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.

And while we are admitting 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 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?

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.

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.

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).


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?

Thursday, August 27, 2015

How to Own Part of a U-Haul Truck

I was very intrigued when I heard about the Uhaul Investors Club.

It gives regular people like you and me a chance to put some money into an actual asset- like a truck and then earn returns up to 8%.

What I like about it is that U-Haul is going even beyond the idea of stock ownership. It feels like Propser or Lending Club, but for hard assets, backed by a brand we all know and trust.

While I only put $200 into a truck (mostly to test), I think it's a pretty interesting concept and a foreshadowing of things to come as "old line" companies seek to identify new ways to build relationships and drive revenue in a world of supercharged connectivity.

You're going to see more and more of these types of new business models or new business experiments, all made possible by mobile+social+connectivity. Fun times.

Here's their official pitch (feel free to use my referral code-full disclosure)

I've found an easy way to invest and wanted to share it with you. U-Haul Investors Club® offers its members the opportunity to invest in actual U-Haul assets and earn rates as high as 8%. I'm enjoying my membership and think you will too.

Joining U-Haul Investors Club® is easy and free! To get started follow this link:

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

I'm an e-Citizen of Estonia

You know me....if I hear about a cutting-edge type of technology, I'm game for it. :-)

The mere act of exploring it allows me to understand how the world is evolving.

That's why I became an e-Citizen of Estonia.

Yes, you read that right. An e-Citizen of Estonia. 

My ego says that I hope you don't know too many. ;-)

I first heard about it while reading the Jerusalem Post, where someone suggested that Israel should emulate Estonia. Yep, caught my attention as well.

So, I did it.

Now, the "e-citizenship" confers NO political rights or visa rights. You can't vote, get actual citizenship, or work without a permit, but what it does do is allow you to set up a bank account, establish a business, conduct EU transactions and more at a fraction of the time/cost it would take if you were setting it up in any other country.

They aren't stupid. To do much of this, you need to actually go to Estonia to finalize the deal (i.e. you need to show up at the bank to establish an account and you need a non-PO Box address to be the residence for the business), but you don't have to stay there.

Think about this... Estonia gets people to visit, to invest, and to be the hub. You get the ability to jumpstart European business operations at a fraction of the time/cost/hassle.

It's all part of the post-Soviet Union initiative where the country decided that it was going to basically "re-boot" and become the single most advanced digital country in the world.  They call the initiative "e-Estonia."

The more I think about it, the more brilliant it is.  I actually blogged on the "Marketing Lessons from Estonia" from that perspective.

This is a great example of saying "ok, the world has fundamentally changed. Now, how do we take the technology and new needs to uniquely meet them?"

For more on e-Estonia, click here. And sign up here.

BTW..It's not a joke.  The English in all of this is flawless. You fill out an application, pay a fee (free money for them) and have to prove your ID via Passport, etc.  And, no, it's not a tax-evasion thing either.

To see where Estonia is, see here.

I may have to get a flag for my house. And I may have to go visit now.

I probably won't fit in too well on some level as they wrote "Estonians may defend their rights in a rather unusual way-just by sullen silence" and that "Estonians generally try to avoid sentimentality."

Not quite how I roll ;-)

In their literature (which of course I've read), they write about the various ethnic minorities that are part of the culture, except for the Jews and Roma who were "lost to evacuation, deportation, and mass killings."

I'm kind of bringing the Jews back to Estonia.  Or, as my friend said, "they get the Jews without actually having to have Jews there!"

Seriously though, I think it's a very remarkable concept and a glimpse of what the future could look like as nations look for new ways to compete in an e-world.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

When I weigh too much, my lights flicker...and more

The motto of the technology early adopter is "Because I can."

A lot of the time that we do things it's not because it necessarily useful or practical. It's because the only way that we can really understand the new technology is to play with it.

Through the "playing," we learn how it works...and then, believe it or not, our eyes are opened to new possibilities and thus new solutions that were previously not possible.

Or, at least, that's what we tell ourselves to justify the expense!

So, herewith, I share the latest outcomes of my "play" involving the 16 million color possibilities of the Philips Hue technology. (BTW, they call it 'frustration-free' set up and I have to say, in this case, I agree with them.)

What's involved in this solution.

  1. Philips Hue  lights
  2. Amazon Echo
  3. Withings Scale
  4. Nest Thermostat
  5. The website, If THIS then's one of the best out there for this type of stuff.

Ok, so here we go.

First off.... let's say your hands are messy and you want to turn your lights on or off.  You connect Echo to Hue and you're off and running as I show here by  turning off lights in my kitchen with my voice.

Now, let's say that you believe that the best way to stay focused on your diet is to have the support of your family. Well, in that case, you set it up so that if you weigh too much, your lights rotate in color.
That way, everyone knows you've missed your goal (or made it, if you prefer that option).


On the other hand, maybe you're in your office and looking for inspiration to change the mood. No just pull out the app and change the colors. Here's a demo of lights changing color in my office.

What if you and your wife sometimes argue about temperature in the house and the conversation is "what's the temperature in the house?"  Now, everyone knows because the light turns red.

and my personal favorite...

Let's say you don't ever want to miss a text or a call or an email from your wife, but sometimes you put your phone down and miss it.  Now, when you go back into any room, the lights are flashing. You know you should call her back!

Thursday, August 13, 2015

New England Adventure....

Took a small jaunt to New England this summer, spending some quality time with the NFO's family (and my kids' cousins).

We hit Sturbridge Village, an 1830s era town replete with re-enactment and workshops.

Needless to say, spent plenty of time in the pool at the various hotels, but also managed to visit Nahant Beach, the Science Museum in Boston, and continuing our effort to visit Presidential birthplaces, the home of JFK. 

We're very fortunate in that our kids are inquisitive, good travelers, and thanks to the iPads, easy to handle in the car.

They're willing to take on almost any attraction with an open mind. I think, of all things, it is that of which I am most proud.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

This guy knows how to live LIFE!

So, we're driving down the New Jersey Turnpike, returning home from our mini-vacation to Boston when the NFO says "look at that car, it says '50 states or bust."

So, I look up from my computer and see a car that has writing all over a "Just Married" thing but much more.

On the back, it says "@chrisstrub" on it. I give the guy driving a thumbs up and say, 'hey, I'm going to tweet him."

So, I do.

This kicks off a twitter back and forth (he's driving, I'm not) and ends up with us meeting at the Clara Barton rest stop where I get a souvenir t-shirt.

That's great, but what's really remarkable is when you meet people with passion who want to make a difference.

Chris fits that category.

He used to work at a social media agency (or he read my bio and just knew what to say) and previously spent some time volunteering with a youth organization. Then, he decides he wants to see America through the eyes of various youth organization.

So, completely self-funded, he takes off for 100 days to all 50 states (he only has 3 or so left as of right now) to make a difference.

He's got tour t-shirts (I now have one though the sunglass stand attendant somehow switched it to Aqua mode). Here's another one from Chris' tweet.

He has PR opps set up along the way (will be in the Wilmington, DE tomorrow and in Baltimore on Friday) and then heading for home in Charleston, SC.

Originally from NYC, I asked him, "so, man, why did you decide that this is something you wanted to do?"

His answer: "It was just something I felt like I had to do before I was 30."

Man...I just love this "leave it all on the field attitude."

And now...he's looking for his next job and you'd better believe I'm going to talk to him about @sprinklr  Anyone with this type of attitude and ability to generate his own awareness and PR is worth some consideration.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

The Difficulty in Getting Your Affairs in Order in the Digital Age

I have something I call the "If Jeremy Gets Hit By A Bus" document.

It's essentially a guidebook to the NFO and executors of my will for how to manage our affairs.

I update it once a year or so and give a paper (yes, paper) copy to those who need it for safe keeping.

Over the years, however, I realize just how complicated it is becoming to communicate the various, far flung elements of our financial life.

How about a site that has a username and password and requires 2-factor authentication in the form of a text message or a Google Authenticator random series of numbers?

Now, you don't just need my password, you also need my phone...and you need the password to my phone.

And what if I change the password in the middle of the year?

Now, you need access to my online password manager, with its own username and password and text message.

And what happens if my phone is destroyed in the accident that takes my life prematurely?

Now, you need to be able to access my email accounts...but that requires my phone.

I don't even know how to work around all this. Just doing my best.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Art, Vienna, World War II and fleeing Jewish Women

Maybe the odds are higher than I realize, but the fact that I watched only 2 movies on the flight back from Brazil last week and BOTH of them were about Jewish women who escaped WWII Vienna and had a deep connection to art struck me as an unusual coincidence.

The first was Woman in Gold. Helen Mirren was fantastic and there were some very entertaining lines, such as:

Randol Schoenberg: It's hard to believe Hitler once applied to be an art student here.
Maria Altmann: I wish they'd have accepted him.

Randol Schoenberg: I could've searched for the file on my own.
Maria Altmann: I wasn't going to miss all the fun. This is like a James Bond film, and you're Sean Connery!

But obviously, it covers a very serious subject and it was extremely moving to see justice get done.

The second was The Longest Ride. To be fair, the movie wasn't specifically about a Jewish woman, but it had her playing a very central part.  I had never heard of the movie, but it really moved me as well. I thought Alan Alda did a great job and the parallel love stories was a great angle. just struck me as odd and, well, I had to document it.

Other movie recommendations are welcome.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Travel in the Age of Google

I just got back from Brazil and I realized how much travel has changed...and a large part of it is Google.

I had a SIM card for my phone, so thanks to Google Maps, I was able to navigate the streets of Sao Paolo (safely, I might add).

I was able to use Google voice to text home to the NFO.

But the app that changed the game for me was Google Translate.  I had a full on conversation with my taxi driver simply by talking to him and having him talk back into the phone.

In a bar, I held my phone up using the camera function and via Translate, it superimposed the translation of the Portuguese sign into English in front of my very eyes.

It was crazy.

I was able to order drinks, communicate with shop workers, and more. No more hand signals or drawings.

Time savings.

Now, while I'm here, I do need to mention another app which I think is incredibly useful, because although Google is great, you need wi-fi or a data connection to make it work. Plus, it doesn't teach you the language, it just helps you survive.

On the other hand, if you want to learn a language AND have it available to you offline (can be VERY valuable) check out Smigin.  It's very slick.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Parental Milestone

Paco is going to sleep away camp for the first time this week.

I knew I would miss him, but I didn't think I would feel just HOW MUCH I would miss him.  I'm used to being the one going away. He's always a constant at home.

It feels like we are hitting a point on his development towards being fully independent. Well, I know we are, but it brings me a sense of happiness and sadness.

Happiness because of how we've developed him until now. Sadness b/c of the time that is gone, never to be experienced again.

It's so tough, as you all know, in the day to day, to remember (always) to cherish each moment with your kids (and your friends/family) because of how fleeting it is. I guess that's why moments like these are so important and helpful.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

If Your Pediatrician Doesn't Care: What would you do?

If you got a bill from your pediatrician's office after your kids (and you) had a series of horrific patient/customer experiences, would you refuse to pay it?

Is that position justified?

How would you react if the pediatrician's office response was that they basically didn't care?

The NFO and I have been customers of Pediatric Associates in Wheaton, MD for almost 12 years.

We chose the office primarily because of the location/convenience (I know, not ideal), but also, when we started, we felt like we got great attention. More importantly, we felt like our kids got great attention.

Unfortunately, over the years, we have seen that change pretty dramatically.  I will say the nurses are, for the most part, really great. And there are a handful of doctors that seem to genuinely care.

However, they seem to be the exception rather than the rule. Still, partially because of convenience and mostly out of habit, we persist in going there.

My question today is: should parents at a Pediatrician's office expect a level of customer service similar to one they might receive elsewhere or when it comes to doctors is it "take it or leave it?"

What Happened Specifically
A few months ago, the NFO took in our son, Paco, who was vomiting continuously every single day with no fever or other apparent symptoms.  We came in a total of 2-3 times that week. Of course, we were charged for each visit.

On the 2nd visit, we were told by Dr. ___ that we should come in  yet again so that we could get to the bottom of the problem and help Paco feel better.  She was reluctant to bring Paco in yet again but she did.

On that visit, a different Doctor entered the room, sat down and asked the NFO a long list of questions and she answered them all.  The Doctor must have asked her three times if Paco had a fever (he didn’t) and repeated other questions.

In her mind, it appeared he wasn’t really listening to the answers.  When she asked him, what could be causing the vomiting and whether he recommended any tests (my brother-in-law, also a pediatrician, had recommended a stool sample be taken), he shrugged his shoulders and said (and we quote) “I dunno.”

The NFO requested a stool sample scrip and the Doctor gave one to her but the visit provided absolutely no added value or relief to Paco.

More importantly, it gave the NFO the distinct impression that the Dr. couldn’t care less and wasn’t willing to put any effort into healing our son.

There have been a few other examples of this type of non-care, the most egregious of one was when one of the doctors prescribed amoxicillin for one of our kids even though her chart clearly indicated she was allergic to it, because she had had an extremely violent reaction previously and it could now be fatal to her.

Despite that, a few months later after a positive strep throat diagnosis, we went to the pharmacy after the Rx had been called in...only to see that it was for amoxicillin.

So....given this recent pattern and the last Doctor's total non-chalance/disinterest/poor bedside manner, I was pretty irritated when I got a bill for Paco's vomiting visits saying that I still owed the $105 (after insurance's part was paid).

I called the billing office up (and wrote a very detailed letter) and said basically, "look, I've been paying bills to you for 12 years...that's a lot of money...given all that has recently transpired, in good conscience, I can't pay this bill. It has been a series of horrific customer/patient experiences and I need to know you care."

Their answer?

Basically, "go to hell, we're sending this to collections."


  • What would you do?
  • What can you do?
  • Should we just "suck it up" and pay?
  • File a complaint with the state board of physicians?
  • Am I overreacting?

Obviously, leaving the practice is at the top of the list, but as someone who spends his days working to help companies give great customer experiences, it just rubs me the wrong way and my sense of consumer justice is violated.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Observations and Reflections on #LoveWins

I think we can all agree how remarkably fast the country has moved to accepting same sex marriage.  It feels unprecedented.

In reflecting over the weekend, I had a few comments that I wanted to share. 

Would #Love your input.

How Powerful Social Technologies Are
The change may have been inevitable, however, to me, the speed of the change is a further sign of the global impact that connective technologies (social networks and mobile phones) are having on every aspect of life.

Most of the time, I focus on the impact of businesses, but this is another example along with Arab Spring, Hong Kong protests, and more of what happens when people can directly connect with each other at basically zero cost.

I highly doubt we would have seen this movement grow as far or as wide in a pre-Facebook/Twitter/blog era.

The Marketing of #LoveWins
Simply’s brilliant. I mean, how can you be for “Love Losing?” And who hates rainbows?

The combination of a position that is solidly defensible and a “visual hammer” that resonates with everybody--Those two things, I suspect, were key levers in bringing the “non-committed” center to the side of the Gay Rights movement.

There’s probably a much longer post here, but the hashtag and the imagery were masterful.

It is ironic that the rainbow itself plays an important role in the rebirth of the world following the Biblical Noah story.

Large Brands Joining In
It was fascinating to see the number of large companies that turned their logos to rainbows.  I certainly don’t recall this for any other type of movement (certainly not one that polarized many—i.e. no one is against the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge).

What’s Next for Gay Rights?
I found myself wondering about that.

Obviously, there’s plenty of work to do in terms of employment discrimination, etc., but we’re clearly past the “tipping point” of large scale societal acceptance. 

Do “Pride” parades/weeks become a thing of a past at some point? 

If being gay is as normal as being hetero, do you have need to celebrate the “pride” in otherness or will it fade away as something that is unique?

Just wondering.

Turn the Eye to International
If there is a place to focus the energy and momentum of Gay Rights, I hope it is in the international sphere.  On the same day that the ruling came down from the Supreme Court, there were attacks on 3 continents by radical Islamists. They—and countries such as Oman, Saudi Arabia, Iran—not only disapprove of homosexuals, they kill them.

Even the most virulent anti-gay marriage person in the US doesn’t advocate for public beheadings.

I hope the considerable energy will be focused on making those societies more open and tolerant.  They need it.

How does this impact religious institutions?
First amendment notwithstanding, I wonder what impact all of this will have on churches, synagogues, and mosques (plus others) where traditionally homosexuality is not consistent with their worldview.

While the government may not do anything to infringe, will people be castigated if they are members of a religious institution that, for example, denies membership to a married gay couple because it is inconsistent with their beliefs?

I certainly wouldn’t want all Catholics or Orthodox Jews to be labeled as bigots.

Is the Supreme Court’s ruling not even debatable? An Ironic Hint of Intolerance
It’s one thing to be pro-Gay Rights/marriage.

It’s another thing to speculate as to whether it is the right of the Supreme Court to make this decision (versus allowing it to be decided by the states).

For example, here’s an interesting video.

Judging from my Facebook/Twitter feed, it seems that everyone I know is 100% in favor of the ruling.

What I can’t tell is if that’s the case or if those who have concerns (either social or legal) are too afraid to state them.

Even leaving aside those with social concerns and just focusing on those with legal/constitutional concerns, I suspect that people don’t want to be labeled as “bigots,” “haters,” or “intolerant” for questioning if the Court overreached.

There is a great irony in being labeled intolerant for even asking the question.

At the far reaches of this, I was particularly appalled by one person in my feed, who said, “if you disagree with this ruling, de-friend me now,” without leaving open any reason for WHY someone might disagree.

And then, from a late 20-something part-time actor who basically said that Chief Justice John Roberts is an idiot when it comes to Constitutional Law.

It struck me as the height of arrogance and hubris.

The last thing we need is for the newly empowered to forget the feeling of oppression and begin to persecute those who disagree with them, when the disagreement stems from a position of intellectual curiosity and debate.

It’s obviously one of those watershed moments in US history which will have ramifications for years to come.

Curious about your reaction.