Monday, October 20, 2008

Non verbal communications, first impressions and stereotypes

I was reading this morning about some research on non-verbal communications. They did a study, at MIT I believe, of individuals pitching business plans. Those who provided the most energetic and compeling presentations, as measured by cues unrelated to the actual content, did the best. I told this to the kids... We also spoke about first impressions, and how most people judge others during the first few seconds that they meet them. I told them that is why they should behave very well during the 1st day of school, so that all their teachers form a good impression about them.

P told me how he knew right away that a certain old man was nice. I asked him how he knew and he said that old men are all nice. This got us talking about stereotypes and their risks. I don't think I managed to get my point across to P & N that not all old men are nice... Oh well, I'll need to think about how to revisit this topic of stereotypes...

Friday, October 17, 2008

Listening, Learning & Teaching

P was having a hard time with his piano piece of the week this morning. He was playing some notes incorrectly and wouldn't believe me when I told him so. In the car we spoke about learning, listening & teaching. I told them how important it was to be able to to teach, and the difficulty of finding the right balance between doing someone's work vs. not helping them enough.

I told them that when deciding who to work with I look for people who are good listeners and to whom I can teach something. Working with people who won't listen (either because they don't want to or because they can't) is very frustrating, while seeing people improve thanks to one's help is extremely rewarding. I also look for people who can teach me things...

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Sliding doors

C's car is in the shop. She got a mini-van rental in the meantime. N likes it better than C's car. He particularly likes the sliding doors. We all agreed sliding doors are very practical and it is a shame more cars don't have them. Is it because they would be perceived as mini-vans and un-sporty? We also wished there were cars surronded with rubber and built so that minot bumps with other cars or objects wouldn't damage them. Like bumper cars... Maybe by the time the kids are driving (I sure hope so!).

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Folklorik music

Last night we went to see Carlos Orozco, a Venezuela harp player. Most impressive... We discussed whether he was playing the high notes with his left hand and the low notes with the right because he is a lefty, or whether all harpist play like that... P brough up that he is a leftie, which is an advantage in many sports... We compared the harp with the piano. A asked what type of instrument the piano is. I thought a string instrument, but need to check Wikipedia.

Thursday, October 9, 2008


I woke up with Vertigo today. It is the 2nd time this happens to me. I don't mind the spining, but the fact that I then get sea sick :-(. So, it was a pretty quiet ride this morning. We concluded that A is a night person, P is a morning person, and N is a middle of the day person. We also heard some Van Morrison which reminded the kids of August Rush. N wants to see it again. P wishes it had not ended where it did, but showed their life after they are reunited... I said maybe they'll do August Rush 2 :-).

Wednesday, October 8, 2008


I saw an advertisement for a Leornardo Da Vinci exhibition at The Tech Museum. We spoke about all the amazing things that Leonardo did. I said that today, one had to specialize. A wanted to know why. I told him to imagine a large canvas in which a city had to be painted. The first person who starts painting on it can paint all over the canvas. But after 25 people join the process and fill most of the canvas, you would be limited to painting in a small section (wherever you could squeeze in). There would be little White space, so you would probably end up picking a detail and working on it. I also used the design of a car as an example: if someone worked exclusively on one componet, say the steering wheel, he would likely do a better job than someone who was designing an entire car, including a steering wheel, from scratch.

P & N thought Iron Man was smarter than Da Vinci. A argued for Da Vinci, because he built his inventions from scratch - rather than assemble them from existing components like Iron Man. N correctly guessed that Da Vinci was from Italy. Ciao.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Following your bliss

C & I have been watching a great documentary about Joseph Campbell. One of the things he talks about is following your bliss. Today we spoke about that... About the importance of knowing what one's bliss is and of pursuing it. If we are fortunate, we might be able to make a living out of our passion. If not, we should still make time in our lives for the things that truly fullfil us.

I was glad to hear that N thought that we (note the plural refering to our family) were already following our bliss. P said his were science & piano. A was quiet... I asked if he was thinking about the inmortality of the crab (La inmortalidad del cangrejo). This generated much laughter. I think A is a night person, much more so than a morning person. Unlike P, who sets his alarm clock at 6am and wakes up before C & I do!

Monday, October 6, 2008

pool or jacuzzy

This morning P asked me why we don't buy a pool. I told him that a) we have no room for one, and b) SF doesn't have very good pool weather. A then suggested a jacuzzy: "we can put it in the yard". I don't know where they got this idea but it sure made for a fun conversation. very appropriate for a Monday morning...

Friday, October 3, 2008

The players make the coach

I was telling the kids about a great lunch meeting I had yesterday: I hosted the founders of five of the start-ups that I am involved with. They are all monetizing their audiences with advertising but each is taking a different approach as has different challenges. It was a lot of fun to help them learn from one another...

The kids didn't understand why that was fun. How can work be fun? I used the analogy of a soccer team. I imagine that coaches derive fun from watching their players learn. But they probably derive even more fun from watching their players learn from one another. They kids agreed it would be more for the coach if players with particular strenghths teach the other players as opposed to the coach having to personally teach everything.

I said the best coaches can often be judged by their players: the better the players, the better the coach. A disagreed: what about a lousy but luck coach who gets great players? Well, the best players are unlikely to want to play for a lousy coach. And great coaches often attract good players...

Thursday, October 2, 2008


I asked the kids what they thought was better: to make a favor for someone or to receive a favor. They asked for an example. Taking turns with a toy. They said both people could use it. It took me a while to push to the point where only one person could use the toy that day.

I suggested letting the other person have the first turn was a better route. For a number of reasons: making others hapy often gives us happiness. It is good to be generous. And, finally, assuming the other person was "fair", the next time around it would be our turn. So letting others go first is like saving, while going first is like getting in debt.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

7 Weeks On, 1 Week Off

The kids go to a French school. The French believe kids should not be in school for more than seven weeks at a time. So we have a week off in October, two in December, one in February and one and a half in April. Then of course three months in the summer... Last time we went on a trip the kids complained about not having enough say as to our destination... So today I asked them what they want to do during the upcoming October break.

P wants to stay in SF to go to his gym's Hallowen party. N wants to go play with surfboards in Hawaii, he also liked the idea of visiting his cousins in Miami. P could also go car-camping (no hiking for him!). A isn't sure... he would probably be happy anywhere as long as he is with W or has a computer. Of course C & I want to kitesurfing. Decisions, decisions...

Yesterday we spoke about cancelation policies. How more customer friendly policies, such as full refund if there is no wind for the kitesurfing lesson, are expensive in the short term but usually pay off long term by generating happy customers and good word of mouth.