Thursday, December 31, 2015

Experiencing Wonder

The other day, at the suggestion of my sister and mom, I took the kids (with my dad) to the Wonder exhibit at the newly refurbished Renwick Gallery.

It is comprised of approximately 9, full-room installations where a number of different artists take common materials (paper, insects, tires, thread and more) to create awe-inspiring and thought-provoking experiences.

They were immersive and engaging which was great for both kids and adults, but more importantly, I think the exhibit did a wonderful job of overpowering young senses in order to drive home the meaning and power of art to expand one's mind and appreciation of the world around us.

If you have a chance, I highly recommend it.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

When will American Higher Education system finally fall apart?

The other night I saw "the Big Short," based on Michael Lewis' book.

I enjoyed it a lot, so I probably am a bit delusional in seeing myself in the "heroes" of that story.

Granted, I don't have as much of the data points, but there are so many trends converging on the topic of:

the disruption and ultimate disintegration of the American system of higher education.

Unlike the folks in the "Big Short," the timing isn't as clear (for them, it was Q2, 2007).

Here are some of the things I have observed...

  1. Changing Economy Requires Different Skills...Colleges Don't Give Us Them
    the economy continues to evolve towards an even greater need for entrepreneurial and creative skills (see: is college worth it?) and I'm not sure our colleges truly prepare us for that.
  2. The Value of a Liberal Education Exists, but Not at the Current Pricepoint
    the economics of most colleges, in terms of debt accumulated, and average incomes don't work out...and some colleges are already hurting because of it.
  3. You Don't Need A Physical Place to Disseminate Knowledge
    new technologies (e.g. Khan Academy, CodeAcademy) make it easier and cheaper than ever to get the best knowledge to more's a fantastic 6 minute video on the Future of Higher Education by a top VC
I used to think that this challenge really sat at so-called 2nd-tier schools and below and that the top-tier/Ivy League were immune.

Now, because of these two scathing indictments, I'm not even sure about that. His arguments resonate with me.

The Ivy League, Mental Illness, and the Meaning of Life


It's going to happen...I just don't know when. Probably, the sooner, the better.

Previous posts on this topic

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Bat Mitzvah Reflections from the Proud Papa

I had no idea what to expect going into last weekend's Bat Mitzvah of Tonka/Tikkanen
(that's my eldest daughter's nickname).

For most of the time leading up to it, the NFO (that's my wife's nickname) was busy doing almost all of the preparation work. As things got closer, I certainly tried to chip in and do my share, but I didn't have much time to think about what the emotional experience would be like.

And I really couldn't have anticipated it.

As I blogged recently, I believe in the "moments, not milestones" concept, but the idea of a Bat Mitzvah as milestone serves as a forcing function to reflect. It's like a plateau on a hike.  A moment to see how far you've come, appreciate it, and think about the next step.

What I saw in front of me was really a young girl who is in the process of becoming a young woman.  It was a "sunrise/sunset" moment as I thought back to the day of her birth and how I as so emotionally charged that I, as the NFO would say, "cried nonstop for 24 hours."

Then, I thought about the next milestone (at least in the lifecycle sense)...her wedding.  That got me choked up as well.

But back to the here and now.

Standing in front of me, our friends, our family, our community, I saw a young woman who was able to overcome her immense fears of public speaking, lead services, read from the family's 200+ year old Torah that survived the Holocaust (story here and here).

In fact, I told her that part of becoming an adult is the ability to recognize your fears and conquer them, to do things that you may not want to do, but do them because you have to do them.

I saw a young woman who worked so diligently over the past year to learn Torah, Mishnah, prayer services.

She gave 4 speeches on multiple themes

She also prepared a video montage of her life by herself and built a powerpoint to accompany one of the speeches (on the topic of anger).

She handled the stress with poise, elegance, and grace and I could not be more proud of her.

I also took a moment to think about the task of raising children.  To say that the NFO and I think alike would be like saying that Ted Cruz and Bernie Sanders think alike.

Ok, maybe that's a slight exaggeration, but in our daughter, we were able to see the outgrowth of our co-parenting efforts, to see how each of us bring our unique viewpoints to a developing person and how she takes the best from each of us and has the wisdom to discard the unnecessary flotsam and jetsam.  It was pretty cool, like we were collaborating (and more and more with Tonka herself) on creating a beautiful human being.

I stood in awe of the NFO as I never appreciated her as much as I did this past weekend.  Not only how she paid attention to every single tactical, logistical weekend and did everything she could to make our guests/community feel welcome and inspired, but even more than that.

When I saw Tonka deliver at such a high level, I recognized just how much of that was there because of what the NFO taught her and how the NFO just is, her very essence.

I was definitely the proud papa. It helped center me on my family, my children, and ultimately, I suppose in some way, my legacy of how I contributed to making the world a better place.  Tonka made me feel great and I am so thankful to all of the people who helped us and her (no matter how big the contribution) in becoming the person she is today.

If you'd like to see the pictures of the event (that I took), you can click here.

For some of the videos, see below.

And my dad gave a brilliant speech (in the form of a play), which you can read here...consistent with Tonka's love of Pandas.

And here are my mom's blessings.

Video Montage

Presentation on Anger (to go with speech on Anger)

Friday, December 04, 2015

Teaching Kids to Program/Code

One of the things that is important to me for my children to learn is how to program a computer.

I've been very influenced by Douglas Rushkoff's thinking in "Program or Be Programmed."

My oldest daughter, aka Tonka, has been using Scratch from MIT to learn the basics.

And while we won't say is someone in our family's birthday, so Tonka programmed this card for that person.

If, for some reason, you can't see it, you can click on this link. Otherwise, click the green flag below.

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

Moments, not Milestones...Fatherhood and Stomach Viruses

One of my friends, Ted Rubin, likes to say that fatherhood is about "moments, not milestones."

We put a huge emphasis on graduations and birthdays and the like, but the real moments, when you earn your fatherhood merit badges are in the unexpected moments.

Last night, for example, males in the Epstein household were both simultaneously afflicted with a pretty nasty stomach virus.
Now, no one enjoys throwing up and no one enjoys cleaning it up, but at 3:30am when your son is hurting and you're the one he needs for support...and you're there to give it to him, that makes you feel great.

Yes, I's crazy, but even at that point, you don't mind cleaning up vomit, because these are the times where your child knows you are there for him/her, when you know you are there to be supportive, and where you have absolute clarity about what's really important in life.

He'll remember the fact that you kept him company at 4am. 

What's your vacation strategy?

As we have more connected devices in more places, it seems that there are 2 types of vacation strategies emerging.

The Integrated 
Put on your out of office message, don't sign up for meetings, etc., but be available by phone if necessary (assuming people respect that), and do "email triage" so you are staying on top of things, but you're not spending your vacation tied to your phone.

The Check Out
Don't check email, don't take calls...nothing.  Of course, as I was saying to someone yesterday, "if you check out, be prepared to dig out."

I tend to do the "Integrated," you?

Southwest Airlines LUVs football fans...

I have to give a shout-out to Southwest Airlines.

On a flight back from Dallas a few weeks ago, I saw that they offered free in-flight TV, so I selected to watch a football game (Kansas City vs. Denver).

Then, seeing that Macs now have the "snap" feature to have 2 apps running side by side, I opened up a second browser window and watched a 2nd game (NYG vs. New England).

Let's just say that my seatmate was loving me for that one...and I was "LUVing" SWA.

Sorry--screenshot was taken during commercial obviously, but notice SWA logo in back. ;-)