Thursday, January 31, 2013

Perspective. Unexpected.

My buddy, Derek Coburn, sent me a holiday CD.
I’m not a big music person, so it was all new to me.
One of the songs was a semi-hard core rap (I guess that’s the genre) called “Daughters” by a guy named “Nas.”
It was all about how you have to treat daughters with love and TLC so they go down the right path.
Pretty powerful stuff.
Here are the lyrics.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Why I Love My Nexus 4

Ok, so let’s leave aside the fact that it comes unlocked, thereby allowing me to save close to $1k a year in cell phone service charges. That’s the easy part.

Now, here’s why the Nexus 4 is the best phone I’ve ever owned and why it just may be the best phone on the market.

  1. Speed-talk about ludicrous speed. I finally have a phone that is as fast as I am. Switching, responsive. Beautiful.
  2. Battery life—I was worried about this coming in, having had a number of devices that give you 6 or 8 hours. Now, I routinely get 13, 14, even 17 hours on one charge. Yep, insane. Sure, I’ll turn off GPS, Bluetooth, etc., and I do switch to wi-fi when I’m in the house instead of cellular data, but whatever…that’s a ton of time.
  3. Google Wallet—I actually used my phone to buy a coffee the other day at the train station. Automatically charged my credit card and receipt is stored on the phone. Wicked cool.
  4. The camera…you can do all the usual stuff. Panoramas, take snapshots while doing a video, but now they have this 360 degree view (they call it Photo Sphere) and you can take huge vista shots (sample, sort of, below)
  5. Voice recognition/search…it just works really well.
  6. Google integration…obvious, but critical for Google Docs, Google Voice for me.
  7. Facial recognition security. You just look at the camera and it recognizes your face to unlock the phone (ok, so this doesn’t work all the time, but it’s still neat).
  8. Data speed—people were complaining about no 4G LTE support. Frankly, I think it’s all marketing hooey. I have an HSPA+ connection and its plenty fast.
  9. Oh, and it’s unlocked, so I can make the phone a hot spot for my other devices.
  10. Ease of use and intuitive. Just across the board.
  11. Top of the line OS—straight from Google with no extra stuff layered on by a cell phone provider or service company.
  12. Wireless charging…ok, I haven’t used this, but I’m on the lookout.
  13. Integration with, well, everything…including Exchange. Finally, Android is mega-ready for primetime.

Now, I’m no Apple-hater, I have 2 iPads, but the flexibility and horsepower of this device…I’ll take it head to head on an iPhone 5 any day.

I joke with my kids that I can’t decide if I love them or the phone more. (Don’t tell them it’s a joke please).

It took a lot of effort to get this phone, but it was worth it.

2013-01-20 17.23.06

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Any lapel pins that need a home?

Every now and then, it’s worth it to put it out there..

If you have a lapel pin that is sitting in a drawer somewhere and you want it enshrined forever, let me know.

One of my hobbies (here how it all began) is lapel pin collecting.  I have over 800 of them and each is logged in a spreadsheet with location/date of acquisition and notes.

You and your pin will be immortalized.


Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Harry Potter Rediscovered

I missed most of the Harry Potter craze.
Back in 1999 or so, I read the first one. Liked it, but never got around to reading any of the others.
Recently, though, Paco has gotten turned on to the books and rapidly put down the first 5.
Yep, he read over 2000 pages…and he did it in about 3 weeks (or so it seemed). Maybe less.
Anyway, he basically started taunting me that I hadn’t read them and wouldn’t catch up with him.
That didn’t motivate me so much as the obvious desire he had to discuss the books with me and tell me about them.
Now, I am in the midst of number 5 and I am really enjoying it. Plus, it gave us a chance to bond over Lord Voldemort, Hagrid, Siris Black, and the Heir of Slytherin.
I definitely would not have predicted this turn of events when I picked up the title of “Dad.”

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Cookies for Sandy Relief

A friend of mind has come up with a very innovative and caring way to help her Hurricane Sandy-affected friend.
She's selling GINORMOUS cookies and shipping them all over the US.
I bought some for my office.
Great gifts...for a worthy cause.

Check out the site.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Watching the Girl Grow Up…

It’s dawned on me recently that Tonka (9 years old) is in a transformational stage.

She’s not quite little girl and she’s not quite pre-teen/pre-adolescent.

Sometimes she displays a maturity well beyond her years. You can have full-on conversations with her about important and real concepts such as responsibility, death, decisions and their consequences and much more.

On the other hand, sometimes she reverts back to behavior that would be more typical of a much younger child.

It’s served as a wake-up call for me to re-think how I deal with her and how I relate to her. What’s the best parenting approach for her?

It’s a reminder as well that change is a constant and adapting to that change is a key to survival in every aspect of life, particularly parenting.

That aside, it’s a joy to see her growing up.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Interesting Way to Market Funerals

CCF12292012_00000Jewish organizations will often send out calendars because the Jewish calendar differs from the secular calendar.

It’s helpful for planning holidays, etc.

It’s also typical for the organization to choose Jewish or Israel-themed pictures for the calendar.

I was particularly struck by the choice that Danzansky-Goldberg Memorial Chapels made this year when their theme was “The Dead Sea.”

Not sure this would have been my first choice, but there’s no doubt that it’s probably the strongest Israel-themed idea which directly connects to their brand and core business.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Fort Sumter-The Shot That Began It All…Maybe

Charleston, SC-Fort Sumter-Winter 2012 with Falks (6)My general philosophy when traveling with kids is to have one goal for the day. Accomplish that and the rest is bonus.

Day 2 of our family winter vacation was about Fort Sumter and digging a bit deeper into the causes of the Civil War.

As many of you remember, it was at Fort Sumter in April 1861 that the first shot of the Civil War was fired (or so we all thought—more on that later).

As is the case with most National Parks, in my experience at least, the rangers are extremely knowledgeable and really enrich the visit. This one was no exception and, in particular, they did a fantastic job of engaging the kids…there are now National Park trading cards for them to collect at locations all over the country.

Sumter was a man-made island, placed strategically in the middle of the entrance to CharlestoTrip to Charleston, Winter 2012 (10)-Citadeln harbor, designed to protect the city and the port from would-be foreign invaders such as British, French, etc. However, after South Carolina became the first state to secede in December 1860, it became an irritating reminder of the Federal presence on South Carolina soil.

The stand-off ensued after South Carolina demanded that the Federal garrison be removed. The Feds refusal prompted a siege and while supplies were running low, Lincoln sent a supply ship in January to help the troops. The “Star of the West” arrived in Charleston in early January, 1861, but never made it to the Fort because it was fired upon by cadets from the Citadel (which we found out later) and had to turn back.

Eventually, an ultimatum was given to Maj. Anderson by Gen. Beauregard to evacuate theTrip to Charleston, Winter 2012 (12)-Citadel fort. Again, Anderson refused and at 4.30am on April 12, 1861, the first shot was fired.

The bombardment lasted for 36 hours and remarkably, there were no casualties…until the time shen Anderson agreed to surrender and, because his troops had fought so valiantly, they were given the right to fire a 100 gun salute. After the 43rd shot, a Private Downey was killed when his cannon shot prematurely.

His was the first of the 750,000 fatalities of the war.

The 30 minute boat ride to and from was relaxing and we had the bonus of seeing some dolphins in the harbor as well.

Needless to say, the kids loved the boat ride probably more than the Ranger talk, but they definitely got something out of it…and we had a chance to show them, on the following day, how different perspectives impact a view.

So, on Day 3, 2e visited the Citadel, aka the Military College of South Carolina, which was established before the Civil War and while I didn’t re-enact the Lords of Discipline for them, we did get a chance to walk the grounds.

As we did, we came upon a stone monument that celebrates the “Best Drilled Cadet” of each class, listing his name and year. (It was all men. You may recall that it wasn’t until 1996 that the Citadel became co-ed. Now, 7% of the class are women. Interestingly enough, the top TWO graduates in 2012 were women- a first.)

What was fascinating was that the award for the best cadet is called the “Star of the West,” after the Union ship that attempted to resupply Fort Sumter, but not for that reason.

It is because, as the inscription says (click on photo to enlarge it), it was on Jan. 9, 1861 that the first shot in the “War Between the States” was fired when Citadel cadets  and the monument was erected to commemorate this “great event in American history” when the defense of the South became real and for those who have fought and died with honor in defense of their ideals.

One thing you get in Charleston…in droves…is a sense of history. In some respect, you feTrip to Charleston, Winter 2012 (5)el like this is a city that peaked over 150 years ago and is still coasting on that.

The tall statue in one of the main squares downtown is to John Calhoun…who had a wealth of experience in government, including most notably being Vice President—all before 1850.

Still, what Charleston has, besides history, is charm…a ton of it. It is mega-relaxing with a ton of waterways, kind people, and some absolutely stunning architecture and views.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Southern Road Trip: A Study of Slavery

For this winter’s road trip, we decided to give our kids a small taste of the South.

After an overnight in Fayetteville, NC (which I found out was named for General LaFayette and was set up by merchants in Wilmington, NC as a defensive measure against the port of Charleston), we drove down to the Palmetto state.

Our first stop was Magnolia Plantation where we placed the emphasis on teaching the kids about the history of American slavery. We covered topics ranging from human rights to economics to agriculture and more.

The NFO did a phenomenal job of making the story of slavery personal by connecting it to the story of the Exodus, with which the kids are familiar, of course.

We had a nice Southern moment when we went to buy our tickets. Paco had to use the bathroom desperately and, without batting an eye, the woman at the cash register willingly let us in so he could use it and then return afterwards to buy our tickets. Sure, we didn’t have our stickers indicating we had paid, but I could see many scenarios where people would not have let this happen.

The bulk of our time/tour was in the former Slave cabins on the plantation and it was just tough to imagine having 6, 9, or 12 people in one of those homes. It was about 45 degrees when we were there and I imagined how unpleasant it must have been to have winter days and nights in this rickety house with no insulation warmed only by a small fire.

From there, the conversation (by a first-rate guide) took us through 570 years of history in about 25 minutes. While the kids may not have gotten everything, they understood that having 600 people crammed into the hold of a cargo ship, lying horizontal for 7-10 days at a time when it was built for 450 (not that that was a good situation either) would be miserable.

In short, I think they felt a bit of empathy…which was the ultimate point.

Aside from that, the grounds were glorious. The gardens had a great deal of attention paid to them and the kids enjoyed the garden maze.  You really felt a sense of relaxation, away from it all, surrounded by nature’s beauty.

It’s like keeping two ideas in your head at the same time…the beauty of the grounds, but built on the injustice that was slavery.

But, we take these trips to confront these dilemmas and the cognitive dissonance.

Our travels continue tomorrow as we go to Fort Sumter…the site of the beginning of the Civil War.

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

How I Saved $900 on My Cell Phone Bill…and Stuck it to the Man

If you’re sick of feeling like you are overpaying for cell service and don’t like being beholden to wireless carriers, then this post is for you.

My 2 year Sprint contract ended last July and I was determined to not go under contract with anybody again..

I wanted flexibility in my plan. I wanted cutting-edge technology. And I didn’t want to spend through the nose for it.

Here’s how I managed to pull it off.

  • Bought an unlocked Google Nexus 4 for $300.
  • Signed up for a Straight Talk all-you-can-eat plan for $45 per month. It’s unlimited text/talk/data.

The Pros

  1. Cost Savings--I was paying $120 per month and now I’m paying $45
  2. Cutting-edge technology- Top of the line Google phone. ‘Nuff said.
  3. No contract. Total flexibility.

On the other points that you are sure to ask…

Call Quality
Straight Talk is an AT&T reseller and, so far, I have to say that the call/coverage quality has been fine. In fact, I used it all the way down/back to South Carolina and there was only a period of about 4 minutes the whole way when I didn’t have coverage.

, Straight Talk says they are “unlimited” data. Some research on line says that IF you go above 2GB, they will throttle you. Personally, I think I’ve gone over 2GB in one month maybe once in the past 3 years, so I am not super concerned about that. I do monitor usage and I do tend to switch off mobile data and turn on wi-fi when I am in the house.

Customer Service/Number Portability
Moving the number was very easy. Ridiculously easy. I did have a customer service issue and though I did have to wait about 10 mins, I found the agent to be extremely friendly, knowledgeable, and helpful.  She was in Guatemala. Issue resovled.

The Cons

There really aren’t too many. You can get your phone from StraightTalk, if you want, but if you bring your own, you have a DIY solution which means that the Operating System, the phone manufacturer, and the carrier are all divorced from each other.

Frankly, I think phones are pretty much at the maturation point where that doesn’t really matter, but some people may want a place to go (like a Verizon store) for service and questions.

Bottom Line

Do the math….if you are out of contract, you are better off buying an unlocked phone on eBay and getting a pre-paid plan than paying through the nose (and being locked in) to a wireless carrier. And, now, what Google has done, in my opinion, is going to open the floodgates in terms of having access to lower cost, top of the line phones.

And when you’ve saved all that money, you can feel free to make a donation to my coffee fund Winking smile

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Turning Old Gadgets to Cash

Note: This a Public Service Announcement with a cash incentive for both of us.

Many of you probably obtained new gadgets (phones, iPads, Kindles, etc.) over the past few weeks and months.

And now, you probably have your previous device sitting somewhere, unloved, on a table or in a desk and doing nothing for you.

Well, thanks to a friend of mine, I discovered a site called (use promo code “NeverStop” for a $5 bonus if you visit) where you can sell your old devices quickly and easily and have the money sent as a check or PayPal.

I’ve sold plenty of stuff on eBay and while I was a bit reluctant to try out this site, I did anyway and I was blown away by how simple, fast, and easy it was.

  1. You search for the device you want to sell, fill out a few questions, and get an estimate.
  2. If you want to sell, you print out a pre-paid shipping label.
  3. You send the device and a few days later, voila, money in your account.

Whole thing probably took less than 5 minutes.

I sold my 2 year old EVO 4G for $41 (which was about $35 more than I thought I could ever get) and even if it is a few dollars less than you could get elsewhere, the simplicity of it all makes it worthwhile.

And I figure that cash is better than having old devices lying around your house unused..

So, if you do visit (please use promo code “NeverStop” for your $5 bonus. Disclosure: I am an affiliate now, so will make some money on this as well).

Monday, January 07, 2013

When Work Helps Your Life…

One of the artificial lines that has long troubled me is the “work/personal” line.

The idea that the two worlds were-and should remain-separate.

Last week, I read a post by one of my favorite bloggers, Mitch Joel, as he advocated the idea that creating content for your audiences was akin to creating a ticket of discovery for your potential customers.

Then, he took a turn and talked about the need to inspire curiosity and amazement in our kids and that one of the best ways to do this is through travel.

I’ve long loved to travel and hope to inspire my kids in this respect as well, so I took Mitch’s idea to heart (he had been inspired by the train tracks in Montreal where he lives) and set out on an adventure on the DC Metro with my kids-to nowhere.

Our plan was just to get on the train and go. See what happened. The kids, who don’t ride the Metro very often were thrilled. Throw in the fact that we got to take a bus, ride some elevators and escalators and use some fare cards, as well as meet some interesting folks and we had ourselves a fun, exciting, and cost-effective morning outing.

Seeing their eyes wide open, listening to them make observations about the passing scenery, and answering their questions, I felt lucky that the work/personal line had been crossed.

Friday, January 04, 2013

The Power of Branding…as taught by my 7 year old

I’ve managed to successfully turn my 7 year old son into a rabid football fan.

Now, I get to watch the games with him and the “father-son” bonding air cover is all I need when my wife says “too much football.”

While I do my best to mute commercials, I am starting to see the power of marketing make its impact on the young boy’s mind.

Here’s but one example (we’ll leave out the fact that he now says ‘hey, there’s a Chevy Silverado!” while we are driving-something he only knows because of football games or that he and his friends now sing “Every Kiss begins with Kay!”):

Let’s talk about the halftime show…

“Hey, let’s see the halftime show,” I’ll say.

“You mean, the ‘VISA halftime show,” he will correct me.

“Son, it’s actually a halftime show. Visa just pays to have their name there.”

“I don’t care, I like the ‘Visa Halftime Show.”

He’ll repeat this for the Toyota and Verizon halftime shows.

Interestingly enough, he is developing brand preference because of the quality of the programming/highlights associated with it.

So, in his mind, Visa is the best. Toyota is the 2nd best. Verizon is the 3rd best.

Lesson: When you attach your brand to a partner, makes sure it’s a high quality partner. Otherwise, even a 7 year old can tell that your brand is not the best.

Thursday, January 03, 2013

Stanley Kubrick in LA


I graduated college in 3.5 years, but decided that I would spend the last semester doing a number of things that I wouldn’t otherwise have done.

If a friend told me that s/he had an interesting class, I would sit in on it.

If there was a guest lecturer somewhere, I would go. A concert, I was in.

One of the best classes that my friend and roommate, Eric Kesselman suggested was “Films of Stanley Kubrick.”

So, it was with great excitement when I headed out to LA recently and was looking for a way to fulfill my business travel policy of “do something interesting in the city, if only for 1 hour” when my colleague said, “there’s a Stanley Kubrick exhibit at the LA County Modern Art museum.”

So, that’s what we did.

Kubrick was intense, to say the least. So many iconic movies…2001: A Space Odyssey, The Shining, Full Metal Jacket, A Clockwork Orange.

I thought the exhibit did a great job of getting you into his head…the man was a control freak, perfectionist, and into his dark view of the world.

But that’s not even the point…I was just glad to get out there and open my mind a bit, taking advantage of what travel is meant to be.

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Helping 1000 people in one year to build a business…

I’ve long believed that one of the best ways to build your brand (be it personal or corporate) is to focus on the needs of others.
If you do that, you earn trust…which is an asset that comes back to you.
Fact is, you can even be open about the fact that your motive is yourself long-term, but you know the strategy is about serving others.
Here’s an example…and something to think about as we move into 2013.
Robby Slaughter of Indianapolis set himself a goal at the beginning of 2012.
To help 1000 people.
He called in 1000in2012
Even built a website to track it all.
You know, if you are reaching out to Robby, he’s going to help you.
And I know that when he actually does—even if he is doing it for the reason that he thinks it will help him in the long-term, and I’m not saying he is—you’re going to trust him more.
That will, in some cases, lead to opportunities for him to do business with you.