Needs v. Wants

by Francine on September 1, 2014


Have we come to a point in society where we are focussed on filling our wants rather than merely our needs? And does this place us higher on Maslow’s hierarchy than people who are only meeting their needs?  Will the iWatch and the IPhone 6 lead us closer to the self-actualization Maslow says is at the top of the pyramid?

I am going to buy an iWatch — or  whatever Apple is calling the new wearable “smart device” it’s announcing on September 9, but not shipping until next year because it probably doesn’t work yet.

I am also buying an iPhone 6.

I don’t need either of them.

And neither does anyone else.

That’s the problem with the current crop of technology products. No one really “needs” them. That’s the difference between the iPhone 6 and the first iPhone. Everyone needed that, or a smart phone like it, because smart phones connected the world, through both voice and data. But the very people who still need to be connected to the world, those in developing nations, cannot afford iPhones, and will have to be content with Androids. Which are quite good these days, and much less expensive.

Everyone thought they needed an iPad, too, when Steve Jobs introduced it. But in a matter of three years the Android tablet and the Android phone with the bigger screen have both eclipsed the iPad — and even made us question whether we need two devices. In Asia, they use the “phablet,” a single device with both functions; perhaps that’s enough.

And now comes the iWatch. With Google Glass and a drawer full of languishing fitness devices I don’t need that either, except to try it and write about it. I could say for educational reasons. But wouldn’t an African or Asian man sporting his first smart phone  look at the iWatch and laugh? “A device that saves me the trouble of  taking my phone out of my pocket? Man, I don’t even have a pocket.”

Somehow, here in the “first world.”  where our children are not getting educated for jobs, the middle class can no longer achieve upward mobility, the health care system is crooked and perhaps broken, the government is paralyzed, and war surrounds us, have we convinced ourselves we may “need” smart watches?

I’ll leave it to people smarter than myself to tell me whether that’s true. The recent emergence of the collaborative economy, the reluctance of the Millennials to consume in the old ways ( houses and cars), could signal a coming shift in consumerism. If that’s true, the smart watch (especially the iWatch, which will be the luxury brand) will either fall by the wayside or enjoy only a narrow niche of customers — not unlike the Louis Vuitton purse. But if Millennials decide all that collaborating and sharing doesn’t include one’s collection of fancy watches, then the iWatch has a bright future.




Surgery Monday: A Sister’s Tale

by Francine on August 19, 2014

“Surgery Monday” said the caption on the selfie my brother sent.  There he was, laying in a hospital bed, my younger (69) brother who hadn’t even retired yet. The selfie came as a text message addressed to me and a bunch of other phone numbers I didn’t recognize. What??? What happened? My heart jumped and my stomach churned. I used my yogic breathing techniques to get hold of myself because I was driving. Our father had dropped dead of a heart attack many years ago. Clearly Bradley  hadn’t done that. But why was he in the hospital. He is my only brother. My mind flashed back to how bad our mother had felt when her own younger brother died. She was never the same after that, and she told us she was very lonely for him.

I pulled into a gas station to find out what was happening, and set the gas pump going. Always productive and efficient, I was driving home from a ribbon cutting ceremony for the new inner city STEM school whose board I had joined when I saw the selfie. Yes, I was stressed out all of a sudden, but I wasn’t going to pass up an opportunity to fill the car up while I was here.

Just the very fact of the selfie was odd. My brother is, in his own words, an “old cow” who prefers to talk on the phone rather than text. He prefers Dunkin Donuts to Starbucks, and he derides me for communicating only online He’ll do Facebook, but only to make snarky political comments to me and his  kids. Revealing something serious through a selfie was very unlike him.

I read down through all the messages from others: “I thought the cardio said it was okay.” “What happened?”  “What the hell!!!! Can I call you?”

It was something all these people knew something about, but I knew nothing. Boom.

My brother and I grew up in New York City. After college, I got married to the first Jewish guy I could and moved out of town with him to Upstate Medical Center in Syracuse. It was up to my brother, three years younger, to be home with  my parents when our dad collapsed on the night of the big New York City blackout and died in our living room. He saw it. I didn’t. He tried to run out to get help. I didn’t. In fact, at the end of that year, I picked up and moved further away —  to Arizona.

My brother and I, who had never been close as kids because of the difference in our ages, now weren’t even close geographically.  I had two kids and went through a string of careers, divorces, and relationships. He became a highly regarded commercial photographer and traveled the world with assistants, apprentices, women, and Quaaludes. We didn’t fight or anything; we just never  saw each other. In fact, I never saw much of ANY of my family.

And then I went to visit my mother in Florida to introduce her to my fifth and final husband, and found out she had Alzheimer’s. My husband-to-be, a physician, diagnosed her at the front door when she opened it to greet us dressed “to the nines,” but without a skirt. My brother and I convened after that, and he admitted he had been flying down to Florida to see her regularly and was aware of her condition. But by this time, he had a wife and child and another on the way and was still on the road all the time. He couldn’t do any more for her.

So I moved her to Arizona.

My brother couldn’t believe I would do that, even as I couldn’t believe he had been caring for her all along without even telling me. He figured I couldn’t do it because I was too far away. And too selfish.  That’s how little we knew about each other, about who each of us really were. It’s like we stopped knowing each other as kids; he was the pesky little kid who interrupted my parties, and I was the selfish older sister who left home.

And now here he was in the hospital. He had been very overweight most of his life, and had decided to go on a weight loss program.  To get on the program, he had to take a stress test. That’s where they discovered he had two arteries that were 90% blocked and put him right in the hospital without passing go. The surgery was the following Monday. Five days away.

Intellectually, I could have predicted this. When we ate together, he consumed mounds of foods I had given up years ago: meat, mayonnaise, pickles, hot dogs, dessert, almost anything. He inhaled it while I ate my salads and fish or later, not even fish. I bitched at him, his kids bitched at him, and his answer was always  “I like to eat.”

And now I might lose him!!!! It made me realize how much I loved him, what a good and honest and admirable man he was, quitting the glamorous photography career to become a 6th grade teacher and coach Little League, being the father of the year for his two kids born later in life, sacrificing everything for them once he decided to have them. Taking care of our mother without burdening me.

And it also made me realize how much time we had wasted, leading our separate lives and thinking we had nothing in common.

After my stomach calmed down, I sprung into action. I called him, his girlfriend, and my niece and nephew. I offered to do anything I could to help. I sat by the phone waiting for the results of the surgery, scared to death he would die on the table, also afraid he wouldn’t come out of the anesthesia with all of his faculties.

I was FREAKED OUT!!! I could not imagine Brad not being in my world, even if we were typically 2500 miles apart and much of our communication consisted of him posting his  political views on the Facebook walls of my Arizona friends.

I did something I’ve never done ever. I asked my Facebook friends to pray for my brother. I never pray. I don’t even believe in God. But I somehow believe in the power of prayer for the people who do believe, and I also wasn’t going to overlook anything that might help.

The surgery was moved up to Friday afternoon. Oy, I thought. A Friday afternoon surgery. A tired doctor anxious for the weekend,  a skeleton staff of rented nurses at the hospital on Saturday and Sunday. Way too many opportunities for mistakes in this American health care system I’m so cynical about lately.

Guess what? More than a hundred people commented on my wall, prayed for my brother, and despite all my misgivings, everything went as routinely as they always tell you it will — the same “they” who sometimes give you staph infections, non-nutritious food, and nurses who don’t speak your language. He couldn’t keep up with the tsunami of well-wishers. His surgery was a success.

He comes out tonight. I am resigned to the fact that he’s not going to become a vegan. He says they told him the grafts are good for twenty-five years, and he feels like he dodged a bullet. The lesson he learned is different from the one I would have learned: his is, “get that stress test.” He says it saved his life.

And the one I learned?  I learned again to be grateful. Whatever works. I finally know how I feel about my brother.





The Knick: Has Health Care Gotten Better or Worse?

August 10, 2014

Sometimes it is necessary to revisit the past in order to see whether mankind has actually progressed. Lost in the day-to-day struggles, we lose sight of the long view. Especially with regard to American health care, which I view with more than a modicum of cynicism these days because as a Medicare patient I am the […]

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Is “Right” Always the Letter of the Law?

July 25, 2014

On paper, I am an elderly person in danger of deteriorating mentally and dying early because I live alone. In actuality, I live with three dogs, and have, until recently, enjoyed the company of other people every morning. But my community is gradually being taken away from me. The off-leash law for dogs is the […]

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Sonru Explores Africa, Finds Enormous Opportunity

July 3, 2014

Africa will be the next big land of opportunity. I have heard this more than once, especially from my friend J’Lein Liese of the Foundation for Global Leadership, and this year have been told by some Brits to take a look at Nigeria, a country of enormous energy that has become the continent’s new technology hub. In […]

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Ad Execs Take Out Their Insecurity on…a Woman

June 25, 2014

Everyone knows that the advertising agency business is in disarray, even though advertising itself is having a banner year. Brands are taking their ad buys in house and going to programmatic, and agencies who ditched their  focus on creative for “metrics” are struggling to find their places in the new world. What do they offer? […]

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In Moscow Today, Entrepreneurs Not Oligarchs

June 23, 2014

It took several days to penetrate beyond the Moscow of the tour guide to the Moscow I wanted to see — the one of the Muscovite entrepreneur. Having read about opportunities and fast growth in the BRIC countries, it was hard to believe Russia was last on my list. I’d already seen the enormous energy in Brazil, […]

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Moscow: Beautiful Architecture, Grumpy People

June 20, 2014

Like everywhere else I’ve been, Moscow is full of surprises, the more so for me because I grew up in the Stalinist era when propaganda from both sides of the Cold War depicted Russia as a communist country in which no one was allowed to be rich and  starving people queued up for bread in […]

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My Phone Loves Me, I Know He Does

June 17, 2014

If you haven’t seen the movie “Her,” in which a man falls in love with his operating system, don’t bother. Soon enough you are probably going to live it. Argus Labs, a data analytics company,  has an SDK and API that can take whatever data is already on your smart phone and use it to […]

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London’s Silicon Roundabout is No Longer a Joke

June 12, 2014

Shoreditch High Street looks nothing like it did two and a half years ago when I first visited TechHub, the London accelerator and collaborative workspace co-founded by Mike Butcher, European editor of Tech Crunch. At the time, the entire Old Street/Shoreditch area was pretty unpopular, but in an incredibly short time all that seems to […]

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