Monday, February 17, 2003

Two feet of snow as drama (and the other things going on, a.ka. Life)

Tamar originally thought that this email lacked some passion and sounded too much like a Microsoft commercial! Let me know your assessment…Jer


I don’t think I have seen this much snow since the weekend my first sister was born 24 years ago. I remember making snow tunnels and jumping off the top of the family station wagon.

The most fun I’ve had this time is just staring out our windows and watching the whole drama unfold. You see people fighting the elements to get their cars out. You see nature’s perfection at huge swaths of land perfectly blanketed by pristine white snow. You see a major road artery devoid of any traffic in the middle of the day.

Like a little kid, I begged Tamar to come out and play with me, which she eventually did. Well, I actually was the one who played and she watched me jump and dive into 10 foot high piles of snow. She correctly pegged me when she said “you didn’t want me to come to play with you, you just wanted to show off in front of someone.” I married a smart woman, that’s for sure.

Today, after seeing so many people struggle with their cars, I decided that I had been cooped up long enough and could be of assistance, so I went down and offered my bulk services to help unlodge 6 cars. I got Good Samaritan points from them and a nice workout for myself. My back, however, is starting to hurt me...yet another sign of aging.

It’s funny, all weekend, I found myself just rooting for more snow. I liked the feeling of being “trapped” in a way, with no place to go and the feeling that thanks to the Internet, phone, and TV, I was still in full communication with the world. Probably a part of me was thinking back to my childhood where the more snow meant more snow days from school.

Yesterday and today were crazy in terms of the raw amount of snow (pictures are available), except now we don’t have a station wagon. We do have our first, and now second, cars, however, which we purchased in one of our first moments in the ‘welcome to life outside of New York City’ phase of our lives. Our first car is a 2003 Hyundai Elantra. Great warranty, great price, and handles beautifully. Then, we paid almost nothing for a 1991 Corolla in great shape with 65,000 miles on it. So, we are officially a two-car family and doing our part to help fund militant Islam’s attack on western civilization.

The snow, at least in our minds, has taken us away from the ‘orange’ level of terror alert we as a nation are supposedly on. Tamar told me she’s purchased duct tape and plastic for our windows, though I’m not quite sure what our defensive plan is should the unthinkable actually occur.

I guess I’ve developed two types of emotions about the whole thing. One a sense of resignation, not surrender, but really acceptance that whatever happens here is going to happen and that I can’t freak out about the possibilities. The other is a sense of determined resolve, that we must ACT in order to minimize the likelihood that the worst case scenario will actually play out. Truth is, aside from my ongoing frustration that not everyone sees the threat of Iraq and militant Islam (for starters) as clearly as I do and the reframing of my philosophical adversaries as intellectual sparring partners designed to help me improve my own skills, we don’t really think about it all that much.

Instead, we are focusing on the challenges of building our lives anew in a new home. It’s definitely tough at times because we have left a wonderful community of friends and associates in New York and we are comparing the bonds formed after years there with a few months here.

Further, as my brother pointed out, it’s more challenging to build friendships as a married couple, which we are doing now for the first time. You both have to like both of the other people, or at least be mildly tolerant of the one of which you are not as fond. Also, we’ve found that at the synagogue which we attend, many of the couples our age are at a different stage in life because they have children, or at least one child.

I’ve been wondering if people get to a point in life where they just say “you know, I think I have enough friends” or where making new friends is not really a high priority, which makes it difficult for us to get motivated to go out and meet new people or get so excited about new people who reach out to us. Thoughts?

On the professional front, I am really enjoying the opportunity I currently have with Microsoft. My role is titled ‘Business Productivity Advisor” and my responsibility, simply put, is to help customers use the technology they already own in more productive ways.

Many have asked what this means…

Think about yourself…if you are like most people, you probably own Word, Excel, Outlook and maybe PowerPoint. You probably use about 20-30% of the features in them and you probably think that they do a good enough job for what you need done.

The challenge here, of course, is that when you hear about Windows XP, Office XP, or the future editions, you’re likely train of thought is “I’m not sure I really need that.” Obviously, that hurts sales.

Now, what if I told you that the 70% you aren’t using right now could be used in more effective ways? What if I could demonstrate to you clearly how by using certain features you would be able to save time or money? Or if you own a business, help you earn more money? Would you be willing to listen?

What if you implemented those changes and got those results? Then, when we come around and say ‘Hey, there’s a new version out that’s going to make you more productive, more money, etc….”, you’re more likely to be interested in owning the next version, aren’t you?

That, in a nutshell, is what I am doing. My assigned customers have roughly 500-5000 employees and are situated in DC, Maryland, or Virginia. Aside from a two-week trip to Redmond, Washington (near Seattle), where I ‘drank the Kool-Aid’ as people like to say (had two weeks of Introduction to Microsoft and why it’s the best), I don’t have to travel very much overnight. I do drive to customer offices during the day, but thanks to Books on Tape, the time is not really a challenge.

I have been very impressed to this point with the people of the company. They are very passionate about using technology to make people’s/companies’ lives better. The company, which obviously has a tremendous amount of resources, does a great job of freeing up your time to do substantive work.

There’s nothing that can’t be done on the corporate Intranet. Need business cards? Takes about 1 minute. Fill out an expense report? Your corporate Amex charges are already there? Book travel? They know that I like aisle seats near the front of the plane, have my frequent flyer miles, and prefer Hindu vegetarian meals. There is easy remote access to the corporate network from any place with an Internet connection, so with my home high speed cable modem and the wireless network I’ve set up in the apartment, I can sit on the couch next to Tamar while watching TV and be searching the internal network for information I need for a presentation. There’s a commitment to empowering people, investing in them, and listening to everyone. Emails get passed around and ideas flow relatively freely. My manager, who’s great, encourages me to constructively criticize him and he helps me deal with my moments of self-doubt about not doing the right thing at the right time. The best part is that the culture expects you to think quickly, act quickly, and learn from your mistakes quickly. It’s a sales and action oriented culture that admires calculated risk taking. I, of course, like that.

Tamar, meanwhile, has been enjoying getting used to her new surroundings. She’s done a remarkable job of setting up and decorating our apartment (which by our previous NYC standards is massive and a bargain—3 times the space at 60% of the rent, with a view of the park). She’s also starting to learn her way around the area quite well.

The job search, on the other hand, hasn’t quite gone as desired. She’s been looking for a federal prosecutorial position and she’s feeling frustrated by her perception of the lack of a meritocratic system and that “you have to know someone” in order to get a job.

This has been the source of much disagreement among us. I say that the “networking game” is merely one way in which people make decisions about a potential pool of applicants by using personal references and friends to vouch for them. I also say that, like it or not, this is ‘just the way it is.’

Tamar feels that she doesn’t want to participate in a system that requires you to know someone to get an interview or a job. After feeling a bit down about the process and the fact that she feels like she is not helping people, she is taking a little bit of time to reconsider her options and discovering that there may be more than one way to help.

As with all change, there is challenge, but we are slowly getting into our groove here. We’ve had visits from the entire Silton family (had 15 people sleeping here one night) and have started to entertain.

We are planning an apartment warming party for some time in later March (Tamar is going to be in Israel at the beginning of the month), so, for those of you in the area, be on the lookout.

Generally, I am finding that this stage in my life is becoming more and more focused on priorities and time management. I am less willing to have my time wasted (what I perceive to be a waste) and am focused on addressing the things about which I feel strongly. Do I have moments of lethargy? Of course, but I’ve been reading a number of books and essays about death recently and I think that I’m coming to the age (I’ll be a whopping 30 next month) at which I’m starting to fully appreciate that I won’t live forever. I do my best to fend it off (we do Pilates and yoga together), but I know that some things are starting to go (like my hair.)

Perhaps the winds of war which are sweeping the world once again are giving me a sense of gravis that I could avoid during the hey day of the Internet boom era. I hope that this war against terror and fascism will be over soon, though I fear that it won’t be.

Our thoughts and prayers are with you.