Sunday, November 16, 2014

The nicest email I've ever received...

I sent my first email in 1991. Been many along the way, but today I received the most beautiful one ever.

I had a bit of a stomach bug overnight and spent a bit of time throwing up. It wasn't pretty.

This morning, I checked my email and found a note from my 6 year old.

-----Original Message-----
From: Nadia
Sent: Sunday, November 16, 2014 7:32 AM
To: Jeremy Epstein
Subject: I love you

I really ( not kidding) started crying when I found out you throw up.(wa
wa) hope you feel better!
Love,

Nadia


Beautiful because of the content...and because my 6 year old emailed me ;-)

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

A regular, not so regular evening

Maybe it was because I had been away for a few days.

Or perhaps it was because the NFO needed to be out for most of the day and into the early part of the evening.

Still, tonight, I was on point and solo for making sure the kids were fed and completed their homework before bedtime.

Lesson 1 was a deep appreciation for how much the NFO does either by herself (due to my travel schedule) or as the lead parent for this part of the day.

But there was a moment, when I was sitting at the dining room table helping both Tikkanen and Lakkanen with their respective homework assignments that time stood still.

We call it a "mental snapshot" and I realized that this was just "one of those school nights" when the kids would think many years hence that they had eaten dinner and done homework. Just a part of the routine of life.

And as I thought that, I recognize, like the old John Lennon adage, that this WAS LIFE.  I realized that, never again, would they be that age, at that time, doing that exact thing.  It was both mundane and profound all at the same time.

I cherished it. As my friend Josh would say, I "sucked out the marrow of Life" in that moment and just savored it for what it was. A dad, helping his daughters with their homework.

It was both fleeting and eternal.

Monday, October 06, 2014

Thursday, October 02, 2014

Embattled Colleges

My friend, Michael Einbinder-Schatz of Jobecca sent me the following link.


A father who is not convinced he is getting his money’s worth for his $110k/year education bill.

He was shouted down in the comments, but I think it was unfair.

The college model is way broken.

And I think the educational industry knows it…which is why I saw a piece on CNN titled “Why College Is Worth It”.

Clearly, something that their trade association put in place and the PR folks pitched. Can you imagine that discussion 25 years ago?

Of course not. It was a given..and it was true.

Now, the cost-benefit model is way out of whack and the cracks are starting to show.

Let’s be clear…I’m not against higher education. It’s more critical than ever. What I am against is a system that is based on a previous paradigm.  

It’s going to get disrupted (and it already is a bit).  

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Protect Your Phone: Get Lookout NOW

Oh man, this was just great.

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

Join Us: 40 for 40 Campaign for Kindness

As many know, the NFO doesn't like to be called out on the blog. Nameless, Faceless One is my spouse.

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).

A Tea Experience, A Ceremonie In Fact

Full disclosure: I received a free sample for review purposes.

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.

Book Recommendations for Leaders

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

Watch "The Pacific" to appreciate the sacrifice

If you have HBO (or access via Amazon Prime), I'd highly recommend you watch the 10 part mini-series produced by Spielberg and Hanks called "The Pacific."

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

Predictions for NFL 2014 season...from one of my gurus

My friend, Ira, is one of the most intense sports fans I know. He is intelligent, insightful, and articulate on the subject.  With the only blemish on his credentials being that he has never been to any of the top 4 Halls of Fame, he has achieved somewhat legendary status in our household for his prediction of the Stanley Cup champion this year, right when the playoffs begins.

In addition, he correctly predicted SEA over DEN in the Super Bowl at the beginning of last season. 
  
So, he got the Super Bowl and Stanley cup right this year (though he is currently bombing on baseball  predictions.) I guess the only issue is that he doesn't put his money where his mouth is. If it he did, he could give up his medical practice.

So, here are his predictions for the NFL 2014 season.

 Phl- 12-4
 Dal- 9-7
 NYG- 8-8
 Wash- 6-10

 Green Bay- 10-6
 Det- 9-7
 Chi-8-8
 Minn- 5-11

 Car- 11-5
 N.O- 11-5
 TB- 8-8
 Atl- 5-11

 Sea- 12-4
 Ariz- 10-6
 San Fran- 7-9
 STL- 3-13


 AFC

 N.E.- 11-5
 Miami- 9-7
 NYJ- 7-9
 Buff- 2-14


 Cincy- 11-5
 Balt- 9-7
 Clev- 8-8
 Pitt- 5-11

 Indy- 12-4
 Tenn- 7-9
 Houston- 7-9
 Jack- 5-11


 Den- 13-3
 KC- 10-6
 S.D- 8-8
 Oak- 6-10


 NFC champs - CAR over PHL
 AFC Champs- Den over Indy

 SB- Den over CAR

 Biggest Surprise- PHL
 Biggest disappointment- San Fran
 MVP- LeShawn Mccoy. Runner up- Cam Newton
 Team to fire coach mid season -Pitt or San Fran

Labor Day- A Quaint Holiday of a Bygone Era

These ideas of national holidays where you take off work are starting to seem anachronistic to me.

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

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.