What Is Kaizen?

  

What Is Kaizen?

As we were packing for our trip to The Sea Ranch last Friday, which I wrote about last week, Max had a lot of questions in his eyes. He obviously did not know what was going on. After we picked up his “sister” Alona in Tiburon, he was excited and settled on her lap during most of the journey. When we got there, unexpected thing happened.  There was a huge meadow in front of our house. When I opened the door, Max ran out the deck.  This did not concern me. However, when he saw a family of deer eating grass nearby, he started to chase after them. We in turn started running after him yelling his name and begging him to come back. After he chased the deer away, he saw a flock of birds, and now they had to be sent away as well. Meanwhile, Alona and I tried to get him back – running through the wet grass under the drizzling rain.  Finally, after getting exhausted, he came back to Alona.  Over the next three days, we did not let him out off-leash.  Though I thought that he learned the recall command, one thing is for sure – a dogs’ wild nature can be challenging to overcome. There are two places we take him in San Francisco where he can run off-leash. When we go to Fort Funston, Max likes to run around the sandy hills; however, he always comes back when called.  At Stern Grove, where we play a lot of fetch with a ball, he always brings it back.

For Max, who depends on us one hundred percent, every day can be unexpected.  Some days he goes to his day care; on others, he comes with us to the office. Sometimes we take him on a shopping trip, or to one of the parks.  How about us, humans?  What can we do to be better prepared for unexpected events? Physically and emotionally… As far as dogs are concerned, we, humans, need to train them (and ourselves) all the time (You can find a lot of suggestions on how to in my photo-story book, “42 Encounters with Dog Lovers”). Though I know that as long as Max hears and sees us, sooner or later he will get tired of running and will come back.

However, The Sea Ranch is not a place to let him out without a leash (unless we are on the beach, which has natural borders).  At the same time, I am going to continue training him to ensure that running away will never happen again.

I am a firm believer in the Japanese Kaizen Productivity Philosophy.  The word “kaizen” translates roughly to “good change”, which means “constant, continuous improvement”, and is a mindset you can apply anywhere, at any job.  I practice it all the time.  In our business we have weekly staff meetings where we learn about new loan programs from different lenders (I share some of these tools every Wednesday in the Money Solutions emails you receive.), and we also share our various work experiences with each other.  When it comes to writing, I constantly learn from books and the internet.  As a photographer, I photograph daily, and I take excursions on the weekends with my camera, to add more images for the forthcoming books and to share them with you, here.  I am currently writing “42 Encounters with Pairs in San Francisco”, which is going to be available in the Fall.  But I am also going to attend two week long workshops taught by well-known photographers.  (You will read about this experience in due time).  I also buy photography books from other authors.  During our trip to The Sea Ranch, I was reading “How to take Great Photographs” while photographing with three of my cameras with different lenses. If you wonder how I manage to accomplish so many tasks and still have time to sleep, my answer is – I focus on Kaizen.

P.S. These four images of Max during our trip are the result of my practice of Kaizen in photography. You can find more images of dogs with their owners in “42 Encounters with Dog Lovers” available on Amazon.com.  While there, read the amazing book reviews.

Enjoy and Share with a friend.

Manny Signature

What is Your Favorite Place to Visit?

  

What is Your Favorite Place to Visit?

After visiting New York, Paris, London and Berlin a number of times, I do not miss those places.  Meanwhile, there is a place only three hours drive North of San Francisco on Highway 1, where we visit again and again, and every time we leave there, we ask the same question – when will be the next time we visit?  I am talking about The Sea Ranch.

We discovered this place over thirty years ago. We rented a house for a week and had no idea what to expect (it was long before the internet). As it often happened, I was delayed in the office and it was dark by the time we arrived there. The next morning when we woke up and walked into the living room, which was facing large meadow, we saw a mama black-tailored deer with young fawn in front of our house. Since then, every day we had breakfast together with them. We discovered the ocean, the forest, the Gualala River, and were hooked.  We started coming here regularly, until one day some years later, on the spur of the moment we decided to buy what became our second home.  Most people who own second homes usually have them rented to vacationers, by using a number of local real estate companies. However, when more homes were available, ours was not rented often enough to justify the cost. When our younger daughter Tamar went to college, we decided to sell it, since I was concerned about the cash flow. After we were free from the obligation, we discovered how much we missed The Sea Ranch. Since then, we continue to come here, renting nice homes close to the ocean, which cost us much less than owing. It is difficult to pinpoint what exactly brings us here, but it certainly helps to have — the pristine views, fresh air, beautiful scenery of nature, and ample opportunities for relaxation. We enjoy walking along the bluff for hours, taking afternoon naps, reading and of course I make sure to photograph and write.

Next to The Sea Ranch, there is a small commercial center called Gualala. There are two supermarkets, restaurants, art galleries, a variety of stores and cafés. We have also visited other places in the area. A few times we drove for an hour to Mendocino. The area offers so much to see and to experience.  But most important – it is a great opportunity to relax. If you decide to have a trip here (which I strongly recommend), give me a call.

P.S. I came back with about nine hundred images. The Sea Ranch is everything about the nature – the ocean, the sky, meadow, trees, running water, rocks, birds and seals, deer, rabbits and raccoons. These four images attest to that. I included an image of Max who walks back from his trip with Alona blending well with nature. You can see more of Max’s and dog lovers’ images and read stories of how to help dogs in my photo-story book, “42 Encounters with Dog Lovers.”  Please buy it on Amazon.com.

Enjoy and share with a friend.

Manny Signature

Where to Eat in San Francisco

  

Where to Eat in San Francisco

Last week we were invited to an unusual birthday party. Zuni Café celebrated their 40th birthday.  It was packed with about 600 appreciative guests.

We had our first meal at Zuni about thirty years ago.  Our office was not far from the restaurant and we discovered a place which always serves good food.  The restaurant was founded in 1979, however, when in 1987 the influential chef Judy Rogers took over it, she shifted the menu from Southwestern (the restaurant is named after the Zuni tribe in New Mexico), and turned it into one of the historic landmarks of California cuisine.

Many years ago, I decided to have our morning staff meeting at Zuni (at that time it was serving breakfast). When I called for a reservation, I was told that breakfast was first come, first serve.  I came fifteen minutes earlier, but there were people at different tables.  We needed twelve seats together.  My solution was simple – I told everyone my plan and asked people to move around. The hostess was upset and told me that I was not allowed to move tables around.  Guess what?  At the end everyone was happy, our meeting took place, and since then, everyone in the restaurant knew Manny.  It helps when I need to get a reservation.  Of course it also helps that we often come here for lunches and dinners, and bring our friends and family to celebrate special events in our lives.  The restaurant is now owned by Executive Chef Gilbert Pilgrim, with whom through the years we have developed a great friendship. Zuni received the prestigious James Beard Award for “Outstanding Service” in 2018.

Online I found that “According to the San Francisco Fact Sheet, there are 4,415 restaurants in San Francisco. 54 of those restaurants have Michelin stars”.

At the same time, many restaurants cannot survive.  This happens for various reasons; some of which were mentioned in the article “Why San Francisco Restaurants are Closing”. Therefore, I was surprised to find online “The Oldest Restaurants in San Francisco”. The list is of eight restaurants, which go back to 1849, and are still serving customers today. What’s remarkable is their locations. From Tadich Grill on California Street, which is one of the most authentic San Franciscan restaurants in the city, which served hungry gold diggers, to the Old Clam House on the Bayshore Boulevard, which has been serving local workers since 1861. It is difficult to imagine, but Bayshore Boulevard actually was on a bayshore, and there was a two-mile long wooden plank road from downtown. The Cliff House, which was established in 1863, continues to delight its guests with stunning views of the ocean. Fior D’Italia,was established in 1886, making it the oldest Italian restaurant in the entire the United States.

Having Max in our lives has changed our eating out habits.  We do not go out that often.  When we go to eat with Max, we prefer restaurants with outdoor seating.  But we still go to Zuni Café whenever we can.

P.S. For these images, I decided to visit four “old” restaurants and you can see the results.

Manny Signature

What Does Jerusalem Mean?

  

What Does Jerusalem Mean?

The last leg of our trip to Israel, which ended on November 6th last year, was to visit Jerusalem, the country’s capital.  Our first trip there was on January 13, 1972, which also happened to be my 25th birthday.  We moved to Israel on January 9th, and four days later we took an excursion to Jerusalem.  Since then, (until we moved to San Francisco in August, 1980) we have visited Jerusalem countless times, and I even started my MBA studies at the University of Jerusalem.  Prior to this trip, our previous visit there was ten years ago.  It was an organized trip called “In The Dust of the Ancestors”, during which we discovered hidden treasures by visiting ancient places, including the Hezekiah Tunnel, which was carved under the City of David in the late 9th century BC, as well as Zedekiahs Cave, and also called Solomon’s Quarries.  Herod the Great used the quarry for building blocks for the renovation of what became known as the Western or Wailing Wall. We also visited the tunnel under the Western Wall reaching the bedrock of the Second Temple, which was destroyed by Romans almost 2000 years ago.

You do not have to be a history buff to appreciate what Jerusalem has to offer.  It was first settled in the 4th millennium BCE.  Jerusalem was named “Urusalim” on ancient Egyptian tablets.  On History.com I learned that “In 1000 BC, King David conquered Jerusalem and made it the capital of the Jewish Kingdom. His son, Solomon, built the first holy Temple there, 40 years later.  In the Bible, Jerusalem is mentioned 810 times.  The Babylonians occupied Jerusalem in 586 BC, destroyed the Temple, and sent the Jews into Exile.  About 50 years later after that, the Persian King Cyrus allowed Jews to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the Temple.”  Romans destroyed the Second Temple in 70 AD, and in 135 AD after defeating Bar Kochba’s rebellion and killing 580,000 Jews, renamed the city Aelia Capitolina.  Muslim armies conquered Jerusalem from the Byzantine Empire in 638. When Christians conquered the city in 1099, they massacred much of the population.  Then Khwarizmi Turks took it over in 1244.  During the last two thousand years, different names for the city were used, as new conquerors came and left.  Arabs call it Bayt al-Muqads or Al-Quds.  Combining those two names literally means “the place of the Holy Temple.”  The Israelis call their capital Yerushalayim.

The name Jerusalem is most commonly used in the Bible, and the name used by Western World.  The name Shalem is derived from the same root as the word “shalom”, meaning peace, so the common interpretation of the name now is “The City of Peace” or “Adobe of Peace”.  Let there be peace in the city, which is holy for three Abrahamic religions – Jewish, Christianity and Islam.  At the end of the celebration of Passover, which this year is on April 19-27, Jews traditionally sing a song, “Next Year in Jerusalem”.  If you want to experience a journey of a lifetime, you do not have to wait until next year, plan to visit Jerusalem as soon as you can.

P.S. These four images show Jerusalem’s diversity in the dress of its inhabitants.

Manny Signature

Where to Travel for Vacation

  

Where to Travel for Vacation

February is a perfect time to start planning for summer or fall vacations (unless, of course, you started earlier).  For many, their travel plans are limited to two weeks, which might determine their destination.  My wife Elfa suggested two possible ideas – a river cruise to Portugal or a trip to Iceland.  Will keep you posted.  Meanwhile, I want to encourage you – if you’ve never been, to travel to Israel.  If you have been reading my Encounters, you know it was our destination last year, and I already wrote a number of stories about this trip.  Israel is a relatively small country, but there are many attractive places to visit and to have wonderful experiences.  One of them is the Dead Sea, which is the earth’s lowest elevation located 1.412 ft below sea level.  It is also the world’s saltiest body of water with a salinity of 34.2%.  In Hebrew, the name “Yam-ha-Melah” means Sea of Salt.

The Dead Sea has attracted visitors for thousands of years.  It is called “dead” because its salinity prevents macroscopic aquatic organisms, such as fish and aquatic plants from living in it.  Actually in this case, the “dead” is good.  It was one of the world’s first resorts for at least two thousand years. Besides, the salt from the Sea was used as fertilizers and to create cosmetics.  On the website Deadsea.com I found out that in the Roman Era salt was a highly-valued strictly controlled commodity, more so than gold or silver, and was used as labors’ salary.  However, the reason for our trip was not to learn its history, but to relax and to enjoy special treatments.  It took us two hours to drive there from Tel Aviv (and about the same time to drive from there to Jerusalem).  The road was twisting along sandy dunes.  The air became hot and dry, and we suddenly saw the Dead Sea from a cliff, with the sign pointing to the Biblical place called Sodom; it was like seeing a mirage. Soon we arrived to our destination — a developed area with six high-rise hotels.  We stayed in the Crowne Plaza, which is very close to the beach.

 

 

The next two days were very relaxing.  We received mud wrapping, got massages, dipped into a swimming pool filled with salty water, lay out by the swimming pool, and of course walked in the Dead Sea, since it is not easy to swim there.  One of the attractions of any hotel in Israel is their breakfasts.  The buffet service has enormous amounts of cheese, herring, fruit, vegetables, hot dishes and desserts.  It felt as if we were on a cruise (with the advantage of having a larger room).  At night I saw the lights on other side of the Sea, which was in Jordan.  Israel and Jordan signed a peace treaty on October 26, 1994, and have diplomatic relations with economic cooperation.  They work together to save the Dead Sea from drying up.

On our next trip to Israel, we are also planning to visit Petra an ancient Red Rose City located in Jordan.

P.S. These four images show some of my encounters at the resort.

Manny Signature