Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Bizarro world

So, I'm in Las Vegas now for a work related convention and the only things that are on my mind are:
1. only in America is this possible
2. this is the best and worst of America all wrapped into one, kind of like an American cultural tortilla wrap
3. the entire economy here is supported by cash infused from other states/countries
4. the type A's don't come to Vegas (the exercise room at Treasure Island doesn't open until 7am!)

It's a fascinating exercise in American culture and economic development.

More on this later, I'm sure.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Cinderella man

I was invited to a get together within walking distance of my house a few weeks ago. I took a stroll over there and wore a reflective vest when I did. A few people commented on it. My response was simple, “the stakes are too high now. Preventing the preventable is my duty. Now for my kids.”

But what about the seemingly unpreventable?

In Cinderella Man, it’s the Great Depression. On 9/11, it was terrorists. Who knows what fate awaits us? But it’s much worse when you have to worry more than just about yourself. When there are young kids who depend on you for material well being as well as spiritual, emotional, etc., that’s when your anxiety and stress goes up. How do you shield these kids from the potentially horrific? Seeing kids suffer is one of the worst things I can possibly imagine.

I don’t know and I guess you deal with it when it happens (and do whatever you can to make the unpreventable somewhat preventable by taking the best calculations into mind as you take risks-since there is risk inherent in everything).

The question is: which part of the unpreventable can be isolated and made preventable? And how do you figure it out?

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Travelling with my dad...

Since his children have left the house, my dad, who instilled in us a love of travel, has set forth a straightforward policy for which party assumes which costs when we travel with him. In sum, the child is responsible for travel to/from the destination (generally airfare), while the father picks up the tab for "ground costs."

Over the years, the definition of "ground costs" has evolved and been pushed to the limits. For example, we were in Ireland together, the week before a wedding (back in the US) which we both were going to attend. To prepare, we both needed haircuts. The question then became: is a haircut which took place in Ireland but has nothing to do with the Irish experience and is solely for an event that is in the US a "ground cost" associated with the trip?

We still argue the merits of the landmark 1998 "Dublin haircut" case.

The split in costs works well when my dad says "I'm going to destination X, who wants to come with me?"

There is the flip side to that which occurs when the child wants to go to destination Y. A case in point is Cuba in July 2006. The opportunity has arisen for a special trip to Cuba in July. The price is a bit steep, so the basic logic is, "if we can convince our father of the merits of the trip, then the costs go down to only the airfare."

Now, it's not as simple as saying, "Hey Dad, want to go to Cuba?" That can work,but it's weak. Keep in mind that there is another "cost" of travelling with my dad. When you do go somewhere with him, there is a pre-trip syllabus consisting of books, movies, lectures and other pre-trip enrichment that is required so that we can arrive in the country with the "Destination of the Mind" mentality, e.g. "Norway of the Mind" or "Ghana of the Mind" meaning you are ensconced in thinking about the destination in all its cultural, political, and economic facets.

Knowing that and knowing what makes my dad tick from an interest perspective, you have the potential to build a compelling case for why he should go to destination Y, i.e. Cuba, and then of course, by extension, why it makes sense to foot the bill for those who wish to travel with him.

Here then, is my recently submitted proposal for the value of travel to Cuba in 2006 (I have left out the estimated benefits for each though it was a component of the original proposal).

Meaningful Event (Area of Interest)
-75th anniversary of Bube/Zayde’s [his parents] honeymoon via Cuba (Epstein family history)
-55th anniversary of completion of “Old Man and the Sea” (Literature)
-45th anniversary of Bay of Pigs invasion (US History and current policy implications)
-80th birthday of Fidel Castro (August, 2006) (discussion of various forms of economic systems)
-105th anniversary of Platt Amendment which ceded Guantanamo to US (US History)
-Jewish Cuban history [post Inquisition and WWII refuge] (Jewish history)
-Social action to aid Jews of Cuba (Good works/Chesed)
-Opportunity to legally smoke Cuban cigars with sons (Family bonding)
-Visiting Cuba despite travel restrictions (Unique, differentiating travel experience)
-“Cuba of the mind” (Father-child bonding)

Validating my self image as a tech evangelist...

Today my neighbor, a self-described Luddite, gave me credit for pushing him into the broadband/VOIP world. He said that my monologue to him 6 months ago had made an impact (due to the value of the switch in terms of information potential and cost benefits).

Now at least I have evidence to reinforce my self-image! :-)

The Terrific Two's...

It's not fair to call them the "terrible two's." Sure, there are times when you have to discipline your 2 year old, but that comes with the territory.

This is a great age. She's old enough to understand most things, make jokes and know what is funny and what isn't, and to help out by throwing things in the trash, for example.

The other day, Calanit and I were in the kitchen and Erez was upstairs in his crib. He began to cry. I was content to let him cry himself back to sleep. Next thing I know, Calanit is going up the stairs (normally I close the gate, but this time I didn't) saying "I'm coming Erez! I'm coming Erez!"

Then, last Wednesday, I changed her diaper at 7pm and she refused to let me put her pants back on afterwards. I figured it was no big deal since we were about to head up to the bath.

Anyway, she's running around the house like a crazy woman in only diapers, a shirt, and a light sweater. Finally, Tamar says to her, "Calanit, are you cold?"

"No!"she said emphatically. "I have my sweater on!"

It's a great age.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

New job jitters...

I've moved back into sales from marketing.

I'm excited because I know that in sales, the value you deliver to an organization is clear. It's there in black and white. You always know where you stand. With that, of course, comes greater accountability which can be scary.

I know I can sell, I've done it before, but it does feel different a bit. I mean, there are 2 kids who are depending on me. That makes it feel a bit more pressured.

Over the last 2 years, in my marketing role, I've grown and learned a ton. I know I can talk the talk with the highest level marketers around. That's a good thing.

With the nerves and the apprehension, however, comes the feeling that I know I am going up the steep learning curve again.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Business tourists...

I’ll be in Israel at the end of February as a “business tourist”. This is the 3rd time in 6 years where I will make this type of trip. Accompanying me is my brother, Asher, a fantastic travel partner, particularly on this type of journey.

I’m looking for the names of people in the IT industry who would be willing to sit down for 30-60 minutes just to share their impressions of where the Israeli and/or US IT industry is headed. This could be entrepreneurs, technologists, sales/marketers for large corporations, or investors.
If you have suggestions, let me know.

Managing Expectations
This is not official Microsoft business. I am not making a concrete offer to help.

This is simply an opportunity for the people I meet with to exchange ideas with a veteran entrepreneur and experienced MSFT US-based field marketer. At the very least, your contacts will have an engaging discussion. (Very brief bio is below).

I’ve fortunately seen the country as a more traditional tourist. I now prefer to meet those who are shaping Israel’s economic future, particularly from an IT perspective (obviously close to my heart). I always do a post-trip write up on the people I meet and my impressions of the state of the IT industry there. I’m more than happy to share when I return.

Very Brief Bio
-3.5 years at MS, 2 years leading the mid-market initiatives for our server products in Mid-Atlantic (we were top 3 in every meaningful category last year)
-Currently lead the initiative to drive a scaled partner-led modle in the core mid-market (over 7000 customers)
-Co-founder of Internet-based services marketplace, SilentFrog, in 2000. Raised $500k (post-bubble)
-4 years of experience in Internet sales and marketing in New York and Tokyo with clients like Heineken, Tumi, Fruit of the Loom, IBM, and Unilever

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Reducing the cost of technological experimentation...

eBay has done me a great favor.

Before eBay (and CraigsList and Freecylce), if I wanted to test out a new gadget, I had to do 1 of 2 things.
1. only buy cheap gadgets
2. buy a more expensive gadget and be prepared for the fact that I could lose the entire investment (a term I use loosely)

Now, however, my risk is mitigated. I can buy something, test it out, and then, if I find that it doesn't work for me or I don't see the value, I can recoup most of my money via eBay or Craigslist.

Best example is a GPS receiver I bought from my PocketPC phone. It worked fine, but I just didn't use it that much. It was cool, but the business value wasn't there.

Sold it on eBay and recouped 70% of my money. I got to test it out, play with it, understand the technology (all of which I consider to be expenses that are in line with my passion and career goals), but didn't have to fork over all of the cash in the end.

What this does is put even higher priced items within my range of risk tolerance for technology experiments.

This is yet another huge benefit to the Internet.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Late night blanket checks...

One of the things I enjoy about parenting are the "behind the scenes" things that only I know about.

One of those is the late night blanket check.

Erez wakes us up at some ungodly hour (which explains why I'm bloggins at 4.45am). After we feed/change him, I return him to his room (after 5 months, we moved him out).

Then, I check on Calanit.

She has a unique sleeping style and somehow she ends up on her hands and knees with her head in the corner of the bed and no blankets covering her at all. Without fail, this happens every night.

I gently pick her up, say a few words to her, align her head on the pillow and cover her with her Dora the Explorer blanker before leaving and (hopefully) returning to sleep myself.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Keeping the house clean...

is mission impossible. Tamar and I strive valiantly to maintain order (and it's not a mess by any standards) but it seems like every time we put things back "where they belong," we turn around and something is out of place. Usually, Calanit is the instigator, but Erez is beginning to contribute.

As a Type A, obsessive compulsive, initially this got to me. Not that I was out of joint about it, but I tend to prefer things to be organized and I still do in my own little corner of the house (which seems to be shrinking as my kids encroach upon it), but I've mellowed a bit in regards to the other parts.

It's not so much that we let it disintegrate into anarchy. It's just that I realize what the disorder means. It means the vibrancy and growth of my kids. It means that there is life that is forming.

I remember growing up once I saw a comic strip from "Family Circus" where the mother saw a mess around the house and said "when will this ever be cleaned up?" At that moment, she had one of those bubble thoughts and pictured herself as an old woman going up into the attic and seeing all of the toys packed away.

Someday, that time will come for us and our house will be nice and tidy, but that will mean that we're at a different stage of life.

I happen to love the stage of life in which we find ourselves now and the energy of our kids is both invigorating and VERY draining ;-) so I'm content to let it go if Calanit decides she wants to dump her puzzle pieces in the front hall. I won't leave them there for a week, but I'll view the process of cleaning up as a benefit of parenthood and not a cost.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Thursday, January 19, 2006

They say we only create 1 face...

Judge for yourself.
This is both kids at roughly the same age (5 months of age)

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

The houseguest handywoman...

Growing up, my mother was the one who handled household repairs. She could fix a leaky toilet, paint, caulk, etc. I'm sure my dad can/could do it, but it was my mom who took it upon herself.

In our house, it's not quite that way. I learned from my mother and take pride in doing the household stuff.

On Saturday, we were faced with a unique challenge. Calanit likes to play with the door knobs and she managed to push in the button to lock the door, without our knowledge.

We had guests coming over with an infant whom we figured we would put upstairs to sleep when he took a nap. Being a bit on the messy side in our room (a 5 month old does that to you when he sleeps in your room), we were reluctant to have our lunchguests even inadvertently see the disorder, so we closed the door to our bedroom.

It was at that point that we discovered we were locked out. Valiantly, I tried all manner of ways to open the lock, but failed entirely.

Our houseguests showed up and the wife took it upon herself to solve this problem.

And she did. Sure my ego was bruised...a bit...but more importantly, our door was open and WE WERE IMPRESSED.

It was an epic display of household "Handypersonness" and it goes down in the annals of the Epstein home as one of the great 'gifts' of all time.

I'll have to clear the blog entry with her before I release her name (she may not want you calling her!)

Monday, January 16, 2006

A dead man lives...

A few months back, a dear friend of ours passed away. He was 60 years old.

My mother has been helping his widow go through all of his belongings to process them and organize them. He was a well dressed man in his day and I am the recipient of 6 suits, 4 blazers, and numerous shirts and trousers. The clothes fit neither of my brothers.

Anyway, over the last few weeks, I've been wearing his clothes. That doesn't bother me so much. In fact, I think he's post-humously making me a better dresser.

What is interesting is how I'll put my hand in a suit pocket or the back pocket of some pants and find something that he put there.

Today, I found a cocktail napkin. I've found a dollar bill and a button, among other things.

It's just weird to think that he put these things there whenever he did and now I'm taking them out. It makes me pause to think about the man and in a different twist, what was happening to him when he put the item in there at the time.

The possibilities are endless:
Did he get change for $10 bill and only need 9?
Was he at a party on his way out and didn't see a trash can, so put the napkin in his pocket?
Did he find a button on the street or his desk? Was he doing a friend a favor?

I guess it doesn't matter, but it gives me a unique chance to have a 1:1 bond with a departed friend.

Sunday, January 15, 2006


There are some great terms in foreign language that succintly describe a concept that takes multiple English words.

One of the best is "Schadenfreude" in German, which basically means taking joy in the misfortune of others. A great example is if you are a watching a football game and your team intercepts a pass. You experience Schadenfreude as a result of the opposing team's problems.

Another great one is "Nemawashi," in Japanese.

A friend of mine from the Snickelways days called me up this evening and told me that he had used this term over and over with the boardmembers of his non-profit organization. Their meeting is this upcoming Friday and he had scheduled meetings with each of them prior to the actual meeting. When they asked him why, he said it was Nemawashi.

Nemawashi reflects the Japanese desire for consensus and is the process of securing agreement from all of the principal players on a topic prior to the actual meeting. This way, when the meeting occurs, there is no animosity nor loud debate. Everyone has already agreed upon the course of action.

I was honored that he remembered it six years down the road and it caused me to once again appreciate some of the elements of the foreign languages and concepts I've studied.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

How I walk....

Got to love what technology can do. About 6 months ago, I detected some pain in my left knee and ankle. I sat off it for a while and when that didn't work, went to the Orthopedist. He prescribed orthotics.

Finally, went there yesterday and as part of the examination, I walked over a pad, which was connected to a computer that tracked 2000 points of pressure from my feet on the ground.

It was pretty insightful as the image shows. The areas of red is where highest pressure is and, I'm told, it should all be in the front of the foot. It's not, clearly, so we'll see if the orthotics help and if not, there's apparently some therapy to "re-learn" how to walk.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Bluetooth and 1066

My newest technology gadget acquisition is a Bluetooth-enabled wireless headset for my phone. Bluetooth is a technology that has been around for at least 7 years (when I first heard of it) and I think it's finally hitting the mainstream (judging by the fact that it's a selling point in current car commercials.

This has led me to the new conclusion that the adoption curve for technologies is approximately 7 years. I'm watching a few others, including Electronic Bill Payment and Presentment (e-Billing), among them.

When I first heard about Bluetooth, I remembered that it was named for a Danish king (it was invented in Denmark). For more info on the origin of the name, click here.

Meanwhile, I've been listening to a book about the Norman invasion/conquest of England in 1066. I had no idea of the interplay of the Norwegian king, Harald Hardrada in the events of that year until I listened to this book. Anyway, in part of the historical context, the author was mentioning Harald's experience with the Danish kings who "always had colorful nicknames."

Made me think of King Bluetooth and the earphone I was wearing at the same time bearing his name over 1000 years later.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Girl Scout Cookies...

If a girl scout shows up at your door, do you HAVE to buy cookies?

I mean, let's say you don't really want them. Are you discouraging the girl if you say no and sending her down the wrong path? Or, are you misleading her, by doing a symptathy buy, since that's not how sales really work?

This year, the doorbell rang and I KNEW I didn't want ANY cookies at all in the house (having learned from last year).

What to do?

P.S. One option was to buy a box that would be "donated" with the proceeds going to the "Army" (that's the word she used) or "Cancer" (I didn't ask further).

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Travelling with "the boy"

It was with mixed emotions that I woke up this morning. On the one hand, I was looking forward to some quality bonding time 1:1 with Erez. On the other hand, I was thinking about all of the possible snafus that could evolve in 7 hours of travel, two airplanes, a connection in Detroit, and a 5 month old infant.

Key lesson of the day is that when a father is travelling alone with a child, the attitude of the people around you changes dramatically. Let's say a mother is there with a crying child, people are thinking "hmmm, why can't this woman control her kid?"

With a father, there are no expectations, people think that he's naturally incompetent. Women flock to you (particularly those between 45-65 with no grandkids of their own), and you're the object of empathy and patient understanding.

On flight 1 (which suffered a 45 minute delay on an uncomfortalby hot day), I enlisted the aid of 4 flight attendants and 5 other passengers. It was great. Flight 2 wasn't as bad from a crying perspective (we had about a 25 minute episode on the first flight) and we made it very well.

I guess the key for today was attitude and perspective. If you think it's going to be stressful and difficult, it will be. If you give yourself plenty of time, plan and think ahead, and maintain your composure, it's generally going to work out pretty well.

Erez was a total trooper and did a great job of putting up with all of the movement. A bonding day indeed.

Saturday, January 07, 2006


It took me 36 hours on the ground in this city by the Mississippi to get the answer to the question of "what is a person from Memphis called?" but I was relentless and succeeded.

The other questions I asked were, "what do Memphians take pride in for their city?" (Blues, BarBQ, FedEx" and "what are real estate prices like?" ($200k for a 4 bdrm/2 bath in a nice neighborhood.) That was just the tipe of the iceberg as tte four of us spent the weekend in Tennessee as part of the wedding festivites for Tamar's family.

A firm believer in the need to learn about the location you visit and experience its unique attributes, I made sure we (well, at least Calanit and I) were off and running as soon as we landed. (The logistical elements of moving 2 kids, getting up at 4.30am, taking car seats, strollers, and clothes is a story for another day. The rough parallel is the US Army invading Iraq.)

Anyway, I took Calanit to Graceland and, like my dad did for my siblings and me, made a point of explaining the significance of Elvis to American pop culture. We also talked down to the river, where I told Calanit about its importance to American economic development. Beale St. is the heart of the Blues culture, which was complemented by a visit to the Stax museum of Soul Music, so we could talk about American music and the African American culture of the Deep South. We also saw the famous ducks of the Peabody hotel parade out of the elevator and into the pond.

All of this plus tremendous family bonding time, including a mock football game in the conference room of the hotel where we dstayed, made for a memorable weekend.

(The picture at right is Calanit in front of Elvis' fur covered bed in Graceland.)

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Calanit's identity

“Calanit, are you Jewish?”


“Really, why not?”

“Cuz I’m Calanit!”



Ariel Sharon's words.

On this sad day (Sharon has suffered from two strokes) I found a May 2003 quote from Haaretz:

"A senior security official recently told [journalist Akiva] Eldar of a conversation with Sharon, in which the prime minister said Israel must stick to its guns for the next 30 years, at which time alternative technologies will reduce the need for oil, thus sapping Arab influence on Europe and the world."www.SetAmericaFree.org

Learning science...

I've got a great little "con" that I put on.

I've taught Calanit that when I say "Ar" she says "chimedes." As in, Archimedes, the Greek philosopher/scientist who postulated that the amount of water displaced from a bathtub when a person enters it is equal to the mass (or volume, honestly I don't even remember) of the person.

So, what I do is the following.
"Calanit, what was the name of the Greek philosopher who, while sitting in a bathtub, came up with the principle identifying water displacement based on volume of the object inserted into the water? His name was 'Ar..."

People are blown away and say "I didn't even know that!"
Of course, I could say, "who was the guy at the grocery store? His name was "Ar..."

Anyway, it's pretty cute.

I do have her refined on the following:
"What's a major component of blood?"

All she needs to hear is 'blood' and she's off and running.

I'm working on some more. I'll keep you posted.

What I love about America...

My cleaning lady has a nicer (as defined by price) car than either my wife or I do.
What a country.

I know you're going to ask.
She's got a Hyundai Sonata. I have a Hyundai Elantra and Tamar drives a '91 Camry.

Multiple choice questions...

My dad used to use multiple choice questions very effectively. I've started having fun with them (and hopefully teaching my kids as well.)

Last night's was the following:
"What time do you go to bed?
A. 3 o'clock
B. 8 o'clock
c. 10 o'clock"

"I'm sorry that's incorrect. Would you like to try again?"
I repeated the answers.
"8!" she yelled.
"Good job."
Then she said, "thirty," as in eight-thirty.

Tamar and I just looked at each other wondering how she knew that one. Kids pick up the darndest things.

Macro and micro-balancing

I was explaining to Erez this morning that one life's challenges is sweating the small stuff, the details that do matter and which together form the building blocks of our lives, but at the same time, being able to stop and smell the roses and appreciate life's great dramas like love, struggling with issues of mortality, a baby's smile, and of course, a great football game.

Nothing too profound here, just still marvelling at how we can (and have to) exist on both planes simultaneously.

What a game

Tamar came down at 12.15 or so and chided me for staying up to watch the Texas-USC national championship game. Texas was down by 5 points with 3 minutes to go or something like that.


“Sometimes,” I said, “there is no doubt that I waste my life watching too much football. Tonight, however, is not one of those nights. This is one of the greatest college football games of all time, maybe the greatest and this quarterback is incredible. I’ve never seen anyone like him.”


And at that point, the game wasn’t even over. It just got better after that. Whoa!


Wednesday, January 04, 2006

The first-ever "Blogvey"

If Blog=Web + log

Then Blogvey= Blog + survey


Anyway, since there’s no easy way for me to track who reads the Blog, would you mind just posting a comment to this entry? Let’s give it a week and see how many people actually do read the blog.


Thanks for humoring me on the first, as far as I know, Blogvey on the Internet.

Blogvey addendum...

It doesn't help if you don't sign it. Enough with the "anonymous" :-)
Throw me a bone here, man.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Big Girl Bed

My little girl is growing up. The last 4 nights she hasn’t slept in a crib and now prefers the “big girl bed.”

Certainly one of life’s little exciting moments (or maybe a big exciting moment).

What it means to have a kosher kitchen

Heard this the other day and thought it was spot on.


“To have a kosher kitchen means you have two of everything and prepare a Thanksgiving meal every week.”

Monday, January 02, 2006

New perspective on some of the challenging aspects of parenting...

Some of the late nights are very tough. The fatigue wears on you. There are times, when I selfishly look at my son and beg him to sleep or I ask him to not require that he be held so often.

Then, this morning at 6 am, I had a flash.

At some point, in the not too distant future, he's probably not going to want to be held by me. In fact, he may even run in the opposite direction. Better cherish these moments of when he really wants me to hold him, no matter how tired I am.

Sometimes a change in perspective is all it takes.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

So, what is a Great Mind?

If the New Year's resolution is to spend times with great minds, then a definition is probably warranted. I suppose it's a person who likes to ask "Why?" and likes to spend time talking about ideas, as Eleanor Roosevelt said, and is also comfortable talking about the important aspects of life-like death-in non-emotional terms. Someone who is comfortable discussing the uncomfortable and seeking answers within them. Someone who would rather talk about this and gets annoyed, possibly, when a comment like "nice weather..." is thrown at him.

I'm sure there'll be more on this.