Friday, August 31, 2007

Health Bummer...Not

Well, apparently we are going (see: Health Bummer....) to take a pass on the iodine scan because the risks of being near young childern and pregnant women (I mean, woman) are too great.

Just a few shots and some blood work.

Baby #3 already delivering some ROI. Nice!

Career Grand Slam (of Kids)

My cousin in Dallas, Barry, is a master of trivia and, perhaps even more intriguing, is his willingness (like me) to seriously debate minutiae within an intellectual framework.

He is always good for thought provoking discussion.

He's introduced the concept of "Career Grand Slam" for kids.

The "Career Grand Slam" is from tennis. The Grand Slam is when one player has a victory in the US Open, Wimbledon, French Open, and Australian Open (all in the same year.) A "career" one is, of course, over the course of one's career (he cited Andre Agassi has having won each tournament, but in different years.)

For kids, the concept is to have 1 child (you need at least four to qualify) born in each of the actual seasons (and using hard dates of Sept. 21, Dec. 21, March 21, June 21 as the cutoff).

We spent some time thinking about it and you know what? It's hard to find families that have that.

So, the question is:

Do you know of families who have achieved this elusive goal?

With baby #3, we will have 3 of the seasons down (Tonka is Dec. 10 and Paco is Aug 14, so we've got summer and fall covered. #3 will most likely be a winter one).

Let me know via comments.

Barry is thinking of inducting any of them into a "Family Hall of Fame."

My newest friend...

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Announcing Baby #3

The "Drive for Five" is on. [that's 5 including the parents]

Baby #3 has a due date of March 14th.

[I was rooting for March 15th, since then I could say "Beware the Ides of March."]

The online baby tracker (below and on sidebar) will keep you updated.

Excited? Yes!

Nervous...of course.

So, let's call it Nervous Excitement.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Book Review: The Little Prince

I'd heard of this book, of course, and Sara Rosenberg was kind enough to send it as a baby gift when Tungsten was born.

For some reason, I picked up the other night and finished it today.

It had the air of a book that was supposed to rock my world, but I am sad to say that it didn't.

That's not to say I didn't enjoy it and it didn't make me think, because it did. The storyline was intriguing, the writing engaging, the the creativity certainly impressive.

In some ways, I was reminded of The Alchemist (maybe because it, too, took place in the desert [and I think the author was French as well]) and it had the feel of a book that was 'other-worldly'.

Sometimes expectations can be too high and that causes disappointment.

Book Review: Art of Possibility

As you get older, the neural pathways in your mind become like different paths in a forest. Those that are used more often become easier to navigate. The tendency then is to walk down the easier, more comfortable paths (for the most part).

It's a self-reinforcing cycle. The more you walk, the more comfortable you are, thus the more you walk.

Knowing this, it seems to me, one of the best things you can do is to challenge the assumptions that underlie your approach to problem-solving. In other words, think about how you think.

The Art of Possibility is a book that does just that. It's a highly-positive, but not pie in the sky, tome that makes you look at yourself and not only think about how you think, but ask yourself how you can realize the inherent richness and wealth of possibility for learning and growth in any given context.

One of the authors, Ben Zander, is the conductor for the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra and he uses many examples from the challenges of that line of work.

At times, I did get a bit lost and I must admit, I haven't implemented every single practice that they recommend. And, it wasn't one of those "can't put it down" books, but for a chapter or two a night, I found it rewarding and stimulating.

Cultural Sensitivity

Everyone has seen those emails that attack American companies bringing their products overseas, like Coca Cola means "bite the wax tadpole" in Chinese.
Well, "La Mer" may mean "the sea" in French, but it caught my eye at Neiman Marcus for another reason.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Power Outage...Lessons Learned

Few people get excited about power outages.

While I was a bit bummed to lose the power tonight at 8.45pm, I was excited to put our "Disaster Recovery/Emergency Preparedness" plan to the test.

All in all, a pretty good system we've got. I'll give us a B+/A-.

Where can we improve?

  1. While I had the emergency radio/TV and the batteries for it, I wasted a few minutes putting the batteries in. Could have been avoided.
  2. We need some generic/industrial-strength candles in order to minimize flashlight usage (the flashlights btw, were all fully charged and in EXACTLY the right places, so I could navigate in the dark to locate the one I needed. That was great.)
  3. We probably need a cheap copper phone line. When the power goes down, we lose our Vonage. We have cell phones, but in the event of an extended power outage and no possibility of recharging, we might face a problem.
The sad part about this was that I thought right off the bat (after I checked our fuses and looked out the windows), "I wonder if this is a city-wide terrorist attack." [why #1 above is so critical].

IPod Issues...

OK, I admit it. I have an iPod. Well, I should say "had."

A few weeks ago, I won a family lotter for my dad's old iPod (he bought an iPhone) .

I really enjoyed it, using it primarily for some great Podcasts while in the car.

Today, however, I dropped it from about a 3 ft. high. Now, I've got a "white screen of death" (and apparently I'm not the only one....a pretty widespread problem if you search on "dropped iPod).


Thing is, has this now turned into a need? how much is it worth it to me to get it fixed? Can I go back to living w/o it? ;-)

E*Trade Promotion....

I've been using E*Trade for a while now (7 years or so). Pretty happy w/them.

They've got a promotion...

You get 100 free trades.
I get $100.

You need to open an account w/them.

Leave a comment and let me know if you'd like me to forward details to you.

Email Overload...and how to cope

Most nights, I go to bed with 0 emails in my inbox. Not every night, but that's the goal.

Here's a

good presentation you will enjoy.

 Merlin Mann, a well known productivity guru and creator of the popular 43 folders website talks about getting things done, the importance of getting your inbox to zero, and strategies for dealing with high volume email.

Hat Tip to Presentation Zen for this one.

More PowerPoint Jihad...

It may be a losing battle, but convincing the world that it is not about 100 word text slides during your presentation IS a worthwhile goal.

Here's a great post from Presentation Zen on the topic (with a book recommendation)

Monday, August 27, 2007

Wave 4...Complete and Statistics

A record breaking Wave 4 is slated for completion this weekend.

Total numbers
  • 44 family units
  • 160 individuals
For previous data, see Wave 3 Complete...and Statistics


The question keeps popping up.

Now the post (THE STORY OF 9.79)  has been updated (with the actual video).


Keeping Promises...

Growing up, my dad would always say, "I don't make promises."  This way, he reasoned, he would never be in a position to break them.

For weeks now, Tungsten has been asking me to take her to my office.

We had settled on this morning.

It was only going to be 90-100 minutes. I had books, crayons, snacks ready for her. We were all set.

And here's the lesson....when you see a warning sign, acknowledge it, don't dismiss it.

The first one came when Tungsten got up three times during the night saying she was unable to sleep.

Next, I had to wake her up (never a good idea on a non-school day) just so I could take her to the office with me.

She was sluggish, a bit whiny, definitely tired, and not her jovial self.

Since I had told her I would bring her (I didn't promise), I really wanted to live up to that idea. I thought it would be a special bonding moment for us.

As we got close to my office, she said, "My tummy hurts. I think I might throw up."

She hadn't had breakfast yet, so I thought maybe she was just hungry (and since she's only thrown up once in her life, I was skeptical she knew the feeling.)

I said out loud "Maybe I should just take you to Nanny's [my mom's] house."

Then she said, "I am going to rest for a few minutes," and she closed her eyes.

Neither of us displayed good judgement and we went on.

Walking across the lot of my office garage, she put her hand to her if to hold something in.

That was the last straw.

I put her right back in the car, drove her to my mom's and put her in bed there.

I had so wanted to give her the experience of coming to work with me, that I blindly pushed on.

My loyalty to my daughter and our bonding may be admirable, but it clouded sound judgment. I hate to disappoint her, but that's part of life, I suppose, isn't it?

Friday, August 24, 2007

Book Review: Difficult Conversations

The higher you move up the experience ladder, the more you realize that success in most fields has less to do with technical/domain knowledge (obviously those are important) and more to do with the "softer skills" of things like interpersonal communications.

As consultants say, "it is ALWAYS a people problem."

A friend of mine (Rachel Milner) recommended the book Difficult Conversations which provides a framework for improving the way you address challenging issues with others.

The basic premise is how to have conversations with others where you can honestly talk about your feelings so that they are not a hidden obstacle to conflict resolution. It's been an eye-opener for me, particularly the part that differentiates Intention from Impact. 

If you are committed to self-improvement and making progress in your communication skills, I highly recommend this book.

Stories make the sale...

You want evidence that stories can make a BIG difference in the sale?

Here's a hilarious story that resulted in a (roughly) 14x ROI on a set of cheap Pokemon cards in an eBay auction.


It's a hugely entertaining story which generates HUGE word of mouth (the email I got read :FW: The best eBay description I've ever read" and had been forwarded 8 times).

When all is said and done, even the seller believe how much the cards sell for.

Tell a good story that sounds authentic and watch what happens.

Movie Review: Syriana

As I was watching this movie, I thought that it was a perfect companion to a book that I had previously read called The Prize : The Epic Quest for Oil, Money & Power.

The oil issue is so complex and involves so many angles and money that it's almost impossible to identify all of them, but Syriana did a very good-and balanced, I thought-job of telling the story.

The characters were empathetic, the interwoven-ness of it all was confusing (as it should be) and the moral quandaries presented were first rate.

Solid, solid movie

Romantic Home

My parents took the kids to the beach overnight. Mi esposa made a beautiful, candlelight dinner for us and we got to sit, eat, and chat like we did in the pre-kid days.

It was 90 minutes of 1 on 1 time and just very special. So nice to be able to have that focused time.

Funny how people who choose to get married based on spending time one on one with each other so rarely have that opportunity once children are born. Which makes it all the more valuable.

And the best part of the "Getaway?" No 6 am wake up calls!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

TV, Books, Papers...What's the Value?

I've started to ask myself more rigorous questions about how I spend my time.

Like many people, there are days when I want to come and just crash on the couch and channel surf the TV.

But, I've started to take (and guard) my time more effectively.

Before I do things...pick up a magazine, turn on the TV, read a book, I ask myself, "What am I going to get out of this experience?"

It's tough and I fail sometimes, but I've just become more discerning.

That's why I love the DVR. I know when I turn it on that I am going to watch something that is quality because I chose it. So, if I want to watch TV, great, but I'm going to do it on my terms.


"Garbage in, Garbage out," right?

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Health Bummer....

Just when you thought it was over...Ugh.

Here's the note I got from my endocrinologist.

Your lab results were good (see below).

The next step is for you to contact our clinic to have a Thyrogen Stimulation test, as we discussed.

You can call Renee at 877-xxxx to schedule it. You will need to be on a low iodine diet for 3 weeks prior to the test. You will be coming to the hospital 4 days in a week, likely in late September or in October, and will be having a scan in addition to the blood tests.

T4, FREE, NON-DIALYSIS 1.7 ng/dL 0.8-1.8

TSH 0.60 uIU/mL 0.40-4.50

THYROGLOBULIN <0.2 ng/mL 2.0-35.0

THYROGLOBULIN AB <20 IU/mL Less than 20

For more on why this just blows...(and the less than glorious diet is here)


So they are back...take a look at the sidebar. I've added a few more.

What can I say? I love the concept. Here I am taking bits and pieces of information from sites all over the Internet (widgets) and sharing them right here.

  • You can see what my friends are doing (via Facebook)
  • What sites I've bookmarked (
  • What I'm doing (Twitter)

Way cool...if it becomes a speed problem, we'll address it, but last time I think it was only 1 in particular.

This is part of the future of the web. Embrace it!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

TV Anywhere...

Picked up a copy of the Wall St. Journal today and read a good article called "Make Up Your Own Mine" about a gold mine disagreement in Romania. The author says, "Tonight, PBS will air "Gold Futures," a film by Hungary's Tibor Kocsis."

May not be your cup of tea, but it's mine. I was already out of the office and didn't want to forget this, so I logged into MSN TV Remote Record and through the web, programmed my Vista Ultimate machine to record the program.

How do you know when your kid is lying?

Tungsten likes to chew gum.

I keep packs in my office and she frequently comes down to ask for a piece.

Since she woke me up at 4am today, when we went to do pull-ups (or I did at least), I didn't feel like I wanted to reward that behavior.

I told her she couldn't take a piece of gum.

A few minutes later, I saw a piece in her hand.

I asked her where it was from.

Everything about her demeanor suggested I had caught her. She told me a story about "taking it from the drawer upstairs."

Her story was plausible, but with only about a 1% chance of likelihood.

I wanted to believe her.

How do make it so that they only tell you the truth? Impossible?

Monday, August 20, 2007

On New Technology...

Call out to Blog Reader Steve who sent in the following:

As one who is dedicated to bringing new technology to the public, I thought you might find this interesting.  It is a film made for the 1939 World’s Fair, which includes extended footage of the famous “Futurama” exhibit.  The latter was an incredible projection of life in the 1960s (if you are not familiar, it was a giant diorama, and visitors were transported around the room in moving seats to experience the entire thing).  I actually found this on a DVD collection, but I saw that it is also available at

The initial narrative about “To New Horizons” is a bit cheesy, but really captures the American spirit of moving ahead to improve life through technology.

Another side of immigration and social security..

Our caregiver told me this AM that her plan is to retire back to her native Ethiopia. She can live like a queen for about $500/month.

I was thinking about the phenomenon of immigrants who come to the US, not permanently, but with the eye towards financing a better life in their home countries.

Then, it dawned on me that the creators of the Social Security system probably never envisioned a situation where the money doled out by Social Security wouldn't be reinvested in the US economy.

But in a globalized immigrant scenario, that is highly likely.

So, the US gov't probably has to borrow more to pay off Social Security obligations and then that money stimulates the economy in Ethiopia.

It may not be a bad thing, necessarily, but an interesting one nonetheless (and when you combine it with many native-born Americans who are also retiring abroad even more so.)

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Keep up with your friends...or too much noise?

The Internet digerati have, for a few months now, been singing the praises of Twitter. It's a service where you can get updated quickly (text, IM) about the doings/whereabouts of your friends.

Here's mine. I can update via web, text, IM.

At first, I thought. This is just more noise, but as I've come to appreciate the value of Facebook updates, it has started to seem more and more appealing.

Let me know if you are using Twitter (feel free to start "following" me).

I'm curious how it will evolve.

Here's a good article from Fast Company on the topic.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Book Review: Wake Me Up When the Data Is Over

In principle, I agree with everything that the author advocates in Wake Me Up When the Data Is Over. Communication (and PowerPoint!) is about telling a story that resonates (see Book Review: Made to Stick) not bombarding people with data, facts, and figures.

The author, editor really, emphasizes the need to tell a story and she peppers the book with a lot of stories, which is good. But, I found the whole book in and of itself to be devoid of a compelling story.

Now, perhaps it is because, in this case, she was "preaching to choir," that I didn't feel like I needed to read the whole thing, but I didn't get pulled into the "story" of the book.

If you aren't convinced at all that stories, as opposed to hundred bullet point PowerPoint slides, are the way to go, then go ahead and get this book (from the library!).

Otherwise, while there are some good anecdotes out there, I've seen better examples of ways to convince people of the power of stories in the Conceptual Age.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

2nd Phone Line for $

The telecom revolution continues.

I've installed a product called MagicJack which you connect via USB to your PC. They claim it takes one minute to set up (it took about 5), but once you do, you select your location and a phone number. 

On the other side of the USB is a standard phone jack. Plug in any phone and pick it up. You get a dial tone.

I've made a week's worth of calls on it and I have to say, it works.

The voice mail is a bit weird (still haven't mastered that), but I can make/receive calls. It can integrate w/Outlook so you can dial directly from your contact.

I thought about, but am not ready to, make this our primary phone. The problem is that your computer has to be on all of the time and you know those dang Windows automatic updates/restarts? Well, it happens and your phone goes down.

But, as a 2nd line, it's a great solution.

It looks like the first year is $40 (cost of device) and the 2nd year is $ Not per month, per year.

Wish they had a referral program :-) 

Serendipitous Tunes..

One of the neat things about reading a blog is that you get an insight into different passions of the blogger.

If you open your mind up, you'll be exposed to a whole world which you didn't formerly appreciate.

Case in point.

I read Fred Wilson's blog because he is a leader in the Internet industry, very savvy, and someone whose opinion I really respect. Well, I disagree with his politics, but that's not the point.

Fred is also a music fiend. Most of the time, I gloss over them. For some reason, I read this post and boy, am I glad that I did.

Do yourself a favor and download (it's free), the song called "Pretty Shoes" at the end of the post. Each time I listen to them, I think the song is more and more brilliant.

Opening lines are:

They say you can't judge a man

until you walk a mile in his shoes.

So, I stole your shoes and

I walked a mile in them.

And I still don't consider you a friend.

The tune (sort of folksy) is just the perfect yin to the lyrics yang.

Feelings on a Bike Ride...

You know that scene at the beginning of "Raiders of the Lost Ark" where Indiana Jones is running to avoid being crushed by that huge boulder?

Every great drama has a similar scene.

If life is a drama, then I had one of those scenes this morning.

I had to go in for some thyroid-related follow-on blood work and the lab is about 1 mile from my house.

After dropping Tungsten off at school, I got on the bike,'s summer, I am working from home, and the exercise never hurt. By the time I was about 3 blocks from the lab, it was obvious...there's going to be a MASSIVE storm coming through. It's just a question of when.

In an unusual experience for the medical profession, I went in, signed one form, had the blood taken and was back out the door in under about 9, no 7, no 9 minutes.

I got on the bike and scanned the skies.

I had a chance.

I pedaled my heart out, feeling the wind picking up, seeing leaves swirl about on the ground, watching the sky become more and more ominously grey.

On the way, I went by the playground next to Tungsten's school/camp. Today is Carnival Day and the kids were lined up waiting for their turn on the moonbounce.

I am reading a book now at the suggestion of Rachel Milner called Difficult Conversations. The basic premise is how to have conversations with others where you can honestly talk about your feelings so that they are not a hidden obstacle to conflict resolution. It's been an eye-opener for me, particularly the part that differentiates Intention from Impact.  Don't get me wrong, I have a long way to go....

So, the book, I think, has made me a bit more in touch with/aware of my feelings and when I rode past the playground, I truly FELT two distinct emotions. It was a great moment...for me, at least :-)

The first was pride. Pride that I was able to give my daughter an experience like going on the moonbounce. In my travels over the years, it's clear to me that experience is what makes Life great, not things.

And the second was sadness. Sadness that, in all likelihood, this carnival would be delayed, postponed, or canceled by the pending storm.

And I guess there were two more. would Tungsten handle the disappointment of having the carnival delayed/postponed/canceled. And then, Hope. Hope that she would understand that, like we read every night in "Oh, the Places You'll Go," sometimes Life doesn't work out the way you want it to, but you just need to push on.

I wanted to stop and look for her in the throng of kids, savor the moment, take, as we say, a 'mental snapshot.'

But, I was outrunning a boulder...a lone guy on a bike, trying to make it to the safe haven before the "heavens opened up."

Not 2 minutes after I walked through the door did the thunder crack right over our heads and now, it's torrential.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Creating a Conversation Space...

We added a room to our house, very economically.
Just by putting these two benches in the front yard, we have a new sitting area where people are invited to begin a conversation.
It gives the yard a warmer feel, almost park-like. Doesn't it look inviting?
It's a nice environment to sit down, watch the world go by, read a book, or enjoy another person's company.
If you're in the area, stop on by.
Proves it's not about the money you spend, it's about the experience and environment you can create.
Thanks to my dad for the gift and the idea!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Parenting the 2nd time around...

I feel a bit bad for Paco.

I certainly am excited about his progress as he hits his 2nd bday (today), but it's certainly not the rush it was the first time around.

Hey, I've got to be honest here.

For weeks, he would count "1, 2, 3,4,5, 8, 9, 10" and then, the other morning, out of nowhere, he did it perfectly."

Tonight, he did a first rate "#2" in the potty.

Yes, we were high-fiving, but somehow, the feeling of "the first" wasn't there.

It's like climbing Everest.

Still a GREAT achievement, but someone's already done it.

I guess the challenge is for me to find the firsts for him (oh, and there are plenty as Tungsten never hurled herself off the bed headfirst, for example) and celebrate them in their own right.

Book Review: Oh, the Places You'll Go...

It may seem strange to review a book by Dr. Seuss, but I got a copy of Oh, the Places You'll Go at my work-related meeting last week in Philadelphia.

Since then, I have read it almost every night to Tungsten.

She loves it and so do I.

It's one of those books that has meaning as a child, as an adult, and, for me, at least particularly as a parent. It's like you search all over the world for the "secret" of life and you know what? It's all right in this book.

It sums up the challenges and the glory of life all in one.

Brilliant. Just brilliant.

Movie Review: Manchurian Candidate

This was about as close to a perfect movie as you can get. It grabbed my attention at the outset and at the end, I still wanted more.

Just phenomenal. The Manchurian Candidate I saw was a modern day remake of the original (which I saw in college) and the star-studded cast included Denzel Washington and Meryl Streep.

Acting was superb, storyline was intense and took a number of great, unexpected turns. It dealt with so many different levels of human society, politics, money, greed, interpersonal relationships, psychology, reality, surrealism.  Just great stuff. I was so connected to the characters, I was feeling paranoid.

Absolutely, well worth it.

Sunday, August 12, 2007


When you learn a foreign language, there are specific moments when you learn a new word and that moment is stuck in your head, for whatever reason.

I lived in Germany in the summer of 1994, I had the good fortune of a host family in Munich, the Daunderers.

One day, I was sitting in their kitchen and I was stuck in communicating. I needed the word "impression" as in "I am impressed."

Tine, one of the children of the family (she was about 24 or so at the time) taught me the word, "beeindrucken."

A few days later, I was crossing a bridge in Regensburg, Germany (the site of my summer program) and I managed to seriously impress my two friends, Laura and Anuj by pulling this word out in a conversation. [How I remember this, I don't know.]

I had a flashback to those two moments today because after my run with Paco, I stopped off at a playground and overheard a woman speaking to her son in German. I asked "Kommen Sie aus Deutschland?" [are you from Germany?]

That began a 30 minute conversation in German [I was ecstatic about a chance to practice] about what led me to Germany, etc.  At one point, I was stalled and, then the word "beeindrucken" popped into my head. I pumped my fist in celebration and continued the conversation.

When I got home, I called the my 'host mother' Daunderer to remind her and thank Tine for the education 13 years ago.

Funny how some moments are 'impressed' upon your brain.

Managing Energy and Parenting...

Once you get above 1 kid (and maybe with only one kid as well), parenting strategy can be narrowed down to: how effectively are you managing your kids' energy?

Take this morning, for example.

After a big day of eating yesterday, I was ready for a nice run (plus the weather wasn't too atrocious). Tungsten had a playdate for the AM scheduled, so that left me man-to-man with Paco.

To get him to sit for 30-40 minutes in a stroller for my run, I needed to get him tired beforehand. As a result, I gave him the opportunity to walk from our house w/Tungsten to her playdate. This was a respectable distance and did the job.

He sat nicely while I ran and I rewarded him with some time at the playground afterwards.

Managing energy, though, isn't just about kids, it applies to you as well. Read a great book about this (Power of Full Engagement )a few years back, which I should probably read again, as its lessons are even more valuable now.

It's too easy to just keep pushing, but you have to know what your internal energy is like and manage accordingly.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Work Environment...

I think it is a credit to the company for which I work that this week I was able to:
1. Have a conversation with my Regional VP (boss’ boss’ boss :-)) in which I felt comfortable enough to tell him that I broke down crying while reading Strong
Fathers, Strong Daughters
I realize this is manager-dependent, of course, but that our culture allows for that type of interaction between co-workers says a lot to me.

2. Have a con call w/a peer while his 2 month old was cooing/crying on his lap. He felt comfortable asking if it was ok and I didn’t feel distracted/irritated by it at all. (Now, I might not do that w/my RVP on the phone, but hey).

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve got my issues with the company, but you’ve got to take the good with the bad. And I just think this is a good thing.

Love, Marriage, and Divorce...

Over the past few weeks, I've had conversations with 2 different friends who are having marital troubles.

Friend #1 said (in sum):
"You know what, Jer, I just don't think I love my wife anymore."

Friend #2 (in sum):
"My wife just isn't committed to the marriage."

Though I may have strengths in breaking people up, that is only the case when I know the relationship isn't working...and it's even easier when I don't like one of the people.

In these 2 cases, however, I like all of the people involved. What's more (in case #2), he said, "we still love each other, we're just not focused on the same things."

I'm not sure how to react.

Part of me wants to be the savior...From what I have seen of their marriages (admittedly, very surface, things look good, but obviously you can't judge a book.)

Marriage is tough, very tough.

It's about commitment and, like a marathoner, it's natural to want to quit sometimes, but you have to stay focused on the goal. (Well, my Poppy never wanted to give up...well, in a different way, maybe :-)

Of course, there ARE times when you SHOULD give up.

The key, of course, is to know the difference between the two.

What I struggled with as I poked and prodded in these conversations was whether my friends were smart or stupid in their desire to give up. Was it for the right reasons or the wrong ones? And how the hell was I supposed to know?

And, of course, my motivation to save them may be a reflection of my own desire to avoid failure in my circle of friends for fear that it could happen to me...or any of us.

Hearing these issues made me want to 'double-down' on my efforts to be the best husband I can be (with my unnamed spouse), to appreciate her, and to avoid this predicament.

The conversations scared me a bit...ok, a LOT. And while I go around with the attitude of "Divorce is NOT an option" [see Apollo 13], I know that, as my ex-cousin said, "no one gets married planning on getting divorced."

So, I didn't know how to NOT inject my own feelings into the conversation and didn't know how to help (encourage him to stay or leave?)

When we were first married, my spouse would come home and start talking about a problem. As a man, I would try and solve it. Eventually (it took 6 months), I learned to ask first "do you want a Type 1 or Type 2 response?_

Type 1-I will solve your problem
Type 2-I will listen

That made things easier.

Maybe, in situations likes this, Type 2 is the way to go....

Thursday, August 09, 2007

In philly

Here for one night. Went to the phillies game last night, nice ballpark.

City that is rich with history, but a shame that historical landmarks are dwarfed by skysrapers, something that makes dc unique and charming.

Train is best way to travel

Saw a caviar store. don't remember seeing one of those before.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Voicemail Experience...

Have you noticed that voicemail systems differ in the button you need to push to "bypass" a message?

Sometimes it is a * or a # or a number...

One thing that is frustrating is when you push one of those buttons and you guess wrong....

What if you began your voicemail messages (at work and on your cell with"

"Hi, this is Joe. To skip this message, push *."

Then, go on with your message...

At this point, most of us know what to do on a voicemail and the info you are sharing isn't all that important, like ("I am not available to take your call..." which is kind of obvious.)

Maybe give your friends, customers, partners a few seconds back in their day by letting them do the one thing they want to do, leave a message, and then move on with their day?

It's not the seconds that count here, it's the thought.

And while we are on the topic of other-person centric voicemail, here's something to remember when you call someone.

(Don't call me today to check on my VM, I am going to change it tonight when I'm done traveling :-)

First crush?

This came in last night. I guess it is ok as i know the boy.

-----Original Message--
Subject: for calanit

Ben wanted to write the following email to Calanit:

good night and i will see you in school tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Product Review: iPhone

When I chatted with Dan Pink, author of A Whole New Mind, he said to me, "Steve Jobs wanted to create a computer for right-brained people."

Yesterday, I played with my dad's new iPhone and, you know what, it really drove home the difference between right-brain and left-brain thinking.

My T-mobile Dash, which I love, and does pretty much everything that the iPhone does (maybe more) pales in comparison to the more ephemeral and less measurable, "user experience."

Simply put, the iPhone is elegant. It's enjoyable and it's fairly intuitive (didn't love the keyboard, but I think you can get past that.)

It feels good and you don't feel like you are using a computer.

I was VERY impressed.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Movie Review: Family Man

Take "It's a Wonderful Life" and put it in the mirror and you get The Family Man. Still, since I get choked up every time I see Jimmy Stewart, this movie did it for me.

Instead of a family man (Stewart) seeing what life would be like w/o his family, Nic Cage (a single Wall St. M&A guy) gets to see what would happen if he chose the family route.

A romantic comedy that, at times, got me a bit emotional. Appreciating my (unnamed) wife and my two kids and helping to keep perspective (hard as that is sometimes) on what truly is important.

Some light moments, some profound ones, but nothing too deep. Still, a good movie.

(Always a bit tough when you see movies where the Twin Towers are in the NYC skyline shot).

3.5 stars

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Father-Son Bonding...

Took Paco to the ER today for our Sunday activity. With a $50 co-pay, it comes down to about $8.50/person/hour for the 3 hours we were there.

It's not the easiest thing in the world to keep a 2 year old occupied in a confined space for that amount of time, but the boy was a trooper.

I felt so bad for him. He'd had 2 hard nights in a row and though he was in good spirits, it was clear to all that he was having difficulty breathing.

The nurses did a great job of keeping him happy (the ongoing popsicle supply helped) and with some books I had fortunately brought along, his desire to amble around the ER, and our discovery of how to raise the hospital bed to its maximum height and then lower the front part (thereby creating a playground-like slide), we had a good time.

There were moments when I will admit, I was wathching the clock, but I caught myself and said, "you know, this is LIFE. This IS parenting. It's these moments as well as the "great ones." This is the labor of love that parenting is all about. I need to cherish this one-tough as it might be-just as I would a day at the park."

Once I did that, my mood relaxed and my son, my adventure companion for the day, made it memorable through his attitude and jovial nature.

And all for a pretty economical price...

I've raised her well...

Paco was eating in the playroom the other day.

"Paco, you know you can't eat in here. Tungsten, when is the only time
we can eat outside of the kitchen?"

"When we are watching Football!!"

"That's right. And you know what? There's only 1 month until football

Calanit: "YES!!!!"

Friday, August 03, 2007


If there is one thing you need to learn about being a parent, it is the need for flexibility.

And today was evidence of that.

The plan was (and has been for months) to go visit one of my sisters-in-law in Chicago with her family for the weekend.

We all were looking forward to it...

but Paco had a 103.5 this AM.

A trip to the MD confirmed a virus, but the call was made...not fair to him or to my sister-in-law.

And just like that, vacation canceled. (Strangely enough, the 2nd time this has happened to us...both times for the Windy City.)

But, that's the deal...

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Conversations through the blog...

So, there's the 1st reason I blog, and the 2nd reason I blog.

The 2nd reason can be seen in this chart.

96 different people came to this blog yesterday. Let's say, for arguments sake, that 80% of those are people I know (since I'm not such a famous blogger).

That means that approx. 75 different people in my social circle had an ongoing "conversation" with me. They were intrigued by something I wrote and now have an additional frame of reference for our future interactions.

To me, this is priceless. And what's really interesting is how varied the interactions are in terms of posts of interest.

The blog serves as an enabler for future conversation because we have a common reference point.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Bay Area Friends of Jeremy (FOJ)

On the surface, it was a trip to attend a wedding.

But below, it was a celebration of friendship and an 2 day intensive investigation into themes as diverse as the multi-cultural make-up of America, Globalization, engineering, religion, and the oil-based economy.

My good friend from my days of study in Japan, Jesse Szeto (a Chinese-American) was married to Nikki Toyama (a Japanese-American). The make-up of the 250 in attendance was approximately 80% Asian-American. In and of itself, this was a unique experience for me, given that most of the weddings I attend are with other Jews.

But, there was an interesting twist...of the Asian-Americans, another, say 80% were Christians. Now, normally, when I think "Asian," I don't think "Christian," so this was an eye-opener in that respect.

The service was unique and very engaging. There was a Christian rock group there that played some "worship songs" that were lively and quite spiritual. The homily was first-rate (as were all the speeches at the reception) because they followed the best strategy...tell us a story that paints a picture of the individual characters of the bride and groom. Don't bore us with "inside jokes" that you think are funny, but no one else does. Save that for a late night over a beer with a few people.

After the service, we drove from Oakland to Redwood City via the Oakland Bay Bridge and got to experience some US 101 traffic. This may be a uniquely Californian thing to drive 40 minutes from wedding to reception.

The Reception offered another first...the tables were not of uniform size. As I was seated with friends from IUJ, we were at a table of 4. There were tables of 6, 8, 10, and 12. Brilliant! Put the groups that are naturally inclined to celebrate mini-reunions and let the table sizes go from there. (The one downside might be a lack of interaction between various social groups, but when you haven't seen your friends for 4-5 years, as was my case, having 3 hours of concentrated time at dinner was fabulous.)

I departed via the San Mateo Bridge and headed back to Oakland, where I was able to overnight at the Zielinziger/Abt (see her art here and his book here) home, arguably one of the most beautifully located homes I have ever visited. It sits in the hills above Oakland and when the fog clears in the morning, you can see straight across to San Francisco. I met Michael and Diane during my Japan days and they have done Japan justice in their home decor. My room felt like a Ryokan (traditional Japanese inn), no shoes in the house (yes!), and an evening dip in the ofuro (hot tub) which was a great way to end a day of jet lag and long hours. Their hospitality was unparalleled as the beauty of the environment of their home.

There was a time in preparing for this "Remember the Maine" trip where I considered not renting a car. That would have been an error of colossal proportions. It'd been 5 years since I was on the West Coast and I guess I forgot how dependent the area is on the car.

Michael shed some light on an industry that I knew was being affected by the Internet, only not to the extent that it is.

For years, he had been a foreign correspondent and intimately familiar with the newspaper business. Now, there are no foreign bureaus and with newspapers losing classified and other ads to the Internet, the companies are laying people off.

Michael raised the question of "who will do the people's work?" i.e. the hard analysis and investigation of the issues that can ultimately affect social justice, equality, integrity, ethics, etc. A very valid point and an interesting insight from a white-collar professional who certainly never expected his industry to be "outsourced" or disappear.

Speaking of outsourcing, I had the pleasure of visiting with Hale Foote and his family who live in Alameda (see Colby here). His company, Scandic, makes industrial springs that goes in anything from infant car seats to cell phones to cars. It's an impressive operation and employs 35 people in Silicon Valley. A great feeling to help feed/clothe these people and their families. Hale shared with me, however, that "all of the easy stuff is gone to China." For a few years, he faced a number of challenges as the outsourcing wave grew. They've learned to compete even more on quality of product and fervent customer service, but an interesting insight into a frontline experience in Globalization.

Went over the San Rafael bridge to visit Mark Dantche, a former client from the Snickelways days who is one of the foremost experts in America on the subject of Content Delivery Networks. These are the massive set of computers that make sure that when you go to a given website that you get the information you want quickly and the site doesn't crash. In his spare time, he's a tres impressive handyman who has rebuilt a 1920's garden in what was once the hunting lodge of a rich patrician.

Went back to Oakland and met up with an elementary school classmate of mine, Naomi Sunshine, who just had an adorable baby 10 months ago, Eva. You forget how small they are when they can't walk. Naomi's partner, Jill, works for Google, which of course made me cringe, but I kept it civil. It was at the coffee shop where Naomi and I were approached by a random stranger who clearly had something a bit off and said to me, "did you hear that Bill Walsh died?" Just out of the blue. Reinforces that California image a bit.

I hadn't seen Naomi in 5 years and we caught each other up on mutual friends, compared notes on parenthood, and she updated me on her passion regarding social justice and immigrants' rights.

After dinner with the Foote's (and an intense rowing session thanks to Colby, the 17 year old crew phenom), I was ready to redeem 15,000 of my United miles for a 1st class upgrade and get home to my glorious family.

What this trip, like almost every other since I began my serious traveling days reinforced is that, once again, it's not the places you visit, it's the people who live there.

I got an appreciation for the lifestyle (a lot of bridges, needs for cars), their outlook, the reason why people move to California (damn, the weather IS GREAT) and even though someone threw an egg at my rear window while I was driving (not sure if it was modified road rage or some kids on an overpass), it was a wonderful, memorable experience and one that, I might add, wouldn't have been possible w/o Google Maps (yes, I get the joke).

Technological First...

I'm on the train and I connected my laptop to my phone via Bluetooth. Then, I shared the Internet connection from the phone so that I can email, surf the web, and post to the blog.

Very cool!

More on Racism or Reality...

I'm on the train to NYC and 2 seats ahead of me are two guys, speaking in Arabic. One of them has Arabic tattooed on his, admittedly, very muscular arms.

So far, he's gotten up twice to get his backpack from the overhead section (I've gotten up once). Is it racist or good common sense to view these activities with an extra degree of suspicion that I wouldn't if the African-American woman across the aisle from me were to do the exact same thing?

for more on this topic, see here

Movie Review: Blades of Glory

On Monday evening, I was talking with Colby Foote of Alameda, CA about our mutual admiration and enjoyment of Will Ferrell movies. I asked him if he had seen Blades of Glory (he hadn't and neither had I) and the conversation moved from there. At that moment, it was #41 in my Netflix queue.

As luck would have it, that was the movie on the plane back from Oakland on Monday night. Now, I normally can't sleep on planes and this time was no exception (even though I had bumped myself up to 1st class using miles). Of course, it is possible that I couldn't sleep b/c I really wanted to watch the movie.

Who knows?

Either way, it was worth it (except for being tired.)

For fans of all of the other Will Ferrell flicks, this one is great. I was laughing so hard I was crying, although I was doing it silently since I was on a plane and most people were sleeping.

Afterwards, my stomach and cheeks hurt.

The co-star is the guy who played Napoleon Dynamite, a movie I hated, but he redeemed himself here.

Most excellent....of course, if this isn't your genre, then don't bother.

Book Review: Paradox of Choice

I watched a 20 minute video of the author of Paradox of Choice (Barry Schwartz) giving a presentation at the TED conference and it was enough to convince me to get the book.

The basic premise of the book is that TOO much choice leads to LESS satisfaction. In other words, More is Less.

He then proceeds to offer up a series of qualitative and quantitative studies to back up this point.

The example he uses to start off the book begins with his effort to buy a new pair of jeans.

Once upon a time, there was one kind of jeans and you just dealt with it.

Now, there are slim-fit, relaxed, stonewashed....yadda, etc.

The consequence of this, however, is raised expectations. The jeans, with all of the variables that are possible should be PERFECT. And, if they are not, you are bound to be disappointed.

Consequently, to avoid the expectation of future regret about your purchase of the wrong jeans, you over-analyze and spend way more time than is necessary to make sure you have made the right/best decision. This process causes stress and anxiety and afterwards, you may feel additional psychological pain due to the fact that you never really know if you made the best call.

The way to combat this, he offers, is to become a "satisficer." Someone who is content with "good enough" by a set of criteria (jeans that fit, don't make my butt look too big, can be put in the dryer, whatever...) instead of "the best" which is a combination of factors that will never occur since life always involves trade-offs. (As they say in the consulting business, we offer high quality, the best service, and the best price, but you can only have 2 of the 3).

The book taught me a ton about myself, human nature, and how people respond to choice and others (he spends a lot of time talking about our insatiable need to compare ourselves to peers.) He offers up study after study saying that people would rather make LESS money overall if they knew they were making MORE money than the people at work whose performance they think is inferior to their own.

In a conversation with John the other day, he said the exact SAME thing and we hadn't discussed the book. He was telling me about a co-worker whom he views as incompetent. John said, "I would rather make $25k less if I knew that that guy was making $25k less than I was..."

So John, and apparently many like him, are content with less actual money for the feeling of relative worth.

Pretty powerful stuff.

As a marketer, this is quite interesting as well and I've bookmarked many of the pages for future consideration, particularly items such as:

  • how many choices should you offer a customer? (when people are offered 3 samples of jam to test, they buy more often than when offered 8)
  • how do you do a pre-emptive strike against the anticipated buyer's remorse?
  • how do you convince someone that making the decision NOW is preferable to waiting?

There's a lot here for any student of psychology, human behavior, and marketing.

I probably need to read Paradox of Choice a few times to get the full meaning, but that would be ok w/me.

We Still Don't Get It...

One of my major concerns is that most Americans still don't understand the nature of the threat posed by Radical Islam against Western Civilization and how terrorism can become a part of our daily lives.

In the security line at Dulles on Sunday morning, there was an unattended suitcase near the x-ray machine.

Someone sees it, picks it up, and yells out....

"Hey, whose bag is this?"

The TSA guy, to his credit, yelled,


The guy then puts it down and looks a bit embarrassed for having been reprimanded.

Then another guy lifts it up and says,

"Anyone's bag?"

Meanwhile, I am about to dive for cover.

The TSA guy comes over and immediately puts it on the X-ray belt (not ideal, but a start, I suppose).

Maybe it's the "Hefetz Hashud" concept (suspicious object) that I picked up in Israel and I'm hypersensitive, but this is a different world and I just hope too many people don't have to learn the hard way.

Movie Review: Butterfly Effect

There was a scene in Back to the Future (don't remember which one) where Doc explains to Marty the theory of "alternative universes."

If you saw that movie, you'll get the premise of this one.

Regardless, this is some pretty powerful acting woven through the story of alternative universes.

I must admit that the first 10 minutes had me off in the wrong direction and I said, "this better improve or I am outta here."

Well, it did and I really enjoyed it.

Ashton Kutcher (and his co-stars) all put in first-rate performances and the thought-provoking ideas that the movie puts forward "if you do one thing differently [a butterly flaps its wings], what will the result be in a major way." {see my previous posts on the Iceberg Theory of Change]

I'm going to give it 3.5 stars.

Macro vs. Micro...Liberals and Conservatives?

In the Oakland airport, I saw an elderly woman waiting for a wheelchair with her middle-aged son. Both of them were recent immigrants to the US.

As was to be expected during my sojourn to the Bay Area, I interacted with a number of people whom some might call "liberal."

I did my best to keep an open mind and listen to them. I think I made some progress.

In looking at this elderly woman, I had a realization that, at least for me, helped to explain the difference between the Republican/Conservative (R/C) mind and the Democrat/liberal (D/L) mind.

For the first time, I realized the "rightness" of both arguments.

It seemed to me that, looking at this elderly woman who had come to the US very, very late in life as part of a family reunification program, that the D/L mind celebrates the human and her chance for a better life. She is with her family. She has access to the best healthcare in the world. She is free from the oppression of her native land and she can grow old with dignity. What a wonderful thing. This is a micro-perspective (not micro as in small, but micro as in a focus on the benefits to the individual). The concern is for the dignity, respect, and care for the individual.

The R/C mind, however, acknowledges the benefits that accrue to this individual but asks the question about the societal costs. While it is great that this one woman gets these benefits that she never paid for, how many others are in the same place? At a certain point, are there too many people taking from a pot into which they never contributed? What are the trade-offs that society has to make to enable each of these individuals to have these benefits. The concern is for the dignity, respect, and preservation (dare I say, conservation?) of the society. This is the macro view.

And you know what? Both of them have merit. Both have a LOT of merit. It's that eternal balance that we need to strike. And, no, I don't think ALL liberals ignore the societal impact, nor do I think Conservatives don't care about the individual. They do, just the way they express their care is very different.

I wonder if that is part of the challenge in helping everyone understand each other.

Blogging and Bernice...

I paid a condolence call to the family of one our dear friends, Bernice Fishman, who died this past weekend after a courageous battle with breast cancer.

I spent some time with her son, 28 years old, talking about his mom. Then, he said:

"you know, I was thinking about your blog the night before the funeral. You know that you are leaving your kids...and your grandkids...such a gift. You are leaving them your own words and pictures, so they will really know who you were and what you thought. It's really great."

I've been blogging for about 7 years now and sending mass emails for the 9 before that and I've long said that the emails/blogs are not really for me or my friends (of course I do share them :-), but for my kids [and this was before I even had them or was married].

I wish that Michael didn't have to suffer the pain that he does because his mother has passed away, but I thank him for giving me the continued motivation to do what I consider to be important work.