Friday, April 29, 2011

Kids at Midnight: Constellation Outing

Winter Constellations and Zodiacal light

Image by Computer Science Geek via Flickr

A few days ago, I downloaded the GoSkyWatch Planetarium app on the iPad and was showing it to the kids at dinner time.

I told them, “this is how you know which stars are in the sky at night and the constellations they form.”

The kids then begged me to take them out at night to see it.

I was shocked when the NFO said, “OK, but only if you go to bed right now.”

And, they did.

At 12.30am, I woke them up, took them to a park and for about 6 minutes, we examined what we could of the night sky.

We saw Saturn (we think) and we had a true Remember the Maine moment.

I was proud of the NFO and of myself. We knew they’d be tired the next day (and the day after that and the day after that) considering it was a Tuesday night, but we recognized that sometimes you just have to “break the rules.”

The kids were tired while we were outside.

They were cold, too.

I’m not even sure they will remember it for years to come. Here’s to hoping they do.

I know I will and I will look it to as a North Star and guiding light for seizing a unique moment in parenting to instill in my kids a sense of curiosity and of wonder.

After all, that’s my job.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

When Good Deeds Pay Off….

BWI is my preferred airport. It’s convenient, relatively fast, and the parking lot tells you how many spots are on each level (animaged where they are.)
It’s a great airport.
Except if you arrive after 11pm and you have parked in the Daily Garage.
For some reason, shuttles are VERY few and far between at this time.
I arrived one night (morning, actually) at 2am and because my bag had been sent to BMI (Bloomington, Indiana) instead of BWI (Baltimore-Washington), I was outside with only a shirt and not the fleece and hat I had packed when leaving Florida (82) for Baltimore (29 degrees).
The shuttle just wasn’t coming, so I walked over to the cab drivers and offered to pay them to drive me to the parking lot. I was shocked by how long it took me to convince the cabbie (particuarly since we were the LAST flight of the night and no fares-bigger or smaller-were coming out).
Finally, I did it, but on the way, I instructed him to pull over so I could offer all of the other people waiting for the shuttle a free ride to the lot.
To my surprise, 2 of them said “no.”
But one of them, said yes.
Kelly Grammes is the marketing manager for 180s in the Baltimore area, an innovative company that designs unique outdoorwear.
She didn’t have any cash on her at the moment and I was prepared to pay anyway.
I said, “you know, just write something nice on my Facebook Fan Page wall,” which she did.
Then, she said, “I’ll send you some of our products so you can check them out as a ‘thank you.’”
To which I said, “ok, if they are good enough, I will blog about them.”
And they are.
The gloves and ear warmers she sent me are not only comfortable and functional, but they have a really unique twist to them. Here’s my video review (and below as well)
The gloves are made in such a way that you can use your touchscreen device w/o taking them off in the winter.
And the ear warmers?
Well, you can plug you mp3/iPhone into them. Very cool stuff.
Sometimes, it pays to be nice. Thanks, Kelly!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Circus, Kids, and Elephants…

Ringling Brothers Circus Torres Family

Image via Wikipedia

The NFO had the great idea of taking the kids to the Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey Circus when it was in town in March.

They loved it and it was priceless watching them (more than the show) as their mouths were agape and eyes wide open watching the acrobatics, animals, and more.

As the NFO said, “it’s something you need to do with your kids at least once.”

Those emotions were counter-balanced by two other facts that were bouncing around in my head during the show, preventing me from fully enjoying the experience.

The first, ok this is light-hearted, is “how do I feel about being a customer at an event where the founder said, ‘There’s a sucker born every minute?’”Circus Visit with kids on march 27, 2011

But, the real qualms I had were from a leaflet we received as we walked in from the folks at PETA, who had some pretty graphic literature about the maltreatment of the animals, particularly the elephants.

It made me feel ashamed.

Now, it’s tough to stop a family of 5 going to the circus at the door, but if they are looking to get me to think twice before we go again, they’ve done it.

Obviously, the argument is that showing the kids the animals will enhance their appreciation, but do the “ends justify the means?”

Outside of the animal issue, the show was great. They actually focus much more on human acts a la Cirque du Soleil and they are quite entertaining and exciting. I loved the Circling Torres brothers in the iron globe on their motorcycles. How do you ever decide that that’s what you want to do for a living?

The kids, however, are probably going to remember this one for a long time. So, for that, for now, qualms aside (if only temporarily), it’s a special day in our family history.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Smartphone Market—Brief Analysis

NEW YORK - OCTOBER 11:  A person holds a new  ...

Image by Getty Images via @daylife

As a former Microsoft employee, a shareholder, and now a consultant, I was keenly interested in how the new Windows Phone system would measure up against the more entrenched rivals of iPhone and Android.

Fortunately, I was able to procure an LG E-600 phone so I could test it out. 

Though there is a part of me that things Microsoft may be “too little, too late” to the party (as my friend Josh Duncan exposits quite well here), it is also important to remember that, while smartphone penetration is significant and growing, there’s still plenty of room.

And, if there’s one thing that we know about Microsoft, it’s that they don’t go down without a fight.

Ok, on with the comparison.

I should note that I rely HEAVILY on Exchange and Outlook for my calendar/contacts/email since it is, by far, the most powerful tool around and I am a power user. So, yes, that will have an impact.

  iPhone Android Windows Phone
Hardware iPhone HTC EVO 4G LG E-600
OS iOS 4.2 Android 2.2 Windows 7 Phone
Apps “Yeah, there’s an app for that.”  The kings. No contest “There’s pretty much an app for that.” Every app I used regularly on iPhone, I was able to find on Android. “Sort of an app for that.” A lot of the basics are covered, but some of the services which I love and use because they are multi-platform aren’t here (Dropbox, Evernote, Instapaper, for example)
Speed Faster Fast Fastest.
I am REALLY impressed by the speed of this phone.
User Interface The folders are strong. Multi-tasking is much better. Good, but can get clunky at times. Scrolling isn’t as smooth. However, the HTC Sense UI does have 7 screens, which is pretty cool I LOVE the tiles on the home page. Easy and fun. The apps page however is one LONG list and it gets longer with each new app you add.
Marketplace Easy to find stuff. Easy to review. Good, but the lack of a certifying authority does add an element of risk. OK, but one REALLY annoying feature is that when you search for “Amazon” in the marketplace and you are looking within the “apps” section, the search results bring in movies, games, and everything in the marketplace with the word “amazon” in it. Dumb.
Flexibility/Customizability If you want to jailbreak, you can, but it takes some work. This is where Android sings. I rooted my phone and not have a portable wi-fi hot spot. That alone is huge. Plus, I can get rid of stuff I don’t like. Haven’t really tried it here. It can probably be done, but more like Apple than Android if I had to guess.
Contacts Good. Exchange sync can be a bit slow. Some Facebook integration. Solid. Pulls in FB and Twitter contacts as well, but you can’t store them on your external storage card so that can limit your functionality if you have a lot of contacts (as I do). This is where Windows shines. The experience is around the person. You pull up a contact and you see their Outlook and Facebook info in one place. From that profile, you can see their FB wall, post to it, etc. The idea is that the person is at the center. Brilliant.
Miscellaneous There’s a lot that could go here, but you probably know it all. Integration with google services is great, e.g. Google Voice. I like the Xbox live integration. Also, I think the media player (based on Zune) is very smooth.



If you are new to the smartphone market and your needs are email, web browsing, checking Facebook or Twitter, maps, photos/videos, etc. AND you don’t want to spring for an iPhone, then an Android or Windows Phone device is for you. If you use Exchange at work, Windows Phone is a no brainer, particularly if you are a power user of Outlook.

If you want a world of apps, are already invested in the iPlatform (iTunes, etc.) and you just want everything to work smoothly and have any app that you can imagine, then iPhone is probably a good call.

If you want to have most of the functionality of the iPhone and all of the apps as well, then Android could be a good fit for you. Particularly, if you are a big user of Google services already.

Obviously, a lot of this depends on your contract and knowing that your smartphone is only as good as the quality of the network of your provider.


What has your impressions been?

Monday, April 25, 2011

Jerk Move?

I like aisle seats.

I like the space to stretch out. I like to know that I have at least one armrest.

I don’t want to be cramped in next to the window and I don’t want to have to bother people when I go to the bathroom (which happens a lot since I drink a TON of water.)

I arrived in Miami from Santiago after a 8.5 hour flight at 6am.

The flight to DC was at 8am. I got on board, sat in 20D on the aisle and all was well.

Then, a flight attendant approached me and said, “would you mind sitting in a center seat? I’m trying to sit a family together.”

I was tired. I had work to do and I certainly didn’t feel like I needed to sit in a center seat.

From what I could see, we weren’t talking about small kids because, I hadn’t really heard anything.

Of course, as a father who has traveled with children, I know how frustrating it can be.

But, I said, “actually, I do mind.”

It turns out the girls were 6 and 8 and slept the whole way. The mother sat in the aisle seat.

Had it been an infant or a toddler, I might have done otherwise, but I did feel entitled (the NFO hates that word and hates even more when I act that way) to the aisle seat.

Did I make the right call?

Sunday, April 24, 2011

True Grit (movie review)

Yes, I know that when it comes to movies, I am way behind, but hey, I have 3 kids and a business to run.

So, on a plane, I had the chance to see the Coen Bros/Spielberg remake of the classic movie, “True Grit.”

I saw the original maybe 18 years ago and didn’t remember too much. Didn’t really matter. This was a GREAT film with great acting and a compelling storyline.

Loved the tension and the screenwriting was just brilliant.

If you haven’t seen it, even if typically “Westerns” aren’t your thing, it’s worth it.

If you have seen it, why are you still reading? Smile

Friday, April 22, 2011

Crawling on the floor of the plane

On an overnight flight back from S. America, I was fidgeting around and my wedding ring fell off.

I spent the next 15 minutes using my laptop as a light to try and find it on the floor amidst the feet of sleeping people.

I pulled my seat up (yes, it really can be used as a flotation device) and was a bit panicked.

Then, I remembered that my phone had a flashlight app with a pretty powerful light.

I turned it one and found it under some guys bare foot (yech!).

It had rolled 6 rows back!


Thursday, April 21, 2011

It’s the Challenge of Business that I love…

I do like the freedom and flexibility of being my own boss. I like how, to a certain extent, I can impact my income.

But, I recently realized, what gets me going is just the challenge of growing and nurturing the business.

I like asking questions (and learning from the mistakes of my answers) such as:

  1. what’s the best use of my time now? this week? this month?
  2. what can I do to innovate and help other people more?
  3. what’s the best way to take my investment of money and time and get the best result from that investment?

You see, it’s not about the money, per se. Sure, like everyone, I need it to survive, but money, really, is just how I keep score. 

It’s as if I said, “ok, this year I ran the 10k in 55 minutes. Next year, I want to run it in 45 minutes. What do I need to do to make that happen?”

Aside from supporting my family at the right level, I don’t want the money for just having money (except, of course, that it makes that “mysterious technology/gadget slush fund” possible). I want it because it represents that this week, this month, this year, I just did it BETTER.

It means that I worked smarter (not just harder or longer) and was able to do all of the non-monetary things I want to do (like spending time with my family), but deliver more value to people.

That’s the challenge that inspires me about the whole enterprise.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Cranberries and the Soundtrack of your Life…

My friend Emily Waldman once told me that when she listens to music as she goes about her day that she views it as if it is the sountrack to the movie that is her life.
I thought about the other day while having breakfast in Santiago.
The song “Dreams” by the Cranberries came on the radio in the restaurant.
I hadn’t heard it in a long time, but when I did, it transported me back to another time and place.
You know how there are certain songs that do that, right?
Well, for me, this song was one with which I became familiar during my time in Japan in 1997-98. I had a few CDs in my one room (as part of a shared house) in Tokyo and the Cranberries was one of them.
So, I listened to it A LOT.
It was the soundtrack for that time of my life…young, adventurous, on the other side of the world.
Then, here I was, in Santiago, Chile. Again, on the other side of the world (sort of). Maybe not as young and maybe not as adventurous, but still, I hope (or at least I tell myself), young at heart and with the spirit of an adventurer.
When I heard the song, I thought about the distance between Tokyo and Santiago, not physically, but meta-physically. Spiritually. How the time had passed. How I was, in some ways, very different, but in some ways, very similar.
I liked very much how the song, for that moment, played the role of “1/4 speed button” and life seemed to go in slow motion.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Santiago in the Fall…

Government Palace, Santiago Chile (2)End of March, the beginning of Fall. A perfect time to visit Santiago, Chile.

Nestled up against the Andes mountains, this is a city (and a country) that has seen its share of challenge.

In a testament to our fast-paced interconnected world, I saw a big display of how the government was reconstructing parts of the country following last year’s 8.8 earthquake.

On the one hand, like you, I had heard about it. On the other, because of more recent events, I had kind of forgotten about it.

While linguistically similar to most of Latin America, there’s definitely a unique vibe to this country. Perhaps it has to do with the (relatively) unusual shape and its geographical position in the SW corner of the continent, physically separated by some really huge mountains.

Or, maybe it’s something else, but whatever it is, there’s a vibrancy here that is exciting. There’s a solid work ethic. There’s a real pride in the country, the people, and the importance of family values cannot be overstated.

And those values have led to an impressive series of deGovernment Palace, Santiago Chile (1)velopments that make you believe in the future of this country.

As usual, I had only a few hours, but I did the best to make the most of it.

The journey actually began at 3am when I arrived from Argentina. After paying the $140 “reciprocity” fee (a nice way to earn some hard cash), I was whisked in a taxi on an ultra-modern highway (built in 2005) to my hotel, the Radisson (see here why I loved it).

What was really neat about the road was that it had all high-speed tolls (you’ve seen some of these on parts of I-95 and other places), but it was cool and you heard a little “beep” in the car as you got charged.

I jumped on the Metro, which was super clean, very efficient, air-conditioned and which had murals on the walls in the stations which gave it a nice, artistic feel.

Travelling down to the center of the city, (Universidad de Chile was my stop), I walked on Avenida Bernardo O’ Higgins to get to the main Government Palace (which I believe is now home to the Interior Ministry.) That’s where I saw the HUGE flag, the horse guards, and, as luck would have it, a military brass band welcoming some dignitaries from Kuwait.

Going from there, I happened upon a large pedestrian mall, Avenida Humada, brimming with people, shops, and vendors. It was about 80 degrees (Fahrenheit) and people were out and about. Just fun to be a part of it.

All along, I would pull out the iPad, look for free wi-fi (sometimes more successful than others) and try to get a bit of history/wikipedia on the place where I was standing.

For example, I had seen the movie Machuca about the end of the Allende period, but I didn’t know/remember that he committed suicide…on September 11th, 1973 until I saw it today.

Anyway, by this point, I was hurting for a coffee, but I didn’t want to sit down for a long time, just something quick. I saw Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts, but that wasn’t what I had in mind.

Then I saw the “Café Haiti” sign. “Perfect,” I thought.

I walked in and basically discovered the “Hooters of Coffee.” The Haiti Cafe--the Hooters of Coffeewomen were not quite skimpily attired, but they had uniforms and it was pretty clear that, in order to work behind the counter, you had to be 1. really attractive 2. have a large chest 3. be young and 4. be willing to flirt with customers. For a moment, I seriously thought there was a brothel upstairs.

I didn’t want to be too obvious in asking them for a picture, but I did capture one.

What’s neat about Santiago is that the center of the city isn’t that large. It’s very walkable and hence, feels very livable and comfortable. Some cities, Sao Paolo and Buenos Aires, are just so big that you don’t think you can ever “get the true feel for it.”

From the shopping area, I walked through Plaza de Armas, built in the traditional Spanish style with a big church on one side to the Mercado Central (the central market) which was all about seafood..anview from Cerro San Cristobal, Santiago de Chileything you could imagine. The smell eventually got to me and it was time to go on.

The next and final stop was the obligatory ride up the funicular railway to the top of the Cerro San Cristobal, affording you the panoramic vista of the city. Apparently, there’s some sort of geological phenomenon that, because of the mountains has warm air on top of cold air which traps smog in the city. Still, I was pretty happy about it and enjoyed the exercise of walking a lot on the side of the montana.

All in all, 3 hours and I was back at the hotel, satisfied with my accomplishments of the day.

To top it all off, I had a Pisco Sour (the national drink of Chile) with my client later that evening.

Chile is very affordable and I would expect that there’s a lot more to see both in the city and the rest of the country (the beach is about an hour away), but for a “taste,” I felt like I could declare victory.

The more I travel, the more I realize that the technological innovations (cell phones, mass transit) are really creating a common culture. While we don’t all watch the same shows or visit the same websites, we can all relate to the feeling to wanting to be connected to others.

Related articles

Monday, April 18, 2011

Machuca and the “Chile of the Mind”

Pinochet-Peron 1974

Image via Wikipedia

I learned a great piece of travel advice from my dad.

Whenever you visit a country (or any place really), the more you invest in immersing yourself in the culture and history of the place, the better off you will be in understanding what you see when you get there.

Now, my recent travels have made it a bit difficult for me to completely immerse myself, but on the flight to Argentina, I was faced with a choice.

Actually, a lot of choices…in terms of which movie or tv shows to watch.

There were plenty that were interesting, but I chose Machuca.


It was the story of 2 schoolboy friends from different socio-economic classes and what happened to them in the period of transition between the Socialist Allende government and the junta of General Pinochet.

I knew a *bit* about Pinochet, but not much and I’m far from an expert now, but spending 2 hours to get a feel for some of the scars that the country might have as a result of this time period would, I felt, help me better prepare for my presentation in Santiago later that week.

Apparently, the movie did well in Chile…not so well elsewhere, but I enjoyed it and if you are looking to understand some of the (still) existant class challenges that are part of life in Latin America, this is a good one to check out.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Appendectomy: A “real life” moment

Paco yelled from his room on Friday night, “I think I am going to throw up.”

And he did. 5 times.

No fever, not even huge amounts of vomit. He’d had a large, atypical amount of sugary/junk foods that day (pre-Passover cleanout), so we chalked it up to that.

All day Saturday, he was in good spirits. We kept him on a bland diet, but he seemed fine.

Until 11:50pm Saturday night.

He started complaining that his tummy hurt and we quickly surmised that it was a different type of pain.

Jokinen is a pretty stoic kid, but even he said “I need to go to the doctor.”

I’m much more relaxed about medical care than the NFO, but I said, “I’m going to take him to the ER.”

Usually, it’s the other way around.

So, I took him.

The boy was in a lot of pain and after about 90 minutes or so, the staff at Holy Cross said it was appendicitis.

He was then transferred in an ambulance (he’d had an IV inserted by this point) to Children’s Hospital which is where we are right now (yes, I have my laptop, phone, and iPad—all of which I grabbed before coming).

We’re supposed to have a confirmation by 9am or so from the radiologists here about the diagnosis and then the surgeons will supposedly determine an appropriate course of action (if it’s indeed an appendicits/appendectomy).

We were supposed to go to Chicago on Monday for Passover, but that’s not going to happen.


Of course, but this is just what happens in life and I think it’s just important to remember that when these types of things happen.

It’s been a long night so far and coffee is surprisingly difficult to come by in the Emergency Room (but I’ve managed to persuade some nurses to smuggle some in for me).

In these moments, I’m usually pretty controlled emotionally, figuring that it won’t help the situation, but there was something about seeing Maximum writhing in pain on the floor and on the bed that made me well up with tears.

Tough, but it’s part of the job.

More to come….

Friday, April 15, 2011

Buenos Aires: Paris of the South…


Image via Wikipedia

The last time I was here was 7 years ago. Here’s my blog post from then…now you know why I blog!

It was also winter.

Summer’s definitely better. That I can say.

Well, technically it was the first day of Fall, but still, it’s a glorious city with great architecture, wide open avenues, and people with a great appreciation of life.

That is, in spite of some of the challenges they’ve faced.

I feel like when I was here 7 years ago, the country was on the upswing economically. They had survived their most recent panic and were rebounding.

Well, unfortunately, it seems like the story is being played out again. Last year, inflation was 30%. There’s a distrust of the government (at least by the upper/middle classes) because, among other reasons, the President is the wife of the immediate past (now deceased) President, Nestor Kirchner.

That is a representation of the widespread corruption that is common in many Latin American countries.

Still, despite it all, and despite the fact that Argentines need to be currency traders as a hedge, they have a wonderfully joyous attitude. 

As is my travel philosophy, I spent a few hours walking through the San Telmo district and sitting in a café at the Plaza Dorrego, watching some Tango dancers and taking advantage of the free wi-fi.

It was a beautiful day, about 80 degrees and I stopped to think about how fortunate I am to be blessed to get to travel and see the world as it evolves. Especially to come back to a place where I had been in the past.

Honestly, the best thing about Argentina right now for Americans…it’s really affordable. Combine that with the weather and it’s a worthwhile travel destination.

On the one hand, Argentina is exciting. On the other, it’s a bit sad…I wish they didn’t have to go through this ongoing cycle or economic fluctuation.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

On being the Consultant…

Some days, it is mind-blowingly awesome to be a self-employed consultant.

Some days, well…it isn’t.

I think on those days the key is how you respond to the setbacks. If you let the negative items affect you, you get tense, and then you can’t deliver.

In football, they say, “don’t let it get inside your helmet.”

That’s the key.

Easier said than done Winking smile

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

What I don’t get about taxi drivers…

Now I have had some good taxi drivers and some bad ones in my day, but I’m wondering if I am alone in tipping at different levels for good versus bad.
My dad is worried about being embarrassed at giving a small tip, so he tends to tip the same.
Not I.
When I hire a taxi, I am looking for a few basic things.
  1. Be punctual (if I’ve made a reservation)
  2. Get me there efficiently
  3. Have a relatively clean car
  4. Make the experience pleasant
On my recent trip to Argentina, I had two cab experiences that just baffled me.
I made a reservation for a cab from Barwood Taxi to take me from my house to National Airport.
Now, they participate in a new service called “Taxi Magic” (no link, since I’m in the back of Cab #2 at the moment) where you download an app onto your phone and you can make a reservation as well as pay (since your credit card is already in the system).
So, being the technophile I am, that’s what I did.
I made a reservation for 2pm.
At 1.40pm, I get a text saying “taxi #203 dispatched. ETA is 1.53pm”
By 2.10, no cab
2.20, no cab.
I call the cab company. The operator says to me, “he’s pulling up right now.”
Now, I was standing outside so I know that wasn’t the case.
Finally, at 2.30, he shows up.
I then used the app on my phone to pay directly. And I didn’t tip him at all. Not one cent.
Call me a jerk, if you want, but 30 minutes when you are flying internationally can be make or break. I was counting on them and they failed me.
I made the flight, but that’s besides the point.
Buenos Aires Cab
When I landed in Buenos Aires (which may have the most inefficient immigration/customs system I have ever seen), I hired a car from an overpriced service.
I get in the car and there is music BLARING.
Notwithstanding the fact that I had just flown overnight and was a bit groggy and wanted to relax, I think that this would have been jarring normally.
I asked the driver to turn it off.
He turned it down.
I asked again (since it was right in my ear).
He said he’d make it lower.
So, now, I’m in the back of his car, listening to his annoying music which, frankly, I don’t think I should have to do.
Tip coming his way?
Sorry, if I reward service with which I am unsatisfied, I am sending the wrong message.
As a marketer who seeks to great customer experiences, I have chosen to fight this battle.

Updated: How Barwood responded brilliantly!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Being the Gossip Target…

Jews Praying in the Synagogue on Yom Kippur

Image via Wikipedia

There’s a concept in Judaism known as “Lashon Hara” which literally means the “evil/bad tongue.”

It refers to gossip.

And, it is considered one of the worst things in which you can engage…or encourage.

There’s a woman I know who is particularly adept at this, unfortunately.

And, I will admit, in the past, I was guilty of indulging her and even encouraging her.

Like everyone, I have my less than savory sides to my personality.

Recently, I discovered that I was the object of her “Lashon Hara.”

I felt bad and hurt. Not only because I realized the damage that was going to occur (or has already) to my reputation within her circles, but now because I realize how others have been affected by it as well.

Better late than never to learn this lesson.

And, sometimes, you have to learn the hard way.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Tools of the Trade: Why I don’t travel light

027When I travel, I bring a lot of gear with me.

I view myself kind of like a carpenter. I need to have the right tool for the job.

Sure, many tools can perform multiple functions, but one of my competitive advantages is based on speed of information processing, so I am willing to carry a little extra gear to make that happen.

Loyal Blogreader, Neil, suggested that I introduce the readership to my tools and explain why.

So, here we go.

Starting at back left.

  1. Kindle (wi-fi only).
    It’s light and great for holding while waiting in lines at airports (or whatever). The keyboard makes it REALLY easy to take notes (which I do). Plus, I like how it makes me focus. If I really want to concentrate on reading, the single purpose devices helps.
  2. Windows 7 Netbook (ASUS 1000HA)
    The workhorse of the fleet. Power-emailing or blogging, spreadsheet work, and presentation creation and display. If I am serious about the creative process, I need this.
  3. iPad 16GB wi-fi only (soon to be iPad2)
    Perhaps the best overall data consumption device I have. Fast and easy, I don’t need to sell you on it, but if I really need to catch up on RSS feeds, Twitter, Facebook, Instapaper articles, this is the device to do it.

2nd row Left

  1. Livescribe Pen and notebook
    Sometimes you want to take notes or sketch out ideas. Why not capture them digitally so that you can view them later on your computer or, even better, share them later with others?
  2. FlipCam
    Video has become a powerful asset for me. I’ve closed deals because people have watched the videos that I shoot. Yes, I could capture them on my phone, but the Flip records in HD and it is ridiculously simple to get it off the Flip and onto the Netbook for editing and uploading. I like the simple functionality of it.
  3. HTC EVO 4G Smartphone
    Now that I have the extended battery, this thing is a beast and can do pretty much anything I need in a SmartPhone and then some. Bonus (and I mean major bonus is that now that I have “rooted” it, e.g. ‘jailbroken’ in iPhone terms) it doubles as a mobile wi-fi hotspot. So, I use the Internet data connection from the phone and I connect the Netbook, iPad, and Kindle to it so everything stays in synch.
  4. Windows 7 LG E600 Smartphone
    This is the newest addition to the arsenal and I got it for two reasons. One, because a guy I know at Microsoft offered it to me for free and two, because it is GSM. The EVO is great, but since it is on Sprint, the international coverage leaves A LOT to be desired. I bought a simple pre-paid SIM card so I could receive calls anywhere (given recent travel schedule, that has become a necessity).  As a wi-fi only device, it’s pretty slick (and faster than the EVO). As expected, the Outlook/Exchange integration is 1st rate.
  5. Microsoft Arc IntelliMouse
    This thing connects wirelessly via USB and is just a fantastically designed piece of hardware. Really enjoy it. Plus, the wireless component means I don’t have to untangle wires on airplane trays.
  6. Retractable corded headset
    Don’t want to interrupt my fellow passengers while I listen to music or podcasts, do I?
    I actually have a 2nd pair as a backup in my official carry-on bag.

3rd row Left

  1. Extra battery for Netbook…
    just in case, you know.
  2. Extra battery for EVO phone
    This is just the original one that came with the phone before I got the extended one. I have never used it, but have it.
  3. Bluetooth headset
  4. 3 outlet surge protector
    The REAL value of this is in airports with limited outlets. You bring this up to someone who is already plugged in and you offer them one of the outlets. You get the other two and you are ready to roll. I can’t thank Ari Goldberg enough for this gift.

Of course, this picture doesn’t show all of the chargers I have to bring, but since the Kindle stays charged forever and the EVO, LG have the same plug, it’s not too much (though I do have 2 plugs/cords for the NetBook, should I lose one).

To see the software I use, see here.

Friday, April 08, 2011

150 Years Since Fort Sumter: Civil War Outing…

Lincoln Memorial

Image via Wikipedia

We are going to try to focus on the theme of the Civil War for our DC area outings this year, as it is the 150th anniversary of the beginning of the war at Fort Sumter, SC.

We thought it appropriate (or I did, at least) that we take our inaugural visit to the Lincoln Memorial as a kick off event.

With an annual visitor count of over 5 million, we’re not alone in that.

The kids glanced quickly over the Gettysburg Address, were shown a picture of the land before construction began in 1914 (it was a part of the Potomac River) and admired the massive sculpture of Lincoln that has been the background for so many important events in US history.

I found out later via Foursquare (you see my check-in here) that the words of MLK’s “I have a dream” speech are now engraved on the steps where he stood, but alas, we didnimage’t see that.

There’s also a museum and a movie (which they liked) in the basement of the memorial.

All in all, we were there for about 45 minutes, but that was enough to achieve our primary objectives.

  • an appreciation of history
  • an appreciation of Washington DC’s unique offerings
  • fostering curiosity about events outside themselves

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Being the Hero…

I don’t remember where I read it (it was before everything was on my Kindle), but the author said that one of the biggest motivators for boys and men is that we all want to be viewed as “heroes.”

Her point (I think it was a her) was: You are a hero already…to your kids.

In the parent-teacher conference the other week, Paco’s teacher said that to me exactly.

How he recites my travel itinerary, recounts my adventures, and talks about what we do together.

It was a powerful, humbling moment.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011


Richard Gere
Cover of Richard Gere
I’m totally tearing up now since I just saw the movie, Hachiko with Richard Gere, Joan Allen, and Jason Alexander (yeah, kind of a Pretty Woman meets Bourne Trilogy remix, but I digress).
I’m far from a dog lover, but this movie really spoke to me.
When I lived in Japan, I was familiar with the famous “Hachiko” statue outside the Shibuya station.
The story was of a dog that waited every single day for his master to get off the train. This continued for 9 years even after the master, a professor, died in 1925.
It was about 90 minutes long and a beautiful story of loyalty and dedication.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

The Last Lullaby?

The other night, Lakkanen was inconsolable. Throwing a massive temper tantrum. Refusing to go to bed.

I had to hold her down in her bed until she calmed down, sort of a "break her will" kind of moment.

I hate doing it, but sometimes, it is necessary.

As she got quiet, I asked her if she would like it if I sang her a song.

She nodded Yes.

I selected one song which the NFO and I had sung to her (and the others) when they were in their cribs.

Now, as she's 3 and on a mattress and (hopefully) soon potty-trained, I wondered how many more times EVER I would sing her a lullaby like this.

Tikkanen and Jokinen, at 7 and 5, don't really get lullabys anymore. They just kind of go to bed (usually).

It just dawned on me that, here again, was one of those transition points in life.  I started to choke up and get teary eyed, recognizing that another milestone was about to pass by.

So, I did all I could to savor it as I stroker her hair and her eyes closed.

And, of course, that's why I blog.

Monday, April 04, 2011

Tools I Use…Productivity Tips

A number of people, most recently Eli and Richard, have asked for suggestions and guidance on “which tools I use” to manage all of the information efficiently.

Instead of doing one-offs, I’ll just put it all down here. I’m not sure how to organize all of it since there’s a lot of overlap, so I’ll just let ‘er rip and hope you can glean some useful info here.

I probably won’t link to everything, so you may just have to “Google” or “Bing” it. You’ll find it. Winking smile

Away we go….

For Reading

  • I use Google Reader to manage my blog subscriptions. About 100 of them. Usually, I read these blogs on the iPad, but sometimes on my PC or smartphone, since it is all web-based.
  • When I find an article I like in the blogs, I click “Share” at the bottom of the feed. Thanks to Twitterfeed and, this info is automatically syndicated to my Twitter account and my Facebook Fan Pago.
  • I’ll use the Twitter app on the iPad, TwInbox and TweetDeck on my PC (desktop and laptop) to scan Twitter. Or, the Twitter for Android app on my phone.
  • When I find an article that I like there, I use the “Read It Later” function provided by Instapaper to save it for later. You can do this on Android as well.
  • Then, I’ll use the Instapaper app on iPad (most of the time) and on PC (some times) or Android (sometimes) to catch up on them at the right time (kind of like batch processing, I suppose)
  • Another tool I use a lot is Dropbox. If I get a PDF, I’ll drop it in there while on my PC and then read it later on my iPad or using the Dropbox app for Android (my EVO smartphone)
  • I also am a heavy Kindle reader and have a Kindle device, but also use the Kindle app on Android, PC, and iPad…and they all synchronize beautifully
  • Every so often, if I know I will be disconnected for a while, I use FeedDemon to synchronize my Google Reader with my Netbook and catch up with my reads, re-synchronizing them when I am connected again.

For Calendar/Contacts/Email

  • I still think MS Outlook is the best power tool around. Categories in contacts is one of the best things around.
  • I pay for a hosted Exchange service and it’s well worth it (about $20/month)
  • I also use the Outlook Social Connector to get additional insight about what those who are writing to me are talking about.
  • I do use Gmail for a personal email
  • also have Google Apps for your domain for another account, but don’t use it that heavily.

For Email Management

  • OtherInbox is an indispensable tool (for my personal accounts) to make sure that non-important and spammy emails get processed automatically and not into my main inbox, sucking up valuable time.

For Blogging

  • Windows Live Writer is the best tool that I’ve found. I also use the Zemanta plug-in to round out the content offering.
  • I use Blogger for my personal blog.
  • Use Graffiti CMS as the platform for

Blog Commenting

  • I use Disqus, since it allows me to respond to blog comments via email


  • Big user of lists. I assign each person to a list and that way, say “Clients,” I can make sure that I see the News Feed of the right people at the right time.


  • Use Microsoft Office Live Meeting and it’s fantastic.

Keyword Listening

  • use to pay attention for mentions of my name, URL, etc.
  • also use TweetDeck for specific keywords

Data Synchronization

  • Dropbox does a lot of this, of course, but I also use Windows Live Mesh (which is great) for multiple computer synching. Plus, I can share certain folders with my assistant to foster collaboration.

For Browsing

  • I use RockMelt browser primarily these days, but also use Firefox, Chrome, IE for various reasons. I like Firefox’s extensions, Chrome’s speed, and RockMelt’s social integration. IE is solid and most secure.
  • Also have the shortener in the toolbar of all browsers to facilitate sharing and tracking
  • Automatic form fillers are a MUST. I use Sxippr on FF and there’s one built into RockMelt. Huge time savers.

For Note Taking

  • I use both OneNote and Evernote
  • I find OneNote better for organizing ideas. Now, you can also access OneNote via iPad, which is cool.
  • Evernote is great for clipping stuff from the web and you can email notes directly to Evernote. For example, it’s where I save ideas for future blog posts.
  • Plus, you can access Evernote on PC, iPad, and Android (as well as browser), so that’s very useful.
  • I should add that I am a power user of the voice recorder function on my phone. A critical tool that I use.
  • And, as documented before, I have a LiveScribe smart pen to take notes on pad/paper, but then save/search/share electronically.

Spreadsheets, Word Processing, Presentations

  • I’m old school MSFT and think Excel is just awesome. I have the PowerPivot add-in for deep analysis. Also use PowerPoint (both of these are Office 2010, of course). I don’t do much in Word, but do use it. Have set up a bunch of custom templates as well and do a ton of Excel-Word-Outlook mail merges (e.g. billing and networking follow up) to save time.
  • I have tried Prezi and SlideRocket, but haven’t made the full scale switch there (and not sure I will).


  • Google Voice for incoming/outgoing. Also, easy way to send texts from your PC.
  • SkypeIn for when I am abroad (and some international calls)
  • Vonage at home


  • have an HD Microsoft LifeCam and it works great
  • use Skype for video conferencing, but also

Photo Management

  • First off, have an Eye-fi card to simplify the upload of pics from my camera to my hard drive
  • Then, use Windows Live Photo Gallery and/or Microsoft Office Picture manager to edit, delete, rename, and/or tag photos

Video Creation

  • If I want to make and/or share a video, I use Windows Live Movie Maker.
  • To capture video, I will use my digital camera or my phone, of course, but I do use UStream (and less often, Qik) to broadcast live to the Net.


  • Have a Windows Media Center DVR so I am more efficient in my TV watching. I also synch those shows with my Zune so I can watch on the go. Recently found an app (testing it out) to convert those to iPad as well.
  • Have an Xbox 360 as a media center extender for watching in a different room.


  • I subscribe to TED talks on my Zune
  • Subscribe to HBR ideacast on iTunes
  • If I want to create a podcast, I’ll use the Cinch app.


  • Pandora Radio is great
  • Use to play the music from my home PC on multiple mobile devices (phone and iPad)

Mobile Internet

  • I use a “wireless tether” feature on my phone to create a wi-fi hotspot. This allows me to connect my laptop and iPad when travelling.


  • my “workhorse” is a 64-bit Windows 7 PC with 4 monitors. Also have a trackball mouse and a mechanical keyboard (Das Keyboard. Expensive, but so worth it)
  • also have an ASUS Netbook
  • iPad 2
  • EVO 4G Smartphone
  • Kindle
  • Zune


  • use to synchronize status (most of the time)
  • use a tool called Twype to have my twitter status show up as Skype message

I probably can’t offer tech support on these. That’s my disclaimer on this post.

As for the hardware that supports this (at least while I travel), check out this post.

I may think of a few others, but this is probably a good start.

Now …how about adding yours in the comments below?

Sunday, April 03, 2011

96 and Going Strong...

My grandmother (who died a few years ago) had a best friend named Ruth.

The other day, Ruth turned 96 years old.

My mom sent a note saying:

"Best times to call her (if you want) are between 11 p.m. and MIDNIGHT."

 I called her at 12.02, but she was still up. Gotta love the energy.

As we chatted, I did the quick math and confirmed.  She was born before the US entered WW1.

I asked her about her first memory at age 4 or so and then asked her to compare that world with this one…she had a good natured reaction, but basically said "unbelievable."

Then, I told her that Nadia (age 3) comes home from school asking for the iPad ;-)

 Such a blessing and a gift to have an eyewitness to so much history.