April 16, 2015

CIO, Social Butterfly Or Tyrant

So I've seen it both ways...

There are those who "lead" by friendship, as if the workplace is one big playpen; and the notion is that those who have the most office buddies wins; to them it's not the mission or work that is important but rather it's a popularity contest, plain and simple--they are immature and still stuck in the preschool mode of thinking about what leadership is and how to work productively with others. 

Then there are others who "lead" by tyranny--it is a one person show and they are it; no one else has an viewpoint or idea that matters; anyone else who is good to great is a threat to them--they are insecure and narcissistic and the scariest thing in the world to them is to surround themselves with people smarter than themselves or give credit, respect, and honor to others.

Now there is nothing wrong with doing a coffee, lunch, or happy hour, networking, and building relationships with good people...in fact, interpersonal skills is a critical part of the job and of success.

However, those who flutter around smoozing it up with anyone and everyone, and unlike normal working discussions that have a congenial, "how you doing?" aspect and a serious, let's get down to business part, these social butterflies never get past the game on last night, their trip to Paris, or their one night stand...it's all personal, conferences, speeches, but no real work getting done (maybe some smoke and mirrors). 

Similarly, there are times, when decisions need to be made and the debate must end, and not everything in the office can be a vote where majority wins--sometimes tough decisions and trade-offs need to be made, authority exercised, and responsibility taken.

Nevertheless, it's when moderation and good judgement is lost and a person's emotional issues, personality disorders, and social anxieties take over that they act the fool--and they either rule by shaking hands and kissing babies (or the office equivalent of favors, favortism, and coffee or drinks, I'm buying!) or they are hard-a*sed, prickly jerks who cannot work with anyone that can pull their own weight and instead we see a flurry people make a dash for the exits. 

How do either of these types of people become leaders of anything? Don't the executives they report see or hear the chaos in the ranks below and the projects going bottom-up, kaput?

We've got to get along and nothing wrong with work friends, but we are here to do a job and do it well and for that we need to come together as decent human beings who treat each other with respect, dignity, and where everyone can make a valuable contribution--CIO social butterflies and inglorious tyrants begone! ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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April 15, 2015

The Wrong Way To Test

As educators are pushed to improve students' test scores, sometimes they run afoul.

In Atlanta, 8 former public school educators were sentenced to prison--three were sentenced to as long as seven years--for a conspiracy inflating student scores by "changing answers" to the tests. 

Interestingly, in another article today, we see that not only are students put to the test, but so are job applicants

In fact, "Eight of the top 10 U.S. private employers now administrator pre-hire tests in their job applications."

While testing can certainly show some things, they can also miss the point completely. 

I know some people that test wonderfully--straight A students, 100+ on all exams, 4.0 GPAs--and for the most part, they are wonderful at memorizing and prepping for the test...but sometimes not much else. 

Some of them have no practical knowledge, little critical thinking or creativity, and are even sort of jerky. 

And others who test poorly may be well thought, articulate, hands-on, and good with people--I'd take a million of them. 

"Failing the test" is not necessarily getting it wrong...it may just be errant to the current educational and professional testing system that values memorization and spitting back over insight, innovation, and practical skills. 

The challenge is how do we compare and contrast students and professionals competing for schools and career advancement, if we don't easily have something standardized like a test to rally around. 

Maybe there is no getting away from more holistic assessments--where we look at bona fide life and career experience, a wide range of recommendations from teachers, coaches, and supervisors, hard and soft skills (including communications and interpersonal), professional and personal ethics, genuine interest in the pursuit, and the motivation to work hard and contribute.  

Tests--students cheat, educators game the system, memorization and robotic answers are the name of the game to get the A, and boring homogeneity prevails--but it's often the easy way out to evaluating candidates for a phony success. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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April 14, 2015

3-D Printing Comes To Life

So my daughter is graduating high school, but is already taking a class in 3-D printing. 

(This little guy pictured here was made experimenting in the class and was a precious gift from her.)

Already prophetically envisioned in Star Trek as "the replicator," this technology has been around in primitive trial form since the 1980's.

In 3-D printing, alloyed material is successively layered under computer control to make complex shapes and products.

It makes traditional 2-D printing (on paper) look like rubbing two sticks together to build a fire (circa the paleolithic period of mankind thousands of years ago). 

The promise of 3-D printing for advanced manufacturing is absolutely incredible.

The Wall Street Journal describes how NASA researchers and engineers are working toward using 3-D printers in space to "make bricks suitable for airtight buildings and radiation proof shelters" simply using the sand already on Mars. 

Moreover, the astronauts on their journey may be eating pizza from these printers as well (except for the sand, but still probably better than MREs--Haha).

Already objects have been printed "19 feet long...stone-like building blocks weighing one-and-a-half ton each"!

In the future, 3-D printers could be sent in advance to planets we look to colonize and "lay down landing pads, roads, and shelters" in preparation of our arrival.

These printers could even build working replicas of themsleves or "swarms of self-assembling construction robots" boosting our capacity for even more building.

Moreover, technology is in the works to recycle from 3-D printing by melting down the printed products back into material that could be reused for new printing projects.

On Earth, where we have long been drawing down our natural resources as well as polluting our environment, the prospect of going to other worlds where their are new resources and we actually have the ability to use them constructively is humanity's chance for a whole new chapter of life beyond. ;-)

(Source Photo: Rebecca Blumenthal)
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April 13, 2015

| Go With A Winning Strategy |

So there was an office discussion the other day about something having a "checkered past."

And one of my colleagues said wisely about it, "I rather play chess!"

I though it was a smart retort, since chess is a game of strategy versus checkers, which is more a game of luck. 

Checkers is by far the more one-dimensional game with each piece moving or jumping in a similar fashion, while in chess, you deploy specific types of pieces (king, queen, rook, bishop, night, or pawn) for different manuevers. 

In life, when we deal with things that are especially challenging, double-edged, tricky, or plain dangerous, we need to handle it with a well-thought-out game plan and a solid strategy.

Having a plan and maintaining agility in dealing with the "facts on the ground" as they unfold is by far the better problem-solving approach than just trying to jump over the other guys pieces or block his next move. 

Chess in the only way to get to checkmate ;-)

(Source Photo: here with attribution to Florls Looijesteijn)
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April 12, 2015

Live To Live or Live To Die?

In The New York Times today, David Brooks presents “two sets of virtues, the resume virtue and the eulogy virtue.”

The resume virtues are the skills you need to get ahead in the marketplace, and the eulogy virtues are “whether you were kind, brave, honest, or faithful.”


While we'd like to believe that most feel that being a decent human being is more important than how much money we earn, unfortunately our education and economic systems are geared far more toward the latter, where it's widely acknowledged that "money makes the world go round!”


In fact, many will often sacrifice the moral high ground for landing on a bigger, cushier hill of worldly possessions and pleasures. 


Interestingly enough, my daughter asked me last week, whether it is better to personally live a happy life but die with a horrible reputation or to live selflessly, struggling with life challenges, but be revered after you die?


To me the answer was simple--live, learn, and grow regardless of momentary personal happiness. Do what’s right, period--honor and chivalry is alive and well. 


But my daughter told me that over 90% of people polled chose their happiness in life as their #1 goal.


I suppose it's easy to say what's the point of leaving a legacy if you were not happy living your life every day, but I would counter with what's the point in chasing life's daily pleasures, if you were a bum and everyone knows it?


The point isn't even what people say about us when we are alive or dead, but rather that we know that we tried our best to live as decent, ethical human beings and that hopefully, we left the world a better place than when we got here.


Sure, there is no blessing in being poor or unhappy--but living purely to satisfy one's voracious materialistic appetite is just being a selfish little pig--come on admit it!


On your deathbed, will you wish you that in your life you had more money and status or that you had been a better, more giving human being? 


I say forget the resume and the eulogy, just think about what will really gives you peace of mind and inner happiness and it's more than any amount of money can buy or any seduction you can imagine.  ;-)


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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April 11, 2015

Happy Chametz Time Again



Thank you to Congregation Magen David for a wonderful end of Passover party.

The family, new friends, music, singing, dancing, and food made for a truly joyous evening.

Happy and thankful for the opportunity to be a part of it. 

Now counting up to Shavuot and the giving of the Torah. 

The Jewish people rock! ;-)

(Source Video: Andy Blumenthal)
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Disabled, Can You Imagine?

A very important article in the Wall Street Journal by Anthony Weller about what it's like to Paralyzed From The Neck Down.

Weller has suffered for 10 years with primary progressive multiple sclerosis. 

He describes losing everything...from "incalculable personal pleasures" to being "totally helpless."

And what's more, you have to save your chips in asking others for things, because "you'd be asking the whole day."

"Say goodbye to any sense of personal space, too"--in needing everything, you're essentially left like an open book to everyone around you.

Here, I can't help thinking about those moments of personal indignity--in caring for our own bodies--that even that someone else must be there for.

Then, there is the just sitting around and endless thinking..."There isn't much else to do."

I remember learning about some medieval torture methods and one involved lying a person down in the space cleaved into the stone face of the dungeon and there a person would essentially rot--not being able to move, sit or stand up, or even roll over. 

How long could a person last like that before completely losing their mind?  

While Weller says that he used to imagine being paralyzed as feeling like being "encased in stone," but now he see it more that your limbs just ignore you, to me whether you are paralyzed in your own body or embedded in medieval stone, the challenges physically and mentally are as scary as anything that can be imagined. 

How do you keep your sanity, let alone any hope?

Weller says, you live in the past, "happiness isn't is, but was, [and] you try not to contemplate the future too much."

G-d should have infinite mercy on his creations and lift up the fallen, cure the sick, and release the innocent that are imprisoned...please, please, please let it be. Amen.

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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April 10, 2015

Apple Watch M~A~N~I~A

The Apple (Smart) Watch doesn't go on sale for another 2 weeks...

But the Apple stores are streaming with excited customers already.

There are displays lined with the watches from the sports model to the stainless steel and even the 24-karat gold ones.

Ask the Apple salesperson and they'll set you up at the next table for an associate to help you try on the watches including the 38 cm and 42 cm displays and various fashionable bands. 

They have this cute little rag to shine up the watch displays before you try them on over these black mats, just as if you are in a fancy jewelry store sampling diamond rings or something. 

I'll tell you, while there is plenty of well-founded skepticism about these ranging from their not being a killer app to their inherent obsolescence (the battery is like 6 quarters thick on this version), and the watches are NOT intuitive to use, people are STILL going to buy these just to be stay current with the changing technology. 

Right now, I'm pressing down on the display (in my mind) and sending my heart beats to Apple for another transformative technology move.

One of my favorites on this watch is using the voice control to send text messages...Dick Tracy eat your heart out. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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April 9, 2015

The Way Things Were

So here's the word of the day--Troglodyte.

How many of you know this word?

It usually refers to someone from prehistoric times, like a cave-dweller. 

But it is used to refer to people who are basically just old fashioned. 

A near relative of the Troglodyte is the Luddite who opposes new technologies. 

Today, a colleague said to me that he misses the old organization phone books we used to have with organization charts and readily available contacts everywhere. 

It didn't matter that we have this electronically now, he likes the hardcopy ones that he could keep on his desk and flip through...to heck with technology. 

Then he goes that someone called him (jokingly, I think) a troglodyte for feeling this way. 

Well there is something to be said for the good 'ol days and I understand people that appreciate "the way things were", but in many ways, those days weren't all that good--think poverty, illness, corruption, racism, and more. 

So I feel quite blessed to be living now, rather than say at almost any other time in history. 

In looking out towards the near future, I am prepping myself for the new smartwatch coming out from Apple later this month, and while I have my doubts about it (having gotten so attached to my smartphone especially the large screen--6 plus, Yes!), I realize...

That the next technology tidal wave is coming with wearables (and then embeddables), and if you don't get on board and adopt early...you might as well be riding an old Timey Bike around town with a big sign on your back that says, "Troglodyte...A Stick In The Mud and Stuck In The Past!" ;-)

(Source Photo: here with attribution to Marie-ll)
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April 8, 2015

The Soul Of A Fighter

This was an awesome piece of art on the street in downtown Washington, D.C. 

The boxer against the bright yellow background and wearing red boxing gloves that say "Soul Matters" is striking.

For many year, I had a wonderful Rocky poster with the words, "His whole life was a million to one shot."

I emphathize with and respect the person who has to fight (practically) against all odds to overcome challenges and but through the grace of G-d and a strong fighting spirit goes forward for their chance at success.

It almost doesn't matter whether you (fully) succeed, but rather that you gave it your best shot, fought the good fight, and put your heart and soul into it. 

Always do the right thing and pray for the opportunity to make a difference. 

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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April 7, 2015

Different, Better Than Mad Max

Love this photo of the Orange Porsche epecially at this cool angle.

Ok, this is not a Mad Max black muscle car.

More like a Fast and Furious action racing vehicle. 

When I saw this car in front of the new Pike and Rose in North Bethesda (gorgeous by the way), I thought this is becoming more like Miami than typical Washington, D.C. 

Aside from the cars, the upscale dining, shopping, and iPic movie theatre (with luxurious reclining plush chairs and alcoholic drinks) has brought this area to a whole new level. 

Mad Max eat your heart out or perhaps those of your post-apocalyptic adversaries. ;-)

(Source Photo: Dannielle Blumenthal)
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April 6, 2015

A 2-Year Campaign Cycle

So campaigning for the Presidential election, still quite some time off in November 2016, has already begun in earnest in Washington, D.C.

With roughly 600 days to the election, we are going to be spending a lot of time and money leading-up to this thing. 

Are you excited about all the lead up and electioneering?

The Chicago Tribune did an interesting comparison of the U.S. and U.K. in this regard.

In 2008, the U.S. spent $1.7 billion on the campaign (and you can be sure this number is continuing to go up, up, and away) versus roughly $33 million imposed on each major party in the U.K. and an election announced in April for May--one month! 

While you can argue that one month is too short for such a major decision for a country...do we really need 20+ months and billions in media advertising to communicate the candidates' points of view and to coalesce around our next President?

Perhaps spending more time actually accomplishing things for the country and it's people during a President's tenure would be a far better focus of our national attention and efforts than an near endless cheer of ra ra ra sis boom ba yay candidate!  ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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April 5, 2015

Oh, Change!

What an astute comic this is about change. 

"Who wants change?"  Everyone raises their hands enthusiastically.

"Who wants to change?" Everyone has their hands and eyes down. 

I suppose that is the difference between a nice lofty but esoteric concept, and something that actually impacts us and requires our attention, resources, and hard work. 

So what sounds good for the masses in a speech or article may sound entirely different when applied to the individual. 

Who me change?  No, that's someone else's problem!

- Global warming and environmental destruction--that's coming from China now.

- Russian aggression in Ukraine, Georgia, the Baltic States--it's a European issue.

- The Arab Spring with governments being overthrown and countries destabilizing into sectarian violence--that's for The Gulf States to worry about. 

- Higher taxes to pay for social entitlements--let the very rich pay for that.

- More security and surveillance for counter-terrorism initiatives--let's just surgically target the bad guys with those. 

Let's face it--we all have a lot on our plates already and we are suckers for a good talking to about some broadly-based, fantastical future that is better, happier, healthier, and more peaceful and prosperous.

But what do you have to give up or sacrifice for this future utopia or making progress towards it...ah, that's not a message we really want to get into now, is it?

Change...it's good for the next guy and gal; let me have my cake and eat it too. ;-)

(Source Photo: here with attribution to starecat.com)
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April 4, 2015

2 Heads And A House

My daughter took this photo on a trip to Spain. 

In America, in front of the McMansions, it is not atypical to see interesting statues (perhaps of lions or fantasy guard creatures), ancient fountains, and even modern art.

I thought this European house was unique with some busts of a man and woman on each side of the gate to the front door. 

Wonder whether these are actually supposed to look the owners or are just randomly funny.

Also, the color match the orange house and yellow entranceway sort of perfectly.

Either way, it makes you take a 2nd and 3rd look.

Why is the man bust smiling and the woman bust looking so miserable here (or is that just representative of what most "traditional" marriages are about)?

Wouldn't it be sort of funny if every home had busts or large photos or other representation prominently and widely displayed of the family inside. 

No more mystery of who lives there and more warmth and personalization. 

When you sell/buy property, you just have to take all of yourselves with you. ;-)

(Note: no idol worship please.)

(Source Photo: Rebecca Blumenthal)
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April 3, 2015

Lauding Over A Toilet Brush?


Not sure about this video on the SimpleHuman Toilet Brush

On one hand, it's funny to have such a serious video lauding the functionality and design of a toilet brush.

But on the other hand, the video is pretty darn convincing:

- Slim for easy placement and accessible for quick use. 

- A magnetic collar for picking up the brush and housing with one hand--no messy spills.

- With a stainless steel rod for stability and durability.

- Specially innovative design crescent-shaped brush for those hard to reach areas under the rim.

- Easily detachable brush for when you need replacement. 

- Comes in black and white--so fashionable. 

Ok, so now I have to admit that I ordered one of these today.

I'll let you know if it really works (Uh no!) ;-)
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April 2, 2015

The Lights Never Really Go Off

It was interesting at work recently, when a colleague was contemplating what to do about some key person being out of the office and unavailable...

And they go: "Next man or women up--last one flips off the light."

In other words as they say, the show must go on!

So hurry up and let's get the person's deputy, "second," or the next one on the ladder read in and working on this. 

When it comes to work, we can't stop because someone is "out of pocket"--the job presuposes any particular person or persons.

While many peope think (or wish) they are irreplaceable, the truth is that with the exception of your closest family and friends, we are all just shy of, "Okay, whose up next?"

I remember a friend who told me many years ago that he believed that the whole world revolved around him (yes really), and that everyone else was "just a figment of my imagination."

Ha, I'm pretty sure that a lot of people have had a similar thought or sentiment about themselves. 

But the truth is that while everyone is unique and invaluable--there are over 7 billion of us out there and growing--so there is always someone else waiting in the wings to jump on an opportunity to fill someone else's shoes (no matter how big). 

It is a harsh world and reality--but we are here as long as we are here, and then there are others who come after. 

In a sense, this is a good thing, because as mere mortals, we don't want everything to depend on us--we are frail, we get sick, we die--but by having others who can step in and carry the flag forward, our efforts do not end with us. :-)

(Source Photo: here with attribution to Niklas Morberg)
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March 30, 2015

That's Getting A LIttle Personal

This was a funny advertisement hanging in Hot Topic in the mall. 

It says: "Get in our pants"--well, excuse you!

Using sexual come-ons to sell, sell, sell...is not a new marketing strategy. 

As they say in the biz world, "Sex sells!"

Perhaps a more targeted ad about quality, fit, and pricing would be more to the product point.

But why sell with facts, when you can sell with fantasy. ;-)

(Source Photo: Dannielle Blumenthal)
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March 29, 2015

Electric Cars, Forget About It

With all the talk about electric cars, I think what we've forgotten is that they are still just cars and oh-so 20th century. 

What I mean is that they are not transformative. 

You're still in a car, traveling around 15-60(+) miles per hour, stopping at stop lights/signs, yielding to other cars and pedestrians, driving over potholes, getting stuck in traffic, and having to fill up on "juice" every few hundred miles. 


And with the cost of oil way done (about half from last year), there may be a positive environmental impact, and that's important, but that's about it for this invention. 


So if you can get over the range anxiety and fear of running out of electric power and not finding a convenient place to plug into, and you don't mind waiting an hour or so for the fill up, well then you can drive on batteries--and all the power to you. 


But like the toy cars and trucks that I played with as a child, they too often ran on batteries, and I'd zoom them around on the kitchen and dining room floor with lights and sirens flashings--now that was exciting. 


And yes, a driverless car (like from Google) is a little more of a step forward in terms of really changing how we travel...but then again, maybe it's like sitting on a bus, metro, cruise ship, or airplane today--read the paper, snooze, listen to music, or watch a video, but you don't have to do anything to move the vehicle or navigate the terrain. 


In a way, cars are pretty much just fancy horses with wheels--whether powered by hay, gas, or electric--they are terrestrial and sort of boring on the ride--even with the windows down and music playing. 


In my opinion, it is high time for some travel without the crunched seats, traffic jams, no turn lanes, traffic cameras, expensive tickets, looking for parking spaces, potholes, flat tires, and all the other nuisances of daily car commuting. 


What I like about the picture in this blog though is that it makes me think of a much greater leap when it comes to transportation--whether by transporter, jet pack, pneumatic tubes, or time/space machine--we can get there effortlessly and lippity-snappity quick.


And the car, it can stay in the garage--or find its place in the Museum of History--for all I care. ;-)


(Source Photo: Rebecca Blumenthal)

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March 26, 2015

Country Landscape

I like this beautiful painting of a countryside landscape. 

The vibrant fall colors of reds, oranges, yellows, and browns.

The tops of the houses and steeple jutting up from the lush foliage. 

The bluish-green mountains in the background, the wavy blue water lined by white sand on the upper left, and the light blue sky with clear white clouds at the very top. 

It's a little bit of Heaven right here on Earth.

Where peace, prosperity, and health are abundant and prevail.

G-d should bless us. 

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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March 25, 2015

The Geometric Desk

Thought this desk was really nice. 

Professional, clean, hardwood, and very polished!

Not overly large, but I  liked the geometry of this thing, which made up for it.

The square draws on one side and the inverted cone on the other--very cool.

Great design, and seemingly good quality for home or office. 

Made in America? That would be especially nice (let's bring the manufacturing home!)  ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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March 24, 2015

Hmm...A Nuke Deal With Iran--Just Ask Why?

Here are 10 simple points any reasonable person would ask about a Nuke deal with Iran:

HATRED OF AMERICA--THEIR ENEMY #1:


1) Iran, of the Axis Of Evil, considers "The Great Satan" (as they call America) their "number one enemy", they chant "Death to America," and even hang our President in effigy.


MURDERING AND THREATENING TO RAIN DEATH AND DESTRUCTION ON AMERICANS:


2) Iran threatened brutal attacks on America as well as on the President's family, and Iranian military documents endorse a devastating EMP attack on the United States

3) Iran says it will destroy the U.S. Navy, and destroyed a mock U.S. aircraft carrier in February!
4) Iran held our diplomats hostage for 444 days
5) Iran through it's proxy Hezbolah killed 241 U.S. Marines in the Lebanon suicide attack.

DENYING THE HOLOCAUST AND THREATENING ANNIHILATION OF ISRAEL:


6) Iran threatens to annihilate Israel.

7) Iran is a leading denier of the Holocaust, where 6 million Jews were murdered just 70 years ago. 

THE WORLD'S LEADING SPONSOR OF TERRORISM AND HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSES:


8) Iran is the leading state sponsor of terrorism worldwide.

9) Iran is the worst human rights offender in the world today.

ONGOING DEFIANCE OF THE WORLD ON NUCLEAR PROLIFERATION ACTIVITIES:


10) Iran continues to hide their dangerous nuclear activites from International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), even as they profess cooperation, seek a lifting of sanctions and legitimacy for their nuke program. 


(All opinions my own)

(Source Photo: here with attribution to MEMRI via Fox News)

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Building and Flowers

Thought this painting of this gorgeous Spanish-styled building intermeshed with beautiful flowers was magnificant. 

I saw this hanging in a high-end home decor store around Washington, D.C. 

I like the side-looking angle upward as the building rises and peaks.

Also, all the shapes with squares, spheres, columns, archways and more along with all the brillant colors around it makes this something special to look at.

Hope you enjoy it! ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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March 23, 2015

Respect The Legs

I took this photo of this statue of a lady perched up high on a column.

It's an interesting (yet in my estimation a somewhat demeaning) view of femininity as demonstrated by the relatively small body, but oversized crossed-over legs. 

Perhaps the artist thinks this is sexy or provocative...

Or maybe it's just a relaxing pose with head high and back and arm behind her head.

Either way, you've got to respect those legs, and of course, the woman. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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March 22, 2015

10 Reasons In Just 1 Week To Fear Government Breakdown

When I saw this in the store, I knew it was a true sign of the times, as they say. 

When the government that is supposed to sustain order and usher in social and economic progress is dysfunctional and broken, instead we have:


"Chaos, Panic, [and] Disorder"


Here's some news highlights from just this last week:


SPREADING BASE OF WORLDWIDE TERRORISM


1) ISIS murdered 137 and wounded over 300 in suicide bombings at mosques in Yemen.


2) Al Qaeda / Islamic State killed 23 mostly European tourists and injured over 50 at attack on the National Bardo Museum in Tunisia.


3) Iraq's battle to take back Tikrit from ISIS slows as ISIS continues to hold territory in Iraq and Syria larger than many countries--this after the last U.S. troops left Iraq in 2011. 


AGGRESSIVE POWER AND LAND GRABS:


4) Russia annexes South Ossetia from Georgia, just a year after annexing Crimea from Ukraine.


5) China starts up the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) with support from key European Countries as well as Australia and South Korea, challenging American dominance via the International Monetary Fund (IMF)--this shortly after China surpasses America as the world largest economy.


PROLIFERATION OF WMD:


6) Iran says "Nuclear deal within reach," while their neighbors in the Middle East shutter and warn of impending nuclear arms race.


FORESAKING STALWART ALLIES AND MIDDLE EAST PEACE:


7) The Administration threatens to back United Nations against Israel, imposing a 2 state solution rather than a negotiated peace and security for the region. 


ECONOMIC MESS:


8) U.S. economic forecast by the Fed was downgraded to just 2.5%, despite years of near-zero interest rates that were supposed to spark growth, but instead has simply driven stocks into overdrive and set us up for another bursting of the financial bubble


HEALTHCARE SHAMBLES:


9) Upcoming Supreme Court decision on Obamacare could see 8 million people lose subsidies and ultimately their health insurance coverage.


ENVORNMENTAL CRISIS:


10) 2014 as the hottest year on record and 13 of the 14 hottest years are in the 21st century so far, this as even Chinese officials acknowledge looming fallout ahead in terms of climate change and disasters


If this is just one (more) week with the current breakdown of government,  those causing it all, as the sign states, can proclaim:


"My Work Here Is [Almost] Done."
 ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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March 21, 2015

When You're Feeling Blue...

I was intrigued by this "Rescue Gum." 

Whole Foods carries this bright yellow-packaged gum pack (17 pieces), selling it at checkout for just $6.99.


Thinking, they should probably sell this right next to the fruit-flavored "Life Savers."


So this gum is for stress relief, and it's made with 5 flower remedies.

Do you believe in that? 


When I looked this gum up online, it says:


- "Keep out of reach of children.


- If pregnant or breastfeeding, ask a health professional before use.


- Excessive consumption may induce mildly laxative effects.


- Not suitable for animals."


Okay, so if you weren't stressed out before reading the warning on this gum, you are now, right? 


I think I'll pass on the rescue gum, and head over to the hot bar in the back for some seitan and veggies. ;-)


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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March 20, 2015

Death To PowerPoint

Ok, we've all heard of "Death by PowerPoint" (well, I'm advocating death to PowerPoint).

It's the unfortunate occurrence that happens when a speaker presents a wad too many slides (OMG, some people seem to go on and on forever--get them off that podium)!

Or when they present too much information, too little information, or just don't know what or how to present at all. 

Their (slide) presentations leave the audience basically wanting to just kill themselves, if not the inconsiderate S.O.B. speaker.

But aside from lousy speakers, you have a crappy presentation mechanism, which is PowerPoint slides.

Hello out there, tell the truth...

Can any of you remember much of a darn thing that anyone has ever conveyed to you by PowerPoint?

Think of webinars, conferences, and meetings galore with slide after slide of 2-dimensional boredom.

Is your head hurting you yet or are you just glad you can't remember any of it--natural selection of memory saves you the pain...why thank you.

Then consider what someone has told you in great thoughtfulness, confidence, or with genuine passion, caring and sincerity.

- Perhaps, the wisdom of a parent or teacher who took you aside to tell you a life's lesson.

- Or a Rabbi or Priest who shared with you something spiritual and uplifting to guide you on your path.

- How about someone in the office who was passionate about an idea or project and who motivated you as well.

Most of the communication between people that really means something never makes it to a PowerPoint slide.

Imagine for a moment, if something meaningful was conveyed to you by slide presentation--you would think, how ridiculous it is to use PowerPoint for that?

- I love you--will you marry me?

- We're having a baby, how wonderful. 

- Just got that promotion, yes!

- So and so is sick or just passed away, how terrible. 

PowerPoint just doesn't happen here in real life--thank G-d!

And no matter how much organizations such as TED would like to make a (show)business out of presentations using PowerPoint...(ah, nope).

Real communication happens when one person talks from the heart to another person who receives it in their heart. 

The greatest orators in history...never used a slide presentation.

Other presentation products like Prezi tried to take slides to the next level with a storytelling format using a virtual canvas, but that didn't pan out to well either...see many Prezis lately (and without getting dizzy)?

PowerPoint slides, and the like, are for distraction...now I don't have to pay that much attention to the rambling, numbnut speaker anymore.

The bottom line...we don't listen with our eyes!

Rather, we hear words of wisdom and see when someone is genuine, sincere and worth listening to.

The rest is PowerPoint... ;-)

(Source Photo: here with attribution to Chris Pirillo)
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March 19, 2015

What Type Of IT Error Was That?

So true story...

One of my collegues was giving me a status on an IT problem in the office. 

With a very straight face, he goes, "Yeah, it was an I.D. 10 T error!"

I'm just looking at him with a sort of blank face (I must have been emanating something like, "What are you talking about Willis?")

And he repeats, "An I.D. 10 T error...uh?"

Ok, one more time, I haven't had my coffee yet.

So he goes dotting his head, "What you haven't heard about an I.D. 10 T error?"

"All right, you got me...What is an I.D. 10 T error."

And as I'm saying it out loud and visioning it on paper, his little joke is out of the box.

Hey cut me some slack, I'm a Jewish kid from the Bronx and so I innocently say, "An IDIOT Error?"

Now he's nodding his head up and down in excitement, "An end user--IDIOT--error!"

And he starts laughing his head off. 

Ok boys and girls in IT...rule #16 of office etiquette, please don't call the end-users, idiots.

Back to customer service (and sensitivity) training for some of the jokesters on the team... ;-)
(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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March 18, 2015

Seeing Double

I had to do a double take seeing this yesterday in D.C.

No this is not someone leaning up against a mirror.

This is two people, back-to-back on the train.

They have the same jacket, haircut, glasses, as well as pants and shoes (although you can't see these in the picture). 

They are looking in same general direction. 

The only difference is the collar that's up on the guy on the right. 

Imagine if we all looked and dressed and even acted identically...one big homogeneous and ultimately boring and uncreative society.

Please give me some individualism, spontaneity, and make me whole. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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March 17, 2015

Everyday, A Catch-22

I took this photo of this guys' cool Catch-22 bag on the Metro in Washington, D.C. yesterday. 

Catch-22 was made famous in the book of the said name by Joseph Heller.

Essentially a Catch-22 is an unsolvable problem.

In the book for example, military servicemen in WWII can apply for a discharge if they are verifiably crazy, but the sheer act of applying for a discharge shows you are not crazy. 

Other examples of a Catch-22 are locking your keys in the car and you can't unlock the door to get them or losing your glasses but now you can't look for them.

In life, it seems like we are constantly facing Catch-22's, however not solving them is not an option...we must come up with a workable solution.

At work and in school, we compete to get ahead, yet we must team, cooperate, and collaborate with those very same folks that we are competing with. 

At home with children, we need to teach our children often difficult lessons of right and wrong, patience, discipline, and safety, even while we have overflowing feelings of love for them and just want to hug them and give in to them. 

With spouses, as our love and lives build over the years, we grow together and become ever more interdependent on our partners, yet we need to maintain some healthy independence and self at the same time. 

With career, are we advance ourselves so that we can provide well for our families, we must balance work-life, so that we aren't just bringing home a paycheck, but are actually emotionally there for our loved ones. 

The list of life's conundrums goes on and on, but rather than throw up our hands in defeat, we have to fight on and come up with solutions that are best fit to the challenges we face...there is no discharge just because you feel crazed or need to confront something hard...you need to solve the dilema and then you can go home. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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March 16, 2015

Lying Around D.C.

I took this picture in downtown Washington, D.C.

Not sure what this guy (is it a guy?) is doing lying around on the street. 

Is he abandoned, homeless, a little tipsy, or just taking a break out of a busy day?

Funny that he looks like he's giving passerbys the thumbs up. 

Also, he seems to have a funny smile on his face--like he knows something, hmm.

What do you think he's doing in the Capital? ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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March 15, 2015

Best Animated Shoes


These are some very cool shoes--different!

My daughter found these on Youtube 

They are made by this unboring shoe company in the U.K. called Irregular Choice.

Walking on the back of a dragon cannot be a bad thing. 

Stepping alternatively on the bride and groom--maybe an interesting perspective on the ins and outs of marriage. 

They also have a neat pair of Panda shoes. 

Check these out, I think you'll look cool and really like it. ;-)
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March 14, 2015

Moving And Emotional

So we are supposed to be moving in a few weeks, G-d willing. 

Not going far, but after 15 years in the same home, it's time. 

We found a place that we like and could agree on...following primarily the rule of thumb on location, location, location.

Lot's of places to shop, eat, workout, play, and pray. 

And close to public transportation...and of course, good 'ol work--his and hers.

As we're preparing for the move, there seems like a million things to do to get ready, but the hardest is figuring out what to take and what to leave. 

My friend told me to throw out half, and then come back and throw out the other half. 

You know what, a little extreme, but not a bad idea. 

So as I am going through things I bought or saved over the years, I am left scratching my head at what was I thinking for many of them, and for many of the memorable items that I can't believe any of this really happened. 

It's emotional looking back, and it's emotional looking forward--just different emotions.

Back--yes, where did the years go and with that regret for mistakes made, but also joy at things accomplished, lives touched, and beautiful memories made with people I really love. 

Forward--Oy, am I getting older (well, still middle age but...), there is excitement for what comes next, also some anxiety there--I hope all goes well, please G-d--and then there is the acknowledgement that it's not forever, and I better make the most of every moment of every day. 

My father used to tell me, when you are with those you love, you can live in a tee-pee and be happy...and I believe he was absolutely right. 

Moving to my next tee-pee with those precious to me...I don't care so much where, but just that we are together and happy. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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March 13, 2015

Obstruction Or Progress At Last

We all hate people who are obstructionist to what we consider progress.

The problem is not everyone defines progress the same way.

Progress to one may be hugely regressive to someone else.

So when 47 senators sent a cautionary letter to Iran's leadership this week about making a deal on nukes, which perhaps comes down to less now for more later...

- Some called it obstructionist to the negotiations and even a potential violation of the Logan Act.

- While others saw it as progress in bringing us back from the brink of a dangerous and (very) bad deal involving legitimizing weapons of mass destruction for a dangerous regime to all.

Two partisan sides to every story...and each side capitalizes on theirs.  

"That's my story, and I'm sticking to it!"

But history inevitably tells the true story (or closer to it) based on the outcomes of action or inaction (aka acts of commission and omission).

With the tornado of spin from the pundits on news, news, and more news, someone reminded me of the adage:

"Liar, liar pants on fire" 

or 

"Don't believe everything you hear, and only half of what you see." ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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March 10, 2015

Teats or Not

So I heard a new phrase from one of my colleagues recently...

He goes on about somebody (or something) being like "2 teats on a bull!"

I've always wanted to spend some serious time on a farm...but never really have had the opportunity to learn about that whole rural world, and I'm like what????

But I got it, and didn't really like it. 

Sort of a harsh way to call someone out as a useless piece of [you know what]!

I've heard kids joke about "man boobs" and I sure you can guess what those unflattering things are on a male.

Too often, we write people off without giving them a real chance!

While perhaps, there can be useless appendages through genetics or illness, there are no fundamentally useless people (although maybe some can be troubled, dejected, in a bad fit, etc.).

More often, there are unflattering comments from others who don't appreciate differences or see clearly what each person can "bring to the table."

Let's just say, if G-d created someone, there is reason and purpose to their lives, and we need to understand and appreciate them for their value. 

It may take (some) exploration, but everyone has strengths (as well as weaknesses--we're all human) and we can find what each person is good at, cultivate it, and leverage it for the good. ;-)

(Source Photo: here with attribution to Carol Von Canon)
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March 8, 2015

Celebrating International Women's Day

Just want to recognize all the wonderful women who have touched my life:

My beautiful wife and daughters.

Also my beloved mother and grandmothers A'H.

As well as friends and colleagues. 

I still remember the saying I used to hear growing up that girls are "sugar and spice and everything nice!"

In the bible, women are men's "ezer kenegdo" literally translated as helpmates, and figuratively as companions. 

There is a nice Jewish teaching that the word "kenegdo" has a double meaning that if a man is good then the women stands as his aide, but if he is bad that she stands against him--so men have to merit the love and kindness of their wives, and not just expect it, dutifully. 

An interesting article written by Melvin Konner in the Wall Street Journal says that with women taking over more and more leadership roles in the workplace and in politics, the world will be a better place!

What served men well in a hunter-gather society--the male testosterone-driven biology--prepares men well for physical aggression, reproduction, and dominance, but also leads to overreaction to small threats, exaggerated violence, and recklessness that has brought "war, corruption, and scandal."

However, in the current information technology society that we now live in, men's physical strength and prowess is largely obsolete replaced by machines, robots, and drones. And women's emancipation and rise to positions of power has led to situations where saner heads and compromise prevail, and as Senator Susan Collins (Maine) said:

"While male colleagues cross their arms and sulked, women crossed the aisles with phone calls, emails, and social media."

From my experience, women can actually be the fiercer gender (testosterone or not), and a wise man does not mess with them! ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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