Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Canada, We Stand on God For Thee….

We didn’t have a huge window for a long summer vacation this year, so we decided we would do a 3 day jaunt up/back to Niagara Falls. IMG_20140811_142706

Our objectives were simple and two-fold.

  1. Ride the Maid of the Mist
  2. 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 IMG_20140811_145733(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.

Ah, parenthood.

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

The Coming Education Disruption

This one says it about as well as I have seen.

It may be 3, 5, 10 years, but it's coming.


Thursday, August 07, 2014

The Changing World of Higher Education

For those of you following my periodic rant. Here’s another one. The education disruption is coming.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

The (end of?) the Jewish Golden Age

About 16 years ago, I had a conversation with my friend, Josh Feigelson, and we were remarking how we were living at one of the most unique times in all of Jewish history.

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.

Hope not.

Not just because what it means for Jews, but what it means for the world.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Random observations on the War in Gaza

Heard a few things from various people that I wanted to document, if only for my own posterity.

Why Now?

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

Moral Equivalency Anxiety

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

Subway Riding Innovtion

IMG_20140708_183309I took Paco to NYC for a short trip and a “bring your child to work day.” We rod the subway during rush hour. It was crowded and hot.

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 Winking smile

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Thoughts on How to Find a Rabbi

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

Baseball Stadium Hat Trick

About 2 months ago, one of the sales guys at Sprinklr suggested that we do a customer event on a rooftop ovIMG_20140622_140051erlooking Wrigley Field in Chicago on a Monday night. Having never been there, I , of course approved the idea Winking smile

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.”

And the Stadium Hat Trick plan was hatched.Cubs 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.

mets game

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The Kids Are Alright…

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.”

  1. “Leave it all on the field.”
  2. “Never Stop Marketing”
  3. “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. Winking smile

Still, overall…this works.

Flash Boys—Book Review

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

US-Portugal and the bonding memory of a lifetime

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

Field Trip to Finland (Sort of)

IMG_2869

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.

Our guide, Pauliina Paulanen, gave us a great tour and the girls asked a number of questions.IMG_2873

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 IMG_2877kids 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.

I tried to goad her into a Finland-Sweden rivalry statement, but she would have nothing of it!IMG_2874

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

An Impressive Founding Father (Book Recommendation)

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

It’s fun to talk to strangers…

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

Field Trip to Finland…and Nicknames

You know my passion for nicknames and how I have bestowed 3 nicknames of Finnish origin on my kids.1187040_10152299298574669_451437989_n

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

4 years ago, my kids and I were watching women’s ice hockey in the 2010 Olympics, as Finland played SIMG_20140601_100905weden.

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.

Request

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,

Jeremy Epstein

And I got a response

Dear Sir,

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.

Best wishes,

Pauliina Pennanen

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.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Passed an important marketing test…

Photo: I survived a true test of my marketing skills. I helped my son win 3rd grade student council electionsHelped my 3rd grade son get elected to class representative.

I was nervous, but fortunately he came through.

Truly team effort as NFO and his sisters did the bulk of the work.

Still, I felt my rep was on the line!

Friday, June 06, 2014

Teaching the Value of Work and Money

20140601_182342(0)

There have been some proud moments in my life, but one of the proudest came the other day when Paco got his first job.

Our neighbors made him offer to do some planting in the backyard and Paco really took the responsibility seriously.

He committed to showing up on time, being prepared, and ensuring that his customers were satisfied during and after the job.

He didn’t complain about it being too hot or too hard.IMG_20140601_184205

He just went out there, did the job to the best of his ability, and was beaming with pride when he came back with the first earned dollars of his life.

The value of a hard day’s work and seeing it through to completion.  If my kids can learn these traits, I’ll feel that I’m doing a good job as a parent.

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

How Nest Told Me There Was Smoke in My House…

Screenshot_2014-05-30-11-23-03So, the other day I was cooking…

Then, as usually happens, I went down to my office and got caught up in my work.

Next thing I know, I hear a screech on my phone.

I look and it says “Next Emergency-Smoke.”

I ran upstairs to see that my pan was burnt.

Yes, I love my Nest Protect.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

What it’s like to travel with my dad…

 

Growing up, my dad would often take my family or individual children on trips. But, it wasn’t a standard vacation as in “let’s go and hang out somewhere.”

No, we had a syllabus.

That’s right.

He would give us books to read to obtain what he called the “[insert place name] of the mind.”  You go to Norway and it’s “Norway of the Mind,” “Malta of the Mind.” You get the picture.

When I was 14, he took me to the then Soviet Union, Poland, and East Germany. I read some Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, and more. It was intense.

And my dad is a history-savant. Deep in knowledge and, well, always willing to share it.

So, I wasn’t so surprised when he filed a report after taking my 8 year old son to a baseball game on Memorial Day.

“Paco was, as always, a great companion.

He has a sense of humor.  When we discussed that Boston had just experienced a long losing-streak.

He said that this was the second curse of the Bambino.  I don't know if read that reference or originated it.  (The first curse of the Bambino was that for decades Boston did not win a World Series, attributed to the fact that  Boston traded Babe Ruth to the New  ork Yankees and was cursed by that transaction.)

On the ride home, we discussed Harper's Ferry, the arsenal, the role of water-powered machinery before the advent of electricity,  the fact that the Potomac is not navigable because of the falls, the role of locks in  raising and lowering boats and ships, the Panama Canal, how American became involved and that the Pacific and Atlantic are not at the same height, necessitating locks to lower and raise ships.  The transportation advantage of shipping through the Panama Canal instead of going around the tip of South America.

We briefly discussed the significance of percentages in baseball.  He seems to have a grasp on that topic though we did not explore.

Because this was Memorial Day, at 3 pm, there was a moment of silence for fallen military, apparently throughout the country. Because one of the mascots at the game is William Howard Taft and another is Theodore Roosevelt, we touched on their respective Presidencies and their eventual rivalry that led to the election of Woodrow Wilson.

A beautiful day for Baseball.   The outcome of the game was not great for the home team.”

He’ll go pretty much anywhere w/anyone if this is your style. Just let him know.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

40s and the Decade of Mild Disillusionment?

People often comment about my proficiency in acknowledging birthdays.

I call about 1800 people per year and I do it because I enjoy maintaining relationships and hearing differing perspectives.

What’s been interesting to note as I (and the bulk of my cohort) age is that the good news (educational, professional achievements and personal milestones of marriage and children) is now being tempered with some of the hard realities of life.

People who have been laid off and are having difficulty finding work.

People with severe challenges on the part of their children, either disabilities (ranging from mild to major) or behavioral (addictions).

Marriages that have been dissolved or are in distressing and precarious positions.

Deaths of loved ones, both premature and of a more natural nature.

And the strain becomes a domino effect…one area (a disabled child) affecting another (marriage).

It should really be of no surprise, obviously this is what happens as you advance in the game, but still, it’s a wake up call.

You recognize, again, that life is not all Disney movies. Things never work out as you anticipate and you have to continually reassess your own position on the board.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

How Posture Can Make You More Successful

Two minutes a day of stretching can make you more successful. See this video

 


Monday, May 05, 2014