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 Yeshica 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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July 18, 2014

Movement For Human Rights



IF

1) you are a dissident living in a country that suppresses basic human rights

OR

2) you are a person seeking to help others suffering under authoritarian regimes

THEN

consider signing up at Movements.org, an organization that connects people in need of human rights help with those wanting to provide assistance. 

After you create a profile, which is given a star rating depending on a vetting process, you can post requests for help or offers of services to help others. 

Available services for "advice, contacts, training, and services," include those from:

- Lawyers
- Journalists
- Technologists
- Translators
- Policy Makers

The great Soviet Jewish dissident, Natan Sharansky, who spent 10 years imprisoned in a tortuous gulag, wrote in the Wall Street Journal that Movement.org is a "transformative approach to an old problem" for collecting and trying to get information on human-rights abuses to reach the free world and to seek justice and freedom. 

While dictators looks to suppress freedom of speech and information flow, social media is combating it, and Movements was provided a grant from Google, I believe, to do just that. ;-)
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July 17, 2014

Rally For Israel For Self-Defense


This video is from the Rally For Israel for their Self-Defense in Washington, D.C. today at lunchtime. 

Israel is still trying for a cease-fire, but continues to be under a barrage of missiles from Gaza. 

Thanks to G-d, as well as the support of the United States, the Iron Dome Missile Interceptor is protecting the people of Israel from more than 1,300 indiscriminate missile attacks by terrorists--this is truly miraculous!

Even today, the United Nations Reliefs and Works Agency (UNRWA) in Gaza found 20 missiles hidden by Hamas in one of the U.N.'s schools in Gaza--sort of leaves you scratching your head as to what type of schooling these children are unfortunately getting?

The multiple ceasefires by Israel, warning residents before taking military action, and even fixing the electricity to Gaza that Hamas knocked out with a missile they were aiming at Israel--is a wonderful testament to the humanity of the IDF. 

Interestingly enough, at the rally, there were a handful of antagonizers with megaphones behind the stage and podium trying to interrupt the lineup of ambassadors, congressmen/women, and other speakers for Israel's right to self-defense--sort of telling that they wouldn't even respect other people's right to assemble and speak. 

The trillion dollar questions is how you get to peace and security under these circumstances?

(Source Video: Andy Blumenthal)
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Our Lovely Metro System


Ok, so grossed out the last few days on the Washington, D.C. Metro system. 

This (see above) is what I was sitting next to this morning on the train. 


And last night was even worse, I was about to sit on one of the seats, and this nice man stopped me. 


Someone had actually spit on the seat--and just left it there for another unknowing person to sit in. 


Thankfully, I was saved this indignity, and ended up sitting somewhere else.


But later on the train, I saw someone jump up and start cursing--apparently, he had sat right in it. 


I saw another guy offer him a handkerchief, which was quite a nice gesture, considering. 


At the same time, I saw a lady on the train wearing one of those surgical masks that cover your mouth and nose--maybe not the worst idea under these ill conditions. ;-)


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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July 16, 2014

Garbage In, Repair The World Out

I'm sure you know the saying, "Garbage In, Garbage out"--in other words what you put into something is what you get out.

In this case, I took a photo of a garbage truck--of all things--that had prominently plastered on its side, "Tikkun Olam - Repair the World."

That is quite a positive message to put on a garbage truck!

Maybe that is our challenge in life, to make good things happen from the garbage that life often throws our way. 

Make something sweet like lemonade out of something sour like lemons.

This is not easy without some sugar, but in life, we need G-d to supply the raw ingredients and we add the elbow grease. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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July 15, 2014

Fighting With A Fear Of G-d


Amazing video from Al Jazeera Arabic that praises the Israeli and French militaries for respecting and protecting civilians.

This, in contrast--as Al Jazeera reports--to Hezbollah, Syria, and others extremist militants that deliberately target civilians and use them as human shields. 

We've heard in recent days again, how the IDF continues to go to great lengths to avoid hitting mosques, hospitals, and even trying to warn residents before an attack to save their lives. 

While mistakes happen in fighting and war, I must say how proud I am of the IDF for their efforts to act humanely under inhumane circumstances, while attacks are underway across the nation, and to always consider the moral implications of what they do. 

In the Wall Street Journal today, Bret Stephens states, that the weakness of the Israel is only through moral defeat, because the Jewish people "favors moral self-regard over normal self interest."

Similarly, Woody Allen's frequent humorous portrayal in the movies of Jewish introspection is funny, because it resonates so true for a people always trying to do and make right. 

Again today, we saw that Israel, not wanting to fight unless absolutely necessary, respected the ceasefire with Gaza, while Hamas outright rejected it and continued shooting off volleys of missiles indiscriminantly into Israel.

As Hamas has themselves stated about their waves of suicide bombers, rocket launches at population centers and critical infrastructure, and other dirty tactics, "We love death more than you love life."

The IDF is an inspiring example of fighting with ethics, dignity, and ultimately a fear of G-d more than any enemy could evoke. 
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July 13, 2014

Starbucks - BYOF

Okay, this was the second week in a row at Starbucks that I've seen people BYOF.

BYOF = Bring Your Own Food.


This gentleman relaxing on a Sunday has brought his ziplock bag and with some nice looking pound cake at that.


Message to Starbucks...either your food is really bad, overpriced, or perhaps a little of both. 


You pride yourself on your coffee and everyone pays a premium for it, but you are slacking on the food side of the coffeehouse. 


Seems like a big opportunity--fix your food (finally!) and make gazillions of dollars more off the addicted masses that flock to your coffee havens. 


My consulting fee...we can discuss. ;-)


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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Two Lost Children

Often we hear about lost children with everything from Amber Alerts to our phones and billboards to advertisements on local TV and even on milk cartons--and it is completely frightening. 

Rarely though do we come into contact with lost children...but yesterday it happened to us. 


We were taking a nice quiet walk around the neighborhood, but something was different this time. 


I see 2 children running down the block, and as they get closer, I see they are not playing, but running scared. 


The taller, older girl is ahead of a smaller boy. 


As the girl is within speaking distance, her whole face breaks into tears and she starts sobbing loudly.


Not knowing if they were in some imminent danger, I asked quickly what was wrong and were they in danger. 


By now the little boy has caught up with his sister and they--taking turns--saying they are lost. 


We start asking more questions.


Are you from around here?  No, they are visiting from NY. 


What is the address of where they are staying?  Don't know. 


What the name of the people they are staying at?  Don't know. 


Where are their parents?  Don't know--they told them to go out and run around the (strange) neighborhood.


How old are they? The girl is 7 and the boy is just 4.


We told these 2 little kids not to worry that we would help them find their way back and that we wouldn't leave them until we did. 


Immediately, we headed back from where they had come from to backtrack and find their parents. 


The boy and girl took turns running ahead, crying, afraid they were not going to find the house they came from and saying the streets here are so curvy unlike the square blocks where they are from in NY. 


As we kept going around, I started to get leg pain, as I am still on a cane myself from recent surgery, and we were rushing to find their home in the midday Summer sun.


We made it down a long block, looking this way and that with the kids--turned the corner...then again the same thing...down another block...although we try to calm them, as we kept going, the kids get more panicky that they were just completely lost. 


Finally, thank G-d, a lady in the distance...the kids start running...they recognize her immediately...it's their mother. 


The lady sees us behind them bringing them home to her...she picks up the little girl who makes it to her first...so glad to have her kids back.


She waves to us...a quick sort of thanks--and turns and walks away.


That was it...she didn't say a word and was gone before we even caught up. 


The kids were really sweet--they were also fortunate--and I hope they are okay and never have to experience anything like that again. 


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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July 12, 2014

From Hatred To Peace


Someone sent me this video by Dennis Prager on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and I wanted to share it.

An easy conflict to explain, a difficult one to solve: "One side wants the other dead!"

How do you get a people not to hate another?

"There are 22 Arab states stretching from the Atlantic Ocean to the Indian Ocean, but only 1 Jewish state the size of New Jersey..."

"Why can't the one Jewish state be allowed to exist?"

After generations of hatred and hostility--taught and practiced--truly a miracle is needed where we can live and let live. 

May G-d bring peace and security in our time, and may "nation not lift up sword against nation, and neither shall they learn war anymore." (Isaiah 2:4)
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Robots Reach The Clouds

So robots have reached the clouds before many of our government agencies have--who would've thought? 

Bloomberg Businessweek reports how robotic activities are being stored in the cloud and are then accessible to other robots to learn from and repeat as necessary. 


The "cloud servers essentially [are] a shared brain" where memories and experiences are uploaded and accessed by other robots with a need to know the same thing. 


The cloud is the means of transfer learning from one robot to the other.


It serves like a master neural network where the Internet provides the how-to for everything from serving juice to patients in a hospital to functioning as autonomous warbots in battle. 


Like the Borg on Star Trek with a collective brain, the cloud may become the mastermind for everything from day-to-day functioning to taking over the species of the universe. 


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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July 11, 2014

Even Tolerance Has Limits

This torn down sign in Washington, D.C. caught my eye.

It's about ending bullying and teaching tolerance. 


This poster specifically has to do with LGBT, but the universal message of acceptance is more broad. 


While each of us has our own beliefs, we should allow others to have theirs as well. 


My father used to tell me basically (within G-d's law), "You can do whatever you want in life as long as you don't hurt yourself or anyone else."


However, I am reminded this week that not everyone lives by the same common sense and decency. 


I read in the Jerusalem Post about Palestinian Media Watch posting a Hamas video yesterday threatening "stabbing attacks [in Israel] everywhere...[and] suicide attacks on every bus, cafe, and street."


Moreover, Arutz Sheva tells how a female Egyptian lawyer "recommended that Arab men begin sexually harassing Jewish women" as a mean of fighting Israel. 


Then watching the news and seeing Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorists from Gaza shooting missiles and intentionally aiming to try to hit major Israeli cities and population centers, airplanes, ports, and other critical infrastructure like the nuclear facility in Dimona that could potentially spread radiation and kill untold numbers of people--I am reminded morality is not universal. 


While Israel calls the residents in Gaza to vacate before an attack on then empty buildings--the terrorists that Israel is fighting try to kill as many civilians as possible--at which time, they would presumably sing, dance, and hand out candy to the kids to celebrate as is their custom.


Like the sign calling for tolerance that was essentially torn from the pole, we have to remember tolerance for others is one thing, but there are limits when they actively seek to harm (themselves or) others. 


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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July 10, 2014

OJ x 6

Okay, I like orange juice like everyone else, but this is ridiculous.

At least 6 types of Tropicana OJ in the refrigerated section of this small neighborhood deli.


Get this:

  • No Pulp
  • Some Pulp
  • Lots of Pulp
  • Calcium (Enriched)
  • Orange Peach Mango 
  • Orange Strawberry Banana
Good thing is the juice cartons are color-coded or you might just pick up the wrong one--and then what?

Ah, I'll just take the one made from oranges--the fresh ones from Florida!

Choice is a good thing, but consumers must be getting more picky.


Then again, maybe I am getting old, because I still remember when I only had to select between Tropicana and Minute Maid. ;-)


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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July 8, 2014

Upside Down in D.C.

So coming downtown this week in D.C., I see this quite unhelpful posted sign. 

If you can read upside down, while rushing down a busy street with a million and one things on your mind for the day, it says, "Sidewalk Closed. Use Other Side."

Of course, the people flowing speedily down the streets in the morning, were still walking on this sidewalk, despite the construction and potential dangers. 

But in a way this reminds me of a bigger question here--is this really a sign of the times?

Today, I read in the Wall Street Journal about continued problems with Healthcare.gov--no, not related to the crashing websites, exemptions and delays, parts being overturned (such as with the contraception mandate), low enrollment (particularly after accounting for over 5 million people that lost their coverage with the new law and in effect had to sign up), but now in terms of thousands of people who signed up not getting their benefits due to continued problems with the enrollment system.

This is not just an issue for this party or that, but rather matters of government that we as a unified nation must tackle togther to grow our capabilities and competitiveness econically, militarily, and socially. 

Are the signs pointing us in the right direction and what streets should we be going down as a nation in order to succeed? 

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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July 6, 2014

The Painted Sky

It was a beautiful walk in Rock Creek Park (even with my ongoing limp post surgery). 

Coming down the trail, I saw this amazing horse with a mounted police officer, and he was nice enough to stop and let me pet the horse and take this photo with them.

It was a truly beautiful animal and it was so cool seeing them on patrol for all the people taking advantage of the great outdoors here. 

In a fantasy type of way, I thought what a dream job (not high-tech, but oh so much in tune with nature and helping people)!

Anyway, this time of year, it was really lush green in the park and pretty peaceful. 

It was also interesting today visiting my dad and sitting outside on the deck with him, he looks up at the sky and says rhetorically, yet so innocently, "Who painted the sky so beautiful?"

I thought wow--what an amazing and poetic way to think of the hand of G-d and all that he has created for our benefit. 

Now, I think to myself outside, how our physical reality is just a manifestation of G-d's artistry, imagination, and kindness, and it makes it all even better.

(Source Photo: Dannielle Blumenthal)

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July 5, 2014

Just Can't Bear To Think

Whether though endless work, family activities, exercise, computer time, or whatever, people have a hard time just stopping to think. 

According to the Washington Post, a study in Science shows that people would rather do just about anything--including administer electric shocks to themselves--rather than having to just think for a little while. 

Fully 67% of men and 25% of women chose electric shocks over sitting and thinking for just 6-15 minutes!

People are "desperate for distractions"--whether through social media or smartphones and more. 

This is why many ancient practices such as Buddhism, martial arts, yoga, and other disciplines teach meditation--sitting silently, without distraction, deeply in thought. 

People are afraid to stop their endless running, rounds of chores and activities, hustle and bustle, and just think about what they are actually doing and where they are going.

Sitting alone with yourself--you have to confront you!

  • Fears and anxieties
  • Life problems of all sorts
  • Mistakes and personal inadequacies
  • Bad habits and even dangerous addictions

Keeping yourself endlessly busy is an enabler to avoid sometimes painful reflection, introspection, and even necessary self-help. 

While you often hear that doctors recommend a certain amount of activity to keep physically healthy, I believe that similarly, mental and spiritual guidance would be for carving out time for physical inactivity and instead focusing on meditation and reflection. 

Perhaps, this is one reason that the Sabbath (kept in various ways by religions around the world) is so important to the mind and soul--it is a time to stop the work and daily mundane activities and instead focus on your spiritual side. 

Contrary to what you might think, refraining from all the activity may be one of the hardest things to actually do, but stopping and thinking (instead of just continuously doing), confronting yourself, and making life course corrections can be some of the most rewarding. 

Can you stop and think for just 15 minutes or do you need that next fix of compulsive distraction? 

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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Walking Off Into The Sunset

My daughter snapped this photo of my wife and I while we weren't looking. 

When we got home my wife titled it "Walking Off Into The Sunset."


We both cried when we saw it!


So full of meaning...


Two people, different, but hearts and hands together.


Walking into the future, not sure where it is going to take us. 


Some day we'll be old, and we'll look back at all the times. 


Hopefully, all for the good, but always trying to make the best. 


We'll walk off into that sunset sometimes with tears, but always with joy. 


(Source Photo: Michelle Blumenthal)

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July 4, 2014

Flowers @ Brookside Garden




Oh, what a beautiful day.
Thank you G-d.

(Source Photos: Andy Blumenthal)
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Gorgeous Dragon

I just thought this Dragon was completely awesome. 

The lifelike sculpture and vibrant colors made me stop in my tracks to snap this photo of it in a storefront gallery in Fort Lauderdale. 

With all the detail, including it's scaly skin, muscle tone, and look at the eyes...this creature is amazing. 

It's so interesting though...this dragon is perched on what looks like a treasure chest and appears to be licking an ice cream cone (go figure!)--what happens when it breathes fire?

Anyway I love it...especially when it a friendly-looking dragon like this. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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July 3, 2014

Big Bike, Little Bell

This photo that I took stuck in my mind for Independence Day tomorrow. 

We are a great nation of 50 states founded in freedom, ruled by democracy, and driven by human rights for everyone. 


Yet in many ways, we have been squandering our national strengths:


- Spending it forward (living as a nation in debt) and creating yet another bubble economy driven by low interest rates (hence another Dow record today of over 17000) with still the lowest workforce participation in over 36 years and 92 million Americans not working!


- Stretching our military muscle in over 10 years of hapless wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and now we are war weary and in proverbial retreat across the Middle East, in Crimea and eastern Ukraine, and with Iran and North Korea).


- Partisan politics freezing our government with the Executive Branch saying they will go it alone on everything from immigration reform to fixing highways and Congress threatening to sue for various claims of abuse of power.


Like this Photo, this country is in danger of becoming a big bicycle with a lot of potential to move things forward, but with a very small bell barely audible with anything of significance to our citizens at home, let alone everyone else in the world. 


We have the ability to continue our path of greatness in building our country's economy, military, and social systems, as well as steering the world toward peace, prosperity, and freedom. However, to do this, we must be able to ring the bell of Independence loudly, with leadership, confidence, and a determination for genuine progress for a union greater than ever before. 


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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July 2, 2014

Money, It's Something

Just an observation today about there being so much poverty in the Nation's capital and around the country. 

Homeless, hungry, and sick people on the streets in one of the richest countries in the world. 


Yet, we have trillions going overseas to fight wars with seemingly little to no tangible benefits.


And so much ostensible waste with pork barrel politics, inefficiencies, and failed projects. 


A relative joked with me the other day saying, "It doesn't matter if you're rich or poor as long as you have money!"


Here we borrow money ($17.6 trillion ) and print money and the Federal Reserve buys debt ($4.1 trillion ) to keep interest rates low and the economy churning.  


People from real estate mogul, Donald Trump to Economist, Robert Wiedemer, who predicted the last recession, are warning of dire economic consequences because of these short-sighted policies. 


So do we have real money to continue to burn or is it smoke and mirrors and as Wiedemer says, "the medicine will become the poison"--what do you think?


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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July 1, 2014

Robot Man

Don't know exactly what it is about this little robot guy, but I really liked it. 

The simplicity of the body and limbs joined by the connector joints and the head as just a clear crown on the rest.


To me, it looked relatively realistic as how robots of the future might actually look.


Humanoid, but so sleek that they are us but in many ways a step up from our aging selves. 


Perhaps, someday the brains of humans and the bodies of machines will really come together in a better alternative to ourselves.


Living (indefinitely) longer and even pain free in bodies that carry mind and soul into the future. 


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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June 30, 2014

More Than Just Legs

This was a funny photo that I took of a sculpture of legs sitting in the arm chair--and it is supposed to represent minimalism.

No need to show the body, because the legs alone convey the message.

To me though, this reminds me of the opposite of minimalism, where instead of showy, sexy legs--these are covered fully and crossed respectfully--overall sitting upright and quite modestly.

It reminded me of beautiful Jewish concept called Tzniut, which refers to people dressing and acting modestly and in private.

There is no need to show it all--but rather, to be someone, it's what you do, not what you look like and expose. 

In this way, these legs are enough to convey the concept of modesty--of man or women--if you can just see the whole person and not just their sexuality. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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June 29, 2014

Solidarity For All Our Children

The global Jewish community has been rocked by the abduction of 3 teenagers (ages 16, 16, and 19) by Hamas, a terrorist organization that rejects peace and is dedicated to "obliterate" Israel . 

I saw a photo someone posted on Facebook where it said that the families of these boys had empty seats at their beautiful Shabbat table, and I couldn't imagine the grief of the mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, grandparents, and other family and friends of these poor children.


Walking in the community around Washington, D.C., I see signs such as this with "Bring Back Our Boys" with ribbons tied to trees--and I am deeply moved by people's expression of grief and hope. 


This all happening just weeks after another extremist Muslim group, Boko Haram, abducted over 230 Nigerian schoolgirls, and the rallying cry for "Bring Back Our Girls."


I read how the these girls are being threatened with being sold in a massive human trafficking crime against humanity and can only imagine the rape and other torture they must be enduring by their captors. 


I remember as just a child in day school seeing photos and videos from the Holy Land of what these types of terrorists did to their victims--it was horrific!


Aside from the general torture, beatings, isolation, and starvation, I saw images where they literally wrapped their prisoners in barbed wire, including their genitals--it was not just grotesque, but pure and utter evil. 


I never forgot these images of unbelievable cruelty, and wish only for the return of all these children and for the people that would take them to be brought to true justice. 


May G-d have mercy on all our children!


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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June 28, 2014

Service From Yourself

I was so proud this week to see some true customer service excellence from a colleague. 

Someone had run out of toner and they had put in a help desk ticket to get it replaced.  

In the meantime, there was a large order of toner on order, but it was still a day or two out from delivery.

So my colleague responsible for this area took his own toner out of his printer and gave it to the person who was out. 

I got a wonderful email thanking us for the unbelievable customer service. 

Honestly, there are other printers that the person could have used in the meantime, but this person went above and beyond to keep the customer working and happy. 

Great lesson in customer service and exemplary behavior here. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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June 27, 2014

Not For Drinking {Funny}

For funny Friday, here's a photo that I took of the Toilet Coffee Mug (for real). 

It's cute in a certain miniaturized way, but I am not sure who would want to drink their coffee from this thing. 


Or imagine this, you go to the leadership meeting at your important organization, and there sitting across at the table is the Big Kahuna executive with this mug.


No, it's not a great brand making statement, but it definitely is a conversation piece. 


Hey, will they put Starbucks in here, if you ask nicely?  ;-)


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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June 26, 2014

Let It Be

I remember as a kid, when I was around 10 years old, we moved, and I had to change schools, and there was an adjustment period. 

My father used to tell me a joke in the morning before school about these two grandmothers kibbitzing.

And one tells the other about how her grandson hates going to school. 

She goes on to say, "The students hate him, the teachers hate, it's just horrible."

The other grandmother replies, "Well then, why doesn't he just tell the principal?"

The first grandmother answers, "He is the principal!"

So this was a lesson to me about how no one has it so perfect in life--whether you're the kid, teacher, or even the principal, everyone has their challenges (and they may actually not look all that differently in the larger context of things). 

Basically, in life we must work to make things better where we can, but also have to accept the things we cannot change (and thank G-d, people are pretty adaptable, expecially given some time). 

While, we can try to divine the future by asking "What's going to be?"

Generally speaking, we can't fully know the answers in life before we even have the questions.

We've got to take it as it come, where we can--do our best to make a tangible, positive difference in the world--and with the rest, "let it be."

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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June 24, 2014

Western Wall 1000

About 20 years ago, we took on a little family activity to put together this 1000 piece puzzle of the Western Wall ("The Kotel") in Jerusalem. 

We all sat around the dining room table in my parent's house working to put the puzzle together. 

It was a pretty tough puzzle, since the pieces of a large part of the puzzle, The Wall, looked so similar.

But it was something we all rallied around, had fun with, and figured out as a family. 

The only problem we couldn't readily solve, came down to the last piece of the puzzle, and almost smack center--it was missing. 

A 1000 piece puzzle with only 999 pieces. 

My dad, ever the innovative one, took out a marker and colored in the missing piece.

He framed the picture of the holy Kotel and hung it in their living room.

I was amazed that he took such great pride in the puzzle we worked on, since it was imperfect.

But it taught me that while nothing in life is perfect, it is our bonding together in love that creates a type of spiritual perfection. 

It was also interesting to me that like Jews now-a-days put little pieces of paper ("Kvitels") with their deepest prayers into the crevices of the Western Wall, my dad put the families last piece into the representative puzzle picture of it. 

Finally, the Western Wall is itself just a piece of the destroyed (twice) holy Temple ("Beit Hamikdash") that stood in Jerusalem, and one day hopefully it will be rebuilt with all the pieces through the loving bonding of the people that yearn for that special connection to the Almighty again. 

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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June 22, 2014

From Pepper Spray to Champagne

Shhh! This is the story of drones. 

Drones continue to go from battlefield to backyard. 

Initially, developed for advanced persistent surveillance and later weaponized for targeting terrorists, we heard the like of Jeff Bezos promise drones for Amazon delivery. 

Once again, the double-edge of drones continues...

This week we saw the introduction of scary, "Riot Control Drones" developed by Desert Wolf (a military contractor) that can shoot 4,000 rounds of pepper spray, paint balls, and non-lethal plastic projectiles, employs bright strobe lights and blinding lasers, and issues commands and warnings through loud speakers, and monitors crowds of protesters by high-definition and thermal vision cameras. 

At the same time, we saw drones being used as Flying Bel Hops in the luxury Casa Madrona hotel and spa in California for delivering champagne, treats, toys, and even sunglasses to their $10,000 a night guests on their guest deck or even to a boat out on the bay. 

And we are still only at the beginning, with drones, and robotics in general, moving to revolutionize our world.  

Robots will surveil, they will attack and kill, and they will serve people everywhere from restaurants and retail to hospitals and homes.

You can't shush the robots, they are on the march and they will have the means to help and hurt people--it won't be simple, but it definitely will be completely invasive. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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Why We Expect Nothing

I took this photo of a sign at the Metro station to the Reagan National Airport by Washington, D.C. 

"Expect The Unexpected" is the warning.


Don't be complacent--anything can happen--be vigilant--is the message. 


It reminds me of a Seinfeld episode where Jerry jokes about people going to the beach and hiding their wallets in their shoes.


Like, a criminal would never think to check your shoe!


Oh, push the wallet all the way down to the toes, under the tongue, that way the bad guys will never be able to get to it. 


Here, it's more a case of of why don't we expect the darn expected. 


Everybody knows that people "hide" their valuables at the beach in their shoes!


In modern times, we seem blind though to any expectations at all.


- Arab Spring and civil war spreading into Syria and Iraq--after Tunisia, Libya, Yemen, Egypt, and more--who would've thought?


- Russia taking over Crimea and agitating in Eastern Ukraine--after their little excursions into Georgia and Chechnya--who would expect that?  


- Financial meltdowns and major recession after the dot com and housing bubbles--even my barber was talking about retiring and buying a mansion in the Caribbean--where are these coming from?


The question then is are we really unable to see past our noses or do we just hold steadfast to principle that ignorance is bliss?


Well let's just test the "expect nothing doctrine" that we seem to all be living by these days and see how you feel about these:

  • North Korea--they would never invade the South again.
  • Iran--sure, they are going to give up their nuclear weapons and their greater Middle Eastern Caliphate ambitions. 
  • China--Yeah, we'll just pin them in the South China Sea and they'll never get out.
  • The national deficit--it's not and will never be too big for us to handle because we're rich. 
  • Terrorism in a major American city--not after 9/11 and all that Homeland Security.
  • Environmental catastrophe--we will build a big bubble over ourselves, so no problem.
  • Economic inequity--the top 1% deserves to control 43% of the Nation's wealth and everyone else just sit down and shut up.
  • The Singularity--how could a machine ever be smarter than us; we've got all the technology fully under our control. 

Well, if you are blind or dumb enough to believe these, just keep putting your money in your shoes at the beach, because there is no reason to expect that anyone would ever think to look for it there. ;-)

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June 20, 2014

Love, Strength

This has been an enormously tough year with the loss of my mom, my dad going into assisted living, and my hip replacement and complications.

I have found myself torn from my normal routine--my structure, my discipline--and thrown instead into a world of unknowns, hopes, and definitely prayers. 

Throughout, my family and close friends have stood by me--as I gave the eulogy for mom, as I moved my father out of his loving home, and as I growled in pain with the osteoarthritis and then joint replacement.  

When my daughter took my hand telling me all be well, when my youngest drove me to the doctors and PT, and when my wife fought for my care--I feel eternally grateful to have these people in my life.

With all the technology in the world, there is nothing like a human being to reach out and grab a hold off. 

One of my colleagues asked me what I have learned from all of this, and I'd say three things:

- Take time to reflect on the direction of your life and work to make the tough changes while you're able.
- Empathize with the plight of others, be merciful and compassionate, and help where you see the slightest opportunity. 
- Be sincerely grateful for everything you have and remember who is the Master of all. ;-)

(Source Photo: Michelle Blumenthal)
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June 12, 2014

Surveillance Society {Funny}

This was funny photo my wife and I took in a medical practitioner's office. 

Above the floodlights, was a picture of these staring eyes.

And it was simply thumbtacked onto the wallpaper. 

One of the receptionists asked why we were taking the photo.

We sort of giggled--uh, this was not exactly the typical surveillance scenario in the 21st century of CCTVs, drones, hidden mics, tracking devices, and big data--not even close!

But maybe it's just a reminder that someone is ALWAYS looking. ;-)
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June 11, 2014

Govgeddon Is Not An Option

Interesting article in the Wall Street Journal about how the Federal government is falling to attract young people. 

"Employees under the age of 30 hit an eight-year low of 7% in 2013...[while back in 1975, more than 20% of the federal workforce was under 30."

Conversely, 45% of the federal workforce is older than 50.

Moreover by September 2016, a quarter of the all federal employees will be eligible to retire--that's the retirement wave we've been hearing about for years, but never seems to really come (because of the economy). 

Without "a pipeline of young talent, the government risks falling behind in an increasingly digital world."

It's not the older people can't learn the technology, but rather they aren't digital natives as those born in the later part of the 20th century.

To see just a glimpse of the digital divide, you need to go no further than when many of these folks snicker at us for even just sending emails--something so uncouth to the younger crowd.

With years of salary freezes, no awards, benefit cuts especially for new hires, and shutdowns, the federal government which used to be "an employee of choice," is "now an employee of last resort."

Further, "the reputation for bureaucracy and hierarchy is driving away many workers." People want to be productive and get things done, not spin their wheels. 

Yet, the government offers so many exciting jobs performing critical missions in everything from national security, diplomacy, law enforcement, and so much more, it is ironic that we cannot attract young people, who are often the most idealist. 

Diversity in the federal workforce means that people under 30 are not a rarity!

Everyone--no matter what age, sex, race, religion, and so on--provides an important contribution, so that the sum of the parts is greater than whole. 

We need people to clearly feel the honor in public service, to see the importance of the missions performed, and to be treated like valued workers and not political pawns in partisan showdowns and Washington shutdowns. 

Let's actively recruit with an attractive smorgasbord of enhanced salary and benefits, especially in critical fields like cyber security, information technology, biotechnology, aerospace engineering, and more.

It's time for the federal government to become attractive for young (and older) workers again, and not apologetic for providing important jobs in service of the nation. 

The federal government needs to compete for the best and brightest and not resign itself to second-tier, ever. 

Our young people are an important pipeline for fresh ideas and cutting-edge skills, and we need them to prevent a govgeddon where we can't perform or compete with the skills and diversity of workforce that we must have. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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June 10, 2014

I Like That Technology

Christopher Mims in the Wall Street Journal makes the case for letting employees go rogue with IT purchases.

It's cheaper, it's faster, "every employee is a technologist," and those organizations "concerned about the security issues of shadow IT are missing the point; the bigger risk is not embracing it in the first place."


How very bold or stupid? 


Let everyone buy whatever they want when they want--behavior akin to little children running wild in a candy store. 


So I guess that means...


  • Enterprise architecture planning...not important.
  • Sound IT governance...hogwash.
  • A good business case...na, money's no object.
  • Enterprise solutions...what for? 
  • Technical standards...a joke.
  • Interoperability...who cares? 
  • Security...ah, it just happens!

Well, Mims just got rids of decades of IT best practices, because he puts all his faith in the cloud.

It's not that there isn't a special place for cloud computing, BYOD, and end-user innovation, it's just that creating enterprise IT chaos and security cockiness will most-assuredly backfire. 


From my experience, a hybrid governance model works best--where the CIO provides for the IT infrastructure, enterprise solutions, and architecture and governance, while the business units identify their specific requirements on the front line and ensure these are met timely and flexibly.


The CIO can ensure a balance between disciplined IT decision-making with agility on day-to-day needs. 


Yes, the heavens will not fall down when the business units and IT work together collaboratively. 


While it may be chic to do what you want when you want with IT, there will come a time, when people like Mims will be crying for the CIO to come save them from their freewheeling, silly little indiscretions. 


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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June 9, 2014

Slow, Smooth, Fast

A colleague told me a good saying from the Navy Seals. 

"Slow is smooth, and smooth is fast."

The idea is that when we slow down and practice diligently, we give ourselves time and space to heal and to work to perfect our technique, so then when we need to execute, we can do it fast and flawlessly. 

Embedded in this concept is that we do things right the first time, and eliminate risk and having to do them needlessly again...slow down and nail it!

In martial arts and other physical disciplines, this concept is honed by practicing in "motion study" and then "exploding" dynamically in executing upon the enemy. 

Slow, Smooth, Fast--practice makes (near) perfect. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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June 8, 2014

Solve That Problem Simply

I have always been intrigued by simple solutions to complex problems.

Bloomberg Businessweek has a great example of how a Fulbright Scholar studying in Beijing solved the smog problem for many people wanting to reduce the danger to themselves and their families.

Air Filters that purify the air can cost around $800, and often one is needed for each room. 

But Thomas Talhelm founder of Smart Air Filters found he could do the job with a simple HEPA filter, fan, and velcro strap to hold them together for just $33/kit. 

He tested the results and found that he could remove 90% of particles 2.5 microns and above in the room. 

Talhem's biggest problem now are copycat DIY air filters hitting the market. 

If only inventors could come up with a simple solution to protecting intellectual property in places where either there aren't rules or they aren't strictly enforced.

When innovations are so easily copycatted, there is less incentive to problem-solve and think out of the box, and that's a problem for society where the s___ really hits the fan. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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June 7, 2014

A WOW Wheelchair

Absolutely loved the article and video in Bloomberg Businessweek on the Tankchair.

Brad Soden makes these amazing ruggedized wheelchairs for wounded veterans and other disabled people in need of getting around some rougher terrain. 

They are customized for each user and cost about $15,000 each. 

They are built on tank-like treads and can go up stairs, through fields, across streams, and over snow.

"Basically, it's get off the couch and go enjoy life!"

They are tough and can last 15-20 years!

He first made one for his wife who was paralyzed from the waist down in a car accident and was having difficulty keeping up on a family camping trip. 

Soden is truly inspirational--he produces these not too make money, but too help people. 

"The body can't keep up, so we're gonna fix it."

This is an awesome man making an extreme machine. ;-)

(Source Photo: Tankchair)
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