Thursday, January 31, 2008

Sharing the Wealth...

Take a look at two of the new widgets on the right side of the blog page.

You'll see that I have a constantly updated list of
  • articles I've enjoyed
  • blogs I'm reading

May be an interesting way for you to find some new info, where I am acting as your filter (assuming you trust my judgment!)

A job I don't want....

Single Father.

Yes, it's a lot more running around than I'm used to.

On Monday, I was at the kids' school 4 times before noon. Details would bore you, but it was a lot of movement.

But, this isn't about's about the appreciation for all of the work the NFO (i.e. Nameless/Faceless One) does on a daily basis.

Beyond that, I feel for her.

The NFO is a very active person. Loves to dance, as you know. Doesn't sit still very well.

Sitting in bed, doing nothing...that's rough.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Public, Private, and Your Kids...

People often remark to me about how comfortable I am sharing "personal" information online.

Or that I don't have too many "private thoughts."

All I can say after watching Growing Up Online (watch it online) is


It's a fascinating documentary (the wife of a friend of our family made it) about the world of teenagers online.

Technology is a double-edged sword and the scary stuff (Catch a Predator, etc.) sells, of course.

But, if you have kids coming of age now, even though you may not feel comfortable sharing a lot, you'll need to understand that your kids and their friends will.

You can't resist it. The world has changed too much.

You can't prevent it either.

The "ah hah" moment for me was when one kid said, (though I saw this happen in STL last month)

"I don't like my mom looking over my shoulder, so I just log on from my friends house"


At the end of the day, we all need to arm our kids with good judgment and a reason to trust us when things inevitably go wrong.

My recommendation: take the hour to watch this one.

Is It Worth It? Contd.

So, instead of investing a ton of time, here's what I did:

I wrote the Sr VP for the area of concern:

Prior to joining Microsoft, I had my own company. As a result of that experience, I always “think like an owner.” I take pride in company successes outside of my focus area. Conversely, I feel anxiety about broken processes, looking for ways to fix them.

Recently, I’ve had a few interactions with our XXXXXXX team (from multiple perspectives) that have caused me concern.

Because I think bad feedback is as important (if not more) than good feedback, I’d like to share them. I can also offer some ideas on improvement, if that’s desired.

Can you recommend where I should send these thoughts?

This way, if s/he wants it, I have permission to continue. If not, I tried...

And we're back....what is profound marriage?

More contractions. Just dropped NFO at OB's office. Man, these kids really throw you for a loop, huh? [updated: she's coming back home]

The NFO was lamenting the fact that she "felt bad" that I had to do so much extra work around the house. And yes, I have a lot of sympathy for single parents now, but this isn't about my playing the "martyr card."

It's about the essence of marriage.

I am reading a book now called Marriage, a History: How Love Conquered Marriage (let's call it 'a book' and not a 'good book' just yet) which reads like a college level anthropology course.

Anyhow, it talks about how the idea of marriage has evolved over time that Romantic Love is the most important thing and that the day to day aspects of life sort of take second place.

I know some very attractive women in their mid-20's (sorry, nothing salacious in that line) who have everything going for them, except their ability to commit.

They frequently are dating guys in whom they manage to find some 'fatal flaw.'

They lament their inability to "always have deep, profound conversations" with the young men.

Now, I am not saying there is no part for that in marriage, but what I've tried to relay to these young women is that, when you get down to the brass tacks of marriage, it's not a ton of glamor. It's hard work.

The most profound conversations we have on some days is "who is bringing in the groceries from Costco?" and "who is doing the next diaper change?"

And, it is in moments of stress that the romance happens. It is sleeping in the chair in the hospital after your spouse's surgery. It's stepping up to the plate when your NFO is on bedrest. That's the profound moment...the willingness to sacrifice yourself (hell, I'd rather be blogging, right?) for the sake of another.

Yes, the tide will go down and things, hopefully, will become calmer, and in those calm moments, together, you reflect on your joint adventure. That's the beauty of the marital experience.

Asking for help...

The Nameless and Faceless One (henceforth NFO) has a hard time asking for assistance during times of need.

I don't.

At the same time, I don't judge if people don't offer. After all, you've got your own life to lead.

That being said, I am just blown away by the wonderful community we have and the numerous offers of assistance. So....

If you are naturally magnanimous and other-centric (I'm not, but NFO is) and you feel the compulsion to offer assistance, here's my request/suggestion.

If you are going somewhere common anyway let us know ( you know, the grocery, kosher butcher, hardware, Costco, Target, S&M store...places like that)

(email, phone, IM, Twitter, Facebook, are all acceptable.)

If we're here and we need something (I'm having the NFO build a store-centric list of necessary items, I will unashamedly outsource to you. If we're not, you still get credit anyway.

(I didn't say I wasn't keeping score, just that I wasn't judging!)


  1. no special trips are permitted
  2. you will be reimbursed for the cost of the items.


Limited activity, she cannot lift stuff or go out really.

Take it easy, as the Eagles might say

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

Movie: Outfoxed: Murdoch's War on Journalism

The propaganda war is in full swing.

I watched Outfoxed: Murdoch's War on Journalism and halfway I was like "yeah, FOX is totally biased. I get it!"

Then, I realized, "hey, wait the folks making this documentary are just as biased as FOX, but in the opposite direction. They want to destroy FOX's credibility."

So, I was more confused than ever!

Nevertheless, a solid piece that did help raise my awareness about agenda-driven reporting...and that news, if it ever really existed, is definitely dead.

What that means for "freedom of the press" is anyone's guess.

Monday, January 28, 2008

headed for home

the nameless one always wishes to be the faceless one. so here is her belly, with some accompanying flowers thanks to moshe and kessem shem tov.

Posted by ShoZu

Homeward bound...

I don't get it...

In 24 hours we've gone from

  1. you're here for 2 weeks
  2. you're here until Tuesday, for certain
  3. you can go home tonight (Monday)

Anyway, I'm off to pick the nameless one up soon. We'll see what the orders re: bed rest, etc...

positive news

her regular ob now says there is a chance she will come home tomorrow. this is crazy. she is feeling better.

baby is apparently closer to 35 weeks than previously thought

as you can see from her board, her spirits are high. ;-)

Posted by ShoZu

they grow up so fast moment

tonka has her first trip to the dentist.

a simple moment, but a milestone nonetheless

...and hey, how come no other dads in the waiting room?

Posted by ShoZu

Baby Paradigm Shifter....

Topline message: the nameless one is in the hospital right now and the word is, "she's not getting out until she delivers."

A few weeks ago, I was thinking about how challenging it was when Paco was born. The kid literally didn't sleep through the night for the first year of his life.

"How much harder can it get?" I thought.

After having some contractions over the course of the weekend and some other symptoms, the nameless one went to the hospital this afternoon and I got my answer...a baby that is going to come out 5-6 weeks early.

Sleep is at a premium now since I'm playing zone defense for the foreseeable future, but the docs managed to give some medication to slow things down a bit. The goal is to get to 34 weeks, at a minimum.

As I left, being a man of data, I pushed the attending on the odds. Here's his line.

"I'm going to do everything I can to prevent it tonight. I want to go at least 3 or 4 more days until 34 weeks. I'd say 60% chance of delivery this week and a near certainty within the next 2 weeks.

You know I'll keep you posted.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

The Long Tail and Branding...

The BEST analysis I've read thus far of how branding must adapt/evolve to an Internet-enabled world.

Just first rate. If you are in marketing, advertising, communication, or PR (and who isn't?)...

The Elongating Tail of Brand Communication

Dedicated to Panina the Cancer Slayer...

Back on July 7th, when Jacob and Panina Licht joined us for lunch, we were sidelined (or perhaps, forechecked is the better term, given their, er her, love of hockey) by the news of Panina's breast cancer diagnosis.

The community, led by some true heroines, jumped into action and, I'm excited to say, taking advantage of technology's capabilities, used the CaringBridge service to create a customized site to help them with the mundane details of life as they faced this vicious disease.

Back during my cancer treatments, I noted that I thought offering to help with specific tasks was the best way to be of assistance. My friend, Daniel, has another suggestion.

Regardless, the support was overwhelming...the only reason I know that is b/c whenever the nameless one went to the site, all of the options for assisting were already taken.

Anyhow, it's been a long 7 months for the Lichts as they've endured surgery, chemo, and radiation.  I'd spoken w/Panina on the phone a few times (usually trying to persuade Jacob to get out of the house for a bit and provide me with an excuse to drink scotch without getting a look from the nameless one), but hadn't seen her since then.

There are moments in life when you just feel the spiritual force descend upon you.

It so happens the portion of the Torah read in synagogue this morning concerned the giving of the Ten Commandments by God at Mt. Sinai, a spiritual moment, indeed.

And I felt a tremendous sense of spirituality when I turned this morning and saw Panina for the first time walk into the social hall with a big grin on her face.

With her treatments behind her and on the road to recovery, she exuded the positive lifeforce for which she is widely known and demonstrated that, indeed, "where there is a will, there is a way." Her motto, of sorts, based on her favorite show was "Panina the Cancer Slayer."

When I called tonight to make sure that a blog post about her would be ok (hey, that's progress compared to Albany, right?), the conversation turned to a feature article in US News in which she was mentioned (I stay away from 'mainstream media,' so I didn't know about it.)

In it, the author raises the question that women under 40 should, despite medical conventional wisdom to the contrary, actually go for a baseline mammogram. The odds, however, are VERY slim that any one of them has it.

Now, Panina and Jacob are graduates of the U. of Chicago, the Economics department of which is famous for its free market thinking, so I know the kind of debates that may be ok with them, may not be ok with others. (In fact, Jacob has told me once that he reads only 2 blogs, besides mine...and the bloggers are both Nobel Prize winners in Economics-not bad company, eh? Here's one of them.)

"Panina," I said. "You realize that your experience could single-handedly lead to a massive increase in US healthcare expenditures as women who are at minimal risk clamor for mammograms."

"It already has," she replied. "Most of my friends are now going."

I thought back to a fantastic book I read, the Epidemic of Care about this exact topic. It's when people demand/expect the highest level of care, regardless of the cost. I was reminded of the debate I had here on the blog about my grandmother's $3,000 a month medicine... and whether it was worth it or not...on a societal level.

"How much should society be willing to pay for the one person like you who gets detected early?"
[remember please, Panina is a unique woman who can maintain the macro view of a situation despite her obvious personal interest in it]

"Well, it's worth it for that one woman."

"Sure, and at $10 to society, no question. But, what about $1 billion or $10 billion?"

"How much is a life worth?"

"And that is the problem with healthcare..."

But, that's a topic for another day. Today we celebrate the miracles of modern medicine and the strength of human will and perseverance.

It was good to see you, Nina!

Friday, January 25, 2008

Abuse of Privilege?

And, one friend, Sam, who always calls me Senator.
A few weeks ago, there was an issue with the membership database. I logged in (remotely, of course) to troubleshoot.
Now, even though I have full access, I NEVER look at individual financial records (I'm serious, I don't), but I did feel an awesome power (you know, with great power comes great responsibility). So, with the responsibility part addressed (leaving financials to the side), I decided that the "great power" part had to be addressed.
So I changed my title in the database.
Now, (see the lower left corner), all mail from the synagogue comes addressed to:
"Count and Countess von Epstein"
Note: It is blog posts like this that will keep me from running for President, I know. But, I think it's genetic. There's at least one story of my grandfather telling someone that he was Phil Donahue (they did look similar).
Hope you view this as a harmless joke and not an ethical lapse.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Meeting Your Idols...

When I interview people for a position, I often ask them about their passions outside of work.

You know why?

I like to find people like me. People who, in their own free time, pursue activities that are similar to what they get paid to do.

On my own time (after the kids are in bed and the usual "life stuff" -exercise is in that category), you know what I do?

  1. I read, study, and think about marketing
  2. I play around with technology to increase my understanding and productivity
  3. I work my network and communication skills

It's true.

Now, in category #1, there are some folks I listen to more than others. There are a lot of self-proclaimed "marketing pundits" out there (I think I am one as well!) but I have a Hall of Fame.

And, in that group, are Jackie Huba and Ben McConnell.

Their book, Citizen Marketers, and their blog, Church of the Customer, are at the top of my list in terms of reorienting my way of thinking around the new age of marketing/customer relationship in which we find ourselves.

When you read a blog, you get to know the author(s) on a different level than if you read an article or a book.

I know Jackie is a football fan (Steelers). I know they moved from Chicago to Austin last year. I know that Ben likes music.

Over time, I've built a relationship with them.

First was my *famous* series of Metamucil related posts. Then, I won a contest on their blog. We "friended" on Facebook.

So, I summoned the courage ;-) a few weeks back and said, "hey, I'll be in Austin on Jan. 15th, would you like to meet up?"

They went for it!

And, for me, at least, it was just a great experience. Having some serious 1:2 time with two of the leading thinkers where I could pose specific questions about my business and career to them and get personalized feedback...which I'd 'earned' in the sense of participation within their community.

On Saunas, Rice, and Exercise

You know how I love conversations in the sauna. You meet the best people there.

Today, Sunny, the owner of Dana Bazar in Rockville, an Indian grocery store, and I started up a chat.

He tells me that he needs to lose 20-30 pounds, but he's lazy.

Well, five minutes later, I am doing my best to pump him up and get him focused.

What's more...he's agreed that, for every day he doesn't get on the treadmill, I get a bag of "great Indian basmati rice."

The other guy in the sauna asks, "so what does he get from you if he doesn't get on the treadmill?"

Sunny answers, "he saves my life and helps prevent a heart attack!"

There you go...




Work in the Digital Age...

Hard as it may be to believe, today was the first day in 2008 where I actually went to my physical office.

Travel plus virtual.


And, yes, I do work.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Kosher Chinese Food...

Kosher Chinese, at last!

Join the Conversation...

Think there isn't value in commenting on this blog?

See the comments on More on Loyalty and the 529 plan...

Books that change the way you think and act...and the rest

Was digging through some old files and found this list of (mostly) business books I read in the 2002-2004 timeframe.

I've divided up into books that have truly changed my thinking and the rest.

If you have questions or comments on any of them, let me know

Books that have changed the way I think and Act

  • Purple Cow
  • Good to Great
  • Execution
  • Why Not?
  • Love is the Killer App
  • Full Engagement
  • Managing in a Time of Great Change
  • Now, Discover Your Strengths
  • Let's Get Real
  • Strategy Focused Organization
  • The Art of War
  • Selling to the Very Important Top Officer
  • Leading the Revolution
  • Only the Paranoid Survive

The rest that just weren't that memorable

  • Zapp
  • How to Think Like a CEO
  • Strategic Thinking
  • The Rumsfeld Way
  • Jack: Straight from the Gut
  • The HP Way
  • B2B: One to One
  • The Visonary's Handbook
  • Thinking Strategically
  • Truth About Managing People
  • Who Says Elephants Can't Dance

Is It Worth It?

One of the benefits and curses of my previous life as an entrepreneur (remember is that I tend to think like an owner.

I debate spending more money than I have to on travel, for example, and I get irritated when things aren't perfect.

In a small company, that can make or break you.

In a large company, with 80,000 people, it's easy to feel divorced from that sense of ownership. Yes, it's your money (as a shareholder), but it doesn't feel that way always....and when you see something broken, you can easily say, "it's not my problem" or "I can't fix everything so I just have to let it go."

But, something inside of me can't allow that.

There are many great things about working at Microsoft, but there's one element of our Human Resources process that really irritates me. As an owner, I feel the need to raise the awareness of the person responsible for it and share some of my frustration. I have a sense of ownership that I want it to be better.

On the other hand, is it worth it?

The VP to whom I write may say, "who the hell is this guy sending me a note?" or worse, I suppose.

I see it in the macro sense...if we don't fix this, it's another potential weakness.

But, in a situation where the risk outweighs the reward (risk of a handslap yes, but risk of non-response and opportunity cost of the time and reward of 'hey thanks, we're on it), is it worth it?

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Getting Your Bearings...

Paco knows that he can't come into our room (or snuggle in bed with us) until 7 am. And, to his credit, he's getting better at knowing the difference between the hour 7 and whenever he sees a "7" on the clock, as in 5:17.

So, he comes in on Sunday morning and says, "It is 7 o'clock!"

And he's right. He says:

"I want my breakfast, please!"

"Hold on," I respond, "let me get my bearings."

"Why do you need that?" he asks.

The nameless one and I can't help but laugh, so Monday AM, in an instant replay of Sunday, I figure I'll try it again.

"Let me get my bearings."

And, witty as ever, the boy responds,

"where do you think they are?"

I start laughing. He continues to prod for his breakfast.

"Hang on, I have to get my bearings," seeing how many times the joke will go on.

He walks over to the sink in the bathroom and yells,


Monday, January 21, 2008

Voyeur Parenting...

One of the great joys for me is watching my kids when they don't know I'm watching.

When they are sleeping is one, but when I get to see their personalities come through...that's great.

Sometimes I'll catch them when they are playing together at home or with a play date, but usually, it is through the window of the classroom at nursery school.

Peeking in on their lives as they develop, oblivious to my observation (hopefully no observer effect here, see Decoding the Universe did teach me something) is just a pure joy.

Makes the sleepless nights worth it....uh, kind of.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

30 hours, 30 people

From sat. Afternoon to Sunday evening, our house was like an international airport.

A social butterfly's paradise, but exhausting.

Great friend and family, great food and conversation.

Love it when we go 'all in'

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

Family Bonding on a Football Sunday...

It was one year ago today that we all saw saw Nana for the last time. How do I know?

Strange as it sounds, it is because after we left her at the hospital, we went to see Poppy and watched the end of the Patriots-Colts AFC Championship game. Thinking about it today, it was the last time we watched a game with him. And football, in that respect, is an important part of our family dynamic.

So, it was particularly meaningful when both of my brothers, one sister, my dad, niece and 2 kids joined me today to watch the AFC championship game at my house.

We had plenty of food, drink, and conversation. (We're not so crazy that we won't allow talking during the w/DVR, who cares?)

The kids were playing, we were chatting about life, politics, family, and more. During halftime, we watched some family videos and looked at some pictures.

An emotional day, encompassing the circle of life.

Plus...who doesn't love games that occur below 20 degrees?

Friday, January 18, 2008

2nd place...Secundum Placium

The more things change...

Someone gave this to me 11 years ago.

You should see the other guy...

Poor kid ran into a table.

Eavesdropping pays....

By the time I got to the gate for my flight to Houston, the seats immediately around it were mostly occupied.

I went across the way and took a seat there, noticing as I did, that the flight departing from that gate was also going to Baltimore, only it was scheduled for 2 hours later.

Soon after I got there, the first announcement came over the PA

"We have mechanics on the plane right now. We will update you in 20 minutes."

The time for update kept getting pushed back.

I saw a man approach the desk of the gate for the later Baltimore flight.

He looked familiar. I knew where I had met him, but his name, at the moment, escaped me.

As I stared at him, I started listening to his conversation with the gate agent.

"I want to switch to this flight to Baltimore. If they aren't going to tell us the situation until 6pm, that means we're not leaving until 6.45pm, at the earliest. This flight is at 7.15pm and it's guaranteed."

"Brilliant," I thought. The old "bird in the hand" adage at play.

I approached him and after a minute, Charlie and I had reconnected. Equally important...he saved my travel experience home!

And to continue the bird analogy..."two birds with one stone." Got to reconnect with a first-rate technologist AND got home earlier. For all I know, that other plane is still in Houston.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Connecting the dots....

A few weeks ago, I recounted how I reconnected with a classmate from JHU named Robin Jacobson. We knew we knew each other, but we couldn't figure out how...

Anyway, we had a nice chat and have exchanged some emails and left it at that.

But, sometimes, fate has a strange role to play...

Last week, I was going through my old scrapbook and found an from the college paper congratulating the student fundraisers for the Annual Fund (the beginning of my sales and marketing career?)

I saw her name on it and put it all together...

But, wait, there's more...

I flipped through another scrapbook and found a note signed by Robin Jacobson saying:
"Jeremy, I want to be like you when I grow up."
"Because you're so cool."

Leave it to my ego to feel the need to document, authentice, and then save a post-it note marking the moment!

But, if you take a look at what Robin is up to, you'll see that the note should have been written the other way. She's pretty cool and maybe I can reach that level!

Football Fandom and Autographs...

Growing up, I was a huge Redskins fan. As was my buddy, Chuck (I'm the hirsute one).
Twice, we made the day trip to Carlisle, PA to visit the Redskins summer training camp facility.
The second time...I became famous...for a few minutes.
Chuck had an uncanny ability to recognize players who, in my estimation, had a greater likelihood of swimming the English Channel than of making the team.
He would see one of them and say, "Hey, Gregory Williams! You went to Johnson C. Smith College! Can I have your autograph?"
The player, stunned that anyone would know him, would, of course, gladly oblige.
Soon, the other fans there would say, "hey, it's a player, let's get his autograph!" and Chuck had begun a tidal wave of attention on this guy whose career in the NFL ended 2 weeks later.
While at lunch, we were talking to the brand new coach of the team, Richie Petitbon, and some teenager comes up to him and asks, "are you with the team?"
Chuck, livid at the diminishing appreciation for the game and the commercialization of the autograph experience, yells at the guy, "you IDIOT! He's the head coach."
Seeing the widespread ignorance, and being wiseass college kids, we sense an opportuntity.
After lunch, the players returned to the practice facility, walking through some gates. As they do, people approach them and ask for autographs.
Chuck goes inside the gate. I wait a few minutes and, dressed as I am in the lower left picture above, walk into the practice facility.
Chuck runs up to me and says, "Hey, Coach! CAn I have your autograph?"
"Sure," I say.
Within seconds, I am swarmed. I'm signing hats, pennants, footballs. One lady asked me to sign the shirt she was wearing.
I hear someone say, "what's his number?"
And another person yells, "he's a coach!!"
I'm having a blast, but nervous as hell that any one of the real/authentic players around me will expose me and the mob will turn against me.
Soon, I say, "sorry, I've got to get to practice."
And I break away from the crowd, my football career over.
(Another pic from the scrapbook inspired the post.)

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Travel Woes...

It was bound to happen.

I always hear about the number of "airline deays" and "stranded passengers," but in all of my travels the last few weeks, I'd had none of the problems...until now.

Stuck in Houston ue to "mechanical problems" ad continual pushbacks.

One thing I don't get in the various airports I've seen...


So frustrating.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

What is worktime?

I've blogged before on the idea of working when you need to and just focusing on the results.

Here's a very good post (with some background data) showing the value of flexible work

the australian lovebirds

the folks i met on the plane.

see earlier post

Posted by ShoZu

Movie: Smokin' Aces

Despite some big names (Liotta, Garcia, Affleck), Smokin' Aces didn't do it for me.

Yes, there was a nice plot twist at the end that made it intriguing, but I felt that the story development was just a bit too cliche.

They relied way too much on vulgar language and violence and the concept (mafia-related assassination) is just pretty worn.

Am I too jaded and cynical?

Travel thoughts...

It's funny when you think about something and then it happens.

On the way to the airport this morning, talking to my cabbie (writing this on the plane so no link), I was reviewing some of the trips I've taken for work over the past few weeks.

  • Seattle (twice)
  • Fargo, ND
  • St. Louis
  • Austin, TX

On my way out of Fargo, I made a point of saying that I wanted to run into the Roger Maris museum (one of the town's big/few attractions). I saw some of the eyes roll among my colleagues..."why such a big deal?" they must have been thinking.

The reason why is that you need to make your travel memorable and the way to do that is through connecting with the local people and taking advantage of the unique, local experiences.

As you might imagine, I'm a big plane-talker, so when I run into some solid seat companions, I feel blessed. It's not unusual for me to meet someone on a plane and still be in touch w/them years later (right Carol? :-)

Well, today, I had the good fortune to meet Molly and Dino, two Australians taking a month-long trip through the US.

Aussies are almost always affable folks and we've had a good chat about their perceptions of American culture. Plus, I got to share some of my passion for US history and sports with them.

Love to expand my frame of reference and perspective (and welcome new members to FOJ as well!)

They are headed to Las Vegas, LA, and SF in the next two weeks, so if any of you want to help out two travelers (who are afraid of driving in the US-particularly in LA (Jan 20-24), let me know!)

Updated: big call out to Dan who's offered to be an LA host/guide for them! Love it.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Late Night Party for the Under 5 Set...

One of the things to which I don't aspire as a father is to be viewed simply as someone who hands out punishments. I also don't want to be remembered for the times when I lost my temper. That's not the way to build a relationship with your kids.

But, last night, I was pushed to the brink...

Beginning at 2:30am until 6:30am, Paco and Tonka were both WIDE awake. And I'm not just talking about sitting in their room, trying to fall asleep.

The "Inmates were running the asylum."

They turned on lights, were running around, laughing hysterically, started singing the ABC's, and were dancing. It was like a rave that kicked off at 2.30.

On the one hand, they were cute, no doubt, but the implications of the total lack of sleep were huge.

First, I went in with requests.

Then with threats (no dessert, no TV/DVD, removal of favorite toys/blankets/books). Take the Machiavellian approach.

I was frustrated. My temperature was rising. I was exhausted. I could see why people's fuses were lit and then blown.

I had NO idea what to do.

I gave up on that strategy and tried a collaborative approach.

"Guys, I need you to help me help you understand that when you are tired tomorrow morning, you are going to have a really rough day..."

Nope, that didn't work.

Eventually, we gave up, closed the door and just hoped it would die down.

It didn't.

Every 15 minutes, someone was running in with an announcement like:

"I found this on the window!"

"Where is my Elmo book?"

"I need to go Potty."

"Can we jump on the mattresses?"

If this were a foreign country, some dictator would have declared martial law.

Then, Tonka says, "I need help with my tush!"

I get into the bathroom and things are about to go from bad to worse.

Tonka's standing there without her pajamas and Paco has dumped an entire roll of toilet paper into the toilet.

He loves to flush, so we were literally seconds away from a full-on bathroom floor.

I felt like James Bond with a timer descending to zero and I pulled his hand from the lever and then, no choice, pulled a huge wad of paper out of the toilet.

"Yeah, this is all I need at 4am."

The only thing missing was a disco ball and some techno. It was so out of control and the perfect storm of fatigue, fatigue, and oh, fatigue had collided. I had no more runway.

Fortunately, the nameless one saw what was happening and intervened at 7am to help get them started with their day (or should I say the post-party aka school?)

There's no question that one of the greatest moments in parenthood is when your kids are young like this, but last night is one of those that falls outside of that experience.

Movie: Densha Otoko aka "Train Man"

I really enjoyed Train Man: Densha Otoko on a lot of levels.

It took me back to Japan, to many of the things I enjoy (or find intriguing) about the culture.

The politeness, the formality, the neon of Tokyo, the quirky mannerisms, and the structure.

At the same time, it had a surprising level of candor and brought a solid Western-like love story to the screen albeit in a uniquely Japanese way.

I thought the acting was very good and the script even better.

For those of you who have lived, traveled, or just want to go, I'd recommend this one.

Movie: Shrek the Third

The first movie I ever saw with my wife (3 months after we got married) was Shrek.

So, our latest date night (yes, we were at home) was the third installment (Shrek the Third) in the series.

I'd rank it 2nd.

  1. Shrek original
  2. Shrek 3
  3. Shrek 2

Cute. Some funny moments. A few over the top cliches/parodies (which work very well). Decent, but the standard is so high from #1, which is too bad.

Voiceovers are great as are animations, of course.

Motivational Poster...

A few years back, Nike had a series of ads like this one.

I really liked them, so am sharing this one from the Jer979 files...

Political Power Player

Back when I thought that politics was going to be my career choice, I had the opportunity to attend the 1988 Democratic Convention in Atlanta. 4 years later, I went to the 1992 Republican Convention in Houston.

In Atlanta, I was a backstage assistant and got to mill around the speaker's tent.

One of the speakers was a young governor from Arkansas (pictured here--he's on the right :-)]

Unfortunately, right after meeting me, he went on to give a notoriously long 35 minute speech (it was really terrible--interesting that I couldn't find any links online to that story--Clinton conspiracy, right?).

I think he bounced back though.

Four years later, awaiting the speech of George H. W. Bush, I saw his son and mother in the stands.

I motioned to the future Gov of Texas if he would feel comfortable wearing a pin that said, "I am a pro-Israel Repbulican."

In the 2nd picture below, he is holding it up for my camera.

Looks like I am a key player in presidential politics.

Meet me at a convention and soon enough, you'll be in the White House!

Saturday, January 12, 2008

979 and a trip down memory lane...

Perhaps it is my training at a History major, but in the pre-blog era, I was pretty rigorous (still am a bit) about keeping things of significance in a coordinated, organized manner.

There were a few key influences to this.

  • My mom, the professional organizer.
  • My dad, who has files completely unorganized in the garage dating back to 1960.
  • A woman named Joyce who hired me to help clean out her basement when I was 16. She still had her college notes in boxes--even though there was NO way she'd ever need them or could find anything if she wanted to.

I vowed then that I would keep my stuff in order so that any future kids (or I) could find the important stuff quickly.

This probably comes as no surprise to you.

The system isn't perfect, but it's good.

Following my visit to the Jacobson's, I was looking for a particular picture (more on that later, I hope) and started looking through some of my old scrapbooks.

I've found some good stuff and hope to scan and upload over time.

This one is related to the 979 story.

Two things

  1. the world's largest sapphire is 979 carats
  2. the story about Ben Johnson running a 9.79 was on page 979 of the Almanac. Pretty crazy (do those almanacs even exist anymore?)

Just another peer into my world, eh? :-)

Thoughtless Comments...

I like learning from my mistakes (if they are, of course), but I prefer to learn from others :-)

I've definitely excelled, at times, at making the inappropriate remark (see here), but today I got to overhear someone else.


One of our good friends, Tamar Lustman, has single-handedly driven the vision, fundraising, and execution of a new playground for kids at our synagogue.

Whether you think it is a good idea or not, her ability to get things done is impressive.

Today, as her husband and I were walking down the steps to the post-services reception, we overheard some of the folks behind us.

One of them looked out the window and said:

"That's all you get for $40,000? Pretty bad!"

I just patted Tamar's husband on the shoulder and said, "I guess you can't please all the people all the time, eh?"

Good never know who is listening. Or, as Tamar said to me later, "if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all."

6 year old takes me down...

I love when I am humbled by a 6 year old. Keeps it real.

During a great lunch at the Kushnir household, I was discussing DeBeers and the diamond industry (my new favorite topic, right?) and talking about the size of the industry.

"Yeah, those De Beers guys make a bazillion dollars as a monopoly."

At that point, Samuel, the 6 year old chimes in and says:

"There's no such number as a bazillion! It's a billion."

"You're right," I said, "what number comes next?"

"A trillion!" he shouted.

"Ok, tough guy, what's next?" I asked.

"That's easy," he replied. "A trillion and one!"


The culture of carniphilia in my community has been documented before.

And this weekend, I attended what has, I believe, become the third component to the "Kemp Mill Carnivore's Triple Crown."

Jared Minsk is the originator (as far as I know) of the "Shalom Busser."

(This is a cute play on words. Busser is hebrew/yiddish for meat. Shalom is Hello/Welcome [at least in this context], but it's real genius is that it plays on the concept of the Shalom Zachar.)

Anyhow, Jared regaled his guests with a solid cholent, beer-batter double fried meatballs (aka heart-attack on a plate) and some nice and spicy Jambalaya.

Where I take pride in the development of this third component of the Triple Crown is how Jared has worked me in my role as self-appointed marketing consultant.

We worked on branding (focusing on the name), positioning (consistent time of year), consistency, and repetition.

I think he nailed it. Well done, Jared.

Note: The other two are Gadi's Monday Night Football (opening and closing night) and Mosh's 4th of July BarBQ.

Like Peanut Butter and Chocolate...

The intersection of two of my favorite and technology.

So good that I am copying wholesale from Church of the Customer Blog

If you're a football fan, you haven't escaped seeing the YouTube-like Coors Light commercials that employ fake fans holding their cans of Coors (in a most improbable way) and ask dumb questions of actual coaches.

The gimmick is that the spots splice in the coaches' answers from their actual post-game news conferences.  Funny premise, but most fell short of actual humor.

The commercials have succeeded, though, in inspiring a bevy of online copycats, precisely because it is an ode to amateur culture--mashing up actual footage with fake footage for humor. One of my faves features Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin. The Pittsburghese is dead-on funny.

Not a bad blueprint for future TV ads: pay homage to amateur culture, and amateur culture will return the favor, spreading word of mouth.

Amateur ad featuring Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy [RSS readers click here.]


BTW, how GREAT was that Green Bay game in the blizzard?

Thursday, January 10, 2008

fresh air

Over and over again, I am reminded that it is the little details that make up a great (or bad) customer experience.

I ride with the same cabbie to/from the airport for every trip. He is punctual, calls me to confirm, knows where i live, is flexible if my plans change, engages in good conversation, helps with the bags, his car is very clean, and he makes sure that it smells nice.

Anyone can drive a cab, but provide a good experience and people will keep coming back.

And it is profitable for him. I feel connected and tip him accordingly.

Posted by ShoZu

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

jacobson girls

my seattle adopted family, at least three of them

Posted by ShoZu

Nickel and Diming...

If you read this blog, you know that my marketing hero is Seth Godin.

So, I was pumped up when he had a blog post two weeks ago titled "Nickel and Diming" when I had the same title last April! Yeah, baby!

Ok, ego boost over.

Back to reality. His post was better anyway.

seattle skyline

view from ms offices in Bellevue

clear day, for now

Posted by ShoZu

Bill Gates' Last Day...

Microsoft won't be the same



Video: Bill Gates Last Day CES Clip


Now, if we at MSFT can take this attitude and ability to laugh at ourselves and extend it out through all parts of our organization, I think the relationship we have with customers and partners will be revolutionized.

Will You Sleep With Us Again?

Just checked out of a hotel in Bellevue, WA.

On the receipt, there's an email address for "Quality Assurance" and feedback.

A few other places during my stay, I saw them ask "how was your stay?"

A better question:

Would you stay here again?

The airlines, for all of their shortcomings, seem to always end with the idea of "We hope your travel plans include us next time." A start, indeed, but the key question is: will you come back?

For me, for this particular hotel, the answer is NO.

My suggestion:

ask your customers if they would buy from you again.

ask your partners if they would partner with you again.

ask your employees who've left if they would work for you again.

Authentic and Contrived...

Watched the speeches of both Obama and Clinton tonight.

When I speak of marketing today, I emphasize that we are in an era of authenticity, of conversation, and of relationships.

The era of sanitized communications is over. We're fatigued of the BS.

So, when I watch Obama and Clinton, I am really taken aback by their differing styles.

Obama is passion. He's authentic. He speaks of a unifying theme, "Yes We Can." He talks from the heart.

Clinton...I just don't get it.  It's all so organized, so laid out, so feeling of artificial.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

A Tale of Two movies...

Why I trust myself (Hot Fuzz) more than the airlines (Rush Hour 3) for in-flight entertainment.

Rush Hour 3 was one of the DUMBEST movies I've ever seen. DON'T waste your valuable time. Even the homages to the Godfather didn't save it.

As for Hot Fuzz, it's refreshing to get a taste of British humor every now and again and the caricature of American movies (Bad Boys II and Point Break--neither of which I've seen in full) was actually entertaining.

You get a feel for the odd sense of the British comedy, some witty ideas and unexpected twists, and some so over the top ridiculous moments that it can't help to be anything but enjoyable.

On another travel related note, why is it (once again) that the more money you pay for a hotel (tonight I'm at the Hyatt Regency Bellevue) the more challenging it is to do the basics like Internet (took me 20 minutes and a call to tech support to get on) and exercise room (outside and across the street).

Last month I stayed at Embassy Suites. A bit farther out, but it had everything I needed.

A Blog Reader's Tribute...

Gadi writes in (slight paraphrase) today:

I was inspired by your grandfather while watching the Redskins this weekend.

Every game is a bonus game…

He was referring to my Poppy's famous quote after his WWII experience:

Every Day is a Bonus Day.

Gadi-thanks for the tribute. Poppy (a big football fan as well) would have appreciated.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Movie: Ocean's Thirteen

I was glad to see this series redeem itself in Ocean's Thirteen.

I am a junkie for technology and intrigue, so I'm inclined to like these anyway, but Ocean's Twelve was a big disappointment. Nice to see that they got it right (though, as is usually the case, the original is the best).

There were some melodramatic liberties/excesses with this one, but I think those who have seen the other 2 would get it without getting put off.

A huge amount of starpower and some clever moments, so 3 stars.

Movie: Blood Diamond

You may remember the post I had a while back encouraging people to stop buying diamonds because of a  History Channel documentary.

Well, Hollywood's version (Blood Diamond) has done nothing to persuade me away from that stance. And I commend them for taking on the subject in a, I thought, brutally honest way.

Di Caprio did a phenomenal job in his role as a Zimbabwean/South Afrian smuggler/mercenary and the supporting cast was really first rate.

The violence was gruesome and the story heart-wrenching, but hey, if you want to go buy your "rock," well then, at least you should have an idea of the damage you are inflicting on bodies and lives on the other side of the world. At least you can't claim ignorance and you can display your susceptibility to the power of marketing with full knowledge of the implication of your decision.

If there were a tenth as much outrage about diamonds as there were about global warming or Iraq war or AIDS, we'd be a hell of a lot better off.

Great movie that connects with you and builds awareness at the same time.

And, sell those diamonds! (Not joking)

tsa security nightmare at dulles

you need to leave your bag in this pile at dulles and then ONE guy loads it through a security scanner.

It is mayhem and most people are saying 'there is NO way i will see this bag.'

There has got to be a better way.

Posted by ShoZu

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Family Field Trip...Next

In the latest of our monthly Sunday field trips to take advantage of our location in DC, we went to the Museum of Natural History.

As usual, the highlight was "taking the chugga chugga [aka Metro] to the museum," but they did enjoy a number of hands-on activities, including the Insect exhibit and the Mammals of the World.

Don't know how I'll pull this off with three, but I'll try.

Two interesting things occurred during our travels. One on the way there and one on the way back.

On the Metro down there, out of the blue, Tonka says, "How come there are more people with brown faces than white faces?"

I have NO idea where this came from as I've never raised the subject of race with her.

And on the way back, I discovered how kids can do emotional damage to their parents without even trying that hard.

"Tonka, what was your favorite part of the museum?"
"I didn't like anything at all."

And a side note...I met a woman on a plane the other day and she works in Minnetonka, MN.

I've decided, if the new baby is a girl, we'll have Tonka and Minnetonka. :-)

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Fundraising in the Digital Age...

The Net makes a LOT of things easier.
Another is fundraising.
Like you, I get a lot of requests fro charitable donations from people via email.
It's so easy to send to everyone you know.
BUT, what do you do for those who do contribute? What do you do so that they will continue to support and FEEL good about their donation.
Well, Bethel and Jason have figured it out. She walks in the Avon 3 day every year and since I'm a veteran of that walk, I support her as well.
Today, though I got this VERY personal card in the mail. Reminded me of her efforts and the person in whom I had made the donation.
Just a GREAT way of differentiating herself. Well done, Bethel!


So, here's my assessment of the Tobi (the steam cleaner I bought via infomercial).

I have to say, I like it.

It's pretty quick and does the job on most clothes in a nice way.

There's no question I've saved $ on dry cleaning and hassle.

The travel steamer, however, is a piece of junk. They should have stuck with what they did well.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Civics Lesson...

When my cabbie picked me up at BWI last night, we started talking about the Iowa results (I didn't know what had happened).

He began asking about what it all meant and how the process worked.

It was a great feeling to help him understand primaries, delegates, conventions, etc.

Here I am expanding democracy :-)

Anxiety Morning...

So mornings you wake up and you're calm.

Some you are not.

It started off because I was freakin' exhausted.

I've got a nagging cough that I can't kick and which kept me up all night.

Then, the car dealer calls.

I dropped off the car on Wed. (had my cabbie pick me up at the dealer) for an oil change. Idea was to have them do the work and I'd pick it up Friday morning.

Well, apparently, the guy called my office number (which I never check) and not my cell (I was in Fargo, ND remember?).

So, I didn't find out until today that my $20 oil change had become a $750 set of repairs including a tire with nail in it, lightbulbs that were burned out, and some belt that wasn't working.

Now, I love Fitzgerald, the dealer, so I have no reason to assume they are being dishonest (though I was irritated that the guy didn't call my cell number-which he had).

And, of course, it's cold and oil has hit $100/barrel. You know how I feel about that.

All of this led to a greater than usual money anxiety AM for me.


Thursday, January 03, 2008

Roger Maris in Fargo, ND

one of north dakota's most famous sons.

the museum is in the state's biggest mall.

here is a replica of his plaque from yankee stadium

Posted by ShoZu

Frozen Mississippi River

the view flying into minneapolis

Posted by ShoZu

2000th post and Entrepreneurship...

This is my 2000th post.

A big call out to my brother, Asher, featured on the Washington Post website.

Here he's talking about when entrepreneurs should seek outside assistance.


Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Movie: Superbad

Not the most intellectual flick (by a longshot), but Superbad has its moments.

If you can suspend belief and revert back to your teenage years, it's pretty funny.

If you can't, well then, you're going to feel like you wasted 2 hours of your life.

Apparently made by the producers of the 40 year old virgin, I thought it was 1 notch up on the scale, but despite my friend who said:

"I have 3 movie recommendations for you: Superbad, Superbad, Superbad,"

I'd have to disagree.

Very much a mood film and a "it depends on your state of mind."

Hot tub at 6 degrees below

According to, the temperature in Fargo, ND right now is 13 degrees Fahrenheit with a windchill of minus 6.

I am staying at the Hotel Donaldson, which has a roof "sky prairie."

On the "sky prairie" is an open-air hot tub.

You guessed it....

Harkening back to the old Polar Bear club days, I sat in it for a good 5 minutes.


I feel invigorated in a major way.

Body was warm on a windy, snow-swept roof with nothing but the midwest skies above.


The Drive for 45....

If all goes smoothly (does it ever?) I'll hit my 45th state this evening. (Here are the others)

As I've long said, one of my favorite mottos is:

"Get people to pay you to do what you want to do anyway."

MS has a big office in Fargo, North Dakota (due to Great Plains acquisition) and business is calling me there.

Nice, eh?

Financial Sharing Conflict....

I loved sharing the data with people about my investments through Covestor (particularly since I was beating the market by 1.5%--yeah, I know it's the long haul that matters)

Anyhow, I've run into a bit of a conundrum.

I added a layer of security to my ETrade account (the digital ID token-why not?) which is pretty cool (see here), but what that means is that my Covestor account can't access E*trade (which is good since I guess it proves that it works).

The downside is I can't share my data least for now.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

New Year's Brunch...

Our New Year's Eve celebration consisted of...going to bed by 11pm.

Hey, our kids don't know it's New Year's Day. They aren't going to sleep in, so why be exhausted?

Instead ,we rang it in with style with a sumptuous brunch at the Guggenheim home.

Some Jewish authorities say that celebrating a secular 'holiday' like New Year's isn't appropriate.

Our host, however, cited his mother, quoting a Chassidic rabbi who said:

"If people are wishing each other Mazal(good luck), why wouldn't we join in?"

Auld Lang Syne, baby!

Facebook and Networking...

I've been hot and cold on Facebook.

Thanks to Ari Goldberg, I am hot again.

I caught up Ari (he does tech support, if you need it) at a New Year's brunch today at the Guggenheim's (more on that later) and he tells me:

"You know, we have a friend in common, Joel Haber. I haven't seen him since High School, but I found him because I saw he was a friend of yours on Facebook. I looked at his profile and I see that he is

  1. supporting the WGA strike
  2. interested in being a writer

As it turns out, I know someone who is pretty high up in the WGA, so I brokered the introduction."

There, my friends, in a nutshell is the power of Internet-based social networking.