You can be a Fantoo – sports viewed by serious women fans

Women are sports fans… too! That’s the notion behind Fantoo, featuring a blog and downloadable podcast (mp3 via iTunes here). A far cry from the Italian women “sports journalists” that are sported on television programs (“il calcio“) in Italy, Fantoo is for serious sports fans. Launched and operated by Robin McConaughty and Carol Doroba, there is plenty of interesting [and at times quirky] commentary that, as Robin mentions in the videoclip below, is enjoyed by guys as well as girls.

Being based in Philadelphia, Robin covers my dear Flyers. And here you can follow the Podcast, interview and on-ice throw-down with Flyers’ enforcer Riley Cote! If you are interested in how the hockey goons start a fight, you can hear it from Riley in this clip. As Robin said to me, “…things always go better when you ‘ask in a nice way’.

With the Philadelphia Flyers heading into the first game of the first round tonight (of the Stanley Cup 2009, that is) with our Keystone rivals, Pittsburgh, I can only imagine that Riley will have his hands full more than a few times.

And kudos to Robin and Carol for their fantoo.

Podcasts and Videocasts – New reasons to walk to work

Despite the sleek look & feel, I know that the Apple iPhone is still not perfect for my needs, so I have resisted the temptation thus far. Instead, I am content to max out my iPod. Although the agenda and contacts are weak applications in the Apple mobile platforms, I now have all my family videos and photos uploaded. And, thanks to the ongoing developments on iTunes, I have found ample pleasure by mining the available uploadable [mostly free] content, including the album covers, television rebroadcasts and podcasts.

If you have never done it, do go visit the podcast section of iTunes. The number of new podcasts being created is soaring (see graphic below). To those of you creating podcasts, keep at it! The choice ranges from newscasts to business to entertain to education to inspiration. And there are many special interests too. The development of the iTunes U section is absolutely fantastic: mobile learning with support systems to help educational institutions to learn how to do it (see this film for more understanding). I am currently subscribed to some 30 podcasts to which, of course, I cannot listen every day; but the repertoire provides great flexibility.

When do I listen to these podcasts? Walking to and from work, which takes me about 35 minutes to do the 2.8 kilometres. This is the novelty for me: like books on tape, podcasts are great for walking. At any one time, I can choose the podcast according to my mood, need or available time — and, of course, sometimes, I just listen to music. Unlike the commute in the metro which means many disjointed moments walking to the station, getting in the train for an all-too-short ride and then walking on to the office, I have an uninterrupted 35 minutes to myself when I commute by foot.

Walking to/from work with the iPod playing podcasts is a singularly great way to begin and end the day. Here are SIX substantial reasons why I strongly recommend it:

1. It is exercise in the open air (granted there is the pollution of cars, so I should theoretically get a mask to make it a healthier walk).
2. A chance to look up at the Parisian architecture rather than being cooped up all day.
3. It’s more ecological than driving or even taking the train — thereby reducing my CO2 footprint (which isn’t very good considering the flights all year).
4. It’s cheaper (than either the metro or car). We could all save a dime these days.
5. Considering the time spent circling to find a parking space, it is also oftentimes just as fast as driving. Moreover, by leaving my car at the underground parking lot at work, I avoid the unnecessary risk of leaving my car exposed for pigeon doodoo, or potential parking tickets.
6. And, the coup de grace is that I get to listen to the podcast with great attention. This latter point is critical for me (and I would argue for leading business managers) because, with the selection of podcasts now available, you can truly get new content to help drive your business or team.

For business leaders, there is a great selection of podcasts available. I have a few favourites that I would like to share with you (with links directly to iTunes):

o HARVARD Business Ideacast — This is a videocast.
o INSEAD Knowledgecast — Thoughtful videocast interviews with INSEAD professors and business people on a wide variety of subject — although this isn’t updated as regularly. You can get more content here in these INSEAD audiocasts.
o Go Green — Tips to go green and there’s also GreenTV, in partnership with UNEP and GreenPeace
o NPR’s This I believe — 500 words from someone that believes strongly in something
o Mitch Joel‘s Six Pixels of Separation for those wanting good web 2.0-oriented marketing and communications analysis and ideas.
o And finally, Robin Sharma’s inspirational podcasts

Do let me know if you have any other favourites you would like to share. Otherwise, get out your walking shoes and slide in to your next podcast.

Big Apple: Taking a Bite of Barack Obama

Taking a bite of the AppleHerewith, the good news for those of y0u who bought Leopard for your Apple Computer(s) in order to get the parental controls system. It turns out that the issue is that it doesn’t work well with Mozilla Firefox. But, it does work with Safari… So, in the spirit of sharing, it’s time to transfer to Safari if you want the parental controls to work. Also, some big news from Apple: after an extended conversation (all pro), the vendor who helped me with the Leopard problem at the Apple store on 5th Avenue, NYC, said that Steve Jobs and Apple were going to come out in favor of Barack Obama. The Apple takes on the Big Apple and supports the Ripe Apple. Well, well! Is that what they mean taking a bite of the Apple?

I haven’t managed to post my podcast… sometime soon. Otherwise, going to have to get my Facebook Vampire out to work.

Happy first of Apple.

You Don’t Need an Ipod or Itunes to podcast

No Ipod to podcast
For all the talk of podcasting, for most people there remains a large belief that it is “complicated” to listen to a podcast, much less make one. So, a couple of reassuring blogs/sites and a YouTube song [no more talking] for those of you who would like to jump in!

You don’t need an IPOD to podcast

A little more sophisticated answer to: What is a podcast?

Births out of wedlock

In France, it was announced (see here in the NY Sun!) by INSEE, the Paris-based national statistics agency, that in 2007, for the first time, the number of babies born out of wedlock eclipsed 50% (hitting 50.5%). That sent me scurrying across the web to find comparative stats. I was not sure, but I assumed that France was not alone in that trend. And that is an understatement. The trend is international. And quite a statement on the plight of marriage, as well as on the state of society.

Here is what I found out.

In the UK, this BBC report from 2004 said that the rate in Britain had reached 42%. But it is Sweden that leads all EU countries with around 53% (see Eurostat graphic to right). Sweden (red line on top) was already at 52% in 1995. France (green line) has been the second highest in Europe since the mid-1980s. Some good info on this Demographic Blog, and a comprehensive recent post on Demography Matters.

In the US, per 2005 CDC Gov stats, the percentage is 36.9%. Who makes up that 37% is not easy to piece together. But, already on the immigration front, courtesy of the Center for Immigration site, I have the following details and quotes:

  • Hispanic immigrants have seen the largest increase in out-of-wedlock births — from 19 percent of births in 1980 to 42 percent in 2003. This is important because Hispanics account for nearly 60 percent of all births to immigrants.

  • In addition to the 42 percent rate for Hispanic immigrants, the illegitimacy rate is now 39 percent for black immigrants, 11 percent for Asian/Pacific Islanders, and 12 percent for white immigrants.

  • There’s no indication of improvement over the generations. Among natives, the illegitimacy rate is 50 percent for Hispanics; 30 percent for Asian/Pacific Islanders, and 24 percent for whites.

  • There is no evidence that illegitimacy is related to legal status. Illegitimacy is common in many immigrant-sending counties. According to the UN, in Mexico and Canada the illegitimacy rate is 38 percent; in El Salvador it’s 73 percent; and it’s 86 percent in Jamaica

Per this CITY, Hispanic Family Values article, there is clearly a lot of concern with regard this trend of births out of wedlock in the Hispanic community. And I quote from this article, “[E]very 1,000 unmarried Hispanic women bore 92 children in 2003 (the latest year for which data exist), compared with 28 children for every 1,000 unmarried white women, 22 for every 1,000 unmarried Asian women, and 66 for every 1,000 unmarried black women. Forty-five percent of all Hispanic births occur outside of marriage, compared with 24 percent of white births and 15 percent of Asian births. Only the percentage of black out-of-wedlock births—68 percent—exceeds the Hispanic rate.” This NPR podcast deals further with the situation for Black Americans.

Perhaps another area that deserves highlighting is the appallingly high number of teen births in the US. This article from says the following:

“The birth rate among teenagers [in the U.S.] declined 2 percent in 2005, continuing a trend from the early 1990s. The rate is now about 40 births per 1,000 females ages 15 to 19. That is the lowest level in the 65 years for which a consistent series of rates is available. The U.S. teen birth rate is still the highest among industrialized countries.”

Looking at births out of wedlock, in general, the most critical issue may just be the existence of a loving couple to bring up that child. But between the high numbers of teen births and the high divorce rates, not to mention out-of-wedlock births, there is surely a new paradigm shift underway in terms of the composition of family. Apparently, Gen Yers are placing high(er) esteem on traditional values of family and are now looking for guidance and mentors. It would seem that there is a lot of work to be done on all fronts to create a successful concept/image of long-term marriage, new economic models and incentives and, above all, EDUCATION for what is, as far as teen and out-of-wedlock births are concerned, an over-weighted phenomenon in under-educated classes.

Content by day… Looking for meaningfulness

Being content is synonymous with getting content. In other words, my happiness is relatively linked to the amount I learn in a day (as well as living the love of my family). At the very least, I seek meaning and meaningful conversation. A couple of days ago, over lunch with a bright, entrepreneurial Icelander, Johann, I was filled with enjoyment as we pushed and prodded, anticipated and surprised one another in a very full conversation. Certain encounters have that spark. And, to the extent you can extend that level of intensity and reality among the people you meet, you becomes your circle of friends. You become defined by the people surrounding you.

Not very innovative as far as thoughts go, but defining as far as my life goes.Just as on line it is about the content and the Conversation, one’s relationships off line are also about the same search.

The quest, or perhaps the question, is how to optimize each day and reduce the clutter. Sometimes I get confused or frustrated by the innumerable hours spent in irrelevant moments & conversations. What is the appropriate objective for each day? Of course, the valhalla becomes linked with the quality (and not the quantity) of “content” that fills each conversation and each day. And, in my eyes, content absolutely can include laughter and frivolity–that said, I will typically privilege original humour and frivolity. As long as the content is meaningful…

It all points to a wonderful dictum: be open to learning, be a student of life. As Robin Sharma said in a wonderful podcast, be the Renaissance Man (or Woman). Look to learn. Learn about anything and everything. Seek content, but know that contributing content is the best way to getting access to content.

A little collection of blogs & reading about Renaissance Men/Women:

Keep up the search!

The Untranslatables – Part 3 of the Things we say…

Having always enjoyed learning languages, I revel in the difference between one language and another. Amongst my musings, I conjure up reasons to explain a language’s structure or vocabulary. Herewith are some of my favorite, if frivolous, observations about a few of the languages I know.

In French, there is frileux, a word that means “sensitive to cold”( or “overcautious” in a more abstract sense). No such single word exists in English to describe being afraid of the cold. This word encompasses why the French find that air conditioning is not appreciated, and probably the reason #1 given for the common cold in the summer [in France]. Meanwhile, you can find equivalent words for frileux in all the Mediterranean languages (frigoloso…)

In French, the word “efficient” doesn’t exist. It’s generally defined as the word “efficace” which really only means “effective” and obscures the notion of productivity & timing in “efficient.”

In French, the adjective “fin” (not la fin, as in the end) is very hard to describe in English as it applies to a person. “The person is fine” doesn’t really cut it. “Il est fin” means the person has a refined sense (i.e. in wit and/or aesthetics) combined with a degree of subtlety.

Of course, there are many thousands of examples of words borrowed from one language into another, which doesn’t necessarily mean there isn’t an equivalent. But, somehow, etymologically speaking, it does reveal a prowess or at least an exotic preference for the language from which the word is borrowed. Looking at French words in English (some 10,000 words were adopted back in the Norman invasion), there are many words that come to mind. What is more delectable, is the reason why:

  • avant-garde (thinking if not being ahead of its time)
  • bon appétit (and many other food-related sayings)
  • c’est la vie (beautifully reverse translated in French as “that’s life” in certain French subtitles)
  • décolleté (and numerous other arousing descriptions… ménage à trois, lingerie, etc.)
  • double entendre (and other diplomatic nuances, such as sang froid)

In French, it’s generally not considered as positive when English (or foreign) words creep into the language (the Académie Française is always on the watch). But there are certainly plenty of English words that have been accepted into the French vocabulary, i.e. weekend, ok, etc. Sometimes, the English word provides a certain je ne sais quoi to the sentence. At other times, English is almost used like a trump card. Subject to much acrimonious debate and some periods of protectionism, the rate at which English words have been flowing into the French language has by all statistics accelerated over the last fifty years.* I list a few favourite examples of words that are used in every day French language:

  • c’est très “safe” – a blend of “securité” and “innocuous”
  • le self – as if it were demeaning to have self service?
  • airbus is a cute one
  • chewing gum is an embarrassment
  • sexy – used to be considered a little pejorative, but has come around, even in French
  • le go-between – what they mean by English diplomacy
  • bulldozer – a hint at American diplomacy

There are even examples of words that do an aller-retour. One that is particularly fun is the word “challenge” which was borrowed originally by the English from the French (‘chalenge’), only now to be considered an English word when used in French (typically compared with “enjeux“).

Moving into a few other languages, I choose the word Gemütlicht, in German which, translated roughly as “cozy, relaxed”, has oddly been co-opted into the English language rather than translated — but, again, it’s true that just because the word has been added to the language, doesn’t mean the concept didn’t exist before. Just an opening up of the vocabulary.

Another German word, realpolitik, speaks volumes of the Anglo-Saxon heritage of pragmatism. Of course, if it were a politique of ideas, that would surely have a French origin.

In Russian, I remember a time when it was said (until Yeltsin’s era) that the word “unemployment” didn’t exist. That is no longer the case. For now, meanwhile, there’s still no singular word for “wholesale.” And the word “chat” has become current currency in Russian. And, courtesy of a research paper on line, I was entranced by the fact that “education” doesn’t have a singular translation. Russian splits the word into three separate meanings: (1) Образование (Education System, formal term for education, as in State Education system); (2) Обyчение (teaching, learning as in the practical activity of education at school); and (3) Воспитание (education of somebody, fusing the notions of personal education & upbringing).

A little tour to stir the juices. One thing’s for sure. As the world connects (and merges) on line, the chances are that the English language has a great shot at owning the ‘net language (blog, podcast, twittering…) aided by a continuing line of inventions. However, maybe all the terms already exist in Chinese and I’m just shamelessly unaware. Welcome any other examples of untranslatable or untranslated words that come to mind and might stir a smile, once exposed.


*A study showed that 14% of the Englishicisms in French came before 1800, 22% between 1800-1850, 9% between 1850-1900, 22% between 1900-1950 and 32% since 1950.

Getting Strung Along… String Theory II

I heard a segment out of a Robin Sharma podcast that struck a chord, as they say. It was about a poem, written in sanskrit, that goes like this:

“Spring has past, summer has gone and winter is here. And The song that I meant to sing has remained unsung. I have spent my days stringing and unstringing my instrument.” And it makes me consider, once again, that we are all, in substance, strings.

Some of you know that I have been pondering what it would be like to create a new religion … from scratch. So, I must admit that I haven’t yet pushed it to the end result, but I do like the concept of creating and building a “religion;” that is, in an environment that allows the freedom to do so. In the end of the day, in line with my personality, I don’t really want to create a religion per se as that’s not part of my gestalt. It is more like I want to create a new philosophy. A philosophy that sets out to answer some unexplainable questions and, possibly, helps guide us in our daily challenge to understand life. And, in this mind of a marketer, it is not unlike the concept of creating a brand . However, I am fundamentally interested in the process as much as the end product.

The Action Plan is as follows:

  • Some groundwork: know your competition. analyze all existing and past religions (to be sure to create a new territory).
  • Formulate thesis
  • Develop comprehensive writings
  • Qualify to anyone reading this that you are not entirely nuts.
  • Consider roll out plan
  • Find accolytes
  • Develop franchise concept
  • Sit back and retire

From the instant I came across the String Theory, I became a profound, if laic, believer. The String Theory — and the light it sheds on who we are [or could be] — goes along with Ayn Rand’s determinism as two pieces of the puzzle that have brought much enlightenment in my life. I’ll need to develop this philosohpy which, perhaps sadly, may only represent an updating of the masterful “The Tao of Physics” by Fritjof Capra. Nonetheless, when I get some spare time, I would like to develop further this philosophy, that I shall baptise for the moment as stringism theory. Stay tuned.

Meanwhile, the issue remains as to what religious instruction we might want to give to our children. As atheists, we (my wife and I) don’t subscribe even to the need of a religion. Nonetheless, religion represents an integral part of history and is an essential part of our culture. As an atheist, how does one pass along a substitute to religion? What strings do you think need to be pulled to provide a spiritual education? I look forward to your comments.