Monday, April 27, 2015

The Skills, Network, Challenges Career Path

When I was 18 and opted to take German in college, one of the reasons I decided to do so because I looked at the state of the world economy and thought, “well, if Germany is the largest economy in Europe, it probably can’t hurt to learn that language.”

And, after college when the opportunity came up to go to Japan, I thought, “well, Japan is the 2nd largest economy in the world [it was at the time], that could be useful one day.”

What I didn’t realize is that it’s more than the language, it’s the culture and history of the countries that help you really work within those environments.

In my Never Stop Marketing days, I was able to travel to both Germany and Japan to provide services to clients.

And, now, as Sprinklr expands globally, those same skill investments I made over 20 years ago are paying off.

In February, I was in Germany as part of the SAP partnership we have and in April, I visited Japan to help the Sprinklr Japan team get off the ground.

(And, heck, in the middle, I went to Israel-keeping the Hebrew fresh.)

It’s been rewarding and exciting to see how this part of my life/career has played out to date.

Same goes for the combined 3 years I spent living in those 2 countries. Not only did it help me learn the languages and cultures of those particular places, but it served to expand and enrich my ability to function in any foreign environment.

In a globalized world, that’s obviously a good thing.

When people ask me about “career path,” I cast it aside. I don’t think a “career path” exists. How could I have predicted the rise of Facebook, Twitter, etc. 15 years ago?

What I tell them is this:
·      Focus on building your skills. Develop new ones because you never know when they will come in handy.

·      Focus on building your network.  People whom I met 20 years ago (and stayed in touch with for genuine, non-selfish reasons [that is the key] end up being great resources for you in unexpected ways.

·      Take on big challenges: No one likes to feel like they failed or might fail, but forcing yourself to do new things that may fail is a skill in and of itself.  It’s better to force the change on yourself than have the change forced upon you. It’s Darwinian. Need to be able to adapt.

Anyway, I’m writing this on the plane back from Japan and I suppose I’m a bit reflective right now.

And inspired.

Now, it’s time to think about “what are the skills I am going to need 20 years down the road to stay relevant?”


I don’t know for sure, of course, but I do know that it involves looking at the larger trends and following the skills, network, challenge approach.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Still more things I love about Japan...

How you have the name of the counter agent at ANA airlines. So personal.


And the famous Hachiko statue...
See the movie. Even the one with Richard Gere is good.





Reconnecting with Old Friends...

Thanks to the power of social/digital media, we're all blessed with the possibility of reconnecting with friends from another time and era.

While it could be sometimes construed as awkward (not for me, but so I'm told), I find that seeing people in person after 5, 10, or 15 years (which is why I have so much fun at reunions) gives you a chance to reflect on who you were, where you are, and have someone help remind you of things that influenced your path.

In this case, I had a chance to see Petras (with whom I worked at Fact Communications in Tokyo) and whom I hadn't seen in 17 years, Jim Weisser (who I saw 5 years ago, but knew from 17 years ago) and Brent (who was at Int'l University of Japan) with me.

I would encourage you...even if it's only for 20 minutes/coffee, next time you are traveling somewhere, make the effort and reconnect with a friend from a past life.

With Brent Mori...


With Jim "Bud" Weisser...


With Petras Petroskevicius 

Thursday, April 23, 2015

More Things I Love About Japan

Koi Ponds


Best Vending Machines On the Planet


Got to love those organized, disciplined lines at train stations.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Things I Love About Japan

I'll tell you...some things that the Japanese confound the heck out of me. But, at the same time, I don't think there's a country that is more customer-focused in the world. That's just a part of it.  Here are a few things that I just love about the way things are done here...and some that I could do without.

More to come.

They have chargers for your phone in taxis.




 The order of the numbers in the elevators is pretty straightforward.



People line up for the subways (there are lines on the platform) and wait patiently for everyone to exit.





On the other hand, the subways are pretty packed and there's not a lot of personal space.



And anyone who knows the country, knows that the names of products are somewhat unique...but entertaining nonetheless.





Sunday, April 19, 2015

How a Car Mechanic Can Earn Trust

We've all been there (well, maybe most of us have). Your car is broken down in an unfamiliar locale and you have to confront the fact that you are at a mega-disadvantage when it comes to your relative level of knowledge vis a vis the mechanics.

It is my hope/belief that the arrival of technologies such as social, mobile, and user-generated content sites will change that.

Part of that is making sure that people know you are holding them accountable.  Here's how I did it with Elite Automotive in Potomac, MD. Their willingness to go on video showed me their trustworthiness and then, of course, I validated it with my trusted mechanic (unless they are in cahoots with each other :)

Seriously, these guys were great and I highly recommend them...even when your car isn't broken.

Enjoy the videos




And afterwards

Thursday, April 16, 2015

LOVE Starbucks...How my son got to mop the floor, literally

How can you not love the amazing commitment to customer satisfaction by Nick at the Cabin John Starbucks?

My car's radiator blew out so we ended up being stuck for about 3 hours. I got a coffee, got him a hot chocolate and we sat down for the long wait. I gave him a copy of the paper, but he quickly got restless, saying "I need to DO something."

Right about that time, Nick comes over and says, "I hope you guys don't mind, but I am going to mop now."

So I said, "hey, my son needs something to do, he'll do the mopping for you."

And Nick said, "ok!"

So, he let me do some mopping.

Boy happy. Father relieved.

And SBUX delivers yet another great customer experience!

Don't worry, Starbucks, Nick eventually took over and did the job perfectly!

Sunday, April 12, 2015

For the college sports fans out there...

I happened to catch part of SportsCenter last night when I saw that Providence beat Boston U in the NCAA "Frozen Four" to win the national title.

Now, normally, I wouldn't care, but seeing as I had also seen SportsCenter a few nights ago (now you get my viewing habits) when they had a guest appearance by Jack Eichel who was the player of the year.

So, it led me to thinking...


  • Boston U had the player of the year in hockey and they lost in the championship game
  • Wisconsin had the player of the year in college basketball and they lost in the championship game
  • Oregon had the Heisman winner (same thing) and they lost in the championship game
So, I was curious if this tri-fecta had every occurred before and, if so, when?

ESPN...what say you?

Thursday, April 09, 2015

How Kids Humble You

While painful at that moment, one of the things I love about having kids is how they can so quickly and gently humble you and give you a sense of perspective.

Paco, to his credit, took on a huge challenge by attempting to read a long, extremely dense biography of Winston Churchill. It was certainly above his vocabulary level (to be fair, many of the words were above the NFO's and my vocabulary level!).  He was supposed to read it over Passover break, but with every page requiring a visit to a dictionary (or Google), it became obvious that we weren't going to finish the 300+ pages.

I really enjoyed reading the book with him, as did the NFO. It was a mini-adventure and we actually learned a lot about Churchill. However, at some point, we had to admit that we weren't going to finish before the deadline, so we had to step back.

Paco apologized to me.

He felt bad that he had "wasted time" by reading a book with the NFO and me and "taking you away from your work."

I felt bad.  The fact that my son thought that ANY time I spent with him in the pursuit of knowledge, education, experience, and just being together was a waste and that work was more important than he, indicated to me that I was/am sending the wrong message.

I tried to explain to him that my entire reason for being is to be his dad (well, and his sisters). Certainly in the biological sense and that, while I love my work and I do work a lot, it is with his ultimate needs in mind.

Sure, we lose focus on this and money doesn't replace time.  But, it's not even time, it's about focus and communicating that we care.

In general, I think (hope) I do a pretty good job of communicating this to my kids, but every now and then, I really appreciate the strong reminder.

He's a great kid (all of my kids are) and I am blessed that they are able to tell me when I have messed up.

Sunday, April 05, 2015

Luna Bar's brilliant corporate sponsorship

Every man knows that the only rule of pregnancy is: "when your wife has a craving, you do what you can to address it."

About 12 years ago, when my wife (aka the "NFO") was pregnant with our first child, she had only one craving...Luna Bars.

One night, around 8.30pm, she tells me "I really want a Luna bar."

"Where do you get them?"

"Well, you can usually go to store A, but they close at 8, so you need to go to store B..which is about 5 miles away."

Ugh, I thought, "you can make it," I said.  "You can get it tomorrow."

I didn't go.

Yeah, I know. Not a good way to score many points.

So, they next day, I decided to try and make it for her.

Keep in mind that this is pre-social media, but the following day, I decided to call the company.

I make my way to a Marketing person and say, "so, you guys market yourself as a nutrition bar for women, right?"

"Yes, we do," he answered.

"Well, you'll be glad to know that my wife's sole craving during her pregnancy is for Luna bars."

He chuckled.

"So, hey, I was wondering...would you guys like to be the official corporate sponsor of my wife's pregnancy?"

"Uh, we don't really have a program for that," the guy answered.

"Tell you what," I said. "How about you send a few Luna bars, a t-shirt or something, and I'll make you the official corporate sponsor."

"Sure, we can do that."

A few days later, I get a box with some Luna Bars, a few coupons, and whatever else. Great, I know.

But, here's the rub.

My wife is fiercely BRAND LOYAL to Luna Bars now. By my estimation, we have spent nearly $3000 on Luna bars (if not more) in the time since the they became corporate sponsors of my wife's pregnancy.

And my wife is a mega-brand evangelist...telling everyone how much she loves the product and creating additonal sales for them that way.

Bottom line: I think that the ROI on this particular sponsorship was very high for them ;-)

Now, I have to go back to them for her upcoming Bat Mitzvah!

Monday, March 16, 2015

Israel 2015 Observations

I wasn't originally planning on going to Israel with the kids this year. The NFO was taking them for our nephew's Bar Mitzvah, but a few factors-most notably that I didn't want to miss being there with them—led me to make a last minute decision to attend.


 

I'm glad I did.


 

This was my 10th or 11th visit to Israel and every time I go, I learn something new about the country.


 

While taking the kids to places like the Western Wall, Yad v'Shem (the Holocaust Memorial Museum), Mt. Herzl (the military cemetery), the Mahane Yehuda market, or just walking down Ben Yehuda (the main drag in Jerusalem) is always exciting and meaningful, the point of these trips is to instill a sense of connectiveness-to build the connective tissue, if you will, between my kids and the Land of Israel.


 

Our goal is to have them understand that this place is not just another place. It's a special place for them and a part of their identity. As parents, you always wonder if you are making the impact you hope to make.


 

We do our best and I suppose time will tell.


 

But what strikes me in Israel in 2015 is much of what strikes me every time. The "bizarro world" that is sometimes the country and the Middle East.


 

This week is an election which could have huge ramifications for the future of the country and the region.


 

  • How big is the Iranian threat?
  • Will a united Arab list and a potentially larger than average Arab turnout be a determining factor in the election? (I find this particularly ironic given the charges of "apartheid state" that are leveled at the country.
  • The never-ending discussion about how to be both a Jewish country and a democracy.
  • How to maintain the ongoing economic miracle/"start-up" nation/technology hub that has resulted in a country where GDP per capita is going to soon exceed that of France. Yes, France.
  • And a whole lot more.


 

It's not a perfect country. Never will be, but it's a country based on an ideal and a belief…that the Jews have a right to their own country and that, when all is said and done, Jews need a country where the primary raison d'etre is the defense of people's right to live as Jews.


 

I hope my kids walked away with that.


 

And I just wish all of the haters could take a step back and walk through the streets of Jerusalem or Tel Aviv or wherever and see how the country functions. How people are just trying to live their lives and do better for their families.


 

They would be blown away to see that…and they'd be really blown away to see Arabs walking amongst the Jews in these same places with no fear at all, no reason to be afraid, accepted for who they are.


 

Then they might ask themselves, "would a Jew be able to walk around as a Jew in many Arab countries with no fear whatsoever?" They can't do it in Sweden or Paris, after all…which proves the very point.


 

Israel, despite being nearly 68 years old is not guaranteed. It's a daily struggle and every moment is infused with a sense of urgency, a sense of life-or-death consequences that few others places or people in the world have. There's an unspoken tension that just exists. There are shelters, there were (and will be, unfortunately) air raid sirens. There are soldiers carrying guns, security checkpoints at malls, metal detectors, and profiling.


 

Those aren't disappearing anytime soon, I'm sad to say. Maybe never.


 

There's the irony that being outnumbered nearly 150 to 1 is the root cause of the country's competitive advantage.


 

But it's all this, the living in a pressure cooker that creates not just innovation, but also a heighted joie de vivre that can't be understood by an outsider. Nor can it be understood fully by someone who is unfamiliar with Jewish history.


 

Hopefully these trips will help our kids see this and understand their place in it.


 

Road Warrior Street Cred

In reality, it's not something about which to be super proud. Proving your road warrior toughness is, well, maybe a sign of misplaced priorities.

Yet, with not so many accomplishments to tout, I submit for your consideration the current itinerary in which I am currently engaged.

Sunday evening, March 8th

  • train from DC to NY Penn Station, arrive at 11pm


 

Monday evening, March 9th

  • train from NYC back to DC, arriving home at 10:30pm


 

Tuesday morning, March 10th

  • Leave home at 7am for a 9am flight from DCA to Toronto with entire family.
  • Sit in Toronto airport for 6 hours. Fortunately, there's wi-fi and kids have iPads.
  • Depart Toronto at 5pm to Israel.


 

Wednesday, March 11th

  • Arrive in Israel at 9am. Get car and drive to Jerusalem. Stay in Israel for 4 full days.


 

Sat. night, March 14th

  • Leave Israel at 10:55pm, flying to Newark.


 

Sunday morning, March 15th

  • Arrive in Newark at 4.30am

  • The baggage door on the plane won't open, so we all wait by the carousel for 90 minutes (we can't go through customs w/o our bags). A huge line amasses. Fortunately, I have Global Entry and get my own line.
  • Go to United Club, where I take a shower and drink the 2nd of what will be multiple coffees.
  • Take shuttle from C gates to A gates for 8:55am flight to Austin.
  • Get on the plane, only to find out that there's a maintenance issue and we have to deplane.
  • Then, we have to change gates, so we take the shuttle BACK to C gates for a new plane.
  • That plane, eventually, leaves Newark at 11.55 (3 hours late).
  • Arrive in Austin at 3pm local time (roughly and hopefully as I'm writing this while on the plane)
  • Oh, by the way, I have brought 2 HUGE bags back with me to try and make things easier for NFO and kids when they fly back from Israel w/o me. (Needless to say, one of them-the one I needed-didn't make it to Austin in time)
  • Attend Sprinklr SXSW party

Monday, March 15

  • Leave Austin around noon and fly (via Houston) back to Reagan National where I will wait for about 4 hours and meet up with family returning from Israel via Toronto. They will have a 4-5 hour layover and get in around 11pm.
  • Take family home and hopefully help get them settled.


 

Tuesday, March 16

  • Home. Yay.


 

Wednesday, March 17

  • 8am flight from Dulles to Seattle. Arrive in Seattle at 11am local time. Give presentation at 4.15pm local time.


 

Thursday, March 18

  • 8am flight BACK from Seattle to DC. Arrive home around 5pm.


 

So, when all is said and done, we are looking at:

  • 8 days
  • 8 airports
  • 4 time zones (where a night was spent)
  • 3 countries
  • 2 continents
  • 2 train stations


 

And let's not talk about next week!


 


 

Sunday, March 15, 2015

The Bizzaro World of Israeli Elections

It strikes me as very interesting that Israel is accused of being an "apartheid  state" and yet, the elections next week could be determined the turnout of the Arab vote and the positions of the Arab parties.

Even more so, the leader of the Arab parties says they are fundamentally against the existence of the State in which they are members of Knesset (parliament).

Can you imagine a party in the US running for seats in Congress and saying "we don't believe in the Constitution or the bill of Rights. We're just running in order to get more power and have ppl pay attention to our unique demands."

Just bizarre.

http://www.jpost.com/Israel-Elections/Arab-MKs-experts-tell-Post-Expect-higher-election-turnout-with-united-slate-383721

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

More on the End of College as we know it...

Another nail in the coffin.

Now more evidence...this time from the NY Times.  Thanks to Tom Siegman for this one.

Sunday, March 01, 2015

Book: This will make you smarter


Recently, I've been making my way through a compilation book of scientists who were challenged to answer the question of "what 1 scientific idea should people know that would make them better off?"

The book is called:   This Will Make You Smarter: New Scientific Concepts to Improve Your Thinking (Edge Question Series).

The essays are about 2-3 pages long and, for the most part, really good.

Two that stood out for me are:  The Pessimistic Meta-Induction from the History of Science which essentially says that in each era, people think they are at the end of modernity, having figured it all out, and that everyone beforehand were ignorant. Yet, 85% of what we think of as "truth/fact" will be proven to be false at some point. Stay humble

And  Self-Serving Bias  which essentially says that we aren't nearly as open-minded as we though (which we knew), but reminds us that we are always looking for things to confirm what we think is the right thing.

Just wanted to pass these along.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

The iPad taking up Cap Space

To understand this post, you need both a technical knowledge and sports knowledge.

Yesterday, I was looking at Paco's iPad (well, it's mine, but I let him use it) and I noticed that he didn't have any of his pictures on it.

"What happened to all your pictures?"

"I deleted them all," he said.

"Why?" I asked.

"I needed the cap space," he replied.

"You mean the 'storage space,'" I asked.

"Yes, that's what I meant."

Gotta love that the 9 year old is talking about 'cap space.' He's ready to be a GM.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Balance of Fatherhood

I know I'm not the only one who feels this challenge.

It's part of the reason why the lyrics to "Cats in the Cradle" resonate so much.

It's definitely tough though. Trying to be a present/involved father, being a decent husband, and being a responsible employee.

I travel a fair amount. Most weeks. While my trips (for the most part) tend to be 2 days and 1 night, it still means I'm not there.

The flip side is that when I'm home, I'm home when the kids leave for school and when they get back. We have dinner together as a family most weeknights.

I tell the kids that there are dads who don't get home until 8pm (or later) most nights, but who don't travel as much, so which would they rather have?

Not that it really matters all that much because we are talking about my kids and my relationship with them.

You feel how quickly the years go and you kick yourself for the fact that you might be doing work or taking a conference call or checking email while they are there.  You justify it by saying you are doing it to be a provider for them.

And you are because, obviously, if you didn't do the work, take the call, or respond to the email at all, you wouldn't be doing your part.

Ah, the balance. Ever elusive isn't it?


Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Book Recommendation: Non-Obvious: How to Think Different, Curate Ideas, and Predict the Future

One of my great fear motivators is becoming irrelevant in a professional sense. When you can no longer add value, you are replaced. Whether by a machine or a lower cost option, it doesn't matter, you're done. And it's hard to bounce back from that.

To combat that, I spent a lot of time thinking about macro trends and playing around with new technologies.

It's why I bought BitCoin a while ago. It's why my daughters and I play with TinkerCad and print 3D items. It's why I watch documentaries on Netflix (ok, I binge on a lot of other stuff as well). It's why I explored the Dark Web, got solar panels, was one of Vonage's first 20,000 customers, bought a Nest, ordered an Amazon Echo and more.

It's also why I love traveling and why I have a hard and fast business travel philosophy of "always doing something unique to the city" when I visit. Otherwise, it's airport-office-hotel-airport. This way, your eyes are opened in some way.

You get the idea. Sure, some of it is "fun," but a lot of it is…this is how I get my head around what is coming so I can be better prepared.

In fact, in a knowledge/information economy, being able to see things before others do and then prepare for them is a non-negotiable skill and will be the source of competitive advantage.

What I didn't have, however, was a defined PROCESS for doing this.

And that's exactly what my friend, Rohit Bhargava, has done for all of us in his new book (disclosure: I got a free copy) called "Non-Obvious: How to Think Different, Curate Ideas, and Predict the Future".

It's only 99 cents on Amazon now, so you can thank me later.

I read the whole book in one sitting while on a plane and like his previous books (all of which I enjoyed), the writing is very consumable, but more importantly, he combines theory with practicality.

You walk away with concrete steps to take so you can be a better, more sophisticated, curated trendspotter.

And that's what you need.

Plus, he made me feel better about my fatherhood strategy (which, I admit, I got from my own dad). One of the key objectives of parenthood is to instill a sense of curiosity in your children. Help them learn how to ask questions and look at the world from a wide perspective.

Rohit confirms this approach and emphasizes that it's important for adults (I would argue that in a world of radical transformation and disruption at lightning speed, that it's more important than ever.

Two thumbs up on this one.

Radical Disruption of the Economy

My friend, Kenichi Hartman, posted an article on Facebook the other day about the most common job in each of America's 50 states. I'm on a plane right now so you'll just have to google it.

It highlighted something I'd been thinking about a lot, since the most common job in most states is: truck driver.

I've told my kids that I think it's possible that they won't need driver's licenses.

Now, my timing may be off, but is there any doubt in your mind that autonomous vehicles will happen?

Then, combine that with ridesharing apps and optimization algorithms from Uber and collaborative technologies like RelayRides and you have a huge opportunity for transport and logistics companies to save a ton of money…which they will pass on to you, the consumer.

Of course, there's a catch.

We're not going to need all of those truck drivers (or cab drivers for that matter).

That's a TON of people who will have to do something else. An absolute ton.

I don't have the answer right now. I'm just seeing what's going to happen.

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Trains, Taxis, shutdown highways, a death, an assault, and a bunch of other stuff.

Every now and then, you just have a crazy set of events that require documentation.

Tonight is one of those nights for me.

It began well enough at the beautiful Skytop Lodge in the Pocono Mountains. One of Sprinklr's teams was having an off-site and I was invited to be a guest presenter. While the team was staying there for 3 days, I planned to only stay for one.  I took the bus up with them in the morning from NYC and a car was arranged to take our CFO and me back to the city at 6pm.

We didn't arrive at the front of hotel until 6.30, but since the hotel is close to-well, nothing-we weren't too concerned about the car leaving without us.

However, when we got there, we discovered no car. After 20 minutes of trying to track down the reservation number and phone for the car company, we discovered that, in fact, no reservation had been made.

Immediately, we moved into Plan B category.

Now, my time constraint was that the last train from NYC (well, really Newark) was at 10.22 so that I could be at home Wed. morning in order to attend Nadia's school ceremony at 9am on Wednesday.

In other words, it was a "failure is not an option" night for me.

So, first we looked at "how else can we get to the city?"

First choice was to take a cab to the bus...the first of which we would not get to in time (it left from Mt. Pocono) at 7.20pm and the second of which didn't leave until 9.30pm, which would be too late.

We called some fellow Sprinklrites who had driven up, but none of them were leaving that night.

Then, we called a cab company and, fortunately, since I was travelling with the CFO, I didn't have to worry about paying too much for the cab ;-)
So, we negotiated a fixed price and set off on our way.  The GPS said it would take 2 hours to get to Penn Station, NYC which would be fine.

HOWEVER, as we made our way on I-280E, a notification popped up on my OnePlus phone from Google Now saying "traffic ahead" and suggested a detour. By the time I realized what was happening, we had missed the detour and we found ourselves in an absolute standstill. And, I mean, ABSOLUTE.

I helplessly looked at the estimated time of arrival for Penn Station and then realized that, in fact, we should go to Newark. I negotiated with the cab driver and he agreed, but the ETA in Newark didn't look good either.

It was starting to look like I'd spend the night in NYC and have to take the 3.40am (yes, you read that right) train back to DC.

By this point, we saw that the entire highway was shut down. They made EVERYBODY get off at an exit and now you have highway traffic making their way through suburban roads and, well, obviously, that's not a good mix.

We take a large detour and go down I-280 a few exits and get back on the road. The WAZE and GPS now say that we will make it to Newark at 10:18 (when the train is at 10:22).

Using all of my motivational powers, I do my best to pump up Howard (our cab driver-as my CFO is with me and has graciously agreed to the Newark detour) and we head towards the station, only to see that one of the exits is blocked by an ambulance.

We make our way around and they drop me off. I agree to text them to let them know if I made it or require a ride into the city.

I sprint to the door, which is LOCKED.

The woman behind me says, "it is locked because someone DIED in there."

So, I run down to the next entrance, with only minutes to spare and try to figure out which track to go to.

As I run in to the station, I see a woman lying on the floor 30 feet in front of me and a bunch of people screaming, "SHE WAS ATTACKED!!!"

Then, I see police running towards the scene.

Thinking that this is not something I need right now, I figure out that I'm on Track 3 and make my way up there, getting to the track at 10.21.

I look to the monitor and all seems to be well. I text Chris (the CFO) and tell him that I made it.

Not 1 minute goes by when I look at the screen again and I see that my train is 1 hour and 15 minutes late.

Yes, you read that correctly. Within the span of 1 minute, my train went from on time to 75 minutes late.

I stand there with my jaw drooped open in amazement.  Then, I see that the 7.58 train is running 3 hours late...which means that if I can change my ticket from the 10.22 train to a train that technically has already left, I can get on it.

I run back downstairs to try and find an agent, but all of the Amtrak offices are closed and the ticket desk is behind the gate where, well, someone died.

So, I go to the ticket kiosk, where I have the challenge of modifying my ticket so that I can take a train that, in the mind of the computer at least, doesn't exist anymore (since it should have been through Newark about 2 hours previously).

Of course, that doesn't work.

So, I go back upstairs to the track (oh yeah, it's 12 degrees) and I decide to call Amtrak to modify my ticket from the 10:22 train (now 11:37) to the 7:58 (now 10:58) train.

While I'm on the phone with the reservation agent, an Acela (which wasn't even listed on the monitor) pulls into the station, so I think "screw this, I'm just getting on this train."

Which is what I do...I explain to the conductor that I'm on the phone with Amtrak and will get it resolved.

The conductor says to me "where are you going?" and I say "oh, I'm going to BWI train station."

Needless to say, at that point, he says "oh, this train DOESN'T STOP AT BWI."

I have no choice but to smile...as I"m now en route to Baltimore, from which I will have to take a cab to BWI so that I can get my car and then drive home.

Hopefully.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Pretty low in the Dad rankings...

There are some days when you really appreciate your own parents.

Today was one of them.

All three of the kids went to bed near midnight last night and they were, well, exhausted this morning and in the afternoon.

I implemented a Draconian evening program and made them all get in bed by 7.45.

The resistance was strong-willed and determined. I was called names. I was villified. It was less than pleasant.

I took comfort in my newfound paternal strategy of "I'm not here to make you happy" which I borrowed from Louis CK (here's the video)

Still, it's not easy being told that you're "mean," "not fair," and more. My dad ranking were lower than Obama's.

But, hey, it's a part of the ride, I suppose.

Monday, January 05, 2015

Den of Thieves, Unbroken, and Reflections on Human Nature

Plowed through 2 solid books this winter break.

The first was Den of Thieves about Milken, Boesky, and the "greed is good" era of insider trading in the 80s on Wall St. A strong narrative, well written that reinforces the dark view that when there are rules and there is money to be made, there will be smart people who either find a way around the rules or don't care about them and take on the risk.

Almost a treatise on a part of human nature.

Balancing that was Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption which is an incredible and inspiring story that defies imagination. Even though I had lived in Japan, I wasn't aware of the extent of Japanese atrocities against allied POWs. Shame on me (well, bigger shame on them).

How Louie Zamperini was able to survive the war, a plane wreck, a POW camp and more... at the level of abuse that he did...well, it puts all other problems in perspective and helps you realize how strong the will to live and survive is.

My brother told me that he walked out of the movie because it was so slow to develop (I can't comment on that personally). The book was powered by the force of the story. I found the prose to be rather straightforward and written at a lower level. That could have been the author's intention because you don't need to work up a story that is beyond belief to begin with.

But I don't want to focus on the shortcomings. The life of Louie Zamperini is one of an epic for all time and deserves to be studied and lauded.

So there you have it... winter 2014...an investigation into the soul of Man.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Celebrating the innovators of transportation... Kitty Hawk and Virginia Beach

In our winter sojourn to the South, we decided to make Day 2 about the importance of transportation and the innovators who see the future.
We left Norfolk and drove about 80 minutes to Kitty Hawk, NC where the Wright Brothers changed the course of world history (no hyperbole) by inventing mechanized flight.  It was a cold, blustery day, not the best nearly for experiencing the outdoor component, but it was made up for by a great Visitors' Center and an equally exciting presentation by the Ranger there.

Not only was the lesson in physics and engineering informative, but the larger lesson...that failure can be a step on the road to success...was imparted (at least I hope it was).

It really is remarkable to think about the impact on diplomacy, immigration, trade, and, well, everything that the Wright Brothers have had.

And keeping with the theme of transportation, we stopped in Virginia Beach to visit Fun Tours, a bus travel company owned by a friend of ours, Felix Kushnir. Much like the Wright Brothers, Felix had a dream.  

He was a practicing corporate lawyer and decided that, well, that wasn't for him, so he took one of the more impressive mid-life career turns (pun semi-intended) that I have ever witnessed and traded that all in for a bus company.

Now, he's learning the ins and outs of that business and is committed to making it a success. I have no doubt that he will.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Of Maritime, Glass, and Art...A Great Visit to Norfolk

Our ultimate objective this winter break was Kitty Hawk, NC to see the location of the historic initial flight by the Wright Brothers.

En route, we spent a day in Norfolk, VA and we certainly made the most of it.

I had been to Norfolk once about 6 years ago, though I didn't have much of a chance to explore the city.  I have to say, it really is a pleasant town.

As you make your way around, you can't help but notice that the "Chrysler" name is attached to many of the city's philanthropic institutions, the most obvious being the art museum.

I was intrigued by this as I normally associate Chrysler with Detroit, but according to Wikipedia, the wife of the son of the original Chrysler hailed from Norfolk, so it all made sense.

We started off at the Glass Studio where we saw an hour long demonstration of what is admittedly a beautiful art that has an impressive amount of science contained within it. Our presenter, I thought, was excellent--informative and with a sense of humor.

Afterwards, we walked across the street to the actual museum itself. We were excited to see an exhibition celebrating 70 years of Smokey the Bear. The artist's various works (and the evolution of the tag line) were really interesting to watch and we learned that, in 1964, the US Postal Service assigned Smokey his own zip code. Today, you can tweet him...which I did.

The museum was also great for kids as they had a scavenger hunt, which enabled us to walk through most of the museum without the kids complaining...and instead were excited about doing it.

For our last stop, we visited the Nauticus museum which is adjacent to the retired battleship, USS Wisconsin.  It is packed with all kinds of information about why Norfolk is so important from a nautical perspective (it has the deepest water of any eastern US port) and historical (the US Navy's Atlantic Fleet is based here) and it was from here that Teddy Roosevelt launched the "Great White Fleet".

The museum was extremely kid-friendly and ours didn't really want to leave.  They enjoyed the exhibits and had a great time exploring the immense battleship. Even better, I think they walked away with a deep appreciation of what a battleship does (and what life on one might be like) as well as an understanding to some extent of the importance of ship transport.

Perhaps the most fun part of the day was how, prior to each stop, our kids would say "ugh, do we have to go there?" and then, during the visit, they would say "this place is great!"

I asked them afterwards..."so, how many times will we need to tell you that you are going to like a place and you will take our word for it and not complain before we go?"

Of course, I realize the answer...it's never going to happen.  ;-)








Friday, December 26, 2014

More evidence on the coming (and present) disruption of Higher Education

I have a thesis that the current college system is broken and will, soon, no longer be the source of credential that it once was.

The economics are broken in a big way. And, I'm not sure that (on the whole), the education delivered is preparing people for the workforce or citizenry.

Combine that with new models of education delivery (e.g. Khan Academy, MOOCs) and you have an industry that is ripe.

There is still value to the college experience...bringing people of diverse backgrounds together for intense co-existing experiences. However, in my view, there will be far better and more cost-effective ways of doing that.

I'm certainly not the only one who has recognized this. There are many working on this including University of the People.

Today, I just read about another one...heck, I might go do this at some point.