September 1, 2014

You're Probably Not A 10

There is a review online for nearly everything...from sources such as Amazon to Yelp, Angie's List, IMDb, and more. 

But what you may not realize is that the knife cuts both ways...you are not only the reviewer, but the subject of reviews.

And if you're not all that...then everyone can know it!

The New York Times has an opinion piece by Delia Ephron about how reports cards are no longer just for kids, and that they are "for the rest of my life...[and] this is going on your permanent record."

From cabbies that won't pick you up because you've been rated a bad fare to your therapist that says you can't stop obsessing, restaurants that complain you refused to pay for the chopped liver, and the department store says you wasted their salesperson's time and then bought online, and even your Rabbi says you haven't been giving enough to the synagogue lately. 

People hear things, post things, and can access their records online...your life is not private, and who you are at least in other peoples opinion is just an easy search away. 

In Tweets, Blogs, on Facebook, and even in companies customer records, you have a personal review and rating waiting for discovery.

Your review might be good, but then again...you are not always at your finest moments and these get captured in databases and on social media.

Data mining or exfiltration of your personal information is your public enemy #1.

Of course, you'd like to think (or wish) that you're brand is a 10, but not everyone loves you that way your mother does.  

Too bad you can't tell them, "If I want your opinion, I'll ask for it"--either way, your gonna hear what people think of you loud and clear. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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August 31, 2014

Flower In Water

I love this photo from today. 

There was a flower floating in the pool.

I couldn't help noticing how unbelievably beautiful it was. 

The white petals, the pink center, and the shaded blue water around it. 

You can even see the ripples in the water immediately around the flower petals. 

This is somehow magical and amazing. 

Thank you G-d for showing this to us on this wonderful day. 

(Source Photo: Andy and Dannielle Blumenthal)
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August 30, 2014

Erase Me Not

So in the war between good and evil, the battlefield has become a war of words as much as that of guns and bombs. 

If you can't exterminate a people physically, then why not try to do it historically? 

With despots like former Iranian president Ahmadinejad as a exemplar for Holocaust denial, history revisionists now make fair game of rewriting the past, so that it plays their way.

How convenient--if you don't like how something turns out, simply change it in the history books so it never even happened. 

I was surprised recently to see how far this method of verbal warfare has gone, when I happened to look up some information online about the Jewish Exodus from slavery in Egypt and trek to the Promised Land of Israel, only to find that in Wikipedia, this has now been deemed a "Charter Myth."

I wondered how both the thousands year old Jewish Torah and the Christian Old Testament that records my people's hundreds of years of slavery and redemption in the Biblical book of Exodus was now just recorded in the most prominent online encyclopedia on the web as a false belief!

Ah, maybe those pyramids in Giza just showed up one day--and my people didn't build them with straw, mortar, and dead Jewish slave bodies.

Forget about how convenient calling this a myth is to the terrorists who don't want to acknowledge that the Land of Israel was given by G-d to the Jewish people and instead want to believe in Jihad against all "infidels."

My daughter asked me on a recent walk why they hate us? 

And I answered and said, if another people--i.e. the existence of the Jews and their homeland, Israel--is a refutation of their hate-filled "religious" beliefs, then maybe we can understand why they want to get rid of us, the inconvenient evidence.

This same story is playing out in the fighting between Israel and Hamas, where despite incredible destruction to Hamas in Gaza, they are claiming victory on social media. 

The Jewish people are small in numbers, and if millions of religious militants wants to write us off in the history books and on the web, they can certainly try. 

But what Jewish people do that is smarter than trying to erase something bad from history is that we force ourselves to remember it--to learn lessons from it and become better despite what happened. 

That is why we celebrate Passover to remember the Exodus from many thousands of years ago. The same with Yom Hashoah to memorialize the murder of six million Jews in the Holocaust, and Tisha B'Av to remember the destruction of the two Jewish temples. 

Even we the commandment to blot of the remembrance of the evil that Amalek did in attacking the our infirm and elderly among us in the dessert in Exodus, we remember this annually!

The Jews are a people of the book--we remember, we study, we learn, we grow. 

In the Bible, there are plenty of people that did bad things, but we would never think to rewrite it or any portion of it. It is sacred and most valuable to learn from--the good and the bad. 

While damning the memory of someone bad is not uncommon among all cultures, it is really more a remembrance of what they did bad, rather than forgetting they ever did it. 

It is far more courageous to remember history and learn from it, then try fledglingly to rewrite the parts that you don't like or are inconvenient to you. 

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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August 29, 2014

From Holocaust To Nation State

This is a really beautiful representation of the historical developments of the Jewish nation.

Where the Jewish people went from the fiery depths of the Holocaust to the rise of a modern democratic nation state of Israel. 

We are the same sons and daughters of Israel, but no longer exiled from the Holy Land and paraded like sheep to the slaughter from the hate mongers de jour. 

On the right are represented generations, who with the rise of every crazy demagogue that needed to blame their religious, political, social, and economic problems on a scapegoat, the Jewish people suffered at their bloody hands, discriminatory expropriation and expulsion, tax and torture, rape, pogrom, and slaughter.

On the left are shown the Jews from a free democratic State of Israel who are proud to seek a life of peace and security from persecution and who can chart their own course for their people and be a light unto nations for doing what is right and moral and contributing to the world in every significant development and advance of humankind. 

As the Jews went from slavery to freedom many thousands of years ago with the Exodus from Egypt and settlement of the land of Israel, so too today, we can count on the miraculous transition from exile to promised homeland and from persecution to self-determination. ;-)

(Source Photo: here with attribution to Eliyokim Cohen)
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August 28, 2014

Talent = f {Intelligence, Energy, Integrity Squared}

I really like this quote from Warren Buffet. 

Three traits to look for in recruiting the best people:

  1. Intelligence
  2. Energy
  3. Integrity

But what good are the first two without the third one?

So Integrity first (or squared for emphasis)...then intelligence plus the energy to use it plentifully and you have yourself an organizational winner!

Related to this, I saw someone on the train today with a tee shirt (from Sweet Green...not sure why this is their slogan) that said:

Passion 

   X

Purpose

This seemed like a good motto to me define the energy (#2) in Buffet's top 3 items for recruiting. 

With a clear intent plus the compelling feeling to achieve it, you got energy to apply.

The resulting function: 

Talent = f {Intelligence, Energy (or Passion x Purpose), Integrity Squared}

Now that's a recruiting formula we can all follow--thank you Mr. Buffet. ;-)

(Source Photo: LinkedIn)
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August 27, 2014

The Cello And The Horse

So this was a funny picture I took today at Foggy Bottom. 

This guy in a shirt and tie is playing this awesome looking cello...

And sitting next to him is this other guy wearing a horse mask, rolling his head, and staring intently at the people passing by. 

Behind them is a farmers market and in front to the left is someone selling beautiful flowers. 

Overall, just another weird scene in the Nation's capital.

Next up, the guy in the horse head plays the cello and everyone sings along and neighs. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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August 26, 2014

Confronting The New



As the kids are starting a new school year, I thought these welcome messages in chalk on the sidewalk were interesting and hopeful. 

Everyone needs support when they are starting at a new place or doing something they haven't done before. 

Doing something new means opportunity for a fresh beginning and the chance to learn and grow, but it also presents changes and challenges. 

The messages the kids drew help to confront these head on asking the other students:

- What is exciting to them and playing up the positives of the new experience.

- Encouraging people to make new friends to help make the adjustment. 

- Offer emotional support with "Free Hugs" and camaraderie.

At times, we all end up in new situations and places.

We may be looking for discovery, adventure, or a chance to do something different or perhaps change our fortunes.

At other times, we may just get thrown into something and may not even be certain exactly how we got there. 

But either way, it definitely helps when we reach out to others and realize that while we are individuals, we are not alone as we go through it. 

People need each other...some more, some less...but no man is an island. ;-)

(Source Photos: Andy Blumenthal)
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August 25, 2014

Who Can Resist?

So this food truck in downtown Washington D.C. is plastered with this Mac Attack signage. 

The noodles are sticking up and out of everything (including the "A" in Attack).

And the gooey cheese is dropping off the noodles and letters. 

While I didn't see anyone around the truck buying early in the day, I have a feeling the line forms at lunchtime. 

Really now, who can resist the temptation of a good mac and cheese? ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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August 24, 2014

To The Holy Land


My youngest daughter, Rebecca, left for The Holy Land today.

I am so proud of her courage, love, and determination to visit there and learn more about her Judaism and Israel. 


Rebecca, you are going on an amazing journey, and we are all so happy for you and thinking of you. 


We all wish you nothing but the best time, lots of learning and meaning, new friends, and of course G-d's endless blessings and protection.


May you go in peace and return in peace--all our love. ;-)


(Source Photo: Rebecca Blumenthal)

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August 23, 2014

Can You Love A Robot?

Pew Research reports that by 2025, "Robotic sex partners will be commonplace."

While I certainly understand loving (new helpful) technology, actually making love to a machine is taking things a little too far.

Even with great advances in artificial intelligence (AI), a robot can be nothing more than an artificial partner...a humanoid is not a human!

Despite portrayals in the movie Her (2013) of a nerdy writer who falls in love with his life-like operating system, the reality of human and machine love is more a desperate call for companionship and understanding than a real connection of equals--physically, intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually. 

While a computer may be programmed to say the things you want to hear, to laugh at your jokes, and even to succumb to your advances, love cannot be programmed or even artificially learned. 

The complex dynamics between two real people locked-in the emotional roller coaster of life with its ups and downs, pulling together and pushing apart, of shared experiences, challenges, and conflicts, can only be met head on with a best friend, soulmate, diametric opposite, and at the same time congruent equal. 

Only another human being can love you and be your love.

A machine, however beautiful designed, charming, and learning of you, can be just a poor surrogate for the sad person screaming out for connection in a large lonely world. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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August 22, 2014

Smart Electronic Skin

I liked this concept reported on in BBC Technology about using swarms of sensors to create a type of electronic or "smart skin."

Like nerves in our human skin, multitudes of sensors placed on anything that we want to monitor, could create a sensing/feeling and reporting mechanism for evaluating the health or condition of that thing. 

Rather than wait for something to fail or break, we could actively collect information on changes in "temperature, strain, and movement" and other environmental impacts to analyze and predict any issues and proactively address them with countermeasures, maintenance, or fixes. 

As human beings, we are architected with regular monitoring and self-healing biological systems to protect ourselves from daily dangers around us, we can develop homes, factories, transport, robots, and everything important around us with similar properties to be more durable, last longer and be more productive.  

When we emulate in our own development efforts what G-d has created for the good in the world, we are on the right track. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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August 21, 2014

We Need More Rabbit

This was a funny scene down at Foggy Bottom today.

The Nesquik rabbit was giving out chocolate milk bottle samples.

On a warm August day today, this was nice. 

But also, it was refreshing to see a little light-heartedness downtown. 

We all--adults and kids--need more of this--to enjoy life.

It was interesting how we are so going in the opposite direction these days.

Not only with all the bad news around the world...

But even with how hard we have to work just to keep up (24/7) and with a world where our kids are having to work and miss out on what is supposed to be some more or less carefree exploratory years to find themselves. 

Now it's SAT prep, AP classes, internships, volunteer opportunities, and extracurricular activities--all the time. 

In this regard, in the Wall Street Journal today, there was a review of a book called Excellent Sheep.

The book's author explains how "For many students, rising to the absolute top means being consumed by the system...[where they] sacrifice health, relationships, exploration, [and] activities...[those things] essential for developing souls and hearts."

The kids are often working so hard that they are anxious, depressed, and often miserable. 

When getting ahead and becoming wealthy (a priority for 80%!) becomes the prime reason for our young adults' existence, maybe we have missed the boat in terms of finding true meaning and joy in life. 

Hard work and striving for success is a good thing, but worshipping the proverbial "golden calf" is not productive. 

Like the rabbit, I would give a thumbs up to those for whom a more well-balanced life rules the day--where success, meaning, and joy all play an important part, and we can drink some chocolate milk and not take everything so darn serious. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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August 20, 2014

Bittersweet Green

So lately, passing by Sweet Greens in the morning has not been so sweet.

The tables outside are being used by those unfortunately with no place to sleep. 

When I see the homeless people under the Sweet Green awning lying on the tables wrapped in ripped clothes and blankets trying to get some much needed sleep, it is completely heart breaking. 

At the same time, I wonder about the health and safety for people who come later to eat on those tables that only hours earlier were somebody's bed for the night.

Not a good situation all around...and can never understand why a wealthy society such as ours can't feed, cloth, and shelter ALL its citizens--so they don't have to sleep at Sweet Greens anymore. 

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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August 19, 2014

Panic, Technology To Rescue

Who us panic?

- ISIS is threatening the West with "dangerous new extremism"

- Syria's death toll tops 170,000 with more than 10,000 believed tortured to death. 
- Boko Haram is still abducting young girls (and boys).
- Iran says no deal on nukes
- Ebola is "out of control."
- China is emergent as the U.S. pivots east and space becomes militarized with anti-satellite weapons. 
- Russia is resurgent (Crimea is history to Ukraine).
- The national deficit only hints at the true extent of our unfunded liabilities from entitelements.
- The economy is bubbling over the top again, warns Robert Shiller.
- Racial and income inequality continues to divide America (case in point, Ferguson MO).
- Nearly 1 in 3 American adults has an arrest record.
- Almost half the world--3 billion people--live in poverty on less then $2.50 a day. 

Ah, if only technology could solve all our global problems--and this is a big list and not by any means comprehensive.


It's a race of the "world is exploding all over" with technology trying to make it better with more and better information, innovation, productivity, security, and cures.


Almost like the war of good over evil--we may lose the battle, but hopefully (let's pray) in the end, we will win the war. ;-)


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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August 18, 2014

Fell, Jumped, Or Pushed

Maybe the jury is still out on whether Humpty Dumpty fell, jumped, or was pushed. 

Of course, it's very easy to say affirmatively any one of these, but that doesn't necessarily make it true (even when there is a children's rhyme or bumper sticker that goes with it). 

I think the point is that this is what investigations, witnesses, evidence, and a trial is for...to figure out the truth. 

He says, she says...or as Judge Judy says, "It's a lot of who shot John!"

It's good not to jump to conclusions, especially when opinions may be subjective, biased, or have hidden agendas. 

Heck, even if Humpty Dumpty was pushed, they still couldn't put him back together again, but at least someone should pay for the bad yoke. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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August 17, 2014

Reflections

We did a little kayaking at Lake Needwood today.

I couldn't believe they open at 6:30 in the morning already to rent boats on a Sunday.

In the boathouse, there was a huge spider on the floor crawling around, and the boat attendant came with a thingamajig to grab it and throw it back in the lake.

As he took the spider away, he made sure to tell us that is was POISONOUS!

On the lake, I took this photo of the gorgeous trees and greenery and it's reflection on the water...a perfect mirror image.

Thank you G-d for the amazing world you have created and allow us to enjoy. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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August 16, 2014

Best Dancers With Projection Effects





I just love Blue Journey and hope they win the season!
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Technology Easy Sell

Technology is not like buying a time share, thank G-d. 

We examine the costs and the benefits, and it either works and provides us a tangible competitive benefit or it doesn't.

"You can't be competitive without modern technology, you'll simply be out of business."

At the end of the day, you don't want to be sold a worthless bag of goods from a no good (not genuine) salesperson. 

Read about it here in my new article in Public CIO. 

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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Vote to Have A Say

People vote to get representation in political office for what they believe or want. 

- Gun Rights
- Abortion Rights
- Civil Rights
- Social Entitlements
- International Engagement
- Strong Defense
- Low Taxes 
- Etc. Etc. Etc.

But now, cities like Los Angeles that are looking to boost voter turnout want to offer cash prizes

The cash prize "might include a prize as high as $50,000."

Nice (not!)--head to the polls like you do to buy a Powerball ticket. 

Votes, like love, is not something that should be bought.

For those fortunate enough to live in a free country, voting is a special right where everyone can have a say and influence the world around them. 

Instead of focusing on handing out rides or money to go and vote, maybe instead we should create awareness of what a great opportunity it is to live in a  democracy and be able to chart our own course rather than live like so many around the globe under the rule of dictators and tyrants.

Voting is a great privilege for those who care to stand up and make a difference by going to the polls, voting is not an ATM machine. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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August 15, 2014

The Ebola Bomb {^}

Ebola is the "one of the most virulent microbes" to mankind--there is no known cure and it has a 90% mortality rate. 

The death toll from the current outbreak of ebola in West Africa has now hit 1,145.


And according to the U.N. Health Agency, the number of deaths are "vastly underestimated."


Already, as of two weeks ago, more than 100 health workers had been infected. So who is going to care for the infected and sick, when the medical professionals themselves are sick and dead? 


According to the World Health Organization, Ebola is spread by "direct contact (through broken skin or mucous membranes) with the blood, secretions, organs, or other bodily fluids of infected people, and indirect contact with environments infected with such fluids."


However, as frightening and deadly as ebola is as a disease that spreads and must be contained, what is even more terrifying is that there are those who believe that terrorists may try to harness it into a dirty bomb.


CBS reports that a disease expert from Cambridge University says that "A bigger and more serious risk is that a [terrorist] group manages to harness the virus as a power, then explode it in a bomb in a highly populated area."


A biological bomb like this "could cause a large number of horrific deaths," and would further spread the disease--and until it stops, no one knows. 


Visiting any number of local doctors offices, emergency rooms, or hospitals that are already filled with patients and with lengthy wait times to be treated, I cannot imagine what an Ebola (type) outbreak would look like.


I hope and pray we never find out the suffering, death, and havoc something a virus like this would cause--whether transmitted through human-to-human contact or by one of the dirtiest, sickest bombs you could imagine. 


(Source Screenshot: here with attribution to Unicef)

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August 14, 2014

Double Take


Cousin Betty sent me a series of funny photo's titled, "It's Called The Right Angle" (via Yehudis Steen). 

These were too funny, and there is certainly no offense intended. 

So pictures can be deceiving, especially if you don't pay attention to the details of who's who and who's sitting on what. ;-)

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August 13, 2014

Electrical Cataclysm

Warning from the former director of CIA in the Wall Street Journal...

We are grossly unprepared for an EMP attack on this country!

Dire reports from the EMP Commission from 2004 and 2008 have been "much neglected"!

The threat comes from nation states and terrorist organizations who can detonate a nuclear device above our skies by ICBM, SCUD missile (for example from a freighter near our shores), a space-launched vehicle that lifts satelittes into orbit, and even from low-yield nuclear weapons closer to home. 

Russia and China "have considered limited nuclear-attack options that...employ EMP as the primary or sole means of attack."

North Korea in 2012 orbited a satellite compatible with such a small nuclear warhead "for the delviery of a surprise nuclear EMP attack against the U.S."

Here's the clincher on the damage this could do to us:

"Within 12 months of a nationwide blackout, up to 90% of the U.S. population could possibly perish from starvation, disease, and social breakdown."

But for roughly $2 billion dollars we could protect the national electrical grid with surge arrestors, faraday cages and more. 

However, the bills to authorize this and protect us are stalled.

This is a known threat that our enemies are preparing for and what are we doing sitting on our hands, again? 

Or as the comedian Lewis Black says, "If we're going nowhere as a country, why can't we get there faster?"  ;-)

(Source Photo: here with attribution to Wil C. Fry)
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August 10, 2014

Why Innovation Is On The Decline

You've experienced it firsthand, innovation is slowing down (and yes, it's quite disappointing!).  

Do you feel compelled to get a new smartphone, TV, or just about anything else...or do you already basically have the latest and greatest technology, even if it's a couple of years old now?


But imagine, if something great and new did come out...we'd all be dancing in the streets and eager to buy. 


That's right, innovation is not what it was...according to the Wall Street Journal, there is "An Innovation Slowdown At The Tech Giants."


The question is why is this happening?


No, the tech companies are not copying Washington politics (sleepy, sleepy...)! 


But instead, we may have become our own worst enemies to our ability to innovate anew. 


The New York Times today explains that our minds have a toggle switch between being focused on a task and being free to let your mind wonder and innovate. 


You can't do both at the same time, no you can't.


And these days, we have so flooded ourselves with information overload with everything from 24/7 work and "big data," email/texting, social media, and thousands of cable stations and billions of YouTube videos, and more that we are forever engaged in the what's now, and are not allowing ourselves to rest, recuperate, and think about the potential for what's new. 


If we want more from the future (innovation, creative problem solving, and sound decision making), then we need to allow some space for our minds to restore itself.


Whether that means daily downtimes, weekly walks in the park, monthly mediations, or semiannual vacations...we need to stop the diminishing returns of constant work and information arousal, and take a little mind breather. 


Instead of chugging along our insane nonstop routines of endless activities and firehose information engagement, we will do ourselves and our children and grandchildren a great service by pulling the train over for some rest and relaxation...and only then will real innovation begin again. ;-)


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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August 9, 2014

Robots, Who's Telling Whom What To Do

There was an interesting quote about jobs of the future by Tom Preston-Werner in Bloomberg Businessweek:

"In the future, there's potentially two types of jobs: where you tell a machine what to do, programming a computer, or a machine is going to tell you what to do. You're either the one that creates the automation or you're going to get automated."

Already, we've seen manufacturing get outsourced by the millions of job to cheaper labor oversees or automated in factories by machines and robotics.

Similarly, agriculture has seen a large decrease in small family-owned farms, in lieu of mega farms run by multinationals and run by automated farm equipment with GPS and drones. 

The military is moving quickly to warfare by drones, robotics, and people geared-up in high-tech exoskeletons. 

Now in the sacrosanct service sector, where it has been said that it could never be done by anyone by local people within their communities, services are moving in the direction of robots. 

Perhaps we can ask if even in government, can there be a future where robots can govern better than we can--and get things done speedily and efficiently!

In one Sci fi hit after another, from Star Trek to Battlestar Galactica to Terminator, a future of humanity embattled by cyborgs predominates. 

Like in the show, Lost in Space, where the robot in wont to say, "Crush, Kill, Destroy," perhaps we can understand this as not jsut a physical threat as people's lives, but also to their ability to earn a living in a world where automation challenges us with the children reframe:

"Everything you can do, I can do better. I can do everything better than you. Yes you can, no you can't..."

At this point, I am not sure it is really a debate anymore, and that Preston-Werner is predominantly right...technology is the future--whether we are end up being eaten alive by it or are its earthly masters. ;-)
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August 8, 2014

Charisma, MORE Than Skin Deep

Charisma is something that can make or break a career or life.

If you have it, people often flock to you--that means connections, networking, relationships, and support. 

If you don't have it, then kiss your effectiveness and associates goodbye. 

According to Elizabeth Holmes in the Wall Street Journal, charisma is about how you look, talk, prep, smile, and get feedback. 

At work, for example, Holmes focuses quite a bit on superficial outwardly things like "Look polished, wrinkle-free," "Make eye contact," "Master grace under fire," and more.

And while these are important, they are really also the more superficial of what you can do in term of primarily how you look and comport yourself on the surface. 

Holmes does point more substantive things you can do, like ask for honest feedback, so presumably you can improve yourself. 

But improvements in the skin deep is nice, but not the essence of charisma.

Yes, no one appreciates someone who comes into the room disheveled, smelly, and like a proverbial turd. 

But more important than how one looks, talks and carry's themselves outwardly is how they actually behave. 

Looks are superficial, and word are cheap, but what a person actually does shows what they are really all about as a human being. 

Yes, do you need to build confidence by being put together, of course you do.

But to really build respect, trust, influence, inspire, and lead, you need to be a mensch--a decent human being, grounded in virtuous beliefs, who shows they will do the right thing and act at all times with a core integrity.

Charisma means we genuinely care and help others--not that we focus on promoting ourselves by walking around as the high and mighty

In the end, your charisma, charm, gravitas, presence and effectiveness as a leader is much more about what you do then what you simply look like or spout out. 

Be genuinely kind, caring, and giving, and that is a presence that can be sincerely felt and not just ogled over. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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August 7, 2014

The Most Troubling Sign

I took this photo outside a bathroom at a local facility around Washington, D.C.

This truly is one of the most troubling signs I think you can find, especially when you have to do your thing. 

Why you can't use the bathroom, even if you say pretty please, I don't know.

But I would say, Mr. Toilet here should put his hands down and let people in--for use and not abuse. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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August 6, 2014

World's Fastest Bicycle "Egg"


This human powered bicycle is so cool--and fast!

It is called the ETA (or "Banana Bike") and is being designed by AeroVelo, University of Toronto engineering graduates and students.


These are the same folks that created the award-winning Atlas human-powered helicopter. 


The ETA is expected to reach over 87 mph, thereby breaking the human-powered land speed record of 83.1 mph.


The bicycle mechanics are being enclosed in an egg-shaped aerodynamic shell and it will be powered by a single person doing the pedaling. 


A combination of the movie Tron and the 1970's sitcom Mork & Mindy, it offers the potential for an environmentally friendly way to get around town and some nice fat-burning exercise too. ;-)


(Source Screenshot: here with attribution to BusinessWeek)

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Happy Is As Happy Does

I took this photo of this unusual, yes, garbage bin. 

It has these cheerful, colorful stickers all around it!

I was amazed at how some people can take even things that they probably don't like doing--like collecting trash--and work to make them happy.

Maybe some would say, it's like putting lipstick on a pig--just a cover.

But I have to give people credit for being creative, having a good attitude, and making even a bin of trash just a little bit brighter. 

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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August 5, 2014

Go Quick And Far

I love this African proverb that I heard recently:

"If you want to go quickly, go alone. But if you want to go far, go together."


When we're alone, we are traveling "light"--we don't have to worry about or help another person...we can go quickly.


However, when we go together with another, we have a companion and support, and can endure more and go much farther.


In life, going it alone...is more of a "flight" response. When you have to run, you get away as quickly as you can.  


In the movie Last of the Mohicans the fleeing male character yells to the woman, "Stay Alive! No matter how long it takes, I will find you."  They disperse, each one moving as speedily as possible to survive.


Similarly, when we have to "fight," there is power in numbers. We are always stronger and more capable as a team.


Already from The Three Musketeers, we acknowledge the familiar refrain of, "All for one, and one for all."


Similarly, when a military force advances it does so in strength with coordination and in unison, but when it is under severe attack and is retreating, often it does so chaotically, running with "every man for himself" trying to save as many as possible.


Overall, while we need the strength of unity and the speed of an agile runner, in the end we have to have faith, hope, and perseverance to survive.


Ernest Hemingway said, "The world breaks everyone, and afterwards some are strong at the broken places." ;-)


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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August 2, 2014

Fruit Juice Want Some

I took this photo in the supermarket.

It is of these Good 2 Grow juice bottles for kids with cartoon sip tops. 

Everyone from Ninja Turtles to Scooby Doo is here on the shelf.

And peeping out in the middle from the back is none other than SpongeBob SquarePants. 

I guess if I were still a kid holding hands with my mom coming down the aisle, I would stop right here and start yelling and jumping up and down for these.

Juice Smuice...I just like these fun, happy cartoon characters. ;-)
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July 31, 2014

Monday Blues

This was a funny sign on the large computer display overhung in a prominent medical facility around Washington, D.C. 

I remember as a kid, Monday's were notorious for being called "Blue Monday."

Further, Blue Mondays were in stark contrast to Sunday Fundays!

Already on Sunday evenings, many people would start getting the doldrums and sort of want to just mellow after 5 or 6 pm--I think mostly to deal with the anxiety of a new week. 

My father always used to tell me never to worry, instead to have faith in G-d that he will always do what is best for you--essentially, that faith and fear do not mix. 

I don't know about wanting to "break up" with Monday, but it would sure be nice if the week instead started with Tuesday. ;-)

(Source Photo: Dannielle Blumenthal)
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July 27, 2014

The Calorie Count Cookie

So we were out with family at a vegetarian Chinese restaurant. 

And at the end of the meal, of course there were fortune cookies to be had.

As someone opened the cookie, and was about to plop it in her mouth, she said, "Ah, there goes another 100 calories!"

Then I thought for a moment, and said, "wouldn't it be great (for those of us watching our weight), if every food had an edible embedded chip and display that would flash the calorie count as you picked it up and were about to put it in your mouth. 

Rather than those esoteric calorie counts on the side of packages for G-d knows what serving sizes, you get a play-by-play count every time you reach, pick up, and are about to ingest the next big gulp.

I think having calorie counts tied to real portions and having these in your face in real time as you are eating could have a huge impact on portion size and weight control. 

It may not be sexy to see the calories in your face as you eat, but boy could it be healthy. ;-)

Copyright to Andy Blumenthal

(Source Photo: Me)
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July 26, 2014

Antimissile System for Airlines


Elbit Systems has an antimissile system that can protect commercial airlines from short range, shoulder fired missiles (MANPADs).

The military air fleet of the U.S., U.K., and Australia already have installed such devices to protect them.

Another system by Northrop Grumman is installed for heads of state like on Air Force One and Germany has ordered it for their Chancellor's plane. 

But the Elbit C-Music is being used already on Israel's commercial airlines, El AL and Israir. 

The thermal targeting device of C-Music uses a precise laser to deflect the incoming heat seeking ground to air missiles and save the passengers and plane. 

According to the Wall Street Journal, a bill to mandate such devices for American commercial airlines would cost approximately $43 billion over 20 years. 

While this system would not work against the type of sophisticated multiple launch rocket systems that brought down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, it would go along way to enhance our anti-terrorism measures and protect Americans and other travelers coming to/from the U.S. 

Please don't shoot down this idea...  ;-)
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July 24, 2014

Israel's Near Pearl Harbor

I wanted to share the analysis below of the recent threat to Israel from Matti Follman. 

While perhaps not a true existential threat to the country, the death and destruction that Hamas could've inflicted via the terror tunnels and missiles at their own time and choosing could have been a Pearl Harbor or 9/11 event (or worse) for the State of Israel. 

Rather, than the United Nations Human Rights Council members and others decrying Israel's self-defense while protecting civilians (in spite of Hamas blatantly using them as human shields), they should be applauding Israel's true morality! 

But anti-semites and hate mongers, don't savor Israel's safety, security, or continuity as a Jewish and democratic state, they just seek an excuse, like Hitler, to attack whether by tunnels, missiles, boycotts, or resolutions to discriminate and obliterate those that they perceive as historically inconvenient and whom they simply want dead.

________________________________

Provided by Matti Follman

Analysis of the Situation: The State of Israel was facing an existential threat for the first time since the War of Independence. By their deaths, the three youths saved the State of Israel.

The dozens of tunnels that had been dug from Gaza to the southern cities of Israel were not tunnels for the purpose of terrorism – they were the infrastructure for the occupation of the Land of Israel. If we had not surprised ourselves with the severe response to the kidnap and murder of these boys (of blessed memory), Hamas, at a time that would suit them, would have sent thousands of soldiers through the tunnels to occupy cities and military posts; thousands of soldiers wearing the uniform of IDF soldiers, to kill, to conquer and to kidnap, and the IDF would have had no time to organize, and protect the nation. At the same time, Hamas would have fired off barrages of hundreds and thousands of missiles at the center of the country, paralyzing Israel’s organizational ability to defend itself against invasion. What were they waiting for? Maybe a rainy day? Or, most likely, the recovery of Hezbollah, in order to coordinate an integrated attack of missiles from the north. . . and possibly tunnels dug towards the northern cities too. . .

In Israel, in such a situation, there could be tens of thousands of deaths, the complete breakdown of national systems, and the need to build protection at the neighborhood and street levels. This, on the presumption  that the Arabs of Judea & Samaria, and some Israeli Arabs, would not join in the fray. Of course, IAF counter-attacks would be futile when the enemy was well entrenched underground and laughing all the way to Jerusalem! The best case scenario - international forces would come in to disarm the country, take our nuclear capabilities, and the dream of the Jewish State would crumble for another thousand years.

We were saved thanks to two things they did not believe would happen, because we also did not believe it: we did not believe that the abduction of the three boys would unite the nation in such a way that it would lead to massive air assault, the return of political prisoners to jail, and preparation for a ground offensive into the wasps’ nest they had built. And we had not believed that the Iron Dome would work. In other words - all of us, those to the right and those to the left, had disdained the Islamic-psychopathic rhetoric calling for the conquest of Jerusalem, had ignored the determination of the psychopaths in Iraq and Syria, and did not want to comprehend that they had built a smart, strong and - in fact - quite an excellent military system with almost no flaws, which was capable of crushing the State of Israel. We had all seen how ten fighting men had exited a tunnel in just a few minutes. What would have prevented two hundred soldiers from exiting a tunnel on any given day, and many thousands altogether from all of the tunnels - including hundreds of commandos landing on the beaches at the same time, and missiles landing in the heart of the country? The truth is that if, now, there were not tens of thousands of Israeli troops in the south, nothing could have prevented the next step in realizing the Islamic dream - the destruction of the Zionist nation, and marching into Jerusalem.

Eyal, Naftali and Gilad - by dying, they saved our country, our freedom and our lives.

Danny Gold - who developed the Iron Dome – may you live a long and healthy life.

And to all of the soldiers – we love you and embrace you. Muster courage and be brave! All the Jewish people, the whole world - and most of all, many of the Arab countries and the sane Muslims - are praying for the craziness to be overcome. Yes, even Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen). Thanks to those poor boys, we caught them with their pants down, when the timing and the conditions don’t suit them. Our State has survived and now is the time to settle accounts with the murderers, to the very last man.

And a word to citizens on the home front – when you hear the sirens, go into the shelter or your safe room and smile! When you hear the "boom" – laugh!  These noises are the screams of frustration of the psychopaths in Gaza, whose ingenious plan to crush Israel was prematurely exposed. All of the damage that we are suffering now is nothing compared to what they had been planning.

(Source Photo: here with attribution to the IDF)
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July 23, 2014

UN Inhuman Rights

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights calls for investigation of Israel for possible violations.

Hmmm, how does that make sense?

Israel abides by every ceasefire, sets up medical facilities for Gazans, provides advance warning of fighting to get innocents out of the way, and makes every attempt to withhold fire when civilians are at risk. 

This while Hamas and Islamic Jihad use babies as human shields and indiscriminately target vast population centers and critical infrastructure in Israel.

Incredibly, the UN Relief and Works Agency facilities in Gaza (e.g. schools) were being used to hide missiles for use against Israel and upon discovery, the UNRWA returned these to terrorists to continue to harm civilians. 

Unfortunately, in these cases, the UN is not protecting human rights, but rather is enabling the "rights" of dangerous terrorists to act grossly inhuman and immoral.  

Where politics trumps right and wrong...evil is permitted to flourish and good is diminished in the world.

Only 13 years since the 9/11 attack by Islamic terrorists that killed almost 3,000 innocent civilians here...is the world again getting amnesia on the very dangerous threat it faces?

(Source Photo: here from The Yeshiva World)
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July 22, 2014

Time To Get Up

This person is sitting on a stool and waiting for the Metro.

The quiet and complacency of this person just sitting there was a stark contrast to the big train coming down the tracks.

I wondered if this is not a sign of our times where the world is moving large and fast in turmoil:

- With big airliners with hundreds of passengers being shot of the sky
- Thouands of rockets and dozens of murder tunnels aimed at cities full of civilians by terrorists hiding in hospitals, mosques, and playgrounds
- Six year old girls raped by their roller-skating instructors
- Women being stoned to death for alleged adultery. 

...but where we are sitting here quietly and contemplatively as the big train rolls over any vistages of moral decency left in humankind.

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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July 21, 2014

Shout It From The Rooftops

Awesome picture of the sacred Jewish prayer:

"Hear, O' Israel, The L-rd is our G-d, The L-rd is One."

In lights on Tel Aviv Mall in Israel. 

(One more from my Cousin Betty--thank you!)
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July 20, 2014

G-d Changes Path Of Rockets

From the Jewish Telegraph.

I have to say this one terrorist was pretty smart. 

Despite his blind hatred of Jews and desire to obliterate Israel, at least he knows why the Hamas and Islamic Jihad rockets are not hitting their targets.

"Their G-d changes the path of our rockets in mid-air."

Yes, technology may help intercept missiles heading for the populated cities.

But the chief engineer is none other than G-d almighty, the ultimate protector of the Children of Israel. 

Next up after Iron Dome is Iron Beam (by the same G-d inventor).

(Thank you Betty Monoker for sharing this with me.)
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Better Early Than Never

So I learned a new word/concept today...PREcrastination (New York Times)

It's when you do things early!


The better known opposite word is PROcrastintion.



That's when you put things off or delay...often until the very last minute.

We know why people procrastinate--they don't want or like to do something, have more important things to do, may be overwhelmed with too many taskers, or perhaps they are just plain lazy. 


But why do people precrastinate?


Well, it's sort of the inverse of the above--they may like doing it, it may be a priority, or they just may want to get "ahead of the curve" on all the things they have on their to-dos, or they may be a Type A personality and don't rest until they've "got a handle on things."


Getting things done at the last minute (procrastination), can push off stress until later--perhaps a better time to deal with it, but getting it done early (precrastination), can help eliminate stress by just getting it over with. 


Some of us who get things done right away, may be doing extra work, because at times, the necessity of the moment is "overcome by events" (OBE) later on or we may start something before we even have all the directions or information and do it wrong altogether. 


While others who dilly-dally, may find that they waited too long to get the job done or have other things going on later that precludes them from meeting the timeline--as they say, "if you fail to plan, plan to fail!"


Is there a right or wrong in terms of Pre/Procrastination?


I want to tell you now, but I think I'll wait until later. ;-)


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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July 19, 2014

Risk In The Eye Of The Beholder

Should I do it or is it too risky?

That's a question we ask ourselves many times a day.


- Open our mouths at work or keep a lid on it.


- Run to catch that train or bus or slow down and go more carefully.


- Eat that greasy burger and fries or opt for a salad and smoothie.


- Invest in that highflier stock or put your money in the "G" fund.


The Wall Street Journal presents risk management as both quantifiable and qualitative. 


For example, a MicroMort (1 MM, and sounds like micro fart) is "equal to one-in-a million chance of death."


An average American has a 1.3MMs chance of a "sudden, violent end" on any given day. 


However, climb to the base camp at Mount Everest (at 29K feet), that's over 12,000 MM, base jump at only 430 MMs per jump, parachute 7 MM, and go on a roller coaster at only .0015 MM. 


So there you have it--statistics tell the risk story!


But not so fast, our risk calculations also take into account our qualitative values. For example, we tend to lower the risk in our minds of postpartum depression (10-15% or higher) because we value having a baby. 


Similarly, we tend to think driving (1 MM per 240 miles) is safer than flying (1 MM per 7,500 miles) because we believe we are in control of the automobile, as opposed to a passenger jet flown by a couple of pilots. 


The result, "Scariness of an activity isn't necessarily proportionate to its risk."


That means that you can easily make a mistake and underestimate risk, because of your personality or cultural and social biases. 


Rock climb at your own risk...BUT do you really understand what that risk even is or are you driven to do something overly dangerous and maybe stupid. ;-)


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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