Monday, October 06, 2014
Thursday, October 02, 2014
Tuesday, September 30, 2014
I am in Switzerland now and I got a temporary SIM card. Once I logged on, I received this (which would go to any account). Just a great way to protect yourself from phone theft.
Sunday, September 28, 2014
That notwithstanding, her 40th birthday is coming up in a few months and the kids and I have embarked on an appropriate activity to celebrate it.
We're calling in the "40 for 40 Campaign for Kindness."
Each of us are committing to 40 separate, unique acts of kindness towards others.
Each day, we will document our initiative to make the world a slightly better place.
Those of you who know the NFO understand why this makes sense.
Let us know if you'd like to join us.
You can report back or not report back. Up to you.
We'll have a counting/celebration around the time of her birthday (December).
I'll admit that I'm much more of a coffee drinker than a tea drinker. Though I do like tea and I find it much more calming than coffee, I just don't tend that way too often.
Still, when my friend Efrat asked me to sample some of her new tea line, Ceremonie Tea, I took a look at the website and jumped at the chance.
My reputation is important to me so I didn't promise a false, ringing endorsement, but the website hinted at a level of class that I hadn't seen too often in tea, with a few exceptions.
I believe the essence of great marketing is great storytelling and I think Ceremonie Tea has taken that to heart. They are clear about the extremely high quality origins of their product and they extend that to every element of the experience. The packaging is truly inspired. The colors representing different flavors and moods as well as different regions.
I tried many of them and while, try as I might, I can't seem to ever like Earl Grey, the Moroccan Mint and the various Green Teas were sublime. Mellow.
There have been studies about how packaging or price can actually enhance people's perception of the taste of wine and I would be willing to bet that if you gave your guests/friends some of this tea with its unique, pyramid-shaped bags, they would enjoy it even more. I know I did.
If I had two critiques, it would be that I wish that all of the bags had a string on them instead of requiring a spoon to remove the bag (but that could be a personal preference) and that they would use a bit less plastic on some of the boxes.
Still, the tea is definitely not your normal Lipton/Bigelo and better than the Celestial Seasonings variety. It moves into gourmet land and, even for a non-tea lover/drinker, was a notable experience.
It's also a great lesson in marketing, so for me, it was a double win.
Two books I just finished that I wanted to recommend.
Particularly relevant for anyone who has to lead a group or an organization.
The first is written by the CEO/Founder of LinkedIn, Reid Hoffman. It’s called The Alliance: Managing Talent in the Networked Age and highlights how managing people has changed since the era of lifetime employment has come to an end.
They reframe a job as a “tour of duty” in which the company makes clear to the employee what s/he will get out of the next assignment while at the same time, the employee promises s/he will stick with the job until the end of the tour. They stay because reputational risk is too great to leave it.
It’s a quick read and a solid framework for thinking about developing talent in today’s networked age.
Meanwhile, you can always look to the military for inspiring stories of courage, bravery, and leadership. In Pegasus Bridge, the acclaimed historian Stephen E. Ambrose details the first invasion effort of D-Day and the strategic imperative of a group of British airborne troops of taking a canal bridge deep behind enemy lines.
This is a book about planning, preparation, team building, leadership, strategy, execution, and more.
You’ll appreciate the “Greatest Generation” more and hopefully you’ll never be in a life/death situation like this with the fate of the free world hanging in the balance.
However you will be in a position where you need to lead a group of people on a mission. Learn from the best.
Thursday, September 04, 2014
It's like Saving Private Ryan, but more people.
I walked away with an understanding of "The Greatest Generation" and how they built America post-war, given what happened during the war in the Pacific.
My background in Japan added some color, but this series was just so informative and told the story so well that, literally, I was crying at the end of it.
It made me think of my own Poppy who served in the Army Air Corps in China. Not quite the same, but so appreciative of his and others' sacrifice..and of the immense numbers who didn't make it.
Next time you are in DC, go to the WWII Memorial as well. The names of remote Pacific islands will have newfound meaning for you.
Monday, September 01, 2014
In addition, he correctly predicted SEA over DEN in the Super Bowl at the beginning of last season.
As we move towards an economy of anytime/anywhere access and accountability/outcome versus time/input, it just seems like something that doesn't make sense.
I don't get paid by the hour. Many of you don't either.
If I have a deadline, I have to hit it. It is my responsibility to get it done on time. Whether I choose to work on Labor Day or not is up to me.
In a factory where you stand there and get paid for an hour's worth of work and you can't get it done unless the factory is open, something like Labor Day might make sense.
But in an information economy where your laptop/tablet and wi-fi are all you need, a "day off" is up to you, not to some mandated time period.
Tuesday, August 12, 2014
Our objectives were simple and two-fold.
- Ride the Maid of the Mist
- Go to Canada
It’s what you learn along the way that makes the family trips so much fun.
And it’s the little moments (both good and bad) that you create the memories that stick with all of us for the rest of our lives.
What’s going on in Canada?
As part of our ‘get in the Canada frame of mind” effort, we pulled up the Canadian anthem on YouTube and played it over the car speakers.
It was around that time that we learned that Paco thought the lyrics were:
“we stand on God for thee” instead of “we stand on guard for thee.”
Needless to say, we had some fun with this. Canadians being so dedicated to their country that they will trample God for it.
Also, he thought that it was “Bob keep our land, glorious and free” instead of “God keep our land.”
This led to a lot of speculation as to who exactly Bob is. Perhaps Canada’s gardener?
The Unexpected Twists
Nadia has had a bit of a string of bad luck recently. She had strep, then a viral infection of her chest. We had taken her to a few places (Right Time Clinic being one of them where we had a horrific experience) and it seemed like we were doing all the right things.
Still, she was obviously sick and wheezing a bit.
We had a nebulizer and were using it.
However, the first night in the hotel was just brutal. Nadia was coughing violently, having a hard time breathing, and it was keeping the NFO and me up.
I was up from 2-5.30, but that’s nothing compared to the NFO who decided at 5am to take Nadia to the Williamsville hospital ER.
All’s well that ends well, but it was one of those nights where you think “great, I’m on vacation with the family, I’ll get to bed at a reasonable time, and be somewhat well rested” and instead turns into an all-nighter.
The kids ended up having a great attitude, making lemonade out of lemons (and that’s a life skill, isn’t it?) and we went to the pool in the morning.
We didn’t get to Niagara Falls until about 12.30pm, but it all worked.
Simple Expectations and Bonusville
My philosophy of travel with the family is very simple. Have ONE objective per day. Everything after that is bonus.
Monday was “Maid of the Mist” and then whatever.
Once we did that (and we all had a blast, getting soaked), we were in bonus land.
I had brought passports, so we walked across the Rainbow Bridge (kids enjoyed straddling the border) to Canada.
It gave us a chance to talk about different currencies, why Queen Elizabeth is on the money, kilometers vs. miles and immigration policy.
The approach is a major stress reliever for me. You don’t need to rush. You just do your thing and then can allow the rest of the day to unfold. I find it helps with keeping other people from whining too much as well.
And The Icing on the Cake
When we’re at home, we’re all not staying in the same room or same car for the same length of time. The intensity comes from the proximity and you see how we all work together to solve disagreements or partner.
You see how the kids take care of each other as they get to explore the hotel or go downstairs for the breakfast buffet.
You get to see that, for some reason, they think the show “Full House” is one of the funniest things they’ve ever seen. They laugh at the show and the NFO and I just laugh at their reactions.
You get to inhale the innocence of childhood through them, knowing that you don’t have it forever, but that it’s glorious while it’s here.
And you get to talk about “that time we went to Niagara Falls and Canada.”
Even if we had 14 hours of driving and a trip to the ER while we were there.
It’s all worth it.
Monday, August 11, 2014
Thursday, August 07, 2014
Thursday, July 31, 2014
Prosperity, security, education, acceptance into society. We wondered if the genration knew how good we had it (granted, it was a US centric view of things), we wondered if this generation had the strength to deal with things if that situation changed, and we wondered when they would end.
Call it paranoia (though history is a pretty good guide) I suppose.
When I look around at the vitriol online at Israel and Jews (no difference for most), I just wonder if we're at an inflection point.
Not just because what it means for Jews, but what it means for the world.
Sunday, July 27, 2014
Heard a few things from various people that I wanted to document, if only for my own posterity.
One speculation is that Iran egged on Hamas to intensify things.
Why? To pull attention away from them and the fact that they blew by another deadline on the nuclear thing.
More Balanced Reporting?
While I would certainly not say that the media is full on pro-Israel, there have been some more reports that are critical of Hamas. One hypothesis goes to the mentality of the reporters who are stationed in Israel.
For years, they could be in Jerusalem or Tel Aviv, claim they were “war reporters” by going to West Bank or Gaza for the day and then return to their 5 star hotels and 1st world lives without trouble. Not like being in Syria or Iraq or wherever. Now, however, they, too have to go into bunkers and hear sirens, so maybe they are thinking “hmmm..the Israelis may have a point here.”
Europe and the Jews
It’s just really, really bad.
I had a thought today about the fact that we’re seeing the rise of another type of totalitarianism. Then, I read Shmuel Herzfeld’s article. He said it, so I don’t have to.
And people are targeting Jews for violence in France, chanting “death to the Jews” in the city of the International Court of Justice, the Hague, and opening up charter schools in Norway that advocate beheading for people who don’t fast during Ramadan.
Friday, July 18, 2014
I have to admit that there is a streak of naivete within me.
Every time that Hamas attacks Israel, true to its charter of destruction of the Jewish state, I think to myself “ah, maybe this time the world will see that there is no moral relativism.”
We all know that Israel isn’t perfect. No secret there, but we all don’t seem to get the core issue…denial of Israel’s right to exist.
I think it’s just so difficult for the Western mind to comprehend that one side doesn’t want the other side to even exist.
So, it’s difficult to believe that there isn’t some “path to peace” since it’s just a huge misunderstanding.
But, like every time before, I am reminded about the reality that moral relativism does exist.
And it makes me anxious about the world in which my children will grow up.
Tuesday, July 08, 2014
He crouched down to the floor. Not on it, just soft of squatting.
When I asked him why, he said, “there’s more room down here.”
And I guess he’s right. Feet/legs take up less space than torsos and waists
Thursday, June 26, 2014
Searching for a new leader for a spiritual organization is a process fraught with challenges and emotions.
Throw in the old “2 Jews, 3 opinions” axiom and synagogues are often ground zero for turmoil during times of change.
My dad successfully led a Rabbinic search in the 1980s (twice actually) and documented what he learned.
Leaving out some of the obvious technologically-dated references, there are some solid guidelines here should you ever find yourself in this position, with a desire to minimize strife, you may appreciate his wisdom.
Wednesday, June 25, 2014
About 2 months ago, one of the sales guys at Sprinklr suggested that we do a customer event on a rooftop overlooking Wrigley Field in Chicago on a Monday night. Having never been there, I , of course approved the idea
A few weeks after that, my Dad, a big baseball fan announced his desire to take his children and grandchildren to a Sunday baseball game at Nationals Stadium.
I was lined up for 2 games in 2 days.
Then, my travel plans changed and I found myself headed to NYC on the Tuesday after the Wrigley event. When I shared my plan with my pal, David Bloch, that I would go to 2 games in 2 nights in 2 cities, he said, “you should go to a Mets or Yankees game.”
My colleague, Brian and I, were planning on working late that night anyway over dinner, so instead, we went to Citi Field (where we brought our laptops and iPads, etc.-and there’s free wi-fi, which I am using right now to post this).
I’m not really a huge baseball fan, but all three of these were good, solid reasons to go and it seemed like a chance to create a life memory.
So, I did.
Tuesday, June 24, 2014
As a parent, you want to know that your kids are learning the values you are trying to teach them.
The other day, Tonka came up to me and said, “There are four things you say all the time.”
- “Leave it all on the field.”
- “Never Stop Marketing”
- “Go big or go home.”
My thought was…”If this is what they’ve learned from me, then I’m doing ok.”
I did explain that, there are times when it’s better to actually “go home.” Knowing the difference takes time and wisdom, but overall, I was pleased.
I should say that there was one more saying which she attributed to me: “I love you. Now leave.”
That’s what I say to them when they come into my office and begin talking…while I’m on the phone.
Still, overall…this works.
Not everyone with whom I have spoken loves Michael Lewis’ new book, Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt.
Perhaps I’m too much of a fan to think otherwise, but I really appreciate his ability to take things that are extremely difficult to comprehend and make them, well, comprehensible.
In this case, High Frequency Trading, and how the stock market is extremely challenging for the little guy (and I’m one of them).
He takes a piece of the world which is foreign to you and opens up your understanding.
I’m a fan…of this book and of his.
Sunday, June 22, 2014
While the outcome of the US-Portugal game wasn’t as I would have hoped, it did provide two special moments for me.
When the US scored the go-ahead goal, Paco, Nadia and I had a huge pile on in the middle of our den to celebrate, as we emulated the players.
Then, in the last play, when we saw Cristiano Ronaldo get the ball, we all started yelling, “No! No! No!” together…and we shared in the agony of the last second heartbreaker.
It is why we watch sports and why we watch them with people we care about.
Shared emotions at its finest.
Friday, June 20, 2014
The girls (Tikkanen and Lakkanen) and I were invited as guests of the Republic of Finland to visit their Embassy and learn a little bit about the country.
The embassy was actually the first LEED certified embassy in the US and is of architectural interest because of its unique design that blends in with the surrounding landscape.
We learned about the population of Finland (5.5m), their love of ice hockey (we knew that) and “Finnish baseball” (we didn’t know that), that they love fish (no surprise) and potatoes.
There are also 2.5 million saunas in the country…and one more in the Embassy. Luckily, it was off when we went in there.
The girls learned about the social welfare state, what kind of schooling that Finnish kids get, their perception of themselves as humble, somewhat reserved people whom once you get get know are pretty funny, outgoing, and sarcastic.
During the winter, it stays dark pretty much all of the time, but from 10am-3pm, it’s sort of light outside…but not a whole lot.
The country is challenged by the Euro and immigration and prides itself on its different outlook than its other Scandinavian neighbors. Swedish is also an official language of Finland.
It didn’t matter. What mattered is that the girls learned something (so did I—who knew Angry Birds was Finnish?) and we got some souvenir stickers and brochures for later reading.
(Yes, the girls wore their Finland jerseys)
Oh…and some great memories of our trip together…all because we were watching Olympic ice hockey and we have a thing for nicknames.
Wednesday, June 18, 2014
Of course I had heard of Alexander Hamilton, but I certainly didn’t really know, understand, or sincerely appreciate the man until I finished the 731 page biography (amazon link) of him by Ron Chernow.
It reads like a novel and you can’t help but walk away impressed at his dedication to the cause of the American Revolution, his intellect, his work ethic and the fact that he (and all the rest of the founding fathers) were, when all was said and done, people with many shortcomings.
The book (amazon link) certainly ripped the veneer off of men like Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, and Adams. I certainly appreciate that politics was as dirty then (if not dirtier) than it is now.
The book was epic and well worth it. It took me about 2 months to make it happen, but well worth it.
Recommended: Alexander Hamilton by Ron Cherwnow
Tuesday, June 17, 2014
A few weeks ago, my sister sent me a great TED video about the value of talking to strangers.
You have so much to learn from them.
And, again, I’ve seen how valuable that can be. In this video, I hear from a University of Texas football legend because I asked him about his shirt while we shared an elevator ride in Dallas.
And here’s an article about the movie he was consulting on.
Monday, June 16, 2014
So, I decided that with school out, it was a chance for them to connect with their “newfound” roots.
I contacted the Finnish Ambassador to the US.
From: Jeremy Epstein
Sent: 1. kesäkuuta 2014 10:28
To: WAS sanomat; Koukku-Ronde Ritva; Mäkeläinen-Buhanist Soili
Subject: How I am teaching my kids to appreciate Finland
Dear Ambassador Koukku-Ronde,
Considering that my family and I have no connection to Finland of consequence, I think you will find this story quite amusing.
(I travelled there once about 25 years ago and have 1 friend in Finland, but that’s about it, unless you count the Nokia phone I had in 1999).
How my kids got Finnish surnames as nicknames
I have a certain fondness for creative nicknames and, for some reason, I started calling my 3 kids “Tikkanen,” “Jokinen,” and “Lakkanen” (turns out her name was Laksonen-sorry about that).
The nicknames have stuck (I blog about it often) and recently I bought them ice hockey jerseys with their nicknames on the back, which they wear proudly. (Pictures attached).
We are talking about a family trip to Finland one day.
We live in the DC area and wanted to know if we could have an “official” visit to the Embassy during June (as they will be out of school).
Nothing too crazy, but we thought it might be fun for them to wear their jerseys and meet some Finns, take a few pictures, and learn a bit about the country.
I certainly realize that you have many important things to do, so anyone on the staff will be fine (even if only for 4 minutes). At a minimum, it will be good pictures for your Facebook page and Twitter feed!
Let me know if this is something we could do, as I know it will be educational and memorable for them as well…and who knows, you may create fans of Finland for life!
Have a great day. Respectfully,
And I got a response
Thank you for our message. We would be happy to give you and your kids a small tour of the Embassy on June xx, at 2pm. I will show you a little bit around our building and at the same time tell you about Finland. It will take an hour maximum. Please let me know if this sounds good to you.
Also, can you send me the names of everyone attending the tour by Friday June xx.
Cultural and Media Assistant|| Embassy of Finland
3301 Massachusetts Ave, NW, Washington, DC 20008
The Embassy of Finland in Washington D.C. is the first LEED certified green embassy in the United States.