September 4, 2015

Feeling So Naughty

Ok, so Dossy brought home a new snack.

It's from Trader Joe's and it's called Baconesque.

It's popcorn with white cheddar and bacon-like seasoning...it's Kosher (OU, Dairy)!

The sidebar from the man and lady dancing on the packaging says, "I can't believe it's not bacon!" and I'm thinking I can't believe it's just like bacon!

So I tear open the package, and dug in for my first taste of bacon-like popcorn (note: except for imitation bacon bites which my sister used to put on salads, I've never tasted bacon or anything like it). 

One handful, two handful...almost puking now. 

Yeah, it tastes like I thought it would, but maybe Jews know a little something too...I like a good piece of beef better, much much better.  ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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September 2, 2015

Minions Help Me!

This was a funny picture I took in Washington, D.C. 

This women is sitting on the Metro. 


On her lap are two big bags.


One bag (a knapsack) has a Minion on the front. 


And on top of the Minion bag is her overfilled buldging handbag.


The Minion is slanted sideways with the heavy handbag on its head, practically squooshing his face.


From the likes of it, the Minion looks like he's got one big headache and wants out of there. 


His eyes pleading for a new owner to loyally serve or just to get that darn heavy handbag off its head. 


Feel better Minion...unfortunately, it's not your day.  ;-) 


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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September 1, 2015

Guillotine, Other Options Plz

I took this photo of a bumper sticker on a pickup truck in Washington, D.C.

"Stop Bitching. Start A Revolution."

So I'm thinking this is not the type of message you like to see in the capital of the country. 

But looking beyond the call by whomever for a forcible overthrow of the government (yeah, hopefully they don't mean it)...

Perhaps what they do mean for people to do something more than just complain about the things they see that are wrong or broken, and instead to do something positive. 

Not a real revolution, but an evolution of change--incremental change, even baby steps, but leading to positive and constructive betterment! 

Stop just huffing and puffing about this and that.

Consider speaking up, coming up with new and better ideas, advocating for something more, and actually helping to build it. 

The guillotine is normally not the solution (French Revolution aside)--but that doesn't mean you can't do squat. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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August 31, 2015

Quickie But Goodie

So in the office, one person says to another that they need to have a meeting to catch up on some things. 

The other person is obviously very busy, and so the first person trying to accommodate and be mindful of people's time says, "We can do a quickie."

At which point, the kindergarden personalities take over in the office, and the person responds cracking up, "I am begging you never to say that again!"

It funny how despite people growing up on the outside (in years), people are still always sort of just kids on the inside. 

Maybe in a way that is a good thing that part of ourselves retains the carefree innocence and jovialness of our youth.

We may not be sooo gorgeous anymore, but we are still the same person on the inside--just a little more experience behind us. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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August 30, 2015

King Kong Puzzle

I took this photo in the local hobby store. 

It's a 3-D puzzle of the Empire State Building and at the top, King Kong holding onto the antenna!

Looks like a few pieces fell out of the building about 3/4 of the way up.

Or is that where ISIS terrorists blow their next hole in our skyscrapers again (G-d Forbid). 

With our retrenchment from the front lines all over the world--with the exception of some targeted drone strikes (actually very well done)--we are again at risk of letting the terrorists get the upper hand. 

We need strength and resolve--not lifting of sanctions, closing of Guantanamo, and withdrawal from the fight. 

Take them down, before they come to our shores--this is a fight that is multigenerational and there is no retreat from the top of the world when fighting for freedom and human rights. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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August 29, 2015

Bathroom Etiquette 101

So I was out and about and needed to go to the bathroom.

I stopped at a local store where I was and asked if I could please use theirs.


They were nice (not all stores are) and said yes. 


Inside the bathroom on the tank was this hilarious sign with a jingle reminding patrons about bathroom etiquette, as follows:


"If you sprinkle [heart] when you tinkle [heart] please be a sweety [heart] and wipe the seaty."


Hey, a reasonable enough request--everyone needs to cooperate on these things. ;-)


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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August 28, 2015

Talking It Cryptic

So for a while when I received weirdly worded communications from others, I thought "Gee, this person doesn't know how to communicate!"

They aren't saying what they mean or aren't saying it clearly, and I am having to decipher it, read between the lines (more than usual) and certainly not always getting it right. 

I seriously thought some of these people needed to go for remedial communications and project management training, and was more than willing to send them.

Then, I started to see the bigger picture and context and it was beginning to all make sense.

The terse messages, the cryptic language, the dancing around the topic...these were not (necessarily) because the person couldn't communicate well, but it was intentional!

No, they weren't trying to mess with me.

They were afraid to say what they really wanted to say--not to me, but generally speaking.  

Why?

Conjecture, but perhaps they didn't want "it" so explicit, they didn't want a flagrant (unnecessary) trail, they didn't want to potentially get in any trouble. 

So they truncate, obfuscate, used "code" words (not real code, symbolic) and otherwise made the communications so vague that they had plausible deniability or could interpret it just about any which way they wanted.

Ah, sort of a "get out of jail free card"--self made, signed, sealed, and delivered.

This is the art of being cryptic!

Fear and overly strict political correctness is not a good thing when what you really need is clear and honest communications from folks.

We do ourselves a disservice by "playing games," keeping hidden agendas, and protecting ourselves over the necessity to get the mission accomplished and done well.

Perhaps when people are caught between competing masters and agendas, they are "forced" to do this to get the job done, stay alive, and in the important game we all must play in life.

Ink a dink a bottle of ink the cap fell off and you stink...got that?  ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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August 27, 2015

Become A HITFIT

A misfit is someone who doesn't fit in. 

He/she is missing the mark in terms of the thing or group they are trying to fit into.

The opposite of missing the target is hitting the target, hence a "hitfit" (my term)--someone who is in congruence with who he/she is and what they can do well. 

At times, we are all misfits--at work, school, places of worship, and even with family and friends--the personality, chemistry, and KSA (knowledge, skills, or abilities) are just not right.

Hence, people miserably fail in one environment or set of circumstance, but yet they thrive in others. 

What happens when you're the misfit?  

- You feel like you've been relegated to moron status, sitting in a corner or closet somewhere (and now envision the dunce cap on your head). 

- Essentailly everyone else seems to be meshing and doing great, but you're the odd man out. Nothing you seem to do is right, you can't perform or you just stop trying, and you feel like a worthless sh*t!

But then what happens?

- With courage, determination, and hard work, you pull yourself up by your trousers and you make a significant change in your life--your job, school, community, even your spouse or friends--you're the shinning star that you always knew or hoped you could be--you're the hitfit!

I've seen this happen again and again with people. 

Why?

So often people are not "bad," "stupid," or "losers"--they are just not in their groove for who they are. 

If you give people a chance to find themselves and leverage their strengths,. and strengthen (or challenge) their weaknesses, they can and will do superbly!

None of us are perfect (except G-d)--we are all frail human beings, even the strongest, smartest, fastest, and greatest among us. If you're put or find yourself in a bad situation--recognize your part in it, but also understand that sometimes it's just a misfit, and time to make a positive change in life. 

Do you research, test the waters, get primed, and find your hitfit and your happiness--you can do it, with G-d's help, everyone can! ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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August 25, 2015

Toe Shoes - Little Piggy

I tool this photo on the Metro this morning.  

This person is wearing these huge toe shoes and mismatched socks. 

Have you ever tried on toe shoes?

It's not like putting on a pair of gloves.  

Try lining up and getting each of your toes into these snug shoes.

More trouble than it's worth in terms of looking interesting, different. 

Which toe should we start with: "This little piggy went to market. This little piggy stayed home..."

Maybe the only reason to wear these is if you actually want someone to step on your toes--now it's all too toe transparent. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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August 24, 2015

My Ashley Madison

So Ashley Madison is now a well-known adulterous website, particularly after hackers stole 37 million records on the site participants, and have released that information to the public.

These tens of millions of users seek companionship for loveless or sexless marriages or perhaps are just plain liars and cheaters--who knows? 

But yikes, now everyone knows!

Huffington reports that divorce lawyers are anticipating a deluge of new clients seeking divorces

And BBC reports that two people have already taken their lives in Canada as a result of the release. 

What is incredible as well are the 15,000 people who used their .gov or .mil accounts presumably to hide their infidelity from their spouses, but now are in potentially huge trouble with their government agencies.

I assume that Ashley Madison prided themselves on their discretion in handling their clients accounts, but lo' and behold the discretion is for naught compliments of some very naughty hackers. 

Privacy is becoming a very lonely and meaningless word whether you are faithful or a cheater--it's all open fodder on the net. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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August 23, 2015

Shopping At CVS Florida Style

So I am posting this with permission of my wife.

This is how people walk around in CVS in Florida. 

This is not how people dress in CVS in Washington D.C. even on the hottest August days. 

It is really weird how people seemingly change their entire conception of appropriate and modest dress (code) just because they can. 

I remember when at least people coming off the beach would put on a wrap or towel or something.

Uh, not anymore--the feeling of freedom has been extended quite some to the point of this becoming all too blase. 

Maybe this is similar to the trend of some women in Times Square in New York who are going around topless with nothing but some paint even though there are families with children that frequent that touristy area. 

Perhaps it would be nice to leave a little mystery for everyone involved. ;-)
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August 22, 2015

Ocean Waves (Take 60 Seconds To Enjoy)


I took this video of the ocean waves coming unto the sandy beach (some seaweed included).

60 seconds of pure calm and peaceful tide. 

Today, they finally took down the purple flags that indicate dangerous marine life, so we were able to go in the ocean and really enjoy. 

The rhythm of the ocean waves, the sun tanning our skin, the warm relaxing water, and the people playing and laughing (and some kissing).  

Thank you Hashem for this wonderful day and the beautiful world you created for us to partake of--blessed are thou! 

(Source Video: Andy Blumenthal)
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Synagogue Time

So this is an interesting new phenomenon with synagogue. 

Usually, we like to go a little later so that basically we are there for about an hour and a half of services. 

That's about my attention span and then I start to get claustrophobic and antsy. 

(BTW, some friends that go to Church told me that they have the same experience.)

But the last two weeks something changed...(no, not me). 

Last week in Maryland, we went to synagogue and the people were standing in front with the Ark open and I thought wow they are way ahead and are finished with Torah reading and are putting the Torahs away already. 

But after a moment, I realized they were only just taking out the Torahs for the weekly reading, and we were actually earlier than usual. 

When I inquired in synagogue why they were behind schedule, I learned that to get people there for more of the services, they had decided to start later. 

Ah, it's a trick!

This week in Florida, I went to the Chabad shule and we were running late (hey, it's vacation) about 10:45 and thought shule would almost be over, but they were just in the morning prayers still, and there wasn't even a minyan yet.  

Two places, two synagogues, two weeks and they are changing the start times...

Seems smart from their perspective to try and get people there and for more of the services, but for the people who just want to come for a certain amount or parts of the service, isn't this just going to cause people to come even later in an endless cat and mouse game. 

Start later, come later, start later, come later...

I'm no Rabbi, but how about a serious focused service--ONE solid hour (plus)--full of REAL kavanah (concentration), meaning, and sincerity, and everyone comes on time?

Start on time, come on time--really pray (no talking please)!

And still plenty of time for socializing and bonding after services at the yummy Kiddish. 

(Source Photo: here with attribution to Brian Smithson)
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August 21, 2015

Dancing With "The Stars"


I took this video when we stopped for a nice Italian coffee at Grand Forno Pronto on Las Olas in Florida. 

A good song pops on the speakers, and all of a sudden the waiter and waitress just start dancing it up behind the counter. 

The customers are ecstatic and egging them on.

Florida is one of those places where people just break out in fun--it's awesome.  ;-)

(Source Video: Andy Blumenthal)
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August 20, 2015

Man Versus Alligator







Today we saw some "Alligator Wrestling."

The guy said he doesn't get paid anything--except tips--because if he's on the payroll, no one would cover his disability insurance--ah, go figure.

The photos progress from the guy putting his hand in between the gator's open mouth to his full head in the grasp of the gator's jaws.

Maybe this guy was too sleek, because I think the crowd was disappointed that the gator (in captivity) seemed to be "losing". 

This is not what happens on the Discovery Channel, where all it takes is for the gator to lash out hard and fast--just once--and this guy in mince meat!

(Source Photos: Andy Blumenthal)

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Fist With Parachute

I took this photo in Miami yesterday.

A fist attached to a parachute. 

Sort of a strange image of strength, fighting, and resolve with making a safe landing. 

Perhaps that's the intersection of defense and diplomacy.

Where we employ soft and hard power to achieve worthy goals and follow one's moral compass. 

My grandfather used to joke that he would come with the big stick if anyone bothers us. 

He, like my dad, was a very good man! ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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August 19, 2015

Birds Of A Feather

An open letter to the Board and members of the Riverdale Jewish Center (RJC) and the Bronx District Attorney's Office:

In my May 30th blog, G-d is Good, (Some) People Not So, I wrote about the accused Rabbi Jonathan Rosenblatt of the RJC, the now known "Sauna Rabbi," who the New York Times disclosed about having some unorthodox and usual practices of getting naked with children and young adults. 

Yesterday in the New York Times, I read the follow up to the story that Dr. Donald Liss, the Chairman of the Board, overruled the board who demanded that Rabbi Rosenblatt leave the synagogue, and now many of the board members are resigning over this travesty of justice and members are leaving the synagogue to start break-away prayer services. 

At the end of my last blog on this subject, I wrote: "One last thing I will say, there are others in that community that were involved."

One of the others involved, guess who?

Yes, the Chairman of the Board who overruled the community and is protecting Rabbi Rosenblatt. 

I grew up in Riverdale from the age of 10 when my family moved from the upper west side of Manhattan. I attended SAR Academy, the local yeshiva. My family had many lovely friends in this community and we attended the RJC where we were members for over 20 years.

Dr. Donald Liss significantly older than myself and my friends growing up frequently invited us to his house in Riverdale to "learn" Torah and for Shabbat meals, although the learning frequently turned into talk and banter and "wrestling." Dr. Liss, as a doctor of rehabilitative and sports medicine, claimed great interest in my physical fitness as a youth and my practice of martial arts. He started to run and workout with me and my best friend and this at times lead to more "wrestling" matches.

Later Dr. Liss provided me a Summer job in his and his brother's practice at Englewood Hospital. Dr Liss was quite well off and took advantage of me that my family was less so and I needed a job. He provided me the opportunity to work out there in their "gym" during lunch and then when I would change in the locker room, he would invariably show up to talk with me. 

Other times, he invited me to go on vacation with his family to the Poconos to babysit his kids.  I remember one particular time, I went running on the trail there, and he came.  When we got back to the house we were staying in, he dropped all his clothes in the kitchen area in front of me and his wife and totally nude just started talking. 

Other times, when I would work out in my apartment in Riverdale with weights or stretching for karate, even during the day, Dr. Liss would show up. And he would also invite my friend and I to his home to lift weights and more "wrestling".

As I got older and smarter, I realized Dr. Liss's behavior was not normal, and his interest in my workout and my Torah learning did not seem innocent any longer. I stopped getting together and taking his phone calls. His calling, hang-ups, and messages increased.

I met Dr. Liss one last time to put an end to his harassment, and I confronted him that I thought despite his being married with kids and his professing of religion that he had abnormal tendencies, and I wanted him to stay away from me.  He pretended to be shocked at my allegations as a Jewish man who sat towards the front of the synagogue and was learned. 

When I moved to DC, the only contact I had from Dr. Liss was when he tried to friend me on Facebook, which I promptly cut him off. 

That Dr. Liss would now protect Rabbi Rosenblatt and overrule the wishes of the Riverdale Jewish Center is a Chillul Hashem and travesty of justice. 

Every word in this blog is true, and I hope it helps the community and the victims to get over this tragedy and desecration of G-d. The good people who wish to grow up and pray without unwanted advances of some sick individuals hiding behind many veils of religion and family deserve their community back. 
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August 18, 2015

Traits To Be Prez


The personality to be President:

1. Experience, Diplomacy

2. Direct, Honest, Strong, Results-oriented

3. Passionate, Dedication, Survival of the Nation

A short interview with Andy Blumenthal

(Source Video: Dannielle Blumenthal)
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Doggie Psychologist

I took this photo of a sign in Florida advertising a "Dog Psychology Center."

I think my dad would say that anyone taking their dog there should have their head examined!

Apparently, Cesar Millan is a fairly well-known "Dog Behaviorist" who works with especially aggressive dogs to rehabilitate them--soothing the savage beast!

There are enough people with mental problems that don't get the help they need that it seems somewhat excessive to have dogs going to the psychologist, but people are still homeless and in rags on the streets of our cities. 

At Country Inn Pet Resort your dog can be "mastering the walk," be socialized, get obedience training, and even learn to swim. 

Sounds nice to send your pet to a "resort," but do they really need a psychologist or do you just want to ignore your pet the same way you ignore your children?  ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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August 17, 2015

PARROT Does Amazing Impromptu DANCE


Rebecca was so brave and such a great sport with this parrot doing this crazy dance on her head by the beach. 

(Narrated and videoed by Andy Blumenthal)
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The Guardian Angel Handbag


So I took this photo of a Guardian Angel Handbag in Florida.

Back in New York starting in the 1970s, the Guardian Angels were a crime patrol often of martial arts practitioners that rode the dark graffitied trains and stood on the corners in dangerous neighborhoods...they eventually went viral in over 130 chapters around the world.

The handbags of same name are made by Dutch label Vlieger & Vandam and are designed with images of engraved guns or large knives.

The tag stitched inside the bag comes with a warning:

"This is an original Guardian Angel. Do not use it for self-defence purposes. The Weapon feature at the front is fake. To avoid any problems: Do not take this bag on a plane as hand luggage and do not take this bag to the bank to pick up cash. Please do enjoy it!"

When you see the bag, you've got to ask yourself is a person bold enough to wear a bag like this also is packing one too?

As they say, never show or threaten to use a weapon unless you are really ready to use it. 

So is it a bluff, a fashion statement, or is the person really carrying and very dangerous--care to find out? ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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August 16, 2015

Victorian Penny Car



I took these photos in Classic Motors of Washington, D.C. 

This car is made of Victorian Pennies from the U.K. 

The pennies are special (1837-1901) with an intricate design of British Queen Victoria. 

This car is one of only 9 in the entire world. 

The sign in the back window says, "This vehicle is not for sale."

It's got to be some job to get all those old pennies on this car. 

I remember when we were kids my sister had this long green plastic container for collecting pennies.  

Pennies already back in those days were worthless, and it was just a hobby to throw them in and see how many we could collect. 

After some years, the thing was so heavy, I could use it for my exercise routine.

So why do we still make stupid pennies...for classic collector vehicles?  

Old habits die hard, and the government is a big bureaucratic ship that doesn't turn on a penny or dime or whatever--I think that's the real reason we still do so many nonsensical things. ;-)

(Source Photos: Andy Blumenthal)
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Trumpet Chandeliers

I took this photo at Pike & Rose in Rockville. 

These are Trumpet Chandeliers.  

Inside the Bell of the Trumpet are the light bulbs. 

It looks beautiful with the blue ceiling and the accent lights along the side. 

Believe it or not, this is the walkway between the garage and iPic theatre. 

Nicely done even without the trumpet music. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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August 15, 2015

Answer Injustice With Justice

So what is amazing about government scandals is not that they happen, because of course, they do. 

But what is amazing is that the American public is frequently denied justice--whether committed under Democratic or Republican administrations.


Maybe this is because the Justice Department is headed by the Attorney General a political appointee of the President, rather than being independent.   


The President oversees all the government agencies in the Executive Branch of the government, including the Department of Justice (DOJ).


When any of the government agencies in the Executive Branch do something wrong, what should happen is that the Department of Justice (including the FBI) would investigate and bring the offenders to justice. 


But instead, a politically motivated President can direct a politicized Justice Department to stand down--and in a sense end up being the "Chief Obstructionist."


Obviously every agency is headed by political appointees who serve at the pleasure of the President and who further the administration's vision, but Justice is unique. 


And if you follow the news, I am sure you can think of more than a few examples where Congress has gotten involved to investigate and even request action by DOJ, but yet nothing seems to happen. 


What is disappointing is that we would like to think that every leader is an icon of righteousness, integrity, and propriety, but instead partisan politics can get in the way, and the leader ends up protecting, whitewashing, or covering up the very wrongdoing that needs to be corrected.


The government system cannot work for the people and the country, if it cannot be accountable to them to do the right thing.


The President--no matter what political affiliation--must assure and be perceived as assuring that everyone under his/her watch is doing the right thing. 


And if and when they stray from serving the people of this country, it should be the President who leads the charge to make it right. 


We all would respect a leader that recognizes and course-corrects when things go astray and does it with integrity and justice--that makes a truly great Democracy.  ;-)


(Source Photo: Rebecca Blumenthal)

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August 14, 2015

Mankind's Endless And Elusive Pursuit Of Happiness

So I took this photo yesterday of a lady on the Metro reading The Happiness Project.

The book is a multi-year bestseller about the pursuit of happiness and how the author, Grethen Rubin, took a year and made a project of getting happy.

She did this through a "methodical" project with "measurable goals" and working to "build on them cumulatively."

Now happiness is being described not as a goal or project, but as a "movement."

Why is happiness such an elusive pursuit to so many throughout the times?

In fact, in looking for how to achieve happiness throughout the ages, we can't even agree on what it is or how to do it.

Carl Cederstrom in the New York Times provides an overview where the how-to for achieving happiness has changed more times than some people change their underwear.

Here's to the rainbow of finding happiness:

- The Greeks/Aristotle - Be a good person, live ethically, cultivate one's virtues. 

- Hedonists/Epicureans - Pursuit whatever brings you pleasure

- Stoics - Happiness is achievable even when experiencing hardship, suffering, and pain

- Christianity - Happiness is not achieved on Earth, but rather in the afterlife/in divine union.

- Renaissance/Enlightenment/Thomas Jefferson - Happiness is an unalienable right, and related to property rights.

- Today - Achieve authenticity and be narcissistic, express true inner selves, get in touch with inner feeling, worship our bodies, and productivity through work

I believe that the relentless pursuit of happiness is due to man's inability to truly reconcile being/feeling happy with what he experiences on an almost daily basis on a spectrum of unhappiness:

- Disappointment

- Failure

- Unacceptance

- Rejection

- Bullying

- Abuse

- Injustice

- Suffering

- Poverty

- War

- Disability

- Disease

The result of man's expectation of happiness yet its continued elusiveness to him manifests in people running around like a chicken with their heads cut off (something my mom told me about that she saw as a little girl):

- Changing, leaving, coming back, or clinging to religion.

- Disenfranchisement with government, politics, political parties, and politicians.

- Entering into and dissolving marriages and relationships.

- Migration to different parts of the country or even moving abroad and traveling here, there, and everywhere.

- Cycling your money and investments in real estate, material goods, and a host of investments (stocks, bonds, hedge funds, etc.).

- Trying out a series of different educational pursuits, careers, and hobbies--surely one will be my passion, provide some meaning, or make me happy!

- Trying to squeeze more and more "things" into and out of a 24-hour day. 

- Looking for a quick fix through partying, pornography, sex, drugs, alcohol, and rock & roll. 

What's the trend in happiness now?

A relentless pursuit of innovation and transformation through technology, robotics, everything autonomous, self-healing, self-reproducing, searching for new (and perhaps better) worlds, and even time travel. 

Oh, and let's not forget pursuing a longer life (or the holy grail of immortality), so we have more time to try and be happy. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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August 13, 2015

Old Pool Out, New Pool In

So the pool is getting a major makeover. 

That's what happens when it starts to get some cracks. 

It had to be drained a couple of weeks ago. 

Then they came in with drills and have been ripping up the pool and removing the floor and sides ever since. 

Next up a brand new coat of swimming pool -- concrete and tiles. 

Followed by a top-to-bottom cleaning and shining up until it's spick and span.

Right now it looks so gross, but when it's done it will be awesome again.

Can't wait--I need my laps and hydrotherapy. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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August 12, 2015

Why Did G-d Create The World?

So we met the Rabbi at Starbucks for a coffee and conversation. 

We talked about such a wide variety of topics--the Ten Commandments, the laws of Shabbat, driverless cars and smartphones, women's minyan (prayer services), and even LGBT.

Not sure how this came up, but at one point the Rabbi turns to us and asks, "Why did G-d create the world?"

Taken a little off guard by this very big question, I blurted out, "To get to the other side!"

I thought he was going to fall off his chair, and then we all laughed. 

But then we started to discuss some of the traditional answers like G-d out his infinite love created us with a spark of himself.

In very mortal terms, I guess maybe it's not so fun to be G-d (omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent) but be alone in the universe.

By creating us, His children, he gave the gift of life, learning, and growth for us to emulate the Divine. 

What about all the terrible suffering?

Perhaps just part of our tests, trials, and tribulations to ultimately grow our souls. 

Still it's a tough world. 

I wonder maybe "to get to the other side"--for us to get to Heaven--isn't such a bad answer after all (even if it comes from the chicken crossing the road joke). ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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August 11, 2015

Cholent Stew - Not Just A Game

So I can't believe they actually made a "strategy card game" about cholent. 

The only strategy that I know of with cholent is to make it hot, goopy, meaty, and savory. 

Cholent is a beef stew typically eaten for Shabbat lunch. 

Basic ingredients: beans, barely, potatoes, fatty fanken meat, sometimes a kishka is thrown in, onions and other veggies, salt, pepper, and lots of savory spices. 

Usually it cooks in a crock pot overnight. 

The sephardim call this dish Hamin (instead of cholent) and typically put in some hard-boiled eggs as well. 

With cholent, you can essentially throw in the kitchen sink as long as it add to the heartiness and flavor of the dish. 

Eating cholent is such a tradition that it is almost considered a special mitzvah to do it. Ah, would that make it commandment #614? 

When cholent is served at the kiddish (the meal after Shabbat services in synagogue), it is usually the highlight where everybody gathers around with big laddles to dig in and get the nice portions of meat bopping around in the stew or often sunken to the very bottom to be found and surfaced by the lucky lunch patrons. 

In New York, my friends used to have a running joke that there was a secret ingredient the Rebetzin used to make it so good--what it was, all bets were on. 

The biggest problem with cholent are the loads of beans ("the musical food") and the most unpleasant odor-filled aftereffects--and of this we will not speak again! 

What type of game can you play with cholent? You can probably just toot out the answer when you're ready. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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August 10, 2015

Skip The Religious Brainwashing

So my wife and I took this picture yesterday of this Spongebob outside a matress store, but which you frequently find at places like a car wash.  

It gets some attention when your driving by. 

This cartoon fellow reminded me of something I heard in a movie trailer recently.

It was about people of faith, but rather than relying on being genuinely thoughtful about their beliefs, instead they adhere to a form of brainwashing, where the people in the community are kept in the fold by closing out any and all outside influences. 

When one of the ladies in the community was asked about this, she replied "You know what someone told me about brainwashing? What's wrong with a clean brain!"

While I am a huge proponent of devotion and service to G-d, I think that relying on intentionally keeping people sheltered is not the path to G-d. 

Especially for the Jewish people, who are known as the "People of the Book" for their intense learning of the Torah, intellectual pursuit and challenge is a source of true faith.

Of course, there are bad influences in society--addictive drugs, alcohol dependence, indiscriminate sex, violent and deviant people, and more--and we want to keep our families away from these things and safe.  

Interestingly, when someone is free from drugs and alcohol, they often say that they have been "clean" for so many months or years. 

If that is what a "clean brain" is--then that is a positive thing. 

But if a clean brain is truly cutting people off from education and legitimate worldly pursuits just to force them to follow and keep them in state of brainwashing, then that level of a geder (i.e. gate or limitation) is destructive to the person and community. 

Recently, a 30-year woman, Faigy Meyer, "who broke free from the iron-tight grip of her ultra-conservative Hassidic community" and had been shunned by her family, leapt from a rooftop to her death.

The term iron-grip used in the article sounds like a medieval torture device used to force or keep people at bay, and if that is what the "religious" community is doing so-to-say to limit free choice of their members, then that is not honest belief and practice. 

For myself personally, I lived for some years in a highly religious community that despite having many wonderful people and families was for the most part not very accepting of anyone who believed or practiced not exactly like them--there was no room for that. 

One time, the legacy Rabbi on the pulpit (not the current one who is an extremely fine person that I greatly respect) even warned the members to beware of people in their midst who were not true worshippers (and could be a harmful influence). 

In a closed community thinking, one can feel quite alienated and a huge void of spirituality. 

Thank G-d, in our community with the Magen David Sephardic Synagogue, we have found not only a beautiful love of Hashem, but that mixed with acceptance for everyone to come and participate.

Now we actually love to go to synagogue and look forward to it. It has become a central part of our lives (similar in our own way to how it had been for my beloved father). 

Take away the iron-tight grip, the forcing, the brainwashing and fear of the regular outside world, and you have people from many walks of life, intellectual pursuits and experiences come together to seek and worship G-d with a pure and open heart. 

In a way, it is similar to technology: if you have a closed system (not connected to the Internet and the outside), you have a safe tool, but it is very limited as a standalone. Alternatively, hook the computer up to the Internet and while you take some risks browsing the limits of the virtual world, you come away with so much more you can do and richness in the experience. ;-)

(Source Photo: Dannielle and Andy Blumenthal)
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August 9, 2015

My Alter Fighting Ego

"His who life was a million to one shot."

He fought, he survived, and he triumphed.  

Go Rocky, Rambo, Sylvester Stallone. 

Human rights, social justice, good over evil. 

And never again! :-)

(Source Photo: here via Facebook)
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Doggie On Nervous Lookout

So this dog is outside Starbucks.

And looking anxiously for its owner. 

The problem is the lady is inside the store and and the dog doesn't see her behind the glass window. 

Lady says to us, "Bang on the glass...so he'll know where I am."

We "obediently" bang, but the dog is still looking off down the block.

Lady is getting her coffee, dog is NER-VOUS jumping up and off the chair armrest to get a better look. 

Nope lady is not there.

An occasional bark, but no answer.  

Hope the dog doesn't pee the seat. ;-)

(Source Photo: Dannielle Blumenthal--she had the better angle)
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August 8, 2015

Who Is Calling The Shots?


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What's The Capital Of The United States Again?

So this is what the state of education in the United States has come to.

We were having dinner last night with another couple. 


They asked my daughter, "Do they still teach geography in school? They don't teach that anymore do they?"


My daughter said, "Yeah, we learned a lot of geography" and gave some good examples both modern and ancient. 


So the guy says, "Well I don't think a lot of other schools are teaching geography anymore, like they used to with us."


Then he tells us a story how someone they know was asked what the capital of China was.


And he goes to me, "You know, you know [he emphasizes again], what the guy said?"


I looked at him a little puzzled by this question, like what could someone possibly answer to such a simple question, so I said, "Well I hope they said Beijing."


He nods his head back and forth no, eyes closed, lips pursed, like we won't believe what he was about to say.


Then, he says, "The guy said that the capital of China is...JAPAN!"


I looked at him my eyes squinting in disbelief, like that can't be a for real answer, right?


"No," he says, "That was what this guy thought, can you believe it?"


I said sort of laughing out loud, "Well maybe if World War II had ended differently that would be correct."


It sort of reminds me of the famous goof when Clinton gave the Russians the now famous "Reset Button."


It was supposed to indicate a thawing and renewal of peaceful relations, only the word printed on the button was "Peregruzka" meaning a more hostile "Overcharge."


Oops! 


Maybe the overcharge referred to was prophetic of the West's losing the strategic Crimea to the Russian blitzkrieg in 2014. How much did that mistake cost us?


I guess it's not only STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) suffering in our educational system. 


How's that standards based education reform "No Child Left Behind" (2001) working out? 


It definitely seems like some folks are most definitely being left behind if not completely lost in the system.


At this rate, I fear the capital of the United States is now Iran. ;-)

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August 7, 2015

Why Can't We Just Stay As Superman?

So when we're young, we think we're Superman, Batman, or whatever superhero comes to mind. 

Our bodies are beautiful, supple, strong, and heal quickly. 

We are taught by our helicopter parents and philosophic teachers that "You can do anything you set your mind to!"

In our fantasies, we surely can do amazing things--we lift unbelievable weight, fly around at the speed of light, do karate better than Bruce Lee, outthink Einstein, save the world, and then make off with the beautiful damsel to boot.

Kryptonite is no problem--we are (seemingly) invincible.

Then we hit middle age--40 something--and all of a sudden what do you know?

Oh, this doesn't work right and that doesn't feel right.

The Yiddish expression, "Oy vey" seems about it.

And off to the doctors we go.

After the exam and tests, doc says, "Mr. (or Ms.) [whatever], you have [fill in the blank]."

You respond, "Is that normal--at my age--already?"

Doc says, "Absolutely, this is what happens as you get older."

I say, "Doc, does anything good happen when we get older."

"Of course not"--we both laugh. 

This reminds me of when my dad used to sing this song in this funny mock Irish accent, "You're not as young as you used to be you're getting old and gray!" 

This week, a colleague was coming down with something--possibly something not good. 

I told him how I hoped this turns out well for him and how sorry I was for what he was going through.

Writing off the illness, he says to me, "We all end the same anyway" (i.e. we all end up dead!)--ah, another unhappy notion that is. 

I joked back, "But we all don't end up in the same place."

I got a few laughs at that too (some of my father in me). 

Well anyway, I thought about this after--about some of the special subhuman beings out there--and the very special place that I am certain G-d has in store for them:

- Serial murders and other violent criminals

- Rapists and child abusers

- Terrorists and their sponsors

- Megalomaniacs, bullies, and corrupt officials

- Thieves, cheats, and liars.

And guess what about these schmendricks--they get old too, they go to the doctor too, and then they are going somewhere warm, very warm, and it's not to the Caribbean. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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August 6, 2015

Looking At Ourselves In The NUKE Mirror

Any deal is based on T-R-U-S-T and verification, especially when it comes to dangerous nukes. 

Yet the deal with Iran--a member of the "Axis of Evil" and the #1 state sponsor of terrorism worldwide and of the worst abusers of human righs is trustless, especially when verification mechanisms are weak and Iran is non-complaint?


So where's the trust headed now (has anything changed, what are the signs so far)?


T - Turning away - Iran continues to turn away and refuse access to inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) who are tasked with the verification of Iran's non-proliferation of nukes.


R - Restraining people - Iran continues to disrespect us and holds 4 Americans hostage with no sign or promise of release. 


U - Undermining - Iran continues to undermine any relationship with the West by affirming that hostile policies toward "arrogant" America will not change


S - Swindling - Iran continues to swindle and deceive the West going so far as to publish a 416-page manifesto by the Ayatollah on destroying Israel, "the ally of the American Great Satan."


T - Threatening - Iran continues to threaten the West most recently warning of a "Third World War" sparked by terorrism, and continuing chants of "Death to America!"


So what's the future of this deal in protecting the world from nukes and terrorism--let's be honest and look in the mirror and ask what's the deal here? ;-)


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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August 4, 2015

NO to NUKES and TERROR


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Bell-Bottom Style

This is dedicated to my wife who loves bell-bottom pants. 

And truly there is something about bell-bottoms that just yells cool and sexy. 

The hour glass shape of the pants is timeless. 

The flair gives you flair. 

The white stringy bottom gives contrast with the blue jeans. 

Whoever wears these, you're the automatic hit of the party.

Basically, your the Sonny and Cher on the 21st century, and presumably you can dance like John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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August 3, 2015

Print Me Some Clothing


How cool is this?

You print you own clothes on a home 3-D Printer. 

This is not science fiction, but reality.

Israeli fashion designer, Danit Peleg, is creating some beautiful clothing by printing them!

The printed clothes is intricate, fashionable, and sexy. 

Choose your outfit. 

Pick your design.

Download it. 

And start printing--day or evening wear. 

See how it looks on the runway models.

And just imagine that you can be printing and wearing it too. ;-)
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August 2, 2015

Self-Perpetuating Immigration For All The Wrong Reasons

So this is the prevailing misguided logic by some for more immigration. 

We need immigrants to "reduce the ratio of retirees to workers."


Why? 


Because the birth rate has fallen to below replenishment rates (roughly 2.1 births per women). 


And since our "trust funds" for social security, medicare, pensions, and the like have NOT been been kept in trust, BUT INSTEAD have been squandered on other things...


Therefore, according to this warped thinking we now need a wave of immigrants to come save us--have lots of babies and grow our economy--to pay for what we should be able to, but can't--because of gross mismanagement and corruption with the money that was taken out our payroll all our lives supposedly to care for us in our elder years. 


The wrong reasons for immigration are expressed by Charles Kenny in Bloomberg Businessweek.


- According to Kenny, "More immigration is both the cheapest and most effective response to the challenge of a shrinking, aging population," which he frets is "ominous for pension and health-care costs."


- Kenny's approach to immigrants is that they are not vital and talented human beings, but rather basically baby machines with higher birth rates for population replenishment, as he states, "Although immigrants rapidly adopt the fertility patterns of their new countries, they still tend to produce more children to begin with."


- And he says, because most come over as adults, we have the benefits of the workers "without the expense and delay of rearing...[them as] children."


- Oh, and by the way, Kenny says, "Some newly arrived workers help provide cheap child-care options."

Wow, how biased, cold, and condescending is that!


Not once does Kenny mention or advocate for immigration for any of these truly worthy reasons:


Shelter from persecution 


- Political asylum


- Promote diversity


- Bring in needed skills, investment, and innovation 


- Rejoin families


And what is the result of bringing in immigrants to pay our way?


Well, we'll need to bring in yet another and another, wave after wave of immigration, because we can't balance of budget and spend rationally, responsibly, and with an eye toward the future--it's self-perpetuating immigration for the sake of deadbeatism. 


Sweet land of liberty is being thrown out for a bunch of economic opportunists who feel we need "immigrants to [come to] the rescue" rather than join together with us in being great in terms of compassion, humanitarianism, and mutual respect. 


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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