Not a biker? Be a hiker?

Many of my posts are about cycling. If you are not a biker, perhaps you might be enticed by a really great opportunity to hike.

Join Hazon and The Heschel Center for Environmental Learning and Leadership on a 4-day hike from northern Israel to the Kinneret. It all happens late March 2008.

More details at the Hazon website.

Israel Bike Trail

I had the pleasure to chat to Jacob Ner-David by phone this morning on a work matter. He and I are both double VCs (venture capitalist, venture cyclist). His big charity ride of the year is the currently running Alyn ride (please consider sponsoring him). Alyn Pediatric and Adolescent Rehabilitation Hospital - a private non-profit hospital - is one of the world's leading specialists in the active and intensive rehabilitation of infants, children and adolescents - regardless of religion or ethnic origin - affiliated with a broad range of physical disabilities.

Jacob mentioned that the long awaited Israel Bike Trail is now finalized and the improvements to the pathways are about to start. This is reported nicely here in Ha'aretz English Edition, so I will let them take over.

In January, I reported (here) about Todd Balf who bicycled the length of the Israel Hiking Trail (Shvil Yisrael). His exploits seem more adventurous than I would be up for, so the idea of a bike trail on which I am welcome seems inviting. Watch this space... but don't hold your breath!!

Social graph-iti

There's less to Facebook and other social networks than meets the eye.

So begins an article in The Economist (the headline of which I stole for the title of this posting). A social graph is the data which describes your friendship relationships in a social networking site like LinkedIn or FaceBook. Since I have been writing recently on these topics (here and here), I keep my eye open for real journalism on the subject. Later in the article we find something that echoes my own thoughts in those previous postings I referenced:

But unlike other networks, social networks lose value once they go beyond a certain size. [...]
This suggests that the future of social networking will not be one big social graph but instead myriad small communities on the internet to replicate the millions that exist offline. No single company, therefore, can capture the [grand unified] social graph.

However, The Economist finishes off by downplaying the potential marketing value of Facebook and the other social networks. I think this is wrong. I think that marketing in these environments will be immensely valuable through the ability to target users by interest and for users to spread the word through the network. I think that Facebook's own sponsored ads, Facebook flyers, the Causes application and other new opportunities may well outshadow the performance of display ads, but that as a marketing platform Facebook and its ilk will do just fine.

One billion dollars

My close friend and colleague, Paul Bleicher, called me yesterday and shared the news that, for the first time, Phase Forward's market cap surpassed one billion dollars during the day yesterday. It closed a little below that number as you can see in the image.
The market cap (market capitalization) number is on the PFWD Google Finance page at the top of the middle column of numbers. This is a simple calculation of the number of shares of Phase Forward that exist multiplied by the price per share at that moment. It means the market currently values the company, as a whole, at that number.

Many of you may know that Paul and I co-founded Phase Forward together more than 10 years ago. Paul is still a key member of the executive team and clearly much (most?) of Phase Forward's success is due to his creativity and hard work. Although I left after the formative years in 2000, Paul has always been generous by including my name in the history of the company. Today I salute Paul, again, and enjoy the knowledge that I had some part in creating this successful company.

Ainadamar: The Spring of Tears

Ainadamar - the Spring of Tears in Granada in Spain, the site of the execution of the poet and playwright Lorca in the Spanish civil war. Granada, where the stones cry out for Mariana Pineda in Lorca's play about this 19th century revolutionary martyr. Mariana Pineda, Federico Garcia Lorca, Margarita Xirgu, each brought to life in Osvaldo Golijov's amazing opera "Ainadamar" which Dorit and I saw last night. Ainadamar, from the Arabic, meaning Spring of Tears ... a linguistic neighbor also to the Hebrew which would be Ain Ha'Dma'ot. Ainadamar, an opera in which each generation sings to the next and teaches of art, freedom, poetry. Golijov would be too modest to place himself in this line, but this opera places him firmly there.

The music is alive with the story it tells, the memories it unfurls. These characters have been singing these rhythms and harmonies since they were born, and only now, through Golijov, can we hear it. The story of the fascist campaign against freedom and love and poetry, which has played out for centuries, is bared before us. Xirgu starts knowing Pineda and Lorca are political revolutionaries, and ends knowing they are poets and lovers of freedom.

I am not linking to the CD. Go and see the opera. You missed it in Boston - but find it and see it.

Facebook vs LinkedIn

Apropos one of my recent postings, I found myself sending this note to a professional acquaintance this morning:

I saw your Facebook friend invite ... I hope you are not offended that I do not connect... I really am keeping facebook links only to friends with whom I have an ongoing close relationship. If we are not already connected on LinkedIn where I maintain my professional network I would be happy to connect there.

I guess the specific situation tells me all I need to know about my true feelings of these two networks.

Jews, Food, Bikes

The marketing people hate it, but the tagline for Hazon, in my heart, is "Jews, Food, Bikes"... or maybe "Jews, Bikes, Food". Hazon works to make a healthier and more sustainable Jewish community as a step towards a healthier and more sustainable world for all. Hazon's projects fall into two main areas: outdoor activities involving physical challenge, and food-related programs. The outdoor activities have mostly been about bikes (although a 3 day hike makes its debut next March). However, all these programs include educational and practical elements relating to food: the food we serve is kosher and, as much as possible, organic and from nearby. As I have written before, as have many others, biking is about converting food into motion, and so even the act of biking is about food. Hence, my love, however forbidden, of the tagline "Hazon: Jews, Food, Bikes".

Today was a case in point: I went for a great bike ride with Guy Sapirstein and Ken Rosenstein (Jews, all three of us!). The weather was perfect, the ride was amazing, the company was fabulous. The food ... well, I have been eating a donut at our half-way point the last few weeks. Previously I had been eating a very politically correct energy bar. Today I felt more guilty on account of the donut because of a short recent correspondence with Gregg Stern.

Gregg had written this, worth repeating for all:
KING CORN starts its run at the Coolidge Corner Theatre tonight. This important and smart documentary peers into the American food industry. Called "clear-minded and fair, but just damningly descriptive enough to leave you distrustful of everything on your plate" by the Boston Globe, KING CORN features Harvard Book Store staff favorite Michael Pollan throughout, who expands on many points he makes in THE OMNIVORE'S DILEMMA. The film runs though next Friday, and one can't help but wonder what people will eat while watching.

In a subsequent note Gregg mentioned in passing "The kids love the high fructose corn syrup foods. To my knowledge, I eat almost none." Wow ... consciousness changing moment. Me, all high and Hazon mighty, and I realize that my food consciousness has been about kosher and maybe organic and a little of local... but I don't even know how much of this corn stuff I have been eating. When I do look at labels I certainly place High Fructose Corn Syrup in the "not good for me, any consumer, any producer, or the environment" category, but I don't actively avoid it the way I actively avoid, say, bacon. Thanks Gregg. Today, with all this reverberating in my head, I did not enjoy my donut, and I have a feeling that it may be my last!

Listen to this

Dorit and I went to the most amazing concert last night at the Boston Philharmonic Discovery Series, of which we have been subscribers for several years.

The highlight was an American premiere of a concerto for violin and tabla called Svara-Yantra by Shirish Korde. Korde is an Indian who also spent some of his childhood in Uganda and then moved to the US. This music was incredible. If you read this in time to get tickets for the Saturday or Sunday concerts in Boston, then run, do not walk, to do so. Korde created music that is a wonderful mixture of Indian music, western classical music and even jazz. The piece was commissioned by Joanna Kurkowicz, the wonderful leader of the Boston Phil, and she performed last night with Samir Chatterjee, one of the leading tabla players in the world. The tabla is (are) a pair of hand drums of contrasting shapes/sizes/timbres (more on Wikipedia). Chatterjee actually had three drums, of which he played a pair at any one time. Shirish Korde happened to be standing at the audio desk right next to our seats during the performance. When we congratulated him he was very modest and deflected the praise to the orchestra and soloists, but he was clearly emotional about the piece and the reception it received.

I was lucky to get both soloists and the composer to sign a CD I bought at the concert. Now I have to buy another copy of the CD (I am not about to risk the CD player wiping the sigs from the CD itself!).

889 miles

So far this year, my trusty GPS tells me I have bicycled 889 miles.

Before today I had ridden 40 miles less - or, in a less convoluted report, I rode 40 miles this morning, with my good friend Guy. We rode our usual Weston-Lincoln-Concord route. The outdoor thermometer registered 44 when we started, so I bundled up with lots of layers and had a wonderful ride. We had sunshine and blue sky, and it even warmed up ever so slightly during the morning. Guy was cold enough to share some hot chocolate at our halfway point (Dunkin Donuts at 9 Acres Corner). As usual, Guy was a very kind pace-setter - out in front most of the time, but always happy to stop and wait for me after long up-hills. We rode a slower pace than we had previously achieved, and some of that must have been due to the wind which was stronger (and more oppositional) than usual for this route.

Only three more of these and I will break the 1000 mile mark for the year. Expect a blog posting reporting this milestone in November, assuming the weather holds up!

World Series of Social Networking

Many non-Americans ask why the final competition of champions in Major League Baseball each year is called the World Series when it is only for North American teams. Wikipedia debunks the myth of an originating sponsorship by some company called World's Almanac -- apparently, the originators really did believe they would be crowning the world's best team at the end of this contest.

In that spirit (and since the World Series is nearly upon us, as all good Red Sox fans know), I offer a World Series of Social Networking between LinkedIn and FaceBook. I happily ignore MySpace (huge) and everything else (small, medium and large) in the space for the really important reason that I am active only on these two sites.

With LinkedIn you can see where your professional contacts are now, find them pretty easily, and connect to others through a chain of trusted connections. There are other features, but these are the valuable ones (in my mind) because they foster and utilize professional trust relationships in a unique way. Facebook allows you to share your news and thoughts and other data with your friends in a fun, easy way. Doing so with professional colleagues can be interesting, but there are certain aspects of my colleagues' lives and thoughts in which I am just not interested (their sports predilections, for example). I imagine their view of my Facebook life, mostly aimed at family and friends, is even dimmer!

So I find that Facebook is a much more compelling platform for me personally right now, but LinkedIn is more suitable for professional work. My personal and professional lives overlap significantly, and I do not really want to maintain two separate networks (one for friends, one for work colleagues). With this in mind, I was happy to read this analysis from Techcrunch that Facebook is now adding features that target the LinkedIn demographic. If Facebook pulls this off, and perhaps even offers a way to import LinkedIn profiles, it will be a really interesting move. It will take a considerable effort to duplicate the complete LinkedIn network on Facebook (perhaps only possible with an acquisition), but it could happen over time. The notion of Facebook allowing me to group friends so that they see different aspects of my life makes lots of sense. Keeping active on both is a pain (Facebook is winning the attention-share war in my case).

I think this is at least a best-of-seven-games series, and there are many more games to play, and all to play for.

Boston Bikes

After a wonderful experience with Hub on Wheels, I was happy (or at least hopeful) to see this post by Sean Roche summarizing recent news on biking in Boston. Sean points out that sometimes all the good work of community and advocacy groups amount to nothing, when compared to a suddenly motivated mayor.

All for the want of a nail

A famous nursery rhyme (at least in England) came to mind when I found myself riding without a bolt on the panier frame on my bike. The load metallic sound that came with every bump made me think my entire bike was falling apart, but it wasn't anything too terrible, as you can see. One new bolt later, and I was back on the road.

For want of a nail the shoe was lost.
For want of a shoe the horse was lost.
For want of a horse the rider was lost.
For want of a rider the battle was lost.
For want of a battle the kingdom was lost.
And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.

Mass Bike Action Alert

Help Get Bicyclist Safety Bill Out of Committee...

This is a time sensitive alert for Massachusetts voters to encourage our legislators to do the right thing for cycling and cyclists.

Judaism is Pluralism

Today is the Jewish festival of Simchat Torah ("Rejoicing with the Torah") when Jews the world over celebrate reading the end of Deuteronomy and restarting the cycle reading the beginning of Genesis. I say "the world over" but, this excludes Israel, and Jews who follow the Israeli calendar (many progressive Jewish communities). These communities celebrated yesterday... today is a regular day for them. (The reason why is for another post on another day). In fact everyone did celebrate yesterday - really, everyone - and today is a 2nd day of holiday but only for some, as explained noted. However, what a great idea: important legal strictures, thousands of years old, that distinguish when to celebrate very important holidays, that require different behavior according to where you live. And it's even weirder at Purim.

So for me, having grown up on the Israeli calendar, I always find these particular days complicated, ambiguous, uncomfortable. There are many approaches to overcoming this discomfort, and one of them is for me to spend the time with my family, but sneak in a little work here and there, and feel OK about blogging. Many of my friends will spend hours in synagogue today, and would certainly not use a computer... but they remain my friends because they basically have a pluralistic view of the Jewish community.

In this context the definition of pluralism (adapted from would be: a condition in which distinct groups, with various modes of expressing their Jewishness, are present and tolerated within a community, and the belief that such a condition is desirable or beneficial.

Pluralism can be seen to be commanded by God and Jewish tradition in various ways. The first angle is that all humans are created in the image of God (Gen 1:27). That concept is well known and yet very mysterious. In terms of pluralism it requires us all to acknowledge the spark of the divine in every human. We may disagree with them, and even believe they are wrong, but if we are inspired by, or believe literally, in the words of the Bible, then we have to look every human in the eye and acknowledge they are made in God's image, no less than we.

This leads to another definition of pluralism that I like: to acknowledge and embrace the place of a person within the community even if we know they are wrong. This goes beyond the wishy washy cultural relativism of "everyone's OK, no-one has the only truth, ...", and this allows for the committed, the sure, the devout, to find a way to pluralism. You do not have to admit that maybe they are right and you are wrong. For many committed Jews (or, name your own religion), there really is a single truth, a single law, and those who do not follow it are just plain wrong. Pluralism is where they are able to maintain a community with all those who share basic values and identity, even if on some matters, you believe that they are wrong.

Another interesting text, relevant to this time of year, comes from the beginning of the liturgy in the opening to the Yom Kippur service. In a choreography that creates a Bet Din (a court of Jewish law), the liturgy begins with (from Birnbaum Machzor):
By the authority of the heavenly court
And by the authority of the earthly court,
With the consent of the Omnipresent One
And with the consent of this congregation,
We declare it lawful to pray with sinners.

Wow - the opening to the most solemn prayers on the most solemn day in the Jewish calendar, and we are letting everyone know it is lawful to pray with sinners. In fact, this is apparently based on the legal arguments of the Talmud where it is noted "that even a Jew who sinned is still considered a Jew."

I rest my case: Judaism is inherently pluralistic and we can be in a community with those we know are wrong.