Thursday, December 29, 2011

Should Kids Skip College?

I’ve long wondered if the idea of “everyone should go to college” is becoming doctrine and no longer based in reality.
Sure, the credential has value, but is that based on a paradigm that is becoming outdated?
Are the “skills” taught in college really the ones that will be most valuable in the next innovation economy?
I have doubts.
Add to that the college marketing problem. Namely, the colleges, because there are too many of them (leftover from the Baby Boomers) have a marketing problem, so they-out of necessity-make us all believe that a college education is the KEY.
Of course, as we all know, there are ample sets of evidence showing that college doesn’t always turn out to job security or wealth.
All of this came to mind, because of these two articles which came across my desk.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Tech Vocabulary of a 3.5 Year Old

Recent things said by Nadia (3.5)

“Remember when you were in China and we Skyped you on the iPad.”

Upon getting in the car and hearing the radio, “I don’t want this. Please turn on Pandora.”

Upon hearing that I was packing my Kindle for a trip, “Are you taking the Kindle or the Kindle Fire?”

“Hey, I want to see my avatar on the Xbox!”

“Can we play Kinect?”

And when I asked her, ‘do you want to play with the iPad now?” she responded, “no, I want the iPhone.”

Friday, December 23, 2011

Love Letter from my Son…

This one brought me to tears.

I went to NYC…just for one day. Nothing compared to most trips.

But, when I came back, Paco handed me this.

“I miss you a lot Abba (dad). I reely want you to come back. Abba please please please come back.”

Man, this life balancing thing is tough.


Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Installing Solar Panels…

So, we (well, I Smile) went ahead with the installation of solar panels on the roof. It took about 3 days when all was said and done.

If you are interested, here's the link to get an estimate.
(full disclosure...if you do sign up via this link, we both get some $).

Some FAQ’s:

  1. I went with "lease" instead of "buy" option.
  2. Put $1k down and have committed to $68/month. At current electricity consumption rates, this covers about 25% of our monthly usage at a FIXED rate.
  3. Payback period…approximately 7 years.
  4. Green value is something I am factoring in.
  5. Best argument, in my mind, came from Gary of Clean Currents who positioned it as a “hedge against future energy price increases.” (If there’s one thing I have a high degree of confidence in-sure, I could be wrong—it’s that energy prices will go up)
  6. It helps to have a new or mostly new roof
  7. The company guarantees 95% of their estimates.
  8. I’ll be sharing the results of this experiment in the months to come…

To be CLEAR...I'm not advocating just yet since I don't know how it will go, but figured I'd share it for now.

To understand some of the technical components, check out this interview with one of the installers.

Monday, December 19, 2011

How Perspective Shapes Experience…in Freising, Germany

IMAG0275Sometimes adhering to my travel philosophy of “do something unique to that location” can be a challenge.

I arrived in Munich on a Monday morning, having had basically NO sleep on the plane. It was 7 am.

Tuesday was a full work day and the plan was to leave on Wed. AM, so Monday afternoon was the only time.IMAG0274

Thing is…I was exhausted. What’s more, I wasn’t IN Munich, but a suburb called Freising about 50 minutes away from the city by subway.

Originally, I had envisioned a trip to one of the city’s top art museums, the Alte Pinakhotek, but after a 5 hour nap (I was wiped out!), that dissipated. Just not practical.

It was getting late and going to be dark soon, so at 4pm, I went for a walk in Freising and, as I did, I was reminded (yet again) that “anything can be an experience/adventure if you view it that way.”

As luck would have it, I was a 5 minute walk away from the center of Freising and if there’s a stereotypical German winter scene, it’s that each town has a “WinterMarkt” where daily, various vendors come out to sell their stuff for Xmas. There’s all kinds of food and drinks, as well, obviously, but it’s a fun, joyous, festive scene and nothing like an overcrowded target or retail mall.

So, I lucked out and found Freising’s version of this event that happens all over Germany at this time of year.

I had an espresso, bought some socks (why not), and chatted up the vendors, both to practice my German and to get a feel for what is going on in the country at the moment.

On the way to/from, I got to see some of the typical German architecture, street design, and sidewalk patterns.

I thought to myself…”victory declared.”

Just a reminder that so often, it’s a matter of perspective that shapes what you experience.

(Note: those “tools” in the picture are all made out of chocolate.)

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Express Trip Down Memory Lane

Before moving to the DC area, I lived in three places: Germany, Japan, and New York City.

Over the course of December, in three successive weeks, I had the chance to visit Japan, New York City, and Germany.

Kind of a mini-summary of my pre-fatherhood life.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Cautious Kindle Purchases...

I love my Kindle, but I find that I'm actually MORE cautious about buying books now b/c of it.

In the past, if I bought a book and didn't like it, at least I could give it away to someone who, I'm stuck with it. I read reviews (all stars) with much more skepticism (since I know that authors get their friends to pad their reviews).

This is why "social search" will be important. I think we'll only want to read reviews from people we trust and/or we'll want to see HOW we're connected to them...and how the reviewers are connected to the authors.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

A Witness to History at the MLK, Jr. Memorial


The kids had read some books, seen a movie, and the NFO and I had discussed MLK’s impact on America, but I knew there was no way I could do it justice myself.

So, the other day, in our most recent excursion in DC, which took us to the new MLK, Jr. Memorial, I saw an older African-American man sitting on the side.

I went up to him and said, “Sir, I don’t mean to assume here, but it looks as if you were alive and remember Dr. King. If you are comfortable, would you mind sharing with my kids what it was like to live during that time?”

We lucked out. Mr.Osborne Willey, 69 years old, from Danville, VA provided my kids with an eyewitness to history account of the era.

He told them how he had to walk to school, while the white kids got to ride on the bus; how they taunted him and his classmates verbally (“using words I won’t share now with your kids”) and threw things at them.

He discussed what it was like to have to sit in the back of the bus, drink from a separate water fountain, and not be able to eat at the same tables (“we wondered about it, but that was just how it was.”)

He explained how MLK had inspired him (and a nation) to look at the world differently. He talked about how far he believes we have come as a nation (“we’ve done a good job, but we’re not at the mountaintop”) and, surprisingly to me, how he felt that many African-Americans today, in his mind, have not taken advantage of the opportunities for which King fought, particularly around education.

The two older ones did a great job of listening and Mr. Willey really did a nice job.

I think perhaps because of my time in Germany studying the Holocaust and thinking about the time when there will be no survivors around anymore (sooner than we realize), I was attuned to the fact that, someday soon, there won’t be too many people around who remember segregation/Jim Crow and I wanted my kids to hear it directly.

On the way down, I had given them a crash course in Civil Rights history.

We talked about the slave trade, the Civil War, Lincoln, Emancipation Proclamation, Poll Taxes, Jim Crow, Brown vs. the Board of Education, the Little Rock 9, Rosa Parks, the Selma-Montgomery march, Bull Connor, water cannons, dogs, lunch counter sit-ins, the “I have a dream” speech (which we watched, in part, at the memorial via YouTube on the Kindle Fire), and James Earl Ray.

It was as if I was compacting an entire lifetime of learning into a 15 minute kid-friendly interactive seminar. They actually retained a huge amount and were able to put that into context with some of the quotes at the memorial.

BTW, I LOVED the actual memorial. It was a beautiful day. The water was shining. The location is fantastic and I found it to be of a really manageable and meaningful dimension. image

I highly recommend it.

And, of course, best of all was that I unlocked the “Black History” badge on Foursquare!

Ok, I am joking about that.

The reason we do these outings is to give my kids an appreciation of America, Washington DC, and history so they build curiosity and understanding. On this particular day, it was accomplished.



Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Don’t Prepare the Path for the Kids…

The other day at synagogue, my soon-to-be 8 year old daughter came to me and asked for help in getting some of the food from reception table.

I was chatting with my friends and said to her, “I think an almost 8 year old can get her own food from the table. Solve the problem.”

She walked away.

I’m sure the NFO would have handled it differently, but I believe that parenthood is about planned obsolescence.

Ephraim, with whom I was chatting, was supportive.

He said, (and I don’t think it’s his original quote, but it’s a good one and I heard it from him first):

“Our job is to help prepare them for the path, not prepare the path for them.”

Spot on.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Sharpening the Saw—HTML 5

The last of Stephen Covey’s “7 Habits of Successful People” is Sharpen the Saw.

It’s something I advocate a lot when I teach marketing classes and something that I also struggle with working into my schedule.

Every now and then though, I wake up in the middle of the night having a mild innovation panic attack where I think to myself, “there’s a big wave of change coming and I feel like I am behind.”

In this case, the technology on which I didn’t feel like I have a good enough grip was HTML 5.

In hindsight, it was a combination of factors pushed me to set aside an entire morning to investigate and play around with it using the W3 tutorial.

First off, I read Fred Wilson’s post on “Program or Be Programmed.”

Coming on the heels of my trips to China and India, it really struck a chord with me.

It’s one thing to know how to use the technology (here are my guides on how I use software and hardware), but it’s another thing ENTIRELY to understand how it all works.

Fred’s link to Code Academy set me off and I spent a few hours improving my JavaScript. I’m far from an expert, but I did get a bit better. (here’s my profile)

Then, I saw a fantastic presentation by Roger McNamee from TEDxSantaCruz on “Disruption and Engagement.” He had 6 big trends…the last, and most important of which, was HTML 5.

So, am I an expert in HTML5?

Not by any stretch. You can take a look at my little, simplistic effort here. In fact, at the time of this post, the video wasn’t working, but that doesn’t matter. That page is nothing earth shattering, but that’s not the point. (note: not all browsers support HTML5 yet).

The point isn’t to become an expert in HTML5 (or any other technology).

The point is that at least a decent understanding of how it works and what it can do will (I hope) allow me to discover innovative solutions to business (and other) problems.

Remember, if the question is “How do you do…?” The answer is “Google” or “Bing” (hey, got to show the love to MS Smile).

All of us can do it…it’s just a question of making it a priority.

And with China and India raising the stakes in terms of the need for personal and national competitiveness, it must be.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

A few things I love about Japan…

I love how they tell you where the train car doors are going to be.

I love how they have lines for people to stand in, waiting for the trains…and how people do exactly that.

And I love just how punctual the trains are. Down to the second. A thing of beauty.

And how they tell you exactly how many minutes there are until your subway stop.

And, if you want to get a feel for how fast the bullet trains go. Check out this video.





Friday, December 09, 2011

The Dignity of Work…


Image via Wikipedia

The Japanese have a great culture of pride in your work. No matter what kind of job.

There may be lower level “McJobs,” but the people who perform them are not dissuaded and demoralized.

There are a ton of examples, but one was when I took the bullet train the other day from Tokyo station.

The cleaning crew had just finished from the previous journey.

They all exited the train in a line.

Then, they stood on the platform with the train at their back (all wearing uniforms), facing the customers (who were also waiting in a nice line to get on board.).

There was a short announcement (unfortunately, my Japanese isn’t what it once was, so I only got part of it) and the entire cleaning crew BOWED to the customers.

Just a great moment where they said, in effect, “we have cleaned this train so that you can board it and have a comfortable ride and we are proud of having done that.”

Thursday, December 08, 2011

The Japan Earthquake as 9/11

OTSUCHI, JAPAN - MARCH 14:  In this handout im...

Image by Getty Images via @daylife

One theme that emerged in my conversations in Japan that surprised me was the serious impact on the Japanese psyche that the earthquake/Fukushima reactor/tsunami had.

Obviously, we knew it was a big deal, but like 9/11 for many in the US (and the world, of course), it has become THE defining event of a generation.

An increase in marriages (and divorces, actually) as people started asking themselves the bigger questions. Also, at least according to some, a questioning of the longstanding Japanese work ethic of “work like a crazy person.”

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Remembering Pearl Harbor….

I don’t know how many people are alive who still remember the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor…but I do know that it’s fewer than last year.

70 years is A LOT of time for people and I think that now, at a time when the identity of America is being challenged in other ways, it’s important to reflect back on that time and what it meant for the country.

It was a stark wake-up call.

Today, the wake-up call may not be as stark or violent, but I believe it is as stark for Americans to come together and pursue a goal of reinventing and reinvigorating the country.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Travel and the Everyday…

Sometimes it is easy to forget that one of the best experiences when travel is not to go to tourist sites, but just to partake and observe in the day-to-day activities with the people who live there.

But, it’s critical to do it with purpose.

When you fly to Asia for 2.5 days and have 2 presentations, you don’t necessarily have a lot of time for “sightseeing,” but you do have a lot of time for heightened awareness of the little things.

For example, how

  • the seats in taxicabs are covered with white linen
  • the driver can automatically open and close the doors
  • you get pushed, shoved, jostled, and crammed into subway cars
  • everyone lines up for subways and buses
  • you can get cans of coffee from vending machines…that are HOT
  • the cleaning staff of the bullet train all come out, line up in front of the train and then bow to the boarding customers
  • the conductor on the train bows when he enters and leaves your car
  • annoying it is that your credit card doesn’t work everywhere (ok, that’s not a good thing)
  • darn fast the bullet train is (stay tuned for video)
  • smart it is to show a map of the subway system with arrival times for EACH station in every car
  • did I mention the HOT cans of coffee?

I believe (hope) that by raising my awareness while I’m here, I can raise my own awareness of these things while at home…which I hope will lead to an overall sense of greater mindfulness.

At the very least, it will make me yearn for hot cans of coffee dispensed from vending machines.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Appreciating Japanese Culture…

Not long after boarding the flight to Tokyo, I was reminded of some of the things I really admire about Japan.

This was further reinforced when I got to the airport.

I love

  • the deep respect for others (as symbolized by bowing and frequent statements of gratitude)
  • the cleanliness
  • the punctuality (even the buses at the airport-traffic notwithstanding, were right on time)
  • the dignity of each job. You can tell that even the guy taking bags off the carousel has a deep appreciation for the role he plays…and takes pride in it.

A lot to learn, particularly from a country that is struggling to find itself in this new era of globalization and dealing with the challenges of an aging population. Kind of like a sneak preview of the US in 20 years…potentially.

Friday, December 02, 2011

Japan as Symbol…

One thing that dawned on me when I deplaned in Tokyo was just how significant Japan has been for me as a symbol.

It’s more than a country where I spent some formative, post-college years.

You see, back in 9th grade, I took Japanese for a year at a graduate level (after school) and it represented the opening of the world to me.

What’s more, in 11th grade, I applied for (and won) something called a Japan-US Senate scholarship which would have given me a summer’s long worth of activity in Japan. Unfortunately, because of my allergy to sesame seeds, the program refused to allow me to participate (stating that too many foods in Japan have sesame in them.)

Obviously, (and if you know me, this is no surprise), this intensified my desire to go!

But that’s sort of beside the point.

Japan just happens to be the country that, in my mind, represents “the other.”

Maybe it’s because of the wholesale personality difference between myself and traditional Japanese culture (and it’s pretty stark), I don’t know, but I felt very fortunate to have the opportunity to return and reflect.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Kindle Fire Review…

Have had it for a few days now and here’s my take on it.

I like the size. I was walking around the National Gallery of Art and it fit in the pocket of my jeans. It also fits in the inside pocket of a jacket or neatly in a purse (I would think).

Battery life is fine. Not spectacular, but it works.

Screen is nice. Colors are great/vivid and the integration with Amazon stuff (of course) is first-rate. Videos and their cloud music service plus books, of course.

It is a bit heavier than I would have expected, but manageable and you can hold it with one hand.

For pure reading, I prefer the regular Kindle.

The downside?

The system, on occasion, does get a bit choppy and it’s frozen on me twice so far. No camera, no bluetooth. You also can’t get every Android app that you can get on a smartphone.

So, I guess the ultimate question is: Kindle Fire or iPad2?

Obviously, it comes down to budget and whether you’ll get $300 worth of extra value from the iPad. Personally, I would say yes, you would, but then again, it’s your money, not mine.

If, however, you are saying “I’d like a tablet like reader/viewer on which to purely consume content when I have a wi-fi connection,” then the Fire will do the trick for you.

It’s a solid first effort by Amazon, but it’s the first effort and will certainly improve down the road.

Return to Japan….

In September 1996, I boarded ANA flight 001 from Dulles to Tokyo to begin a two-year adventure in Japan.

The plan was to get a a Masters in International Relations from the International University of Japan.

Well, you know what they say about plans, right?

Anyway, on Sunday Nov. 27th, I once again boarded ANA flight 001 from Dulles to Tokyo. This time I was only going for 3 days, but it afforded me the opportunity to look at the last 15 years of my life as “bookended” by the same ANA flight.

On a 14 hour journey, you have much time for reflection Smile,  but some concepts flashed through my head.

Some of the places I’ve been, the people I’ve met, the changes to my life, the way that the world, economics, and technology have all been transformed in unforeseeable manners.

There’s no point going through the litany of them and I know I’m not unique in having these “bookend” experiences, but because of the formative role that the 2 year Japan adventure played in my development (as well as Germany where, ironically, I am headed in 2 weeks), it kicked off a unique set of ruminations.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Living outside yourself…

Every year for the past, goodness, 25 years or so, I’ve played in some sort of “Turkey Bowl” on Thanksgiving.

I’m pretty competitive (no surprise).

This year, however, was the first year that Paco was ready to play.

He understands the game and can catch pretty well.

So, this year, I was more focused on making sure that he got a few chances at the ball than on winning.

It was a strange feeling to have.

But a good one.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

King Corn...

Continuing my fascination with the global food supply chain, I watched a documentary called "King Corn."

I just love this kind of tells a comprehensive story about something that is such a HUGE part of our daily lives (more than we even realize) and sheds a new perspective on it.

Farm subsidies, electoral politics, obesity, diabetes, civilization itself...these things are all connected DEEPLY to corn.

Frankly, for me, it's opened my eyes to nutrition and the idyllic notion of "farm grown" has come crashing down.

It's also made me aware just how much risk we are assuming in some of our eating habits.

I haven't eaten meat or chicken in over a year...and that's not going to change any time soon after seeing what I saw.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Monday, November 28, 2011

Understanding the Food Supply Chain…

Food, Inc.

Food, Inc. (Image via

We’re coming out of Thanksgiving. Appreciating all of the bountiful harvest, right?

However, it seems like those quaint images of Pilgrims that gave way to hearty farmers is nothing but an idyllic image of the past.

You know about big Agri-business and Factory Farms (“CAFOs”) and more.

Fast Food Nation took us into that world.

Now, comes Food, Inc., which was a riveting documentary further peeling the layers back. I watched it on Amazon, but I’m sure it’s on Netflix.

Now, I knew a lot of this stuff happened, but there was an awareness that dawned on me from a society security perspective about what happens when only a few companies control the global food chain…and the danger of the potentially huge external shocks to the system.

Whether you think they have an agenda (they do, of course) and disagree or not, I think you’ll agree that food is pretty important. This is 90 minutes worth the time.

Although, I should add, prepare to get depressed.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Going Back to Where It All Began…

About 15 years ago, I dropped in on a presentation at the business school of the International University of Japan.

I was a graduate student in International Relations, but had a passion for the Internet and marketing at that time.

I had no idea that my life was about to take a HUGE turn.

The speaker that day was Todd Newfield, a Canadian ex-pat who had started a company in Tokyo doing what we now would call “Internet Marketing.”

I was so inspired by his talk that I went up to him afterwards and asked for a summer internship.

“Email me,” he said (that was a sign of a good fit, since most people didn’t use email that day).

Well, I ended up working for Todd that summer.

He gave me the first book on marketing I ever read. Don Peppers and Martha Rodgers, The One to One Future - Building Relationships One Customer at a Time.

I was hooked.

At the end of the summer, Todd said to me, “come on, the future is the Internet. Drop out of school. Come work for me full-time.”

So, I did.

Now, I am going back to Japan and will be a guest speaker at the IUJ business school on November 29th.

Full circle.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Bridal Registry...for Married People

Sometimes people come over and ask "what can I bring?"
Now, I just send them a's kind of like a Briday Registry for people who are already married.

And it's catching on. Just got an Amazon Wish List from a friend.

Everyone is better off. You get what you want. Your guest knows he gave you something valuable. Yeah.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Sports Night...

Image representing Netflix as depicted in Crun...Image via CrunchBaseMy friend Jacob suggested that I watch the show "Sports Night" on Netflix. Now, thanks to him, I am hopelessly addicted. The writing is superb and the moral of the stories are first-rate.

Two results of this.
1. I have a lot of animosity towards Jacob now
2. I've recommitted myself to a life of witty, banter-filled conversation
Enhanced by Zemanta

Monday, November 21, 2011

Why do we still have School Picture Day?

I don't get it.
Saw an article in the WSJ the other day talking about "re-inventing" picture day.

I have about 10,000 pics of my kids. Do I really need a formal one from their school? Do they need to be taken away from education so that they can have their pictures taken?

Maybe once upon a time, camera, film, etc. were scarce and expensive. MAYBE it did make sense.

Not anymore.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Ascent of Money…

The book I successfully borrowed from the library on my Kindle was Niall Ferguson’s The Ascent of Money: A Financial History of the World

I’m about 50% of the way through it and am really enjoying it.

I like to think (don’t we all), that I have an above average understanding of finance, but this book has been eye-opening for me as it has helped provide a framework for how money works (on faith…it’s like belief in God) and the role of finance.

As a history buff, I also enjoy how the story unfolds beginning in Cuzco, Peru (since I’ve been there) and then taking us to other key places in the development of financial tools.

Since we’re all so greatly affected by finance (even more than I think we all realize), I’ve found it helpful to take this step back and think about the macro-forces that toss us around so often.

At least next time it happens, even though you can’t control it, you may be better positioned to weather the storm.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Yeah, I borrowed a book from the library!

I borrowed a library book the other day.

No big deal, you might say.

Thing is, I borrowed it on my Kindle.

And that IS a big deal.

Here’s how you can do it if you live in Maryland.

Since the Great Library of Alexandria, knowledge dissemination through books has been a cornerstone of civilization.

Now, the ability to disseminate knowledge but not be constrained by the actual requirement to have a physical book (sure you need a Kindle, but that’s easier and cheaper for all of us…better to give 1 Kindle to every citizen than buy 10,000 books and put them in a library).

Felt like a watershed moment.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

How Southwest Airlines connected me to my grandfather…


Had a pretty special moment at BWI the other night, courtesy of Southwest Airlines.

As I was going through security, I saw about 45 people in wheelchairs going through as well.

On their hats, I saw words such as “WWII vet” and, after going through screening, I inquired.

Turns out it was a Southwest Airlines “Honor Flight” and these guys had gotten up at 4am, flown from Cleveland, taken a bus from BWI down to DC and visited the WWII, Korean, Vietnam Memorials as well as going to Arlington Cemetery (trust me, that’s a lot in 1 day) and were returning home at 7pm.

All thanks to SWA.

As I chatted with these guys about their experiences in WWII (they had been in the south Pacific), I thought of my grandfather, Poppy, who died a few years ago, but had served in China.

I literally got chills thinking of him and these men’s sacrifices on our behalf.

Seriously…it made me appreciate and “LUV” Southwest even more.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Choo Choo Trains and Other Fleeting Moments…

The NFO was away for weekend a few days ago so I was a bit more present in parenting than usual.

I like to think I am generally pretty good, but you know…

Anyway, while on the job (or at least on point), I really took notice of some of the beautiful things that my kids do, particularly in playing with each other.

I know those moments will soon be gone so, as we are encroaching upon Thanksgiving, I figured I’d document them

  • how all three of them can play in the bathtub for as long as we let them
  • how they build forts out of mattresses and pillows
  • how they line up in towels after they get out of the bath and make a Choo Choo train, dropping off each kid in their room to change into pajamas
  • how they can play tea party all together with American Girl dolls…yes, even Paco
  • how they aren’t embarrassed being naked around each other
  • how they love it when I chase them up the stairs
  • how we all get together and read the Berenstain Bears books (or any one of a number of others) and we’re all snugging together, listening intently while we do it
  • how beautifully they sing with each other
  • how they help each other out (most of the time)
  • Yep, I’m tearing up a bit now
  • how they love asking questions
  • how they are so imaginative with the Playmobil sets
  • how they are so thrilled to learn new games like chess and backgammon
  • how excited they get about dessert
  • how much fun I have when they are so excited about things like football cards, Disney princess underwear, and having a butterfly or Dora band-aid
  • and how I never thought I could love or care so much about someone else’s future

This parenting thing is a crazy ride indeed.

I guess that one of the reasons I blog is because, just in case they want to, at least I know they’ll have the chance to go back and find out who I was when they first started to know me.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Risk as a muscle…

Yesterday I shared an example of rock-climbing as a way to stretch the “comfort zone” muscle.

Earlier that day, I was on a call with one of my rock star financial advisors and he shared an investment idea with me.

It was risky. Not like 99 to 1, but definitely a bit higher risk.

I like to think I have a good balance on my portfolio (I could be wrong and time will tell), but after hearing him out (I trust his judgment), I was confronted with this moment of nerves and a bit of fear.

It was that feeling of RISK.

Then, I just stepped back from the moment and said, “ok, if I lose ALL this money, will it break me?”

The answer, at this moment, fortunately was no.

Then, I said, “sometimes I have to do things that are risky, just so I keep myself comfortable with taking (SMART) risks.”

So, I did it.

Got to keep the muscles in shape.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

I was climbing the walls

My friend Joe (that’s him in the picture) invited me to go rock climbing with him at the Earth Treks Climbing Center, which was something I had never done before.

That was the point.

I find that it’s really easy to stay in our comfort zones and now take on those new adventures as we get older.

To me, risk, adventure, innovation, newness…these are muscles which require exercise, so that was reason enough to go.

Given all the ropes and equipment it’s a relatively safe thing to try (except for the guy who almost fell on me-that was a bit scary), so I figured “go big or go home” and while not quite going up the toughest route (they are color coded), I did intentionally try to push myself.

Like any activity, there’s a pretty healthy sub-culture around rock climbing, as was evidenced by the number of people there and the way they dressed and spoke, for example, but being one of the older ones, I could take a different perspective on it.

It wasn’t the most strenuous workout (I was pretty sore the next day, but more because I think I was using muscles in a new way-good!), but it was a solid one.

A surprising aspect to the experience was the strategic thinking required to navigate the route in the most energy and physically effective way.

I don’t feel the need to go back immediately or buy all the gear, but it was a good chance to get out there (or in this case, in there, since it was inside) and look at life for a different perspective—like 75 feet off the ground.

Friday, November 11, 2011

What Larry David Has Figured Out about Marriage…

NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 30:  (L-R) Chairman and C...

Image by Getty Images via @daylife

Ok, if you are a fan of Curb Your Enthusiasm, you’ll get this.

If not, feel free to come back tomorrow.

Husbands have two choices.

They can devote a huge amount of effort in overcoming their natural desire to be selfish and do whatever they want and constantly think/ask themselves “what can I do to be a helpful husband?”

Let’s call that Strategy A.

On the other hand, they can basically commit to a life of achieving the bare minimums at a low level of expectation.

Let’s call that Strategy B.

Strategy A, of course, is popular and politically correct, but I wonder if, from a Game Theory perspective, it actually yields the optimal output?

It depends, naturally, on how much effort the husband puts out and how satisfied the customer (the wife) is.

Note: It’s important to mention at this point that marriage is similar to marketing (satisfy the customer), but not entirely.

The marketplace is different.

While a husband is not entirely a monopoly provider (and vice versa), there are a lot of “switching costs” and “negative externalities” in changing providers, so it’s not a “highly competitive” marketplace.

In Strategy A, you are 100% guaranteed that, at some point, your wife will be upset with you for some missed moment of sensitivity. I am sorry, but there is no husband on the planet who has a 100% track record.

Now, over time, they may decrease, but you’re still left with a gap.

On the other hand, if you go with Strategy B (especially if you start early), you lower expectations dramatically. There’s some short-term discomfort, but like diet and exercise, it’s worth it in the long run.

Anything you do can’t disappoint, because expectations are so low that, even the slightest positive gesture is a huge victory, thus resulting in a favorable outcome.

What Larry David does, by being such a jerk, is essentially say to his wife (maybe that’s why he’s on his 2nd wife? He went with Strategy A on the first one?) “You can expect nothing supportive or sensitive from me.”

It’s all upside from there.

Of course there are those guys who are the statistical anomalies and would feel intrinsically motivated to help around the house, etc., so we’re only talking in broad generalizations here.

Battle Hymn of Tiger Mother….

Amy Chua at the 2007 Texas Book Festival, Aust...

Image via Wikipedia

My mother-in-law gave the NFO a copy of Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, but the NFO never got to read it.

I picked it up and read it first.

Then, as it turned out, I was invited to be the discussion leader for my synagogue’s roving book club about the book.

If you’ve read the book, chime in. If you haven’t, chime in, but at least say “I haven’t read the book, so I don’t have all the facts and am relying on the interpretation and lenses of others to make these comments.”

So, yes, Amy Chua is intense. She’s Type A and unapologetic about it.

I also felt bad for her husband, Jed. It just seems like with all of the focus that Amy had on raising her perfect Chinese daughters, combined with being an author and a Yale Law professor…I just wondered if, you know, he ever had sex with his wife?

(Sorry, but I did actually have that thought.)

Ok, now let’s move on to the meat of it.

Here’s what I admire about Amy and her approach.

  • She instills a reverence for persistence, determination, and a work ethic. I love her for this.
  • I am in awe of her never-ending source of energy. After a long day at work, I have had more than one occasion where I say, “I just need to get the kids to bed.” For her, the day just started and, as they say about some great football players, she “gets stronger in the 4th quarter.” I really admire that.
  • I agree with her focus on discipline and accountability. Sooner or later, we all realize that life isn’t fair, that you have to deal with the fact that you screwed up, and that you are responsible for your actions. I’d rather have my kids learn that when they are in my house than on their own. It’s the difference between rock climbing with ropes and…without them.
  • I also admire her as a marketer…She tells some great stories that get people riled up…and gets them to talk about her (and her book)…which leads to sales.

I think the biggest issue, for me, is how she determines what “success” is.

I get the fact that she wants the girls to have good grades and be the concertmaster, but to what end?

Is it to have a sense of accomplishment?

I doubt it, since you can get that in many ways.

I think (and I don’t know) that she thinks that this is the path to job security and wealth.

And that’s where I don’t agree with her…at least anymore.

20, 30, 40, 50 years ago? Sure.

You got a good degree and you were assured of, at least, a middle class lifestyle.

I don’t believe that’s true anymore as we move into the truly globalized economy.

What’s more, the piano and the violin seem to be (and getting good grades), succeeding within a system of rules and I think that innovation, being the driver, of the future economy/wealth is sometimes about creating your own rules (or at least, vision).

And, of course, there’s the question of “what’s the purpose/meaning of it all anyway?”

Am I a worse-off person because I had a friend sleepover (or vice versa) in 6th grade? Was that an unacceptable trade-off?

I was talking to the Rabbi of my synagogue about the book and one thing he mentioned that seemed ridiculous to him was the notion that there was no “day or rest” in her kids’ repertoire. The human body needs rest/recovery time.

In some respects, I felt bad for her.

She seemed to want to “be Chinese” so badly and felt guilty about being in America that she had to “out Chinese” the Chinese.

Call it China-envy?

Best part of it all is that when my kids are crossing the line now, I say, “you know, I can be the Tiger Mom, if you want.”

That scares them straight Winking smile

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Flag and Story of Ep(p)stein

clip_image004Someone asked me about this the other day…so may as well share why I fly the flag of a small German town in front of my house.

My family had a cousin whose hobby was genealogy. He somehow managed to trace our family tree back to the Beneveniste family of Girona, Spain. During the year I spent in Germany, I traveled to Girona, which is north of Barcelona, and visited the Jewish museum there. The curator confirmed the existence of the Beneveniste family, indicated that they had been a very prominent family and had indeed been expelled from Spain during the Inquisition in 1492.

At some point after the Expulsion from Spain, the wandering tribe which had been known in Girona, Spain as the Benevensites ended up in Germany. They were in the money-lending business and lent money to one Count von Eppstein. As collateral, he offered up a piece of land.

When the time for the loan came due, the Count didn’t have the money and refused to turn over the land, saying that it belonged to his brother, a priest, and Church land couldn’t be given to Jews. Instead, he offered them the use of the distinguished last name of Eppstein. Apparently, the family took him up on his offer and eventually moved on to Lithuania, from whence my paternal grandfather emigrated.


I had never heard of the town of Eppstein until the summer of 1994 when a classmate of mine at the University of Regensburg where I was taking summer courses told me that it existed on the outskirts of Frankfurt.

For the exact location, see here.

During my travels through Europe thereafter, I made a point to take a trip out to Eppstein, a town nestled in wooded hills by a small river with a tiny fort on a hill, with a population of (I’m guessing) 2-3000 people.  At some point during my teenage years, my father had given me a family crest which had the name “Epstein” underneath it and which has three chevrons upon it. Interestingly enough, this same symbol was on all of the official Eppstein municipal items (trash trucks, the city hall, etc.).  I climbed the small hill to the little fort, the museum for the history of the town, and knocked. 

A woman answered. I told her my last name and showed her my passport. She was very excited and let me in for free (I thought the town still owed a lot more than that 1 Deutsche Mark that I saved, you know with interest and everything).  I told her the story and she confirmed the possibility of its veracity saying something to the effect of “the Counts von Eppstein were very dishonest and made a living of robbing travelers and traders on the river next to the fort”. 

During the year I spent in Germany, I went back twice more, once with my father and once with Dina, Asher, and Julie.  At my father’s request, I also made an inquiry to the City Hall to determine the name of the factory where the town flag was made and subsequently ordered one, which to this day flies outside my parents house and another one was recently ordered and is flying outside of our house.  It was also used at the wedding ceremony for Asher/Julie as well as for Tamar and me.

I’ve subsequently relayed this entire story to a German colleague at Microsoft who grew up in Eppstein. He too had heard that the Counts von Eppstein were not such great people. Furthermore, he asked if he could send the story I had sent to him to his friend who works in the City Hall and also to the town of Eppstein’s historian.  He has since done this. He told me that the name Eppstein comes, supposedly, from a knight named Eppo, who built a fort upon a large stone (Stein in German). Hence, Eppo’s Stein or Eppstein.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Cool App: Traffic Report from your friends…and everyone else

I saw this mobile app a few months ago and rediscovered it recently.

It’s called Waze (they have iPhone, Android, Blackberry, and Nokia versions) and basically what it allows you to do is get real-time traffic and route information from OTHER drivers on the road.

Meanwhile, your phone (anonymously) is contributing information about your speed as well to the service.

So, in essence, we all benefit because we all are telling the network “here’s how fast the traffic is moving on this road at this time” (thanks to GPS, the phone knows where you are.)

I just think it’s pretty neat and potentially a lot more reliable.

Perfect example of the Mesh, btw.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

The Job of the Future…

I’ve been blogging/fascinated/focused on the jobs of the future and American innovation.

My marketing guru is Seth Godin. I thought this post of his was spot on.

It’s the skill set we’ll all need in the future as the very nature of organizations change from BIG to small.

Monday, November 07, 2011

How I handle the “Pick Your Brain” Question now…

A while back, I shared that I was feeling a bit conflicted when I get the “Can I pick your brain?” request.
I didn’t want to be a jerk by saying “no,” but I couldn’t say “Yes” to all of them.
So, here’s what I do right now.
I say,
“Sure, I’d be happy to chat about your marketing issue, but before we do, it would be great if you read my three eBooks CDM, Dandelion Marketing, and Grow Your Fans. Then, since you’ll have the background down, we can specifically talk about your issues.”
What I find is that this weeds out the serious from the non-serious.
I kind of feel like “if you’re prepared to ask for my time (in an area where I make my living) and don’t want to do any prep for it whatsoever, then I don’t feel bad about not giving my time to you.”

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Thinking vs. Doing Economies

I was reading an article about the disaffected youth of Europe and their protests (similar to Occupy Wall Street--Occupy Europe: How a generation went from indifferent to indignant) and one part jumped out at me
Wendy Cunningham of the World Bank in Washington says the old social contract that college equals a job is fast disappearing.
The days of "I have a degree in medieval studies, I deserve a job" are over, she says.
I suspect that the “old social contract” was based partially on the notion of “well, you seem to be responsible enough to complete a degree at a university, so we can trust you do to this job where, like college, you just follow the rules and you’ll be set.”
If you think about it, it’s kind of always been “follow the rules and you’ll be set.”
Whether Agrarian, Industrial, or Post-Industrial (the last 30 years or so), most employees weren’t asked to think or innovate on the job. They were given a set of tasks and told to “go do them in this order,” whether in the field, the factory, or in most offices.
Now, however, it’s different.
Now, if you can list the tasks to be done in order, it’s cheaper to either automate or outsource those tasks which means that you either figure out how to create value where it didn’t exist before, you have a low-level job that can’t be outsourced (although those will increasingly shrink due to automation), or you’re unemployed.
A lot of people have noticed this trend in the past, but we’ll highlight Dan Pink’s work “A Whole New Mind” since, well, he’s a client, but the message is the same.
It’s no longer about “following the rules and the recipe,” it’s about “take what you know about this subject area and figure out how to leverage your skills, your network, information, and supply chains to deliver something unique.”
It used to be about doing. Now, it’s about THINKING…then doing.
Big shift.
(HT to Matthew Woodget for the original pointer on the article).
Enhanced by Zemanta

Friday, November 04, 2011

The Horse Made Me Cry…

Ok, not so much the horse, but the movie about the horse, Secretariat.

I just love stories about people who take risks, never say die, and go BIG.

Sure, I have 3 kids and am 3-4 years behind the times on movies, but eventually I get there. This one, if you haven’t seen it, is worth it.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Dolls and Puppets…Wrestling

In one of those “never thought I’d be there” moments, Nadia and I had a 10 minute play session involving dolls and puppets.

First, the dolls were singing.

Then, dancing.

Then, they had a tea party.

Finally, it got interesting, and the four doll puppets started wrestling and tackling each other.

A perfect hybrid.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Time to Retire “Retirement?”

A friend sent in this question/quandary. Figured I’d put it to the blog readership for input. What would you tell his father?

My dad told me he will retire in Jan. He’s only 59 ½ and would have another 2 ½ years to go at his work place.

He comes from a long line of public servants, was born and raised in a country where “careers” in public office are common, and his hometown basically has two job sectors, public and tourism (which during his life was low paying).

So he’s always been brainwashed into the long, stable career at one place and eventually retiring. From the same culture, retiring is seen as “life is over, now I idly wait for death”. He even brings this up in his email (that retirement does not mean death), so it’s definitely still present in his way of thinking.

I think the word retirement should be banished from the face of the earth. It’s been way too long since my college years of studying Economics, but I know it’s the result of an old system/way of thinking that is just no longer applicable.

The Challenge:

Help me find an alternate word or phrase for this period of life. I’ve always been fond of a period I describe as “Independent with no dependents”, which is usually that moment after college where you have your first job and no worries on your mind.

It’s that entrepreneurial spirit that lets you take risks without care, since you’re in it for the experience and thrills. It seems like “retirement” would be a similar phase.

You’ve done your time, paid your dues to higher ups, presumably saved up and will not worry about bills and finances.

You’re independent – again. You’ve also, in many cases, raised your kids/family and they’re off and on their own.

You’ve got no dependents – again. What a wonderful time to be in – again! Yet “retirement”, yuck.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Burial Society and Perspective…

Following up on yesterday’s post on the burial society, I wrote that one of the things I appreciate about it is:

the serious dose of perspective that it provides you on the ultimate end of your (all of our) lives.

The interesting part about that is the question that it raises for me.

Should you “go all out and, as Thoreau said, ‘dare to live the life you’ve imagined’” or (and they may not be mutually exclusive), do you just slow down and act with even greater humility for the life you have and the responsibilities/obligations you have to others?

Monday, October 31, 2011

The Burial Society

One of the community tasks in which I am involved is to serve as a member of the Ritual Burial Society, aka the Chevra Kadisha.

The ritual process of preparing the deceased for burial is fascinating in and of itself, but I find two elements of it gratifying in particular.

First, the serious dose of perspective that it provides you on the ultimate end of your (all of our) lives.

Second, the comfort in knowing that, down the road, someone will treat your remains with the same respect you show them.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Internet Addiction and Religion

As I am fascinated by the topic of the Attention Economy, I recently watched "Crackberry'd: The Truth About Information Overload" while on the treadmill.

Definitely some sobering insights re: texting/talking while driving, but I think it could be a good marketing ploy for observant Judaism (where use of electronics is prohibited on the Sabbath-and people actually follow that rule!), as the show emphasized the benefits of “checking out” from the constant technology.

Something I do every week for 25 hours.

If, as they say, “Internet Addiction” are the recognized top social problems in China and S. Korea, then a system (one that costs less than the $27k/3 month retreat they profiled) with a built-in support community might be of value Winking smile

I’m sure they re-run the show a lot, so see if you can find it on your DVR…you can skip the commercials and text me when you do.

(The show is a little dated since we all know BlackBerry is lame now, but the larger point still stands).

Saturday, October 29, 2011

A Moment of Parental Pride...

Paco is playing soccer this fall and the other day, his team was in an epic battle with an equally talented team.

The game was tied at zero for almost the entire game and I'd be lying if I didn't say that I was fired up that my boy scored the game winning goal, but you know what made me the most proud?

There was one point, late in the game, and the opposing team's best player was making a major thrust down the field. He was all alone, headed toward the goal and Paco just turned it on.

He tracked down the other guy and slid his foot in front of the other kid, just enough to knock the ball out of bounds and possibly save the game.

I've told him from Day One..."I don't care if you win or lose. I don't care how many goals you score. What I care about is that you 'leave it all on the field.'"

I'm serious about that...who cares if he scores a goal in 6 year old soccer? This is the moment in his life when his character, grit, determination and attitude are being formed.

Seriously, it was one of the proudest moments I've experienced thus far as a Dad.

Friday, October 28, 2011

How many more Tea Parties?

The other day, Tonka (7.5 years) had a friend over for a play date.IMAG0197

Afterwards, I saw their American Girl-centric Tea Party and I found myself wondering, as a proxy for ‘they grow up so fast,’

How many more Tea Parties will she have before she’s “too old” for them?

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Airline Customer Service…

It’s become a given. “Airlines don’t care about their customers.”

“Service is terrible.”

“Flying is painful.”

It’s so common, it’s become canon.

Now, maybe I fly so much that my expectations have been lowered, but in my opinion, the actual experience on the airplane is just fine.

The real hassle is security (thank you, Yasser Arafat for that innovation), but the plane part…it’s just not a big deal.

I have more than enough stuff to keep me occupied. Laptop, iPad, Kindle, and a book. Plenty of water.

And, maybe 1 out of 30 trips, there’s an issue with my bag (and the last 2 times have both been during major rain delays—not an excuse, but a bit more understandable.)

I just wonder if our perceptions of airlines and travel experience has become so ingrained that the reality doesn’t matter (a problem for many marketers in many industries, btw) OR have I become numb to it?

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Get Some Perspective…

Another good one (video) to keep us all balanced.


HT to Rajesh Setty.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Cost of Water

Over a year ago, I suggested that we needed to rethink the use of our water.

In the last 2 bills, the cost of water for us has gone up to $4.53 per 1000 gallons for water and $5.61 per 1,000 gallons for sewer.

I don’t have the previous amounts handy, but wondering if this is true in other locales?

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Sports Cards and the Passage of Time…

Los Angeles Lakers Magic Johnson and Boston Ce...

Image via Wikipedia

Somewhere, about 30 years ago, my mom bought me pack of basketball cards.

In it, was a 2nd year NBA player named Magic Johnson.

That card, along with hundreds of others, have been in a special case that has travelled through the years with me.

Recently, Paco has recently gotten into sports trading cards.

So, while I was tidying up, I found that Magic Johnson card and gave it to him.

It was like I was transferring a part of my younger self, with all of the energy, enthusiasm, and optimism that I had at age 7 to my son…all through some basketball and football cards that I, too, had cherished at his age.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Pervasive Technology...A Day in the Life

Every so often, I have a day that is just so immersed in modern technology that I have to capture it. Now, as you obviously know, I'm a huge technophile, so I believe this type of experience is generally a good thing.

After we got the kids out the door in the morning...

  1. did a workout on the Xbox Kinect game "Your Shape, Fitness Evolved"
  2. Scanned over the daily news on the iPad
  3. Drove to the dentist, made some calls on the EVO (big deal, I know), but listen to 3 TED talks on the Zune player in the car (it's really good for that)
  4. While in the dentist's chair, streamed a Netflix movie about Michael Vick as my "in-flight entertainment system" on the EVO using the 4G connection (now, that was fun)
  5. That afternoon, I did two webcasts using the Microsoft High Def camera attached to my home computer
  6. Based on some input from a customer, I recorded a video using a FlipCam and a demonstration of some marketing concepts using a LiveScribe Smart pen (see demo here)
  7. Walked on the treadmill and watched an episode of Modern Marvels, recorded on the Windows Media Center DVR system
  8. While relaxing on the couch after dinner/bedtime for the kids, I watched 2 videos I had queued up using on the iPad
  9. Used Dropbox (just a FANTASTIC tool) to synchronize 4 different devices 
This, of course, doesn't even include all of the software, etc. that I used during the course of the day. And, I think I've even forgotten a few items.

Anyway...I just realized how I move from device to device to device and optimize my time to do what I want to be doing at that moment.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

When Ideas Have Sex…

Just a fantastic presentation on the power of ideas and what happens when they are combined with other ideas.

Doing my part to pollinate the ideastream Winking smile

Monday, October 17, 2011

Michael Vick and Forgiveness….

After reading the book about live at Leavenworth prison, I’ve been thinking a lot about the question of rehabilitation and debt to society.

It came up recently as the dental hygienist and I got into a debate about Michael Vick.

As a dog lover, she said there is no way she can ever forgive Vick for what he had done. He had “crossed the line” and even paying his debt to society in the form of prison time couldn’t make her look at him anew. It didn’t’ matter how much remorse he had shown.

That raised the question of “when do people deserve a 2nd chance and when are their crimes-no matter how many years before-unforgivable?”

Child sex offenders, murderers?



Which are the ones where…”ok, you made a mistake, pay up and you’re back into society?”

and which are the ones where it’s “sorry, you are marked for life.”

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Perseverance to get a Nobel Prize…Of A Personal Kind

So, it’s cool news about this Israeli scientist who won the Nobel Prize.

The moral of the story…perseverance, commitment in the face of adversity…that’s the eternal lesson.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Life Asterisk at the Bank…


Into the category of people who get a small asterisk in our family’s life history, we now add Johnny of Capital One bank.

I took Tonka and Paco in the other day and helped them each set up their own bank accounts.

That wasn’t the real purpose of the trip, however. It was the next step in their financial acumen educational process and Johnny played his role beautifully.

We talked about the dangers of overdrafting your checking account, buying on credit, and how to responsibly save (as well as check your balance).

IMAG0170We talked about interest, loans, and even currency swaps (ok, maybe not the last part).

His patience was first rate and I thanked him for his help.

Many years down the road when, hopefully, the guys are of sound financial mind, we’ll look back at the positive influences on their lives and remember that Johnny had a small, but important, role to play.

Next up: teach them how to check their balances via the iPad Winking smile