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.

February 26, 2013

Remember ICQ?

Filed under: Israel,News,San Diego Jewish Community,technology,UCSD,work — Tags: — howdoyoujew @ 11:40

Do you remember ICQ, the first Internet-wide instant messaging service? Do you remember that it was invented by four young Israelis? You do? Well, I just met the guy who gave them the money to start the company – his name is Yossi Vardi, and he’s known as the Godfather of Israeli High-Tech. His son Arik was one of the four kids who created Mirabilis, the company that marketed ICQ and was sold to AOL for around $400 million a year and a half after they released ICQ to the public.

Anyway, Yossi was in San Diego this week and I had the pleasure of attending a reception and lecture with him at the Rady School of Management at UCSD. I wrote up the evening for publication thusly (it was intended as a journalistic piece, not a blog entry, hence the non-bloggy voice). Make sure to read my note at the bottom.
**
Sunday night at UCSD’s Rady School of Management, Israeli entrepreneur and high-tech investor Yossi Vardi gave an informative, at times uproariously funny talk on the culture of innovation and creativity that has innervated and driven Israel’s economy for almost two decades. Vardi should know a thing or two about this topic: in 1996, he gave his son and three of his friends the seed money to found a tech start-up. They created ICQ, the first Internet-wide instant messaging service, AOL purchased the company less than two years later for over $400 million.

Vardi regaled the 200+ member audience with many amusing anecdotes about his upbringing, which he says drove him to take the risks necessary to be successful as an entrepreneur and later a venture capitalist. Most notable were the stories about his mother, whose absurdly critical admonishments included telling him he was an idiot and negatively comparing him to all his “smarter” cousins. He also noted, however, that his mother was one of the first start-up entrepreneurs in Israel, saying that she started a small restaurant in Israel in the 1950s, when the country was under severe austerity measures. As he put it, she excelled in bioengineering, as she could turn any organic ingredients into chopped liver.

Interspersed between these tales were nuggets of business and innovation advice and trivia, including listing some of the major American technology companies that have major operations in Israel. Sitting in the audience and on the receiving end of a great deal of praise from Vardi was Dr. Irwin Jacobs, the founder of San Diego-based tech giant Qualcomm, which has purchased several Israeli companies and employs hundreds of people in its Israeli R&D center.

Vardi noted that entrepreneurship is a cultural, rather than technological or educational phenomenon, and that San Diego seemed to share a culture of innovation with Israel. He described innovators and creators as people who are impatient with the status quo, and noted the “hacker” mentality – the frame of mind of computer programmers, engineers, and other like-minded folks – as key to creativity. As an example, he pointed out that most people – typical users of technology – would look at a cellphone and ask, “How do I use this?” Hackers, innovators, dreamers who could go on to create the next big thing, look at the same gadget and ask, “How can I improve on this? What can I make it do that people haven’t thought about yet?” and other probing, out-of-the-box questions.

Vardi concluded his remarks by explaining how the Internet has changed the way products and services are developed, by empowering individuals to create and share ideas and tools. The engaging Q&A session, and the evening as a whole, was capped on a positive note as Vardi and a colleague, Rami Lipman, were joined by Dean Robert Sullivan of the Rady School of Management. All three spoke about technology innovation serving a greater need, and the importance of tech innovators and entrepreneurs, who are some of the most successful and wealthy individuals in the world, giving back to society.

Yossi Vardi’s visit to UCSD was co-sponsored by the Rady School of Management and the Jacobs School of Engineering; the lecture was part of StandWithUs San Diego’s Israel Startup Nation Series.
**
Best part of the night for me, besides all of it, was getting to meet Irwin Jacobs, the aforementioned founder of Qualcomm. Vardi had called out to Jacobs earlier in the evening to bring back Eudora, the much-loved email client Qualcomm discontinued supporting some years ago (yes, I know there’s an open source version available now, but it’s not the same). So when I chatted with Dr. Jacobs for a moment, I repeated that request, telling him that they had to pry the last supported version of Eudora away from me by force here at work. He smiled and told me that he still uses it! So yeah, I had a moment with Irwin Jacobs. It was awesome.

March 10, 2011

Why I Love Hadag Nahash – למה אני אוהב את הדג נחש

This is not an exhaustive list, but I’m immersing myself in old and new material (מקומי and otherwise) in preparation for tonight’s live show at Porter’s Pub at UCSD (link to Facebook event page; go there or ping me directly for ticket info – $20 for non-students).

1. Crowd-sourced video for BaSalon shel Salomon (In Salomon’s Living Room – בסלון של סלומון):

2. Creative video for Shir Nehama (Consolation Song – שיר נחמה) featuring the beautiful Middle Eastern steel guitar work of Yehuda Keisar:

3. Brutally hard-hitting video for Od Ach Echad (One More Brother – עוד אח אחד). Visually this will really only hit hard if you’re Israeli, but the lyrical sentiment is powerful no matter where you’re from.

4. Great live performance of Halifot (Suits – חליפות) featuring the wonderful backing vocals of the very pregnant Liora Yitzhak, whose child (now a toddler if I have the recording date right) will grow up to either be this band’s biggest fan or will hate them passionately, but may never understand why.

5. Another of their huge social commentary hits with an added layer of irony added visually – Shirat haSticker (The Sticker Song – שירת הסטיקר). The lyrics were written/compiled by David Grossman, a prominent Israeli author and peace activist, from political and social bumper stickers found in Israel:

6. Misparim (Numbers – מספרים) is a now somewhat out-of-date song about some significant statistics in Israeli society (and Sha’anan Street’s personal life) that still beautifully illustrates the band’s style. It’s out of date only in terms of some of the real numbers reported (e.g., unemployment rate and monthly salaries of executives), not in terms of how unjust and significant the gaps still are. This is a fan-made video; I couldn’t find an official one. TRIGGER WARNING (TW): Brief still images of terrorist attacks, including WTC.

7. There is no number 7. Come down and enjoy the show with me tonight!

November 27, 2007

Professional development/putting myself out there

Filed under: education,history,humor,Israel,SDSU,technology,UCSD,work — howdoyoujew @ 23:48

Last week I participated in an IT Careers Panel organized by our colleagues across town at the UCSD Career Services Center. There were three other panelists (all UCSD alums), and a whopping TWO students attended. So, yeah, it wasn’t a resounding success in terms of attendance, but the two students who were there sure got lots of personal attention and customized advice from all of us. I was honored to be included (thanks, Bobbie, Craig, etc.!)

This afternoon I taught the second-to-last session of my University Seminar, an introduction/orientation to Career Services, and this evening I taught my Hebrew High class, the 12th Grade Seminar (we began a unit on dealing with Israel issues, anti-Zionism, and the like on college campuses).

I love an audience, but public speaking engagements depend a lot on the audience’s reaction, and I’ve had very different responses along the way (tonight’s Hebrew High class was great; the University Seminar class, not so much). For me, the more reactive and participatory the audience (whether they’re responding to my questions or laughing at my jokes), the better. I still remember the first time I got a feel for working a crowd, delivering my bar-mitzvah speech. I had some native Hebrew-speaking guests, and I inserted a section of Hebrew into the middle of my speech. When I switched back to English, my first words were, “Hi! I’m back!” and I got a nice laugh (which I wasn’t really expecting, frankly). I got such a rush out of that, and have used that as motivation in driving my public speaking ever since. I fed off the energy of my audiences in high school speech & debate (and yes, I’m aware that the people in the photo banner at the top of the page look like they’re in a SNL sketch), and I continue to do so these days, when I present at the occasional conference or speak about Israel or other topics I’m passionate about.

I’m available for weddings, birthdays, and bar-mitzvahs. Thank you, thank you… try the salmon!

November 15, 2007

Surprise! You’re the guest of honor/keynote speaker tonight!

Filed under: education,Family,Good News,Health,life cycle,tikkun olam,UCSD — howdoyoujew @ 23:48

When we walked in to the UCSD Faculty Club tonight for the San Diego Blood Bank‘s Stem Cell/Bone Marrow Donor Appreciation Dinner, we were excited to be back at this moving event, this time without our daughter, who was with us last year at the tender age of 6 weeks. Little did I know that my name appeared on this evening’s program as the featured speaker, with Phyllis’s and my story the central donor-recipient story. The staff at the donor center had called me a couple of weeks ago to ask me to be their backup speaker because they were having some trouble getting someone, and I agreed, but they never called back, so I assumed they’d found someone else. Imagine my surprise when Maria ran up to me tonight and sprung this surprise on me! Well, never one to turn down a gig, I had a Heineken, wrote a few notes down, and took the mic when it was handed to me.

After it was all over, it took us about 45 minutes to get out of there for all the people coming up to commiserate and compliment me and share their own donor/recipient stories. Mine, as I said in my remarks, has TWO happy endings (Phyllis’s survival and then Hadarya’s birth), but not all bone marrow donation stories end so well. In some cases, the patients succumb despite a matching donor being found and a transplant being carried out, but in far too many cases, patients die for lack of a donor. This is where you come in. Open a phone book or a new tab in your browser (what, you don’t use a tabbed browser? OK, open a new window, then) and look up your local bone marrow/stem cell donor center (likely affiliated with your local blood bank). Call the center, and make an appointment to register with the National Marrow Donor Program. It’ll only cost you a small blood sample, but the difference you may make in someone’s life is immeasurable.

Also, you may get to correspond with a rock legend.

But that’s not the point. The point is you could save a life, and the person whose life you save may have undoubtedly has other people who care about and love him/her, which means you’ll have changed their lives too. The collateral benefits add up, which is why the Talmud teaches us that “One who saves a life, it’s as if he has saved the whole world.”

Do it. Do it now.

May 10, 2006

Hooray for Hillel!

Filed under: Hillel,San Diego Jewish Community,SDSU,UCSD — howdoyoujew @ 23:05

Hillel of San Diego is having a good month. Last night, the San Diego City Council brought a half-decade-long legal and logistical process to a close by voting to approve the sale of an unused parcel of city-owned land to Hillel at UCSD. Up until now, UCSD Hillel has not had a home, and many of the residents in the neighborhood where this parcel sits were determined to keep Hillel out of their proverbial back yard. While some members of both camps raised the ugly specter of antisemitism in the course of the long debate, in the end it came down to mundane, albeit important land-use regulations, and Hillel (and the law) prevailed, to the benefit of the community at large, and the Jewish college students at UCSD.

Coincidentally, an even longer process regarding the relocation and/or building of a new facility for Hillel at SDSU is coming to its conclusion in the days ahead. According to my sources (I sit on the Board of Directors, so this is on good authority), we should be closing escrow on our new location early next week (the Board is meeting tomorrow to approve getting a loan for the purchase price). This struggle has gone on for nearly TWENTY years, and involved private party land owners and the SDSU bureaucracy. Getting to this point makes me (and Jenn, both of us SDSU alumni) very proud to be a Hillel member, supporter, and lay leader.

Speaking of my wife, I need to get to bed if I want to keep her. Laila tov.

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