Monday, December 23, 2013

Doctors on the Social Firing Line

A few years ago, I had an experience with a urologist (Dr. Robert Sher of Urological Associates) that made me cringe.

And, no, I don’t mean the exam (though that wasn’t fun).

What I mean is that he suggested that I invest a chunk of money in a supplement which he didn’t disclose he had a financial interest.

That ticked me off.

So, I blogged about it and sent a letter to the Maryland state Board.

They basically told me to go away.

I had essentially forgotten about this incident until last night when Gary commented (3 times) on my blog post and sent me an email.

It seems like he had had an equally unpleasant experience with the physician.

On the one hand, this irritates me (perhaps even more than the original exam itself). That Dr. Robert Sher of Urological Associates continues to seemingly abuse his power and the fact that people, for a long time have simply trusted their physicians.

On the other hand, when I think about how I/we can fight back on something like this—and it’s clear that the “authority” approach of writing to the State Medical Board gets us nowhere, Google serves as the great equalizer.

When Gary commented on my blog, he did so because he found it by searching for Dr. Robert Sher of Urological Associates and my blog turned up on page 1 of the results.

This gives me hope.

As more and more people blog/share their experiences with doctors (at whatever level) AND as people google their physicians before going to them (like people checking each other out on FB or via Google before a first date), the sunlight brought upon these practices will be an equalizer.

It’s true for medicine…and any business.

Caveat Venditor. Let the seller beware.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Classic Israel Moment

For those of you who have been, this will make sense. For those of you who haven’t, it kind of sums up the Israeli mentality.

And, oh how I wish I had a picture. I’ll do my best.

Tonka and I were walking along Pierre Koenig St. in Jerusalem (a fairly busy street).

Coming down the street, on the outside lane, was a disabled woman (she had very short arms) and was smallish in general in her motorized wheelchair.

Again, this wasn’t on the sidewalk, it was ON the actual road. She was probably going 10-15 mph.

She was navigating the wheelchair using a joystick on one hand (which I think had a cigarette in it as well) and in the other hand, she was holding up the microphone part of her headset because she was talking on her cell phone.

Sunday, December 08, 2013

Israel to London via DC

Isn’t that how everyone does it?

Just makes sense.

Get home on Thurs. night from Israel. Leave on Sat. night for London.

The thought of going straight crossed my mind, but then I saw the worst-case scenario.

We fly as a family from Israel to Istanbul.

The flight to London leaves 20 mins before the flight to DC (or whatever).

I go to London.

Then, there’s a mechanical failure on the DC bound plane and the NFO and kids are stranded in Istanbul for 2-3 days by themselves.

Better: just fly home, get them settled and use the plane time to my best advantage.

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Israel—Crossing the country…in 60 minutes

Intellectually, I know that Israel is really small. We’re talking the size of New Jersey roughly.

Still, it’s pretty dramatic to start on the Eastern side of the country and then, about 1 hour later, get to the western side. It reminds you of the stark reality of the precariousness of the situation. The distance that a missile can cover in about, what, 10 seconds?

Zippori-Layers of History

We were based in Zippori, where we stayed at the guest houses of some 60-something, Baby Boomer, Americans who moved to Israel 30+ years ago. Not religious, but believers in the Zionist idea. What struck my brother-in-law and me was that this particular genre of person…grew up with a strong Jewish identity, but not religious per se is really almost a relic of history now. Fact is, there just aren’t that many American Jews who fit that mold anymore.


Panorama of inside of Crusader fort (Zippori, Israel)

A very short drive from the guesthouses (which we really liked save for the dogs that chased me like crazy when I tried to run and the rooster that didn’t get the memo that he is supposed to wait until dawn to start crowing) is the ancient ruins of Zippori.

It’s one of those places in Israel where the multiple layers of history all coincide at the same point. A Jewish settlement that was destroyed by Romans, the Roman town, infrastructure, mosaics, the fort built by French crusaders….all coming together.

What’s more, it was the home of the Rabbinic court, the Sanhedrin, for a time and it was where Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi codified the Mishna…some heavy stuff.

Add to that is the hill from which you can see for miles in many directions and really appreciate the geographic landscape of the Galilee.

Nahariya—German Jewish town gone askance

We decided that our best option for lunch would be in the seaside town of Nahariya, about 6 kms south of the Lebanon border.  I had been there in 1991 and remembered it as a very quaint, well-kept town. As I recall, it was founded by German immigrants for whom organization and cleanliness were important and the town reflected that. I also remember a boardwalk that was very pleasant.

Well, either my memory was incorrect or the town has changed dramatically. It’s not kind of run down and drab. It’s unfortunate. A lot of Russians seem to be living there—not saying there’s a connection between th1462278_10152074831089669_333051103_oe two—just an observation.

The most remarkable part of the city—and arguably the entire trip-was on our way into town. I was telling the kids about the city’s German origins and began by saying, “ok, we all know the bad things about German culture, what are some of the good things?”

Which is how I introduced things like organization and punctuality.

As we were talking, however, Nadia (age 5.9) said, “You know, I was reading in my book about Anne Frank and she was hiding in Germany.”

“Actually, it was Holland.”

She continued. “And there was a man, his name was A-dahn Hitler.”

“You mean Adolf Hitler.”

“Yeah, right,” she responded. “He wanted to be an artist, but he wasn’t very talented. Then, he decided he wanted to kill all the Jewish people.”

I turned to the NFO and said, “Did that actually just happen?”

Amazing what kids pick up.

Rosh HaNikra—Lebanese Border1484611_10152074855849669_525785566_o

A short (very short) drive up the coast and you reach Rosh HaNikra which is on the border with Lebanon.  It’s also the location of some magnificent grottos through which you can walk and admire how the sea and land have crafted some majestic pieces of art.

I had been there before, but wasn’t aware of some of the historical significance to the place until we watched a movie about it…located on a railroad track in a railroad tunnel.

Apparently, the British had designs on creating a rail network from Beirut (after they got it w/the fall of Vichy France) all the way to Cairo. The coast made the most sense, so they blasted 3 tunnels along the edge of the mountains separating Israel from Lebanon and where Rosh HaNikra is. They also built a small bridge over one gap in the land.

On the eve of Israel’s independence, some members of the Hagana (the pre-state militia) performed a stealth operation right under the noses of the British troops and sabotaged the bridge. The reason? There was concern that an invading force from the north would use the tunnels, bridge, and train tracks to transport weapons and materiel.

Now, the first tunnel (on Israel’s side) is open. The 2nd tunnel (at the border) is walled off—and a movie theater. And the 3rd tunnel? No idea.

From what they told us, it’s also the only place in all of Israel where it’s not a sandy beach, since the rock goes directly into the sea. And, I’m told, but not sure, that it’s the steepest cable car in the world (though not particularly long).

Kids loved it. We loved it.

Adventures on the Way Back to our Base—thanks to Waze

As I wrote, everyone in Israel uses Waze. Which is great, because you get reliable, real-time traffic information. You can also share information about broken down cars and speed traps.

However, after having Waze announce 4 times “Warning! Speed trap ahead” and seeing nothing, we simultaneously made the observation that maybe the police are using Waze and just letting it do the speed monitoring work for them.

But, that wasn’t all of it.

As we came down Road 6, Waze suggested an alternate route that would “save 4 minutes,” so of course, we took it.

After about 25 minutes, we came to a guardpost, manned by soldiers with a huge gate. We asked the soldiers if it was ok to go to Hashmonaim and she replied, “yes, you’re just going through the ‘Shtachim” which is the Hebrew word to describe the lands conquered in the 1967 war (with a few exceptions.)

We both had the same reaction…nervous. And “is this really a good idea?”

The soldier said, “it’s fine. Don’t worry about it,” but the NFO and I know enough to know that on any given day, it could be the day when some people decide to throw rocks (or worse) at cars with Israeli license plates.

It was dark and there were fewer cars. No houses, villages, stores, or gas stations. For about 12 minutes, we rode in total silence…my heart was definitely beating faster and my senses were fine tuned to both the road and the surrounding areas. I was on full alert. When you have moments like that, you are ridiculously focused. And I was.

As we came to the checkpoint on the other side, we saw about 10 men in their late teens, early 20s cross the road in front of us. Even though we were in site of soldiers, we held our breaths. It’s just the sad reality of life in the neighborhood.

Nothing happened and we made it back to our base, but it’ll be a while before I forget that feeling.

The 3 Israels

After the trip through the “Shtachim,” the visits to Nahariya and Tiberias, and the base of operations in Hashmonaim and meetings in Herzliya and Tel Aviv, it dawned on me that there are-at least-3 Israels. Maybe more.

Of course, it’s not universally true, but in general

  1. the high-tech, modern Israel. Advanced, everything you would find anywhere else in the first-world and even more so. Cutting-edge.
  2. the “left behind” Israel. Places that are sorely in need of economic development and just a paint job.
  3. the “other” Israel. Which includdes:
    1. some Israeli Arabs
    2. the ultra-Orhodox Jews with 7, 8, 9 or more kids who are on welfare and live in poverty
    3. many of the Arabs who live in the Shtachim (but, I need to be clear, I’m not saying there plight is all Israel’s fault-it’s not)

The Peace Process, John Kerry, and Jerusalem

The NFO had to fly home a day early, so I was on point with the 3 kids alone. More on that later.

But, we took the opportunity for Paco and Nadia to reconnect with some classmates who had moved from Maryland to Jerusalem for a playdate. That gave me the chance to hear what their dad, Jack Kustanowitz, had to say about his perceptions of the Peace Process.

He had read my earlier post saying that “no one talks about the Palestinians. People are focused on Iran” and he agreed with it.

The sad reality, in his opinion, is that outside of Israel and the Arabs, no one really understands the situation, nor why it is intractable.

In fact, the night before, after my run, I was just thinking, “you know, there is just NO solution whatsoever.”

When all is said and done, it comes down to the question of: Can the Arabs who want to destroy Israel succeed or can Israel succeed in preventing that from happening?

Jack’s observations were spot on.

On the one hand, when “things are quiet,” and there’s no terrorism, most Israelis are of the mindset of “hey, things are good, why should we rock the boat and give the Palestinians a state?” Which leads to stalemate with Palestinians…which is what we are seeing now.

It’s only when terrorism occurs that people get frantic are inclined to talk (not all, of course, but some) because the same terrorism emboldens the hardliners even more. Which leads to a stalemate w/in Israeli society, so no progress occurs.

In either way, no progress occurs.

But, that’s not it….because the same lack of understanding about the Palestinians is at play.

Most Westerners think “it’s about settlements and it’s about Land,” but when they think about it, they think it’s about the land captured in 1967.

What they don’t realize is that it’s about the land “occupied” since 1948…that is all of Israel.

It’s just such a foreign concept. No one can comprehend that the US would come out with a position tomorrow of, “you know, we don’t want Guatemala to exist. And we mean, just erase the country. Give it to its neighbors and change the map.”

But that’s exactly what is wanted.

So, I suppose, in some respect it does come down to Settlements…if you are of the position that Tel Aviv, Haifa and Be’er Sheva are settlements that need to be uprooted.

So, in Jack’s estimation, if the relations between Israelis and Palestinians is like a repeating curve (think Sine wave), the objective for Israel is simply to reduce the altitude of the curve so that the periods of intensity are not as intense and just modulated.

Call me a pessimist.

The First Station and a Long Walk


Tonka and I left the Kustanowitz residence and headed to Emek Refaim where I said to her, “if there’s one place in Israel where there’s a high probability of my running into someone I know, it’s here.”

5 minutes later, straight out of ‘Father Knows Best,” I ran into Devorah Plotkin Walder. Yay.

Tonka and I then set out to follow the refurbished train tracks between Emek Refaim and Baka that are now a first-rate pedestrian area (it used to be an eyesore) and walked to the terminus which is called “the First Station,” because as difficult as it may be to believe, it was the First Train Station built in Israel (well, British Mandate Palestine) in the late 1800s. Now, it’s a great mall with shops, restaurants, etc.

We then walked back to Talpiyot (about 3 km) to vist a friend, Isaac Hassan, who has founded a co-working/incubator space designed to inspire all Jerusalemites (Jews, Arabs, etc.) to become entrepreneurs. You should check it out

Headed for Home: Appreciating the Kids

I always enjoy traveling to Israel. And, after the fact, I’ve always enjoyed traveling with kids. In the past, there have been moments of huge hassle—strollers, diapers, fighting, etc.

This time, however, was different.

Sure, they had their moments, but pretty much from start to finish—and I’m including plane rides, these guys were world-class troopers.

This trip was about and for them…and I feel like we succeeded.

I could see their wonder, their curiosity at every turn, their appreciation for the sites (ok, mostly) and the joy of the overall experience.

I could FEEL the family bonding taking place. And it was worth it.

It’s not easy-especially for someone who loves his work as I do-to slow down for this period, but I am so glad that I did. This was about creating a memory for a lifetime.

Most nights, when they eventually conked out, I found myself just staring at them as they slept, appreciating the people they were becoming. Similar in some ways, very different in others.

I love seeing the sibling partnership and camaraderie forming. Like the time when they were bickering in the backseat and the NFO said, “let them resolve it.”

Within minutes, they had reached the conclusion that it was more fun for them to sing songs together than fight and we were regaled for an hour with their chorus. A mental snapshot.

Even flying back with them (though I got them up early and the day was long) was fun. Sure, the 3 iPads helped, but when push came to shove, they moved when they needed to (e.g. our short transfer in Istanbul) and even slept in their clothes the night before our depature, thinking it would save us time during our early morning departure.

As you all know, in any travel experience, there are so many variables. In Israel, because of security, there are even more. Anything can throw you for a loop. There’s always waiting, no matter where you are, and no matter what, you have a choice.

You can whine and complain or you can open your eyes and look at the world around you, wonder why it is the way it is, and share your questions and opinions.

When you do that, you become richer.

And I really feel like that is something that my kids started to really understand on this trip. It is something I hope they take with them on the great trip through LIFE.


appreciating kids

Monday, December 02, 2013

Israel in 2013-Hannukah in the Land of the Maccabees

Unlike my personal and professional life, I take a very laid back approach to travel, particularly with kids.

Long ago, in my backpacking through Europe days, I gave up on the notion of “trying to do it all” and instead take a mentality of “whatever you are doing, you are doing in <place you are visiting>.”

Now, that doesn’t mean I just sit in a café all day and 1474665_10152063551674669_2099422980_nwork on my laptop and, of course, try to marry this with my philosophy of “do things that are unique to <place you are visiting>,” but it’s a balance.

In short, my goal is “one big objective per day” and then everything else is bonus. I don’t want the travel experience ruined by the “we have to get here” mentality and not being able to appreciate the subtleties of a location like “what are rest stops like here and why?” or “how do people shop?” and more.

Ok, enough background. On with it.


We found the deal of the century on Turkish Airlines ($700 RT per ticket), which everyone universally agrees is a great travel experience, so I was of the mindset of “whatever we do in Israel, it didn’t cost that much to get us here Winking smile“. Plus, between it being Thanksgiving time and Hannukah, the stars were aligned…or should we just say that yet another miracle occurred.

Base of Operations

One of the challenges of any travel scenario is establishing your base of operations. Fortunately, my brother-in-law lives in Hashmonaim, which is near Modi’in. The location is ideal, about halfway in between Tel Aviv and Jeru974244_10152070041919669_1183148934_n (1)salem. The only downside is that Foursquare seems to think it is Palestinian Territory.

The Phrase that Sums Up Israel

I was entering the bank in Jerusalem and the security guard asked me a simple question: “Do you have a gun?”

I said “no,” and moved on.

But in that moment, you get a rich appreciation for the complexity of life here.

Agree? Discuss below.

Daily Goals

Day 1-Technology and Business

Knew it would be challenging because of kids’ jet lag (though I have to say they were absolute, 100% rockstars on the flight over. 3 iPads were deployed and the kids didn’t even get up once on the flight from DC to Istanbul—not even to use the bathroom).

As a result, the NFO was very accommodating in granting me one “business day.” Not only do I like this for the benefit of building the personal and professional network, but one of my favorite things in every trip to Israel is to understand how the Israeli business and technology sectors are evolving. As the home of Start-up Nation and the country with the 3rd largest number of public companies on the NYSE (after US and Canada), in my opinion, you can’t understand modern Israel without investigating this side of the story.

I was aided in my efforts this time by the indefatigable and unparalleled Jeremy Lustman, who heads up the DLA Piper office in Israel and is mega plugged in. He set up 2 solid meetings for me.

Israel’s prowess in technology based on military/defense needs continues (as it must) and I’ve lon1472422_10152070183129669_349431820_og said that the irony of the ongoing Arab war/vilification of Israel is that its existence is what gives Israel so much potential and wealth.

Places like Herzliya reflect this. With the names of pretty much every technology company you can think of on buildings, it’s a testament to the recognition of the world’s largest companies of this reality. The proof is in the dollars.

What I also saw, however, was that Israeli companies, which historically have been very weak at marketing are starting to turn that around.  It’s something I saw a few years ago and I think is a reflection of the natural evolution of the country’s business leaders. More international experience in terms of management and understanding of the expectations of what it takes to survive and thrive.

Day 2-Jerusalem of Gold

No trip to Israel is complete without a trip to Jerusalem, the ancient and modern capital of the Jewish state and the epicenter of Judaism as a religion.

Still, that emotion is overcome by the fact that, well, it’s really a hassle getting in and out of town by car. Still, we deal with it, right?

We stopped at Mahane Yehuda, the big, open air market, where all types of fruits, vegetables, fish, and more are sold. While the NFO and the kids walked through there, I was able to meet up with some longtime friends on Ben Yehuda (the main pedestrian mall) including Noa Choritz, Neil Gillman, and Gil Kezwer. 

I like maintaining relationships…that’s no secret, but I love hearing the diverse perspectives of th1468378_10152072541834669_401113543_oose who have lived here for a while. Some have become more right-wing (though I heard the best statement of all time from Gil’s wife, Randi who said, “I have become more right wing but I realize that it takes both wings to fly.”)

People and walking…those two things are fail safe ways to enjoy any trip anywhere.

After a short lunch at the Village Green (great vegan/vegetarian food), we set off on foot to the Old City, making our way down through the Shuk (market), we arrived in mid-late afternoon at the Western Wall, Judaism’s holiest site and the last remnant of the 2nd Temple.

For many, it’s a spiritual place and a time for reflection. My last few visits there didn’t really hit that high mark for me. This time, after stuffing a special note into the Wall, as is the custom, my nephews, Paco, and I were sitting on some chairs watching people do their thing and I had a moment of spirituality myself, one where I felt the weight of Jewish history on my shoulders. I felt like I had to impart some of a sense of history, as my friend Jen Pearlman says “of living vertically,” so that these boys would really understand why this place was of special importance and why it needed to be protected and defended. 1464216_10152072681164669_534476813_o

An awesome feeling indeed and I did my best. A different type of spirituality, outside of myself, I suppose.

One of the things that always strikes me about Israel, but Jerusalem in particular is how you see Arabs going about their daily business and…no one really cares. They are a part of the fabric of life here. It’s stark primarily because of the opposite situation. I believe you would be hard pressed to find the capital of an Arab country where you would see religious Jews openly identifying themselves and walking with zero concern for their personal safety.

Day 3 and 4-Take It Easy

As Day 3 and 4 were Friday/Saturday, things tend to be a bit slower (well, hectic leading into the Sabbath) and then quiet (depending on where you are) on the actual Sabbath. We took the kids to a local park and then had a great time with my brother-in-law and his family.

Day 5-Go North, Young Man.

On this trip, I was determined that my kids learned that there was more to Israel than Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. On our previous visit, we had planned to go South, but, well, there was a war with Gaza, so we couldn’t do that.

This time, we thought our luck would be better in the North, so we went to Tiberias, on the Sea of Galilee (the lowest freshwater lake in the world), having a nice lunch on the promenade. On the way, we were struck by the beauty of the open land around it, the rolling, rocky hills and the agricultural wonder that has occurred there in the past 60 years.

Tiberias is one of the 4 holy cities of Judaism (Hebron, Safed, Jerusalem) and was the place where the Talmud (Jerusalem version) was codified because Jews couldn’t live in Jerusalem following the Bar Kokhba rebellion against the Romans in 135.

Unfortunately, for a city that has so much to offer, it really shows its age. It’s like the city got left behind by time and is stuck in the 1960s. What’s worse, in my opinion, it seems like they are leaving a ton of money on the table since the place is a mecca for Christian pilgrims (yes, I get the multi-religious semi-pun) because of the proximity of Nazareth, the miracle of the fishes, sermon on the mount, etc.

It’s a shame.

But not nearly as big of a shame as what happened to the tomb of Maimonides. Arguably the greatest Jewish mind of all time, he is buried in this city in a glorious tomb.

I was there about 20 years ago and it was marvelous and spiritual. Now, there’s a massive iron sculpture above it (which isn’t so bad), but the travesty is a white Home Depot-like fence that splits it down the middle and serves as the divider between men and women (since people tend to come and pray at his grave).

Now, I get that men and women are supposed to be separate during services and I’m ok with that, but this is a freaking grave…not a synagogue and the morons who put this piece of crap have turned a beautiful piece of art into nothing more than a utility. The opposite of how it should be.

It’s kind of like splitting the Mona Lisa down the middle and saying “ok, you can look at half the canvas and you’ll appreciate Leonardo just as much.”

Ugh. Embarrassing and silly.

Not that I don’t understand the reasons for why the fanatics who did this, did this. It’s just that I don’t agree with it at all.

That night, we stayed in a quaint Zimmer-style cabin near Moshav Zippori (itself a historic place). I really liked it.  Relaxing, peaceful…and great wi-fi. Winking smile

Day 6-Onto the Heights

When you see the Golan Heights up close and think about the military challenges that faced Israel in the 1967 war, you can’t help but be in awe that they were able to accomplish what they did.

Today, the vistas are breathtaking (even with the fences that identify live minefields), but under heavy fire? Going uphill?

Are you kidding me?

Once you get to the top though, it’s like the Great Plains…flat, peaceful, few trees, serene. I felt so at peace when we arrived in Avnei Eitan, a cooperative of about 100 families calmly situated in, well, the middle of nowhere…and about 10km from the Syrian border. 

The reason for our visit to this outpost was the “Automatic Dairy” where the cows go through a machine called the “Astronaut” which is, well, just fantastic.

Each cow had an RFID chip around its neck and it enters a massive machine 3 times per day. The chip tells the machine which cow it is. The machine knows things such as how much milk the cow gave last time and the entire history of the cow. Frankly, it’s and Electronic Medical Record for each cow (they can do it for cows, just not website).

The cow is on a scale, so the weight is recorded and the proper amount of food is distributed.

Meanwhile, 4 suction cups are attached to the udder of the cow but only after the teats have been cleaned with a brush (like a car wash) and their exact location targeted and pinpointed by laser. As each of the 4 compartments are drained, the suction cup drops away until all are done. The teats are washed with some anti-biotic spray and the gates open (even if the cow isn’t finished eating). Precisely 17 seconds later, a shock is delivered in order to encourage the cow to leave.

Of course, after the first few times, all of the cows leave at the 15 second mark. No muss, no fuss.

This technology, which costs about $150,000 has enabled the dairy to move from 10 cows to 75 with very limited additional increase in manpower. In fact, our tour guide told us that now she is able to leave the dairy, w1460622_10152072301334669_165643528_ohich she wasn’t able to do before (or someone had to be there) and they can manage/measure the entire process…from their iPhones!

I loved this tour as it reflects the ingenuity and spirit of innovation that is Israel.

On the way up to the Heights, I was telling the kids about the history of the 1967 War and the challenges of scarcity/resource allocation and how “necessity is the mother of invention.” (I also introduced them to the Knesset-Israeli parliament process and they quickly understood why it was such a challenge!)

The machine isn’t Israeli-made (it’s Dutch), but the point was made and they saw how the operation of the dairy could scale because of technology (something I am always happy to have them see!)

Gamla-The afternoon took us to Gamla, aka “The Masada of the North,” a secluded location that served as a refuge for Jews who were trying to escape Roman persecution. Tragically, the 9,000 people there all died, choosing suicide instead of slavery at the hands of the Romans when their situation became desperate.

We took a moment to hear from my brother-in-law about this time in Jewish history while on a 1 hour long like over the hills and terrain, absolutely breathtaking and well worth it. Joined by a longtime friend, Shmuel Goldman-a resident of the Golan-we had a chance to just soak in the earth.

Over 20 years ago, before a trip to Israel, a family friend gave me her advice about how to experience it. To this day, I remember it: “Walk the Land.”

And I do, every time I am here.

Other Observations

  1. New Highway 6 is great.
  2. A few people talked about Iran. No one talks about the Palestinians.990667_10152059797499669_655580464_o
  3. I still can’t understand why coffee from pretty much any shop in Israel is better than most places in US. Certainly better than Starbucks (which isn’t in Israel, btw. They gave up and left due to strength of coffee culture).
  4. I popped a Golan SIM card into my Nexus 4 and had connectivity everywhere. Great stuff.
  5. Waze is even better in Israel because EVERYBODY uses it. Really helpful for crowdsourcing traffic.
  6. As some of you know, I enjoy checking in on Foursquare. Not only can I find friends and suggestions in the area, but it’s a diary for where I go. I was a bit disappointed to see that the Golan Heights, according to them, are part of Syria and Hashmonaim, where my brother-in-law lives is part of Palestinian Territory.

No need to worry…I sent the issue along. We’ll see what happens.

Ok, I cranked this out all in one day. Random stuff that I will realize that I forgot and report on last few days to come.

The Story of Stuff

I’ve shared this before, but it’s worth sharing again…More powerful is the one on bottled water

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

What does Jewdar and a Federal Department have in common?

They both were relevant connection points on my morning train to NYC.

I am an avowed train and plane talker.

That probably comes as no surprise to you, of course.

Thing is, ALMOST every time I initiate a conversation on a train or plane, it pays off.

Today was no exception…two times.

As I boarded the train at BWI, my esteemed colleague and erstwhile running partner, Eric (follow him on twitter @emarterella) had saved me a seat. Settling in, I commented that my 3 day suitcase was overfilled because “at least 50% of it is running gear.”

This brought a smile to the face of the woman in the seat next to me. (Apparently, she had been forewarned that, well, I’m the gregarious type.)

Turns out, this federal government employee is a serious runner and, since that is a common component of Eric and my trip’s to NYC, she quickly became part of the group. So much so that we invited her to join us for a run the following night. And, it turns out, that we have a mutual friend in common who used to work at her Federal agency.

Seeing as she is an ultra-marathoner and really fast, we fully expect to be embarrassed, but hey, we’ll have aimage new friend.

As the journey moved along and we worked intermittently while chatting, the train unexpectedly filled up quite significantly as we rolled out of Philadelphia.

A middle-aged (but very young looking) woman boarded with her grown son and his wife.  As soon as I saw her, my well-tuned Jewdar was going off. I just knew…and I was right.

She took the seat next to Eric and we quickly began to kibitz. Soon, of course, we were watching a video of her son and new daughter-in-law’s weddings (it’s really beautiful, you should as well. Here you go.)

Even more, I learned that her father was the founder of a very worthwhile organization which I support, the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces. So, needless to say, Ruth Schwalbe and I became fast friends and I promised I’d share the video of her handsome son and beautiful daughter-in-law (that would be Jason and Laura) who, I am sad to say, because of the full train were not able to sit next to each other.

But somehow they made it.

And, once again, the value of connecting with total strangers on the train proves itself a winner.

So, next time you’re on a train or a plane, start up a conversation with your seatmate…you never know where it might lead you! Winking smile

Laura + Jason from Utopia video productions on Vimeo.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Recollections of JFK’s Assassination…

My dad sent this around the other day and I asked him if I could share it with you. He said ok.

Below are a few of my recollections on this occasion of the 50th Anniversary of the Death of a President, JFK.

I watched part of a documentary on the JFK assassination last night, November 13, 2013, one that focussed on how the story was handled by the press, especially Walter Cronkite.

The Narrator suggested that this was the biggest story of the 20th Century or made some other hyperbolic comment.

It was big and remains big, but what about WWI and WWII, etc.

Fifty years.

I had lunch on November 22, 1963 with two friends at a restaurant named Lincoln's Inn.

One was Dan Rezneck, who, like me was an Assistant U.S. Attorney. 

Dan had actually promoted my application for the position, one that I enjoyed immensely. 

It was heady to get up and announce that I represented "The United States of America."

The other person at the lunch was our contemporary, Jack Rosenthal who was the Press Spokesman for the Department of Justice, Robert Kennedy, Attorney-General.

We discussed politics, Bobby Kennedy, etc.  Typical Washington talk.  We had no idea.

After lunch I returned to the U.S. Attorney's office and one of my colleagues, Tony Lapham, who was in the hallway told me that the President was dead.

A thought too large to wrap with my mind.  I had seen JFK once in a large room at Harvard Law School, when he was campaigning for the Presidency.

When he was inaugurated I was at the U.S. Coast Guard Officer Candidate School, Yorktown, VA. 

I had limited free time so  during lunch break I went  to the television room and listened to his stirring inaugural speech.

Washington was covered with snow and was bitter cold, as I saw on TV.   I was 150 miles away and it was cold. 

I was the only person in the room watching the Inauguration. 

I thought that was odd, as my military colleagues certainly had bright and interested individuals.

I think that my subsequent Commission as an officer may make reference to JFK or perhaps bore his signature. 

Later, I was moved by his call to come and serve in the government.   I doubt that was the only reason that I came to D.C. 

After I completed my military commitment, I did not return to San Antonio  because I thought that the prospects for finding a Jewish young woman

to suit my eccentricities were greater in the East, but that did not occur until eight years later.

In any event, during that night of November 22, 1963, I was staring into the White House grounds when the helicopter brought LBJ as the new President.

Two days later or so, when the casket was moved from the White House to the Capitol Rotunda, I was on the sidewalk outside the U.S. Courthouse  near Pennsylvania Avenue watching the procession, the riderless horse, the gun carriage bearing the body.

I went to the Capitol Rotunda at 2 a.m. to view the casket and persons were lined up for blocks waiting to do the same. 

I think that an acquaintance with a press pass got us in ahead of the line, not an egalitarian gesture.

Views of JFK as President, his accomplishments, his character and behavior, have changed over the years. 

During those three days, I was bereft.

The killing of Oswald, surrounded by law enforcement officials, by Jack Ruby viewed on live televicsion was astounding.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

A few more thoughts on the sleep lab experience…

Wanted to get these last two down before I forgot Winking smile

The room was really nice. More like a hotel than a hospital room. Cozy bed. Quilted. Carpeted.

And the quote of the night from Lucy (the nurse) when I was having a hard time sleeping was:

“It’s ok, some people don’t sleep well outside of their own bed,” because I was thinking “I sleep in a hotel bed pretty much every week.”

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Sleep Study— Being Watched in Bed

Disclaimer: if “TMI” is something you normally say, then skip this post. I don’t need that comment

Last week’s SnoreGate kicked it off.

Then, over the weekend, I felt some sensitivity in my lower teeth.1419248_10152027016389669_809789308_o

Now, I am plagued with periodontal challenges, since this, unfortunately, is nothing new.

As luck would have it, however, I was scheduled for a cleaning at my periodontist who asked me if I had any concerns. I shared them.

“You know, it’s interesting you say that because I was looking at your chart and I am getting a bit worried about the recession on the inside of your front lower teeth. It could be caused by sleep apnea, your tongue pushing forward as a reaction.”

I shared the snoring incident and he said, “you should probably had a sleep study done. Call your insurance company.”

In a once-in-a-thousand years scenario, I got word from CareFirst that I had met the deductible for the year on our Health Savings Account so the study would be covered (who says we need Obamacare?)

Then, as luck would further have it, the hospital 2.7 miles from my house has a sleep center…and they had a1090578_10152027016484669_1834918019_on opening the following night. The stars were aligned and I scheduled it.

Arrive at 8.30pm

I showed up on time, ready to go. At first, I thought, “for someone who goes to bed at 1.30am often, how am I going to go to sleep that early?” but I did feel tired and sleepy.

It took about an hour to hook up all the wires. Then, got in bed, watched a bit of TV (Kentucky vs. Michigan State), and then read a new book called “Grounded” (written by my cousin) until at 10.30pm, Lucy came in and said, “Ok, time to go to bed.”

I felt like my kids Winking smile

It was NOT easy or comfortable to sleep (or try to sleep) with wires all over my head, two straps around my chest, and more wires connected to my chest and legs.

There was no clock so I can’t really say for sure, but I think it took about 45 minutes to fall asleep. Maybe the pressure to perform got to me.

I also kept wondering what they were seeing as they were monitoring brain waves as I was having all of these thoughts. Could they read my mind like “the Matrix?” Were different areas of my mind lighting up and they would see “man, that guy needs to think less about work/money/sex/whatever?”

It was like I was trying to read the minds of the people who were reading my mind.

At some point, maybe 2 hours later, my eyes popped open and moments later, Lucy came in (they can monitory my eye movements) and made some adjustments.

I told her I had to go to the bathroom.

Now, I drink a TON of water and eat a lot of fruit. I had also gone for a run at 4pm the previous afternoon and had rehydrated.

Even though she said, “don’t be embarrassed if you need to go to the washroom” and I knew she was a nurse, and I tend not to be embarrassed by these things, I couldn’t help feeling that way, probably because each time I had to, she would have to unhook me. Not looking forward to being in a nursing home.

I came back to the room and, well, nothing. I could NOT fall asleep. I was tired but my mind was racing about all things…being in a sleep study, work, home, life, upcoming travel plans. I kept having the urge to get up and either check my phone or start working, but I couldn’t.

My mouth was dry and I was a bit hot. I only had a bit of water left in my water bottle. I was also pretty hungry.

Then, maybe 90 minutes later (?), I had to go to the bathroom…again. Nerves? I don’t know. I hesitated, since I was tired and I didn’t want to have to ask again, but eventually, I decided it just had to be done.

They had a microphone in the room so I could just talk and they’d hear me (in addition to the night vision camera where they could watch me), so I just said “Lucy, I need to go to the bathroom.”

And like magic, there she was at the door, unhooking me. I asked her the time. She said, “I can’t tell you that.”

The CIA could learn from these guys Winking smile Very disorienting.

Just kidding, they were nothing but professional.

Honestly, I may have gone to the bathroom a 3rd time…I’m really not sure at this point (I just got home and am blogging this while it’s still fresh and before the kids get up for school) because there were at least a few occasions when Lucy came in to adjust a wire that I had dislodged. It’s like sleeping in a stocking cap…made of metal.

I eventually did fall back asleep, but before I knew it, Lucy was back, telling me it was time to get up. At this point, she told me it as 5.20am and her one question: “Do you usually sleep this little?”

I’m kind of like a camel. I don’t sleep that much during the week, but Friday nights, I’ll go to bed at 8:30pm and sleep until 6:30am.

Anyway, results will come in about a week, I’m told.

The goop in your hair to keep the pads sticky is, well, sticky, and taking those pads off of a hairy chest…very uncomfortable.

Ok, time to go wake the kids and drink some coffee Winking smile

Thanks for the support.

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Having A Great Partner-Lessons from the Race of My Life

photoOn Sunday, I ran in the Army Ten Miler.

It was the best run of my life.

Back in April, I ran the Cherry Blossom 10 miler and I averaged 8:24 per mile. I was ecstatic then.

Since then, I had improved not only my training, but my diet as well. Was feeling stronger.

Except for the fact that I slept horribly on the night before, the stars were aligned. Beautiful morning. Got to the race in time to prep the body, as it were (runners know what I mean).

After I crossed the starting line, about 1/4 mile of the way in, I saw a guy next to me glance at his watch. I asked him our pace. “7:55,” he replied.

“What’s your target?”

“Right around there.”

So, I replied. “Well, I’ll stay with you as long as I can,” figuring he could pace me and even if I couldn’t keep up, at least I would have a strong start.

He said, “Sure, it’s always easier running with a partner.”

And, it was.

Not only did I get a chance to learn a bit about Nick Poulos’ life and perspective, but I had someone who looked after me-and vice versa-providing the little encouragement needed when-at various moments-your energy wanes.

Uphills, certain mileage points, and then the drive to the finish.

With Nick’s help, I was able to run the race of my life.

And it made me realize the importance of partnership in life across the board. Whether in marriage, business, or friends.

Monday, October 21, 2013

The Great Depression and Why I Love Being a Dad

The other day, Paco said to me “What was the Great Depression?”

Not only did I love his curiosity, but I loved this focus on the answer.

And, we went through a lot…starting with WW1, Hoover and going through the New Deal.

We covered some Macroeconomic theory in there as well.

But, it wasn’t so much the information as it was the process.

I just found myself enjoying the opportunity to share and engage with him (and the girls, who were avidly listening as well).

A moment to savor.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Monday, October 14, 2013

Never Had a DUI…

but my gut says they aren’t like this.

HT: Barak Epstein for sending it over.

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

The "Ask Mom" App

Paco was looking for his shin guards before soccer.

I asked him to be a bit more focused.

He said, “I have a better idea. I am going to use the app on my phone.”

He’s 8…doesn’t have a smartphone.

But, I turned around and saw him dialing on the home phone. He smiled.

“It’s called the ‘ask Mom app’”

Sure enough, it located the shin guards for him.

Sunday, October 06, 2013

Babysitter cancellation policy?

If you make a reservation for a babysitter…and then you need to cancel, what would you say is the timeframe in which you should pay him/her for the time that was set aside?

Thursday, October 03, 2013

When it all goes right…

Most of us are acutely aware of days when it all seems to go wrong.

But, every now and then, we hit a day when it all seems to go right.

Yesterday, for me, was one of those days. I’m just documenting it to practice gratitude.

It started at 5.30am in Dallas.

Took the cab to the airport, no problem. Was first in line at security.

I needed a smoothie—it was right across from my gate, which was directly across from security.

The flight got in early. The whole plane was full…except for the window seat next to me (I had an aisle seat).

I had arranged a phone call with the caveat that I would be late if something went awry on my flight. I called Tim exactly at noon.

I had lunch plans in Tysons Corner. There was no traffic and I was there, from the airport in 14 minutes, early for lunch.

The weather was gorgeous, there was a first-rate salad bar, and we ate outside.

Made it home with no traffic.

Took a run and had my best run of the year.

When I got back, the kids were there and we had a blast for 3 hours (I had been away for 2 days).

Read a book with Nadia. Watched baseball with Paco. Had a fun talk with Tikkanen.

After they went to bed, I got to Inbox Zero.

Had a chance to catch up on one of my favorite shows, Sons of Anarchy.

Wanted another smoothie…the NFO had gotten wheatgrass which I wanted to try out.

Had a good talk with the NFO.

Got a haircut.

The shirt I wanted to wear the next day was clean (thanks again to NFO).

Well, you get the idea.


Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Wedding Gifts as Memory Creators

I will admit, I don’t usually put much thought into wedding gifts. My philosophy is “either buy from the registry or give cash.”

That’s what people usually really need when they are starting out.

But, the other day, my friend and former running partner, Robyn, sent me a note to challenge this belief.

“I keep thinking of you and NFO, because you gave us some lovely trays as a wedding gift, "to serve each other." 

We use them all the time and, lately, our younger daughter has taken to using them to surprise someone in the family with breakfast in bed.  With reciprocation, this has generated quite a few different breakfasts in bed for different members of the family, all on the trays that you gave to us. 

It is nice to see Hilary's delight at giving the simple gift of a cup of coffee and a bowl of Cheerios on a tray, or receiving breakfast on a tray herself.  Anyways, this new "tradition" that Hilary has started for our family struck me as very much in the spirit of the gift that you gave to us, so I thought that you might like to hear about it.”

Now, it’s possible that these were on Robyn’s wedding registry, but obviously the note that accompanied it (undoubtedly written by the NFO) lodged itself in Robyn’s mind…and though we haven’t seen each other in a LONG time, still serves as a bond.

Maybe towels aren’t the way to go?

What is your wedding gift philosophy?

Thursday, September 12, 2013

This Commercial Made Me Cry….

and that’s why I am telling you about the video.

What I love about it is that they realized, “we’re not in the gum business, we’re in the storytelling business.”

If you get people to connect emotionally with your brand, no matter what you sell, it’s going to help.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

My Son in the Future

I have a pretty good relationship with Paco.

He’s a sweet boy. Charming. A wonderful smile. Mischievous to the point of being cute.

A great athlete. A great sports companion. He’s 8. His innocence is eternal and refreshing.

I do my best to cherish it.

For example, you know what he wants from me on his birthday?

A 1:1 drive along the length of an entire avenue named for one of the states.

Last year, we did all of Connecticut Avenue. This year, all of Massachusetts Ave.

We saw it change from urban to suburban. From commercial to Embassy Row to residential.

I took a “mental snapshot” and savored it.

In fact, he did me proud as we drove home and were instructed by the NFO to pick up one item at the store.

She told us it was at Shopper’s which wasn’t quite on the path. The Safeway was, but she didn’t know if the item was there.

I said to Paco, “ok, buddy, we have a choice. We can go to Safeway and take a chance. If it’s there, we save time and get home sooner. If not, we lose time and have to go to Shopper’s.”

You know what he said?

“Go Big or Go Home!”

So we went to Safeway…it wasn’t there, but we didn’t care.

I thought of all of this tonight as I read an article I saw on Facebook about a dad trying to relate to his teenage son.

It gave me a “flashforward” to a day in the future when my boy may not want to talk or play with me. When I’ll be an irritation to him.

I know it is part of the rite of passage. Of separation. Of preparing for life without me.

What’s the word for pre-emptive nostalgia?

Sunday, September 08, 2013

Another Business Disruption

bwi 1

If it’s happening to cab drivers, it can happen to anyone.

Customers-in aggregate-now have more power than the businesses.

The Backstory

At BWI rail station, cabs wait to pounce on stranded or time-constrained passengers, charging exorbitant fees to take advantage of a stressful situations.

It’s cause for resentment, but what can you do?

Disruption Awakening

While waiting to pick up a colleague, I started to chat with some of the cabbies and the talk turned to their business practices, how they decided what to charge whom.

“You know that you guys have a pretty bad reputation, right?”bwi 2

They looked surprised.

I pulled out my phone and showed them my recent Foursquare check-in, where the tips frequently discussed how to deal with the predatory cab practices.

They were floored. “What’s the name of this app? I need to download it.”

It Is Happening to Everyone

EVERY organization and every industry deals with people. Those people have a voice that can be heard everywhere and at zero marginal cost.

NOT hearing the voice and engaging in a conversation with it leads down a lonely path.

Note: Sprinklr integrates with Foursquare so large companies can see who is checking-in and connect that information with the same person’s behavior on other social networks. In that way, they know if someone checks in at a store, it is the same person who tweeted last week about loving sweaters (or whatever it might be. You get the picture.)

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

A Meeting That Took 5 Years…Brought to you by Social Networking

Every now and then, with all of the excitement that surrounds the potential for social media in business, politics, etc., you forget what makes it so amazingly powerful.

Creating and solidifying connections between people.

It’s so simple. And it’s at the core of al the potential, but it gets lost in terms like “reach” and “engagement.”

The other day, however, I had a moment that brought me back, reminding me of the inherent beauty of the democratization of communication.

Five years ago, my friend Tom Harshbarger said, “there’s a guy you need to meet. His name is Brent Leary.”

Since then, Brent and I connected in many ways…email, phone, text, blogs, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, podcast interviews, Google+, Foursquare…you get the picture.

But, we had never actually met in person.

Until August 27th, 2013.

I gave Brent the heads up that I would be in Atlanta and he joined me for the event. Here is the video commemorating the moment and serving as the reminder of why he and I are so passionate about not just the technologies, but the possibilities they offer.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Listening to Youth: Letter to your Future Self

When you’re in your 20s, you tend to think you know everything. The challenge is that you don’t know when you don’t know something. As a result, you don’t shut up when you should and let people with more experience do it.

When you’re in your 40s, you’ve realized that you knew something in your 20s, but may have been naïve about other things. At the same time, you realize there are people in their 60s and 70s who know a hell of a lot more. The challenge is figuring out which is which.

And, I’m guessing, the challenge when you get into your 50s and 60s is that sometimes you overweight experience.

I have been wanting to write a letter to my future self to remind me that, once upon a time, I was in my 20s. I had a pretty good understanding of technology, the Internet, and what would be its impact on the world (although, I didn’t see all of it, of course). Where I was really naïve was in how to commercialize it, how long it would take, among other things, but I was on the right track.

So, I want my future self to know that, one day, I am going to meet a 20 year old who will be full of energy, talking about how the world will change and that, while he or she may be off on a few key things, s/he will be spot on about others.

I just hope I am wise enough to pay attention.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

What’s wrong with this list?

I download the list of school supplies for my 3rd and 4th graders today and it made me sad. Here’s the list. Try to guess why.

Then, read at the bottom for my thoughts. Feel free to comment and tell me why I am wrong.


So, here’s why.

With the exception of a small number of items, it’s pretty much the same list I got when I was in 3rd grade.

Given the amount of innovation that has happened since then, I just find it really hard to believe that the tools necessary to get educated are the same.

It makes me very worried about whether my kids are getting as prepared as possible. With technology and globalization the competition is more intense and the need for great education is even higher.

Particularly acute given how much I am spending (granted that some of this cost is devoted to religious/cultural education, so I accept that).

Then, I saw my friend Mike’s status and I was envious:

In an email from my rising 6th grader's teacher: "Students will need daily internet access and a computer in order to complete their homework assignments." Oh, have times changed!

Friday, August 16, 2013

The Dead Presidents—Ohio Day 3

I had one of those “oh wait, I think so-and-so lives here” as we drove through suburban Cleveland.

I saw the Cleveland Clinic and remembered that a friend from college-whom I had not seen in 18 years-Sandhia Varyani, lived near by. So, I called her and got to see her-and introduce her to the kids. A nice side benefit.

As much fun as that was, it wasn’t our primary goal when we stayed in Solon, OH (named after a Greek leader? I should look).

The reason we selected it was because of its proximity to Mentor, OH, the home of America’s 20th President, James A. Garfield.

The Park Ranger was first rate and very kid-friendly in the hour long tour of the home. Garfield, who only made it to Day 200 of his Presidency before he was assassinated by a guy with delusions of grandeur, was extremely well read. His library had over 5,000 books and he could speak French and German as well as reading Latin and Greek.

The Junior Park Ranger program gave the kids some great activities as they went through the house and IMG_2461they also got a sense of what life was like in the 1880’s. The “deep dive” was just what we had in mind when we visited.
2.5 hours later, after a drive across central Ohio, we found ourselves in Marion, home of the 29th President, Warren G. Harding.  While the house was closed (we still counted it as a visit), we did get to sit on his porch and read some facts about him from Wikipedia (where else?)

Harding was known for many scandals during his administration and has consistently ranked near the bottom of US Presidents. However, it seems like some folks are now looking at his stance on the 8-hour work day, women’s issues, and Civil Rights to try and portray him in a different light.

Like Garfield and McKinley, he didn’t make it out of office…though he wasn’t assassinated.
We stopped at a great park on a beautiful day. It felt like Heartland America in small town AmericIMG_2458a. Very quaint.

After sufficient energy was burned off, we drove to Columbus where we had some Graeter’s ice cream (I had to go with Buckeye flavor) and then spent some quality time with my cousins, Lee and Shelby Nathans.

Our Holiday Inn Express had a mini water park (slides and fountains, etc.), so we had a chance to catch up over pizza while the kids seriously frolicked. The NFO is on point during our trips for securing lodging and she rocks it when it comes to finding a place with a pool and a fridge…so we got to swim every night. (I also helped the kids understand why I like hot tubs).

The next morning-and our final official activity on the trip-took us to COSI-Columbus Museum of Science and Industry-which is definitely one of the best museums of its kind that I’ve seen.  The exhibits were fantastic and the bonus was that we had a chance to spend some time with the NFO’s cousin, Bruria Martin and her kids, who areIMG_2474 living in Columbus for 2 years (from Israel). Outside, the kids had the opportunity to sit in some tractors, which they loved.

The kids are at a good age now. A degree of self-sufficiency that makes movement easier. They can cooperate and assist and with the iPads, they are generally placid for the ride.
All of this makes the ultimate objective-instilling curiosity and a passion for discovery-easier to accomplish.
The theme of “visiting the homes of Presidents” makes it easy for us to get motivated and have a core focus.
Whatever it is…I would call this trip a success.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Halls of Fame and Presidents—A Summer Road Trip to Ohio


A few years ago, after a visit to Jefferson’s home at Monticello and Madison’s at Montpelier, the kids developed an appreciation for history and excitement for the Presidents.

Somehow, we came up with the idea that a worthwhile goal would be to visit the home (or some place) associated with each President (and, no, the White House doesn’t count.)

So, when we were thinking about summer vacations, we were using this as a criteria and we discovered that Ohio has connection to 8 Presidents (albeit, some looser than others).

Still, it seemed like a good idea and when we combined our love of football (a visit to the Pro Football Hall of Fame) and Music (the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame), it seemed like a manageable trip.IMG_20130812_091919

Day 1 took us from DC to Canton and with summer hours going to 8, we were able to explore the Football HOF with plenty of time to spare. The kids-all of them-loved the history and the interactive exhibits. Even the NFO got into the swing of things.  Any time you have tablet computers and videos, you’re going to do well…which is exactly what happened.

I stopped to pay homage to Joe Gibbs and explain some of the great moments of the game. I am proud to say that it seems to have worked.

Once we were in Canton, OH, it was a very short hop to the William McKinley Memorial and Library. The 25th President was assassinated in 1901 and it’s interesting to think what would have happened if that hadn’t happened…his VP was Teddy Roosevelt.

The Memorial is built on a hill with a significant number of steps leading up to it. Entombed with him are his wife and 2 daughters who, sadly, died when before reaching age 4. It included an impressive biography of his life as well. Adjacent to the Memorial is the Presidential Center which had a mock “street” demonstrating what life looked like in the early 1900s…printing press, saloon, and all.FB_IMG_13762584554657872

There was a also a great Science Center which the kids loved.

Afterwards, we headed to the First Ladies’ Historical Site, situated in the family home of Ida McKinley. Alas, it was closed on Monday, but we did get a chance to visit the gift shop, so all was not lost.

Moving at rapid pace, we then visited the Harry London chocolate factory, part of the Fannie Mae family (and now owned by where we not only got to sample some great chocolate (of course), we had the chance to see it being made.  The kids LOVED this in all facets.

They’ve been great travelers, minimal complaints, and enjoying most visits. Of course, family trips with iPads and GPS aren’t what they used to be.

Since the point of this trip (and really all travel) is to widen horizons and instill curiosity, we figured a trip to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland would fit the bill (and, let’s be honest, I wanted to go there).

While the kids only really knew The Beatles and Elvis Presley (they were surprised that Carly Rae Jepsen and Beyonce weren’t in the HOF yet), they still had a great time. Even Paco (the erstwhile sports fan) said he had more fun at the R&R than at the Football HOF. Go figure.

The most fun part, if you ask me, of any visit is asking the kids what their favorite part was and hPANO_20130812_153011earing the unexpected answers, but walking through the big mouth/tongue to the Rolling Stones exhibit did make the cut.

We did have to navigate the museum with some care as (to be expected) there were a few exhibits/comments that weren’t, shall we say, family friendly… Winking smile

I don’t think the guys picked up on it and we were no worse for the wear. At least now they know who the Rolling Stones are and I think they also know names like The Kinks, Supremes, Stevie Wonder, the Who, the Doors, and ZZ Top, so I would consider it successful.

Tomorrow is our next big Presidential day when we try to get James Garfield in Mentor, OH (interestingly enough, he was also assassinated) and Warren Harding in Merion.

Friday, August 02, 2013


Beginning way back in 1998 when I read the book “Adversity Quotient,” I’ve settled on the idea that one of the key determinants for success (beyond talent and skills, etc.) is RESILIENCE.

The ability to dig deep, leave it all on the field, never give up, push on in the face of tremendous odds.

For me, the Tough Mudder was just a practice run for that in real life.

The latest book to drive that home came to me courtesy of my wonderful (seriously) mother-in-law.

It is called The Unthinkable: Who Survives When Disaster Strikes - and Whyand provides anecdotes and evidence about why, ultimately, it’s resilience that matters when a disaster (9/11, Katrina, etc.) occurs.

Do you believe you will make it?

Have you thought about it in the past and previously practiced/convinced yourself that you will make it?

These are critical factors and traits I hope to instill in my kids. That’s why I was super proud when I saw Paco’s basketball camp report card…and the praise he got for pushing as hard as he did.

Shooting, dribbling, etc. All of that comes…but grit. That has to be cultivated.

And it seems like there is a good reason why.


Monday, July 29, 2013

Don’t take advice….


Thanks to a wonderful gift from my pal, Jacob, I’ve been reading/enjoying Jessica Hagy’s book How to Be Interesting: (In 10 Simple Steps)

I particularly liked this chart.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Perspective, courtesy of North Korean refugee

This is powerful.

Reminds you how lucky you are…and how unlucky some are.


Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Jesus’ Home Court Advantage

My son and his friends went to basketball camp at one of the local high school powerhouses last week, Good Counsel.

The actual name of the school is Our Lady of Good Counsel, but somewhere along the line, they misread the sign and started calling it “OLD Lady of Good Counsel.”

But that’s only half the story.

They began to discuss who would win in various sports contests: God or Jesus.

They concluded that, because He is all-powerful, God would be able to take Jesus in basketball, golf, and, well, most events.

However, when asked, “what if the basketball game was played at Good Counsel?” Paco had an astute answer.

“I think God would still win, but it would be close because Jesus would have home court advantage.”

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Big Finish

Sometimes you just have to document the funny moments.

I took the girls to the pool the other day and Nadia was enjoying jumping off the side, spread-eagled into the water before swimming over to me.

I told her, “ok, two more.”

She did one, climbed out of the pool and announced, “Time for the BIG FINISH!!”

She’s 5.5.

Good stuff.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

1 degree of separation from Chuck D, Flavor Flav, and Public Enemy

I pride myself on my networking skills, but I have to say, I have now taken it to a whole new level.

At the pool the other day, I overhead a couple chatting and made an inserting remark into their conversation.

We got to talking and it turns out that the guy is a member of the rap group, Public Enemy.

James “Bomb” Allen (should I call you “Mr. Bomb?”) and I had a long chat about the history of rap and who the artists they most respected were (Run DMC, LL Cool J, and Beastie Boys) and some of the craziest moments in the band’s history (Redding UK festival where they had no idea where Flavor Flav was and then he just came flying onto the stage).

We also talked about the anti-Semitic controversy in the early 90’s (all a misunderstanding, apparently, according to James.)

Seriously cool guy and down to earth. So was his wife. It was a fun peek into a group that has impacted America.

And all the while, our kids are playing in the pool.

And, in the “street cred” department…before this, I was one step removed from ppl like Obama and Netanyahu, but these are easy. Winking smile

Now, I’m one degree from Chuck D and Flavor Flav.

BTW, you can follow James on Twitter, if you want.

My 9.5 Year Old on Boys vs. Girls

It's one thing for me to say that men are simple and women are, well, a bit more complex. Not a bad thing, just more complex.

However, it's another thing for my 9 year old daughter.

"Daddy, how come boys have it so easy and girls make things so difficult?

For boys, all you have to do is give them a football and they are happy. With girls, there's always someone fighting or upset with someone. We can't even walk around the track without someone getting upset with someone else."

As her dad, I do my best to help her navigate life's challenges. On this one, I didn't really have an answer.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

A Question About Zimmerman Case from a Guy Who Didn’t Really Follow It

I will be the first to say that I didn’t follow the Martin/Zimmerman trial at all.

I heard about it when the shooting occurred and then, believe it or not, didn’t hear anything until Sat. night when Facebook exploded with comments.

So, I really don’t know that much about the particulars of the case. So, in reality, everything after this could be ignorance in a bottle.

That being said, I saw my friend Tjada’s comment and there was something that troubled me about it. (Truth be told, there were others along this line, but this one stood out…Also, Tjada and I go way back on discussing tough issues, so I know she can handle it Winking smile


For the sake of argument, let’s just all agree for now that the Zimmerman verdict was a total miscarriage of justice.

Here’s where I am running into issues.

If the Zimmerman verdict was a miscarriage of justice and let’s say that race did play a factor, does that necessarily mean that all courts, police officers, and prosecutors are racially biased?

And, isn’t reaching that conclusion the very essence of the Zimmerman case, in some way? (or at least how I understand it).

From what I can gather Zimmerman saw a young black man and immediately drew a generalized conclusion “young black man in wrong neighborhood can only be up to no good” because of a stereotype he had formed.

So, is it equally dangerous to have an incident where one court case in one city in one state that involves the murder of a black man has a miscarriage of justice and then automatically assume that all court cases where a black man is the victim are, by definition, going to be equally unfair/corrupt, etc.?

I suppose I am thinking that the reaction to the court case is precisely because of the danger of stereotypes, yet a statement like ‘scared for all black boys’ implies a stereotype that there’s no real justice in the court system anywhere in America.

Or, maybe I am just missing something here on a deeper level? Definitely possible and won’t be the first time, so help me understand.

Always Eat Left-Handed-Read the Book

My friend, Rohit, has done it again.

I’m often asked about tips and suggestions for being more efficient in my personal/professional life and in engaging others in conversation.

What Rohit has done in his latest book, Always Eat Left Handed: 15 Surprisingly Simple Secrets Of Success is package up many of his tips (which are similar to mine) in a fun, easy to read book. I put the whole thing away in about 3 short sittings and found myself nodding in full agreement (with 1 or 2 exceptions).

What I like about Rohit (as you’ll see in my reviews of his previous books Personality Not Included and Likeonomics) is his refreshing style of writing (it has a lot of personality) and the practicality of his advice.

This one is in Kindle format, is pretty cheap, and will make an immediate impact.

Sunday, July 07, 2013

Parenting, the fear of failure, and my failure…

Some of you may recall my challenge 2 years ago when I was trying to help Tonka get over her fear of going down the slide at the pool.

Your advice then was: “back off.”

Well, I’ve failed on that one.

On Friday, July 5th, the girls had camp, so Paco and I decided we would go to Six Flags and have a “guys day.”

We went on a roller coaster and some water slides. Then, we confronted the “Tornado,” which meant we would be in a tube, do a decent sized drop, and fly up the wall on the other side.

When we got to the top—and there was no line!—Paco said he was scared.

I wanted him to confront his fears. I told him….”it’s ok to be afraid, it’s not ok to be paralyzed by fear.”

It may sound melodramatic, but I have a nagging sense that if I let him (or any of my kids) let fear stand in their way, that it will become a habit.

Frankly, I don’t have much patience for adults who can’t get over irrational fears.

At its essence, this is one of my core fathering responsibilities, in my opinion.

We had a 20 minute stand-off at the top of the ride.

He was crying, I was tense. I tried to cajole, empathize, threaten, force, and bribe him…eventually, I lost and we walked down.

Honestly, I felt like a failure.

Maybe I’m being too hard on myself. Maybe next year he’ll be fine.

What I don’t want is a 25 year old son who can’t get over his unnecessary fears so that he can accomplish what that of which he is truly capable.