Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Me vs. House

House 3, Jer 0.

It seems like I am bound to lose this battle, valiantly though I may fight.

This past Friday night, an absolutely MASSIVE storm hit us at 1.30am. I thought it was the wrath of God/beginning of the Apocalypse.

Anyway, 30 minutes later, we lost electricity, which necessitated a family move to the basement to avoid the heat-and of course a mid-sleep move of the toddler.

As I was walking around the basement, I discovered that as a result of leaves covering the storm drain, water had penetrated the basement door, gone into my office, and under a wall into the main room. We narrowly averted disaster in that a few feet more and my entire computer set up would have been in the water's path. I shudder to think about the consequences. Since then, it's been constant towels, vacuuming, fans, and now a de-humidifier to get things right (plus, I packed the door with additional insulation-old t-shirts- and will have to get something to prevent the drain from getting covered again.)

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Focus vs. Big Ideas

The secret is out that, at least in some respect, one of life's purposes is the search for balance between extremes.

I wonder if another two extremes are between periods of intense focus and those of intense whatever the opposite of focus is (unfocus? scatterbrained-edness? open-minded-ness?)

I think this occurs on a macro level as well as a micro level.

These days, I'm a very focused on a macro level. I've got my family and my job. That's pretty much all I think about. On a micro level, there are days when I lose focus or can't stay focused, but by and large, I'm focused.

While I was in college, I was focused on a macro level on academic achievement. While I travelled in Europe and Asia, I was hardly focused--well, I was focused on just seeing the world. Hmmm....maybe you're always focused, it's just not always so clear.

I've got to think about this one a bit more. I'm not so focused right now :-)

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

An interesting parental moment

Somehow my daughter managed to get a kernel of corn up her small nostril tonight.

Averting a trip to the ER and with the help of a straw (suctioning the kernel down to the end) and a pair of tweezers from my Swiss Army Knife (to shred and remove the piees), we successfully removed the nasal obstruction.

And contrary to what you might expect, she was laughing the whole time, thinking it was funny that her father had a straw up her nose.

One of many "I never thought I'd ever be doing that" moments.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Social Networking

Many people within my personal network have recently received an inviation to join my "LinkedIn" virtual/digital network. The reaction-which is pretty much the one I have as well-has been quite unanimous.

"I'll do it, but I'm not sure what the value is."

Frankly, I'm not sure what the immediate value is either, but here's my take on it.

LinkedIn (and there are others that attempt to do the same, both in the business world (like Spoke) and personal world (like Friendster)) provides you an opportunity to demonstrate a unique value proposition that you bring to the world-namely your network (and extended network) of contacts.

As I've written before, I spend a lot of time thinking about what aspect of my job can/should be outsourced to India. One area that can't be outsourced is my relationship to other people and the feelings that they have for me.

When you are at the center of a network, your perceived value to the network increases. People need YOU to make connections to others. Now, as my friend pointed out, he could go directly to someone and say "Jeremy sent me," but we all know it's much more valuable if I write to you and say "hey, you REALLY need to talk with this guy." (assuming of course you value my opinion in the first place :-)]

Now, the problem with LinkedIn and the others is that it's not quite clear to most people HOW exactly you benefit from it and what is the best way to utilize it. That's the short term problem.

In the long term, however, I do beleive that being able to demonstrate the power and viability of your network is something that is going to be critical.

Monday, July 18, 2005

High Quality Wedding Speeches

"I could tell you a good story about the groom, but I won't...."

How many times have you been to a wedding where the best man or maid of honor says something like that? I mean, who the hell cares?

Either tell us a good story or don't tell us that you COULD tell us one. We all know that.

I'm tired of lame wedding speeches, but fortunately, yesterday, Tamar and I were priviliged to hear 3 fantastic speeches in a row. They drew pictures, they allowed us to see the personal side of the groom and bride from people who had great perspectives on them, and they were entertaining.

Some key memorable lines from the groom:

"A woman always has the last word in an argument. When a man speaks after the last word, it is the first word of a new argument."

To his bride: "you are the most beautiful, talented, amazing woman I've ever met. You're thoughtful, sensitive, and, uh, honey, I can't read your handwriting here."

"I've learned a few lessons in the few months of dating my wife. "When you're wrong, admit it. When you're right, well, I haven't had that happen yet."

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Infant Training Camp

We have some great friends who live two blocks away from us. Their names are: Jeremy and Tamar. Yes, you read that correctly.

Even better, the other Tamar is having a baby and she's due basically the same day as "my" Tamar is due.

I was speaking with Tamar #2 this morning and the usual polite conversation regarding how each of the Tamars was feeling during the penultimate month of the pregnancy arose.

Tamar 2 is experiencing the same problems that Tamar 1 is. It's difficult and uncomfortable for her to sleep.

I expressed sympathy.

"It's all part of God's plan," Tamar said. "If a woman goes from a solid 8 hours a night to having to get up every two hours, it would be too much of a shock to the system. This way, she's ready for when the baby is born."

"I like that," I said, "kind of like training camp."

Then, I realized the next logical step in the argument.
"Well, if that's the case, then it would seem that men, who are going from a solid 8 hours would suffer too much of a shock to the system and probably shouldn't get up in the middle of the night to do the feedings."

"I hadn't quite taken it to that step," Tamar replied.

[This pre-supposes that theere is not another child in the house that gets up early-witness the fact that it is 4am now and Calanit is sitting next to me eating Cheerios]

Later, I shared the 'Training Camp' idea with my Tamar, who indicated that she had shared the same viewpoint with me many times, further highlighting my poor spousal listening skills.

After backing myself into a hole by essentially admitting-again-that I don't hear when my wife talks, I valiantly tried to explain that it would be too great of a shock to my system to get up in the middle of the night for feedigns since I hadn't gone through the Training Camp.

My wife, the lawyer, denied my appeal.

Picture at right: most recent sonogram of Baby #2

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Affluenza and Competitiveness

Competition is good. Change is healthy.

I think you'd better believe that if you expect to prosper in the future.

I spend a lot of time thinking about outsourcing and the rise of China and India. I ask myself at least weekly, "what part of my job can/should be outsourced at a cheaper rate?"

As Americans, we have a sense of entitlement to ever rising standards of living, wages, and material gain. Our affluence, however, may be backfiring, as we spend less time educating our minds and, like the grasshopper of a different parable, saving for the future.

Read a great article in Fortune recently. It suggests that our kids spend more time watching TV, playing video games, and not exercising their brains than their counterparts in China, India, and South Korea. In those countries, parents push and push for excellence in science, math, and technology. Without technological leadership, the article argues, economic prosperity becomes a challenge. In those countries, they push kids away from the arts.

Now, I think there is a role for the arts, don't get me wrong, because a solid liberal arts education provides critical thinking and sythensizing capabilities that a purely technical one will not, which to me, is a key for adapting to change. That being said, however, I would agree that our society has moved farther and farther away from a serious commitment to general mathematic and scientific competency.

This is cause for concern.

The real question is: what do I do so that my kids are ready to compete? Actual, the real question may be: what do I need to do so that I remain competitive?

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

The other side of business...

A former boss of mine in Japan said to me "I only do business with people I like."

The obvious component of business success is a relentless focus on the objectives and the metrics. The other is the people. There are those on your direct team, your co-workers and employees, but there are those with whom you do business.

Once upon a time, I would go to a conference and dilligently attend the sessions, looking to acquire as much theoretical knowledge as possible. Now, however, I realize that equally important is understanding (and I mean really understanding) the people outside of your business with whom you work-your partners and customers.

Instead of getting out early, I stayed out late, nothing crazy, but just chatting with people, figuring out what makes them tick and what they want in life and business. It's about having the comfort so that when those tough moments come in business-and they invariably will-you can call someone up and say, "man, this isn't working right" and the person on the other end of the line trusts you.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005


Best remark by a local: "we have two seasons, construction and winter."

As my friend and I rode into town last week, we asked ourselves "what is the essence of Minneapolis?"

Well, after 5 days there (arguably during the best two months of the year), I'm not sure I've got the essence of it, but it's a great city/town. The downtown is neat (in fact there are overhead, covered walkways that enable the citizens of the city to walk throughout downtown during the winter months without ever having to go outside) and is split by a bus only, mostly pedestrian street (Nicollette) and is bordered on the east by the Mississippi river.

The people are friendly and somewhat surprisingly multi-cultural (had a haircut by a Vietnamese woman and my taxi driver was from Kenya-a far cry from Minnesota!).

I was quite impressed.

Monday, July 11, 2005

On Friendship

Got a great response from Andrew Bonime re: Friendship

I quote in part:

"IN thinking about the different TYPES of friendship, I am reminded of Aristotle's three definitions:

Friendship based on sensuality
Friendship based on mutual utility, and
Teleia Philia (the completed friendship).

Here is a very good discussion on the three types that is more succinct than I could make it:

Referring to Aristotle's essay on friendship, relationships based on sensuality will endure as long as the parties are in receipt of such commodity; likewise, those based on utility will remain operative as long as the parties involved find each other mutually useful. There is, however, a "friendship grounded in virtue, such that one desires for one's friend what is best for one's friend, and this for the sake of one's friend. This is perfected or completed friendship (teleia philia), for its aims do not go outside the friendship itself... teleia philia is not characteristic of most friendships... A perfected friendship is possible only between those who are relevantly equal, though the measure of equality is not quantitative but proportional: as the audience and the great performer are not equal, but each grants to the other what is due: that is sufficient equality." [i.e. there is mutual respect; more than this, an appreciation, e.g., for the talents of others based on the observer's study and dedication to refinement.]

I have had few of the third type, but those I have are as precious as they are rare."

Friday, July 08, 2005

As a Man, the world is your bathroom...

I used to say that and 9 out of 10 times, it's true and being a man is an advantage.

The 10th time is on an airplane going through turbulence.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

September 11th-Just another day?

I was struck the other day when I heard an ad on the radio talking about a sale that ends on "September 11th." It was said in such a run of the mill fashion and I thought to myself...I guess 4 years is how long it takes to get back to "normal."

And then this morning's attack in London. It seems like the Brits have a big choice in how to respond--and I hope it is not like the way the Spaniards did.

Friday, July 01, 2005

On Planting a Tree

Somewhere along the line, I heard a great story about a man planting a tree.

A passer-by stopped and said, "Hey, you're an old man, this tree won't even give fruit for 50 years, what are you doing?"

The man replied, "just like my grandfather planted a tree for me so I would have fruit, I am doing the same for my grandchildren."

Another story I read was a piece of advice saying that you should plant a tree when a child is born. Well, I didn't quite do that, but since this is our first summer in our new home, I did take the opportunity to plant a tree in the backyard. I was quite emotional as I did, as this little maple tree now begins to mark my life and as it grows, so does my family, but G-d willing, it will continue well beyond my years.

I plant a tree so that Calanit and her siblings will have it at full strength when they are adults.

There's a tree in my parents' front yard that was planted by my brother, Barak, with my father many years ago. It is quite an impressive site now to behold.