Friday, June 29, 2007

"You're a Liar!"

My buddy, Rabbi Herzfeld, writes in:

I felt the need to tell this man that he was a liar and that he should stop trying to deceive people by telling unaffiliated Jews that its ok for Jews to believe in Jesus.

It's great in this Politically Correct age when people aren't afraid to fight for what they believe in.

There's a big push now by the "Jews for Jesus" in the DC area.

You go, Rabbi!


Emily Waldman (a friend from high school) once made a profound comment to me.

"When I listen to my discman [pre-iPod era], I think of the music as the soundtrack to my life."

I was playing with Paco today in the basement. You know the game where you can't let the balloon hit the ground...

Eventually, he makes his way over to our CD tower (which we never use, of course) and pulls out Music from the Movies.

What the heck? I put it on for him and we continue to play.

It's amazing, though how music can really create a mood for you.

The first song (they were all instrumental versions) was "I Will Always Love You," from The Bodyguard (haven't seen it).

But Paco and I seemed to have the same reaction.

We both calmed down. He curled up next to me.

I felt a glow within me and I realized that my kids have given me something...the ability to FEEL in a whole new way, that I didn't have before.

My brother-in-law [this would be my wife's brother] said to me before Calanit was born.

"You love your wife, yes, but you REALLY love your kids. You'll see."

He's right, of course, and I thought how this song "I Will Always Love You" does refer to the way that I feel about them. Despite the fact that they will, unfortunately and most likely, do things that anger, disappoint, frustrate, and upset me.  No matter what I will indeed always love them.

And it was that feeling I was experiencing and of which I was acutely aware at that moment. And one that I knew I hadn't had in the pre-kid days.

This song was the soundtrack of my life at that moment. It was, in music, reflecting the emotion of the story that is my life.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Movie Review: Capote

I remember reading In Cold Blood in high school, which is part of what motivated me to watch this movie. I remember being intrigued, but not utterly gripped by the novel. Maybe I was too young.

And maybe I am too young now. The acting was superb, no doubt, but the speed of the movie was just way too slow for me. I felt like the first 75% was at 10mph, then 15% at 35mph and then, the last 10% about 25mph. I never felt enraptured by it.

Apparently, from the time the murders took place until the time Capote finished writing the book was about 6 years...which is how long the movie felt like.

2.5 stars.

Parent Job Description...

Cute forward...very true. see here.

Hat tip to my cousin Melanie...

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Changing Perception, Changing Value

For years, I thought of myself as "cutting" or "bleeding" edge when it came to technology matters. I prided myself on being one of the first to know about a new website, a new gadget, etc. I enjoyed being the "virtual Chief Technology Officer" for a large portion of my network.

Over the past few weeks, however, I've had to challenge that perception of myself.

First with Kayak, then with Veoh (ht: josh halpern), and now with Facebook, I feel like I am behind the curve.

It's Facebook, more than any other, that is causing me consternation. It's interesting and all, but I am not passionate about it the way others seem to be...I don't get why it's so fantastic. (For the record, I felt that way about MySpace)

The fact that I don't get it gives me concern that my technology mind is, to some extent, ossifying.

The question that I face (and we all do as we age, I suppose) is:
given that there is always someone younger, smarter, and willing to work
harder than we are, what can we do to maintain or
better increase our value to

I have some answers, but will address in a later post.

What do you think?

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Different rules...

I went to pick up Tonka at school yesterday. Paco didn't feel like changing out of his Elmo slippers, so....
I know my wife wouldn't have taken the same approach, but hey, that's what Dads are for, right?

World Wife Carrying Championships...

So, if I can convince my spouse to participate in the World Wife Carrying Championships, would you be willing to help sponsor the trip to Finland?

Thinking like an innovator...

A fantastic presentation by Guy Kawasaki (about 55 minutes) that is worth the watch.

This refers not just to the products or services you sell, but also about how you present yourself. 

Monday, June 25, 2007

Intense overview of the Middle East

A conversation with Paco...

Paco's got a habit of getting up around 6am.

The normal M.O. is to get him downstairs and give him breakfast. What I've historically done is get him settled and then made myself a much needed cup of coffee After that, I sit at the table and read a paper or magazine.

The other day, I began that process and then I heard a voice say, "Talk to me!"

It was clear as could be.

The boy has really begun to form sentences.

"Look at me!" from the top of the little playhouse where he balances himself precariously.

"I want to play with the purple ball and the blue ball and the yellow ball...and what else?"

Just so great to watch this happen again.


I treat my kids differently. Calanit listens to most commands. Paco doesn't.  Sometimes when he doesn't listen, it's an issue of safety that's involved (e.g. playing with the doors). When I react, sometimes I raise my voice. I wish I didn't, but if there's one area of my parenting that needs work, it is this one (there isn't one, but for argument's sake, we'll say there is).

I don't mean to imply that I am yelling my head off all the time, but I've noticed with Paco, I tend to do it more. Most of the time, I think, it's safety (like when I took them to the pool yesterday), but I want to arrest it at most. I know that raising your voice doesn't necessarily add much in terms of parenting...and probably accelerates his tuning me out.

I'm open to suggestions...

Growing up...

Took Calanit to the 1st day of camp today. It's at her school, but she's in a new room with new teachers.

I watched her through the door and thought back to last year, first day of school.

She was clinging, she was afraid.

Now, she went right in, found her friends and was ready to go (I did get a hug and a kiss before I left, so my little girl isn't totally grown up yet), but it was a moment of marking the passage of time.

Microsoft Surface Parody

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Movie Review: Last King of Scotland

I was a little disappointed that the end of the movie only had two sentences about the Israelis coming into Entebbe and rescuing the hostages, as I would have enjoyed seeing Idi Amin getting his comeuppance. 

I thought Forest Whitaker was just awesome as the "Last King of Scotland" and reminded me why we enjoyed watching him so much when he was starring on ER.

The movie, of course, deals with yet another sad chapter in African history (see Hotel Rwanda). The slaughter of 300,000 Ugandans, how absolute power corrupts absolutely, and the cruelty that humans can inflict upon each other. The movie makes you think about "ok, what will it take to get Africa on the right track?" [and here's an African economist who says 'stop the aid! It does more harm than good!']

In an interesting twist, it touched on the catalyst for the movie Mississippi Masala, but from another perspective.

As a history buff, one who was familiar with Amin beforehand, and likes to learn about places which I hardly understand (i.e. Africa), this was a good movie.

I'll say 4 stars.

Two decades of PowerPoint: Is the world a better place?

 You know how I feel about the way people abuse PowerPoint. Here's a good one.

Presentation Zen: Two decades of PowerPoint: Is the world a better place?

On the field...again

Felt good as a father today. Made every minute count. Or as I like to say, "left it all out on the field."
  1. Woke up with Paco at 6:30am.
  2. Arranged for my 60 year old neighbor to sit in the living room while Paco napped and I took Tonka to her swimming lesson (she did great).
  3. Changed at the pool, came home, grabbed the boy, went to Tonka's friend's birthday party. Got there late, in time for pizza and cake.
  4. Left for a pool party/BarBQ of some friends of ours. Not the easiest watching 2 non-swimming kids for 2 hours alone, but did it.
  5. Went to Home Depot for 30 minutes.
  6. Came home for 20 minutes.
  7. Went to another BarBQ/outdoor activity event.
  8. Finally, got the kids home and in bed.

Non-stop, but fun. This is what it's all about.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Change...thoughts on it.

I've always liked this.

Saw it in Colorado in May, 2002.

Blogging, Rumination, and Western Civilization...

One of the problems with being a compulsive blogger is that you feel the need to blog about how you are feeling at that moment. So, for example, when I finished Crash, I immediately blogged it. Initial reaction. Done. There, move on to the next thing.

The challenge then is, sometimes, you don't leave room for rumination. Although, I guess you do, if it's a good movie. Which Movie Review: Crash was.

So, there's a scene in the movie where a bunch of Asians are obviously being smuggled illegally into the US and there's a debate about what to do with them.

It got me thinking about the US and the future of Western Civilization.

On the one hand, I'm concerned about where we're headed in terms of numbers (illegal, that is) and the cultural changes that come about from that. It's in the US and globally (see here, here, and here most of all).

On the other hand, no matter what the "Blame America" crowd says, we seem to have a really, really good thing going.

As Tony Blair said,

"A simple way to take measure of a country is to look many want in...and how many want to get out."

Appreciating what we have here is something I haven't taken for granted since age 14 and recognizing that I am here because of the foresight of my ancestors awes me.

The fact that my paternal grandparents, among others, had the vision and the gumption to say, "I want to have a better life for my future generations," is simply profound. The way they altered the history and course of my life is incredulous.

There's a great moment in Amistad, where the leader of the African slaves is asked what he is going to do to help win the trial. His answer,

"I am bringing the power of my ancestors because at this moment, I represent their sole reason for being."

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Movie Review: Crash

An intense and a bit melodramatic film that makes you think about how you think about people and racial stereotypes. A bit on the dark side of human nature, but enveloping, intricate, and encompassing.

With so many characters involved, you don't get a lot of time with each one, yet the director does a tremendous job of pulling you in with a only a little bit of information so that you can identify with them.

At times, it's so over top as to be unbelievable, but that's intentionally done so that you have to question yourself about the underlying premise to the situation.

Of course, there's one scene where a wife goes to her husband's place of work and apologizes to him for a fight. As I told my spouse, "when I saw that, I just couldn't trust anything in the film. That just doesn't happen!"


4.5 stars

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Remember (the) Maine...

One of the rallying cries of the 1898 Spanish-American War was "Remember the Maine!"

It is one of my rallying cries as well, but for a different reason.

In the summer of 1993, I had a girlfriend named Becca who was working as a camp counselor in Maine.

One Saturday morning in synagogue, my brother Barak turns to me and says, "hey, what about jumping in the car tonight after the Sabbath ends, driving all night to Maine, spending the day with Becca and then driving back all night? You'll be back in time for work on Monday and it'll be a great memory/bonding trip for us."

I demured. I had 'obligations' on Sunday, like mowing clients' lawns, etc.

The next year, it was the first night of Rosh Hashana, a time for reflection in general, Barak says to me,

"Hey, remember that day I asked you to drive to Maine with me?"


"So, what did you do that day?"

It hit me like the proverbial ton of bricks. Instead of choosing to make a lifelong memory, I had chosen to not make one.

Since then, when faced with a moment's opportunity that would be lasting and most likely never come again, I have said to myself, "Remember [the] Maine!" and it's allowed me to focus on what is important.

About 3 weeks ago, I received an invitation to the wedding of a friend I met in Japan. I knew he was engaged, but wasn't sure we would be invited. What's more, I hadn't received a "Save the Date" or anything like that.

Well, the invite came and while I was intrinsically motivated to go, I thought of the numerous practical considerations.

  1. time and cost associated with a mid-summer cross-country trip to Oakland
  2. leaving my wife to care for our kids while I went on a non-work essential trip
  3. the fact that I would be REALLY tired in doing a there and back in 24-48 hours

Usually, I get an invite and send it back the next day. I know immediately if I am in or out.

This time, I waffled. I even wrote a long note (which I didn't send) to my friend apologizing for not being able to make it. I put it in the outgoing mail pile. Then, something made me take it out.

I continued to mull. Very unusual.

I called another friend from Japan, named John [for those of you who have heard the term 'good value', he is the originator of that one]. We chatted. Well, he really listened and I thought out loud.

When, all was said and done, I knew what had to be done.

Thankfully, the money won't break me. Yes, I'll be tired, but you know what? I'm always tired :-)

I have an opportunity to create a lifelong memory. In 25 years, what will I remember and cherish more?

Ticket is booked. 48 hours to/from Oakland.

Remember the Maine!

Monday, June 18, 2007

Communication and Change...

Last week, I got into a bit of hot water for an email that I sent up the chain of command.

When I wrote it, I felt totally confident and noble in my objective (of course, right?!). I wanted to make the organization better, I was passionate about it, and I had data to back up my claim.

Well, the response I got wasn't so warm. In fact, it was chilly. Even downright cold.

I was puzzled by this and over the weekend raised it with a friend who is a psychologist.

"Look," he said. "There's a small group of people who are never satisfied with the status quo. You sincerely think you can do better. You are inherently motivated to improve. That's the positive. The flip side is that you need to really think about how you communicate your objectives to your superiors.

When you don't couch it right, you are basically calling them 'fucking idiots' [his words but left in to deliver the desired emphasis].

Now, no one likes to be called a 'fucking idiot' so unless you express it in the right way, your idea is going to die on the vine."

A great lesson for all of us who think of ourselves as change agents. A new perspective I hadn't had before. Sometimes you have to learn the hard way.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Conversation with an author...concluded

So, all I'll say is that the conversation with Dan Pink, author of "A Whole New Mind" went fabulously well.

So well, in fact, that I'm getting props on his blog :-)

[his permalink system is pretty poor, so see and look for my name]

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Father's Day in a whole new light...

I wasn't just teary eyed. I was sobbing. Weeping. Literally.

Three pages into Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters (Calanit's Father's Day gift to me based on a recommendation from her mother's boss), I was an emotional wreck.

Immediately, I was regretting the mistakes I had made as a father to date and thankful that, relatively speaking, I still had ample time to fix them.

For anyone with a daughter for whom he cares, this book is a MUST read.

As I read on and on (157 pages on the 1st night alone and up until 1am), I thought back to the evening 3.5 years ago and the Birth of Calanit Dora Epstein. I told people that on that day, "gun ownership started making sense to me."

This was a girl, a precious being, that it was my duty to protect and defend. I insisted that I was preparing myself for the day when she would confront "the enemy." And, as I said, "I know the enemy because I WAS the enemy."

This book reignited that fervent passion for the duty I have undertaken. And it's probably high time to go back and reread the great collection of Advice on Fatherhood from all of you.

I am not joking about this.

The book, written by a female doctor whose evidence, anecdote, and experiences stem from her medical perspective, highlights the increased risk that girls (and she's only talking about girls in this book) when a strong father figure isn't involved.

  • increase risk of depression, drug use, and multiple sexual partners
  • inability to form close, meaningful relationships (particularly with men)
  • increase risk of STD's

Some folks may see this and laugh or challenge the findings, but I am not willing to bet my daughter's life on their opinion. I am going to bet on my own.

I've said that "whoever says a boy and a girl are the same, doesn't have a boy and a girl" and what I meant by that was how they behaved, less so how I treated them. Up until now, I've joked about a double standard in how I treat them with regards to the pressures and risks they face in the world. Now, I am not joking. I am more than ok with the idea of a double standard.

The world treats young girls differently than young boys. The dangers are different, so I've got to prepare my kids differently and you know what? That's what I am going to do.

Every boy, growing up, has a big dream. A firefighter, a basketball/football player, president, etc. What do they have in common, the author asks?  Well, every boy wants to be a HERO.

"Idiot!" she basically yells, "there is someone who thinks you are a hero already and she's living in your house!" [and it's not your wife :-) addition there]

Her view of men is going to be shaped by what you say and do. How you defend her. How you expect her to behave. It's a massive, massive, massive responsibility but the consequences of abdicating that responsibility are, for her, potentially enormous. You can't afford to do that. And I am not going to.

I was speaking with two friends at synagogue this morning. One, a woman, whose father has since passed, was equally emotional as I explained the impact of this book on me, told of her father and how he was, in fact, her hero. It made me think of Poppy and the relationship he had with his daughters.

The other friend referred to an article in today's Wall St. Journal about a woman, now in her mid-thirties, whose father died when she was 8 and how, to this day, the impact his character has had on her.

It's easy to think that we have all of the time in the world, but we don't. And it's important to remember. You never know what might happen to you or, God Forbid, your kid (see Book Review: A Legacy of Hope).

At 11pm last night, I was so emotionally charged, I wanted to go and wake up the Tonka, just to give her a hug. Luckily, I got talked out of it, but I made sure today that I was fully present and aware of what I was doing in my interactions with her.

Did I spend every minute with her? No. Dote on her? No. Grant her every wish? Absolutely not. That's not what strong fathers do. What they do is mold character, demonstrate a life of character, listen, defend, and, most importantly perhaps, simply pay attention.

Tonight, as I read Calanit the story of "Cinderella" from Disney's Princess Collection, I was struck by how this fairy tale was probably shaping her view of the world...that she too was a princess, that she too would find her prince charming.

And, if I do my job right, she will, but she'll find one that her father approves. And she'll do it on her own because of the nature of the relationship that we will have built will lead her to the conclusion that that is the only right choice to make.

Of course, if she does make a mistake, I'll be there for her with a big hug...and for him, I'll get the shotgun.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Playing the game...

I've realized over the past few weeks that, as it relates to offers and incentives, I enjoy 'playing the game' and/or characterized as "sticking it to the man."

Mind you, I don't do anything unethical, I stick to the rules and just make sure that "I win."

Winning, I believe, comes down to 2 things.

Remembering and Acting.

What system you use doesn't matter at all. It's just that you do it.

A few examples.

When I bought my ticket using Kayak the other night, there were 2 offers presented to me at the end of transaction.

One from Shoppers Advantage and one from Great Fun.

Great Fun offered me $50 back on the purchase of my flight, in exchange for a 2 month free trial ($10.99/month after that).

The key here is:

  1. you need to follow all of the rules for getting your $50
  2. you need to remember to cancel w/in your 2 month free trial (if you don't want it, which I don't)

Shoppers Advantage offered $40 in free gas.

Now, they didn't actually send me the coupon until I followed up w/them 2 days later (by which they said they would send the coupon), when of course they did. The game plan here. Get my $20 (not really $40, since its $10/quarter) and cancel before the 2 months is up.

Same for the tickets and shopping spree (so far, I've invested $90 in these, so we'll see if it works out), but I'm on top of a hawk.

The game here, at least for Great Fun and Shoppers Advantage is that they are betting (correctly) that more people will forget than remember.

More people will forget to activate their benefits and more people will forget to cancel their membership during the free trial and more people will forget to cancel their membership even after the monthly $10.99 bill is charged (since most people don't notice those $ amount charges, right?)

As a business, it makes sense, they make a lot of money, but there's a bad taste in my mouth because it is based on people not remembering something.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

More chefworks...

Another pizza of which I am proud.

For previous examples, see here.

Father's Day...and the missing man formation

Since members of our family will be in different locales next Sunday, we decided to have a mini-Father's Day activity last week.

In memory of Poppy and to honor his service in the US Army Air Corps as a Flying Tiger in WWII, we went to the new US Air Force Memorial.

There's a moving glass engraving of the "Missing Man" formation, which is flown in memory of a fallen airman.

Of course, we were there to remember and honor our own missing man, for the first time this Father's Day.

It really is a beautiful memorial, with three arcs that ascend skyward.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Dating the married way....

A few weeks ago, I get a postcard in the mail that says:

"You have been selected to receive 2 free round-trip tickets anywhere Delta flies in the US AND a $500 shopping spree!"

I call the number and find out that, if I bring my wife and sit through a 90 minute sales pitch from Great Escapes Vacation packages, we are eligible.

So, I say to my spouse..."how'd you like to go out on a date with me to listen to their pitch?"

She agrees and we decide that our frame of reference is just to have a good time with each other.

Figuring we have nothing to lose, we drive to Tysons Corner (through torrential rain) and arrive at 7.58 for the 8pm presentation.

We are told, "we're running a bit behind, but we will telescope the presentation, so you get out of here at the same time."

We wait...and wait...and wait. Finally, at 8.30pm, we are called into the room.

Now, during the waiting time, I had asked the receptionist, a young looking guy, for the business card of the person in charge, so when the salesperson sits us down (prior to the main presentation) and says, "there's no way you'll get out of here by 9.30," I have no choice but to act.

"Look, as a salesperson, your word is your bond. You committed to us that we would be out of here at 9.30 and we would receive our vouchers and our shopping $ at that time. Now, you are saying that isn't the case. I don't think that's acceptable."

She goes over and gets the boss whose card I have. I address him by name and title.

"How do you know that?" he asked.

I show him his card.

He tries to cajole. He offers us a chance to come back for more. I insist he's got an obligation to meet.

Bottom line: after 8 minutes, we walk out of there, vouchers/certificates in hand and we don't even have to listen to the vacation packages pitch.

On the way there, my date took a nap in the car. On the way home, she got a call from her sister.

Ah, dating as a married couple :-)

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Movie Review: Love Actually

My colleague recommended Love Actually and I am glad that she did. A clever, cute, romantic comedy in the British tradition. Some sorrow, some heart tugs, and some tears. It tells multiple stories at once and how love is not clear cut...the definition is different and people's experiences are as well.

I watched it over 2 nights and was fortunate enough to have the love of my life (not named due to blog restrictions) watch the emotional ending with me.

A truly star-studded cast including Hugh Grant, Liam Neeson, Colin Firth, Emma Thompson, Alan Rickman, Keira Knightley, and Rowan Atkinson. Very well done.

 One request of'd be neat if I could make a note in my queue reminding me WHO suggested the movie. Usually, by the time I get to a movie, I can't remember whose recommendation it was.

So Iran is like Alabama?

and Norway is like Minnesota?

Check this out...a very cool map and story.

Just watch this...

I PROMISE YOU. IT'll be worth it..

Monday, June 11, 2007

It all pays off...

What Ephraim called "the post of the year," has paid off.

I used my free ticket voucher and the 30,000 free miles I picked up thanks to the credit cards towards 4 tickets for flights to Minneapolis for my brother's wedding.

I had to use an add'l 20k miles I had and buy one outright ($321), but all in all, a good deal.

The only major problem was that I had a rookie representative when I was redeeming my voucher. I was on the phone with for 50 minutes.

The whole time, warning bells were going off saying, "double and triple check everything."

And I am glad that I did, because despite NUMEROUS comments that I "want to be on EXACT same flight as my two other reservations [redeemed online w/miles], the rep SCREWED it up."

If I hadn't been watching, it would have been REALLY, REALLY bad. I tried to be nice, but after 50 minutes, I just lost it... I FINALLY got the email and looked at it and said, "Dammit, this is WRONG! I know you're learning the job, but I asked you, pleaded with you to please make sure we're all on the same flight." I feel bad that I was so strong in my voice, but you would expect that booking a flight...when I called up knowing the date, time, and flight number, would be pretty easy.

Anyway, all four of us are on the same flight.

Great travel site...

This is one of the BEST I've ever seen. Kudos to my sister Dina for looping me in (I must admit, it was an ego blow, as I like to be cutting edge online). Oh well.

A new girl...

No tremendous email this time, though we did stop by the hospital this AM to drop off food and supplies for the hungry, tired couple.

I was tracking events all AM and we just got the news.
Its a girl. 7pds 15ounce.

Mazal Tov to our friends, David and Daphne.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Making an impact...

How many business cards have you received?

How many of them do you keep? How many of them make an impact? Are memorable?

Take a look at these (the backside of each card). Unique, different, a good way to remember the person who gave you the card

Jamie is a loyal blog reader (and also is a big contributor to Yahoo's new content play People of the Web...e.g. did you know that former Growing Pains star Kirk Cameron is a born again Christian?)

Just love seeing ways that people differentiate themselves at every possible turn.
Something to think about...

Insight into Americana

Took a day trip to the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Museum with the kids and my nephews the other day.

Not only is the old roundhouse building restored beautifully, but the activities for the kids were engaging. Of course, who wouldn't have fun climbing all over trains, right?

As a history buff, it was very exciting to see (and tell the kids a bit) about how the development of the American economy depended so much (and to a certain extent still does) on the railroad. But, these kids, with the exception of a few Metro rides know nothing of actual trains. They've been on a number of planes, but their worldview is quite different.

Nevertheless, if you are in Baltimore, it's worth a visit...a unique part of American history and culture is captured there.

The modern couple...

Two spouses, two bluetooth headsets.

Think they wear them to bed?

Saunas and the Guiness Book of World Records

In my previous post on Saunas, I talked about my friend, Heikki, from Finland and how we bonded in Japan. We met at the International University of Japan and enjoyed the saunas there.

Well, it looks like our legacy lives on because the current crop of IUJ students have just set a World Record for most nationalities (50!) represented in a sauna at once. Read more here.

Wish I could have been there. Congrats, IUJ!

Birth Liveblogging...remotely

One of the great email threads of all time, in my humble opinion (IMHO) took place the day Eyden Price was born (see here).

Well, any moment now, Eyden is going to pick up a sibling.

My instructions to Daphne were: "Ask for the epidural and then tell David to email me."

This morning, at 10am, the first email came in:

Subject: V-day or C-day

At holy cross. Contractions 5 minutes apart. Will keep you posted.

Then, after a few email exchanges,

Heading home. Not ready yet.

the update around 1pm was:

Still the same.
2cm dilated.
90% efaced.
5min between contractions.
At home. Will probably be back there today sometime.

For kicks, I stopped by their house this PM and took a picture of our "contracting heroine". (will be posted soon)

4 hours later (a few minutes ago) this email came in:

Back at holy cross. Waiting to be seen.

Will keep you updated.

BTW, here's a definition of "LiveBlogging"

More thoughts on Netflix...

So I've blogged a lot on Netflix and what I think it means for movies and's another one.

Last night, the TV was on in the background and an ad came on for the new "Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer."

Now, I would never go to see this (or the previous one) in the theater, but I figured...what the heck, "I'll add the first one to my Netflix queue."

When I got to Netflix, not only could I add the original one, but I could add "Silver Surfer" to my queue.

So, here's a movie that isn't even out in the theaters yet and I've already got it in my Netflix line-up. Now, unless I HAVE to see a movie ASAP...can't remember the last time that happened, it's just a matter of waiting a few more weeks and there it is.

Just fascinating to think about, at least for me.

Book Review: The Experts' Guide...

Actually titled, The Experts' Guide to 100 Things Everyone Should Know How to Do , this is some cute, light reading and within the 100, you are bound to find 10 or so that you really put to use.

There are short entries by experts in the field, the CEO of Kodak on taking a picture, Tucker Carlson on tying a bow tie, and Steven Covey on managing your time.

Topics range from preparing eggs, doing laundry, and changing a diaper to relaxing, breathing, planning a trip, and kissing (I enjoy practicing this one) and have made a point of mastering "how to tie a Windsor knot."

I tended to read one or two while sitting in the bathroom and keeping an eye on the kids in the bathtub. Light, but fun.

Comments on the day of rest...

I owe Tom some thoughts on his beautiful, spiritual insights.

Actually, I don't think there is much to add. ONe of the best books I've read, and one that had the most profound impact on me vis a vis a true day of rest, was A. J. Heschel's book, The Sabbath.

I think Tom hit the nail on the head.

Having the discipline to remove yourself from the day to day obligations is not limiting, it's liberating. When you look from a distance at the restrictions of what cannot be done by an observant Jew on the Sabbath, it seems overwhelming, but, like any pursuit which requires discipline...and to some extent...self-denial, there is a freedom and a reward inherent in it.

The quality family time, the regenerative physical aspects, the "quiet" zone away from the noise of TV, radio, phone, and email.

It may seem strange and foreign...but now that I have it, I can't live without it. Nor do I want to.

I am glad that Tom had an experience through which he had a glimpse of my world. And I thank him for sharing.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

the day of rest...

Blog reader Tom sent in the following (unedited). Just wanted to share it. Such a spiritual insight.

I was at a friend's daughter's bat mitzvah this last weekend and the Rabbi, in trying to explain to a much of gentile 12 & 13 year old girls who were attending -- it is a birthday party after all -- why we were praising the Sabbath, gave this bit of insight. I'd never heard it before and it struck me as really interesting. I paraphrase his comments:

When we praise God, the word God, it comes from the German, Gott. But it's not a good translation of what is in the original Hebrew. The closest actual translation is "that which is eternal," or "that which always has been, is, and always will be." When Moses actually tried to name God, when the burning bush spoke to him, he asked, "what shall I call you?"

And the voice from the bush said, "I am that I am." In other words, there is no name. God is simply those eternal things which have always been and will always be.

Sabbath is the day that we reconnect to these things. WE put aside worrying about those things that will be tomorrow. We stop thinking about those things that happened yesterday.

We take a moment and reconnect. We relax. Maybe we go for a bike ride. We spend time with our family. And we re-discover the eternal things and rejoice in them.

In listening to the Rabbi speak, I realized how my weekends, my Sabbath,have become yet another workday, only with different kinds of work.

I stopped. I spent the rest of the Saturday with my parents, and then with my sister and brother-in-law. I met my girl-friend in the evening. Sunday was similarly relaxed. It was lovely. I didn't turn on a computer all weekend.

Today I showed up at work rested and relaxed for the first time since I can remember. I am now reorganizing my calendar so that I can keep the commandment to have one day of Sabbath. It's a challenge. Yet the rewards are astounding.

Friday, June 08, 2007

A Whole New Mind...Meeting...

Some of you may remember my series of posts on the book "A Whole New Mind" which justified my watching of "Dancing with the Stars," reading "Good Housekeeping," and ironing napkins for dinner guests.

Well, on August 24th of last year, I emailed the author (he lives in DC) with a request to meet. 5 times over that timeframe, he has said, "I am travelling, ping me in XX weeks." (Since I read his blog, I know he wasn't making it ALL up :-)...

Persistence pays date set for next Wed.

Now, I just have to figure out what I'm going to say!!

Just kidding, I'm very excited about it.

Here are some of the topics, I am considering. Open to suggestions from those of you who have read his book based on my suggestion.

  1. As a society, we still talk in the language of math/science scores…how are we doing in the right brain scoring?
  2. Who is the best? Why? (he just came back from Japan, so that'll be a point of commonality)
  3. Is it a cultural thing? Can cultures be changed in this respect?
  4. How do you change a personal image/brand? (mine) or a corporate one (Microsoft)…geeky, not right brain vs. Apple, for example.

And an etiquette question...I asked for the meeting, do I have to buy the coffee? :-)

Or since he delayed it 5 times over 10 months, should he reward persistence? :-)

Thursday, June 07, 2007

More from Shoppers Food Warehouse...

Two more anecdotes (here and here)

End of an Era...

At some point during my Holocaust education...either in high school or when I lived in Germany, I realized that I was part of the last generation to bear witness to Holocaust survivors. It occurred to me that my kids (as of yet unborn) would most likely never know someone who survived.

Read an article last week about WW II vets in Jerusalem, who were upset that the city had canceled its annual May 8th parade (VE day) which celebrated the role of Jewish soldiers in WWII. The vets complained that "soon, there will be none of us left."

This past Memorial Day, my Poppy's name was read at Arlington National Cemetery as part of the Flying Tigers Honor Roll, for those who had served and had since passed away. Apparently, this is the last year which the service will be performed...there are few Flying Tigers who remain.

As I watched the kids playing joyfully in the bath, I was struck the seismic generational shift underway.

The WWII vets, the Holocaust survivors are being replaced on the earth. My kids' time is coming. The two will never meet as adults.

Years ago I thought "the day will come..."

Now, it's here.

How to Win at Rock, Paper, Scissors - wikiHow

it really is all out there... 

How to Win at Rock, Paper, Scissors - wikiHow

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

You see it all....

In the checkout line today at the grocery store, I was standing next to a man who was wearing (I kid you not)
  • pink 'short' shorts
  • a pink halter top with his belly sticking out
  • a pink hairband

It was a strange sight. He was right next to me and I was tempted to take a picture, but didn't.

As I walked out of the store, I said to myself.

"In New York, you see everything. In DC, you see everything, too, it just takes a bit longer."


Always look the part...

I play the role of mentor to one of the younger guys in my office.

A few weeks ago, I told him that, if he wanted to move up in the company/career, I thought it was time for him to "raise his game" in terms of his appearance.

His work ethic and results are impeccable, but his image needed a makeover. Not an extreme one, but it was time to move from cargo pants and polo shirts to slacks and dress shirts.

"Look, when you are meeting customers and partners, you need to look your best. If you are just in the office, a more casual look is fine."

He had done so admirably. People have noticed. He looks good.

I should have listened to my own advice.

Today, almost on a whim, I went to the office [there was no pressing need to do so, but it actually worked out for a variety of reasons].

Since I had no meetings scheduled and aside from Mondays, the office is usually deserted (remember these are salespeople out on appointments with customers), I opted for a bit more casual look...slacks and a polo.

I wasn't a mess, but, of course, today would turn out to be the day where I met my new boss (our General Manager is moving on and in a managed transition; my area is merging with an adjacent area).

So, my new boss, impeccably dressed-straight out of GQ- is introduced to me and here I am thinking, "I can't believe my luck!"

Like the old commercial saying goes,

"you never get a second chance to make a first impression."

I would hope that you will learn from my mistake.

You never know when you'll meet a customer or a prospect or a potential partner.

It's easy to slack off (trust me, I have 2 kids under 4 and Sundays are 'wear whatever you want day'), but I daresay, the extra few minutes of investment may not have big payoffs, but by not making the investment, you may avoid a loss. (see what not to wear)

Age Appropriate Car...

If you were a 25 year old woman in a business that required chauffeuring your clients and prospects around in your car, what kind of car would you own?

You need to look successful and professional without being ostentatious or like your parents bought it for you.

Thoughts? A blog reader (who wishes to remain anonymous, but won't be because it is my sister, Kira, the real estate maven) needs your advice.

Metro Security...resolved

So it was some sort of deranged guy....when the train came into the station, the doors didn't open until the police outside were at the doors of the appropriate car.

They stopped him immediately, searched him, and I just left.

Pretty calm and handled well.

Swear Jar

this is too funny!!!

shout out to Yoni for sending it in

Metro Security...

I'm on the metro right now. A metro official comes walking in the car (from the car in front of us, while we are moving).

At the other end of the car is an armed Metro police officer.

Behind me, the metro official whispers into the intercom that "he's back on the train."

The voice (really loudly) comes back and says, "ok, they are getting on at Friendship Heights [next station]"

And mine...

The official says, "it's kind of loud, let's stop this."

I'm getting off in a minute. Curious to see what happens.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Bring the Love Back...

Think advertising hasn't changed. Think again. This is a great commercial. (if it's really a commercial and not the beginning of a dialogue...) Hmmm...
Now, whether it delivers on its promise is another story, but very, very creative. And as blog reader Megan points out (tip o' the hat for sending it in)
"I love how the CTA [call to action] is the blog."

Monday, June 04, 2007

Unpleasant plans...

If you have kids, one of the toughest things you have to think about is...what happens to them if you and your spouse meet an untimely end. It's something you never want to contemplate happening, but in an ironic sort of way, your responsibility as a parent is to do exactly that.

Once a year, I go back and review all of the documents and plans for the possibility that this will happen. There's a lot to consider...guardians, financial, etc. I found myself in front of the computer last night tearing up at the thought. 

Then, I took a deep breath, went upstairs and did a check-in, and gave them an extra big hug this morning.

For more, see my previous comments on Planning for the end

Sports in the summertime...

Coming off of last week's JHU Lacrosse victory and LeBron's performance, I was inspired to get my kids outside and running about.

Division 1 scholarship, here we come!!

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Broken experience...

So I get an email from Chevy Chase Bank saying "hey, we have a new and improved eBilling system"

I think, "Great, I will give it a try." I am always willing to see if I can find something better.

So, I click on the link, log-in, and get a big fat error message. Not the best.

Reminds me of the "this is broken" incident.

Friday, June 01, 2007

How I got my teeth whitened for free...

And that's a $350 value!!

One way that I-and you can- practice my marketing acumen is by making suggestions to the service providers of whom I am a customer. One of those is my dentist.

The good thing about her, as opposed to some of the larger companies I deal with, is that she listens (see here for previous). As does my dry cleaner

Yesterday, I was in there again and saw that they had implemented a version of the referral program I had suggested.

While I was in the chair, I came up with a few more...and then followed up with an email. (see below)

You know what happened? My dentist paid me!!

"Your advice has been so good that I want to give you a complementary whitening."

My point isn't that my teeth are cleaned, it's that

  1. your vendors will be thrilled-and may comp you-for ideas you give them...if you look and think about their business challenges critically
  2. you will hone your own marketing instincts if you get in this habit

Here were some of the ideas I sent

  1. Patient of the Month Award

    1. This could be a 1 page handout that you have in the waiting area. Select 2 or 3 patients and write a 2-3 paragraph story about them. How long have they been patients? Get a quote asking what they like about the dental practice.
    2. Put a picture in there. Nothing too heavy. Light reading while people are waiting, but it could go a long way to making people FEEL like they are part of something. You called your employees, “like family,” how about your patients as a family? Maybe give them a free whitening as well.
  2. Raffle Giveaway

    1. Each month pick 2-3 customers. It could be at random or people who have spent a LOT of money with you. Or people who have referred you a lot of business. Call them up and say, “we really value your business and appreciate it. We want to give you a free tooth whitening.” The positive word of mouth that this generates could be great.
    2. Each month, have a handout (maybe the backside of the Patient of the Month” Award listing the winners. This is a nice balance. One is random (raffle)…everyone can win. And one has criteria (that you pick, strategically)
  3. Referral Recognition Monitor

    1. From the looks of it, the computer in the back corner can support 2 monitors. Attach a 2nd flat panel monitor to it and have a slideshow of pictures of

      1. Patients who have referred you the most patients through your referral program
      2. Patients of the month
      3. Raffle winners
      4. One or all of the above is fine. But the idea is to build community and get people involved in your practice as people


The slogan for LeBron James is "Witness." We are supposedly 'witnesses' to his dominating capabilities.

There are nights, as a sports fan, when all of the bad/sloppy games you suffer to are returned in dramatic fashion. As I've mentioned before in This is the life we have chosen....

Tonight, I didn't get on the Nordic Track until about 10.30, which was fortunate, because I tuned in at the beginning of the 4th quarter with tie scored between Cleveland and Detroit at 70.

LeBron was on the bench, resting.

With 8 minutes to go, he came back in. Cleveland was down by 1 or 2, I think and I said, "OK, LeBron, if you are going to be a true superstar, you have got to just take over."

Well, I got more than I bargained for. When he came back in, he had 19 points. Between the end of the game and the 2 overtimes, he added another 29.

The announcers kept saying it was happening, "this is one of the great playoff performances in NBA history," and everyone knew it.

I am reluctant to compare people to Jordan, but it definitely had that player, everyone knows he is going to try and score, and there is nothing that the other team can do about it.

He scored the last 25 points of the game for his team and 29 out of the last 30. It was just obscene.

One of those moments to just enjoy being a sports fan. You just knew you were watching something special. A coming out party. So good to see a #1 pick live up to expectations and single-handedly turn a team around.