Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Starting off the trip right...

On my way to Oakland, I changed planes in Dallas. I got there at 8am.

I have a few cousins in Dallas and, in a quaint throwback to a bygone era when long distance was expensive, I called them just to say hi.

My cousin Barry says, "how long will you be there?"

"About 80 minutes."
"Ok, I'll be there in 25."

And, he was.

How many people would drive on a Sunday morning to the airport just to hang out with you for 30 minutes or whatever on your way through town?

Not many.

I told him, "you know, had I known this, I would have called you last night and told you what time I was coming, but then again, WHO DOES THIS KIND OF THING?"

Well, a guy who lives each day with a "Remember the Maine" attitude.

Gotta love it.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

And Oakland may be the worst...

I have been in third world airports that were nicer and less chaotic than this place.

In need of major overhaul!

At least they know it...renovations are underway

Interestingly enough, like bwi and some other places, southwest has an entire terminal to themselves.

Most Travel Friendly Airport...

DFW--Dallas/Fort Worth--is great. They have a playground for kids, free internet kiosks, and get this...have you ever walked around like an idiot looking for an outlet to plug in your phone or pc?

Well, they have dedicated charging stations w/ 6 outlets (USB also), where you can plug in and just charge your devices for free.

Mobile productivity

I land, get an email saying my books will espire at the library tomorrow, call the automated renewal line and take care of it....all while riding the airport tram.

isn't technology grand?

Arrival in dallas, 7.44 CDT

Did you know that the dfw airport covers an area equal to that of Manhattan?

Also, don't you wish people could have an idea of just how loud they are when talking on their cells?

Blog Pace....

Will be a bit slow this week... a lot of travel. You probably need the break anyway.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Movie Review: Bus 174

What I enjoyed most about this movie was the insight it gave me into another culture, namely Brazilian.

On the surface, it is about a bus hijacking, but the director dives into many of the underlying issues that (potentially) drove the Sandro do Nascimento (the hijacker) to perpetrate his deed.

Issues of the vast divide between rich and poor, the favellas, the treatment of prisoners, the life of "street kids," the incompetency of the police force, the unwillingness to take risks that needed to be taken...a huge number of issues.

In this country, we're so used to hearing about our own problems and how others perceive the US. Not that I would expect Brazil to be perfect, but it was a perspective-widening moment to dive deeply into the rich cultural fabric of a foreign nation and get a glimpse of their lives and struggles.

Ali G in Law School

As Stew says:
"usually those Lampoon style skits are garbage, but this is genius"

Think it doesn't matter...

who your kids friends are? Or who your friends are?

From Seth Godin's blog

A study out today shows that obesity is contagious. If your best friend gets fat, your chances of gaining weight more than double.

Malcolm Gladwell fans will recall his reporting that suicide among teenagers can be contagious as well.

So is terrorism, of course. And spamming. And graffiti.

The most important thing you can do is choose who you're hanging out with. The second high-leverage thing is to put dynamics in place that reinforce the ideas you'd like to see spread. Celebrate the heroes. Make it easy for those ideas to

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

The Thrill of Flight...


For 10 minutes...at least, the two of them stared out the window of the observation tower at the Udvar-Hazy Air and Space Museum.

It's right next to Dulles airport and you watch planes land from all over the world. Made me a bit nostalgic for my travelling days, but excited to see how well the kids responded.

Inside, there's a cornucopia of planes...the Concorde, Space Shuttle, military planes of all types. It's a huge hangar and plenty of room to run around (and tire out) for kids.

The only shortcoming, which Tungsten pointed out, was that there were no planes for them to climb on or go in. That was a downer and would have made it a top-notch experience.

I had never been there so for me, it was fresh. All in all a good time though.

A little perspective....

Pulled into a parking space the other day and saw this scene unfolding right in front of me.

At first, I thought the guy had been hit and knocked off the road.

Turned out he'd had a seizure. Still, a VERY scary moment and one that makes you stop and think...appreciate what you've got.

Inspiring Quote...

"The only thing worse than not having the skills you need to meet your challenges is not having challenges big enough to summon all of your skills."
I found this while reading Best Life magazine. It sells itself as "what matters most to men" and I got it on a fluke.

About 2 months ago, USAir told me that I had 7,000 miles that were about to expire. I could use them to order magazines...which I did...about 10 in all. And, now we're inundated.

I was skeptical about Best Life. It seemed like it could be very lightweight reading, but the issues I've seen so far and the discussions of fatherhood and its challenges have actually been stimulating.

We also got Scientific American, Self, Men's Vogue, Fast Company, and a few others that I don't remember and haven't arrived yet.

High Pressure System...

You know how the weatherman says, "oh, there's a high pressure system moving in that is pushing out the clouds..." or something like that?

Well, here's a shot of an clearly a demarcated line as I've seen from my flight back from Denver.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Motherhood and the Internet

I was in a bit of a bind last night.

I needed a babysitter for this morning so I could take Tungsten to her swimming lesson (btw: Tonka->Tonken->Tungsten: see here for nickname philosophy).

I called a few backups. No luck.

Then, I called a friend who has 5 kids, the eldest of which is 13. Her daughter wasn't available, but within minutes, she gave me the name of 6 possibilities. Sure enough, success resulted.

The next morning, it dawned on me.

Our friend, Aviva (the mother of 5), is like a critical Internet hub. She's got 5 nodes out there and is in contact with people (and their parents) across a huge range of ages. Information flows through her head...A LOT.

If you need info, call a woman with a lot of kids. There's some serious HUMINT there.

Incentives and Bribes...

People respond to incentives. 3 year olds are no different.

Saturday afternoon, Paco had just gone down for a nap. I was about to.

I said to Tungsten (aka Tonka), "I'll give you 3 pieces of gum if you
take a nap now."

"A long nap or a short nap?"
[a short nap means she just lies on her bed. A long nap means she actually

"A long nap."

"4 pieces!" she said..


That made everyone in the house very happy (including me...the girl is learning how to negotiate and wheel and deal.) And she did.

Sunday morning, she came into my room at 6:15am. She knows she is not supposed to show up until her clock says "7 or 8."

I offered her 3 pieces of gum to go downstairs and get herself some yogurt and cheese (her breakfast of champions.).

She agreed.

Later, I realized, that was a bad call. She should be doing that anyway.

I explained to Tungsten.

"I'll pay up since I promised I would, but from now on, you will not get
bonuses or incentives for doing 'your job,' you will when you go above and

No more bribes, just an incentive-based compensation structure.

Facebook's Intriguing Features...

Read a post by one of my favorite bloggers the other day about a unique feature on Facebook called "Status Updates."

What it does (click here to see) is give you some short, quick insights into the daily activites of your network.

These insights are things that would most likely never come up in an email or phone conversation, but since it's a 1-way broadcast and it's short, it works.

Just by reading these (in RSS format), I get a feel for what my friends are doing, what's troubling them, and even used them as conversation starters.

I've spent some time trying to figure Facebook out...this is by far one of the coolest.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Book Review: Making the List

Well, this one didn't make my list. Don't read it. Making the List is supposedly an American cultural history of the best-seller list and it started off with a lot of promise, but quickly, I got tired of it.

Perhaps b/c I was listening to it, but there were sections of recitations of the top 10 best sellers from 1904 in fiction and non-fiction, then 1905, then 1906. OK, I get it. Tell me more about what it means, but by the time Michael Korda, some big publishing industry hotshot got there, I had lost interest.

The beginning, telling about how the list evolved and why was good, but this was probably an article that someone said, "hey write a book."

Bad idea.

Sauna 2nd thoughts...

I've reconsidered my position on saunas. After a visit to one the other day where I had a great chat with some Indians who work at the World Bank, one of them shared his experience of trying to convince his wife to buy one.

She argued (pragmatically) that:
  1. you have a jacuzzi you never use, prove to me you'll use the sauna first and then we'll talk
  2. it's expensive to buy and maintain
  3. you will miss the social element

Point #3 made the biggest impact on me. I've long said that some of my best random conversations happen with people in saunas.

I'm no longer going to get one of my own. Just go more often!

Galapagos Pics...

A dear friend, Lisa, just got back from a trip. Take a look at these magical pictures.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Discussing Death...with Humor

Last night, I attended the shiva house of some people of whom we are quite fond. The deceased was the 94 year old grandfather of the couple.

As it turns out, we had lunch with the couple, their kids, and the soon to be deceased man, on the afternoon immediately prior to his trip to the hospital.

What I've noticed in the past few months is that there are many ways of handling death and, like most things, not every way works for everyone else.

When I arrived at the house last night, two of the grandchildren, my contemporaries, made remarks along the lines of:
"well, once he had lunch with you guys, he decided that his life was complete"

"you guys were the cherry on the top of the cake that was his life."

And the father (who was the son in law of the deceased) remarked:
"thanks for joining us for the Last Supper."

I realize that not everyone appreciates this approach, but it works for me (and for them.)

In an interesting twist, my cousin in Dallas had Skyped me earlier in the day. We share the same initials, which coincidentally, are the same initials of our common grandfather.

"I don't think I ever told you that you are on my will. If I die before
you, you get our grandfather's cufflinks with his initials on them."

"Well, that's too bad, because until now, I've never actually thought about
rooting for you to die first, but I guess I have a reason."

He got the joke and laughed.

Then, we both discussed how our wives' families may not have seen the humor (or what we think is humor) in it.

You may call it crass or insensitive, but for a group out there, this approach works (particularly when it is not a tragic ending.)

Looking for a good term though...

What are you passionate about?

When I was in Denver last week, I attended a great presentation about networking, a subject near and dear to my heart.

The instructor asked us to introduce ourselves to the strangers next to us and simply talk about our passions in life.

His point...when people talk about their passions, you see their true selves. You get them motivated and you tap into their energy.

It's a bit awkward, at first, to ask a complete stranger "so, what are you passionate about?" but, I'll tell you something, it works.

Here's what I'm passionate about (in no particular order).

  1. my family
  2. regular exercise
  3. reading
  4. watching movies
  5. destroying militant Islam as a threat to western civilization
  6. the possibility of technology for improving people's lives
  7. marketing as a science and art
  8. understanding how the free market works
  9. staying in touch with people who have meant (or still mean) something to me
  10. being challenged
  11. learning new ideas


What about you?

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Movie Review: Lawrence of Arabia

It may be cliche to call it "epic," but I am going to. What a movie! It really felt old school (probably because I aged so much while watching the 3 hrs 47 minutes over 2 nights!) Kind of like when I saw Ten Commandments the first time.

Definitely a film from another era.

So much to comment on and so many angles. The acting, the fact that there was no woman speaking part (barely seen as well), the commentary on "Arab Nationalism" and tribal relationships. The difference between revolt/rebellion and nation building. A lot easier to destroy than to build. The geo-political factors at play, the cultural biases.

And then the raw film elements...the scenery, the authentic sets (not digitally enhanced). I could feel the rocks and the pillars and the sand and the heat. The musical score (there is an intro...and an intermission...where the screen is black and the music is played...of course I ffwd'd through it :-)

I didn't know how much was accurate so checked the Wikipedia entry for some insights.

It's probably too expensive or time-consuming to make a film like that today, which made this one all that more enjoyable. Some great acting by some great actors, Alec Guiness, Omar Sharif, Peter O'Toole, and Anthony Quinn.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Book Review: Letters to My Son

Part 2 of my Father's Day gift was from Paco and entitled Letters to My Son by Kent Nerburn (see here for Part 1 from Tonka).

A different feel than Tonka's gift, less emotional and much more about the experience of being a "man" versus being "male."

"It is much easier to become a father than to be one."

Kent writes a series of letters to his newborn son about topics that include marriage, sex, fatherhood, sports, tragedy, fighting, money, and education. But what makes this book special is HOW he does it.

It's not offhanded humor or sarcastic. It's pure and authentic. He writes in a universalistic way that every man could understand, but not every man would allow himself to admit these innermost feelings.

I think reading and fully comprehending this book requires some degree of self-awareness (not saying that I have it.)

He touches on subjects that we all think about.
  1. How do you stay faithful to one woman?
  2. When is the right time to fight/die for a cause?
  3. How do men and women differ in approaches to sex?

A series of short essays, this is just a great book for any man looking for self-improvement and awareness.

Big Brother...Big Father

When my kids start driving, you can bet I'll have this service installed.

If you are the parent of a teen, this is a no-brainer.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Unexepected Visitor

Tonka had a playdate yesterday.

At one point, I hear Paco closing the bathroom door and make my way over there.

"I have to make a poopie," he says, but he refuses to let me in.

I leave and go downstairs to check on the girls and find Tonka by herself.

"Where's Sara?"

"She's in the potty."



I go upstairs and find the bathroom door...the one that Paco closed....locked. "Paco, open the door please!"

He does.

Sure enough, he's in there with Tonka's playdate sitting on the toilet.

"Paco, that's it, man. You have crossed the line!"

The "N" Word...

Heard a report a few weeks ago on NPR that during the NAACP convention, there was a funeral procession held for "the N word."

The commentator noted that the primary use of the "N word" is done by Black Americans and the NAACP recognized this as a problem.

During my conversation with the Sierra Leonan cabbie, I mentioned that, at least in my circles, people would be shocked and angered to hear the "N-word" used in a negative way. I'm sure in some parts, it's ok, but not mine, I assured him.

So, it was interesting that when I was taking Tonka to the pool yesterday and the windows were down, we were at a stoplight and next to us drove up a young Arfican-American man, listening quite loudly to rap music. Within 8 seconds, Tonka was exposed to the "N-word" 3 times [I was trying to close the windows].

She didn't ask me about it, but it was clearly spoken and she definitely heard it.

Sharing Your Photos...

I'm as big a fan as the next guy of sharing your family/vacation photos with your friends.

But, remember please, that just because it is easy for you to upload all 150 pictures to a website, doesn't mean that it's easy for us to VIEW all of them.

My suggestions for making people actually look at the pictures you put online (that is the point, right?)

  1. EDIT-there's no reason why I need to see 8 pictures of the same horse with your kid. 1 gives me the flavor. Now, move on.
  2. Avoid meaningless pictures--your best friend from high school in a bar? Nice, but I don't know him and it has no meaning for me. Make them something that shows you, your family, or something I wouldn't see otherwise.
  3. Keep it brief-how about 20 that tell the entire story? That's about enough.
  4. Don't make me sign in--I don't want to visit a site with a password (or have to create another username/password). If I can't just access it, there's a lot less chance I'll view them.

Harsh? Maybe. But, my hunch is I am writing what others think. So, if you want us to share in your experience (and we do), make it very consumable.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Cab Rides and Communism...

It was like the UN of cab rides this week. On the way back from Denver, I had a native Chinese and a Ukrainian.

What struck me was the conversation I had with the Ukrainian, which, interestingly enough, mirrored the conversation I had with a native Russian who now works at Microsoft.

Both of them said that things in Russia are tough and what's more, "it was better before."

"Education was free. Camps were free. We didn't have all of this
capitalistic stuff."

And they went on. "When you don't konw anything else, this is what you think is supposed to happen," she said.

I guess the only thing that wasn't free was the individual, but I didn't want to get into that debate.

There's a lot to think about this and its implications of "bringing democracy to the rest of the world."

Despite this, I still think it's worth it. Very strange, at least to me.

Economics and Civics Lesson...

Tonka and Paco were fighting over the windows in the lego set.

Tonka wanted both. Paco wanted at least one.

I took one from Tonka and gave it to Paco (income redistribution).

Then, I told her.

"Look, there are a few ways to get the window from Paco.

  1. You can take it from him by force, but I won't allow that (system of laws enforced)
  2. You can ask him if he'll share it with you (charity and/or socialism)
  3. Or you can offer him a package of blocks that you have for which he will trade you."

She asked him to share. He said no.

She offered 1 block. He shook his head.

"Look, Tonka, it's a question of supply and demand and perceived value. There are plenty of blocks, but only 2 windows. You also place a very high value on having the window. Paco knows that. You're going to have to make a much better offer, give him some things he can really use (utility) and then see if he'll go for it."

Sure enough, she eventually put together a package that convinced him to part with the window.

Then, my budding merchants made three more trades.

A proud moment indeed.

More on "too good to be true."

So, I got the coupon for the free tickets and the $500 shopping spree. The lesson?

Stay away.

The "shopping spree" was basically access to a website with products to buy and a "shipping and handling fee." They had a "suggested retail price" and a "special price". When all was said and done, you weren't really saving any money.

And the restrictions on the plane ticket were a full page long.


I sent it back and plan on getting a refund.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Medicis in Virginia

Once upon a time, a wealthy family would commission a struggling artist to do a life size portrait of the family or an individual. Expensive and therefore very impressive.

In a "World is Flat" scenario, DaVinci Designs, democratizes this for the masses.

Here's how it works:
  1. photographer takes a picture
  2. graphic designer touches it up (in this case, adds some flowers, removes blemishes)
  3. picture is emailed to China
  4. low-cost Chinese artists do a life-size oil painting and ship it back to US, where it is framed.

Bang...for a few thousand $, you have what the Medicis would have paid a small fortune for.

Company is owned by a friend living in Virginia. Very neat.

FOJ in the Mile High City

It's quality, not quantity and we had that last night at the FOJ-Denver gathering.

Of all of the FOJ gatherings (Boston, NYC, Seattle) in the past year, this one had the best view (27th floor looking out on to the Rockies).

Two finance heads got together, Josh and Seth (see Seth's comments here) and our chats ranged from Colorado beer to VUL's to CFA exams to politics (a bit).

Two others were supposed to be there. One forgot (but I'm going to see Frau Vergessenheit, as she's known for coffee in a few) and another had a delivery rescheduled...hey, life happens.

Denver's got a great downtown...clean, well laid out, and very walkable. Great skies, as well.

Call out to the Davis family...the only people w/representatives at mutliple FOJ gatherings (Boston and Denver!)

Mile High Party...

In Denver for the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference. 10,000 people from around the world.

The party the other night....on the field of Invesco Field at Mile High.

Guest music stars: Huey Lewis and the News.

Under the Colorado sky, listening to some 'classic' music, in the shadow of John Elway.

Good stuff.

Knowing Your Audience...

Great design and great functionality go hand in hand. I love how, in the Denver airport, there's a separate baggage claim just for skis.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

What Makes You Happy?

It's a tough question and one that my seatmate and I discussed for over 3 hours on my flight out to Denver.

An archaeologist/attorney who had spent time on a kibbutz (not Jewish), John's answer is this:
being helpful to other people

When you strip away the false idols of material success and realize that they will just create an additional void and you see that "keeping up w/the Joneses is an exercise wheel in a gerbil cage," this will fill you with a sense of well being.

What do you think makes you happy, truly happy?

Sudan, Darfur, and another Cab Ride

On the opposite end of my flight today, had a cabdriver from Khartoum, Sudan. What fascinated me was the fact that he thinks the whole situation in Darfur is being blown out of proportion.

His contention is that the Sudanese government has no reason for the wonton raping and killing in the Darfur region and that it is the 19 ethnic tribes there that are doing it "to themselves."

He was preaching against the accepted gospel, as far as I was concerned.

Like the Sierra Leonan, his plan (he's been here for 9 years) is to make enough money so that he can go back home.

Two observations on this.
  1. the immigrant experience is VERY different now than when my grandparents came. They came and knew it would be for good. Now, many people go back to their "home countries" for months on end and come back to the US to finance those multi-month vacations.

    I wonder what that does to the desire to 'assimiliate' or truly be a part of the American experience.
  2. despite the stated desire to 'go back,' once people have kids and start really living here, they don't really go back...for good.

BTW, these obs are not just based on two cabbies :-)

Movie Review: Fast Food Nation

This was a fascinating movie, touching on many themes.

  • Illegal immigrants and the role they play in our economy (and the oppty those who have power may take to abuse them)
  • Marketing and how companies can stimulate demand.
  • Urban development
  • the importance of education in economic advancement

A poignant film that highlights the stomach-churning practices of the meat-packing industry. It's enough to make you want to be a vegetarian.

Here's the thing that I didn't like though. In its critcisim, both in the film and the DVD extras, it highlights the 'big bad corporations,' but what I didn't see was the fact that if people just stop going to the fast food joints, the whole problem goes away. It ignored the demand side of the equation.

Still, a great feature film that had a documentary message. The only thing that annoyed me was that 2 of the stars were the same as Little Miss Sunshine. I guess I don't like seeing the same actors appearing together in a totally unrelated movie. Hard to break the association.

"I'm not a racist. It's reality."

All I could think about during my cab ride to the airport this morning was how my friend, Tjada, would react.

My cabbie was from Sierra Leone. After a good conversation about the state of that country's socio-economic/political development and his impressions of African culture vs. American culture, we turned to an interesting topic.

I'd heard before and raised with him the nature of the relationship between the African immigrant community and the American-born African-American/Black communities.

As he began his monologue, I couldn't help but think that if a white person was saying these things, he would be labeled immediately as a racist. No questions asked.

I will paraphrase the comments of this immigrant from Sierra Leone.

"The only time that Blacks call us 'brothers' is when they want something from us. Blacks are the only ones who will try and get away without paying for a ride and say something like, 'hey, brother, can't you help me out?'"

"The only people I will refuse to pick up on the road are Black men. If I see a white man and a black man hailing a cab, I will go for the white one every time."

"If you ask any cabbie how many times he's been robbed, he'll say about 10. And 9 of those will be by black men."

"I've never had problems with Hispanics or white or Africans, just Blacks."

"If I do pickup a Black man or woman, particularly late at night, I will ask for the money upfront."

"If it is late at night and a Black man says he wants to go to Southeast [the primarily Black part of DC], I will tell him no. What's more...I'll tell all of the other cabbies [all Africans] not to go to the Metro station, where he is waiting, so they don't have to turn him down to his face."

And he just kept going, based on his experience and opinion.

It was just such a bizarro-world moment because, in my mind's eye, I replaced this African with a 'redneck' from Alabama and thought how he would have been ostracized. I told him that.

"Look, he said. As an immigrant, you have to deal with reality. It's not racist. It's reality."


Ever notice that there are some people with inherently bright faces and some with inherently dim faces?

You can just tell by their faces what type of personality they have?

I don't know if, as a parent, it is possible to help your child develop a 'bright' face or not, but I know how I respond to dim and bright faces.

Dim faces bring me down. They don't seem like they are loving life. They are not fun to be around.

Bright faces light you up. They engage you. They are animated.

There's a saying that only 7% of communication is verbal.

Body language, dress, appearance, environment all make a difference.

I bet if you have a bright or dim face makes a big one as well.

As for me, I'm starting to consciously move the dim faces out of my life.

Monday, July 09, 2007

If it sounds too good to be true...

Then, it probably is, right?

A few weeks ago, I wrote about my "date" and how we had "won" 2 roundtrip tickets 'anywhere that Delta flies' and a "$500 shopping spree."

Well, I paid the upfront charge over 3 weeks ago (was told that it 'takes 2-3 weeks to get the vouchers') and you know what? Nothing.

I am pretty irritated.

  1. At Global Vacations and their CEO Pierre Bennet (send him a nasty email at: pierrebennett1@yahoo.com). They were the organizers of the "vacation seminar" and have hooked up with a non-performing organization. Of course, if you do a search for "Pierre Bennett" you'll see that the first hit on Google is "Dialing4Deadbeats":
  2. dialing4deadbeats.net - 2:26pm

    Pierre Bennet-Owner Global Holidays 2127 Cabots Point ....

  3. And at Celebrity Productions (send them a nasty email at: info@celebrityproductions.net) for promising my reward and not delivering within the timeframe.

Lesson: shame on me for thinking "I got a deal" and not doing the due diligence (I mean, what kind of serious businessperson has a yahoo address on his businesscard). I'm an idiot. I admit it.

In this day and age, however, your rep is transparent, so Mr. Bennett and his team may have walked away with my $90 or whatever (I have filed a complaint via PayPal to get my money back as well), but it'll catch up to him and Celebrity Productions.

And while we are on the subject of promotional organizations that don't deliver on their promises, I'd like to call out "Great Fun."

After I bought my "Remember the Maine" ticket on CheapTickets.com (they should be ashamed of themselves as well), I got an offer of $50 back on the purchase of my tickets if I'd try out Great Fun for 2 months free. (As I wrote in Playing the game, they key is to remember to cancel...if that's what you want to do.)

So, I sign up and ask "how long will it take to get the refund?

Here's the email from June 14:

We apologize for any inconvenience in this matter. Please be advised our records indicate you membership enrollment bonus is 15% cash back rebate that was mailed to you on 06/12/07. We ask you to please allow 2-3 weeks for delivery.

Of course, no check comes. I call the company on July 5th and the rep says, "oh, I'm so sorry. I will send it out now." [it's like they are hoping that people won't remember and leave them alone.]

Then, she begins to tell me about all of the other benefits of "Great Fun."

"You know, I'm just not interested in what you are promising. To date, you've promised me one thing and you haven't delivered it at all. Why would I think you can do anything else you say you can do?"

Today, I call back to speak to the VP of Marketing (the call center folks were jerks, but I've managed to find out that the whole operation is run by these folks and then I'm told that "oh, you need to fill in the forms and send them back." Reread the email above. If you received that email, would you think that your rebate was already processed or not?

So, what can you do? Only, if you are in the mood, of course.

  1. learn from my mistake and don't ever sit in on a "Vacation" pitch...ever. Tell all of your friends never to do it.
  2. send a nastygram to Pierre and Celebrity Productions telling them to give me the vouchers they've promised.
  3. if you're a lawyer, help me file a claim in Prince William County Small Claims Court against Celebrity Productions. Think I should go after Pierre also? I've kind of always wanted to do a small claims case...just to see how it works.
  4. Email "Great Fun's VP of Marketing, Mike Rauscher" and tell him to send my $50 ASAP (account number: KMM13090242I12331L0KM)
  5. Don't ever accept an offer from "Great Fun" (or any of the other 'services they run' here's the list

Update: I got an email from Celebrity Productions (after I sent in PayPal dispute) saying:

Your package is scheduled for shippment today!

Do you want it shipped or do you want a refund?

Respond imediately or we will issue a refund of your package.


Nice how they sign it "Mgt". Yeah, really personal.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Swimming and the Talmud...

According to the Talmud, A Jewish  parent is required to teach his/her child three things (Kiddushin 29a).

  1. The first is Torah (that is, the rules of the world as we understand them and wrong from right).
  2. The second is to prepare them for some way to make a living so that they can support themselves and their families.
  3. The third is to teach them how to swim.

There seems to be consensus about the value of #1 and #2, but some people were curious why, in relatively landlocked E. Europe, #3 was a priority.

In the pool, during Calanit's swimming lesson today, I came up with a possible answer.

Teaching a child to swim is a metaphor for teaching that child to be an independent being.

You can't totally let go at the beginning, but you can't hold onto her forever.

At each step of the process, you need to watch, but gradually allow the child to do more and more on her own. Yet, you need to stand by until you are sure she can do it for herself.

You need to push her to try something, encourage her to challenge her fears, but arm her with the common sense to not be foolhardy.

You won't be there forever, so you do a disservice by holding her the hold time, but you can't just abdicate your responsibility, toss her in, and hope for the best.

Braveheart and Mel Gibson...

I was working out, flipping through the channels and came upon "Braveheart."

I hesitated, debating whether I should watch a simply great movie or did I need to take into account the fact that Mel is a raging anti-Semite?

Of course, when I realized that it was the end of the movie when William Wallace is castrated and beheaded, I realized I had found the appropriate middleground.

Too bad...first time I saw this movie and rooted for the English :-)

Saturday, July 07, 2007

An Honest Person is Hard to Find

At the 4th of July BarBQ this year, one woman who knows us had the guts to say what everyone else thinks:

"Your wife is soooo nice!"

"Thank you."

"Why did she agree to marry you?"

Others were aghast. I appreciated her honesty and candor.

At least, it reinforces one thing.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Movie Review: Walk the Line...

Aside from his name, I knew next to nothing about Johnny Cash prior to watching this movie.

No idea that he had anything to do with Elivs, Jerry Lee Lewis, or Roy Orbison. Had never heard of June Carter.

So, as a history buff, I found this an interesting insight into a part of Americana and the story itself was gripping.

The acting was really first class. Particularly Reese Witherspoon, since the night before in flipping through the channels, I had seen her in "Legally Blonde," so she redeemed herself in my mind.

In terms of how success in music can breed disaster, it reminded me a bit of Ray, but helped give insight into the complexities of life...no matter where you are on the socioeconomic ladder.

Really enjoyed this one. One of those movies that pulls you in and keeps you until the end. A nice change from last week.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

NetFlix Friends...

If you are a NetFlix member, click here. We can share ratings and recommendations. A neat way to find out about movies.

Baby Day Care...For Adults.

Now, I've seen it all :-)

check this out.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Movie Review: Rocky Balboa

I was pleasantly surprised by this movie. I felt compelled to watch it out of a sort of obligation, but you know what? It worked for me.  It was definitely a different side of Stallone.

I know a lot of people knock him and say that he's not a good actor, but I think his portrayal of Rocky as a "real guy" is authentic. It is a fitting ending to a story that began when I was a teenager and forms, at least in my mind, a part of a diminishing common cultural experience.

Evidence of the broad cultural appeal comes during the final credits....videos of everyday people running up the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art and raising their hands in the air in triumph.

Who hasn't either done it or wanted to do it upon a visit to Philadelphia?

My brother, upon completing a triathlon from NYC to Philly, did exactly that?

And, if you do it, you don't have to explain WHY you are doing it. And the feeling...that's universal.

Rocky! Rocky! Rocky! 

Parent-Just Add Water

Was stuck in traffic last week and randomly called a good friend, Adam Feller, who lives in Charleston, SC.

He recently married a woman who has two children, ages 5 and 7 (I believe).

While he's loving family life, there's some culture shock.

You know how when you are single or don't have kids, you look at the parents of a screaming child and ask yourself, "how do they do it?"

The thing that is easy to forget is that these people have had years or training to get ready for that point. They didn't just parachute in to a situation with kids...unlike Adam.

Poor guy...he's just landed in a situation where the first time he can sit down and talk to his wife is at 11pm. Lunches to make, carpools, etc.

Now, of course, the pros definitely outweigh the cons, but my sympathies went out to him. If I just landed in that situation, I'd probably go crazy.

Instant Parent is tough...but instant grandparent is the way to go.

Philadelphia and Freedom....

Travel to Sesame Place requires going through Philadelphia (for us, at least).

As it turns out, I began watching the latest (and hopefully last!) installment of the Rocky Series, Rocky Balboa. I'm not done yet and part of me feels like I am watching it out of a sense of obligation more than true interest.

Anyway, as you know, Rocky is a Philadelphia hero, so it was a nice convergence of events when I saw the skyline of Philly in the movie and then drove by it yesterday.

As I did, I thought about July 4th and the Liberty Bell.

America is 231 years old. That's impressive.

When I lived in Europe, many Europeans were fond of saying how "young" America is compared to their countries. In some respects, true, but in others, not.

How many systems of government have we had during that time? 1.

Compare that to most European countries and it's a joke. France is on what? the Fifth Republic?

There's a lot of things that we can do much better here, but take a step back and appreciate what we've got. There are plenty of reasons for

loving our country.

Marking Time at Amusement Parks...

It occurred to me yesterday as we were back at Sesame Place (last year's write up) that, as a parent, you can mark time by which rides your kids can go on and the activities they can do.

Yesterday, we did many of the same activities, but a few new ones. And those we repeated, it was clear that the kids had a different perspective.

Just fun to say, "oh, last year they could/couldn't do this and now they are doing that..."


Cute Iphone Spoof