Tuesday, February 28, 2006

"Actually, we're on vacation..."

We had 3 good meetings today (two venture capital firms and one established software company). Some themes are emerging....

Israel is getting/staying strong in
-respecting Intellectual Property
-optical networks
-understanding the US market
-Internet technologies
-gaming (casino) technologies

Israel does not have strengths in:
-sales execution
-enterprise software (there's no money in it and Microsoft/Oracle/Symantec can't be toppled)
-communication skills (particularly listening).

The best example we got of this was: "In the US, when someone realizes that a listener doesn't understand him, he says "hmmm, I need to rephrase it.' In Israel, he says, 'this guy doesn't understand me, i'm smarter than he is and he's an idiot."

Tonight, we happened to find out about a networking event for people in the gaming industry, designed to bring together venture capitalists and start-ups. We crashed the event and started working the crowd. We would get people to talk about their business, ask them questions, and figured out what made them tick. They would ask us who we were.

Our answer, "I'm here on vacation."

No one of course believed us, but it's the truth. Best evidence I can think of that we're passionate about what we do. When we're (Asher and I) on vacation, we go and talk business and technology with start-ups and financiers.

Monday, February 27, 2006

on the ground...

Landed in Israel. It's been four years and the changes are noticeable. First one was the airport. The new terminal can go head to head with any one I've ever been in. If you judge a country by its airport, then Israel is a big time player on the world stage.

On a different note, I found out that there is only 1 synagogue in an airport in the entire Western Hemisphere, in JFK.

The components of attraction...

Saw a snippet of a program on National Georaphic Explorer channel about the three components of attraction that a man needs in his mate.

1. Physical attraction (lust)
2. Romantic attraction (feeling that you've found your soulmate)
3. Attachment (the willingness to persevere through difficulties together)

Makes me appreciate my mate all the more.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

The trip....

I'm taking to Israel for a week is difficult because I have to leave my family. But I like the fact that I don't feel like I need a break from them or the stressors of life as a "familyman." Something reassuring and comforting about that.

Father of the bride...

We have a good friend whose daughter recently broke off an engagement. To many, it was a relief, since there were signs that the marriage did not have great chances of success.

Recently, we learned that the couple has begun dating again and is committed to "making things work."

I was listening to the mother of the girl describe her predicament. She felt doubtful that her daughter was making the right decision but she knew she could not get involved. If she rejected the idea, she rejects the daugther and thus damages the relationship. I could see the emotional pain on her face as she discussed the predicament she faced as a parent in having to restrain herself and enable her daughter to live her own life.

During our conversation, Calanit was running blissfully around with a big smile on her face. I couldn't help but wonder what type of emotional challenges this little, beautiful girl of mine would bring my way before all is said and done.

She's on my lap as I write this, enjoying the picture of herself

Tax season...

Though with each year it gets a bit easier as I acquire experience and understanding of the process, it still galls me that as a citizen of moderate intelligence, I can't do my own taxes.

Part of it has to do with the time investment, but part of it has to do with the fact that there are so many things to keep in mind that I'd miss more savings than I'd get. I tried once 3 years ago and may try it again in the future.

It is one of the few non-automated parts of my life and it rubs at me like a raw blister.

Have your cake and eat it, too...

I have a Media Center PC which does the same thing at Tivo (actually more) when it comes to watching TV.

It's great to record shows, listen to my music, watch our family pictures and videos, but the one concept that I get but still excites me is the ability to pause live TV.

It's one thing to tape a live game and watch it a few hours later. You know that it is long finished and there's no sense of being in the same period of time when the outcome is being determined.

Now, though, I can answer the phone, look at Calanit's blocks, or do whatever and I'm only minutes or seconds behind. Then, I can catch up.

Today, I watched the Olympic Gold Medal Hockey game. I started watching, paused it for 10 minutes and since the score is always in the top corner, I could catch up to the point where one team scored, watch that, and then catch up to the actual action and feel like I've seen the major points of the game in much less time.

The time-shifting phenomenon that Tivo, er Windows Media center, has enabled is quite remarkable.

Friday, February 24, 2006

The Olympic Spirit....

Of those I've surveyed, most are not watching the Winter Olympics from Torino. Don't know why. Maybe I manage my time more efficiently, maybe less. Who knows?

Asides from being a sports buff, I like the Olympics because of my past travel experiences. For the Winter Games, in particular, I've been to almost every country of consequence. Thus, when I see Finland play Sweden or cross country skiers from the Czech Republic or Estonia, it's not some distant, intellectual concept, but a real place with real people I can picture in my mind. I can relate to the athletes and have some idea of what they mean to their own countries. It makes it more compelling for me.

I like the spirit of internationalism that the Olympics represent...commercialism and all.

On a side note...NBC has got to get rid of Sandra Bezic and Dick Button for figure skating. So much negativity. It's one thing to comment on issues that affect performance but come on! If you're in the Olympics, you deserve some credit. IT seems like they got bonus $ for every time they sounded holier than thou. I started watching with the mute on.

How I know I'm smarter than my wife...

During one of our earliest dates, Tamar and I came across the fact that we both took Latin in high school. I was particularly proud of one fact.

"I took the National Latin Exam and got a silver medal," I boasted.
"I got gold," she calmly replied.

That, combined with her legal mind and vastly superior intellect for Jewish texts made me defer to her wisdom on many things (technology being one of the obvious exceptions.)

Anyway, the last few days have made me change my mind.

I'm going to Israel for a week...by myself. I've been sick now for about 3 weeks and Tamar has borne the brunt of child care. It's becoming more and more obvious that, as was said at my wedding, I "married way above myself."

Obviously, if my wife were smarter than I, she wouldn't have agreed to marry me. That's how I know I'm smarter than she. :-)

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Anne's sacrifice...

We have a wonderful woman who takes care of Erez one day a week. She's from Kenya, 48, and the mother of 4 kids who live in Nairobi.

She speaks often of her "responsibility" and the need to "sacrifice" as a parent. The entire reason why she is in the US is to earn money so that her children, all of whom are back in Kenya, can go to graduate school. Shes' got another 4 years or so, by her calculations, before she can return to her family.

You think that once you raise your kids, your job is done, but Anne doesn't feel that way. It never ends.

Housekeepers who don't speak English...

In the age of Caller ID, I have a very hard time understanding why someone would instruct a non-English speaking housekeeper to answer the phone. It's my job now to speak Spanish?

Why not let it ring and I'll leave a message? Now, you've inconvenienced me by making me call back again later to make sure my message gets through.

This one I don't get.

Learning how to feel...

I'm going to Israel on Sunday for a week. Intellectually, I know, that there's as much risk in going there as driving to the office in my car. Of course, the fact that I'm flying, going to the Middle East raises the perceived risk.

I was feeling pretty anxious tonight as I thought about what could happen and what that would mean for my family.

I came downstairs and started crying. Tamar gave me a hug and then Calanit came over and held me for a while.

I love my family so much and I worry about what would happen to them if, for some reason, something happened to me. I don't like to think about it, of course, but you have to because the responsible thing is to think about it and prepare for it, which I have done.

It's very interesting how these things, whicha few years ago, wouldn't have fazed me, give me pause now because of the people who depend on me...and whom I love.

I've been reading a book recently by Rabbi Harold Kushner called "When all you ever had wasn't enough" and the most recent section discussed learning how to feel so you can really learn how to live. Wonder if this is part of the process.

Speaking of process and the "journey as destination," parenthood makes you think about "what it all means," why we're here, and where we're going.

Yes, there's an element of eternity because your kids live beyond you, but recently I've started to just appreciate the process more. Seeing my kids development, seeing myself develop as a parent. It gives me a nice sense of serenity to think about that instead of asking myself...what's this all about? It's right in front of me.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Dora the Explorer....

As it turns out, Calanit's middle name is Dora. And one of her favorite shows is "Dora the Explorer."

Every episode, Dora and her monkey friend Boots (he's really a monkey) set off on some adventure. In order to reach their objective, they must consult their friend, "the Map." He instructs them on the directions to their goal, which invariably has three components. For example.

1. Go THROUGH the Jungle
2. Cross OVER the Lake
3. ...and that's how you reach the magic temple (or wherever)

Then, he repeats (as does Dora throughout the show)
Jungle...Lake...Magic Temple
Jungle...Lake...Magic Temple

Now, our nightime routine has taken a page out of that book.
1. First, we play
2. Then, we take a bath
3. Then, we go to sleep

Play...bath...go to sleep. Play...bath...go to sleep.

Calanit has mastered this. It's pretty cute.

Social Networking and CRM...

Don't know if you are familiar with the social networking site www.linkedin.com or not, but the concept is potentially very powerful.

Was talking about it at lunch today with some colleagues about how they use it. I've played around with it, but haven't figured out exactly what the "killer app" component of the concept is just yet.

Anyway, that led to a conversation of how we keep in touch with our networks. Mine is very simple in strategy, but difficult to execute, simply because it requires discipline and focus.

Basically, I divide my world into personal and business networks. Then, those people are divided up into "Special Interest Groups" that associate with areas of moderate expertise of mine. These are technology, Jewish/Israel, Germany, Japan, and then groups I belong to, like alumni of Hopkins or JDS (my high school).

Each person is tagged in Outlook with any of the multiple categories to which they belong. When I find something of interest to that group, I'll just send an email to everyone in the entire category.

That's the ad-hoc stuff. The programmatic effort is as follows.
I send a quarterly update to the business and personal networks. The personal one gets a linked to the blog, pictures of my kids, and other personal stuff. The business group gets commentary on business world and a more straightforward update. Obviously, people can move from business to personal (and occasionally the other way).

I also make a point of calling everyone on the personal list on his/her birthday.

I've found a few things out.
1. people, no matter how old, appreciate being remembered on their birthday
2. people remember each year the fact that I remember their birthday
3. if I talk to someone only once a year-on his/her birthday-then that's ok

Basically what this does is when I arrive in, say, Denver and call someone I haven't seen in 5 years, it's not as awkward because, at the very least, that person knows what is going on with me and I've spoken (or left a VM) to him annually for a few minutes.

Some days there are 0 or 1 birthdays. Some days, like tomorrow, there are 6 or 7. So, I invest up to 1 hour in relationships...big deal. At the least, the person appreciates it and at the most, I have a good conversation with someone.

Is it shallow? No, I don't think so. I'm not keeping people in my network because I want to "use" them for some advantage. These are people I've met, have had an impact on me over the years, and with whom I'd like to keep in touch. I appreciate their life perspectives and what they can share with me.

A colleague of mine said yesterday that, "aside from your parents, the things that have the most influence on you over the course of your life are the books you read and the people you meet."

That's why I invest the time and energy to keep in touch and stay up to date.

I also love www.plaxo.com for this reason, but that's another subject.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

How to explain....

I tell people that there are two things in life that I've experienced that I can't possibly explain to other people. The first is starting and owning your own business. The other is parenthood.

Calanit and I have a routine now.

Jeremy: "Who loves Calanit this much?" (stretching out arms all the way)
Calanit: Abba!!! (that's father in Hebrew)

Jeremy: And who is Abba's favorite girl?
Calanit: Calanit!!!!

How do you explain how that one feels?

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Netflix and the cost of movie testing...

My dad and I share a NetFlix account. What I realized today is that with the marginal cost of putting a movie on my queue at zero, the cost of "testing out a movie" has dropped significantly. It's made me less risk averse.

Before, you'd go to the video store and have to consider whether the $4 was worth it for a movie you'd either never heard of or someone recommended to you. Now, you ask for it, it comes and you can test it out.

I did this the other day with "The Terminal." After 30 minutes, I could tell it was a movie I didn't want to watch. I just put it back in the mail and waited for the next one.

What NetFlix has done, in this respect, is helped me to take more chances in the movies I'm willing to screen. I'll give it 20 minutes and if I like it, great. If not, send it back.

Another dramatic impact of the Internet.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Parenting drama

About 2 weeks ago, Calanit realized that she didn't need to stay in bed when she woke up and that she could come into our room. Not a big deal, she usually climbs into bed with us or sits quietly on the floor.

This morning, Tamar and I are lying there, and we hear Calanit say "I have a poopie."

"Great, do you want to go the potty?" We've been working with her on this topic.

"I have a poopie."

Keep in mind that at this time, both Tamar and I are in bed with our eyes closed. Calanit is on the floor.

At some point, I look over and squint (not wearing glasses and all) and see that Calanit is lying on her back WITH HER DIAPER OFF and yes, she has a poopie.

I am notoriously difficult to wake and we're constantly fatigued (though Erez is improving significantly, it should be noted), but nothing gets me out of bed faster than an open diaper, face down on the floor of my bedroom.

Catastrophe has long since been averted, but it's one of those unpredictable twists of parenting that you just have to love...or you will go insane.

Guardians of Israel...

Among 'mainstream' (that is to say, left leaning, Democrat-oriented) Jews, the Christian right is something to be feared. Their perceived aggressive, proselyte-focused, and faith-based mentality makes many Jews feel uncomfortable. To an extent, I can understand that.

I've also come to appreciate the fundamentalist Christians. They are supporters of Israel and, in my mind, it's a no lose scenario. Basically, the deal is that the Christians support Israel as a Jewish state until the 2nd coming of Jesus. In my mind, that's a deal I'm willing to make.

Anyway, this morning, I was reconfiguring the TV (after a power outage) and stopped for a moment on Channel 17, which was promoting www.guardiansofisrael.tv and showing pictures of Israeli pensioners who couldn't afford their medicince and soliciting donations from Christians to support Israel.

The show also talked about the impact of terrorism on the Israeli economy and made a point of showing the entire state of Israel without and reference to Gaza, West Bank, or Golan.

Amazing....they put their money where their mouths are and some people wonder who their friends are....

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

A conversation from a child's perspective

It’s great to see how a kid looks at a simple question with fresh eyes after adults are so conditioned to look at it another way.


A recent example. We got a note from pre-school saying that a friend of Calanit’s, Kara, wanted to have a play date with her.


I said, “we could definitely do that, depending on where she lives.” Looking at Tamar, I asked, “where does Kara live?”


Calanit chimed in…”at home!”


So true and obvious.


Monday, February 13, 2006

Danish political cartoons

Was watching CNN the other night and Paula Zahn was doing a report on the riots in the Arab world. At the end of the program, she editorialized, “at CNN, we feel it is our job to report the news, not to throw fuel on the fire. That’s why we have decided not to show the offending cartoons.”


What it said to me was that “we’re willing to give up some freedom of the press for the comfort of knowing that CNN headquarters won’t be torched by a mob.”  Worse than that, though, is that terrorism has now extended to journalism (which I kind of new, but is not obvious) and that the “truth” is going to be advanced by those who are most willing to use violence to drive their message.


A friend of mine had perhaps the most keen insight into the rioting.  He observed that rioting is the litmus test for a “perversion of Islam.” Now, if someone says that, for example, suicide bombers are a “perversion of Islam” but we don’t see any rioting in the streets of the Arab world, we can be comfortable in knowing that it’s actually not a perversion of Islam.  The cartoons are a perversion, so there’s rioting. Now, we’ve got it.


On a side note, sort of….a colleague of mine asked after the Hamas electoral victory, “oh man, what is happening in the Middle East? These Hamas guys are terrorists!”


All I said was, “nothing’s really different, except for you understand now what I understood 15 years ago about the objective of the bulk of the Palestinian populace.”

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Snow day..

Once upon a time, snow days were a divine gift.  It’s 7pm on Sunday evening, here’s what has happened since 4 am.


  1. the power goes out at 4am and the temperature starts to fall
  2. at 7am, our kids wake us up and we look outside to see a massive tree lying across the street and the power lines down. By this point, the temperature in the house has dropped to a balmy 52 degrees Fahrenheit.
  3. We come up with Plans A-C and spring into action. Fortunately, we only need Plan A, as my parents (who live 20 minutes away) have power.
  4. We pack for up to 3 days stay at their home. I go outside, shovel a path out to the road, talk to some rescue workers/police officers who are investigating the power line issue, and then pack the car
  5. By 11:30am, we are all at my parents’ home.
  6. By 12:30pm, Tamar goes to work, I take a nap.
  7. At 5pm, we get word that the power is back on our street. I look outside and see that the lights on my car are on (which I can’t understand since they automatically turn off when you take out the key…and I’ve had the car for 3 years). Bottom line: battery is dead.
  8. At 6pm, we get the car started.
  9. By 7:30pm, we’re all home. I still have to shovel Tamar’s car out and take out the trash.
  10. Fortunately, our Internet (on which our phone/Vonage is dependent) is working, but it takes me 40 minutes to get my newly rebuilt PC back up and running (don’t know why and it makes me question my love of technology).


A hassle, yes, but the whole day was put into perspective as I drove with the two kids in the back to pick up Tamar at the Metro. They were whining and not in a good mood so I asked Calanit if she wanted to sing. It took a few repetitions, but I finally understood that she said “Sunshine,” meaning ‘you are my sunshine.’


I sang it to them both the entire way home and heard them get quiet and saw them fall asleep so peacefully in the backseat.  It brought tears to my eyes…and I kept on singing anyway.

It happens to the best of us...

If you’ve ever spoken to me about computers, you know that there are three things I emphasize.

  1. anti-virus software
  2. firewall
  3. backup religiously


Well, last Saturday night, I experienced something I had never seen before, a total Hard Drive crash. It was crazy, could not even get the machine to work. Well, bottom line, had to buy a brand new hard drive and reinstall EVERYTHING.


Fortunately, I back up like a madman and with a few exceptions (some emails and what have you), I’ve got everything that is important, financials, legal, medical, photos, and music. Worked out well, all things considered.


And, in the process, learned quite a bit about how computers work (and also got to reorganize my office, a.k.a. the “man cave.”)

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Free Home Estimator

This is an impressive tool
For a while now, I've been saying that real estate is the next big market to be turned on its head by the Internet.

Lowest Price, Best Quality, or Fastest....which two do you want?

I had a boss once named Christophe Cremault. He is definitely one of the smartest guys I've ever met. When we worked at Snickelways back in the lat '90s, he taught me a very valuable lesson about the services business.
"Customers," he said, "are always going to want the lowest price, the highest quality, and the quickest completion. There's no way to have all three and they need to decide which two they want."
He was (and is) right of course.
Yesterday, I was thinking about him.
Near my house is a hairstylist training school. For $5, you can get your haircut. That's a pretty good deal, of course.  I went there once about a month ago and got what Tamar said was "the best haircut of your life."  Low price, high quality....it took AN HOUR!!
Being a bit on the frugal side, I decided it was worth it.  I went back yesterday for a trim.  I was going crazy, it was taking so long. Now, I know these guys are students and they want to do well and I know that if I rush the guy, he's going to screw up.  I kept thinking about Christophe. The price wasn't going to change and if I told him to speed up, the quality would go down.
Finally, though, I said, "this is fine, I've got to go."
I think in the future, I need faster delivery and high quality and I'll just go to Hair Cuttery.

Kira's conversation with Calanit

K:  Who is Paco?
C:  Erez
K: Who is the wundertante?
C: you
K: who is Pinky?
C: me
K: who is Jeremy?
C: Abba
K: who is Tamar?
C: Ima
K: Who is Ellen?
C: Nanee
K: I'm impressed.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Changing perspectives...

The following is a note sent to my sister. She recently led a Birthright Israel trip with a number of young adult Americans on it.
I wanted to drop you a little note because I haven't been able to get the story you told at the cemetery out of my head. I remember when the Hebrew U bombing happened; I had been working at the Post for about a month at the time. I looked at the coverage, noted that x number of Americans were killed, had a fleeting thought that it was sad, and went on with my day.
And now, four years later, my life has intersected with someones who was deeply affected by it. When I got back to work last week, I went back and looked at the summary of that day's edition and it said "Campus Carnage 4-pages." I was struck by the fact that this awful tragedy, that you are still reeling from years later, was reduced to clever alliteration and a 4-page spread. And, just like every other idealistic 20-something, I really want to be doing something that will benefit people rather than exploit and distress those who have just lost loved ones. I think everyone working in the media, and everyone who ever watches the news or reads a newspaper, has to maintain a certain level of detachment from all the terrible things that are constantly around us. But, (cheesy as it may be) the next time I see a story coming out of Israel, I am certain I will really stop and grieve for Ben who wouldn't spin on Shabbat and Marla who should have married Michael and everyone who has lost or been lost in this struggle. So, I really want to thank you for sharing your story because it has really touched me and I know it can't be easy to talk about.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

The Thinking MInd...

I got picked on by a cab driver for the first time in my life.

Traveling to the airport in Vegas, I was offering my opinion on the Cirque du Soleil show "Zumanity." My conclusion, after some background analysis, was that it was not worth the investment.

The cabdriver criticized me saying, "you'll never enjoy anything. You're too analytical."

Wisely, my colleague said, "let it go," and I held my tongue, but it got me thinking.

Later, at the gate, some other colleagues were remarking on some of the comments I had made about Las Vegas and asked "do you ever relax? are you ever not thinking? You're so intense."

They weren't mean-spirited comments, just bewilderment, or so it seemed.

That got me thinking too and it made me realize that it is the analysis that I enjoy. There's something fulfilling about it and it's fun to play around with the possibilities and various angles of a situation, no matter how trivial it may appear to be (or actually be.)

Friday, February 03, 2006

Israel in a nutshell...

If you understand Israelis, this is funny. If you can understand Hebrew, this is hilarious


Thursday, February 02, 2006

appreciating what you have...

The travel week for me in Las Vegas was particularly hard for Tamar since she had to handle both kids the entire time. It’s grueling and since Erez hasn’t yet mastered the art of sleeping through the night, it’s very, very draining.

I know that some of the times when I am on my own and am totally worn down, I don’t always step back and appreciate my situation. It’s hard and you’re tired.

On the way back from Vegas, I spoke with a woman who was very open with me about her situation. She’s 38 years old and there’s no significant other in her life. She really wants to have 2 children and she knows that time is running out on her. She is nervous about going to a sperm donor bank thinking that “the upper echelons of society aren’t your pool of donors.” She has some male friends who might be willing to assist, but she’s very clear about the role she wants from the father in her kids’ lives…basically none. She’s concerned that anyone who is willing to father a child is going to want some level of involvement.

We brainstormed for a while…what about terminally ill patients with no kids? (Maybe, but what does the fact that a person has cancer say about genetic markers?)

What about a legal contract that stipulates exactly what she wants and see who is willing to participate? (Ok, but how do you find those people—there’s got to be a website, right?)

She had a very interesting idea. A friend of her mother’s is 78, never been married, and no kids. He’s got everything she wants from an intellectual, morals, outlook perspective, but how do you begin a conversation asking someone to be a donor for her, she wondered?

It’s clear she’s struggling with this issue. It made me recommit to not taking anything for granted.

Leaving Las Vegas...

Proud to report that I’m leaving Las Vegas with a net positive return on my gambling/entertainment money. I finished up 133%. (Ever notice how it’s gambling money when you win and ‘entertainment’ money when you lose?)

Anyway, I did enjoy Las Vegas, even though it is a type of ‘bizzaro world’ that represents the best potential of American capitalism and the worst in excess, vice, and depravity. One thing I did forget was how much you walk in Las Vegas (or can). It’s immaculate and a walker’s paradise though surreal and disorienting since when you’re in the casino, you don’t know if it’s 3pm or 3am. Not sure it really matters, of course. I was impressed by the friendly attitude of the employees of the various establishments. I suppose when your entire economy is based upon having people want to visit you, you’d better be darn nice.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

on moderation...

Heard a great quote today from a colleague

“Moderation in everything…including moderation.”