Monday, September 28, 2009

Zero tolarance for rude words

As we were getting into the car P had a few ugly words for N who was wearing P's hat (without P's permission). We spoke about how all five of us in the family sometimes yell or speaking with "ugly" words. I suggested that we should have zero tolerance for this. No matter what the situation might be, we should control the tone, loudness and politeness of our words. We all agreed. Easier said than done...

Thursday, September 24, 2009

When to help friends

Yesterday's conversation about being with your friends during their special moments got us talking about when it was important to be with your friends. The kids agreed that supporting friends when they were having a hard time was important. I mentioned that it is not always easy to know when that was the case: as many people don't like asking for help or sharing the fact that they are having a tough time.

What to do then? Well, one should pay attention to the people one cares about. if their behavior or demeanor seems out of the ordinary, we should try to figure out what is going on. I stressed how body language is often more telling than words. And one shouldn't be too aggressive or invade their privacy: if a friend seems sad, maybe we can just be with them. Our company and support will probably help them more than our inquiries about what is happening. Maybe they don't want to discuss it, but we can still help them...

We also spoke about some people, particularly women, tend to ask for things indirectly. And how it is important to read between the lines.I know this is a stereotype, but while someone (a man?) might ask "can you please close the window" someone else (a woman?) might ask the same question by saying "it is cold, isn't it?". If we are truly listening we can understand this to be a request to close the window, which is easy enough to do...

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Hidden Value of Traditions

My friend S just had a baby boy. This Friday is his Brit (Jewish circumcision). The Brit really simplified my life - and I imagine S's as well. How? Well, I was trying to figure out when would be a good time to go visit and meet the baby. Now, I can simply go to the Brit. And for him, and his wife, they get to see all their friends and relatives at the same time and in a convenient place. Of course, the Brit has a religious and spiritual significance as well, but even putting those aside, traditions often have some very practical benefits...

I discussed this with the kids. We also spoke about the importance of being with your friends and relatives during moments that are important to them (be them happy or sad occasions). More about that tomorrow. A mile is a short distance...

Monday, September 21, 2009

Rudo & Cursi

I told the kids today about a movie C & I saw last night: Rudo & Cursi. It is a shame it is R, because it has some great lessons: one of the main characters losses all his money gambling, resulting in the loss of his job as the goalie of a professional soccer team. The other loses his pro soccer player job because he gets distracted by a girlfriend who is only after his fame & money. The movie is actually quite funny, btw. So, today's lesson: don't gamble (even if you start winning, things often end horribly wrong) and watch out for people who are nice to you because they are after some of your fame, money or some other non-intrinsic attribute.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Lecturing Day

A & P were late to the car despite many warnings. So it wasn't a fun ride. Just lectured them about the importance of doing what they know they have to do without the need for an adult to remind then five times (in an increasingly loud voice). Yeah, whatever...

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Peanut Butter Jelly Time

We spoke about uniforms this morning. I suggested the good things about them was that one didn't need to spend any time thinking what to wear. Kids were unconvinced... We then came up with the idea of individualized uniforms: each chooses his own uniform. I asked each what his would be: P said his Peanut Butter Jelly Time t-shirt with some Blue pants. A said one oh Black & White t-shirts, preferably with a skull in it, and Black pants. N didn't know. He Said every day he just grab whatever without paying much attention anyway. Individualized uniforms... Maybe tomorrow I can explain what an oxymoron is...

Thursday, September 10, 2009

opt-ins and opt-outs

I recently noticed a charge for $10 on my AT&T wireless bill for AT&T Navigator. Since I had not signed up for this service I contacted support. They explained they had given me a 30 day free trial which I didn't cancel & thus it became a paid subscription!!! At least they promptly offered to refund the months for which they had charged me. I explained to the kids how this is an extreme example of an opt-out policy, in which you are stuck with something until you opt-out. Compared this with the more user friendly opt-in approach, in which you only get what you ask for. This last approach doesn't work as well for the companies, since such a small percentage of customers opt into their offers...

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The Neighbors Dilemma

Yesterday we got our neighbor's mail. We think they got ours. This made me think of the "prisoners dilemma" ( So I presented the dilemma to the kids. They all said they would "play it safe" and confess to get the short sentence. I gave them a modified version with rewards instead of punishments, and still they played it safe - going for the guaranteed small reward. The issue might have been that even the number that I used for the "small" reward, $100K vs. $1MM, was pretty huge for them. I discussed the importance of each person's situation. For someone with $1MM in the bank, it might be worthwhile to risk getting nothing for the chance of another $1MM (vs. a guaranteed $100K), since that would have a material impact on their lifestyle.

I told them how many entrepreneurs face similar situations in the real world, having to decide between selling their companies for a modest gain vs. taking a chance and go for a possible huge gain.

We'll drop by our neighbors with their mail. Hopefully they'll give us ours...

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Back to School

First day of 7th, 4th & 3rd grade today. Kids were pretty nervous about their classroom assignments. We spoke about why Summer vacation is so long - because kids used to be needed to help on the fields. It seemed like a perfectly good reason to them. No reason to change things now... Even if they could have shorter school days, they would not want to give up their long summer vacations.

N was placed with two of his best buddies. He was happy. P was not as lucky. At least he is with his soccer teammates. Will have to wait until the afternoon to find out how A did.