May 6, 2016

Agile Processes As An Enabler

So something that I've learned is that processes can be an enabler or a hinderance to progress depending on how it's used.

On one hand, without a standardized and clear process where people know what they are supposed to do and when, we are likely to end up with a lot of chaos and not much getting done for the customer or organization.  

This is especially the case where tasks are complex and numerous people are involved requiring there to be solid coordination of team members, sync of activities, and clear communications.  

On the other hand, rigid processes that are so prescriptive that no one will get out of step for any rhyme or reason can be counter-productive, since this can hinder productivity, time to resolution, and customer service. 

For example, we all understand the importance of a help desk ticketing system in IT to document issues and deploy resources for resolution and measure performance. However, when customers, especially VIPs are in a bind and need help ASAP, it may not make sense to tell them to go open up a ticket first and foremost, instead of helping them to quickly get back online, and even opening the ticket for them and in parallel or as we get to it afterwards. 

Process should be an enabler and not obstacle to progress. Process should be followed under normal circumstances, but rigidly adhering to processes without adapting to conditions on the ground risks being out of step with the needs of the organization and a customer service model. 

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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May 5, 2016

For Holocaust Remembrance Day



The photo is self-explanatory to all decent human beings out there.

We can never let evil rule the day.

Good people must stand up and speak out for good.

Never again!

(Source Photo: Sent to me by Minna Blumenthal)
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May 4, 2016

613 Buses

Here's my next encounter today with mystical number 613 (the number of Commandments in the Torah).

This is the sign on the bus shelter by the Foggy Bottom Metro.

Two buses are on the way--the M36 and M31.

Both coming to the same bus stop.

One immediately right after the other. 

Read top right to lower left...613.

Within ten minutes I saw yet another 2 signs on the metro train in 2 different locations...both 6 car trains coming right after each other in 1 and 3 minute intervals.

(Note: Metro also has 8 car trains that it usually alternates with the 6's, but today none were in sight at either station). 
I am not making this stuff up...this is freaky, but if you believe, maybe also very cool. ;-)

(Source Photos: Andy Blumenthal)
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Clothing Optional

This was a funny painting in the gallery. 

A naked lady with a big colorful sun hat on. 

Be careful you don't want to get too much sun!

The painting also makes me think of the saying "The empress (or emperor) has no clothes."

The leader thinks they are wearing beautiful clothes, but the reality is they are naked in front of their subjects. 

People see when their leaders are shelling out a clouded vision, tempting them with empty (campaign) promises, or pushing ideas that don't hold water in the real world, but often people are simply too afraid to say anything.

Instead, they acknowledge the beautiful clothes or brilliant ideas that aren't there and in groupthink fashion, they fail to call out the folly for what it is, when it is. 

Naked is naked, and we should say the truth albeit with respect and in a constructive way, if we really want to make genuine collective progress. 

True--lauding or blinding following what simply isn't there and has no substance may land you a seat at the royal table, but what good is it, if you are sitting with some leaders that may be nothing more than naked idiots. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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May 3, 2016

Cat Knob

So I just love this cat door knob. 

Carved in wood and a special tinge of African Egyptian art. 

Dark wood cat knob on light wood doors--looks warming and pretty classy. 

From the white glue in the background, it looks like it fallen off a few times, perhaps. 

But either way so cute--one of these on each on the French Doors. 

It's a nice home decor and style--and the big cat eyes are so handsome. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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May 2, 2016

613 From Elevator To Seaweed


So as you know, we are experiencing 613 (mystical, holy number of commandments in the Torah) all over the place.

This last week, we got on the elevator to go to the 13th floor, and immediately, the next guy gets on and presses for the 6th floor. 

613 is brightly lite up on the elevator console and we turn to each other and are like, "What the...?" (No one else got on/off and no other floors were pressed while we were on it.)

Next my wife is looking on Amazon for some roasted seaweed as part of our lovely diet plan.

Guess how many reviews are on the product...613.

Yes, while each individual occurrence can be explained away or coughed up to chance--is it really possible for so many of these to be happening virtually daily. 

Any statisticians out there? 

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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May 1, 2016

Pro Life OR Pro Choice

I took this photo going to the doctor last week.

This guy is standing outside the office building and he goes, "Did you know that there is an abortion clinic in there?"

Sort of stating the obvious as a guy, I said, "Well I'm not going there!"

It was fascinating though watching this guy picketing with his sign, "Pray To End Abortion."

And he's standing in front of some spiffy signs advertising Fendi and Gucci. 

Perhaps, he's not understanding where some people come from and what they go through getting pregnant either not by choice (rape, incest, etc.) or they are not ready to properly care for a child or there is a clear and present danger to the health of the mother. 

While late term abortions are completely anathema and in my mind really are murder, perhaps early term abortions, even if not a desired outcome by any means are at times a type of life-saving necessity for the reasons mentioned. 

Unfortunately, I really don't think it's a simple either/or.  

Yes, we must be pro life and protect the unborn children.

AND

Yes, we must have some element of pro choice and protect the mother and the child when it's birth would bring more harm than good. 

The decision needs to be made case-by-case and are excruciating to decide and do the right thing for all. 

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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April 30, 2016

Losing The Weight

So when I was young, I may have aspired to be Superman.  

Now, I am a little more realistic in my dreams and understanding of my capabilities. 

Since my hips started deteriorating almost 3 years ago, and I had the 2 hip replacements, it has been challenging at times with mobility and of course, weight gain. 

But as I continue to get back to myself, some people have been particularly encouraging and inspiring to me.  

One is a terrific doctor that my wife had recommended, and she told me straight up to just lose the weight. 

She told me about JuicePlus pills--which I found a cheaper version with JuiceFestiv that are capsules for organic fruit and vegetables that energizes and also fills you up. 

She also told me simply what her principle has been, "Eat half!" 

Next, I am grateful to my friend, Jacob Elbaz, who told me how he wants me around a long time as a friend and with my family.  

He also had good advice, "Just one pound a week...how hard is that?"

Finally, I am grateful to my wife who in a most caring way is cooking the right foods now and making me lots of healthy mush--some of it even edible.

With G-d's help, I believe that I can do it!  ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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Gopher At The Metro

This was a funny picture of a gopher's a*s.

The gopher's is climbing along the side of the Metro. 

In NYC, they have rats almost this size.

Thank G-d, in Maryland, it's more about bunnies, gophers, and deer. 

Not sure how this gopher gets any rest next to the trains zipping in and out of the station.

Maybe if you burrow further enough underground, you got a decent snooze zone. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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April 29, 2016

Better Than A Cadaver

So I'm at the doctor's office for a checkup.

The doctor tells me to lie down on the exam table. 

There is also a 3rd year medical student in the room as part of her training. 

The exam starts and there are all these devices for checking things out. 

It's feeling a little tense. 

I jokingly say, "I feel like a cadaver lying here (being studied)."

Then the medical student says, "Oh you smell much better than a cadaver! I just took that class."

Oh, how comforting is that--smelling better than a stinkin' dead person whose been embalmed!

At which point, there is some ridiculous talk about dead people and formaldehyde, body odor, and decay.

This was quite a lively visit, but I hope it was helpful to me and to medical science. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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Losing Our Tech-osterone

So a vendor comes in and does a pitch and demo for a product we were interested in. 

But this technology vendor, a Fortune 100 company, couldn't figure out how to plug in their laptop for the demonstration. 

The presenter is holding his plug from the computer and comparing it to the ports on the monitor and going, "Is it a male or is it a female?"

It's almost like he's going innie or outtie...

And he's repeating this over and over again as he keeps trying to plug in his cord to the various openings. 

Everyone is sitting sort of uncomfortably at this point, and so I try to break the tension and say, "I didn't know we were going to be getting an anatomy lesson today."

Well, we got the guy some technical help--the government to the rescue--and before long, he figured out the males and the females and the presentation was on the screen. 

The only problem, the title slide for his presentation had a misspelling for the product they were selling. 

At this point, all I can say is, this is why American business is getting soft!  ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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April 28, 2016

Take Your Family Issues To Work Day

So we all love Take You Child(ren) To Work Day.

It's a great idea to bond with our children and share our work life with them.

This way they know what mommy and daddy do and also a little of what work is like. 

But one of the funny things I noticed is how uncomfortable most parents seem with their kids around them in at work. 

They have this worried and kvetchy look on their face.

They are crossing boundaries between personal/family/home life and professional/work life. 

What is at once two-faces, two distinct roles is now combined for a single day a year. 

Perhaps personal problems from home and between family members is entering the workspace or the problems of work life is evident to your close family members. 

Maybe mommy or daddy really doesn't get along all the well with little Johnny or Rosie all the time or perhaps little Johnny or Rosie is not that perfect little kid you've been showing around in pictures and talking up in the office. 

Similarly, mommy or daddy may not be "all that" in the office that they come home and portray to their family about--that big management position and corner office could be just another run of the mill job and situated in a long row of cubicles deep this way and that. 

In any case, the barriers are being crossed and even if there have been no outright lies told and caught, different sides of the person that are typically kept separate and sacrosanct are converging and the alternate egos and varied personas come head-to-head.

The good news is that the organization usually gives the parents leeway to not really do any serious work when the kids are around for the day and to mostly schlep them to special kids' events in the workplace--everybody get to meet the CEO and have ice cream?

Thus, the unveiling of dual natures and embedded conflicts is kept to a manageable minimum, if not an uncomfortable merging of work and family life. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal) 
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April 27, 2016

Friendly Sightings 613


So this is a first where other people are contacting us with their experiences seeing 613 (the holy mystical number of Commandments in the Torah).

These two photos of a police car and a no smoking sign are coming to us from South Florida. 

Also, I experienced another weird 613 experience this week in that I was number 36 in The Top 100 Most Social CIOs (see the 613). 

If you see 613 in extraordinary ways in your life, please feel free to share the them with Dannielle and I. 

We hope and pray at this time of Passover (commemorating redemption and freedom) that this is a sign of great mazel and blessing for all our times. ;-)

(Source Photo and with gratitude to Ms. Ellen Weiner)

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April 26, 2016

Owl Mugs

Just wanted to share these three new owl mugs we got. 

One is orange, one is brown, and one is light blue.

The eyes are adorable on these cups. 

It's almost like a family the way they look together. 

All the other coffee/tea cups we have are now officially obsolete. 

These are the only ones getting any thirsty attention. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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April 25, 2016

To The Salt Cave

So had a new experience and went to the Salt Cave in Bethesda (a second choice if you can't get to the secret superhero crime-fighting Bat Cave).

It was a large room filled with Himalayan salt for experiencing all the spa's "healing" effects.

Supposed to be good to breath in all the minerals infused from the pink salt "micro climate" air and also for exposure to the skin.

It was fairly dark in the cave except for some recessed lighting behind some of the salt stone walls.

The chairs were these weird beach chairs that you could recline in, but it would've definitely been worth it to have some fancier cushioned seating to more fully relax in and to match the spa ambiance that they were selling. 

In the background was relaxing meditation music and we were closed in the salt cave for 45-minute to enjoy the dark quiet salt effects. 

It must've relaxed me, because when I got home, I had a Buddha face on and took a nice post-spa afternoon nap. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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April 24, 2016

To Little Jonah

So swimming in the pool, I meet little 7-year old Jonah. 

He sort of made himself known to me when he decided he wanted to race me on the swim board.

I was going just a little faster--and I reminded him that I had a key competitive advantage, fins. 

He said, "Darn I should have brought mine!'

He asked how old I was, and I said a little older than you. 

Not satisfied, he pressed the question, saying "I can tell you are an adult."

So I had to cave and admit that, and pointing to my heart, added that "I am young at heart."

Jonah's in 1st grade, and wanted to know what grade I was in. 

His guess was 4th grade, and I said "That's about right."

Jonah is from New Orleans visiting his grandmother for Passover. 

She was watching him in the pool and smiling with grandmotherly nachas, ear-to-ear.

I told Jonah to make sure to treat his grandmother nicely. 

But Jonah at this point had jumped into my swim lane and was in mock superhero fighting mode, and said "I want to punch you."

I thought to myself, hmm it's not only my wife that feels that way (LOL).

Anyway, it was clear that I had made a new friend with Jonah, who was off bobbing up and down in the water well over his head. 

Bye Jonah--have a good time visiting for Passover. 

(Source Photo: Dannielle Blumenthal)
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April 23, 2016

G-dly Tattoo

So my daughter took this photo of someone on the train.

They had a tattoo that said Elokim--G-d's name in Hebrew--on their hand along their thumb.

Also, they had a second tattoo on the top of their hand that had the Star of David. 

Pretty dramatic, I think. 

But what a way to remember G-d and your religion all the time.

And I thought wearing a yarmulke on my head was something!

Anyway, just another thought for the day.

I was talking with a young person this week.

They said, how hard it was to be young and not know what was going to happen--what life had in store for them. 

I agreed that it was, but also added something that I had heard a number of years ago that:


When your young, you have health, but no money to enjoy it 

and when your old, you have money, but no health to enjoy it. 

The point is that at every point in life, we have our challenges, and we just have to make the most of what we got, when we have it. 

Ideally, of course, we have plenty of health and money--and the time to enjoy it with our family and friends.  

Happy Passover!

(Source Photo: Rebecca Blumenthal)

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April 22, 2016

Attitudinal Fix

So attitude goes a long way in shaping how we do in life. 

For some people, the glass is half full, and for others it's half empty--it's of course, just how you look at it. 

One colleague told me this week: 

"Life is 10% what happens 
and 
90% how you react to it."


I suppose we see that with so many people who have unbelievable daunting challenges in life, yet somehow they manage to put on a smile or give a thumbs up regardless, and just do what they need to do--they are troopers, survivors, and generally people of incredible character and caliber. 

These are the heroes that we can look up to. 

"When the going gets tough, the tough get going!"--and the going refers to doing what needs to get done, and not running away from your duty scared or not knowing what to do. 


Need to be courageous, resourceful, loyal, and giving to others.  

Stop the whining, the crying, the self pity, the questioning "why me"--what will any of that help?

Fight, fight, fight--that's what we're here for. 

Until our last breath, we can still make a difference. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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April 21, 2016

Prove Them Wrong

So I was recently teaching a certification class. 

And this was a very high-caliber class of professionals attending. 

One gentlemen was a wonderful African American who I will call John. 

As part of one of the class assignments, John,  a very successful man, told of how as a young man growing up in the DC projects, a neighbor told him something very hurtful and potentially devastating to him.

The neighbor angrily said, "You'll never be anything in your life!"

And John described how he pursued his education, his career goals, his family, as well as philanthropic pursuits to give back to the community--and he went quite far. 

He told with great emotion and tears in his eyes how ten years ago, he went back to his old neighborhood to thank this neighbor for motivating him (even though in a negative way) to go as far in life as he did. 

You could hear a pin drop in the class--I think a lot of people could relate to this story in their own lives. 

I know that I for one certainly could. 

For me, while I am a simple person and have not gone so far, I have certainly had an interesting life and lots of wonderful opportunities.

Yet, I too remember more than 20 years ago, when I had taken a job in a wild pursuit in my youthful ambitions that one crazy boss that I was briefly working for who was considerably older than me and with his own business abusively said to me one day, "You're not half of what you think you are!"

BAM! Like a huge sledge hammer hitting me right across my head--I was still relatively young and impressionable.

Also, I came from a pretty blue collar-type working family and although upwardly mobile, and I was certainly trying to become "more," I never really felt at all entitled. 

Anyway, the story this student told really brought my own experience hurling back to me from my past. 

In the class, John said--you have to go out and "Prove them wrong." 

And while I don't exactly feel that proving others who wish us bad to be wrong is the point, I do agree that we shouldn't let any of these negative nellies in our own lives drag us down. 

We all have our mission in life--and it's up to us to become the best people that we can--and to hell with everyone who looks down on us, discourages us, maybe are competitive with us or jealous in some way, or simply don't wish us the best. 

So John is right--go out there and do great things! ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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April 19, 2016

Her Hair Was A Hoot

No offense intended, but not going to miss this lady in a crowd.

Orange-hot pink hair, a zebra shirt, big black-rimmed glasses, and a wild bag with dozens of pins all over it. 

It was also funny that the sign over her head says, "Orange" to match this lady's hair. 

My childhood friends would probably call this a "Hair Don't" like a hairdo, only don't do it!

Sometimes, you have to wonder what people are thinking.

It's nice to get attention, if it's attention worth getting. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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April 18, 2016

Paint Can Art

Thought this was pretty cool art in Anthropologie in Washington, DC.

It was different paint cans attached to the wall in the store in a colorful display. 

To go with this paint theme, they also had paint brushes (dry of course, but they looked wet with colored paint) hanging from the ceiling. 

Anyway, in the back of the store, there was a beautiful new rug that I got for my daughter--it was a real find (and sort of looks like this paint display in terms of colors, but very refined and feminine for her with gorgeous flowers and a rich texture).  

Anyway, she loved it and I ended up getting a pretty good deal on it, so I was happy too. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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April 17, 2016

Japanese Cuisine Through Sheltered Eyes

So I had my first Miso Soup today.

Actually, I shared it with my wife who checked that the stock was kosher--the lady said bonito--and my wife said, good. 

I'm a Jewish kid from the Bronx--what do I know from Miso Soup. 

So about the only thing that I can tell you about the soup is what a fishy taste!

I know it's supposed to be really good for you--and that's why I even tried it. 

But the closest thing that I can compare it to is the when my mom used to boil the wrapped gefilte fish in water before Shabbat--well the leftover water that gets discarded--that's what in my imagination Miso Soup tasted like. 

Would I get it again? 

Let's just say, I wouldn't run to get it--however, for good health, I may hold my taste buds and sense of smell of all the fishy stuff in abeyance, and just drink in down.

In general though, I really like some Asian cuisine--for example, with vegetarian dishes things like Kung Po Tofu and Mo-Po Tofu or Crispy Eggplant and Vegetables in Fried Rice. 

The other thing I really like is the innovative Japanese Ramune "marble soda" in which you push out a real marble from the spout into the bottle and it rolls around inside while you drink the refreshing fruity flavors (don't worry, it's not as dangerous as it sounds). 

Last thing, I'll mention is that I won't eat sushi--raw fish seems like it's primed to give you a nice big stomach ache--now this reminds me of another type of dish in Jewish tradition and that's herring (often served with cream sauce) and prominent at many a Ashkenazi kiddush served after synagogue services. 

With the Sushi, if they can somehow manage to cook it for me and use kosher fish, okay--otherwise, I'm heading to the nearest Chinese Kosher Restaurant for some nice Sesame, Kung Pao, Moo Shu, or Lo Mein with Beef or Chicken. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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April 16, 2016

Bystanders Standing By

So I was on the Metro train coming home from the office. 

I was sitting on the left side of the car (riding backwards--which I hate) 

And a lady was sitting on the right side of the train (also riding backwards)

She was stylishly dressed, but also honestly a little seductive in a short skirt, knee-high boots, and bare legs. 

There was a older man sitting across from her (facing forward and facing her). 

At one point then some really weird stuff started to go down. 

This guy gets up and starts staring at this lady--but not just the lady, specifically at her legs.

But it get worse, he turns his head sideway--this way and that--very obviously trying to look under her skirt. 

These were not kids mind-you, but grown adults--and this behavior was not only unexpected, but completely shocking.

There are lots of other people around, and it seems like no one knows what to make of this guy or even cares.

Then he inches closer, as if to get a better look, and get this--100% true--he starts to sniff at her.

It was so scary to see this guy on the train acting all perverted--obviously some sort of serious sexual predator. 

My mind starts racing into whether I should get up and be prepared to confront him, so he doesn't hurt this women, or if there is enough time, can I call for the cops.

But before anything else could unfold, the train pulls into the next station, the double doors open, and he quickly hops off. 

I turn my head to look at the women to make sure she is okay, and I see her breath out a deep-sigh of relief. 

This could've been really bad--he could've tried to attack her in broad daylight or even follow her off the train. 

The funny thing was that I didn't see anyone say or do anything about it or even pay attention to the potentially dangerous situation unfolding that was obvious. 

The people were all around, but the bystanders were just that "standing (idly) by" and in no way seemed to pay any notice or they just didn't want to get involved--it was like complete apathy. 

I hope for everyone's sake--that people really do care and pay attention when there is danger about--and that it's not just everyone for themselves.  

We are much stronger together, than when everyone is apathetic or just looking out for themselves. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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April 15, 2016

Versioning Gone Wild

So software versioning is supposed to be a way to manage change control. 

However, many vendors have gone out of control with versioning. 

1) Incompatibility--It isn't backward compatible, so if you try to work with an older version file/data, you may be sh*t of out of luck getting it to work. 

2) Alphabet-Numerical Soup--We have so many versions of the same/similar thing, we can make your head spin with buyer envy. 

3) Functionally Indistinct--Version changes are so minute or insignificant that there is virtually no difference to the end-user, but you'll love it anyway. 

4) Long And Meaningless--Some versions just seem to go on and on into the weeds...like version 2.10.3.97--ah, let's compare that to the new version of the week of 2.10.3.98, and don't forget the 2.10.4 will be a completely different platform, so you better remember to order the right one. 

5) Upgrade Pathless--You want to be on the current version, well your version is so legacy and ancient, there's no (easy) upgrade path--you have to install 26 patches, hot fixes, and 9 new versions and then you'll be on the right one!

6) Maintaining Multiple Versions--You'll need to maintain multiple versions of the same product, because your data on the older version can't be migrated to the new one. Can anyone say multiple maintenance fees?

7) Out Of Support--Your older version that you spent a lot of money on is no longer current  and is now out of support--so scr*w you unless you pay us again for the next money maker version. 

If you want to kill your brand and possibly your customers' sanity, keep on going mindless version crazy. ;-)

(Source Graphic: Andy Blumenthal)
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April 14, 2016

Boarding 613

So this was pretty amazing with the mystical number 613.

Today, it showed up on the arrivals board for the trains, and I literally had to run down the train platform to capture this photo after my daughter saw it in the distance from the escalator. 

Under destination (DEST) and minutes (MIN) for wait, the first line says boarding (BRD)--although just a moment before it said arriving (ARR). 

Then the next two lines has the trains arriving in 6 minutes and in 13 minutes, respectively.

Also note that this same morning I saw 613 twice more (for a total of 3 times) on the train car/doors and in the phone number for a truck parked in front of the grocery. 

I am no prophet, but I believe that something important or perhaps cataclysmic is about to happen ("arriving") in the world. 

Interestingly enough, in 10 days is Passover--the redemption of the Jews from slavery in Egypt along with the giving of the 10 commandments (of the total 613) on Sinai. 

Now is a good time for faith, devotion, and prayer--that is my feeling for what it's worth. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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April 13, 2016

Beautiful DC Flowers









(Source Photos: Andy Blumenthal)


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2016 Technology Advances - Doing Well Sir

In just the last few days and weeks, I have been astonished at the progress already being made towards the important technology advancements mentioned in Technology Forecast 2016

On the front for medical technology to fight cancer, just today it was announced that the foundation from Sean Parker (of Napster and Facebook) is providing a $250 million grant for a new cancer institute to advance the field of immunotherapy to boost the body's natural defenses (i.e. immune system) to fight the cancer.

In terms of space technology, famed astrophysicist, Stephen Hawking and venture capitalist, Yuri Milner are teaming up with a $100 million for research to develop "Starchips" (a nanocraft robot on a chip) for a voyage to another solar system 25 trillion miles away. 

Finally, there are advances for counter-terrorism technology on display with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection announcing in February a pilot of new biometric technology kiosks to capture and compare facial and iris biometrics for travelers exiting the U.S. to compare with their entry data and ensure an end-to-end visitor entry/exit solution.  

I am pleased at the commitment and progress we are making in these critical technology areas, and sincerely hope that these efforts will flourish for us all in the not too distant future. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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April 12, 2016

Turn, Press, Pull -- Gonna Get Ya

So as I go around town, I see more and more of these industrial-type control panels. 

The problem is that they are stupidly in the open and unprotected or otherwise easily defeated.  

While probably not a serious threat of any sort, this one apparently is a unit to control some fans in an underground garage open to the public. 

You see the knobs you can just turn.

And one with a yellow warning sticker above it.

As if that will keep someone with bad intentions from messing with it. 

You also see the red and yellow lights...hey. let's see if we can make those flash on, off, on.

Panel 13, nicely numbered for us--let's look for 1 to 12 and maybe 14+.

It just continues to amaze me that in the age of 9/11 and all the terrorism (and crime) out there that many people still seem so lackadaisical when it comes to basic security. 

Anyone in the habit of leaving doors and gates open, windows unlocked, grounds unmonitored, computers and smart phones without password protection, data unencrypted and not backed up, even borders relatively wide open, and so on. 

Of course, we love our freedom and conveniences.

We want to forget bad experiences.

Could we be too trusting at times?

Maybe we don't even believe anymore that the threats out there are impactful or real.

But for our adversaries it could just be as simple as finding the right open "opportunity" and that's our bad. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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April 11, 2016

A Beautiful Crane

I took this photo in Lake Needwood yesterday. 

A most beautiful crane.

Such a long neck, skinny legs, smooth feathers, and a yellow beak.

When it took flight, it was so amazing. 

It's wingspan was huge. 

And it soared and glided through the trees and into the sky. 

I wish I could have caught it all on video. 

So free, elegant, and graceful.  

There was something almost heavenly about it. 

Imprinted it on my memory--loved it. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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April 10, 2016

Success Is Not A Silver Spoon

So there is a disappointing editorial in the Sunday New York Times Review Section today. 

It is by Christopher Chabris and Joshua Hart in "How Not To Explain Success."

They attempt to dispel the explanation of 2 Yale law professors Amy Chua and Jed Rubenfeld that various ethnic and religious minorities (e.g. Cubans, Jews, Indians, etc.) "had achieved disproportionate success in America" because of three things:

1) "A belief that their group was inherently superior to others"

2) "A sense of personal insecurity"

3) "A high degree of impulse control"

But Chabris and Hart claim this is falsehood and instead attribute the success to the people's innate higher intelligence and superior socioeconomic background.

In other words, Chabris and Hart would have us believe that the ethnic and religious minorities they speak of were somehow "born with a silver spoon in their mouths"-- which is complete NONSENSE.

While Chabris and Hart (of Union College) themselves claim vastly superior empirical evidence from their survey of a whopping 1,258 adults, they dismiss others' arguments such as Yale University professors, Chua and Rubenfeld, as mere "circumstantial evidence."

Well I and many of my family and friends that I grew up with must be part of that silly circumstantial evidence, called PERSONAL EXPERIENCE.

You see, we are part of the generation of Holocaust Survivors and Children Of Holocaust Survivors, who came to America, as my grandmother said "without a chair to sit on" or a dime in their pockets. 

My father worked long, hard hours in a factory eventually becoming its manager and he and my mom provided for our family. Both my parents lost most of their education due to the War and the need to "go out and earn a living."

Similarly, one of my best friends grew up also the child of survivors. His father came from the Holocaust and ended up working blue collar work as an electrician, eventually owning his business.  

Neither family started with much--I ended up managing technology in some awesome agencies for the Federal government and my friend as an executive in the cruise industry.  

Virtually, the entire generation of Jews who fled to America as refugees from the Holocaust came with nothing...yet the people and their children worked hard, very hard, and they were blessed, and become successful. 

So, I have no surveys to back me up, but I do have my life and that of almost an entire generation of real life facts from people's lives--not made up of speculative survey questions and their interpretation of results.

So from my perspective, it is Chabris and Hart that are 100% WRONG!

You see they don't know from where we came and under what horrible conditions and how we arrived here as immigrants with nothing but our faith in G-d Almighty and the love of our families and community. 

And for the record, Chua and Rubenfeld are right:

Point #1, we were clearly taught a sense of superiority--but not what people mistakenly think--it is not based on intelligence, looks, or on physical strength, but rather based on that we were Biblically expected to behave differently as Jews and live more stringently. 

And that goes clearly to point #3, which is impulse control...the Jewish religion is based on 613 commandments--we are expected to eat a certain way, dress a certain way, keep Shabbat and holidays a certain way, raise a family a certain way...there is a huge amount of impulse control involved and in fact, not all of us are successful meeting all those stringent requirements--but it is a precondition upon which many of us grow up. 

Finally, in terms of point #2--personal insecurity, I am not sure how much more insecure you can be when your people just got slaughtered in the Holocaust, the world's worst genocide ever known, and you are one of the survivors who has to rebuild--Yes, that is an incredible motivator!

If Chabris and Hart believe that we made it here based on pure intellect or positive socioeconomic factors--they are either complete idiots or sickly delusional.

While people's personal success is highly subjective for them, as a whole group though, I most certainly believe that G-d blessed the Jewish people after the horrors and unbelievable suffering of the Holocaust. 

No level of intelligence or falsely perceived socioeconomics can explain what only G-d's infinite mercy can endow. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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April 9, 2016

It's Got To Be

So I read a book review the other day that I haven't been able to get out of my mind. 

The book was by an atheist who had 2 near-death experiences. 

And while for other people, they see the light at the end of the tunnel--and are reunited with family loved ones and are in bliss from being with the Heavenly Father...

This guy saw nothing but blackness and said it was empty and nothingness. 

And he was dead serious about it. 

He said there is nothing after we die, absolutely nothing. 

Now, while I have always believed in life after death and even in reincarnation if we still have more growing and learning to do, I had heard others say contrary beliefs in the past.

One guy in synagogue when I was a young adult used to say, "When you die, you're as dead as a dead dog!"

Lovely thought (not), but I never took any of that seriously. 

Yet, this guy's book somehow got to me on a deep level. 

Maybe because I lost my beloved parents over the last 2+ years and am still deeply mourning them, and the only thing that can possibly console me about that is the notion that I will one day be reunited with them and see them again. 

So the opposing idea that it's really over--that I will never see them again--experience their love and laughter again--is beyond my comprehension--it literally blows my mind in a bad bad way. 

Also, I said to my wife, if this atheist is by any chance right (not about G-d) but about there being no afterworld, then what is the purpose to anything we do--who cares?

Without G-d, without Divine will and justice, and a world-to-come, there really is nothing but darkness and not just after we die, but now too--because it would all be purposeless. 

No, I cannot believe that!

The atheist saw nothing afterwards, because he believes in nothing--it's a measure for a measure. 

For those who believe that there is more, much more--there really is. 

It has to be that way...for anything to make sense. 

For us to try so hard. 

For us to go on.

For us to have a purpose.

For there to be justice.

For there to be us. 

My dad used to tell me that "No one has ever come back from the other side to tell us what's there."

So it really is the ultimate mystery of life...but I choose to believe in life now and in life later. 

The miracles of my own life and those around me show me again and again that there is design, there is order, there is a plan, there is a purpose and I will find mine. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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