enough… You may recall from my blog post that after Katie was rushed to the hospital, I had a vision during the hours we sat in the ER waiting room; a mental image in my head of Katie sitting in a hospital bed while she laughed and ate a breakfast of eggs & toast. Yep, this was exactly what it looked like:

The Vision

It’s through moments such as these and many others like them – not guilt, shame, or doing more good things than bad things – that I have found that God has had a firm and unfailing grip which has pulled me through the circumstances I could not have controlled or possibly even made it through on my own. Guided and orchestrated by the One who made me and knows me, events continue to unfold in my life which bring me closer and closer to Him.

So as I sat here over Thanksgiving last weekend, I was reminded of all the things for which I am so very thankful. My wife is alive and completely 100% whole. I am alive, and I am special. I am a valuable person, an important part of the lives of those around me, and I am unique. I am fusion of the old and the new; the person who struggled with himself and the one who thrives even despite himself. I am changed in ways I would have been unable to accomplish on my own. And I am loved in a way that cannot be taken away by time, circumstance, or death.

Oh, and I’m thankful for another win over That Team Up North… That just never gets old!

AP Photo via LA Times

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Along For the Ride (part 2)

There are certain things in life that cause you to seriously stop everything and reevaluate your life; to reflect upon what’s most important to you and the moments that mattered the most. Part of the reason that I’m writing this blog is because of the intense pondering of those elemental things while we waited to see whether Katie would even awake from her medically-induced coma.

During the hours I spent in the ER waiting room on the night she was admitted to the hospital, I vividly recalled the events that culminated the first time I had met my wife.

Given the significant rejection that I had experienced in my past, it was easy for me to imagine that I’d be some middle-aged single man without a life. I even had moments in which I distinctly recall feeling like I knew in the back of my mind that the only way I would ever have a chance of meeting someone was through “personals” (i.e. dating ads).

After I had gone to college and had met Nicole a couple years later, I was beginning to feel like I had some measure of value. Attribute it to the insanity that guys get when a girl believes in them, if you will, but I began to feel as though I might actually matter.

One of the jobs that I held on campus at Ohio State was a computer lab monitor (yeah, I know… That really helped my cause a lot…). One day, those fleeting thoughts of “alternative ways to meet someone” from high school came to mind. In a random moment of craziness, I just looked up a dating website called Match.com and created a profile. I rolled the dice, told the honest truth about myself, and fully expected to be completely ignored…

Which did play out, for a while… But then I received a message from someone named Katie who engaged me in conversation by email. She was polite, sweet, and thoughtful. She was also quirky, funny, and a good speller. So the fact that this girl I had met online continued to interact with me and show interest in me was unfathomable. I couldn’t pinpoint why it was that some girl that was way out where they lived in wood houses (i.e. log cabins; just how ignorant I was about New England…) would even care about some random, lonely, gangly, big-eared loser that felt as though he basically had nothing to offer the world.

With each passing email or expensive phone call that was charged to my credit card’s calling card function (reflecting upon the debt which THAT created = “OOPS!”), I marveled at this concept. What was driving this long distance relationship? This girl seemed amazing. Was she just egging me on in order to get attention? Was she really some overweight 50-year old middle school janitor in Topeka, Kansas? Even though I was certain this scenario was going to crash and burn as she got to know me better, eventually I decided that I didn’t care… It felt great to interact with this girl, and I was gonna’ keep doing so. It was also at this time that Katie asked me for a picture of myself; I had mentioned in my last post that this was a situation with which Nicole was more than happy to assist me.

Within 30 days of our first interaction (in late March), the superior athletics department of the Ohio State University had begun to flex its muscles once again by sending both the Basketball and Hockey teams deep into the hunt for their respective national titles. I played bass drum for the sports band, and the band directors called me to ask if I could travel. Since the Basketball team was playing in the Final Four in Miami, Florida, I was excited until they asked me to go with the hockey team to frigid Massachusetts instead. I declined and asked them to find someone else…until I came to my senses the next morning and realized that Massachusetts was just below New Hampshire on a map.

Unfortunately the Hockey team lost the first night. When we arrived back at the hotel, we were just sitting in the hotel lobby waiting around for more instructions. I had contacted Katie prior to leaving Ohio to tell her about my trip and I had asked her if she wanted to meet. She said she would drive down, but then she never showed up at the game. Since the girl had never provided me with a picture of herself, I had no idea what she even looked like. So as more and more people came and went, I remained nervous all evening.

Then at one point this chick walked into the hotel. She was wearing jeans and a green windbreaker, and had long brown hair which reached partway down her back. Given that she was attractive, I had noticed her when she walked in the door. But I paid more attention as she wandered the lobby and then stood alone in the corner and observed all the band members. I remembered thinking to myself, “Man! It sure would be awesome if that was her!” I walked over to ask if she was Katie, and she confirmed that she was indeed the one I was there to meet! SCORE!!

That weekend was quite fun. Since the tournament was an elimination-style format, it had been cheaper for the University to fly us out for the entire weekend rather than pay for separate flights into and out of Boston. So after the team had lost, the band was to spend all weekend doing bus tours of Boston and all sorts of various activities. Rather than doing that, I decided to tag along with Katie for her weekend job. Of course, I had failed to even think about telling my band director about this little excursion… So I had some explaining to do when I finally showed back up at the hotel that evening.

I seemingly traveled all over the state of Massachusetts that Saturday. Katie had been working for a real estate appraiser at that time and spent some weekends driving around taking photos of houses adjacent to homes to be sold. So we went all over the place to take the pictures, including some that we took while being observed by the homeowners. Talk about aawkwaaaaaaaaaard… We worked out a scheme of pulling up in front of the house, with one of us jumping out as the photographer, and the other serving as the “wheelman” who would burn rubber after the pictures had been taken. Between that excitement and a stop for lunch at a Subway somewhere in the middle of nowhere, that day was one of the craziest and most memorable days I had experienced in my life.

After she had stayed in her own separate room at the hotel in Shrewsbury that night, Katie took off for home the next morning. Our band spent some time in Boston that Sunday, but then our flight back to Cleveland that night ended up being delayed. I called Katie so we could talk in an effort to pass the time and she decided to drive back down and spend time with us at Logan Airport for those couple of hours.

I hadn’t thought about the story of our first meeting and weekend of fun together in quite a long time… Revisiting those memories while at the hospital would have been much more enjoyable for me had I not been wondering if I were about to lose their subject. Thankfully it wouldn’t be long at all before our story – the one that started with an unorthodox way of meeting and was strengthened by a weekend of zany hi jinx – would be adding a brand new chapter…

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Along For the Ride (part 1)

Anthony Burgess once said, “It’s always good to remember where you come from and celebrate it. To remember where you come from is part of where you’re going.” He referred to how important it is to evaluate the person you are becoming within the context of your past.

Without knowing my personal back story, it would be impossible for anyone to understand the significant impact that the past few weeks after Katie’s cardiac arrest have had upon my life; the not-so-subtle moments in my own journey which are vital to understanding what has happened since she woke up.

While sitting in the hospital room with my unconscious wife, I had reflected on my journey to that moment. Back when I was growing up, I generally felt like an outsider. Not having been born with the best of looks or being very skilled at sports, I never attracted a following of friends. In fact, the position of “Brett’s best friend” was kind of a revolving door of sorts… One year it would be a neighbor down the street, the next a classmate, and the next someone else.

When I reached high school, I landed a consistent friend named Dan. He stuck by me when he had no other reason to do so; even when I was certain that he should have probably moved on to endeavors with more popular people. When we reached the end of high school, Dan went off to the Navy and I was alone again. It wasn’t his fault, but just the natural order of things. More friends would come along to varying degrees, but I continued to feel bitterly invisible and my existence devoid of meaning.

Image courtesy of walkerspace

Although I did genuinely have some fun in college – mostly playing bass drum at sporting events – I still felt like more of an observer of the world than included in it. I was commuting to Ohio State while still living with my parents, and as such it was quite difficult to get plugged into campus life. I was a massively introverted person, so making friends or being social was not the easiest thing to do for me. I had never garnered much attention from the ladies, so that subject was painful to me (somehow I had even managed to nullify the cool factor that accompanies being a drummer). Instead, I simply just missed out on almost all the normal experiences that going to college had to offer.

Even the one moment in which I had grown courageous enough to seize the moment ended up blowing up in my face… Upon to conclusion of a sporting event, I approached a couple of fellow drummers and asked if they had plans for that night and if they wanted to hang out for a while. After several minutes of standing around talking, the girl said she needed to run up to her dorm room for a minute. The guy looked at me after she left and said, “Listen pal… I’m trying to score with this chick tonight, and you’re killing it.” (yes… I really was that oblivious…)

I sort of bottomed out not too long afterwards. I became depressed. I felt listless and like a robot; which would have been cool had I actually BEEN a robot… But in this case, I wasn’t and it sucked. Given my mindset at the time, I quite honestly might have become another statistic of suicide had circumstances continued on that course for too much longer. Mercifully, however, God had other plans for me.

In a last ditch effort to change things, my parents had invited friends over for New Year’s Eve and my mother wanted me to spend the night entertaining their college-aged daughter Nicole. Given that I felt like the most rejected person on the planet, I had zero interest in spending an awkward evening with a complete stranger that would most certainly want nothing to do with me. But after a full day of hounding that one would only accept from their insistent and loving mother, I agreed to participate.

My evening spent rounding off 1998 with Nicole was surprisingly fun. She was gorgeous, a bit of a geek, and incredibly eccentric. But although that combination was usually a recipe for someone who wanted absolutely nothing to do with me, I was astonished by how accepting she was towards me. We found plenty of things to talk about, joked around a bunch, and Nicole even talked me into dancing – albeit poorly for my part – with her. It was a great time.

Looking back on it now, that night may just very well have saved my life. Nicole and I developed a fun, quirky, and platonic friendship after that which included activities like mini golfing and late night Japanese anime marathons at her parents’ house. It was wonderful to have someone in my life who didn’t judge me. She didn’t expect me to change or pretend to be someone else, and simply made me believe that I mattered.

A few months later, I happened to meet a girl online. This chick and I traded some emails and eventually a few phone calls, and we seemed to be hitting it off. But when she asked me for some pictures of myself, it was only natural that I would seek Nicole’s counsel on how to conduct myself. I had already began emotionally preparing for the end, but Nicole continued to support and encouragement me; efforts which were instrumental in bolstering my confidence level as I continued to pursue contact with this stranger that was 784 miles away.

“It was so crazy that it just HAD to work…..”

So after taking some pictures of me – which admittedly included some odd prop choices from my offbeat compatriot –  I sent them to the girl from New Hampshire.

If Nicole had desired to date me instead, maybe this blog post wouldn’t even exist… She and I were to be merely friends, though; a wonderful guardian that God brought into my life for a season in order to shepherd me to where I was meant to be. That place would be in a hospital room, listening to doctors and nurses tell me over and over again that my wife – that girl whom Nicole had urged me to pursue – was alive because of the CPR I had performed.

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Let Love Explode.

The plan for Tuesday night and Wednesday was straightforward… The doctors and nurses would spend all night gradually defrosting my wife to get her back to a normal 98°F. They would then slowly wean her off of the sedative which – by that point – would have kept her in a coma for over 36 hours. The doctors anticipated that it would be at least 12 hours before the sedative drugs would begin to leave Katie’s system, at which time they could begin to determine to what extent her system and brain had been damaged by the hypoxia (lack of oxygen during the event); an assessment that could take up to 1-2 days, if she woke up at all…

As people from all over the planet continued to pray and fast, Katie’s aunt Linda stayed the night to oversee her thawing process. Meanwhile, since I had been assured by all that no change to Katie’s condition would occur during my absence, I followed the recommendations of both family & hospital staff to leave the ICU to go home and try to get some sleep. I met Katie’s mother Peggy and our girls at my house; her mom had flown down from Massachusetts to be with us during this difficult time. Sleep did not come to me easily, but I was able to manage a few hours respite.

I awoke at prior to 6am the following morning. The nurses were to begin removing the sedative sometime between 8am-9am, so I should have had plenty of time to get cleaned up and take the kids to school. But when I called the ICU to check on her progress, however, I was advised that she was already aware enough perform small tasks upon command such as to open her eyes, squeeze someone’s hand, and wiggle her feet. The nurse said that she wasn’t doing these things on her own yet, but that their estimation was that she probably would soon.

I was stunned… No prognosis prior to this point had ever led me to believe that she would become aware or alert this quickly, especially given the significant likelihood of brain damage from the lack of oxygen she had suffered. In addition, she was still completely sedated! They hadn’t even begun to remove the Propofol yet; a drug that hadn’t had any trouble in keeping her out cold for a day and a half…

My first immediate thought was that I wouldn’t be there when she became aware enough to realize that she was in the hospital. I was angry with myself for leaving her side regardless of whether I benefitted from the paltry amount of sleep I had just received. With apologies for skipping my shower already prepared in my head, I awoke my girls and took them to their grandparents’ house on my way to the hospital.

When I arrived, Katie’s glorious brown eyes were slightly open on their own. I knelt by her bedside and moved in front of her face. I grasped her hand. And with one weak squeeze from her, I knew my wife was still alive… She knew I was there. She recognized me. And she responded to my presence.

The next hour was simply amazing and seemed to last for days… Even though she could see me, Katie was still intubated and couldn’t speak. So just as when she was asleep, I took advantage of the opportunity to simply talk to her. It was as if my wife & I were the only two people on the planet, and we reveled in our chance to be together.

But as she became less sedated and more aware, I had to repeatedly tell her to resist fighting the tubes in her throat and to simply listen to my voice.

Eventually, the nurses received permission from the doctor on duty to start CPAP; hospital lingo for removing the ventilator’s assistance so that they could gauge how well Katie could breathe on her own. We were told that if she could maintain the desired levels for 60 minutes, they would remove the tubes. Being powerless to do anything but watch while my honey laid in the bed – wavering between intentionally breathing as instructed and instinctively chewing on the tubes – was immensely difficult for me.

“I grasped her hand. And with one weak squeeze from her, I knew my wife was still alive…”

But in much the same medically inexplicable way that she had awoken while she was still sedated, it only took about 10 minutes before the nurses and doctors felt extremely confident that Katie could breathe on her own. When they came in to remove the tubes, they seemed unable to believe what they had seen.

But at this point, I knew with absolute certainty what was transpiring right before our eyes. We were witnessing a miraculous healing similar in nature to those performed by Jesus in the New Testament; acts of love and mercy consistent with God’s character, of which I had reminded myself in the ER waiting room on the night of Katie’s cardiac arrest (Matthew 9:18-33, 20:29-34, Mark 2:1-12, 3:1-6). God’s power was so mightily and forcefully behind Katie’s recovery that – even though her brain had gone for much longer without oxygen than should be possible without serious damage to vital organs – sedatives couldn’t keep her asleep and breathing machines were almost immediately unnecessary.

As I waited for the hospital staff to finish extubating her, I was recalled hearing the new Newsboys song ‘God’s Not Dead (Like A Lion)’ on the way to the hospital. The first line of the song struck me at that moment:

Let love explode
And bring the dead to life
A love song born
To bring a revolution, somehow
 

By artcrusade-d347k2v

And that’s what happened… People poured out their love for my wife at the foot of the throne of the Almighty God – the creator and ruler of all of the universe – and it spread into thousands upon thousands of people doing likewise. And in a manner in which only He could be credited with the glory for the result, God caused those prayers of love to explode and bring the dead to life. Much like He did with His own Son, a love song born into this world as a man to bring about a revolution which would save us all through Jesus’ death and resurrection.

As I stated when I began my account, there are some moments that make you and define you. This part of my story is that lynchpin for me; the not-so-subtle moment that has radically impacted me and will undoubtedly cause a ripple effect throughout eternity…

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