Monday, February 28, 2011

Better Place and Israeli Clean Tech…

Project Better Place Visitors Center (2)On the day I was leaving, I saw this article from AP about the Israeli Clean Tech economy.

Combine that with what I saw at Better Place and I came away super-excited about the potential for innovation and growth in the Green economy in Israel.

It already is one of the world’s hotbeds.

I am going to haveProject Better Place Visitors Center (5) to come back just to investigate this angle.

Here’s my 7 minute video of a test drive of the car.

Here’s a bit on how the battery switching process (when needed) works.

Here’s the video explaining the charging process.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Better Place and the Peace Process…

As I watched the video at the Better Place facility in Israel, I found myself thinking:

“if this works, it completely changes the face of the Middle East and the Arab-Israeli conflict.”

First, some assumptions.Project Better Place Visitors Center (4)

  1. for the most part, the Arab-Israeli conflict is kept alive by the fact that the West has to care about it in order to keep the flow of oil alive
  2. were it not for oil, people really wouldn’t care about the Middle East

So, if Better Place is able to change the world dynamic from one that cares about Arab oil to one that doesn’t really care, the whole future of the region takes a massive turn.

From a strategic defense perspective, this initiative could be the most important thing to occur in the history of the state of Israel.

No, I’m not exaggerating.

Friday, February 25, 2011

To a Better Place…

It’s not everyday that you get to the see the future.

But my visit to the Better Place Visitor facility was one of those days.

BetterPlace is a vision of allowing us to have the freedom of our cars with zero reliance or dependency on oil or gas.

What is happening in Israel in this respect is truly remarkable.

Imagine this…

Your car charges overnight in your garage/front yard.

In the morning, you have 160km/100miles worth of driving available to you on that charge (which is good enough for most people everyday.)

When you get to work (or wherever your destination is), you can plug in again and keep the battery full.

For much longer rides, when you don’t have time to recharge (a full charge is about 6 hours), you will pull into an automated switching stations where, in about 90 seconds, they remove the battery and replace it with a new one (video here).

What’s more, the car is connected to a smart system so that, it can tell you which battery replacement stations have the shortest wait time in them.

But, for the most part, you never really need that.

And you NEVER, ever have to fill up with gas.

To make this a reality, they are building an entire infrastructure of Project Better Place Visitors Center (4)charging stations around Israel so that anywhere you go, you’ll just be able to plug in your car when you park.

Instead of paying for gas or electricity, you pay for the amount of miles/kilometers you drive.

Kind of like buying your cell phone and then paying for minutes…but only for the minutes you actually use.

The cars don’t need oil changes or maintenance in the conventional sense.Project Better Place Visitors Center (3)

All of this is the feature of the car…but the way they sell it, just brilliant.

It’s a story about the environment, about health, about security and how this car company frees us from all of that. They are truly selling the movement and showing why and how this is not only necessary, but feasible.

And the cars themselves?

I test drove one and the first thing I noticed…no noise. So quiet. Handled well, accelerated beautifully. (see the video)

I’m a believer.

Not just in the car, but how this car can begin to turn the tide of global warming. To end our dependence and subservience to despotic oil regimes.

Just awesome.

For more:

Here’s my 7 minute video of a test drive of the car.

Here’s a bit on how the battery switching process (when needed) works.

Here’s the video explaining the charging process.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The real fun of travel…

is doing the stuff you would do at home, but doing it in another place.

It’s easy to go to the touristy places.

But, to see how other people live, you need a basis for comparison.

When I lived in Japan, I used to say “you really live in a country when you do your dry cleaning there.”

On our last day in Israel, I took the train into Tel Aviv and then a cab to the headquarters of Better Place in Israel (more on that later).

Simply the act of getting on the train, commuting, hailing a cab and going somewhere. That’s what I do when I’m at home and it’s how I get into the way of life in the country where I am visiting.

Then, of course, you take a cab and negotiate a price and, at the end of the ride, the cab driver says “oh, it’s going to be more” and you have a choice…pay him or say “sorry, man.”

That’s the fun.

I handed him the original amount (40 shekels) and went into the facility.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The value of a typing class…retrospective

In 9th grade, my mom made me take typing with Mrs. Balow.

I knew that typing was an important part of the industrial economy, but I had NO idea how big a role it would play in the post-industrial economy.

I am sometimes asked about some of my efficiencies and most of the time, I point to understanding of technology tips and tricks.

While riding on a train in Israel a few weeks ago, I was typing away and a few people kept staring at me, as if they were admiring the speed.

That’s when it dawned on me that a decent part of efficiencies comes from just the fact that I can type really quickly.

Thanks, mom.

Now, the question for me is: what’s the equivalent skill for the next stage in economic development?

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Jerusalem Retrospective…

Visit to Jerusalem Science Center with Doda Nee (16)

What other people do in 1 day, we did in 3.

Our travel goals are simple: one activity per day, 4 hours round trip.

So, in “doing Jerusalem” (which can never really be done), we had three themes, one for each day.

Our first day took us to the Israel Museum which is a mammoth complex, but we felt would give the kids a sense of the depth and breadth of the history of the land.

In addition to the sculpture garden (where I saw the “do not climb” signs while the kids were climbing on the works of art), we exposed them to two things.

First, a model of Jerusalem during the period of the 2nd Temple (70 BCE). We discussed why cities have walls, how water flows downhill to reservVisit to the Israel Museum (2)oirs, why the defenses were as they were, what kind of sanitation and health concerns would be paramount, and more.

It wasn’t about a history lesson, it was, as my dad says, “creating a sense of curiosity” and nothing made me happier than when Tonka and Paco began to pepper the NFO with questions during her turn as tour guide.

Later, we made our way over to the Shrine of the Book, where the Dead Sea Scrolls are housed and were thrilled when we saw a similar reaction in them.

Day Two brought us to the new (relatively) Bloomfield Science Museum which was a HUGE success with the kids.

While not so Israel or Jerusalem-centric, it was a highly interactive Epstein family at the Kotel-2010 (3)experience, very hands-on that entertained the team for a good 2 hours.

Afterwards, we rewarded them with 2 hours of playing at Gan Sacher, a fantastic park and solid playground.

Day three was about bringing it all together and connecting the kids to why Israel is important to the Jewish people and we went to the Western Wall (Kotel).

It is customary for people to write prayers or wishes on a piece of paper and insert it into the crevices, so Jokinen wrote it and I put it in the wall for him (special thanks to our friend, Aliza Gillman who had given me a ReMax real estate envelope the previous night and was in my pocket right when I needed it!)

Of course, when I got there, I had to do two things.

The first was to say the traditional afternoon prayer. Instead of a prayerbook, however, I pulled out my smartphone and used the “AndDaaven” app.

The second?

I had to check in on Foursquare….just for kicks.


And one more thing…if you are in the area and want some really fine dining, check out the Angelica restaurant. Its co-owned by the husband of a friend of mine from high school and it’s GREAT. Had the opportunity to have dinner there (sans kids) on one night as well.

In the 20 years since my first big visit to Jerusalem, much has remained eternal about the city.

The walls, the feeling of the Old City, the difficulty in navigating the streets since they change names every block.

But, much has changed. A new light rail system is slated to open (soon) and is changing the dynamic of Jaffa St, the Begin Road, the controversial bridge on the approach to the city and more.

I feel like this post can’t do the city justice (I’m pretty tired) and while travelling with 3 kids is exhausting, you can’t escape the uniqueness of the place and the spirituality embedded within it.


Monday, February 21, 2011

Political Chat with our Arab Cab Driver

In the Middle East, everyone is a political commentator.

We took a cab with a 60 year old Arab cab driver in Jerusalem.

Hebrew speakers will get the most out of this this video interview, but others will appreciate it.

While his conclusion (a one state solution), in my opinion, is wholly impractical, it’s all about the dialogue, isn’t it?

Note: his historical reference of how Jews fared in Muslim-controlled lands is also somewhat (a lot) sugar-coated.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Modern Travel with Kids…iPad required

Image representing iPad as depicted in CrunchBase

Image via CrunchBase

Nowadays, road trips require DVD players in minivans.

And international/long distance travel?

Well, they require iPads and wi-fi enabled smartphones.

After our kids ran out of gas during our trip to Israel (or in the evenings), I found myself trying to keep them calm in a coffee shop or restaurant by showing them videos from home.

Now, how this affects theValue of the EVO kickstand (2)_thumb purpose of travel (you aren’t forced to watch only a few local stations), I’m not sure…but then again, they are 3, 5, and 7.

I’ll say this….the combination of wi-fi and these 2 devices dramatically simplified our travel experience (which was challenging enough, thank you.)

I wrote about this from a marketing perspective as well

Friday, February 18, 2011

Parking in the New Israel

Temple Mount and Western Wall during Shabbat

Image via Wikipedia

One of the stereotypes of Israelis is that they are rude, brusque, and that customer service is a concept that doesn’t exist.

That stems from the early, rougher, more socialist days, but I continue to see evidence that this is changing.

By no means 100% the case (of course, it’s not like that in the US either, is it), the tourist-facing industry is solid and customer-friendly.

Beyond that though, there’s positive change.

Case in point.

In Jerusalem (and many other places in the country), you pay for parking on the street by going to a kiosk and indicating how much time you intend to park. You pay accordingly and place the receipt on your dashboard.

It works fine.

We stopped at one lot and I went to the machine. It wasn’t working. Tried multiple coins. Asked a local. Nothing.

The last thing I needed was for the car to get booted or towed.

So, I called the 800 number (it actually is an 800 number) on the kiosk.

I explained I was visiting (in Hebrew) and what was happening.

She asked for the kiosk number.

She asked for the make, model, color, and license plate of our car.

She told us, “don’t worry about it. It’s not a problem.”

I expressed my gratitude.

Then, she said, “Welcome to our city and thank you for visiting.”

15 years ago, from a municipal employee, that NEVER would have happened.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Trips and the 80-20 rule

The Pareto Principle (aka the 80-20 rule) definitely applies to trips/travel as well.

No matter how long the trip or the vacation, by the 80% mark, I’m ready to end it Winking smile

How I became an “Honorary Canadian”

Bringing one back from the classics…

Travelling in Malaysia in 1998, I came upon 3 Canadian backpackers.

You know, of course, who the Canadians are since they always have the maple leaf sown to their backpacks. God forbid people actually confuse them for Americans, right?

In the ensuing good fun and frivolity (“Americans are idiots about Canada” and “Canada is the 51st state,”), I challenged their assumptions:

“Look, I’ll agree that most Americans probably couldn’t find Canada on a map, but I can name all of the provinces and sing ‘O, Canada!”

They challenged me, of course.

So, in the Batu Caves in Malaysia, I proceeded to do just that.

As I finished the anthem, they were rolling on the floor laughing, enjoying the unusual spectacle.

Then, they said, “now, sing it in FRENCH!”

“You can’t sing it in French!” I countered.

Having called their bluff, they bestowed upon me the title of “Honorary Canadian,” something I cherish to this day.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The ties that bind…

Nearly the same place at the time of Herod I. ...

Image via Wikipedia

Part of the travel experience is embedding a sense of curiosity in my children.

The other part is the family bonding. Within that is the bonding I have with my kids, but I think more of it may be facilitating the bonding they have with each other.

The experience of discovering the new (together), of dealing with unfamiliar and sometimes frustrating experiences (together) and of shared moments is the mortar that, I hope, will cement the relationship of my kids for years to come.

I remember reading an article many years ago that, when all is said and done, it is your siblings who are the ones who know you longer than anyone else.

You (hopefully) outlive your parents.

Your spouse and kids meet you later in life.

But it is with and through your siblings that you can go back and investigate the beginnings of your personal story.

I thought about this as I watched Kohlberg/Tikkanen and Kravis/Jokinen playing on the slides and see-saw at the Gan Sacher park in Jerusalem for over an hour.

We had nowhere to go and, thanks to the fact that my cell phone data plan was really expensive, I was able to be EXTREMELY present in the moment.

So, while Roberts/Lakkanen and I were playing, I was able to just watch them from afar, laughing, playing, enjoying life and time away from the day-to-day, building those bonds that will last them a lifetime.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

What would (younger) Jeremy do? (audio version)

In case you missed yesterday’s post or prefer an audio version, I recorded this Cinchcast. Listen here.


Monday, February 14, 2011

What would (younger) Jeremy do?

IMAG0113Twenty years ago on the eve of my first big visit to Israel, my father asked some friends of our family to give me some travel advice.

The one I remember and which impacted me the most came from our friend, Sue Singer.

Her guidance?

“Walk the land.”

It became my mantra for those four months and my subsequent travels in Europe, Asia, and elsewhere.

It was through “walking the land” that you really get to know a place.

I thought of those words when I woke up at 4.30am in Jerusalem.

The night prior, I had driven from suburban J’lem into the city for dinner with some friends and parked in a garage.

When I returned at 10.30pm, I discovered-to my dismay-that the garage had closed at 9.30pm.

(Now, what self-respecting late-night dinner area garage would do that is beyond me, but I digress.)

I got a ride home from some friends, but was faced with the question: Best way to retrieve the car the next morning (garage opened at 7am) without major disruption to the family?

My hostess told me about a bus option, which would require me to get up at 6.10am.

I set the alarm, but I guess I was concerned about the alarm waking the kids, so something woke me up (anxiety maybe).

As I lay in bed, thinking about life, I recalled Sue’s words “walk the land.”

Then, I thought about age and the passage of time.

If youth is a “state of mind,” then staying young is about doing things that your younger self would have done (with slight adjustments for the fact that I have 3 kids, etc.)

So, I said to myself “what would (younger) Jeremy do?”

The answer: “He would just ‘walk the land.’”

So, that’s what I did. 3 miles or so.

1 hour later, I was downtown, ready to get the car, but I had seen the city come to life, watched the sunrise, and found free wi-fi. Smile

I had created a memory and, at least in my mind, “stayed young.”

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Curiosity, Travel, and Adaptive Learning…

Visit to the Israel Museum (2)

Sometimes, it is good to have programs designed for kids.

Sometimes, you can take the attitude of “no matter what, we can make this exciting.”

The point of travel isn’t about a checklist.

It’s about building perspective and creating curiosity.

We took the kids to the Israel Museum and found, slightly to our dismay, that there were no kid-centric activities scheduled for that day.

Not to despair, the NFO and I took turns (it felt very unifying) in creating a memorable experience for them.

First, they climbed in the sculpture garden. Then, when I saw the “do not climb” sign, we moved over to the model of Jerusalem during the 2nd Temple period.

We proceeded to explain why cities had walls, water basins, and gates. From there, our kids took over, asking all manner of questions about ancient fortifications and beliefs. It was inspiring to behold.

Eventually, we made our way to the Shrine of the Book where the Dead Sea Scrolls are located.

Again, Team Finland or KKR as they are known, demonstrated their aptitude and excitement for new experiences by asking questions about who wrote them (the Essenes), why (your guess is as good as mine), and what they talked about.

While the museum is quite large, we spent only about 80 minutes there, but we were able to confidently declare victory after seeing the inquisitive nature of our kids plus feeling confident that we had imparted in them a sense of history and connection to the land.

Friday, February 11, 2011

The Super Bowl in Bogota and the Social Media Connection

I watched the Super Bowl in Bogota, Colombia this year.

In the lobby of my hotel in the afternoon prior to the game, I met two guys who were contractors to the American Embassy.

They were headed over to the Hard Rock Café to watch the game with others.

I considered that, but was pretty tired from an early morning flight and also had a big day the following morning.

Instead, I watched the game in my room alone.

But not really.

The Super Bowl is, as you know, a social event and I felt like I was participating in a worldwide Super Bowl party.

Between Facebook and the Super Bowl “hashtag” on Twitter, I was able to participate and listen into the conversations and thoughts of both my friends and people I didn’t know.

Even though I didn’t see any of the commercials (they aren’t played internationally), I saw people’s reactions immediately.

I was alone, but that was the furthest feeling from my mind.

How to make calls from abroad to US for free…

Just sharing how I do it in this video and hopefully, it will be valuable for you.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Seismic Shifts: Prosecution and Gas

TEL AVIV , ISRAELI - DECEMBER 30:  Former Isra...

Image by Getty Images via @daylife

Two really seismic events happened within days of each other while we were in Israel.

The first was that the former President, Moshe Katzav, was convicted of rape.

The second was that a HUGE natural gas field (known as ‘Leviathan’) was discovered off Israel’s northern coast.

While no one is in favor of rape, of course, I detected a small sense of national pride among Israelis that they were sending a message to the world: No one is above the law and we’re not afraid of prosecuting the elite and the higher ups.

This bodes well for Israeli democracy and national pride.

In how many other countries, they asked, would people do the same?

And the news of the Leviathan find sent another message, albeit a more subtle one.

It said, I think, that the dynamics of international politics will change significantly if, indeed, Israel is able to become a net energy exporter.

Two events which will have long lasting impact on the evolution of the state.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

2000 Year Old Dig

Archaeological Dig at Beit Guvrin (11)

Though jet-lagged, Day 1 was an active one.

We took the kids to Beit Guvrin where we participated in a program run by Archaeological Seminars called “Dig for a Day.”

The guide, Missy, was great and she gave the kids a wonderful perspective on the 2000 year old cave in which we were digging.

The place was called “Tel Maresha” and there were something like 3500 caves which were quarries and storage facilities.

The kids were enraptured by the description and, as you can see, they got down and dirty.

Best part was that they found some pottery shards, so they were the first people to touch them in over 2000 years.

Very cool and a great way for the kids to connect with the land and the history.

Monday, February 07, 2011

Why go to a “war zone?”

My grandmother could never understand why someone would travel from America to Israel.

“Why do you want to go to a war zone?” she would ask.

Of course, since 9/11 (arguably Feb. 1994), the US is a war zone, but I digress.

What’s interesting now in Israel (and it’s been like this for a few years now) is the number of illegal immigrants from countries like Thailand the Philippines.

Working as home health care providers and cleaning ladies, the economic opportunities outweigh any security concerns.

I met a woman named Cheryl from Manila. She’s lived in Israel for years, has no concerns about security and her family has no concerns either.

It just makes good financial sense for her (and her family).

What a world we live in.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

New Nickname Alert/Glossary

As you know, one of my core philosophies as a father is that it is my responsibility to help my kids understand that change is life’s only constant.

To help them acclimate, I will periodically introduce new nicknames to keep them on their toes.

Recently, I was watching a biography of private equity legend, Henry Kravis. Financial and business types will remember him from the book “Barbarians at the Gate.”

Anyway, Kravis had two partners, Kohlberg and Roberts, and formed KKR.

So, now, I call my kids “Kohlberg, Kravis, and Roberts.”

The nickname glossary

  1. Tonka, Tikkanen, Kohlberg (age 7, girl)
  2. Paco, Maximus, Jokinen, Kravis (age 5, boy)
  3. Nadia, Lakkanen, Roberts, (age 3, girl)

Friday, February 04, 2011

Tonka: Only relevant emails, please…

As I mentioned, Tonka has use of an iPhone.

Until recently, she was the only one of the kids who could read and thus was a conduit for all messages to her siblings.

Paco, however, has been learning and, as a right of passage, I felt like it was time to get him his own account.

My mom didn’t know yet that he had been set up (it was still new) and sent a note to Tonka asking her to relay a message to Paco.

Her reply:

From: Tonka Epstein
Date: December 27, 2010 9:07:37 AM EST
To: Nannie

Subject: Paco

Paco has his own email just so
You know you can email him
and you don't have to email me
if it's something I don't need
to know.

Sent with Love from my iPhone,


Thursday, February 03, 2011

Israel and Sustainability…

After seeing India, the enormity of the environmental challenge in front of us was driven home for me.

After visiting Israel, I see a possibility for HUGE amounts of innovation to happen here that ultimately impact the entire world.

Already limited in natural resources and exacerbated by the Arab embargo, what you are seeing in Israel in terms of innovation in desalination, electric cars, renewables, solar….it’s really remarkable.

This place will be (if it isn’t already) recognized as a leading R&D lab for the ecological future of the planet.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Historical Injustices in a new light?

Last month, Tjada and Simon vigorously challenged the idea that a historical injustice could be viewed in an alternate light after the passage of time had revealed new facts.

I thought about that as we glided through the still relatively new airport in Tel Aviv.

Israel’s ascendancy as an economic and technological power happened, in my mind, in large part because of the fact that the Arab states rejected the 1947 Partition Plan and have continued a declared state of war ever since.

It’s a historical injustice that Jews have been killed for simply being Jews and living in the Jewish homeland.

But, the success of the country today is connected to the root cause of those deaths.

  • Would I rather that all of those people not have died?
  • Would I rather that not all those Africans had been enslaved?
  • Would I rather that Indians had not been subjected to the excesses of British rule?

Of course.

Still, it’s interesting to see how these things play out over time.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

El Al and the Map of World Relevance…

When you study the map of El Al’s service area, one thing jumps out at you.


You know why, of course, El Al can’t fly directly from Israel to Mumbai, Beijing, or Hong Kong, but when you see the massive loop they have to make around the Arab Middle East, something else jumps out at you.

Not Arab intransigence about the acceptance of Israel, but more like a big sign that says “no significant innovation or economic development happens here.”

But, on the periphery, Israel, China, India…that’s where stuff will happen.