Going Under the Scope

I hadn't planned to write again so soon after my last post. Two posts within such a short period of time only calls attention to the long span of nothing between July and November. But I decided to post anyway, since I will be "going away" for a while.

A few weeks ago I finished the job on my ACL while playing soccer (the only way I would have it). Tomorrow afternoon I will go in for surgery. Dr. Schell will cut out part of my kneecap tendon and use it as a new ACL. I'm planning to remain conscious during the procedure and hope that the experience will be very educational. I learned a lot by staying awake during my knee surgery five years ago.

I am glad to have the surgery scheduled for a Friday, so that I can have the weekend to begin my recovery. And I blocked out my meeting schedule on Monday and Tuesday in case I need to work from home, and I expected to be back in the office on Wednesday, even if it was on crutches. This seemed reasonable based on my experience with my previous ankle surgery and two previous knee surgeries. However, I spoke to Dr. Schell today and he told me this was going to be a completely different type of recovery. Gulp.

So now I'm scrambling to prepare for what may possibly be a week or more of being very doped up and/or in quite a bit of pain. Today they delivered a "knee bending machine" to the apartment. I haven't seen it yet, but I am supposed to use it for FOUR HOURS A DAY every day after surgery. From what I've heard, it basically just bends my leg back and forth over and over. I'm sure I'll come to hate it.

Thanks for your good wishes. Please send DVDs in lieu of flowers. Comedies. I don't think I'll be in the mood for deep meaningful art films.


Busy days

When I finished school in May I felt like I had an abundance of free time. No need to sit in class for six hours a week; No need to put in countless hours of reading during my weeknights; No dreaded group projects to suffer through on my weekends. Of course, we tend to fill whatever time we have available, don't we? So part of my newfound free time was given over to teaching a Financial Peace class on Sunday mornings as well as becoming more active in my role as Shiloh board member. (I also tried to rejoin my soccer team, but that had a swift and painful conclusion).

For a while, my work started to fill up that time as well. My trips to Amsterdam created a great deal of work for me to do, and for a few weeks this fall I would leave work, get home, eat dinner, pull out the laptop, and get right back to work. This obviously wasn't any fun for me or for Beth. So I started enforcing a no-work-from-home rule. I assumed this meant one of two things had to happen: stay late to get everything done, or leave without finishing everything. But what I found was something in between. By setting a deadline for myself each day to leave work on time and refrain from doing any work at home, I have been able to do a better job of addressing the more important tasks and finding other ways to deal with the less important things (which could mean delegating to someone else or letting them remain undone for some period of time). I have since learned that this is in line with Parkinson's Law which states that "work will fill the time available for its completion."

I am now able to finish everything that I need to accomplish and still get home at a reasonable hour and have a nice evening with Beth. There are still a number of projects that I would like to do and simply don't have time for, but I'm hopeful that I'll find a solution that doesn't involve working longer hours. I think I know a good place to start: Yesterday afternoon I was looking through my Sent Items on my email program at work, trying to find a message I had sent in the morning. It wasn't a particularly busy day for me, but there seemed to be a lot of sent messages to look through. It turns out that I sent 112 work-related emails yesterday. Over a 10 hour workday, that averages out to one email every 5 1/2 minutes. Considering the hours spent in meetings each day, the rate of emailing is even higher (not to mention all of the IMs and phone calls). There must be a better way...


Notes on Amsterdam

This week I had a business trip to Amsterdam to meet with colleagues from the Amsterdam Stock Exchange (the oldest stock exchange in the world) which is now part of the same company as the New York Stock Exchange -- NYSE Euronext. This was my first trip to Amsterdam and although it was only a few days and I had only a few hours of free time for exploring the city, I had a wonderful experience and learned a great deal about the city.


Amsterdam is a city built on water. Well, it's built on land, but it's very wet land (in fact it is named for the dam on the Amstel river). In addition to the port on the river, there are canals running throughout the city. Over 100 kilometers, in fact. The city is 85 square miles; over 20 square miles of that is water! These canals make for a beautiful and pleasant city experience with more than 1,000 canal bridges.


Soccer is the most popular sport in Amsterdam (and I hope to catch an Ajax game when I go back), but cycling has got to be a close second. No, I don't mean that they are big fans of the Tour de France. I mean that everyone rides a bike! They ride their bikes to work; they ride their bikes to the store; they ride their bikes to restaurants; they ride their bikes everywhere. I watched in disbelief as men in suits pedaled their way to work past older folks riding to the store. And in the evening young folks dressed up in their "bar scene" best hopped on their bikes and rode to the club.

For the most part everybody rides inexpensive, cruiser-style, one-speed, pedal-brake bikes. You don't need anything too nice -- the city is built on water so there are no hills anywhere that might require more than one gear.


Heineken and Amstel Light are two of my favorite brands of beer -- both from Holland -- so I had high expectations for the beers in Amsterdam. I wasn't disappointed. We enjoyed many Dutch and Belgian beers as well as a Dutch gin called Jenever.

Beverages in the workplace are different in Amsterdam. People don't just get up and go grab themselves a coffee, water, or tea. Instead, they grab a tray and ask everyone whether they would like a drink. Sharing beverages together and serving each other is an important part of their culture.

My flight from New York left at 6:30 Monday night and arrived at 8:15 Tuesday morning. After arriving, I went straight to the office and began a blurry-eyed day of meetings. Needless to say, I drank and enjoyed coffee for the first time in my life on Tuesday.


I have visited many countries where English is not the native language. In those cases, I have usually managed to get by with my very poor Spanish, German, or Italian. And when I could not manage, there was almost always someone nearby who spoke English and could help out. But sometimes I could sense impatience or resentment from those helpers and others in the room that were subjected to this foreign language called English.

In Amsterdam, however, English is pervasive in spoken form. Whether it was a worker at my hotel, a clerk at the bike rental shop, or a random person that I stopped to ask directions -- they all seem to speak great English and don't mind at all. As for written language, the official signage is almost always in Dutch. But storefront signs, menus, advertisements, and most anything else that you need to read are written in both Dutch and English.

Realists vs. Optimists?

When I met one of my Dutch colleagues, I noticed a good-sized paperback on his desk entitled How to Work with Americans. Since our merger, my company has been learning about the cultural differences between the US and Europe when it comes to workplace practices and attitudes. The Amsterdam office had recently brought in an expert to speak with them about what to expect when working with Americans. One of the biggest differences that he pointed out was that Americans are generally optimists and Europeans are generally realists. This manifests itself in many ways in the workplace, usually with Americans wanting to dive right in to new strategies or product lines, while the Europeans are much more cautious and deliberate in their approach.

I was mindful of this when, during a conversation at dinner, one of my Dutch colleagues mentioned the "golden years" when answering my question about the prominence of Indonesian culture in the city. I recalled from one of my business school classes that The Netherlands was the economic world power during the 17th and 18th centuries (after the Italians and before the British). Their colonization of Indonesia (the Dutch East Indies) allowed the Dutch East India Company to become the most successful company in the history of the world. I am hypothesizing that this may explain the optimist vs. realist situation in which we find ourselves... we Americans are living in the midst of our economic dominance; we think we are invincible.

Thinking about the famous Dutch business acumen, I'd also like to mention here that our association of Holland with tulips may have different origins that you may believe. The Dutch are not famous for growing tulips; They are famous for their tulip market -- selling options on the tulip crop! Isn't it easy to see how New York evolved from New Amsterdam?

Global Warming

Another dinner conversation was about American politics. They are actually very aware of our presidential race and asked questions about Hilary, Obama, Bloomberg, McCain, and Giuliani. It was clear that they really had just one issue in mind -- global warming. They are big believers that human actions are shaping the climate and that they have already seen some changes in Amsterdam. I had seen An Inconvenient Truth just a couple weeks ago and mentioned that Amsterdam was featured prominently in a section of that film. They said that they were very hopeful when that movie came out that it would initiate a big change in American policies. They asked if I thought there was any chance that Gore would join the race for president and whether I thought he could win if he did. It was hard to break their hearts.

Pulp Fiction

Yet another conversation at dinner turned to films, including Pulp Fiction. One of my Dutch colleagues mentioned that it was not until she saw Pulp Fiction that she realized that the rest of the world might put something different on their french fries:
Vincent: You know what they put on french fries in Holland instead of ketchup?
Jules: What?
Vincent: Mayonnaise.
Jules: G-- d---!
Vincent: I seen 'em do it, man, they f----n' drown 'em in that s---.
Jules: That's some f----d up s---.

And I fulfilled a curiosity that I have had for 13 years:

It was delicious, but I couldn't finish the whole thing -- their mayo is much richer than ours!



I have been looking for a good PC backup solution for about 8 years now. About the time that I started taking digital pictures, sending significant email, buying music, creating anything that I wanted to be sure not to lose ... I have been looking for a way to protect it from that inevitable day when a hard drive crash would wipe it all away forever.

I have used zip disks, which were fine at the time but soon became insufficient. I tried CDs, but it was painfully slow. Then I added a second hard drive and backed up one disk to another and more recently I've used an external hard drive. These solutions work great, but it gets tricky when trying to back up multiple computers and I always need a larger drive eventually. And then there's the what-if-there's-a-fire issue...not a good idea to have the backup stored 2 feet away from the original.

Real exciting, I know. But this is where Mozy comes in.

Since March I have been using an online backup service called Mozy. This service backs up files and folders from both of my PCs by securely transferring them to online storage. As you might imagine, this was a slow process; But eventually everything was backed up and now any new files are backed up immediately. And best of all, Mozy provides unlimited storage. Currently, I have 115 GB of files backed up!

Overall, I have been pleasantly surprised with how well it works and I highly recommend it if you're looking for an easy way to back up your stuff.


Picture tour

Spent memorial day weekend with my dad and brother in Las Vegas. Won some money, but not as much as I lost :(

Poor penguins! Dallas?!?

The bus always has the right-of-way

My wife arranged the most wonderful date on Wednesday -- a two-hour sunset sail on the Schooner Adirondack down the Hudson to the Statue of Liberty. We sipped wine, ate chocolate-covered strawberries, snuggled under our blanket, and enjoyed the city views. Only when she tried to prevent me from singing "My Country tis of Thee" at the Statue of Liberty did things get tense...


Knee Update

The so-called "professionals" disagree with my MRI reading ... slightly. They're calling it a "high grade partial tear" of the ACL. I think I would rather it be a complete tear... this diagnosis puts me into something of a grey area to choose between surgical reconstruction and rehab without surgery. Given my age and activity level, surgery still seems like the most likely option.

So the next step is to have another examination by a doctor who specializes in ACLs. That will happen next Tuesday afternoon...



I injured my knee in a soccer game last Tuesday. I was running to get back on defense, I caught up to the guy with the ball, I made a big step to get in front of him and when I planted my right leg I felt it land... and then I felt my knee give. After a minute I was able to walk away, but I knew that there was definitely a problem.

So today I went to have an MRI of my knee taken. I have had four of five MRIs before, so I knew what to expect. But not long ago, I read an article about a guy who died getting an MRI and it has freaked me out ever since. In the story I read, someone had left a steel oxygen tank in the MRI room and when the machine was turned on, the powerful magnet attracted the tank and the patient was hit in the head. So today I was sure to take everything out of my pockets before climbing up onto the table. But as the table started to slide into the machine, I felt my waist being pulled upward! "Whoa, whoa, whoa!" She stopped the table. I lifted my shirt and saw my belt buckle (I never wear a belt which was why I forgot all about it) being pulled away from me. I took off the belt as I lay there and as I held the belt by the middle, the buckle was strongly pulled away from me pointing up at the machine! I pulled it away and gave it to the technician, who asked in way-too-surprised-a-manner "could you feel the magnet pulling it?" Really freaky. I didn't relax the whole time after that.

So I have my films and will deliver them to my doctor in the morning. But of course I can't wait to know the result so I found images of good knees and torn ACL knees on the web, and I've been comparing my films. I'm 99% sure that I have a torn ACL. There is clearly supposed to be a dark line (the cruciate ligament) connecting the two bones. My ligament is clearly not connecting as I see it. Any radiologists out there want to disagree? Please???


Life After School

It's been two weeks since I submitted my final paper for my MBA at NYU's Stern School. I am incredibly happy to be done, as you might expect -- it's been a long four years! But there is definitely part of me that is sad to be done. I have had the opportunity to hear lectures from brilliant men and women for two nights a week and I've been challenged to think in ways that were completely new to a math/engineering guy like me. For each of eleven semesters, I excitedly reviewed the course catalog and considered what I wanted to learn next. Of course the learning won't stop with the end of school, but the opportunities won't be the same and I just hope that I made the most of my time at Stern.

Now that I am finished with school it feels like I have a lot of free time, even with that pesky full-time job! There are many, many things that I hope to do with this new-found freedom. I want to spend more time with my wife, which I have been missing for a long time. Hopefully, we have a long summer of camping trips ahead of us! And of course I really want to spend more time reacquainting my body with physical activity -- soccer (the season is already underway), golf (ok, maybe it's not physical activity, but I'm dying to get back out there), the gym (at least more frequently than I already do), and hopefully I'll soon get a bike and begin cycling with my brother-in-law.

I also hope to spend more time studying one of my favorite interests: personal finance. This may sound like a strange thing to list as an interest, but I believe it's a powerful force in people's lives that can either be the cause of enormous distress or freedom. It's made a big difference in my life and the lives of people close to me, and I hope to find a way to share some of that peace with others. Lastly, as I alluded to in my last post, I joined the board of a non-profit and look forward to assisting with its growth. The non-profit is called Shiloh, which is an organization that serves at-risk children in New York City through neighborhood programs and a summer camp in upstate New York. I have seen Shiloh work in the lives of kids firsthand through my involvement over the past seven years; I am proud to be able to serve Shiloh in a new capacity.

Yep, I've been waiting a long time for this free time and I plan to put it to good use. I'm even going to try to do a better job working on my blog, but more on that later...


We went to Spain!

And London! And Palm Springs... and San Antonio to meet our new nephew... and my friend Irene came to visit... and I joined the board of a non-profit... and the spring soccer season began... and Beth had an awesome birthday party...

All kinds of things have been going on since my last post, but I have not taken the time to blog on any of them! One of the primary reasons for that is school... but not for long. I'm working on my last paper for my last class of my last semester... finally!

Once the semester is over, I am going to try to become a more regular blogger. I have a long list of things I intend to write about, but just very little time. Hopefully, finishing school will change that.

In the meantime, here are a couple photo albums:

Spring Break 2007 with Nephew Austin
Spain 2007


Amazing valentine

I have the most amazing valentine. My wife decided that she was going to take charge of Valentine's Day this year -- and she went ALL OUT!

First, dinner at the very romantic "The Place" in the Village

Then, to watch Kristin Chenoweth in The Apple Tree

Next, a quick stop at Chevy's for margaritas and a late night snack

And finally -- rather than waiting for a late-night subway and going home to a cold apartment -- we crossed the street to our room in the 4-Star Times Square Hilton!

It was an amazing night. I'm a lucky, lucky guy!