Monday, February 01, 2016

The Night the NYPD Broke Up My Bachelor Party

Last night, I visited the Russian & Turkish Baths on E. 10th St. in NYC with my bud, Adam Schorr.

It was the first time I had been there in 15 years, so I had cause to reminisce with him about my
previous visit..the night of my bachelor party.

My brothers were excited about the idea of a Bachelor Party, but we knew we wanted to do something different.

So, around 3 in the afternoon (it was a Tuesday, I think), we invited anyone who could to join us for 2 hours or so for a "shvitz," a visit to the saunas (there are many of them).

I'm a big fan of saunas and we ended up with maybe 7 or 8 people who joined us for that part.  From there, we walked all the way up to West 72nd and Broadway where another 10 people or so joined us for sushi.

Finally, the party ended up on 112th St. in the apartment into which the NFO and I would be living.

Now this apartment was one that lifelong New Yorkers would tell you is one of the most impressive apartments they had ever seen.

There was a staircase from within the apartment up to a private section of the roof. I would work up there, hang out, read. Heck, we built a Sukkah up there.

Thanks to Google Earth, you can see it yourself.

Anyway, by this point, there were 20 or so guys and it was 11pm or so.  My pal, Rabbi Shu Eliovson, somehow materialized with his bongo drum and everyone is hanging out on the roof, chatting, having a few beers (nothing crazy, I promise you! I'm not joking) and having a good time.

That is until two of New York's Finest show up from one of the other doors on the roof and tell us that, since it's past midnight, we probably need to stop the party.

Fortunately, there was no resisting arrest and there were no arrests. The party dispersed amicably and those who needed to, slept in an apartment that, as I recall, didn't have properly working heat...but that's another story.

Anyway...if you have interest in going to the saunas with me, let me know. We'll keep the cops out of it, I promise. ;-)


Thursday, January 21, 2016

Theory: Why Washington DC Comes to a Halt in the Snow

With a major storm approaching, I was thinking about the allegation by many people from Northern states that "DC comes to a grinding halt when there is only 1 inch of snow."

While it's not quite that bad, things definitely don't move as smoothly here as they do, say, in Minneapolis, Albany, or Buffalo during the Winter.

I have a theory why.

Blame the Foreigners.

Ok, that's a bit hyperbolic, but it's a combination of demographics and network theory.

Think about cities like Minneapolis, Buffalo, or Albany...what percentage of the population living there this year ALSO lived there last year?

I don't know, but it's probably pretty high.

Now, compare that percentage to a city like DC which has:

  • elected official turnover every 2 years, bringing in many new staffers
  • a large military presence (Pentagon, etc.) where transfers go in/out
  • a large international presence (World Bank, diplomats, etc.)
Now, factor in the high probability that many of these people come from places where they have little to NO snow at all. 

So, when people from Africa or most of Asia, or parts of Latin America or, even San Diego, come to DC and must drive in the snow, what do they do?

They naturally go VERY, VERY slowly. Extra cautious...which makes sense.

Now for the network theory portion of it.

Have you ever been on a highway and one person brakes sharply or turns to look at an accident?

It creates a domino effect that can backup/slow down traffic for miles.

Now, imagine you have all of these people from non-snow intensive areas on main roads. And they are going extra slowly because it's either new or somewhat new to them.

The ripple effect can be massive...

And that's one possible reason why DC during a snowstorm is particularly bad.

Now, 24 inch storms like the one we're supposed to get this weekend are a different thing entirely...

Stay warm!

Friday, January 08, 2016

Does College Prepare Students for the World Today?

Continuing with my efforts to call into question the structure of Higher Education as it stands today (not the need for it), I offer this post.

It argues that college doesn't prepare students for the job market.

For background: When will American higher education system fall apart?


Thursday, January 07, 2016

Chincoteague, Horses, the Ocean, and Harriet Tubman-- Winter 2015 Vacation

For our Winter vacation, we just took a short jaunt down to Chincoteague Island, most famous for its wild horses (they are really on Assateague) which were, supposedly, the survivors of a shipwrecked Spanish galleon.
We didn't see the wild horses, but we did get the Epsteins on horseback in a throwback to our heritage (my dad was born in Texas).
We also had a chance to experience the beach at a special time...when it's windy and a bit cold.  To me, the power of the ocean is always wonderful and the solitude of the wintertime affords time for great reflection and contemplation, perfect for this time of year.

We took advantage of the pool at the wonderful Hampton Inn (4 times!) and during our jaunt through the Eastern Shore of Maryland, we stopped at the Harriet Tubman Organization's HQ in Cambridge, MD--located miles from the plantation where she lived.

There was a great film for the kids and the exhibit about her life and the Underground Railroad-particularly for the small space-was very well done, reminding us and the kids of the horrors of the experience of African enslavement in the United States.

BTW...that's not the NFO in any picture, it is just someone who resembles her closely ;-)



Monday, January 04, 2016

Reinventing Education...My MOOC Experience

One of my New Year's Resolutions is to become a better team leader at work.

OK, so I got a head start by beginning a few months ago, but what can I say? I'm aggressive that way ;-)

So, I signed up for a course via Coursera (for free) taught by 2 University of Michigan,  Ross School of Business professors called "Leading Teams."

The course itself is very interesting and informative. The lectures are delivered in bite-size chunks and they creatively integrate the coach of the Men's basketball team. There are quizzes, video, external articles, and the discussion forum.

Much like a traditional classroom setting, the discussions are what you make of them. Participate and you get something out of it.

I'm about 50% of the way through the class, but the MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) experience so far has been very valuable for me, with a ton of useful information.

But what it really has done for me is further convince me of the possibilities of how education will be reinvented (here's my most recent rant).

  1. I have access to some of the best business minds in the world...from my basement.
  2. I'm connected with a self-selecting group of learners who enrich it...from my phone.
  3. I'm learning.
Yes, you still need the face to face and opportunity to get exposed to other/new ideas...but I just have to believe there are going to be more cost-effective ways to do that than the traditional model.





Thursday, December 31, 2015

Experiencing Wonder

The other day, at the suggestion of my sister and mom, I took the kids (with my dad) to the Wonder exhibit at the newly refurbished Renwick Gallery.

It is comprised of approximately 9, full-room installations where a number of different artists take common materials (paper, insects, tires, thread and more) to create awe-inspiring and thought-provoking experiences.

They were immersive and engaging which was great for both kids and adults, but more importantly, I think the exhibit did a wonderful job of overpowering young senses in order to drive home the meaning and power of art to expand one's mind and appreciation of the world around us.

If you have a chance, I highly recommend it.














Sunday, December 27, 2015

When will American Higher Education system finally fall apart?

The other night I saw "the Big Short," based on Michael Lewis' book.

I enjoyed it a lot, so I probably am a bit delusional in seeing myself in the "heroes" of that story.

Granted, I don't have as much of the data points, but there are so many trends converging on the topic of:

the disruption and ultimate disintegration of the American system of higher education.

Unlike the folks in the "Big Short," the timing isn't as clear (for them, it was Q2, 2007).

Here are some of the things I have observed...


  1. Changing Economy Requires Different Skills...Colleges Don't Give Us Them
    the economy continues to evolve towards an even greater need for entrepreneurial and creative skills (see: is college worth it?) and I'm not sure our colleges truly prepare us for that.
  2. The Value of a Liberal Education Exists, but Not at the Current Pricepoint
    the economics of most colleges, in terms of debt accumulated, and average incomes don't work out...and some colleges are already hurting because of it.
  3. You Don't Need A Physical Place to Disseminate Knowledge
    new technologies (e.g. Khan Academy, CodeAcademy) make it easier and cheaper than ever to get the best knowledge to more people...here's a fantastic 6 minute video on the Future of Higher Education by a top VC
I used to think that this challenge really sat at so-called 2nd-tier schools and below and that the top-tier/Ivy League were immune.

Now, because of these two scathing indictments, I'm not even sure about that. His arguments resonate with me.


The Ivy League, Mental Illness, and the Meaning of Life

and

It's going to happen...I just don't know when. Probably, the sooner, the better.


Previous posts on this topic

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Bat Mitzvah Reflections from the Proud Papa

I had no idea what to expect going into last weekend's Bat Mitzvah of Tonka/Tikkanen
(that's my eldest daughter's nickname).

For most of the time leading up to it, the NFO (that's my wife's nickname) was busy doing almost all of the preparation work. As things got closer, I certainly tried to chip in and do my share, but I didn't have much time to think about what the emotional experience would be like.

And I really couldn't have anticipated it.

As I blogged recently, I believe in the "moments, not milestones" concept, but the idea of a Bat Mitzvah as milestone serves as a forcing function to reflect. It's like a plateau on a hike.  A moment to see how far you've come, appreciate it, and think about the next step.

What I saw in front of me was really a young girl who is in the process of becoming a young woman.  It was a "sunrise/sunset" moment as I thought back to the day of her birth and how I as so emotionally charged that I, as the NFO would say, "cried nonstop for 24 hours."

Then, I thought about the next milestone (at least in the lifecycle sense)...her wedding.  That got me choked up as well.

But back to the here and now.

Standing in front of me, our friends, our family, our community, I saw a young woman who was able to overcome her immense fears of public speaking, lead services, read from the family's 200+ year old Torah that survived the Holocaust (story here and here).

In fact, I told her that part of becoming an adult is the ability to recognize your fears and conquer them, to do things that you may not want to do, but do them because you have to do them.

I saw a young woman who worked so diligently over the past year to learn Torah, Mishnah, prayer services.

She gave 4 speeches on multiple themes


She also prepared a video montage of her life by herself and built a powerpoint to accompany one of the speeches (on the topic of anger).

She handled the stress with poise, elegance, and grace and I could not be more proud of her.

I also took a moment to think about the task of raising children.  To say that the NFO and I think alike would be like saying that Ted Cruz and Bernie Sanders think alike.

Ok, maybe that's a slight exaggeration, but in our daughter, we were able to see the outgrowth of our co-parenting efforts, to see how each of us bring our unique viewpoints to a developing person and how she takes the best from each of us and has the wisdom to discard the unnecessary flotsam and jetsam.  It was pretty cool, like we were collaborating (and more and more with Tonka herself) on creating a beautiful human being.

I stood in awe of the NFO as I never appreciated her as much as I did this past weekend.  Not only how she paid attention to every single tactical, logistical weekend and did everything she could to make our guests/community feel welcome and inspired, but even more than that.

When I saw Tonka deliver at such a high level, I recognized just how much of that was there because of what the NFO taught her and how the NFO just is, her very essence.

I was definitely the proud papa. It helped center me on my family, my children, and ultimately, I suppose in some way, my legacy of how I contributed to making the world a better place.  Tonka made me feel great and I am so thankful to all of the people who helped us and her (no matter how big the contribution) in becoming the person she is today.


Additional
If you'd like to see the pictures of the event (that I took), you can click here.

For some of the videos, see below.

And my dad gave a brilliant speech (in the form of a play), which you can read here...consistent with Tonka's love of Pandas.

And here are my mom's blessings.


Video Montage




Presentation on Anger (to go with speech on Anger)






Friday, December 04, 2015

Teaching Kids to Program/Code

One of the things that is important to me for my children to learn is how to program a computer.

I've been very influenced by Douglas Rushkoff's thinking in "Program or Be Programmed."

My oldest daughter, aka Tonka, has been using Scratch from MIT to learn the basics.

And while we won't say who...today is someone in our family's birthday, so Tonka programmed this card for that person.

If, for some reason, you can't see it, you can click on this link. Otherwise, click the green flag below.



Tuesday, December 01, 2015

Moments, not Milestones...Fatherhood and Stomach Viruses


One of my friends, Ted Rubin, likes to say that fatherhood is about "moments, not milestones."

We put a huge emphasis on graduations and birthdays and the like, but the real moments, when you earn your fatherhood merit badges are in the unexpected moments.

Last night, for example, males in the Epstein household were both simultaneously afflicted with a pretty nasty stomach virus.
 
Now, no one enjoys throwing up and no one enjoys cleaning it up, but at 3:30am when your son is hurting and you're the one he needs for support...and you're there to give it to him, that makes you feel great.

Yes, I know...it's crazy, but even at that point, you don't mind cleaning up vomit, because these are the times where your child knows you are there for him/her, when you know you are there to be supportive, and where you have absolute clarity about what's really important in life.

He'll remember the fact that you kept him company at 4am. 


What's your vacation strategy?

As we have more connected devices in more places, it seems that there are 2 types of vacation strategies emerging.

The Integrated 
Put on your out of office message, don't sign up for meetings, etc., but be available by phone if necessary (assuming people respect that), and do "email triage" so you are staying on top of things, but you're not spending your vacation tied to your phone.

The Check Out
Don't check email, don't take calls...nothing.  Of course, as I was saying to someone yesterday, "if you check out, be prepared to dig out."

I tend to do the "Integrated," you?

Southwest Airlines LUVs football fans...

I have to give a shout-out to Southwest Airlines.

On a flight back from Dallas a few weeks ago, I saw that they offered free in-flight TV, so I selected to watch a football game (Kansas City vs. Denver).

Then, seeing that Macs now have the "snap" feature to have 2 apps running side by side, I opened up a second browser window and watched a 2nd game (NYG vs. New England).

Let's just say that my seatmate was loving me for that one...and I was "LUVing" SWA.

Sorry--screenshot was taken during commercial obviously, but notice SWA logo in back. ;-)


Sunday, November 29, 2015

Things your kids say...

Sometimes you just have to capture them...

Nadia (age 7.5) has been stricken with a stomach bug the last 24 hours or so.

One of the things that is unique about her when she is sick is how relaxed she is. There are occasions, when she isn't sick, that she can be excessively demanding. However, when sick, she is very concerned with how much work she is making us to (cleaning up, etc.)  It's kind of unusual (at least compared to the other kids).

She's also very calm and reflective.

Tonight, while talking with her, she said the following:

When I noticed that her two front teeth were loose and asked if I could pull them out, she said:
"No offense, but I will ask Dod (Uncle) Akiva."
"Why?" I said. "I'm gentle and sensitive."
"Actually, you're the total opposite. You're, what's the word? You're too aggressive."


She was upset that she didn't have her favorite blanket to sleep with (it was being washed). I asked her about her Tinkerbell/Disney one.

"I don't like Tinkerbell or fairies anymore. I want something that isn't too girlish or too boyish. Maybe with peace signs or something."
"How about a Sprinklr blanket?" I asked.
"No. I'm Sprinklr supportive, but not that Sprinklr supportive."


Monday, November 23, 2015

Not getting medically screened is just selfish

I was talking to my friend, Tamir, the other day and the subject turned to preventative medical tests and screening.

We're both in our early 40s, but have both had some medical conditions that required a pretty significant amount of attention, time, and care.

He complimented me for sharing the fact that I recently had a colonoscopy as he felt it would raise awareness and maybe motivate others to do so.

 (I tried to earn bonus points by sharing that I had my PSA tested that week..I'm good on both until age 50.)

As we discussed it, we shared that we both knew people who were afraid of these relatively simple procedures and, as a result, didn't do them.

We believed most people were not taking these tests because they preferred to live in denial, ignorance, and continue the myth of invincibility.

However, what we also realized is that those who choose to not take the tests that could result in very simple preventative procedures actually are really selfish.

By not taking the test, they are, in effect, saying

"I'd rather not know about a potential condition now because it makes me feel vulnerable, so instead, I am going to wait and hope nothing happens, but if it does, I'd prefer to seriously inconvenience my family, make my loved ones worry about me, and put unnecessary financial hardship on those about whom I care."

In fact, Tamir knew someone who put off a test and then, later, was diagnosed with stage 3 colon cancer...a much more challenging situation than a 5 minute laser procedure to remove a polyp.

I know it's not really PC to make judgments, but sorry, I'm making a judgment.  If you do this, you're a selfish idiot.



Thursday, November 19, 2015

On Syrian Refugees, radical Islam, and quantifying life/death tradeoffs

I'll probably start a flame war for this and get labeled all kinds of things, but sometimes I just have to air my opinions...not that I expect anyone to listen.

Syrian Refugees
On the "should the US take Syrian refugees?" question....

It's great that some people like to say that the Governors are anti-immigrant or that some people are isolationist and cold-hearted.

And I wouldn't be surprised if that were in some cases.

However, I would dare suggest that it's not true in all cases.

Yes, we are a country of immigrants. My grandparents were immigrants. We thrive on immigrants. We need more immigrants.

But to suggest that we should take Syrian refugees without some sort of rigorous checking/profiling is lunacy, especially what just took place in Paris.

The brutal reality is that there is a legitimate risk that amongst this particular group of refugees/immigrants to the US, there are some who have, as their sole purpose, the destruction of the US.

Has this ever happened before? Maybe. If so, remind me please.

Germans, Italians, Jews, Vietnamese boat people, Chinese migrant laborers who built the railroads, etc....all were looking for economic/political opportunity.

Not looking to do intentional harm on a national scale.

Of course...I'm not saying 100% of Syrian refugees are hell bent on the destruction of the US.  Far from it.

However, given the, shall we say, relative high propensity of anti-Western terrorist attacks that are conducted by radical Islamists hailing from the Middle East, it's nothing short of suicidal to pretend otherwise.

(And this guy in the Washington Post who has the temerity to try and draw lines between Jews trying to escape Nazi Germany and Syrians trying to escape is just a moron. (Ishaan Tharoor)

We'll leave aside the issue that there are, what, 23, 30, 50 (I have no idea how many) Arab/Muslim countries today.)

Quantifying Life/Death Trade-Offs
If the US lets in 10,000 refugees without special security efforts and .01% of them (that would be 10 ppl) committed an atrocity on the level of Paris' attacks or 9/11, would that be a worthwhile trade-off?

If you do the math, you let 9,990 legitimate Syrian refugees have a better life in the US, but those 10 people kill 1,000 or say, 500, or even 200 citizens as a result, is that a worthwhile trade?

If it is, then everyone who says "let the refugees in without screening" might as well as admit they are comfortable with that equation.

It's actuarial.

NAMING THE PROBLEM
And while we are admitting it...in my opinion, one of the things you have to do before you solve a problem is name it.  And name it accurately.

The problem isn't terrorism. That's the symptom. The problem is radical Islam/jihadist ideology.

No one (well, not I at least) is saying "every Muslim is a terrorist."  But we are saying..."um, there seems to be an evolving pattern of radical Islamist groups who say they are going to attack the West and then do, killing innocent people."

We can't begin to win until we change from "War on Terror."


Ok, rant over. Flame away.


Thursday, November 12, 2015

Going to Germany is easier when you're 22...

"...than when you are 42."

That's what my college advisor told me when I was a senior trying to decide between taking a scholarship to study in Germany for a year and pursuing work on Wall St. (yes, I know).

And he was right.

I had the opportunity to live in Germany for a year, learn the language, visit pretty much every country in Europe, and now that I'm 42, I realize fully what he meant.

And, ironically enough, I also visited Germany at the age of 42.

It's been exactly 20 years since my German adventure began, when I first saw my favorite painting, Caspar David Friedrich's Wanderer ueber dem Nebelmeer , and visited Hamburg to see my cousin, Elizabeth.
This week, I was back and went to the Hamburger Kunsthalle with Elisabeth and saw the Friedrich painting. (We also were extremely lucky to see a full on exhibit by another northern German painter, Emil Nolde whose works are just marvelous.)

And, also this week, one of the original theses I had about why I should learn German in the first place proved to be accurate.

I believed that, as one of the world's largest economies, it would be a valuable skill to have...speaking German and understanding the culture.  That's why it was a particularly proud moment when I was able to give a 20 minute business presentation on behalf of Sprinklr to approximately 20 people...and they seemed to understand it.

Did I get every word? Of course not, but my game plan of speaking adequate German, telling stories, and just being a non-German who was making a good faith effort would carry the day seems to have worked.

And all of this was because Professor Kessler did what an advisor is supposed to do. He advised me based on his life experience.  At the age of 42, it would be much, much more difficult to live in Germany for a year, travel, and get relative mastery of the language.

At the age of 22, it changed the course of my life.
Maybe that's why the Friedrich painting resonates so much with me.


Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Commemorating Kristallnacht in Germany, 2015

At some point over last weekend, I realized that I would be in Germany on Nov. 9th and 10th, which is the anniversary of Kristallnacht, the Nazis mass coordinated attack on Jewish institutions and businesses in 1938.

A quick search yielded a program at a synagogue in Hamburg to commemorate it and I decided to attend, figuring that it would be particularly meaningful to do so.

And it was.

The event was opened with a powerful rendition of "Eli, Eli" (My God, My God), followed by the Mourner's Kaddish.

Then, the bulk of the event was 5 people reading short entries from the autobiographies of Holocaust survivors.

Unfortunately, there wasn't a microphone (there were about 100 people in the room) and 3 of the 5 readers were barely audible. Add that to the fact that the subway goes right by the window every few minutes and it's challenging, particularly because I had to work extra hard since it was all in German.

I debated leaving, but figured I'd use the time to meditate on the event and how the world has (and hasn't) changed since.

Fortunately, the last reader was fantastic. Projected beautifully and I was particularly pleased because although I didn't get every word, I really followed the bulk of the story.

There was a wonderful flutist as well who played a Handl solo that was evocative of the fear and loneliness that people must have felt on this night 77 years ago.

Then, she joined with the singer to have an uplifting piece by Bach that I think was pointing to hope and survival.

I have to say, I'm glad I went.


Monday, November 09, 2015

One of those travel days that just had to be recorded...at least for me

Sometimes you have travel experiences that you have to document, if only for posterity’s sake.

Recognizing that these are really first-world problems, of course, here’s what happened to me yesterday.

The plan was to fly at 6.05 pm on Lufthansa via Frankfurt to Hamburg.

On Tuesday-and yes, I am very excited for this because it validates the thesis about why I chose to study German in college—I will be giving the Sprinklr presentation to a group of CMOs at an event hosted by Mercedes…in German.

So, while it was slated to be a short trip (2 days), I expected it to be of high value for me, but more importantly for our customers and prospects.

Not putting too much emphasis on me as a person, but rather the symbolism of having an American exec come over to an event in Germany and speak in German will, we believe, indicate that though we are an American company, we have a global outlook.

Given that it was a trip of such short duration, however, and that it precedes a few other trips as well, I figured I would utilize one of the highly coveted Global Premier Upgrades to get me from Economy Plus into Business Class.

Now, these don’t always work and sometimes you are waitlisted, but as of Saturday night, my seat was confirm…the lay flat seat would give me a fighting chance at getting some rest.

All seemed to be…as they say in German…in Ordnung…as I packed and spent time with my kids on Sunday afternoon.  I put my phone down and just focused on them.

At 3.30, just as I was prepared to leave for the airport (as you might expect, I am a big believer in giving myself a huge cushion of  time), I picked up my phone to see a number of emails, texts, and missed calls from my awesome admin, Mary.

The news?

Apparently, Lufthansa had gone on strike and nearly 1,000 flights around the world had been cancelled.  Mine was one of them.

Staying calm, I called the United Premier line to get some answers.

The confirmed that the flight had been cancelled and it seemed like I had automatically been re-booked on KLM via Amsterdam.

The question was: How?

So, it seems that initially I bought my ticket through United and they “owned” the ticket.  However, when I applied my coupon for a business class upgrade, it became “owned” (whatever that means) by Lufthansa…who had then transferred it to KLM.

Her advice: Check in at Lufthansa counter (which I was sure would be a madhouse) and then go to KLM.

Well, if there’s one reason why I leave super early for airports it is because I hate running through airports. And now, I would be in the position where I would have to run through an airport. Oh boy.

And then, the kicker, the plane was at 6pm…it was now nearly 3.50. Way too close for my personal comfort.

So I jumped in the car and off I went.

Midway, my admin called to tell me to go straight to KLM’s desk…which I did.  And, when I arrived, I received what I had expected would happen.

In the span of minutes, I had been demoted from a guy in Business Class with a special meal, who has TSA pre-check, lounge access, and priority boarding….to a guy with absolutely none of those…and a seat in basic economy in the middle.

It’s humbling to remember what life was like before all the privileges amassed ;-)

Still, it does seem that the automatic rebooking was a function of my 1k status, so I can’t complain all too much.

While my seatmates were nice and I watched Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation in German (no subtitles) to get my mind back in the game, sleep didn’t come too much. I think I got 2 hours…and I used all varieties of sleep aids.

Anyway, got to Amsterdam and managed to finagle my way into Star Alliance lounge using the “hey, Lufthansa went on strike” excuse.

A short trip to Hamburg, got my SIM card in the airport and now on the subway into town.  It’s a beautiful day and I’ve got a variety of activities (both personal and professional) I am going to try and make happen.

Still, had to document this one for the ages.
International travel isn’t always glamorous.  In fact, the best advice I’ve ever heard about it comes from my sister, Kira, who says “if you can’t take the disruptions, don’t get on the plane.”


Thursday, October 15, 2015

Reverse Weddings: Should We All Pay for Performance?

Disclaimer:
This is a thought exercise. It is not meant to offend.

If you get offended by things that challenge convention, may make you feel uncomfortable, or may make you feel criticized for past or present decisions, stop reading now.

It’s just an intellectual exercise. If you don’t like that, please move on.

Initial Assumption: Marriage is a good thing and that marriage to the same person is preferable to multiple marriages for both the individual and for society.

Background
I was talking to someone the other day (I really wish I could remember who) and s/he said, “you know, we shouldn’t have big weddings right when people decide they want to get married, we should do it after 10 years…that way, we know it is working.”

I started to mull about that and shared it with my pal, Brian. 

We both hypothesized that the current wedding model may be outdated, flawed, and overdue for a change.

Some things to consider:

1.     Most people agree that the wedding experience is fun and great.
However, in hindsight, many people when asked the question of “would you rather have a big wedding or get the same amount of money to jump start your lives together?” many would opt for the money.

2.     Divorce used to not be socially acceptable. Now, it is.
There is a decent percentage (say 50%) of weddings where everyone is paying to celebrate something that won’t last. Almost everyone attending the wedding wants it to work, so attending/buying a gift/paying for a wedding is an investment in that couple’s future.  However, very few people would consistently make an investment where 50% of the time, they lose their initial investment.

3.     Marriage is really, really difficult.  Taking the same amount of money that parents/friends/family would invest in a wedding and putting it in escrow provides an additional financial incentive to stay married. Obviously, some marriages will end, no matter what, but a feeling of “we’re in this together to get the prize” may save some. Heck, the conservatives will love this one.

4.     Deferring the party allows couples to focus on the right things at the beginning.
Planning a wedding is stressful. Planning a life together is even bigger. However, by making the commitment to spend the rest of your lives together and then immediately jumping into planning what is essentially one big party, couples may be distracted from the more important task of figuring out what their true long range goals are and how to get there.

Perhaps the pre-marriage time could be better spent on getting the right habits in place to set up more couples for success more quickly?


So, what can be done?
Like  a “reverse mortgage” that pays out over years, we said, “what if you had a reverse wedding?”

All your friends and family could buy you a gift (cash or some item) but it is held in escrow.

Then, as you hit milestones (say 1 year, 3 year, etc.), a portion of the Wedding Fund is paid out…maybe it’s amortized over 30 years. And the couple has the option to just take the cash or, if they want, have a wedding at year 10 (or some actuarial tipping point that says “couples that stay married for more than x years are 80% more likely to stay married.”

Simultaneously, I recognize that the wedding and divorce industries would likely resist this move as they have the most to lose.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Cryptonomicon-- Book Recommendation

A few years ago, my friend Joe said, "Jer, you've got to read this book Cryptonomicon."

He gave it to me. It was over 1000 pages long and, try as I might, after about 50 pages, I said to myself, "this isn't for me."

Then, it sat on my shelf...for 3-4 years.

Recently, I was doing a bit of cleaning and I figured I should return the book to Joe and I left it on his doorstep.  That weekend, I saw him and he chided me, essentially saying, "you don't know what you are missing."

I accepted that and moved on.

Then, in a twist of fate, about 20 minutes later, I was engaged in a conversation about technology, Bitcoin, and more, and another friend, Michael said, "you know, you really need to read a book called Cryptonomicon."

I almost hit the floor.

I found Joe, told him the story, and that night, the book was on my doorstep.

I gave it another shot...and I COULD NOT PUT IT DOWN.

I kicked myself for not appreciating it before (maybe a "when the student is ready, the teacher appears" moment?).

The author's overall depth and breadth of knowledge is simply astounding.

The story has multiple stories within it covering World War II, the advent of the Internet era, a history of cryptology and a whole lot more.  His understanding of the human condition (well, at least how men think) is not only deep, but articulated in a way that I had never experienced before.

If you like technology, history, thrillers, or just good stories...this book is a fantastic combination of all of them.

Joe--sorry I didn't appreciate your wisdom.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

End of the College Bubble?

Been thinking about and writing about this for a while, so interesting to see that a few colleges are heavily slashing costs.

Beginning of a trend?

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Join me in Estonia in Summer 2016? A trip to the Digital Future

Would you like to take a trip into the future with me next summer?

I'm going to go (with a few friends) to visit Estonia because it is the world's most digitally advanced country.

After becoming an e-Citizen, I've naturally had the chance to talk with others about it.

We've hatched a plan.

Spend a few days there next Summer experiencing it together.

What We Will Do
We're going to set up meetings with leaders in various fields (business, technology, healthcare, infrastructure, government, etc.) to understand how they are operating in the e-future.

Background
Apparently, something like 94% of Estonians pay taxes online (that was 2012) and think about this:

Imagine if your newborn was automatically issued a digital birth certificate and his health insurance started before he even arrives home. Imagine if you could present a registration of residence electronically from your living room. If you could register a new business and a few minutes later you are ready to start trading. If all the data from your healthcare providers were carried in one e-health record. Imagine completing your tax return in five clicks and getting your overpayments digitally transferred into your bank account within 48 hours. In Estonia, these are not cyber dreams; they are reality. source

So, in order to understand the future, I want to experience it.

No commitment necessary right now, of course, but would you be interested in coming with us?

Basic idea:
  • Spend 3-4 days in Estonia
  • Meet with as many people in as many different fields as possible to understand the impact
  • Optional: use your e-citizenship to experience it firsthand 
  • Meet others who are crazy enough to do this.

Ok, who's in?
Sign up here

Tuesday, September 08, 2015

Europe's Migrant Crisis: How Else Could It End?

This whole migrant crisis is certainly fascinating on many levels.

I can't help but think that it ends with the crumbling of Europe as we know it.

One scenario:

  1. Germany, Austria, etc. accepts this first wave of 120k ppl (or whatever the number is).
  2. Despite warnings from places like Denmark to not come,  the success of the first wave of migrants sends the message that "ppl get asylum."
  3. This leads to even greater numbers in subsequent waves as the "income inequality" gap between EU and failed African/Arab states is so obvious.
  4. This scenes play out over and over again at the philosophy of Europe (brotherhood, love, etc.) is put to the test as millions of people who legitimately are looking for safety from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Eritrea, Libya are asking for help.
  5. If Europe accepts them, there comes a tipping point where the costs of absorption, etc. start to overwhelm the generous social welfare benefits.
  6. If they don't accept them (or some countries refuse to participate or pay), the EU as an idea of refuge/tolerance starts to crumble.
Either way, it breaks.

This doesn't even include the other, non-PC strain of Islamification of Europe (which would also change Europe).

Thoughts?


Friday, September 04, 2015

Celebrating Estonia...and Digital Transformation

As I shared, I became an e-Citizen of Estonia, the world's most digitally advanced country.

Best part, there are only 1800 e-residents (at the moment) of Estonia. Can you say #EarlyAdopter?

So, of course, I had to celebrate and, literally, fly the flag.

I think next summer I may have to go there.

Who's in?