Monday, July 31, 2006
I know I shouldn't push myself, but I can't help but feel that:
- if I don't push, I'll lose my 'edge' both in my personal and work life
- there's a double-edged sword of having a company/team that says "hey, take the time you need," because the work will just double when I get back
- it's all well and good for a company to say "take your time," but at the end of the day, it's about shareholder value, so your personal health doesn't really matter. In other words, if I don't deliver, I'm either not needed or not highly compensated...no matter what anyone says
- sitting around watching TV and reading is nice, but not the best thing for me long-term (though I have seen a lot of Project Runway, Trading Spaces, American Made, & Designed to Sell and am reading Beyond Bullet Points, Stealing Fire from the Gods, and Decoding the Universe [a tough one, but deep])
This anesthesia stuff really does take a lot more out of you than you realize.
I turned to him and said..."when the end of Western Civilization comes, do you think people will miss the Food Network?"
He just smiled and nodded knowingly.
I fear we may be in a similar time in the history of the United States. Believe me, I hope we're not, but the signs are weighing heavily on me.
There are 3 major concerns
1. There is a portion of our society which doesn't recognize that the US/Western civilization is in a war for its very existence with Islamo-fascists. If you don't recognize this, you're not going to be motivated to do much about it.
2. There is a portion of our society that-through moral relativism/equivalency-has abandoned the moral highground; that Democracy/Freedom, etc. are RIGHT and GOOD and dictatorships/fascism is WRONG and EVIL; that there is NO negotiation with the forces of EVIL and that they must be destroyed.
You want an epic struggle of good vs. evil? Forget Lord of the Rings or Chronicles of Narnia, you've got one playing out on your TV screen everyday and I'll tell you something...Hezbollah/Syria/Hamas/Iran is not the force of GOOD.
Bush/Rice et. al. get this. If Kerry were pres now, it'd be a disaster.
3. And in the cruelest irony of all, we're paying for both sides of the war.
As oil prices go up, we pay more to our enemies, which makes the need to destroy them even greater...which raises oil prices. I do feel that Bush has let us down in this respect. We need a Manhattan Project for alternative energy and we need it now! Gal Luft has been shouting this for a long time...more people need to listen.
If the stakes weren't so high (a nuclear Iran and our very existence), the attitude of the Left and the bulk of CNN/MSNBC commentators would be highly amusing.
Sunday, July 30, 2006
"No one messes with a guy who has a big scar across his neck."
This ALL due to the fact that I have the most caring, loving, thoughtful (and sexy!) nurse one could ask for. Tamar has been an absolute rock (star) in her care for me since we got home. Add that to the fact that she's pretty much done solo duty with the kids and you get a picture of her effort. She's tended to every possible need, advocated for me, encouraged me, and just done an amazing job of nursing me back to health.
Would I have been able to do it without her? I suppose, but having the strong emotional support is something that can't be administered in a pill (though if it could it'd be a huge moneymaker).
I spent 45 minutes cleaning up this afternoon while she was napping and when Erez awoke from his nap, I quickly pulled him out of the crib and took him downstairs. A feeble attempt to repay her for her efforts. This is a debt that is going to sit on my balance sheet for a while.
Now, I am ambitious as a means to an end. I want to achieve not for its own sake and not for what it will bring me, but for what it will enable me to bring/do for my kids.
This is both rewarding and scary. Rewarding for the obvious reason that it feels more meaningful to live life for something outside of/greater than yourself.
Scary because the stakes seem higher. Before, the worst that could happen would be a bruised ego; Now, I fear that the vision of what I can do/provide for my kids won't be realized. That's a tougher bruise to heal.
She's taken that knowledge of how to get the attention of Admissions officers and turned it into a consulting business: www.AdmitOneCollege.com
If you know people who are stressing about getting their kids into college, now you have found some help!
I am just blown away by the outpouring of concern and sensitivity for my health. As I told Tamar, I would generally know that a friend was having surgery, but it would be unlikely that I would remember the actual day and if I did, I probably wouldn't call to just check in (part of that is b/c I don't want to be a nuisance, but part is b/c I don't think it'll do much good).
Well, having been on the other side, I can tell you that it DOES do good. In 5.5 years, I had never seen our answering machine read "F" for "Full" until yesterday.
When I think about our friends and family and how they send positive vibes, it makes me believe more and more in the recuperative power that friends provide and that people who have the most friends (and a great family, too!) are the richest ones around.
On the other hand, I know that each day it gets better (having seen that truism unfold), but each day, despite the fact that I know it will get better, I still can't believe that it will...which makes me want to hold onto the one I've got as long as possible.
Saturday, July 29, 2006
I woke up with some tingling in my left hand, a potential sign that the parathyroid function of calcium absorption was not working which could have meant a return to the hospital.
We called in to the resident...and waited...and waited.
Meanwhile, I was 'shotgunning' calcium-rich items such as pudding, yogurt, and Tums. Plus, Tamar had me walking around the room waving my arms in circles in order to get the blood flowing.
I crashed back into bed shortly thereafter (I think the resident ultimately returned the call) and woke up around 10.
Tamar helped me take the multiple layers of bandages off of my neck. It's July, it's 95 degrees outside and I'd been wearing a scarf for 2 days. No wonder I was so uncomfortable.
I took my first shower since Wed. night...that felt good.
Now, all I've got is a couple bandages on my neck covering the suture on my neck (which tend to scare some kids, I've noticed) so I'm not walking around with my neck bent over like I was which gave me one hell of a stiff neck!
The next card for me to play is the "no one messes with a guy who has got a scar across his neck," since I can't play the cancer card anymore (I hope).
My energy levels have really peaked and valleyed today and Tamar has me to an alternating Percocet cycle (darn!) and I did manage to summon the power to get to shul today for kiddush. As Tamar says, I'm all about 'shock and awe,' and I do things for the shock value, but hey, I did want to see our friends, whose outpouring of sympathy and offers of assistance are astounding. I feel truly blessed.
Tomorrow should be low key. Tamar's going to work and taking the kids to my parents. I'll be on my own, but plenty of time/space to rest.
Starting to feel a bit groggy now....done for tonight.
Friday, July 28, 2006
Well, am I sure glad she was there. I was wrong (again). She was the greatest medical advocate one could hope for.
The day began at 11am when we checked in to the Surgery Center. Eventually, we made our way back to the waiting area where I disrobed and put on a hospital gown. Not any hospital gown, mind you, one called Bair Paws. I LOVED it. Why? For two reasons....first of all, there was a socket where you could attach a hose the blew either hot/cold air out and surrounded your body with the temperature you wanted. It was pretty neat.
I also loved it because it was a great example of teh razor/blade business model. Each gown costs $10 and is only good for one use. Since there is the special socket, the hospital can only buy replacement gowns from the one company. Talk about lock-in!
We had plenty of time there so I was reading (a great book that Tamar got me on Fatherhood for Father's DAy) and listening to classic CD titles like: What's New in Internet Explorer 7; How to Sell Windows Vista; The Top Benefits of Microsoft MapPoint (no joke) and of course, we were chatting about life, etc.
The surgery was scheduled for 2pm, but things were running late and I was still in the OR prep room at 2pm. I was the only patient there and heard the nurses at the station saying something about Excel. I turned to Tamar, "duty calls," and I went over to fix their problem as best I could.
Georgetown is a teaching hospital so I got a lot of attention from medical students and residents, some with great bedside manner, others where some attention needs to be paid.
The anesthesiologists came in and did their work and I was out. Next thing I know (sort of) I am in recovery and EVERY TIME I swallow, I am in a world of hurt (they intubated me) and I feel nauseous. I have no idea what time it is and for the next 12 hours, I'm getting pricked and prodded for blood ever 3 hours or so, I think.
Poor Tamar is sleeping in the chair and she looks most uncomfortable, but she was right there by my side if I tried to get out of bed (which I had to do since my room was like a sauna--the maintenance guy came in at 2am to no avail) and pushing the nurses for water, ice, and blood test results.
The water was a mixed blessing because it was (and continues to be) such a chore to swallow.
The key factor they were watching was my calcium levels because there is an organ called the para-thyroid behind the thyroid that regulates calcium and which can be injured during surgery. If your calcium levels are too low (as mine were and continue to be), there is a risk of heart arrythmia and tingling. The calcium issue was ultimately the cause of the delay in leaving the hospital (we didn't leave until 5pm and there was talk I'd have to stay another day).
I kept drifting in and out of consciousness. I'd received some morphine because my back was spasming since I'd been lying on it for 15 hours straight and my neck (I'm constantly in a position where my chin is basically touching my chest). I'm also on Percoset. Sometimes I'm lucid and sometimes lethargic. It's really tough for me to talk so I can't return the number of very thoughtful calls I've received inquiring about my status. I really appreciate it, of course.
OK, Tamar is calling for me from upstairs (I'm supposed to be in bed, but had to blog :-)...more later.
Bottom line: I'm home, my wife is amazing, my neck is killing me, I'm devoid of energy and there's still a long road ahead of me (they also found a bizarre looking lymphnode which was sent to pathology so let's hope it's nothing serious) and I have no thyroid but a ton of medication.
Thursday, July 27, 2006
I turn to Tamar and say, "I hear duty calling." I go over and see what I can do to help. Unfortunately, we've only partially solved the problem, but at the very least, I've managed to blog from the hospital while sitting in a hospital gown.
I'll probably go in there in about 30 minutes. Got to go get the IV started.
Let's think this one through...
I imagine a scene where Ehud Olmert, the Prime Minister, is sitting around with his cabinet and the generals talking about how to defeat Hezbollah.
"OK, what if we keep bombing Hezbollah from the air?"
"I don't know, that doesn't seem to be working. We need to try something
else. Let's think big!"
"Hey, I've got it!" yells a young deputy...."what if we bombed a UN
"Wow, that's a GREAT idea," says another, rueful of the fact that he
didn't come up with the idea himself.
"Yeah, it's not like world pressure on us to stop is EXORBITANT or anything
like that. I'm sure if we attack a UN outpost, no one is going to notice. No
one's watching the war anymore anyway, the Americans are caught on the beach,
watching reality TV."
"Man, this is just brilliant. We'll deliberately attack a UN outpost which
will send the message that no international peacekeeper is safe-and that'll get
everyone off our backs! No pressure will follow that one. This one is foolproof."
"Right, think of all the benefits from a deliberate attack on a UN outpost," says Olmert. "It'll increase world pressure by a factor of 10, do nothing to affect Hezbollah's capabilities, and it'll make us look like we are indiscriminate killers. Definitely the way to go."
"Hey, can you pass me the joint?"
Wednesday, July 26, 2006
The outpouring of warmth, offers, and feelings on the eve of my surgery is truly overwhelming.
I spend a lot of time thinking about economic wealth and how to create it. Perhaps I should spend more time appreciating the social wealth I seem to have created. It is such a great feeling to be loved and thought about by so many people.
Yes, tomorrow is the "big" day. I've got my laptop, a 10ft. network cable, and a wireless card.
1. remove carcinoma
2. blog from hospital bed
Tuesday, July 25, 2006
And while we are on the subject of pictures telling a story...
On the 3rd day, it began to turn sour. I'll keep experimenting.
It was 3am and Erez would not go to sleep. I flipped on the TV and came across an ad for 80's Gold and it had all of the "hits" of my childhood like "Axel F," "Shout," and "Come on Eileen" among others.
I bit. I was feeling nostalgic.
I justified it to myself by saying that I wasn't actually spending my money since I have credits on MSN Music thanks to a contest I won. :-)
Marketing is an expensive proposition and when a customer indicates that s/he has interest, you had better do everything you can to follow up on it and close the sale.
A friend of my family just started a food prep/catering business. She sent out a postcard (direct mail) with some nice creative and a catchy URL.
I saw her about a week later and said, "you know, I'm going into the hospital in 2 weeks for my thyroidectomy, it'd be great to give Tamar [my wife] a breather and give you an opportunity to show what you've got. Send me a quote [and I gave her the specifications.]"
Not a call, not an email.
I was debating with my wife whether I should call this young entrepreneur and tell her about her mistake.
Tamar asked me, "why are you so worked up about this?"
"Because I'm a marketer and I know how hard it is to generate a lead, so it pisses me off when anyone gets a lead and doesn't follow up on it."
No Lead Left Behind!
Monday, July 24, 2006
All in all, despite the fact that I'd heard a lot of good things about this movie, I'd probably recommend that you skip it.
Happy to serve as your guinea pig.
I do enjoy playing around with new software because it’s fun to discover things.
I’m writing this post in Microsoft Word 2007 which has built-in blog posting automation (and support for multiple accounts). Now, I don’t have to go to the website to publish a post. Very neat. This is also a test, so if it doesn’t work properly, well then the post would be invalid, wouldn’t it
"Today we will learn how to be safety," and "you must be wearing the helmet when you riding the bike."
You can't win 'em all, can you?
Sunday, July 23, 2006
At our last stop, I ran in and saw one sign that said "Family Restroom" and the one next to it said "MEN."
I went in. Things happened in slow motion.
The first thing I noticed was there was a cleaning lady in the
bathroom. A bit unusual, but I had seen that before.
Then I noticed that there were no urinals.
Lastly, I looked and saw only women in the bathroom.
I smiled-awkwardly- and turned around.
I had entered the rest stop and viewed the sign from the about the only angle possible where I could see the "MEN" in "WOMEN" without seeing the "WO."
Once my mind had seen the "MEN" part, I stopped looking up.
Took the kids to Sesame Place today and it was a jolt to my system, because I was the stereotypical suburban dad (at least we don't have a minivan...yet!).
I lugged all types of supplies around the park in the same travel backpack I had used while riding the rails around Europe. Only this time, instead of hiking boots and The Lonely Planet guide, I had baby formula, wipes, diapers (swim and normal) and size 1 shoes.
All of this with a double stroller...most uncool, but yet...cool.
Seeing the pure joy on Calanit's face as she watched the parade of characters and shouted out, "Elmo! Rosita! Prairie Dawn! Bert!" and on and on made it all worthwhile.
Tamar asked her in the car on the way home, "what was your favorite thing today?"
"I already told Abba," she said.
"It was when she got to give Big Bird a high-five," I added.
Now that is priceless...but the whole day ran us about $150.
That's what I felt Sesame Place was like for Tamar and me.
Could we pack all of the necessary supplies? Get there on time? Navigate the park? Keep the kids fed and entertained? Coordinate with the other teams? (3 of Tamar's siblings w/their families were there as well).
I think we got an A for the day.
We have a friend who wears a sheitel, a wig worn by Orthodox Jewish women as a sign of modesty. Some women think of it as burdensome, others think of it as a privilege/honor. Obtaining one is not an easy or inexpensive proposition.
We saw a friend the other day who we hadn't seen in a while. In the interval, she had decided to wear a sheitel, instead of a hat to cover her hair in synagogue.
Both of us think this woman is VERY attractive and both of us felt that the sheitel did nothing for her appearance-in fact, it detracted it from her. There may be an economic issue here and it's probably none of our business, but we really wanted to somehow broach the topic. I know, it's probably best to shut up...which is what we did, but I would want someone to tell me. Thus, following "Do Unto Others..." Anyway, I'm not going to say anything.
It reminded me of an episode of What Not to Wear that we saw. The subjects of the program are nominated by their friends. Maybe a Jewish version called: "What Not to Wear...to Cover Your Hair"
Saturday, July 22, 2006
Calanit gets angry. Calanit sometimes pushes Erez away.
Tamar and I reprimand Calanit. "You should know better. You are bigger and stronger than he is. He doesn't know what he's doing."
Now, make the following substitutions.
Parents-> 'world opinion'
From now on, I am going to reprimand Erez. Eventually he'll get the message. I support Calanit's right to live in peace and defend herself.
They have finally gotten the Hasbara (i.e. PR game) down. Every speaker I see on TV is a native English speaker and they are hammering the points home.
2. If you are a lover of freedom, peace, and democracy, you'd better hope that Israel totally annihilates Hizbollah (article on Hizbollahland)
3. How I would solve the Hizbollah problem
- drop leaflets saying that everyone within 25 miles of the border should evacuate
- employ a 'scorched earth' policy and napalm/burn everything down. Let the enemy have no cover. (Yes, I know the Apocalypse Now quote)
- do what the Romans allegedly did to Carthage and salt the entire area.
- Announce a policy of "planned retaliation". For every 1 rocket that is fired at us, we'll fire 5 back at you.
- Bring back targeted assassinations.
4. I'm sick and tired of moral equivalence. How is it possible that Hizbollah's deliberate rocket attacks on civilians is the same thing as Israel's efforts to attack Hizbollah's military targets (deliberately situated in civilian areas to create a defensive shield and serve as PR fodder when civilians are killed.)?
Note: I see the same moral equivalence at play in terms of the penalties5. CNN is far from "the most trusted name in news." I'll take FOX any day, thank you.
handed out to Zidane and Materazzi following the World
Friday, July 21, 2006
Thursday, July 20, 2006
Last night, for extra measure, I put my head on her chest and just listened to her heartbeat.
About 6-7 years ago, since we weren't all at home any more, I began the practice of a virtual high point/low point email which I sent out on Thurs. night and over the course of the next day, people would respond with their comments, so we could continue to share.
Here are mine for this week (I'll try to make this weekly as well):
My first “tea party” with Calanit
Calanit’s first “poop” in the Potty
Some good early morning runs w/Paco
Visiting Nana/poppy and their successful surgeries
Having 2 yoga dates with Tamar at night this week
Lack of sleep
Some technical challenges with one computer because I installed beta software
I was thinking about something the other day – after it very randomly popping into my head while at a game – and thought I might share it with you and get your thoughts. It’s not completely dissimilar to some of the thoughts you’ve had on ROI for medical procedures for people.
It has to do with society paying for other people’s multiple births after being pregnant through extraordinary means.
Okay, I’m not sure how best to put this, but here’s where my thinking started and went. The reason it popped into my head was that the pinch hitter for us was a guy who had triplet girls last season, who naturally were in the hospital for a period of time.
It got me thinking… We all pay health insurance, and sadly, some of our health insurance costs are because of what other people are doing. If something bad happens to someone, and they need health care, they are covered. If someone wants elective surgery, often it is not. Is that very different from someone getting pregnant (naturally), and something happening to them or the baby, and needing hospitalization, versus someone spending lots of time and money (usually their own, as insurance won’t often cover fertilization procedures) to get pregnant, often with multiple fetuses as a result of the treatments, which will require more hospitalization or care for the mother, usually, and lots more care for the babies, usually. Is that something that normal insurance should cover, and therefore all of us pay something for in our rates?
Now, I know this wouldn’t be a popular thing amongst my close friends who had to go through such procedures in order to have babies they really want – and I am so thrilled for them to be pregnant when that was the only way for them. But, when the babies need to be in the hospital for a month with special care, and it was almost a given that it would be needed, since it’s twins or triplets, is that just a given to be covered, and us all pay for? If you are pregnant naturally with twins or triplets, then that’s a different story, as you didn’t do anything special to make that happen, and it wasn't intentional.
An interesting question and a tough one, but one that should be asked. I'm much more clear on my positions re: procedures that are required to save people who do what I consider stupid things. Say, a lung transplant for a lifelong smoker or oxygen for that person. This one is a tougher call.
Wednesday, July 19, 2006
Herewith are the questions I ask (usually in order, but not always) and the reasons I ask them.
1. Do you understand the role? [make sure we're on the same page]
2. OK, so why you? [can the person enunciate a value proposition succintly]
3. Prove it. [is there evidence to support the value proposition]
4. What do you do outside of work? [does the person have balance and what are the things s/he is passionate about?]
5. What is the biggest mistake you have made as a professional? [is the person self-reflective?]
6. Tell me about your passion for technology [is the person looking for a "safe job" or is the person truly committed? then, benchmark vs. passions from #4]
7. Do you pay attention to detail? [I usually look for problems/typos in the resume and highlight, but only to see how the person reacts under pressure]
8. What is the 1 line you would like me to remember about you? [reiteration of value proposition...is it consistent?]
9. Tell me about a creative solution to a problem. [does the person have creativity?]
10. Constructive Criticism-can you offer and receive it well? Everyone says YES. Then I say, "ok, we've been talking for 40 minutes, how can I improve my interview questions? How am I doing? [does the person have critical analytical skills?]
11. What was the toughest interview question you've ever been asked? Now answer it. [I'm always looking for good questions and like to hear what people have to say]
12. Who was the best boss you ever had? Why? [what does this person look for in others?]
Initially, I was a bit concerned that I didn't have it in me and that it would take too much time.
Fortunately, tonight, he brought his A game and did a nice job of preparing.
I told him that a large portion of success in this endeavor stems from mental discipline. He'll be prepared on the fundamentals, but he just needs to stay focused.
"Soon," I said, "I'm going to have you wax my car."
"What are you talking about?" he inquired.
I had already given him a list of homework assignments for the next session.
"Oh, one more thing for your homework. You need to tell your Dad that you have to watch the Karate Kid."
Are we perfect? Heh. Far from it, but it's been interesting to see how we've evolved over time...from the "silent treatment" to raised voices and now, gradually, more constructive, empathetic conversations.
Needless to say, Tamar is much, much stronger in this area than I am.
Tuesday, July 18, 2006
Step 1: Thyroidectomy. Thursday, July 27th.
Impact: I’m told that I’ll be back at work w/in a few days (probably Tues or Wed of the following week. No guarantees of course). One issue is that my vocal chords (due to proximity to thyroid) may be sore and thus I will be limited in my talking abilities. I know, a net positive for all of you.
Step 2: Iodine Free Diet (target begin date approx. August 13th)
Impact: 2 weeks of significantly less than 100% energy
Explanation: I won’t be able to eat anything that has iodine in it (salt, fish are two of them, but there are a lot of things, I’m told). What this means is that I will be exceedingly tired (sounds like a carrot and celery existence) and won’t have as much energy as I’d like. Long days may be out of the question.
Apparently, the thyroid has a unique ability to absorb iodine. This is the first part of a 2 step process where the we starve the body of iodine so that any remaining thyroid cells are hungry for iodine.
Step 3: Radioactive Iodine (target date: end of August)
Impact: 2 days of hospitalization followed by a few days of limited contact w/the outside world.
Explanation: In an effort to remove any remaining thyroid cells, this stealth/nuclear iodine is taken via pill/liquid. The remaining cells are tricked into absorbing the iodine they crave and then destroyed from the inside. Kind of cool, eh?
I’ve asked if there’s wi-fi in the hospital (the Dr. said no one had asked that one before), but using a PC [for fear of making it radioactive-although that could be a good reason to get a new laptop J] may be forbidden. Basically, a few days of reading, watching NetFlix, and not being able to help around the house w/the kids. Hmmm….maybe I should do it for a week or so.
Step 4: Recovery (1st part of September)
Impact: Apparently it takes a week or so to get back to “normal” as the body adjusts to the TRH (Thyroid Replacement Hormone).
Not your typical summer vacation, but since insurance (thankfully) picks it up, much more economical. Surprising that more people don’t do it.
Tamar got one last week. I got one today. From different peoople. You may conclude that we are difficult to get along with. Possible, of course.
We responded differently. Tamar spent a lot of time thinking about it and figuring out how and when to respond. It's gone back and forth a few times.
I deleted mine.
1. If I can't see that the discussion is going to yield anything productive, I'm not going to waste my time.
2. If I think that emotion has totally taken over, what's the point of trying to be rational?
3. If the person who launched the flame did so via email, I've already concluded that it's more of a venting than an effort to resolve.
Knowing how life is, I'll forget about it in a week or so and move on.
Either the friendship/relationship is strong enough to endure or it's not, but responding-in any way-to a flame, at least in my experience, never ends well.
When we first got married, we came up with a methodology for determining our social engagements. If we were invited to a party, for example, of a friend of Tamar's and I didn't want to go, we would rate it on a scale of 1-10. If Tamar said, "this is a 10," I would go even if I didn't want to. A "3" and I could stay at home.
We had a long talk about cigar smoking and it became obvious that on the list of things that Tamar hates, it's a 10. I enjoy it, but I don't consider it a 10, maybe a 4 or a 5.
Since smoking cigars 1-2 times per year (for whatever reason :-) )causes her a lot of anxiety, I've decided to give it up altogether.
Once upon a time, I would have seen this as an infringement on my independence, my rights as a man, my independence, but thanks to 10 Stupid Things Do To Mess Up Their Lives and to Stephen Covey's classic, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People , I've come to appreciate the value-and importance and benefit- of Interdependence.
It's rewarding to do something because of how it makes someone else feel, not how it makes me feel.
The other night, we were invited to dinner at some friends' house and the conversation turned to how often the married couples in attendance had sex with each other.
It just seemed like this crossed the line (for me) and that my intimate relations with my wife are no one's business but our own.
Monday, July 17, 2006
Older and perhaps more jaded, I have swung the other way. Most people don't want to hear what I have to say. They are too busy focusing on themselves. Nothing wrong with that, it's just the way it is.
The Blog, then, serves as an outlet for me to think through some of my ideas and get them out of my system. In the event that someone is interested, it's out there...and we can begin a dialogue.
Sometimes you just have to get things out there. It's like the story of King Midas' barber.
Yesterday, I took the kids to visit my grandparents. My grandmother is on oxygen for her health. I gave it a whirl for 5 minutes. Didn't really notice anything different.
Just saved some money, woo hoo!
This morning on our run, I took a bit of a different route and it's a good thing I did. Our normal route was blocked by a tree that fell clear across the path and completely smashed a bench on the side. ONe foot either side and the bench would have survived. Same with the woman in the tunnel, I suppose.
It's strange to think about how random life is sometimes. One inch one way, you live, one inch the other way, you die.
Read a great book once called The Five People You Meet In Heaven which begins with this same type of random occurence.
We want to be in control, but we're not, are we?
He loves the outdoors and it's not too hot.
The run is good, but the shower is better (he joins me and the boy is fearless).
Sunday, July 16, 2006
Saturday, July 15, 2006
If you are a sports fan, you'll LOVE Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer. It's an investigation into the mind of FANDOM as studied through the legions of RVers who travel to Alabama football games. Very cool.
The second is Soul Circus which is a very interesting realistic fiction account of inner city African-American drug/gang culture. I listened to it on tape and the reader was superb!
Thursday, July 13, 2006
One of my favorite aspects of traveling is the adventure of not knowing where you are and not knowing where you are going. It is during my travels where I allow spontanaeity and serendipity to take their place in my life.
Last night, we had a gathering of the "Friends of Jeremy and Tamar" (Boston chapter) in the lobby of my hotel. Over 2 hours, 11 people showed up.
One of my friends is married according to Mass. law to his gay partner. Currently, there's a state constitutional amendment debate going on regarding the legality of these unions. While there is no chance that his marriage will be annulled, he certainly feels strongly about it...and it is impacting their ability to become parents.
Initially, they went down the path of adoption, but no adoption agency (US or foreign) that they encountered was in a position to approve an adoption to a gay couple. (Note: I've sent him my Advice on Fatherhood document).
So now the game plan involves an "outsourced supply chain" [my term, not his] that involves:
1. a company that matches donors (of egg and sperm) and surrogates
2. a sperm donor (my friend) [input 1]
3. an egg donor (a woman they know) [input 2]
4. a woman who will serve as the surrogate (production facility)
The legal hurdles have been cleared and the medical process is underway. As my friend says, "not only does it take a village to raise a child, it takes the Internet, two women, and a clinical lab!"
Too bad for my buddy Morry, his life update followed this one. By comparison, his job, life, and marriage were pretty straightforward, but we love him anyway!
All of this by 8pm last night.
Next stop was the Union Oyster House. Clearly, not a lot for me to eat there, but there was a party for our partners there. It was a good time. I've really started to enjoy working so closely with so many other organizations in a truly symbiotic relationship. When they win, we win. It's a good feeling.
By this point, I was kind of hungry, however, and I found one partner who was interested in going with me for the old standby: sushi.
We asked around, no one knew of a close-by sushi location. I decided it was time for an adventure.
We jumped into a cab and said, "take us to a sushi place."
"I don't know where one is. What's the address?"
"We don't know. Where is there a sushi place?"
"How about Chinatown?"
Thinking to myself that the cabbie represented the larger portion of Americans who only know that China and Japan are both in Asia, I figured there was probably a good chance of success in that strategy.
Needless to say, on the first street we found in Chinatown, we found "Ginza," which is as authentic a Japanese restaurant I've found since returning to the US.
1. they had Natto-fermented soybeans-on the menu, which have a taste and smell all of their own and one that is not typically savory to the American palate
2. they had quail egg sushi. Another menu item that most Americans don't seem to resonate with
After a great meal (hey as a company ambassador I needed to show my partner a good time, right?) we decided we only had one logical next step...the cigar bar.
Now, I should say that my wife doesn't like it that I smoke cigars at all. And I don't think playing the "I have cancer so let me do what I want" card will work on her. She's also requested that I give cigars up post thyroid surgery...a request I've taken under advisement.
Before I go any further, I should say that I smoke cigars at most 2-3 times per year so it's not a big habit for me, but I do enjoy it.
Figuring that this was an opportunity not to be missed (although by blogging on it, I'll pay the price since my beautiful bride does read the Blog), I asked the maitre'd to track down a good place for us. He did, Cigar Masters on Boylston Street.
We hit the jackpot with our cabbie on the way over. First off, he said he stopped for us (it was raining) because I was wearing a Boston Red Sox hat. (Yes, I admit, but much like the Yankees grew on me despite my Orioles allegiance--when I lived in NYC, the Yanks won 3 straight World Series, so I jumped on the bandwagon--I figured now that the curse of the Bambino is over, perhaps I could handle the Red Sox. Besides, it's a nice hat) Not only that, but he was a history buff and gave us a GREAT tour as we made our way to the cigar bar.
We sit down at the bar, stogies lit up, and start chatting. There's a guy sitting next to my buddy, Shaun, and I look at him and say, "hey, what's your story?"
Well, next thing we know, we're deep into his personal life and he says, pretty much first thing:
"I've just finalized my divorce because my wife decided she wanted to be a lesbian."
He had suspected that something was going on with his wife's friend who was "quite butch," but figured it out when he walked into the hospital room after his wife was recovering from a surgery and found the two of them making out in the hospital bed together.
You cannot script this stuff.
He confronts the two of them and what else are they going to do? They fess up.
Well, needless to say, we had an interesting conversation with the guy (who is preparing for his Bar Mitzvah simultaneously with his 13 year old son since he didn't have one as a boy) about politics in Mass, radical Islam, the war in Iraq, economics, Microsoft, real estate, the European Union and a whole lot more, until we closed down the place at 1am.
Shaun and I take a cab back to our hotel and call it a night, but I'll tell you, it's things like this that I love.
Get in a cab and not knowing where you are going; Strike up conversations with strangers; Just experience life.
I'm sure there is more, but I've got to get the Blog posted. Truth is stranger than fiction.
Is this someone who can communicate effectively?
Does this person understand the true nature of the problem?
Does this person have focus?
I can't tell if it is a Blink type scenario where I'm making a solid call very quickly, or is it a rush judgment and I'm not being fair?
I put on Tefillin every morning (the picture is not of me!). What's interesting is when I have a roommate (as I do this week) who is not Jewish and completely unfamiliar with the custom.
On the one hand, it's a bit intimidating, because it's the uncomfortable being "different," particularly with something that looks somewhat odd to the typical Western eye.
On the other hand, it's liberating and empowering because it gives me additional confidence in who I am and provides an opportunity for open dialogue and a chance to talk religion on a serious level.
We began a conversation about God and where he is. One of the "downsides" of God is that He is everywhere and I know it. When I'm considering my actions, I'm very well aware of his presence. I guess it's not a downside, it's probably an upside, right? If it makes me stay on the right path, I guess I come out ahead.
I think there are some side benefits though. I feel like the readers of the Blog are the customers and it is my job as the supplier of the content to make it compelling, to ofer a reasonable value proposition that will make it worth your while to read the post and to come back the next day for more.
It's also made me more observant of the world around me. I notice things I didn't before because I am looking for interesting Blog content. I constantly reach for my dictating machine (like Michael Keaton in Night Shift putting ideas in there for later blogging.
Hopefully it's paying off...
What I love about business and why I believe in it so much is the power it has to really create wealth and jobs for people, more effectively IMHO than any other vehicle.
In other words, here are 10,000 people whose livelihood is made possible by the fact that Microsoft makes software that companies and people want. They eat and send their kids to school because of what Microsoft does.
This is not a "hey Microsoft is great" post, it's about why successful companies are a good thing for everyone and we should promote entrepreneurship and innovation as the way to improve people's conditions and lot in life.
As a side note, I am really upset about the European Commission's decision. I think that the fines are politically motivated and not designed to either promote competition (which is a good thing) or promote innovation.
What's more, I was infuriated reading USA Today this AM because the tone was so anti-Microsoft, it was ridiculous. It was clear the author didn't have all of the facts (there were some facts presented in an email to all employees-not opinion- that were salient but ignored) but had an agenda re: the "defiant software giant." VERY irritating.
I'm holding out for a hybrid minivan...hey automakers, there are probably other cost-conscious family men out there, maybe there's a market? (I was glad to see that Hyundai put out a minivan, the Entourage, since I do love my Elantra and LOVE my dealer, Fitzgerald. How many people say that?)
Anyway, I've been thinking up until recently that I would either buy a new Entourage (since I plan on driving the car until it dies and love the 10 year/100k mile warranty) or a used one that was in decent shape. This would cost me somewhere from $10k to $30k. Obviously, I'd have to do the analysis.
But then I ran into my friend Greg, who is leasing a new Toyota Sienna for $400/month.
It had never occured to me to lease, but when you start running the numbers (assuming the mileage terms are reasonable), it could make a lot of sense.
Anyone have a thought on that one?
It's interesting the reactions I get from people when I'm staring at their chests trying to read (or perhaps responding) to what's there. It's like they don't understand why I'm staring at them.
Wednesday, July 12, 2006
She wanted to create a bit more user-friendly, gentle look (hey, it's all in line with this right-brain initiative of mine, right).
Let me know what you think via the comments section.
If you need design help (and you like what you see), you can reach MJ at http://www.souzouzone.jp/
I duck into the lobby of my hotel and pull it out to confirm. A guy starts talking to me.
Turns out he's a pilot for a major airline with a 37 hour layover in Boston. He's been drinking a bit, but is friendly and says he's just looking for conversation. I'm skeptical a bit, but after drilling him with questions for a while, he seems like he is who he says he is.
I've been in his shoes (well I've never been an intoxicated pilot) in the sense that I've been alone in a city by myself looking for human connection.
I decide that in an act of kindness, I am going to take him to the party I'm going to and get him in.
It's a bit of a risk, but seeing that he's generally a nice guy (he's also an Air Force/Gulf War I vet, i make the call that it is ok.)
On the way, he says to me as he pulls out a pack of ciagarettes, "do you mind if I smoke?"
"Actually, I do. Did you not get the memo about lung cancer?" I lecture him on my thyroid cancer and suggest that he really value his life a bit more.
I get him in the party. You've never seen a more appreciative guy. He's having a great time (though at one point, I needed to tell him to calm down a bit.) I introduce him around to my colleagues and make sure that he knows the name of the upcoming Microsoft Windows OS release (Vista).
I turn to him and say, "let me have your cigarettes."
"Because you need to quit starting tonight."
He gives them to me. I open the pack and break them all in half, discarding them on the table.
We get to chatting. He's doing extremely well for himself. Making well into the six figures. He's about my age. I felt a twinge of jealousy thinking about what I would do with that money. I admit it.
He's not married. No kids.
Wouldn't trade places with him though.
I ask the Bellman for an estimate of the distance.
"Oh," he said, "it's not far. 10 shaht blocks."
"What? 10 shot blocks? You need Shaquille O'Neal to come in to get you there?"
"No, Shaht....S...H..O..R..T...Shaht," he smiled.
Gotta love the Boston accent.
Tuesday, July 11, 2006
I like to eat and I do have a challenge in controlling myself when I find something I like. I tend to eat even though I'm not hungry...because it's there.
I get a bit fanatical about it and figure it's like a bank account...if I eat a lot, I need to work out a lot OR if I've worked out a lot, then I can eat a lot. As long as my account nets out to zero, I'm good to go.
Recently, I've realized it's kind of a "work hard, play hard," approach that's working for me. What concerns me is the type of habits I'm developing now. It's easier for me to do a big workout, long run, etc. now than it will be in 20 years, but I'll still have the bad eating habits--tougher to break.
Just wondering if I'm putting myself on a bad course right now or if this is the essence of moderation.
Maybe admitting that I have some type of eating disorder is the first step to conquering it.
Tamar often says, "I bake things that are healthy," and while that is true, it doesn't apply if you consume larger than acceptable portions.
We're also here for 5 days, which means we have at least more than a day's worth of stuff.
As soon as we got in, we had to rearrange the room. We took the "snack tray" off the nightstand and put it in the closet. We had to stretch to find plugs, move blankets out of drawers for our stuff, and generally just completely reorganized. We were a bit upset by the lack of space and actually called for a room upgrade...no luck.
The cleaning lady knocked on my door at 11.30am (I should add that my conference attendance strategy is a 1pm-1am approach, focused highly on networking and less on session attendance).
I told her to come back in a few minutes, but I had a twinge of guilt as I left and thought about giving her a tip b/c the room was admittedly quite disheveled.
On the one hand, it's her job and it is what it is. On the other hand, it's not her fault that the hotel doesn't really cater to the needs of the longer stay of the modern day business traveler with a roommate.
I took out some dollars to give to her (I thought she was right outside the door). When I exited, she had entered the room next door and I didn't bother tracking her down.
Question: should I have tipped her for going above and beyond?
I have to say, I really love this city. It's got character and charm. Admittedly, it's July and not December, but I love the architecture, the history, the feel. It's a great city for walking and if my memory serves me correct, it's on the same latitude as Rome, which enhances, at least in my mind, a European flavor.
The tight, narrow streets, the brick buildings that are worn a bit from salty air, wind, and harsh winters just add to it. I walked 20 minutes to the Convention Center and back to Federal Street, over to Faneiul Hall Marketplace and down Washington Street as well as along the side of Boston Common on my way over to the financial district (at least it was where the Prudential tower is).
As a history buff, it's great to be in a place like this, near the Old North Church of Paul Rever fame (saw a plaque adjacent to a church cemetery with some other notables, including Samuel Adams, I believe), and the location of the Boston Tea Party.
In preparation for the trip, I watched a Modern Marvels segment about "The Big Dig" and could appreciate the tunnel from the airport (apparently there was a section that collapsed last night, adding a bit of drama; notwithstanding the fact that two people were hurt, I think.
I've long said that I think Boston and San Francisco are America's 2 most beautiful cities. I'm partial to being near the open water, but Boston has solidified its location on that list.
Monday, July 10, 2006
I hired a friend of our family to serve as my taxi on the way to the
airport today. He's a rising senior in college and the youngest of 3
children. All of them are living at home this summer.
I felt for his parents. Here they are, thinking that by ages 21-28, they
would be empty nesters and now they've got 3 freeloaders!
I'm going to develop an accelerating rental/service fee system that
starts off when a child turns 18 and rises each year. You want to live
at home, great, here's the monthly fee (we will have free days for
holidays/family occasions, etc.-I don't want a disincentive to come home
for important things). You make the economic decision of whether it's
worth it to live here or not. By the time they are 25 or 26, it starts
getting pretty steep and the push out of the proverbial nest gets
stronger and stronger.
Maybe I'll work with my economics professor college roommate to come up
with an equation.
Paco has developed to the point where he can now shake his head from
side to side (and then throw food on the floor) when he's not interested
in whatever you are serving him.
When I put Calanit to sleep, she will frequently sit up in her bed (I'm
lying down). I point to her and I point to the pillow as if to say,
"your head belongs here." Last night, she sat up, pointed to me, smiled,
and pointed to the pillow, knowing she had turned the tables on me!
I've had 2 comments in the past 2 weeks that struck me as odd and I'm not sure how to react.
One came from a business associate. I was describing some of the technologies I'd like to implement at my synagogue and the response was, "hey, that'd be a great marketing opportunity for Microsoft, right? All of the members are business owners, aren't they?"
"Actually," I replied, "there are probably more lawyers than business owners," but I was trying to decipher what that meant.
I went to a party the other day with a Turkish acquaintance of ours. I was wearing my Microsoft shirt and said, "even though I work for Microsoft, I've been trying to explain that I'm not a millionaire, I joined too late."
He responded, "that's ok, you've got enough money."
Both of these comments could be interpreted in any number of ways, I suppose, but perhaps I'm conditioned to think of these in one way because of past historical prejudices.
Is this a proper generalization or an over-reaction?
We have an evening ritual of reading to our kids (at least Calanit) and then singing a few prayers/songs to them. It alternates depending on who is available. Last night, I sang to Calanit.
Afterwards, I realized I needed to tell her that I was leaving for a few days for a trip.
"Tonka," I said. "I'm going to go away for a few days. I'm going to call you. Will you talk to me on the phone?"
"Yes. I'm going on a trip, too."
"I'm going to the park with my animals" [her stuffed animals].
This morning, I brought my suitcase downstairs and when I saw her, she had her suitcase (a small pink one she had received as a baby) and a stroller with a teddy bear in it.
She waved to me as I walked out the door.
Tamar later called me to tell me that she broke down crying.
Leaving these kids for a few days is one of the toughest things around. When I think about thyroid cancer and the far worse medical conditions out there and what it could mean in terms of leaving them for a much longer period of time, my heart breaks.
For them and for me.
If "a liar should have a good memory" then if you're telling the truth, you never need to worry about remembering anything.
Two cases in point.
Today's World Cup Final between France and Italy. For those of you who didn't see it or don't follow it, France's team captain and star player (3 time world player of the year) is named Zinedine Zidane. At one point during the overtime period of the game, he lost his cool and reacted to some words of an Italian player by headbutting the guy in the chest. It was pretty flagrant and resulted in a red card, compelling him to leave the game, forcing his team to play with only 10 players for the remaining time, and preventing him from participating in the deciding penalty kick process for the championship.
It was a shame on many levels as Zidane had announced previously that he would retire after the World Cup and, following some early round dramatics as well as a decision in the championship game to play injured, a victory would have cemented his status as one of the greats of all time.
He may and probably will be remembered as one of the greats, however, his record is now marred by a most unsportsmanlike act on the game's biggest stage. And, coming back to the point of this posting, what he did happened well away from the ball. I don't know all of the details now, but there's some evidence to suggest that because one of the bazillion cameras in the stadium was trained on him (probably for the entire game) did catch it, and it was replayed on the TV in the stadium, the referees ultimately saw it on the TV and then decided to eject him. It's possible that in another era with fewer cameras and TV's, he would have gotten away with it.
2nd case in point is the recent death of Ken Lay, former CEO of Enron. For more on that, see Peggy Noonan's Op-Ed in the WSJ from last week. She describes the fact that in this era, it's impossible to hide from scandal.
Bottom line: We're human, we're going to make mistake and since someone is always we're watching, you're going to have to deal with it. But maybe knowing that Big Brother is watching could make you think twice about making preventable mistakes.
What's also interesting is how different people react to it. Some appreciate the candor and the humor. Others have admitted to feeling a bit voyeurisitc, as if they are peering into my inner soul and that makes them feel a bit strange.
How do you feel?
I'll keep you posted on how it is.
Or, check back with me in 20 years and see if I've hit Millionaire status. :-)
Sunday, July 09, 2006
I have documents for
1. the history of why I use 979 in everything
2. how Tamar and I met
3. directions to our home
4. what happens if we invite you (or you invite us) to a Sabbath meal
5. why I fly the flag of the town of Eppstein, Germany in front of our house
Why do I spend time on these? To save time.
These are the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ's) of my life and instead of having to go step by step through the "how to get to my house," I just send a full document with maps and directions, etc. It's a lot easier.
It's part of the operational efficient mantra I try to live by.
With two kids and a number of ambitious life goals, I'd rather spend time on other, higher value activities.
When I find Germans or Israelis, I look to practice those languages, but with old friends, it's different. You can't meet a random person (as you might an Israeli/German/etc.) and just started using the code words that you used when you were 15.
Today, Tamar and I visited with our friends, Greg and Gladys. Greg was one of my best friends growing up and Gladys and Tamar were similarly close in upstate NY. As chance would have it, they married each other (or I guess from their perspective, we married each other).
Anyway, I was talking to Greg about the process through which my thyroid cancer was discovered and began, as I do with most people, describing the bump I had in my neck.
For most people, I say "it felt like either a cyst or one of those pimples you just can't pop."
Greg looked and me and said, "oh yeah, a Type D."
I burst out laughing.
When we were in Israel with our high school class in 1991, we spent a fair amount of time developing a category system for the different types of pimples which were as follows (I think):
Type C-I don't remember
Type D-ones that couldn't be "popped"
Ridiculous? Yes, but hey that's part of it. The exciting thing is that 15 years down the road, we could still share this language with each other.
It's not that "Hollywood's 25 Sexiest Couples" is such an exciting topic, it's that I can't gather much more energy to do anything else.
A war of attrition...and I'm losing.
Realizing you are not going to live forever...really realizing it is one of them.
You hear a diagnosis of "cancer" (no matter how curable) and you start looking at life differently. It's kind of refreshing in a way. I wonder if you need to seriously confront your own mortality before you can fully start to savor LIFE in all its glory.
As we flipped through the channels during the commercials, we came upon the replay of the 4th of July Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest from Coney Island.
It's a 12 minute contest and the objective is clear.
The commentators were talking about it like any other sport, "at 6 minutes, they hit the wall," "these guys are trained athletes," "Joey is like Vijay Singh. Everyone else is at the 19th hole, he's out on the driving range," and on and on.
There are regional "qualifiers" in places like Las Vegas and the Mall of America to earn the right to travel to Coney Island on July 4th.
There are champs of other contests including grilled cheese, corned beef and cabbage, crabcakes, and rice.
On the one hand, as a sports fan, I was intrigued. Here was a contest with strategies, techniques, (e.g. "the double Tokyo stuff"), personalities, contenders, and the like.
On the other hand, what does it say about our culture when we have taken something so basic to our survival, particularly when so many people don't have enough, and celebrated its abundance by gorging ourselves?
The winner (and 6 time champ) Takeru Kobayashi of Japan who set a new world record of 54 hot dogs (and buns) in 12 minutes.
"9 months after I conceive," was the wife's mildly startled response.
"Are you actively or passively trying?" I responded.
She didn't like that too much. Ouch.
Sometimes my mouth runs ahead of my brain and my politeness filter gets turned off.
Can I blame that on thyroid cancer?
Saturday, July 08, 2006
This morning, a friend of mine asked, "do you really do 20 pull ups during your workout?"
Now, I feel like I have to do them 3 times a week. Nothing like some public pressure to keep you in shape.
Friday, July 07, 2006
I'm a big believer in the power of the story as outlined in Seth Godin's book,All Marketers Are Liars and this morning, I was reading Good Housekeeping (yes, you read that correctly) which had a little blurb on attention affecting retention.
I was reading GH as part of my right brain development efforts encouraged by the book A Whole New Mind I've also started recording and watching programs such as "Designed to Sell," "Design on a Dime," and other things on Home and Garden Television.
It seemed that the story is part of it and telling a good one leads to retention, but I figured there had to be more.
There's only one guy I know in my network who studies this stuff, Jon Oler, who got his PhD in '04 and is currently doing a post-doc in affective neuroscience. (I've discussed Emotional Intelligence with him in the past), so I called him up, interrupted his brunch with his siblings and asked the question quickly:
What makes us remember?
He said he'd call back w/more info, but in brief, he said, "Emotion. I remember where I was when the Challenger blew up, on September 11th. It's things like that that cause additional adrenaline to kick in in our brains and help stimulate memory."
So, the question for me, as a marketer, is what I can do to tell a good story that grabs people's attention and evokes emotion....all to make them want to buy stuff from me :-)
Thursday, July 06, 2006
On Finding Peace Ken Lay's death reminds us of what we know.
Thursday, July 6, 2006 12:01 a.m. EDT
All deaths are sad, and some are shocking and sad. Ken Lay's this week was both, though I don't suppose it should have been a shock.
Putting aside all judgments and conclusions, all umbrage, outrage and indignation, and all debates on who was most responsible for the Enron scandal--putting all those weighty and legitimate concerns aside--isn't it obvious that Ken Lay died of a broken heart? We forget that people do, or at least I forget, but they do.
His life was broken and would never be healed. Or if it was to be healed it would happen while he was imprisoned, for the rest of his life, with four walls to look at. All was wreckage around him. He died, of a massive coronary. But that can be another way of saying broken heart.
Is this Shakespearian in the sense of being towering and tragic? I don't know. I think it's primal and human. And I think if we were more regularly conscious of the fact that death through sadness happens we'd be better to each other. I'm thinking here of a friend who reflected one day years ago, I cannot recall why, on how hard people are on each other, how we're all complicated little pirates and more sensitive, more breakable, than we know.
He said--I paraphrase--"It's a dangerous thing to deliberately try to hurt someone because it's not possible to calibrate exactly how much hurt you're doing. You can't know in advance the extent of the damage. A snub can leave a wound that lasts a lifetime, a bop on the head with a two-by-four will be laughed off. One must be careful. We'll always hurt others by accident or in a passion but we mustn't do it with deliberation."
We are human beings, and to each other we are not fully knowable. There's a lot of mystery in life. The life force can leave before we even know it's withdrawing.
On TV Wednesday, on cable news, they weren't calling him "CEO scam artist" but, literally, on CNN, "beleaguered businessman." They didn't know how to play the story. To rehearse, on the day of his death, the allegations against Lay and the jury verdict--guilty of fraud and conspiracy--would be . . . ungracious, lacking. But to ignore the scandal--which is after all the reason he is famous, the reason we are reporting his death--is journalistically incoherent. Reporters tried to find a middle ground. Lay came from nowhere, rose high, messed up, fell.
But part of what happened to him, one of the interesting parts of the sad story, is that it is an illustration of the changing nature of scandal. There has been a huge change in the impact scandal now has on a human life in the modern world.
Once you could get in terrible trouble and just vamoose and find a place to hide. You could lam it, lay low, start over. You could reinvent yourself. You could cross an ocean and go to another continent and begin again.
You could leave the scandal behind you.
You could create a new life by creating a fiction. It is 1794 and you are in fact a farmer's son from Normandy who stole a purse. But you've just arrived in Philadelphia and have taken to announcing that you're a member of the French nobility fleeing the revolution. And they believe you! You work in a store, own a store, found a chain. In time you are the sober scion of an old main line family. Or it's 1930 and you're a socialite who caused a scandal, so you go to the hills of Umbria and begin to call yourself the widow Jones.
You could hide or start over. As late as the 1950s a Blanche Dubois could have confidence her tale of lost love would be believed. She could rely on the kindness of strangers.
But no one's quite a stranger anymore.
Now, with modern media, there's no place to hide. In the age of Google there's an endless pixel trail.
You can't disappear and start over because you can't disappear.
And--I'm serious--there's a sadness to this, a less human, less rich, more constricted and constricting quality to modern life because of it.
The modern media age has leveled the trees behind which people used to hide. If Ken Lay had been found not guilty and gone to live on the most obscure street in the third biggest town in Chad, you know what they'd say as he walked by. "That's the guy that headed the company that stole the money." They have CNN there. They have it everywhere.
Too bad. People need second chances, and thirds, and fourths.
The answer? There is no answer. The lesson is not, "Human beings will have to have fewer scandals and embarrassments," because human beings can't have less scandals and embarrassments. They're human. They'll do what humans do.
The only relief in this area will be here: when every embarrassment is famous for a day and every scandal known worldwide for a week, they'll all start to blend into a big blur. And you can hide in a blur for a while.
Ms. Noonan is a contributing editor of The Wall Street Journal and author of "John Paul the Great: Remembering a Spiritual Father," (Penguin, 2005), which you can order from the OpinionJournal bookstore. Her column appears Thursdays.
Wednesday, July 05, 2006
I have a friend, Jacob, with whom I frequently discuss the burgeoning cost of healthcare in America and whether it is worth it, for example, to spend $5k per month on medication for an 84 year old woman
My college roommate, Jon, (and his wife) are MIT PhD’s in Economics
When I sent out the “I have cancer” email, Jon asked me “what can I do?”
The only thing you could do for me is calculate the cost/benefit analysis of the expected treatment for my cancer vs. my future contribution to society. I need a solid, econometrically sound, ROI justification for the procedure. You know I don’t want to be a net drain on the economy!
I then forwarded that to Jacob as an FYI. He wrote:
You seem to assume that the ROI would be positive without the cancer! I wonder whether that's the case for most people, or whether there's a distinction between societies around the world or strata within our society (is there a cutoff point?). Although people in poorer nations earn less, less is spent on them. With respect to you, I would doubt that a relatively low cost cancer treatment and a lifetime of an inexpensive drug like Synthroid would push you over the edge.
Today, I received the analysis from Jon (even though he is on vacation!)
To answer your question about the ROI of medical treatment, we need to start with some notation.
C_0 = expected cost of treating a particular disease in year 0 (today)
B_0 = expected benefit of receiving treatment in year 0
B_1 = expected benefit of receiving treatment in years 0 and (possibly) 1
B_n = expected benefit of receiving treatment in years 0, 1, ... , n
N = number of additional years you are expected to life with successful
r = annual nominal rate; rather than estimate an annual risk-free rate of
return from the yield to maturity on a 30-year US treasury bond, I
propose using 7.00%; you can play around with different rates later
i = annual inflation rate; I propose using 3.00% since that is a decent
approximation to the long-run average inflation rate in the US
p = probability that treatment is successful; I could let this vary over
time as a function of prior treatments, etc. but the notation would
get ugly; you can play around with this yourself.
Let's consider the case where C_0 is positive and C_1 = ... = C_N = 0. You receive treatment today and either experience a complete recovery (with probability p) or die at the end of the year (with probability 1-p). Harsh, I know. According to Robin, the value of a "statistical life" has recently been estimated at $200,000 per year. As I understand it, this number is meant to capture both the wage and non-wage benefits of life for the average person. You're not remotely average but let's use this number anyway :) Of course, since the value of a year of life shouldn't decline due to inflation, we'll let this value rise with the annual inflation rate. In this case, the net present value (NPV) of getting treated is:
NPV = - C_0 + ((p * B_0) * (1+i)^1 / (1 + r)^1) + ...
+ ((p * B_0) * (1+i)^N / (1 + r)^N)
When the expected benefit of treatment (appropriately discounted) exceeds the expected cost, the NPV is positive. If you want to calculate this thing with a calculator, here you go:
NPV = - C_0 + (p * B_0) [ 1/r* - 1/[r*(1+r*)^N] ]
where r* = ((1+r)/(1-r)) - 1 is the real rate of return. Alternatively, you could use the attached Excel file. Plug in
C_0 = 25,000
B_n = 200,000 * (1+i)^n
p = 95%
N = 40
r = 7%
i = 3%
and the NPV comes out to $3.8 million.
Since you're probably paying much less than $25,000 out of pocket (and since you're health insurance premiums at Microsoft should not change as a result of seeking treatment), you might want to lower C_0. Also, I chose to have the first benefit accrue in year 1 under the assumption that your life would be the same this year with or without treatment. Allowing for some expected benefit in year 0 would increase the NPV further. If you play around with the discount rate, you can easily verify that really high discount rates (like 100%) aren't high enough to drive the NPV negative.
Basically, the value of life is sufficiently high that the NPV will be positive unless C_0 is really, really high or p is really, really low. For example, even a probability of success of 5% generates a positive NPV of $176,406. If you want to get more realistic, you might let B_n rise with your earning power and then decline.
Anyway, I hope this is enough to convince you to get treated! Let me know if you have any questions or want to compliment me on my use of Excel...
Note: Jon—you are an Excelmeister!!
And here’s the chart in Excel (click for a larger image)
Goal: 3 times per week
1. pull ups with wrists facing each other (inner bar)
2. pull ups with wrists facing away from my body
3. pull ups with wrists facing each other (outer bar)
4. pull ups with wrists facing each other (inner bar)
5. pull ups with wrists facing away from my body
6. pull ups with wrists facing each other (outer bar)
7. pull ups with wrists facing each other (inner bar)
8. chin ups (wrists facing me)
9. pull ups with wrists facing away from my body
10. chin ups (wrists facing me)
11. pull ups with wrists facing each other (outer bar)
12. chin ups (wrists facing me)
Tuesday, July 04, 2006
Calanit may only be 2.5, but she understands a lot and we took it upon ourselves to explain a bit about Independence Day. I told her a bit of the story of the 13 colonies and their desire for indenpendence from Britain. I explained briefly about the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.
As I explained the concepts of liberty and freedoms of religion and speech, I found myself getting a bit emotional.
In the background, I had selected a patriotic themed musical ensemble. As I spoke with her, I thought of all of the places I've been where freedoms are not taken for granted, because they don't exist fully (China, Soviet Union, eastern Europe, Jordan, Morocco, Malaysia, and Peru) and it gave me pause to really appreciate and cherish the uniqueness of the American experiment.
It's easy to get upset with the way things go on a day to day basis and there's a lot we can do to improve things in the US, but when all is said and done, this country is perhaps the most special place for all peoples in the history of the world. We can't forget that nor can we allow that to change.
Happy 230th birthday America! and Thank You Calanit for helping me appreciate this country even more today.
Monday, July 03, 2006
I will hopefully go back and read the book to understand the differences and probably appreciate Dumas more, but on its own, this is a GREAT movie.
Forget the naysayers on Netflix who complain about it not being true to the book, this is the movie business, designed to tell a story and entertain. It does all of that and more on a great scale.