Monday, April 30, 2007

The Jewish Retreat from Europe...

My sister lived in Israel last year and she told me that the vast majority of the people in her Ulpan (hebrew immersion class) were from France.

Intimidated by rising Islamic-based anti-Semitism, they had picked up and left from the continent's largest Jewish community.

In Europe -- Thy Name Is Cowardice, the author decries the seemingly inborn and innate willingness to appease.

On a macro level, it may seem like Europe of today is like Europe of 50 years ago, but on a micro level, that's just not the case.

I was speaking to a friend of mine from the Netherlands today. This is a country where if you, historically, ask people "what does it mean to be Dutch?" They will say, "it means tolerance."

But, now, the story is different.

This particular Dutchwoman is emigrating to Canada. Her son, who lives in London, is beginning to feel, as a Jew, unwelcome, and is moving to Vancouver. We had lunch the other day with the representative of the Jewish Agency who said that emigration from the UK-in raw numbers-to Israel is equal to that of France, where the Jewish population is 1.5 times the size.

The canary in the Coal Mine, from 2002...looks like some of the canaries are leaving

Movie Review: Inside Man

If you like movies that keep you thinking hours after you've completed watching them, then you'll like Inside Man.

As I told Tamar, I couldn't even remember how it got on my Netflix queue, but there it was and it was very, very good.

I've really enjoyed Spike Lee's movies over the years; Denzel puts in another solid performance; Jodie Foster really impressed; the dialogue was solid; and the plot...anything but predictable.

Reminded me, a bit, of Memento in making me think/work to understand what was going on.

Knock, Knock...

Yesterday morning, we woke up to hear Calanit instructing Erez how to perform a "knock knock" joke.

C: Ok, I say 'knock knock and you say 'who's there?'"  Knock Knock...

E: [silence]

C: Say "Who's there?"

E: Calanit!!

C: No, say "who's there?"

E: Me!!!!

C: No, I say "Knock, knock" and you say "who's there?". Knock knock.

E: Knock knock!

This went on for about 5 minutes. Tamar and I were laughing so hard, we were crying!

Saturday, April 28, 2007


I'd like to think it was my persistence, but my bet is that someone at Procter & Gamble reads the Church of the Customer Blog.


Well, on April 26th, they published my story about trying to get P&G to pay attention to me (after my 2 months of effort).

And, guess what?

Today (a Saturday delivery no less), I get a full package of Metamucil product with a letter written on the 27th.

I guess not all customers or "citizen marketers" are equal. Thanks Jackie for helping to "clean this up." :-)

I should add...the Berry flavor is FANTASTIC. I really like it. Of course, I tried it ASAP and even though I'v been harboring a lot of negative feeling towards P&G over this issue, I've got to admit, the product (both original and new) are good value.

BTW, Jackie is the co-author of a great book called Citizen Marketers which is a deep dive into the process we have just watched unfold. For those of you interested in how blogging/internet are changing the way we relate to companies, it's worth a read.

"Post of the Year..."

Ephraim says that, so far, it is this one.

Friday, April 27, 2007

More Joost Invites Available....

I have 5 more to give. see details here

Eligible readers must leave name.

Metamucil Misses the Boat..Contd.

I sent the story into one of my favorite marketing blogs and they picked it up and published it.

Companies that don't listen...

Nothing yet from Comcast (sent twice) or Procter and Gamble (3 attempts) or Dial (2).


Well, here's one big company that does listen.

Little Things Make a BIG Difference...

How can you make your customers love you?

Check this out from a business that is about as commodity as it gets...printing t-shirts.

From: Personal Touch <>
Date: Apr 26, 2007 9:10 PM
Subject: Brain Tumor Society donation 357060

Hi Julie,
I noticed that you have designed shirts for the upcoming Brain Tumor Society charity event. We think it's awesome that you are participating in such a worthy cause, and we would like to sponsor you and your team by contributing a small donation.

Could you please reply to this e-mail with the link to your individual sponsorship page, team page or an address to which we may send a check?

I look forward to hearing from you soon.
Warm Regards,
Alyssa Modesitt

And Julie forwarded it to her friend saying:

look how amazing is!!!

Julie's friend forwarded to me (and 10 other people) with the following note:

we need to only order tshirts from here in the future. this is incredible! great work on their part!

A donation (a great return email address) and a nice word gets them a TON of free advertising, goodwill and future business.

So, what can you do to have that type of low investment, high touch/impact?

Thursday, April 26, 2007

On Travel and Opportunity...

There's a saying in sales, "if you don't ask, you never get."

Within 3 hours this morning, I had upgraded my flight from one-stop to non-stop, picked up a free travel voucher, laid the groundwork for 30,000 free miles, and taken a sedan instead of a shuttle to the airport.

All at no cost.

Here's what happened...

My flight was scheduled for 8.30am from Seattle. On Wed. night at 8pm, I called the Shuttle Service. I was prepared to order a sedan (less risk, I figured), but they were all booked. I reserved a spot on the Shuttle.

"We will pick you up between 5.30am and 5.50am," the woman said. "Do you want to give your credit card now or to the driver?" Wisely, I said I would pay when the service was completed.

I was in the lobby at 5.30am. Nothing.

I saw a sedan outside and had a hunch.

The driver said, "Are you Dan?"

"I could be," I smiled. "Where are you going?"

"The airport."

Interesting, I thought. It was 5.45. No shuttle yet. Also, no Dan.

I called the Shuttle Service and was on hold.

Dan came into the lobby.

"Sir, this may sound crazy, but my shuttle was supposed to be here at 5.50...any chance I could share the ride with you?"

"Sure!" he sure was cheerful for it being so early.

I looked at the clock. It was 5.49 by now.

The operator comes back and says, "he'll be there in 5 minutes or so." [that 'or so' part always makes me nervous...especially since the punctuality track record of this company was now in question]

At this point, I felt that my ethical obligation to ride the shuttle no longer existed because the implied social contract was a pick up during the stated time. Once they were late, I felt I could cancel.

Which is what I did.

Dan, who is a sales manager for a Washington state based winery, was a big talker...which was good for me. I wanted him to feel good about his decision to let me tag along.

We were at the airport in 30 minutes and after yet another snafu in attempting to upgrade to First Class on United (which I subsequently cancelled), I made it to the gate well in time.

On the way, I saw one of those "earn 15,000 miles if you sign up for a credit card offer."

I figured, I needed to re-bank my 15k miles from the outbound trip, so I inquired.

Now, thanks to some prudent financial management as a youth, I am fortunate to have a decent credit score, so I figured I could absorb the impact of another credit card application. In other words, leverage my credit score.

I found out the details: one purchase, 15k miles banked, no annual fee for first year, cancel anytime.

The young, pre-dental, female student manning the booth went through her less than polished sales presentation (which I coached her on).

Eventually, she revealed her compensation structure...a small bonus for each new application. Then, it dawned on her, "hey what about getting a Business card as well? Same deal as the other card."

What the heck, I figured, I was feeling giddy and enjoyed the upcoming challenge of managing the process. So, now I've got 2 credit cards that will each need one latte purchase on them. (oh, and I picked up a t-shirt and a travel bag for free)

Ok, on to the gate, ready to go.

Then the announcement comes: "We're overbooked, looking for volunteers. You'll get on the next flight and a free round-trip ticket anywhere United flies."

I jumped, figuring I'd put my name in the hat and be first on the list and sort out the details later.

Originally slated to get to DCA at 5pm, the new plan would have me there at 9pm.

I called Tamar, who was quite justifiably not thrilled with the plan. She's been doing a ton of heavy lifting vis a vis kids over the past 2 weeks and was, understandably, looking forward to my return.

Being the insensitive guy that I am, I was thinking about my brother's wedding in Minnesota in November and the need to finance 4 airplane tickets.

A few other calls in between (trying to arrange child care for that night, since Tamar was supposed to go out and I was supposed to be home) was starting to look like I'd have to pass.

The gate agent calls my name...."Ok, here's what we are going to do. We're going to put you on the Alaska Airlines non-stop to National Airport, plus since you are going to be getting in before you were originally scheduled to, we will have your bags delivered to your house."

"Let me get this straight," I said, "instead of one-stop [at O'Hare-world's busiest airport], I am going non-stop? You are delivering my bags to my house? I am getting home earlier than I was supposed to? AND I get a free round-trip ticket anywhere United flies in the US?"

She nodded.

"Everybody's a winner!" I yelled.

And then, to top it all off, I get to Alaska's check-in and they give me a middle seat (ugh), which was to be expected, but it was an Exit Row! Giddy up!

Of course, when I finally did arrive in DC, I had to go through the process of retrieving my bags. You see, my bags were still on the United flight (stuck in Chicago) so I

  1. went to the United baggage claim, where I was told that it was Alaska Air's problem
  2. went to the Alaska Air baggage claim desk (shared w/American) only to find a sign that said, "if you need help w/Alaska Air, please go to the ticketing counter upstairs)
  3. At the ticketing counter of Alaska (after a few minutes of confusion) was sent back downstairs to baggage claim
  4. Waited for 20 minutes while baggage claim was processed

They will supposedly deliver the baggage to my house.

While I was waiting in step 4 above, there were 3 other passengers in the same predicament. One of them said, "hey, should we go get a beer and come back?"

Then, I said to the Alaska Air rep.

"Calvin," (I had learned his name), "since we've had a bit of a hassle, maybe you could give us a voucher for a beer, eh?"

It wasn't that easy (I repeated the request a few more times), but when all was said and done, each of us got an $8 voucher for use in the airport (anytime). I told the other guys I would waive the commission. :-)

Life Lesson: Opportunity surrounds us at every turn. Identify it, don't be afraid to ask, and act on it...quickly! Oh, and don't forget to cancel your credit cards on time :-)

Mirror Opposites...

Twenty years ago, I went to a summer program to study international relations and met Tjada D'Oyen.

There are very few topics on which we least politically, but there is one thing we do agree on. Our respect for each other. (there are a few others, like the importance of family and friends, but it's bigger impact if I only say "1", right?)

Our paths have crossed over the years on just a few occassions, but one of those intersections was on Monday night this week.

Tjada, who recently moved to Seattle to work as a program manager for the Gates Foundation, agreed to pick me up at the airport, go to dinner with me (sushi!), and take me to my hotel.

It had been 3.5 years since we saw each other (she came to Calanit's simchat bat-where we didn't really have a chance to talk at all, of course) and from the moment I got in the car to the moment we got out, it was non-stop, lively, heated debate.

Tjada is African-American and very involved in the issues facing the community and so has a wonderful perspective on racial issues. I give her much of the credit for making me more aware of race as a factor in American culture.

We pride ourselves on entering a "non-politically correct zone" where we are truly free (both of us) to challenge and debate issues ranging from race to distribution of wealth to gender issues to foreign policy...and more.

For those of you who are frequent readers, you will know Tjada's name well-she's a frequent commenter (and she's the only Tjada I know, since I learned that Jada Pinkett's real name is something else...maybe Tjada, you can post a comment as to what it is?)

Tjada is like my alter-ego. Whereas many of my political adversaries can be dismissed as "illogical, irrational, and overly emotional," :-)    I can't do that with Tjada. Her intellect and knowledge is just far too sound (and I would say that even if she weren't a Harvard grad with a Harvard MBA).

When it comes to political conjecture, she keeps me honest and is a valued lens onto the world.

A true joy and gift to spend quality time with such a quality person.

I do love it when I have opportunities to sit and re-connect like this.

Note on the Gates Foundation

They have $37 billion in assets and are required to spend 5% of that each year to maintain their status. The next largest foundation in the world has $11 billion. Whoa!

Tjada's work is particularly interesting...she travels around the world (Mali, Ethiopia, India...and many more) working with extremely poor, agriculturally based societies to help identify ways for systematic and scaleable development projects to raise the standard of living and ability to be self-sustaining.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Laptops Up...

There's a saying at Microsoft "Laptops Down," which is when your boss (or her boss, etc.) wants your undivided attention and tells you to stop e-mailing.

I began my discussion this AM saying "Laptops Up. And please open up Outlook."

(note: it wasn't a presentation b/c it was designed to be two-way vs. one-way)

I got some quizzical looks...and their least for a minute.

Then, I said,

"Look, you have a job to do. That's important. My job is to earn your attention and make it worth your while to listen. Not expect that you will listen to me because I have put together a PowerPoint deck."

Attention (previous posts here).

It's the currency of the million channel world.

You don't have it, you have to earn it...every single minute.

And you know what? I think it'll make all of us better communicators.

Where Everyone Knows Your Name...or at least can quickly find it online....

More from Mark Cuban's blog about the good and the bad of having everything about our lives only a search query away.

My favorite line (as a father of a daughter):

By the time she starts dating, I wont need to great her dates at the door with a shotgun, I will have a digital history of the poor kid and know pretty much everythng about him, before I meet

And yes, I saw what company is the #1 world-wide brand and visited site.

The Economics of Open Source Software

An interesting piece asking the questions:

  1. do customers save $ by using open source?
  2. are programmers better off going to open source?

Staples Innovation Quest Winner!!

It looks like our friend Becky won the contest for her Drawerganizer invention.

In addition to being at the ringing of the opening bell for the NASDAQ yesterday, she got an oversized Ed McMahon-type check and was scheduled to be on "Fox and Friends" TV show this morning.

Cool stuff! Congratulations to Becky!

Friends of Jer Seattle....

I learned something about Seattleites this week.
They don't like to RSVP.
When I had only heard from one person prior to the scheduled FOJ dinner, despite a few emails, I figured I'd cancel it and just get together with the 1 Yes response.
There's an adage in sales, "take it away" about offers you put in front of customers. If you make people feel like they "can't get it," there's a higher chance that they will want it.
Apparently, Seattleites feel the same way.
After I cancelled, 3 people said, "hey I am coming..." and they did....and we had a great time.
Afterwards, on the sound advice from Nelson Taggart (those words always seem to go together), he suggested I contact the one couple who had not bothered to respond to my emails at all.
The advice was this:
Diplomatically, but candidly, ask, "would you prefer if I stop trying to contact you?"
I did that.
The response was: "we received the emails, but we just had a baby 2 weeks ago."
On the surface, I was sympathetic, I know how things are crazy. But on the other hand, how long does it take to write, "sorry, we can't make it, we just had a baby." (It actually takes 3 seconds, since I just wrote it.)
But that's a minor sidenote to what was a great evening. The connections were numerous and intricate.
Nelson's wife and Joanna Sandorffy went to school together. Allison Crites went to elementary school with Aaron Sandorffy.
Great food at the Teapot Vegetarian House (endorsed by my mainland Chinese colleague) and a fun evening.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

More on the Future of TV

After I wrote about Joost as a Disruptive Technology, I read a great post by Mark Cuban (owner of the Dallas Mavericks and one of my favorite bloggers called The Maturity of Web 2.0 and The HDTV is the PC.

My brother, Asher, insightful as ever pointed out "PC or doesn't matter....they are converging and it'll just be one platform." 

Inspired by that comment and my Joost experience, I spent a few more minutes that night using my Xbox 360 which serves as a "Media Center" connected to my Vista Ultimate PC.

It was then that I "discovered" some features which had escaped me before that.

  1. If I select "Sports" the Xbox shows me real-time updates of all the games on TV in 1 screen. I can see scores, stats (like who is up to bat), and game time remaining (bball). Then, with a click, I'm watching that game. So, at a glance, I can find the best game and go to it.
  2. Yahoo! Sports is integrated, so I can watch my fantasy football team's progress (if I had one)
  3. Internet Radio is built in through and with a click, I can listen to any radio station (through the TV) that broadcasts anywhere in the world.

The battle to watch, clearly, is "who owns the living room". That's the center of the digital universe. Will it be Microsoft, Sony, Joost, Nintendo, the cable companies (that's why Comcast offered me a free digital upgrade--which I couldn't get to work---I'm down on them for a few reasons), the phone companies (with fiber optic)...or someone else--a TV manufacturer perhaps?

It's like a massive climax scene from Lord of the Rings...a bunch of armies converging on the same battlefield...and only one will remain standing when the day is done.

Spotting Ego...

Standing around the baggage claim carousel, I get the feeling that I can just spot EGO.

Some people have humility in their mannerism.

Some have self-importance. It's off-putting. At least to me.

Something to think about in how we all approach each other.

First Class Etiquette...

I got the first class upgrade, but I wasn't dressed like everyone else.

My attitude when travelling (which I'm willing to debate) is: comfort over fashion.

I wasn't terrible, a pair of casual slacks and the logo-emblazoned shirt of a partner company (never want people to recognize the shlump as a Microsoft employee, right?)

Most people were wearing dress slacks and nice shirts. Others ties.

There was one guy, though, who made me look like a GQ model.

Torn jeans, t-shirt, ripped sneakers...hadn't shaved in a few days.

I didn't think much of it...until we got into the tram that takes you from gate to baggage claim in Seattle.

The guy is standing across from me, on his cell phone...speaking Hebrew.

I kicked myself. My "Israeli-dar" didn't kick in...I should have pegged that one a mile way.


[Note to those unfamiliar with Israelis: they are notoriously casual--and I'm being loose with the term casual here]

Movie Review: Pursuit of Happiness

Saw this on the plane to Seattle and didn't know that it was based on a true story until the very end. In fact, I hadn't even heard of it before it came on.

What a shame.

Will Smith's performance made me want to cry.

It touched on so many resonant themes.

A father's love for his child. The desire to provide. The drive to succeed and accomplish.

But on a level to which I really couldn't relate.

A down on his luck salesman whose wife leaves him, works 2 jobs (one unpaid) and is forced to sleep in shelters, bathrooms, subways, and buses with his 5 year old the "pursuit of happiness."

It's one of those movies where, even though you know how things will turn out, the road to getting there is what makes it special.

Greenhouse Gases...

Think cars are a problem?

25% of greenhouse gases come about as a result of illegal logging of forests.

Get educated and understand how you can act.

BTW, kudos to Popular Mechanics for putting the URL of the article in the print version (as I posted here)

Travel Tech...

Automatic Phone Update

I get off the plane in Chicago and look at my T-mobile Dash.

Bang...the timezone was automatically updated. Love that!

Movies on Planes

What would be neat....when the captain comes on the PA, if the movie paused, so you don't miss any dialogue.

Inconsistent Experience....

Flying to Redmond for a few days. I get an email last night from United re: automated check-in. Great!

I go through the process and then I see an offer.

Redeem 15,000 miles for a First Class Upgrade.

I figure, what the heck, let's give it a whirl (redeeming miles is so difficult anyway), so I "make the purchase."

When I confirm, I get a message:

"Due to a system-wide error, this purchase cannot be confirmed."

What was once painless has the risk of becoming painful.

  • were my miles deducted?
  • will I get the upgrade?

All I can see now is hassle...having to prove that in fact I didn't use the miles or having to figure out if I did indeed get the upgrade.

Then, I get to check-in counter. The lady there says, "that's not up to us, talk to the gate agent."

I get to the gate. He says, "We can't make the same offer to you here as you get online?"

Why not?

There's one airline. I'm one customer. Why should I have different experiences depending on where I am in your organization.

(Update: I did get the First Class Upgrade after all...though there were a few system glitches. My profile said: Upgrade Waitlist, but on the master Waitlist file, I wasn't there)

Monday, April 23, 2007

Friend and Author...

My sister, Kira, has a friend named Hannah who has become, over time, a dear friend of every single one of the Epstein siblings (and our kids).

We call her "Hanushka" and Hanushka is hitting the big time.

She's got a book coming out called New Girl on the Job about her "life in the trenches" and it looks pretty interesting. 

So excited to see her progress and genuinely impressed by the quality of her work

Check out her website 

(though I do have to ding her because on the Blog page it says "Coming Soon." I hate that. Coming Soon leaves me with a bad feeling of incompletion).

Negotiation Efforts...

Comcast raised my TV rates by 50% (because a promotional offer I had expired). Here's my effort at negotiating them down (I asked for the fax number of the VP for Customer Retention in my area). Comcast response to follow (if it comes)

Ms. Goode,

I am told you are responsible for Customer Retention in Montgomery County, MD. My account is:XXXXXXX

You will see that approx. 1 year ago, I canceled high-speed Internet service (in favor of Verizon FIOS). At around that time, I was put on a $39.99/month Basic/Preferred TV Plan.

All was good.

The 12 month promotion, however, ended in March and my rate is $60/month now.  The Billing Rep told me she had no flexibility in keeping me at the $39/month plan. I wanted to confirm that before I leave Comcast as a subscriber of your TV service.

Here's why:

At $39/month, ($44 w/taxes), the savings of $2/month in terms of hassle and switching costs doesn't make it worthwhile to move to Verizon's TV service ($42.95 before tax), so I've stayed. For $24/year, it's worth it.

However, at a $18/month difference, we're talking $216/year...and that is worth it.

My family is not a big TV family, so losing a few of the marginal channels doesn't really matter to us. Since both Comcast and Verizon offer the basics, I am confident we'll be just fine... :-). 

I am not concerned at all re: Verizon's quality since

  1. 1. a few friends have it and they are pleased
  2. 2. since I installed Verizon's FIOS internet, it has NEVER gone down on me, compared to a 1/month Comcast router reboot.

I just want to understand if you have any flexibility compared to the billing rep.

I understand you are running a business and I understand you have profit goals to hit, so if $60/month is the lowest you can go, that's fine and I'll just switch. But, since the pipes are here, I'm already a subscriber, and the marginal cost of servicing my account would, it seem to me, be VERY low, I thought it would be a better deal for you to give up on the extra $20 month than to lose the recurring $40/month.

You can reach me via email at or by phone: xxx-xxx-xxxx

Looks like I'm not the only one who has left Comcast.

Great baby announcement...

A big mazal tov to our friends Tovit and Mike Granoff.

The best baby announcement I've seen to date.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Some Kid ROI...

People tell me that as your kids get older, you start getting a Return on your investment (ROI) in the form of them providing services for you at no cost (direct, that is). I still think you come out way behind (in raw financial terms), but today, I did see an initial return.

It was early in the morning and we were out in the yard. The kids began by helping me pick up some of the sticks for yard collection.

Then, I had an idea..."what if I trimmed the bushes and let them gather up the trimmings and put them in the container?"

Sure enough, 1 hour later!, they had done ALL of the collection of the leaves and branches (I kept them far away from the saw, btw) and the yard looked MUCH better.

Good to see the potential for future ROI...

And now, Calanit, who is sitting next to me, will type something. Here she goes:



Saturday, April 21, 2007

Perception vs. Reality...

 If someone asks you, "which is more secure a Mac or Windows machine?"

Everyone will say Mac, right?

I'm not saying that's incorrect, all I'm saying is that I think there's a perception out there that Macs are invincible.

Link to Myth crushed as hacker shows Mac break-in | InfoWorld | News | 2007-04-20 | By Nancy Gohring, IDG News Service

Is there a perception about you or your company that is accurate or inaccurate?

How do you go about changing it?

Not an easy one.

Friday, April 20, 2007

The Thrill of the Random Occurrence..

I get a strange rush when a few random events happen in sequence.

For example, it's not often that I think about Sacagawea, so it was odd that on Tuesday night, a colleague of mine who had come in from North Dakota brought me a "Sacagawea" brand of honey and then on Wed. night, when I decided to watch the Simpsons on my DVR (I had taped 1 episode 4 months ago and only had stored, since I never watch it) and that one episode had a segment on, you guessed it, Sacagawea.

And the other night, I was quickly flipping through the channels and came across a Public Television show devoted solely to showing 1 piece of great artwork and accompanying that with one piece of classical music.

In an instant, I recognized the artwork, one of my 3 all-time favorites, "Wanderer Above the Mist" which hangs in my "man cave." (more man cave posts here)

For 3 minutes, I was mesmerized, examining the picture in ways I never had, but I couldn't help thinking...."of all the paintings to show, they chose this one...and I just happened to see it."

Anyway, there's probably a word for this, but I just kind of get a kick out of it when these things happen.

Metamucil Misses the Boat..

It's been 2 months since I posted on Metamucil and Blogpower and I've heard NOTHING from P&G. One of the emails bounced back and the other person hasn't responded twice.

No free samples, no apology. Nothing.

I mean, I blogged on freakin' Metamucil. If you're a company and you can't take advantage of that, then you've got a problem. It's not like everyone is going around talking about it the way they are with an iPhone or whatever.

Hard to believe.

Paco spreading

there's a panamanian nurse at our pediatrician.

I walked in today she saw me and asked

'is paco here?'

(one of erez's nicknames is paco)

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Advertising in the Million Channel World...

With DVR's, it's old news that people don't watch commercials anymore. Product placement was the next evolution and as I watched the Apprentice lat night, (yes, I still do), the bulk of the storyline centered on Renuzit's Super Odor Neutralizer.

So, here's what's interesting...

On Tuesday night, I left a pot on the stove for too long (while I was down in my 'man cave') and the house was filled with smoke (the detectors went off and everything).

For 24 hours, we were trying to rid the house of the smell. Opened windows, lit scented candles, boiled cinnamon, washed some blankets and the works.

On Wed. night, I watched the show, but despite the fact that I was consumed with the idea of getting the smoky smell out of my house, I didn't put it all together.

Then, on Thurs. AM, it clicks...hey, this product can solve my current problem (if it does what it claims to do).

As luck would have it, my neighbor calls and asks if there's anything we need from the store. Usually, I hand the phone to my wife, but this time, I said:

"Yes, I need Renuzit's Super Odor Neutralizer, if you can find it."

And then I said, "and if you can't, don't get me anything."

A couple of questions have since popped into my mind.

  1. let's say I saw the Apprentice Renuzit episode 1 week ago, would I still remember the product name or its benefits when the problem arose this week?
  2. why did I say to my neighbor "this is the only one I want." ( i think it's because I want to see if it actually works the way they claimed on the Apprentice commercial w/in a show format)

Suffice it to say, if it had been a regular commercial during a different show, I NEVER would have seen it.

And, weird enough, I slowed down the DVR playback to actually watch a real Renuzit commercial during the Apprentice, just to see how they presented it.

I couldn't tell you any other product that was advertised during a commercial of that show, but I

  1. saw the episode telling a story about Renuzit
  2. had the brand reinforced by willingly watching the commercial
  3. have a pressing problem that this product may solve
  4. am insisting on trying it (since my other methods aren't working fully)

Just a strange series of events that make me think about how I am influenced by advertisers in a DVR/Internet world.

(update: my neighbor couldn't find the product at CVS. We're going to try Costco and Shoppers)

(2nd update: my wife went to Costco. No luck. Not so good on the demand fulfillment side,huh?)

People and Praise...

So my mom sends me an article by Po Bronson called How Not to Talk to Your Kids.

The basic point...praising someone by calling them "smart" or just focusing on results can have negative ramifications. Instead, you should praise effort even if the result is failure.

That's right, the whole self-esteem thing is bunk. Ok, slight exaggeration.

The article and research was on kids and teens, but it got me thinking about employees and co-workers.

Are you praising and highlighting only those who get the results? And not highlighting those who show grit, effort, and determination?

If so, what's the problem with that, you ask?

Well, by only highlighting results, it seems that you are encouraging people/kids not to take risks, because they don't want to fail (in their own eyes or yours).

Counter-productive to long-term success and growth, right?

BTW, Po's written two other books that I really enjoyed...The Nudist on the Late Shift chronicles the birth of the dot com era and  What Should I Do With My Life is a great work for you, if you think you may be in the wrong line of work.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Joost Winners, Round 1

So, here are the winners of the Joost Invite offer, round 1
  • Jon Jacobson
  • Jamie Rubin
  • Pippa (thanks for the compliment)

Word of advice...if you want to win something, don't sign your name "Anonymous" :-)

I'll get these out in the next day or so.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Book Review: A Legacy of Hope

A 12 year old girl is diagnosed with bone cancer. Her friends and family raise $8,000 so that the Make-a-wish foundation can grant her any wish she wants.

She goes through the predictable litany of possibilities...trips, meet a famous person, etc.

Then, in a moment of clarity, she asks,

"what about kids who haven't had the money raised for them? What about their gifts?"

She's told, "well, we do our best."

"Ok, then, my wish is to grant the wishes of the 155 kids in North Carolina who are on the Make-a-wish waiting list."

The volunteers sit back, shocked not only by the generosity of the wish, but by the cost.

The average wish costs $5,500. The entire budget for the year is $825,000. Hope Stout of Charlotte, NC has just asked for a wish that will cost almost 1 million dollars.

But when an idea has power, it spreads.

The Celebration of Hope project is kicked off. A radio interview that will bring tears to your eyes motivates more people to contribute.

And you know what? They do it.

A Legacy of Hope: The Wisdom of a Childlike Faith is written by Hope's parents, chronicling their painful journey from diagnosis to treatment to death to legacy.

Their immense faith in God is remarkable and their pain is evident.

Is it the greatest prose in the history of the planet? No, but it doesn't have to be. It's as genuine as it gets and what is more genuine than the pain of a parent, helpless in the face of a terminal disease of a beloved child?

There are passages that choke you up and those that elate you. A moving tribute to a girl whose unfortunate circumstances could have been a cause for mourning. Instead, it was a catalyst for positive change (and continues to be) on a scale few of us will ever reach.

Joost Invite...

Ok, as promised, I've got 3 Joost invites to share. So, if you are reading this via the RSS feed, you are eligible!

Post a comment below (first come, first serve) with an essay as to why you deserve it. Ok, forget about that. Just post a comment.

In that order, as invites become available, I will share.


I have a friend, Heikki, in Finland who told me about the sauna culture in his home country. It borders on obsessive, apparently. People have social gatherings and business meetings in them.

I can see why. First, you don't have a ton of time before you pass out, so your discussions need to be productive.

Second, because you are naked (or almost), you have less inhibitions, not more, so you build connections more quickly.

After I had a 50 minute "Swedish" Massage, which was very nice, of course, I sat in the wet and dry (which I prefer-but only if it's REALLY hot) and had 3 great conversations. Plus, I feel great and detoxed.

Champion Blog reader Gadi (yes, he's won the latest round  in a TKO, sorry RW) wants a walk-in meat locker in his basement.

I've long said...I'm getting a sauna...that's my life's luxury. Today, I reaffirmed that goal :-)

Monday, April 16, 2007


Read an article a few weeks ago in SmartMoney about high-end spas/resorts where the rich go to refresh themselves. They are in unsual locales, or at least that was the theme of the article.

For a work retreat, I am at Nemacolin which may be one of them. It's HUGE and has all of the amenities.

The resort was founded by the owner of 84 Lumber and shows, once again, that if you have a huge amount of money, there's really no limit to the extent of decorating you can go.

But here's one thing that annoys me....

Why, in a place like this, where you are paying through the they charge you $10 ($20 before 3pm) to use the pool or the sauna?

Just feels like a nickel/diming scenario. 

Sunday, April 15, 2007

A Simple Solution...

Anyone who has more than 3 gadgets plugged into a surge protector has run into this problem.

What about devices with those large bulky adapters that cover more than one outlet?

You end up 'wasting" outlet space and, like me, buying at least 1 more surge protector.

A few months ago, I was watching a DVR of the Consumer Electronics Show and it featured the

PowerSquid Surge Suppressor, which is simply ingenious. It's a great example of someone seeing a common problem, developing a simple solution.

Instead of being static, the plugs are moveable, so it doesn't matter if you've got a bulky adapter or not, everything plugs in and you don't waste any outlets.

Just great stuff! One of those "how come I didn't think of that?" moments, right?

Special call out to Mosh Teitelbaum who read the rules for coming to my house and selected an item (since removed) off of my 'wish list.'

On Reconstructionist Jews...

When I lived in Japan, my friend, Carnie Rose (the rabbi there), told me that I am a Reconstructionist Jew.

While my observance falls more in the "Conservadox" range, at least as it relates to my philosophy of "minhag optimization,"there may be some truth to that.

Today, we were in Philadelphia for the naming of my cousin's 3rd child. My cousin's wife is one of my best friends from childhood. (Small world, eh?)

She's a Reconstructionist Rabbi. We got there a little bit late for the ceremony, but here's my basic observation.

When it comes to injecting emotion and spirituality into the ceremony, the Reconstructionists lead the pack. What I saw today showed a firm commitment to using traditional texts as a foundation, but then rounding out the service and increasing the accessibility through the injection of emotional accelerants. It really was a beautiful ceremony...and brought me back to my Reconstructionist roots :-)

Whether you are a religious leader or a business leader, getting people to feel is key to a memorable experience.

Investing in family

One of the things that my parents did well was to teach us the importance of family.

Many trips were centered around a family event. They weren't cheap, but worth it. My siblings and I have a great appreciation for family amd its role in our development.

Most trips would feature my dad lecturing us on some obscure topic related to the destination, etc.

Could be the importance of trade due to the development of the steamboat on the mississippi river or just a visit to the tabasco factory and cajun heritage.

The torch has passed....

The kids and I are in the car with my parents on a rainy day to philadelphia for
a 3rd cousin's naming.

And we just explained how a tunnel (baltimore) is constructed :-)

And I am blogging from the car (not driving!)

Friday, April 13, 2007

Principles of economics, translated

very funny

BBC Report from Bergen Belsen

My mom forwarded this to me...
Scott Simon of NPR reports on a rare recording of the "Hatikva " from
61 years ago.

It was recorded by a British reporter in May 1945 in Bergen-Belsen when
the British army liberated the few thousand survivors in the concentration camp,
half of which were Jewish, most of them were at the extremes of their strength.

The British priest organized prayers for Kabbalat Shabbat for the Jews,
it was the first time after 6 years of war and after more than 10 years of

With a lot of effort the Jews organized themselves and knowing they
were recorded and sang " Hatikva". As you can hear they sang the original
version as it was written by Naftali Imber.

It is very moving.

Bubbling Ideas Up...

A friend of mine works at Staples and every year, the company sponsors a competition soliciting ideas from employees for innovative products (the elusive Purple Cow, right?!). The winner gets $30,000!! It's like the Apprentice, sort of.

You can see all of the finalists (and vote) 

What I love about this is how it distributes the incentive for innovation.

Staples doesn't let innovation only happen in the R&D or marketing department (hopefully,there!), they say to everyone "it's all of our jobs to think BIG and we'll make it worth your while).

If you are in a position of authority, what are you doing to get the best ideas in your organization to rise to the top?

BTW, my friend is Becky, she's got 2 out of the 5 finalists in the Associates category (here and here)

eBay as a Platform...

eBay is certainly a key part of my e-commerce lifestyle. But, I have to say that I'm becoming a bit disillusioned/dissatisfied. (full disclosure:I'm an eBay shareholder-not much, though)

I sold 4 items in the last 2 weeks and on 2 of the auctions, I had a fraudulent buyer who never paid.

I re-listed one and sold it for a lot less (considering that the fraudulent buyer had bid up another buyer who eventually backed out) and one, I'm going to keep. Just not acceptable.

If I'm eBay, perhaps I charge sellers to only accept bids from buyers above a certain rating (both of mine had 0), but we're back at the issue of how you effectively establish trust in the online world. My friend, Auren Hoffman, is attacking this issue at Rapleaf.

eBay is evolving into a different type of being and frankly, I'm more optimistic about the future of Skype as the platform for your phone (as I posted here) and I saw a router from Netgear that has Skype built in.

Pretty soon, if you have broadband in your house and reliable broadband when you're out, you won't need a traditional landline or a cell phone plan.

Like music, newspapers, and movies, the cell phone business is going down a path of doom...thanks to the Net.

Yeehaw...let the revolution continue.

More on the future of digital pics...

Kodak's video about the future of digital photography talked a good game. And I think they are on to something....Today, I previewed Microsoft's foray into this field. It's called Photosynth (not publicly available, but you can see demo), but bookmark the page.

I took 13 pics of a canyon in Utah and the software figured out exactly where they overlapped to create a complete view of the canyon. This, despite the fact that the pictures were taken at different angles. Whoa!

The digital revolution is still only in its infancy. Kodak's vision about what will happen seems like it's on the money. Glad to see that MS is taking this seriously.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Movie Review: The Devil Wears Prada

I'm a bit embarrassed to say why I put this on my Netflix queue....I saw a Microsoft spoof on it trying to help sell some of our new products (Exchange Server 2007, Office Communicator) and I thought...looks interesting.

I've got to say...though the end was a bit predictable...of course she's going to walk the other way and not be like "the devil," I thought the acting was great and the story was interesting and fun.

I also liked it because it gave me a chance to test, once again, my right brain development skills.

Overall, though, a good movie. 4 stars.

Book Review: Leaving Microsoft to Change the World

My aunt sent Leaving Microsoft to Change the World presumably because of the Microsoft connection. And, motivated by an interest in the "middle age" of the company, I gave it a whirl. I was skeptical. I had read other "well, I made a boatload of cash at MS [b/c I'm so damned good and then I needed to do something to find meaning in my life].

The writing was good, but it wasn't a page turner, but I stuck with it. Primarily because I was reading it 2-3 pages at a time while the kids played in the bathtub with each other.

About 1/2 of the way through, it took a turn...for the good.

What John Wood and Room to Read have accomplished is nothing short of remarkable, humbling, and inspiring. I had never heard of the organization, but their mission-to address illiteracy and poor education in the 3rd world-is certainly a noble one.

John's point was..."I took the management lessons I learned at Microsoft and applied them to the non-profit world."

Obviously, MS taught him well.

The end of the book lists an impressive tally

  • 2300 libraries established in 6 countries
  • 200 schools built
  • 50 computer and language labs
  • 1,700 girls on long term scholarships (so that they can finish high school)
  • 1 million books donated

The climax of the book is when the org opens 123 schools on one day in Nepal.

Great prose it is not. But, if you want an inspirational read about someone who didn't think he was "the shit" because of Microsoft $, thought big about a serious problem and DID something about it, you'll enjoy this read.

Another Nice Outlook/Exchange Time Saver...

Just got back from vacation. Thanks to the new Outlook 2007, I didn't have to do anything about my Out of Office message. It turned off automatically (and I sent different messages to internal and external senders)

Just a nice little feature...

see image here: Another Nice Outlook/Exchange Time Saver...

Kodak - Winds of Change

It would appear that the "Kodak Moment" is coming back. Enjoy. Well worth it!

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Happily Ever After...

One of my strengths-for better or for worse-is helping couples that aren't right for each other break up sooner rather than later.

(For the more theory-minded, this is called the Strategic Inflection Point)

A few years ago, our friend Dana came over and, it was clear to everyone-even her- that she wasn't in the right relationship. To this day, she gives me credit for having pushed her to break up with her then boyfriend.

Now, Dana is a great, smart, attractive girl, and I was a bit concerned that she would face the challenges of other women I know in The Single Life.

But, the fact was, she wasn't with the right guy.

Well, sometimes fairy tales do come true and I just found out that she's engaged (yes, to someone else!).

I feel redeemed :-)

Don't know if I get Olam Ha-Ba credit for this or not.

And Dana, feel free to read: More on Marriage Guidelines...

Why don't magazines do this?

I was reading the JHU Alumni magazine today and came across a very good article. I wanted to send it to my brother. I certainly wasn't going to clip it and mail it to him. Saving it for him is too much work. So, I scanned it in and emailed, but why do I have to do that?

Why can't magazines put the URL for every article on the bottom of the page? That'll make it simple to spread the word and get their ideas out there?

Disruptive Technology...

Being a technologist is replete with problems and frustration. There are late nights spent trying to figure out something...which you think should be simple. There are unexplained system glitches. There are moments when you wonder if it's all worth it.

Then, every so often, you see something and you say, "wow, this is the future. This is why I do what I do."

That happened this morning.

I installed Joost (created by the founders of Skype).

I just sat back and said..."whoa!"

The promise of “Interactive TV” has been around for a while. It’s here.

On your PC, you get super high quality video, plus on screen IM, RSS feeds, chats w/people watching the same show. It’s a 10mb client and it’s phenomenal.

This is a disruptive game-changer. It's convergence of TV, PC, and Internet

The quality of the video is enough to say that this is something special, but when you start playing around thinking about the implications for the technology...
  1. how about chatting with fans of the same show or game as it is being played?
  2. how about having vendors of the products you see on the show at the ready to answer your product questions?
  3. how about downloading the music video to your iTunes library?
  4. what about reading the blog of the coach of a game on the screen while you're watching him coach?

What I've seen recently on my Xbox 360/Media Center is attacking this from a different angle, but here we've got more Internet technologies built in from the ground up.

The game isn't any means...but it has changed. Back in the Snickelways days we talked about the 3 "C's"--- Content, Commerce, and Community. Joost has the potential to be that platform.

The race is on...

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Book Review: The Blind Side

Like a fullback with a head of steam, I tore through The Blind Side (300 pages) in just two (long) nights.

In its own right, a GREAT story that touches on many aspects of Americana...poverty/wealth, racism, the influence of money, culture, drugs, and more.

On top of that, it's a great FOOTBALL story that will help the fan understand how the game has changed...right in front of our eyes...and without even knowing or realizing it.

In the days when I didn't have kids or a job, I would sometimes just devour a book...though it was the rare book that compelled me to do so. However, this was one of them.

If you are a football fan, you MUST read The Blind Side. Others will certainly enjoy it.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Google Analytics...

Are you interested in statistics, marketing, or analysis?

I just installed Google Analytics on this blog and there's some cool data about who views this blog, when, etc.

I'm willing to open this up to anyone who is interested (just leave a comment...with a short essay explaining why you :-)....

Seriously, if you want to take a peek and provide your "consultant" view on what the blog should do to increase traffic, loyalty, repeat visits,etc., let me know.

I'll add you to the Jer979 Blog Analytics Team (BAT).

His father's son...

This remote control maneuvers a Mickey Mouse car--a gift of the Weisners.
He's figured out how to use it.
My protege has arrived.

Long run...

Calanit and I went on a VERY long run the other day. Man, were we worn out! :-)

My Little Girl is Growing Up...

She's climbing trees by herself...and we took her out on a tricycle for the first time.

"Sunrise, sunset...."

Another reason I love Spring...

We get this bloom for about 1 week before the petals fall off, but it is a Magnificent Magnolia.
Makes me feel like I live on an estate. :-)

When a 3 year old is asked about monsters

Funny...and disturbing at the same time. You know she hears it somewhere.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

When you don't like a spouse...

One of the downsides of marriage with kids (there are only a few) is that your social life (for the most part) is centered around other couples (and their kids).

This can lead to challenges.

There are 2 couples where I really like the husband...but can't stand the wife.

And 1 couple where it's the reverse.

It's a bummer, since that fact makes it near impossible to build a meaningful relationship.

It's a shame.

Any ideas?

Book Review: Moneyball

If you are one who analyzes problems and enjoys it, read this book.

If you like baseball, read this book.

If you like statistics, economics, or understanding how the market isn't always "perfect," read this book.

In Moneyball, Michael Lewis explains how Billy Beane, the General Manager of the Oakland A's used statistics to realize that what was traditionally valued in baseball (a high batting average and speed) was actually not the correct traits to look for in winning games. His's On Base Percentage. How often does someone get on base (either by a hit or a walk-which are not counted in Batting Average.)

The book tells a GREAT story of Billy's career-that wasn't-and his ability to fashion a winning team with the 2nd lowest payroll in baseball.

Thanks to my family members taking care of my kids over the Passover holiday, I read it in 2 days.

I've just picked up Lewis' next book (about football) called The Blind Side

Other books of his that I've read include Liar's Poker (about Wall St.) and The New New Thing about Silicon Valley.

I love it when I find a book that I just can't put down. Moneyball was one of them.

Movie Review: Borat

It's funny. And I'm not talking about the movie here. I'm talking about how when it was over, I thought to myself, you know "this was kind of like my experience watching the 40 year old virgin."

At moments, I was laughing so hard, I was crying. I am impressed by his versatility, but while I didn't mind the offensive nature of the film-primarily because he was an equal opportunity offender-I walked away feeling a bit like it wasn't a huge worthwhile use of time.

But here's where it was was only 86 minutes long, so bottom line, it was ok. I'm giving it 3.5 starts.

And the reason it's all funny,...when I went to Netflix to rate the movie, the first suggestion under "People who liked this movie also liked...." was 40-year old virgin.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Banned UN Speech:

It's easy as a pro-Israel advocate to get jaded. You keep making the same (logical) arguments that should resonate with any liberal minded individual, but it doesn't.

Here's another effort to "fight the good fight."

The response: Predictable. But you have to keep trying, I suppose.

Tantrums, Snuggle, and a Heartbeat

Over the last few weeks, we've run into more than a few temper tantrums. Part of the development process, I guess. It's tough to stay calm during this time, but these moments of frustration are balanced by the warm feeling that comes from being the consoler, which could be my favorite paternal role.

Erez bumps his head, Calanit hurts her finger...they come running to me for a kiss and a hug. It's the greatest feeling to have the omnipotence of healing with body warmth.

Calanit wouldn't go to bed last night, she insisted that I "snuggle" her. My first inclination was..."this is the 8th time we've told you to go back to bed" and to be a hardliner.

Instead, I said ok. I lay there, with my ear on her back and I detected her little heart...beating away. I was taken back to the fetal monitor on the day she was born, thought about all that has happened since, and wondered how many more times I will get to lie next to my little girl and just listen, peacefully, to this sound.

Sundays and Perspective...

Once upon a time, I was in pure "survival" mode on Sundays. Tamar's at work and I'm home with the kids all day. My goal one activity and try to hunker down to make it.

Gradually, I've become more comfortable having them around...and being around them...and with perhaps some age, I've realized that these are moments that are fleeting. As my mom says, "the days are long, but the years are short."

So, now, while I am exhausted and there are moments when I hunker down, Sundays become one of the most special times in the week...a chance for me to step back from my "normal work" and actually focus on my true life's work.

Better late than never, right?

Sunday, April 01, 2007

E-Commerce Day...

When I started out in the Internet business professionally (c. 1996), the driving force that motivated me was e-commerce. Snickelways' (one of my first employers) guiding mantra (it's name in fact) came from the idea that the Internet would simplify transactions and facilitate business.

Now, 10 years down the road, I think about the transactions I made online...on Friday alone.

And it all probably took less than 1 hour...The cost of doing business and trying things continues to drop.

What Not to Wear...

On my favorite fashion show, Clinton and Stacey have said, "a jacket can turn a basic outfit into something special."

Yesterday morning, as I was dressing for synagogue, I thought of that and-since I had no kids in tow-I figured I could put one on.

Jeremy Lustman (not a dumb guy-see below) and one of the best dressed guys I know said, "I like the outfit. Looks really well put together."

I was glad that Clinton and Stacey would have approved, but then got concerned about the the bar for fashion has been raised.

And what's more...what happens next time if he doesn't say anything about my outfit?

Maybe we're better off keeping expectations low than failing to meet the higher bar?

As the consulting world says, "Underpromise and overdeliver." Have I promised too much?