Monday, December 31, 2007

The mind of the blogger...

Who else but Gadi would send this in?

So true.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Bittersweet Sunday Evening...

Football fans know the feeling of late season Sundays.

You start watching a game in the afternoon and it's light outside.

By the time you are done, it's pitch dark.

And that feeling that the season is over (yes, I know the playoffs are coming, but there's something about the regular season) as a marker of time passing gives you an emotional milestone in your lives.

It's no secret to blog readers that I'm a big football fan (kudos to the NFL on the Pats-Giants simulcast, btw) and that Passing the Football Through Generations is, in my mind, an important part of our family connectivity.

I had the privilege of watching the Redskins-Cowboys game with my dad and brother, Asher today and we all yelled with pure elation on the last touchdown that it startled the 3 small children in the room (Tonka, Paco, and Dalia-their cousin).

It was a great moment of Epstein male bonding.

Of course, as I've written many times, football=Poppy in my mind so I think back to the Empty Chair on a Sunday Afternoon and feel that hollowness of his absence and what all of those Sundays past meant...and still mean.

It's tough when you lose someone you love so much and who was involved in so many parts of your life. I think this is the first example of that for me, so it's a new feeling.

With the game over and another regular season in the books, I put the kids in the car, did the annual Xmas time drive-by of The Red House and remembered our "missing man."

Saturday, December 29, 2007

The Power of Names...

Had the opportunity to give another Dvar Torah today at synagogue.

Topic was the power of names.

This is a follow up to G-d as Strategic Marketer... last February.

And opportunity to sponsor a word :-)


I don't know if I want it to work so badly that I am making myself believe it, but it appears that it is working!

I don't feel like a total idiot...yet!

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Movie: Stomp the Yard

Taking advantage of our night without kids, the nameless one and I watched the movie "Stomp the Yard."

I figured with her love of dancing, it would go over well.

And the dancing is great in the movie, as is the portrayal of some of the aspects of Black Fraternity life.

The plot, however, was a bit predictable in its twists and turns. Which wasn't horrific, but made for less suspense than I normally would have liked.

I'll give it a B.

Why We're Here...

One of the hardest parts of being a father, I think, is finding the balance between doing things for your kids and spending time with your kids.

You feel compelled to work hard, to give them the things you want them to have, and that can become a mild (or major) obsession.

But you have to step back and are doing this for them and TIME is the most valuable thing you can give them.

Today, I took Paco with me to Costco. Man on Man. We had a blast.

He sat in the large part of the cart and I instructed him what items to put in the basket. We chatted about the concept of the "big box retailer," how they make up margin with volume, and how trucks are so critical to America's commercial infrastructure.

On the way home, he yawned, and I said, "Paco, no sleeping!"

He smiled...and then did a fake yawn.

"Paco, no sleeping!"

This kept up for the ENTIRE ride home. Neither of us got tired of it.

After he went down for his nap, Tonka got back from her playdate.

Much like knowing your customer, you need to know your kids.

Tonka likes are, so we worked on one picture for 1.5 hours....all the while discussing colors, friends, and the like...and just laughing. We played some games as well.

I felt really good about the quality of time I had with them today...It's easy to get caught up in the day to day, but we can never forget why we're here.

Update: And on another note... in my role as developer of independent beings, I am excited to say that BOTH of them are sleeping over at my sisters' apartment in Dupont Circle tonight (and each of them has had/will have a 1 night sleepover at my parents).

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The Birthday Call That Became a Reunion...

Some folks think it is strange that I spend time calling people on their birthdays, particularly those whom I haven't seen or otherwise spoken to for over 5 years.

But every now and then, I have an experience that reminds me why I do it.

As luck would have it, I called David Siegel (help him get to that elusive 500+ on LinkedIn) last week to wish him a Happy Birthday.

Turns out, he was going to be in my neighborhood on Sunday night.

I invited myself over to Keren and Ira's house, which is how I found out it was Keren's birthday (sorry again), and we (or at least I did :-) had a nice chat, reconnecting.

It's all about people and I just love getting the perspective that others bring with time.

I dare say, if I didn't call him, I wouldn't have see him...and the connection would be severed, tougher to re-establish.

Again, an experience that reinforces my worldview.

Israeli Dance Marathon...

Some Jews go out to Chinese Food on Christmas Eve.

Other hardcore types, go to Moshe Shem-Tov's Israeli Dance Marathon, an annual event that lasts until 3:30am.

Yes, you read that correctly.

Moshe is the pre-eminent "Markid" of Israeli Dance in the DC area and has a weekly session on Thursday nights (for all levels) at Tikvat Israel congregation in Rockville.

It's a great time for people at all levels (Moshe is a great teacher) and the crowd is very friendly.

Normally, I am at home while the nameless one is in attendance, but the young dancing proteges, the famed duo of Paco and Tonka made an appearance, much to the crowd's delight.

Of course, they preferred the snacking to the dancing (I guess they take after me), but they had a great time.

We saw some old friends, like Mike Fox, (love the branding) and made some new ones (like Aviva Albert, who brought her coloring book)

Community Service Day-Dec. 25th

We took the kids to the DC JCC's annual day of service on the 25th, so that they could "give back."

They donated some clothes and then we went to a retirement home to bring some "holiday cheer" to the residents.

Plus, they got to touch their first Xmas tree :-)

I was glad that we had a chance to give them some hands-on experience in community service.

We explained why we were donating clothes, why going to a retirement home was a nice thing to do, and how their presence could bring a smile to someone's face.

Beautiful Moonshot

Pretty intense, eh?

Customer Service Snafu...

I tell people that the Blog is a "marketing petri dish" for me.

I like to see what gets people reading, commenting, leaving, coming back.

Have about 4 different Analytics programs that I use to look at behavior, traffic, etc.

I also know that, no matter what, you want to keep your best customers, er, readers, happy.

Keren is one of the top 5 commenters. She's not #1, (maybe a deathmatch in the making?), but she's up there.

I was mortified to find out that, somehow, I didn't have her birthday in my calendar and thus, even though she knows that I call people on their birthdays, I didn't call her. bad. Won't happen again!

For One More Day...

Call your mother right now (if you can) and tell her how much you love her.

That was my reaction when finished watching the made-for-TV adapted version of Mitch Albom's For One More Day. How a sportswriter has become one of the more emotionally intelligent authors of our day is beyond me.

Actually it's not, now that I think about it and once again proves how great sports are.

Anyhow, I just adored Albom's Five People You Meet in Heaven as an "appreciate the moment in your life" type parable and For One More Day took it to the next level by making it "appreciate the people in your life."

I did call my mom. I did tell her how much I love her.

I'll burn a DVD of this movie and send it to the first two people who
  1. post a comment of gratitude about his/her mother here
  2. send the link to this post to his/her mother

Mega-Bonus points if your mom posts a comment!!

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Blog on Brain Repository Cont'd....

I admit it. I LOVE being asked for my advice and opinions.

I also LOVE connecting people with people and with valuable information.

And what I love the most...when the whole process is automated! Where I can help you without manual intervention. :-)

For example:
  1. David Lowenstein wanted to know my thoughts on a resort.
  2. Marc Lennon wanted to know who I know in the medical devices technical writing industry
  3. Nancy F. wanted recommendation on music
  4. and another example from Tom and Kira

It used to be that you would need to search

  1. (this blog)
I've added two services on the sidebar Lijit and PredictAd to help you.

Lijit offers search across the blog, my various social networks (LinkedIn, Facebook, etc.), and links I've selected ( etc.

PredictAd (thanks to old friend, Tomer Molovinsky for connecting via LI) promises to use community knowledge and predictive power to help you find the info you want more quickly.

My request of you....test them out and tell me if they work for you.

Monday, December 24, 2007 Hebrew

I know, this should have been post 1979, but it's 1980.

Anyway, with a big call out to Kevin Babitz, I give you the video of Ben Johnson's race from Seoul, Korea in 1988 in Hebrew.

For the original call, see here.

Dedicated In-Laws...

I am proud to report that this is post 1979.

Here's a nice article that my wife's uncle found while cleaning out his office.

Tells a great story about my wonderful in-laws and their commitment to Judaism.

Bar Mitzvah in Warsaw...and more.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Blog Validation...

When you have a worldview, any data that supports it, you immediately latch on to as valuable. (And, you ignore any data as "irrelevant" that refutes it.)

Had a nice visit with (blog reader) Aliza Cooperman and her family, Mike, Shira, and Sam, visiting from Boston.

She acknowledged that reading that this blog (in addition to providing morning coffee break reading material) enabled her to feel "more connected" over time and distance and to make it easier to pick up the in-person conversation after 4-5 years between visits.

There you go. All I need to keep on trucking!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Ironic Foreshadowing...Defined

On Wednesday of this week, the final stage of the installation of the backup generator began.

Of course, the guy tells me, "I don't have all of the parts I need, so I'll start today and finish next week."

"You know what this means?" I asked. "It means that my power will go out between now and then."

And sure enough, for 2.5 hours this AM, it did.

I turned to the nameless one...

"This is MY power outage! This is the one where I supposed to say, 'yeah, it was worth it!!'"

Man, I was irritated.

Friday, December 21, 2007

SuperCruncher and Citizen Marketer...

What's the holy grail of marketing?

To not spend any money and have your customers do your marketing for you.

I call them "raving fans." My buddies Jackie Huba and Ben McConnell call it "Citizen Marketers"

After reading Ian Ayres book, Super Crunchers, I visited the author's website and dropped him a note with a link to my book review (I've noticed that authors like that :-).

He responded that he was a fan of the Excel Add-In for Data Mining (which I love) so I brokered a call with the product developer/managers to give him a private demo of some of the newer features.

He was very impressed by what he saw. Very.

And he offered to put up links to it, show a demo, and, in general, be an evangelist for the other words the holy grail.

And we're going to keep the conversation going with quarterly touchbases to help evolve the product.

Now that's collaborative product development.

Book Review: E-Myth Revisited

 Michael Gerber's book The E-Myth Revisited offers up "an old Chinese proverb that says

When you hear something, you will forget it.

When you see something, you will remember it.

But not until you do something, will you understand it."

Which he uses to motivate people who want to become successful entrepreneurs.

But it's not a motivational book alone, it's an Operations Manual for how to create a business that will sustain you and not consume you.

For a business you work on, not in.

He aptly describes the challenges that many entrepreneurs face in beginning on their own (I can relate as I was part of a start-up for 2 years) and the mistakes they (I) make that ultimately lead to failure.

I've heard many people say, "my goal is to start my own business."

If that's you, a small investment in this book could go a long way to your becoming a true "craftsperson" of your business.

And another tidbit that I liked (and there were many) is that:

People-your people-do not want simply to work for exciting people. They want to work for people who have created a clearly defined structure for acting in the world.  A structure through which they can test themselves and be tested. Such a structure is called a game.

This is yet another book (actually the original E-Myth) which was recommended to me years ago (like Cluetrain) and I should have read then. Ugh.

The 4 year old test...

When you prepare a presentation, er performance, for any group, may I suggest this:

Prep as if you were going to talk to a class of four year olds

Adults need the same thing, though you won't get the same instantaneous feedback, in terms of involvement and attention.

My daughter's nursery school has a program called "Star of the Week." Each parent is invited to come in to do an activity with the class.

I elected to create a digital movie with them as the co-creators and main stars.

I knew, however, that the attention span of a 4 year old can be very limited.

I scripted out each step and prepared vigorously for it, knowing that any glitch or hesitation could cause me to lose my audience.

I got there early to set up.

Here's my checklist:

Set up

  1. confirm activesync bluetooth connection between Phone and PC
  2. open Phone to pictures folder (Computer\T-Mobile Dash\Storage Card\My Documents\My Pictures)
  3. open One Note
  4. confirm tablet ink is working properly
  5. open up audio recording for One Note
  6. open Paint
  7. open MovieMaker
  8. hook up speakers
  9. hook up projector

I knew that involvement was the key. It had to be a dialogue.

"Do you guys like to watch movies and DVD's?"


"Good, because today you are going to help me make a movie."

And here's the script I used to make sure that everything flowed smoothly.

    1. Start in One Note

    2. Give four kids a chance to draw in one note

    3. Copy picture to Paint

    4. Save to CDE star folder

    5. Begin recording in One Note

    6. Let 3 kids sing in one file

    7. Save to CDE start folder as .wma

    8. Take pictures of kids on camera phone

    9. Take pictures of 4 kids

    10. Show them the picture on the phone

    11. Refresh the folder on the PC

    12. Show them "like magic" how the picture moves from the phone to the PC

    13. Move pictures to CDE star folder

    14. Import all media to Movie Maker

    15. Start in Storyboard

    16. Add pictures

    17. Let 4 kids choose the order of the pictures

    18. Add effects

    19. Let 2 kids choose effects from these four (3d ripple, ease out, ease in, spin)

    20. Add transitions (Let 2 kids choose the transitions)

    21. Import the previously recorded song (from one note)

    22. Add music

    23. Let 1 kid choose the music

    24. Put in the Title/Credits in (the names of the students)

    25. Show the movie

Sounds extreme, but I'll say this...

They made me show the movie 4 times! (we changed it a little bit each time, too for fun)

By the 3rd time, there were 16 kids dancing to the soundtrack.

And, in spite of it all, there was one kid who said "I'm bored of watching the movie."

If you can keep a class of 4 year olds engrossed (for the most part), then you can keep a room full of adults hooked!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Economic Outlook...

In light of the 3-way discussion about oil, my curiosity was piqued by Fred Wilson's post on "the story of 2007."

He offers that the fact that so many US businesses are being "bailed out" with foreign money is a cause for concern.

That may be true. On the other hand, it could be a sign of confidence.

But, there's another issue here (and I'll invite Laura who works for Bureau of Labor and Statistics to weigh in)...

In an economy the size of the US, is it really possible to know what is happening?

I know everyone talks about sub-prime and weakening dollar and imports/exports/visa/immigration, etc., but it just seems a $5bn investment in Morgan Stanley (while not inconsequential, of course) is really just a drop in a HUGE bucket.

On my Amazon Wish list (5 shopping days left!) are two books called Fooled by Randomness and The Black Swan. I haven't read them yet, but the recommendation that Asher and Albert sent me seemed to imply that people, in order to make sense of the world, often misinterpret singular events for larger trends.

Now, I'm not saying that there isn't a larger trend. I'm just saying, this economy is GINORMOUS and it's going to be difficult for anyone to really make sense of it.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Dying Breed...

I don't remember how it came up, but I was thinking about someone (probably in sports reference) and thought, "hey, he's a part of a dying breed."

Then, I realized.

We're ALL part of a dying breed.

Japan, Friendships, and Parenting Neuroses...

Living in Japan as a young single guy was a lonely experience at times.

The then rabbi of the synagogue, Carnie Rose, and his wife, Paulie became some of my most cherished friends. They offered hospitality, an open mind, a ear to listen, good cooking, and true friendship.

In the ten intervening years, our paths have crossed on a few occasions. In New York, at my wedding (Carnie signed the ketubah), and this week in St. Louis.

The nameless one and I are the godparents to their third child (Yes, I insisted that he call me "Godfather") though we hadn't really had a chance to bond until Monday. [here's a pic of the boy]

Watching their brood grow (I was the first person besides the parents to see their first child after she was born...I trekked out to the hospital in Tokyo that night) is an experience from which I get much joy.

And trepidation...

I saw the two oldest kids showing Paulie a video they had been shown at a friend's house "Kosher Boy" which in and of itself wasn't terrible, but raised a whole series of questions.

In my some extent, things can be controlled.

But what happens when your kids go to their friends? And those friends have older siblings?

It's enough to make a parent pull his hair out. I live on the Net so I know the scary stuff that is out there.

Ironically enough, I got some perspective from Joanne, the Avis shuttle driver at the airport who shared with me how she has built a two-way relationship with her kids (19, 17, and 14) by starting a conversation based on trust from a very early age.

As a result, they feel comfortable telling her things.

And I can see that Carnie and Paulie (no surprise) have accomplished much of the same with their four.

Years ago, they inspired me in the way they built community, relationships, and trust with the dispersed Jews of Tokyo.

Now, in the Midwest, they continue to inspire...albeit on a different track.

One of the reasons why I spend so much time staying in touch with people is to gain the perspective that only comes from interactions over time.

(And on a side note, I got to play the Nintendo Wii for the first time...VERY cool!)

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Cabbie and Polygamy...

I've had the same cabdriver for the last 3 rides. He's an immigrant from Mali and we've talked on a lot of topics.

Immigration, sports (he likes the Eagles), women, marriage, fatherhood (#3 is coming next week), religion (he's Muslim and I felt a bit anxious telling him that I didn't view Mohammed as the last prophet--this after he told me that Christians are "wrong"), and more.

I like his attitude and we have good banter.

You know I like talking to cabbies. Plus, having my own driver makes me feel special (kind of like my own waitress). Masstige, right?

Anyway, I ask him today:

"So, how many kids to do you want to have?"


"OK, and your wife is on board with that?"

"No, this one (#3) is her last one."

"So how are you going to get #4 and #5?"

"I'm going to have a 2nd wife."

"So, since having two wives is illegal in this country [unless you are Mormon in remote Utah/Arizona!], how do you plan on doing that?"

"I am going to have a 2nd wife back in Mali."

"And how are you going to convince your first wife that this is a good idea?"

"I don't have to. When we got married, she signed a document saying it would be ok if I had a 2nd wife."

"Wow. Impressive. So, do you know who the 2nd wife is going to be?"

"Yes, here's a picture of her. Her name is Fatima."

"Do you have a picture of your first wife?"

"Uh, no."

It turns out that the 2nd wife agrees to be totally subservient to the first wife.

The first wife (and her kids) get all of the inheritance from the husband. In Mali, it's ok to have up to four wives. Some guys make a mistake, he says, because they are so "in love" with their first wives that they don't get the clause in the marriage document allowing them future wives, so "they are stuck later, when they realize they want one."

Such a fascinating world we live in.

Face Time...

As my cousin Barry says, "there are things I can do in person that I could never do on the phone."

There's some stat that says that "communication is only 7% verbal."

So when you are on the phone, you are at a big disadvantage in terms of getting your message across.

That's why I am in St. Louis today (and was in Seattle last week).

There are some folks on my extended virtual who live here and I decided that, if I want to be a "change agent," I need to sell them face to face on my ideas.

No matter how digital we conferencing/chats/phones, the in-person human touch can work wonders.

It has for me these last two trips.

Something to think about as we build relationships around the country and world.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Movie: Crude Awakening

In short, we're screwed.

Royally. Big time.

How would you feel if you knew that your children or grandchildren would never fly in an airplane? Or drive a car?

Make no mistake about it, this movie about the end of the era of cheap oil is extremely DEPRESSING, but, worse yet... what if it's reality?

What happens if, sorry when, the world does run out of cheap oil?

For a few years, I've been focused on the issue of weaning the US off of Middle Eastern oil as a key driver of national security. That's well and good, but the next question is, "ok, what do we replace it with?"

Ever since I read the Coming Economic Collapse (and my allnighter in March 2006), I've altered my investment strategy to reflect rising oil prices and it's paid off, to some extent.

But this movie raises a much larger question than a financial hedge raises the question of...can society even survive in the wake of an ongoing decline in the availability of oil?

There are a huge number of issues, including:

  • the lack of viable replacements on a large scale sufficient to meet current (and future) demand
  • the lack of political will (all across the board) to focus on the enormity of the problem

There's blame all the way around, but I do remember on Sept. 12, 2001 when Bush got up and made his post-9/11 "axis of Evil" speech and challenged the US to end our oil dependence that I thought, "here's an opportunity to raise taxes on gas, etc. to fund a Kennedy-like 'man on the moon' initiative."

And we've seen nothing.

Nothing at all.

Gas is now cheaper than water, cheaper than Starbucks. The US has 2% of known reserves and consumes 25% of oil. As the Poli Sci Prof from Stanford said in the documentary,

"We have 2 choices as a society. Either we can figure out a way to create renewable energy sources that allow us to grow and live the way we want...OR we need to be prepared to go to war over oil...often."

Ironically enough, I watched this DVD on a flight to St. Louis, gazing out at miles and miles of blue skies, seeing the roads below me and reflecting upon life in a hydro-carbon/petroleum based economy. I began to worry about Tonka, Paco, and #3 (as well as all of us as we age) and wondering what the world will look like.

One commentator (the founder of dismally-named said,

"this is the end of the American Dream."

We can always hold out hope for the ingenuity of humans and new technology, but we need to recognize the enormity of the challenge that lies ahead and galvanize around it.

I used to tell people that I vote on 2 issues

  1. recognition that Islamo-fascism is an existential threat to Western civilization (energy independence was a key element here)
  2. the fact that the private sector does a better job than the public sector of creating jobs and wealth.

Beginning today, I vote on one policy.

For more info, you can check out Gal Luft's org, Institute for Analysis of Global Security and Mike Granoff's effort at Secure Energy.

Nice Visual...

Here's the St. Louis Arch as we approach from the East.

Makes me feel like Lewis and Clark (yes, both of them).

Saturday, December 15, 2007

What's Your Style?

Was finishing up a workout and came across a show on HGTV called Find Your Style.
With my efforts to become more right-brained, I took the "What's Your Design Style" Quiz.
Good news: My style is Hip.
What's yours?
Would be curious how varied/similar the blog readers are in design style?

Friday, December 14, 2007

When to Buy Your Lottery Tickets...

Your odds of winning the lottery are a gazillion to one, right?

So, in effect, when you are buying a lottery ticket, you are paying your $1 for the right to fantasize about what you would do with the $100 million you would win.

If your $1 is really an entertainment buy, then, the goal should be....

how can I stretch my entertainment dollar to get the most for my money?


Buy the ticket as far in advance of the drawing as possible.

In my area, drawings are Wed. night and Sat. night.

Ideal time to buy is Thurs. morning and Sun. morning (more preferable), because those times give you the most time prior to the drawing to fantasize.


Thursday, December 13, 2007

Book Review: Super Crunchers

We know a computer can beat a chess grandmaster.

Can a computer more accurately predict how the Supreme Court will rule on cases than a group of Law School Deans, former Supreme Court Clerks, and Federal Judges?

What about predicting better than a movie studio exec which movies will make money and which won't?

Turns out, they can. And in his new book, Super Crunchers, Ian Ayres, (who also co-authored  Why Not?: How to Use Everyday Ingenuity to Solve Problems Big And Small ) sets out to explain how this is possible.

And why it is happening.

For hard-core data junkies who believe in the power of statistics, you'll revel in some great anecdotes (like predicting wine values for a given year based on rainfall and summer temperatures before the wines are even made) to help bolster your cases.

For those new to the power of data, it'll open your eyes to what is going on all around you (and about you!)

I'm going to dust off those old Stats class notes and work on my regression modeling (and keep digging down into the data).

An excellent book.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Coming down to the wire...

If you scroll down a bit and look on the right side, you will see that I posted to the blog 860 times last year.

Like I said, "thyroid cancer was good for ratings' and for content production.

So, this year, with this post, I am up to 811 with 20 blogging days remaining. That's 2.5 posts per day for the rest of the year.

Don't want to force it, but Stewart has put the pressure on.

And now I'm blogging about blogging. Is that blogflation?

Movie Review: Rear Window

One of the best parts about living in New York is being a "peeping Tom."

Admit it. You've done it. You can't help it. You're in such close proximity. And it's not even about "catching" people doing something, it's about being a voyeur on their everyday lives; brushing teeth, washing dishes, the basic, monotonous stuff.

That's what gets Jimmy Stewart intrigued as he is wheelchair-bound recovering from a broken leg. During the flick, the characters raise the ethical question of looking through other people's windows.

And even though Jimmy Stewart has pretty much the same mannerisms in every film I've seen of his, he's still great :-)

This one came to me via Netflix recommendations and I have to say it was spot on.

A Hitchcock thriller in the tradition of Vertigo, I really enjoyed the suspense, the dialogue (fun to watch how gender attitudes have changed over time) and how the mystery unfolded.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Sushi Hannukah

Whenever I come to Seattle for Microsoft, I go to the same sushi restaurant.


Because 6 months ago, I went there and the waitress was Jewish and she made sure I only got fish (thereby saving me the hassle of explaining what is shellfish and what isn't permitted).

So, now, I call her before I come to town, ask her what nights she is working and build my dinner schedule around it.

I bring everyone there.

I came out today and brought my hannukiah (incorrectly referred to as Hannukah Menorah, but that's another topic) with me for 8th night (the final one).

Iwas going to light in my room. Then, I said, "I bet Elizabeth [the waitress] would appreciate the spark of yiddishkeit in her day. You know, my old buddy, Shu [Rabbi Shu Eliovson] would do it."

So, I brought the hannukiah, ok'd it w/Elizabeth and lit all the candles with her (blessings and all) on the table in the sushi joint.

And here's our magnificent array of 4 hannukiot

The LinkedIn Businesses...

People OFTEN ask me about the value of LinkedIn

Here's a testimonial from a guy whose entire business is based off of it.


The Dam is Breaking...

on college tuition. Finally.

Here's what is happening at Harvard.

There's hope that Tonka and Paco won't cost $1 mil/year each.

URL Basics...

Your web address is the easiest way for someone to find why make it difficult.  I can't stand when I see a URL like this one on a PowerPoint,

where we tell people

"Just go to this webpage to get the information."

So, check out this site: Good URL, Bad URL 

It's kind of like a "This is Broken" for web addresses.

Cross-Country Flying...

In Seattle for the 3rd time in 7 weeks. What a supportive person who shan't be named!

I've got a good system now.

United non-stop from Dulles. Bring 2 magazines and 1 book. Bring a DVD and 2 batteries. Upgrade to Economy Plus and bring an empty water bottle through security.

Check-in online the night before.

I'm almost done with Hitchcock's "Rear Window." Review to be posted soon. Much better than anything on the plane, that's for sure.

Surprised that no one commented on my infomerical purchase. Still have a pit in my stomach. I hate feeling like a sucker.

Oh, and the exercise room is right next door...that's convenience...unless people start working out at 5.30am :-)


Are for losers, right?

That is how i am feeling because i just bought a product,, due to seeing one.

We will see if it works, so i don't feel so lame

I am emailing from my mobile device, sorry for any typos or brevity.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Reflections on 4 years of fatherhood...

I've said it often, quoting my mom, "the days are long and the years are short."

I barely remember last year's bday (thank goodness for the blog), but I vividly remember the day she was born.

And, today, while she was watching a DVD wearing her gift ballerina outfit, I looked at her and paused.

I hoped I know her as well as I think I know her and as I want her to know me.

She looked so big, particularly in relation to how small she once was.

It was today, also, that I signed her up for a County-led art class, for the first time, I think (aside from a few sessions at school), that we consciously said, "let's develop the strengths of this young being."

And the march to adulthood continues.

What a privilege it is to be a father to this girl.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Historic Underpinning of Nickname Philosophy...

I was excited to see some historical validation, at least that's how I interpreted it, for my nickname philosopy at the Jewish Museum of Maryland today.

Channukah History Outing...

For the next in our series of outings, I took the kids to the Jewish Museum of Maryland where they had a "make your own edible dreidel" activity for the kids as well as some solid exhibits.

I particularly enjoyed the "Voices of Lombard Street," [here's the brochure] which was Baltimore's equivalent to the Lower East Side and, once again, makes you appreciate the struggle of the first wave of Jewish immigrants to America.

IT also made me think of Nana and Poppy, two native Baltimoreans who loved their city of birth (even though they didn't grow up on Lombard Street).

We also, briefly b/c Paco was in meltdown mode, had a chance to enter the Lloyd St. Synagogue, which is the oldest synagogue in Maryland and the 3rd oldest in the US.
[The best part was that Chizuk Amuno, the synagogue that started in protest of some of the changes at Lloyd ST. is literally one block away! Got to love that. So typical of the Tribe, eh?)

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Loyalty Doesn't Cost Much...

A big call out to Liberty Mutual for reminding me why they are my insurance company.

I got this letter today telling me that they owed me $141.65.

It would be so easy for them to not tell me (like I would notice) and there are hundreds of ways they could have *justified* to themselves for keeping the money and adding it to their bottom line.

But, they didn't.

And now, I'm telling you about it.

Not only is it the right thing, it's the smart thing.

Better to give the $141 back to me than spend the same amount on a telemarketing campaign to get new customers.

I was a fan and now I'm an even bigger fan.

Which means the next time you are looking for a new insurance company, I'll have a story to tell you about it.

NIce work, LM!

Struggling with content question...

I also have a blog at work (Igniting the Revolution: Change the Way Microsoft and Our Partners Do Marketing or Get Fired Tryin') where I tend to post a lot of my stories about good customer service/marketing etc.

Obviously, I like that stuff and think about it.

The question is, should I double post it here on the blog or just leave it over there? (I've been double posting).

In other words, I wonder how interesting the marketing stuff is to the Jer979 reader base?


Syria blocks Facebook access, citing Israeli 'infiltration'

Syria blocks Facebook access, citing Israeli 'infiltration' - International Herald Tribune

Friday, December 07, 2007

Why I'm Not a Radiologist...

The bad news: I had to take Tonka to the ER the other day because she hurt her foot while dancing.

The good news: it was only a sprain.
I saw the X-ray come in and paused...there were a lot of gaps in her foot bones. I was concerned.
Then, I find out that that's normal for kids.
I know, don't give up my day job.

Building the Next Generation...

It's no secret that I am a technophile.

So, tonight, while picking up my USB hub at Best Buy, I took the kids with me and let them run around the store.

I was proud to see them enjoying the various phones, cameras, refrigerators, camcorders, DVD's, washing machines, car stereos, and of course, the game "Rock Band" on the Xbox 360 where you need to play drums according to what's on the screen. Similar to Guitar Hero.

The kids loved it.

Best Buy-More on Details Matter

I think Best Buy is a pretty good store, so this isn't a rant, but a parable to demonstrate how, when it comes to the customer experience, there are so many angles to think about.

All you can do is...keep asking your customers, whoever they are, what they expect.

So, I ordered a USB hub online and selected “in-store” pickup. That was really great. Seamless and efficient.

Got the email confirming my purchase very quickly and I was all set to go.

I printed out the receipt and put it in my bag.

A few days later, after dropping off my kids at school, I thought I’d run over to the store. Only thing was, I didn’t know the hours.

They weren’t listed on the receipt. (They should be. So should the store phone number.)

So, while in the CVS picking up a prescription, I pulled up my Win Mobile 6 browser and went to

The challenge is that the website is NOT mobile friendly at all. It's very graphic heavy.

I finally get to the store locator and after entering in the data, I get a “script warning."

I know it’s blurry, but it basically says that a script is causing things to just take a hell of a long time. “Abort or Continue.”

Either way, I don’t get the info you need.

You know me, I talk about the “Remarkable Experience” a la Seth Godin.

I’m not really irritated, but I do think that there are a few customer interaction points that BB could improve.

And I think there's a lesson for all of us...again. Details really do matter. At every step of the way.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

My Holiday Debut...

I'm on the left. The rest of my team at work joins me.

A co-worker sent to my boss.

Do You Ever Work?

Saw a friend of ours today at the Hannukah concert for Tonka.

He's a physician and on call at nights this week.

He saw me at CVS on Monday as well.

"Dude, do you ever work?" he asked.

Which reminded me, again, of how unique my position is for some people.

"Sure, but my work is practically place and sometimes, time, independent.

I work at 9.30pm. I work on Sat. nights if I want to."

I pulled out my T-mobile Dash.

"And I am working now."

In the Man Cave, I am as connected to the outside world and my colleagues as anyone in an office.

  • 2 phone lines [one for $40/year] (and a cell)
  • 3 instant messenger clients
  • 6 different email accounts
  • Facebook
  • My 2 blogs
  • and with the new camera, I've done more and more videoconferencing.

Yesterday, I hosted a webcast with 80 people, all while I was on camera.

It's a whole new, globatlized, flat, knowledge, connected economy.

Pregnancy Cravings and Corporate Sponsorship...

When the nameless one was pregnant with Tonka, she had only one craving.

Luna Bars.

One night, around 8pm back in 2003, she says to me,

"Sweetie, can you run out and get me some Luna bars? We're all out."

"It's pretty late, can't you wait until tomorrow?"

"Not really."

"Ugh. Where are they?"

"At the Safeway."

"What?! That's about 5 miles away. Come on, you can make it."

Eventually, she gave up and, surprisingly enough, there's never been a craving (at least one I've heard of) since.

But I made it up to her.

I called the company and asked for the VP of Marketing.

"So, you bill yourself as a protein bar for women. I thought you might like to know that my wife's sole craving during her pregnancy is for your product."

"That's great to hear. Thanks for calling."

"Yeah, so, I was wondering, do you think Luna Bar would like to be the official corporate sponsor of the pregnancy?"

"Uh, well, we don't really have a program for that or anything."

"Hmm....well why don't you just send me a box of luna bars and a t-shirt and we'll give you the rights anyway?"

"Sure, we'll do it. What's her favorite flavor?"

"Nutz Over Chocolate."

Sure enough, we get a box of 20 bars and some coupons.

I told this story the other day and was reminded about it, since with exactly 100 days to go, we're still looking for Baby #3's corporate sponsor (and no, Paco didn't have one)

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Blogs in Plain English

These guys do great work.


For others, see:


On Social Networking:

On Social Bookmarking:


Pencil Sharpener...

I was writing the birthday card for the nameless one (today) and thought it would be fun to use a colored pencil (don't ask why).

It had a broken tip.

I put it in the electric pencil sharpener.

When I did, I paused, "How long has it been since I actually used one of these?"


Whoa, how the world changes.

Economics a Rap

10 Principles of Macroeconomics in a Rap.

Just brilliant. Thanks to Greg Mankiw's blog.


Monday, December 03, 2007

Backup Generator...

As if this month weren't expensive enough :-) (see minivan entries), I decided that we "needed" a backup generator for the house.

It was delivered today. Installation is next week.

The good thing is that the "nameless one" actually wanted it more than I did.

As if you need proof that people can justify anything to themselves, here's mine:

  • Our neighbors will verify that our area is disproportionately prone to electrical outages
  • I work from home a lot, so if I'm out of power, my ability to generate revenue is affected
  • When you lose power, you run the risk of having to throw out spoiled food from your fridge/freezer
  • While you can leave w/o AC (uncomfortable though it may be), it's hard to live w/o heat and having to pack up 3 kids and drive through (most likely) snow to my parents, for example, is more than hassle and inconvenient [we did this last year w/2 and it wasn't easy]
  • General inconvenience and disruption that it causes
  • We do live in DC and thus a 9/11 type scenario is not out of the question (I am definitely not joking on this one)

That being said, you could still do a ROI/Payback analysis and easily determine that it wasn't worth the price I will be paying.

So, here's the ironic thing...

For me to "feel good" about my purchase, I need the power to go out. Otherwise, I feel like an idiot.

Irony? Schadenfreude?

I will let you know how it goes.

Oh, by the way, I'll get referral credit if I send you to "my generator guys," so once/if I'm satisfied, go through me!

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Movie Review: Deja Vu

Ok, this movie is just AWESOME.

Denzel is, of course, the man, but this one was just completely engrossing.

It sparked, a bit, of recall to the old Back to the Future flicks, but with more contemporary themes-terrorism-and greater consequences-death.

I like how it raised ethical issues about surveillance and whether we should change history, plus law of unintended consequences.

5 stars, definitely.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Your Global Micro-Brand...

If you think about how you brand yourself, you may enjoy this meme: Marketing Blocking and Tackling (from my work blog)

Listen to your mother...

My mom has a poster of "Life's Little Instructions" on one of the bathroom walls.

One of them says, "Listen to your mother."

I was thinking today about a saying she always used from Mies van der Rohe, "God is in the details."

So true.

Too bad it took so long for me to realize how right she is!

So, you want to be a change agent?

Start a blog.

I'm not kidding.


Well, for a moment, let's leave out the reasoning of your argument and think about the method.

If I call you or email you and begin to pitch my idea, you are being interrupted. I am forcing you to react in real-time. It's an intrusion, either way, into your life.

If, however, I just put my thoughts out on a blog and you voluntarily go there, the nature of the conversation has already changed.

Now, you are, potentially, more open to my ideas.

You don't have to agree, that's fine, but because you are willingly putting yourself into the dialogue and thoughtstream, the conversation is likely to be more productive.

We've all been in conversations where the manner of presentation destroyed the content.

And, don't worry about numbers, worry that the "right" people are reading it (be it internal or external).

A quick example...

I have a friend who is a lawyer in DC working in pharmaceutical regulatory issues. He's a big reader of this blog and he decided that he could be a blogger.

He's got 300 readers a month, not huge, but you know what? It's the right 300 people. He's viewed as an expert in his industry and that helps him build out his business.

See Seth's post (a slightly different take) on an internal blog.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Before and After...

My mom is a professional organizer. You can hire to pretty much solve any problem

Import a rare bird from Costa Rica?
Sell a library of ancient Akkadian?
Put your life together?

You name it, ConciergeAmerica can get it done.

Here are the before and after pics from a job she did in 1 day!



Politically Incorrect Ads

From another era....Feminists, stay calm :-)

Netiquette Question....

Netiquette is Internet Etiquette. The following question came in from an FOJ, who shall remain anonymous :-)

What do you think is the correct answer to his dilemma?

(My thoughts are at the bottom)

He writes:

I am emailing you because I consider you to be an expert on email etiquette and online networks.

By now you may or may not have seen my invitation to you to join Doostang.

I wanted to "connect with" perhaps 10 people and I inadvertently invited my entire gmail address book who aren't already Doostang members to join Doostang. You might be able to imagine how this happened.

I wanted to find friends who were already on Doostang and "connect with" them so I used my gmail email address and password on the Doostang website to do this. It then found and checked the boxes next to everyone in my address book who were already members AND it checked the boxes next to everyone in my address book who are not yet members.

So I unchecked the people who are already members who I did not want to "connect with" (like someone in the Admissions Office of Fordham Law School who I don't know at all). I then neglected to uncheck the boxes of everyone else who isn't already a member. I then carelessly clicked on "Connect with Friends".

There are over 400 email addresses in my gmail address book and voila, I had just sent an email to nearly all of them.

I just wanted to make sure that my instinct is correct and I should not email my entire address book to apologize. Rather, I am just going to apologize if people respond to me asking me what is going on or to remove them from this list. One person already has and please see the PS for the text of what I responded. I am assuming that most people who don't know me or barely know me are just going to delete the Doostang invitation.

On a somewhat surprising note, a partner at the law firm where I used to be a paralegal, and with whom I am not all in touch, accepted my Doostang invitation!

Any advice would be most appreciated.

Thank you,


(Name withheld)

PS Here is the text of my response to someone who responded to me.

Mr. [Name Removed],

I am really sorry. I wanted to send the Doostang invitation to perhaps 10 people. I inadvertently sent it to my entire gmail address book.

Once I did that, though, I did not want to send yet one more piece of unnecessary email to my entire gmail address book apologizing for doing so. I am sending a personal apology to whomever responds to me as you did Mr. [Name Removed].

My apologies again,

It's a tough call to generalize about all 400 people's responses, of course. For those who already like you, like me, I'll just ignore it and move on. It's not enough to damage our relationship and you don't do it very often (unlike those annoying Vampire=referrers on Facebook), so you are probably ok just moving on.

Your response to the person who wrote to you was right on, so that was ok. No need to contact all 400 probably.

The last part, I would think is that, possibly, you can use this as an opportunity for a segment of your 400.

Not all of your contacts are equal.

  • some will not lose any respect for you (like me)
  • some will respond (like the guy who did)
  • and some may be on the fence

You can write to those in your gmail book in group 3 w/whom you have less contact and offer them an apology, acknowledging that you made a mistake (which can be a great sign of strength), and then use that to strengthen your personal bond with them.

Work and enhance your network relationship and linkages.

Follow up with a call for 5 minutes to chat, send an article that you know s/he might find relevant. Re-connect in some way so that, next time you mess up, you can count that person as "solidly in your camp," the way you can count me.

Will it take some time to go through your list of 400 and figure out to whom you should reach out? Yes, of course, but you are only as valuable as your network is strong (I've blogged about this a lot, here and here, for example), so it is probably worth it.

And, thanks for considering me a guru, though it's probably not deserved.

Wonder what others think...

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Book Review: Bit Literacy


I didn't get a whole lot from Bit Literacy, but after 20 pages, I quickly realized why.

It's not written for me. It's written for you.

How do I know?

When you shut down your computer at night, how many emails do you have in your inbox?

I have zero.

Mark Hurst is one of my favorite Internet thought leaders. He's the mind behind Creative Good and ThisIsBroken. He's been in the industry for the last 10 years and knows what he is talking about.

What Mark is writing about is how do you manage all of the electronic bits that fly at you each day. Are you effective in dealing with them? Are you productive?

  • One of his key metrics is, have a completely empty inbox at the end of each day.
  • Another is: how long does it take you to find a specific picture in your collection?
  • do you have macros, one-touch command, keyboard shortcuts at your disposal?
  • can you type using the Dvorak keyboard (ok, I can't do that one, but I can do about 85 wpm in touch-typing...another big beef of his..thanks mom, for making me take typing in 8th grade!)

I did walk away with a few ideas for improvement, which was great. And I will use them.

The challenge with Bit Literacy is the challenge of most self-help books, it requires you, when all is said and done, to actually implement the techniques you have learned.

In my experience, that is where most people fall short, be it diet, exercise or Bit Literacy.

Regardless, if you feel overwhelmed by the amount of info coming your way daily, this is as good a place as any I have seen for you to start getting a handle on it.

But, remember, it's not about the technology or the tools, it is how you use them.

And for fun, check out his list of "good experience games"

Peer Pressure, Part 2

I get to Tonka's classroom the other day and one of the mother's says to me.

"You should know that peer pressure works.

Jane saw that Calanit had her nails polished. Jane wanted her nails polished as well, so she stopped sucking her thumb.

Then, Joanna, who started sucking her thumb only because of Jane, said she wanted her nails polished as well, so she stopped sucking her thumb."

I called my sister, Kira, who was the first person to paint Tonka's nails and told her about the revolution she had caused in the nursery school.


Peer pressure can be good, eh?

Note: names changed :-)

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

What I Want in Facebook...

I think the honeymoon may be over for me with Facebook.

Don't get me wrong, I still like the service a lot (it's still got a lot going for it), but I think, in some respects, it needs some modifications.
  1. I am tired of getting invites for vampires and zombie apps. I'd like to have a "stupid" filter of stuff that I don't want to receive or, better yet, vote down the people who send me the stupid stuff and disqualify myself from getting their invites.
  2. I need major flexibility in sorting through my friends. Why does everything have to be in alphabetical order when I find something I do like and want to pass it on? Why can't I sort by location/interests/religion/political views? That'd be great.
  3. If someone removes me as a friend, I'd like to know about it. I'd also like to know why. Ok, that's probably a stretch.
  4. More on #1, but as it relates to people I see in my newsfeeds and status updates. Some people are just more interesting than others and better communicators.

My friend (on Facebook and otherwise), Sean posted some other good ideas.

"Tough" "Love"

Paco was just out of control temper tantrum this morning.

It was stressful, very stressful.

Nothing I did could calm him down.

At moments like this, when you are exhausted (it began at 4.30am when I wouldn't let him crawl in bed with me), all of the "expert parenting advice" stuff that you read goes out the window.

You are in survival mode.

In hindsight, I think I did too much "tough" and not enough "love."

Usually, he responds to cause-and-effect punishments, like losing DVD-watching privileges or "no popsicles" or taking away a favorite book.

But when you do three or four of these with no results, it may be too much.

And I've done it in the past, just held him (or Tonka) close, gave a hug and talked in a soft voice.

But, in high stress moments, it's not always so easy.

Another live and learn moment, I guess.

Monday, November 26, 2007

The Minivan and Masculinity...

I took the kids to my parents yesterday in the new Odyssey.

While I was there, I had to run an errand over to my grandparents' apartment.

I asked my mom if I could borrow her car. I wasn't ready to drive the minivan alone...not just yet.

Look, it's a great car. It's safe, handles well, has some great features, and is a smooth ride. Nothing against the car.

I think it's what the car represents.

Though I never may have been the image of masculinity, studly, or whatever, what the minivan does is destroys any remaining illusion of "cool."

Yeah, yeah, I know the ultimate masculinity is being a good father. I get it.

Let's put that aside for a moment though and let the superficial stuff come through. Just humor me.

I'm the picture of suburban dad now. I've got 2 (soon to be 3 car seats) and I'm driving a Honda. That's about as uncool as you get.

I'm sure I'll get over it, but it sure feels a bit weird.

Ok, rant over.

On the Jewish Question -

This is the closest I've seen to the idea I've expressed for 15 years, "It's Israel's Existence, Stupid" and why I don't think anything will come out of Annapolis.

Subscription required:On the Jewish Question -

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Playdates and the kitchen...

At Microsoft, we talk about "scaling through partners."

What that means is "how do you work with others that aren't on your payroll to achieve the same goals more cost-effectively?"

Well, I live the same motto at home as at work.

On Friday, we had synchronized playdates as Paco and Tonka each had a friend and I was the only adult in the house. (Tonka had another one in the PM). And, again, this AM 4 kids in the house.

The playdates are my partners, as it were, in keeping my kids engaged.

As far as managing the kids, it is just like preparing a nice meal with a lot of pots on the stove at once. You just need to stay aware of the situation with each kid.
  • who is probably going to be hungry?
  • who is going to need a change of activity/environment?
  • who should be advised to go the bathroom?
  • how long is the right amount of time?
Like a good chef, if you can keep this in mind, you will have a successful series of playdates.

Movie Review: Bridge to Terabithia

I had heard of this book/movie and thought it was along the lines of Chronicles of Narnia and to some extent it was, but I thought, in the end, the story had a few solid lessons.

The plot took a bit longer than I would have liked to develop, but once I did, it reminded me of the power of the child's mind and that, as I watch my own kids grow, I should be careful to let that develop on its own and not force adult views on them prematurely. That will come soon enough.

The bonus part was really good, an interview with the author that gave additional depth and context.

3.979 stars.

Empty Chair on a Sunday Afternoon...

Had the sad task of going over to my grandparents apartment today to pick out some clothes from my Poppy's closet.

Now, he was a good dresser, so that part was fine. It was how empty it was. How cold. How quiet.

I turned on the Redskins-Bucs game and watched a bit as I sorted through the closet.

I thought of the countless Sundays past I spent there watching football, even until last season and how it has become part of our family identity.

I looked at Poppy's chair, empty, and felt the shivers go down my spine.

Bedtime Stories...

My mother-in-law is a great reader. She's also a published author.

When she reads stories, she reads with a soft cadence that brings the listener into the words of the book.

For whatever reason, she was my inspiration tonight as I read two books (this one and this one)to the kids.

They have each heard the book dozens of times, but I could sense their focus tonight.

With each word, I imagined-and I know this sounds corny-the word getting implanted on their brains, expanding their vocabularies, and enabling them to picture ideas and images in their minds.

A moment of truly being present...and a gift.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Over a barrel...

is where Paco had me last weekend.

He was the ringbearer at his uncle's wedding and we had to convince him to keep his jacket and bowtie on for the duration.

I'm a big believer in incentives, but I turned to outright bribery to get it done.

And Paco knew he had me. As the negotiations wore on, he extracted more and more from me.
The cost?

An afternoon of:
  • 2 popsicles
  • 1 episode of Diego
  • 1 episode of Dora the Explorer
  • 1 episode of Little Einsteins
Usually, they get at most one episode per day, so it was a TV fest for him and he did live up to his bargain.

Then, I looked at Tonka.

The girl did everything she was asked, no bribery necessary.

I told her, "you shouldn't be penalized because you do what I ask," so not only did she watch everything with Erez, but she got 2 whole packs of gum (I usually give her one piece per day) as a bonus.

School Pictures...

Of course, I think that my kids look cute in their school pics, but when I think about the idea of them, it strikes me as something we do because we have always done them. (Well, not always, but you get the idea).

I looked in the pictures folder for each kid. I've got 1,173 pics of Tonka and 678 pics of Erez (and that's not including others where they may be part of the pic.)

Given that, do I really need to pay someone for pics of my kids?

I think not.

Keren says that I'm not sentimental, and maybe that's true, but I just don't see the utility of them anymore.

Book Review: Linked

Originally, I thought Linked would be more thoughts along the lines of Never Eat Alone and the value of networking, but boy, was I wrong!

It was that and MUCH more. An in-depth investigation into network theory running the gamut of subjects from physics to cell biology to terrorism to the Internet.

A fascinating read that, if you really think about it, helps you uncover some of the hidden elements of our day to day interactions with each other and how we may be affected (or able to impact) by persons "six degrees" away.

For marketers, this gives you more ideas on how to change the way you identify and communicate with your best and most influential customers. The same is true for politicians, would-be revolutionaries, or any one who wants to get the message out.

Friday, November 23, 2007

The $1800 Video...

Think that being a "Citizen Marketer" doesn't really work? Is one person really More Powerful Than Microsoft?

Well, I took a video that saved my parents $1800.

It's not so much what happens in the video, it's what happened because of the video.


My mom had made arrangements to host dinner prior to my brother's wedding at a hotel in St. Paul, MN. Despite some requests, she hadn't received a final cost estimate for any fees payable to the hotel (the catering and wait staff were externally arranged)

So, it's Friday morning (dinner is Friday night) and my mom finds out that the fee would be $3000 for the room alone (more than the cost of the food and service staff) because of "union rules" or something like that.

As my mom says in the video, "I feel like you have me over a barrel."

Citizen Marketing...

And once upon a time, that would be the case. The discussion, in the back of the sales and catering office, would have ended up with my mom caving because she really had NO leverage whatsoever.

Not anymore.

As I said to my mom (she thought the video approach was a bit controversial), all I did was "level the playing field."

If the hotel folks wanted to say, "too bad," or "my hands are tied," (2.50 into it) that's fine.

Today, though there's a measure of accountability. You can't pretend later that it didn't happen. You can't expect that the story won't be told. And you can't expect that you can treat customers however you want and that no one will know about it because the conversation took place in a backroom.

As an employee, you are always accountable for your actions on behalf of the company. It's a tough, paradigm shift, but it is the new reality.

On a side note, I happen to think that the employee was trying to do the right thing and listened very well, but didn't feel empowered by her organization to do so, which is a whole different problem. She wasn't rude or offensive, she was just holding up the "party line," when someone else probably gave the order to do so.

Bottom Line

Hilton agreed to lower the fee to $1200.

Video Notes:

Most of the video is my mom talking (0:22 through 2.50). It only gets interesting when the rep says (3.30) that "if I am going to be on film, then there's nothing more to say" [which sort of proves the point of the post, IMHO).

Updated: after thinking it over, I've decided to remove the video. I have no animus towards the particular employee and feel that it's just not worth embarrassing her to further make the point.