December 31, 2011

The Not So Candid Camera

When you're at the swimming pool, it's a time for swimming, splashing, and fun.

With family and friends, it's even a great time to catch some scenic photos of loved ones having a great time.

You expect to see cameras and smartphones taking some discreet pictures or videos.

Not a new problem, but some people take advantage of the people swimming or tanning to take compromising shots.

When people are knowingly scantily clad in public--people will argue what level of responsibility they have for the way they present themselves.

However, when others take advantage of that--let's be clear, the predator is the aggressor!

At the pool, I saw this taken to a whole new level today--and by someone and in a way I would not have expected.

This older-looking guy, with a hat on, strolls up to the pool with a huge tripod mounted video camera on a WALKER and starts taking rolling video on a pool almost exclusively filled with little children.

There was no warning, no request--"may I", no do you mind, just a video camera mounted on a walker at the head of the pool with lots of little kids, and also some teens, women, and more.

First, I watched to see what this guy was doing...then I thought, I better capture this and I took a series of photographs of the guy--who had no apparent compunction about invading everyones privacy.

But the story isn't over--it get's worse.

All of a sudden, I notice my computer picking up a wireless network with a name that self identified them with a clear inclination for child pornography (I am withholding the actual name so as not to tip off the criminal). I capture this too--with a screenshot. Was it the same guy with mounted video camera or someone else?

So much for a relatively serene vacation, and some quiet private time.
I just saw Dateline's "To Catch A Predator" early this week and I almost can't believe this is happening. I think to myself--is this real? Unfortunately it is.

I reported both incidents to hotel security. At their request, I email them the screenshot of the wireless network name that would make anyone cringe. Next call is to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and CyberCrime.com.

Normally, I believe in live and let live, but we all have to do our part to protect children and other innocent victims.

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December 30, 2011

Are You Thing 1 or 2?

The old Dr Seuss story of The Cat In The Hat had the crazy part when "Thing 1" and "Thing 2" jump out from under The Cat's hat and proceed to make a messy house disaster even worse.

Recently, I saw some people wearing the matching type shirts--you know the ones that that generate attention--bright red, with one shirt saying "Thing 1" and the other person's shirt saying "Thing 2."

It was cute the way the family members were connected through the shirts, and I smiled to myself thinking, like in the children's story, which one is the bigger "trouble-maker" in this family--Thing 1 or 2?

Today, I saw this picture online of these twins, again with these matching type t-shirts, but this time, one said "Ctrl + C" and the other one had written on it "Ctrl + V" -- these are the well-known Microsoft commands for copy and paste.

I guess with twins, the copy-paste imagery makes a lot of sense--copy kid 1, paste, and there you have it, kid 2.

Generally, t-shirts have messages about peace, rock and roll bands, corporate branding, or satire of some sort--I wouldn't say it's exactly a fashion statement, but more of an identity thing--how we choose to brand ourselves in a world of 7 billion people. It's not necessarily about who we are, but more like how we choose to identify ourselves--a meaningful one for example, is for breast cancer awareness.

I remember as a kid, my sister, who was a budding biomedical scientist, bought me t-shirts from a scientific catalogue--so that I was wearing the Periodic Table and Einstein on my chest from very early on in life. While I always did like science too, it was not what I ended up pursuing, but I would still wear these shirts today, because in some ways, I still identify with science and psychology and learning and so on.

These days, if I had to choose some t-shirt themes, I am pretty sure technology and futurism would be in the mix. Then again, my current t-shirts include a hefty mix of Rocky and Everlast--you see identity is a complex subject. Also, a whole bunch came 4 for 10--who can say no to a sale? ;-)

A simple t-shirt, and the messaging can take you from Dr. Seuss to Microsoft, the Periodic Table and to the future (or even to the bargain bin).

What are you wearing--who are you?

(Source Photo: here)

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December 29, 2011

"Do You Believe in Angels or G-d? I Do"


Ben Breedlove died at age 18 from a fourth heart attack on 25 December 2011

Here is his story of multiple near-death experiences and how he crossed over in complete peace and faith.

He was diagnosed with a serious heart condition at only 13 months of age and suffered his first heart attack at age 4.

While he finally succumbed to the horrible illness that followed him his whole short life, this video is mission accomplished for Ben.

Thank you for sharing this with us.

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Bathroom De/sign Winner

This is a winner to me when it comes to smartest bathroom signage.
From graphic designer, Aliza Dzik.
I like that the signage identifies the wo/men bathrooms very cleverly and simply (and without any obscene graphics).
Intelligence + Simplicity = User-centric
Love it!
(Source Photo: here)

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December 28, 2011

People--What's Inside

People can perform good and kind deeds--they can love and care and share, they can be giving and help others in need, and they can innovate and create magnificent and beautiful works.
Yet, as we all know, people can also do horrible things. It's strange that when people do such things, we call them inhumane acts--I guess that helps to divorce us from their behavior, which we cannot understand or accept.
In Hebrew School we learned that it's as if there is a good angel over one shoulder telling you to do the "right" thing, and a "bad" angel over the other shoulder telling you to do the base and corrupt thing.
We were told that we all have free choice--to choose good over evil--some succeed and some do not. Unfortunately, there are way too many instances of the latter.
- Last week, I followed in horror the news story out of New York, where an elderly women in an elevator was cornered by a man who proceeded to douse her with gasoline and set her afire with a Molotov cocktail. This woman didn't have a fighting chance. She died a gruesome and senseless death.
- This week, I watched "To Catch a Predator" on Dateline with Chris Hansen. After many sessions airing, it is unbelievable that dozens upon dozens of sexual predators keep coming out of the woodwork and descending upon those who they believe are young teens home alone for what they think will be a "good time." This week, they caught a married man with 3 children of his own, someone who worked for Nickelodeon, and even a doctor!
What is remarkable about the Dateline series is that most of the predators know exactly what they are doing is wrong--they openly acknowledge it--yet they seem helpless to stop or control themselves. Many pursued the children even when they suspected it was a sting operation and they would get caught. The bad angel must really have their ears and consciences!
Of course, these examples are just that--snapshots of scary, bad things that people do every day, every moment in time. The flip side is that there are also good people doing extraordinarily good things too. The "CNN Heroes" series is a great example highlighting people feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, healing the sick, and protecting the downtrodden. These are just but some of these admirable and giving actions of decent people in our society.
Sometimes even it's the simple things that no one knows about or sees, but you know you did good. For example, the other day, there was some trash on the staircase going down to the metro. Someone could have easily slid, tripped, and fallen down the stairs. But after seeing numerous people just walk by it and pretend it wasn't even there, one person stopped and took the time to move it and prevent anyone from getting hurt. A simple thing, yet a small good deed in time.
Regardless of how we choose to live our live, the point is really that every choice/action we make can be a pivotal one--like our actions on a scale of justice--that can throw the world (our individual world or literally the entire world) into judgement for good or bad, and therefore we should choose wisely.
In the Torah, where G-d's angels are sent to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, Abraham tries to negotiate for the cities by whether their are 50, 20, 10 and so on good people there. Good people and their deeds count.
So what's inside people that really counts--it's potential. People have the potential to do the greatest acts of love, kindness, and self-sacrifice. But they also have the ability to do the unthinkable and inhumane.
It's challenging to know who and exactly what we are dealing with every day.
Maybe that's where the expression comes from: to hope for the best, but expect the worst. Judge everyone as if their intentions are good, but don't be too surprised when they are not.
While hope and expectations are part of our daily interaction with others, they are not enough. We need to be demanding of good choices of ourselves. Maybe even harder yet, we need to have the courage and strength to stand up to those who choose to listen to the demons that drive them.
(Source Photo: here)

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Toward A User-Centric Government

My new article in Government Executive is out today.

Called "Too Big To Succeed"--the article talks about the importance of simplifying and organizing large, complex organizations, such as government, to achieve transformational and valuable change.

The article is anchored in the Law of Diminishing Returns and the Law of Large Numbers.

Although the article doesn't use the term user-centric government, this is exactly the point and continuously driving forward with advanced technologies can help us make the leap.

Hope you enjoy reading!

Andy

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December 26, 2011

Raise Your Glass To Great Bosses

It's a funny time of year. Folks are celebrating the holidays, and for some of them the traditional office party is full of cheer, while for others it’s a nightmare.

In a way it's a paradox for some that they have a holiday party with the same bosses that treat them otherwise badly the rest of year!

This reminds of some of the worst traits a boss can exhibit--here's a “top 10”:

1) Selfishness: Every day it's all about the boss--their power trip, their ego, their next promotion--instead of about the mission and the customers.

2) Amoral: To some, integrity and business do not go together.

3) Discrimination: They tolerate or in too many cases, even exhibit blatant discrimination themselves.

4) Disrespect: This can be overtly or implicitly, hurting the employee professionally and personally as well.

5) Inconsistency: Flip-flopping is not just something that bothers people about politics, but it makes for a bipolar work environment, where employees are damned if they do and if they don't, but the boss can always say, “I told you so (and the opposite).”

6) Favoritism: Plays favorites instead of judging employees only on the true factor, merit. This causes workers to become demoralized as they see people hired and promoted for all the wrong reasons.

7) Insecurity: They are threatened by seemingly everyone and everything--can't give anyone else credit or recognize the good around them--a one-person team who sees anybody else’s success as implying their own failure.

8) Competitive: They have to be the smartest person in the room, and innovation and objectivity is squelched--no risk is worth the wrath of “boss Khan.”

9) Stealing: If someone else does have something of value to contribute, this boss just steals it and presents it as their own (attribution or recognition, what for?)

10) Micromanagement: Looking over your shoulder every minute, redoing your work, not trusting you, they are control freaks, a complete nightmare to work for.

Bosses come in all shapes and sizes. I’ve been fortunate to work for some of the best, and I hope that I do them justice with my own employees over the course of my career.

Here’s hoping that at your holiday party, you were able to raise your glass with a boss who makes you feel valued and respected--that's a holiday party to really celebrate!

(Source Photo: here)

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December 25, 2011

Swarming For Social Order and Disorder

A swarm is a large number of organisms generally in motion. According to Swarm Theory, the collective exhibits superior intelligence or abilities beyond that of any individual.
Swarms are powerful forces that we see in our society today in everything from the worldwide riots of 2011 to crowdsourcing on the Internet--to put it simply as they say, "there is power in numbers."
And swarms and their immense power dates back to the Bible, where the 8th plague sent on Egypt in Deuteronomy 10:14-15 was the plague of locusts:
"And the locusts went up over all the land of Egypt...for they covered the face of the whole earth, so that the land was darkened; and they did eat every herb of the land, and all the fruit of the trees..."
This past year, we saw the power of swarms in the riots around the globe--from Tahir Square to Occupy Wall Street. In the case of Egypt, Mubarak was deposed after ruling for 30 years and in the case of Wall Street, the Occupy movement sparked protests around the globe lasting for many months.
Similarly, swarms are being put to the test in multiple military applications from the Army's Future Combat System (since renamed) that envision brigades of manned and unmanned combat vehicles linked via an ultra-fast network creating a highly coordinated and maneuverable fighting force to DARPA's iRobot Swarm Project creating a mesh network of mobile robots with sensors that can coordinate and perform surveillance and reconnaissance gaining dominance over the battlefield.
The power of the swarm is not just a physical phenomenon, but also a virtual one where crowdsourcing is used online to do everything from building incredible sources of knowledge like Wikipedia to soliciting citizens ideas for solving national problems such as on Challenge.gov.
Traditionally, the power behind the swarm (in nature whether bees, ants, or locusts) was the collective behavior of so many to attack an enemy, build a colony, or ravage the landscape. Today however, the swarm is powerful because of its collective intelligence--whether in pooling information, vetting ideas, or just coordinating activities with such sophistication that the group can outwit and outmaneuver its opponents.
Wired Magazine has an article for the new year (January 2012) called "Crowd Control" in which the riots of 2011 are viewed as both "dangerous and magnificent"--they represent a disconnected group getting connected, a mega-underground casting off its invisibility to embody itself, formidably, in physical space."
"Today's protest, revolts, and riots are self-organizing [and] hyper-networked"--and just like a swarm, individuals deindividuate and base their ideas and actions on the shared identify of the group and therein, a social psychology takes hold and with basic communication and social technology today, they can spontaneously form potent flash mobs, "flash robs," or worse.
The age old phenomenon of swarming behavior is intersecting with the 21st century technology such as smartphones and social media to create the ability of individuals to gather, act decisively, disperse into the crowds, and then reconvene elsewhere to act again.
The power of this modern swarm is no longer about "sheer numbers," but about being interconnected through messaging, tweets, videos,and more.
Many today are finding the power of the swarm with both friends and foes. Friends are using swarming to try to accomplish new social and scientific feats. While foes such as Al Qaeda are utilizing swarming for hit and run terrorism--moving agilely between safe havens and targeting their victims with tools of terror such as IEDs, car bombs, and other flash attacks.
Swarming is not just a behavior found in the animal kingdom any longer, today it is a fundamental source for both social order and disorder.
Swarming is now a strategy and a tactic--we need to wise up and gain the edge with social swarming behavior and technology to "outwit, outlast, and outplay" those who want to threaten society, and instead use it to improve and secure it.
(Source Photo: here)

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December 24, 2011

Wheelchairs Get A Boost

I am very excited by this new assistive technology for personal mobility coming out of Japan that can be used to help the aged or handicapped.

Rather than have to buy a separate electric scooter for longer distances that is heavy and can be challenging for people with certain disabilities to use, the WHILL is a simple add-on that can be attached to and removed from a regular wheelchair and can be steered, like a Segway, simply by leaning in the direction you want to go.

The WHILL is high-tech looking--like a futurist headphone that you place over the wheels of the chair and according to Gizmodo, it turns the wheels with a rechargeable lithium-ion battery that powers the chair up to 12 mph for 19 miles and then recharges in under 2 hours.

While pricing information is not yet available, my assumption is that this add-on will be significantly cheaper than a full-out electronic scooter.

One concern that I have about the WHILL is how someone who is wheelchair-bound will be able to attach/remove the drive-train device without the help of an aide or nurse. Perhaps an even more futuristic version will have the U-shaped WHILL built with push-button retractable arms, so that the attachment can simply "open up" rather than have to be removed.

Another question that I have is what safety features will be built in for example for automatic cut-off should someone using it get ill and keel over unto the device causing it to drive/spin out of control. I am thinking a weight-sensor on the WHILL that detects if too much of a person's body weight is leaning on it and then cause a safety shutdown.

Overall, I am encouraged by what WHILL will soon be bringing to help people in need to get around more easily in the future.


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December 23, 2011

Leadership, Beyond Brainwashing and Beatings

Leading by decree rather than merit usually means that the people are either beaten or brainwashed into submission--this is oddly reminiscent of the age-old question, which is mightier, the pen or the sword?

History is full of examples of tyrants, dictators, and monarchs (this goes for some bosses at work too) who take "the throne" putting anyone who opposes them to either be put to death or be "reeducated."

On one hand, the sword is straightforward though it comes in a thousand varieties--where those who oppose the ruler die:

- in open opposition on the battle field

- in public display in front of a firing squad, by hanging, or even by guillotine
- in more surreptitious ways such as with a knife in a back alley somewhere, languishing in a dungeon of old, thrown in a van from the streets with a hood over your head, or taken in the middle of the night never to be seen or heard from again, or even assassinated by anything from a well-placed bullet to a vial of radioactive poisoning


The sword of the dictator knows no mercy.

On the other hand, the pen is more shady and comes in but one form--where those who disagree with the power(s) that be are convinced to think otherwise. There are many examples from the gulag to the labor camp where reeducation, indoctrination, propaganda, brainwashing, hypnosis and other, harsher forms of mind control are employed.

As a child of Holocaust survivors, who lived through the Hitler rein of terror, I am keenly aware of the devastating impact that dictators can have by sword and by pen. Hitler (may his soul be cursed forever) used both to achieve and hold power, sending millions to die in concentration camps and brainwashing a generation of Germans into believing his rhetoric of hatred, superiority, and megalomaniac ideals for world domination.

This week, watching power pass in North Korea from father to son, now for a third generation gripping unto the leadership mantle there, the potential for abuse is certainly present, but there is certainly also the opportunity for positive change. It remains to be seen who this new leader really is and what he will stand for--especially since he is so young--only age 28 or 29.

Previously, I had read about the sword being used to hold unto power in that country with horrifying prison camps, such as the infamous Camp 22 with 50,000 prisoners (many of them political opponents) living under the most inhumane conditions.

This week, I watched on the news and YouTube, citizens apparently wailing over the death of their leader there--and I wondered with the people starving and living in one of the poorest and most isolated nations in the world, are they really that brainwashed to believe in the absolute greatness (almost like a deity) of their leader or was this whole display staged?

In 2010, the son, was given the rank of a 4-Star General--yet supposedly he doesn't have any military experience.

This week, in the son's first week in power, he was given the title "Outstanding Leader"--even before having the chance to lead.

Today, I read in the Wall Street Journal (23 December 2011) how the "Propaganda and Agitation" department there is working to "quickly bolster [the] new leader's legitimacy." According to the article, their responsibility is "for filing North Koreans' minds with awe, devotion, and unswerving respect for the dictatorial dynasty."

While propaganda and force can create yet another generation whose will is bent to serve its leader, my hope and prayer is that we have a possibility for a new way of thinking and leadership in North Korea, and in many other countries around the world today.

Wielding power can be an opportunity to show benevolence, encourage freedom, and win people over through the power of ideas rather than by physical or mental coercion.

(All opinions my own)

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December 21, 2011

Getting Control By Getting Back To Basics

I don't know if you've seen this--it's pretty popular, but I just really liked it:
“Beware of your thoughts, they become your words.
Beware of your words, they become your actions.
Beware of your actions, they become your habits.
Beware of your habits, they become your character.
Beware of your character, it becomes your destiny.”

To me it just makes so much sense--and it's how we can either get ourselves on a track for successful living or potentially into some pretty big trouble:

It starts with a simple thought--good or bad--light bulb goes on, bling!
Utter the thought (in word) and it begins to take form--blah, blah, blah.
Put that thought into action, and now--boy oh boy--what have you done?
Repeat once, twice, three times, and you have a habit--or in Jewish tradition a "Chazakah," something firm or established--think of it as, you're hooked.
Habits sure as heck breed character--and don't pretend otherwise...
And your character is your calling card with others and ultimately with G-d.

The good thing is that we have 5 steps to intervene--to gain control over where we are going with our lives.

And we can turn things around, at any time.
- Change your thinking.
- Clean up your mouthpiece.
- Act with kindness.
- Repeat only the things you want to ingrain.
- Guard your character through regular monitoring and course correction.

(Source Photo: here)

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December 19, 2011

What Arms and Legs Can't Touch

Unbelievable video of Nick Vujicic coaching people to believe in themselves.

The catch is that Nick himself is missing all four limbs.

Yet he shows how he can--without arms and legs--run, boat, dive, fish, water slide, play soccer, golf, and much more.

I love when he says with conviction:

- "Forget about what you don't have. Be grateful for what you do have."

- Don't be angry at your life and at others.

- You are worthwhile and you are beautiful.

- You have the strength to conquer.

I am inspired--no, I am amazed--by this human being.

Sometimes, like now, when I see such courage and strength, I wonder how people do it!

Life is so challenging even when we have all our limbs and faculties...

I think that G-d must give a special gift to these people so they can inspire others and be role models for us.

So that when times are tough, we can remember them and be elevated to break our own barriers and limitations.


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December 18, 2011

Beyond the Four Seasons

For anyone who has ever stayed at the Four Seasons, you know it is an incredible hotel.
Customer service reins supreme and that's not just good business, it's good corporate values.
But reading about the Indian version of the Four Seasons called the Taj--it seems like they have taken customer service to a whole new level.
The Taj which has been operating for more than 100 years (opened in 1903) has 108 hotels in 12 countries, including of course India, but also Australia, South Africa, the United Kingdom, and even America (Boston, New York, and San Francisco).
Harvard Business Review (December 2011) describes not just the routine day-to-day service provided at the Taj, but rather how they behaved under one of the most trying events, a terrorist attack.
On November 26, 2008, there began a coordinated 10 attacks across India's largest city Mumbai than killed at least 159 and gravely wounded more than 200. The attack now referred to as 26/11 (i.e. 26th of November) included the luxury hotel, the Taj Mahal Palace and Tower (i.e. the Taj Mumbai).
The Taj Mumbai suffered at least 6 blasts and "stayed ablaze for two days and three nights" engulfing the beautiful domes and spires of this structure.
But while the hotel suffered significant damage resulting in months of rebuilding, the spirit of service by the workers at the Taj was tested to the extreme and thrived.
HBR describes how Taj staff, hearing the blasts and automatic weapons, safeguarded their guests during the attack going so far as "insisting that husbands and wives separate to reduce the risk to families, offering water and asking people if they needed anything,...[and] evacuating the guests first."
The Taj staff did not run out screaming--everyman and woman for themselves, but they not only stayed calm and helpful, but they actually put their guests lives above their own.
This is sort of reminiscent of the firefighters, police, and other emergency first responders on 9-11, who ran up the stairs on the burning World Trade Center to save people--but in this case at the Taj, these were not trained rescuers, they were hotel staff.
In another instance at the hotel, according to the article, hotel employees even "form[ed] a human cordon" around the guests.
This again sounds more like the Secret Service protecting the President of the United States, then waiters and waitresses serving guests.
This is not to say that culture is the driving factor here, for example just this December 9, ABC News reports on how a fire broke out in an Indian hospital and killed at least 89 residents, while the "staff flees" and 6 administrators are subsequently arrested.
So if national culture is not the difference in how organizations and its people treat customers--what is?
HBR explains that it's really a recipe for customer service and user-centricity.
Starting with a "values-driven recruitment system" where the hotel looks for employees with character traits such as respect for elders, cheerfulness, and neediness (this reminds me of a boss I had that used to say she likes to hire employees "who are hungry.").
The Taj follows up their recruitment with a commitment to training and mentoring and empowering employees fully to do whatever it takes to meet the needs of its customers at what it calls "moments of truth."
The values of the Taj go so far toward serving its customers, that they insist that employees actually put customer needs ahead of the company and this is reinforced with a recognition system for those who strive and act for making happy customers.
Is this user-centric orientation limited to just the Taj Mumbai?
Apparently not, when a Tsunami struck at 9:30 AM on December 26, 2004 and killed 185,000 people, the Taj on the Maldives Island affected "rushed to every room and escorted them [the guests] to high ground" and still managed to serve lunch to survivors by 1:00 PM.
Talking about setting the bar high for customer service--how can you beat that?
(Source Photo: here)

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December 17, 2011

Modesty In A Social Media World

New "love" app out of the U.K. called I Just Made Love (IJML).
This one is not for the modest or privacy-conscious.
The app is available for download for both the iPhone and Android.
Essentially, people are going out and using location-based services (i.e. GPS) and self-identifying their love-making--act by act. We're up to 194,000+ already!
Not to be gross, but the app lets people not only report on doing the act and where, but also using check boxes with icons, you can identify the details such as the context: couch, indoor and outdoor, as well as how: 5 top positions--which is way more information than I care to hear about.
In our often hedonistic society, there are of course, other services such as Four-Square that lets you broadcast where you fulfill other bodily pleasures like eating, drinking, and shopping.
Personally, I don't care to know what people are doing or where--too intrusive for my liking. But I can see why others may want to use FourSquare type apps (not IJML or who knows) with friends and family who may want to connect in this way--like to meet for Happy Hour at Old Town.
And certainly, marketers are interested in capturing valuable personal information on what you are doing, where and with whom, and using it to drive their sales and profits. Maybe you get a coupon out of it. :-)
With the love app, it seems like some people want to brag, appear the Don Juan, raise their "macho" social status, or just perhaps enjoy being exhibitionists.
From my perspective, the main pro of this app is to promote the concept (not the act itself) of love over things like war, hate, discrimination, etc.
Even with that being said, it seems like some things are just better off left as intimate moments between you and your special other.
Interesting to me, this topic of disclosure came up big time in the Orthodox Jewish world with the publication in the Yeshiva University Beacon (5 December 2011) of a much written-about article entitled "How Do I Even Begin To Explain This," where a frum Jewish girl from Stern College discloses her story of illicit rendezvous in a hotel room with a gentlemen and at the same time the "walk of shame the day after."
The dichotomy between her "Orthodox" beliefs and her "secular" actions and her publication of this article in a Yeshiva newspaper and her explicit description of sexual deeds is a perfect example of the tear in our society between privacy and social probity on one hand, and the desire or need to share and be "free" of all constraints on the other.
As a social commentary, we are at a point where it seems that nothing is real unless we share it with others, and that can be good or bad--it can lead to greater wisdom and societal advancement or it can lead us to do things we shouldn't do, are sorry we did, and where we feel shame afterwards.

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December 16, 2011

Decloaking The Adversary

Yes, we lost a drone in Iran and they won't give it back--that stinks!
Initially, the word coming out was it was a mishap, an accident, but the Iranians claimed otherwise--that they brought it down.
Who believed that they could actually do that?
Then there was word that the craft being displayed by the Iranians was a fake, a mock-up, only to reversed with a confirmation, as reported in Christian Science Monitor, that the drone "is almostly certainly the one lost by U.S. forces."
Well now, InformationWeek is reporting (16 December 2011) that Iran really did bring down the stealth drone as well as how they claim to have done it.
First they jammed the communications of the RQ-170 Sentinel, so that with its command, control, and communications (C3) no longer intact, it was forced to go into autopilot and rely on GPS signals to find its way.
Then, the Iranians spoofed the GPS signal making the Sentinel think it was landing at a U.S. base rather than right into hostile territory.
If this is true, then not only is all the captured sensitive technology aboard the craft (such as radar, fuselage, coating, and electronics) in jeopardy of being comprised by reverse engineering, but also as the article states, the Iranians may have demonstrated the means to be able to literally "divert any GPS-guided missiles launched at targets inside its borders."
Quite a scary thought when according to Reuters reports, Iran is less than a year from going nuclear!
So what is the truth and what is misinformation (PsyOps) to confuse or outwit the enemy and how much does any of that really matter if the Iranians have possession of our advanced technology along with the time and the nefarious partners to study it and use it against us?
Or perhaps, this is a great ruse by us and we intended for the Iranians to get the drone--tick, tick, tick... ;-)
We live in a new sophisticated world of electronic and cyber warfare and that combined with nukes makes for some truly dangerous scenarios.
Finally, we should never underestimate the capabilities or intent of our adversaries--surprise may be the the most potent enemy of them all.
(Source Photo: here)

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December 14, 2011

The Elevator and The Bigger Picture


Some of you may have watched the HBO series called Six Feet Under that ran from about 2000-2005 about a family that owned a funeral home, and every episode opened with a freakish death scene.

In fact, the father who was the funeral director dies an untimely death himself and bequeaths the funeral home to his two sons.

The series, which ran for 63 episodes, evoked a recognition that life is most precious, too short, and can end in both horrible and unpredictable ways.
This week, I was reminded of this in all too many ways:

First, Brett Stephens wrote a beautiful piece in the Wall Street Journal yesterday about the graceful death of his father from a horrible brain tumor. Brett describes in vivid terms the operations, loss of sight, debilitating bouts of chemo and radiation, agonizing shingles, loss of memory, mobility, sight, ability to eat, and more. Brett writes: "cancer is a heist culminating in murder."


Then today, all over the news were reports of of a horrible accident in New York, where a woman was killed in an elevator accident when it shot up while she was still only about half way on and she was crushed between the elevator and the shaft in a 25 story office building on Madison Avenue.


Third, I learned from a colleague about a wonderful gentlemen, who served his country in the armed forces and was an athlete in incredible shape, when one day in the gym, he suffered a massive heart, which deprived of oxygen for too long, and he was left horribly crippled for life.


Unfortunately, similar to Six feet Under, in real life, there are countless of stories of life's fortunes and misfortunes, death and the aftermath (adapted from the show's synopsis--I really liked how this was said). Yet, in the end, we are left with the completely heart wrenching feeling of how it is to be without and sorely miss the people we love so dearly.


In the Talmud, I remember learning this saying that to the Angel of Death it does not whether his intended is here or there--when a person's time is up, death shows up and no matter how peaceful or painful, it is never convenient and always deeply traumatic in so many ways.


For one the elevator opens and closes normally and brings a person to their destination floor, and to another the door may close on them, never at all, or the elevator may shift right beneath their feet.


We can never really be prepared emotionally or otherwise for the devastation brought by accident, illness, and death--and while it is hard to be optimistic sometimes, we can try to maintain faith that The Almighty is guiding the events of our lives, and that he knows what he is doing, even if we cannot always understand the bigger picture.


May G-d have mercy.


(Source Photo: here with attribution to Chris McKenna)

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December 12, 2011

Words Matter A Lot

This is a great video on the power of words, but also on the caring of one for another.

We can make a difference with our words!

Words can help and can hurt, they can pursuade and they can punish, but the most important thing is that we are responsible for how we use them.

While we can say we're sorry for hurtful words, they can never really be taken back (i.e. unspoken).

And just the opposite holds true as well--when we use words constructively, the impact for good reverberates.

I still hear the words of the most important people in my life guiding me, always.

Use your words with care, deference, ingenuity, and most important with kindness for others.


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December 11, 2011

This Man's A Real Magician

One more very impressive act on this Sunday afternoon.

10 illusions in less than 5 minutes.

Hans Klok is amazing--especially impressive to me is how he does the following:

1) Moves so fast--more than 1 illusion every 30 seconds!
2) Actually remembers all 10 illusions--I can't remember what I ate for breakfast this morning ;-)
3) Pulls all the illusions off without a single glitch
4) Changes positions with the roaring lady with his hand sticking out of a locked box at :30.
5) Has the women's legs (just her legs!) pushing a cart across the stage at 2:40--are those legs robotic?
6) Moves the guys head from his shoulders to his belly and back again at 2:50--the guys head falls almost like from a guillotine!

While I am not usually terribly wowed by magic acts, this one has quite a lot going for it including speed, action, humor, and some pretty good accompanying music.

Thank G-d for the Internet and Youtube, which enables us to share and enjoy all this great stuff--anytime, anywhere.

(Also, thanks Cousin Betty for sharing this.)


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What is The Secret of Laserman

This is a terrific performance by Laserman.

He seems to break all the laws of physics and manipulates laser light beams as if it is both a vapor and a solid.

He stops and redirects it, yet at the same time he pushes and twirls it--huh?

While I am not a fan of the movie Tron--I think I actually fell asleep in the theater (and more than once), this performance more than makes up for it.

My favorite piece is at 1:39 when Laserman picks the laser light up out of the stage--people start yelling as no one can believe it!--and he starts twirling it around like a baton now.

Then at 1:48, he breaks the light beam in two and starts twirling both and sticking them back in the stage only to start bending the light again.

To me, this performance is really cool and inspiring--it makes me think of a bright future for all of us--one that is agile, high-tech, heart-pounding, and where natural laws are almost made to be broken.

Someone please tell me how he does this...I promise, I won't tell ;-)


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December 10, 2011

Nuclear Weapons--A Scary Infographic

As you already know, I appreciate a good infographic.
Unfortunately, I think many of the ones coming out recently are too jumbled, long and complex and read more like a "Megilla" (no disrespect intended).
I was a little surprised to find a infographic on Nuclear Weapons online, but then again it's not a "cookbook" and hopefully those are not being posted.
This one was interesting to me, not only because of the topic of weapons of mass destruction, but also because in 11 factoids, the graphics takes you through a pretty clear and simple overview of the subject matter.
No, its not getting into the physics and nuclear engineering depths of the whole thing, but at the same time, you have starting with the Manhattan Projects in the 30's, some nice history on the following:
  • Invention
  • Cost
  • Types, both fission and fusion
  • Testing
  • Use
  • Inventories, although based on recent articles on the 3,000 miles of Chines tunnels in the Wall Street Journal (25 October 2011) and Washington Post (30 November 2011), the Chinese number may be way too low--the WSJ based on Chinese media reports has it as high as 3,500!
  • Even numbers "lost and not recovered"--11!--not comforting, who would've thought?

In the graphic, it would be interesting to see a breakdown by land-, bomber-, and submarine-based, (some nice graphics available for that) but perhaps a number 12 item on the infographic would've been getting too much in the weeds.

Also, a similar graphic for chemical and biological weapons while interesting, would be scary indeed.
(Source Graphic: here)

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Try Something New, Relax


So you work hard and play hard.

You're always in "on mode".

Of course, it's a 24 x 7 world.

Welcome to the 21st century.

Well it's time to stop!

Take a time out.

Some time to think.

Enjoy life again.

Become a human being.

Here is your test: Go to Do Nothing for 2 Minutes.

- Your only goal for the next 2 minutes is to look at the ocean, listen to the waves and the birds, and relax--really.

- If you touch the mouse or keyboard, you fail and have to start over again.

See if you can do it.

See if you can calm your mind.

See if you can get off the treadmill.

See if you can free yourself from anxiety and pain.

When you can just do this--for 2 minutes, you'll realize what you've been missing.

Now try Calm--no time limit this go around--you've earned it.

You'll are better for it and your family, friends, and colleagues notice the difference.

It's not a new you, just a rediscovered you.

Find and enjoy peace!


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December 9, 2011

Losing The Edge, No More

For years, there has been all sorts of uproar about the U.S. and its citizens and businesses losing their edge.

From critics who point out to how our educational system (especially through high school) is not keeping up, how we are not attracting and graduating enough folks in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), how our inventions are freely copied overseas, and how innovation and entrepreneurship is suffering at home whether due to challenging economic or social conditions.

Yet, when it comes to losing our edge, nothing is more maddening than when the technological advances we do have are taken from us--this happens in numerous ways, including:

- Cyber Attacks: According to the Pentagon Strategy on Cyberwar as per the Wall Street Journal (15 July 2011) "each year a volume of intellectual property the size of the Library of Congress is stolen from U.S. government and private-sector networks." Cyber espionage has affected a broad range of our prized national assets: from Space Shuttle designs to the Joint U.S. Defense Strategy with South Korea as del as the plans for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and more. Moreover and unfortunately, this is only the tip of the iceberg. For example, this past August, McAfee disclosed a cyber spying operation dubbed Operation Shady Rat that infiltrated some 71 government and corporate entities of which 49 were in the U.S. and which included more than a dozen defense firms over five years, compromising a massive amount of information.

- Spies/Insider Threats: Spies and insider threats can turn over state secrets to foreign powers or entities causing a major lose to our competitive advantage. This has happened with convicted spies from Aldrich Ames to FBI agent Robert Hanssen, and more recently to Army Corporal Bradley Manning accused of turning over troves of restricted documents to WikLleaks. And despite the amazing efforts to catch these subversives, presumably, there are plenty more where they came from.

- Expropriations: We lose our edge to foreign nations and organizations when our high-technology or intellectual assets are used without our consent or otherwise seized and compromised. This can happen from having our copyrights trampled on, our designs simply copied and "knockoffs" produced and peddled, or even when we are in a sense forced to exchange our intellectual property for basic entry into foreign markets. But this also happens more explicitly and violently when our assets are literally taken from us. For example this happened in April 2001, when Chinese fighter jets intercepted (in international air space) and crashed a U.S. EP-3 reconnaissance plane and didn't return it until July in disassembled pieces. Similarly, when the tail of the stealth modified MH-60 Black Hawk helicopter, with sensitive military technology, used in the raid in Osama bin Laden's was recovered and held by Pakistan for weeks before it was returned to the U.S. And we saw this again this week when the Iranians showed off a prized RQ-170 Sentinel stealth drone they now have seized, and which secrets presumably may end up in Russian, Chinese, or ultimately terrorist hands.

Developing an edge is not something we should take lightly or for granted--It is based on lots of talent, experience, and hard work and we do not have an exclusive hold on any of these.

We must prize our scientific and technological advances and secure these the way a mother protects it's young--fiercely and without compromise.

No matter how much or fast we churn out the advances, it will not matter if we do not safeguard our investments from those who would take it right out from under us. We can do this by significantly increasing investment in cyber security, strengthening counterespionage efforts, and not letting any nation or organization take something that doesn't belong to them without consequences--economic or military--that restore our edge and then some.

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December 4, 2011

Life Perspective

I saw this picture and immediately feel in love with it--it is so simple, yet so brilliant.

Like the 6 days of creation and then G-d rested, this picture illuminates in 6 panes of shades of black and white, the cycle of life of man and woman, and then stops (rests).

From carefree children to growing young adults, love and marriage, old age together, loss and loneliness, and finally together again--returned to the earth and I believe in the after-world.

The tree on the left overhands and follows the path of the couple; it grows, matures, and seems to whither along with them--this is mother earth clearly sheltering and closely intertwined with its children.

The connection between people and earth, between one person and another, and between this world and the next...the whole of life's existence and purpose seems to be expressed here.

The meaning and purpose is inherent in the cycle itself--throughout our growth, we experience trials and tribulation--and our mettle is tested and proven until it ends or perhaps begins again.

The overall story is of time marching on, and we but mortals experiencing so much--growth and decline, connection and separation, pleasure and pain--yet never escaping time's grasp.

This is the cycle of life and G-d is ever at the helm.

To me, this picture brings perspective, understanding, fear, and peace all at the same time.

(Source Photo: here)

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The Art of The Fearless


This was my introduction to Wingsuit Flying.
It's an extension of death-defying BASE jumping off of Buildings, Antennas, Spans (bridges), and Earth (cliffs) with the added feature of soaring like a bird over the most beautiful terrains.
The wingsuits are bat-like jumpsuits with material stretching between the legs and under the arms enabling a user to glide through the sky, rather than free-falling straight down to the ground.














Essentially the wingsuit gives the human body the extra surface area to get the lift to fly through the sky without any mechanical devices at all or with the addition of small jet engines strapped to the feet for added thrust.
I am amazed at the fearlessness of these wingsuit fliers who jump virtually head first from unbelievable heights, fly close to the ground over extremely dangerous terrain, and only then release their parachutes toward the very end, near landing.
The other thing that impresses me about this is the beauty of this sport--the stunning places they jump from in Norway, Greenland, France and so on, the amazing, intricate colorful fly suits, the choreography of the stunts--alone and in groups--the spectacular filming of the events, and even the great heart-pounding accompanying music.
The talent, beauty, and courage of these sports enthusiasts combine to inspire me and hopefully you to go out and do great things (although hopefully not anything near as dangerous) with our lives--because these guys make it seem like almost anything is possible.
(Source Photo: here)

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December 3, 2011

If We All Just Pay It Forward

Pretty much everyone knows the Ripple Effect when it comes to a pond of water, but we don't think of this principle as much when it comes to how we treat people.
With water, when you drop, say a rock, into a pond, the water ripples outward in waves extending seemingly endlessly beyond the original point of impact in the water.
Similarly, with people, the way you treat someone, impacts them and others way beyond the original act of kindness or meanness.
I was reminded of this the other day by a colleague who told me about workers she knows that are so mistreated and they themselves suffer not only emotionally, but also in terms of health effects and so on. But more than that she told me, how when these people go home at night from work, it affects their relationships with their spouses who they fight with, with their children who they act abusively to, and even to their pets, as the old saying goes about going home and "kicking the dog."
But like the waves in the Ripple Effect, it doesn't end there, because then the spouse perhaps goes out and abuses drugs or alcohol, the kids get in a fight in school, and the dog goes and bites the neighbor, and so on.
While this is not a new concept, I think it's something we don't always have in mind when we interact with others, at work or otherwise.
We get so caught up in the moment, of whose right and wrong, of our own ambitions and honor, of the use and abuse of power, and so forth that we act out on others without listening to them, really empathizing with them, or generally giving a hoot what affect our actions have on them and those around them.
Too many people act like it's the old paleolithic "us versus them" world, and in that world, where only one person walks away from a confrontation, people make sure that it is them and not the other guy.
But we are not cavemen any longer, and while there is nothing wrong with a little competition or managing a fair performance management system, we need to do it with a kind heart to others, being constructive, making sure others are really okay, and generally with respect and gratitude.
Nobody is perfect--not our staffs and not us, and the way we treat them may not seem all that important in the realm of the mission and our success, but it really is incredibly important because feeding people with good comes back many times over in terms of their loyalty, hard work, improved performance and how they in turn treat others.
Please don't think that I am lecturing from a soap box, but I really see this as a struggle, especially for people in the workplace, where politics and power play an important role every day.
(Source Photo: here by Sergiu Bacioiu)

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December 2, 2011

Who Will Protect Those Who Protect Us?

This is a video that the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association (FLEOA) sent to Congress to appeal to them not to cut funding to all the activities that our law enforcement officers do for us.

While the functions of government can always be more efficient--and we should constantly work to achieve these--federal law enforcement is incredibly important.

From the FBI to the Secret Service and from Border Patrol to DEA, we need to support all our federal law enforcement efforts.

These agents and officers risk their lives every day for all of us, and it's time that we stand by them to protect their mission and jobs.

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The Done Manifesto v2

The Done Manifesto with 13 principles of getting to done has been circulated since 2009 (and recently reprinted in LifeHacker). It was made into a poster and creatively illustrated with Rubik's cubes.
Below are the 13 principles revised and presented as The Done Manifesto Version 2.
(Copyright: Andy Blumenthal)
Of course, there is a 14th principle that could also be considered--I remember this from a poster that I first saw in the local newspaper and candy store in Riverdale--it was illustrated with a little boy on a toilet and a roll of toilet tissue and had a caption that said "No Job is Finished Until The Paperwork is Done." ;-)

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