Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Celebrating the innovators of transportation... Kitty Hawk and Virginia Beach

In our winter sojourn to the South, we decided to make Day 2 about the importance of transportation and the innovators who see the future.
We left Norfolk and drove about 80 minutes to Kitty Hawk, NC where the Wright Brothers changed the course of world history (no hyperbole) by inventing mechanized flight.  It was a cold, blustery day, not the best nearly for experiencing the outdoor component, but it was made up for by a great Visitors' Center and an equally exciting presentation by the Ranger there.

Not only was the lesson in physics and engineering informative, but the larger lesson...that failure can be a step on the road to success...was imparted (at least I hope it was).

It really is remarkable to think about the impact on diplomacy, immigration, trade, and, well, everything that the Wright Brothers have had.

And keeping with the theme of transportation, we stopped in Virginia Beach to visit Fun Tours, a bus travel company owned by a friend of ours, Felix Kushnir. Much like the Wright Brothers, Felix had a dream.  

He was a practicing corporate lawyer and decided that, well, that wasn't for him, so he took one of the more impressive mid-life career turns (pun semi-intended) that I have ever witnessed and traded that all in for a bus company.

Now, he's learning the ins and outs of that business and is committed to making it a success. I have no doubt that he will.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Of Maritime, Glass, and Art...A Great Visit to Norfolk

Our ultimate objective this winter break was Kitty Hawk, NC to see the location of the historic initial flight by the Wright Brothers.

En route, we spent a day in Norfolk, VA and we certainly made the most of it.

I had been to Norfolk once about 6 years ago, though I didn't have much of a chance to explore the city.  I have to say, it really is a pleasant town.

As you make your way around, you can't help but notice that the "Chrysler" name is attached to many of the city's philanthropic institutions, the most obvious being the art museum.

I was intrigued by this as I normally associate Chrysler with Detroit, but according to Wikipedia, the wife of the son of the original Chrysler hailed from Norfolk, so it all made sense.

We started off at the Glass Studio where we saw an hour long demonstration of what is admittedly a beautiful art that has an impressive amount of science contained within it. Our presenter, I thought, was excellent--informative and with a sense of humor.

Afterwards, we walked across the street to the actual museum itself. We were excited to see an exhibition celebrating 70 years of Smokey the Bear. The artist's various works (and the evolution of the tag line) were really interesting to watch and we learned that, in 1964, the US Postal Service assigned Smokey his own zip code. Today, you can tweet him...which I did.

The museum was also great for kids as they had a scavenger hunt, which enabled us to walk through most of the museum without the kids complaining...and instead were excited about doing it.

For our last stop, we visited the Nauticus museum which is adjacent to the retired battleship, USS Wisconsin.  It is packed with all kinds of information about why Norfolk is so important from a nautical perspective (it has the deepest water of any eastern US port) and historical (the US Navy's Atlantic Fleet is based here) and it was from here that Teddy Roosevelt launched the "Great White Fleet".

The museum was extremely kid-friendly and ours didn't really want to leave.  They enjoyed the exhibits and had a great time exploring the immense battleship. Even better, I think they walked away with a deep appreciation of what a battleship does (and what life on one might be like) as well as an understanding to some extent of the importance of ship transport.

Perhaps the most fun part of the day was how, prior to each stop, our kids would say "ugh, do we have to go there?" and then, during the visit, they would say "this place is great!"

I asked them afterwards..."so, how many times will we need to tell you that you are going to like a place and you will take our word for it and not complain before we go?"

Of course, I realize the answer...it's never going to happen.  ;-)

Friday, December 26, 2014

More evidence on the coming (and present) disruption of Higher Education

I have a thesis that the current college system is broken and will, soon, no longer be the source of credential that it once was.

The economics are broken in a big way. And, I'm not sure that (on the whole), the education delivered is preparing people for the workforce or citizenry.

Combine that with new models of education delivery (e.g. Khan Academy, MOOCs) and you have an industry that is ripe.

There is still value to the college experience...bringing people of diverse backgrounds together for intense co-existing experiences. However, in my view, there will be far better and more cost-effective ways of doing that.

I'm certainly not the only one who has recognized this. There are many working on this including University of the People.

Today, I just read about another one...heck, I might go do this at some point.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Newseum and the Freedoms We Cherish (or should)

When I was 14 years old, my dad took me on a 2 week trip to eastern Europe. Easily one of the most transformative experiences of my life for many reasons.

But one moment stands out in particular.

After having been in the Eastern bloc (Soviet Union, Poland, and East Germany), we arrived in West Berlin and went to the Checkpoint Charlie museum. From there, we could see the famous sign "you are now leaving the American Sector" and I remember thinking, for the first time, how lucky I was to have been born in a free society and be an American.

It's something that I never take for granted and it's one of the reasons why I have little patience for people who don't keep that perspective in mind when criticizing America vis a vis the rest of the world. Not saying everything is perfect, of course, but we have to keep the broader picture in mind.

All of this came rushing back today as I took Tikkanen to the Newseum. She had been there before but never had and I was just blown away by the quality and quantity of exhibits...the first of which is a section of the Berlin Wall, where I had the opportunity to frame for her why freedom is important and not to take it for granted.

The six floor are full of history and I found myself thinking "how the heck will I ever teach my kids even a portion of what's in here?" (and there was plenty I didn't know, of course.)

We sat for a long time in the 9/11 retrospective area, which has the antenna from the top of the WTC and I got chills, as I do often when I think of that day (as do many of us) and being in NYC.

We talked about the Scopes Monkey Trial, the Civil Rights Movement, Tiannamen Square, and much more.

The museum is really well done. Very interactive, digital/social savvy and has a ton of great kids activities.

Definitely not my last visit.

But, a museum that allows me to instill a trans-generational value...that's worth the price of admission (which wasn't cheap ;-)

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

40 Acts of Kindness...an Inspirational Story

A few weeks ago, I shared that the kids and I were embarking on a "40 for 40" campaign in honor of the NFO's upcoming birthday.

40 acts of kindness..by each of us.

The four of us have been tracking dilligently and, at times, asking the NFO for approval of whether our act did indeed count towards the goal.

I am proud to say that both Tikkanen and Jokinen have reached the milestone. With 2 days left, I have 5 to go...and Nadia, well..she made a strong effort.

But more impressive than all of that was the inspiring effort put forth by "Aunt" Helene Reisler who, like many others, said she would celebrate the "40 for 40" effort and make her own list.

And she did!

Herewith...her list of accomplishments. Kudos!!

Hi Jeremy and Team,
    It is an honor, blessing, and joy for me to share with all of you my list of the following  40 F0R 40 ACTS OF KINDNESS TOWARDS OTHERS that I did, in honor of Tamar's 40th birthday:

1. Monday, Sept. 29th- made and delivered a dinner meal to Dina's and Eitan's home in honor  of their new baby.
2. Wednesday, Oct. 1st- I helped Sarah Shapiro out and took her daughter, Ella, home from the bus stop because her son, Charlie, was sick.
3.Oct. 8th- I made and delivered a meal to Melissa & Josh Stein's home in honor of their new baby.
4.Oct. 10th- At Ohr Kodesh I stopped  to be kind and listen to a woman, who was coming out of services, and  briefly shared her feelings of sadness with me.
5.Oct. 10th- I was helpful to a young mother by watching and holding and comforting & soothing her 2 year old daughter, who was tired and upset, while the mother put her other kids in the car to go home from Ohr Kodesh Synagogue.
6.Oct. 27th- I took a 102 year old woman, who cannot drive, home from Rabbi Herzfeld's Parsha  class for women.
7. Oct. 27th-   I made and delivered a dinner meal to Tammy and Josh Levine's home in honor of their new baby.
8. Oct.26th- I played the piano for Cantor Hinda Labovitz's cantorial installation ceremony at Ohr Kodesh.
9. Made and delivered a meal for a neighbor who had knee surgery.
10. Nov. 14th- 15th weekend-Helped out with birthday celebrations for my daughters, Emily-36th, and Julie-40th. A joy and blessing.
11. I had first extra rehearsal with Cantor Hinda Labovitz.
12. I had 2nd extra rehearsal with Cantor Hinda Labovitz
13. I had 3rd extra rehearsal with Cantor Hinda Labovitz
14. I had 4th extra rehearsal with Cantor Hinda Labovitz
15. I had 5th extra rehearsal with Cantor Hinda Labovitz
16. I am  volunteering to be music director and accompanist for JOSEPH AND THE AMAZING TECHNICOLOR DREAMCOAT play at JPDS on Sunday, December 14th, 2014.
#17- 28- I played piano for 12  rehearsals for JOSEPH at JPDS show.
29. I volunteered and did  the music for JFGH  High Holiday party at Ohev Shalom in Seot. 2014.
30. Drum rehearsal for Joseph at JPDS with drummer extraordinaire,Rachel Milner Gillers.
31. Going to shabbat services and being with my grandchildren, also a blessing and Mitzvah and joy.
32.Doing the Walk For Life on 11/9/14, and extra joy of seeing Calanit there as well and giving her a hug.
33. Volunteering and doing music at Ohev Shalom JFGH Thanksgiving Holiday Party in Nov. 2014.
34.Making and delivering a meal for Siona and her husband in honor of their new baby.
35. Volunteered  and helping out with music & dancing at OHEV SHALOM THANKSGIVING DAY FEAST on Thanksgiving day afternoon.
36. Taking my grandkids Ice Skating and having a wonderful time watching them enjoy ice skating.
37. Made a second meal for my neighbor who had knee surgery.
   38. One on one music help session with a cast member from Joseph at JPDS.
   39. Helped out a lady in exercise class by getting her a towel and mat to use.
   40. Volunteering and doing music and dance for JFGH Chanukah party, 12/16/14.

I believe that I was being kind to myself and I derived much much joy and blessing by doing the above 40 acts of kindness towards others, and towards myself as well, in honor of the 40th birthday of dear Tamar, who I love very much and who is a blessing & joy in my life.
Once again thank you for giving me the blessing and joy of being included in this very appropriate Campaign for Kindness in celebration of Tamar, as I think Tamar is a living blessing.
Please let me know if there is anything else that I can do to be a part of this wonderful and appropriate celebration for Tamar in honor of her 40th birthday.

Much love and blessings to all of you, Helene/Aunt Helene :_)

Sunday, November 16, 2014

The nicest email I've ever received...

I sent my first email in 1991. Been many along the way, but today I received the most beautiful one ever.

I had a bit of a stomach bug overnight and spent a bit of time throwing up. It wasn't pretty.

This morning, I checked my email and found a note from my 6 year old.

-----Original Message-----
From: Nadia
Sent: Sunday, November 16, 2014 7:32 AM
To: Jeremy Epstein
Subject: I love you

I really ( not kidding) started crying when I found out you throw up.(wa
wa) hope you feel better!


Beautiful because of the content...and because my 6 year old emailed me ;-)

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

A regular, not so regular evening

Maybe it was because I had been away for a few days.

Or perhaps it was because the NFO needed to be out for most of the day and into the early part of the evening.

Still, tonight, I was on point and solo for making sure the kids were fed and completed their homework before bedtime.

Lesson 1 was a deep appreciation for how much the NFO does either by herself (due to my travel schedule) or as the lead parent for this part of the day.

But there was a moment, when I was sitting at the dining room table helping both Tikkanen and Lakkanen with their respective homework assignments that time stood still.

We call it a "mental snapshot" and I realized that this was just "one of those school nights" when the kids would think many years hence that they had eaten dinner and done homework. Just a part of the routine of life.

And as I thought that, I recognize, like the old John Lennon adage, that this WAS LIFE.  I realized that, never again, would they be that age, at that time, doing that exact thing.  It was both mundane and profound all at the same time.

I cherished it. As my friend Josh would say, I "sucked out the marrow of Life" in that moment and just savored it for what it was. A dad, helping his daughters with their homework.

It was both fleeting and eternal.

Monday, October 06, 2014

Thursday, October 02, 2014

Embattled Colleges

My friend, Michael Einbinder-Schatz of Jobecca sent me the following link.

A father who is not convinced he is getting his money’s worth for his $110k/year education bill.

He was shouted down in the comments, but I think it was unfair.

The college model is way broken.

And I think the educational industry knows it…which is why I saw a piece on CNN titled “Why College Is Worth It”.

Clearly, something that their trade association put in place and the PR folks pitched. Can you imagine that discussion 25 years ago?

Of course not. It was a given..and it was true.

Now, the cost-benefit model is way out of whack and the cracks are starting to show.

Let’s be clear…I’m not against higher education. It’s more critical than ever. What I am against is a system that is based on a previous paradigm.  

It’s going to get disrupted (and it already is a bit).  

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Protect Your Phone: Get Lookout NOW

Oh man, this was just great.

I am in Switzerland now and I got a temporary SIM card.  Once I logged on, I received this (which would go to any account).  Just a great way to protect yourself from phone theft.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Join Us: 40 for 40 Campaign for Kindness

As many know, the NFO doesn't like to be called out on the blog. Nameless, Faceless One is my spouse.

That notwithstanding, her 40th birthday is coming up in a few months and the kids and I have embarked on an appropriate activity to celebrate it.

We're calling in the "40 for 40 Campaign for Kindness."

Each of us are committing to 40 separate, unique acts of kindness towards others.

Each day, we will document our initiative to make the world a slightly better place.

Those of you who know the NFO understand why this makes sense.

Let us know if you'd like to join us.

You can report back or not report back. Up to you.

We'll have a counting/celebration around the time of her birthday (December).

A Tea Experience, A Ceremonie In Fact

Full disclosure: I received a free sample for review purposes.

I'll admit that I'm much more of a coffee drinker than a tea drinker. Though I do like tea and I find it much more calming than coffee, I just don't tend that way too often.

Still, when my friend Efrat asked me to sample some of her new tea line, Ceremonie Tea, I took a look at the website and jumped at the chance.

My reputation is important to me so I didn't promise a false, ringing endorsement, but the website hinted at a level of class that I hadn't seen too often in tea, with a few exceptions.

I believe the essence of great marketing is great storytelling and I think Ceremonie Tea has taken that to heart.  They are clear about the extremely high quality origins of their product and they extend that to every element of the experience. The packaging is truly inspired. The colors representing different flavors and moods as well as different regions.

I tried many of them and while, try as I might, I can't seem to ever like Earl Grey, the Moroccan Mint and the various Green Teas were sublime. Mellow.

There have been studies about how packaging or price can actually enhance people's perception of the taste of wine and I would be willing to bet that if you gave your guests/friends some of this tea with its unique, pyramid-shaped bags, they would enjoy it even more.  I know I did.

If I had two critiques, it would be that I wish that all of the bags had a string on them instead of requiring a spoon to remove the bag (but that could be a personal preference) and that they would use a bit less plastic on some of the boxes.

Still, the tea is definitely not your normal Lipton/Bigelo and better than the Celestial Seasonings variety. It moves into gourmet land and, even for a non-tea lover/drinker, was a notable experience.

It's also a great lesson in marketing, so for me, it was a double win.

Book Recommendations for Leaders

Two books I just finished that I wanted to recommend.

Particularly relevant for anyone who has to lead a group or an organization.

The first is written by the CEO/Founder of LinkedIn, Reid Hoffman. It’s called The Alliance: Managing Talent in the Networked Age and highlights how managing people has changed since the era of lifetime employment has come to an end.

They reframe a job as a “tour of duty” in which the company makes clear to the employee what s/he will get out of the next assignment while at the same time, the employee promises s/he will stick with the job until the end of the tour. They stay because reputational risk is too great to leave it.

It’s a quick read and a solid framework for thinking about developing talent in today’s networked age.

Meanwhile, you can always look to the military for inspiring stories of courage, bravery, and leadership. In Pegasus Bridge, the acclaimed historian Stephen E. Ambrose details the first invasion effort of D-Day and the strategic imperative of a group of British airborne troops of taking a canal bridge deep behind enemy lines.

This is a book about planning, preparation, team building, leadership, strategy, execution, and more.

You’ll appreciate the “Greatest Generation” more and hopefully you’ll never be in a life/death situation like this with the fate of the free world hanging in the balance.

However you will be in a position where you need to lead a group of people on a mission. Learn from the best.

Thursday, September 04, 2014

Watch "The Pacific" to appreciate the sacrifice

If you have HBO (or access via Amazon Prime), I'd highly recommend you watch the 10 part mini-series produced by Spielberg and Hanks called "The Pacific."

It's like Saving Private Ryan, but more people.

I walked away with an understanding of "The Greatest Generation" and how they built America post-war, given what happened during the war in the Pacific.

My background in Japan added some color, but this series was just so informative and told the story so well that, literally, I was crying at the end of it.

It made me think of my own Poppy who served in the Army Air Corps in China. Not quite the same, but so appreciative of his and others' sacrifice..and of the immense numbers who didn't make it.

Next time you are in DC, go to the WWII Memorial as well. The names of remote Pacific islands will have newfound meaning for you.

Monday, September 01, 2014

Predictions for NFL 2014 season...from one of my gurus

My friend, Ira, is one of the most intense sports fans I know. He is intelligent, insightful, and articulate on the subject.  With the only blemish on his credentials being that he has never been to any of the top 4 Halls of Fame, he has achieved somewhat legendary status in our household for his prediction of the Stanley Cup champion this year, right when the playoffs begins.

In addition, he correctly predicted SEA over DEN in the Super Bowl at the beginning of last season. 
So, he got the Super Bowl and Stanley cup right this year (though he is currently bombing on baseball  predictions.) I guess the only issue is that he doesn't put his money where his mouth is. If it he did, he could give up his medical practice.

So, here are his predictions for the NFL 2014 season.

 Phl- 12-4
 Dal- 9-7
 NYG- 8-8
 Wash- 6-10

 Green Bay- 10-6
 Det- 9-7
 Minn- 5-11

 Car- 11-5
 N.O- 11-5
 TB- 8-8
 Atl- 5-11

 Sea- 12-4
 Ariz- 10-6
 San Fran- 7-9
 STL- 3-13


 N.E.- 11-5
 Miami- 9-7
 NYJ- 7-9
 Buff- 2-14

 Cincy- 11-5
 Balt- 9-7
 Clev- 8-8
 Pitt- 5-11

 Indy- 12-4
 Tenn- 7-9
 Houston- 7-9
 Jack- 5-11

 Den- 13-3
 KC- 10-6
 S.D- 8-8
 Oak- 6-10

 NFC champs - CAR over PHL
 AFC Champs- Den over Indy

 SB- Den over CAR

 Biggest Surprise- PHL
 Biggest disappointment- San Fran
 MVP- LeShawn Mccoy. Runner up- Cam Newton
 Team to fire coach mid season -Pitt or San Fran

Labor Day- A Quaint Holiday of a Bygone Era

These ideas of national holidays where you take off work are starting to seem anachronistic to me.

As we move towards an economy of anytime/anywhere access and accountability/outcome versus time/input, it just seems like something that doesn't make sense.

I don't get paid by the hour. Many of you don't either.

If I have a deadline, I have to hit it. It is my responsibility to get it done on time. Whether I choose to work on Labor Day or not is up to me.

In a factory where you stand there and get paid for an hour's worth of work and you can't get it done unless the factory is open, something like Labor Day might make sense.

But in an information economy where your laptop/tablet and wi-fi are all you need, a "day off" is up to you, not to some mandated time period.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Canada, We Stand on God For Thee….

We didn’t have a huge window for a long summer vacation this year, so we decided we would do a 3 day jaunt up/back to Niagara Falls. IMG_20140811_142706

Our objectives were simple and two-fold.

  1. Ride the Maid of the Mist
  2. Go to Canada

It’s what you learn along the way that makes the family trips so much fun.

And it’s the little moments (both good and bad) that you create the memories that stick with all of us for the rest of our lives.

What’s going on in Canada?
As part of our ‘get in the Canada frame of mind” effort, we pulled up the Canadian anthem on YouTube and played it over the car speakers.

It was around that time that we learned that Paco thought the lyrics were:

“we stand on God for thee” instead of “we stand on guard for thee.”

Needless to say, we had some fun with this. Canadians being so dedicated to their country that they will trample God for it.

Also, he thought that it was “Bob keep our land, glorious and free” instead of “God keep our land.”

This led to a lot of speculation as to who exactly Bob is. Perhaps Canada’s gardener?

The Unexpected Twists

Nadia has had a bit of a string of bad luck recently. She had strep, then a viral infection of her chest. We had taken her to a few places IMG_20140811_145733(Right Time Clinic being one of them where we had a horrific experience) and it seemed like we were doing all the right things.

Still, she was obviously sick and wheezing a bit.

We had a nebulizer and were using it.

However, the first night in the hotel was just brutal. Nadia was coughing violently, having a hard time breathing, and it was keeping the NFO and me up.

I was up from 2-5.30, but that’s nothing compared to the NFO who decided at 5am to take Nadia to the Williamsville hospital ER.

All’s well that ends well, but it was one of those nights where you think “great, I’m on vacation with the family, I’ll get to bed at a reasonable time, and be somewhat well rested” and instead turns into an all-nighter.

Ah, parenthood.

The kids ended up having a great attitude, making lemonade out of lemons (and that’s a life skill, isn’t it?) and we went to the pool in the morning.

We didn’t get to Niagara Falls until about 12.30pm, but it all worked.

Simple Expectations and Bonusville

My philosophy of travel with the family is very simple. Have ONE objective per day. Everything after that is bonus.

Monday was “Maid of the Mist” and then whatever.

Once we did that (and we all had a blast, getting soaked), we were in bonus land.

I had brought passports, so we walked across the Rainbow Bridge (kids enjoyed straddling the border) to Canada.

It gave us a chance to talk about different currencies, why Queen Elizabeth is on the money, kilometers vs. miles and immigration policy.

The approach is a major stress reliever for me. You don’t need to rush. You just do your thing and then can allow the rest of the day to unfold.  I find it helps with keeping other people from whining too much as well.

And The Icing on the Cake

When we’re at home, we’re all not staying in the same room or same car for the same length of time.  The intensity comes from the proximity and you see how we all work together to solve disagreements or partner.

You see how the kids take care of each other as they get to explore the hotel or go downstairs for the breakfast buffet.

You get to see that, for some reason, they think the show “Full House” is one of the funniest things they’ve ever seen. They laugh at the show and the NFO and I just laugh at their reactions.

You get to inhale the innocence of childhood through them, knowing that you don’t have it forever, but that it’s glorious while it’s here.

And you get to talk about “that time we went to Niagara Falls and Canada.”

Even if we had 14 hours of driving and a trip to the ER while we were there.

It’s all worth it.

Monday, August 11, 2014

The Coming Education Disruption

This one says it about as well as I have seen.

It may be 3, 5, 10 years, but it's coming.

Thursday, August 07, 2014

The Changing World of Higher Education

For those of you following my periodic rant. Here’s another one. The education disruption is coming.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

The (end of?) the Jewish Golden Age

About 16 years ago, I had a conversation with my friend, Josh Feigelson, and we were remarking how we were living at one of the most unique times in all of Jewish history.

Prosperity, security, education, acceptance into society. We wondered if the genration knew how good we had it (granted, it was a US centric view of things), we wondered if this generation had the strength to deal with things if that situation changed, and we wondered when they would end.

Call it paranoia (though history is a pretty good guide) I suppose.

When I look around at the vitriol online at Israel and Jews (no difference for most), I just wonder if we're at an inflection point.

Hope not.

Not just because what it means for Jews, but what it means for the world.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Random observations on the War in Gaza

Heard a few things from various people that I wanted to document, if only for my own posterity.

Why Now?

One speculation is that Iran egged on Hamas to intensify things.

Why? To pull attention away from them and the fact that they blew by another deadline on the nuclear thing.

More Balanced Reporting?

While I would certainly not say that the media is full on pro-Israel, there have been some more reports that are critical of Hamas. One hypothesis goes to the mentality of the reporters who are stationed in Israel.

For years, they could be in Jerusalem or Tel Aviv, claim they were “war reporters” by going to West Bank or Gaza for the day and then return to their 5 star hotels and 1st world lives without trouble. Not like being in Syria or Iraq or wherever. Now, however, they, too have to go into bunkers and hear sirens, so maybe they are thinking “hmmm..the Israelis may have a point here.”

Europe and the Jews

It’s just really, really bad.

I had a thought today about the fact that we’re seeing the rise of another type of totalitarianism. Then, I read Shmuel Herzfeld’s article. He said it, so I don’t have to.

And people are targeting Jews for violence in France, chanting “death to the Jews” in the city of the International Court of Justice, the Hague, and opening up charter schools in Norway that advocate beheading for people who don’t fast during Ramadan.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Moral Equivalency Anxiety

I have to admit that there is a streak of naivete within me.

Every time that Hamas attacks Israel, true to its charter of destruction of the Jewish state, I think to myself “ah, maybe this time the world will see that there is no moral relativism.”

We all know that Israel isn’t perfect. No secret there, but we all don’t seem to get the core issue…denial of Israel’s right to exist.

I think it’s just so difficult for the Western mind to comprehend that one side doesn’t want the other side to even exist.

So, it’s difficult to believe that there isn’t some “path to peace” since it’s just a huge misunderstanding.

But, like every time before, I am reminded about the reality that moral relativism does exist.

And it makes me anxious about the world in which my children will grow up.

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Subway Riding Innovtion

IMG_20140708_183309I took Paco to NYC for a short trip and a “bring your child to work day.” We rod the subway during rush hour. It was crowded and hot.

He crouched down to the floor. Not on it, just soft of squatting.

When I asked him why, he said, “there’s more room down here.”

And I guess he’s right. Feet/legs take up less space than torsos and waists Winking smile

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Thoughts on How to Find a Rabbi

Searching for a new leader for a spiritual organization is a process fraught with challenges and emotions.

Throw in the old “2 Jews, 3 opinions” axiom and synagogues are often ground zero for turmoil during times of change.

My dad successfully led a Rabbinic search in the 1980s (twice actually) and documented what he learned.

Leaving out some of the obvious technologically-dated references, there are some solid guidelines here should you ever find yourself in this position, with a desire to minimize strife, you may appreciate his wisdom.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Baseball Stadium Hat Trick

About 2 months ago, one of the sales guys at Sprinklr suggested that we do a customer event on a rooftop ovIMG_20140622_140051erlooking Wrigley Field in Chicago on a Monday night. Having never been there, I , of course approved the idea Winking smile

A few weeks after that, my Dad, a big baseball fan announced his desire to take his children and grandchildren to a Sunday baseball game at Nationals Stadium.

I was lined up for 2 games in 2 days.

Then, my travel plans changed and I found myself headed to NYC on the Tuesday after the Wrigley event. When I shared my plan with my pal, David Bloch, that I would go to 2 games in 2 nights in 2 cities, he said, “you should go to a Mets or Yankees game.”

And the Stadium Hat Trick plan was hatched.Cubs game

My colleague, Brian and I, were planning on working late that night anyway over dinner, so instead, we went to Citi Field (where we brought our laptops and iPads, etc.-and there’s free wi-fi, which I am using right now to post this).

I’m not really a huge baseball fan, but all three of these were good, solid reasons to go and it seemed like a chance to create a life memory.

So, I did.

mets game

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The Kids Are Alright…

As a parent, you want to know that your kids are learning the values you are trying to teach them.

The other day, Tonka came up to me and said, “There are four things you say all the time.”

  1. “Leave it all on the field.”
  2. “Never Stop Marketing”
  3. “Go big or go home.”

My thought was…”If this is what they’ve learned from me, then I’m doing ok.”

I did explain that, there are times when it’s better to actually “go home.” Knowing the difference takes time and wisdom, but overall, I was pleased.

I should say that there was one more saying which she attributed to me: “I love you. Now leave.”

That’s what I say to them when they come into my office and begin talking…while I’m on the phone. Winking smile

Still, overall…this works.

Flash Boys—Book Review

Not everyone with whom I have spoken loves Michael Lewis’ new book, Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt.

Perhaps I’m too much of a fan to think otherwise, but I really appreciate his ability to take things that are extremely difficult to comprehend and make them, well, comprehensible.

In this case, High Frequency Trading, and how the stock market is extremely challenging for the little guy (and I’m one of them).

He takes a piece of the world which is foreign to you and opens up your understanding.

I’m a fan…of this book and of his.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

US-Portugal and the bonding memory of a lifetime

While the outcome of the US-Portugal game wasn’t as I would have hoped, it did provide two special moments for me.

When the US scored the go-ahead goal, Paco, Nadia and I had a huge pile on in the middle of our den to celebrate, as we emulated the players.

Then, in the last play, when we saw Cristiano Ronaldo get the ball, we all started yelling, “No! No! No!” together…and we shared in the agony of the last second heartbreaker.

It is why we watch sports and why we watch them with people we care about.

Shared emotions at its finest.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Field Trip to Finland (Sort of)


The girls (Tikkanen and Lakkanen) and I were invited as guests of the Republic of Finland to visit their Embassy and learn a little bit about the country.

The embassy was actually the first LEED certified embassy in the US and is of architectural interest because of its unique design that blends in with the surrounding landscape.

Our guide, Pauliina Paulanen, gave us a great tour and the girls asked a number of questions.IMG_2873

We learned about the population of Finland (5.5m), their love of ice hockey (we knew that) and “Finnish baseball” (we didn’t know that), that they love fish (no surprise) and potatoes.

There are also 2.5 million saunas in the country…and one more in the Embassy. Luckily, it was off when we went in there.

The girls learned about the social welfare state, what kind of schooling that Finnish IMG_2877kids get, their perception of themselves as humble, somewhat reserved people whom once you get get know are pretty funny, outgoing, and sarcastic.

During the winter, it stays dark pretty much all of the time, but from 10am-3pm, it’s sort of light outside…but not a whole lot.

The country is challenged by the Euro and immigration and prides itself on its different outlook than its other Scandinavian neighbors. Swedish is also an official language of Finland.

I tried to goad her into a Finland-Sweden rivalry statement, but she would have nothing of it!IMG_2874

It didn’t matter. What mattered is that the girls learned something (so did I—who knew Angry Birds was Finnish?) and we got some souvenir stickers and brochures for later reading.

(Yes, the girls wore their Finland jerseys)

Oh…and some great memories of our trip together…all because we were watching Olympic ice hockey and we have a thing for nicknames.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

An Impressive Founding Father (Book Recommendation)

Of course I had heard of Alexander Hamilton, but I certainly didn’t really know, understand, or sincerely appreciate the man until I finished the 731 page biography (amazon link) of him by Ron Chernow.

It reads like a novel and you can’t help but walk away impressed at his dedication to the cause of the American Revolution, his intellect, his work ethic and the fact that he (and all the rest of the founding fathers) were, when all was said and done, people with many shortcomings.

The book (amazon link) certainly ripped the veneer off of men like Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, and Adams. I certainly appreciate that politics was as dirty then (if not dirtier) than it is now.

The book was epic and well worth it.  It took me about 2 months to make it happen, but well worth it.

Recommended: Alexander Hamilton by Ron Cherwnow

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

It’s fun to talk to strangers…

A few weeks ago, my sister sent me a great TED video about the value of talking to strangers.

You have so  much to learn from them.

And, again, I’ve seen how valuable that can be. In this video, I hear from a University of Texas football legend because I asked him about his shirt while we shared an elevator ride in Dallas.

And here’s an article about the movie he was consulting on.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Field Trip to Finland…and Nicknames

You know my passion for nicknames and how I have bestowed 3 nicknames of Finnish origin on my kids.1187040_10152299298574669_451437989_n

So, I decided that with school out, it was a chance for them to connect with their “newfound” roots.

I contacted the Finnish Ambassador to the US.

From: Jeremy Epstein
Sent: 1. kesäkuuta 2014 10:28
To: WAS sanomat; Koukku-Ronde Ritva; Mäkeläinen-Buhanist Soili

How I am teaching my kids to appreciate Finland

Dear Ambassador Koukku-Ronde,

Considering that  my family and I have no connection to Finland of consequence, I think you will find this story quite amusing.

(I travelled there once about 25 years ago and have 1 friend in Finland, but that’s about it, unless you count the Nokia phone I had in 1999).

How my kids got Finnish surnames as nicknames

4 years ago, my kids and I were watching women’s ice hockey in the 2010 Olympics, as Finland played SIMG_20140601_100905weden.

I have a certain fondness for creative nicknames and, for some reason, I started calling my 3 kids “Tikkanen,” “Jokinen,” and “Lakkanen” (turns out her name was Laksonen-sorry about that).

The nicknames have stuck (I blog about it often) and recently I bought them ice hockey jerseys with their nicknames on the back, which they wear proudly. (Pictures attached).

We are talking about a family trip to Finland one day.


We live in the DC area and wanted to know if we could have an “official” visit to the Embassy during June (as they will be out of school).

Nothing too crazy, but we thought it might be fun for them to wear their jerseys and meet some Finns, take a few pictures, and learn a bit about the country.

I certainly realize that you have many important things to do, so anyone on the staff will be fine (even if only for 4 minutes). At a minimum, it will be good pictures for your Facebook page and Twitter feed!

Let me know if this is something we could do, as I know it will be educational and memorable for them as well…and who knows, you may create fans of Finland for life!

Have a great day. Respectfully,

Jeremy Epstein

And I got a response

Dear Sir,

Thank you for our message. We would be happy to give you and your kids a small tour of the Embassy on June xx, at 2pm. I will show you a little bit around our building and at the same time tell you about Finland. It will take an hour maximum. Please let me know if this sounds good to you.

Also, can you send me the names of everyone attending the tour by Friday June xx.

Best wishes,

Pauliina Pennanen

Cultural and Media Assistant|| Embassy of Finland
3301 Massachusetts Ave, NW, Washington, DC 20008
The Embassy of Finland in Washington D.C. is the first LEED certified green embassy in the United States.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Passed an important marketing test…

Photo: I survived a true test of my marketing skills. I helped my son win 3rd grade student council electionsHelped my 3rd grade son get elected to class representative.

I was nervous, but fortunately he came through.

Truly team effort as NFO and his sisters did the bulk of the work.

Still, I felt my rep was on the line!

Friday, June 06, 2014

Teaching the Value of Work and Money


There have been some proud moments in my life, but one of the proudest came the other day when Paco got his first job.

Our neighbors made him offer to do some planting in the backyard and Paco really took the responsibility seriously.

He committed to showing up on time, being prepared, and ensuring that his customers were satisfied during and after the job.

He didn’t complain about it being too hot or too hard.IMG_20140601_184205

He just went out there, did the job to the best of his ability, and was beaming with pride when he came back with the first earned dollars of his life.

The value of a hard day’s work and seeing it through to completion.  If my kids can learn these traits, I’ll feel that I’m doing a good job as a parent.

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

How Nest Told Me There Was Smoke in My House…

Screenshot_2014-05-30-11-23-03So, the other day I was cooking…

Then, as usually happens, I went down to my office and got caught up in my work.

Next thing I know, I hear a screech on my phone.

I look and it says “Nest Emergency-Smoke.”

I ran upstairs to see that my pan was burnt.

Yes, I love my Nest Protect.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

What it’s like to travel with my dad…


Growing up, my dad would often take my family or individual children on trips. But, it wasn’t a standard vacation as in “let’s go and hang out somewhere.”

No, we had a syllabus.

That’s right.

He would give us books to read to obtain what he called the “[insert place name] of the mind.”  You go to Norway and it’s “Norway of the Mind,” “Malta of the Mind.” You get the picture.

When I was 14, he took me to the then Soviet Union, Poland, and East Germany. I read some Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, and more. It was intense.

And my dad is a history-savant. Deep in knowledge and, well, always willing to share it.

So, I wasn’t so surprised when he filed a report after taking my 8 year old son to a baseball game on Memorial Day.

“Paco was, as always, a great companion.

He has a sense of humor.  When we discussed that Boston had just experienced a long losing-streak.

He said that this was the second curse of the Bambino.  I don't know if read that reference or originated it.  (The first curse of the Bambino was that for decades Boston did not win a World Series, attributed to the fact that  Boston traded Babe Ruth to the New  ork Yankees and was cursed by that transaction.)

On the ride home, we discussed Harper's Ferry, the arsenal, the role of water-powered machinery before the advent of electricity,  the fact that the Potomac is not navigable because of the falls, the role of locks in  raising and lowering boats and ships, the Panama Canal, how American became involved and that the Pacific and Atlantic are not at the same height, necessitating locks to lower and raise ships.  The transportation advantage of shipping through the Panama Canal instead of going around the tip of South America.

We briefly discussed the significance of percentages in baseball.  He seems to have a grasp on that topic though we did not explore.

Because this was Memorial Day, at 3 pm, there was a moment of silence for fallen military, apparently throughout the country. Because one of the mascots at the game is William Howard Taft and another is Theodore Roosevelt, we touched on their respective Presidencies and their eventual rivalry that led to the election of Woodrow Wilson.

A beautiful day for Baseball.   The outcome of the game was not great for the home team.”

He’ll go pretty much anywhere w/anyone if this is your style. Just let him know.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

40s and the Decade of Mild Disillusionment?

People often comment about my proficiency in acknowledging birthdays.

I call about 1800 people per year and I do it because I enjoy maintaining relationships and hearing differing perspectives.

What’s been interesting to note as I (and the bulk of my cohort) age is that the good news (educational, professional achievements and personal milestones of marriage and children) is now being tempered with some of the hard realities of life.

People who have been laid off and are having difficulty finding work.

People with severe challenges on the part of their children, either disabilities (ranging from mild to major) or behavioral (addictions).

Marriages that have been dissolved or are in distressing and precarious positions.

Deaths of loved ones, both premature and of a more natural nature.

And the strain becomes a domino effect…one area (a disabled child) affecting another (marriage).

It should really be of no surprise, obviously this is what happens as you advance in the game, but still, it’s a wake up call.

You recognize, again, that life is not all Disney movies. Things never work out as you anticipate and you have to continually reassess your own position on the board.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

How Posture Can Make You More Successful

Two minutes a day of stretching can make you more successful. See this video


Monday, May 05, 2014

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Why We Run…

This guy has captured it about as well as anyone.

Monday, April 07, 2014

As a parent, it’s difficult to ask for more than this…

Nadia has been reading a lot of books about historical figures. They are titled “Who was so-and-so?”

“Who was Elvis Presley?”

“Who was Thomas Jefferson?”

You get the picture.

The other day, she was reading the list of titles and one was: “Who was Michelangelo?”

She turned to me and said, “Is he related to Maya Angelou?”

Friday, April 04, 2014

How to Lead…and Do It Right

Long time blog readers know that I’m a huge Simon Sinek fan.

And he continues to deliver with this presentation. 45 minutes, but worth every one. I’m going to watch it at least 2 more times.

Leaders Eat Last - Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don't

HT to Mitch Joel for bringing it to my attention.

Monday, March 31, 2014

How Technology Keeps Relationships Warm Over 13 Years and an Ocean

I just love the power of social and digital to keep relationships alive over time and distance.

When I was in London recently, I saw my former NYC neighbor, Polar Bear club member, and running partner, Robyn Massey for the first time in 13 years.

Without technology, there's NO way we would have stayed in touch.

This is one of the reasons why I am so passionate about technology.


Thursday, March 27, 2014

The Day I Discovered My Marketing Calling

I write this on a flight back from London, which provides ample opportunity for reflection.

I’ve been thinking about my career path and chosen field and why I got into it.

Certainly, hearing Todd Newfield speak when I lived in Japan was a seminal moment. One that was further catalyzed when he instructed me to read my first marketing book, Peppers and Rodgers’ The One-to-One Future.

Intellectually, I was hooked.

But, there was a moment a few years later when I was working at Snickelways and we had a client called Quantum Cycles (I’m still in touch with one of the clients from that assignment) and they instructed us to come down to Florida to observe Daytona Bike Week. They wanted us to understand the mentality of the customer to whom they were selling.

At one point, we entered a drugstore. Not a chain, kind of a five-and-dime variety.

As I walked the aisle, I found myself behind a man who fit every stereotype there was about a redneck/biker.

Dirty jeans, long, greasy hair, worn boots and a mesh baseball cap.

He also had a jean jacket where the sleeves had been cut off, showing his arms.

On his left and right triceps were tattooed-in kind of a gothic/old English style, the words “Harley” and “Davidson,” respectively.

I was mesmerized and I felt an emotional jolt that lit up the intellectual wood which had been gathering.

I distinctly remember thinking to myself, “I don’t know what it is that motivates someone to tattoo the name of a company on their body, but that’s what I want to figure out.”

So, while the tangible goal might be to have someone so passionate about Sprinklr or Never Stop Marketing or whatever company, product, service I am marketing at the time, that they will tattoo it on their bodies, the real goal is to understand the human condition on such a deep level as to understand the Why.

It’s a long run and I’m not there yet, but that’s just how I seek to make sense of Life.

Monday, March 17, 2014

A Social Limo, a Birthday Gift, and a Marketing Lesson

An unexpected text popped up on my phone on my birthday. download_20140310_200910

Jason Solomonson said “My brother Chad says that today is your birthday and that you are in Austin. He thinks we should meet.”

As you know, relationships are important to me.

The way I measure the value of the relationship is how often someone says “there’s someone you should meet.”

Even though Chad and I haven’t seen each other (or even chatted in a while), he did me the favor of making the recommendation to his brother.

I’m ALWAYS open to meeting new people. You NEVER know where good ideas come from.

The challenge in this particular case was: time was limited. I had a slate full of meetings and had to leave earlier than I would have liked for the airport because cabs were in such demand at SXSW that I knew it would be tough.

Then, as if the script had been written, Jason sends a pic of a limousine. (here’s the video)

“FYI… Brightline has @TheSXSWLimo limousine that we are sponsoring in case you have seen it.”

Lightning struck.

“Well, I do have to go to the airport at 4pm. Any chance a birthday present limo ride is in the cards?”

“Sure!!” he wrote.

BINGO. Problem solved.

Now, let me tell you why this is such smart marketing.

You see, at SXSW, cabs are at a premium, so ppl are in need of transportation.

So, the idea of renting a limo available for clients/prospects is a way that Brightline says “we care about you.”

It delivers value without asking anything in return. (Hear him in his own words.)

Naturally, when you are in the limo, you are going engage in conversation with the team and you will hear about the really (and I mean, REALLY) cool stuff that Brightline does.

It creates a talkable moment.

I took a video, pics and am blogging about it. Heck, I got a limo ride that made me feel special.

They relieved a huge concern of mine and made my afternoon stress-free. So, I am going to tell people about that. Why wouldn’t I?

Jason reached out, just wanting to connect because Chad made the recommendation. No agenda.

Then, he shared something that he thought was value.

Then, he delivered value.

Those three moments built Brightline from a company I’d never heard of to a brand that I am talking about as an advocate…in the span of 1 day.

If this is how they treat friends of their brother’s, imagine how they treat their clients!

Wouldn’t you want people thinking that about you?

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Why You Should Talk to Your Seatmates on a Plane

Had another inspiring talk on an airplane the other day.

It validated my approach.

I learned a ton about the aircraft leasing business from a guy who sells engines for a major manufacture.

So, why do I do it?

  1. Sure, I like the challenge of getting people to like me. It’s part of my WOO StrengthsFinder profile
  2. I like people…I like understanding what makes them tick
  3. But what I really love?
    When I learn about an entirely new field that I could have guessed existed, but never thought about…I feel enriched. And empowered, it provides the fertilizer for the creative part of my brain.

Sure, sometimes people don’t want to talk, no big deal, but if you ask questions and listen, usually you win.

You’ll get ideas that make your business and your life better. I can almost guarantee it.

It will make you a better marketer…and a better person.

Monday, March 10, 2014

The Most Special Birthday Ever


I suppose what fathers want to know is that the lessons you are trying to instill in your kids have been received.

Today is my birthday (not looking for calls/congrats or anything), but as part of that, my kids really went all out in making the celebration special.

They got me gifts and made cards.

But what made this the most special birthday ever is that they not only wrote “Happy Birthday” on the cards, they covered the cards with things that they associate with me.

  1. A guy running—because exercise is important
  2. A computer and the word “Sprinklr” because a work ethic is important. In fact they wrote “Dedicated to Sprinklr”
  3. “Go Big or Go Home”
  4. “Leave it all on the field”
  5. “Take chances, make mistakes, get messy” (a hat tip to Miss Frizzle of Magic School Bus there)
  6. an American flag- for our patriotic pride
  7. an Israeli flag-because of our love for the Jewish people and homeland
  8. and, of course, the flag of Finland (reversed, but who cares) with their Finnish nicknames written on the flag. And which shows their sense of humor
  9. A football, basketball, baseball and soccer ball-probably because Paco likes that
  10. A dreidel with “Go Sprinklr” written on it…not sure of the connection
  11. and on the back, a math equation that said “41 is 1/2 of 82. I hope that doesn’t make you feel bad.”

and all done with beautiful artistry because, as I read on Facebook the other day, the Earth without art would just be “eh”

It was really emotional for me. I felt like some of my lessons were sinking in. That made me proud…and made this the best birthday ever.

Friday, March 07, 2014

When Your Son Throws You Under the Bus…

I picked up Paco from school the other day so he didn’t have to go to ballet with the two girls.

He came home, did some reading, hung out with me in my office and was generally fine.

The NFO had left instructions for dinner, which is normally served around 5.15.

At 5.45, I realized I hadn’t fed him and was headed upstairs to get him set up. I knew that if he was hungry, he would have just told me.

On the way home, I saw a text from the NFO, basically saying “hey, why hasn’t the boy been fed yet?”

I saw Paco and said, ‘hey bud, let me ask you. Did you tell Mom that I hadn’t given you dinner yet?”

“Yes,” he said.

“But were you hungry?” I asked.

“Not really.”

“So, is it that you just enjoy getting me in trouble?”

He smiled.


Friday, February 28, 2014

What books and movies have you experienced lately?

Always interested in knowing what others have enjoyed.

Here are mine.



  • About Time-it was a late night flight back from Denver, but this one had me choked up. I need a lot of reminders about what is truly important in life. It’s an area of weakness, I am afraid.
  • Flight- I’m a big Denzel fan and I found his character to be riveting. A strong movie about what it takes to look hard at ourselves…and what can happen when we don’t.

Working through…

  • Thinking, Fast and Slowby Daniel Kahneman. Deep stuff. Makes you think fast, but reading is slow because there’s so much involved.

What books and movies have you experienced lately?

Always interested in knowing what others have enjoyed.

Here are mine.



  • About Time-it was a late night flight back from Denver, but this one had me choked up. I need a lot of reminders about what is truly important in life. It’s an area of weakness, I am afraid.
  • Flight- I’m a big Denzel fan and I found his character to be riveting. A strong movie about what it takes to look hard at ourselves…and what can happen when we don’t.

Working through…

  • Thinking, Fast and Slowby Daniel Kahneman. Deep stuff. Makes you think fast, but reading is slow because there’s so much involved.