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

Monday, October 10, 2011

America: That Used To Be Us

Map of currently existing continental unions. ...

Image via Wikipedia

It would be easy to dismiss Tom Friedman’s new book, That Used to Be Us: How America Fell Behind in the World It Invented and How We Can Come Back, as a rehashing of his previous themes.

To some extent, that’s fair, but where this book differs is in its objective.

Whereas, for many years, Friedman has been a keen and astute observer of the way the world is changing because of globalization, this book is meant to be a really loud wake-up call, to give America and Americans the awareness and the sense of urgency of what will happen if we don’t act, decisively, to change our current trajectory.

In this respect, my thinking and his thinking align perfectly.

He cites the 4 major trends affecting us

  • globalization
  • IT revolution
  • our large and growing deficits
  • our pattern of energy consumption

as the forces at the core of the threat to the American Dream and the promise of the middle-class lifestyle.

He (and to be fair, this book is co-authored with Michael Mandelbaum), also addresses what 5 areas need to be our focus if we are to overcome the challenges.

  • education
  • infrastructure
  • immigration
  • research and development
  • regulation

Now, while I don’t agree with everything they suggest, given my recent travels, I certainly agree with most of them.

They are optimistic…when all is said and done, America has historically risen to the challenges, but the road won’t be easy.

We MUST cultivate an environment of radical innovation and entrepreneurship in this new environment, make it easier for the right people to come into the country, make it easier for people to start businesses here, and provide the right type of education for our citizens.

These are easy things to say…not easy to do, particularly given the somewhat paralyzed nature of our government, which the authors address at length.

But, the book is a reframing of the discussion. Instead of saying, “oh, we have the best school in the county or the state,” ask, “how does our school compare to Shanghai, Sinagpore, or Helsinki?”

In my mind, that’s exactly what we should be doing. And it’s something we need to start doing NOW.

94% of the book is an assessment of the challenges and on those, I agree.

Where I walked away a bit disappointed was the solutions:

  • more and better math/science education (easier said than done)
  • a 3rd party presidential candidate
  • belief in the American ideals

While both could make a difference, it left me feeling a bit lacking in terms of specifics.

Still, I fundamentally believe that most Americans do not yet fully appreciate the challenges of the new world order and on that score, I’d read the book.

If the resulting anxiety can help increase our odds of solving the problem, then I’m all for it.

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Party Hard!

I went into the kids' bedroom the other night to discover that all three of them were wide awake. It was 10pm.

"I'm not so upset," I said, "since you don't have school tomorrow."

To which Paco replied, "Yeah! Party hard!"

Trying to control myself, I said, "Sorry, but there will be no partying hard tonight."

At which point Tonka said, "Yeah! Party not so hard!"

Friday, October 07, 2011

The Facebook World and the China World

I saw this picture behind Mark Zuckerberg recently. Plenty of brands from all over the world.

None from China.

Given my recent trip there and the “Great Firewall of China,” I was thinking about the fact that, despite their massive population, it could be more and more like we’re on different planets.

Those of us who share via Facebook (and can access the unfiltered web) and those of us (Chinese), who can’t.

I wonder if it means that all of us will develop one shared perspective while the Chinese continue with their own?


Thursday, October 06, 2011

Ship of Gold…and more

Painting of the sinking of the Central America

Image via Wikipedia

If you’re looking for an exciting page turner of a book, one that is nearly impossible to put down, check out Ship of Gold in the Deep Blue Sea: The History and Discovery of the World's Richest Shipwreck

It’s all about what happened to the SS Central America in 1857, which went down with $2 million worth of gold (leading to the Panic of 1857) and the amazing technological achievement associated with its recovery in over 8000 feet of deep ocean.

The story (on both sides) is phenomenal, opening up a part of American history that is doubly significant and enriching your understanding of the world in which we live…plus, it has the added bonus of connecting the dots from different centuries, so you see the cause and effect over long periods of time.

Throw in some great technology, innovation, entrepreneurship, a validation of free markets/incentives, and some just first-rate storytelling and you’ve got a glorious book.

You just don’t find too many like these and the empathy you feel for the heroes/characters puts you on all of the ships.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Jobs in the New Economy...

Take 12 minutes to watch'll understand my perspective.
Here's the bio of the presenter. Not too shabby.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Random Thoughts on US Foreign Policy...

Was just thinking about US Foreign Policy and wondering if some of the assumptions underlying it no longer hold.

Given the realities of the world, some things came to mind that I thought might be worth re-opening. Just putting them out there for debate/discussion.

  • Does NATO really matter anymore? I mean, the Soviets were defeated.
  • Should we continue to maintain military bases in places like Germany or move them to lower cost, more strategic places (that might have us) in, say, eastern Europe?
  • S. Korea...maybe it's time to say, "ok, you want us to defend you from N. Korea? Fine. Here's the annual bill. Pay up."
  • Same thing for Taiwan. Frankly, given my recent trip to China, I'm starting to be skeptical that China would actually attack Taiwan. I could be wrong about that one.
  • Aid to the Egypt and Israel
  • Bases in Japan/Okinawa
  • I'd throw in the whole UN experiment, but I know that's a non-starter
  • embargo on Cuba. I mean, except for a bunch of people in S. Florida, no one really cares and no one thinks of them as a threat anymore, right?

Monday, October 03, 2011

Celebrating Native Americans…

View of the Smithsonian American Indian Museum...

Image via Wikipedia

Our most recent family outing took us to the (relatively new) National Museum of the American Indian.

The kids had a great time, but I found myself challenged a bit in explaining the history.

I mean, I didn’t want to come out and say “Western Civilization is evil,” but I didn’t want to say “hey, everything that was done was justified.”

I didn’t exactly hem and haw, but I do wish I had thought about it a bit more in advance.

The kids, as usual, didn’t seem to mind and embraced the experience with open arms, open eyes, and open minds.

There is a huge statue out front of a Pueblo Indian doing a dance (which they loved) and there were some very kid-friendly videos that told some Indian stories in a compelling way. What’s more, Tonka, in particular, really appreciated some of the beadwork on moccasins and the headdresses, but all of them found something special.

The one disappointment was that we were 1 week early for the renovated kid-focused activity area, but all in all, a strong outing and one that I definitely recommend (the building itself is just gorgeous and inspiring—even the kids noticed the unique architecture).

And, appropriately enough, we skipped watching a Washington Redskins game to visit the museum. Even though I’ve been a fan most of my life, I do realize that the name is offensive…it probably should be changed.


Sunday, October 02, 2011

Paranoia, Anxiety, and the Day to Day…

One of the business books which has most informed my thinking is Andy Grove’s “Only the Paranoid Survive.”

I think it needs a sequel. Something like “how to make it every day when you are paranoid.” Winking smile

You see, I’m in the midst of 3 big projects right now…all of which have HUGE innovation components. That is, I’m deliberately trying out some new things.

It’s ridiculously exciting, but since there’s a real chance that any or all of them could fail and that could make my clients dissatisfied, there’s anxiety.

But, my paranoia about failing to innovate and staying fresh, relevant, and hungry goes beyond all of that so I gladly and willingly do it.

Getting comfortable with being out of your comfort zone…that’s the trick. I don’t have all the answers though.