Sunday, November 29, 2015

Things your kids say...

Sometimes you just have to capture them...

Nadia (age 7.5) has been stricken with a stomach bug the last 24 hours or so.

One of the things that is unique about her when she is sick is how relaxed she is. There are occasions, when she isn't sick, that she can be excessively demanding. However, when sick, she is very concerned with how much work she is making us to (cleaning up, etc.)  It's kind of unusual (at least compared to the other kids).

She's also very calm and reflective.

Tonight, while talking with her, she said the following:

When I noticed that her two front teeth were loose and asked if I could pull them out, she said:
"No offense, but I will ask Dod (Uncle) Akiva."
"Why?" I said. "I'm gentle and sensitive."
"Actually, you're the total opposite. You're, what's the word? You're too aggressive."

She was upset that she didn't have her favorite blanket to sleep with (it was being washed). I asked her about her Tinkerbell/Disney one.

"I don't like Tinkerbell or fairies anymore. I want something that isn't too girlish or too boyish. Maybe with peace signs or something."
"How about a Sprinklr blanket?" I asked.
"No. I'm Sprinklr supportive, but not that Sprinklr supportive."

Monday, November 23, 2015

Not getting medically screened is just selfish

I was talking to my friend, Tamir, the other day and the subject turned to preventative medical tests and screening.

We're both in our early 40s, but have both had some medical conditions that required a pretty significant amount of attention, time, and care.

He complimented me for sharing the fact that I recently had a colonoscopy as he felt it would raise awareness and maybe motivate others to do so.

 (I tried to earn bonus points by sharing that I had my PSA tested that week..I'm good on both until age 50.)

As we discussed it, we shared that we both knew people who were afraid of these relatively simple procedures and, as a result, didn't do them.

We believed most people were not taking these tests because they preferred to live in denial, ignorance, and continue the myth of invincibility.

However, what we also realized is that those who choose to not take the tests that could result in very simple preventative procedures actually are really selfish.

By not taking the test, they are, in effect, saying

"I'd rather not know about a potential condition now because it makes me feel vulnerable, so instead, I am going to wait and hope nothing happens, but if it does, I'd prefer to seriously inconvenience my family, make my loved ones worry about me, and put unnecessary financial hardship on those about whom I care."

In fact, Tamir knew someone who put off a test and then, later, was diagnosed with stage 3 colon cancer...a much more challenging situation than a 5 minute laser procedure to remove a polyp.

I know it's not really PC to make judgments, but sorry, I'm making a judgment.  If you do this, you're a selfish idiot.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

On Syrian Refugees, radical Islam, and quantifying life/death tradeoffs

I'll probably start a flame war for this and get labeled all kinds of things, but sometimes I just have to air my opinions...not that I expect anyone to listen.

Syrian Refugees
On the "should the US take Syrian refugees?" question....

It's great that some people like to say that the Governors are anti-immigrant or that some people are isolationist and cold-hearted.

And I wouldn't be surprised if that were in some cases.

However, I would dare suggest that it's not true in all cases.

Yes, we are a country of immigrants. My grandparents were immigrants. We thrive on immigrants. We need more immigrants.

But to suggest that we should take Syrian refugees without some sort of rigorous checking/profiling is lunacy, especially what just took place in Paris.

The brutal reality is that there is a legitimate risk that amongst this particular group of refugees/immigrants to the US, there are some who have, as their sole purpose, the destruction of the US.

Has this ever happened before? Maybe. If so, remind me please.

Germans, Italians, Jews, Vietnamese boat people, Chinese migrant laborers who built the railroads, etc....all were looking for economic/political opportunity.

Not looking to do intentional harm on a national scale.

Of course...I'm not saying 100% of Syrian refugees are hell bent on the destruction of the US.  Far from it.

However, given the, shall we say, relative high propensity of anti-Western terrorist attacks that are conducted by radical Islamists hailing from the Middle East, it's nothing short of suicidal to pretend otherwise.

(And this guy in the Washington Post who has the temerity to try and draw lines between Jews trying to escape Nazi Germany and Syrians trying to escape is just a moron. (Ishaan Tharoor)

We'll leave aside the issue that there are, what, 23, 30, 50 (I have no idea how many) Arab/Muslim countries today.)

Quantifying Life/Death Trade-Offs
If the US lets in 10,000 refugees without special security efforts and .01% of them (that would be 10 ppl) committed an atrocity on the level of Paris' attacks or 9/11, would that be a worthwhile trade-off?

If you do the math, you let 9,990 legitimate Syrian refugees have a better life in the US, but those 10 people kill 1,000 or say, 500, or even 200 citizens as a result, is that a worthwhile trade?

If it is, then everyone who says "let the refugees in without screening" might as well as admit they are comfortable with that equation.

It's actuarial.

And while we are admitting my opinion, one of the things you have to do before you solve a problem is name it.  And name it accurately.

The problem isn't terrorism. That's the symptom. The problem is radical Islam/jihadist ideology.

No one (well, not I at least) is saying "every Muslim is a terrorist."  But we are saying..."um, there seems to be an evolving pattern of radical Islamist groups who say they are going to attack the West and then do, killing innocent people."

We can't begin to win until we change from "War on Terror."

Ok, rant over. Flame away.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Going to Germany is easier when you're 22...

"...than when you are 42."

That's what my college advisor told me when I was a senior trying to decide between taking a scholarship to study in Germany for a year and pursuing work on Wall St. (yes, I know).

And he was right.

I had the opportunity to live in Germany for a year, learn the language, visit pretty much every country in Europe, and now that I'm 42, I realize fully what he meant.

And, ironically enough, I also visited Germany at the age of 42.

It's been exactly 20 years since my German adventure began, when I first saw my favorite painting, Caspar David Friedrich's Wanderer ueber dem Nebelmeer , and visited Hamburg to see my cousin, Elizabeth.
This week, I was back and went to the Hamburger Kunsthalle with Elisabeth and saw the Friedrich painting. (We also were extremely lucky to see a full on exhibit by another northern German painter, Emil Nolde whose works are just marvelous.)

And, also this week, one of the original theses I had about why I should learn German in the first place proved to be accurate.

I believed that, as one of the world's largest economies, it would be a valuable skill to have...speaking German and understanding the culture.  That's why it was a particularly proud moment when I was able to give a 20 minute business presentation on behalf of Sprinklr to approximately 20 people...and they seemed to understand it.

Did I get every word? Of course not, but my game plan of speaking adequate German, telling stories, and just being a non-German who was making a good faith effort would carry the day seems to have worked.

And all of this was because Professor Kessler did what an advisor is supposed to do. He advised me based on his life experience.  At the age of 42, it would be much, much more difficult to live in Germany for a year, travel, and get relative mastery of the language.

At the age of 22, it changed the course of my life.
Maybe that's why the Friedrich painting resonates so much with me.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Commemorating Kristallnacht in Germany, 2015

At some point over last weekend, I realized that I would be in Germany on Nov. 9th and 10th, which is the anniversary of Kristallnacht, the Nazis mass coordinated attack on Jewish institutions and businesses in 1938.

A quick search yielded a program at a synagogue in Hamburg to commemorate it and I decided to attend, figuring that it would be particularly meaningful to do so.

And it was.

The event was opened with a powerful rendition of "Eli, Eli" (My God, My God), followed by the Mourner's Kaddish.

Then, the bulk of the event was 5 people reading short entries from the autobiographies of Holocaust survivors.

Unfortunately, there wasn't a microphone (there were about 100 people in the room) and 3 of the 5 readers were barely audible. Add that to the fact that the subway goes right by the window every few minutes and it's challenging, particularly because I had to work extra hard since it was all in German.

I debated leaving, but figured I'd use the time to meditate on the event and how the world has (and hasn't) changed since.

Fortunately, the last reader was fantastic. Projected beautifully and I was particularly pleased because although I didn't get every word, I really followed the bulk of the story.

There was a wonderful flutist as well who played a Handl solo that was evocative of the fear and loneliness that people must have felt on this night 77 years ago.

Then, she joined with the singer to have an uplifting piece by Bach that I think was pointing to hope and survival.

I have to say, I'm glad I went.

Monday, November 09, 2015

One of those travel days that just had to be least for me

Sometimes you have travel experiences that you have to document, if only for posterity’s sake.

Recognizing that these are really first-world problems, of course, here’s what happened to me yesterday.

The plan was to fly at 6.05 pm on Lufthansa via Frankfurt to Hamburg.

On Tuesday-and yes, I am very excited for this because it validates the thesis about why I chose to study German in college—I will be giving the Sprinklr presentation to a group of CMOs at an event hosted by Mercedes…in German.

So, while it was slated to be a short trip (2 days), I expected it to be of high value for me, but more importantly for our customers and prospects.

Not putting too much emphasis on me as a person, but rather the symbolism of having an American exec come over to an event in Germany and speak in German will, we believe, indicate that though we are an American company, we have a global outlook.

Given that it was a trip of such short duration, however, and that it precedes a few other trips as well, I figured I would utilize one of the highly coveted Global Premier Upgrades to get me from Economy Plus into Business Class.

Now, these don’t always work and sometimes you are waitlisted, but as of Saturday night, my seat was confirm…the lay flat seat would give me a fighting chance at getting some rest.

All seemed to be…as they say in German…in Ordnung…as I packed and spent time with my kids on Sunday afternoon.  I put my phone down and just focused on them.

At 3.30, just as I was prepared to leave for the airport (as you might expect, I am a big believer in giving myself a huge cushion of  time), I picked up my phone to see a number of emails, texts, and missed calls from my awesome admin, Mary.

The news?

Apparently, Lufthansa had gone on strike and nearly 1,000 flights around the world had been cancelled.  Mine was one of them.

Staying calm, I called the United Premier line to get some answers.

The confirmed that the flight had been cancelled and it seemed like I had automatically been re-booked on KLM via Amsterdam.

The question was: How?

So, it seems that initially I bought my ticket through United and they “owned” the ticket.  However, when I applied my coupon for a business class upgrade, it became “owned” (whatever that means) by Lufthansa…who had then transferred it to KLM.

Her advice: Check in at Lufthansa counter (which I was sure would be a madhouse) and then go to KLM.

Well, if there’s one reason why I leave super early for airports it is because I hate running through airports. And now, I would be in the position where I would have to run through an airport. Oh boy.

And then, the kicker, the plane was at 6pm…it was now nearly 3.50. Way too close for my personal comfort.

So I jumped in the car and off I went.

Midway, my admin called to tell me to go straight to KLM’s desk…which I did.  And, when I arrived, I received what I had expected would happen.

In the span of minutes, I had been demoted from a guy in Business Class with a special meal, who has TSA pre-check, lounge access, and priority boarding….to a guy with absolutely none of those…and a seat in basic economy in the middle.

It’s humbling to remember what life was like before all the privileges amassed ;-)

Still, it does seem that the automatic rebooking was a function of my 1k status, so I can’t complain all too much.

While my seatmates were nice and I watched Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation in German (no subtitles) to get my mind back in the game, sleep didn’t come too much. I think I got 2 hours…and I used all varieties of sleep aids.

Anyway, got to Amsterdam and managed to finagle my way into Star Alliance lounge using the “hey, Lufthansa went on strike” excuse.

A short trip to Hamburg, got my SIM card in the airport and now on the subway into town.  It’s a beautiful day and I’ve got a variety of activities (both personal and professional) I am going to try and make happen.

Still, had to document this one for the ages.
International travel isn’t always glamorous.  In fact, the best advice I’ve ever heard about it comes from my sister, Kira, who says “if you can’t take the disruptions, don’t get on the plane.”