How Do You Jew An educational, informational, conversational blog and (someday) podcast about Judaism, Jewish practices, customs, and rituals, Israel, and whatever else we decide to talk about.

June 1, 2013

The Israel Conference in LA

Filed under: Good News,Israel,productivity,technology,work — Tags: , , — howdoyoujew @ 22:48

I attended the Israel Conference in LA this past Thursday (it continued into Friday but I had other commitments), and wrote up this reflection for publication. I’ll be doing reviews of several of the startups that exhibited there in the coming days and weeks, and, as referenced below, I’ll also be reviewing The Unstoppables, a new book on entrepreneurship that heavily draws on the Israeli startup spirit and culture (the book’s author, Bill Schley, and Graham Weston, who wrote the foreword, spoke on a panel at the Conference, hence the connection).

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There’s some inherent risk to getting any group of hundreds of people together for a conference at a boutique hotel in Los Angeles. All sorts of logistical snafus could arise with the meeting spaces, Internet connectivity might be slow, traffic could of course be a problem, causing speakers or vendors to be late to their sessions, and on and on. But make this a gathering of people who tend to talk with their hands as much as Israelis are wont to do, and you’d just be asking for trouble. Or so it would seem if you only knew The Israel Conference on paper.

In practice, the fifth annual such meeting, which took place at West LA’s Luxe Hotel on Sunset Blvd. May 30 & 31, was a dynamic and injury-free event, featuring hundreds of attendees and representatives of dozens of Israeli and Israel-facing companies doing what people who love to talk do best – networking, making deals, and sharing ideas. The businesses included brand new to mid-stage startups, more established companies, and venture capital firms, all looking to be or be behind the next big thing. The driving force behind The Israel Conference is Sharona Justman, managing director of STEP Strategy Advisors, a business advising firm focusing on improving their clients’ profitability and market position through acquisitions. After being in Sharona’s presence for just a few minutes, you can’t help but be swept up in her positive energy, secure that her smile would light the way forward even if the electricity went out.

If you weren’t as immersed in both the Israeli economy and technology tools and toys as I am, you might be surprised at the plethora of innovative ideas coming out of Israel. You’d be less surprised if you’d read Start-Up Nation, the 2011 book that opened many people’s eyes to the remarkable success of the Israeli high-tech sector and broader economy (with its consistent growth over the last decade, even as countless other global economies have stagnated, shrunk, or utterly melted down). And you’d get completely over your surprise and just move into being inspired if you’d read The Unstoppables, the new book by Bill Schley (with a foreword by Graham Weston, founder of Rackspace). Schley and Weston, having read Start-Up Nation but with no previous experience in Israel, wanted to follow up and get another perspective on Israel’s entrepreneurial engine, so they did something incredibly Israeli: they flew to Israel with no agenda, no meetings set up, and no idea if they’d succeed. Of course, this being Israel, one contact turned into eight, which turned into dozens more, and by the end of the week, they had enough material for a book (a formal review of the book will follow). They shared the story of the genesis of the book and some of their impressions of Israeli ingenuity and the entrepreneurial spirit that imbues the Holy Land on a panel at The Israel Conference moderated by the conference’s co-chair, Yossi Vardi (known as the Godfather of Israeli high-tech).

Other panels at the conference covered topics such as cyber-security (particularly in the mobile device space), fundraising for startups at various stages of product and capital development, gaming, emerging sustainable energy solutions, and other areas where Israeli companies are on the bleeding edge of innovation. In between the panels, conference organizers built in plenty of time for attendees to network, schmooze, and – this being a Jewishly informed event – eat. The conference’s Pavilion of Companies featured some remarkable products and services offered by companies in varying stages of the startup cycle (some seeking funding to come out of limited beta testing, others that were just there to build awareness and maybe score additional clients and customers; I’ll review several of these individually in subsequent posts). But as often happens, some of the most interesting (and profitable) conversations happened off the beaten path, at small tables with three or four people who may not have known each other before this event. Arguably the greatest value in an event like The Israel Conference is to provide a space for people to find common ground and mutual personal and business interests that lead them to collaborate in ways that not only benefit them financially, but in many cases, in true Israeli and Jewish form, make the world a better place.

The next Israel Conference will take place in Los Angeles on May 29 & 30, 2014. Information is at http://www.theisraelconference.org/.

June 20, 2010

I love it when a plan comes together

I just successfully upgraded my WordPress installation, which powers this blog, to the latest version (3.0, called Thelonius – see the complete list of major WP releases, all named for jazz musicians). I did this with nary a bump, very few changes in settings, and everything seems to be right.

My first activities with the new version was changing the theme of the site (the look & feel theme, not the content theme) to WP’s default for this version, called Twenty Ten, then changing the header image that appears on each page. While the default image is nice, I wanted 1) to test the waters and modify something and make sure it worked, and 2) to personalize the site imagery. To that end, you’re currently enjoying a (cropped) view of the Brandeis Bardin Institute, home of BCI, the summer camp for Jewish young adults that I attended as a camper (’95) then returned to as an advisor/counselor (’98). This small image hardly does the place justice, but it’s indicative and evocative of the campus’s beauty. I’ll write and talk more about this place another time.

For now, I’m going to call it a night. The plan for tomorrow is to begin documenting my participation with a good friend in The Jonah Project.

Edited on 6/23 to change post title. Because I can.

February 9, 2009

Twelve minutes of excellence

Filed under: Blogging,Life Online,productivity,technology,video,work — Tags: — howdoyoujew @ 16:55

Seth Godin is a guy whose work I’ve been meaning to read/browse/digest for a while. This was an easily consumable chunk I thought I could handle in the middle of the day, and I wasn’t disappointed. If you are at all interested in social networks (online and off), technology, and people reaching their potential, watch this:

(via)

August 25, 2008

Our civilization is doomed, reason #7080-175903

I just got off the phone with a teller at my banking institution. I had to call in to transfer some money from our joint savings account into our joint checking account, and to my lovely wife’s checking account. I don’t need to tell you why, I just need you to understand that I’m talking about our own money, transferred between our own accounts.

The reason I called in is that I got an error message when I tried to transfer the money online, where we take care of probably 99.9% of our banking needs. The error number is the cryptic one in the title of this post, and the text of the error message was utterly unhelpful, saying only that if the problem persisted I should call my banking institution. It did, so I did. And the teller was kind enough to explain to me why I encountered this problem:

Apparently there is a Federal regulation that prohibits a customer from making more than six (6) electronic transfers per month from any savings account to any other account.

Let me rephrase that, just so we’re all clear on what’s going on here:

The government of these here United States has a rule in place that prohibits ME from moving MY OWN MONEY from MY OWN SAVINGS ACCOUNT to MY OWN CHECKING ACCOUNT more than half a dozen times in a month without walking into a branch of the banking institution that I’ve chosen to hold MY MONEY.

The mind, it doth boggle.

Then again, since money is an artificial construct that has absolutely no intrinsic value to begin with, what am I complaining about? Oh, yeah… my rights, that was it!

Well, I wasn’t using them anyway…

fucking fascists

May 9, 2008

I’m smitten

With Twitter, and with Wil Wheaton.

I got a Twitter account a few weeks ago, and started following some friends and strangers and sending my own updates when I remember (not often enough). After I met Wil at a reading & signing at Mysterious Galaxy last weekend, I started following him, and he’s just as funny in under 140 characters as he is in his longer blog posts and books (I’m listening to Just A Geek in the car, and laughing out loud so much I’m beginning to worry about road safety).

Example: He’s off to Seattle for a con this weekend. Here are two Twitters from this morning:
wilw: Kenny Loggins was at the ticket counter near me. The girl checking me in was early 20s and had no idea why her cow orkers were so excited.
wilw: I was unable to see if his destination was the danger zone, but it was clear that he was alright, so there was no need to worry about him.

That made me laugh again, just copying and pasting it.

I’m such a geek.

edited to add: Wil posted the entire Kenny Loggins Twitter adventure on his blog.

December 17, 2007

The law of averages

It’s just a fact. When you make something like 800 over 1,000 movies a year, they’re not all going to be classics. And when you make music videos from the songs in some of those movies, some of them are going to be so laughably bad that they’ll provide untold oodles of entertainment (“untold oodles”? Is that even a quantifiable amount?). Thanks to Matthew Rebecca from sporky.net, whose husband, Matthew, provided me with the delightfully random NaBloPoMo badge you see at top of the sidebar now, I just grooved to Ganpat. As Matthew Rebecca put it,

It’s nice to know we’re not the only country embracing stupidity.

Amen.

Matthew Rebecca himherself was turned on this work of art by NPR).

edited to fix the entry based on new information (see Rebecca’s comment below).

Can you tell it’s a slow work day?

Filed under: Commentary,fun,funny,Good News,News,Politics,productivity — howdoyoujew @ 12:37

Best news about Ann Coulter so far today (hey, the day is young, she could still get run over by a truck, which would eclipse this story):

direct lift from the Subversive Cross Stitch blog:

Seems that some truly subversive and possibly off-balance soul hand-delivered a card to Ms. Coulter’s mailbox in Florida and, according to police reports obtained by The Smoking Gun, the card they chose to express themselves with was our very own “Go Fuck Yourself” card from the set by Chronicle!

I love the NY Magazine piece’s title: But Ann Coulter Always Seemed So Nice! Bwahahahahaha!

edited to add: I looked at the police report at TSG, and was delighted to see the evidence photo showing the “two words unclear” on the inside of the card mentioned by the cop. “They” are easily (to me) discernible as the single word “solipsistic” (adj., one who holds that the self can know nothing but its own modifications and that the self is the only existent thing; also : extremely egocentric). It gives me hope and cheer to know that someone with the kind of vocabulary it takes to use “solipsistic” correctly in a sentence took the time to compose this card to Ms. Coulter and hand-deliver it. Thank you, my friend, and Merry Christmas to you!

December 15, 2007

Two broken things in one day

Filed under: productivity,random,technology,usability — howdoyoujew @ 20:51

I don’t remember if I became a fan of Mark Hurst because of his Good Experience Games or This is Broken or some other aspect of his good user experience work, but I am a big fan, as I’ve mentioned before.

Re: This is Broken, I ran into two egregious examples today:

  1. this packaging disaster, courtesy of ASAP software, recently bought by Dell:
  2. Horrible envelope waste

  3. the other item is the WiFi activation switch on the HP Pavilion laptop. first, let me just say that having a physical WiFi activation switch makes no sense to me, but that may just be my higher-than-average comfort with technology talking (I have no problem disabling network adapters via the user interface, for example). That said, putting the switch somewhere where it can be inadvertently toggled is bad design to begin with. This is the case not only with the pavilion, but with another friend’s Toshiba laptop that I dealt with some months ago. Anyway, the brokenness of the HP switch isn’t just in its location (the front panel of the laptop, where it can easily be accidentally flipped on/off). The bigger problem is its design, especially in terms of feedback. I haven’t been able to find a decent picture of it, but here’s a pic of a well-designed wifi switch:
    well-designed wifi-switch
    The switch on the HP is also a side-to-side toggle, but the little antenna icon is on one side, and an LED is on the other. That said, which position do you think is “on”? I bet more than 90% of people presented with that question would say the side with the icon. And we would all be wrong. Yes, the OPPOSITE side, the side with no icon or any marking at all, is the position that turns the wifi adapter on. The LED? Oh, that lights up either way. And no, not in the universally recognized red & green for “stop/no signal” and “go/signal”. No. This one is, if memory serves, blue and orange. Unbelievable.

November 19, 2007

Playing around online

Filed under: Blogging,education,fun,Life Online,productivity,SDSU,technology,work — howdoyoujew @ 23:38

My buddy Avraham has provided a lot of great intellectual (kosher) meat for me to chew on ever since we met in grad school way back around the turn of the 21st century (can you believe it’s been that long, dude?). He challenged me again recently by asking how I keep up with news of emerging technologies and trends (and which technologies I thought were setting the most prominent trends), and in the conversation that ensued, he reminded me of Netvibes, which I’d signed up for when it was first introduced, but hadn’t played with at all. It may have been David Pogue, it might have been one of the editors of BoingBoing, or it could have been someone else entirely who turned me on to netvibes originally, but I just didn’t take the time or have the inclination to mess around and explore too much.

Well, leave it to Avraham to prod me into action by 1) asking my opinion as an expert user (ha!), and 2) appealing to my ego by telling me he wanted to add my blog feed to one of his netvibes tabs. I figured out the latter task and recognized right away the signs of an impending addiction coming on. Thanks, man. Thanks a lot. Please don’t forget to come visit me when I’m in rehab.

November 14, 2007

Linking, reading, commenting, calendaring, working, relaxing

Filed under: Blogging,Family,Life Online,movies,productivity,technology,webcomics,work — howdoyoujew @ 23:03

I have to go back to my webcomics post from the other day to add links.

I have to let my family and friends know I’m updating the blog regularly and I’d appreciate it if I got some readers and comments.

I have an account with Gootodo, a terrific web-based to-do list application created by Mark Hurst, who I’m proud to know. I have to start using gootodo more, and more efficiently. The week of the wildfires was more disruptive than I previously thought, so this week and next (which is short due to the Thanksgiving holiday) are busier and more packed than usual. I got an account with Jott, too, which I’ve used a couple of times and like, and it might be helpful in conjunction with gootodo: think of something I need to do, and if I’m not in front of a computer, call Jott with a reminder to add the item to gootodo. So far I’ve been using my Treo‘s calendar for personal reminders, but I need a system for work stuff.

I have to stop feeling guilty for watching fluff like Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer when I want to veg out and relax at the end of a long day. I’m going to try to offset the fluff with stuff I should have seen already, like Network (Blockbuster’s one copy was checked out when I went the other day, so it’ll wait) and Say Anything (waiting for me and Jenn to find time together).

Hey, I’m glad we had a chance to have this little talk. It’s been really helpful! Thanks!

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