Friday, November 30, 2007

Your Global Micro-Brand...

If you think about how you brand yourself, you may enjoy this meme: Marketing Blocking and Tackling (from my work blog)

Listen to your mother...

My mom has a poster of "Life's Little Instructions" on one of the bathroom walls.

One of them says, "Listen to your mother."

I was thinking today about a saying she always used from Mies van der Rohe, "God is in the details."

So true.

Too bad it took so long for me to realize how right she is!

So, you want to be a change agent?

Start a blog.

I'm not kidding.


Well, for a moment, let's leave out the reasoning of your argument and think about the method.

If I call you or email you and begin to pitch my idea, you are being interrupted. I am forcing you to react in real-time. It's an intrusion, either way, into your life.

If, however, I just put my thoughts out on a blog and you voluntarily go there, the nature of the conversation has already changed.

Now, you are, potentially, more open to my ideas.

You don't have to agree, that's fine, but because you are willingly putting yourself into the dialogue and thoughtstream, the conversation is likely to be more productive.

We've all been in conversations where the manner of presentation destroyed the content.

And, don't worry about numbers, worry that the "right" people are reading it (be it internal or external).

A quick example...

I have a friend who is a lawyer in DC working in pharmaceutical regulatory issues. He's a big reader of this blog and he decided that he could be a blogger.

He's got 300 readers a month, not huge, but you know what? It's the right 300 people. He's viewed as an expert in his industry and that helps him build out his business.

See Seth's post (a slightly different take) on an internal blog.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Before and After...

My mom is a professional organizer. You can hire to pretty much solve any problem

Import a rare bird from Costa Rica?
Sell a library of ancient Akkadian?
Put your life together?

You name it, ConciergeAmerica can get it done.

Here are the before and after pics from a job she did in 1 day!



Politically Incorrect Ads

From another era....Feminists, stay calm :-)

Netiquette Question....

Netiquette is Internet Etiquette. The following question came in from an FOJ, who shall remain anonymous :-)

What do you think is the correct answer to his dilemma?

(My thoughts are at the bottom)

He writes:

I am emailing you because I consider you to be an expert on email etiquette and online networks.

By now you may or may not have seen my invitation to you to join Doostang.

I wanted to "connect with" perhaps 10 people and I inadvertently invited my entire gmail address book who aren't already Doostang members to join Doostang. You might be able to imagine how this happened.

I wanted to find friends who were already on Doostang and "connect with" them so I used my gmail email address and password on the Doostang website to do this. It then found and checked the boxes next to everyone in my address book who were already members AND it checked the boxes next to everyone in my address book who are not yet members.

So I unchecked the people who are already members who I did not want to "connect with" (like someone in the Admissions Office of Fordham Law School who I don't know at all). I then neglected to uncheck the boxes of everyone else who isn't already a member. I then carelessly clicked on "Connect with Friends".

There are over 400 email addresses in my gmail address book and voila, I had just sent an email to nearly all of them.

I just wanted to make sure that my instinct is correct and I should not email my entire address book to apologize. Rather, I am just going to apologize if people respond to me asking me what is going on or to remove them from this list. One person already has and please see the PS for the text of what I responded. I am assuming that most people who don't know me or barely know me are just going to delete the Doostang invitation.

On a somewhat surprising note, a partner at the law firm where I used to be a paralegal, and with whom I am not all in touch, accepted my Doostang invitation!

Any advice would be most appreciated.

Thank you,


(Name withheld)

PS Here is the text of my response to someone who responded to me.

Mr. [Name Removed],

I am really sorry. I wanted to send the Doostang invitation to perhaps 10 people. I inadvertently sent it to my entire gmail address book.

Once I did that, though, I did not want to send yet one more piece of unnecessary email to my entire gmail address book apologizing for doing so. I am sending a personal apology to whomever responds to me as you did Mr. [Name Removed].

My apologies again,

It's a tough call to generalize about all 400 people's responses, of course. For those who already like you, like me, I'll just ignore it and move on. It's not enough to damage our relationship and you don't do it very often (unlike those annoying Vampire=referrers on Facebook), so you are probably ok just moving on.

Your response to the person who wrote to you was right on, so that was ok. No need to contact all 400 probably.

The last part, I would think is that, possibly, you can use this as an opportunity for a segment of your 400.

Not all of your contacts are equal.

  • some will not lose any respect for you (like me)
  • some will respond (like the guy who did)
  • and some may be on the fence

You can write to those in your gmail book in group 3 w/whom you have less contact and offer them an apology, acknowledging that you made a mistake (which can be a great sign of strength), and then use that to strengthen your personal bond with them.

Work and enhance your network relationship and linkages.

Follow up with a call for 5 minutes to chat, send an article that you know s/he might find relevant. Re-connect in some way so that, next time you mess up, you can count that person as "solidly in your camp," the way you can count me.

Will it take some time to go through your list of 400 and figure out to whom you should reach out? Yes, of course, but you are only as valuable as your network is strong (I've blogged about this a lot, here and here, for example), so it is probably worth it.

And, thanks for considering me a guru, though it's probably not deserved.

Wonder what others think...

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Book Review: Bit Literacy


I didn't get a whole lot from Bit Literacy, but after 20 pages, I quickly realized why.

It's not written for me. It's written for you.

How do I know?

When you shut down your computer at night, how many emails do you have in your inbox?

I have zero.

Mark Hurst is one of my favorite Internet thought leaders. He's the mind behind Creative Good and ThisIsBroken. He's been in the industry for the last 10 years and knows what he is talking about.

What Mark is writing about is how do you manage all of the electronic bits that fly at you each day. Are you effective in dealing with them? Are you productive?

  • One of his key metrics is, have a completely empty inbox at the end of each day.
  • Another is: how long does it take you to find a specific picture in your collection?
  • do you have macros, one-touch command, keyboard shortcuts at your disposal?
  • can you type using the Dvorak keyboard (ok, I can't do that one, but I can do about 85 wpm in touch-typing...another big beef of his..thanks mom, for making me take typing in 8th grade!)

I did walk away with a few ideas for improvement, which was great. And I will use them.

The challenge with Bit Literacy is the challenge of most self-help books, it requires you, when all is said and done, to actually implement the techniques you have learned.

In my experience, that is where most people fall short, be it diet, exercise or Bit Literacy.

Regardless, if you feel overwhelmed by the amount of info coming your way daily, this is as good a place as any I have seen for you to start getting a handle on it.

But, remember, it's not about the technology or the tools, it is how you use them.

And for fun, check out his list of "good experience games"

Peer Pressure, Part 2

I get to Tonka's classroom the other day and one of the mother's says to me.

"You should know that peer pressure works.

Jane saw that Calanit had her nails polished. Jane wanted her nails polished as well, so she stopped sucking her thumb.

Then, Joanna, who started sucking her thumb only because of Jane, said she wanted her nails polished as well, so she stopped sucking her thumb."

I called my sister, Kira, who was the first person to paint Tonka's nails and told her about the revolution she had caused in the nursery school.


Peer pressure can be good, eh?

Note: names changed :-)

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

What I Want in Facebook...

I think the honeymoon may be over for me with Facebook.

Don't get me wrong, I still like the service a lot (it's still got a lot going for it), but I think, in some respects, it needs some modifications.
  1. I am tired of getting invites for vampires and zombie apps. I'd like to have a "stupid" filter of stuff that I don't want to receive or, better yet, vote down the people who send me the stupid stuff and disqualify myself from getting their invites.
  2. I need major flexibility in sorting through my friends. Why does everything have to be in alphabetical order when I find something I do like and want to pass it on? Why can't I sort by location/interests/religion/political views? That'd be great.
  3. If someone removes me as a friend, I'd like to know about it. I'd also like to know why. Ok, that's probably a stretch.
  4. More on #1, but as it relates to people I see in my newsfeeds and status updates. Some people are just more interesting than others and better communicators.

My friend (on Facebook and otherwise), Sean posted some other good ideas.

"Tough" "Love"

Paco was just out of control temper tantrum this morning.

It was stressful, very stressful.

Nothing I did could calm him down.

At moments like this, when you are exhausted (it began at 4.30am when I wouldn't let him crawl in bed with me), all of the "expert parenting advice" stuff that you read goes out the window.

You are in survival mode.

In hindsight, I think I did too much "tough" and not enough "love."

Usually, he responds to cause-and-effect punishments, like losing DVD-watching privileges or "no popsicles" or taking away a favorite book.

But when you do three or four of these with no results, it may be too much.

And I've done it in the past, just held him (or Tonka) close, gave a hug and talked in a soft voice.

But, in high stress moments, it's not always so easy.

Another live and learn moment, I guess.

Monday, November 26, 2007

The Minivan and Masculinity...

I took the kids to my parents yesterday in the new Odyssey.

While I was there, I had to run an errand over to my grandparents' apartment.

I asked my mom if I could borrow her car. I wasn't ready to drive the minivan alone...not just yet.

Look, it's a great car. It's safe, handles well, has some great features, and is a smooth ride. Nothing against the car.

I think it's what the car represents.

Though I never may have been the image of masculinity, studly, or whatever, what the minivan does is destroys any remaining illusion of "cool."

Yeah, yeah, I know the ultimate masculinity is being a good father. I get it.

Let's put that aside for a moment though and let the superficial stuff come through. Just humor me.

I'm the picture of suburban dad now. I've got 2 (soon to be 3 car seats) and I'm driving a Honda. That's about as uncool as you get.

I'm sure I'll get over it, but it sure feels a bit weird.

Ok, rant over.

On the Jewish Question -

This is the closest I've seen to the idea I've expressed for 15 years, "It's Israel's Existence, Stupid" and why I don't think anything will come out of Annapolis.

Subscription required:On the Jewish Question -

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Playdates and the kitchen...

At Microsoft, we talk about "scaling through partners."

What that means is "how do you work with others that aren't on your payroll to achieve the same goals more cost-effectively?"

Well, I live the same motto at home as at work.

On Friday, we had synchronized playdates as Paco and Tonka each had a friend and I was the only adult in the house. (Tonka had another one in the PM). And, again, this AM 4 kids in the house.

The playdates are my partners, as it were, in keeping my kids engaged.

As far as managing the kids, it is just like preparing a nice meal with a lot of pots on the stove at once. You just need to stay aware of the situation with each kid.
  • who is probably going to be hungry?
  • who is going to need a change of activity/environment?
  • who should be advised to go the bathroom?
  • how long is the right amount of time?
Like a good chef, if you can keep this in mind, you will have a successful series of playdates.

Movie Review: Bridge to Terabithia

I had heard of this book/movie and thought it was along the lines of Chronicles of Narnia and to some extent it was, but I thought, in the end, the story had a few solid lessons.

The plot took a bit longer than I would have liked to develop, but once I did, it reminded me of the power of the child's mind and that, as I watch my own kids grow, I should be careful to let that develop on its own and not force adult views on them prematurely. That will come soon enough.

The bonus part was really good, an interview with the author that gave additional depth and context.

3.979 stars.

Empty Chair on a Sunday Afternoon...

Had the sad task of going over to my grandparents apartment today to pick out some clothes from my Poppy's closet.

Now, he was a good dresser, so that part was fine. It was how empty it was. How cold. How quiet.

I turned on the Redskins-Bucs game and watched a bit as I sorted through the closet.

I thought of the countless Sundays past I spent there watching football, even until last season and how it has become part of our family identity.

I looked at Poppy's chair, empty, and felt the shivers go down my spine.

Bedtime Stories...

My mother-in-law is a great reader. She's also a published author.

When she reads stories, she reads with a soft cadence that brings the listener into the words of the book.

For whatever reason, she was my inspiration tonight as I read two books (this one and this one)to the kids.

They have each heard the book dozens of times, but I could sense their focus tonight.

With each word, I imagined-and I know this sounds corny-the word getting implanted on their brains, expanding their vocabularies, and enabling them to picture ideas and images in their minds.

A moment of truly being present...and a gift.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Over a barrel...

is where Paco had me last weekend.

He was the ringbearer at his uncle's wedding and we had to convince him to keep his jacket and bowtie on for the duration.

I'm a big believer in incentives, but I turned to outright bribery to get it done.

And Paco knew he had me. As the negotiations wore on, he extracted more and more from me.
The cost?

An afternoon of:
  • 2 popsicles
  • 1 episode of Diego
  • 1 episode of Dora the Explorer
  • 1 episode of Little Einsteins
Usually, they get at most one episode per day, so it was a TV fest for him and he did live up to his bargain.

Then, I looked at Tonka.

The girl did everything she was asked, no bribery necessary.

I told her, "you shouldn't be penalized because you do what I ask," so not only did she watch everything with Erez, but she got 2 whole packs of gum (I usually give her one piece per day) as a bonus.

School Pictures...

Of course, I think that my kids look cute in their school pics, but when I think about the idea of them, it strikes me as something we do because we have always done them. (Well, not always, but you get the idea).

I looked in the pictures folder for each kid. I've got 1,173 pics of Tonka and 678 pics of Erez (and that's not including others where they may be part of the pic.)

Given that, do I really need to pay someone for pics of my kids?

I think not.

Keren says that I'm not sentimental, and maybe that's true, but I just don't see the utility of them anymore.

Book Review: Linked

Originally, I thought Linked would be more thoughts along the lines of Never Eat Alone and the value of networking, but boy, was I wrong!

It was that and MUCH more. An in-depth investigation into network theory running the gamut of subjects from physics to cell biology to terrorism to the Internet.

A fascinating read that, if you really think about it, helps you uncover some of the hidden elements of our day to day interactions with each other and how we may be affected (or able to impact) by persons "six degrees" away.

For marketers, this gives you more ideas on how to change the way you identify and communicate with your best and most influential customers. The same is true for politicians, would-be revolutionaries, or any one who wants to get the message out.

Friday, November 23, 2007

The $1800 Video...

Think that being a "Citizen Marketer" doesn't really work? Is one person really More Powerful Than Microsoft?

Well, I took a video that saved my parents $1800.

It's not so much what happens in the video, it's what happened because of the video.


My mom had made arrangements to host dinner prior to my brother's wedding at a hotel in St. Paul, MN. Despite some requests, she hadn't received a final cost estimate for any fees payable to the hotel (the catering and wait staff were externally arranged)

So, it's Friday morning (dinner is Friday night) and my mom finds out that the fee would be $3000 for the room alone (more than the cost of the food and service staff) because of "union rules" or something like that.

As my mom says in the video, "I feel like you have me over a barrel."

Citizen Marketing...

And once upon a time, that would be the case. The discussion, in the back of the sales and catering office, would have ended up with my mom caving because she really had NO leverage whatsoever.

Not anymore.

As I said to my mom (she thought the video approach was a bit controversial), all I did was "level the playing field."

If the hotel folks wanted to say, "too bad," or "my hands are tied," (2.50 into it) that's fine.

Today, though there's a measure of accountability. You can't pretend later that it didn't happen. You can't expect that the story won't be told. And you can't expect that you can treat customers however you want and that no one will know about it because the conversation took place in a backroom.

As an employee, you are always accountable for your actions on behalf of the company. It's a tough, paradigm shift, but it is the new reality.

On a side note, I happen to think that the employee was trying to do the right thing and listened very well, but didn't feel empowered by her organization to do so, which is a whole different problem. She wasn't rude or offensive, she was just holding up the "party line," when someone else probably gave the order to do so.

Bottom Line

Hilton agreed to lower the fee to $1200.

Video Notes:

Most of the video is my mom talking (0:22 through 2.50). It only gets interesting when the rep says (3.30) that "if I am going to be on film, then there's nothing more to say" [which sort of proves the point of the post, IMHO).

Updated: after thinking it over, I've decided to remove the video. I have no animus towards the particular employee and feel that it's just not worth embarrassing her to further make the point.

Playdate Friday...

After last weekend's travel (and feeling sore from Turkey Bowl), I decided that Friday (parental solo day due to spousal work obligations) would be all about playdates.

Tonka has 2 (AM and PM).

Paco has 1.

Right now, there are 4 kids 4 and under in my house and it is intense.

The high tides are higher, that's for sure and the low tides are shorter.

Worse thing is, Paco is the most challenging of all right now. Not sharing so well and not listening.

Granted, his first playdate, but we've got a ways to go.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Misogyny, Misanthropy, Both, or Neither?

I saw this ad and thought, "how offensive to women, it implies they can be bought." (For more on my perspetive, see the end of misogyny in advertising)

My wife's reaction: "the only way a man can become valued to a woman is through the purchase of a diamond. How shallow."

Either way, another lesson in how your intentions (my hunch is these weren't the feelings the advertisers wanted to elicit) can be misinterpreted.

Of course, I did notice it and it did get a reaction (good), but it didn't want to make either of us buy (not good).


Future newscasters...

One of the exhibits at the Minnesota Science Museum allows you to play the role of newscaster.

My two co-anchors hosted the 6 o'clock broadcast last week.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Mall of America...

As a student of American history and marketing, how could I not go to the Mall of America in Bloomington, MN?

On the one hand, it represents all that is great about America. Capitalism at its finest.
The opportunity to buy pretty much anything you want (imported Irish Meade anyone?) and engage in all types of activities (roller coaster inside).
On the other hand, it is pure excess. The thought that this island of everything exists in a world where so many have so little makes you wonder if, at times, we have lost our way.
It really is impressive...and expensive (I dropped $30 in 30 minutes...ouch.) But, Tonka was a sport and I made her a deal, "you go on the carousel twice, but you have to go on Ferris wheel w/me once."
I wanted to help her conquer her fear.
And she did.
What's more American than that?

More on the Gift Revolution...

So, apparently, we as a country waste $8bn on gift cards per year.

Another reason to just give cash.

I'm the room parent for Paco's 2 year old nursery...that's what we're doing for Hannukah.

Alternative Energy...

About a year ago, I blogged on the coming wave of Cleantech opportunities as I saw it. Combined with the national security interest, it's critical.

A big shout out to my friend, Mike Granoff who is DOING something about it. And in the biggest nut of them all...automobiles. Good work, Mike!

3 (and 3 quarters!) year old interior designer...

I've mentioned before that Tonka is left-handed, and hence right-brained, a budding artist indeed.

She's since started to deploy her skills in some very creative ways.

Who says they aren't making any more of it?

Everyone says,

"I invest in real estate because they aren't making any more of it."

Well, my brother Asher, disagrees.

Here's some more being created...

On Lunches...

The nameless one asked, "what do you want for your school lunch tomorrow?"

Tonka: "Macaroni and cheese!"

Paco: "Whatever!"

On Football...

In the Minneapolis airport on Sunday, we had an opportunity to watch part of the Colts-Chiefs game.

"Paco, do you want the white team or the red team?"

"The red team!"

"Tonka, which team do you want?"

"Whichever team is winning!"

At least she won't be disappointed....

Monday, November 19, 2007

Great shirt...

I saw this guy at O'Hare, ran up to him, asked if he had time, and asked if I could take a picture of the shirt.
Couldn't resist...


Stewart, a loyal blog reader, was criticizing me for my Skype profile image. He said that an "open-necked" shirt didn't offer a professional image (since I use Skype, sometimes, for work).

That led to a conversation on style and fashion and 3 months ago, Stewart offered to bring me a first-class shirt/tie combination for my brother's wedding this past weeked in St. Paul, MN.

I completely forgot, but Stewart didn't. Not only did he bring one, he brought 2, lest my better half disapprove.

He told me that I "looked like a million bucks," of course I said, I was about $500k, since my boy took the cake in the male fashion category.

Now, while on the subject of neckwear, I have to relate this anecdote.

In sum, it is "you can take the boy out of Israel, but can't take Israel out of the boy."

My cousin Shai, a Harvard Ph.D and Stanford post-doc in bioinformatics, calls me 45 minutes before the wedding and asks to come down to my room.

He needs help tying his necktie. The two he owns, both permantenly tied, are not with him (he just moved to Palo Alto) and, of course, being Israeli, tying a tie is not part of his skill set.

So, Shai, here's a diagram for the classy Windsor knot.

The Jewish First Baseman...

You gotta listen to this clip from the Boston Red Sox announcers when they
discover that their first baseman is Jewish. Its good stuff.

Online Videos by

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Midwest observations

Tjada has helped raise my racial sensitivities over the years.

While waiting for the female contingent in the bathroom today at the minneapolis airport, i saw approximately 300 people walk by.
Of those i saw

-8 blacks (don't know if they wreak american or not, hence no african-american)
-4 asians
-4 south asians/indians

Just an interesting difference from what you might see in some other cities

I am emailing from my mobile device, sorry for any typos or brevity.

Minnesota science museum

So we are walking through the museum, which is GREAT, and iI start chatting with a woman whose shirt says north dakota.
'visiting?' i ask

'my son is having outpatient surgery tomorrow.'

'good luck with that. What is the procedure?'

'he has hypo ...', somethig i couldn't understand.

'uh, what is that?'

'he has an extra hole.'

'oh. where?'

'on his penis.'

I am emailing from my mobile device, sorry for any typos or brevity.

Travel blog

A ton of rain on the way to bwi, but team performed admirably in getting to gate

Tonka was perfect on flight, paco until last 20 minutes was also. Kudos to mom for packing diversions

Kids LOVE moving walkways at o'hare!

Watching planes through window prior to boarding msp flight

I am emailing from my mobile device, sorry for any typos or brevity.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Rudy and take

I've heard a lot from the anti-Rudy gang, which is great. Love the discussion, but I also think that secretly, they have to be really upset about the Pat Robertson endorsement of Rudy.

I've said the Rudy is the ONLY candidate who can win from the GOP side b/c he is the only one who can draw from the middle.

The big variable was whether the socially conservative right (a la Jesus camp) would rather stay home and allow Hilary to win or accept Rudy and get 50% of what they want (foreign policy and economy).

Robertson's endorsement tells me that there are some who think Rudy is the lesser of the two evils and they are willing to compromise so they don't get totally shut out.

Mama said...Part II

Is it possible to anticipate in the future that "Mama said there'll be days like this?"

We're travelling on 2 planes tomorrow and as of 10pm, Paco wasn't asleep.

You just know it's going to be a long day.

In other news, finally took the car for a test drive (5 days after we bought it!)

Book Review: Secrets of Consulting

I'm of the opinion that pretty much everyone in the "knowledge economy" is a consultant.

What Secrets of Consulting does -pretty well-is boil down a lot of the truths about working with people (his first rule is, "no matter what, it's ALWAYS a people problem") into simple little proverbs (hey, like the one I just cited!)

Some others

  • Clients always know how to solve their problems, and always tell the solution in the first five minutes
  • Study for understanding, not for criticism
  • Once you eliminate your number one problem, number 2 gets a promotion
  • You'll never accomplish anything if you care who gets the credit

My feelings on this book were roller-coaster like. I started off very excited, then got fatigued with it in the middle, and pressed on, found some reward at the end.

If I had one criticism, it would be length and flow (ok, that's two). I felt like the points could have come across a bit more succintly and I just wish that the "story" had gripped me a bit more.

However, if listening skills and communication are areas of development for you (I know they are for me), this may be worth picking up.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Dude, Where's My Car?

It's on eBay.

I am selling an SUV on eBay.

I just love being alive right now. e-commerce rocks!!!

Monday, November 12, 2007

Knowledge Worker...

I took a walk around the neighborhood today at 3pm. The street was quiet.

Middle of the day and I'm on my front yard.

Once upon a time (agrarian), you got paid for manual labor based on your output (say bushels of cottons picked).

Then, (industrial), you get paid for the hours of work you perform (say assembly line).

Now, you get paid for the knowledge you produce. Time doesn't matter. Can't be measured in physical terms.

A total paradigm shift.

Priceless Parenting...

So Paco has the ability to remove his diaper and go to the potty himself.

At 6:30am this morning, he walks into our room.

I'm asleep, basically.

He says, "I took off my diaper and made a pishy!"

I reach down to feel his naked tush, just to confirm what he said...and put my hand into his "poop" covered butt.


The Joy of Home Repair...Seriously

When the nameless and I were newlyweds, we spent the weekend with my great Uncle Bob in the Hamptons.

I remember him saying, "I think home ownership is a pain in the ass. There is always something going wrong."

He's right, of course, well insofar as something is always going wrong.

I guess I've decided that, though it is frustrating, I kind of like the challenge.

There are so many systems at play. There is an opportunity to be strategic in your thinking...penny wise and not pound foolish.

For example, since Saturday night, I have

  1. replaced an outside light bulb, while identifying that one of my X-10 switches is probably fried (due to my use of compact fluorescent bulbs)
  2. went to home depot to buy
    1. a drain snake--so I could unclog the shower drain (which I did)
    2. humidifier filter on furnace (replaced)
    3. air filter on furnace (replaced with new eco-friendly, reusable version)
  3. put the car seats in the new Honda (it's been 72 hours since we took delivery and we still haven't driven it!)
  4. raked and piled some leaves

I don't know, there's just so much going on and I enjoy trying to stay on top of it.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Moment of Intervention....

There are hundreds of micro-moments in a child's life that can have ultimately have a major impact down the road.

I dropped Tonka off at nursery school on Thursday. As we were hanging up her coat, a friend runs up to her and says,

"Don't play with Jane. She's not being nice."

Tonka didn't really react, but I intervened in a BIG way.

"Tonka, just because Jane isn't playing nicely with Molly doesn't mean that you shouldn't be nice to her."

And I continued to drive home the point of

  1. not succumbing to peer pressure
  2. staying open-minded

When she got home, Tonka made a point of telling me that she played nicely with Jane.

Like the comment made to me in college about a professor that changed my outlook on business. Call it the Iceberg Theory of Change or what you will, but, when your kids are young, if you are there to help shape character, the impact can be tremendous.

*Names changed to protect pretty much everyone.

The Joy of Teaching...

You frequently hear teachers talk about the pride and satisfaction they feel when a student performs at the level the teacher knows he can.

I had never really experienced that emotion...until today.

My Bar Mitzvah student, aka the Karate Kid himself, (and I'm Miyagi) performed just BRILLIANTLY this morning at the Hashkama minyan service (and if you want a hilarious overview of what really goes on there, read the KK's father's intro for their guests.)

I think, when it began, I may have been more nervous than he, but today he proved that practice makes perfect. Seriously, he couldn't have done it any better.

A few people asked me afterwards if I was "going into the business."

My answer: I had a great student who did a perfect job. I am going to go out on top :-)

A big Mazal Tov to the entire family and an extra hat tip for making the event even more remarkable by sending their out of town guest a "Shomer Shabbat Alarm Clock." 

(Background: sabbath observant Jews may not use electricity on the Sabbath and the Hashkama minyan service starts at 7am. So, if you can't use an alarm clock, you can either hope that you will get up on time or set a traditional alarm (which you can't turn off) which will (trust me on this one) really upset your spouse. The beauty of this device is that it goes off for only one minute...though you can set 5 different times. It works!)

Greg Mankiw's Blog: The Economics of Losing Weight

Pay a penalty if you don't meet your diet goals. I've long thought this was a good idea.

Greg Mankiw's Blog: The Economics of Losing Weight

Jon Reuter-are you reading? 

Friday, November 09, 2007

Car Buying...Conclusion

So, I avoided Governor O' Malley's proposed tax increase (which I predicted here),and took delivery of the Honda Odyssey.

Next step: sell the '91 Toyota Corolla w/82k miles...on eBay. :-)

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Fellow Travelers...

Any trip home that begins by pulling into the car rental return where the car in front of you has a 979 license plate...well, you know you're going to be ok.

Maybe that's what put me into such a talkative mood going down the gangway of the United redeye.

Behind me was this cute little girl and we started chatting (she asked about my T-mobile Dash). I started showing off the features (hey, had to impress her) and took her picture. She gave me her email address (so I could send it to her from my phone, Kaylin Sellers).

Now, as a Redskins fan, I know the name Mike Sellers, though most wouldn't, but when we got to Dulles, and she said that she was going to see her dad, but he couldn't pick her up b/c he "had practice," that's when I found out that she is Mike Sellers' daughter.

Her dad gives it his all and I told her to be proud of him (and sent him a note as well!)

Now, I've discovered the joy of Ambien for redeye flights, so only this morning when I woke up did I notice the woman across the aisle from me.

I kept thinking, "I know her from somewhere..." but I didn't ask.

Later, in the terminal, we ended up next to each other (that always happens, right?) Well, it turns out she is a JHU grad and we both recognize each other's names, though we can't figure out why. Her name?

Robin Jacobson. She's a Poli Sci prof at Bucknell and graduated in '96. Any JHU grads out there can help me?

Anyway, travel to me is about meeting people and on one flight (I didn't even mention Avgi, the Navy captain next to me), I had a chance to meet (and reconnect with some really nice ones).

Growing up...

I think it may have been the way she was wearing sunglasses propped up on her head. Not sure.
But, at some point, this evening, I realized that I truly have a little girl on my hands. At times, she is whiny, but the level of conversation is quite intense and it's obvious that she is absorbing so much. I'm almost nervous about the moves I make, lest they make the wrong impression.
It's right now, when I have to invest in the relationship, where she trusts me.
Don't want to wake up in 10 years and realize I don't know my own daughter.

Panel Pundit...

I displayed a solid lack of judgment this AM.

I erroneously figured I could arrive at Dulles airport at 7.15am, go to the Microsoft Reston office to get my flu shot (I was the 1st one) and still make it to the panel on time.


REALLY bad call.

I didn't prioritize effectively and I almost blew it.


I walked in 20 minutes late to a PACKED room (about 220 people) and there on the dais was an empty seat with my name in front of it.

I sauntered on up...and proceeded to have a blast.

My basic points to the Professional Liability Underwriters Society of America will be nothing new to readers of the blog.

  1. Companies can't control the message anymore. People are the message. What that means for you is the nature of risk is completely different.
  2. Conversations about companies and products (therefore risk creating scenarios) are occuring on company sanctioned sites, but more often on other places (blogs, Facebook, etc.)
  3. Web 2.0 is a strategy. It's not a technology set.

I did my best to inject humor, add value by referencing new ideas and sites (heck, at one point, I referred to Prosper  and how they are disintermediating the banks. At which point, the panelist next to me ( 's CEO, Luis) and I began a 2 minute mini-brainstorming session about how the same thing could happen to the entire insurance industry. NOt sure that went over so well! :-)

Anyway, got some nice accolades, handed out the biz cards, and hopefully launched my pundit career and furthered the global microbrand.

Instant pundit

About a month ago, i saw tha microsoft was a sponsor of a web 2.0 conference. I figured i could attend for free, so i found out who was in charge.

As soon as i did, i found myself responsible for the whole event, see my work blog,

Anyhow, met someone there and started to chat. Well, she is running a web 2.0 panel for the insurance association and guees what, i am on it.

Last minute, she reached out to me, so i am taking the redeye back-on the gangway in seatac now- and then off to woodley park for panel session.

Now i am a pundit!

Backed up

So before leaving seatt, i stopped by my old friend (from kindergarten), eran meggido's house for a quick chat.

Like any smart traveler, i used the bathroom before i left for the airport.

Thing is, the toilet backed up.

I paused before going upstairs.

'uh, eran, there's no easy way to tell you this, but i am afraid your toilet is clogged.'

He was a good sport about it (apparently it was a known problem, but he forgot to mention it, and yes, his wife properly berated him for doing so.)

Embarrassing moment mostly averted.

I am emailing from my mobile device, sorry for any typos or brevity.

Mobile post sent by jer979 using Utterz Replies.  mp3

Mobile post sent by jer979 using Utterz Replies.  mp3

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Travel in the Digital Age...

Most people don't enjoy being away from their family for business. It's tough on them, the kids, and the spouse left at home.

Thanks to webcams and Windows Live Messenger and a LifeCam, things are a bit easier now.

Do you think it's tougher on the spouse who stays at home with the kids or the one who is travelling?

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Kids online....who's in charge?

With four daughters and 2 teenagers (listen to them here), Jon and Leah Jacobson share concerns that many parents have--namely worrying about how much time their kids spend online.
During dinner, the topic came up and I reminded Jon about one of Vista's features...with each user account, a computer administrator set times when other users can use the machine.
It's called Parental controls and it's pretty cool.

Mobile post sent by jer979 using Utterz Replies.  mp3

Change Agent...

Starting a new job/position is both an opportunity and a challenge.

On the one hand, you get the chance to create a new, updated image of yourself for your new peers. On the other, you have to prove yourself all over again.

My big concern is less proving myself (see "I know I can play) than more of,

"How can I affect change in a respectful way without making others feel like I am attacking part/some/all of what they have done?"

It comes back to the communication issue I've been discussing and I'm overly sensitive to it now.

Never get a 2nd chance to make a first impression.

I'm in Seattle now, trying to bring about the change I believe in...humbly.

Mama said there'd be days like this...

Sometimes things go smoothly...and sometimes they don't.

First, last night, I try to log on to for a flight to Seattle, only to see that I'm not on the flight.

After 90 minutes of dealing with American Express Business Travel (don't call them on a Sun. night), I get that issue fixed (something with UA's system). Of course, I am now in a middle seat for the non-stop, cross-country flight.

Then, I call to reserve a cab for 9.30am on Monday morning.

At 9.40am, I call to find out where the cab is. "Oh, your reservation is for NEXT Monday," I am told.

So, I have to drive myself to the airport.

I spill orange juice on the lady next to me.

My back spasms.

I get to Seattle, pick up the car, and drive to the hotel.

Only to find that my "computer is too sophisticated for the wireless network," so I have to change rooms so I can use a wired line.

Which works for about 20 minutes.

I'm connecting using my phone's data connection.

This is crazy. I should just go to bed.

Movie Review: 300

A few months ago on the History Channel, saw a documentary on the "real story of the 300." That background gave me an added appreciation for the situation in which the Spartans found themselves.

Back in 7th grade, I remember Mrs. Boyar teaching us that in Sparta, the women would say to the men prior to battle, "come back with your shield or on it," so I was excited to see that verbatim in the movie. Interesting what we recall 20 years down the road.

The cinematography was superb, the effects also stunning, particularly the use of slow-motion. Gory, very gory, indeed and not for the faint of heart, but by watching it, you honor King Leonidas and the 300-let their deaths in the name of freedom against tyranny never be forgotten!

Monday, November 05, 2007

Movie Review: Transformers

Part of me was transported back to a time in 5th grade when I was excited to play with "Optimus Prime" and battle the Decepticons, so there was a nostalgic element to this flick.

The technology and special effects were certainly of high quality and, a nice little-unpredictable for me at least-twist at the end. I guess if a good movie makes you sympathize/empathize with the characters, then this was a good one.

I saw it on the plane to Seattle, so it saves me a Netflix queue spot, and honestly, it is probably a better plane movie than at home DVD.

Still the story (both the actual plot and larger message) were quite well told (though I didn't appreciate the dig at President Bush).

3.33 stars. 

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Maybe a bit too much...

I'm as big of fan as automation as anyone, but this is a bit much, I think.

And, if you read it closely, there's an interesting side to the equation...

People who are deemed to be less of a lawsuit risk have a higher likelihood of being fired.

So, if you are young, white, and non-unionized, you are discriminated against because you are less likely to have a legitimate case for wrongful termination. Whoa.

Tax Increase in Md...

Tip O'Neill said, "All Politics is Local," so I am going local (and loco) for a moment.

I remember chatting with a friend during Nov. 2006 and encouraging him not to vote for Martin O' Malley. He felt "it was time for a change."

I then said, "ok, will you pay the difference in my taxes when they are raised?"

He laughed.

Well, O' Malley is trying to push through a tax increase that would raise the income tax on people who make over $150k per year from 4.5 to 6%. In addition, a 1% increase in the car titling tax and an increase in the gasoline tax.

Bill is on its way. You know who you are.

A few links to review, if you are interested.

And if you aren't happy, drop him a line here

Movie Review: Anchorman

Blog readers know that I appreciate Will Ferrell and that type of humor. Anchorman was good, but certainly not the best work, IMHO. I think you can skip it. 

Weekend with the kids...

I should probably moan and complain about how hard this weekend was and how little sleep I got. That would ensure additional "brownie" points.

Truth be told, it's been rather smooth.

The clothes were laid out. Meals were prepared in advance.

The kids' expectations have got to be lower when I'm in charge.

I reduce my own expectations of what I will get done.

Some huge assists from my mom, sisters, and the Price family and things were pretty smooth sailing.

Perhaps the highlight of the weekend was Friday evening after dinner. I let the kids stay up a bit later (hoping-futilely it turned out) that they would sleep later on Sunday morning.

For a solid hour, the two of them were laughing and playing and just having a great time. I couldn't help but feel the pride as I saw the sibling relationship grow stronger.

Father-Son Moment in Time...

With Tonka at a sleepover at her aunts' place, Paco and I did some yardwork (raked leaves and gathered up sticks).

Later, we played our first real game of "catch" since it was the first time where we were able to catch and throw the ball back and forth more than once where no one dropped it.

Quite remarkable.

And special.

Daylight savings time...

Means nothing to a 2 year old. Ugh.

No 'hey, I get an extra hour of sleep!'


Friday, November 02, 2007

Communication...Two Types of People

Well, I recently had yet another issue where a comment inadvertently hurt another person (similar to what happened in Albany). Like a broken record, eh?

It basically boiled down to a frank conversation with a 28 year old woman about the fact that it is increasingly difficult, though not impossible, to find an appropriate set-up after the age of 30 or so.

I was rebuked...harshly...for being insensitive to her plight. It stung and I felt bad...very bad. Remorseful. It wasn't my intention (though I know that doesn't matter).

Then, after a great talk with my sister-in-law, Nava, a PhD candidate in psychology, who gave me some perspective that I probably have heard from the one who shall remain nameless, but tuned out, helped me realize something critical.

I'm not going to be able to change my inherent nature. Until now, we've been focused on the wrong problem.

What I can do is change the way I respond (I know, very Viktor Frankl of me), similar to how I learned how to adjust the way I communicate with the nameless one

I guess I realized that in a heavily over-simplified version of the world, there are two types of people.

  1. People who want, prefer, and can deal with the cold, hard truth
  2. People who prefer a more sanitized version of the truth that takes into account the impact on their emotions

I think for a while I made a value judgment that Type 1 had it right and Type 2 didn't.

Now, I know better. It's not a question of right/wrong, it's just different styles.

The question I need to ask myself is "is this a Type 1 or Type 2 person?"


I recently signed up for a service called Shozu, which lets you easily post pictures to your blog or Facebook from your phone.  They also have a feature called "ZuCast" which is kind of like PodCasts. 

The one I was listening to yesterday said the

"single most important thing you can do to succeed in business (or life) is improve your communication skills.

Playing Parental Zone Defense...

Once again (here and here), my dancer wife is away for 3.5 days at an Israeli Dance Camp Marathon.

I'm in raw survival mode.

Both were up at 3am and Tonka hollered, "I want you to close my door."

It's tough, but I have to lay down the law.

"You are old enough to do that yourself. Get up and close it."

Went back and forth until she gave up and....asked Paco to do it, which he did.

I've had reinforcements yesterday (and tomorrow night Tonka is sleeping at her aunts' apartment).

And, Ladies, if you want to make sure your husbands don't dress your kids however they want, you could follow my wife's ideas...(but post it notes can fall off)

Punished for Obeying the Law...

The contractor of choice for our family is Jorge. He's from Bolivia and a real-life American immigrant success story.

Today, he finished putting some additional insulation in my attic (I'm up to 18 inches with a combined R-64, if that doesn't do it, nothing will.)

As he was leaving, he said to me:

My business is in jeopardy. There are more and more illegal immigrants coming to the area and now everyone can undercut my legal prices.

I don't get the feeling that he's whining about competition, he's upset about the unlevel playing field.

Then, I realized, that yet again, I am forced to pay more (being punished) for obeying the law (see caregiver story for more).

I resent that. A LOT.

Love and Marriage Update...

Well, things go in different ways.

Of the two couples here...

1 has gotten divorced.

1 went to therapy and "everything is great."

There is your 50% divorce rate, eh?

Car Buying Crazy...Cont'd

After a chat with my brother, I've decided that I should go with the Honda (and a special call out to Ahava for a nice ripping on my Facebook wall!)

The only question is, when?

Jeremy Lustman (one of the savviest financial people I know--go ask him for help, if you need it) is questioning why I should even buy now instead of 3 months from now.

Good question, but there's a peace of mind, even though it's irrational, is just getting it over with. I want it off my plate.

Of course, to do that, will cost me real money.

The whole experience has given me some cause for introspection.

It comes down to my ego. Seriously.

You see, if everyone is buying an Odyssey (or a Sienna), what Natan Zimand has called the "ubiquivans," I just don't want to do it.

I am motivated to "get more value and pay less," because, for whatever reason, I want to feel that I didn't just "follow along with the masses blindly."

Perhaps more bluntly, maybe b/c I just want to "feel smarter."

Maybe it's a competitive nature, I don't know.

On the flip side, I should, perhaps, take a "wisdom of the crowds" approach. If people like Jeremy and Ahava (and a BIG call out to Kevin and Shuly Babitz for the connection to the right dealer and the strong endorsement, plush phone call, of the Odyssey!) are saying "go with the Honda," it's because they have already done the homework, are as savvy (if not more so) as I, and have the same priorities (safety and economy) as I do.

When do you follow others and when do you insist on forging your own way?

Good question to ponder as I raise my kids...and myself.

Money for your old cell phones...

Just threw one out and I'm kicking myself. Check out Flipswap to get cash for your old phones.