Thursday, May 31, 2007

No regrets...

One of my closest friends while living in Japan was a guy named John Mackay (pronounced Muh-Kai). Anyway, he always said that he tried to live his life with no regrets.

An admirable goal. There have been a few instances that I've regretted, but for the most part, I am doing ok.

There was a scene in Dead Man Walking (review here), where the mother of one of the murdered teens berates herself for the fact that her last words to her daughter were about an unsewn hem. "If only I had known...,etc."

I'm not sure when it began (I think back in Frankfurt when Dina and I were talking about Nana and Poppy), but since then I've had a heightened sense of appreciation for the fact that yes, life is random, and yes, this could be the last time I see you.

By being present and aware of that, I hope to not live with those emotions in the likely event that something will occur and I will realize that it was the last time I saw/spoke with you.

It may be a banal topic, but walking around with the lens of "it could be the last time," will hopefully insulate from any feelings of John Mackay-esque regret.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Man Cave Upgrade...

So David needs to move out of his office because a new baby is on the way. He doesn't have room for his computer desk.
I am the beneficary.
and now the Man Cave is in Version 2.
Triple monitor action, 1 TV.
It's slick. A modern day mission control.

Movie Review: Dead Man Walking

Dead Man Walking is probably a statement against the death penalty, but you know what? After watching it, I found myself more in favor of it.

I think what got to me most was not sympathy with the Sean Penn character, rather with the parents of the murdered teenagers. I couldn't help thinking about the immense pain that I would feel if G-d forbid, something like that were to ever happen to my kids. I felt the rage, the anger, and the hurt. I could understand why the parents in the film would have wanted to execute Penn themselves.

My only knock on the film...the DVD didn't come with English subtitles (only Spanish), which I need if I'm going to work out while I watch. Annoying.

I give it 4 stars. Acting was tremendous.

The Web Comes to Real Estate...

I have been waiting and waiting for the web technology to take on the residential real estate business. was a start, but here's another entrant.

Very neat.

Buying a home? May be a way to save some money.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Profile Update....

I updaded my LinkedIn profile. Click below and let me know what you think.

Feel free to join my network and/or leave a recommendation as well. Thanks!
(For more on this service, click here)

View Jeremy Epstein's profile on LinkedIn

Blue Jay victory!

Hopkins wins ninth title!!

Dramatic, but we pulled it out.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Learning the basics....

Had lunch with an old friend a few weeks ago. We were discussing the mammoth job that is fatherhood...beyond the basics of shelter, education, etc.

He was talking about showing his son how to throw a baseball and shoot a basketball.

For the past few weeks, I've been grilling Calanit on such questions as:

  1. how many seconds in a minute?
  2. how many minutes in an hour?
  3. how many hours in a day?
  4. how many days in a week?
  5. how many months in a year?
  6. what's our phone number?

These basic skills of life...just as important as some of the macro stuff.

The little things that our parents do for us (like the alphabet), that we never think about, or thank them for. Whoa.

Car Ownership....

Informal blog survey....

What kind of car (make/model/year) do you drive?

My dad and I were talking about the changing nature of automobile ownership and how a small percentage of the cars owned by our family are "American-made."

And 20 years ago, the answers would have been very different, I suspect.

Of course, it's questionable since Toyotas are made in Alabama and some GM's are made in Canada/Mexico, but you get the idea.

As for me, we have two.

  1. 1991 Toyota Corolla
  2. 2003 Hyundai Elantra


How to talk to your kids....

After waking me up a 2nd time to go to the potty, Calanit is standing at the side of our bed, demanding that Tamar "go and see it."

As if we need demonstrable evidence at 2am of our daughter's progress in the potty training arena.

At first, I take a very confrontational tone. Threats of punishments, demands, etc.

We are getting nowhere.

Tamar calls out: "If you wake up your brother, there is going to be a BIG, BIG punishment!"

Calanit is standing next to me. I turn to her and say,

"Tonka, there's a great word in German, Schadenfreude. It means that I will be happy if something not so great happens to you. Now, I love you very much, but I have to admit, I am curious to see what punishment your mother has in mind.  Perhaps your brother could wake up for a few minutes and then go back to sleep. But I've got to say, I am curious."

Calanit is silent for the first time.

A switch goes off in my head...perhaps I should strike a collaborative tone?

I don't remember the exact sentence, but it was something along the lines of....

'aren't you glad that you are able to go to the potty? Remember, Paco can't yet, so you should appreciate it. You can be excited about it, but you have to remember that if it's late, we are tired, and we can celebrate with you in the morning."

That led us into a 30 minute conversation about the benefits of her status as a 3.5 year old.

Eventually, she turned to the door and said, "ok, I am going to bed now."

I learned a big lesson here...the days of telling her what to do and how are numbered. Better figure out how to achieve influence without authority.

Proof of G-d's Existence....

So, I took Calanit to synagogue with me on Saturday. Tamar went to a different one and did the same with Erez.

It was hot. Very hot.

After lunch, we were spent. I didn't say it out loud, but thought to myself:

"I have no doubt that G-d exists, but if both of my kids go down for a nap and my wife and I can as well, the proof will be undeniable."

Well, they did...for 3 hours!

Take that you agnostic unbelievers! :-)

Friday, May 25, 2007

And another 15 minutes can save you 31%....

I said that next on the hit list after 15 minutes can save you 15%...or maybe 28% on auto insurance, was homeowner's.

Well, today, I scored a 31% savings on that front.

I'm telling you, it's worth it to go back once a year and investigate your policies.

Late night check-ins....

One of my favorite things in the fatherhood role...the late night check-in. Seeing two sleeping, growing, little kids. Priceless.

A guaranteed stress reliever.

Marketing is gasoline, not matches...

I posted this on my work blog and thought some of you would be interested.


Once upon a time, the marketing department was a match. It was responsible for lighting a spark and the sales team would fan it to make it grow.

Some sparks would go out, but if you lit enough, some turned into bonfires.

10 years ago, that was the name of the game. Now, it's only 10% of it (and that part needs to be much smarter as I wrote here and here.)

The other 90%?

Well, that's as Seth Godin would say is a matter of "flipping the funnel."

Instead of lighting a match, the marketer's job is to go out, find a flame, and pour a boatload of gasoline on it to blow it up (in a good sense) and turn it into a raging inferno.

It's giving your customers the opportunity to do the marketing for you. And not getting in the way when they WANT to sell for you.

Read this story about a frustrated blogger who WANTS to recommend a great service, but can't figure out how to do it easily.

Fred Wilson calls this "Superdistribution," the process of making every customer a distributor and I think about my relationship with Amazon as a blogger.

I buy a book on Amazon. I like it.

I review it (Book Review: Moneyball, Book Review: Small Is the New Big, Book Review: Made to Stick) on the blog and insert an affiliate link to Amazon.

I sell some books for them and make a small (really small) profit in return.

It's still a few steps and doesn't work for non-publishers, of course, but that's the idea.

So, here's the question...

what are you doing to ignite, encourage, and incentivize your customers to go out and find more customers for you? 

You don't need me to tell you how powerful word of mouth is, so instead of investing money in a traditional marketing campaign...and one you wouldn't necessarily respond to yourself, why not go out, find your passionate users and turn them into your free (or low-cost) salespeople?

Book Review: Shadow of the Wind

"One of the best books of 2007!"

"I couldn't put it down. A page turner!"

"It's one of those rare novels that compels the reader to get lost in the story."

No, these aren't quotes from book reviewers. They are my own words.

A friend of mine at work gave this to me, suggesting that I might like it. What an understatement!

The Shadow of the Wind is set in post-WWII Barcelona and is a story about a book and an author, but much more. The characters are so richly developed (and there are so many that, at times, I had to pause to make sure I had it all straight, but finding out what would happen and how all of the many pieces would eventually come together compelled me to go on. It ties in world history, a cultural appreciation for Spain, and the most common of human emotions and experiences.

I was just impressed that the author could 1) come up with the story 2) develop it and 3) keep it straight.

And, there's a map of a walking tour of Barcelona in the event you visit the city and want to visit the sites/places of importance in the book.

As I read this book, one which highlighted the culture not of "great writers," but of "great readers," (which I felt like as I tore my way through), I was transported to another time and place and thrown back to the great books of my youth, when I would lie in bed and just read for 12 hours straight. Those days are, of course, gone, but I found myself going to bed later and later each night, compelled to read "just one more chapter."

Just brilliant.

And here's an offer...first person to comment say "I'll read it and post a review to this post within the next month" ....I'll send it to you.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Now, this is cool...

Google Earth Flight Simulator.

When you see only what you want to see...

You know those images where it's an old lady and a young lady at the same time?

Sometimes you can see one or the other?

You get so caught up in one that you can't see the other, no matter how hard you try.

Well, this campaign in Canada seems to have fallen for that problem.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Movie Review: The Good Shepherd

If you read the reviews on Netflix about this movie, you will see most people didn't like it.

I can't say that I loved it, though I am sympathetic to the 'it's too long argument.' At just under 3 hours, it was an endeavor. The only good thing for me was that since I have a policy of only watching movies while I am working out on the Nordic Track, I got a lot of exercise in (over 2 nights, but still).

I love Matt Damon...just think he is a great actor. I liked some of the espionage angles and use of technology. I felt for him as a lonely guy. Didn't think it was horrible, but for all of the starpower (DeNiro, Jolie, Baldwin, Turturro-who was great), it probably could/should have been more.

3 stars.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Thank You Notes...

My mom and dad made me write handwritten thank you notes for all of my Bar-Mitzvah gifts. Tamar and I did it for our wedding as well.

We still try to, but admittedly there are times when we default to a quick email note.

Today, however, I was on the receiving end of what was obviously a mass distribution acknowledgement note (the person's parent had passed away).

That's crossing the line, IMHO. (in my humble opinion)

Career Planning...

Had a shake-up within my organization at work today. My boss is leaving, a new sheriff is coming to town, and people are anxious/nervous.

I once saw a sign in Colorado that said:

"Change is not a challenge or a threat; it's an opportunity."

It's life's only constant, right?

So, when I heard that my boss was leaving, I was a bit concerned, yes, but not entirely. I have a career plan that-although not as sophisticated as my end of life plan--has some clear ideas about what's next.

But today was a wake-up call. While I may not be out of a job today, it can't hurt to prepare for the day when that may come.

Instead of freaking out...I put the plan into action.

What's your plan when the inevitable change comes? 

Sunday, May 20, 2007

D.C. Excursions...

I met a woman from Chicago at a Bat Mitzvah a few weeks ago. She told me that when her kids were younger, she made a point of taking them on a unique Chicago excursion at least once per month.

Stuff will always get in the way...birthday parties, trips to Home Depot, etc., but you have to be committed.

So, today, we did what I hope will be the first of our monthly adventures. We had no plan (may be hard for you to believe about me.)

Drove downtown and stopped at Haines Point to see the "Giant coming out of the Ground" and also a visit to the National Sculpture Garden.

My dad joined us on the trip. We spent about 2 hours altogether in the city and it was GREAT. There's so much to see in this city and so easy to take it for granted. We refuse to do that.

A few lessons.

we're going to take the subway in the future. Parking ruins the experience.
  1. there's a higher percentage of people who don't know what they are doing on the roads on Sunday morning.

Since it's not a workday, many familiar drivers are off the roads. This races the proportion of tourists and the elderly.

What's more, for the elderly, it's the proverbial 'little old lady,' since women live longer than men. And, probably, they think it's safer (since it's not a workday) to get out on the roads at that time.

Of course, one day, I'll be an old driver and view things differently.

Thank me? Thank you!

I called Tom Siegman the other day for his birthday.

"I love reading your blog," he said. "Thank you for writing it."

"Are you kidding me? Thank YOU for reading it."

And thanks to you, as well.

Allocation Day....

Today was the day when my mom and her sisters formally divided up Nana and Poppy's possessions.

It was about as smooth and non-confrontational as you could ask for, which was a good thing.

The hard part was the emotional side.

I was doing ok until my mom asked Calanit to choose one of Nana's frogs (that was her collectible of choice) as a keepsake.

That's when I realized there was a chance that my daughter wouldn't remember my grandmother...and the odds of my 21 month old son, running gleefully around the apartment, wouldn't either....made me feel overwhelmed and saddened.

Calanit chose 2 and also got a doll that Nana used to love playing with her.

If someone says to you, "this was your great-grandmother's item," what does that mean to you, if you didn't know the person?

More on Flexibility...

I think a lot about the flexibility I have in my daily schedule. Maybe that's part of the way I compensate for some of my anxieties around money.

Was talking to a friend who said that last week, he got home every night at 2am and was back in the office at 9am.

I thought about my week.

  1. picked up Calanit at school at 1pm
  2. mowed the lawn as afternoon work-break
  3. took a nap one morning
  4. worked from home 2 days
  5. on days when I went to the office, got home no later than 5pm
  6. got paid to work from a baseball game

I do work in the evening and on Sat/Sun. nights, as necessary. The point is...whatever it takes to get the job done. Time doesn't matter, results do.

Would I like to make more money? Of course.

But one of the things that I love about my minor in Economics is that it is the study of trade-offs.

I could, I think, make more $, but what would be the trade-off?

The Lonely Widow...

Went outside on Friday night (after the kids were asleep) to admire my handiwork (I had mowed the lawn) and enjoy the beautiful spring evening.

I looked over at my neighbor's house and saw her sitting at her kitchen table, the Sabbath lights lit behind her.

She was alone.

About a year ago, her husband called me on a Sunday night and asked me to take his garbage to the curb for him.

"My Hodgkins has returned," he said.

I didn't even know he had it. Two weeks later, he was dead.

I thought about all I have...a wonderful wife, two wonderful kids, good health (at the moment) and just felt a pang of hurt imagining her predicament.

I'm not saying she's unhappy. She may not be lonely, but it's hard to imagine that she isn't.

How men think...

Saw a friend of ours who is pregnant. A few minutes prior, I had seen her husband. When asked "how's your wife?" He answered, "she's BIG!"

Now, it may not have been wise for me to tell the wife that the husband said that (she took it with stride), but she said,

"oh, that's what he said when he saw me naked yesterday."

I don't know about how women think (I'm still working on it), but I know how I the image in my mind was clear.

There are definitely days when I wish I could control my brain better.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Think blogs don't have power?

Ask the people who cumulatively lost 4 billion dollars worth of Apple market cap thanks to 1 blogs report. And, oh yeah, it was a false rumor.

Nostalgia at RFK...

Went to a neat event based on the concept of Moneyball at RFK today. Saw the Nats actually win a game (against the Braves).

Made me nostalgic.

When I was younger, my brothers and I would take the subway down to RFK and see the Redskins play. It was fraternal bonding, an opportunity for independence, and a fun time.

Made me appreciate them and the times we had.

Made me also sad about the current state, not only of the team, but of the stadium.

Nowadays, 14 year old boys can't get to a Redskins game easily on their own. The socioeconomic exposure of going to southeast DC and integrating with people from all over gave us perspective on the world.

Those days are over.

Regardless, enjoyed the chance to walk down memory lane.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Kids, Career, and Time

As many nights as possible, I spend a few minutes talking with Calanit about her day. It's usually the same story (who she played with, being the focus), but recently, I've gotten the acute sense of just how quickly my kids are growing up. (see Playground Self-Sufficiency)

Yes, I've made efforts to Cherish Them and in Stopping to smell the roses, but for some reason today, I felt a sea-change in my relationship with them.

I fear sometimes that they will grow up and...poof!...I won't really know them. It's difficult enough knowing yourself and your spouse, but your kids, particularly when the bulk of their days (more and more) are spent away from me.

I took a few minutes this afternoon to play w/Paco and his blocks. For the first time, he said the word "tower" and I was glad to be there. Felt a bit validated, I suppose.

I think I was feeling introspective after reading a post by Fred Wilson about the number of successful entrepreneurs in their 20's and the implication that, after 20, you may have missed that boat. That's not to say that your career is over, but your chance of a grand slam seems to be slimmer.




Serendipity is a great word.

Even though I know my mom reads this blog, in the interest of authenticity and full disclosure, I will say that I learned this word (and its true meaning) from Penthouse magazine, but I digress.

Today, I was working from home and went to pick up Calanit at school.

As I rounded the corner to my street, I saw the UPS truck...I called out to the driver.

"Hey, I've got a package I was about to drop off at a drop box. Can you take it for me please?

Ah, serendipity.

Take a moment to read the wikipedia entry. It's interesting (and no mention of Penthouse magazine, surprisingly enough)

No more phone trees....

A new service called BRINGO offers you the following deal to avoid 'phone trees.'

  • Find the company you'd like to call by category (credit cards, mortgages, loans, health care)
  • Enter your phone # (we will never disclose your phone number to anyone, not even your mother!).
  • Wait a few seconds while we navigate the phone tree.
  • When we call you back, pick up your phone and you're done. No more phone trees.

I haven't tried it yet, but looks very, very interesting. Talk about solving a customer problem.

Technology defeats technology.

The Paradox of Choice

An interesting (20 min) video on the challenges that arise in modern society stemming from an abundance of choice.

Movie Review: Little Miss Sunshine

I sort of struggled through most of this one, waiting for something to happen and giving it momentum because of all of the awards it received.

By the end (and I LOVED/laughed out loud), I had come around. Not to say that it was one of the greatest movies I had ever seen, but certainly an enjoyable one with a good social message.

The acting was, in hindsight, pretty good and the characters were certainly entertaining.

I'd give it 3 stars.

Next up: The Good Shepherd.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Is Powerpoint an aid or a crutch?

"Death by Powerpoint" is a common problem at Microsoft. Most people think that-because they have made slides--that they have an effective presentation.


Some more food for thought in the anti-bad Powerpoint/Presentation jihad (is it non-pc to use that word)...

My favorite quote:

After the hour talk was over I realized that the presentation was a miracle of sorts:

Until that day I didn’t think it was possible to actually listen to someone make a PowerPoint presentation in my native language of English and for me to genuinely not understand a single point that was made. Not one. Nada.

I understood the individual words, the pronunciation and diction were perfect, but between ubiquitous acronyms — and the darting laser pointer used to underline those acronyms — bulleted lists, and colourfully decorated charts and diagrams, after it was all said and done, I realized that I hadn’t comprehended a single idea.

I wanted my hour back.

Monday, May 14, 2007


On the right side of the blog are little items known as "widgets."

Gadi calls them "Blog Bling" but the idea is that they add a bit of value to your blog-reading experience in one way or another.

Perhaps you want to know what is most popular (please continue to rate), or what comments have been left? Links I have bookmarked, etc.

Do you use them? If yes, which ones are valuable? What should go?

Please leave a comment to let me know. Thanks.

15 minutes can save you 15%...or maybe 28%

One thing I've learned re: pays to call re-examine your policy every so often.

The process kicks off when I get a direct mail piece from GEICO about car insurance. I figure, "why not?", but I say to them, "I am going to email you a PDF of my current coverage. I want the EXACT same coverage and just a quote."

The GEICO number comes back EXACTLY 15.3% below my current coverage. Whoa! Neat, huh? (You think they do that on purpose?)

I call Progressive, just to get a third opinion, and they are way more expensive.

Next, I call Liberty Mutual (my current insurance provider)
"I've got a quote from a competitor here that's a lot less than what I pay
with you. Should we negotiate or do I just go with them?"
[I was feeling flush post-Comcast]

Well, amazingly enough, we are now (thanks to 3 years of clean driving) a "preferred customer" and wouldn't you know it?

Our annual auto insurance payment dropped by 28%.

Next: Homeowners insurance.

neat google search trick

try searching Google without ads

Sunday, May 13, 2007


I've taken a new approach to Calanit's clothing.

On Sundays, which is my day, I give her basic parameters "you can't wear a dress or a raincoat" and then say, "after that, it is up to you."

It's not a battle I even want to fight. Too often, an outfit is picked out for her and she's got some issue with it.

When I'm in charge, I have to conserve energy and getting her to match...well, who cares if she wears a rainbow striped shirt and Dora the Explorer print pants? She's happy and heck, she's only a kid once, right?

And, life is about trade-offs, right?

So, I tell her, "with me, you can wear whatever you want...the rest of the week, your mother will choose your outfits, ok?"

She's happy with that deal...and so am I.

My only regret? I didn't take a picture of her outfit today. A true classic. :-)


After a trip to Home Depot and Best Buy, I took the kids to a carousel in a park near our house. (bonus points if you can guess which kid sat on the horse and which kid stood on the platform next to me).

As we went round and round, I held the hand of one and the shirt of the other (the one riding the horse), but I picked up certain scenes of the world going by around us.

Families waiting in line for the next ride.

Kids going down slides in the park beyond.

A stroller, a barbecue, cars, the bored attendant.

Life, as basic as it gets...and yet not.

A moment in time because it was the first time I had evern taken the two of them to this carousel.

This was a groundbreaking moment in my role as a father. Buying the tickets, getting in the line, finding the right horse...these are the little moments that make fatherhood great. And I felt blessed to be so present and aware of what I was doing and what was happening. Just doing my best to cherish them.

Book Review: Education of a Coach

The Education of a Coach is a great investigation of how a driven man can rise to the top of his profession. The story is about Coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots and how he overcame the various challenges of his life to win a seemingly impossible 3 Super Bowls in 4 years.

As a football fan, I enjoyed it, but as a student of American history and one who enjoys immigrant success stories, it was fascinating. What's more, his commitment to "the team" and what that meant was one can achieve success far greater than one's own natural ability...with a solid, well-coordinated team.

It wasn't the thrill ride that "Blind Side" was because it was a bit more cerebral, but it continued the in-depth study of a game that may appear simple on the surface, but is rife with complexities below.

Halberstam is also not necessarily a sports author (though he had written on baseball and Michael Jordan). I very much enjoyed The Reckoning about Japanese business practices and its consequences for American business.

His bio is quite impressive. He died recently in a car accident. Obit here.

This was his final work.

Mother's Day Random Thoughts...

It was one year ago today that the thyroid cancer saga began.

First Mother's Day without Nana.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Mother's Day Gift...

Last week, one of the blogs I read, posts a "Mother's Day iPod Giveaway Contest." (see here) as a part of their CrunchGear brand.

I would never buy one w/my own $ due to corporate loyalty issues, but I figured, "why not?" I'll go for it.

You can see all of the entries here.

And, of course, I wouldn't post if the story didn't end up in my favor :-)

Yes, my wife's mother's day gift is a brand new iPod Nano. I'm going upstairs to give it to her now!

More Kid ROI, right?

Here was my note:

What’s not to love?

My son’s ‘sippee cup’ of milk is placed at the bottom of the heart.

Construction material: Maxi-blocks… spelling “WE Love You”

And, of course, Elmo at hand…

BTW, if you like to follow the Tech world unfold at a blistering pace, you've got to visit TechCrunch.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Mailing lists...

I sent out an email about Hamas using a Mickey Mouse character to teach kids that terrorism is acceptable to my "Jewish Issues" list. 

Mike Drobnis wrote in asking: "so what other lists do you have?"

Here is the answer.

  • Japan Issues
  • Germany Issues
  • Technology
  • Jewish Issues
  • JDS (my high school)
  • JHU (college)
  • Friends of Jer979

You can subscribe to any/all/none of them.

(I have placed you--if you are in my Outlook folder) in the ones I think are relevant (when you get an email from me on that list, you are asked to opt-out if you don't want it).

Blog-the non-communication communication

I went up to Jdub and Keren (2 active blog commenters and both attorneys) a few weeks back and said, "Business must be picking up in the legal world."

"How do you know?"

"No blog comments in a week or so."

Same thing for much so that I called him, "Dude, either you are dead or really busy at work [equally likely for him ;-)], what's going on?] (ok, just kidding on the work thing...sort of.)

And last week, Jacob, "pretty busy, eh?"

"Yeah, it was. Why do you say that?"

"No forwards from the Wall St. Journal this week..."

Even when we aren't communicating, we're communicating.

And, yes, it goes both ways.

Talking to Stewart last week, he said,

"the last few days haven't been such high quality posts...a lot of links, but not real insight."

Hey, it's not just blog readers who are busy.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

T-mobile and the Customer Experience...

For the technologically advanced, one of the most frustrating things is to call tech support and be treated like a novice.

"Yes, I know where the 'start' button is.'

"Yes, the battery is in the cell phone.'

So, it's particularly rewarding when you call tech support and w/in seconds, the rep makes it clear that

  1. he knows he is not talking to an average user
  2. he knows a lot about the subject at hand.

Coming on the heels of Joey's presentation yesterday, this was top of mind for me....the customer experience.

While I think the Dash is a Blackberry killer, I did have one problem I wanted addressed.

Immediately, I was put into the PDA support department and Rudy knew that I didn't want to have my time wasted. We addressed the issue and I felt listened to.

Customer service reps can be cheap or expensive, but you get what you pay for, right?

Isn't it better for me to talk to one expensive guy once than 5 poorly trained/poorly compensated guys over the course of an hour? It's more expensive for the company and more frustrating for me, as the customer.

Invest in your front line folks...they are the first part of each new experience your customer has.

Target's anti-theft device...

Took Paco to Target today and saw something very neat.

We walked out of the store and across the way to the candy machines to check them out. All of a sudden, the cart he was in, stopped rolling. I thought something was stuck in the wheels and was vigorously searching them when an employee came over to tell me that "carts can't go past this point."

Apparently, there's a self-locking mechanism when they go a certain distance from the store.

He had to electronically unjam them. It was wicked cool.

Would be neat to have that on my car, my computer, or a kid..they stop moving (working) when x meters from me.

Holidays...and why they got started

Great analysis by Michael Eisenberg of how American and Jewish holidays got started. Very entertaining.

horrible powerpoint presentations..

more on what not to do.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Blackberry Killer...

This may be bold, but I think Microsoft combined with HTC has created a "Blackberry Killer."

I just installed Windows Mobile 6 on  my T-mobile Dash. It's VERY impressive.

Your email is like your desktop Outlook. You can do instant searches, propose new times for meetings, see who the attendees are, look up people in your company directory, and of course....your email ASAP. The form factor is tremendous. It's got Wi-fi, great battery life, and, among other things, you can play music files.

Check out this video to see more (you only need the first few minutes) 

Punctuality vs. Tardiness...

There are people who are always on time and there are people who are always late. And yes, there are some in the middle, but most gravitate towards one side.

Time is everyone's most valuable commodity and in the division between punctual and tardy people, the punctual people lose most cases.

It comes down to respect for the other person.

If I'm punctual and I show up at 10am (or 9.50) for our 10am appointment and you don't (assuming nothing catastrophic of course and it's just poor planning), you are basically saying that my time isn't important to you.

When you show up late for a customer appointment, you are saying that you don't respect the customer's time...the reverse is true as well.

Do you want to start a business (or other) relationship with someone who doesn't value your time? Not an auspicious beginning.

Tardy people don't realize that their poor planning is sending a message about themselves and the way they view other people.

Fortunately for punctual people, they've come to realize that most of the world isn't punctual and while they can't help but being on time (and even though they know that the tardy people will, in all likelihood, be tardy), they are going to prepare for it.

Still, if you are normally late for things, and you are trying to make an impression (or at least a good one), think about how the tone is set when you show up late.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Blog as reference material....

Get a call from David tonight. He tells me, "I was talking to Gadi and told him that I was thinking of going to Nemacolin for my 10th wedding anniversary. He said you had just been there, so I consulted the blog and have a few follow up questions."

As I've said before, it's a repository of knowledge for any and all. :-)

Happy 10th anniversary, David and Mandi.


I spent the bulk of the past few days in meetings...and while they were interesting, I think you lose people after 45 minutes.

Perhaps it harkens back to how long your high school classes were or something, but a 15 minute break every hour would, IMHO, make a big difference in getting valuable participation from your attendees.

Obviously, attendees should come back on time (more on that later) and there are times when there is just a lot to cover, but more often than not, if you are looking for fresh ideas, give people a chance to regroup.

If I were the godfather of meetings, I'd integrate these suggestions on how to conduct meetings

Zoo Part 2

I guess my aunt Susan isn't as blog-shy as I thought.
Kudos to her for going with us to the zoo last Friday.
See her comments on this post and this post.

Movie Review: Swordfish

Not sure what type of mood I am in that draws me to movies like Swordfish and Inside Man. In both of them, bank robbers, with ostensibly noble motives achieve their objectives and "get away with it".

What I liked about Swordfish included: the storyline...Like Inside Man, I found myself trying to sort it all out afterwards. Still thinking about it. Sign of a good movie.

Travolta was solid, reminding me a bit of his role in Basic, and Halle Berry (pretty sexy in her role) and Hugh Jackman (redeeming himself from van Helsing) also did a nice job.

The questions that the movie raised: "would you kill 1 innocent to save 1 million innocents?" was posed in a fascinating way.

Plus, the techno-gadget angle was, as to be expected, quite enjoyable.

Monday, May 07, 2007


After you put the kids to bed, there's still the rest of life to deal with. Bedtimes (for me) just get later and later.

Kids, somehow, no matter what time they go to bed, get up at the same time (or earlier).

The last few days have been particularly rough...don't know why.

After an early morning wake-up, I somehow managed to get Calanit to go back to sleep...on the living room floor, lying next to me.

This parenting thing isn't easy.

Book Review: Where We Stand

My mother-in law gave Where We Stand: 30 Reasons for Loving Our Country

I alternated between a nostalgic feel for my youth when I failed to see the imperfections of America and was caught up in the noble ideals upon which the country was founded and a more recently developed cynicism of "people don't really feel that way."

But, as he wrote, I harkened back upon my experiences living overseas. I remembered the conversations I had with Europeans who said, "America has no culture. It is hamburgers and movies," implying that the rich music, artistic, and other contributions somehow trumped America.

On the surface, it may seem that way because America is both simple and complex.

Roger Rosenblatt, a self-avowed liberal (but one who strikes me as remarkably even-keeled) beautifully articulates what I tried to explain to my European friends. It's not about music or art, but how we think and act. That's what makes America such a remarkable place. He knows there is room for cynicism and criticism and it's healthy, but he gives you perspective on what it really is all about and how there really is no other place like it in the world..and for that, Americans should be grateful.

When I was 14, I traveled through the (then) USSR, communist Poland and East Germany for 2 weeks with my dad.

When we got to West Berlin, outside of the Checkpoint Charlie museum, I remember thinking-for the first time-how happy I was to have been born in a free society.

For all of its warts, Rosenblatt shows us the beauty that is within.

P.S. He also wrote another great book I read called Rules for Aging. It's the personal to the national view he takes in the other book. Happy Reading

Sunday, May 06, 2007

When mom leaves early...

and dad does your hair...

The Apprentice: Surprise Party

My mom's birthday is in February, but because of the death of Nana and Poppy bookending the date, we decided to postpone the event until this morning.

It felt like a task on the Apprentice (other cites here), with my sister, Dina, as project manager...and she did a phenomenal job.

First of all, she managed to keep our mom, who is a professional organizer and whose job it is to know EVERYONE's business, in the dark...completely.

20 people met my mom at a parking lot as a surprise for her morning walk with a friend. During that time (we were watching from a hidden location for her departure), a number of cars rolled in and in an Extreme Makeover-Surprise Party edition, we turned the house over into a party atmosphere.

Dina was in control and the team came together beautifully for a wonderful one getting fired tonight.

A great day and a nice emotional uplift during what has been an otherwise emotionally challenging year.

Stopping to smell the roses...

It was a gorgeous day on Friday and my work schedule was such that I could take the kids to the zoo.

Was there stuff to be done? Of course, but I really try to balance Money vs. Flexibility and remember the saying, "on your death bed, will you say, 'I wish I had spent more time at the office.'"

It's not easy to step back and say, "I am going to do something memorable today." The pressures of daily life get to me, like everyone else.

But, sometimes, you just have to do it...and put yourself at that point many years down the road, remembering the moment where you played hooky from work and went to the zoo....with your kids.

Social Faux Pas...

I was at synagogue today and began a conversation with someone on the fringes of my social circle. I know her, but for whatever reason, I mistook Julie for Brenda.

I made a comment to Julie that must have puzzled her.

Only later, did I realize that it was in fact Julie, not Brenda.

The question...should I go up to Julie and tell her what happened or just let it ride?

The "Wow" and Marketing Speak...

My brother, Asher, is one of the harshest critics of new technologies. He's an early adopter, but he really puts things to the test in terms of value before he proclaims them worthwhile.

He came over yesterday and I showed him my new laptop. "I haven't seen Vista or Office 2007."

Three minutes later, he said, "stop selling...I am installing this as soon as I get home."

In Vista, I showed him 2 things.

Instant Search and Flip 3-D (pictured) [interestingly enough, as soon as he saw it, the first and only word was WOW! Which is particularly interesting, since that is the marketing slogan.)

In Office 2007, I showed him
Conditional Formatting in Excel and Smart Art in PowerPoint.

Just neat to see his reaction....

Friday, May 04, 2007

Learning the Alphabet...

Do you remember learning, actually learning, the alphabet?

Every day, it seems, we watch Brainy Baby (either left or right brain) and today, I was impressed as Erez was clearly trying to say the letters.

In fact, he knows some of them and he knows the order. So for example, he knows "A, B, C, D, H, O, R, U, Y, Z" by sight but he also knows, sort of, when they are coming.

So the DVD may be on L or M and he'll start shouting "O!!!" and get excited when it finally gets there. Then, once "R" is done, he begins with "U".  Very neat to see the development.

Caught myself in a reflective moment, years from now, with (hopefully) a literate, grown son who doesn't even think about the alphabet and appreciating the fact that I was sitting there (and aware of the fact that I was sitting there) at this critical stage in his life...and that I'll have a memory to hold on to.

These moments happen every single day, and they are fleeting. I felt blessed that I caught this one.

The Implications for You of Web 2.0

Remember how I talked about my e-commerce day?

Take a look at this article and see how things are going to get even easier/better.

The life of a technologist...

It is inevitable....once one thing starts working, something else stops working.

Last night, I set it up so that I could watch all of the recorded TV from my Vista Ultimate PC on my new Vista Ultimate Toshiba laptop over the wireless network. Very cool.

And, of course, 2 hours later, 2 of my X-10 switches stopped working. So frustrating!!

Technophilia: a ticket to manic depression.

Thursday, May 03, 2007


Thanks to Stewart's swift kick in the rear, I got back on the phone with Comcast to resume my Negotiation Efforts.  It took a while as I had to make my point more than a few times that I did not want more channels and I did not want to pay more than $40/month.

Three of my favorite lines (that I used :-), were

"if you tell me that you have to hold the line at $60/month and no matter how high we go, even up to Brian Roberts (CEO), then that's fine, I just want to know that."

And in response to the offer of "more channels at the $60/month rate, including Sprout and other kids stuff."

"Do you have kids?


Let me tell you then that you can show a kid the same episode of Dora the Explorer every day for 2 weeks and you won't get a complaint. The extra channels don't do it for me."

And when the rep said, "we're giving you a package that's worth $100 for only $60."

"Actually, it's not worth $100, because I am telling you that if you give me a million channels, it's not worth more than $40. If the customer says it's not worth $100, then it's not worth $100 and I am telling you that saving the $20 per month is more important to me so I can buy groceries than having more channels."

Look, if I can get the same channels from Verizon for $42/month as I can from you for $60, why wouldn't I do that? You would.

And then he did the "let me put you on hold and see what I can do...."

Bottom line: 2 free months (for my troubles in trying to get a response) and a year at $40/month plus free digital upgrade package (which I don't even care about) to boot.

Calling my bluff...

I made the annual birthday call to Stewart, one of the blog's most loyal readers.

When I call people on their birthdays, I ask for the "90 second update on your life."

After that, people ask me the same.

My glib response...'if you want to know, check out the blog."

Stewart, who I would put on my all-funniest person team, called my bluff.

"I do and I'm not satisfied. I don't know what happened with the Renuzit stuff from Dial, you haven't updated me on comcast, is Calanit still having tantrums? You call that service?!

And the last few days haven't been such high quality posts...a lot of links, but not real insight."

Touche, Stewie.

Renuzit-I've emailed them twice. The customer service rep said they'd forward it along. I've heard NOTHING.

Comcast-i've emailed them four times (I know, I need a life) and they promised they'd forward it along...NOTHING. I think I may cancel today and call Verizon.

And check this out...the metamucil product manager emails me and says, "I see that you posted the letter I sent you with my contact info. Would you please take that down?"

I think I 2 months :-)

Sorry, Stewart...I will try and do better. And, hey, Happy Birthday!

The Future of IW....

In Microsoft-speak, "IW" means "Information Worker" and Bill Gates outlined a vision for what that might look like two years ago.

Last night, after a bit of hassle installing SQL Server 2005 on my Toshiba M7 laptop, I got a glimpse of the next quantum leap....namely empowering end-users to make much smarter business decisions through access to better data.

I installed the data-mining add ins for Office 2007 and all I can say is, in my humble opinion, the future of marketing is WAY different than the past.

(Take a look at the tutorials...though the webcast link seems to be broken)

It's taking the concepts in Moneyball and Competing on Analytics (reviewed by my friend, Auren Hoffman) and applying it to business.

I minored in Economics and took Statistics...and I am glad that I did, because now, I can take a spreadsheet (and combined with the great inherent visualization capabilities of Excel 2007) start figuring out the answers to questions such as:

  1. which customers are likely to be most profitable and where should I go to meet them
  2. what are the key influencers in making a purchase decision
  3. is there a way to segment/categorize my customer base other than how I am looking at it.

I have a guy in Redmond who is a Mathematics Ph.D who works solely on these questions, but he uses a $25k software package (and a lot of SQL Server 2005 as well) to make it work.

Now, I can do some of that myself.

This is just awesome.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

More on the Music Album...

A while back, I posted on my friend Andy and his effort to reinvent the meaning of a music album.

Here's a good article on how sales are starting to move in that direction (sub req'd). Thanks to Chris Anderson's Blog for the can get the gist there.

The Blessings (and Cost) of Friendship...

People often compliment me on my ability to stay in touch over time and distance. I truly value people and holding on to relationships is something that is dear to me. At last count, there were 862 active emails on the Friends of Jer (FOJ) list. That's the good news.

It's not free, however.

I am not talking about the cost of a call (zero), keeping someone in my Outlook contacts database (free), no...I am talking about the fact that I get an email for every single charitable walk/ride/swim you can imagine.

It gets expensive....

But my wife points out..."if you didn't have friends and you didn't have money to support their worthy causes, you'd be a lot worse off."

So true....keep those solicitations coming!!! (and my company matches $ for $, btw)

It's great to see all of the things people are involved in.
  1. Susan G. Komen Foundation (Christine Zmuda)
  2. Hazon DC Bike Ride (Michele Fisher)
  3. LA MS Walk (Joel haber)
  4. 3 day walk-San Diego (Bethel Nathan)...can't find link

and from now on, I'll post any solicitations I receive on the blog.

Playground Self-Sufficiency

We're at a new parenting stage...

I took the kids to the park the other day and realized, despite the fact that Erez enjoys doing pull-ups and climbing everywhere, that the kids are basically self-sufficient on the playground apparatus.

They have balance and sense of what they can and cannot do.

Fascinating to watch them develop.

Here is "the boy" riding the 'running board' of the grocery cart the other day...such a thrillseeker.

Don't Count Microsoft Out...

I'm not a developer, but the blogosphere is abuzz with Microsoft's new development platform "Silverlight."

Here's Robert Scoble's take on it....there are hundreds more. Fascinating. View article...

Cherish Them....

We had a rough morning with Calanit. A big screaming tantrum, despite the fact that we were trying to do something nice for her.

Very, very frustrating.

Was speaking to a friend today who has a 13 year old daughter.

"I just got a text message from her that says 'leave me alone, you jerk.' Cherish them while they are little."

When Calanit came home from school today, she picked up where she left off...and in fact, came into the man cave, crying, while I was on the phone with the same person.

I tried to console her and asked her what I could do for her.

"Give me lots of hugs."

This parenting thing isn't easy.

Subliminal Advertising

This is really something...understanding (or not) what influences your thinking.