Category Archives: Thoughts

Is Modesty the Best Policy?


Recently in a reality celebrity show, the celebrity playmate had to help raise money for a charity, and failed to secure the right amount. The host asked her if she had called Hugh Hefner, and to his disbelief she said No. Attacking with “You could secure that amount there and then easily”, she replied – “I wanted to keep the big cannons for later rounds”. But unfortunately for her, there were no such later rounds, as is the nature of reality shows loses.

So, should we fire all our guns on the first round?

Quite often, one has to present himself to others; whether in a date, conference, job interview or party: you are expected to share something about yourself.

Depending on the circumstances, you may have plenty or no time at all. Equally, depending on your confidence, past accomplishments, and general character,  it may be easy or difficult for you, to to fill that time with self praising.

Pushing it slightly, are those two approaches:

  • Type 1 – Those that speak in details about everything they have done, mentioning every trophy, accolade, and award from kindergarden to current times, dropping names as they go by, and essentially bombarding with “look at me and what I have done”.
  • Type 2 – The other side of the spectrum, almost shying away from anything that can be considered vanity, and when cornered to say something on their achievements, they attribute it to their teams and peers, environment, or pure luck.

This seems to suggest that the formers – are the successful people, and the latter ones – failures. Is that so?
Before I try to answer this, let’s move through time forward, and foresee a possible 7th meeting with that same person, way past the initial acquaintance and into some form of more established relationships: friend, colleague, peer or such. The situation now is different, and often calls for different conversation type:

  • Balance – sharing comes from both sides, one has to blend speaking with listening.
  • Steam  – did you stretched and tell everything on your first meetings, forced now to share dust bits as you are running out of steam; or do you still have plenty of gems, you did not fully reveal on the initial instances, perhaps until developing some trust?
  • Trait – perhaps indeed the one with all the stories, can back it up time and time again with more of those, truly being a good story teller and over achiever; and the silent lamb has indeed nothing but “Baaaah Baaaah” (or “Meeeeh Meeeeh”, depending on your culture) beneath his sleeves.

Obviously, a 7th meeting will be a telltale. But having no such luxury, we are back to the first meeting, so here is my simple rules or formula to resolve it, that you can refine to meet your experiences:

  1. Assume all people are type 1 or 2, so there is nothing in the middle.
  2. Assume type 1 “real” achievements are 50% of what they tell you (e.g. divide by 2), where type 2 ones are actually doubled to 200% (e.g. multiply by 2)

That’s all – these are the views you are forecasted to have on that 7th meeting.
The logic behind the first rule, is that often in such first meetings, the tension of the circumstances accentuate natural character traits, so even if you are just slightly leaning towards one side, it will exponentially multiply. So by simply taking this all the way, you get at a  reasonable assumption, plus the triviality of those rules is easy to follow.
The reasoning for the second rule, is that it is still possible for modest people to just have nothing, and vane people to have it all – you just need to modify their own “perceived” value, typically bloated for type 1, and “shrunk” for type 2, to the reality.

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Beerman and Saint Petrus


I love beer. I always have. I am a beerman.

They say the taste of beer, is an acquired one. I guess there is something in it. Beer (especially lukewarm lagers), taste when you sip them inside  your body, roughly like it does on the other way around. But cold beer – now, for something completely different.

Living in UK, it is possibly mandatory to love beers. Well, if you do not love things you do almost every day – it may lead to terrible frustration. So better love it said Confucius ages ago (my take off).

They even got beer festivals here in UK: you buy an empty glass (sounds foolish – doesn’t it? wait and see) and then basically taste all the presenters new beers (and some old ones) until you are not thirsty (or more likely, collapse – I tried to stay relatively politically correct).

I had an enjoyable experience in USA as well – I remember a pub in Boston a friend took me to when he studied at MIT, when there were 270 (!!!) kinds of beer at that time, out of which 70 were from barrels. I was only a couple of weeks there and sworn I will taste all of them. I must admit I had failed, but will never tell you by what slim a margin… I believe today there are 350 kinds there, and they aim for 365, so you can drink a different kind every day of the year. From chocolate, to ginger, to berries, to all kind of lagers, pilsners, wheat beers, dark and brown stouts,  ales and real ales and the truly only real ales, from no alcholol to low, mild and extremely strong. Open your mind, and then your throat.

But strangely enough, the most memorable  beer experience I ever had was back in my home country. No huge beer tradition there, but my best memory so far. I was a teenager. I used to play Tennis with a friend I will call Petrus and our gang of geeks with no girlfriends and lots of energy on Friday nights. He had a private course at his amazing home (his house used to belong to one of Israel best Tennis players, Amos Mansdorf, who of course had to have a course ) – A full qualified doubles one. We played for hours, mostly in couples format which I adored (later pursuing playing Bridge for the national youth team for the same bonding experiences – and what do you know: even got married for probably the same reasons), usually with multiple small foolish bets.  Bets were everything those days. Amongst our group there were better athletes than me, also much better build people, but I did OK. You shan’t be worried.

This all leads to the best beer experience I have had, which is sifting a beer from a nearside course cabin, who had mainly a fridge full of beers. The main house (perhaps a hundred yards further) had beers as well, but it’s those nearby cabin fridge beers my memory delves on. So after a  few hours of play, an ice cold Goldstar beer or  some imported ones, I don’t recall properly, were our prize. There was nothing like it. Your body eagered every drop, in a passion I had only found later with the other gender. A truly remarkable taste. Acquired or not, I did not give a damn. I even became a barman for few month later on while doing my duties to the country, cherishing those exact moments, only to discover that barmen do not drink at work. Such a shame.

Since than I had drunk hundreds of different kinds, in plenty of countries, with many a friend. But nothing equals Saint Petrus’s beer after a series of Tennis matches. Win or lose – we all won every Friday.

With love to Petrus and the Gang.

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Computer Science and Cooking a la Babushka: Recursive stuffed pepper


Very rarely I can combine two of the loved ones in my life – computer science and cooking. But getting some inspiration from watching modern Aussie food in Master Chef Australia (they did some flowered seafood strangely enough, but surely I can’t pick how my own brain works anyway) as well as my beloved partner making a Bolognese  sauce, I came with this recursive dish: A stuffed pepper with a stuffed pepper inside…


You need to pick up pepper that match in shape and allow you to cook such a recursive dish.

Essentially a stuffed pepper, with an inner stuffed pepper… Depending on your stack size (silly inside joke) you can try to put a smaller chilli pepper inside, and yet even a smaller birds eye pepper inside to make it even geekier.

Below recipe has two levels, and does not specify exact quantities as they pertain the count and size of pepper you are using.

Bon a petite!

Ingredients:

  • Large peppers (e.g. bell pepper) – You can use other shaped ones (like the long ones)
  • Smaller Peppers – Match the shape to fit within the bigger ones
  • Optional: Even smaller peppers (I used diced birds eye)
  • External stuffing : rice, oil and water
  • Internal stuffing:  minced meat, onions, carrots,  tomatoes, celery, garlic, thyme, olive oil, red wine, bay leaf
  • Roasted pine nuts
  • Tomato
  • Salt and pepper

Preperation:

  • Make the inner pepper filling – I’ve done a Bolognese alike sauce, using the ingredients above – slightly sweating the onion in the pan in some oil, then adding the carrots, tomatoes and celery, and then adding the meat, wine and spices
  • Preheat oven to medium-high (~200 C)
  • Make the outer pepper filling – I’ve done plain white rice
  • Roast some pine nuts, walnuts or both on a pan for a short while – make them slightly coloured and smoky but not overdo it
  • Note: You can mix the fillings, or keep them separated – and can mix the nuts as well. You can also make any other baked fillings
  • Now for the stuffing – cut the inner pepper head (figuratively, it does not normally hurt but what do I know), clean the seeds and white thingies, clean the head – and fill it with the meaty sauce. I added also some diced birdseyes. You can put the head back.
  • Cut the outer pepper head, clean it and the head, add some rice and roasted nuts, then fit the smaller pepper inside, with more of the rice and nuts mixture.
  • Put a slice of tomato on the top then close with the head.
  • Bake for an hour or so.
  • Serve hot.

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Global Carrier PrePay


Some ideas are stupid. Mine have a strong tendency to fit into this category. However, from the darkness, sometimes beams a powerful beacon light. OK, I exaggerated a little bit. I meant a twinkly faded one. Anyhow, I’ll throw some of those meteoroids at the internet sky, and perhaps one will have a magnificent shooting star effect one day for some one. Sit belt on.

We are used to “prepaid” mobile phone accounts, where it’s easy to control costs. But this service is often offered by a particular carrier to meet the carrier own services.

A possible extension, is a global PrePay. This service can be tied to a user or even multiple users, rather than the user and it’s service provider. While still not a mobile payments or mWallet, it allows a user, family or a small business, to control costs and allocate monthly (or otherwise) money for various mobile communication expenses together, or even control each seperately (e.g. different pool for SMS, voice calls, internet, and roaming):

  • A registry is created for families phones across multiple carriers, or a small business phones, or even a single person using multiple phones from possibly multiple carriers.
  • A prepaid services is offered, where unlike the carrier provided one – it is “shared” across carriers.
  • In addition it may even be provisioned to be shared across multiple users, e.g. the business partners, family members, etc.
  • The prepaid amount may be further allocated to different applications  (e.g. pool for SMS, pool for voice, pool for app download – or globally shared)
  • When one of the eligible users deposit – all can benefit.
  • When one consumes, overall balance is reduced
  • Policies can further refine this to multiple needs, domains and solutions

Note:  Direct integration to carrier prepaid solution as well as OTT are both feasible.

Some trivial use cases are:

  • Setting mobile phone pre-pay allowance for a family.
  • Setting media consumptions for multiple family members (one may use for iTunes music, other for android apps)
  • Small business communication costs control

This is primarily a consumer service, but can be linked with service providers, or target Enterprises of a small scale.

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Educate or Decimate – 10 Lessons to Teach


Worry not – this post cannot harm you, as it is too late unless you are a teenager or less. If you are, I believe current curriculum as taught in most institutions is ill-prioritized and indeed is a waste of most of your time. I’ll shortly present my alternative.

I also appreciate  parents and family,  neighborhood, peer groups, social-demographics, and other factors play a vital role. But I want to focus on the subjects I believe should be taught at schools prior to college / university level.

Some of those are visited occasionally, but not deeply enough. Some are pretty trivial to implement. Some are better suited for tuition in a class environment, and some are less. Overall these are life skills – that everyone should have in the 21 century. I know some of the more lucky ones amongst us may seek private tuitions, and some may look at this as yet another paternalistic agenda setting; and that’s OK.

The aim is to cover subjects that (a) can be taught in schools (b) do not demand exaggerated resources, (c) but do demand some so they benefit those that study at school and may not otherwise have the opportunity, and (d) are beneficial to those that learn it.

What about the grades? WTF is my answer to that.

Here are my top 10 , aimed mainly at the 14-18 bracket, representing the things I would have liked to learn earlier, and would be glad if my kids learn it as well:

  1. Communication – Listening, being emphatic,  anger management,  rephrasing when not understood,  handling conflicts – situations and scenarios, as part of drama classes, as group sessions – I don’t care. To everyone, not only arty farty ones.
  2. Personal Finance – Credit card management, meaning of loans and interest, mortgage handling, value of saving, basic markets (currencies, stocks, bonds). I would go beyond that to advanced class in 17-18.
  3. Massage – And other ways to touch and physically pleasure others
  4. Computer and Internet Skills – Search, E-Mail, (Free) Office, Media Editing, even eBay – Especially to those deprived of home chances (and yes I know many know it but they do not represent all  equally)
  5. Blind Typewriting – Separate from above as it is virtually essential for any job nowadays
  6. Consumerism – Price comparison, understanding the intent of commercials, understanding what brands want to do to you to allow you to choose if you want to pay premium to “belong”, logical purchase (Nobel prize winner Kahneman showed people are willing to drive 15 min to buy a pen that cost 10$ elsewhere instead of 25$, but will rarely do the same when facing similar decision buying a suit costing 1000$ when there is 15 min alternative for 985$)
  7. Well-being and Ergonomics – I mean standing correctly, sitting, walking classes (can be merged to Sports) up to Ti-Chi and meditation
  8. Organisation – Time management, basic task and project management, prioritization, delegation, pros and cons
  9. Creativity – Yes to all, many studies shows it can be taught, and there are plenty of tools, games, exercises and techniques to teach and have fun
  10. Philosophy – A Must in my humble opinion, best tool to allow us to choose how to lead our lives.

Beyond this bracket, I would add:

  • Languages (two in addition to mother tongue, ages 6-12)  when the human brain is most susceptible to learning this
  • Love Making (college / university) – I know there are sex classes in schools, who are notorious in being useless. I aim for courtship, understanding the other gender / partner needs, various forms of the art of sexually pleasing your partner
  • Parenthood (in university level or separated) – For everyone: responsibilities, basic handling of a child and its needs, how 2 become 3 changes quite a lot.

Lastly, I would emphasize cooking, movie and music, theater, museums and exhibitions, culture, camping and hitchhiking – as mostly done (but reduced due to budget going to the places it shouldn’t go).

Feel free if you have more subjects, that you personally:

  • Happy if someone would teach that to you that, or
  • Want your children to learn it

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Dan Pink: Panther


I had a great opportunity to get one hour lecture from Dan Pink. I thoroughly enjoyed the lecture, and want to congratulate neustar for organizing  this, and all the other innovation series events. What an amazing motivational speak  on his latest book: Drive. He surely practices what he preaches and showed some passion.

Dan started with the Candle experiment, showing how monetary incentive may indeed narrow the focus and hence achieve better results for some simple missions but fails on tougher ones (such as avoiding functional fixingness of the box in the candles problem demanding some creativity and… in-to-the-box thinking). This was further explored in an MIT students series of tasks, where money helped on the physical or mechanical tasks but failed to deliver on any “rudimentary cognitive” tasks. Dan argues “if-then” rewards are ill suited for creative tasks.

Dan then referred to Israel childcare fees for parents that come late, and showed again how it fails to achieve the desire results: removing the guilt and making being late an economical transaction that some parents had bargained for, and even having some damaging long term effects by creating a new behavior patterns (those being late, maintained this behavior after shedding those guilt feelings).

Simply controlling humans with “button alike” incentives seems not to always work – even if traditional wisdom is that it should. Surely some parts of our drive are biological, and based on punishments and rewards. However Dan offered three additional layers he demonstrated as highly motivational – he called them intrinsic motivators (to replace the extrinsic ones):

  • Autonomy – In time, tasks given, technique and team selection
  • Mastery – We naturally want to get better at things
  • Purpose – We achieve much more when we have associated meaning to the results

Dan followed with some concrete evidence. Some of the samples are well known (Google 20% do-whatever-you-want-we-keep-IP) but some were illuminating (call center without call recording, timing and monitoring becoming one of the most efficient ones…). Very good challenge to management “wish to control” and “fear of losing it” while strangling innovation in the process.

10 years ago, a well funded and incentivized encyclopedia (Encarta by Microsoft), got professional experts and managers, and pays them to write an online expert entries. On the other side, wikipedia was done for fun, without any monetary rewards. No (sober) economist could predict which of those would prevail…

Dan addressed another interesting related point: wouldn’t we do nothing if not “managed” – depicting the lazy and inept devil within us? Well he argued we are active and engaged (like any 2 years would demonstrate) so adopting an autonomic environment, with clear purpose guidelines would nurture our habits to become better to work for ourselves (and that management).

Dan believed management in its “full control” manifestation is a legacy 18th century technology we invented to enforce others doing what we want, which is nowadays obsolete.

Dan also objected only monetary incentives – they may be useful as a form of recognition, but not as sole motivation tool.

I also liked his sports/arts analogy for feedbacks – where annual (or bi-annual) feedbacks for a professional seems ridiculous, and semi automatic text is often given instead of a reoccurring personal feedback  and personal.


PS #1

I have special interest in his views, as they seem to repeat findings we had previously forming an Innovation Program. It was based it on 4 pillars manifested in tools and procedures for – ideation and knowledge creation, idea collaboration and sharing, immediate feedbacks, and rewards and recognition. We have found similar things – people wanted more autonomy to deliver their ideas, and we did experience the challanges of losing control and faced some natural reluctancy to move forward even for a moderate 8% do-something-new (one short afternoon a week) for a subset of the groups.


PS #2

Dan immediately caught my ear when he argues that people want to contribute in something bigger than themselves, as I use the following in my CV for ages now: “I seek to share my technological leadership within a superb team, reaching broader realms than my own humble shoulders can carry, or the head upon them can dream of.”


See also:

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People or Poles?


In pursue of advertisement space, it seems that people are not overlooked. The human body is a perfectly ok “space” for banners, logos and brands. This is so common, that it is rarely challenged: why do we put up with this?

It starts with simple cases: people working for a corporate, getting a fancy T-shirts to spread their brand. If they are stunning blondes, and the logo is on one (or two sides) of the front upper shirt – no complaints are heard.

But there are a couple of things that interest me:

  • Why some of us pay much more to have a shirt with a certain sign? Not only they act as billboards, but they actually pay for it rather than being paid? Yes, I understand the “brand power”, the wish to belong, to express certain status symbols (which equal power or strength for some of us), but still can’t figure out why why people want to be wooden poles – Pinocchio should have teach them otherwise

  • Even more puzzling are supreme athletes, wearing virtually more logos than cloth space permits (so much that there are rules governing this in Tennis and other sports). A typical tennis player, golf pro or F1 driver (to name few individual sports were this seems ever so popular) is “worth” a lot of marketing value. Not only is he “famous” and “celeb”, copied and aspired by others – he also appears in various TV, newspapers and other media across the world. Surely brands pay those guys (unlike above). But what is bothering me is why a multi-millionaire sports guy, is so freely giving away his freedom of choice to select his cloth, and for no better thing that money he already has more than he needs?

    In some occasions, even in individual sports, the “sponsors” that invest heavily (e.g. a F1 back-end team and costs are huge) want a little bit of rewards to justify their investments. Those sports would not exist without massive amounts, and the athlete himself cannot back up the needed infrastructure. But in many cases, the athlete does not really need anything from those sponsors (free tennis balls and new rackets even after every 3 shots is still affordable to most Top-10 Tennis players).

    So I guess it must be my favourite world-go-round powers: greed, and inertia (e.g. doing tomorrow what you did yesterday automatically).

    While inertia is comforting as it sometimes gives impression of stability, I cannot say the same on the former. It seems to me greed is the most damaging disease of the 21 CN. I can only see it leading to more horrors (a-la Enron). In the name of “free market” people give up their basic rights: what to wear, which equipment to use (some creative in demand athletes have multiple contracts with multiple brands and in exchange they give some of their freedoms, garments, or equipment exclusively), and  what to do (those superstar athletes need to give away few days to “entertain” rich corporate executives sponsoring them instead of spending the little time they have with their families or what-have-you their hobbies are).

    I thought the all point of being super rich is to have more freedom? I wonder.Luckily for me, no one sponsors me, virtually all my shirts are clear, and no one is interested in me entraining him other than my family and friends. My grandma may have been born in Poland but I refuse to be a pole.

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