Monday, December 31, 2007

The mind of the blogger...

Who else but Gadi would send this in?

So true.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Bittersweet Sunday Evening...

Football fans know the feeling of late season Sundays.

You start watching a game in the afternoon and it's light outside.

By the time you are done, it's pitch dark.

And that feeling that the season is over (yes, I know the playoffs are coming, but there's something about the regular season) as a marker of time passing gives you an emotional milestone in your lives.

It's no secret to blog readers that I'm a big football fan (kudos to the NFL on the Pats-Giants simulcast, btw) and that Passing the Football Through Generations is, in my mind, an important part of our family connectivity.

I had the privilege of watching the Redskins-Cowboys game with my dad and brother, Asher today and we all yelled with pure elation on the last touchdown that it startled the 3 small children in the room (Tonka, Paco, and Dalia-their cousin).

It was a great moment of Epstein male bonding.

Of course, as I've written many times, football=Poppy in my mind so I think back to the Empty Chair on a Sunday Afternoon and feel that hollowness of his absence and what all of those Sundays past meant...and still mean.

It's tough when you lose someone you love so much and who was involved in so many parts of your life. I think this is the first example of that for me, so it's a new feeling.

With the game over and another regular season in the books, I put the kids in the car, did the annual Xmas time drive-by of The Red House and remembered our "missing man."

Saturday, December 29, 2007

The Power of Names...

Had the opportunity to give another Dvar Torah today at synagogue.

Topic was the power of names.


This is a follow up to G-d as Strategic Marketer... last February.

And no...no opportunity to sponsor a word :-)

Infomercial...cntd.

I don't know if I want it to work so badly that I am making myself believe it, but it appears that it is working!

I don't feel like a total idiot...yet!

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Movie: Stomp the Yard

Taking advantage of our night without kids, the nameless one and I watched the movie "Stomp the Yard."

I figured with her love of dancing, it would go over well.

And the dancing is great in the movie, as is the portrayal of some of the aspects of Black Fraternity life.

The plot, however, was a bit predictable in its twists and turns. Which wasn't horrific, but made for less suspense than I normally would have liked.

I'll give it a B.

Why We're Here...

One of the hardest parts of being a father, I think, is finding the balance between doing things for your kids and spending time with your kids.

You feel compelled to work hard, to give them the things you want them to have, and that can become a mild (or major) obsession.

But you have to step back and remember...you are doing this for them and TIME is the most valuable thing you can give them.

Today, I took Paco with me to Costco. Man on Man. We had a blast.

He sat in the large part of the cart and I instructed him what items to put in the basket. We chatted about the concept of the "big box retailer," how they make up margin with volume, and how trucks are so critical to America's commercial infrastructure.

On the way home, he yawned, and I said, "Paco, no sleeping!"

He smiled...and then did a fake yawn.

"Paco, no sleeping!"

This kept up for the ENTIRE ride home. Neither of us got tired of it.

After he went down for his nap, Tonka got back from her playdate.

Much like knowing your customer, you need to know your kids.

Tonka likes are, so we worked on one picture for 1.5 hours....all the while discussing colors, friends, and the like...and just laughing. We played some games as well.

I felt really good about the quality of time I had with them today...It's easy to get caught up in the day to day, but we can never forget why we're here.

Update: And on another note... in my role as developer of independent beings, I am excited to say that BOTH of them are sleeping over at my sisters' apartment in Dupont Circle tonight (and each of them has had/will have a 1 night sleepover at my parents).

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The Birthday Call That Became a Reunion...

Some folks think it is strange that I spend time calling people on their birthdays, particularly those whom I haven't seen or otherwise spoken to for over 5 years.

But every now and then, I have an experience that reminds me why I do it.

As luck would have it, I called David Siegel (help him get to that elusive 500+ on LinkedIn) last week to wish him a Happy Birthday.

Turns out, he was going to be in my neighborhood on Sunday night.

I invited myself over to Keren and Ira's house, which is how I found out it was Keren's birthday (sorry again), and we (or at least I did :-) had a nice chat, reconnecting.

It's all about people and I just love getting the perspective that others bring with time.

I dare say, if I didn't call him, I wouldn't have see him...and the connection would be severed, tougher to re-establish.

Again, an experience that reinforces my worldview.

Israeli Dance Marathon...

videoSome Jews go out to Chinese Food on Christmas Eve.


Other hardcore types, go to Moshe Shem-Tov's Israeli Dance Marathon, an annual event that lasts until 3:30am.


Yes, you read that correctly.


Moshe is the pre-eminent "Markid" of Israeli Dance in the DC area and has a weekly session on Thursday nights (for all levels) at Tikvat Israel congregation in Rockville.


It's a great time for people at all levels (Moshe is a great teacher) and the crowd is very friendly.


Normally, I am at home while the nameless one is in attendance, but the young dancing proteges, the famed duo of Paco and Tonka made an appearance, much to the crowd's delight.


Of course, they preferred the snacking to the dancing (I guess they take after me), but they had a great time.


We saw some old friends, like Mike Fox, (love the branding) and made some new ones (like Aviva Albert, who brought her coloring book)







Community Service Day-Dec. 25th


We took the kids to the DC JCC's annual day of service on the 25th, so that they could "give back."





They donated some clothes and then we went to a retirement home to bring some "holiday cheer" to the residents.



Plus, they got to touch their first Xmas tree :-)

I was glad that we had a chance to give them some hands-on experience in community service.

We explained why we were donating clothes, why going to a retirement home was a nice thing to do, and how their presence could bring a smile to someone's face.


Beautiful Moonshot


Pretty intense, eh?

Customer Service Snafu...


I tell people that the Blog is a "marketing petri dish" for me.

I like to see what gets people reading, commenting, leaving, coming back.

Have about 4 different Analytics programs that I use to look at behavior, traffic, etc.

I also know that, no matter what, you want to keep your best customers, er, readers, happy.

Keren is one of the top 5 commenters. She's not #1, (maybe a deathmatch in the making?), but she's up there.

I was mortified to find out that, somehow, I didn't have her birthday in my calendar and thus, even though she knows that I call people on their birthdays, I didn't call her.

Keren...my bad. Won't happen again!

For One More Day...

Call your mother right now (if you can) and tell her how much you love her.

That was my reaction when finished watching the made-for-TV adapted version of Mitch Albom's For One More Day. How a sportswriter has become one of the more emotionally intelligent authors of our day is beyond me.

Actually it's not, now that I think about it and once again proves how great sports are.

Anyhow, I just adored Albom's Five People You Meet in Heaven as an "appreciate the moment in your life" type parable and For One More Day took it to the next level by making it "appreciate the people in your life."

I did call my mom. I did tell her how much I love her.

I'll burn a DVD of this movie and send it to the first two people who
  1. post a comment of gratitude about his/her mother here
  2. send the link to this post to his/her mother

Mega-Bonus points if your mom posts a comment!!

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Blog on Brain Repository Cont'd....

I admit it. I LOVE being asked for my advice and opinions.

I also LOVE connecting people with people and with valuable information.

And what I love the most...when the whole process is automated! Where I can help you without manual intervention. :-)

For example:
  1. David Lowenstein wanted to know my thoughts on a resort.
  2. Marc Lennon wanted to know who I know in the medical devices technical writing industry
  3. Nancy F. wanted recommendation on music
  4. and another example from Tom and Kira

It used to be that you would need to search

  1. www.jer979.com (this blog)
  2. www.linkedin.com/in/jer979
  3. www.pandora.com/jer979
I've added two services on the sidebar Lijit and PredictAd to help you.

Lijit offers search across the blog, my various social networks (LinkedIn, Facebook, etc.), and links I've selected (del.icio.us) etc.

PredictAd (thanks to old friend, Tomer Molovinsky for connecting via LI) promises to use community knowledge and predictive power to help you find the info you want more quickly.

My request of you....test them out and tell me if they work for you.

Monday, December 24, 2007

979...in Hebrew

I know, this should have been post 1979, but it's 1980.


Anyway, with a big call out to Kevin Babitz, I give you the video of Ben Johnson's race from Seoul, Korea in 1988 in Hebrew.



For the original call, see here.

Dedicated In-Laws...

I am proud to report that this is post 1979.

Here's a nice article that my wife's uncle found while cleaning out his office.

Tells a great story about my wonderful in-laws and their commitment to Judaism.

Bar Mitzvah in Warsaw...and more.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Blog Validation...


When you have a worldview, any data that supports it, you immediately latch on to as valuable. (And, you ignore any data as "irrelevant" that refutes it.)

Had a nice visit with (blog reader) Aliza Cooperman and her family, Mike, Shira, and Sam, visiting from Boston.

She acknowledged that reading that this blog (in addition to providing morning coffee break reading material) enabled her to feel "more connected" over time and distance and to make it easier to pick up the in-person conversation after 4-5 years between visits.

There you go. All I need to keep on trucking!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Ironic Foreshadowing...Defined

On Wednesday of this week, the final stage of the installation of the backup generator began.

Of course, the guy tells me, "I don't have all of the parts I need, so I'll start today and finish next week."

"You know what this means?" I asked. "It means that my power will go out between now and then."

And sure enough, for 2.5 hours this AM, it did.

I turned to the nameless one...

"This is MY power outage! This is the one where I supposed to say, 'yeah, it was worth it!!'"

Man, I was irritated.

Friday, December 21, 2007

SuperCruncher and Citizen Marketer...

What's the holy grail of marketing?

To not spend any money and have your customers do your marketing for you.

I call them "raving fans." My buddies Jackie Huba and Ben McConnell call it "Citizen Marketers"

After reading Ian Ayres book, Super Crunchers, I visited the author's website and dropped him a note with a link to my book review (I've noticed that authors like that :-).

He responded that he was a fan of the Excel Add-In for Data Mining (which I love) so I brokered a call with the product developer/managers to give him a private demo of some of the newer features.

He was very impressed by what he saw. Very.

And he offered to put up links to it, show a demo, and, in general, be an evangelist for the product...in other words the holy grail.

And we're going to keep the conversation going with quarterly touchbases to help evolve the product.

Now that's collaborative product development.

Book Review: E-Myth Revisited

 Michael Gerber's book The E-Myth Revisited offers up "an old Chinese proverb that says

When you hear something, you will forget it.

When you see something, you will remember it.

But not until you do something, will you understand it."

Which he uses to motivate people who want to become successful entrepreneurs.

But it's not a motivational book alone, it's an Operations Manual for how to create a business that will sustain you and not consume you.

For a business you work on, not in.

He aptly describes the challenges that many entrepreneurs face in beginning on their own (I can relate as I was part of a start-up for 2 years) and the mistakes they (I) make that ultimately lead to failure.

I've heard many people say, "my goal is to start my own business."

If that's you, a small investment in this book could go a long way to your becoming a true "craftsperson" of your business.

And another tidbit that I liked (and there were many) is that:

People-your people-do not want simply to work for exciting people. They want to work for people who have created a clearly defined structure for acting in the world.  A structure through which they can test themselves and be tested. Such a structure is called a game.

This is yet another book (actually the original E-Myth) which was recommended to me years ago (like Cluetrain) and I should have read then. Ugh.

The 4 year old test...

When you prepare a presentation, er performance, for any group, may I suggest this:

Prep as if you were going to talk to a class of four year olds

Adults need the same thing, though you won't get the same instantaneous feedback, in terms of involvement and attention.

My daughter's nursery school has a program called "Star of the Week." Each parent is invited to come in to do an activity with the class.

I elected to create a digital movie with them as the co-creators and main stars.

I knew, however, that the attention span of a 4 year old can be very limited.

I scripted out each step and prepared vigorously for it, knowing that any glitch or hesitation could cause me to lose my audience.

I got there early to set up.

Here's my checklist:

Set up

  1. confirm activesync bluetooth connection between Phone and PC
  2. open Phone to pictures folder (Computer\T-Mobile Dash\Storage Card\My Documents\My Pictures)
  3. open One Note
  4. confirm tablet ink is working properly
  5. open up audio recording for One Note
  6. open Paint
  7. open MovieMaker
  8. hook up speakers
  9. hook up projector

I knew that involvement was the key. It had to be a dialogue.

"Do you guys like to watch movies and DVD's?"

"YES!!!!"

"Good, because today you are going to help me make a movie."

And here's the script I used to make sure that everything flowed smoothly.

    1. Start in One Note

    2. Give four kids a chance to draw in one note

    3. Copy picture to Paint

    4. Save to CDE star folder

    5. Begin recording in One Note

    6. Let 3 kids sing in one file

    7. Save to CDE start folder as .wma

    8. Take pictures of kids on camera phone

    9. Take pictures of 4 kids

    10. Show them the picture on the phone

    11. Refresh the folder on the PC

    12. Show them "like magic" how the picture moves from the phone to the PC

    13. Move pictures to CDE star folder

    14. Import all media to Movie Maker

    15. Start in Storyboard

    16. Add pictures

    17. Let 4 kids choose the order of the pictures

    18. Add effects

    19. Let 2 kids choose effects from these four (3d ripple, ease out, ease in, spin)

    20. Add transitions (Let 2 kids choose the transitions)

    21. Import the previously recorded song (from one note)

    22. Add music

    23. Let 1 kid choose the music

    24. Put in the Title/Credits in (the names of the students)

    25. Show the movie

Sounds extreme, but I'll say this...

They made me show the movie 4 times! (we changed it a little bit each time, too for fun)

By the 3rd time, there were 16 kids dancing to the soundtrack.

And, in spite of it all, there was one kid who said "I'm bored of watching the movie."

If you can keep a class of 4 year olds engrossed (for the most part), then you can keep a room full of adults hooked!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Economic Outlook...

In light of the 3-way discussion about oil, my curiosity was piqued by Fred Wilson's post on "the story of 2007."

He offers that the fact that so many US businesses are being "bailed out" with foreign money is a cause for concern.

That may be true. On the other hand, it could be a sign of confidence.

But, there's another issue here (and I'll invite Laura who works for Bureau of Labor and Statistics to weigh in)...

In an economy the size of the US, is it really possible to know what is happening?

I know everyone talks about sub-prime and weakening dollar and imports/exports/visa/immigration, etc., but it just seems a $5bn investment in Morgan Stanley (while not inconsequential, of course) is really just a drop in a HUGE bucket.

On my Amazon Wish list (5 shopping days left!) are two books called Fooled by Randomness and The Black Swan. I haven't read them yet, but the recommendation that Asher and Albert sent me seemed to imply that people, in order to make sense of the world, often misinterpret singular events for larger trends.

Now, I'm not saying that there isn't a larger trend. I'm just saying, this economy is GINORMOUS and it's going to be difficult for anyone to really make sense of it.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Dying Breed...

I don't remember how it came up, but I was thinking about someone (probably in sports reference) and thought, "hey, he's a part of a dying breed."

Then, I realized.

We're ALL part of a dying breed.

Japan, Friendships, and Parenting Neuroses...

Living in Japan as a young single guy was a lonely experience at times.

The then rabbi of the synagogue, Carnie Rose, and his wife, Paulie became some of my most cherished friends. They offered hospitality, an open mind, a ear to listen, good cooking, and true friendship.

In the ten intervening years, our paths have crossed on a few occasions. In New York, at my wedding (Carnie signed the ketubah), and this week in St. Louis.

The nameless one and I are the godparents to their third child (Yes, I insisted that he call me "Godfather") though we hadn't really had a chance to bond until Monday. [here's a pic of the boy]


Watching their brood grow (I was the first person besides the parents to see their first child after she was born...I trekked out to the hospital in Tokyo that night) is an experience from which I get much joy.

And trepidation...

I saw the two oldest kids showing Paulie a video they had been shown at a friend's house "Kosher Boy" which in and of itself wasn't terrible, but raised a whole series of questions.

In my house...to some extent, things can be controlled.


But what happens when your kids go to their friends? And those friends have older siblings?

It's enough to make a parent pull his hair out. I live on the Net so I know the scary stuff that is out there.

Ironically enough, I got some perspective from Joanne, the Avis shuttle driver at the airport who shared with me how she has built a two-way relationship with her kids (19, 17, and 14) by starting a conversation based on trust from a very early age.

As a result, they feel comfortable telling her things.

And I can see that Carnie and Paulie (no surprise) have accomplished much of the same with their four.

Years ago, they inspired me in the way they built community, relationships, and trust with the dispersed Jews of Tokyo.

Now, in the Midwest, they continue to inspire...albeit on a different track.

One of the reasons why I spend so much time staying in touch with people is to gain the perspective that only comes from interactions over time.

(And on a side note, I got to play the Nintendo Wii for the first time...VERY cool!)

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Cabbie and Polygamy...

I've had the same cabdriver for the last 3 rides. He's an immigrant from Mali and we've talked on a lot of topics.

Immigration, sports (he likes the Eagles), women, marriage, fatherhood (#3 is coming next week), religion (he's Muslim and I felt a bit anxious telling him that I didn't view Mohammed as the last prophet--this after he told me that Christians are "wrong"), and more.

I like his attitude and we have good banter.

You know I like talking to cabbies. Plus, having my own driver makes me feel special (kind of like my own waitress). Masstige, right?

Anyway, I ask him today:

"So, how many kids to do you want to have?"

"Five."

"OK, and your wife is on board with that?"

"No, this one (#3) is her last one."

"So how are you going to get #4 and #5?"

"I'm going to have a 2nd wife."

"So, since having two wives is illegal in this country [unless you are Mormon in remote Utah/Arizona!], how do you plan on doing that?"

"I am going to have a 2nd wife back in Mali."

"And how are you going to convince your first wife that this is a good idea?"

"I don't have to. When we got married, she signed a document saying it would be ok if I had a 2nd wife."

"Wow. Impressive. So, do you know who the 2nd wife is going to be?"

"Yes, here's a picture of her. Her name is Fatima."

"Do you have a picture of your first wife?"

"Uh, no."

It turns out that the 2nd wife agrees to be totally subservient to the first wife.

The first wife (and her kids) get all of the inheritance from the husband. In Mali, it's ok to have up to four wives. Some guys make a mistake, he says, because they are so "in love" with their first wives that they don't get the clause in the marriage document allowing them future wives, so "they are stuck later, when they realize they want one."

Such a fascinating world we live in.

Face Time...

As my cousin Barry says, "there are things I can do in person that I could never do on the phone."

There's some stat that says that "communication is only 7% verbal."

So when you are on the phone, you are at a big disadvantage in terms of getting your message across.

That's why I am in St. Louis today (and was in Seattle last week).

There are some folks on my extended virtual who live here and I decided that, if I want to be a "change agent," I need to sell them face to face on my ideas.

No matter how digital we are...email/video conferencing/chats/phones, the in-person human touch can work wonders.

It has for me these last two trips.

Something to think about as we build relationships around the country and world.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Movie: Crude Awakening

In short, we're screwed.

Royally. Big time.

How would you feel if you knew that your children or grandchildren would never fly in an airplane? Or drive a car?

Make no mistake about it, this movie about the end of the era of cheap oil is extremely DEPRESSING, but, worse yet... what if it's reality?

What happens if, sorry when, the world does run out of cheap oil?

For a few years, I've been focused on the issue of weaning the US off of Middle Eastern oil as a key driver of national security. That's well and good, but the next question is, "ok, what do we replace it with?"

Ever since I read the Coming Economic Collapse (and my allnighter in March 2006), I've altered my investment strategy to reflect rising oil prices and it's paid off, to some extent.

But this movie raises a much larger question than a financial hedge strategy...it raises the question of...can society even survive in the wake of an ongoing decline in the availability of oil?

There are a huge number of issues, including:

  • the lack of viable replacements on a large scale sufficient to meet current (and future) demand
  • the lack of political will (all across the board) to focus on the enormity of the problem

There's blame all the way around, but I do remember on Sept. 12, 2001 when Bush got up and made his post-9/11 "axis of Evil" speech and challenged the US to end our oil dependence that I thought, "here's an opportunity to raise taxes on gas, etc. to fund a Kennedy-like 'man on the moon' initiative."

And we've seen nothing.

Nothing at all.

Gas is now cheaper than water, cheaper than Starbucks. The US has 2% of known reserves and consumes 25% of oil. As the Poli Sci Prof from Stanford said in the documentary,

"We have 2 choices as a society. Either we can figure out a way to create renewable energy sources that allow us to grow and live the way we want...OR we need to be prepared to go to war over oil...often."

Ironically enough, I watched this DVD on a flight to St. Louis, gazing out at miles and miles of blue skies, seeing the roads below me and reflecting upon life in a hydro-carbon/petroleum based economy. I began to worry about Tonka, Paco, and #3 (as well as all of us as we age) and wondering what the world will look like.

One commentator (the founder of dismally-named www.lifeaftertheoilcrash.net) said,

"this is the end of the American Dream."

We can always hold out hope for the ingenuity of humans and new technology, but we need to recognize the enormity of the challenge that lies ahead and galvanize around it.

I used to tell people that I vote on 2 issues

  1. recognition that Islamo-fascism is an existential threat to Western civilization (energy independence was a key element here)
  2. the fact that the private sector does a better job than the public sector of creating jobs and wealth.

Beginning today, I vote on one issue...energy policy.

For more info, you can check out Gal Luft's org, Institute for Analysis of Global Security and Mike Granoff's effort at Secure Energy.

Nice Visual...


Here's the St. Louis Arch as we approach from the East.


Makes me feel like Lewis and Clark (yes, both of them).

Saturday, December 15, 2007

What's Your Style?


Was finishing up a workout and came across a show on HGTV called Find Your Style.
With my efforts to become more right-brained, I took the "What's Your Design Style" Quiz.
Good news: My style is Hip.
What's yours?
Would be curious how varied/similar the blog readers are in design style?

Friday, December 14, 2007

When to Buy Your Lottery Tickets...

Your odds of winning the lottery are a gazillion to one, right?

So, in effect, when you are buying a lottery ticket, you are paying your $1 for the right to fantasize about what you would do with the $100 million you would win.

If your $1 is really an entertainment buy, then, the goal should be....

how can I stretch my entertainment dollar to get the most for my money?

Answer:

Buy the ticket as far in advance of the drawing as possible.

In my area, drawings are Wed. night and Sat. night.

Ideal time to buy is Thurs. morning and Sun. morning (more preferable), because those times give you the most time prior to the drawing to fantasize.

Enjoy!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Book Review: Super Crunchers

We know a computer can beat a chess grandmaster.

Can a computer more accurately predict how the Supreme Court will rule on cases than a group of Law School Deans, former Supreme Court Clerks, and Federal Judges?

What about predicting better than a movie studio exec which movies will make money and which won't?

Turns out, they can. And in his new book, Super Crunchers, Ian Ayres, (who also co-authored  Why Not?: How to Use Everyday Ingenuity to Solve Problems Big And Small ) sets out to explain how this is possible.

And why it is happening.

For hard-core data junkies who believe in the power of statistics, you'll revel in some great anecdotes (like predicting wine values for a given year based on rainfall and summer temperatures before the wines are even made) to help bolster your cases.

For those new to the power of data, it'll open your eyes to what is going on all around you (and about you!)

I'm going to dust off those old Stats class notes and work on my regression modeling (and keep digging down into the data).

An excellent book.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Coming down to the wire...

If you scroll down a bit and look on the right side, you will see that I posted to the blog 860 times last year.

Like I said, "thyroid cancer was good for ratings' and for content production.

So, this year, with this post, I am up to 811 with 20 blogging days remaining. That's 2.5 posts per day for the rest of the year.

Don't want to force it, but Stewart has put the pressure on.

And now I'm blogging about blogging. Is that blogflation?

Movie Review: Rear Window

One of the best parts about living in New York is being a "peeping Tom."

Admit it. You've done it. You can't help it. You're in such close proximity. And it's not even about "catching" people doing something, it's about being a voyeur on their everyday lives; brushing teeth, washing dishes, the basic, monotonous stuff.

That's what gets Jimmy Stewart intrigued as he is wheelchair-bound recovering from a broken leg. During the flick, the characters raise the ethical question of looking through other people's windows.

And even though Jimmy Stewart has pretty much the same mannerisms in every film I've seen of his, he's still great :-)

This one came to me via Netflix recommendations and I have to say it was spot on.

A Hitchcock thriller in the tradition of Vertigo, I really enjoyed the suspense, the dialogue (fun to watch how gender attitudes have changed over time) and how the mystery unfolded.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Sushi Hannukah


Whenever I come to Seattle for Microsoft, I go to the same sushi restaurant.

Why?

Because 6 months ago, I went there and the waitress was Jewish and she made sure I only got fish (thereby saving me the hassle of explaining what is shellfish and what isn't permitted).

So, now, I call her before I come to town, ask her what nights she is working and build my dinner schedule around it.

I bring everyone there.

I came out today and brought my hannukiah (incorrectly referred to as Hannukah Menorah, but that's another topic) with me for 8th night (the final one).

Iwas going to light in my room. Then, I said, "I bet Elizabeth [the waitress] would appreciate the spark of yiddishkeit in her day. You know, my old buddy, Shu [Rabbi Shu Eliovson] would do it."

So, I brought the hannukiah, ok'd it w/Elizabeth and lit all the candles with her (blessings and all) on the table in the sushi joint.


And here's our magnificent array of 4 hannukiot

The LinkedIn Businesses...

People OFTEN ask me about the value of LinkedIn

Here's a testimonial from a guy whose entire business is based off of it.

 

The Dam is Breaking...

on college tuition. Finally.

Here's what is happening at Harvard.

There's hope that Tonka and Paco won't cost $1 mil/year each.

URL Basics...

Your web address is the easiest way for someone to find you...so why make it difficult.  I can't stand when I see a URL like this one on a PowerPoint,

http://www.msreadiness.com/competency.aspx?cid=500

where we tell people

"Just go to this webpage to get the information."

So, check out this site: Good URL, Bad URL 

It's kind of like a "This is Broken" for web addresses.

Cross-Country Flying...

In Seattle for the 3rd time in 7 weeks. What a supportive person who shan't be named!

I've got a good system now.

United non-stop from Dulles. Bring 2 magazines and 1 book. Bring a DVD and 2 batteries. Upgrade to Economy Plus and bring an empty water bottle through security.

Check-in online the night before.

I'm almost done with Hitchcock's "Rear Window." Review to be posted soon. Much better than anything on the plane, that's for sure.

Surprised that no one commented on my infomerical purchase. Still have a pit in my stomach. I hate feeling like a sucker.

Oh, and the exercise room is right next door...that's convenience...unless people start working out at 5.30am :-)

infomercial

Are for losers, right?

That is how i am feeling because i just bought a product, www.thetobi.com, due to seeing one.

We will see if it works, so i don't feel so lame


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

www.jer979.com

Monday, December 10, 2007

Reflections on 4 years of fatherhood...

I've said it often, quoting my mom, "the days are long and the years are short."

I barely remember last year's bday (thank goodness for the blog), but I vividly remember the day she was born.

And, today, while she was watching a DVD wearing her gift ballerina outfit, I looked at her and paused.

I hoped I know her as well as I think I know her and as I want her to know me.

She looked so big, particularly in relation to how small she once was.

It was today, also, that I signed her up for a County-led art class, for the first time, I think (aside from a few sessions at school), that we consciously said, "let's develop the strengths of this young being."

And the march to adulthood continues.

What a privilege it is to be a father to this girl.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Historic Underpinning of Nickname Philosophy...


I was excited to see some historical validation, at least that's how I interpreted it, for my nickname philosopy at the Jewish Museum of Maryland today.


Channukah History Outing...


For the next in our series of outings, I took the kids to the Jewish Museum of Maryland where they had a "make your own edible dreidel" activity for the kids as well as some solid exhibits.

I particularly enjoyed the "Voices of Lombard Street," [here's the brochure] which was Baltimore's equivalent to the Lower East Side and, once again, makes you appreciate the struggle of the first wave of Jewish immigrants to America.

IT also made me think of Nana and Poppy, two native Baltimoreans who loved their city of birth (even though they didn't grow up on Lombard Street).

We also, briefly b/c Paco was in meltdown mode, had a chance to enter the Lloyd St. Synagogue, which is the oldest synagogue in Maryland and the 3rd oldest in the US.
[The best part was that Chizuk Amuno, the synagogue that started in protest of some of the changes at Lloyd ST. is literally one block away! Got to love that. So typical of the Tribe, eh?)


Saturday, December 08, 2007

Loyalty Doesn't Cost Much...


A big call out to Liberty Mutual for reminding me why they are my insurance company.


I got this letter today telling me that they owed me $141.65.


It would be so easy for them to not tell me (like I would notice) and there are hundreds of ways they could have *justified* to themselves for keeping the money and adding it to their bottom line.


But, they didn't.


And now, I'm telling you about it.


Not only is it the right thing, it's the smart thing.


Better to give the $141 back to me than spend the same amount on a telemarketing campaign to get new customers.


I was a fan and now I'm an even bigger fan.


Which means the next time you are looking for a new insurance company, I'll have a story to tell you about it.


NIce work, LM!

Struggling with content question...

I also have a blog at work (Igniting the Revolution: Change the Way Microsoft and Our Partners Do Marketing or Get Fired Tryin') where I tend to post a lot of my stories about good customer service/marketing etc.

Obviously, I like that stuff and think about it.

The question is, should I double post it here on the www.jer979.com blog or just leave it over there? (I've been double posting).

In other words, I wonder how interesting the marketing stuff is to the Jer979 reader base?

Thoughts?

Syria blocks Facebook access, citing Israeli 'infiltration'

Syria blocks Facebook access, citing Israeli 'infiltration' - International Herald Tribune

Friday, December 07, 2007

Why I'm Not a Radiologist...




The bad news: I had to take Tonka to the ER the other day because she hurt her foot while dancing.


The good news: it was only a sprain.
I saw the X-ray come in and paused...there were a lot of gaps in her foot bones. I was concerned.
Then, I find out that that's normal for kids.
I know, don't give up my day job.

Building the Next Generation...


It's no secret that I am a technophile.

So, tonight, while picking up my USB hub at Best Buy, I took the kids with me and let them run around the store.

I was proud to see them enjoying the various phones, cameras, refrigerators, camcorders, DVD's, washing machines, car stereos, and of course, the game "Rock Band" on the Xbox 360 where you need to play drums according to what's on the screen. Similar to Guitar Hero.

The kids loved it.

Best Buy-More on Details Matter


I think Best Buy is a pretty good store, so this isn't a rant, but a parable to demonstrate how, when it comes to the customer experience, there are so many angles to think about.

All you can do is...keep asking your customers, whoever they are, what they expect.

So, I ordered a USB hub online and selected “in-store” pickup. That was really great. Seamless and efficient.

Got the email confirming my purchase very quickly and I was all set to go.

I printed out the receipt and put it in my bag.

A few days later, after dropping off my kids at school, I thought I’d run over to the store. Only thing was, I didn’t know the hours.

They weren’t listed on the receipt. (They should be. So should the store phone number.)

So, while in the CVS picking up a prescription, I pulled up my Win Mobile 6 browser and went to BestBuy.com.

The challenge is that the website is NOT mobile friendly at all. It's very graphic heavy.

I finally get to the store locator and after entering in the data, I get a “script warning."

I know it’s blurry, but it basically says that a script is causing things to just take a hell of a long time. “Abort or Continue.”


Either way, I don’t get the info you need.

You know me, I talk about the “Remarkable Experience” a la Seth Godin.

I’m not really irritated, but I do think that there are a few customer interaction points that BB could improve.

And I think there's a lesson for all of us...again. Details really do matter. At every step of the way.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

My Holiday Debut...

I'm on the left. The rest of my team at work joins me.

A co-worker sent to my boss.

Do You Ever Work?

Saw a friend of ours today at the Hannukah concert for Tonka.

He's a physician and on call at nights this week.

He saw me at CVS on Monday as well.

"Dude, do you ever work?" he asked.

Which reminded me, again, of how unique my position is for some people.

"Sure, but my work is practically place and sometimes, time, independent.

I work at 9.30pm. I work on Sat. nights if I want to."

I pulled out my T-mobile Dash.

"And I am working now."

In the Man Cave, I am as connected to the outside world and my colleagues as anyone in an office.

  • 2 phone lines [one for $40/year] (and a cell)
  • 3 instant messenger clients
  • 6 different email accounts
  • Facebook
  • My 2 blogs
  • and with the new camera, I've done more and more videoconferencing.

Yesterday, I hosted a webcast with 80 people, all while I was on camera.

It's a whole new, globatlized, flat, knowledge, connected economy.

Pregnancy Cravings and Corporate Sponsorship...

When the nameless one was pregnant with Tonka, she had only one craving.

Luna Bars.

One night, around 8pm back in 2003, she says to me,

"Sweetie, can you run out and get me some Luna bars? We're all out."

"It's pretty late, can't you wait until tomorrow?"

"Not really."

"Ugh. Where are they?"

"At the Safeway."

"What?! That's about 5 miles away. Come on, you can make it."

Eventually, she gave up and, surprisingly enough, there's never been a craving (at least one I've heard of) since.

But I made it up to her.

I called the company and asked for the VP of Marketing.

"So, you bill yourself as a protein bar for women. I thought you might like to know that my wife's sole craving during her pregnancy is for your product."

"That's great to hear. Thanks for calling."

"Yeah, so, I was wondering, do you think Luna Bar would like to be the official corporate sponsor of the pregnancy?"

"Uh, well, we don't really have a program for that or anything."

"Hmm....well why don't you just send me a box of luna bars and a t-shirt and we'll give you the rights anyway?"

"Sure, we'll do it. What's her favorite flavor?"

"Nutz Over Chocolate."

Sure enough, we get a box of 20 bars and some coupons.

I told this story the other day and was reminded about it, since with exactly 100 days to go, we're still looking for Baby #3's corporate sponsor (and no, Paco didn't have one)

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Blogs in Plain English

These guys do great work.

 

For others, see:

On RSS: http://www.commoncraft.com/rss_plain_english

On Social Networking: http://commoncraft.com/video-social-networking

On Social Bookmarking: http://www.commoncraft.com/bookmarking-plain-english

Wiki: http://www.commoncraft.com/video-wikis-plain-english

Pencil Sharpener...

I was writing the birthday card for the nameless one (today) and thought it would be fun to use a colored pencil (don't ask why).

It had a broken tip.

I put it in the electric pencil sharpener.

When I did, I paused, "How long has it been since I actually used one of these?"

Years.

Whoa, how the world changes.

Economics Principles...in a Rap

10 Principles of Macroeconomics in a Rap.

Just brilliant. Thanks to Greg Mankiw's blog.

 

Monday, December 03, 2007

Backup Generator...

As if this month weren't expensive enough :-) (see minivan entries), I decided that we "needed" a backup generator for the house.

It was delivered today. Installation is next week.

The good thing is that the "nameless one" actually wanted it more than I did.

As if you need proof that people can justify anything to themselves, here's mine:

  • Our neighbors will verify that our area is disproportionately prone to electrical outages
  • I work from home a lot, so if I'm out of power, my ability to generate revenue is affected
  • When you lose power, you run the risk of having to throw out spoiled food from your fridge/freezer
  • While you can leave w/o AC (uncomfortable though it may be), it's hard to live w/o heat and having to pack up 3 kids and drive through (most likely) snow to my parents, for example, is more than hassle and inconvenient [we did this last year w/2 and it wasn't easy]
  • General inconvenience and disruption that it causes
  • We do live in DC and thus a 9/11 type scenario is not out of the question (I am definitely not joking on this one)

That being said, you could still do a ROI/Payback analysis and easily determine that it wasn't worth the price I will be paying.

So, here's the ironic thing...

For me to "feel good" about my purchase, I need the power to go out. Otherwise, I feel like an idiot.

Irony? Schadenfreude?

I will let you know how it goes.

Oh, by the way, I'll get referral credit if I send you to "my generator guys," so once/if I'm satisfied, go through me!

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Movie Review: Deja Vu

Ok, this movie is just AWESOME.

Denzel is, of course, the man, but this one was just completely engrossing.

It sparked, a bit, of recall to the old Back to the Future flicks, but with more contemporary themes-terrorism-and greater consequences-death.

I like how it raised ethical issues about surveillance and whether we should change history, plus law of unintended consequences.

5 stars, definitely.