December 16, 2017

Beautiful Innocent Child Angel

So wonderful news is that one of my daughters is getting married, please G-d, at the end of the month.

Today, we had a celebration in synagogue called an Aufruf, where the groom is called to the Torah and makes the blessing and then we all throw candies (we chose bags of chocolates).

After the services, we had a kiddush luncheon and it was really nice to see everyone from the community sharing in this wonderful Simcha with us. 

But something happened towards the end of the services that had a really big impact on me...in fact, I can't stop thinking about it--I need to write it down. 

As services concluded and we were leaving the sanctuary, this beautiful innocent little girl came right up to my daughter--sort of out of nowhere and without her parents--and wished her Mazel Tov. 

There was something about her and the way she did it with such sincerity--I literally couldn't have been more touched. 

It was almost like this child was some sort of angel--I mean it!

The child's eyes and facial expression had an innocence like I have never quite seen before. 

All I could do was marvel at this child and how she came up all by herself with this incredible pureness of heart that I can't fully explain to wish the bride and groom well. 

Then I found my words to say thank you and wish her that in a "few" years she would be getting happily married too, G-d willing. 

I think I will always remember the piecing innocent eyes of this child and how she was like an angel visiting us on this special occasion today. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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December 15, 2017

Slow Build - Rapid Demise

It takes time to build in life. 

Or as they say:
"Rome wasn't built in a day."

But it's not always easy to have patience. 

We all have to start somewhere and usually it's at the bottom.

And then we have to claw our way up (like Rocky).

Unless of course, you're one of those people born with a "silver spoon" in your mouth. 

The funny thing about building and climbing is that it can all be destroyed in a split second. 

One silly mistake, one stupid word, one indiscretion, one lackadaisical moment, a turn of bad luck...or a series thereof. 

It takes so much time and effort to build as we lay one brick of success upon another. 

And it takes just a split second to destroy it all. 

So watch-watch-watch your steps, because they can so easily turn into a rapid, spiraling, and even most deadly a fall.  ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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December 14, 2017

My Realness and My Dreaminess

Just a quote from the show Homeland that I wanted to share:
"My dreams have a realness...
My Reality has a dreaminess..."
This is so true!

Dreaming and reality have a definite touchpoint and carryover between them. 

In Judaism, their is a saying that:
"Sleeping is one-sixtieth of death."

Life-sleeping-death all exist along a continuum. 

The elements of our being cross all three of these domains. 

When we are alive, there are elements of dreaminess--and it often doesn't feel quite real. 

When we are asleep, our dreams can often seem so real that we actually feel them and physically react them--we may even scream and wake up an incredible fright. 

When we are dead, I believe that we live on--that our soul never ceases--that it is a part of our everlasting G-d. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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December 13, 2017

Anything Is Possible

So you're all aware of the 3 legs of project management:

- Cost

- Schedule

- Scope

I remember learning the adage that if you change any one of these then there is an impact on the others. 

For example, if you "crash" the timeline on a project to finish more quickly, then you either need more money or you need to reduce the scope. 

Similarly, if you want to cut costs on the project then you may have to extend the timeline or scale back on the requirements. 

Recently, I heard someone says the following:
"We can do anything with enough time and resources."

And when I thought about this, it's true enough.

If you provide more money and time for a project then, of course, you can do more in terms of the scope of the project.

Pour enough bucks and time into something and conceptually, we really can do anything. 

Technically, we can do the proverbial "anything," but that's only if the politics and infighting don't get in the way of progress. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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December 12, 2017

Wherever You Go

So my father used to say this idea about dealing with life's challenges:
"Wherever you go, that's where you are!"
If you think about it for a moment, it really is very profound. 

Some people think that they can run away from their problems.

Move here, there, everywhere. 

Change schools, jobs, spouses, whatever. 

But you can't run away from yourself. 

Wherever you run, you're still you!

So you need to fix yourself, your problems, your life. 

Yes, sometimes your in a place is bad, a bad fit, the people are bad, the chemistry is bad, the circumstances are bad. 

And then change can certainly be a welcome and good thing.

But when you change the external, the internal has to keep developing and changing as well, so that we learn and grow to be better people.  

Change your place is not a substitute for changing and growing yourself--that is the only constant with change. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal) 
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December 11, 2017

The Eyes Give It Away

Have you ever noticed that eye contact gives it away. 

Even for the best poker-faced folks out there--the eyes are the conduit to the soul. 

Here's how it works:

- When someone is plotting to do you harm, they avoid looking you in the eye.

Why?

They are afraid, they are going to give themselves and their evil intentions away. 

And so they attempt to hide their evil intentions behind closed eyelids, turned heads, and avoided gazes. 

They think by avoiding eye contact, you won't be able to read them--seeing into their eyes and their malevolent thinking and planning.

Probably also even the worst of them may actually feel a little guilty (somewhere in there is a soul even if it's mucked up in dirt, corruption, and absolute sin). 

- Yet the opposite is true when someone is executing their evil plans--attacking you and wanting to severely hurt you or worse. 

Then, they look you straight in the face and in the eyes.  

They are staring intently and honing in for the kill. 

And in their wide open eyes, rage and evil burns, as they raise their voice and their clenched fists. 

Seeking to execute their plots, their eyes come at you, tracking you, targeting you, and attempting to shoot/hit you first and hard. 

When evil is there--the eyes are the giveaway--and the person's soul burns dark and deep. 

But remember, G-d--the King of Kings--is forever light and He will chase the darkness away. 

The L-rd executes darkness.

The L-rd will blind the haughty.

The L-rd will render a mighty justice.

The L-rd will save his faithful. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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December 10, 2017

Foreboding GW Masonic Memorial


So I took this photo of the George Washington Masonic Memorial. 

On one hand, it is quite a large and impressive structure (9 floors and 333 feet sitting atop Shooter's Hill).

It is fashioned after the ancient Lighthouse of Alexandria, the 7th wonder of the world, that was built after 290 BC, and which guided trade ships into the busy harbor of Alexandria, Egypt.

On the other hand, this memorial is quite spooky in its shape of narrowing ascending floors over a protruding larger base, as well as the noticeable pentagram (often used to signify paganism and the occult) that sits at the top. 

There is also the Freemason square and compass with a big G in it built and displayed in the ground in front of the building. 

The symbols and the building itself just seem more than a little eerie--whatever the rituals are that go on there. 

In a way, I can't stop looking at the photo of this building...it's sort of mesmerizing.  

But I feel it somehow has the draw of a dark and foreboding place. 

Like the Lighthouse of Alexandria that was destroyed by three earthquakes between the 10th and 14th centuries, I have an unsettling feeling about this as well. 

Maybe it's just a feeling...or maybe it's something more. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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December 9, 2017

Just My Imagination



These folks make some beautiful music together. 

Sit back and enjoy!

(Source Video: Andy Blumenthal)
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December 7, 2017

Hashem Has A Plan

Sometimes things in life can look very dark. 

In every generation, "they come against us."

But the Holy One Blessed Be He watches over his children. 

He neither slumbers nor sleeps. 

When the wicked arise in arrogance and evil to hurt us, we must turn to the One Above.

"I will not fear, because G-d is with me."

Only He directs the course of the world.

Only He determines who will succeed and who will fail. 

The evildoers plot their sinister ways.

But G-d sees and hears, and will disturb their evil intentions.

G-d, my soul crieth out to you in the times of my trouble and affliction.

My mouth begs you for your mercy and your just and swift hand. 

Please G-d intervene and thwart the evil plans of those that hate you and your children and seek them harm. 

L-rd arise. L-rd arise. 

L-rd save us. L-rd save us. 

L-rd make us successful.  L-rd make us successful. 

Vanguish our enemies and let your faithful servants prevail. 

Make G-d turn his fiery and his sword on the enemies of His children.

May He exact ultimate vengeance and bring great discomfort, torment, and travail upon those with evil intentions and doings.

L-rd hear my cries, and swoop down from your Heavenly palace and save your people.

And the evil will be eradicated and the L-rd will bring final justice. 

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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December 6, 2017

Mazel Tov On Jerusalem

Today, Jerusalem has been recognized as the capital of Israel--Mazel tov!

- 70 years after President Truman instructed the State Department to support the U.N. partition plan.

- 50 years since the Six Day War in which Jerusalem was reunified.

- 22 years after the Jerusalem Embassy Act was passed for relocating the U.S. Embassy to the capital, Jerusalem.

Everyone has been patient and waited a long time for this.

As President Trump stated, we are recognizing the reality, the obvious, and "it is the right thing to do!"

Yes, Israel is a sovereign nation with the right to determine their own capital as every nation does. 

And Jerusalem is that capital today as it has been historically from the times of the Bible. 

We are blessed to be witnessing in our time the miraculous fulfillment of G-d's promise for the quintessential return of the Israelites to the Promised Land, and toward the ultimate redemption.

From the ashes of the Holocaust, G-d has resurrected and brought us alive again.

Many that I have spoken with today express genuine fear about the ramifications of this announcement of recognition. 

But as President Trump displayed today, we must all go forward together courageously and in celebration. 

The State of Israel is blooming from its agricultural fields to the incredible medical and technological innovations that are helping people throughout the world.

We must never forget that it is only with G-d's blessing and under his watchful eye.

May we all pray for peace and security, and let their not be war or terrorism anymore! ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal via WhiteHouse.gov)
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December 5, 2017

Trendy - Shoes and Bag In One

I thought this was a very creative ladies bag.

It combines two things that many love--shoes and bags!

No, you're not putting your shoes in the bag.

And you're definitely not wearing your bag on your feet (that's another blog on innovation).

In this case, the shoes (and legs) are the design on the bag itself and make up the shoulder straps to carry it. 

Creative and fun thinking, right?

Also, I like the design of bold colors of the red and white sneakers and the blue jeans on the black bag. 

This is both functional and cool, and I like the trend of "mixing it up."

The straps are the legs and shoes--pretty smart! ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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December 3, 2017

Crumbs Are For The Birds, Not The Workers

Since the days of slavery, workers have had very little in terms of rights or protections. 

The rich and powerful capitalist employers hold all the cards.

Like this poster says:
"Which Shall It Be?
Duke: 'If you demand your rights, no more crumbs from my table.'
Working Man: 'Give me my rights and keep your crumbs.'"
The capitalist owners enjoy being able to give "trickle-down economics" to the average working man. 

Basically, it's just crumbs from the rich man's table. 

And if you don't like it, and you want rights, protections, and more...tough luck, and no more crumbs for you!

But the little guy who breaks his back to earn his daily bread, wants his dignity and respect more than the crumbs from the "capitalist pig" taking advantage of him.

Trickle-down is bullshit!

Crumbs aren't going to raise the standard of living for the working class. 

We need living wages, social and income equality, and workers rights and protections to keep the little guy from being bulldozed by the rich and powerful. 

Certainly, there are many rich and powerful people that are good and generous, but not everyone is that that way. 

And we can't have mistreatment of people by those wielding a whip over them.

Yes, workers need to perform and conduct themselves professionally--that is their job.

But workers shouldn't be taken advantage of with poor wages, little to no benefits, and miserable working conditions (including bullying, harassment, and hostile work environments). 

Remember that in life tables can get turned and the rich and powerful can become the poor and the weak.  

Therefore, pay and treat your workers as you would want to be paid and treated. 

No one is so big as to be untouchable by G-d. 

Money and power will not save anyone from illness, accidents, disasters, and misfortune.

The only thing that does save people is good deeds, kind words, compassion, faith, and prayer. 

Crumbs are for the birds, dignity and respect are for the people!

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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December 2, 2017

Our Forefathers Were Planners And So Are We

Thank you to Rabbi Haim Ovadia for his speech today at Magen David Synagogue on the topic of how our forefathers in the Bible were planners and so are we today. (Note: some of the thoughts below are directly from Rabbi Ovadia and others are added by me.)

In the Biblical story of Jacob, there are numerous examples teaching us the importance of planning.

1) Shepherds vs Hunters:  Jacob was a shepherd versus his brother Esau who was a hunter.  Shepherds have a long-term outlook with their animals, tending to them and caring for them over the long-term, while hunters go out for the kills to eat for that day. 

2) Working for Rachel and Leah vs. Selling the Pottage:  Jacob worked for 7 years for Rachel and another 7 for Leah--this was the long-term view and commitment to work for Lavan in order to marry his daughters. In comparison, Esau came in hungry from the field and sold his birthright for the immediate gratification of a bowl of pottage.

3) The Plan to Take Esau's Blessing: Rebekah worked with Jacob to prepare meat for Isaac and put hair and clothes on Jacob that made him look and seem like Esau, so Jacob could get the blessing from Isaac, while Esau was still out hunting in the field. 

4) Dividing his Camp in Two: Jacob sent messengers (i.e. reconnaissance) to see and plan for what Esau was doing in coming to meet him. When the messengers returned with word that Esau was coming with 400 men, Jacob planned for the worst, dividing his camp in two, so should one peril the other could survive. Additionally, Jacob prayed and sent rounds of gifts to Esau and also presented himself to Esau before his beloved wife Rachel and son Joseph in the safety of the rear. 

Long-term planning has been fundamental to the Jewish people throughout history and to modern times:

1) "People of the Book" - The Jewish people are known as "the people off the book" for the devotion to Torah study, learning, and continually investing in education, which is a view for long-term investment and success.   

2) Good Deeds to Inherit The World To Come - Fundamental to Jewish belief is that this earthly world is just a "corridor" to the World to Come.  We do charity and good deeds, not only because it's the right thing to do (certainly!), but also because we believe that these merits will help us long-term when we pass, and go to the spiritual next world, Heaven. 

3) Believing and Praying for the Return to The Promised Land - For 2,000, the Jewish people never gave up hoping and praying on the deliverance of G-d's promise to return them from exile to the Promised Land.  This was a long-term view that helped sustain the Jewish people throughout their far-flung exile and through millennium of persecution and genocide.
Ezekiel 11:17: "Thus says the Lord God: I will gather you from the peoples, and assemble you out of the countries where you have been scattered, and I will give you the land of Israel."
4) Waiting 6,000 years for the Messiah: For 6,000 years, the Jews have maintain faith and plan for the coming of the Messiah, the rebuilding of the Temple and the ultimate redemption of the world.  
"(Ani Ma'amin) I believe in complete faith in the coming of the Messiah...Even tough he may tarry, none-the-less, I will wait for him."
Like our forefathers, it is critical to maintain faith in the Almighty and practice long-term planning as keys to success in life. 

If we take the long-view, we can overcome so many short-term challenges, obstacles and even suffering--believing, praying planning, and doing for a better, brighter future. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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December 1, 2017

Sexual Acting Act

There is now a seemingly endless slate of sexual harassment allegations against some of the biggest shots from Hollywood to Washington, D.C. 

From the longest-serving Congressmen to the biggest star of morning television news, it seems that no one is sacrosanct.

Is it just that "absolute power corrupts absolutely"?

Or maybe it's more broadly to be stated, as the Rabbi noted on Shabbat, that: 
"G-d created man perfectly imperfect!"
Men and women are created with sexual urges to procreate, bond emotionally and physically, and enjoy each other. 

Men tend to be the stronger than women and are able to have children into old age, and perhaps, it can be said, have the bigger "urge to merge.

Sure, there are women who are normally sexually active, and also those who are perhaps hypersexual (nympomaniac, "cougars," etc.) and who commit sexual abuse too.

In fact, it was interesting that Wikipedia actually breaks rape down into 4 gender on gender categories:

- Rape of females by males
- Rape of females by females
- Rape of males by females
- Rape of males by males

Issues with physical intimacy and sexual harassment and violence span both sexes, however, it is also clear that:
"Rape affects women disproportionately, with the majority of people convicted being men."

In the U.S., the statistics show gross levels of sexual violence to women:

- 1 in 5 women will be raped in their lifetime (vs 1 in 71 men).

- 91% of victims of rape and sexual assault are female.

Also, particularly disturbing is the number of girls and boys targeted:

- 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be sexually abused before age 18. 

What type of society have we created, where women and children are not generally safe?

It's interesting to me in Judaism that there is a recognition of sexual impulse, and that some Hasidim actually wear a "gartel" belt when praying to physically and spiritually separate the upper half of the body with the head and heart, from the lower half with the more animal instincts.

In short, the head and heart need to control the animal part of people. 

Unfortunately, this doesn't seem to be happening in so many cases. 

Stunned from the outpouring of sexual allegations nearly everyday now, I said to my wife: 
"What is wrong with these people? They have it all: position, power, and wealth; and yet, they throw it all away --including their integrity and reputations--for a five minute lay in the hay!"

Is the animal instinct too strong for the person to control? That just isn't going to cut it.

As a functioning society, it's got be completely unacceptable for people to act out sexually or otherwise violently hurt their neighbors. 

It's time for social reform and for the animals to be controlled by the people. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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November 30, 2017

@Sawgrass Mills Mall










Thought these alligators were pretty cute at Sawgrass Mills in Sunrise, Florida. 

Sawgrass with over 300 stores and outlets is the 10th largest mall in America. 

And much of it is very upscale--apparently, the economy is very good for some people.

By the time, we got out of there, my head was spinning with sampling the stores and merchandise.

It was a delightful retreat to pass some nice outdoor eateries by the Colonnade with these creative and colorful alligators. 

Remember most of this place was built on Everglades swamp, so there are plenty of real alligators to go around. 

My favorites from these:

#4 - Forever Glades

#7 - The colorful blue, pink, and orange gator.

#9 - Relax and Rejoice

What are yours?

Not sure, why I took #1--the watermelon alligator--in the other direction, but it adds effect and I hope you enjoyed these. ;-)

(Source Photos: Andy Blumenthal)
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November 29, 2017

Dysfunction Society

So the world is continuing to go nuts--and it's like everyone is behaving like Negan from The Walking Dead!

North Korea has achieved ICBM capability with a missile launch yesterday to 2,800 miles altitude—11 times higher than the International Space Station—giving Axis of Evil, North Korea the ability to now hit Washington, D.C.!

At the same time, a career civil servant tries to pull a fast one on the Trump Administration—challenging the President’s right to appoint an Acting Director over the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau, which is part of the Executive Branch of government—and hoping that the Senate then won’t confirm Trump’s new appointee for Director, all of which would leave her in charge of CFPB for the next 3 years!  Of course, the courts don’t see it her way, but as the Wall Street Journal noted her coup attempt is definitely something to take note of in democratic, America.

In the background, the Democrats and Republicans continue to beat each other silly and senseless, and not only with stalled legislation on almost every front from Healthcare to Immigration, but now minority leaders Schumer and Pelosi are even refusing to meet with the President over enacting a government budget leading us to another looming government shutdown in December…we can’t seem to keep the government functional or even running for the most powerful nation on Earth.   

Finally, Bitcoin—an artificial computer-generated currency, advanced 1,000-fold this year to hit $10,000! Talking about another financial bubble reminiscent of the manic investment in tulips in the 17th century. What’s the value of Bitcoin or sunflowers? Whatever you want it to be! It’s not about the technology, which may be great, but rather the phony valuing of cryptocurrency, which few understand, and we all know how these bubbles end.  

So overall, we have national security, the administration of our government, and economic stability all in grossly abnormal territory. 

When things get this crazy, eventually you can be sure that something will first start to crack and then potentialy really break, and when it does, will we see more Negan with his brain-bashing baseball bat, Lucille? ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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November 28, 2017

Turkish Lights




Just wanted to share these beautiful Turkish lights that I found in Hollywood, Florida. 

We had a delicious lunch at L'Chaim Asian Cuisine and Steak House--the honey chicken was to die for--OMG, it was like candy!

Afterwards, we walked about the shopping strip there and came across this store with these amazing lights. 

It was a hookah (not hookers!) store which I am completely not interested in, having never smoked a cigarette or anything my entire life--true!

But these light were gorgeous. 

I took these pictures and was even tempted to buy one--loved the colors and happiness of them. 

Held off for now, too many nice things, especially since we then followed up with a day trip to Sawgrass Mills today--what an unbelievably huge shopping and outlet mall.

I know it must definitely be time to head home soon, because the shopping experience down here is wearing me down--just kidding, but it's definitely a paradise not only for the beach, but for the shopping fun as well. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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November 27, 2017

Technology Forecast 2018



Here are Andy Blumenthal's technology forecast and priorities for 2018.

1. Medical Computing - Continue the significant progress and solve the great illnesses of Cancer, Parkinson's, ALS, Alzheimers, and so many other horrible and debilitating diseases. Along with longevity, we need to alleviate human suffering and create a higher quality of living for all people.

2. Environmental Computing - Develop more and better clean technologies that can eliminate the Great Plastic Garbage Patch and other heart-breaking garbage dumps and environmental disasters around the world--clean up, breakdown, recycle, and create a more sustainable and beautiful planet for everyone to enjoy.

3. Quantum Computing - Achieve the ultimate processing power and speed of quantum computing to enable us to solve the greatest of mankind's problems including WMD, and cyber security threats as well as the overcome the transportation and colonization challenges to reach, explore, and settle the depths of outer space.
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Motivation, Hard Work, and Blessings

So I am incredibly impressed at how talented so many people are. 

And I'll tell you, people are motivated to get ahead and they are working hard to do it. 

I took Lyft to a couple of destinations down here in Florida. 

Two drivers that I had just yesterday were both from relatively poor backgrounds in Jamaica. 

And both were incredible in what they've been able to accomplish for themselves.  

One was a senior communications technologist with a large cable company.

Another was a pretty impressive and successful Reggae music star. 

Both had come to this country and made amazing lives for themselves. 

In meeting these incredible people, I learned that everyone is driving Uber and Lyft now-a-days. :)

Both were driving as they told me just to keep busy on their days off--because they "hate being bored!"

More importantly, I learned that despite whatever background, hardships, or adversity you come from or have experienced, you can make it in your own way! 

Motivation and hard work coupled with mercy and blessings from, and faith in the Almighty Above are an incredible combination that can propel people towards incredible levels of success in life that maybe many would've never even really dreamed of. 

There is no easy road--just one filled with trying your best, plenty of obstacles, stumbles, and falls, and then picking yourself up and trying again and again until hopefully and with G-d's help you break the bonds and chains keeping you from your amazing levels of potential and contribution to this world. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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November 26, 2017

You Are The Working Class

So I like to speak with people about their lives.

Today at breakfast, there was a gentlemen working the egg bar making omelettes for people.

Recognizing him, I said "You've been here a number of years?"

He responds, "Yeah, but I want to leave here!"

I was sort of taken aback at his bluntness, and inquired further, "Why, is everything okay?"

He goes, "Not really. They'll only give me work 6 to 7 hours a day, and I can't make a living on 32 hours a week!"

I asked innocently, "Do you have a second job or something?"

He says, "No, this is it," and proceeded to make the next person's omelette.

Feeling sort of shitty bad for him...

Another lady who works the tables says to us: "I won't be seeing you."

I ask, "Why--are you off the next few days?"

She says, "No, I don't come back until next Saturday--I only work the weekends here, and somewhere else on weekdays."

Wondering about this, I say: "So you work 7 days a week?"

She answers, "Yes, year-round!"

After we said goodbye until next time, I looked at my wife grimacing that this women has to work 7 days a week, 365 days a year, just to earn a basic living.

I'll tell you the system is broken.

Shareholders and corporate chieftains squeeze profits and earnings per share out of their companies while the workers can barely get by.

The workers are not part of the companies they labor for--they are merely hired hands who will be replaced in a moment by another minimum wage worker if they but open their mouths to protest one word.

Slavery did not end in building the Great Pyramids of Egypt or in the plantations of the South--the average worker is still just a slave.

Employee engagement and development and "Human Capital" are terms organizations use to make themselves and their workers believe that there is real caring and unity going on.

But we know the truth by how people are treated with harshness, disrespect, disdain, and even abuse--sexual and otherwise!

Yeah, are you really valued or are you a wage slave showered with empty platitudes of unity and caring.

Real leadership is genuine compassion, empathy, and helping people both inside and outside the organization--not just a guise, disguise, mask for making just another dollar cracking the whip on the backs of the underclass.

All people are important.

All people deserve a living wage.

All people are entitled to work with dignity and respect.

All people need to be apart of a system that is fair and equitable.

Care for your brothers and sisters for one day you will be called before them in the court of Heaven and they will speak the final truth to power. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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November 25, 2017

I Drive The Tractor

Thank you so much to Rabbi Schneur Kaplan for his wonderful speech today in Downtown Jewish Center Chabad synagogue, Fort Lauderdale.

He told the story about the boy who grew up in Israel as a chasid, but later left chasidism to work the land--he drove a tractor!

Years later, the young man rediscovers his religion and goes back to yeshiva to study, and he is excellent and surpasses many of his peers.

Eventually, he ends up in a one-on-one with the Rebbe--and he waits with baited breath for what the great Rebbe will tell him that will guide his life--will he become a great scholar, Rabbi, shaliach, or head of a Yeshiva.

Then the Rebbe speaks, and says:
"You will be a tractor driver"

The young man is shocked and goes back to studying Torah with even more determination and harder than ever.

Once again, he comes before the Rebbe, and he is anticipating what he will say.

Again, the Rebbe looks deep into his soul and says:
"You will drive a tractor!"

Sure enough, the man now understanding that he has to meet his particular fate head on, goes back to working the Holy Land and driving the tractor.

But in so doing he is able to do outreach to tens of thousands of people who otherwise would have never had the opportunity to be brought close to Hashem through Chasidism.

The message was that we are not all destined to be clones, robots, or do the same thing in life.

The Torah is our guide to serve Hashem and do what is right.

But each of us has our own mission in serving Him and we can achieve greatness and Holiness even when we drive a tractor or do whatever we do.

I am not a Rabbi, but in my own way, I try to raise my family--be a good husband, father, and prior a good son--and also to serve with integrity and a good example in my professional and educational endeavors.

It's okay that I'm not a Chabad Rabbi doing outreach--that's not me--although I did meet someone today from my elementary school, Manhattan Day School, that did become just that and we had a nice kiddish lunch with him and caught up together after services.

I am me--and I am okay with me.

I don't have to be someone else--anyone else.

I can do good being me--and that is what I will try to do with each and every breath of every day.

Whether I drive a tractor (or this cool VW van with a big smiley face), we all serve our Maker.  ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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November 24, 2017

The Long Arm Of The Law


This bird was hilarious running into and out of the ocean waves. 

Over and over again, it's little puttering feet running toward and then just escaping the water rushing to the shore. 

In a way, I thought that I'd like to be as playful and happy as this little bird running and having fun in the water. 

But when I showed the video to my wife, she got a different message from it. 

She said, "you can't outrun the long arm of the law!"

The (jail)bird runs towards trouble, but then running away, the waves of justice invariably catch up with it. 

I think with all the scandals in the news again lately from Hollywood to Washington D.C., we are all sort of stunned by the famous and hugely successful people who are now being caught up in inappropriate sex scandals and all sorts of abuse of women and men!

It's wrong that these people use their wealth, fame, and power to hurt other people, period. 

There are no excuses, no lapses of judgement, especially when it seems to happen over and over again to the same people. 

Put your "package" back in your pants, and behave like upright human beings and not like a bunch of wild animals.

Yes, perhaps it's one thing to be playful like the birds in the ocean waves, but it's another to be part of the list of scumbags--if true as accused--like Anthony Weiner, Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, Louis C.K., Al Franken, John Conyers, and more. 

You can pay off the women with jobs and settlements, but you can't escape the rushing water of ultimate judgement for your unbridled play and tarnished souls. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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November 23, 2017

Chocolate Turkey Delight

So this is the kind of dessert turkey that will sweeten your Thanksgiving dinner.

Gobs and gobs of white, milk, and dark chocolate.

And they actually shaped it all like a turkey.

Sort of cute, but also sort of sugary disgusting, no?

Generally, I'm not a huge fan of eating turkey either.

Maybe when they boil it in oil, and it's cooked through and through, it actually comes out juicy and not so bad.

But give me a nice piece of beef, and I'll be your pal forever!

A colleague who was a veterinarian and worked inspecting meat plants overseas told me some things about the cleanliness though that made my skin crawl.

"The cleanliness outside of the U.S. is WAY DIFFERENT than here!"--and not in a good way.

Even in places that do maintain clean facilities and healthy animals, the way that "they make the sausage" sounded so unappetizing.

It made me think of all those PETA and other commercials that show the chickens and other caged birds in those crowded and filthy (and diseased) conditions...even aside from the cruelty, it's enough to make you cringe.

He said they mash the meat until it's like just a pink paste that gets shot into the tubes for hot dogs and things like that.

"It looks disgusting!"

Also, they put parts of the animal in that are basically leftover meats from the head and other parts of the animal that did NOT sound desirable at all. 

I'm thinking to myself...FROM THE HEAD.

Uh, no more hot dogs for me, thank you.

I think that I'll stick with a nice steak or burger or something KOSHER and palatable.

You can have your turkey and your sausage and eat it, but not me! ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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November 22, 2017

It's About The People

The older (not that old) that I get, the more I realize that life and success is all about the people. 

Whether it's our families, friends, and colleagues--it's how we treat people and the relationships we form that count--and that enable us to achieve success together!

Many people just count their money instead of counting their blessings of hearts and souls. 

But while we certainly need a certain amount of $$$ to live, we really need ❤ to thrive. 

Today, before the Thanksgiving holiday, I just took a little time to walk around and talk with people here, thank them for their good work and friendships, and wish them a good holiday. 

It was such a little thing, but honestly I felt so good doing it. 

I am thankful for so many things this year, including all the wonderful people in my life who do so much to make my life joyous and fulfilling, but I am also grateful to G-d for continuing to open my eyes to what and who(s) that really count. 

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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November 21, 2017

We're A Bunch Of Chemicals+

So it's pretty well known that we are a combination of nature and nurture. 

Nature is our genetics and our hormones--it's sort of the innate material that make up who we are. 

Nurture, of course, is all those external influencers, like parents, friends, teachers, religious figures, experiences, etc.--that shape us. 

In a way, it's hard to think of ourselves as a product of nature and nature, because that sort of removes our conscious free choice in the whole matter of who we are and what we do. 

For example, if someone is a raging lunatic, sociopath, serial killer, because they have a brain or hormonal defect and grew up in a broken and abusive home(s), then the question is, well how can you really or fully blame them for their actions--is it really their actions? 

Don't we have to ask ourselves how much control does a person have over themselves if they are physically and environmentally predisposed to be a certain way--even a very socially unacceptable and hurtful way?

This is where the courts and justice system come into play in looking at things such as whether the person is even competent to stand trial (e.g. the insanity defense) or are there mitigating circumstances to reduce the person's culpability.

I would imagine it is quite difficult to exactly judge the level of self control that a person is or should be able to exert given their individual set of nature and nurture.  

And even if the person isn't fully in control of themselves, does that help the victim or their families who are still left reeling from the harm and/or loss caused to them by the perpetrator?

Yet it is uncontested that people are driven by nature and nurture, and just in today's Wall Street Journal, there was a discussion of the influence of a person's hormone levels on their personality and behavior.

- Generally, more testosterone makes a person aggressive, while more estrogen makes them sensitive. 

- Similarly, dopamine makes people more energetic, while serotonin makes them more sociable. 

So there is nothing inherently "wrong" with you for being a certain way...that's your makeup, but you are responsible for how you manage yourself given what you've got.   

In other words, where you have lemons, you've got to make lemonade!

In a nutshell, we are truly a combination of our genetic makeup, a bunch of chemicals, some environmental molding, and the exertion of our willpower, faith, and belief in what's right and wrong. 

What happens when you mix these altogether, you get you and only you! ;-)

(Source photo: here with attribution to skeeze)
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November 20, 2017

Hammer and Nail

Often, we have a one size fits all orientation to life. 
"To a hammer, everything looks like a nail."

We try to solve fresh daily problems, yet everything we are going through is seen through our preset filters and mindsets. 

In many cases, we are simply and undeniably biased, mistakenly believing that what worked in the past or for particular challenges will always work in the future and for all our problems. 

We stereotype people and races and see them as either "the good guys" or "the bad guys"--but there's no grey in there to further differentiate.  

Also, we work in a comfortable zone of blind routine thinking that we wish it's all as simple as wash, rinse, and repeat.

But while some die-hard habits and lessons learned in life are very valuable and should be mentally recorded and referenced, seeing life through a single, or even a few handy-dandy, filters can prove disastrous when things or times change. 

For example, one big criticism of our dealing in Washington is that:
"Politicians, like generals, have a tendency to fight the last war."

Instead, if we evaluate the nuances of each person and particular situation, we can work to get a more detailed evaluation, and potentially be able to fine-tune approaches for what needs to be done, and how, with each and every one, accordingly. 

Chucking a batman belt approach to just using whatever tools are immediately available, can facilitate a broader and more creative approach to problem-solving. 

Sure, to a certain degree, we are creatures of habit--and we intuitively rely on what's worked in the past, and reject and shun what hasn't--but past experiences do not necessarily foretell future successes. 

If we don't stay agile and resilient, we can easily get blown away by the situation or the competition. 

There is always a new challenge to test us and someone coming up who may be better, faster, or stronger that wants to try and take us on or down. 

A shotgun approach, in lieu of a more precise surgical strike, can result in a lot of collateral damage and maybe even missing the mark altogether. 

Think, think, think. 

Focus on what needs to get done--apply lessons learned as applicable, but also look for new sources and methods to build a bigger and more versatile tool chest.

In the walking dead, a hammer to the head works fairly well on all Zombies, but sometimes there are too many zombies in the hoard or even more dangerous living people and situations to attend to. ;-)

(Source Photo: here with attribution to stevepb)
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November 19, 2017

White Lie, Black Truth

No this is not another civil or human rights post, although I like writing those as well. 

Rather, this is about how we use our words to help and not hurt others. 
"White Lie, 
Black Truth"

Yes, we all know that it's wrong to lie (it's even in the 10 Commandments). 

Except, of course, when we need to tell a "white lie" in order to keep someone's feelings from getting hurt.

For example, I may not like your new haircut, but when you ask me glowingly what I think, instead of telling you how it's too short or whatever, I tell you, "Yeah, it looks great!"

Then, there is the "black truth."

That's when we swallow hard and tell the  truth to someone, even though it may hurt their feelings, it's ultimately for their good. 

For example, your child may be going of course with their lives, and while you don't want to hurt their feelings, you know you need to tell them the truth in order to help them course-correct.

Telling lies or truth can be hurtful to people, but a white lie isn't really bad, because it's used to protect someone's feeling, the black truth, is also not so dark and foreboding, because there are times when you need to get past the superficial, be real with someone, and tell them the hard truth in order to help them in a very practical sense. 

That's one of life's most difficult lessons, that not everything is black or white. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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