January 28, 2015

Noticeably Absent From Auschwitz Liberation Memorial

So yesterday was the 70th anniversary memorial of the liberation of the Auschwitz Death Camp,

More than 1.1 million Jews and 100,000 other POWs and ethnic minorities were EXTERMINATED there.

There was forced labor, beatings, torture, starvation, the gas chambers and crematoria, and every cruelty known to mankind. 

At yesterdays memorial at Auschwitz 50 countries sent delegations "with heads of state leading those from:" 

- Germany
- Austria
- Belgium
- Bulgaria
- Croatia
- Lithuania
- France
- Netherlands
- Poland 
- Switzerland
- Ukraine (even though they are currently fighting a war with Russia!)

And even Russian President Putin "marks day at the Jewish Museum in Moscow."

It is quite mysterious, why like with the recent Unity Rally in France after the terror attacks there on Charlie Hebdo Magazine and a Jewish grocery store that left 17 dead, that the head of state for the United States was once again noticeably absent.

This time, a meeting in Saudi Arabia took precendence--why of course.

At least, the million plus murdered at Auschwitz got a (prepared) statement to mark their tragic deaths.

What does all this say about our commitment to human rights and fighting blind hatred, discrimination, racism, Islamist terorrism, and outright genocide?  

(Source Photo: here with attribution to Ricardo Francesconi)
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January 27, 2015

Trouble In Protection Land

The Secret Service is one of the finest agencies in the Federal government, but unfortunately, the "recreational" drone crash landing at the White House was a protection disaster this week.

(And it comes on the heels of knife-wielding assailants running wild through the front doors of the White House, people taking pot shots at the White House, and even planes crash landing there). 

This time it was perhaps, a small drone innocently passing low without a significant radar signature unto the White House grounds, but next time it may be a miniaturized drone the size of an insect that attacks the President or his senior staff in the White House itself. 

This could happen with a pin prick of poison or a small drone carrying explosives, biological, or chemical weapons. 

We are entering a new dimension of threats that are not easily addressed with existing technology. 

It is said the the President is proverbially protected by a bubble of defenses around him, but where we are going is that this bubble may need to become an actual physical bubble that nothing, not even an insect drone can get through. 

It may sound ridiculous, but it may be the only way (for now) to really protect against these threats that literally fly beneath our radar!

Perhaps at some future time, we will have our swarms of defensive drones that go after any attack drone, no matter how small or how many, but in the meantime, we must protect our critical leadership and assets. 

Almost two years ago, I blogged about robots, drones, and commandos in exoskeletons attacking the White House and our not being prepared with adequate defenses and counter-measures.

This week's drone crash should be making the alarm bells go off on this issue big time now!

We must move past reactive steps and a failure to anticipate and become true forward-thinkers, strategists, planners, enterprise architects, and futurists. 

The protection of our leaders, institutions, critical infrastructure, and people depend upon true out of the box thinking, not doing the same thing but on a different day. 

The time is now to think about protections from much more than traditional attack patterns to the wildest and craziest we can imagine--because our enemies are not hampered by the past and won't rest until they see what we won't. ;-)

(Source Photo: here with attribution to David Illig)
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January 26, 2015

Safeguarding D.C.

I took this photo the other day of a truck loaded from front to back with compressed gas cylinders in downtown, Washington, D.C.

I understand that there are strict safety regulations for this. 

Although with this truck just sitting out on the street, appapently not moving or even attended as far as I could see, I was a little concerned. 

At the same time, coming to work today, there was someone marching down the street yelling "Allah"--again and again--sort of talking to themselves yet screaming something that wasn't intelligible, at least to me. 

Not that there is anything wrong with freedom of expression, but it just seemed a little wild and scary on the darkened streets. 

I couldn't help think about this gas truck with all these gas containers from the other day...and are we keeping things as safe as they need to be. 

We take a lot for granted in terms of our security, but are we perhaps getting a little overconfident so many years after 9/11 now. 

Hopefully, we're all good, but we need to be careful, vigilant, and safe! ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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January 25, 2015

Size And Smell

So apparently data mining can be used for all sorts of research...

In the New York Times today, Seth Stephens-Davidowitz tries his hand with google search results to better understand people's feelings about sex. 

Though Stephens-Davidowitz doesn't explain how he gets these google statistics...here are some standouts:

As you might have guessed, the biggest complaint from men--and women--is that they don't get/have enough sex. 

For both (as you might imagine in a primarily--95%--heterosexual world), traditional surveys show that it's about once a week.

However, the author says this is exaggerated (yeah, is it surprising that people exaggerate about this?) and it's actually only about 30 times a year--or once every 12 days.

So there are a lot of search on "sexless" or "won't have sex with me."

Observing that "sex can be quite fun," he questions, "why do we have so little of it?"

And he concludes that it's because we have "enormous anxiety" and insecurity about our bodies and sexuality.

Again, you probably wouldn't need data mining to guess the results, but men's biggest worry is about their penis size, and one of women's most toxic worries--a "strikingly common concern"--is about the smell of their vagina.

For men, they actually google questions about genital size more often than they have questions about any other body part; in fact, more than "about their lungs, liver, feet, ears, nose, throat, and brain combined."

So much for health consciousness versus machismo pride. 

The funny thing is apparently women don't seem to care so much about this with only about 1 search on this topic for every 170 searches that men do on this. 

Surprising to most men, about 40% of the searches women do conduct on this topic is "complaints" that it is too big!

Not that size doesn't matter to women, but for them it's about the size of their breasts and butts--and again, bigger being generally considered better.

In this case, most men seem to agree. 

Another issue men are concerned about is premature ejaculation and how to make the experience last longer.

However, here women seem to be looking for information about half and half on how to make men climax more quickly on one hand, and more slowly on the other. 

Overall, men are from Mars and women from Venus, with lot's of misunderstanding between the sexes.

The conclusion from this big data study...everyone calm down and just try to enjoy each other more.

Amazing the insights we can get from data mining! ;-)

(Source Photo: here with attribution to Daniel)
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January 24, 2015

Can I Help You?

This was a beautiful story that I heard from a very senior colleague recently.

Years ago, when she started working, for whatever reason, it took many weeks for payroll to catch up and for your first check to arrive. 

In her case, she was notified that it would be something like 6 weeks before she would receive an actual paycheck.

Not a lot of good that does, when the mortgage comes due, the utility bill arrives in the mail, or you need to go shopping for groceries or medicine. 

What's interesting and inspiring here though is what this lady's boss did at that time. 

She recalled that when he heard that she would not be getting paid for so many weeks, he came to her and asked her if she needed any money in the meantime to hold her over--how could he help? 

He was willing to take his money and give it to her to help her through until her paycheck would arrive. 

WOW!!!

That is extremely powerful.

How many of you know a boss that would do that for you now or ever?

You see he was not only willing to step in and make some calls (which may or may not have helped anyway), but he was actually willing to pony up money from his own self/family (and which I understand he did not have a lot of either) and give it to her. 

This is caring. This is giving. This is selflessness. 

I am awed of people of this personal and moral character. 

These are people to emulate. 

There is a difference between a work environment that is purely work and get the job done, and those few and very special places still out there that have family values (and which at least try to think of you and treat you as part of some sort of an "extended family"). 

No work is not family...but decent people in any situation--in the office or on the Metro--can make a difference in someone else's life. 

To me this is a story worth retelling and reliving for others to benefit. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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January 23, 2015

Denouncing Anti-Semitism



Heroic remarks from NYC Councilman Greenfield after pro-Palestinian activists protested the commemoration of 1.1 million people murdered in Auschwitz concentration camp in the Holocaust. 

Calling a spade-a-spade...anti-semitism is once again alive and well due to acceptance and even promotion of anti-Semitism/Zionism, and unfortunately, it some cases, it seems like it's coming from the top-down!

The words and actions are fanning anti-Semitic terror attacks around the globe and even setting the stage for a regional war in the Middle East. 

What a shame that we need to remind some of the First Amendment of the Constitution that guarantees freedom of religion, whatever your practices. 

Protestant pastor, Martin Niemoller, famously said:

"First they came for the Jews
and I did not speak out 
because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for the Communists
and I did not speak out
because I was not a Communist

Then they came for the trade unionists
and I did not speak out
because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for me
and there was no one left
to speak out for me."

I believe, I know, that there are many true decent human beings and real leaders out there that will speak out against the very ugly head of blind hatred and bigotry in this world. 

May G-d show mercy on all his creatures and instill love, tolerance, and genuine respect for all races, colors, and religions. 
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Poli-trick-ians, No Way!

So periodically, I like to take a quick pulse of America.

So I find a way to ask someone(s) what they are seeing and experiencing, and what they think about what's going on in Washington, D.C.

So this time, I asked someone about whether they watched the State Of The Union this week. 

The answer?

No way!

Why not?

They said (as if they heard this little mnemonic from others before), "because, they are all 'POLI-TRICK-IANS!'"

I said, well that's cute, but what do you mean?

This is what they said (paraphrasing):

- They don't speak the truth.

- They just say what they think people want to hear. 

- It's all just fighting between the (political) parties. 


- It's not really about the people. 


- It's not about making a difference, anymore [just about being in and keeping power].


Wow, this was pretty powerful. 

I could sense the anger and frustration. 

Also, the disillusionment. 

Checking in on the ratings, this seemed to jive with CNN (and other news media) saying, "State of the Union was President's Lowest-Rated Yet."

According to Nielsen only 31.7 million people tuned in...that's out of a current U.S. population of 324 million!

On the positive side, the number of tweets was way up to 2.6 million during the hour-long address--how sweet those tweets.

Seriously though, we are here to serve the people...how do we get back their respect?

I suspect that the answer revolves around the following:

- We need to turn from fighting each other to fighting our real enemies like the threat from Islamist Terrorism and Weapons of Mass Destruction. 

- We need to break the gridlock and get something done (lot's of things done)!

- We need to stop the political cliches and talk from the heart to the heart. 

- We need to stop thinking about ourselves and focus on the people--all the people (not the middle-class versus the rich, not main street from wall street, not the color or race that you are or aren't)!

- We need to tackle the many big problems we are facing--the national debt, national defense (including cybersecurity), environmental sustainability, raising the level of housing, food, medical care, and education for all, and of course, everything technology and innovation!

We need to go from a perception of poli-trick-ians to genuine representatives and leaders of the people for the people. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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January 22, 2015

Very Blue Boots

The kids hit the shoe store on the weekend.

Shoes and bags are always favorites.

Anyway, one tried on these cool blue boots. 

The other one took the photo. 

Yes, hip and stylish--alhough didn't actually buy them--maybe just a little too much blue (almost like a blueberry)!

What's next in the fashion world? ;-)

(Source Photo: The Blumenthals)

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January 21, 2015

Breaking Protocol?

Puzzling that the Israel's Prime Minister (our Major Strategic Ally) is accused of "Breaking Protocol."

And how?


By accepting an invitation from the Congress of the United States of America to speak the truth about the dangers of a nuclear armed Iran, who is a designated State Sponsor of Terrorism.


Still trying to figure out under what protocol:


- Netanyahu was ushered into the White House through the back door.


- Netanyahu was snubbed for dinner while visiting at the White House.


- The Defense Minister of Israel was denied an audience at the White House. 


- Ammunition was withheld from Israel, while under fire, during the Gaza War with Hamas, a designated terrorist organization. 

- Sanctions are considered against Israel for building homes in Jerusalem the Capital of Israel, while sanctions are lifted against Iran as they build nuclear weapons to annihilate Israel and threaten America, "The Great Satan."

- Senior Administration official calls Netanyahu a Chickenshit.


Finally, and most upsettingly, the President travels all over the World and Middle East, but doesn't visit The Holy Land


I don't get it, do you? 


(Source Photo: here with attribution to gregpoo)
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Stop The Nuclear Threat

Before we get too rosy on the State of the Union...

Fascinating article in Forbes on the threat from nuclear armageddon. 

- The Russians nuclear missile survivability is improving with missiles "equiped with four warheads that can be independently targeted."

- Typical yield is 500 kilotons--"equivalent to half a million tons of conventional explosives."

- The impact of a single nuclear explosion is that it heats the targeted areas to a "few thousand degrees."

- If/when exploded over a major city, "everything within a one-mile radius is destroyed, heavy damage extends to three miles, and fires will be widespread out to five miles."

- People at ground zero will be annihilated immediately "by the blast effects or a wind-spread firestorm...(initial wind speed 700 mph)" 

- Those father from the epicenter will "linger longer before succumbing to the effects of prompt and delayed radiation."

- Due to the magnetic pulse, "electronic devices will be shut down for a hundred miles in every direction."

- How many long range nuclear missiles does Russia have? Over 2,000 (that are known)!

- Just 50, would leave every American city with over half a million people, "uninhabitable."

Now think about the Mullahs of Iran targeting, America, "The Great Satan," should they get this capability.

And do you think a Congressionally, bipartison endorsed, deadline-triggered sanctions on Iran should be vetoed or championed by the administration to stop this threat? 

May G-d bless us with the wisdom and strength of character to see through the delay tactics and subterfuge of our enemies and remove this real threat from us.

As to the Russians' strategic nuclear arsenal, we better get moving along on Reagan's Star Wars Strategic Defense Initiative--because 2,000 is a heck of a lot of incoming! ;-)

(Source Photo: here with attribution to CX15)
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January 20, 2015

Buyer Beware, Else Buyer Remorse

Just a quick lesson I wanted to share from my grandfather.

He used to say (or so my dad used to tell me), "You open your eyes or you open your wallet!"

Put another way is that "A fool and his money are soon parted."

But I like the way my grandfather put it even better--easier to remember and no name calling involved! ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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Superhero Socks

Thought these socks were pretty cool.

POW!
WHAM!
ZAAP!
KAPOW!
SPLAT!

We are living in an age with potential for great upheaval whether from terrorism and weapons of mass destruction, bigotry and social inequality, national debts and unpaid social entitlements, poverty and pandemics, global warming and environmentally unsustainable practices, and the clash of Western and Eastern civilizations. 

Thank G-d for advances in technology and innovation to help address these huge challenges of our time. 

However, whoever is portraying everything as all rosy or telling you to just be optimistic and all will be well--they're feeding you a bunch of you know what!

We need a superhero/Messiah leader to come help us save the day and these socks would be perfect for their arrival. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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January 19, 2015

Why Have We Gone Soft On Terror?

So today, we saw the movie American Sniper, which topped the long weekend box office with over $105 million in receipts.

Why are people loving this movie?


Because Chris Kyle (played by Bradley Cooper) was a true patriot, and as a Navy Seal sniper fought the war on terror with 4 tours of duty overseas and over 160 confirmed kills.


Chris Kyle loved this country and what it stands for and he loved his fellow warfighters, who gave so much of themselves to protect this nation.


The people of our country are watching the world events unfold with one terrorist attack and atrocity after another...and they are aghast at how we have apparently gone soft when we are still at war!


- Iran misses deadline after deadline for disarming their nuclear WMD program, and rather than leading the charge on sanctions, instead there is a vow to veto both houses of Congress on any legislation that even threatens sanctions that would only take effect if they fail to reach a deal by the July 2015 deadline. 


- Al Qaeda conducts series of horrific terrorist attacks in Paris on Charlie Hebdo magazine and a kosher grocery store, and 40 world leaders and millions of citizens come together for a Unity Rally, but our leadership bows out of attending, instead of being arm-in-arm with our allies such as France, Germany, England, and Israel.


- Hamas rains thousands of missiles indiscriminately on Israeli cities and digs terror tunnels to abduct and murder across the country, and in the ultimate hypocrisy of justice, the International Criminal Court protects the terrorists and investigates our ally for defending themselves in a 50-day war against those who vow to destroy them. 


- ISIS is capturing huge swaths of Iraq and Syria and is murdering and torturing the populace and beheading our journalists and aid workers and our response is tepid and inadequate. 


- The Taliban slaughter 145 mostly schoolchildren in Pakistan and where is our indignation?


- Boko Haram kidnaps hundreds of Nigerian schoolgirls and they threaten to sell them and we hold up signs to "Bring Back Our Girls," but where is the action to actually free them. 


- With terrorists hunted down and captured--at great risk to our own military and intelligence men and women--and held at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, instead of locking them up and throwing away the keys, we are releasing them, while many yet return to perform more terrorist activities against us.


These are just a few to mention...yet where is the outrage at all the ongoing terrorism around us? Where is the determined action to protect our people, freedom and democracy?


We need to honor those who fought for this country--like patriot Chris Kyle--and decisively win this war on terror. Anything less is a losing strategy. ;-)


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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January 18, 2015

Governance, Pay Attention

So I chose this photo to represent bad governance. 

The governing board covers their ears, eyes, and mouth.

Because they hear and see no evil and speak no truth. 

They are deaf, blind, and dumb--they provide no real oversight. 

Simply choosing to collect their pay checks and stock options for residing on the governance board.

This is their payoff--not to govern--but rather to shut up and stay out of it!

I read a good overview of what governance is supposed to be and comparing it to management functions (Reference: Exam Preparation Course in a Book for Passing the CISM):

  • "Oversight versus Implementation
  • Assigning Authority versus Authorizing action
  • Enacting policy versus Enforcing policy
  • Accountability versus Responsibility
  • Strategic planning versus Project planning
  • Resource allocation versus Resource utilization"

When the board does their job, then the organization has a business strategy, manages risks, allocates resources, delivers value, and measures and monitors performance. 

In other words, no more acting like a bunch of out of control monkeys. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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Barbie Pants Or Real Life

My daughter took this photo of the sales attendant in the clothing store. 

Her outfit was really cool--not sure the photo can do it justice. 

She had these black pants that had these cool cutouts along the sides in the large diamond shapes. 

So you had a combination of discrete pants with a little flair too (but not too much). 

Overall with the boots and double shirts, it was a very fashionable outfit. 

When we asked where she got the pants from, she said the very store we were in, so that was a good selling point too. 

Let's just say we left some money behind in this store. ;-)

(Source Photo: Rebecca Blumenthal)
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January 17, 2015

Almost Started A Food Fight

So something has gotten into me the last few days...

Tonight, motzei Shabbos, and we're at the kosher Pizza store. 

There is a table next to us with some semi-rowdy boys and girls. 

We're sitting there minding our own business--really--when all of a sudden I get a spit ball (yes, a spit ball) right in my ear. 

I look over at the kids and this guy is opening a Toblerone chocolate and smirks and says, "Oh, sorry" and goes back to his friends laughing at what they did. 

So my wife is eating her seasoned fries, and I pick up a long one at the end, and am holding it--and all of a sudden, i don't know what happened, but the fry just flicks out of my hand and up into the air.

My wife and daughter and I just stare at each other...like OMG, you didn't! 

But I did and then a girl at the next table shrieks as the fry hits her in the head and she's looking accusingly at the boys at her table asking, "Who did that?"

We're still sitting sort of frozen staring at each other, holding in our laughter. 

The store manager comes over to the kids and starts yelling at them about throwing fries around the store. 

At which point, we couldn't contain our reaction anymore and started cracking up. 

I think the kids at the next table figured it out. 

My daughter who thought these kids were so obnoxious goes to me, "That was so cool Dad!"

So what is going on with me lately...not sure, but I think I like it. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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Temptation Or Accusation?

So on the way home from synagogue today, my wife and I are talking about what happened to the renown Harvard constitutional and criminal lawyer, Alan Dershowitz.

He was accused of having repeatedly had sex with an underage woman (while he was married with children and grandchildren).

I explained to my wife not to believe these accusations, that in my mind, Dershowitz was upstanding and completely innocent, and that this could happen to anyone.

And I went on to tell a funny story from a day earlier...

I was at a retirement party for one of my staff who served the country for 51 years.

At the party, I am going around talking with people and helping to make everyone comfortable--until I didn't.

One guy who was a retired manager and had come back to work as a contractor calls me over to his table to introduce me to his wife. 

He's motioning to her and saying how she is his most beloved wife.

And just joking around trying to keep a straight face, I say, "Hmm, she's a lot different than the other woman I see you with every day."

[Yeah, I don't know what came over me (maybe a little to much drink--any drink is too much for this dry mouth).]

His wife, is like, "Ah ha! Some other woman in the office..."

And he's leaning back, waving his hands and mouthing to me, "Shut up Andy!"

He goes, "Okay Andy, you just wait until I meet your wife!"

Then, we all broke out laughing...just Andy being a wise guy again!

So, I said to my wife, you see how easy it is for someone to make a false accusation (and how quickly people can be to think the worst of others).

It really is important to treat people as "innocent until proven guilty."

As for Andy's hijinks...I'm banned from any more parties for the next few weeks. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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January 16, 2015

Top 100 Social CIOs

Top 100 Social CIOs from Huffington Post.

So cool to make the list. ;-)

Shabbat Shalom!
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Where Did I Put That Action Memo?

Lots of people desks seem to look like this.

(Not me though...compulsive neat freak and learned from IBM's "clean desk policy" early on in my career.)


In analyzing our fight against Islamic jihadists and terrorists, Daniel Henninger in the Wall Street Journal writes: 


"In all the photos published of al Qaeda, Islamic State or any other terror groups, have you ever seen them sitting at desks?"


Henninger points out the root of "Bureaucracy" is the French word "Bureau," which mean desk.


Hence, we in the West are stuck behind our desks, while the terrorists are actively working to destroy our freedom and way of life--smashing down doors and wielding AK47s and suicide vests!


We've got to stop hiding behind our piled-high desks, analysis-paralysis position papers, endless meetings, and political bickering, and actually do something concrete, meaningful, and strong--to not only deter, but destroy the enemy!


Fear of making a decision or nonsense claims that your still searching for that action memo is something that should get you uprooted from your messy desk with a boot up your a*s!


Wake up, wake up, wake up--enough ho hum, we need some leadership that is bold, patriotic, and heroic to protect what we value so dear.


Don't you think it's time to win this war for real?


(Source Photo: here with attribution to Shawn de Raaf)

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January 15, 2015

A Bunch Of Dummies

Took a photo from this children's book that someone left in the kosher Chinese restaurant--and it was sort of priceless.

There is a drawing of a ventriloquist with his puppet.

And it says, "All my friends are dummies,"

Often, it's tempting to think that we're so smart and "we're all that", but everyone else is just a dummy.

But we need to remember that in a way, really we're all just a bunch of dummies--now you didn't think I was going to say that, did you?

We are human, frail, mortal...and no one knows everything (hey, not even close).

My father used to joke saying, "I know nothing, and I can prove it!"

The truth is that all we really know is what G-d wants us to know; we say, what G-d permits our tongues to speak, and ultimately, we do, what G-d commands of us--there is no escaping it. 

In the big picture, we are but puppets and dummies in the hands of the omniscient creator.

For those with mega size egos (and usually nasty to match)...what G-d gives, he can easily take away, so don't be a real dummy. ;-)

(Source Photo: The Blumenthals)
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January 14, 2015

Lobbying Will Get You...Where?

In Washington, D.C., lobbying is a way of life. 

Just walking from the State Department to the Metro means you'll get accosted by somebody wanting action on some issue. 

I took this photo in action today of this guy obviously not in favor of the Keystone XL pipeline. 

He equates it with "Climate Chaos!"

He is holding a sign up to me and trying to hand me some literature.

Whether or not piping tar sands oil from Canada to the Gulf Coast is net good for the economy and national security or bad for the environment and global warming, is of course a matter of debate. 

But like all issues, there are two sides to everything--so prove your case!

Maybe the point to free speech is that everyone can not only have an opinion, but also express it and advocate for it. 

There can be open and amble discussion, vigorous debate, compromises, and ultimately a vote and decision--that hopefully gets us to the best course of action. 

Unlike countries run by dictators or religious fanatics who attempt to quell all opposition--where bloggers are flogged and jailed and authors and satirists are threatened and murdered--we try to make our best case and not condemn those who simply think different than us. 

In expressing ourselves here, someone may occasionally joke and say, "now don't chop my head off for saying this," but in other countries they really mean it! 

Tyrannical dictatorships and Jihadists terrorizing and imposing their will on the masses just won't cut it anymore. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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Eye To Eye

I took this photo from a sticker plastered on the street corner in Washington, D.C. 

What I like about it, aside from it's cute, is that I see a message here about good communications and conflict management skills. 

Notice the eyes are different (one is green/yellow and the other is orange/blue)...like it's two people. 

But there is one mouth open, speaking between them.

This speaks to that while we may be talking to each other and even think we are saying the same thing ("violently in agreement"), we need to make sure that we are listening, understanding, and working through our differences--so at the end, we are both really "seeing eye to eye." 

While each of us is different, and we may never fully agree (and cabn "agree to disagree"), we can also negotiate and come to terms on a win-win course of action. 

Talk it out, bridge the gaps, and get to a place where we not only are able to see eye to eye, but can then go forward together and make it truly work. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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January 13, 2015

Absence, A Big Statement

We all know from psychology 101 that what we pay attention to and give to is what is really important to us. 

Parenting is an example of this where we give our time and efforts to our children as our most important investment of self. 

This last week was the historical Paris Unity Rally attended by millions, including 40 world leaders, to denounce blind discrimination and hate and the associated terror and murder that marked the terrorist attacks in Paris.

The Paris attacks were a striking blow on free speech and resulted in the murder of many innocent citizens and law enforcement at Charlie Hebdo magazine and numerous Jews in a kosher grocery store--it was more than shocking to see our top leadership missing in action (MIA).

In the Wall Street Journal today, there are many words on this from "error" to "lost opportunity."

Yet, despite acknowledging the blatant absence, what we are left with are an unfortunate series of excuses, such as the incredible statement that "No one in the White House brought such a request to the the President's attention."

As if someone needs to tell the leader of the free world that he needs to be participate in the Paris Unity Rally. Did the millions who attended or the other 40 world leaders need a reminder or a nudge?

Or here's another one about not being able to attend because of "security concerns."

Once again, did the heads of state for France, Germany, England, and Israel not have similar concerns that their protectors were able to adequately address. 

What about the  apology that he "regrets his decision not to send a top White House official"--uh, what about going himself?

I remember immediately after the attack of 9/11, President George W. Bush, with bullhorn in hand, standing on the rubble of what was once the World Trade Center...there was no excuses as to a need for reminders from staffers, security or health concerns, or sending surrogates--the leader was there and doing his job to lead, period.  

How can we fight a war on terrorism, fanaticism, and blind hatred, when we won't give it our time and attention--from the top down. 

As with a parent who is absent with his children, it speaks a thousand words about what is really important to that parent and the impact on the (symbolic) child.

"A cat's in the cradle with a silver spoon little boy blue and the man in the moon when your coming home dad I don't know when, but we'll get together then dad, you know we'll have a good time then."

In the past, the administration has been incredibly supportive in fighting terror, anti-semitism, and standing up for human rights, and with genuine commitment of time and effort, can do so again. 

(Source Photo: here with attribution to Doug)

(All opinions my own).

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January 12, 2015

Laser Defense Offense


Similar to the U.S.'s new laser defense being deployed aboard the USS Ponce in the Gulf, there is a promising new missile defense technology--"Iron Beam"--using lasers from Rafael in Israel. 

This augments Israel's "Iron Dome" anti-missile defense system using intercept missiles. 

Iron Beam functions with air defense radars and thermal camera tracking that identifies incoming targets and uses 2 lasers with 100's of kilowatts of directed energy to destroy the attacking projectiles with 90% success rate. 

For a more surgical, faster, and economically capable military--next up laser defense goes offense. 

It's got to, we've all seen the movie. ;-)
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January 11, 2015

Return of The Hare Krisna


I hadn't heard the rhythmic chanting of the Hare Krishna since my days in New York City probably 20 plus years ago. 

Today, we see them on the streets of downtown Silver Spring, MD singing their Hindu mantra...again and again. 

The boys sitting on the rent-a-bikes are banging the drums to the chanting across from them. 

As they chant, they implore people to take their literature and chant along with them. 

Whether you see them as a cult or just practitioners of another faith...these people seem mesmerized by their own chanting "meditation", which was a steady beat but also had no meaning whatsoever to me.

As a kid, we were told and would steer clear of anything that smelled of Hare Krishna, Jews for Jesus, or others trying to pluck away at the souls of our youth. 

While Jews have wonderful people like Chabad who try to bring Jews closer to Judaism, we really don't proselytize others...it's not our belief and is more of a live and let live attitude for all. 

I never quite understood why some feel literally a mission or compulsion to convert others to their beliefs, instead of practicing what they believe themselves, being devout and good people, and letting their actions speak for themselves and inspire others, if truly deserving.

There really is no need to stand on street corners with megaphones or at the auto-da-fe stroking flames of burning flesh to get others to your way of thinking.

In my opinion, honest belief and genuine faith is not gotten through yelling the loudest, standing the longest, or even threatening or menacing others. 

Be sincere and good, and let your actions speak for themselves. ;-)

(Source Photos: Andy Blumenthal)
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German Chocolate Cake -- A Cold Stone Favorite

So I took this picture at Cold Stone ice cream parlor. 

The guy is in action making German Chocolate Cake Ice Cream for us--one of their "signature creations."

A big wad of Chocolate Ice Cream and then add the caramelized nuts, chips of coconut, and wedges of chocolate--then mix until all creamy and gooey. 

OMG, this was pretty good.

We used to get the Cookie Dough You Want Some flavor...also to die for, but I didn't see this one on the ice cream menu anymore (although I bet you can still ask for it). 

The way they charge, they push you to get the largest size called, "Gotta Have It"which is only about 20 cents more than the "Love It" (medium) and 30 cents more than the "Like It" (small).

One of the large ones costs about $6 and can easily be shared between between 3 people. 

This ice cream is made for me on the spot and is a special treat, so don't get addicted, please. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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January 10, 2015

Ketchup Face

We went to the Pizza place after Shabbat.

The family had a little fun with the ketchup. 

I come from a creative bunch...whether with pastels, photography, Photoshop, writing, and even Ketchup.

Don't worry it didn't go to waste, the fries were right on the way! :-)

(Source Photo: The Blumenthals)
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January 9, 2015

Cuddles Versus Lashes

Interesting juxtaposition of civilizations before us...

On one hand, we have people in the West looking for a hug and cuddle (even if oddly, they think they have to pay for one). 

While on the other hand, Islamist extremists are giving 1,000 lashes (the first 50 of which were proudly given today with more to come in the following weeks) for "opposition" blogging, and terrorists are killing hostages in a kosher grocery store in Paris and gunning down satirists making comics for Charlie Hebdo magazine.

Seems like somehow we just aren't mentally getting it (or maybe we can't stop "getting it" from the bad guys)!

Cuddles and lashes will never go together. 

You cannot cuddle a terrorist!

Yet, we ostensibly have terrible difficulty even calling them Islamist terrorists and extremists, even though that is what they are.

They are killing people with AK47s in Paris and bombings in London, hijacked airplanes targeting the World Trade Center and Pentagon, beheading journalists and gassing civilians in Syria, kidnapping women and children in Nigeria, and slaughtering schoolchildren in Islamabad

However, we are and will unfortunately continue to get our lashes from them, as the threats are not gone or dissipating, and the war is not won or maybe has barely even begun--although we are "war weary".

We must awake from our cuddling stupor and realign ourselves to the mentality of 1000 lashes. 

Appeasement will keep failing as the false thinking and broken promises of those who teach hatred and kill indiscriminately and barbarically will somehow just stop--they won't. 

Sadly, be ready for the enemy upping of the ante with bolder, more daring, crazier, and deadly attacks.

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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Soccer Soda On Metro


Watch what happens when people leave their trash on the Metro (Washington, DC). 

In this case, it's a bottle and this one guy in jeans can't seem to get rid of it. 

It's sort of hilarious. 

First, the bottle is dumped by an uncaring passenger, it rolls around for awhile, and ends up sitting in the middle of the train car. 

The train stops at the station and the people coming aboard step around and over the water bottle. 

This guy in the center is irked by this bottle and just sort of blatantly kicks it at a women in winter boots standing by the doors. 

But it eventually rolls back and hits him in the foot.

He's talking away (blah blah) on his cell, yet maneuvers the bottle ever so discretely to roll it backwards to someone else

But it ends up right back at him twice more.

Next stop, he runs off the train (and away from this bottle), but the person behind him kicks it after him and towards the doors.

Then this one lady with the orange bag and red purse gets up from her seat, and gives it a big kick right out the door.

She does this while the other people are boarding...oops watch out for the flying bottle.

Garbage left on the Metro...Goal! Score! ;-)

(Source Video: Andy Blumenthal)
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January 8, 2015

His And Hers

So grateful to my wonderful colleagues and friends here at the Department of State. 

Cards for the loss of my mom and dad...one year apart, but I put them side by side, where they belong. 

I miss my parents, but this is a beautiful reminder to me that they are together in Heaven!

I am thankful for the wonderful caring people I am surrounded with who provided me their support and warm sentiments during this challenging year. 

Hoping and praying for G-d's blessings and a better future. 
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January 7, 2015

Light Up Your Life



We've seen colored light bulbs before...very hippie.

However, I like the Misfit Bolt, which is a multi-colored bulb, whose combinations are controlled by an app on your smartphone or -watch. 

It's was introduced at the Consumer and Electronics Show (CES) in Vegas this week. 

And it has lighting that simulates landscapes such as a beach sunset, forest, island volcano, rainbow, and more. 

It can also be set as an alarm to wake you up to a simulated sunrise.

At $50, it's more than a mood ring--how you feeling today, buddy?

But how nice to relax to, wake up with, and to create some pick me up feeling lighting around you. ;-)
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January 6, 2015

Interned On The Aisle Of Man


I found this amazing letter to my dad from 1940. 

He was interned during the war as a child with his mother in the Rushen Internment Camp on the Aisle of Man, a possession of Britain.

My father was only 12 years old, but already worked as a messenger for the camp Superintendent. 

Here is probably one of his first letters of recommendation for a job very well done. 

"On His Majesty's Service"

How incredibly awesome for a child during World War II and the Holocaust. 

Love you Dad!

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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January 5, 2015

Comfort In Mourning

While sitting in mourning (Shiva) for my dad (as previously I did just last year for my mom), people come and say the ancient Jewish words of comfort:

"May the Almighty comfort you among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem!"


The experience of sitting Shiva is humbling, being in mourning, sitting on a low stool, unshaven, and with torn garb, and reciting the words of the Kaddish (mourners prayer) out loud. 


"...May He who makes peace in the high places, grant [in his mercy] peace upon us, and upon all Israel, Amen."


But more than anything, I have been overwhelmed by the outpouring from so many good people in the community. 


People have come to pray with me, tell me wonderful stories about my dad, and generally share with me in my mourning for him. 


I have been truly taken by the many people who have come both in good health, but also from people that were blind and with everything from broken arms to walking canes and to those who called thinking of me while they themselves are sick or even wheelchair-bound. 


People have shared their own stories of grief to let me know I wasn't alone, and they brought food so I definitely wouldn't be hungry. 


Others have told me how wonderful my dad was as a friend and in the community, how he made people smile and was always in good spirits (even perhaps when he had good reason not to be), and how he did so many good deeds (some that were known and many others that were not). 


I have been amazed how people stay not just for prayer services, but take the time to really talk to me, to give selflessly and generously, even from their own busy family and work lives and schedules. 


Some of the people I know from the community, some just knew my dad, but I realize how these good, giving people are really worth knowing as human beings--not because they were my dad's friends or gave to me at this time of mourning, but because they are truly spiritual people, who just desire to do some good in the world--like my dad who did this for others (and how he taught me all my life and especially as a child). 


I hope that this time of mourning is not just one of finding comfort and healing, but also a re-awakening of my own feelings for community, spirituality, and selflessness. 


I have much room for personal growth for myself, but also many role models around who have set the bar very high. Also, my dad has left some VERY big shoes for me to fill. ;-)


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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