Shhhhh! the President is sleeping!

paris 283
For our trip to Paris 2 weeks ago we used Priceline to get 2 rooms at the HILTON Arc de Triomphe for $225/night per room.
Excellent hotel – very recommended. (The theoretical price posted on the inside of the door was a whopping €1,500/night!)
Anyway, across the hall from our room we noticed 2 African men who seemed to be present all of the time. We eventually asked them who they were, only they didn’t speak French or English. (as if my French would have allowed for a meaningful conversation about anything other than ‘the pencil is on the table’…)

It turned out that they were from a country called Guinea Bissau, in Africa. As far as I know it’s the only country in Africa that I had never heard of. Bordering with Senegal, Guinea Bissau is a former Portuguese colony with a population of 1.5 Million. Turns out the President was staying across the hall and this was his security. There seemed to be additional security people in the lobby including French ‘Inspector Clouseau’ lookalikes.

Daniel, my 13 year old says to me ‘Abba, it’s a nice Hotel, but shouldn’t the President be staying somewhere nicer?’ I think the president doesn’t know about Priceline… Anyway I told my wife that if I am ever president I will want to at least get a room on an executive floor with a 24-hour lounge stocked with grapes and butter cookies…

Well, staying across from the President has certain advantages. Firstly, we were able to leave our double stroller in the hall instead of folding it up – we had guards around the clock.. Also it was very effective in getting the kids to quiet down at night – shhhhh! the president is sleeping. You know what they do to kids who don’t quiet down outside the president’s home in Guinea Bissau? You don’t want to know…

Just before setting out for the airport we told the guards we wanted to meet the president. He was happy to meet us and get his picture taken with us – he even gave me a high five as he exclaimed “Guinea Bissau” – as if it was the name of our favorite hockey team! It may have been the first time that a head of state gave me a high five.

Before parting with my new friend I said the blessing reserved for the occasion of meeting a king or ruler. I had explained to Mr. President that we were from Israel and that we were thrilled to meet him. I also told him about the blessing I was going to say. He gave me another high five.

We had wanted to invite the president to visit us in Israel – but did not get a chance. If the president or any of his buddies are listening please let me know – we are always happy to have the president as our guest!
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YouNeverCall Hats have arrived!

younevercall hatsActually they arrived a few months ago – but I wasn’t here to see them.
We are sending these out to as a thank you to customers who talk about our company on their websites and blogs!
If you know someone who we should be thanking – let me know!

Also a big thanks to Dong Tam Cap company – very recommended. They do good work and their prices for baseball caps are super too!

What’s so special about…

mona-lisa
In Google and Yahoo you can type a phrase and they will suggest the rest of the phrase.
When you type “What’s so special about” both Google and Yahoo suggest as their #2 suggestion:

The Mona Lisa.

Seeing as we are in Paris and went to see the Mona Lisa my wife and I were discussing what’s so special – I don’t really know – but those who are passionate about art have some explanations. Composition, the background story of the painting, The painting’s provenance (a client of ours taught me about that…), the whole happy/sad thing. etc.

This is one of those things where I will trust the experts. I don’t have the tools required to fully understand and appreciate the Mona Lisa – but they do – and they say it’s good, so I’ll trust them this time.

Bon Soir from Paris…

To Paris…

On Tuesday we fly to Paris – my wife and 7 kids! This is a two day stop on the way to dropping them all off in Los Angeles for the summer.
Then I head back to the Est coast for meetings in Washington and New York. Then back to Israel.

Three weeks later I head back to Los Angeles again.

Any advice on what to do in Paris with a bunch of kids?

Social Media and Reputation Management

online-reputation

I just read a blog post about Reputation Pruning (originally published in May this year).  This is the practice of removing social media comments, picture tags etc. that can reflect negatively on your reputation. The author, Tyler Hayes, presents a point of view which I think is ridiculous.

In Tyler’s view social media is meant to be an extension of who you really are – and so altering any part of it is somehow dishonest.

My response is that people should put themselves in the best light.

  • If you discover that your delicious lunch has left some food stuck between your teeth – take it out. I don’t care  if it’s natural to have it there!
  • If you start to grow hair on your ears – shave it off!
  • If the kitchen at work has a terrible picture of you from the company picnic – take it down!

There is no moral obligation to let other people or situations show anything negative about you.

Use as much water as you need

Roni Harari, the passionate gardener from my last post says it makes no sense to have everyone stop using water because of the drought here in Israel. He says we are just buying  the government more time – which they are not using to find a long-term solution to the water situation.

He says – do the opposite.

Use as much water as you needforce the government  to solve the problem. I think my brother Akiva said the same thing.

Desalinization works – I think Israeli companies even helped develop some of the technology for it.

Other countries are using desalinization – why isn’t Israel?

Info on Desalination is here:

Passion! Gardening and Good Shower

Over a year ago a pipe in our garden burst – probably a pipe deep under our patio. With the drought we hadn’t rushed to repair it. Anyway – now our garden is dead. So we called a gardner. But not any gardener. We called the best one in the area – Roni Harari. This is the guy who should have done our original garden – but he was too busy 8 years ago.

Roni is passionate about gardening. He studies gardening. He knows gardening.

I don’t understand the ins and outs – but I get the distinct sense he does.

So our garden is in good hands – he’s bringing the grass back to life – so that he can kill it properly – then he’ll replant it with seed grass to replace the crabgrass we currently have. Roni says it requires a lot less water too!

So what’s with the shower?

Turns out that when they were working on the pipes they found a lot of rocks that had collected at the water mains – right next to the water meter in a filter made for catching rocks. Removing those rocks led to a radical change in our water pressure.

One of the projects we had been putting off was getting the water situation fixed – now the problem is solved and we have so much pressure we can wash dishes and shower at the same time! My wife thinks that one should be clothed to wash dishes – whatever…

Anyway I took a shower today that had so much pressure it was amazing. I may not have to travel on business to get a good shower anymore!

Bottom line: Passion is the key. Roni is passionate – when I hire him to do work for me – I get many of the advantages of his passion without having to invest my life in his passion. Working with passionate people pays!

June 21st – White Nights!

zelenagorskWhen I was 13 years old and living in Dallas Texas, I recall going to see White Nights, the movie in which Baryshnikov, the ballet dancer ends up on a flight that lands in Russia. I think he has to outrun the local authorities because he is wanted there for changing sides a few years earlier… I recall it being a great movie – so much so that I briefly considered dancing around the parking lot of the theater – but quickly stepped into the 7Eleven on Spring Valley road and bought a Slurpee. I may have played a game of Ms. PacMan or DigDug too, I don’t recall.

Anyway, years later as a college student I joined an organization (YUSSR) running Jewish summer camps in Russia (and various other former Soviet Union countries). The first time I went to Russia we arrived in early June and I recall the white nights – when the sun barely sets in St. Petersburg. The experience of sitting by the Finnish bay and watching the sun set and almost immediately reappear was mind-boggling.

So when I noticed the date was June 21st I couldn’t help but recall White Nights on the Finnish bay outside Zelinagorsk .

This is pretty funny – but probably only if you were in Russia leading a summer camp…

 

The beetle and the online marketer

SEO BeetleI bike to work when the weather is decent. It’s only 5km but the route is pretty hilly so I get some real exercise on the way.

Today when I was on the last incline before reaching the office – I saw what appeared to be a beetle crossing the road.

In any case I swerved to miss him since President Obama recently showed us that to get the full effect of killing annoying bugs you need to be filmed…

Then I started thinking how if I had run him over I might have effected the whole population of his species in the area. Maybe this bug was destined to mother of millions… True – if this one was dumb enough to cross the road while thousands of her comrades were in the grassy fields – she probably wasn’t the most brilliant of the bunch, but there is a vulnerability when a single event can knock you out completely. Nassim Taleb call’s these unexpected devastating events “Black Swans”. I highly recommend his books on Randomness.

Of course with bugs they have it all worked out – they presumably diversify their activities and locations enough so that one event wont knock out their population completely.

Recently my cell phone website http://www.younevercall.com was penalized by Google, probably for overly aggressive linking and what we now know was a concerted effort to get the site penalized by a much wealthier competing website. (They actually reported their efforts on Twitter – but that has since been removed…)

YouNeverCall was run over by a Google penalty and appears to be in intensive care – possibly to awaken in a few weeks.

Much like the beetle, our company is set up so that that single event does not end our company – though it does have a big effect.

To learn from the beetle would mean:

  1. Stopping to rely on lower quality links and sites to aid in SEO
  2. Expect the unexpected – be prepared for the penalty before it comes
  3. Make logical rather than emotional decisions of what to do when crisis strikes.

I think the last one may be the most important one. At each juncture it makes sense to look at the resources: people, websites, available tactics, etc. and make intelligent decisions about where to go next.

This is the third time that YouNeverCall has suffered a penalty over the past 6 years and each time the website and the business as a whole has come out stronger.

I don’t think that can be said for the beetle.

Opera Unite – P2P everything I guess…

Check out this – Remember Opera, the little browser that could for a while…
They are back and taking a new stab at the browser space with Opera Unite – supposed to contain server in the browser – kind-of a P2P platform but not just for stealing videos and music. (Are there other things worth sharing? I think so…)

Incidentally, I especially like Discovery channel voice…

As far as whether this is useful – I think it could be indeed.

My friend Michael Berkowitz and I created a product called Pixley Album a few years ago that does exactly this for picture sharing.

The theory was that we all take lots of pictures with out digital cameras and we often manage to get the pictures onto our PC’s but we rarely share the pictures.

Pixley Album automatically takes all shared images and serves them to your friends (or the whole world if you want) arranging them in albums – like a simple version of snapfish.

Looking forward to seeing what people do with this….