Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Will you be outsourced?

I spend at least 30 minutes per week thinking about what aspects of my job could be outsourced...and then aggressively seeking to eliminate them.

Last week, I found an opportunity.

We manage a list of customers to approach with offers. Some of the data (main phone numbers, etc.) was incorrect.

As it turns out, there is a member of our virtual team who is based in the Philippines. I pinged him and said, "Hey, do you know of a company that could help us with this? This task seems outsourceable." (He's got a different role).

Fast forward 3 days and the job is being done by folks in Manila.

My brother, Asher, gave a great presentation on some mega-trends, like outsourcing, at the Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship at the UMD business center. View it here.

Along these lines, a friend of mine told me that his brother is serving as an apprentice to become a plumber. I don't live in a socio-economic strata where this type of work is common, associating mostly with professional/white-collar class individuals.

I heard this and my first reaction was,"well, that's certainly one job that can't be outsourced."

What's valued and what's not is going to change....

I'm looking for a CPA in India to prep my taxes. Why not?

Internet as home base for video...

What's interesting is how, more and more, I am turning to videos online for my education. I'm talking serious stuff, lectures, ideas, etc. The freshest, most accessible content is out there. This movement towards a truly distributed broadcast environment is phenomenal.

We're finally at the point where video over the Internet (on demand) is a reality. This is just the beginning.

The distribution of search...

So Google has introduced a Custom Search Engine feature (you can see the one I've built-still playing around with it-- on the right or by clicking here).

What this means is that I can choose the sources which I want to be searched and exclude those I don't trust.

This is very powerful.

Once upon a time (i.e. today) two people on two sides of the world would type in the same word or phrase and get the same result.

No longer. Now, as a publisher, I can prevent you from seeing results from sites I don't trust or don't like...and promote those which I do.

This is dangerous in some respects---I'm filtering for you to try and persuade you, but on the other hand, has potential for publishers/authors to build audiences.

For example, if you agree with my worldview, you won't just read my Blog or articles, you'll choose my search engine over a generic one since I will have done the filtering for you...and you'll trust my results.

Our worlds will become more narrow as we are hidden from the pages we might not otherwise see, but the flip side is we may get more of what we are looking for....

John the barber (contd)...

I don't carry a lot of cash around. Tend to pay with credit card for everything. Yesterday, I visited John the Barber again.

The guy must think I'm out to shortchange him. He doesn't take credit cards.

Last time I was there, I was $2 short. He didn't care. When I walked in yesterday I said, "I owe you $2."

While we chatted about the Maryland state licensing and regulations regarding barbers (they are pretty strict, as it turns out), it occurred to me that I mightn't have enough cash. I felt for my wallet and counted bills. There were 5 of them...but I had no idea what denomination (since I was doing this under the barber's smock.)

Sure enough, this time I was $5 short. Again, he didn't care, but now I'm $7 in debt to a guy who wields sharp objects for a living. Not a good call.

Monday, October 30, 2006

The extinction of parallel parking as a skill...

Don't know if you have heard about the new Lexus car that parks itself (video below)....Had an interesting conversation with a friend today. He was saying that parallel parking is a valuable skill.

I took a different approach...it seems to me that parallel parking is a skill that-like buggy driving--is going to be extinct. Thanks to technology for offloading one thing from our minds...

Everything's viral...

Tamar's brother is a pediatrician. When we lived in New York, I spent an overnight shift with him at Long Island Jewish Hospital in the Pediatric ER.

Had the scrubs and a stethoscope, the whole get up. Yeah, I know, malpractice suit waiting to happen.

Anyway, what I noticed is that 99% of the cases that come into the ER are sent home with the diagnosis of "It's a virus, go home, it'll pass."

By the end of the night, I was diagnosing people.

Of course, it's the 1% that aren't that become the problem.

That experience has tarnished me.

When our kids are sick, I say, "it's viral, it'll pass."

As we've seen in the last 24 hours, I'm right about half the time.

Comet sighting...

Ok, so it didn't look like this, but one of the benefits of having a neighbor who is an astronomy buff is that on clear evenings, when you walk out your door to take out the trash, it is not uncommon to get hailed from the darkness and summoned to view (through a relatively large telescope) and appreciate the heavens above.

Last night, I was treated to a view of...among other things...the Swan Comet.

It's definitely a humbling sight to take in the magnitude of the celestial bodies...and awe-inspiring as well.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Origins of Fear...

I wonder how we start fearing things. Where does the fear of unlikely/irrational things come from?

There have been a few nights the past couple of weeks where Calanit has awoken, run into our room, and cited a fear of "monsters" or "alligators."

We try to explain to her rationally that there's no cause for concern, but it doesn't always work.

Just strange how these things seem to appear out of nowhere...

Never a dull moment...

Saw some spots on Calanit's face tonight. Tamar's brother, a pediatrician, was concerned that it was a symptom of meningitis. Fortunately, it isnt', but a trip to the ER was necessitated.

Turns out she was diagnosed with Henoch-Schonlein purpura

What kids know...

I took the kids out to a pumpkin patch today. It was cold and windy. Told Calanit she needed to wear a coat and a hat.

"I don't need to wear a hat because I'm not married."


Not everyone will get why this is funny: here's why

Daylight Savings Time...

Once upon a time, I excitedly turned my clock back in the Fall and savored the extra hour of sleep.

Yesterday, I thought to myself..."I'm not sure how it is going to play out, but somehow, I'll probably be more tired when Daylight Savings Time is done."

Of course, it doesn't take a rocket scientist...anyone who has kids will tell you the same thing. The kids just get up an hour earlier, so you don't really gain anything (from a sleep perspective).

And you don't...Ugh (we'll leave out the middle of the night bad dream episode from Calanit that just exacerbated the situation).

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Call from Regensburg...

"Hi Jeremy. This is John. This is a bit of an odd message, but I was on your summer program in Regensburg 10 years ago. Your name came up in the course of some research I'm doing and I wanted to talk to you about it."

After a few phone tags and emails, we finally connected.

John, it turns out, is working on a book challenging the nation of Japan to be more open in efforts to support greater peace and prosperity in Asia.

They cite some issues with Japan's unwillingness to confront some of the more unpleasant aspects of its history (the rape of Nanking is the most obvious) as a barrier to reaching this objective.

While doing research, John came across a letter I sent to the Johns Hopkins alumni magazine comparing the way that Germany and Japan had confronter their WWII behavior...written by yours truly.

It struck a chord with me and like a good detective, he tracked me down using the Internet and a contact of his who went to JHU.

I can't disclose more than this...you'll have to wait for the book, but another great example of how technology can uncover info that would otherwise be long lost and reconnect people who would otherwise lose touch.

John's the newest member of the "Friends of Jeremy" team. Welcome him (and stay tuned for the review of his book--I'm angling for an advanced copy!)

Connection between wealth and health...

A fascinating presentation...

Your political/economic philosophy...

Where I fall politically.

Find out yourself on
the world's smallest political quiz. See the red dot --that's me

good luck.
Very cool user interface of the future...

definitely worth it...

Friday, October 27, 2006

Technology regression...

About 6 months ago, the parking lot in my office building replaced the human-operated toll booths with machines.

Fortunately, I have a pass for easy entrance/exit so I didn't have to withstand the longer lines that the machines generated. Every single day, I kid you not, there was at least one problem which required human intervention. It was really quite amazing.

It was actually more expensive since the machines which were designed to replace the humans required humans in addition.

Well, today, I saw that the booths are back. The machines were a total failure and we've come full circle.

Not every new technology is a good one, though you think automated parking lots would be one of them.

Racial awareness...

I give my African-American friend, Tjada, a lot of credit for raising my awareness of racial issues.

After talks with her, I've noticed the racial make-up of the people in my office and in other situations.

FOX does a great job of "creating atmosphere" during the World Series by showing numerous crowd shots.

During last night's game, there were at least 10-15 different views of the fans...and they were all white.

Eventually, I saw 1 or 2 black people and maybe 1 Asian. It was remarkable.

Maybe once upon a time you'd say that the Midwest wasn't very ethnically diverse, but I don't buy that argument.

A few things could be going on:

  1. the people with money to spend on expensive World Series tickets may be disproportionately white
  2. the people who care enough about baseball to go to a game may also be disprorpotionately white
  3. the cameramen/producers focus on white people

I don't know what it is, but I did notice it.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Paco's blood draw...

One of the things that makes me cry is seeing my kids in genuine pain.  It's one thing if they fall with a bump that I know isn't serious, but this morning, Paco had to withstand about 4 minutes of having blood drawn.

It took two nurses and me to hold him steady (the boy is strong) and he didn't even start crying until 1 minute was past. Amazingly, he stopped as the needle was pulled out, but during the ordeal, he was really hurting...and I was tearing.

The boy was brave. I just felt bad for him.

But, sometimes as a parent you've got to do things that causes your kids a bit of pain.

That hurts as much.

Perfect Storm...

The new caregiver (the one from El Salvador) tells me today that she needs a minimum of 35 hours/week.

We only need 19. So, she's out.

The previous one leaves a message that she's got a new, full-time job.

So, we're back at square one (probably zero).


Latino Christmas...

My mom brought over a box of CD's from a client's house she had cleaned out.

Clients typically give her stuff-half of the furniture here comes that way. As I say, "death and divorce are good for our household economy." But I digress.

Anyway, I find a CD that's just not right for me.

Our cleaning lady is from Guatemala. It's right for her.

"Lorena, I have a CD called 'Latino Christmas.'

Seeing as I'm not Latino nor Christian and you're both, I thought you might like this. Feliz Navidad."

Problem solved. (Don't worry, I told her this wasn't her only Xmas gift.)

What it takes to be great...

A fantastic article about the value of hard work...and the illusion of natural talent.


Makes you question the $100k you spend at the Ivy's... 

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Tamar-146,794, Jeremy-45

I scored a big victory in my desire to "be right" in discussions/argument with my wife. I may make the big 5-0 by the time we hit our 6th anniversary.

As you can see from the score, I don't have much of a chance of catching Tamar, so I tend to savor the victories-few and far between though they may be.

We each procured a new pair of glasses 2 months ago. At my urging, Tamar went with a more "fashion-forward" pair (I'd show picture, but Tamar has vetoed it).

When she received them, she decided that she didn't like them at all. I LOVED them.

We were in Albany, ALL of her siblings (save the one who wasn't there) LOVED them (her mom didn't), but Tamar still wasn't convinced.

The one sibling who wasn't there is, by all accounts, the most fashion-conscious and enlightened of all of them. We agreed to submit to binding arbitration. If Tamar's sister in Chicago didn't like the glasses, I'd back off on my requests that she wear them.

Well, as chance would have it, last week's last minute work trip to Chicago enabled Tamar's sister to pass judgment.

You know how the story ends...my Project Runway viewing is paying off and I put another mark in the victory column.

Turning entire industries upside down...

Since the Internet era began, talk of 'disintermediation' has flown about...how entire industries will be revolutionized by the technology.

If there's one thing I've figured out about technology it's that many of the changes I foresee do occur...it's just that they take longer than expected. My start-up (basically a social networking local commerce site) is an example of my inability to time the technology to the wave.

But that doesn't mean the wave isn't going to come.

I heard an ad on the radio today for Aetna...they are publishing doctor ratings and rates on their websites so companies can make better purchasing decisions about their healthcare for their employees.

If you look at your Statement of Benefits when you get your insurance paperwork, you'll see what the doctors charge and what insurance pays.  You'll see the markup is anywhere from 50% to 250%.  That is just the beginning of power and transparency.

The economics of healthcare are definitely going to shift to the consumer.

The music industry is the best one to watch, in my opinion, but journalism (rise of blogs, falling newspaper subscriptions), politics (moveon.org), and real estate are also good. Waiting to see how the legal profession will get played.

Bottom line: your industry (and mine) is going to get hit by the great democratizing wave of technology.

The questions to answer: How? And what are you doing now to prepare?

Hospital Wi-Fi

I'm sitting in the lobby waiting for a blood test, typing away on my laptop.

There's a secured wireless network here. Why not an unsecured one for people like me?

What's the big deal in providing free wireless access?

The routers are dirt cheap, security's not a concern, and most people aren't going to be using it, but those who are will love it.

It'll change the nature of the experience.

What little, inexpensive things can you do to make a big impression?

The 7 Diaper Standard of Care...

Each parenting relationship is like a different country and culture with its own set of norms, mores, and levels of appropriate behavior.

What may work in my relationship with Tamar might not for another couple, and vice versa.

We had lunch with some friends this past weekend. They have an 18 month old daughter. At some point, the discussion turned to the husband's contributions on a daily basis to the household.

The wife (let's call her Jax) began an impressive laundry list of activities that the husband (we'll just call him G) did. It read like a "All the Things Jeremy Doesn't Do." I was worried, since it was making me look pretty bad.

The two big ones were that he
  • cooks the family dinner every night
  • does all the laundry
I was hurting at this point, but redemption was soon at hand for me, and public ridicule and scorn for G and Jax, to her credit, played us like a violin.

"But," she continued, "he doesn't change dirty diapers."

We looked at the 18 month old girl walking around.

G looked at us. "Actually, I've changed 7."

"In a year and a half?"

"Yes," and he proceeded to provide the context for why and how he had determined he didn't and couldn't change dirty diapers (he changes the wet ones).

I looked at Tamar. She was stunned. I couldn't decide if I was more surprised about the fact that I had changed more diapers last week than he had in 18 months or that G is married to a woman who would accept that standard of care.

G's position felt straight out of, oh I don't know, maybe 1905 (!).

He saw our reactions and turned to Tamar and the other female guest.

"Would you rather have a husband who makes dinner for the family every night or who changes dirty diapers?"

Wrong focus group for that question.

I guess other people's parenting relationships are like some countries....they're nice to visit, but you wouldn't want to live there :-)

Note: Fortunately, G and Jax have a good sense of humor, so they'll appreciate this post (I hope).

6 week check-up

Going in today for some blood work. We're going to measure the level of THG in my system and use that as a marker to track my thyroid cancer recovery and hopefully, non-recurrence.

The less sexy, but equally important ongoing healthcare maintenance stage is underway.

Seems like an eternity since I was in isolation....

Browser Day 2006

Last night I upgraded my Internet Explorer browser to version 7. I'd been using it at work, but took the plunge at home (it's a sign of confidence since I don't have the same tech support there as I do at work).

I'm a fan. It's smoother and I like the add-ons. One thing you should definitely consider using/installing is the Windows Live Toolbar

The single best feature (i've been using the concept in one way or another for years) is the auto-form-fill. I hate typing my name/address multiple times and remembering my passwords. I don't have to.

I even set up different profiles depending on whether it's work, home, or a junk account (so I don't get spammed/junk mail later).

For comparison purposes, I also installed Firefox browser and I'll be testing out the merits of both over time.

Tried out IE7 or Firefox? What do you think?

Monday, October 23, 2006

Praying enhancing substances

Yiddish with George and Laura


Conserve energy pledge...

Got this forward today. Worthwhile:

Concerned about climate change? Want to help move the U.S. towards a sane
and sustainable energy policy?

Changes in the political landscape could certainly make a difference, but
politics aside, why not join hundreds of thousands of U.S. citizens and replace
your most frequently used incandescent light bulbs with ENERGY STAR rated CFLs
(those cool looking spiral ones).

Its easy, saves you the trouble of replacing bulbs (they last 7 years
more) and can save you big bucks ($200 over the lifetime of the bulbs if
you replace 5 - EPA says only $150, but they assume the minimum bulb

I'm sure many of you have already done this, but maybe there's a bulb or
two you haven't gotten to yet.

Feeling motivated? Before that feeling passes, follow the link below and
make a formal pledge, it will help you follow through, so the research


Some entertaining spoofs on Mac-PC commercials..

These were not created by Microsoft or endorsed by Microsoft. Still funny though...




Sunday, October 22, 2006

Questionable advertising...

Was watching football today and saw an ad for Chevrolet (no I didn't DVR through it), but I found the ad a bit curious.

Here was an ad on the local station in Washington, DC and the advertising featured men in workboots on a farm and an oil rig and other very rural scenes. The taglines and music were saying, "people who dress like this and work like this...that's who we want to buy our trucks."

Ok, that may be true, but how many of those people living in urban, knowledge worker, office cubicle land of Washington, DC are in that market?

Now, maybe they want you to buy that truck if you think you are that type of guy, but to me, at least, it just seemed like it didn't play to that emotion and just drew a line in the sand...which is fine, but then why choose a mass medium for that message? And, why target an urban market to begin with?

Slowing down...

A hallmark of mine for many years was pushing myself every day to get as much done as was possible on a given day.

I still push myself, but now, I'm at the point where I realize that, you know, some things can wait and it's just better to get to sleep.

There's a great song by Alabama on this topic. Listen to it here.

I heard this song on the radio one day and just remembered the idea of it. Sent an email to the station and after a few back and forths, the assistant producer got me the info I needed. Very cool! Then, I bought the song.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Achieving Immortality...

I was sitting in synagogue this morning as we read the first chapters of Genesis. As we got to the story of Cain and Abel and Adam and Eve, I read the commentary below.

While potentially patriarchal in nature, the commentary was discussing reasons that a woman was created out of man's ribs.

Calling a woman a man's "helpmate" is straight out of the text, but the one that was most profound was saying that "it is through a woman that man creates children and thus achieves immortaility."

That made me appreciate my wife even more, as both a helpmate (and a great one at that!) and the vehicle for my immmortality as well.

Falling Leaves...

One of the joys of autumnal fatherhood is seeing your offspring run around the yard and pick up leaves.

Seeing the kids find such basic, pure joy in picking up a colored leaf and exploring its every intimacy...I just found myself leaning against a tree, soaking it in, watching my offspring roll around in the yard.

Friday, October 20, 2006

When Would-be Intellectuals Try To Be Funny...

Some of you read the Cholent sermon from last week.

I've since posted the same author's Kentucky Law Journal piece on "the Chutzpah Doctrine" [uses of the term Chutzpah in American jurisprudence] and my efforts to respond with a similar level of humor (here).

Thoughts on the Causes of Homophobia...

Just found out that a Lesbian friend of mine from high school gave birth to a daughter. That's probably why the idea I'm about to present got into my head. Not sure.

I'm wondering if some of larger society's discomfort with homosexuals comes from issues stemming from the public-private spectrum (see previous blog post).

Let's assume that 10% of the population is gay. That means that 90% of the people you meet/know are the same as you when it comes to sexual preference.

However, when you meet someone who is openly gay (or find out that someone is gay)-compared to when you meet someone who is straight- the immediately obvious difference is how that person engages in sexual acts.

It's possible that possessing knowledge of this sort about another individual is enough to make some people feel uncomfortable.

If a straight couple said, "last night we engaged in oral sex," or "I prefer X position while she prefers Y position," that would, I am sure, make many people feel uncomfortable. [The reason I feel comfortable saying that is because of the handful of people who say they feel 'uncomfortable' reading my Blog because it shares 'intimate' details of my life.]

Sexual relations with a partner is certainly an intimate detail. I'm wondering if it is people's discomfort with having to confront that fact right off the bat about a friend or a total stranger is more of a challenge than the idea of loving someone of the same gender.

In short, it may not be the idea of same gender love that is foreign and discomforting, it's knowing about the act of same gender sex as the key differentiator that may make some people uncomfortable.

This was a tough post to write. Usually, they flow, but I wanted to get the ideas out there without being offensive. Not an easy task.

How did I do?

No Unpublished Thoughts...

My dad says that I post everything on my blog and I have "no unpublished thoughts."

It seems like there is a bell curve for people's willingness to divulge information about themselves.

Let's call it the Private-Public spectrum.

I feel somewhat confident in saying that I am farther right on the spectrum, but there are certainly things I don't share with others.

For example:
  1. here's one topic
  2. how often I go to the bathroom
  3. comments about my co-workers

There...just had to disprove the statement.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

The Inequality of Child Care...

Our potential new caregiver showed up just after 8.30 this morning.

The kids were well behaved and things have gone smoothly so far (she even didn't think we were totally nuts for all of the kosher rules).

I asked her about herself. She's from El Salvador and has 3 kids, the youngest is 2.

I was saddened by this. 

I wish it didn't have to be the case where we are paying another mother to take care of my kids and, as a result, she can't spend time with her own 2 year old. 

I know the value of the time a mother has with her kids and in some ways, it's a shame.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Making lunch...

an emotional rite of passage tonight. I made my daughter's school lunch for the first time.

What's on the menu...

  1. peanut butter on a bagel (her request)
  2. slivered almonds
  3. sliced orange bell peppers and cucumbers (with yogurt dill sauce)
  4. soy crisps
  5. string cheese

14 hours...

Last night at midnight, I turned to Tamar. "You know, it finally feels like we're getting back into some sort of routine. Between the holidays and thyroid cancer, it's been a crazy ride for the last 4 months."

She agreed. "It feels good."

"I just wonder how long it'll be before we're thrown for our next loop?"

The answer: 14 hours.

She called me at 2pm today to say she had to go to Chicago tonight.

I was already on kid duty from 2.30pm to 5.30pm and now it was extended to 8pm tomorrow.

I went into Emergency Preparedness mode. I called my sister, Kira, to check on her Thursday availability. I asked the caregiver we have (and are looking to replace-hence the reason I was on the way home at 2pm) if she had availability on Thurs-no luck (and Kira was pending).

As luck would have it, we had an interview scheduled for 3-5 tomorrow with a potential caregiver replacement.

I called her. "Uh, instead of a 2 hour interview, how'd you like a 10 hour one?"

"I'll be home and can show you the ropes. You'll experience a typical day and decide if this is what you want to do."

She was game. Major crisis averted.

I took the kids out for a series of enervating and fatigue inducing run/walks this evening and had the house nice and peaceful by 8pm.

Of course, I still have to figure out what (and how) to pack Calanit for lunch tomorrow, but I think we'll make it (provided we don't have a 3am wake-up). I guess the good news is that I'm a sound sleeper and as I've said,

"if a kid cries in the middle of the night and you don't hear him or her,
did he really wake up?"

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Twisted words...

It's funny how words in one scenario can acquire a new meaning when used in a different vernacular.

Tamar and I enjoy watching "What Not To Wear" to hone and refine our fashion sense.

Now, in the morning, when one of us is about to walk out of the house, we ask, "is this 'what not to wear?'"

If the answer is "yes," ironically, it means it is ok.

This is the life we have chosen...

I once heard a sports talk show where the announcer was discussing a boring game the night before.

"Look," he said, "this is the life we have chosen. As sports fans, we have to be prepared to sit through the boring games 99 times because we know that one out of 100 games, you are going to experience that moment that makes it all worthwhile. You are going to see that game that stands out as 'one for the ages' and reminds you why you are a sports fan."

Last night was one of those nights.

Around 9.30pm, I had flipped on the Monday Night Football and saw that the Arizona Cardinals were up 17-0 over the Chicago Bears.

I turned it off and Tamar and I did pilates and watched two episodes of ER.

It was 11.30 and I should have been in bed, but my instinct said..."hmmm, let me see what happened in the game."

There were 5 minutes left in the game, right about the time where Tony Kornheiser and Joe Theismann said something along the lines of "if Arizona blows this lead, they may as well close up shop and give up on football here."

That comment said the thing that was on the mind of all long-time football fans there. We all just had a feeling that Chicago could make it happen. There were too many subplots...

  1. the historical ineptitude of the Cardinals franchise
  2. the fact that the Bears were undefeated
  3. it was a Monday night game (and probably the first Mondday night game in Arizona since the paleolithic era--or at least since the movie Jerry Maguire)
  4. the Heisman trophy winner, Matt Leinart's, Monday night debut
  5. Chicago's 6 turnovers (no one wins with 6 turnovers!)

And, as if it was scripted in the heavens above, the game began to unravel for the fair Cardinals. No one watching knew exactly how it would happen, but we just kind of knew it would happen. And it did...and it was DRAMATIC, up until the last seconds with the missed field goal.

I felt bad for the Cardinals fans who have suffered for all of these years.

I felt bad for Matt Leinart...this is now 2 games that I stayed up way late for in the past year (the other being the NCAA championship game vs. Texas) where a ridiculously dramatic comeback has cost his team the game.

I was so excited by having been a witness to the game that I said to Tamar afterwards (she had commented on my anticipated lack of sleep due to a Tuesday morning early rise) that, "if I'm sick for a week after this, it'll still be worth it."

I tried to explain to her why it was such a fantastic game and though she was a good sport, she didn't fully appreciate it. I called a few Bears fans and got their voice mails.

This morning, I called Chuck to share the emotion with him...which worked...since his wife (an amazing woman) also didn't fully appreciate how momentous the game was :-)

Just felt good to be a sports fan (and to be alive!) for having seen this human drama unfold in a way that no one-no writers, no directors, and no producers-could have foreseen.

And yes, I'm a bit tired today....

Life as a series of movie re-makes...

You know how Hollywood continually takes stories that work and just update them to fit modern sensibilities and scenarios?

I kind of feel like life is like that sometimes.

There are days when I feel like I'm experiencing similar emotions but just facing a new challenge.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Paco the bull...

My boy is a unique character.

Last week, Calanit piled up two mattresses on top of each other in the basement and started jumping on them. Typical stuff.

Erez climbs up on them, runs full speed and then launches himself like a bungee jumper (without a cord)..maybe more of a cliff-diver...off the slide and lands flat on his face. I had never seen anything like it. I started saying "Paco es loco!"

He gets up, smiles at me and proceeds to do it again, and again, and again. 15 times!

We have wrestling matches every night. I literally (have witnesses who've seen it) throw him on to the couch(which he loves), we are in bear hugs, giving head-butts, and all other sorts of WWF maneuvers.

He's laughing and I'm shouting, "ok, you little punk. Show me what you've got! Bring it on!" And what does he do? Puts on a huge grin and CHARGES AT ME, diving right on top of me!

Tamar witnessed a 10 foot charge tonight, like a bull in Spain.

As I've said before, whoever says boys and girls are the same doesn't have a boy and a girl.

A true asset....

With the putting up and taking down of the Sukkah, I'm starting to see an initial return on my kid investment.

Calanit is really stepping up to help. She aided in packing the decorations and in carrying some items. Best of all, she was able to crawl in the small space between the furnace and the wall (it wasn't on) to help slide the wooden poles into the exact place we needed for our annual storage. It was very cute.


A friend of mine gave this speech in synagogue the other day. To understand it, you do require some background information. If you possess this, you will really enjoy. If you don't, you may enjoy and appreciate the effort nonetheless.


A Brief Discussion of Historical, Halachic, Jurisprudential and Metaphorical Perspectives

Since we had so much beautiful davening today and so much beautiful laining today, including Kohelet, I will try to do two things: one, keep the dv’ar torah short; and two, talk about something very dear to the hearts of everyone in the room – namely, Cholent. I’d like to take this opportunity to very briefly examine this special food from the perspectives of history, halacha, American jurisprudence and metaphor.

First, the etymology of the word. According to the Encyclopedia Judaica, Volume 5, the word Cholent likely comes from the Yiddish words “Shul Ende” that is, the food we eat after shul is over. Wikipedia states that the word might alternatively be derived from the Old French chaud – meaning “hot”, and lent – meaning “slow”, because it is a hot, slow cooked dish. Historically, cholent is a stew prepared on Friday night and placed in the oven before Shabbat begins to be cooked over night and eaten Shabbat day. Cholent is also a historical statement of support for Rabbinic Judaism. The Karites, a Jewish group from the early Middle Ages who followed a more literal interpretation of the Torah, would not eat hot foods on Shabbat. Rabbi Saadia Gaon who lived from 882 to 942 established a minhag to show rejection of the Karite view by eating a hot dish on Shabbat that was prepared before Shabbat.

Saadia Gaon and the Karites were arguing over the prohibition of cooking food on Shabbat. To give a quick summary – the actual melacha prohibited is “Opheh” – baking. The Av Melacha is baking dough into bread. The derived principle is the prohibition of changing the state of a substance by the heat of fire. The derived toldot include bishul - cooking or deep-frying through the medium of hot liquid. Tzli - roasting or toasting. And Tigun - frying through the medium of direct fire. The Melacha involves bringing an item to "Yad Soledet Bo." That is, "so hot you'd instinctively pull your hand immediately away", which is minimally 113 degrees Fahrenheit or 45 degrees Celsius.

Saadia Gaon’s custom of eating a hot dish on Shabbat that was prepared before Shabbat to demonstrably differ with the Kaarites eventually morphed into the custom of eating cholent.

Cholent is common to Jewish communities around the world with slight variations. Basic ingredients include meat, beans, barley, and other ingredients that take to slow cooking. Ashkenazim generally also use potatoes and onions. Many Sephardim use mutton and rice instead of beef and barley. There is an Iraqi Jewish tradition to use a chicken stuffed with fried rice and season with cardamom and mint. An Afghan Jewish tradition is to add cinnamon and rose leaves and a Turkish Jewish tradition is to add eggs in their shells to be hard boiled over night. Of particular timely note - there is a Syrian Jewish tradition to put the mixture in a hollowed out squash - so save those pumpkins after October is over for the cholent.

While cholent is a food that we commonly think of as one that can bring the community together for a nice shared hot dish, there can be a dark side to cholent, and kiddush more generally. On the suggestion of Jeremy Epstein, I did some quick legal research and found a good handful of lawsuits in the American court system emanating from cholent and Kiddush related disputes. For example, in Kandel v. Sobol, the Superior Court of Connecticut held a civil trial and assessed liability and punitive damages of $43,000 against the defendant for a fight that broke out at a Kiddush after the plaintiff and defendant became embroiled in a verbal argument. In the case of Laitman v. Laitman the Rockland County family court had to order the defendant to pay the plaintiff for the Kiddush celebration of their son’s bar mitzvah. Likewise, in the case of Gross v. Gross the Michigan court of appeals had to step in to force the defendant to pay his agreed upon share of the expense of a Kiddush.

While these court cases demonstrate that cholent and Kiddushes can be used by individuals as the arena for their disagreements, the virtue of cholent should not be tarnished. Cholent can literally bring the community together. For example, according to the Encyclopedia Judaica, in Eastern Europe frequently all the community members would take their pots of Cholent to the baker’s on Friday, where all the pots of cholent would be cooked together. And cholent is an excellent metaphor of the virtue of the kehilla. As we discussed, different Jewish communities have different variations of cholent. But for each, cholent is the mixing together of different flavored ingredients to make a dish more delicious than the individual elements. Similarly, different Kehilot have different ways of doing things. But essential to each successful Kehilla are that individuals of different strengths come together to form a community that is greater than the mere sum of its individual constituents. There is a Chasidic expression that how good that Shabbat’s cholent is, is a reflection of those at the meal. To extrapolate on that concept, it is wonderful to note that the hashkama minyan Kiddush is always delicious. May we all continue as a community to enjoy and merit excellent cholent. Shabbat shalom.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Differing Worldviews...

Tamar doesn't drink alcohol. She has a  hard time understanding the allure of it. On top of that, she doesn't understand the appeal of getting drunk. Not rip-roaring, puke your guts out into the toilet, have a hangover for 24 hours drunk, but buzzed to the point where a responsible person would say "I'm not driving."

The topic came up because some people have the custom of getting drunk to celebrate the holiday of Simchat Torah which was today.

Over the years, I've tried to explain to Tamar that, on occasion, it's something that people find to be a valuable experience, but without much luck. Her brother (and sister-in-law) were in town this weekend, and fortunately, Tamar has a lot of respect for her brother's opinion (and I don't take that personally by comparison).

A 1 hour discussion ensued on the relative merits of being drunk. The basic point was, "for some people, it can be a worthwhile experience and makes sense."

The three of us were not getting anywhere until her brother said, "do you think our moving to Israel makes sense?" Tamar said it did.

"Well, there are plenty of people who think we are absolutely NUTS. 'You're moving your kids into a war zone,' and the like, but for us, it makes sense."

Now, they weren't putting the two on the same plane of value of experience, necessarily, but it did serve the major argument that our sister-in-law was making...different people have different ways of experiencing the world (with the usual caveat of 'as long as you aren't hurting anyone else.')

Looking forward to looking back...

There's an idea in Andy Grove's book, Only the Paranoid Survive, called "The Strategic Inflection Point." It refers to a moment in time after which a decision is made and you know things will never be the same. The proverbial "Fork in the Road," if you will.

Tamar's brother and his family are moving to Israel in December. They spent the weekend with us.

In between the hours of childcare, synagogue attendance, and normal requirements of life, we did have the opportunity to talk about what this weekend meant in the context of our lives.

We discussed how, one day, in the future, we would re-unite, and talk about this weekend. We'd remember the big ideas, the unique moments, and we'd forget the fatigue of childcare. We also felt the emotional power of the day, knowing that a weekend like this, where our entire families would spend serious quality time together, was something we could not predict again as to when it would happen.

In doing so, we seized the opportunity to create a memory by raising our level of self-awareness. We obviously knew that this would be the last weekend we'd spend together for a long time, but by talking about it directly, we expanded our scope and appreciation for what was happening.

I believe this enriched the time for all of us.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Getting Your Attention...

A few years ago, I met a guy named Andy Sernovitz in New York at an Internet-era networking event.

We chatted, I was impressed, and I put him on my "business contacts" list. This means that I send him (and the others) a brief (business-focused) update on what I'm doing, trying to keep the lines of communication open.

He recently responded to one of my notes, asking for my mailing address and saying he wanted to send me a copy of his new book.

Yesterday, I received notice from the Microsoft mail room that I had a package. On the outside of the cardboard box was an advertisement for a popcorn company. When I opened the box, there was, indeed, popcorn inside of it. Then, a brochure for the company. Then, a press release for Andy's new book. Finally, the book.

"Wow," I thought..."this is sure one way to get my attention." His new book is on the power of Word of Mouth Marketing. In fact, he's started an association to help companies understand how to leverage Word of Mouth in an honest, genuine way.

I went to my colleague's office. "Look at this..." and I told her the story.

Then, I presented to a group of 20 Microsoft partners who had just spent the morning at a "telephone blitz" trying to get customers to pay attention to them. I told them the story. "What's your popcorn?" I challenged them.

I stepped back...look what Andy's done...in 25 minutes. I've told the story through Word of Mouth to 22 people already and all it cost him was a bag of popcorn. (In my defense, I knew I was being manipulated, but I didn't care, because I loved how what he did actually reinforced what he was articulating.)

Of course, I started the book last night (reviews to come shortly).

Grabbing attention is critical in this attention-deficit disorder era.

I just started watching Lost In Translation with Bill Murray. The very first scene (and I mean first, with the movie title) is of a woman, lying in bed, with her derriere pointed towards the camera wearing a regular pair of underwear...just thin enough to reveal the lines.

"I have no idea why this is important," I thought, "but you've got my attention now."

We all know that sex sells (and as the movie progressed I think I could see the connection-but that may have been an effort to justify my primal reaction to the first visual...in reality, they could have started with many other pictures), but the point is...what are you going to do to get the attention in a non-offensive, non-shocking (the movie opener was soft, not subtle) but different way, so that you can begin the conversation you want?

Andy Sernovitz has done it. Lost in Translation has done it. Countless others haven't.

The New World of Work...

Bill Gates talks about "the new world of work" to describe many of the changes we face in the way we collaborate with others and the tools we use to do so.

I'm having a "new world of work" day.

Sometimes, when Erez gets up at 3am, my mind starts racing and I think about either all of the things I have to do...or want to do.

This morning was one of those mornings.

I realized that I had meetings/con calls at 8am and at 3.30pm, but other than that, I had left the day open to do various work projects.

During the day, however, I sometimes get distracted and as emails fly in, I get pulled off the so-called "big rocks."

In the morning, however, there's less "noise" and I find that I really plow through things.

"What the heck?" I figured. I got up and from 3.30am to 7am, I was cranking away, sitting at the kitchen table, using the wireless network.

The kids got up and I helped out for 30 minutes before jumping on the Nordic Track (thanks to my beautiful wife who let me) for 20 minutes. At 8am, I jumped on a con call (I could leave it on mute), while I watched Erez run around the house and Tamar took Calanit to the doctor.

By 9am, the call was done, Tamar was back, and by 9.30am, I was in bed. I checked the email on my mobile phone once before taking a 3.5 hour nap.

By 2pm, I was back up and running (post-lunch). Tamar had an errand to run, Erez was sleeping, and Calanit and I went outside to the sukkah, where I sat and used the laptop via wireless again (thanks to the roof, I could see the screen) and Calanit drew chalk paintings on the patio.

I'll be working until about 5.30pm formally and then family-focused until later this evening when I have to grill some meat (though it's possible I'll have the laptop on the counter as I do it... :-)

The new world of work. Flexibility with Accountability and the Tools and Systems to support it.

Housing Roadmap Spreadsheet...

Here's the concept.

Here's the spreadsheet. Feel free to input your own experience.

Sharing pictures....

It's no secret that I love digital technology. It makes things easier, but it's important to remember, just because it's easier for you...doesn't make it easier for everyone else.

Take the practice of sharing pictures from trips, events, etc.

In 1 click, you can upload all of your pics to Shutterfly, Flickr, or Snapfish.

That doesn't mean you should...


I want to "have a taste" of whatever it is you want to share, but instead of sending me 100 pics, pick 7 or 9. I'll get it and won't give up in frustration after the 10th picture of you standing and talking with someone I don't know or recognize at a buffet table.

The little innovations...

In parenting (and perhaps in life), it's the little, iterative changes that can make a BIG difference.

Spencer (aka Paco aka Erez) has a habit of stirring restlessly somewhere between 3 and 5 am each morning. All you need to do is put his pacifier back in his mouth, he calms down, and goes back to sleep.

Thing is, when it's 4 in the morning and you're exhausted and you don't want to turn on the light, you're reduced to groping blindly in the dark for the missing pacifier--which could be anywhere--under the crib, in his blanket, etc.

So, now, before we go to bed, we place a pacifier (face up) on the floor outside of the door to his room. When he stirs, we (read: I) get up, pick it up on our way in, and are out of the room in under 20 seconds.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

So true...

Thanks to my Aunt Susan for clipping this...

Housing project roadmap...

Life's got enough surprises that I don't need to be caught off guard about when my refrigerator is going to need replacing.

Nothing's for certain, of course, but I've started compiling data from homeowners re: the average life expectancy of various appliances and other aspects of home maintenance.  I'm sure I'll have some things that live beyond the average and others that don't, but on average, I should have a good idea of when things will need replacement.

This will, I hope, reduce some of the stress associated with homeownership and give me a chance to plan accordingly.

As my cousin writes:

Here's the deal.  These expenses hit you when you aren't looking, and you usually don't have any choice.  My recommendation is that you squirrel away $$ in some form now, whether in the form of general savings, or a designated fund so you won't be clobbered so bad when it hits.  Some people save for the next car, etc., not a bad idea to save for the unanticipated household expense.  I'll tell you what, it's much easier to find a little extra $$ for you now each month, then when you start shelling out for dayschool or pre-school tuition if that's the route you go. 

That's the game plan. I am trying to post an interactive version of the spreadsheet so we can all learn from each other.

Google and You Tube

So everyone's commenting on this and I'm no different.

Back in the beginning of the Internet mania in '96 or so, there was a lot of talk about "New Media" and "New Media Companies."

Seems to me that Google is really trying to be exactly that.

In the old days, you would turn on NBC or CBS for your information, now you go to Google.

You get your video, your news, your email...it's your personal newspaper all in one, but with multiple formats.

Seems like having their  own cable channel (that you control perhaps in a TiVo scenario) could be next. In fact, a TiVo acquisition could be an interesting play.

This is obviously a challenge for Microsoft. There's a window here...before broadband is truly (and I mean, truly) ubiquitous where Microsoft can help make sure that people stay PC and Windows-centric, but the value proposition (usability and interoperability) has got to be pretty strong.

Should be fun to watch.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

If it weren't so fatal...

The Rabbi of my synagogue asked me on Yom Kippur how I was doing.

"Well, this year the idea of the book of death and life has a lot more significance."

"I saw an interview with Lance Armstrong once. He said, "if cancer weren't so fatal, I wish everyone would get it. You look at things very differently."

This is definitely true. Take a moment to read Jay's commentary on his long-term ordeal fighting cancer.

Instant Grandfatherhood...

My ideal woman is someone who has grown children of her own, but no grandchildren yet. (Well, my ideal woman is Tamar, of course, but give me some latitude here).

These are the women who, at parties, or other social occasions are so aching for grandchildren that they will wholly devote to taking care of my kids.

Once that woman, however, picks up her own grandkids, she's out of the club. Understandably, she's more interested in her own than in mine.

On Yom Kippur, I was talking to a former member of my "ideal woman club" (she just had her 1st grandchild a few weeks prior) and to her husband. 

"From my perspective, being a grandparent seems like one of the best jobs around," I said.

The husband responded, "you know, my mother always said, 'if I had known that being a grandparent was this much fun, I would have done it first!"

A few minutes later, after the conversation ended, I saw another friend of ours who is getting married at the end of October. I hadn't seen him for a while, knew he was dating, was thrilled to hear about the wedding, but had never met his fiancee.

"Do you know anything about her?" he asked.

After giving me some basic information about her he then said, "Oh and by the way, she's got 13 grandchildren and looks like she's in her early 40s."

My friend (who is marrying for the 2nd time) has no natural children of his own (that he knows of :-).

"Whoa. You're doing what other people dream about! You skipped the parenting stage and went right to Grandfather! Instant Grandparent."

New Type of Phishing Scam...

Seems like the Phishing scammers are trying a new tactic. See this picture...

Instead of making you fear that your bank account has been compromised, now they play to your concerns re: fraudulent charges.

Monday, October 09, 2006

How Japan Created Its Own Lost Generation...

A friend of mine just published a book on Japan called "Shutting Out The Sun."

For you Japan hands out there, it might be interesting....Here's a book review as well from the Washington Post

Overnight driving...

There's something very serene about driving through the night. When I lived in Tokyo, I heard a sermon by the Rabbi on Yom Kippur who quoted Franz Kafka (I believe) on the notion of the "night journey."

You have to go through a dark period (multiple) in your life in order to come out stronger and more alive on the other side. At that point, I thought about the many overnight train trips I had taken in Europe.

Now, I think about the change in distance and time as it relates to where the precious cargo I am ferrying goes to sleep and wakes up.

We were up in Albany this past weekend for the kick-off to the Sukkot holiday.  Historically, we've flown there via Southwest, a process that takes exactly 4 hours door to door. 

However, with Calanit over 2, the cost of the trip has gone up by 50% and we decided to give it a whirl by driving. Figuring it would be easier to drive while the kids were asleep, we left Thurs. evening at 7pm on the way there. We arrived at 1.30am.

On the way back, we left at 8.20pm and got back home at 2.30am Monday morning (that would be this morning.)

A few cups of coffee, a Red Bull, (a hot chocolate for Tamar) and we made it.

The kids were great troopers. Calanit had a tougher time than Erez and both Tamar and I are tired, but so far, I would judge it a success (we defintely could bring more stuff more easily) and it added only about 5 hours in toto.

There's much less traffic at night so we covered the 360 miles each way pretty quickly.

Our own little "night journey" took us across a few states but also marked a rite of passage for our family...our first major road trip for the 4 of us. 

As the kids (and Tamar) slept, I had time to think....this is fatherhood.

Out of Gas...

On our drive home from Albany last night, twice we stopped for gas and BOTH times, the gas stations were out of Regular (so we had to go Super.)

It was something I'd never seen before. It made me contemplate an America of gasoline shortages.

When I was 6 during the 1979 oil crisis, my brother, Asher, and I walked up and down the gas lines selling juice and donuts (enterprising young entrepreneurs that we were.) and it reminded me of those days. That experience also gave rise to our oft-repeated comment, "whenever there's a line, there's an opportunity."

Imagine an America truly ground to a halt by extremely high gas prices or, shortages. Many of us don't remember or didn't first-hand experience those days, but now, an even more developed and more gas-dependent economy...it's a scary thought.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

If this doesn't move you...

A good friend of mine, whom I met in Japan, is a long term cancer patient. When I first got diagnosed, he was one of the 'first responders' and gave me some advice I should have listened immediately: You need to be your own advocate.

Recently, he sent out a reflective document on his ordeal (which makes mine look like a cut that needed a bandaid.) Honestly, aside from the word 'cancer' there's nothing about our experiences that are similar. His strength is incredible.

He's given his permission to share his thoughts here...His name is Jay.

Someone asked me recently what it was like to be a long term cancer patient. I thought about it for a moment and said that it is a complex answer but I could break it down into four basic areas; pain, courage, hope and faith. Since that conversation I have spent some time thinking more deeply about each of those elements of my journey. For after all, cancer is most certainly a journey.

v Pain

On the physical side there are oh so many delicious memories. Where to start? How about my skull cracked open. Shots at 4:00 am in my stomach. Blood work drawn by functional idiots. Did I mention having stereotactic frames screwed to my head? Hhhhmmm I must be missing something. Oh yes I forgot about loss of taste or more correctly everything tasting like metal. Rashes over ¾ of my body, drugs that make me gain weight like a chocoholic in Willie Wonka’s factory. And while these technically don’t fall into the pain category (unless we count the moron in MRI that keeps missing my vein with the fucking contrast) there are the tests; CT, MRI and PET (radioactive glucose, are you kidding me?) scans. The running joke at NEMC is that after one or two more MRIs I won’t have to worry about losing my keys or any other metal object.

On the mental home front it is often a rollercoaster. You start out with “why me” but move from that fairly quickly. It will come back every now and then depending on diagnosis and treatment. The other aspect of mental pain is trying to stay focused on your life while dealing with this condition. You try to cope with this through a variety of means. Some people visit a shrink. I go to our Rabbi. What an awesome man. He provides me so much perspective and is the perfect sounding board. My favorite moment was when I was talking to him about how I felt guilty about something I could not get done for the temple due to my chemo. I believe the conclusion he drew was that I was out of my mind (no pun intended) and that it was OK to ask for help. Smart man! My other approach is to use visualization techniques. I can sometimes be found in the gym performing a set of some weight exercise visualizing the weights as my cancer. “@#$%#$%@!#% Astrocytoma I am going to kick your ass now!” Hey, whatever works.

Spiritually I think we all start with one basic concept; how could god do this to me? Loss of faith even temporarily is incredibly painful. Then as the years go on and you find that your experience can be shared to help others you think maybe there is a plan here. I feel great about that part of it; it is the dying part that is really pissing me off. Seriously, I have touched so many in the past 7 ½ years. Whether it is someone going through it themselves or a loved one, the joy I get when I can see or hear that they are a little less scared, a little more ready to continue the fight, a little more ready to step up to the plate and provide that support and a lot more ready to live is too much to describe.

v Courage

Being able to face this no matter what it takes. I often hear people say that there is no way they could ever have dealt with all of the things I have. My response, “BULLSHIT!” We are capable of so much when pressed. The question becomes what is the most important thing to you. For all of us it is life or death. Given that naked truth we would all choose to live. Once that choice is made we are now ready for the fight. I think the other component is something I addressed above. Do you have the strength to share, to reach out and help others while dealing with your own issues, concerns and pain. They say that you need to become selfish to fight cancer and that is true to a point. There will come a time when you are passed a critical treatment and/or recovery and you need to start looking outward again. For those of you who know me well you are not going to believe that I am saying this; it is not all about me (or you).

v Hope and Faith

I think these two elements go together. My faith has played a huge role in my survival. When I went through the first surgery my sisters asked me if I was scared of dying. I told them no. I truly believed that I would come through this long, dangerous procedure just fine. They looked at me with what was either skepticism or the belief that I had lost it. What gave me that strength were three things. Faith in my doctor, faith in God and faith in myself. I don’t quite remember what the right order was :>) Before I became sick going through a Shabbat service was often a matter of rote. Sure I knew the prayers by heart and recited them with a certain amount of emotion. But it did not really mean anything. Faith is not just about ritual, it is so much more than that. It is your connection to God and ritual can help to facilitate that or simply be part of the process. It is not an end to itself. Now when I am at a service I am so much more thoughtful. I sing almost as loud as the cantor. I often pray with my eyes closed to help me focus and reflect. Temple has truly become a sanctuary, a place to heal, to hope and to live. I have been in various debates over the years about how can I still believe in god after all I have been through. While I am certainly not thrilled about the hand I’ve been dealt with, it is not all doom and gloom. Who is to say that I cannot be the first person who beats this? Who is to say that they will not develop a cure for this type of tumor? Who is to say that I cannot lead a full and enriching life for what time I have? When time suddenly seems so important maybe you waste a little less. Maybe you do a little more (this probably does not apply to all of the things my wife wants me to do around the house). People ask me why I am back on the board and keep doing these sleepovers at the temple with the youth group. My answer is simple, because it is fun to me and it is important to the kids. 8 years ago I was probably too busy for that nonsense. Survival cannot be achieved without hope and faith.

So what have I learned over the almost 8 years that I have been dealing with all of this?

· I got up today, this is a good thing

· We are all stronger than we think

· All of the mundane things we worry about are complete and utter bullshit.

· Family is always there for you but the bad times are when you find out who the true friends are

· A smile and a laugh is are just as effective as any cancer treatment

· It is not just about me. I am now a member of the cancer universe. I have an obligation to help, to share, to council, to hug and to tell a joke when it seems impossible that someone can laugh

Saturday, October 07, 2006

50 years after Harvard...

David Epstein, Harvard College Class of 1957.

50th Class Reunion

October, 2006.

“The Register” of our freshman year described an exotic classmate, Cesare Undula Balzotti, III. He resided at “1369 Rue Eartha Kitt” in Kenya, Africa with hobbies that included “falconry” and a probable major in “Sanskrit or Indic Philology.” He campaigned for election to run the “Freshman Smoker” but was disqualified when pronounced a hoax. (Harvard Crimson, December 8, 1953.) He makes no further appearance, not in the 1957 yearbook “Three Twenty One” nor in the ten reunion reports of our Class.

Cesare Balzotti had a limited fictive life. He did not soar like Shakespeare’s King Henry V at Agincourt. He was not Alyosha Karamazov challenged by the story of the Grand Inquisitor. He also did not descend into “The Heart of Darkness” like Kurtz and proclaim, at the end, "The horror! The horror!"

Cesare Balzotti may have offered us some life lessons. For those days when we thought he was real, were we gullible like the Trojans in allowing the wooden horse into gates of the city or like Othello in looking at the handkerchief and listening to the deceitful words of Iago. Is a deception harmless if no one suffers ? If we could not believe the truth of this Harvard publication, where was “Veritas” ?

Balzotti never had to engage in retrospection. All that he would ever achieve happened by the time he entered college. We have shared the intervening years benefited from the technology of jet planes, scanners, computers, and the internet and the scientific discoveries of DNA, the human genome, and deep space. We heard “ I have a dream” and “That's one small step for (a) man, one giant leap for mankind.”

In the five decades since we received our degrees, there are no longer just Harvard Men but an equal number of Harvard Women.

By inclination and professional training, I ask many questions. My first big question was in the 1940’s during World War II. My father drove me to Woodlawn Elementary School each morning. We did not have a car radio so he would not leave until he had finished listening to the war news. As a consequence, I anxiously arrived just seconds before the sounding of the tardy bell. One day, I hopefully asked, “After the war will there still be news ?”

I know the answer. We have lived in the “interesting times” of the oft-quoted Chinese curse. I, like many of us, served in the military at a slice of time when war was cold. We have seen much irony. Communism seen by some as the wave of the future decayed, the Soviet Empire collapsed, and free market capitalism rather than impoverishing is beneficially transforming the lives of billions. Events offer surprise. One American President resigns, another is impeached. The Republic endures. A Harvard President is hounded from office. History reverberates as a cry is raised to establish a world-girdling Islamic caliphate. A Pope confronts this cry with an appeal to millenial discussions about the relationship between faith and reason.

Until multiculturalism became the byword, I had not thought of presenting myself as having at least as exotic a personal history as Cesare U. Balzotti, III. I was born in Texas to parents who came from Eastern Europe and my home language was Yiddish, English in the schools, and a cowboy drawl or Spanish in different parts of the marketplace. My many maternal relatives all lived in Mexco City. Going each semester to and from Cambridge was a forty-five hour train trip that included listening to the emotional life stories of a procession of travelers while looking out the window at a country that was, at times, ramshackle humble, industrially powerful, and always vast and beautiful. A quaint way to travel as I have since bounded to the most distant parts of the planet in many fewer hours.

Now I sit in my home office above a canopy of leaves. My litigation practice has moved a few miles away from the world of Washington law firms. The digital age permits me to have all of the law at my fingertips. My documents go to a secretary whom I have never met. The final versions are electronically filed in distant courthouses. I look at my computer screen and listen to professors lecture on astronomy, music, and anatomy.

The five children that Ellen and I have raised are having an impact in their respective pursuits. The generation beyond them is beginning to unfold.

Yet, those calling for annihilation of the Jews and the destruction of the State of Israel are out to get me. Millions are feeding on a frenzy of hate whose major goal is destruction. The United States, a country that my parents loved with the passion of immigrants, is under attack from many who would come to live here in an instant, were they given the opportunity, but, in the meantime pray and dance for its collapse. The preservation of Western Civilization is not just a course taught in college, but a cause for concern.

Fair Harvard, are we living in the Age of Discovery, the Age of Democracy, the Age of Faith, the Age of Reason or the Age Anxiety ? Choose one or several or all of the above and explain your reasons.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Thursday, October 05, 2006

When to break the law...

I am far from the perfect citizen. I jaywalk (not with the kids). I voluntarily go over the speed limit. I've taken the tag off of mattresses.

We're looking for a new caregiver for our son.

What's interesting is how many people we know give us recommendations and consciously hire people who are not permitted to legally work in the US. This compounds the already difficult challenge of finding someone because we are limited in our ability to tap our network and when we do, we have to face the embarrassing situation of having to ask, "is she legal?"

Or, in some cases, we have to tell people why someone wasn't acceptable."She isn't legal."

"Oh, right."

I'm just wondering why this law is one of those where it doesn't seem to matter if you break it, like jaywalking or speeding.

If Tamar didn't work in a position where hiring an illegal immigrant was a huge problem, would I feel the same way about our situation? Hard to say.

Given all of the discussion about illegal immigrants recently, it's been interesting to play around with this idea in my head.

Which laws do your willingly ignore? Why?

It was only a matter of time...

Check it out... www.Jer979.com


One of the implied great promises of America, it seems to me, is that "if you're the best," you'll succeed.

We know how that doesn't play out in many aspects of our lives. Connections, discrimination, etc. mean that you may not get the job, whatever.

There's a lot of talk about encouraging diversity, affirmative action, and other things to create a "workplace" that looks more like society.

One area where that isn't true and I don't hear anyone complaining is on professional sports teams. In management, yes, but on teams, you don't hear people saying..."we really need a basketball team that has 50% Caucasians since that more accurately reflects the racial makeup of America." Or, "let's get some diversity on this football team, we need more Asians." Just doesn't happen.

In almost every sport, you see that, for the most part, the most talented players have jobs. The other ones don't. If you're good, you'll be hired.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Ratings bump...and Bloggers Block? Bloggers Elbow?

During the height of the thyroid cancer treatment, I was blogging like a fiend and the daily activity (as measured in site visits) was at an all-time high. As I said, "Cancer is good for ratings."

It was also good for material. I had, obviously, a lot of thoughts flying through my head. A lot of people were asking, "how are you doing?" and so, it was a cycle of content. Therapy, yes, but also a communications vehicle.

In the post-treatment era, I'm concerned. I'm concerned that the quality of content won't keep my readers coming back. I'm concerned that the depth of commentary now can't possibly equal that of someone in cancer treatment. It's a strange phenomenon, indeed.

I'm feeling a bit worn of blogging. I still love it, but I can't do it all day every day. Ok, never did that, but now I find that 1-2 posts per day is sufficient, not 5-8!

I'm also feeling pressure to keep up the relentless pace I set during the treatment. Ah, the curse of the blogaholic.

If you're going to be....

It's rare that a random visitor to town's schedule and mine align. It's also quite exciting when random events come into play.

My friend, Cheryl, celebrated her birthday on Sat. I called her and left a VM. She emailed and said, "hey, I'm going to be in Baltimore on Wed-Fri, if you're around, we can get together.)

Baltimore is 40 miles from DC. I'm there every 2-3 months. It's also out of the way enough that it's a hassle. However, as chance would have it, I was planning on being there on Wed. afternoon.

Pretty cool how these things work out.

Postscript: I called her to meet up at 5pm (our original plan) and found out her plane was late, so we couldn't meet up after all! Ugh.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Feeling the energy...

Met a guy on a plane once on my way back from Scotland by the name of Colin. He taught me a cool trick. You can try it too.

Hold out your hands in front of you with your palms facing down. Just feel them. Yes, feel them.

You can sense an energy in your hands. That, he says, the the Life Force.

You know how you feel when you are feeling "yourself?"  Whatever the energy is that defines you, you know when it's present or not (like when you are sick.)

Well, I'm BACK and it feels great. Don't know if it's the medication or rest or knowing that the medical ordeal is over or what, but I just feel like...Jer. And it's a good thing. Oh yeah, baby!

Sundays over time...

Once upon a time, my Sunday schedule looked something like this.

  1. wake up at 11 or 12
  2. watch football until 7pm or so
  3. hang out
  4. go to bed

Now, my Sundays are something like this

  1. wake up at 6am
  2. play with the kids for 2-2.5 hours
  3. put one down for a nap, take another to a friend for a play date
  4. do 1 hour of work
  5. mow the lawn
  6. run with both of the kids in the double jogging stroller to the store
  7. feed them lunch (it's noon by now)
  8. play some more
  9. put 1 or both down for a nap
  10. 30 minutes to myself
  11. change diapers multiple times
  12. set one up with Dora, watch football! with the other, while teaching the fine art of tackling
  13. build lego blocks
  14. read books
  15. feed dinner
  16. bathe
  17. prepare for bed

More exhausting, but more fun.

How days change.

My favorite holiday...

Is definitely Yom Kippur.

It’s so intense. It’s all encompassing. You have no choice but to focus on it, because, by its very nature, it hits you in the face. No matter what level of observance you have for the holiday, you KNOW it’s Yom Kippur.

I love the cathartic feeling at the end. I love the communal experience of “we’re all in this together.” 25 hours, non-stop. It’s like a Jewish religious rave…without all of the other rave stuff.