Thursday, August 31, 2006

Back to School Night

Do I feel old...went to my first ever "back to school night" for Calanit.

She's going to be in a 3 year old, Hebrew immersion class. That made me feel we were continuing the tradition.

Her selection of afternoon "extracurricular activities?"
  • Yoga
  • Ballet
  • Cooking
  • Gymnastics
  • Karate

What do you think makes the most sense for a 2.5 year old?

How well do you know me?

you can have some fun with this one

The WSJ on the Guest Blogger Phenomenon

Posted in its entirety since link requires subscription...

No Day at the Beach

Bloggers Struggle With What to Do About Vacation

August 31, 2006; Page B1

A banner stripped across the top of the Daily Dish declares that the popular Web log's host, Andrew Sullivan, has "gone fishing." Mr. Sullivan declared a two-week vacation and opted to leave his political blog behind.

Several thousand of his readers have done the same.

Despite the efforts of three verbose guest bloggers, replacements handpicked by Mr. Sullivan, the site's visitor tally has fallen. The Daily Dish, now part of Time magazine, usually garners around 90,000 unique visitors, or individual readers, each day. At the start of the first workweek without him, Mr. Sullivan's blog received about 67,000 hits, according to Site Meter. This week, traffic has hovered around 57,000.

"The frequency of emails of 'Bring back Andrew' and 'This is stupid. Bring back Andrew' is definitely higher than anything I've ever written," says David Weigel, a 24-year-old assistant editor at Reason magazine, who is one of Mr. Sullivan's guest bloggers and has filled in at other sites in the past.

In the height of summer-holiday season, bloggers face the inevitable question: to blog on break or put the blog on a break? Fearing a decline in readership, some writers opt not to take vacations. Others keep posting while on location, to the chagrin of their families. Those brave enough to detach themselves from their keyboards for a few days must choose between leaving the site dormant or having someone blog-sit.

To be sure, most bloggers don't agonize over this decision. Of the 12 million bloggers on the Internet, only about 13% post daily, according to the Pew Internet and American Life Project. Even fewer -- 10% -- spend 10 or more hours a week on their blogs.

Yet for the sliver of people whose livelihood depends on the blog -- whether they are conservative, liberal or don't care -- stepping away from the keyboard can be difficult. Unlike other jobs, where co-workers can fill in for an absent employee, blogs are usually a one-person show. A blogger's personality carries the site. When the host isn't there, readers tend to stray. August is a slow time for all blogs, but having an absent host makes the problem worse. Lose enough readers, and advertisers are sure to join the exodus.

It's something that John Amato, host of the political blog Crooks and Liars, knows all too well. Mr. Amato rarely steps away from his site for any significant amount of time, although he finds updating the page multiple times a day exhausting.

"You become your blog," says Mr. Amato, whose site gets an average of 150,000 hits a day. "It's John Amato. They're used to John Amato."

Some bloggers thrive on the manic pace. Getaways for Jim Romenesko, host of the popular media blog bearing his name, consist of a Friday afternoon drive every month or so from his home in the Chicago suburbs to visit friends in Milwaukee. The 85-mile trip should last around 90 minutes. For Mr. Romenesko, it takes nearly four hours -- because he stops at eight different Starbucks on the way to update his site.

The longest Mr. Romenesko has refrained from posting on his site, which gets about 70,000 hits a day, was for one week three years ago on the insistence of site owner, the Poynter Institute. He hasn't taken a vacation in seven years. "The column's called Romenesko," he says. "I just feel it should be Romenesko" who writes it.

While it may seem like a chore to outsiders, many bloggers enjoy the compulsion. Mark Lisanti, who runs the entertainment gossip blog Defamer, is much like Mr. Romenesko in his no-vacation tendencies. Although he gets three weeks off each year from Gawker Media, which owns the site, he rarely takes a day. Not because he can't, he just doesn't want to. "My plan is to die face down on the desk in the middle of a post," Mr. Lisanti jokes.

Jeff Jarvis, author of the political blog BuzzMachine, knows the feeling. He has always posted during his annual vacation to Skytop Lodge in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania. When the resort had only an expensive Internet connection, he paid the hefty fee to keep his blog current. His son, Jake, now 14 years old, paid for half of the connection costs so he could keep up his technology blog, Wire Catcher.

Mr. Jarvis says he can count the number of days he's spent away from his blog on one hand. On the occasional break -- for a day or less -- he opts to leave his blog "dark," or untouched, rather than have someone fill in for him. "It's just my space," he says.

Kevin Drum, author of Washington Monthly's blog Political Animal, says he used to have that kind of proprietary attitude. At some point, Mr. Drum says, "You just have to let go."

Stepping away often means accepting a decline in readership. While Mr. Drum was on vacation for two days last week, his site averaged 45,000 hits, about 10,000 fewer than the previous weeks, according to Site Meter.

Mr. Drum turned to guest bloggers. Choosing temporary replacements is a great way to expose your audience to new voices, says Lauren Gelman, associate director of Stanford University Law School's Center for Internet and Society and a sometimes guest blogger at legal sites.

But, as in Mr. Weigel's case at the Daily Dish, it's not easy. Much like a guest host on a late-night talk show, people have specific expectations for a proven brand. A new contributor needs to maintain the tone of the site and not alienate its readers.

At the same time, the guest blogger can't follow a script or act like a substitute teacher who regurgitates the lesson, says Ms. Gelman. Without some creativity or flavor from the new writer, postings sound stale. "Not all voices are created equal," notes Aaron Adams, an information technology consultant from Missouri who reads nearly 20 blogs a day. "Some guest bloggers don't do much more than just keep the light on. They're not as interesting or as stimulating."

Michelle Malkin, host and namesake of a political blog, recruited guest writers carefully when she decided to take her first vacation in several years. All four replacements had a "similar vibe" to her own, says Ms. Malkin. Two of the guest bloggers were well-versed in subjects popular in the news at the time and the other two were friends whose work she admired.

A slice of Ms. Malkin's audience didn't take to the guest bloggers. She chalked that up to a "fickle" bunch who prefer her work as a syndicated columnist. But overall the guest bloggers held readers' attentions, says Ms. Malkin. During the week she was gone, hits averaged around 140,000 a day, down from about 200,000 before she went on vacation. Last week, before she eased back into posting, her average daily visitor tally dipped below 120,000. The numbers didn't faze Ms. Malkin. "For the dog days of August, they did tremendously well," she says of her fill-ins.

Glenn Reynolds, a law professor at the University of Tennessee, experienced a similar blow this month when he took a weeklong break from his site, the popular political blog InstaPundit. Unique visitors fell to 115,000 from around 150,000, according to Site Meter.

Even so, Mr. Reynolds is glad he took the week off. "I need a vacation more than I care about the traffic," he says.

Write to Elizabeth Holmes at elizabeth.holmes@wsj.com1

Hormonal changes...

Here's why I think the hormonal issues are starting to kick in least as I understand it.

Let's say you need to drink 3 cups of water a day to feel "normal."

You start drinking 2.5 cups a day instead.

For a week or two or three, you don't really notice the difference. Over time, the variance becomes larger and the difference more pronounced.

The Cytomel-one size fits all-is the 2.5 cups per day for me. After the radioactive iodine process, I'll be on Synthroid...They will figure out what my appropriate level is-through a trial and error approach that could take a few months-before I'm back to 'normal,' whatever that is anymore.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

The Jitters...

My sister-in-law Sharon got it right. I was describing the symptoms I have. I feel kind of jittery. Strange.

Not feeling 100%

I'm one week into the low-iodine diet and I'm hurting. Not looking for pity, but it is a statement of fact.

I'm dragging. Having a hard time sleeping, too. My energy level is below where I like it to be (my usual 100mph is not an option). My neurons aren't firing at their usual pace. 

The normal stressors of life (kids, work, etc.) are in play, but I feel like they are on steroids right now.

Oh yeah...I've got a raging headache pretty much everyday.

I called the doctor to find out: is this normal?

Yes, it is. Mostly due to hormonal issues (not low-iodine). We're really slaves to our bodies, aren't we? I'm on the Cytomel, not the Synthroid. Just got to deal with it.

Yes, this sucks. Yes, I know I just have to persevere, but sometimes I just want to crawl into my bed and cry, hoping it'll go away, knowing that the worst...being away from my 2 beautiful kids for 2 whole weeks is still come.

One day, I'll look back and I know it'll be in the distant memory. I know that, as Viktor Frankl says, I "always have a choice of how I am going to respond."

Sometimes, though, I think it takes some time for you to first admit..."ok, I'm here, I've got a problem before you can figure out what you've got to do next."

Admitting weakness...not something we like to teach our boys and young a tough thing. I feel the weight of responsibility to my wife, my kids, my community, and my co-workers. All of that makes me want to keep on pushing, to make sure that no balls get dropped, but it's a "Teufelkreis" as they say in German, lit: a Devil's circle (aka a vicious cycle). 

I know it's a marathon and I have to conserve and prepare, G-d willing, for the long haul, but it's hard. Really, really hard. (I can hear my mom correcting me now. The word is difficult!)

Treatment Plan....

Here are the details of the treatment plan for the next 3 weeks....

  1. August 22: begin low-iodine diet
  2. Sept 5: Thyrogen injection
  3. Sept 6: Thyrogen injection
  4. Sept 7: I-123 Capsule
  5. Sept 8: Thyrogen Scan
  6. Sept 11: 2nd round of Thyrogen injections
  7. Sept 12: 2nd round of Thyrogen injections
  8. Sept 12 I-131 Therapy Pill
  9. Sept 12-admission to hospital
  10. Sept 13-19: isolation (very, very limited contact). Off low-iodine diet
  11. Sept 19: Post therapy scan
  12. Sept 19-26: limited contact with children and pregnant women

Creative Solutions....

We have one light switch that turns on a very small light on the middle landing of the stairs in our house. We never turn it on.

Last night, I walk in and see it on. I can't figure out how/why that happened.

"Tamar, did you turn that light on the steps on?"

"No, Calanit did."

"What? How did that happen?!"

At that moment, Calanit walks in with her hula hoop and proceeds to demonstrate how she can turn light switches on and off using it as a tool.

Necessity is the mother of invention, eh?

Positive impact of cancer...

Saw a business colleague today at an event who told me...

"you know, when you announced that you had cancer, it made me really think about my life. You inspired me. I stopped smoking-something I'd been doing for 15 years-that day. All because of you."

Subway ride...

I'm blogging away on the subway when we get to a stop that is 2 before mine.  I happen to look up and notice....there's no one else on the train.

Sometimes the train ends at this station so I quickly realize what happened.

I grabbed my stuff and jump off.

I look through the window of the car and see a guy fast asleep.

I knock one the window. Nothing!

Then the train pulls away...with the guy still sleeping on it. one who passed by thought to wake him up.

Book Review: Four Against the Arctic

Imagine being stranded north of the Arctic circle with one day's worth of provisions on an island inhabited only by polar bears, walruses, foxes, and seals.

You've got a rifle with 12 rounds of ammunition, no means of communication with the rest of the world, supplies for about 2 days, the clothes on your back, and the remnants of an old hut for shelter.

You do have ample supplies of driftwood....but no tools of consequence, only your knife.

Then, imagine being that way for 6 and 1/2 years! That's what some Pomori hunters (natives of north Russia) endured [the author contends] from 1743-1749.

The book is an excellent story. It's also a great detective story of how he tries to unravel the various pieces of the fairly poorly documented story and, an investigation into the human mentality and will to survive.

I listened to this book in the car and was constantly enthralled. The writing was superb and the reader was highly talented.

At Amazon: Four Against the Arctic


From David Janus...

In today's Washington Post is a letter to the editor I submitted in
response to a column by David Ignatius - which you can read by following this

The text of my letter is below:

Why the 'Fascism' Analogy Holds
Tuesday, August 29, 2006; A14

An otherwise insightful column by David Ignatius ["Are We Fighting 'Islamic Fascists'?" op-ed, Aug. 18] contains one important inconsistency. While acknowledging that Islamic extremism resembles classical fascism in many important ways, he "balks" at the term "Islamic fascists" because it unfairly tars all Muslims. He supports this assertion by claiming that we would not refer to Hitler and Mussolini as "Christian fascists."

The problem with the analogy, however, is that today's Islamic extremists (or fascists) claim to be representing Islam -- their version of it, at any rate -- and it holds a central place in their ideology. The fascists of the 20th century made nationality, not religion, the focus of their murderous ideologies. While most would share Mr. Ignatius's desire to not unfairly malign an entire faith, obscuring the nature of Islamic extremism is, at best, unhelpful.

Silver Spring

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Hefetz Hashud...

Anyone who has been to Israel knows the term “Hefetz Hashud.” This is the code-word for a suspicious looking package in a public area that could be a bomb.

This morning, I walked out of the house to see my neighbor making a u-turn in my driveway.

I gave her a puzzled look.

She pointed to the middle school across the street (about 80 meters from my front door). It was surrounded by police cars, a “Bomb Truck” and men in vests. “There’s a Hefetz Hashud at the school.”

It's since been cleared and it was nothing as far as we can tell. Still, a sad commentary on the world we live in.

Guest Post: Singles and Work-Life Balance

Submitted by Tjada:
I am very fortunate that my company encourages active diversity networks: forums for women, African-Americans, Hispanics, Asians, Gay/Lesbian. I am an active member in two of them as a female, African-American and I find them very helpful in navigating my career and in developing relationships.

I was at a small dinner as part of a Women's Network initiative last week and of the 12 of us around the table, only three of us were single or had no children. At one point I spoke up to say, "I have work-life balance issues too." My challenges may be different in nature, but I still struggle to nurture my personal relationships. I also struggle and worry about running a household, meeting the needs of my family, taking care of myself, and worrying that my job is too consuming.

I want it all, as most people do, but I also recognize that is impossible and trade-offs come with it. My male colleagues have similar issues. This is a universal issue and I think that if we were more comfortable discussing it as such, then more progress would be made to make Corporate America more lifestyle-friendly.

Leaving it all out on the field...

Tamar and I use the expression “leaving it all out on the field” to describe days where we have been running non-stop. We also use the expression, “feel good about the day we gave our kids” when we know we have provided them with an enriching experience.

Sunday was one of those days.

Both kids got up at 6.30am. I took them out for 2 hours in the double jogging stroller. We went for a 1 hour run, went to the playground, and fed ducks at the duck pond.

Of course, we were the cause of many smiles of those around us when they saw the two kids eating their snacks in front of me. Calanit was a great help in handing cheese and crackers to Erez.

Most people would comment, “wow, that adds a lot to your workout.”

“Yes, about 60 lbs and a LOT of negotiation.”

I got them home (gave Paco a bath) and after he woke up from his nap, took them to visit their new cousin, Dalia Rose, and swim in the pool by Asher and Julie’s apartment. Had lunch.

Then, packed them in the car to go to Dupont Circle for their two aunts’ apartment warming party. Needless to say, they were a primary attraction.

Finally, on the way home at 4pm, they BOTH crashed in the car…big-time. One of the cutest things is seeing 2 kids sleeping in the back of the car.

I somehow managed to transfer them both into their respective beds and had, oh about, 25 minutes of peace before Erez woke up.

Tamar came straight home from work and went to a Bat Mitzvah lesson. I was on duty pretty much until they went to bed.

I was exhausted (went to bed at 9pm), but I truly left it all out on the field and felt really good about the day I gave my kids.

Those are my objective standards for success in parenting.

The little actress and her lines...

We put Calanit to bed every night between 8-8.30pm. Sometimes, when we are downstairs, we hear the pitter-patter of little feet in the hallway…or the thumping of feet against the wall. Last night, I went up to investigate. I found her face down in her bed. I’d seen this movie before. My little girl has learned the “art of the fake sleeping.”

I enter the room and say, “I don’t think the Tonka is asleep.”
From her face down position: “Yes, I am!”
“I’m not so sure.”
“Yes, I’m sleeping.”
“Ok, good. See you in the morning.”
“Abba, I can’t sleep.”
“OK, count some sheep.”
“OK!” Then she looks at me quizzically, as if it registered that she has no idea what that means.
“How about counting the number of stuffed animals in your room?”
“See you in the morning, beautiful.”

Guest Post: Fall Anniversaries

Submitted by Tjada

Today marks the one year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. Tonight, HBO will air the full four hour, Spike Lee documentary, "When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts." I encourage you to watch/tape/DVR it. I cried so much during the first episode that I now watch it in parts from my DVR. I thought that Spike had given his all in the making of "Four Little Girls," but he has really outdone himself on this one.

Next month, we will commemorate the 9/11 attacks of five years ago. Both of these events should have brought us together as a country. Sadly, we are more divided than ever.

Instead of focusing on my anger, I have resolved to spend the next week meditating on specific actions that I can take to hold people accountable and to help the people whose lives continue to be affected by these events. If we lose our empathy and compassion amidst the rhetoric and the division, then our future as a nation is not very bright at all.


Many have asked why I use "jer979" so often....

In the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, South Korea, the men's 100 meter dash final was a much anticipated event. The two favorites were Carl Lewis of the U.S. and Ben Johnson of Canada. Finally, the race was run and Johnson covered the 100 meters in the extraordinary and incredible time of 9.79 seconds. What made the moment all the more spectacular was the call by the television announcer Charlie Jones of NBC Sports. As Johnson crossed the finish line, Jones screamed out his now famous line
of "NINE!!!!......SEVEN!!!!.....NINE!!!!!"

(Here's the video. YOu should fast forward to 3:14 and watch the race)

A few months later, January of 1989 to be exact, during one particularly monotonous class at the Jewish Day School of Greater Washington, two students, Daniel Robert Frisch (henceforth "Dan" ) and Charles Andrew Fox (henceforth "Chuck") began to mimic Charlie Jones's call. Soon, as is often the case in high school, the 9.79 call was being heard in the halls and the classrooms. A 9.79 fever was making its way into the minds of many members of the 10th grade and many in various grades above and below. Soon, the answers to questions on math and science tests were 9.79 or somehow used the number in the problem. In Physics class, when acceleration due to gravity was called for, usually 9.8 or 10 m/s (squared), students who wished were permitted to use the acceleration due to gravity in Denver, which because of its elevation was, you guessed it, 9.79 m/s (squared). Then, the numbers 9 and 7 became noteworthy in their own rights. One example was that if one saw a license plate with 979 in it, one was bound to have a good day. It was a mania out of control.

Eventually, however, as is once again the case with high school fads, there was an anti-9.79 backlash. Many scoffed and laughed at those who held true to the number and all of its significance and deeper meaning, one of which was the belief in Johnson's innocence regarding steroid use at the Olympics. At the end, only three students remained absolutely dedicated to the number. Aside from Chuck and Dan, there was me, Jeremy Epstein.

Anyway, since then we have stayed true, guarded the 979 handshake in secrecy and held it with the esteem and respect it deserves.

Upon my arrival at JHU, I was allowed to choose my own email ID. Instead of choosing BEN979, or as Chuck writes it B-N979, kind of like G-D, I chose JER979.

And that is the whole, true story of 9.79.

Sunday, August 27, 2006


The flip side of trendy Dupont Circle has got to be Costco, where the four of us went the other day. I love it. At one point, I said to Tamar, "I don't think I'll buy anything anywhere else again." It's like a mall, but all in one store.

We got our eyes checked...and ordered glasses. There's a hearing screening center. Clothes, electronics, household goods.

I love wheeling the kids around (the carts have 2 seats!) and explaining to them the concept of the "Big Box" retailer and the cost savings they pass on through bulk buying and no significant effort at design/presentation. (Some, but not really).

It's an only in America phenomenon and you know what? I love it.

It brings the "good life" possibilities down to even more strata of the socio-economic ladder. A sight to behold if you haven't already.

Preppie/Trendy areas...

My sisters just co-bought an apartment in Dupont of DC's trendier neighborhoods.

Parking 2 blocks away from their apt. and strolling the kids to the housewarming party, I took in the outdoor cafe/brunch crowd doing their thing, saw the shops catering to a trendy crowd, and was just in awe how far away I am from that lifestyle.

Once upon a an Upper West Side galaxy far, far away, that maybe was me.

Now, I can barely relate.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

The indirect strategy...

Read a very interesting "Futurist Fable" this weekend on a topic called The Jewish Energy Project, written by Tzvi Bisk of the Center for Strategic Futurist Thinking in Israel.

I like his basic thesis:

Oil must once again become a commodity on par with coffee, sugar, and tea (when was the last time the world was held hostage by the price of tea?)

I do think some of the ideas seem a bit far-fetched in their optimism for how things will play out.

I also disagree with the idea that Jews should lead the effort to destroy oil's importance as a commodity (it's a Western Civilization survival issue), but his key point is right on the money.

What he did, do, however was help me re-focus on something that-for some reason-I've lost sight of in the war against Islamofascism. If you take away the power of oil as a commodity, you effectively castrate anti-Israel/anti-American/anti-Western civilization forces by drying up their sources of funding.

What he's done is making me re-evaluate the strategy for destroying our enemies.

Towards the end of the "Fable," he writes, looking back:

The War on Terror and international Jihadism was not won by the direct strategy of armed intervention but rather by the indirect strategy of destroying oil as the major international commodity. This was a lesson America should have learned from its victory over communism and the Soviet Union. It was the soft power of American technology, science, economic freedom, mass communications and democracy that eventually brought the Berlin wall down and not the hard power of armed intervention in Vietnam.

Banana Bread...

At lunch today, Tamar asks, "who wants banana bread?"

I declined. My mother-in-law says, "only if you're having some."

"Why does your desire for banana bread depend on the number of people consuming it?" I asked. "It's not binary? You either want banana bread or you don't."

"Well, if I know that Tamar is going to do the work and it's only for me, I won't enjoy it at much."

"So, it's a multi-variable equation?" I suggested. "The more people who eat it, the more you will enjoy it?"


"So, if n=the number of people consuming banana bread, in your equation, n must be greater than 1 (n>1). I guess the we should get a piece for everyone in the neighborhood. Then, you'll really love it!" She laughed.

"Of course," I continued pretty much caught up in my own enjoyment of the pontification, "there is another variable which is the size of your portion. I would imagine if we gave a morsel of banana bread to everyone within walking distance of the house, your overall enjoyment would decrease, since you'd only have a morsel at that point."

Tamar gave me the "ok, I think you've taken this issue beyond its natural conclusion" glare. My mother-in-law just laughed.

Needing the final word, I said aloud, "I wonder where the number of people line crosses the size of banana bread portion line...and if there are other variables we haven't discussed?"

I got the 2nd-and final-glare. Rumination over.

Guest Bloggers Program

The anecdotal feedback and data seems to suggest that Guest Bloggers Week was a success. Daily traffic went up by about 33% (of course that could be the Guest Bloggers themselves..coming back to see if people commented on their posts).

Side conversations/emails seem to suggest that other (non-commentating) readers enjoyed some fresh voices.

Much like immigration reform advocates, I am going to institute a "Guest Blogger Program."

I will invite 2-3 people per week to lend their opinions and ideas to the Blog.

We'll see how this social experiment works out.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Storm Drain Protection...

After the Storm of '06 and acting as a household FEMA Director I vowed that it would never happen again.

After some initial challenges, I settled on Juan, an immigrant from Bolivia (though I was concerned about his business practices for a bit) to build my defensive structure.

Well, he's done now and I'm satisfied with the work.

what do you think?

Israeli humor...

There's something wonderful about the Israeli sense of humor. Two Tel Aviv DJ's call a Beirut Burger King. I was crying it was so funny.

How long will kisses help?

Calanit tripped in the kitchen today. I picked her up and comforted her.

When I put her down, she said, "can you kiss my knee, Abba?"

I did, savoring the powerful feeling and wondering how long it would be before she decides that kisses don't help anymore.

Curb your enthusiasm...

At the suggestion of my periodontal hygienist, I got Curb Your Enthusiasm from Netflix.

I had been discussing how when you play the "cancer card," no one gives you a hard time.

Somehow, Deb remembered that it was Season 3 when Larry David takes advantage of the fact that his mother has died to extricate himself from social obligations he wishes to avoid.

Though deliberately crass and over the top, the show is a sophisticated inquiry and commentary on many of the common conventions of our time. It doesn't deal with epic questions of life/death, abortion, murder, etc., but much more mundane topics.

For example, Larry-who lives in LA-goes to NYC for a few days. When he returns, he is scolded by a cousin for not having called "while you were in town."

Larry asks..."what's the point? I can call you as easily from LA as I can from NYC. I didn't have time to see you."

The cousin responds, "It doesn't matter. When you are in town, it's nice to call someone."

I've wondered about this myself...clearly the idea of "calling when you are in town is a remnant of an era pre-Internet and high long-distance rates." Then, it was a nice thing to do...and it made sense.

Now, who cares? I call people in Japan, Hong Kong, and Finland as easily as I do my neighbors. Yet, I do hear my grandparents/parents suggesting that it "would be nice to call so and so when you are in Boston."

I guess that's why I like the show.

Guest Post: A Lopsided Trade?

Posted By: Gadi

Anyone who knows me knows 2 things.
1) I love football
2) I love BBQ

In the year 2000 I had a Eureka moment. What if I could combine the 2 into one amazing bundle of happiness? And thus MNF BBQ Night was born. It started small with myself, college buddy, and neighbor Danny Picket, and the occasional other drop in.

Over the last five years, we had to say goodbye to Danny as he decided to pick Brooklyn Law School over MNF. Not the choice I would have made, by I hear the argument. In spite of the loss of one of our founding members, we have grown to close to 20 semi-regulars, with about 10-12 members showing up per week.

In addition to the member growth, we have seen a tremendous increase in my cooking ability. We went from packaged Hotdogs, and Hamburgers to Chili, Ribs (I have been told by many, the best kosher ribs in the world), home-made burgers, brisket, buffalo wings, heart attack balls (my personal favorite), lamb chops, chicken fingers, the occasional sushi, and stuff I cannot even remember. And, of course, cases of beer.

We saw the MNF booth bloom to one of the best football broadcasting teams of Michaels and Madden. (I’m sure Ill get heat for that one.) Though, I did miss Melissa Stark.

Needless to say, a good time is had by all.

Now, two years ago, in an attempt to increase poor Monday night ratings, ABC had conceded the broadcast of Monday Night Football to Baby Brother, ESPN.

With this new network in place for Monday night, the Michaels-Madden decided to go elsewhere. And who can blame them? The duo moved to NBC's Sunday night football, and ESPN installed Tirico, Theismann and Kornheiser. Madden and Michaels for Tirico, Theismann and Kornheiser? Lopsided trade if you ask me, and not because of Madden's weight.

In addition to the personnel changes, the graphics, and video quality has diminished as well. Even the sound on that wonderful MNF sound clip is worse. It sounds like a midi ringtone. UGH!

I always liked the MNF BBQ concept, because I felt as though it was a nice break in the week, and allowed me to see my friends more often than just Sabbath.

With this switch, I started to consider perhaps changing MNF to SNF. The downsides are

1) Sunday is usually family day, and preparing for football would take away from that.
2) I loose the break up the week piece.
3) I would loose many a SNF due to weekend travel and Hockey games.

So all said and done I think the downside out weighs the upsides to moving, it just won’t be the same.

Posted By: Gadi

Morning Runs...

Hmmm...not sure I like the way the title sounds. I was referring to the fact that when my kids get up early (usually Erez), I use it as an opportunity to put on the running shoes, put him in the jogging stroller [what a great invention] and go for a couple of miles.

In fact, it's almost always Erez (Calanit is a late riser), but by the time we come back, Calanit is awake.

Yesterday, she was quite upset and said, "I want to go for a run," so I promised I'd take her this AM.

I did. It's a lot easier with Erez.

We don't have discussions about
  • what he will wear
  • what food I should pack in the bag for him to keep him happy
  • why we're taking one route over another
  • whether he can get out and walk
All of this probably added 35 minutes to the entire run experience (the bulk of it before while we were discussing the merits of sandals vs. shoes-particulary since she was going to be sitting the WHOLE time.)

My Mother-in-law...

There's certainly enough folklore about the role of the mother-in-law. I know of a few people who have strained relationships with their mother-in-law.

I, however, am not one of those people. I LOVE and ADORE my mother-in-law. After having 7 kids, this is a woman who has more than "a pretty good head on her shoulders." She's very sound in her assessments of situations and frequently dishes out the most logical advice. She's certainly more rational than Tamar :-)

Why do I riff on my mother-in-law? Well, she's going to be staying with us for the weekend and I am thrilled. We have great conversations about issues big and small...and needless to say, my kids love their "Savta"(hebrew for grandmother) [not to mention the fact that I get a break!]

As it turns out, when I first set up a wireless network 3.5 years ago, she was to this day, the SSID (for you geeks out there) is named in her honor.

The "Ima Silton Honorary 802.11b wireless network" is alive and well and being used for this post.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

It's a Wonderful Wife...

Can I just tell you how amazing my wife is?

I barely took a look at the low-iodine cookbook, figuring I could survive on peanuts and water for 3 weeks.

That wasn't good enough for Tamar. She read (and committed to memory) pretty much the whole thing.

She has baked special bread for me, made a pasta dish that I would eat at anytime, found no-salt peanut butter, and much, much more.

When you survey your life and take stock of your assets, it's impossible to put a price tag on having someone love you so much so as to make sure that you are well taken care of, to anticipate your needs (even before you do), and to want, really, genuinely, want to make sure you are in good health.

I don't know where Zuzu's petals are, but I am certainly a lucky man.

Guest Post: Let's call a shovel a shovel.

Posted by: Gadi

Since 9/11 we have been in a 'War on Terror'. I heard an interesting quote, that 'one cannot wage war on a tactic'. That would be like in World War II calling it a war on Blitzkrieg, or Kamakazees.

We are at war with Islamic Fascists. Please do not misunderstand. This is not a knock on Muslims or Arabs. This is a relatively small group that despise our (the "west") way of life and our culture and will stop at nothing to make sure they exterminate it from the world.

I think that until we face the real enemy here, and stop beating around our P.C. bush, we will be unable fight this war, let alone win it.

Posted by: Gadi
See disclaimer below.

Guest Post: Is video required to be a good father?

Posted By: Gadi

For those of you who know my Dad (and I don’t think any of you do) he was the guy with some sort of camera always stuck to his eye. For many years I thought it was some kind of a growth. He had one of the first Video cameras that required a 30lb backpack in addition to the huge camera itself (Similar to this). I remember going to Disney, and just being embarrassed by the monstrosity he was carrying. This has scared me for life.

I hated always being filmed and photographed. I felt as though we were not able to enjoy the vacation, or trip because we spent the entire time either filming or photographing.

I have therefore made video and pictures secondary to the actual enjoyment of the site, or vacation. We take plenty of pictures, just almost no videos. In fact, we used our video camera for the second time yesterday. (The first being my daughter's first birthday, exactly 6 months ago.)

Recently, (I think due to a medical tragedy in the family) my sister started taking out the old videos and watching them. It was fun to see us on vacation, and random videos from around the house from our youth. There were videos of Hanukkahs, trips, birthday parties, bath times (Man that is embarrassing now) and other random parental interviews. At the time, I HATED taking video and having my Dad "interview" me, but looking back, I do enjoy watching the video. I got to thinking, am I a bad father for not documenting the first 18 months of my daughters life via video?

I open it up to the panel.

Posted by: Gadi


The views, opinions and ramblings posted above do not represent the thoughts ideals or opinions of Jeremy (A.K.A. "The Blogmaster"). Anything stated may not be used against him in a court of law nor be held against him in any manor. Any reuse or republication requires the expressed written consent of Jeremy, Gadi, and the National Football League.

Guest Post: MJ 101

Submitted by MJ

Let it not be said that Jer is a coward. Right now I feel as if I'm in his bathroom and rummaging through his medicine cabinet.....

Seeing as he has bravely opened his "house" wide, I thought a brief introduction might be in order. Before I start the ranting (I kid! I kid! I have my own blog on which to rant and rave.).....

My name is MJD-S, which is short for Megan Jane Daniels-Sueyasu. From which you can deduce why I have a nickname. Most people call me MJ, unless they remember to take a deep breath. I am Australian, but have lived in Japan for almost 10 years. I am married to a Japanese boy, who currently has a broken ankle. I work for myself under my own company name, and basically design and produce websites for the internet and mobile phones.

Jer and I used to be housemates, in a crumbling gaijin house in Tokyo. As a guest blogger this week I hope to share some of the stories of our adventures with you. In some ways I suspect that the Jer I know is a little different to the one that you know (heh bet I've made him nervous now). I hope we'll have fun exploring this together.

Guest Bloggers Week...Underway

I've invited my most prolific commentators/readers to share their thoughts as "Guest Bloggers" this week. You will see their posts as

"Guest Post: Title" and they will sign it.

At the end of the week, we're going to have a poll for "Best Guest Blogger"

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

A/C back online..

Gotta love service contracts. Thanks to the $30/month I pay, when the A/C repairman showed up today, I paid nothing and he fixed it.

It's another one of those "how do you feel experiences?" I felt great because I was getting value for the money I had ALREADY spent. It's the reverse. Usually, you want to see the value--and THEN spend the money. Here, I spent it first...and today I was thrilled I had. Strange how that works, huh?

I wonder if there's a way to do that in every business? Probably...just have to think about how you want the person (customer, congregant, donor, etc.) to feel after you deliver the service/product they've already paid for.

On a personal note, though inconvenient and uncomfortable for 70 hours or so, it was a chance to reflect on our relative good fortune...normally, we have Air Conditioning. We also appreciated what life was like before A/C.

Another one of those perspective generating moments, I suppose.

Guest Post: Charleston, SC Observation

Submitted by Tjada

I spent this past weekend in South Carolina, the state where the Confederate flag flies on the statehouse grounds. On my first day there, every car that I saw with a Confederate flag bumper sticker had some kind of "W" or "Bush/Cheney" sticker as well. I would like to tell you that my sample size was 4 or 5 cars, but it got to the point where it was really too many count.

Thank you Jeremy for opening up your forum to us!

Guest Post: "The Beauty of Benjamin"

submitted by guest blogger, Tina:

On another day, perhaps I would write something witty, hilarious or even bordering on profound. But today is different for me.

Today I don't care about the state of the world or the condition of my kitchen (although anyone who really knows me knows I NEVER care about the state of my kitchen...)

Today I have walked by my oldest son, Benjamin's room repeatedly and it's emptiness sends memories careening through my head. Benjamin's birth, his first step, the way he clung to me when I had to leave him for awhile--the Benjamin who upon spotting me would come running to me full speed and hug me.

His room is now strewn with the pajamas he wore yesterday...plaques on the walls...ribbons...trophies. Nineteen years later, he is in Massachusetts meeting his new college roommate, unpacking, becoming a part of the MIT experience.

Just yesterday I marvelled at how you rediscover the world once you have a child. Throwing a ball into the pool was nothing until Benjamin was riveted by the rings surrounding the ball as it hit the water. Before Benjamin, had I really noticed all the beauty of each flower?

We take so much for granted until we discover or rediscover the world through the eyes of a child, and it is always more breathtaking when it's through the eyes of YOUR child. Once, my high holiday outfits were important to me. Mascara was important. You have children and your world changes--and for the better.

Clothing developed a hierachy--clothing with NO spit-up (I don't remember owning anything like that), clothing with spit-up stains but clean (the good clothes) and everything else which sported fresh spit-up or dried spit-up. I went from wishing for pearls to wishing I could take ONE shower without a pair of little hands pulling back the curtain and announcing "I have to go pee-pee NOW!"

Benjamin spent a year in and out of the hospital with some rare serious illnesses at age 10 and 11 and was once two weeks away from neurosurgery--when you live out that nightmare, things are no longer important to you.

I can't remember when I last wore mascara, but I can remember when I sang Benjamin the french lullabyes to him each night at bedtime followed by stories of the world. I remember his getting his first chumash and the pride with which he carried it to school everyday...the day he wanted to wear tzit-tzit daily and the day he wore a kippah all the time.

He taught me that it wasn't so important to have a completely balanced meal every day, but to have fun AT meal time. He started sprouting wings early and one day, he was no longer running to me but trying to buy time with his friends.

As we added a sister and brother to the mix, he grew up. While he didn't have the blessing of good health the first 10 years, he had his father's unyielding sense of humor and of the absurd making it hard not to laugh even during the tough times. He is a man now. Though he spent a year in Israel last year, somehow it is different now. He lives a righteous life, has a delightfully quirky sense of humor, loves his family and is adored by all. He has now spread his magnificent wings and will soar.

It is with great pride that I watch him move on, but the mommy in me would love just one more neck-breaking hug from her 3 year old. About 12 years ago, my mother-in-law, Sylvia Epstein told me "Enjoy these years, you will remember them as the best years of your life." Well, life's not over yet, but I sure as heck miss hearing Sesame Street in my house.

Now, I will start this new chapter and focus on the new mix at my house: a 16 year old Sarah--my jewel, and my newly bar mitzvahed 13 year old Sam--the light of my life. It was a thrill to keep adding places to the dinner's difficult taking one away.

But, tomorrow I will resume life with a bounce in my step and Benjamin's optimistic words of wisdom no matter how dire a situation: "Mommy, DON'T WORRY!!"

Jeremy and Tamar, may you take each day slowly and enjoy the blessings of your children.

Benjamin, "Godspeed, sweet dreams my love.." Thank you for the joy you give my life.

submitted by guest blogger, Tina:

Air duct cleaning...

Every time we get one of those coupon books, there's an offer for air duct cleaning service. Being the OCD guy that I am (and knowing that it was highly unlikely that the previous owners had done it), I figured...what the heck?

$260 later, my ducts are cleaned. Hard to say if anything really changed for the better, but their machines sure made a lot of noise...which gave me the impression that they were really doing something. I checked the vents afterwards and, yes, they were cleaner (I had noticed some of the dust before). The two 23 year old guys (from Siberia!) had opened up my main duct and then screwed a cover on it.

They also showed me how much dirt hit my filter (needed evidence, I suppose).

What this taught me is that perception is better than reality. I have NO idea what they really DID. All I know is how it made me FEEL.

I felt like I was doing something for my family. I felt like the air was cleaner and more pure. I felt like I had made a decision.

For all I know, nothing's changed except for how I feel.

This is a great lesson in's how your customers (be they paying, investors, students, congregants, whatever) FEEL after the experience as opposed to what actually happened.

Guest Post: I think Jeremy is going to regret this.

Posted by Special Guest Blogger: Gadi

Top 10 things I hate

10) When people drive the speed limit in front of me, and then speed up when the light ahead turns orange, and then proceeds to run the red.

9) Arguing with Anti-Semites / Anti-Israel people on the internet sites/blogs about technology.

8) Burning when I pee.

7) People who want to talk to me when I’m at a urinal. Keep your eyes on the road, buddy.

6) Computer Viruses and spyware.

5) When I click on something that gives me a virus or spyware, when I know better.

4) People who make top 10 lists

3) People who ask me what I think they should do, and then do the opposite.

2) People who drive into a left turn lane (Or exit only lane), because it is moving faster, and then nobody lets them back in to the straight lane and then they sit there with their blinkers on blocking traffic and nobody wants to let them in because they all waited in the traffic so why would they let this guy in who tried to cut the line.

1) Work

Posted by Special Guest Blogger: Gadi

Guest Post: Are the terrorist winning?

Posted by Special Guest Blogger: Gadi

Just my luck, (I flew from LAX to DC on this weekend) I get to travel, with my wife and 18-month old, the week immediately following the foiling of a London terrorist plot. Security was tight. Lines were ridiculously long, and required many extra steps. On one of the legs security was such a hassle, that I almost swore off flying all together. I think most of the problems were cause by inconsistent information. (Topic for another blog) What I had read / heard from news sources was different than what was posted, which was different that what was enforced.

For example, News / Internet stated one could be liquids for baby / infant if someone had tasted the liquid first. Signs had stated only formula or juice with the same tasting requirement. TSA at Dulles airport would not allow any liquids for my daughter through security or on the plane.

For those who have not traveled with kids these days, here is a little snapshot of what traveling with an infant entails.
1) Stroller - Need an easy way to transport the kids.
2) Car seat - If you get a seat on the plane for an infant, they must be in a car seat.
3) Diaper bag - Includes all essentials, diapers wipes, food, drinks, etc.
4) Baby - Sometimes I think it would be easier to put them in the crate that dogs go in.
That does not even include our needs. Needless to say, it is a lot of stuff for 2 people to handle, especially in an airport these days.

Now, my wife wears an insulin pump (Which is quasi attached) and it set off the metal detector. (It usually doesn't however, the machines are turned way up due to heighten security.) She, therefore, needed to go through a separate machine (called the puffer) to be cleared through security. While she had to do that, I was in charge of all items listed above including our backpack excluding the baby. I had to be sent back several times through the X-Ray machines and metal detectors, due to car seats not fitting, and other airport bloopers (Only now am I starting to see the humor in this episode). Now the puffer is very sensitive, and does not allow more than one person in the machine, and beeps obnoxiously if someone nears. A concept not easily explained to an 18 month old.

As I am trying to get all of our things through the x-ray machine, and the TSA officers trying to get my wife cleared through the puffer machine, both machines are beeping furiously, and my baby was crying for her mother, I then thought to myself, have they won?

Sure we got through, and sure we made it home alive, and sure this terrorist plot has been thwarted, but have they won the war?

Our airline industry is already in shambles, and people are going to be even less likely to fly. I doubt the industry would even survive another 9/11 catastrophe. Businesses commuters (Probably the sole demographic that currently sustains our airline industry) are looking to alternatives to flying, and are finding very attractive options made possible by internet advances.

Even without having successfully taken innocent lives, have the terrorist succeeded? If the best revenge is living well, are we? If they are winning, how do we tip the scales back in our favor?

Questions I don’t have the answers to.

I would like to thank Jeremy for allowing me this opportunity post on his blog. I hope I did you proud!

Posted by Special Guest Blogger: Gadi

It's Guest Bloggers Week

For my best commenters, I'm opening up the Blog. It's Guest Bloggers week...I've asked them to not get too crazy and to sign their posts.

These are the folks who are the most avid readers (and commenters). Let's hear what they have to say. See if there's any value out there (don't worry, I can always edit out any ridiculous rants).

It's scary opening yourself up like this. I feel kind of vulnerable.

Vonage Part 2

Needless to say, right after I post on Vonage, the voicemail goes down. Ugh.


I've been a customer of Vonage for over 3 years now. Is it perfect, no? But it is much cheaper than the alternative. You get all the features you could want (voice mail, call waiting, call fwding, etc.) and it's only $25/month unlimited (incl. Canada) and dirt cheap overseas.

They have a referral program...if I refer you, we each get a month free. Thanks to this program, I haven't paid for phone service the last 10 months, but I'm in need of more referrals! :-)

Here's the deal, if I refer you and you sign up, you get free technical support from me.

If not, you're on your own.

Let me know

Network down...

We lost our network connectivity (at our office) today. For a company like ours, it's a big blow.  A couple of observations.

  1. they should turn off the network for an hour everyday. We had some GREAT ad-hoc collaboration discussions that would not have occurred otherwise. We're all so stuck in email that we lose the people touch
  2. this is a good argument for the "thick client". If you do everything through your browser and your network goes down, you're out of luck. At least, I could do some things using just my PC.
  3. It was interesting to see, however, just how dependent we are on the Internet. We kept saying, "I'll send you that file" or "let me get that from the team share" and then realized we couldn't.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Quote of the day...

I reached for one of the unsalted crackers Tamar had bought.

Calanit: "You can't eat that!!"

Me: "Why?"

Calanit: "Because you can't have salt!!"

Low-iodine diet is underway...

Pretty limiting, but we'll (I mean, I) will make it. For full details, see pages 8 and 9 of the Low-Iodine cookbook.

"It was a fluke..."

Yesterday's discussion with the Endo really gave me pause to once again think about the randomness of life.

"It was a total fluke," he said, that we found the tumor when we did. The lump in my neck had nothing to do with it. Had I decided not to ask my friend, the doctor, or not see my own physician, it would have gone unnoticed.

It was caught early, didn't metastasize, and didn't spread. The "magic age" is 45...the tumors start in your 20's and grow slowly. But by the time they are detected, your chances of survival are much lower.

There are 4 types of Thyroid Cancer (with their cancer survival rates after 15 years)

  • Papillary (98%)
  • Follicular (80%)
  • Medullary (40%)
  • Anaplastic (20%)

Chief Justice Rehnquist had Anaplastic.

And he says, "so remember when people say, 'ah, thyroid cancer is the best cancer to get,' that it really depends. Just tell that to the Anaplastic folks...80% of them are dead." [all other mortality factors were equalized.]

Basically, I got lucky, very lucky. But before you run to your doctor, don't worry too much...there are only 20,000 new thyroid cancer cases diagnosed per year in the US. 

However, the lesson here is, don't take things for granted. If you think something may be wrong, get it checked out.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Something new under the sun...

So last night, the kid I am tutoring for his Bar Mitzvah came over to wax my car. Yes, you read that correctly.

His initial homework assignment was to watch the Karate Kid, which he did. Once he understood the underlying reason, I had carte blanche to get him mentally ready.

"Look," I instructed as he waxed the door, "90% of the Bar Mitzvah is mental. You'll know everything that you have to do. You just need to stay focused and not let the distraction get to you."

Periodically, I would call out, "how is it going?"


Eventually, he got it and he became one with the car, maintaining the Zen-like state he will need to perform at his peak.

I called his father and together we documented the scene. I turned to him, "you know, I am a big believer in the notion of 'there's nothing new under the sun', but I daresay that in the history of preparing a boy for his Bar Mitzvah, no other tutor has ever made his student wax his car."

More on my new Endo...

Here was a smart thing my new doctor did.

I sit down and the first thing he says is, "Ok, you've been on the Internet, tell me everything you know."

Brilliant! Instead of my not listening to him anxiously awaiting the opportunity to ask one questions, he gets it all out there upfront.

At the end of my dialogue, he says, "not bad. You get a B+" and proceeds to work with me as normal.

I'd recommend that every doctor do this. Very, very smart.

It'll never be "all right"

Whether big or small, I've realized that something in your life is ALWAYS going to be out of alignment.

After a highly productive Sunday, I was feeling quite satisfied with the progress I had made on household maintenance issues.

Of course, then the air conditioner conked out (the blower works, but it's not cold air).

Relatively calmly, we deployed fans in the bedrooms, made arrangements to take the kids to my mom's, and called BGE Home to schedule a repair under our service contract. [I'm sure that the fine print will indicate that whatever is wrong with our A/C is the one thing that isn't covered.]

Anyway...something in your life is always breaking, isn't it?

Iodine Free Diet..

Starts Tuesday morning...Shouldn't be too glamorous.

A visit to the Endocrinologist...

New guy is MUCH, MUCH better. Funny, nice, and knowledgeable. Stepped back and really explained the whole process. What’s better is he’s offered up a solution where I don’t have to become hypothyroid and consequently, I won’t be dragging as much during the iodine-free diet stage (which kicks off tomorrow morning-bummer!)

Tamar didn’t come with me, but that’s ok, I recorded most of the conversation in Microsoft Office OneNote, it was pretty cool. The Doc was impressed, “that’s the first time that’s ever happened.”

For you medical geeks, here’s the way it works, as I understand it.

The normal functioning Thyroid generates a hormone called Thyroidglobulin (TG). For people who don’t have a thyroid, well, you shouldn’t have any of it. If you do, however, that’s an indication that there are some functioning thyroid cells…which you don’t want to have.

The goal, then, is to have a situation where you negative for Thyroidglobulin.

Now, there’s a hormone, generated by the pituitary gland called TSH-Thyroid Stimulating Hormone, which, surprisingly enough, stimulates the hormone. When you don’t have a lot of TG, you have A LOT of TSH since the body is saying, “hey we need some TG.” They are inversely proporitional.

When a patient goes through the Radio-Iodine process, the doctors want a very high TSH level so that any remaining thyroid cells are stimulated to crave iodine…which they get in a big, nuclear type of way.

After that, you take Synthroid to get your TG back up to its proper levels and theoretically, you’re in good shape (though artificial). As a result of this process, however, there’s a tabula rasa (clean slate-still remember that from 7th grade Latin) so your physicians can track you over time and determine if recurrence is an issue.

Bottom line—this guy is good, very good. Knows his stuff, great bedside manner, and a good attitude.

Still waiting on final dates, but we’re looking at the week of September 10th.

Washington Hospital Center..

Is where I am going for my treatment. It’s an inner-city hospital. What I’ve noticed in my 2 visits thus far is that….all of the doctors are white (male/female) and almost all of the patients are black. Just interesting to note. Almost all of the assistants/nurses are black as well.

Randomness of Life...

Yesterday was the 11th anniversary (I believe) of a couple I introduced to each other. I remember the moment they met. We were at a mixer for Jewish students from Baltimore area colleges. I spoke to a girl (she was from another college and sitting by herself). I saw my friend, Mike, a minute afterwards and said, “Mike, go talk to her…I think she’s your type.” And the rest, as they say, is history.

There’s a belief (not a real one, but a saying, I suppose) in Judaism that a person who is responsible for the creation of 3 marriages automatically earns a place in the World to Come (Olam HaBa). I’ve got three to my name.

It got me thinking to the randomness of life’s interactions though. Freshman year of college, a guy walks into the Kosher Dining Hall at Hopkins during services. He sits next to me and because I helped him navigate a part of the service, we become friends. Ten years later, he is at my wedding, sitting next to a woman who was a friend of mine in 7th grade (Tamar and I planned the meeting by the way…a story for another day) and now, they are expecting a 2nd child.

It’s just wild how these little things in your life can cause HUGE turns in another person’s life.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Really getting perspective...

While it's true that I have 'cancer,' all along I've said..."it's not on the level of lung, breast, or lymphoma."  This came in from a friend of mine:

My wife was diagnosed with breast cancer a few weeks ago. She will have to be hospitalized on 9/11 and will have an operation on 9/13. She is 35. She has two tumors (1-3cm) which basically could mean that this is invasive type. Now doctors checking other parts and have some suspicions about kidney.

Now the hardest thing is not knowing how bad it is. We got an introduction to best doctor around at the university hospital. All what they say is that there should be cure for this, but no 100% guarantee. They say that the hospitals are crowded and they enrolled us for the operation in a month. Is it the same in US? I have heard that in Lithuania, they put some one on to operation the next day they diagnosed. [note: he is in Japan]

This affects appetite and sleeping. Her mother is going to come and help us. This completely reevaluates all values in our life's. I wish other young people get early the taste of this, so they learn to really value each moment of what is given to them.

Strategic Sundays

It used to be that I would have 1:2 father:child Sundays. They were great...but tiring.

My mom (I don't say mom and dad because of who does the bulk of the childcare work :-)) would take them on Mondays. Now, with my grandparents sick, she spends a lot of time ferrying them to doctors appointments. Calanit's in school and it just didn't make as much sense.

Post-surgery, my mom started taking the kids on Sundays. First, I was recuperating. Now, I find that it is my one day a week that I have to do what I call the "strategic" stuff. Sure, I mow the lawn and other "maintenance" stuff, but I now have 7 hours (non-hectic workday) to do what I need to do for long-term planning (be it career, house, whatever).

What I've learned is that kids help you focus. When I'm with the kids, I focus on being with them. When they aren't here, I focus on being as smart as I possibly can be in allocating my time.

Today was a great example of that. Some accomplishments

  • mowed the lawn
  • cleaned out the steps to the storm drain
  • insulated some of the windows in preparation for winter
  • worked on my career development plan
  • played around with some technologies I thought might be useful
  • built a house project plan road map (things I'd like to do over the next 5-15 years...and when)
  • took out the trash (and repaired the trash cans)
  • spoke with a friend re: a business idea for 30 minutes

Would I rather spend time w/my kids? Of course, but it's a balance. Now that these big things (at least I think they are kind of big) are out of the way, the time I have with my kids is more focused and less stressed. A virtuous cycle if there ever was one.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

I'm a Ricardian...

I remember learning about David Ricardo in college, but if you had asked me yesterday what he stood for, I wouldn't have been able to tell you.

Jacob Licht dropped off a book called, The Choice, which is a fable about a debate between Ricardo and a regular guy who thinks that protectionism/tariffs can be a good thing.

Needless to say, bit by bit, Ricardo takes him to pieces.

It's a fantastic book and further solidifies a lot of my thinking/understanding re: free trade and economics.

One of the reasons I love economics is because it is the study of the choices we make-both consciously and sub-consciously.

The Bright Side of Cancer...

Look, you obviously never want to get cancer, but if you may as well make lemonade out of the lemon, right?

Over the course of my life, there have been periods/events after which I know I have elevated my state of spiritual consciousness.

This is one of them.

Yesterday at the pool, I watched the two of them playing with that useful innocence in the water.  I wanted them to get out, but they were both having a good time. Instead of fighting, I let it go, sat back and watched them.

It was almost 7pm and the shadows were getting longer, but the summer sun was bright. The tops of the trees were swaying in the wind. The waterfalls of the leisure pool created a mellow soundtrack to the day. Occasionally, as I stared at my offspring (whoa, that still shakes me on occasion), I heard the sounds of other children frolicking.

"This," I thought, "is the eternal sound of summer. This is what your childhood memories should be."

It was free. It was almost elevating. I took what Tamar and I call a "mental snapshot," vowing to remember that moment as long I am able.

No matter what happens to our house or our stock portfolio, this is one treasure I will never lose.

I picked up a second treasure this morning on a walk with the two of them as they sat, on the edge of the doggy run, laughing and pointing.

Pretty profitable weekend, if you ask me.

Friday, August 18, 2006

44 and counting...

My brother, Barak, called me to tell me, "I am going into Iowa for the first time. My 44th state."

"Same here. Which ones are you missing?" Then I told him mine. Folks...I need a reason to visit

  • Michigan
  • North Dakota
  • Oregon
  • Nebraska
  • Alaska
  • Hawaii

Southwest flies from BWI to Omaha. Barak and I may just do a day trip (we share the last 3) but any help in the first three would be appreciated. Get married to someone from there or something!


People can say "I have a child" or a "grandchild," but what do uncles and aunts say when they have multiple nephews and nieces?

My brother proposes the term: "Niecew". I think "Niephew" might be better.

For example, I have 14 Niephews.


Dishonesty or Negligence....

Tamar goes dancing every Thursday night.

She usually puts the kids to bed and leaves around 8pm. Around 7.30, when baths are done, I head down to the "Man Cave."

Generally, I take a break, run upstairs, listen for crying and then head back down to the basement (we have an intercom, but I don't always turn it on).

Tonight, I was quite engrossed in a number of things down in the "Man Cave" and before you know it, Tamar gets back (around 11.20.)

"Any problems with the kids?"

"Uh, what's worse," I asked, "negligence or dishonesty?"

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Testing out....

Switching costs would be HIGH because of legacy issues, but I'm testing out some of the features of the blogging capabilities as Microsoft's Spaces.

I had a Blog there a few months ago, hated it, and quickly came back to Blogger. Some improvements have been made. You can check it out here

Distributed Information...

What's another cool thing about the Internet? The ability to pull information from multiple sources.

I've got six tabs that I've created at the customized Windows Live page I have built.

  1. Headlines
  2. Energy
  3. Politics
  4. Marketing/Biz
  5. Tech
  6. MyBlogs

On each tab, I have 3-5 RSS feeds from a variety of sources on which I depend to get my news and information.

What's so incredible is that I only have 1 traditional news source (MSNBC-on the front page) and I barely read it. Instead, I gather my news from bloggers, mostly, and a few sites I trust.

I have never paid for a newspaper subscription to a traditional paper. Nor will I ever. No wonder their circulations are plummeting, right? Why do I need the Wash Post or NY Times, when I can get targeted information from a reliable source on a specific topic of interest?

The serendipity argument has merit. I don't casually leaf through a paper, but between visits to doctor's offices and emails from people, I come across enough random stuff to keep me busy. least for me.

The question then is...if you're a politician (and I think this is part of George Bush's problem, frankly) or a marketer/ do you cost-effectively get out the word? And, when you have so many different sources reporting on what you (or your company) is doing, how do you control the message?

I think the answer is: you can't. Maybe we're entering the true "actions speak louder than words era?"

Quixotic Pursuits...

I have a VERY liberal friend with whom I have been arguing about Israel/Islamo-fascism and pretty much everything else for about 6 years now.

A few weeks ago, I felt like I had enough.

I’m at a loss. You’re a dear friend and I really respect your intellect. I like debating things with you, but I am giving up now.

Since Arafat began the relentless assault on Israel 5 years ago, I have tried to convince you through every way I know how that the West is facing a challenge of epic proportions, that everything you hold dear in terms of human rights, civil liberties, equality, women’s issues, and more….is ultimately on the line. It is GOOD vs. EVIL in the truest sense.

I have been unable to do so. It’s beyond my comprehension to understand why.

I’ve poured my heart and soul into this effort thinking that…if I can just get you to agree with me on this issue, there’s hope for Western Civilization/America/Israel. We can disagree about taxes, economic policy, abortion (we don’t, I don’t think) or whatever and argue back and forth for the rest of our lives and enjoy the debate, but on this issue, she’s just got to see what’s at stake, because it is so freaking HUGE!

There are some good points in this article (there will always be in the ones you send me), but the underlying assumption “it may make sense to limit our hit list to the groups that actually threaten us” is flawed. It’s all inter-related. Complex…yes and very much so, which is why people don’t get Bush/Rice/Blair, etc., b/c it’s not an easy idea to understand or a pleasant ones to come to terms with.

I’m not saying I’m smarter than most (I’m certainly not smarter than you). This is a REALLY big issue to understand and unless you’ve been studying/thinking about it for a long time, it may not make sense. I can understand that.

For 5 years, I’ve tried to help you see things from my perspective because, for whatever reason, I just KNOW I am right about it….and I’ve failed. I hate failing, but a good general knows when it is time to do a tactical retreat in order to achieve a strategic victory.

I’ve got to focus my efforts on getting the people in the middle, on the fence, as it were, to understand so that enough people share my sense of urgency and alarm and we can solve the problem before it’s too late.

But, like a bad relationship, the dialogue keeps going. She keeps sending me notes and we keep arguing back and forth. Somehow, I maintain this naive belief that I can change her mind.

She's smart...really smart. She spend a lot of time crafting long emails that (though based on flawed assumptions) take a while to pick apart. After pouring my heart (and my time) into another email, I realized the strategic disadvantage I was facing.

You know what I’ve realized… I have 2 kids and am dealing with cancer. You don’t.

It’s like I’m fighting w/1 hand tied behind my back. I can’t even read an email that long, let alone write one. From now on, our arguments must be made in 3 sentences or less.

A few weeks ago, she had emailed me, "Your blog is addicting. I check it twice a day." Last night, I called her. She answered.

"You know what is addicting?" I yelled. "The quixotic notion that I can somehow change your mind! Every time I think I've had enough you drop me a line that gives me the slightest bit of hope and I can't resist! I think that if I can change your mind, I can save Western Civilization [note: that part is true]. You're a narcotic! A bad drug! It's got to stop."

I wonder what it is about our personalities that makes us continue on a journey when we know it's a fantasy pursuit. Maybe that was Cervantes' message?


It's no secret that I love efficiency. That should surprise no one that knows me.

What may surprise them, however, is long it took me to get an EZPass. Last month when I took the kids to Sesame Place, we forgot to borrow the EZ Pass (my mom has one).  Since our commutes don't require it, we'd never been motivated.

Of course, we got stuck in traffic. I vowed that as soon as I got home, I'd buy one. I did.

It's already started paying dividends (on the Reston Toll Road).

It's transactional experiences like EZPass and Metro's Smart Trip that, in my opinion, are the hallmarks of what a customer experience should be.

  • Simple
  • Frictionless
  • Efficienct
  • Pleasant

If a company can build themselves around an "EZPass-like" experience, their customers will love them.

And, if you build that type of mentality into the way you deal with your friends and colleagues, they will love you too!

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Mormon faux pas...

I'd heard that only Mormons are allowed to enter Mormon temples. I asked my colleague, "how do they enforce that? How do they know?"

He pulls out a card. He's literally a "card-carrying Mormon." Thing is, there's no picture ID on the card and they don't ask for one.

"Theoretically, could you give the card to someone else?"

"Yeah, there are stories about that. Some temples have cafeterias in them. One guy apparently tells his non-Mormon friends that the food inside is good. He gets them in to eat. The plot was exposed when his friends started asking, 'where's the coffee?"

Why this is funny: see Mormon religious observances.

Be your own medical advocate...

A few people who have had serious medical challenges warned me early on, "be your own advocate!" I kind of pooh-poohed it, relying on medical execution capabilities.

Well, if I've learned anything in the past few weeks, it's that these people were right.

After my meeting with the nuclear medicine folks on Monday, they assured me that they would "fax over your entire records to the endocrinologist" so that I wouldn't have to make copies, do it myself, etc.

Last night, I wondered, "hmmm, wonder if they did it?"

I faxed both offices. Today, got the email:

Thank you for the reminder, I did actually need it. I sent off what records we
had on you this morning to Dr. X's secretary, so you should be all set
for Monday. Hope all goes well. It was a pleasure meeting you.


In the business world, it’s called “DR/BC”…Disaster Recovery/Business Continuity. In other words, what will you do if your company’s headquarters are blown up in a terrorist activity? Or a flood? Or an earthquake? How will you get people out and keep the company running?

Tamar and I were both in downtown Manhattan on 9/11/01 so we may be a bit more paranoid (well I, not we) than some. Here’s some of what I’ve done.

Emergency Preparedness
We have a family evacuation plan. It has out-of-state contact people who have agreed to serve as operators in the event we can’t get in touch with each other (as was the case on 9/11). It has directions to 2 pre-arranged out-of-the-area safety houses, at people’s home who have agreed to be our common meeting point. It has contact info for other family members and medical information (e.g. I’m on thyroid replacement hormone).

I took a video of our home’s valuable belongings and described them as I did. Along with scanned copies of our critical documents (financial and legal, mostly), that’s burned to CD and will be shortly in the safety deposit box (and perhaps a few other locations). We have an extensive list of the location of key financial info (which specific people are authorized/have copies of—more in the event of my sudden incapacitation). I also have a weekly drop-off to ‘off-site’ storage of a disk w/update info.

We have a “DR” section of our storage area which has 2-4 weeks of food/supplies in it. We don’t touch it. It’s reserved for the situation where we can’t get to a store and don’t have water.

Ethical Dilemma rising?
This last one, however, raises an interesting point, kind of along the old parable of the Ant and the Grasshopper. If I’ve spent time and energy preparing for a disaster (it’s a matter of When, not if) and it does occur…what’s my obligation to others?
If there’s no running water and no food in grocery stores and you and your family are going hungry, what happens? If I give you food, I risk the lives of my loved ones (am I risking them even by posting this note so that people know I have this supply?) If I don’t give you food, your life may be in jeopardy….then you have a Katrina-like situation, possibly.

Hopefully, everyone will be pro-active enough and prepare for this situation (may it never come)

Marketing done right...

I love when I see great marketing efforts.

Here’s an example of what appears to be fully integrated marketing engine, designed to get the most “share of wallet” from customers as possible. The company is BGE Home. I’m a satisfied customer for some of their services (furnace, hot water, A/C, and Plumbing).

Here’s what happened…
  1. Received a coupon for discounted plumbing service from BGE Home (this prompted me to raise a few issues to a higher priority, including fixing a ‘slow drain’ in my shower)
  2. Went to the website to schedule an appointment online
  3. Received a confirmation call on my answering machine for the appointment instructing me to call back (since they can’t confirm appointments with a machine—seems fair)
  4. Called back to schedule the appointment on their 800 number.
  5. Heard a few commercials while on hold which educated me about a whole new range of services BGE Home can provide for me (surge protection, window installation, electrical wiring, etc.) Had NO idea they could do it.
  6. Began to think seriously about hiring BGE HOME (when I would have otherwise called my contractor-or not done it at all) for some of them

If it’s integrated, it’s BRILLIANT! I especially loved the audio commercials. I love how they are upselling me while I’m on hold. I can’t tell you how much I hate when companies don’t leverage hold times for upsells!)

(I’m wondering if they instruct their CSR’s –Customer Service Reps-to put people on hold for even short periods of time just so they will hear the commercials).

Lesson learned: take advantage of every opportunity you have to engage with and educate your customer about what you can do for them.

The Mideast's Munich

Very, very sad...but most likely true.

Are you asking the right questions?

Great post here on making sure you are.

Truth is stranger than fiction...

So Iranian megalomaniac President Ahmandinejad (pronounced 'a mad dog on jihad'-not my original idea) has his own blog. Yep, that's right.

And, what's more, if the visitor to the site has an IP address that emanates from Israel, the site apparently launches a cyberattack against Internet Explorer users.

There's a poll as to whether the US/Israel are beginning WWIII (right now the No's have it 60% to 40%)

If Ahmandinejad wants to use the best of the West (blog), why don't we take him down with a hard core Cyber Smart Bomb or something like that. Hack the hell out of it!

(No, the point of this post is not that you should switch to Linux!)

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Someone else's problem is your business opportunity...;

From my friend Jacob:

If I owned a marketing/PR firm I’d be pitching the following idea to
P&G, Unilever or some other consumer packaged goods

The antidote to the latest wrinkles in air travel:
Consumer packaged goods companies should send ground troops to airport
exits/arrival areas to distribute free toiletry packages to arriving fliers
(shampoo, toothpaste, mouthwash, etc.). It’s a great way to build
goodwill, get some product placement and potentially create brand

Obviously, there’s a pretty tight time window for a
campaign like this, but I think it would be a good strategy that would garner
lots of positive goodwill and PR.

Since I don’t own or work for a
marketing firm, I’m sharing the idea with you.

Fostering independence...

Felt like I did a good job as a father today.

Calanit's been very reluctant to go to far in the pool. She's been afraid of the waterfall and getting her hair wet.

Today, with Erez's help, we took it slow. Built up her confidence. By the end, she was running in and out of the waterfall without my help at all.

Then, ran into one of those classic parenting moments.

Calanit emerges from the pool and says, "I have a poopie."

It's at that point I realize I have no diapers or wipes...anywhere.

She goes 'commando' home and the whole ride we're saying, "no pishing in the car, no pooping in the car!" She keeps repeating it.

At last she says, "I want to wear underwear," which she has now don for the first time. We asked her, "what do you do if you need to do a pishy or a poopy?"

"Tell Ima and Abba!"

One day at a time...

My trusty companion is dead....

Many of you have seen me pull a "note to self" as I extract the dictating machine from its sheath to record some vital piece of information. This character trait was mocked during my wedding in a skit performed by my siblings.

Last night, however, the dictating machine-which I bought in 1998 and I've long said was the "best technology purchase I've ever made"-took its final recording.

It had been in bad shape for a few days, but last night, it expired...right around the time my new niece was born. Ah, circle of life.

For the time being, I'm using my phone's recording function, but after 8 years, it's a void that's not easily filled.

Sony Dictating Machine; 1998-2006, RIP.

Two born at 1.52am

My brother and his wife joined the parenting world earlier this morning. He's a very driven guy and for the last few months, I was eagerly anticipating the change that would occure when his child (a daughter) would arrive.

I remember joking with him that "you better hope it's a boy, at least you have a fighting chance. With a daughter, it's game over."

I remember sobbing hysterically when Calanit was born and that moment, when your first child is born, is clearly one of the most transformative moments in your life. The sobbing was a true rite of passage to a new plain.

Tamar and I lay awake after receiving the news and sharing our excitement. We are both eager to see the change in my brother now that he is a father.

"He's going to be a totally new person," Tamar said.

"Yeah, it's like two people were born at 1.52."

Monday, August 14, 2006

Dictating machines and doctor's instructions...

Tamar faxed me a list of questions for the doctor today. I am notoriously a poor listener. We tried to conference call her in, but she didn't pick up when we were ready. I started taking notes.
"What am I doing?" I said aloud, pulled out my trusty dictating machine and just let it record.

Now, I'm burning it to my hard drive and just going to send her the file, so I don't get accused of not listening.

Thyroid Cancer Comrade...

Walking through the waiting area of the nuclear medicine department, I saw a woman with a bandage on her neck.

"Thyroid?" I asked.
"Yes," she smiled.
"Welcome to the team," I said, showing the scar on my neck. "Looks like you are 2 weeks behind me."
"Cancer?" she asked.
"Why else would I be in a nuclear medicine department?" I laughed.
She nodded. "Don't worry," I encouraged her, "you'll be fine!"

We high-fived and moved on, sharing a common experience that neither of us could have foreseen 2 months ago.

I guess I'm part of another sub-group now (8,000 new cases a year; 250,000 survivors in the US).

Feeling bummed...

For the first time during this whole thyroid cancer stretch, I'm feeling a bit down.

The nuclear medicine guy tells me that for 14 days I'm really not allowed to have "significant, proximate" contact with my kids. I can sit at a table w/them, but not hug them or have them sit on my lap during a video.

This is making me really sad. They're not going to understand and I'm not going to like it.

-Can't sleep in the same bed w/Tamar for 7 days
-Must wash my clothes in separate loads
-Have to find out who's pregnant...since can't be near them
-more to come

When I heard this, however, I got sad. I love my kids so much and I can't stand that thought. For the first time, truly, I thought, "this really sucks!"

Whatever, gotta get through it.

Losing the forest for the trees...

Our house is about 60 feet from a regional park. It's great. There are paths to run on, playgrounds, etc. When Paco wakes up at 6.15am or so (often), I sometimes take him out in the jogging stroller for a run (less often.)

This morning, we got a bit of an early start and he wasn't fussing towards the end of the run (b/c he had fallen asleep). I decided to take a bit of a longer route home during the "cool down."

It was then that I really saw the forest. When running, I'm looking at individual trees along the side of the path (but mostly at the path). As I was strolling, however, I looked deep beyond the trees into the forest that lay behind. It was magnificent.

At that moment, the cliche made a ton of sense.

Now, what trees are blinding me when I'm not in the forest?

Comment of the Day...

My sister-in-law (in labor) to my wife: "The epidural was a good idea."

Nuclear Medicine...

Sitting at the nuclear medicine doctor's desk and blogging. Yes, I've been here for 90 minutes (apparently he was double booked).

I understand that emergencies happen, but what keeps killing me in this process is the raw inefficiencies of the medical industry.
How often I have to repeat my insurance info, name, address, and phone numbers.
How the names of the doctors involved aren't so clear right off the bat.
How everything is paper-based.

It's not anyone's fault, of course, it just seems like there's a much more streamlined way and that it will lead to fewer errors down the road.

Keep you posted.

Endocrinologist and Nuclear Medicine

Going in today for a consult with the nuclear medicine team. Also booked an appointment with a new endocrinologist (chair of the dept. at the Wash Hosp Ctr, as I understand).

Called the other Dr.’s office and cancelled the appointment.

“Why?” the receptionist asked.

“I’m moving to another endocrinologist.”

A few people who’ve had major medical issues warned me early on (and I downplayed it). You have got to be your own medical advocate.

The days are long, but the years are short…

My mom said this to Tamar and me at one point and it’s so true. 1 year ago today, our son Erez was born and it seems like time has flown. I certainly remember many of the sleepless nights and extreme effort it has taken, but on the other hand, whenever we mark the passage of time, it gives us pause to contemplate LIFE and step away from the details.

Child-rearing is, in my opinion, the “toughest job you’ll ever love.” Today, we celebrate 1 more notch on the belt of taking our children from cradle to independence and self-sufficiency.

The boy is walking like crazy now. He can get himself to a standing position without holding on to anything for support. He’s got a great personality. He’s on his way…

Happy Birthday, Paco/Spencer/Erez!

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Teach Your Children...

There's a prayer called Shema Yisrael during which it is customary to cover your eyes (almost every time you say it, with some exceptions.)

Yesterday, Calanit was sitting next to me in synagogue and I stood up during the portion of the service in which the Torah is removed from its resting place. At that time, the congregation sings "Shema Yisrael," but covering your eyes is not required.

I turned, by chance, at the end of the sentence to see Calanit removing her hands from her eyes and go back to reading her Dora the Explorer book quite non-chalantly.

Later that evening, she recited for me a nice list of activities that are forbidden on the Sabbath.

It was a great feeling, knowing that my 2.5 year old daughter is absorbing so much of what we seek to teach her and what we think is important.

Crosby, Stills, and Nash would be proud


No, we're not, but my brother and sister-in-law are. It'll be their first.

It's the first children born on my side of the family outside of my own. It's such a cool feeling to watch them, knowing (a bit) of what they will soon experience. They are in the final few hours. Literally, the baby could come any moment. It's just such a special moment in life. You know your world is going to change in ways that are unimaginable. You just don't know how.

Movie Review: Frida

Didn't know much about Frida Kahlo before I saw this movie and I'm sure there were embellishments, but I have to give Selma Hayek some props. She did some wonderful acting and it really gave me a feel for the artist (and for Diego Rivera). I loved some of the visual elements, tying it into her artwork. Definitely a solid flick.

Friday, August 11, 2006

The ideavirus...

The concept of how an idea moves around in the digital age is explored very well in the book IdeaVirus. Today, I got a taste for how I created one.

I'm talking (well listening really) with my hygienist and she's telling me about her new love interest.

"It's time we had a DTR," she says. I pause for a moment to come out of my nitrous induced haze (hey, my perio is a good guy, what can I say?) and say, "hey, where did you learn that term?"

"I heard it from your sister...who heard it from you. I thought it was a good one."

Strange how some ideas take off...