December 13, 2018

A Social System that Inspires Pride and Shame


This story continues to fascinate me. 

China's social credit system started in 2015. 

China scores individuals based on public data (social media, financial, insurance, health, shopping, dating, and more), and they have people that act as "information collectors" (i.e. neighborhood watchers) who record what their neighbors are doing--good and bad. 

Each individual starts with a 1,000 points. 

If you do good things in Chinese society--helping people, cleaning up, being honest--you get points added. 

If you do bad things in China--fight with people, make a mess, be dishonest--you get points deducted. 

Fail below 1,000 points and you are in trouble--and can get blacklisted!

A good score is something to be proud of and a bad score is something that shames people to hopefully change for the better. 

But more than that, your social score has tangible social impacts--it can determine your ability to get into certain schools, obtain better jobs, homes, loans/mortgages, high-speed internet, and even high-speed train tickets/airplane flights. 

While maybe well intentioned, certainly, this has the very real potential to become a surveillance state and the embodiment of "Big Brother"!

On one hand, it seems like a great thing to drive people and society to be better. Isn't that what we do with recognizing and rewarding good behavior and with our laws and justice system in punishing bad behavior?

Yet, to me this type of all-encompassing social credit system risks too much from a freedom and privacy perspective. Should the government and all your neighbors be privy to your most intimate doings and dealings?  And should people be controlled to such an extent that literally everything you do is monitored and measured and counted for/against you?

It seems to me that the price of sacrificing your very personal liberty is too high to make in order to push people towards positive social goals.

Guiding people is one thing, and rewarding outstanding acts and punishing horrific ones is understandable, but getting into people's knickers is another. 

This type of social credit system really borders on social control and moves us towards a very disturbing, dystopian future. ;-)
Share/Save/Bookmark

December 12, 2018

Loneliness Is Death

There is a very important article in the Wall Street Journal today on the link of loneliness to death. 

Frightening loneliness statistics:

- One in 11 Americans over age 50 "lacks a spouse, partner, or living child."

- More than 1 in 4 baby boomers is divorced or never married.  

- 1 out of every 6 people lives alone. 

Research indicates that loneliness leads to early death. 

The impact of loneliness is equivalent to:

- Smoking 15 cigarettes a day

- Drinking 6 alcoholic beverages a day

Loneliness is worse for mortality than:

- Obesity 

- Physical activity

"The effect of isolation is extraordinarily powerful...we have to address loneliness," says the former administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. 

Whether you are extroverted or introverted, we all need human interaction, sharing, caring, touch, and love.  

Truly, no man is an island!

Those that are stranded on loneliness island need to escape it and make their way back to human civilization.

Alone our lives are dull and stunted; but together, we have the inherent social dynamics to be able to experientially learn, grow, change and mature. 

Alone we die--together we live. 

It's not just power in numbers, it's life itself. 

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
Share/Save/Bookmark

December 11, 2018

You Can't Eat The Elephant

So there is a popular saying:

"You can't eat the elephant in one bite."

The idea is that you need to break things down in little pieces to get them down. 

If you try to eat the elephant in one bite, I assume that your mouth would easily split in half and your face would literally explode. 

Similarly with projects, if you try to get to the nirvana end state in one fell swoop , the project explodes with complexity and risk, and you will fail miserably.

Thus, managing requirements and phasing them in chunks is critical to projects' succeeding. 

Sure, customers want to get the Promised Land immediately--where the projects have all the "bells and whistles"--but you don't want to sacrifice getting the train on the tracks for the accouterments either. 

Think big, but act small--little by little, one step at a time, you can actually eat an elephant. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
Share/Save/Bookmark

December 9, 2018

The Dark Side

Thought this was a fascinating piece in the Wall Street Journal's Review Section called, "The Dark Triad and The Evolution of Jerks."

Antisocial Personality Disorder is where people exhibit three primary symptoms:

1) Narcissism - Excessive focus on oneself.
2) Machiavellianism - Manipulating others for one's own gain.
3) Psychopathy - Overall disregard for others, including impaired empathy and remorse

Together, these 3 traits make up "The Dark Triad" or perhaps they  come across as being from the dark side, because of how badly they can treat others. 

Studies have shown that these three traits are positively correlated with one another, and that more than 10% of the population has these. 

In reading a little more online at WebMD, I learned that the difference between a psychopath and a sociopath is that while they share similar traits, a psychopath typically acts as if they have no conscience, while a sociopath acts with a weak conscience. 

"At worst, they're cold, calculating killers," while at the less extreme, they may be okay with hurting others to get what they want. 

- Moreover, while "psychopaths are more cold-hearted and calculating," sociopaths are "hot-headed" and "act without thinking how others will be affected."

Another study found that people with these traits often "experienced low-quality or irregular parental care." Thus a harsh or unstable childhood may cause these symptoms. 

Whether these people come from the dark side, are going to the dark side, or just are scary and hurtful, it is important to be able to recognize who you may be dealing with.

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
Share/Save/Bookmark

December 8, 2018

A Blind Eye and A Wink

Please see my new article in The Times of Israel called, "The UNjust United Nations."
This week the United Nations failed to pass a General Assembly resolution designating Hamas a terrorist organization, despite Hamas being designated as such by the United States for 25 years already. What the United States knows intrinsically and based on the day-to-day terror activities of Hamas, the corrupt and anti-Semitic United Nations fails to acknowledge or, perhaps worse yet, condones.
Certainly, the UN is not living up to its charter to maintain peace and security and uphold human rights...with the UN, it's just the opposite! ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
Share/Save/Bookmark

December 7, 2018

Nice Coat!

Just wanted to share this awesome coat by Paris designer, Yves Saint Laurent. 

The colors are so standout, and the plushness is amazing from head to toe...beautiful.

The label is a little fuzzy, but I think the original price on this was over $30,000!

And even at deep discount it's close to 10 grand!

I wonder if it's real fur?  ;-)

Shabbat Shalom!

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
Share/Save/Bookmark

December 6, 2018

An Alarm Clock - My Gag Gift

So we had our holiday party today, and guess what I got?

Yes, a Sharp Twin Bell Alarm Clock!

Of course, with each gag gift came a mini-speech by some of the managers as why they choose this gift for you.

So of course, I am consistently the first one in every morning and the person who opens up for everyone else--reliable, dependable, and hard-working Andy! :-)

Some of my other colleagues got a hula hoop, a toy toolkit, a mini teapot, a little school bus, coffee mugs with funny sayings, a rock and roll trophy, mini boxing gloves, stuffed pillows with smileys, and more. 

Each came with its own unique story.

Pizza, beer, and bowling were part of the festivities. 

It's nice when people appreciate each other and can have some fun. 

Thanks for the holiday party and the alarm clock.  ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
Share/Save/Bookmark

December 5, 2018

Stained Glass Majesty

There is something about stained glass which is so beautiful and amazing. 

It's not only artistic and colorful, but also it's a magical combination of opaqueness and translucence.

It provides cover and privacy from the outside world, yet it plays with the light that comes in through it to give a wonderful effect to any room.

If I could, I would make every room in every building with stained glass. 

I would bask in the light and the color. 

It would feel warm and holy--the light of G-d on me. 

It's as if G-d and His holy host are streaming in from the Heavens, and surrounding me all about. 

I feel lifted up in space and time stops, all is safe and wonderful in the world. 

Beautiful and holy spiritual energy celebrating, dancing, and singing all around me. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
Share/Save/Bookmark

December 4, 2018

Celebrating Chanukah At Ulpan

It was so nice tonight at Ulpan. 

Morah Degani had a special night planned for us tonight to celebrate Chanukah. 

She called me up to light the candles for the 3rd night and recite the blessing. 

Then she played Chanukah songs and we sang along to the Hebrew words on the screen. 

We later read and talked about the story of Chanukah and all the meaning and significance of it for having freedom of religion/worship and to maintain our religion and not assimilate. 

It was a beautiful way to learn and practice our Hebrew. 

Happy 3rd night of Chanukah! ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
Share/Save/Bookmark

December 3, 2018

News - Real and Imagined

I thought this was a funny Dilbert comic that a colleague had by their office. 
News--My Brain Hurts.

It's not only the 24/7/365 news cycle that make it often extremely repetitive and monotonous--where "breaking news" is the same news from 5 hours ago-sometimes even from 5 days ago. Ho hum, boring. 

But it's also the forced news, where there always has to be a story even when there isn't one worth taking about. Every reporter has to earn their keep too. Oh no, not another cat rescue from a backyard tree! 

Hey, in the end its ratings--that drives advertising, which of course pays the bills, so don't hold your breath as to how long we can continue to talk about the 2016 election, the Kavanaugh hearings, the Mueller Investigation, and so on. It's the news gifts that keep on giving and giving. 

Sometimes, it's about getting different angles on a story--however, more often it seems like just the same old, same old--how many ways can you say, he did it or he didn't do it?

Then there is the fake news and alternative facts, where if there isn't a story (or one that supports the sponsor's world filter), then maybe--just maybe--we need to create one and get people unsettled or use it for social control (remember the "Echo Chamber"). And for sure, let's not forget the power of a good conspiracy theory! People certainly are gullible, right? 

This all reminds me of a famous saying by Lenin:
There are decades when nothing happens, and there are weeks when decades happen.

In some ways maybe it was better to just have the morning and nightly news without all the B.S. in between, because...there are decades when nothing consequential happens. 

I guess we all just are waiting around for the weeks when decades happen, but when that sh*t hits the fan, who says there will even be any news to be had. 

No wonder, Dilbert says his brain hurts--doesn't yours? ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
Share/Save/Bookmark

December 2, 2018

On The First Night Of Chanukah

Please see my article in The Times of Israel called, "The Lesson of the Candy Lane Menorah."
It was a beautiful ushering in the first night of Chanukah by Chabad of Bethesda, Maryland. The "candy" menorah that they were going to use was somehow destroyed, but Chabad came with a spare--they are terrific...even when things go wrong, miracles can happen, but we have to be prepared like Chabad was tonight.

Happy First Night of Chanukah to everyone! ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Share/Save/Bookmark

Triad of Determinants: Nature, Nurture, and Soul

Please see my new article in The Times of Israel called, "Nature, Nurture, and Soul."
We are not just what nature and nurture make us–but rather, there is a third leg of this triad of factors that make us who we are, and that third and most important element is that we each have a soul. The soul of each person guides us to choose between right and wrong, good and evil, and sacred and impure, and to not just give in to our weaknesses, which each person has.

Hope you enjoy the article! ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
Share/Save/Bookmark

November 30, 2018

Life Is Like A Sailboat

Planning is a critical aspect of making progress toward your goals.

As they say;
If you fail to plan, plan to fail. 

However, planning is subject to life--and life happens!

One colleague of mine compared it to a sailboat, and our dialogue went something like this:

You set out on a course. But the wind and ocean current takes you here and there. Even as you try to steer the boat with the sails and rudder, sometimes you land on Gilligan's Island!


Hence, life is like a sailboat.  ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
Share/Save/Bookmark

November 29, 2018

Say YES!

Really liked this sign on my colleague's desk.

It says:
Start With Yes

I remember an old boss who used to say:
Don't make me get through no to get to yes. 

The idea as another colleague put it is to:
Keep a smile on your face and your focus on the customer; everything else takes care of itself. 

Basically, it's all our jobs to make sure that the customer's needs are being met. 

That doesn't mean that we don't need to differentiate between requirements and desirements or that we need to deliver the yacht in the first go around.

As a 4th colleague put it:
The customer is in the water. They want the yacht. But I can give them a boat. It gets them to where they want to go, and they no longer need to swim. We can work our way up to a yacht.

Good analogy analogy and good things to keep in mind for customer service excellence! ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
Share/Save/Bookmark

November 28, 2018

Don't Just Sit There

Really liked this robot (Cubebot) in the store.

Love the colors and that you can change the pose in all different ways. 

This robot is pretty darn cute!

It's funny in this sitting position though.

Just want to say: 
Don't just sit there, do something!

Probably not that long before robots will be all over the place.

We'll wish for just a little privacy from the darn things, just like from our 24/7 computer gadgets that we can't let go of now.

Yes, we're hopelessly dependent on the technology--it's so helpful and we love it, but we can't turn it off. 

They won't be sitting for long. 

Robots--big and small, alone and in swarms, male and female, strong and intricate, smart and simple, worker and homemaker, doer and helper, companion and lover, where will it stop--it won't. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
Share/Save/Bookmark

November 27, 2018

@Museum of Contemporary Art












(Source Photos: Andy Blumenthal)

Share/Save/Bookmark

November 26, 2018

Boycott Airbnb

Please see my new article in The Times of Israel called, "Free, Free Israel."
While the Palestinians continue to terrorize Israelis not only with barrages of rockets, terror tunnels, vehicular rammings, shootings, stabbings, and suicide bombings, but also with their advocacy and pressure for a Boycott, Divestiture, and Sanctions (BDS) movement against us. Companies like Airbnb are actually falling for it and joining the terrorists against U.S. ally and friend, the democratic State of Israel.
It's time for Jewish people all over the world to demand "Free, Free Israel" and "End the terrorism!"

(Source Photo: here with attribution to Pixabay)
Share/Save/Bookmark

November 25, 2018

Who Is More Religious?

Please see my new article in The Times of Israel called, "Being Super Duper Kosher."
Of course, I am sure many good people are trying to do the right thing and genuinely practice to be better servants of Hashem. However, this should never become an excuse to use religious practices to misguidedly “compete”–hurt or shame–and somehow “one up” their neighbor’s religiosity or status as fellow Jews. That would be to erroneously think that G-d can’t see all His children as good and deserving in their own ways, even though the creator can certainly see what is in the heart and in the doings of all of us.

Hope this resonates with many of you who are kosher but feel unfairly (mis)judged by all the latest variations these days. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
Share/Save/Bookmark

43-Year Old Bar Mitzvah

Please read my article in The Times of Israel called, "Bring Every Jew Back."
Today in a beautiful Chabad synagogue here in Florida, the Rabbi called to the Torah a bar mitzvah.  But in this case, the bar mitzvah "boy" was a 43-year old man!

Read what happened and hope you enjoy! ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
Share/Save/Bookmark

November 23, 2018

Carlos Ghosn - Success and Failure


My thoughts on Carlos Ghosn--the head of Nissan, Mitsubishi, and Renault.

What can we learn from his rise to power and his fall from grace?

Basically...be a real leader and not a schmuck!

Be modest.  Be humble.  Give to others.  Do Good!  ;-)
Share/Save/Bookmark

November 22, 2018

What Did The Turkey Say To The Chicken?


"Misery loves company" -- even with a chicken and turkey.

Someone always has it worse.  

Too funny!  ;-)

Thank you to my son-in-law for sharing these.  
Share/Save/Bookmark

Black Thursday For Shopaholics


So Black Friday Shopping extravaganza that used to happen the day after Thanksgiving has now turned into Black Thursday mega-shopping on Thanksgiving Thursday.

The huge Sawgrass Mills Mall in Sunrise, Florida is open 10 AM to 1 AM!

The mall was packed with people and the deals were pretty fantastic.  

Under Armour was 50% off!

True Religion was buy 1 get 1 free!

Almost every store seemed to be 1/2 price off already reduced prices.

What I liked in this video I took here was the WOW! display around the entire entrance to this Century 21 apparel store.

Watch the whole thing...it is really cool what they did with this frontage real estate for this store. 

Great job on the marketing and very inviting!

So lots of compulsive shopping, but not so much turkey today. ;-)

(Source video: Andy Blumenthal)
Share/Save/Bookmark

November 21, 2018

My Aching Back

So I pulled something in my back recently. 

Had the worst sciatica pain down my hip and leg--could hardly walk or sleep from it. 

I went to the Orthopedist and he game me some meds for the inflammation and sent me for an MRI. 

Also, I went a number of times for acupressure, which was truly awesome. 

Came back to the Orthopedist and he asks how I am. 

I said:
Feeling a lot better, but the MRI shows a herniated disc. 

He says:
Go home and have a Happy Thanksgiving--we only do surgery to treat symptoms!

So I am truly happy that alls well that ends well. 

Thank you Hashem! ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
Share/Save/Bookmark

November 20, 2018

How Does It feel At The Top

A colleague told me something interesting about what it feels like at the top.

He said:
The 360 degree view is good, but it get's windy at times!

I thought this was pretty smart, and one reason that many people opt out of moving into senior and executive positions in their organizations. 

Yes, it's great to be able to lead and have more visibility, influence, and impact. 

But at the same time, this does not come for free or without risks. 

At the top of the pyramid or corporate offices or whatever, there is opportunity. 

Yet, your dealing with other top honchos with strong personalities, egos, and often harsh ways of dealing with others and conflict can be perilous for many. 

My father used to tell me his philosophy:
Better a little less, but you know what you have. 

There is definitely wisdom in those words. 

Maybe as with most things in life, there is a time and place for everything. 

It is great to have the opportunity to lead.

It's also not bad to have a time to follow and contribute in that way. 

What's important is that whatever role your in at the time, that you do it with integrity and passion to do good. 

So how does it feel at the top--sure, it's a nice view, but it can get very windy too. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
Share/Save/Bookmark

November 19, 2018

Happy Friendsgiving

So I learned a new holiday terms today. 

Of course, you know about Thanksgiving--when we celebrate with our family all the wonderful things in life that G-d has blessed us with. 

Well now there is "Friendsgiving."

This typically occurs on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, and is enjoyed with friends (instead of family). 

We are still grateful, but we just are thankful with a different set of significant others in our lives. 

To me there is nothing like my family--as my father taught me:
Blood is thicker than water. 

But friends are important in our lives as well, and good and true friends are so hard to come by--so we should celebrate them and with them whenever possible too. 

Finally, I choose this flower, "Bird of Paradise" for this blog, because I love it and it is something wonderful from G-d that I am grateful for. 

Happy Thanksgiving and Friendsgiving to All!  ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
Share/Save/Bookmark

November 18, 2018

@Garden Of Light -- Brookside Gardens


















(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Share/Save/Bookmark