July 1, 2015

Time Runs Out - What Are We To Believe?

Time runs out, but we are still chasing highly elusive goals (just some examples): 

1) Iran - Time runs out on deadline for a nuke deal even after "the framework" was supposedly set three months ago. And as Iran's Supreme Leader and the Iranian Parliament chant death to America, can we really believe that Iran will ever truly give up their pusuit of nuclear weapons of mass destruction (and terrorism) to use on you know who?  


2) Greece - Time runs out on an extension of more Greek bailout funds, and they default on payment to the International Monetary Fund potentially leading to their exit from the Euro and the EU. With a Greek debt of $271 billion, can we really believe they will ever be able to repay this? 


3) Social Security and Medicare - Time is running out on the solvency of our own social entitlement system in the U.S.  For example, the Social Security Disability Trust Fund runs dry already next year in 2016, Medicare is exhausted by 2030 and Social Security by 2033. With just just 16 and 19 years of funding left for these major programs that tens of millions depend on, can we really believe that magically we will dig our way out of this mega mess of a financial hole? 


4) Global Warming - Time is running out on cutting carbon emissions leading to global warming and catastrophic climate change. With global warming denial still in vogue and reluctance by the industrial nations to significantly cut back on emissions in time, can we really believe that catastrophic enviornment damage will be averted? 

5) War - Time is runing out as potential for eventual war looms on the horizon with China, says respected DoD Futurist, Peter Singer. With disputes in the South China Sea and with Taiwan, China bulking up on advanced weapons, and the U.S. pivoting to Asia, the fears of a serious confrontation are there. Similarly, with Russia and it's annexation of Crimea and ongoing fighting in eastern Ukraine, threats to it's Balkan neighbors, confrontations on the European borders, and an increasingly nuclear and militant Russia, the Cold War is heating up. The last world war ended 70 years ago, can we really believe that the peace will continue to prevail with powerful adversaries in turbulent and uncertain times? 


Yes, hopes and dreams are important, but real concrete action is too or time will simply run out and then what? ;-)


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal) 

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June 30, 2015

Can't Find My Dentures

This was a funny sign this morning in the elevator.

Someone found a set of dentures on the table in the lobby!

Uh, what was someone doing taking out their dentures and putting them on a public table in the lobby? 

I remember my beloved Opa (grandfather) who had quite a set of dentures (years ago they couldn't as readily save people's teeth as they can today). 

When my sister and I would go over to my Opa and Oma for Shabbat lunch after synagogue, and sometime right before Birchas Hamazon (grace after meals), my grandfather would invariably end up taking out his dentures and we would all laugh together at how silly those things looked. 

But thank G-d for those dentures, beause I don't know how people would eat solid food or smile a non-gummy smile without them. 

Of course, I hope whoever lost their dentures in the lobby isn't going crazy searching for them, sees the lost and found sign, and claims them soon. 

Anyway, can you imagine going down to the lobby and seeing someone's false teeth just laying there randomly on the table or when they go to the front desk to claim their lost dentures, and the person behind the desk says, "Well Sir (or Madam), can you put them in your mouth and prove that they are yours?" ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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June 29, 2015

Beautiful Currency For A Thriving Modern Nation

So why is our dollar bill so darn green, grimmy, germy, and generally ugly-looking?

I took this photo of a painting of a pretty nicely designed (mock) $2 bill. 

Red, white, and blue--that's cool. 

Distinct, bold, shiny, and clean--now we're talking. 

We could have other bills in other color combinations, like Canada does--and it would be befitting to have a nice gold/silver combination for the really big bills.

And how about some modern representation of our republic--our technology, space exploration, medical achievements, advanced manufacturing, military prowess, world philanthropy, etc. 

Also, please-please weave in some antimicrobial agents to protect the people from all the sick germs being spread around on these things. 

If we already need physical currency and won't accept the transition to credit/debit cards, Apple Pay, and bitcoins, then at least make the dollar bill something to be proud of. 

We're so worried about whose picture (and gender--okay, it really is time for a women to be honored) is on or off the bill that we forget what the rest of it actually looks like. 

Obsviously with physical money, you need to build in security every which way to Sunday, but it's still a counterfeiting and money laundering nightmare, and we should be focused on cybersecurity where literally our whole financial system (and democracy) is in peril. 

Who really needs the physical greenback anymore unless your a bad person doing black market, under the table, shady deals anyway--for the rest of us, it's time to get with digital currency.

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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June 28, 2015

Eye On Jacket

I took this photo of a women's jacket with a big blue eye on on the back. 

Thought this design was truly eye-catching!

Wonder how many women out there would actually wear something like this.

Is this alluring or freakish?

Got to love fashion, especially when it pushes the bounds and makes us take a second look or think about how cool is that.  ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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June 27, 2015

Supreme Court Of People and Of Heaven

So yes, I am a firm believer in live and let live. 

That goes for long time friends that have actually converted away from our cherished Jewish traditions to friends or relatives that choose a gay or lesbian lifestyle--it's their choice!

And everyone has free choice to do what they think is right--that is the nature of free choice--if we weren't free to choose, then how could we be responsible for our choices?

But what I am confused about sincerely with the ruling of the Supreme Court of the United States in legalizing marriage for gays and lesbians is not the concept of where everyone is equal under the law, but the open contradiction with the Torah (Biblical) texts that I am familiar with since I was a child in Yeshiva:

1) Leviticus 18:22--"Thou shalt not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination. 

2) Leviticus 20:13--"If a male lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death, their blood is upon them."

I understand that many advocating for gays and lesbians have explained these texts as no longer applicable today (ref: Huffington Post):

- That the Biblical passages "do not refer to homosexuality as we know it today" (i.e. those that are consensual, not cultic rites, etc. )

- That they "are conditioned by the cultural and historical realities of the authors" and one needs to consider the greater biblical context for G-d's love and caring of all. 

But looking at the strict text of these passages, they don't seem to read as conditional (there are no conditions identified), and for those that believe that the Torah is divine (written by G-d) and is timeless, then how do we reconcile it with our wanting to be loving and accepting of ALL people who aren't hurting themselves or anyone else?

Adding to the confusion, we read just this week about extremists like ISIS killing gays by brutally throwing them off of roofs and routinely about arch enemy Iran hanging them in the public square. 

Also going in my mind is the question of there being separation of church and state in this country, yet does legalizing gay and lesbian marriage affirm that separation or does it cross it by legislating against the strict scripture that many hold inviolate. 

Similar to the debate on abortion rights, these are where modern day-to-day issues and traditional religious teachings and values can be difficult to harmonize. 

I am truly happy for gays and lesbians that they can marry if they choose and find their happiness--everyone deserves this, but religiously, I am left unsure of how to reconcile this with the Torah as written. 

Can we think that we are free to choose the individual commandments we believe in or not or to find explanations where we don't understand them or they don't make sense to us--if so, how do we know we are doing what G-d wants of us or whether we are going astray?

In the end here the Supreme Court affirmed the right to choose and to respect all people under the law--this is fundamental to our basic beliefs in freedom, human rights, and love of our fellow man.  

But in so doing, will some see this as encroaching on G-d's law and if so, what is the impact to those that are deeply religious and/or hold strictly heterosexual marriage as sacrosanct?

Surely each person must follow the dictates of their conscience which G-d has granted us, but pitting the Supreme Court of us earthly beings potentially against that of Heaven--this is a truly tricky and slippery slope to understand and reconcile. ;-)

(Source Photo: Twitter @WhiteHouse)
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June 25, 2015

18 Million--Change The SSNs

So, maybe one of the most detrimental hysts of information from the Federal government in history. 

Now involving over 18 million current and former federal employees, including military and intelligence personnel. 

No getting around it, but we are major screwed here--this is a treasure trove of personal and privacy information ready to use for identity theft, blackmail, assassination/decapitation attacks at home and work addresses, kidnapping of family members, and literally attacking our national security apparatus from the very inside out--it's people. 

Imagine, if at the time of its choosing, an adversary attacks our nation, but preempts this with sophisticated and coordinated attacks on our critical government personnel--generals, spy masters, political kingpins, and other key decision makers--thereby distracting them from their duties of safeguarding our nation. 

This is our new Achilles Heel and overall a security disaster bar none!

Well, we can't go back and put the genie back in the bottle--although wouldn't it be nice if such critical information (if not encrypted--already unforgivable) would have a self-destruct mechanism on it that we could at least zap it dead.

But for the people whose personal identities are at risk--whose social security numbers (SSNs) and dates of birth (DOBs) have been compromised what can we do? 

While we can't very well change people DOBs, why not at least issue them new SSNs to help thwart the adversaries peddling in this information in the black markets. 
 
If we can put a man on the moon, surely we can issue some 18 million new SSNs and mandate government and financial institutions to make the necessary updates to the records. 

This is not rocket science, and certainly we owe this much to our people to help protect them.

Will our government be there for it's own employees and patriots? ;-)

(Source Photo: here with attribution to Donkey Hotey)
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June 24, 2015

Flowers, Pink And Orange

Gorgeous time of year in Washington, D.C. (although a little hazy, hot, and humid out there).

Pictured here, some beautiful pink and orange flowers in downtown. 

Can't believe these actually grow (transplanted that is) in the city, but so glad they do...they're beautiful. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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Disability Stories and Resources

Just wanted to share this great site called Disability Blog where people tell about their experiences of being disabled and how they have overcome the odds. 

It is hosted by Department of Labor's Office of Disability Employment Policy.


And it is the official blog of Disability.gov where there is lots of information on "disability programs and services." 


The blog site promotes the "full inclusion of people with disabilities in the workforce and communities nationwide."


Disability Blog posts guest bloggers on various topics and I read some of the recent posts and they were very good, including:


- Disability rights activism

- Small business loans and mentoring support with SCORE for a veteran with disability
- Resources and support from the Amputtee Coalition for a child that was hurt in a lawn mowing accident
- A courageous description of how someone lives with syndactyly (fused fingers).
- Options for workplace accommodations at the Job Accommodation Network

As someone myself who has had two total hip replacements, I encourage people to get their personal stories out there to increase disability awareness, rights, and resources and support to help them.


I used to dream about retiring one day and running along the boardwalk and ocean every morning in Florida, but I know that will not happen for me anymore (so thank G-d for swimming). 


Disabilities can happen to anyone. 


We all need to be sensitive to what it's like to be different and have unique challenges, and to try and help anyone who does.  ;-)


(Source Photo: here with attribution to Abhijit Bhaduri)

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June 23, 2015

Team, It's Not About You

This mug on teamwork was really funny.

Teamwork (noun):
1) A group of people doing what I say.
2) Work done that I can take credit for.

Of course, this really isn't teamwork, unless you consider it the "I Team." 

Yes, this is sort of sterotypical of bad bosses:
- They take the credit for the team's work when everything goes well.
- But they pass along the blame when something goes wrong. 

Has this ever happened to you?

It reminds me of another funny saying about how greedy, narcissistic people think:

"What mine is mine, and what's yours is mine."

In other words--mine, mine, and mine, why thank you!

The best bosses are humble and giving. They make sure everyone knows what the goals are and are working efficiently to achieve them. 

The credit goes to the indivudals and team who are working their butts off, and when appropriate, the boss will take the heat to help others save face and enable them to press forward with the mission. 

I remember one of my colleagues who is a supervisor and he was called out for doing a great job. Immediately he goes, "It's my team that make me look good." And knowing this person, that wasn't just talk or a show...he was completely sincere. 

That's leadership and an impressive human being--someone to emulate!

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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June 22, 2015

Drones Made Easy


OMG, this is awesome.

This Lily Camera Drone is "throw and go" and simply lands in your hand. 

You can set it to follow you--almost like a guardian angel-- or to lead you where you need to go. 

Records video, sound, can do slow motion, and takes photos.

It has a tracking device.

It's waterproof.

Awesome for extreme sports or personal surveillance.

Would like to be able to communicate with it by voice command, and also see what it sees and hear what it hears with augmented reality glasses or on a smartphone or wearable.

Finally, if only it would come with a laser to zap anybody or anything bad that may come at us--that could be reassuring. 

Costs = $619 and ships in May 2016.

That was easy.  ;-)
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Self-Aware Graffiti Artist

So got to hand it to this graffiti artist. 

He/she is quite introspective. 

They wrote on this pole in D.C. "Writes his problems away!"

Thus, it's not just any old graffiti that often desecrates public or private property, but in this case it is an emotional and psychological catharsis for the artist.  

Sure when you write, you can express yourself and your feelings--you can think things through and work them out in your head. 

Also, you can share of yourself with others and influence them too. 

On the lamp pole, bus stop, or building wall--ah, not the best place to work these things out. 

But on paper or the computer, if you have something important to say, get it off your chest--go for it--and you can feel better too! ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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June 21, 2015

My Dad, My Hero

I can't just call or visit my dad to wish him a happy Father's Day.

My dad is in heaven. 

But I am thinking about him, missing him, and wishing all the things I want to tell him but no longer can.

I'm sorry dad for not listening better and arguing so much. 

Your lessons were not wasted on me, I remember them all!

The most important you taught me to serve G-d and do good no matter what the situation--that is with me every day.

And I know with your grandchildren too. 

You are my hero--I believe that G-d watched over you your whole life because of what a good decent human being and servant to him you always were. 

Dad, if you can hear me in Heaven, I love you and miss you and Mom dearly. 

I hope if you can see me and the family, you are proud.

That is what I always wanted. 

When you said it later in life, I almost couldn't believe it. 

But I know in my heart, you are and and have been my biggest advocate. 

Thank you for everything--everyday--you never flinched no matter how much or inconvenient it was.

May G-d reward you and Mom in heaven and shower you in his eternal light, love, and goodness. 

You son, 

Andy

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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I Can Catch You



I gave chase to the ducks. 

In the vein of British Comedian, Alfred Hawthorne, stage name Benny Hill.

Made the kids laugh. 

Only 3.5 weeks post-op and I am waddling more than the ducks. 

My wife says, "You belong on TV!"

She calls me a natural entertainer. 

How did an introvert like me get like that? ;-)

(Source Video: Dannielle Blumenthal)
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June 20, 2015

Look How Great Magen David Is

The Magen David is the Star or Shield of David.

It is the symbol of the Jewish people and of Israel (it is center on the Israeli Flag, the Degel Yisrael), and dates back at least a 1,000 years. 


Magen David Sephardic Congregation is also the name of our wonderful new synagogue in Maryland.


As the amazing picture above shows, the Magen David actually can represent every single letter (24) of the Hebrew alphabet. 


As such, Magen David truly represents what a Jewish synagogue is and should be:


1) INCLUSIVE -- As every Hebrew letter is found in the Star of David, so too the synagogue is a place where every Jew, no matter Ashkenaz or Sephardic, Chasidim or Misnagdim, Orthodox, Conservative, or Reform--everyone is welcome and part of the greater family and community. The synagogue is a place we go to connect with our fellow Jews, where we respect and care for each other--our brothers and sisters, and where we Kibitz, laugh, and share of our selves and our heritage together. 


2) HOLY -- The Magen David is holy as the religious symbol of the Jewish people and representing all the hebrew letters as in the Torah and the Ten Commandments. Some also believe in a Kabbalistic or mystical symbolism to the points of the star. Similarly, the synagogue is a place of holiness, and the Mikdash Me'at or small Temple (until the Holy Temple is rebuilt on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem).  It is the place we go to sacrifice to G-d and a central place where we can do good deeds for our fellow man. 


3) PRAYER AND LEARNING -- The Magen David represents the Jewish people, who are known as a people of the book.  And the Magen David with all the Hebrew letters can represent all the Bible, prayer book, and wisdom of our sages. Prayer and learning is central to our faith and service to G-d. Similarly, the synagogue (and Yeshiva or Jewish school) is the center of our religion where we go daily and on Shabbat and holidays to Pray and learn Torah.  


Magen David is an absolutely beautiful and meaningful symbol for who we are and what our synagogue ought to be. ;-)


(Source Photo: here with attribution to eshevbooks)

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June 19, 2015

It's Not Working

So it's human nature to want to leave the world a better place than before we got here.

But you wouldn't know it by how things are looking the last number of years.


Here's just the latest from reports this week:


1) The Global Peace Index: "World is less peaceful today than in 2008...Last year alone it is estimated that 20,000 people were killed in terrorist attacks up from an average of 2,000 a year only 10 years ago."


2) A Record Year In Misery: "The world has never seen a refuge crisis this bad...last year saw the total number of forcibly displaced persons rise to 59.5 million, an all time high." This is due to world conflict, general violence, human rights violations, and persecution."


3) Climate Apocalypse: "A child born today may live to see humanity's end...[as a result of] overcrowding, denuded resources, and climate change...dangerous climate change is already here. The question is can we avoid catastrophic climate change."


4) Americans Have Lost Confidence In Everything: "It not just Congress [and the President] and the economy that have Americans concerned these days...All in all, it's a picture of a nation discouraged about its present and worried about its future, and highly doubtful that its institutions can pull America out of its trough.


Maybe the worst thing is that many people are deluding themselves that everything is hunky dory. 


But isn't it time for some real wins again? 


To do that we need genuine good old fashioned elbow grease--that means we start with a strategy that actually tackles the issues rather than kicking the can down the road. We need honesty, not political upmanships and swell soundbite cliches. 


What good is appeasement to the masses now, if it means their utter despair or demise later--for example, why should we be Greece on the brink of national bankruptcy, if instead we can be Norway with the largest sovereign wealth fund in the world? 


Then comes the hard work, fortitude, and commitment to turn the tide on the bad news and losses. This mean personal and national sacrifice now in order to have better times for our children and grandchildren. 


G-d is watching us, our children are questioning us, the needy are looking to us. 


We are working hard, but it's hardly working! 


Maybe we need to make this real simple: "Little Johnny, now take your medicine, and stop fighting Mommy, p-lease!"  ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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June 18, 2015

Ready To Explode

So have you ever had to deal with someone at work and they are NOT exactly acting the consummate professional?

They may be volatile, angry, raising their voice, intransigent, threatening, acting the a*s, maybe even a little meshuga.

Yeah, unfortunately it happens (although it absolutely shouldn't)!  

People have crap going on in the office, at home, and sometimes they come in and they just can't cope.  

G-d forbid, they should never really "go postal" as in real violence--but you never really know what you are going to be dealing with. 

One colleague said some people are just "hypervolic"--a new word for someone who is excessive, over the top, and emotionally volcanic!

Yikes--scary enough. 

Another colleague I know who is excellent with people and has decades of experience dealing with a cast of characters told me, "I just look at everyone as a bomb ready to go off."

Ugh, not exactly how I would want to perceive people around me, but the point is well taken--you never know (and you can almost hear the ticking now). 

With some people we sort of know from dealing with them that they have some marbles loose, and while others may appear calm, cool, and collected on the outside, on the inside they may be a volcano ready to blow. 

Heck, you can't read everyone right and even if you do, you can try to calm them down, listen to them, work with them, talk sense to them, suggest some counseling or other outside assistance, but even then they may go off the deep end. 

Lots of personalities out there, lots of people with problems and stresses, and sometimes we in our best intentions may make mistakes or unknowingly say the wrong thing and it only inflames the situation.

Of course hopefully, calmer heads will prevail, professionalism will take front seat, and people will get some perspective and do the right thing...chill man!

But also keep in mind what my colleagues said, some people may  just be ready to go explode--like a volcano--and we need to be ready for that too. 

How do you prepare for this?

Yeah, I don't remember them covering that subject in leadership training--maybe with the exception of listen, show empathy, and if worst comes to worst you can either head for the exits to get away or shelter in place before the human stress bomb goes big boom! ;-)

(Source Photo: here with attribution to Camilo Rueda Lopez)
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June 17, 2015

All The Frogs From Egypt

So what happened to all the swarms of frogs from the Bible when in Exodus, G-d struck the Egyptians with the 2nd plague of frogs (reminds me of the children's song: "Frogs here! Frogs there! Frogs are jumping everywhere!")? 

I saw this sticker on a pole in downtown D.C. advertising for this Frog called the Rabb's Fringe Limbed Tree Frog, where there is just 1 left in the entire world. 


Talking about facing extinction!


And this interesting website called PhotoArk by National Geographic freelance photgrapher, Joel Sartore (noted at the bottom of the sticker) sells all sorts of amazing photos of endangered animal species to promote conservation. 


One of them has his "greatest hits" featured with 90 favorite images and sells for $225--what awesome creatures G-d has created.


I remember reading in the Wall Street Journal how since1970 the world's wildlife numbers have dropped by more than half (52%)--"in rivers, on land, and in the seas." 


That is crazy!


Surely, we need to preserve life and create a sustainable future--my G-d, what are we doing to world and these beautiful creatures? ;-)


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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June 16, 2015

Color Me Different

I saw this restaurant and followed the color in to take this photo.

They had these multi-colored figurines lined up proudly on the ledge overlooking the tables and patrons. 

Each was different, but also the same. 

They had no faces, and were cut this way and that into segments of color (head, torso, butts, arms, legs, feet)...uniformity, but diversity. 

They are low-tech, but reminded me of robots or toy soldiers, but without the guns--just standing in colorful attention ushering people in to sit and eat and enjoy. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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June 15, 2015

Ex Machina Will Even Turn The Terminator

So this was a really cool display at the Movie theater yesterday...

They had this head of the Terminator in a enclosed case and roped off. 

Shiny metal alloy skull, buldging bright evil red eyes, and really grotesque yellowed teeth. 

This certainly gets the attention of passerbys for the upcoming new movie, Terminator Genisys (coming out July 1). 

Anyway, Terminator is the ugly dude especially when compared with the robot/artificial intelligence of Ava in Ex Machina that we saw yesterday. 

The Turing test is nothing for Ava!

She can not only fool them as to her humanity, but also outmanuever them with her wit, sexuality, and a good dose of deceit and manipulation. 

Frankly, I think AI Ava could even turn the terible Terminator to her side of things--my bet is that movie to come in 2017. 

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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June 14, 2015

Smokem Peace Pipe

So we are almost all settled in our new place (now about 2 1/2 months)...

And in the kitchen, I am re-organizing one of the top cabinets. 

I reach in the very back, and I feel something all the way in the corner. 

I pick it up and pull it out, and it's this really weird looking smelly pipe. 

The pipe has a face on it and a blue and red stone above and below it. 

My wife says it looks like a peace pipe, although I've never really seen one of those before. 

There are no feathers or pictures of Indians on it, just this crazy-face staring up with crooked teeth and a big schnoz. 

Did someone actually smoke this thing? 

Ick, washed my hands like 3 times. 

Left it on the counter to show the rest of the family.

Throw that G-d darn thing out!

Dirty smokem peace pipe with ugly face heading down the garbage chute--wonder if I should've sold it on ebay. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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June 13, 2015

A Delicate Balance

I love this desk doodad that I found in the gallery. 

Two guys perched at opposite ends of a strewn out ladder, balancing precariously on top of a sphere (maybe the Earth). 

Take a step forward or backwards and it can upset the balance of things and everyone falls down. 

Don't move--and you are in perpetual stasis--just balancing with the other guy so as not ruin the equilibrium of things, you're stuck in limbo.

Maybe this is the definition of either doing nothing and going nowhere or creating a lose-lose situation, where you try to benefit yourself at the expense of others and down you both go. 

What's the only way out?

You both have to step forward and advance together--create a win-win--the balance and fairness is maintained and both move closer to each other and the center of things. 

Climbing the ladder is really a balancing act with others you work with.

I tell people at work who get into it with each other, "listen, what's more important winning the petty argument OR building the relationship with the other folks who presumably you'll be working with for a long time to come?"

You may be able to talk or strong arm your way into getting what you want now, but do lasting damage to the relationship. 

Unless, it's a matter of right and wrong, make your best argument, but then be willing to compromise, especially if it means better teamwork and success in the longer scheme of things. 

Being task/goal-oriented is great, but drop the ball on being people-oriented and it's all be a big bust. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy  Blumenthal)
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June 12, 2015

Apple Watch Disappoints

Okay, so here's the Apple Store...

The table with the Apple Watches is proudly on display towards the front of the store.

What do you notice about this picture? 

Correct, there is NOT a single person looking at these watches!

And I have NEVER seen a single person wearing an Apple Watch.

Even though there certainly are other customers in the store looking at other highly desired Apple products. 

The customer closest to the watches has his back turned to them.

No killer apps--where's the beef in terms of functionality? 

Maybe that is unfortunately the story of the Apple Watch version 1.0--the customers were lining up to check them out a couple of months ago, but now they have turned their backs on this product failure. 

Sadly, I feel like Steve Jobs and Dick Tracy are turning over in their graves at about this time now--how do I know, just check the watch. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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Try That On!

So we took my daughter to the Free People boutique store at the Mall. 

That brand has such a cool clothing style (although a little pricey)--everything is sort of hippyish, natural, eloquent, cool grunge, and feminine with lace, beads, frills, ruffles, and more. 

As we went through the store, we noticed the amazing fitting rooms with heavy tapestry-type curtains and these beautiful flowers hanging plentifully from the ceiling--ushering you to try out their clothes. 

My daughter ended up getting a nice bag there, but the clothing also looks amazing and fits perfectly with her fashion sense. 

It was interesting for me to learn that Free People was started by the same couple in the 1970's that founded Urban Outfitters. 

Two retail success stories--but Free People is not only the cooler name, but the better clothing line. 

Be Free People!  ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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June 11, 2015

Flashback Holocaust

So I wanted to share this amazing and scary story (true) that happened to me a number of years ago. 

I went with my daughter to visit the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. 

One of their exhibits is of a cattle car train used to transport Jews in the Holocaust to the infamous Auschwitz concentration camp. 

I remember how frightening it was to see this actual train car (the likes of which I had previously only seen in the movies) where hundreds of thousands of people were herded aboard like animals for the torturous trip to their ultimate murderous and inhuman deaths. 

At the exhibit, I'm not sure that I was supposed to do this, but being a very tactile person, I reached out to touch the train car, maybe partly because I could not believe this was the real thing where such human horrors had occurred. 

Immediately upon touching it, something happened to me--for a moment, everything went black and then I experienced an intense flashback (like being transported back in time and place) to literally being there with the actual people stuffed into these cattle cars--without food, water, sanitation, or enough air to breath--and I could see up close their anguished faces, and actually hear them screaming.

First, I thought I have a vivid imagination and that all the studies on the holocaust and my family being survivors had really had an impact on me. 

But then something else happened to me. 

When I left the Holocaust Museum, I started to get a crazy sharp pain in the side of my neck. Not a soar throat, but like my throat just wasn't working right. 

I tried to sort of ignore it, but over the course of the day, it got worse and worse, as my breathing was becoming ever more difficult, and it felt like I was actually choking to death--my life was in danger. 

I was rushed to the hospital emergency room, and at first they weren't sure what was happening to me, and so they started a whole series of tests. 

Crazy enough the tests revealed a deep tissue infection right in the side of my neck, and based on the danger to my breathing and swallowing, the doctors came in to talk with me about doing emergency throat emergency. 

I couldn't believe what was happening--out of the blue, I touched that death car to Auschwitz and next thing I know, I had a severe tissue infection and my life was hanging by a thread. 

Again unexplainably, but thank G-d miraculously, overnight the dangerous infection literally just disappeared as mysteriously as it was born into my neck tissue--the doctors could not explain it!

The Holocaust which claimed six million Jewish lives--men, women, children--in perhaps the most evil and hideous human event in history, and felt like I had just been transported back in time and touched not just the car, but the actual history and event itself. 

I am left with this mysterious event in my life, it was scary and dangerous, and when they say don't touch the exhibits, I think I will listen next time. ;-)

(Source Photo: here with attribution to U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum)
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June 10, 2015

Don't Just Hire Another You

So the corporate cat is out of the bag...

The New York Times confirms that "more than 80% of employers worldwide named cultural fit as a top hiring priority," where cultural fit is a sugarcoated synonym for hiring others like themselves!

Your resume influences whether you get an interview, but then "chemistry"--personality ("not qualifications") takes over--"like you were on a date."

Often cited reasons for hiring someone:

- Someone you would enjoy "hanging out" with, and "developing close relationships with."

- Those with "shared experiences," alma maters, and pedigrees--including "hobbies, hometowns, and biographies...and even "those who played the same sport."

What about diversity?

Well apparently, it's still an "old boys network" out there, even though diversity has been found especially important for "jobs involving complex decisions and creativity,"  and so as not to become "overconfident, ignore vital information, and make poor (and even unethical) decisions."

No doubt, personality and values can also be important in getting along with others in the group--even a few jerks on the team, can create plenty of havoc, discord, and dysfunction. 

Maybe after meeting the knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSA) requirements, one of the litmus tests should be not whether the person is the same as us, but whether they are moral and decent human beings that can act appropriately with others.  

Not an easy thing to judge from some interviews, testing, or even reference checking--even when these are done well, there are still quite a number of hiring surprises that happen.

Or as they say about marriage, you don't really know the person until you wake up with them in the morning. 

There are also more extensive background checking that can help vet employees, such as in the Federal system, where many sensitive positions require an in-depth security clearance review process that looks at everything from criminal background, financial responsibility, psychological stability, national loyalties, and more. 

We need to know who we are dealing with, not intrusively, but responsibly for good hiring decisions. 

Honestly, you don't just want to hire the candidate that just looks good, like the pretty girl with no personality or a hideous disposition. 

To be clear, there should never be ANY hiring biases in the workplace--conscious or unconscious. 

Hiring mangers should make sure the person they are hiring is excellent in terms of the KSAs, has a broad set of terrific references, and can reasonably act like a mensch under a broad set of circumstances--the last one is the hardest one to ensure. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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June 9, 2015

See The World Through The Eyes Of Others

It's not only important what we think, but also what and how others see things. 

One the things, the folks that work with me frequently hear from me is "Let me put myself in the other person's shoes for a moment, and give you feedback on that."

We are what we are and not as our customers are, and while we may strive for excellence in customer service, our customers may have completely different notions of what that means.

For example, I may think a 24-hour turnaround on something is pretty good given everything on our plate, but when I imagine myself in the customer's shoes for a moment, I may change that expectation to "We need to get this done by noon today (or sooner)!"

People are different, our experiences, our cultures, our context and the way we interpret things. 

So when it comes to work or family or even social issues, being compassionate often means seeing the world through someone else's eyes. 

There was an interesting article in the New York Times called "Imaging The Lives Of Others" by psychologist, Paul Bloom. 

While he notes the importance to "behold the universe through the eyes of another," he also says how difficult this really is. 

If you haven't done something, how can you really imagine what it was like, let alone know what it was like for someone else to experience it?

Without the access to the particular significant life experience, the duration, the controls (so you can't just say stop like in an experiment), perhaps a person can never fully know what it's like. 

For example, if you haven't been through a devastating war, can you truly know what it's like to be in a foxhole and have the bullets whooshing by your head and the tanks rumbling over it?

Yes, we can imagine, but that is probably a far cry!

Yet, to really empathize with others, do right by them, and to make good leadership decisions, we most certainly need to at least try to see and experience the world the way others do. 

Thinking about the over 805 million hungry people in the world today, it is much more impactful to imagine myself hungry and starving, then just to say the mere fact that these poor people exist.

We can probably never know someone's else pain and suffering the way they do, but through our own experiences, extrapolation from them, and our imagination, we can at least try to elevate ourselves for a purely self-centric universe of one that is of billions (under one G-d), and who need our understanding, compassion, support, and help. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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June 8, 2015

The Robotization Of Society

First, it's people--just us, living and loving. 

Then, we welcome robots into our society for automation, industrialization, and services--they are here to help us.

Finally, it's just the robots--we, the people, are obsolete, replaced, maybe even completely gone!

Think about it. ;-)

(Source Comic: Andy Blumenthal)

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June 7, 2015

My Valedictorian

I just want to say my sincerest congratulations and mazel tov to my daughter, Rebecca Delilah, who graduated from high school today. 

She was the valedictorian of her graduating class from Barrie Prep. 

I am so immensely proud of her hard work and accomplishments, and know your Oma and Opa in heaven are smiling ear-to-ear watching you. 

May you and your sister Minna go from blessing to blessing and strength to strength. 

And thank you Hashem for all your loving-kindness.

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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June 6, 2015

The Pen From A Puddle

You know how ideas just sort of come to you...

Well, major innovations that have changed the course of history haven't really happened that way. 

All innovation and development start from somewhere--usually where G-d or someone else has left off--and then we take things a cycle forward. 

In the Wall Street Journal, James Ward describes how the simple yet profound ballpoint pen was invented. 

Not until 1899 was it founded giving everyone the ability to write away with a ball at the point (a ballpoint) that rolls and dispenses the ink with ease. 

The ballpoint pen was invented by Liszlo Biro of Budapest. 

Observing that in printing presses the machine cylinder could only roll ink back and forth, however for everyday writing people needed an all-directional mechanism. 

So what happens...

Sitting at a cafe and thinking, he sees children playing with marbles.

And one child's marble rolls through a puddle of water. 

The marble leaves "a line of water in its wake."

Boom...the idea for the ballpoint bearing comes in being with "minute grooves" in the pen head to draw the ink to the tip and unto the paper. 

With further experimentation, the famous Bic (Cristal) pen named after Frenchman, Marcel Bich, was born in 1959.  It has a "hexagonal body (inspired by the shape of aa traditional wooden pencil) and instantly recognizable lid"--since it's launch, more than 100 billion of these pens have been manufactured and sold!

By the way, remember the hilarious commercial for the Bic Banana Ink Crayon Pens (watch here to laugh a little).

So in both instances of the invention of the pen, the developers found other things in their environment from which they learned and then they applied it to something new (in one instance the child with the marble and water, and in the other the shape of the good 'ol pencil). 

Lesson learned here: 

Watch, learn, experiment, learn, apply -- change the world! ;-)

(Source Photo: here with attribution to photosteve101)
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June 5, 2015

People Are Our Greatest Asset, Goodbye!

The Chinese are smart and talented, and there is a cyberwar going on. 

They are suspected are having just stolen the personnel information of 4 million federal government workers.

And there are 4.2 million active, including 1.5 million military personnel. 

So if as they are apt to say, "people are our greatest asset"...

...then we just sort of lost the CROWN JEWELS in terms of highly personal, sensitive, and critical information on the people that handle everything from defense and diplomacy to the economy, energy, the environment, justice, and health and wellbeing. 

Oops!

This is getting scary folks. 

When the adversary through cyber (and other) espionage can know our people, our technology, our communications, virtually everything...then we got some big vulnerabilities!

If we can't defend ourselves adequately (at least for now), I hope at least we are doing okay on the offense! ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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June 4, 2015

Losing Deadly Control

So today we hear that there was a horrible mistake in which at least 52 sites (in 18 states here and 3 other countries) were inadvertently sent LIVE anthrax!!!

This after a prior incident in December where ebola had been mishandled and a technician potentially exposed. 

Again last August, they announced that a lab had accidentally cross-contaminated benign bird flu virus with a deadly strain of it. 

And there are at least five other major mishaps just since 2009 including more with anthrax and bird flu as well as with Brucella and botulism--these involved everything from using improper sterilization and handling techniques to inadvertent shipments of deadly live germs. 

Also in July, the CDC discovered six vials of LIVE smallpox in an unused storage room at the NIH.

This is reminiscent of similar gaffes by the military with an inadvertent shipment in 2007 by the Air Force of six nuclear warheads while the crew was unaware that they were even carrying it.

And here we go again (a doozy this time), information was disclosed in 2013 that we nearly nuked ourselves (specifically North Carolina) with 2 hydrogen bombs (260 times more powerful than that exploded on Hiroshima) in 1961. 

Yes, mistakes happen, but for weapons of mass destructions that we are talking about here, there are layers of safeguards that are supposed to be strictly in place. 

After each incident, it seems that some official acknowledges the mistakes made, says sorry, and claims things are going to be cleaned up now. 

But if the same or similar mistakes are made over and over again, then what are we really to believe, especially when millions of lives are at stake?

We have too much faith in the large bureaucratic system called government that despite how well it could be run, very often it isn't and is prone to large and dangerous errors and miscalculations.

With all due respect for our experts in these areas, we need to spend a lot more time and effort to ensure the safety of our most dangerous stockpiles--be it of nuclear, chemical, biological, or radiological origin. 

We can't afford any more mistakes--or the next one could be more than just a simple (not) embarrassment.

What good is all the preparation to win against our enemies, if we are our own worst enemy or we have meet the enemy and it is us! ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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June 3, 2015

What Smart Glasses Are Really All About

Sorry, but Google botched the Smart Glasses it called, Google Glass. 

Why?

- Geeky-looking
- Privacy issues (e.g. videocameras in bathrooms)
- Apps lagged with practical applications

However, I am certain that computers wearables or implants will take off--although probably not through this first iteration of the Apple Watch either--still don't know a soul who bought into this!

Until then, what about really smart glasses?

No, not the type that will provide apps and virtual reality superimposed over everything you see.

But rather, glass that medically allow you to see under any and all conditions. 

- It's a "one time prescription"--that adjusts with you as your eyes change. Like the machine the optometrist uses to change the prescription this way and that asks you which is better, only these glasses automatically adjust to whatever your prescription is that moment, day, or year. 

- Autofocus and zoom--want to see what's going on from the bleachers at the game or can't see the sign in the distance, simply focus on the person or object and voila you can see in zoom. 

- All Terrain--and no more bifocals--wherever you look--near or far--that is where the prescription adjusts to.

- All Weather--sunny days or cloudy skies--the glasses adjust to the light and conditions automatically--no more polarized shades. 

If you ask me, these are functionally smart glasses--and you don't need to go to the likes of Pearl Vision and get gouged on new glasses every year. 

Hey, and if your fashion conscious, you can still pop 'em out and fit them snuggly into another new frame with some designer's name on it, all made in China for about a buck. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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June 2, 2015

In Every World, The Haves And Have Nots

So no matter the time nor the society and their particular philosophical, economical, and social creed, there are ALWAYS the haves and the have nots. 

You have your upper caste and lower caste, your rich and poor, your religious elites and laypersons, your Harvard-educated and community college grads, your executive suite and your day laborers, you masters and your slaves, your ruling elite and your plebeians, your hunter and hunted, your VIPs and your Joe Shmoes.

In India, you still have an extensive caste system even today.  In Russia, you have the KGB, the Politburo, and the Oligarchs. In China, you have the Communist Party, the Military elite, and the venture capitalists/billionaires. In Europe, you still have The Queen and vestiges of the old guard monarchies, although gone are the Feudal lords and serfs, instead replaced by the Church and successful business and political elite. In America, ah...money and political power make the country go round. 

Last evening, I watched the movie, Elysium, taking place in a dsytopian future where the Earth has become overpopulated, polluted, and sick, but the elite are riding high on a large circling space habitat called Elysium, where everyone lives in a mansion with pool and lush grounds, eats exquisitely, and has the finest healthcare in machines that can cure everything from lymphoma to do full facial reconstruction in a matter of seconds. 

Whether in the future or the past, the only difference between the haves and have nots is how much the haves have, and how little have nots have not.

Is this societal makeup preordained or is their a way that we can raise the standard of living for everyone AND make it more equitable (unless you consider it necessary for Bill Gates to have $80,000,0000,000 and the homeless person on the street not a dime in his pocket)?

Over and over again, I read how the disparity between rich and poor, powerful and powerless, becomes ever more pronounced:  
- Now for example, CEOs generally earn 331 times (yeah last year it was 354) the amount average workers do and 774 times as much as minimum wage earners!
- Studies that show that Presidential and executive powers continue to expand with eleven reasons why.
- And the richest 1% will soon own more than the rest of the world.

In Elysium, after a lot of sci-fi thriller action and fighting, the protagonist manages to make EVERYONE a citizen of Elysium, so they can all partake of the largess, and at the end the med ships arrive to cure all the sick. 

That's the movies, but in real life, maybe we will see this only when the Messiah comes or there is a complete shift in the way we think and treat each other. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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