blogitto ergo sum

September 4, 2017

#228 – Yes-man teams deliver mediocre products


Conflict, disagreement, argument – all are considered negative.

Consensus, agreement, alignment – such positive words, or are they?

Product managers’ success, more than any other management position I’m aware of, depends on leadership without org chart support.  A good product team is aligned, in sync, engaged.  Unified around a goal, a product, a vision.

A product team is, by definition and design, professionally diverse – its cross-functional nature guarantees it. Yet, it is­­ expected to work together as a well-oiled machine, collaborating to delight users who are not in the room, but who will be happily pay the bill; collaborating with the neighboring product teams to ensure the company’s overall success.

What makes a good, kickass product team?  Sharing a goal, mission, vision is crucial, of course.  But as a cynic you might clarify that it is what defines the team; it doesn’t make it rock.  Being a safe, trust-based group that allows mistakes as part of learning and growth, expecting accountability – now this sounds more like it.  Having clear and comfortable group norms is critical.  Google did as thorough research on this as possible.  Group norms, btw, are defined as “the traditions, behavioral standards and unwritten rules that govern how we function when we gather…Norms can be unspoken or openly acknowledged, but their influence is often profound. Team members may behave in certain ways as individuals — they may chafe against authority or prefer working independently — but when they gather, the group’s norms typically override individual proclivities and encourage deference to the team.”  [SOURCE]

Some norms are more critical than others. I’ve led and participated in culturally diverse, geo-distributed teams that spanned multiple time zones; my best – most successful – teams were the teams in which we’ve created a safe and respectful space, while,

  • Supporting freedom of thought and speech
  • Encouraging curiosity, questions, and even arguments
  • Expecting thinking differently, pitching creative ideas
  • Welcoming criticism, speaking truth to power, peers, and everyone else

In my experience, these teams are most likely to end with convergence to agreement on the best path[1] to successful exaction and delivery.  And, as important, these teams are best equipped to deal with development hiccups and surprises.

Thing is, in most settings, conflict is deemed negative, disagreements get pushed to “let’s


take it offline” land, and presenting an unpopular opinion is feared to come with a cost; CLM anyone?  Some companies, including some Silicon Valley-based ones, have “do as I say; your opinion matters not” norms.  Interestingly enough, quite a few of these companies buy innovation more often than have it developed in-house, and the reason, IMHO, is more than the need-for-speed or time-to-market.  Killing the discussion kills most of the innovation.

Which is why, in an interview discussing my vision and beliefs about product management, I said “Yes-Man teams deliver mediocre products.” The interviewer was taken aback, immediately asking for an explanation.  “When a team agrees with the senior in the room, isn’t comfortable challenging proposals, doesn’t question the reason and motivation for a decision, doesn’t feel empowered to offer different approaches, but acts as a rubber stamp while pretending to agree after giving it some thought – well, it shows.  And not in a good way.  This applies to more than just new features. Developing a great SLA that ensures not only meeting customer’s RFP and KPIs, but also doing it in a way that manages its cost, maximizes margins, and provides a delighting CX experience, cannot be dictated by the RFP terms alone [even if that’s what Sales insists on].  The Support Manager, the Engineering Lead, development team, QA; each holds critical information – the robustness & frequency of upgrades/updates, weaknesses in the solution, workarounds that are required, best practices… A PM or an Account Exec, rock star as she or he may be, may be aware of any of any or all of these, but lack the intimate know-how to build it into the SLA.  A team that agrees without judgment, without questioning, without challenging and counter suggestions may agree to a losing proposal.

“But how do you do it?  How do you make it so,” she wanted to know. “You demonstrate it in everything you do.  You make sure you are approachable.  You act it.” Needs examples, I thought.  “It starts when I hire -when I interview candidates.  I make a point of challenging their ability to speak up, to accept the invitation to share opinions and argue for them.”  Unable to hide my smile, I added, “when I’m not sure, I go as far as role play.  Being brilliant, great at what you do isn’t good enough if you aren’t comfortable sharing your wisdom.”

“It’s all about being accessible, making sure everyone knows that you are willing and happy to change your mind, OK with changing your initial proposal… and do it in every meeting, corridor chat, over lunch…”

“How about a quick story to illustrate it?” I offered.

Last year, I had to create a web UI/flow for an early access product in no time.  The ad-hoc team included colleagues that sat next to me and haven’t previously collaborated with prior.  I wrote the stories, acceptance criteria, did agile as agile does.  When we walked the team through the vision and the problem we needed to solve, reviewing the stories, I made a point saying, “you have been working with some of these components longer than me.  You know the effort required to do this.  I want you to challenge the solution and the stories and I’d be delighted if you told me that there’s a simpler way to do it.” In our daily meetings, I saw progress and was very happy with the team’s commitment.  I kept asking them for more feedback and suggestions, and they listened. In one review, three days before the Sprint’s end meeting, one of the engineers mentioned that they added a reset command to one field.  Sometimes it’s too bad we are not allowed to kiss the guy who thinks ahead, sees a problem that I didn’t anticipate, solves it, and tells you about it after it done.

It’s not la la land; let’s be clear about it.  Adopting group norms that allow and expect team members to challenge and test each other comes with a price.  Product planning may take a bit longer, including revisiting a feature you thought was already a nailed down – done deal.  And yet, it’s a good price to pay.  People and product greatness come from open discussions, challenging assumptions, and true team alignment. This is what that drives and motivates a team!


[1] There’s a lot to say about the PM’s leadership, vision, and need to point the team/product in the right direction, but this is out of this post’s scope.



April 25, 2017

#227 – iRecommend

Filed under: #work #career,absorb,connectivity,life matters,Opinionated — yael [ya-el] wagner @ 19:06

A friend or a colleague gets laid-off. You worked together for a while, and you want to keep in touch. You truly want to help.  You care for the guy, you enjoyed working together, you even learned a thing or two from him.  Or her.  Women got a lot to teachSupportLIKEaBRA and share.

What you do? LinkedIn is the obvious answer.  Of course.  Request is sent, accepted, are we done?  And I thought you cared.  You tell yourself you care.  So, now what?

For many, this is as far as it goes.  Let that guy ask for help; we are connected, I’m available and done.  Hmmm, not so fast; not so done.

What does your buddy really need?  Support, mostly emotional, not to feel deleted or erased.  Don’t avoid her or him due to your “survivor’s guilt,” nor go the other extreme, telling yourself, “He was RIFed, therefore he deserved it.”  Don’t become a stranger.  You are better than this.  I know you.

Connecting on LinkedIn is great, meaning a great start.  You however, are going to do more.  You are that kind of a person.  So, in addition to your friendly [read: emotional] support, take the initiative and write a recommendation; endorse a couple of relevant skills.  Don’t overdo it, it’ll backfire. Don’t endorse me for algorithms.  Knowing what they are, their value, and what they do, understanding the philosophy behind them, doesn’t mean I can write one, right?  Yet… All of us can write a recommendation, regardless of training and title, what are you waiting for?!


Last night, as I was getting ready to publish this post, i took a quick detour via LinkedIn. It paid off.  I came across a great advice from Gail Houston, and today I got her permission to adopt and use it here.  When listing accomplishments, “think about the biggest impact and list that first. “Acquired 20k new customers,” “drove cultural change increasing employees engagement level and increasing company’s presence on social media platform,”  “led a deal of $25mm in revenue”… These might be a lot more important than saying that one launched a product on time. It is all about getting that hiring manager / recruiter’s attention early – so they slow down and keep reading or pick up the phone and call. Thank you, Gail.

You shift position uncomfortably.  You never embraced all that stuff about investing in your LinkedIn profile, personal brand, and network. Having a coffee or a drink sounds great.  But, in a global company such as yours, your buddy may be in a different campus, state, or country.  WhatsApp, FaceTime, and SMS may do it, but what with that time difference?  And you never actually met outside the office other than for work-related stuff [and PIVO, but that’s a whole different story].  What should you do?  Think.

Your network may be small, but your heart is big.  And, anyway, right now it’s on the job seeker to expand the network.  But you?  You can help making that LinkedIn profile shine with recommendations and endorsements.  Even you who struggle to put together 140 characters for a tweet can help.  Yes, you can!

Think about your friend, the accomplishments, things you value, impressed with, what special sauce he added to the team, what difference did she make.  Make a short list.

Now, and you may find this a little challenging, what kind of job or a role your buddy is looking for? What qualities, skills & knowledge, experience, and achievement are relevant to those jobs?  Sort the list, scan it against those jobs. Not sure yet? Give your buddy a call.  they’ll appreciate it.  I promise.

Not there yet?  Reflect. Think of something he helped you figure out. think of a time that she pushed you,  you didn’t like, but then you did it.  Recall how he killed that bug, delighted that customer… Think of that sticky situation you resolved together with a smile, leaving the customer and the team happy.  Think of the person, the values, future roles. What would a hiring manager and recruiters want to know?  Don’t forget to mention the nature of the relationship.

Now stir.  If your time is limited to two olives, drop the personal memory.  You’ll have time for that when they call you for the referral.  Drink.   You are a good friend.

January 2, 2017

#226 – Commuter Mug Anyone?

Filed under: Eat, Drink, Enjoy,mmmmmmarketing,Opinionated — yael [ya-el] wagner @ 23:10
Tags: , ,

Going somewhere? Traveling? BYOC.commuterMUGS-06And it’s not champagne we are talking about.  It’s about the cup and the coffee.

I’ve long ago accepted the fact that more often than not, i’m not going to truly enjoy the over-priced latte i order and pay for, even when being “penalized” for those extra shots of espresso i ask for in my attempt to make it better.
On the other hand, I can do something about maintaining the temperature of whatever the under caffeinated super-pretentious barista put in my mug.

When you are in product management, you can’t help to.  you think of any product or service in terms of features, requirements, tradeoffs, usability, user experience, the cost of a feature vs. the value the end-user [Me, Me!] will attach to it… it simply becomes part of you, your assessment process of most things. honestly, I can’t help it.  Food may be one exception.  As for the rest, the PM approach works.  it’s most obvious when i go car shopping.  Most of the features pitched by the smooth, oh too smooth, sales guy are simply irrelevant in the long run.  Color included.  yes, white is better than black in sunny climates, but won’t break the deal.

So what makes a travel mug an exceptional one?  The obvious top two features woul


Contigo redesigned cap for ease of cleaning

d be to safely contain the liquid and maintain temperature over an extended period of time.  These two, however, are far from enough, and yet many mugs fail.  Don’t say a word of Starbucks or Peet’s’ mugs; they are 99% OEMed anyway.


Over the years, I’ve tried brands and non-brands, including Aladdin, Thermos, and Contigo.  Even There is plenty to choose from you may say, but… they are wrong.  Very few mugs actually deliver on what i think should be the basic set of requirements, going from the hardest to the trivial:

  • Keep it hot.  I mean REALLY hot, for at least four hours – critical for a flight or a road trip, but also for the workday – all places that rarely offer good coffee.
  • Keep me and my bag dry.  Spill and leak proof.  one should be aware that leak proof protects you less than a spill proof.
  • Usable – easy to drink from.  Usability is implied or included in most of the other features, but, when looking at a mug that meets all other nose-cuprequirements, but has for a lid a contraption that keeps hitting your nose or detaches from the mug only to get lost and render the mug useless you realize that some mug designs were led by the technologists, forgetting the usability is a key feature, neither an afterthought, nor a marketing nice-to-have thing.
  • Easy to carry, travel with.  This is tricky.  while handles are useful, when packing,
    traveling, trying to fit in a bag or a backpack, that handle spells trouble.  Miles of travel taught me that the best option is a no-handle mug with a built in D-ring or a clip to attach it.  Haven’t found even one mug to hook up with that meets the two previous requirements
  • Easy to clean.  This is such a basic, fundamental requirement, and yet it seems that all manufacturers, without an exception fail at one level or another.
  • Age well.  Yes, it is a feature, and not a trivial one.  that’s when ROI comes to play a an important role.
  • Capacity. Minimum 16 Oz. definitely a trivial requirement.  there’s no point to invest in a travel smaller mug; it’s that simple.

While working on this blog, friends shared their experience and observations.  just like in mobile, there is no RIGHT answer but lots to share.  A colleague of mine swears by her LiquidLogic mug.  Unfortunately, it seems to be available only for promotional large


nice design, low performance

number orders, so not a real option.  THIS blog post lists about six mugs, most of made by Thermos and Contigo.  This blog mixes office and travel mugs along with flasks and water bottles that could double as hot drinks containers.  Brands such as Hydracentials seem to have ventured to this niche, yet stepped out quickly, leaving loyal drinkers behind without replacement options.  Strangely enough, their mug, still offered via Amazon, looks very much like one of the Thermos mugs.  OEM?  Probably.  I do have one Thermos mug that was OEMed by the Sharper Image, and with a bad painting job too.

Thermos mugs maintain temperature impressively, but fail on three major features: cap is almost impossible to clean and ages badly.  Worth, it’s hard to tell “open” from “close” so spilling accidents are bound to happen.


Currently, the obvious winners for serious commuters is Contigo.  Are they the best? No.  But they are the beast, a the newly easier to clean designed cap with “auto close,” and promotions everywhere including CostCo  I’m still looking, but at least i got the requirements right.

To our hot, unspilled coffee!

December 17, 2016

#225 – Home Going

Filed under: absorb,Israel,on the road,Opinionated — yael [ya-el] wagner @ 18:53
Tags: , , ,

Once a year I go home.  My other home that is.  Or maybe I should call it my first home. Dual citizenship isn’t a big deal for Israelis.  It’s allowed, common, nothing to think of.

So I go to Israel.  The anchor, of course, is friends and family.


It’s a long trip.  And every year it gets harder.  The visit, that is.  The longer one lives away from home, the more one can see in a visit.  As Heraclitus said so many years ago, “You could not step twice into the same river.”  Change is inevitable; its direction however is.  and i don’t like the current one.  Not at all.

Landing 10 days after the US election, this visit was the hardest yet. Not only because of the election, but also due to the processes in play in Israel itself, and my ever evolving view of them.  there’s a lot to say about media-generated bias.

Tough, challenging, and rewarding in its own way; no matter who you are or what you do in Israel, this is always true.  And lots of fun too.  And good food.

I haven’t been to Ein Gedi nature reserve probably in a decade or more.  Nor to the Dead Sea.  I haven’t seen this much art in any two weeks. I’ve never before encountered so much bad coffee in Israel.  Nor was taken and addressed as a tourist, complimented for my Hebrew.

It was a challenging visit indeed.  At work, my answer was “it was interesting.”  At least one colleague told me how sorry she is to hear I didn’t have a great time.  So I insisted it was “interesting,” taking advantage of the double literal and colloquial usages of the word.

Interesting has its upside though.  Given my frustration with the long, too long, non-blogging interval, this trip is a great trigger to restart; head first.

The ending says it all

Before leaving my parents’ home for the airport, I went to say goodbye to dear friends living nearby.  I didn’t see this coming:


Given Facebook’s limitations, I had to attach a photo to the post or else I wouldn’t be able to include it in the trip’s album.


Nabi Ilyas, AKA Herbit an-Nabi Aliyas

The kids “posed” without any prompting, just like kids do.  Needless to say, this post got me another exchange over this sharing.  I was back home in California for a couple of hours, and there was a follow-up,  sadly confirming the intolerance and impatience to other opinions.  I’m not used to hearing a dear friend saying “I don’t care what you think,” and I expect you to respect and accept my opinions no matter what, no matter what your conscious tells you.  In Hebrew it goes

“תעזבי פשוט ..כול מה שרציתי להגיד שממש לא חשוב לי הדעות שלך וכו..”

Literally saying, “simply drop it, all I wanted to say is that your opinions are of no importance to me.”  Mic drop.

Are you ready to join my trip?

February 14, 2016

#224 – Behavior-based interviewing is not the question

Filed under: business buz,Opinionated — yael [ya-el] wagner @ 18:39
Tags: , , , , ,


Once upon a time, I came across this article by Liz Ryan, where she attacks, criticizes, and ridicules behavior-based interviewing.

One of her arguments goes like this: “Imagine you’re calling a plumber because your kid stuck his sock in the bathtub drain. Are you going to say to the plumber, “Tell me about a time when you had to get something out of a tub drain.”? [Extra period included in original post]

You’re not. If you did, the plumber would say “Look, buddy, you want me to come over or not?” It’s no different on a job interview.”

This is when you smile, feeling great about hating those questions you’ve been told to ask. I did, for a second.  Then I was not.  It is very different on a job interview.

A plumber is a problem solver, a service provider.  I want him to come, do his thing to meet my requirements,  the best he can, for the right price, leave no mess behind, and be gone.

An employee is someone I bring into my team; someone I depend on, someone I trust, and intend to work with for a long time.  We need to be aligned, in sync, share a vision, communicate a lot.  A good employee may often act on my behalf, executing a strategy we agree on.  Hmm, suddenly it’s so unlike a plumber.  I’d love to see Ms. Ryan’s reaction when the plumber takes initiative and decides it’s also a great time to replace the faucets.  according to his roadmap that is.  At work however, if I hired the right person for the job, I expect her to take initiatives, I trust her; no, I expect her to come up w
ith new ideas that promote our business, and are aligned with our long-term goals.

Do I need to spell out the cost of hiring a full-time employee?  Or worse, the cost of replacing an ill-fitting the-truth-about-behavioral-interviewing-03employee…

The cost of hiring a plumber is often as low as the time it takes to make a phone call, schedule a visit, negotiate price.  Done.  Well, not exactly.  Whether we use Yelp, Angie List, Facebook, Next Door, or call a friend, we ask questions very similar to the condemned behavior-based ones.  “Tell me about the plumber you called when you had to get something out of a tub drain.”  Usually you’d add, “Was he clean?  On time?  Was the problem resolved in one visit?  How much did he charge?”

Most plumbers, when asked, provide contact info of previous customers who’ll answer all these behavior-based questions. Same goes for the mechanic, hair designer, PCP, or the vet.  Like it or not, we judge many of our service providers by their past behavior, whether we get the answers directly from them or from others.


A plumber with lots of negative reviews, is judged for his past behavior and performance.  By design, Yelp, Twitter and their likes provide “behavioral/performance-based assessment.”  LinkedIn enables its plumbers, and everyone else, to share only their best behavior and great performances.  As the world’s de facto professional platform, LinkedIn’s cyber-bullying potential could easily destroy a person’s career.  This is why, IMHO, we get to approve our colleagues’ reviews, and decide if we want to include them in our profiles.  This is a great source to find one’s better and best behavior patterns.  As for the not so great? This is, in a big way, where and when behavior/performance-based questions come to our help.


The challenge recruiters often face is that an interview is as good as the interviewer.  Too often, hiring managers are not required or won’t take the time to develop a minimal level of interviewing skills.  Either they have it or not.  I’d say this is one key reasons companies develop rigid hiring processes and interview scripts.

“Tell me about a decision you made that was wrong, and how you managed it?”   Silence;  long ensuing silence.  This is one of my favorites, both as the interviewer or the interviewee.  It is a great opportunity to learn about a person’s style.  if you did anything of substance, released a product, dealt with a challenging customer or partner, produced an event, drove change… if you did, then there was a mistake, something you could have done better, faster, more efficient, an opportunity… must be.   Once upon a time, in a different everything, a candidate’s answer sealed the decision.  After rewording the question three times, and listening to the nothingness in the room, it no longer mattered how well he answered all other questions, or how impressive he was on the phone interview, or even that he was recommended by a friend.   Would you want someone that cannot even entertain the idea that he may be wrong join your team?

“Can you share your experience dealing with a naysayer in your team?  What did you do?” We know such people exist.  How one manages such situation says a lot about a personal style.  Product managers rarely manage the people that make the product.  One’s leadership isn’t and cannot be the result of authority or rank.  It requires an ability to communicate with multiple people, in multiple roles, with very different personalities, and build with each the rapport, trust, and respect required.  So, how did you deal with naysayers in the past?

Unlike Ms. Ryan, Lou Adler‘s criticism of the ability of past behavior to predict future performance is more serious, calling out that one’s [past] success in doing X, wasn’t only dependent on one’s ability, skills, persona, but also on circumstances.  In his post PAST BEHAVIOR DOESN’T PREDICT FUTURE PERFORMANCE, Adler points out circumstances that may contribute to the success or a failure of one’s behavior in achieving the desired results.  He recommends performance-based hiring.  And of course he is right.  Circumstances are critical factors in one’s success.  More important though is the distinction between behavior-based to performance-based.  Calling it out, Adler helped me realize that we often say one, while meaning the other.  Thank you.


However, no interview can be all behavior performance-based.  A good interview should be a mix of checking facts & history [validate the resume], chemistry, trust, style & rapport [AKA a great or a bad culture fit], subject matter expertise, values.

And let’s not forget, a big part of a job interview is sales and marketing effort.  While the interviewee is pitching himself, her ability to deliver, being a good fit, the interviewer sells the position, the company, the team, the challenge, and opportunity.  Encouraging the candidate to ask as many questions as possible.  These questions in themselves  tell a lot priorities, values, and past experience [read: “traumas”].  Or…

  • I: “This was my last question. Thank you.  Now it’s all about you.  Do you have any question?”
  • Candidate I: “When do I get a promotion?  What does it take to get promoted?”
  • I: “This is a new role.   It’ll take a minimum 18-24 months for one to get to that point.  What would you consider a promotion? What position would you consider a promotion?”
  • Candidate I: “Join that other team doing that [very different] role.”
  • I: “So you are interested in the position we are discussing as a transition, a bridge to another [very different] role?”
  • Candidate I: “Yes.” A pause. [I imagine him replaying his last sentences in his head.  “I guess I’m not the right person for this [current] position.”
  • The voice in my head: “You think?!”



May 14, 2015

#223 – Need a Doctor? See a Therapist.

Filed under: life matters,mmmmmmarketing,Opinionated — yael [ya-el] wagner @ 00:22
Tags: , , ,

there’s nothing good i can say about the American health system.  wasteful, inefficient, unhealthy… not really health-motivated, not in the sense of one’s well-being.  other than my PCP of course.  and it took me three years to find her.

I used to think that @SutterHealth belonged to the better ones of the undesirable options one has in Northern California. until it came out with its TV ad campaign.  A healthcare provider spends millions of dollars to convey the message it cares.  and how does it do it?  by telling us

Trying to convince us that they are better than everyone else, since they care.  Last time anyone used the + sign it didn’t’ work all that well, did it?  To be honest, the Kaiser Permanente commercials are delivering the message of caring much better.  for example:

Sutter Health, unfortunately, fails to do so. there’s no humor, no real compassion in any of those four ads.  one implies that a cancer survivor has no friends or family supporting her but her Dr.  another makes finding our the gender of your baby feel like an AA member about to relapse.  a third features a diabetic patient confessing the major crime of eating a cinnamon roll.  the fourth, which i find to be the most disturbing of them all, makes the conversation between a kid with asthma and his physician look like what could be the opening of a Law&Order SVU episode.   worst yet, it positions asthma as something to be mocked about and ashamed off.  all four videos stage the Doctor-patient conversation in what looks more like a therapy session rather than a doctor’s appointment.   shot in too dark of a room it feels nothing like a doctor’s office.  Creepy is more like it.  and, if i want to be extremely sensitive, why would one choose black actors for the one that feels like a drug usage confession, and white actors to the others? and don’t you have any Asians patients or doctors?  i know you do, since my PCP is one.

want to communicate that you care, that you are a different kind of a health provider?  that’s great.  but if the outcome of all your brainstorming and focus groups is “when i go to my physician, i want to talk to a shrink,” then maybe you should see a therapist???  or at least use a different agency instead of BBDO, or at least have the creative directors, namely Craig Mangan, Matt Miller, Steve Rutter, Amber Justis, Kevin Thomson think it a little more?

Due Diligence: My provider is PAMF, which is part of the Sutter Health system.  Have been for the past six years or more. other than the Eye Doctor and clinic I’ve visited twice recently, i’ve always been very happy with the care i got.  still am.   yet, these ads are creepy bad.

Screen Shot 2015-05-13 at 11.44.11 PM

Be a Dr. not a shrink.

you could do so much better.

October 13, 2014

#222 – where your classroom is a country

Filed under: Israel,life matters,Opinionated,that Jewish thing,US life — yael [ya-el] wagner @ 01:03
Tags: , , ,

Election2014On November 2nd, I’ll practice my civic right, and vote in the 2014 Interim Election. My first! Staring at all the material I need to read to ensure I vote as I should, I realize how different is this democracy, compared to the one I grew up in. Living here for as long as I have, passing the citizenship interview/test, getting sworn in, getting a 2nd blue passport – all these steps were only the beginning. There’s more to US citizenship. And you don’t learn about it, unless you are one, unless you are totally in.

Many-many years ago, i was the [wait for it] Head Counselor of the Tel Aviv University Overseas Student Program [TAU OSP]. Breathe. It was indeed a very long title.  It was my first exposure and intense interaction with Native Americans [pun intended] excluding TV. American students, as opposed to Mexican, Canadian, and the rest of the world students, were the dominant majority [~85-90%] of the program. At that point in time, they were the US for me.

Whether it was getting them to hike to the top of Masada pre-dawn via the Snake Path to see the sunrise from the top, sharing an ambulance ride with a student that tried to commit suicide, or finding a way to tell an excited student that the nice Jewish boy she wants to introduce to her parents when they visit, is indeed very nice, but not at all Jewish, were but a few of my memorable interactions. The challenge of explaining that caring the water jerrycan is a team responsibility to students who didn’t go to Young Judaea or Habonim Dror. It was interesting. Given that I have had yet to visit the US, those interactions and experiences were the building blocks of my American perspective.

Masada Snake Path

It wasn’t until I started visiting the US on a regular basis [while living in Canada], and later living here, that I realized how distorted one’s perception may be, when it is based on a skewed sample, in a very specific setting. You can’t really learn a country or people from afar.  I know how wrong, how far off I was.

[Hold that thought]

Contradictory to Israel’s pathetic PR track record, the OSP had a brilliant one.

“Where Your Classroom is a Country”

TAU OSPSimply brilliant. Hey, I didn’t coin it. Every product / product marketing manager would be proud to have such a befitting slogan.

Every [American] student got a T-shirt with this slogan, before leaving for Israel. Americans dig marketing better than most.

In my latest cleanup & declutter [part #∞], I found the Canadian version that I produced when running the Canadian office, [and recognizing that Canada is so “not the same” [as the US]. Tomorrow, the shirts will be on their way to those who were quick to claim them.

[Keep on holding to that thought]

Between the High Holidays and the recent war, now less interesting since we got ISIS to feed the media, the last couple of months included a lot of, “So what is it with Israel? Can you please explain the war? What is going on? Who & What should I believe?”

israel facesI greatly appreciate everyone who tries to understand, who is honest enough to admit that s/he isn’t sure what’s going on in that troubled region. I respect anyone who wonders what’s behind rating-driven media coverage, money, and political agendas. I try to answer, share, and be as objective as I can. But, to really understand Israel, let alone the overall Middle East mess, you need to take yourself to the class… We – Israelis [in and outside Israel] – are a complicated bunch, with contradictions and inconsistencies being our normal. Our normal includes terrorism, religious fanaticism, and bleeding edge technology. It doesn’t include camels though. We, too, think of them as an attraction. My point? Israel’s normal is too often another’s ‘different.’

For example…

Israel is surrounded by countries that, generally speaking, wish it didn’t exist. Countries, one should point out, that when it comes to access to education & technology, personal freedom, and all other 21st century western world givens, are behind, and not necessarily interested in catching up. Israel pockets of archaic life styles are the whole garment in most of its Muslim neighbors.

Little in common with the neighbors is an understatement – check!

Known and respected for innovation in science, technology, medicine & pharmaceuticals, agriculture… with Israelis present, holding positions, sharing, partnering in most research and industries that advance us all. Yet, at the same time, thought of as a remote unstable desert somewhere.

The only Jewish state, with a minority population that can hardly be thought of as a minority. Home for immigrants, legal or not, from every corner of the world, only 66 years old, yet carries the weight of thousands of years of history. It’s the one place important to three religions that other than monotheism, agree on very little, though share a lot. Actually, make it four. The Baha’i faith, also monotheistic, has two of its most important shrines in Israel. This religious significance leads to a constant tension, not to say conflict, between the desire to be normal, and the push to be a symbol. Fundamentalists, Christians or Muslim, have a very clear view of what Israel should be… The Jewish fundamentalists have their vision too. Neither option will maintain an Israel I would ever consider living in. One or two of the options may change its name. All options will treat women as less than equal to men. The other abnormal for a western country is the unbridgeable gap, tension, and conflict between the desire to live in peace and the critical expensive battle for survival, living surrounded by hate, terrorism, and all too often wars.

You may wonder how this is all connected.  It’s about the Shoes, of course. Between taking a little pride in the brand of Katniss’ shoes and realizing that the election’s “study requirements” demonstrated to me that the country is a classroom… for the curious student.

September 20, 2014

#220 – Triple I. Identity, Interview, and I

Filed under: life matters,Opinionated — yael [ya-el] wagner @ 21:22
Tags: , , ,

Every now and then, I find myself thinking about the latest addition to my identity. The recent war in Israel, and the European anti-Semitism and hate wave that accompanied it, made me think about it a little more. “The whole world is against us” is more than just a song Israelis grew up on. There isn’t a living Israeli who didn’t experience one form or another of war, terrorism, or being under an attack. There isn’t a living American who had to fight to defend US proper – the actual physical country. We are talking home, not a forsaken land half way across the ocean, where an American soldier is sent to liberate, defend, or show the light to people of a very different culture, language, and value set. Getting ready to use my American passport for the first time makes me think about it much more. It is from this place, that my citizenship interview seems removed from the true meaning of being a citizen. After all, being a citizen [of either of my countries] doesn’t mean I agrees with everything politicians say, do, pitch, believe in, and too often, want to send the army to fight for, die for. It means that I agree with the core values and principles that make a country what it is. It means that I’m willing to sacrifice a lot to ensure this country stays around, even if and when its day-to-day practice goes against some of my beliefs. In Israel, land and how to treat the other, how to democratically manage the diversity that was a priori to the establishment of the state are critical components of my comfort with the ruling cocktail of parties, beliefs and interests. Right now I rather not drink this cocktail. In the US, which has been around a little longer, it’s global warming, war on women, and immigration. Social responsibility and community, as in caring for your neighbor are key too. And let’s say nothing about the healthcare mess. The surprising and uncomfortable insight, hard to accept or admit, is that today, or last month, or on May 21st or 22nd, my sworn in day, I was more comfortable, more at ease, with making that commitment to the US than I would have been if I had to re-commit to Israel. I’m not ready to give up this loyalty, this key component of my identity. But… None of this, nothing at all, went through my head when I went in for the citizenship interview. It was early April. On time, past security, I found myself in a big waiting room. A quick visual scan of the room returned with an Indian

majority. A close second was the Mexican, or maybe I should say Latino/Hispanic. Third was the Chinese delegation, and then it was the rest of the world; a Brazilian couple, and one or maybe two more Caucasian couples. One of the Caucasian couples, as well as one of the Chinese, came with a lawyer/translator, others came with kids. I thought I heard Hebrew, but wasn’t too sure. As bureaucracy goes, you need to submit your form NOT at the window with the sign that says so, but at the one to its right. Right there they got it wrong. After a while you realize that the sign is there just to confuse you. I flipped through the booklet with the 100 questions and extra answers, some of them are actually interesting. Patience.

The immigration officers are a diverse bunch. Seems that just like the waiting room, white is a minority. I love California. My people curiosity and its diversity paired well. Many of the names of the citizen wannabes present a pronunciation challenge, from the single or double syllable Chinese, to the how-do-you-pronounce-this-very-long-Indian-name-I’m-out-of-air names. To the officers’ credit, they make an effort to pronounce every wannabe’s name. And then it’s my turn. “Wagner…” and her tone goes up a notch with a typical question intonation. I’m considering taking an offense. 5-Syllable names get pronounced, though not without hesitation, and yet my two syllable, 4-letter name is considered so complicated, too challenging, that I’m the ONLY person that gets called by last name only. One could have said it’s anti-Semitism, but with Wagner for a last name, it’s really hard to make the case. Never thought of my name as a four letter word, but apparently, for most Americans, it is. I get up, smiling to myself, and meet Lupe [I think]. A big woman, and it turns out that with a matching big heart. Her first question, before we even make it to the interview room [read: her office] is, “How do you pronounce your name.” Touché. I say it, she repeats it a couple of times, and tells me about her life long-suffering due to her own unusual name. She goes on to tell me how hard she tries to properly pronounce every interviewee’s name, and admits that when she can’t, as is the case with some of the longer Indian names, she tries to match the application photo to a person in the waiting room… unless it’s me I think to myself. 15-20 minutes later, we exhausted the topic, including her Starsucks and other calorie providers’ fake name. I keep it simple, I admit. My name is “just the letter ‘Y’ please.” OK, so you know I love coffee, you know how to pronounce my name, more or less, now how any of it will help you determine if I am the kind of person you’d want to welcome as a citizen of your country? Have I been a member of a terrorist organization, she wants to know. “I grew up in Israel,” I say. “We fight terrorism.” She didn’t like it. “I have to ask these questions.” And then there’s a question about Nazism or something else. The Israeli association of Wagner & Nazism on one hand, and growing up as an Israeli with Wagner for a last name completely escapes her. Flipping through my application, she handed me a list of international trips. My trips, and asks me to confirm that these are all the trips I took since I got my green card. Not even close. “There’s a whole page missing.” Is it a test? I couldn’t tell. “There wasn’t enough space in the form, so I included an additional page with all my trips,” I added. “I have a copy of it here if you need it.” Working on that excel spreadsheet was my painful 2013 Thanksgiving project. I recall that it was 21 trips for the last 5 years. Make it 22, I took another trip in February. She asked for the dates. Thanks to mobile calendar and mobile boarding passes, I could provide the specific dates. She didn’t want my complete list. And I still wonder, was it a test? And if so, why? What for? “What is freedom of religion,” she asked. And I answered, “The freedom to practice any religion, or not practice a religion.” I had to read a sentence, write a sentence, there is a couple more questions, and then it’s something along the lines of “You are welcome to join this great nation.” You may be sworn in this month, or, if we already met the space limitations, you’ll be invited next month.” I get a note saying that I met all citizenship requirements, and it recommends my citizenship approval. It was all over, waiting included, in just about 70 minutes. What an anticlimax. So I took the rest of the day off. And time and again I think about what defines one’s identity.

July 9, 2014

The Girl Next Door is Black’s post: Potty-Mouthed Street Kids & Other Tales of Harassment

Filed under: life matters,Opinionated — yael [ya-el] wagner @ 14:18
Tags: , ,

Post thoughts re: Potty-Mouthed Street Kids & Other Tales of Harassment.

Is it Safe? source:

Until recently, this girl and I worked together.  It’s only after we went our separate ways that we got together and found out that we both blog.  [Well, most recently I have had more blogging intentions than posts.  Working on it.]

A couple of days after we had coffee together, i read her blog for the first time.  The post is Potty-Mouthed Street Kids & Other Tales of Harassment. I read about her limb grabbing and I nod, San Francisco is full of weirdoes. Here’s a story of a disturbing one. And as I read on, incident after incident, a growing sense of discomfort and unease fills me. This is not how I go through life, this is not how I experience life. Taking a cab, walking down the street, getting on a SF bus… after all, I take the NYC subway without a 2nd thought.

Years ago, visiting NYC from Canada, and meeting an Israeli friend, visiting from Israel, I understood with the internal insight of a strong truism, what the victim’s look means. Observing her approaching me, her walk was out of step, it had the wrong rhythm. She stopped to look around and take pictures, not more often than me, but in a way that disturbed more people than was needed. There was a lot of talk about the victim’s look at that time. It was before New York became safe again. And looking at her, I knew that her chances to get mugged are much higher than mine.

But this is different. No one will ever consider describing Keisha as suffering from a victim’s look. I wouldn’t want to get on her bad side. And yet…

So what is it? Keisha?

September 29, 2013

#217 – That New Year Stuff


Every year, in the introspective period between Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and my birthday, I seek the learning, meaning, lessons, or insights of the year just ending.

For example, in 2010, I had my Slicha, I’m sorry project, posted HERE.

Last year, I was about eliminating the “but” and letting go of grudges.  This is key for a real slicha.  Letting go [of the anger, pain, hurt, even self-righteousness and own mistakes] is a critical step.  I shared it with you HERE.

This year, I was having a hard time picking the one that was IT.  Many lessons were dismissed, not meeting my criteria of significance.  It was getting uncomfortable.

As life has it, in sync with the end of the High Holidays and my birthday, I collided, heart first, with TWO lessons to work on in this coming year.  Each on its own would have been enough.  Together they are going to keep me on my toes, and I haven’t tried ballet since 3rd grade. These are not New Year resolutions.  It’s a public commitment to do better, not for 3 hours per week at the gym, 5 meals per week in the kitchen, or once a week in the filing cabinet, virtual or physical.  It’s a commitment to work, practice and modify the me that you and I know.  You are more than welcome to freely offer your feedback.  Please do.

Walking on egg shells

“I’ve been walking on egg shells around you,” he said.  Surprised, I said, “you need not, you didn’t need to.”

“I didn’t want to hurt you.  I never intend to offend you,” he said.  “Sometimes I just don’t know.”20130925 - walk eggshells

Time went to wherever it goes, and the tables turned.  And now I find myself tip-toeing on eggshells, hovering about, afraid I’ll crack even one shell.
It’s much harder than I’d ever imagined.  Simply put, it sucks.  I mean really, heavily, painfully sucks.

Imagine a ticker running in your head, asking, “Should I say this?  Can I initiate that?  Do I do/say nothing and patiently wait for him to ping?”  This is so! exhausting. I don’t know how he did it.  I don’t know how you can do it for more than a conversation.

A week of this experience, and I have tons of respect [tinted with guilt] for anyone who’d do it.  A week+ of a concentrated intense effort to crack no egg.  This is how much I care, love, value, and cherish the man and the friendship.  Doing nothing for the fear of doing the wrong thing, making the wrong comment… It is a torture, self-imposed, for a great cause, and yet, a torture.  As one who values directness and proactivity, this exercise of eggshells walking is a lesson, and its timing is perfect.

another nail in the fence (source:

The story of the kid and the nails in the fence comes to mind.  Yet, reading the story and getting

the potatoes we carry (source:

the point was much easier experience than being the kid and learning my lesson.  Eliav Alaluf, if my memory serves me right, posted a related story, about a kindergarten teacher illustrating the hate for another person with carrying a potato around, until it rots.

So here goes, and I encourage you to hold me accountable, to never make you walk on eggshells because of me, around me.  This is not about forgiveness; that’s easy.  It’s about being open and approachable, making it OK to make a mistake, say the wrong thing, the insensitive thing, or even the right thing in an off sort of way…  I will be open and willing to talk it over.  Another way of looking at it is for me, for us, to treat our tough, sensitive, high-risk conversations, offenses, arguments and disagreements, as snapchat-like conversations.

A snapchat chat? Yes.  Effective immediately, it’s OK to get pissed off or even get mad…  for a minute, maybe five, 15 minutes if you must.  Recording the chat and using it to eternity is not an option.

the wrong way to go about it (source:

Accepting one’s apology means it’s gone, done, forgotten.  You’d expect one to learn from mistakes, not repeat them.  That’s a given. However, some mistakes take more than one performance before the lesson is learned and internalized.  Some students, in some topics, are slow.  I’ve been blessed with your patience, allowing me and forgiving repeated mistakes until I got it, and stopped it.  Thank you!

There are amazing, very special people in my life, a few that I have conversations with, even when they are not present, valuing their view [and much more].  This is my apology, and a promise to do my best to avoid subjecting anyone to walking on eggshells.  Snapchat these interactions.

Should you feel that I falter, you have my permission to throw those eggs, cracked or not, fresh or not, at me.  Seriously.  A forewarning would be nice though.

The second challenge awaits its very own post.

September 10, 2013

#215 – Giving Green a Bad Name

Filed under: mmmmmmarketing,Opinionated — yael [ya-el] wagner @ 17:38
Tags: , ,

The description says: ”

“Green in colour and green by nature! Recycled plastic and recycled metal in a superb quality scissor. Large ergonomically shaped finger grips for comfort and control

  • Left hander has reversed blades to make it easier to see exact cutting lines”


I had no reason to doubt it.   It was a nice thoughtful gift, and it spent its days the drawer, next to a couple of more substantial scissors.   I happily remembered the gifter every time i looked at it.

A couple of days ago, I was playing with yet another idea for the back patio, one that required some cutting.  Garden, green… perfect match, right?

So I took the idle scissor and asked it to do its thing.  Nothing.  I changed the angle.  AS a left-handed, one gets used to the discomfort of using “normal” scissor.  Unfortunately, I wasn’t at all feeling comfortable with the lefty version either. Trying once, twice, and on third trial it fell apart.  “What is the sound of half [green] scissor?”  I wonder.

This is what is looks before you buy it:

And this is what it looks once I tried to use it.


I don’t think this can be recycled in Santa Clara.

Manufacturer: Decree.  More information?  Good Luck.

August 26, 2013

#214 – Cheers to Cheerios’ “I HEART DADDY”

Cheerios promotes love. Interracial families included.

I’m not a Cheerios lover. And yet I now have a feel-good warm fuzzy spot for the cereal, independent of its nutritious or hearty value.  In a recent post, Adotas attributes it to the newsworthiness of the ad that I enjoyed so much, and the controversy that followed.

First, the ad:

I’ve seen it a couple of times on TV, and wide-smiled at the kid’s solid logic.  Then, a couple of weeks later, I saw this:

This mind opener, with 6,206,847 viewings and 118,401 thumbs up at writing time, asserts, loud and clear, that the generation growing up in a house near me is freer of prejudice and racist predispositions like never before.

I doubt that this was Cheerios’ intent upon launching the ad.  After all, they are about selling cereals.  And yet… This is the first Cheerios ad ever going truly viral, carrying the brand’s name above and beyond the 103K which was its highest ad true reach to date.  All it took is a cute girl that cares about her father’s heart to reach to over 14.4 Million viewers.  And a pair of interracial parents.

Newsworthiness they say.  The noise that this ad generated is a testimony to its newsworthiness.  Cheerios however, didn’t think of the ad as newsworthy.  It came with the controversy that the ad generated.  Controversy, I must say, that I was completely blind to, until the blogosphere came in and knocked hard at my monitor.

Kudos to General Mills for choosing to stand behind the ad and continuing its broadcast.  Their handling of the racist comments was professional and minimal – they turned off the comments option on YouTube.

Making things even better for General Mills, the decision to stand its ground re the definition of the American normal family, and  keeping the ad, had another amazing side effect.  Listen to Cynthia Liu, who blogs about race, culture, gender and parenting.  “This is a tempest in a cereal bowl, right?” Liu said.  In fact, she posits that Cheerios’ move could even be an “upside-down, inside-out” way to dog-whistle to open-minded parents who otherwise might not buy the cereal. [source]

Lowes’ December 2011 decision to pull out their advertising in the TLC All-American Muslim reality show comes to mind.  Confronted with rage against anything that positions Muslims as anything but terrorist, they quickly caved.  the customer rage they were so concerned with, it turned out, came mostly from one loud guy.  The show, sadly, was canceled after one season.

General Mills/Cheerios, bless their brand and marketing wisdom, is standing strong and winning.  They won me.

Being bold, smart, creative, and… create newsworthy ads, the vibe and spread, and go viral.

As for the American family, it is changing.  On one hand, there are TV shows such as Modern Family which had been criticized for placing women in traditional helpless gender roles, a not touchy enough gay couple, and a heavy usage of modern technology while making it past its 100’s episode, or the new normal, with an extra conservative mother dominant mother, a baby mama surrogate mother and a powerful black assistant, which was canceled after short seven months, possibly for being too gay… but how many successful interracial families do we see on our not-so-small anymore screens.

And yet, in the 2010 census, which is the latest available, one can find some US interracial family statistics to happily keep on mind [Source:]:

Number of Interracial & Interethnic Married Couples Grew by 28 Percent over Decade

The U.S. Census Bureau Census brief, Households and Families: 2010 showed interracial or interethnic opposite-sex married couple households grew by 28 percent over the decade from 7 percent in 2000 to 10 percent in 2010. States with higher percentages of couples of a different race or Hispanic origin in 2010 were primarily located in the western and southwestern parts of the United States, along with Hawaii and Alaska.  I hear California.

Also noted is that a higher percentage of unmarried partners were interracial or interethnic than married couples. Nationally, 10 percent of opposite-sex married couples had partners of a different race or Hispanic origin, compared with 18 percent of opposite-sex unmarried partners and 21 percent of same-sex unmarried partners.

Equality and open-mindedness will prevail.  Cheers.

Christopher Colbert, the father of Grace Colbert, was not offended by the cutting remarks which bombarded the YouTube clip of the ad. Colbert, along with his wife and daughter, spoke to MSNBC TV: “Being part of a biracial family, it’s just the reality,” Christoper Colbert said. “We’re also part of the face of America.”

September 23, 2012

#210 – Happy. Limited. Yom Kippur 2012

Peninsula Temple Sholom [] Tashlich ceremony, Sep.17, 2012

 Once again, Yom Kippur is here.  This year it’s not near or in the proximity of my birthday; the two are one and the same, leaving me no escape.  Two years ago, I had my Slicha project.  And it felt right, appropriate, a true act of cleansing.  Last year’s Yom Kippur was mellower; my slate was much less loaded.  And here I am, thinking Happy Limited thoughts.

An observation: nobody that I know or can think off, from the most observant to the most ignorant, says “I’m sorry.”  “Gmar Hatima Tova” is the common wish and greeting.  Thinking of the importance of asking for the forgiveness of the people in one’s life, I wonder how the observant settles the abyss between the fasting, the many long hours of praying to atone the wrong doing of year past, hoping God will see it your way, and doing nothing about the people you hurt, offended, bad-mouthed, gossiped about?

Asking for the forgiveness of a person, via phone, SMS, email or the hardest – face-to-face while maintaining eye contact – is so much harder than praying or fasting.

So let me say it out right.  I am not perfect.  I offended few people this past year, and I try very hard not to let myself easily off by saying that they hurt me too, hurt me first, hurt me more.  This is my Yom Kippur, my Slicha, [and birthday too].

And I’m sorry, for the impatience, for the disrespect, for self-centered moments, for overdose of directness some of you rather I didn’t employ. And yet, there are two things I am sorry for, regret most and want to self-inflict a mental Tashlich on my mind.

First, is the sin of holding a grudge, of maintaining or nourishing the offense, the insult, the hurt, the anger, self-righteousness.  Last February, on a fun-free visit in Israel, I was speechless [only for a moment, really] to find out that my mom had been holding a grudge [based on a complete misunderstanding] against a friend since 2004.  Pointing out the very obvious stupidity of the unjustified sense of offence was met with the stubbornness of “I’ve been angry and offended by this for so long, why stop now?” duh?!

Now, seven months later, as Yom Kippur approaches, I want to clean my slate of grudges, offenses, bad air, ill-feelings I’ve been carrying around for no good reason.  Time to let go.

Here’s my Tashlich list:

The anger of your using my love for you to your advantage.  Off you go.

The lingering offense for your treating me as a lesser person than you, the disrespect you showed, your patronizing “I’m so much smarter than you” attitude.  Out of my head, vanish.  I should not seek the company of such.

The pain of being forgotten by you that I carry around.  Let the past be the past.  Moving on.

The anger of letting you treat me with disrespect, while I say nothing and yet hold it against you. No more. Out of my system, now.

The frustration with your demanding of me what you don’t demand of yourself.  No more.  I shall do what I think is right, and call out your double-standard as it happens.  Will no longer allow it to be a voice ringing in my head, but make it a part of our dialog.

Allowing myself to be put down by your insensitivity, not to say self-centered view – no more.

The prayer says something like “…He does not maintain His wrath forever, for He desires [to do] kindness.  He will again show us mercy, He will suppress our iniquities and He will cast all their sins into the depths of the sea.”  I am much more comfortable with my version.  The idea of figuratively emptying my awareness of all grudges [rather than the pockets of my jacket] has its appeal though. More so if one gets to do it in, let’s say Half Moon Bay.

I’m sorry if any of this makes you feel uncomfortable.  This is as hard if not harder than asking for your slicha.  Now that I hold no grudges for or against you, there’s room for new, fresh, more positive, healthier experiences for us to share. And I think this is great.  Almost.  Got to clear one more thing.

So much has been written about the pursuit of happiness.  It’s part of the deceleration of independence of the USA.  It’s a great movie.  It’s what we so want to have in our life.  But…

And this “but” is so much greater than i ever imagined.  Think, which you are more familiar with, “I’m happy,” or “I’m happy, but…?”  What do you say or expect to hear more?

In past weeks, I found myself offering “I’m happy” + a smile to the inquiring ones among you.  Surprisingly, more than once, what I got was a consecutive but.  Sometimes, it wasn’t even an audible but; it was the sound of silence.  The silence of the but.

The “I’m so happy for you” that eventually came was sincere, mostly, but…The but was there nonetheless.  And it got me thinking.

Why is it that we expect “happy, but?”  After all, just like everything else, iPhone5 included, Life isn’t perfect.  When i say “I’m happy,” I’m NOT saying “everything is perfect.”  I’m saying that things are as great as they could possibly be right now, therefore I’m happy.”  Things could be better, really.  And they could be much worse.  So here i am, in this moment, happy.  Why is this need to limit the happy?  Restrict is with a but? Is but the new Ltd.?

Who are those but Sayers?

First, there’s the cynical know-it-all-too-well.  Things can’t be this good, and if they are, it won’t last long, and something, many-a-thing can go wrong, and will.  Be prepared, don’t let yourself be happy.  Wakeup is painful.  So come-on and spit it out.  You are happy but… what aren’t you saying? When will the honeymoon be over?

Second, there’re those who know-me-all-too-well.  Their line of thinking goes like this: “we heard you before, the but is coming, we wait for the other shoe [read: but] to drop.  So yes, i do tend to take the good for granted, assume that you can see and realize the good for yourself, therefore there’s no need for me to point it out… often not making enough room to recognize and enjoy the good.   This is my other Tashlich challenge.  I recognize that omitting the good, obvious as it may be, distorts the picture.  So throw this one away too, off with this bias.  I shall call out the good and the not so good, acknowledging both. New Year, the year of & [no more the year of the but].

Thirds are those who aren’t happy with where, what and how they are.  It’s not that they don’t want me to be happy; they don’t like the idea of me, or anyone else for that matter, being happier than they are.  The notion of anyone [outside the characters of the Princess Bride] being perfectly happy doesn’t really appeal to them. For these, the bigger the but, the happier they are.  After all, why should you or I be happy if they are not?  It sounds so petty, that it got me wondering what do i say when I’m the listener.  Do I say “I’m so happy for you, tell me more?” Do I say “be careful, watch out, things can’t be as good as you think they are”? Do I think it, feeling the wiser, yet say nothing?  Seating here enjoying an amazing Californian Fall day, I challenge my mind to be happy first, and second.  My trouble or struggle should never cloud your neither your happiness, nor your sharing of it.

Not sure any of this applies to you?  A couple of weeks ago, over coffee @ the Sufi café [which deserves a chapter all of its own] I outlined the “but observations” to a friend.  Her immediate response was that it all has to do with me.  That it is because my friends are used to me usage of that inevitable “but” they now expect it.  “Oh no,” i laughed.  “Let me replay to you two of the personal experiences that you just shared.  BOTH followed this template:  I’ve changed/learned/improved/am better/happy… BUT…”

As much as she didn’t like to admit it, she could not deny the presence of the but.

Happy New Year, Happy Yom Kippur clearance.  Looking forward to having and sharing many happy experiences with you, and no buts.

September 19, 2012

#209 – Social media; you need a friend for that

Filed under: business buz,mmmmmmarketing,Opinionated — yael [ya-el] wagner @ 03:10
Tags: ,

Who’d you turn to for a good solid, reliable advice? It depends. For TV, I go to Bill Sheppard. For Pizza, I turn to Mohammed from Via Mia.  Martin Lister is for Apple Inc., best iToy apps and media, among other things. Dan is for cameras and photography [and then some].  For many years [in Israel], for car picking I turned to Amos. For electrical it used to be my dad, until electrical become much more electronic. I could go on.  I have my subject matter experts whom I trust, and know their advice to be a solid one.

By Bryant Arnold, Published: 18-Feb-11

Not that long ago, no one said, “I got an app for that.” We “had a friend for this.” Pre-googling, a thorough search meant a few “do you know somebody who knows something [read: A LOT] about this thing?” Between my family & friends network, I rarely had to make a decision without an expert’s advice.

Fast-forward.  With a marketing cap on, calling our contacts on FaceBook “friends” was a brilliant idea, exactly because of the trust value associated with friendships.  So what if this wasn’t the initial motivation.  The length of incentive, fake or not, and all other manipulations used to get us to like and follow a brand, and share it with friends are the best testimony for that.  It’s brilliant because we do indeed care, some of us more, some of us less, what our friends do, see, read, listen to, BUY.

Again, social media is built on the assumption that we pay attention to what our friends enjoy, like, buy, enjoy and a brand can harness this to promote itself, grow brand recognition, and improve its NPS.  Thing is, our friends, the real ones that is, don’t press us to buy and spend [other than my iApple friends].  And, as far as friends go, trust, respect, willingness to listen and accept opinions and recommendations, are all built on many positive, fun interactions, all non-commercial in nature.  Social Media marketing campaigns and promotions cannot expect to replace that shared experience with a few posts on Facebook, a couple of tweets, and “like me,” or “follow me” manipulations.

“What’s in it for me” is not a daily or a weekly test that our friendships need to pass.  We seek friends’ advice when we need it.  We are likely to put a distance between us and a friend who frequently offers unsolicited advice.  And of course, we want to have our chance to express an opinion or two, feel heard.  But when we are ‘encouraged’ to like a brand page, follow brand’s tweets, retweet and share, “what’s in it for me” is a legitimate and acceptable question.

A lot have been said, tweeted, posted and done WRT social media.  We got stars, gods, gurus and companies claiming mastery of this youngster.  A few manage to milk social media, which means that it’s the first virtual [cash] cow to produce dough.  Few are amazing in their vision, insight, advice.  Many are as good as you and I.  Many fail.  GM’s pulling off its marketing/ad budget off FaceBook helps those who don’t dig it at all, happy to say that this king is naked.

It is not. I am laughing as I type, “only the smart ones can see the amazing outfit.”  Thing is, it’s too early.  Social  Media is not yet as well-tailored as marketing and branding branches that have been around for decades.  Think of the shifts in marketing and advertisement budgets, from newspapers to radio, to TV… the first web banners… think Google…  and now things are up for more change.  it’s exciting.  It offers amazing opportunities to succeed and to… fail.

It’s here to stay.  Next, some facts and more observations.


June 3, 2012

#208 – smartool or smartoy?

i miss my BlackBerry; more so on weekdays.  after weeks of Android and months of iToy, i know what i want and can’t have.

i want a phone that is smart enough to be my best loyal assistant, always available, ready, with my meetings, contacts & friends, emails, reminders and the rest of my life.  i want to prioritize, sort and group my contacts and emails in a click or a touch.  i want to be able to assign a unique ring, vibe and volume to certain people and events, and totally ignore others.  i want all of the above to transparently sync with all my devices; all EIGHT of them, including laptops and desktops,  iToy and my designated international SIMs phone. i want a GPS that connects in nanoseconds, not minutes, and always knows and tells me where i am and where i need to go, BEFORE I missed the turn.  i want a browser that shows me everything that i am looking for, not a skinny version that forces me to look for an invisible “go to full site” button. i want to stream music without having to wait between verses or songs.  i am OK with using an app for each need, but i don’t want to have to look for it among 100s of apps.  i want text-to-speech and speech-to-text.  i want a real QWERTY and a great touch screen.  And before I forget, I want to make and receive phone calls with GOOD voice quality, not from the depth of the deep sea, with low sensitivity to the wind and background noise and lab-type sensitivity to conversation.  Lastly and critically, i want a battery that lasts as long as i do, and is happy with as many [few] recharge hours as i do.

WHERE IS THAT PHONE?  Take me there.

Snow Covered Tree Trunks, Waterloo, Ontario.
Copyright: All rights reserved by jgljgljgl

i didn’t forget the games.  However, for a phone that will do all of the above, i will happily go without any game.  i wasn’t kidding when i said i miss my blackberry.  for a long time, it delivered on over a half of the list above.  sadly, it neglected to progress with the market, and stopped to deliver on the missing items, nor improved on the performance of the already existing part.  The Waterloo-based innovation that started RIM, froze in the Canadian winter, and the innovation that bloomed in the valley and changed the mobile world was not listened to, not considered a game changer or a threat.

I am a happy first-to-admit that no tablet, no device i tried, is better than the iToy when it comes to content consumption.  any content i can think of.  weather, news, travel, entertainment, edutainment…  it’s a truly sweet fruit to eat, but far from being enough for a perfect diet.

i am happy to admit that the number of apps available for both my iToy and Android phone is mindboggling compared to the pathetic offering from BlackBerry.  i love that i now have not one, but FOUR portable SONOS controllers, one original, 2 Android phones and one iToy.  the original controller cost $399 [now $349].  all the others require is a free app.

i am happy to admit that finally i have a couple of games that i do play and even enjoy, the last one being 100 Floors from Tobi Apps Limited [don’t bother to click.  Last I’ve checked it was an empty page.  Am happy to wait as they add more floors]

but… i am extremely FRUSTRATED with the pain called managing my calendar and address book across my devices.

Bye Bye BlackBerry?

Google calendar outlook sync works on two computers, but not on the others.  contacts sync is a one way street and it’s not a true sync, and i can’t find one that will sync all devices.  outlook/blackberry sync required a cable and a PC in the middle, but at least it WORKED.  and i had support when needed – thank you RIM.

so, after a couple of months of BlackBerry no more, here i am, wishing for a phone that i’d be really passionate about, that I’d be excited about using and telling you about it.  and there’s none.

tool or toy

i think of my mobile smart first of all as a tool, a productivity attachment if you will.  this is the part that RIM got right.  and a good tool should easily fit on your tool belt.  it’s not a coincidence that BlackBerry was the only smartphone that shipped with a carrying case by default.  and it wasn’t a fashion statement.  it was black, functional and mostly ugly.  AND useful. i can’t find solid data re the size of the Android and iPhone cases and protectors market.  must be millions, with items going for anything from $8 and up, up, up. in 2009, TechCrunch estimated the mobile accessories market worth at $63 billion, and the average mobile phone owner spends roughly $60 on accessories over the life of their phone.  it takes no genius to assume that iPhone first and Android lagging behind are the pampered devices and that the market grows as fast as the devices market or faster.  after all, it’s not a far fetched idea  buy shoes, bag and a matching phone.  a fashion statement case or designer speakers cannot compare to the utilitarian accessories BlackBerry had.

fact: iPhone is becoming the dominant device among the working geeks, nerds and everyone else.

fact: i enjoy 100 floors, where’s my water and probably the next game one of you will recommend

and sad fact: the more sharing among you admit how less friendly and much harder it is to do your emails on these toys, compared to BB.

May 28, 2012

#207 – Verizon’s women. and pigs.

A couple of weekends ago, Lisa, Dana, Katie and I joined the [few] hundreds that supported Unite Against the War on WomenSacramento.

Katie and Lisa made our brilliant signs, Andre fed us breakfast, and off to Sacramento we went.

Lisa and Katie

since then, my war-against-women-dar is more sensitive than ever.  equal but different pretty much sums my idea of gender equality, easily illustrated by the two sides of one coin.  anything that treats women as less than that is indeed war on women.  maybe this is why i find the following ad so annoying.  have you seen, or hopefully fast-forwarded this TV ad for droid?

Lou Mulford, playing the annoying, can’t-let-go mother, introduced the video post on YouTube, as a “..Spoof on the empty nest syndrome (which I personally know too well) all in good silly fun.”  [ALL her own words].  Responding to a question, she added, “It was a full day. We were asked to deliver all the lines a multitude of ways for each of the angle and shot set ups. I don’t remember the exact number for that line. Didn’t seem like too many.”

“fun” is not what comes to mind.  nor funny. As far as i’m concerned, presenting the mother-daughter bond as an uber emotional, irrational, incoherent whine and mumble, with the mother’s exaggerated empty nest/separation anxiety is nothing but insulting.  as it should be to any women.  the idea that a pair of droids will fix it all?…  with some help from a cool, crisp salesman who is happy to accommodate the neurotic.

i recall one of the women degrading chauvinistic pig sayings that was common in Israel years back. “be beautiful and shut up”.  sadly, this ad makes me wish… that the two gals please shut up.

more annoying than the wee wee Geico pig.

and pig it is indeed.  Two weeks after Safeway’s legal counsel found it a great bargain to trade pigs for  powerful women, my tolerance towards anything women-degrading is low to non–existing.  when i think of all the legal measures that constitute the war on women in multiple states, Verizon’s sense of humor is bad taste wrong. Verizon, may be, is against the change of outfit and persona of T-Mobile’s alter ego who threw all her girly cutesy pink dresses on the floor, replacing them with the cool, not-so-cute leather biker gear…

No More Mr. Nice Girl

a good laugh truly helps a commercial deliver its message.  so is a load of touchy-feely.  and yet, i find Verizon’s ill-choice of stereotypes as bad as  the degrading, racist Metro PCS ads of Ranjit and Chad.

Verizon, you can do better than this.  and indeed you should!

after having a long interesting conversation with Annette [thank you for tolerating and answering all my questions!] about women’s role, function, impact and power, i wonder how far we really progressed, and how far we have yet to go, PUSH feels more like it, considering the recent regression led by the GOP.

Annette, in her own words:  “PUSH is the operative word. Has American culture progressed in its attitudes towards women? Yes and no. American culture is patriarchal and women, and pretty much anyone who is not a white male, are treated as ‘others’. The ramifications of how that operates in our society show up everywhere.  It is very insidious – and the Verizon commercial is a great example of that. I recommend watching the documentary Miss Representation to really GET the way media portrays girls and women.

Have we progressed? Some. In the last 200 years, women have the right to own property, decide if they want to get pregnant, and laws protect women from rape – at least for now.

It is, and will be, a slow transformation happening generation by generation. I think of it this way – my daughter was born in a world with camera phones, iPads, and ideas about what it means to be a woman in this culture. Her expectations are already vastly different than mine at her age. And her daughter’s expectations will be even  broader – that I promise.”  Annette‘s words.


May 13, 2012

#205 – i’m gonna let you go

ok, gonna let you go [shopping goes on]

this is NOT about any broken heart.  no Kleenex required. and under no circumstances may you take this personally.  repeat: you may not take this personally.  period.

a couple of weeks ago, over a warm latte and a cappuccino, Eran and I were discussing communication.  you’d expect that sharing the same language and culture, miscommunication will never join our conversations.  and you’d be wrong, very wrong.  experience has taught us that trouble-free communication is much harder to maintain than one would imagine.   that old practice of repeating what you think the other said is invaluable.

our discussion however, was about passive-aggressive practices that have become standard in American culture, as experienced by us.

I’m on the phone with a friend.  we have covered the catching up, the lows, the highs, the ups and downs since we last talked, exchanged ideas, encouraged each other where needed and we are done.   and i can’t wait for the inevitable “…OK, i’m gonna let you go now,” and i find it well, I-N-T-E-R-E-S-T-I-N-G.  we both do.

i wonder what’s wrong with:

  • talk to you later
  • hey, got to go back to those slides/laundry/report/mess i  call my desk…
  • so happy we caught up
  • my ear is burning, sorry
  • we need to do this more often, i’m sorry i didn’t call sooner, time to go
  • so when will we meet?
  • break is over, time to dive in this #$%@ again
  • sorry, it’s gonna get noisy here, need my next latte now
  • i’m so happy you called, i should do it more

there’s endless number of possible endings, and yet, we get the “I’m gonna let you go.”  or, sometimes, we get its close relative, namely, “you must be very busy…”

can i go now?

come on.  what are you really saying?  if you need or want to go, just say so.  I’ll take no offense.  promise.  but please don’t use me as your excuse.  passive-aggressive means using indirect aggressive behavior instead of direct aggressiveness.  so you think that sending me off  when you are the one who wants to go is not passive-aggressive?  think again.  or… you could wait a minute, as I also am probably close to having enough of you; so let me end it, directly and promptly, if you can’t do it.  i respect you enough to do that.

“i’m gonna let you go, now.”  really?  and do i need to point out the similarity to the workplace’s “i’m sorry, we gonna let you go?”

first of all, i can go whenever i want to.  you are not holding me, and i’m not tied to the cordless.  i enjoy our conversation.  secondly, didn’t communication  101 teach you to own YOUR feelings, thoughts, wants and needs?  don’t tell me that I need to go, that I got things to do, tell me that YOUR soup is boiling, that your deadline is arriving, say how you  feel and what you think.  TELL ME THE TRUTH.

is “i’m gonna let you go  now” the best you can do?  haven’t we known each other long enough to be honest with each other?

interestingly enough, i can recall only women saying this, but no men.  so if i put my repressed woman hat on, i could argue that women got so used to taking care of others, putting others’ needs ahead of theirs, that they are preconditioned to express their feelings in terms of the others’ feelings.  but, this won’t fly.  i have too much respect for my women friends to settle for this.

earlier today, already having this post on my mind, and talking to one of my dear girlfriends, i waited patiently for the inevitable “I’m gonna let you go.”  surely enough, it came.   i apologized and reflected back to her.  in return i got a long, healthy laugh.  followed with agreement.  and more laughs.

i’m gonna let you go now.

Of course, you could always be THIS kind pf passive-aggressive


May 14, evening: Update

reported  by women: men do that to, i.e. end calls with “i’m gonna let you go.”  and to the DISLIKE of the wife at the receiving end.  honoring the commentators privacy, all i can say is that some experience this passive-aggressive act much worse than me.  happy to voice your feelings.  thank you for the touching sharing.

Clipart sources:

March 26, 2012

#204 – you don’t have to… for a Great Hip-Hop video

I know, I’m not the most obvious Hip-Hop fan, and there are more than enough songs of this genre that I think of as impossible to listen to.  However, and against the critic and judgment of some of my better friends, there are more and more songs of this genre that I’d love to take with me to that deserted island that everyone wants to take their music to.  I much rather enjoy the music in the comfort of my living room, as long as the neighbors are not complaining about the volume, and we are not trying to actually have a conversation.  So Hip hop it is.  But not without some observations and reservations.  In rock, I never bought into the belief that one has to wave one’s long hair in all directions to deliver a better, higher quality performance.  I think they were called the big hair bands.  After watching  too much of the Hip Hop Shop on Fuse, i have my little Hip Hop you-DON’T-have-to list.

You don’t have to

Include neither half-naked, nor butt-naked bimbos in the video for it to be successful.

Blow lots of Benjamins in the wind for the audience to know you are successful

50 Cent.

Write shawty into the lyrics.  Really.  A song can stand on its own, and succeed without shwaty.

Include the n-word in the lyrics. Or the song’s name.  and then ask the whites NOT to use the song’s name?  Can you imagine Gene Simmons including “Jew” or “Jewish” in the lyrics of every KISS song.  Or any of the derogatory alternatives.

Shot a $250K+ car in the video.  Or mention your Maybach in the lyrics.  I won’t think any less of the song without a fancy car reference.

once upon a time a $350K Maybach

Tell me your name.  You are most likely the reason I chose to listen to the song.  Trust me; I do remember your name.  If you have difficulties remembering your name, one of those heavy weights you carry around your neck can hold your name for you as a reminder.  I don’t think I can say anything remotely positive about your engraving of your stage name on your body.  Are you that forgetful? Need people to recognize your back?

no zip code?

Touch yourself.  Pet your nature-given equipment and accessories.  Rearrange them.  Don’t know what to do with your hands?  Exercise your hand grip.  It’ll look better, yet will be as irrelevant as keeping your hands in your crotch is.

Use all the banned words the media won’t broadcast or beep over.  Can you imagine how great it is to listen to your song without having to guess what you were saying?  I swear it is possible to express yourself without make use of every 4-letter word you ever heard and then some.  Nicki Minaj’s Starships is the latest in including words that radio doesn’t like.  I have to admit, it makes me laugh every time I hear the distorted sounds masking the mother-f$%&#$.  Does it sell more?  I doubt it.


Give it a try.  Hey, you may find it refreshing.  And maybe, just maybe, getting rid of the same old, same old will allow you some new creativity?  New moves?  Will give shawty a break?  I’m sure I could get my mom to enjoy some of these truly amazing songs if the videos were not so out of her comfort zone.

There are enough videos that don’t have any of the components listed about, and boy, aren’t they amazing?

I choke every time Lil Wayne’s “How to Love” is on.  And it’s not because he left his shirt at home.  The life story of the girl, from her mother’s unplanned motherhood via prostitution to HIV is told with such sensitivity that I literally choke every time.

The part that I love best in Otis is not the bimbos in the torched Maybach, or Jay-Z’s crotch grabbing.  It is the sheer joy Kanye and Jay-Z radiate that makes me smile, enjoy a dose of optimism…

Otis - sheer joy.


Getting ready to torch the Maybach:×350.jpg
Otis-Pure joy:
Hand grip:
Flo Rida:
Nicki Minaj:
50 cents, got money:
Lil Wayne, how to love:
Otis Video:

December 31, 2011

#203 – enter 2012, i’ve been waiting for you. go away 2011.

This year has been an unusual one. The greatest moments to cherish, remember, smile and learn from, moments loaded with care, love, attention, rewards, support and wisdom, were friends’ moments.  Sadly, so were the most painful disappointments. It’s the year of the most amazing birthday cake I ever had side-by-side with the most painful friendship-related disappointments from friends that their need to be right and smart came miles ahead of our friendship.  I called it and blogged it as “blinded by our vision,” recognizing that many of us, too often, let our predispositions dictate our perception, even when staring at reality.

It was only yesterday when S.S. told me “I know you gonna say it’s an ugly photo, because everybody else says it’s beautiful”.  So I refused to look at the photo.  When she made noises of offense, I said with a smile, “you already told the whole room what I’m going to think and say, why do I need to bother looking at it?  You decided all on your own what I’ll think.”  Needless to say, she didn’t like it.  I did.  And so did the others in the room, though only one did so vocally.  Sadly, I know the point didn’t get across.  Oh well.

This was the year in which I thanked friends and colleagues more than ever before, more than I can remember.  and it was all well deserved and more.  And this also is the year in which I deleted from my address book people I used to think of as friends but not anymore.

Luckily and amazingly for me, the good, loving, caring friendships surpass the bad ones in light years.  Thank you all; each and every one of you!

This is the year that I decided to eradicate passive-aggressiveness from my life as much as I possibly can.  Anyone who called to ask “why haven’t you called me” was welcome to talk to someone else.  I figured that the proper opening of a call, INSTEAD of the P-A opening quoted above, is to simply say “hi, I miss you; miss talking to you, what’s up?”  It did and does wonders to the conversation, to the friendship, to life.  Both of us smile and enjoy what follows.

This was the year of change, neither one, nor two.  Who’d imagine I’d last 7 months and counting of gym torture?  Who’d thought that I’ll get over a hopeless situation and the only frustration that lingers is the one regarding how long it took me to reach the insights that were there for me to learn from.  This is the year that I learned and shared a lot about my dad’s past.  Made him cry in the process, yet got to know so much more about him.  This is the first year EVER that I haven’t been to Israel, not even once.  Home, identity, roots, friends, being single and alone and learning to admit I hate it, career, this was an unbelievable year.  I’m so happy that 2011 has only a couple of hours of life left.  It’s a year to remember, but not to miss.

What do I wish for the New Year?  I don’t have any grandiose, greater than life wishes or resolutions.  More than making big NEW decisions, commitments, promises… I want to continue or end old ones.
Feel free to call me out if I fail to follow.  Seriously.

In this coming year, I wish for you and me,

  • Do more ____________________ [GYM: more workout, more gym torture, increase frequency, do those intervals, they are good for you; home cooking; flossing; listening; processing…]
  • Do less _____________________ [eating badly, talking, talking back, talking before thinking…]
  • Be more ____________________ [patient, happy, considerate…]
  • Stop [as much as you can]  _____________________ [teasing people who don’t get it, people who get it but don’t like it; procrastinating doing the things I don’t like doing…]
  • Be more of the person and the friend I want to be, even when it’s hard, embarrassing, challenging
  • Do better _____________________ [in the admin parts of life, from bills to tickets, moving those bags from the car to Goodwill, unpacking after a trip…]

And you know what, I don’t know how you will fill the blanks, but I can tell you one thing.  If I’ll manage to follow and execute on those humble 2012 goals and practices, it’ll be a wonderful year.

May you have the best year you wish for!

December 11, 2011

#202 – Due Diligence Drill

Filed under: business buz,Opinionated,reading material — yael [ya-el] wagner @ 07:15
Tags: , ,

Latte and fruit pie sound harmless, right?  Well, if you don’t count calories they might.  On a Sunday afternoon, I was having just that with Edna and Pessi @ the Fillmore’s Grove.  We were appreciating Edna’s latest amazing creations, enjoying the atmosphere of the place and all was good until I suddenly had a suspicious object in my mouth.  As I let it out, Pessi was the quick to identify it for what it was.  A piece of teeth.  Mine!  No pain, no stones in the pie, just a tooth that decided to split.  Wrapped in a napkin, I put it in my purse for future reference.

Three days later, at the dentist’s office, I heard about drilling into my jaw, titanium screws and implants.  A week later, Thanksgiving behind, I’m back to start what should be a 4-6 months dental reconstruction process.

Before I get to see the DDS, there’s that little form I need to read, initial, sign and be happy.  I start reading and my mood is quickly moving to red.  Apparently, the casually discussed process carries multiple risks, ranging from the harmless no drinking from straw for a few weeks to breaking or cracking parts of my jaw, “accidents” that will lead to additional surgeries at unknown cost, blood clots, prolonged pain…  all the way to killing a nerve that happens to reside in the neighborhood of the broken teeth.

Needless to say, NONE of those was mentioned by the nice dentist who came highly recommended by a good friend.  I refuse to sign the form without a serious discussion about all these delightful risks.  When I first express my concerns to the eager dentist, he dismisses the form as a standard requirement by the ADA.  “So are these risks non risks or real risks” I ask.  “Well, these are potential risks.”

“Why should I proceed with the process,” I question.  “Right now, I’m in no pain.  Lucky for me, unless I truly LoL with my mouth wide open, it’s unlikely that anyone will notice the broken teeth, and I can eat hot, cold whatever.  Why do anything?!”

“You have other options,” says the now a little less trusted dentist.  20 minutes of Q&A later, and much better educated, I know I have FOUR different options; all new three are of a lesser risk and potential complications, all at a lower cost.  Greedy, aren’t we?

Armed with this new knowledge, I ask the nice dentist, “So if I were your daughter, which of these options would you recommend?”  “I need to look deeper, to see the exact condition of the teeth’s remains, the gum.”

Interestingly enough, he didn’t need to look deeper to recommend the most invasive treatment for me.  I don’t explode, I don’t point out the demonstrated little care for what’s best for me.   The least invasive option, second to doing nothing, involves getting an orthodontist to pull out the remains of the teeth, and then drill a titanium screw into it [instead of the jaw], building the new fake teeth on it.

So I drove to the orthodontist.  With one X-Ray shot I brought with me, and some poking around, he said he could do it, and would l like, while he is at it, to straighten up some rebellious tooth residing in the neighborhood?  I said “yes, how much is that going to hurt?”

OK, so now it’s no longer a cheaper option, but it comes with serious benefits.  This is where I swallow my embarrassment, and admit that I took the orthodontics route twice before in my life.  2nd-3rd grade was a disaster that is best remembered in my family with my dad’s constant complaint that he is not sure why he pays for straightening the bath tub.  Yes, that was often where I “forgot” my retainer.  Can’t remember how many times I broke it while in my pocket, for whatever reason.  Eventually, my parents gave up, and I got a free ticket to crooked teeth.  It wasn’t until late high school that I asked my parents for a 2nd chance.  I was denied a private dentist, but was welcome to go the HMO way.  And yes, I went to the army with a retainer.  This time, I was as committed as one could be, and it came with unpredictable fringe benefits.  Once a month I got an “after” to go visit my dentist and get the screws tightened.  What a nice break and a chance to visit home for an hour or two.  Unfortunately, even this treatment didn’t reach its happy ending.  As an army tour guide, I found myself lecturing to eager and not so eager soldiers about this Crusades site and this battlefield.  The whistling “sh” and “s” sounds that come with talking with a retainer in your mouth were good enough reason for me to take it out before talking.  On one such trip I lost it.  Never went back.

and it comes with color options

Fast forward to today, I get yet a third chance, at least for the lower jaw.

I see the orthodontist again a week later to get my mouth model [I thought it’s called a mold, but turned out I’m wrong].  I happily share my recent experience with dental consent forms, and casually mention to the nice DDs that I expect him to call out each and every potential risk, before we get to the part where I read a consent form in his waiting room and learn about multiple interesting risks.  “A medical due diligence” I say, “must be proactive.  I find it hard to trust a Dr. that hides behind a form.”  I definitely got his attention now.  He seats down and goes over all the risks, which I find reasonable.  He also instructs the receptionist to give me the consent form which is not due until our next appointment “to go.”

Next stop on this day is the C Dental X-Ray in San Mateo.  As the technician is getting ready to take the first head shot, the Doctor that doesn’t believe in proactive due diligence calls and offers to take the X-Rays in his clinic, thus reducing the cost.  Aha! My inner self is laughing.  You got an interesting call from the orthodontist, didn’t you?!

Turned out he can’t do it.  No worries, we’ll meet again when it’s time to slice my gum a bit.  And I will be asking a lot of questions.

Sometimes the right thing is to question the consent form.  Un-consenting is a real, good valid option.

art sources:
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