June 30, 2012

What Number Are You?


This is an amazing video that has won 15 awards and was translated into 27 languages. 

It is an animation film and moves a little slowly from my perspective, but the message is terrific!

The short film is about us--all people--we live in the ever present "caste" society, not of yesteryear, but of all time. 

It is about where people are (or aren't) in the pecking order of life and that despite our "place," we can still find success. 

Some are born "Zero's" and live a life of prejudice, persecution, bullying, and torment. 

Others are born high numbers, and they are the elites in society--given the best educational and professional, materialistic, and networking opportunities. 

Many in our age have recognized that this trend continues unabated--only now it's called things like Occupy Wall Street and referred to as the 99% and 1%.

In the past, it was variations of slaves and masters; fiefs, vassals, and lords, and now-a-days even average workers and the C-Suite.

In the video, "A Zero is a zero"--he is bullied in school, and thrown into the gutter as an adult by "the higher numbers."

I am certain that many of us can relate to this...in fact, this video has been viewed almost 1.3 million times on Youtube already.

Only when Zero meets another zero and has a baby--who is born an "infinite," does everyone else stop and literally bow down. 

While I believe that we all need to work hard and contribute and in no way, believe that anyone who is able to contribute should be given a "free ride," I do believe firmly that we are all human beings, G-d's children, and deserve to be treated with respect and dignity. 

Everyone has a value in society and from nothing (or Zero) can come something amazing, if we only give people a fighting chance.

Personally, I am a child of Holocaust survivors, and my family came over with nothing. My grandmother cried that they didn't have a chair to sit on when they came to this country.  

The Nazis took everything, lives and things. As the presumed high and mighty "Aryan race," everyone else was zero fodder for the ovens in the concentration camps or to be shot through the head while begging for mercy on their knees. 

Like my grandparents, my uncle by marriage and his brother came over on a children's transport train, alone and completely on their own, to try and "make it," after being orphaned by Nazi murderers.

In the holocaust, the Nazis treated all their victims as Zero's by tattooing numbers on their arms to dehumanize them.

This is part of a long historical plot of the strong and the weak, the haves and the have nots--the high numbers and the zeros in this world.

When as a 10-year old, we moved to Riverdale, New York, a very affluent neighborhood in the Bronx bordering Westchester, most of my classmates lived in million-dollar mansions, while we lived on "the other side of town."  

I grew up understanding that I had to be determined, work hard, and pray hard to try and climb up the ladder and it's numbered stairs--in fact, like "Rocky," I used to run the stairs--hundreds of times!

But to me, determination and hard work seem to come natural--thank G-d--but even more important to me was not monetary success but decency, integrity, speaking truth, and working for the advancement of all on as level a playing field as we can get. 

I will not bow to "infinity" as the others in the movie and in real life have done, but I will try and help make infinity a place that we all can aspire to.

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June 29, 2012

Becoming Technological Dinosaurs?

I was most impressed at the graduation of my daughter from Tech Camp today.

She became fairly proficient with Dreamweaver, Flash, Photoshop, and more, and built her own website with animation--it was really very cool. 

Here is a photo of kids at the computers--they are showing their parents how to tech.

It is truly the young teaching the old--no disrespect intended. 

But the kids are amazing--they are digital natives and are learning things quickly and with ease that prior generations still must struggle with. 

I joked with my friend who is also a CIO of another company--that we are not only "old farts," but tech dinosaurs as well. ;-)

Okay not quite--but what these kids can do is nothing short of amazing, eye-opening, and I think "we ain't seen nothing yet!"


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Divided We Fall

Checks and balances in government is a great thing. 

Our founding fathers were brillant in building it into the constitution to place limitations and constraints on unbridled power.

Yes, we the people...of the people, for the people, by the people.

But recent fighting in government has shown that it is lately more about--of the politicians, for the politicians, by the politicians.

Unfortunately, everyone seems to be fighting everyone--not only across the party aisle, but between state and the federal government, and between branches of the Federal government, itself.

How does this work (or should I say maybe not working up to its ideal)--let's take an example:


Yesterday, the healthcare law passed by Congress more or less along party lines, and signed by the President, was upheld by the Supreme Court in a suit brought by 26 states, and is being promised or threatened (depending which side of the aisle you are coming from) to be repealed by the next administration

Ah, there you have it--everyone seemingly going against everyone else and fighting what is considered progress to one side, but is harmful from the other's point of view.

Let's try another one--also just from yesterday:

Attorney General Eric Holder is held in contempt of Congress in the majority Republican, House of Representatives, with Nancy Pelosi, members of the Black Caucus, and other democrats walking out of the vote.  And this is to release papers on "Operation Fast and Furious" in the Justice Department (the Executive Branch) that resulted in the death of a border agent, Brian Terry of another Federal Department, Homeland Security, 11 miles from the Mexican border. But the papers were held under Presidential Executive Privilege from being released to a Congressional oversight committee. Now this turns to the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia to pursue or drop, but he is a Presidential Appointee that reports up to Attorney Holder, and could end up the courts to decide.

I can hardly catch my breath now, but a third one this week on immigration:

The Arizona law, with controversial provision SB 1070 that permits law enforcement to check immigration status, when there is reasonable suspicion, of people arrested or detained was ruled on by the Supreme Court, and this provision was upheld. But other provisions were struck down, such as it being a State crime to be an illegal immigrant or to hire one. One presidential candidate, Mitt Romney has called the law a "model for the nation," while the current administration has felt otherwise.

Some would say this is the way it is supposed to work--this is the way we get issues worked through, grievances addressed and ensure fairness, equity, and that the right thing is being done.

But others may look at this and call it partisanship, ineffective, a waste or time and resources, one step forward and two steps back, a circuitous path to nowhere, a witch hunt or as Representative Alan Grayson said a "circus," at times.

With huge threats facing our nation on virtually all fronts--from unemployment and the stagnant economy, to our national deficit, falling global competitiveness, ongoing threats of NCBR and cyber terrorism, not to mention natural disasters, chronic illnesses, human rights, poverty, pollution, and food and water shortages--we certainly have a lot to deal with.

The concern is that if we cannot work and move forward together with common resolve--as partners rather than competitors--to create genuine solutions rather than to bicker about who's right, wrong, and to blame--then divided, we will fall.

We have a choice--unite and put the national and global commons above our own self-interests or yield to an uncertain and most frightening future.

(Source Photo: here with attribution to Daniele Bora)

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June 28, 2012

Behind The Toothbrush, A Human Being

In the morning, I like to stop at the food court for some coffee (iced, not hot). 

This week, while heading down the stairs to the coffee stand, I ran into this lady cleaning the stairs. 


As I excused myself to her and got the nod to run past, I realized she was cleaning each stair not with a machine, or a mop, but with with a hand utensil that was basically like a toothbrush.

And as you can see, she was cleaning more just a couple of steps, but rather a whole staircase like this.

I had to take a second-take at this whole notion--I could not believe she was cleaning each step--one at a time--step by step--from one side to the other--bent over like this with this little tool-like toothbrush.

I wanted to stop and ask her about it--why she had to do it this way? But I was too embarrassed and more important didn't want to embarrass her.

I took this photo discretely not to shame anyone, but to point out the plight of workers in our society.

No one--NO ONE--should have to bend over a staircase or floor or anything like this and clean inch by inch--with a toothbrush!

When I think about it--it is shameful--no, it is enraging--that anyone would treat other human beings like this.

Let's face it--this is not done to get the stairs clean--there are machines and more appropriate hand tools--scrubbers, steamers, scrappers that can do that. Heck, I'd bet that we can modify a iRobot Roomba to eventually do it.

So this is not just about getting the job done, but perhaps about power, degradation, servitude, and even an element of abuse.

I felt terrible for this lady--I almost wanted to tell her to stop, but I assume, she has a family to feed too and has to do what she has to do.

But whoever is employing her and making her do this back-breaking work this way, as my grandmother used to say--G-d sees everything!

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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June 25, 2012

Security Advisory For Architecture Drawings

Dark Reading (21 June 2012) came out with security news of a AutoCAD Worm called ACAD/Medre.A that targets design documents.

I also found warnings about this vulnerability at PC magazine (24 June 2012).

This malware was discovered by computer security firm ESET

This is a serious exploitation in the industry leader for computer-aided design and drafting that is used to create most of our architectural blueprints.

Approximately 10,000 machines are said to have been affected in Peru and vicinity, with documents being siphoned off to email accounts in China. 

With information on our architectural structure and designs for skyscrapers, government building, military installations, bridges, power plants, dams, communication hubs, transportation facilities, and more, our critical infrastructure would be seriously jeopardized. 

This can even be used to steal intellectual property such as designs for innovations or even products pending patents. 

This new malware is another example of how cyber espionage is a scary new reality that can leave us completely exposed from the inside out.

Need any more reason to "air gap" sensitive information and systems?

(Source Photo: here with attribution to Wade Rockett)

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June 24, 2012

It's The Right Thing To Do

In election season, there is a lot of confusing messaging and as citizens, we are left trying to figure out where to go with our country's leadership next. 

The rhetoric is heating up as each side tries to outdo the other on why they are right and the other side is wrong on the issues and who will be better at leading us into the future. 

- But where is the negotiation, balance, compromise, and win-win for all the people? 

Then of course, there is the blame game that seems to go on too, with politicians saying things aren't getting done because of partisanship or this administration or that's mistakes--this is the finger-pointing. 

- What ever happened to the buck stops here? 

Related, we have others that won't even admit what they've said or where they stand on the issues--first, they may just try to deny it and say they never said it, and perhaps later, they admit they said it, but they didn't mean it quite that way--like, it's a sound bit taken out of context. 

- Is this conviction or just playing to the audience? 

Finally, what are candidates even trying to sell us when they are electioneering--slogans, potshots, sleight-of-hands, political publicists or genuine direction for how to make this country great.

- Is it a person, a party, or a platform that we are even voting for and how does race, ethnicity, sex, religion and so forth factor in to the votes? 

Some commentators, like Peggy Noonan, have rightfully said (Wall Street Journal, 18-19 June 2012) that candidates must find a theme that people can sensibly grasp unto--something that gives a "sense of meaning" for their run.

Ultimately, we need to know who the candidates are as human beings--what is in their soul--what do they really think--and most important, what will they actually do, if they have the power. 

A few weeks ago the Wall Street Journal ran an editorial called "Four Words that Moved The World: 'Tear Down This Wall'"--those where the words uttered by then President Ronald Reagan on June 12, 1987 in a speech in front of the Berlin Wall. 

Reagan told his deputy chief of staff that even though some would be mad at him for saying it, "it's the right thing to do." 

Those six words are even more powerful than the four in his speech, because, especially as a leader, doing--not just saying--the right thing, is everything!

The hard part, as voters, is figuring out who will do what the right thing when they are called on. 

(Source Photo: here with attribution to Randy Robertson)

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Money, Just Eat It

This was a strange mural on Collins Avenue in Miami. 

The mural was on what looked like a three story building.

Sandwiched between upscale stores for Kenneth Cole and Aldo--with for sale signs in the window.

The mural has these two guys who are literally holding, throwing, and eating money and luxury items like a fancy car.  

The car in the middle of the street is in the process of a U-turn and seems to almost be driving right for the mural. 

What's really crazy in Miami is the contrast of people on the very wealthy and very poor ends of the spectrum. 

Lamborghinis with party-goers speeding down the street and homeless people camped out begging for some change.

While one is proverbially "eating and crapping money," the other is simply looking for something to eat. 

This mural sort of tells the story of this great Floridian city. 

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)


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June 23, 2012

Biosecurity--Where Every Moment Counts

A biological attack on the United States is a most frightening prospect and one that could present an existential threat to us. 

Just the very mention of bio-warfare agents such as anthrax, ebola, smallpox, bubonic plague, and others are enough to provoke sheer terror in most people. 

BioWatch is a program managed by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in partnership with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to monitor for a biological attack.

According to Bloomberg Businessweek (21 June 2012) bio-surveillance is currently conducted in 30 metropolitan areas around the country using 600 air filters to detect pathogens, where samples are collected daily and taken to labs for analysis in what amounts to a 36 hour turnaround to determine if there is a hazard. 

A new technology made by Positive ID or Northrop Grumman collects samples four times a day and analyzes it on the spot for bateria, viruses, and toxins, and sends the results to officials by secure network in as little as two hours. 

The shorter time to detection will give more time to save lives by getting drugs and vaccines to the field sooner and prevent the spread from person to person.  

DHS wants to deploy 2,500 of these new sensors and the bio-attack alert system at a cost of approximately $5.7 billion, if Congress approves. 

If this bio-sensing system proves out functionally, then the price tag seems well worth it. 

Bioweapons like cyber-attacks can cause widespread panic as well as disruption to our everyday way of life, however a bio-attack has the added feature of making people symptomatic and infecting them with deadly and painful illnesses. 

Cyber attacks can infiltrate and take out our critical infrastructure, but biological attacks can directly destroy our physical bodies and the population itself. 

A bio-attack and a cyber-attack together could devastate us by attacking us while at the same time inhibiting our ability to deliver medication and quarantine those that are ill and so on. 

In addition to grossly improving on our cyber defensive (and offensive) capabilities, we must do everything we can to enhance our biosecurity--this mean upgrading our preparedness for bio-terrorism and bio-warfare using the latest technologies available to sniff out and identify a bio attack and alert us so we can respond timely, while we still can. 

(Source Photo: here with attribution to U.S. Department of Defense)

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A Boy Who's Name Is Light


Recently, I inspired by an award-winning documentary that I watched on Netflix called Praying With Lior (2007).

The movie is about the development and spiritual maturation of a Jewish child with Down Syndrome to his Bar Mitzvah (and a few years past). 

As a young child, Lior Liebling is comforted by his mother, who is a Rabbi, who teaches Lior to pray and sing to G-d. 

She holds him and they share an amazing bond both maternal and spiritual that never leaves Lior. 

Unfortunately, the mother has breast cancer and passes away when Lior is only 6.

Right before his bar mitzvah, Lior goes to his mother's gravesite and clings to it saying, "I miss you," and then breaks down in tears that I could feel or imagined rising up to the heavens itself. 

Lior is deeply loved by his family--father (also a Rabbi), stepmother, and 3 siblings--who play, engage, teach him, and learn from him as well. 

Lior means light in Hebrew, and Lior brings light to everyone he meets--inspiration to overcome challenge, deep love of G-d and community, and faith that his mother is watching over him. 

Lior makes it to his bar-mitzvah--and becomes a proverbial Jewish man--he says the blessing, reads from the Torah, celebrates with his family and loved ones, and even gives a speech on the importance of Torah. 

At the celebration, he goes over to another retarded girl, and says something about how she is special and that "I am going to marry you."

I watched this young man, Lior, pray with a rigor that I have not been able to do for some time, and I was inspired not by the words he said, nor the song he sang, or even the cheer he brought others, but rather I think I was moved by the simple sincerity and purity of his heart. 

Lior didn't want anything, didn't have an agenda, wasn't trying to do anything to anybody, he was just a soul that reached out to others--loving them, hugging them, kissing them, and yes, praying with them--often actually leading the services. 

One of Lior's classmates that was interviewed said that everyone has a test, and Lior's is an incredibly difficult one--but he is succeeding extraordinarily by not only surviving with his disability, but also showing others the way. 

Thank you Lior for being such an amazing inspiration to us all--may you go from strength to strength and someday reunite with not only your heavenly father, but also your mother who awaits to sing and pray with you in great joy again. 

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June 22, 2012

One Of These Things Is Not Like The Other

This is a photo I took at Harpers Ferry.

There was a train coming by pretty fast, and on the flatbeds were what seemed like a endless line of Tractors. 

-- Red, red, red, red, blue, and then red again. 

I hurried to get my iPhone out and capture this photo while the train was rushing by at full speed. 

I love this shot, because it teaches an important lesson about diversity

Firstly, it reminds me of the children's song, "One of these things is not like the other. One of these things just doesn't belong."

From early in life, we are taught to conform a certain way--based on norms, culture, values, policies, rules, regulations, laws, religion, and so on. 

There always seems to be a reason that we have to talk, dress, think, and conduct ourselves--properly, politically-correct, and just like everyone else. 

And we are warned that "the nail that sticks out, gets hammered down"--so don't do it--it's too risky--you'll be labeled bad or worse yet, crazy. 

So while creativity and innovation is valued if it can bring someone a nice profit, we are still cautioned not to go out too far on a limb or else you risk getting ridiculed and rejected--hey "you may never work again in this town."

But in this picture, the tractors tell a different story--that it's okay to be a blue tractor in a long parade of red ones. 

No, the blue tractor wasn't a mistake, it isn't abnormal or alien or evil, it's just different and it's cool. 

The blue tractor stands out, but it isn't a bad thing to stand out--and the blue tractor won't get hammered down.

It's okay to be a blue tractor in a long procession of red tractors--and it's great to just be who you are--blue, red, yellow, green, or whatever. 

Conformity is not normalcy--it's just look-alike, copycat, and probably even boring. 

Being different can be novel, inventive, out-of-the-box and exciting--and more important it can usher in needed change.

I think we need more blue tractors in a red tractor world.

Will you take a chance and be a blue tractor too? 

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)


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June 21, 2012

"Plastered" On The Metro

The Washington D.C. area Metro has been so bad this week...

Fires, delays, overcrowding, doors not closing, people screaming, trains being unloaded and taken out of service. 

Today, the trains were so packed, this one guy (pictured) was literally "plastered" up against the glass, practically holding on for dear life. 

Forget about any air conditioning, with the heat in the city reaching 96 degrees today, one train that I was on actually seemed to have the heat going. 

The people were drenched in sweat, fanning themselves, trying to gulp in some air at the station stops, and generally praying the train didn't get stuck in the tunnel to top it all off. 

It is almost unbelievable that this the public transportation in The Capital of the United States of America!

Luckily, I met a friend on the train and at least had some good conversation and laughs to make the otherwise dismal ride go by faster. 

This must be the week for crappy transportation for me--what did I do wrong?  ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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June 18, 2012

Flying The Miserable Skies

So I had booked up on the airline to go to the Florida Keys.

You have to go to Miami first and switch flights—it’s a two-legged trip.

But I decided after the first flight to just to stay in Miami and not go on the second flight to the Keys.

Since the flight was overbooked—not only didn’t the airlines lose anything by me not going, they actually benefited by having my empty seat for another passenger—and making money twice off of the same seat.

Yet, the airline demanded that I pay them a change ticket fee.

This is the first time that I heard of being asked to pay extra for not using a product or service.

Common sense and basic business practice is that if you don’t use something, you get a credit or refund, but the airline was actually demanding I pay an extra fee for this so called “change.”

I explained politely that I didn’t change anything and that I just wanted to be able to get home.

They said even by not getting on another flight that is a change—and as the customer service representative (and I choke on even calling him that) then went on to say, “you will pay for that mistake!”

I reiterated that I didn’t make a mistake or any change, I simply decided not to use the second leg of the trip.

I asked to see a copy of the policy or guidelines where I had to pay for not using something, but the customer rep refused this.

He may as well have said, “Who needs right, when we have might?”

Basically, it came down to, “If you want to go home, you will have to pay.”

As if this wasn’t enough, when I arrived at the airport, another airline representative made me put my rolling carry-on into the sizing device to check that it would fit in the overhead.

Dar-gone-it—I bought it specifically for just that purpose, as it was advertised—why go through this?

In the airport, in front of everyone, they made me empty my things out and put some in another bag to skinny the first--“just a little.”

Then they said, uh ha, now you have an extra carry-on we can charge you for—but I didn’t, I only had two bags, total!

Later, in the airport, I overpaid for a stale sandwich and diet soda.

And for the first time, even after going through airport security and showing my boarding pass and picture identification once, I was then asked to do it all over again—while “walking the plank” to board the flight, with suitcase and sandwich in hand. 

Not long after I sat down, an airline attendant literally shoved my seat up straight, and then reminded me put up my seat before takeoff! Yet the seat was already up—the whole time.

Another comes up and asks me if I was the one who asked about the Internet—no, it wasn’t me, but there’s another customer somewhere onboard who did ask about it—they just forget who it was—oh well.

It used to be that the airlines were just overcrowded, the bagged peanuts were skimpy, and the recycled air was nauseating, but now the flying experience is at a whole new level of yuck!

This is no way to run an industry, treat customers, or generally do business.

On the airline, the stewardess gets on the mic and says “welcome to {Blank} airlines” and hope you enjoy the ride—unfortunately, they are riding all of us. ;-)

(Source Photo: here with attribution to Kuster and Wildhaber Photography)

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June 17, 2012

On Every Corner, Real Hope

There is a guy who stands on the corner in the 90+ degree heat here every day trying to sell his book. 

Calling out to passer-bys, he repeats, "This is a motivational book. It has my autograph."

Again and again, the people pass him by without even a second look.

I see him in the morning, the afternoon, and the evening--whenever I go down this street--and he is still standing there trying, trying, trying to sell his book.

The feeling I got was, not only didn't I want his "motivational book," but also (not to be mean), it was completely de-motivating watching him trying to sell it.

Usually with marketing, I would imagine that people want self-help books from other people that have clearly demonstrated success.

Those who have a compelling story to tell can tell us about a dragon they have slain--where we can transfer the feelings of success, the challenges overcome, and the lessons learned from the author to ourselves.

But because this guy is standing on the street corner, no one wants to purchase his book or give him a chance.

The guy standing on the corner is not the person in the "corner office."

Yet, I have a feeling his story would be an interesting story to hear.

Perhaps, his story is even more compelling, because it's from "the streets" and not from someone born with a silver spoon in their mouth.

But he is a stranger, selling a book on the corner, and I don't go up to him to ask.

Standing on the corner, in the heat, peddling a book for a few bucks, could be you or I--it's too easy to forget that.

I pray that G-d has mercy to help us all earn a fair days pay for a decent days work--not everyone is so blessed.

On every street corner, there can be real hope. 

(Source Photo: here with attribution to Hanne)

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June 16, 2012

Securing Transport To The Cloud

A new article by Andy Blumenthal on cyber security and cloud computing in Public CIO Magazine (June 2012) called Securing Cloud Data Means Recognizing Vulnerabilities.

"It’s the principle of inertia: An object in motion stays in motion unless disturbed. Just like a car on a highway, everything zips along just fine until there’s a crash. This is similar with information on the superhighway."

Let's all do our part to secure cyberspace.

Hope you enjoy!

(Source Photo: here with attribution to Kenny Holston 21)

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Big and Small--Who's Who?

Yesterday, I go into a store with my daughter to shop for a new iPhone case.

A clean-cut kid--maybe 13 years old--comes out from behind the counter and asks me what I'm looking for.

I chat with the boy for a few minutes about their products and the prices of the various items--and I was genuinely impressed with this kid's "business savvy."

Sort of suddenly, a larger man emerges, whom I assume to be the boy's father.

Making conversation and being friendly, I say to the man, "Your son is a very good salesman."

The father responds surprisingly, and says, "Not really, he hasn't sold you anything yet!"

Almost as abruptly, he turns and stumps away back behind the counter.

I look back over at the kid now, and he is clearly embarrassed, but more than that his spirit seems broken, and he too disappears behind the counter.

My daughter and I look at each other--shocked and upset by the whole scene--this was a lesson not only in parenting gone wrong, but also in really poor human relations and emotional intelligence.

As a parents, teachers, and supervisors, we are are in unique positions to coach, mentor, encourage, and motivate others to succeed.

Alternatively, we can criticize, humiliate, and discourage others, so that they feel small and perhaps as if they can never do anything right.

Yes, there is a time and place for everything including constructive criticism--and yes, it's important to be genuine and let people know when they are doing well and when we believe they can do better.

I think the key is both what our motivations are and how we approach the situation--do we listen to others, try and understand their perspectives, and offer up constructive suggestions in a way that they can heard or are we just trying to make a point--that we are the bosses, we are right, and it'll be our way or the highway.

I remember a kid's movie my daughters used to watch called Matilda and the mean adult says to Matilda in this scary way: "I'm big and your small. I'm smart and your dumb"--clearly, this is intimidating, harmful, and not well-meaning.

Later in the day, in going over the events with my daughter, she half-jokingly says, "Well maybe the kid could've actually sold something, if they lowered the prices" :-)

We both laughed knowing that neither the prices nor the products themselves can make up for the way people are treated--when they are torn down, rather than built up--the results are bad for business, but more important they are damaging to people.

We didn't end up buying anything that day, but we both came away with a valuable life lesson about valuing human beings and encouraging and helping them to be more--not think of themselves as losers or failures--even a small boy knows this.

(Source Photo: here with attribution to Allen Ang, and these are not the people in the blog story.)


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June 15, 2012

Nokia and Microsoft, Desperate Bedfellows

A couple of hours ago, Nokia's debt was downgraded by Moody's to Junk!

Nokia was once the world largest vendor for mobile phones with almost 130,000 employees, but since the iPhone and Android, they have since fallen on hard times--who would've thought?

Just 16 months ago, in February 2011, Nokia announced a strategic partnership with Microsoft to try and stem their losses by adopting Windows Mobile, but this was like a drowning victim grabbing on to whoever is nearby to try and save themselves but only ends up in a double drowning.

No, Microsoft is not drowning exactly, but their stock has been more or less flat from a decade ago and one of the worst large-tech stock performers for the last ten years!

Will the acquisition of Yammer for $1.2 billion this week change this trend--I doubt it. 

Between Yammer for social networking and the acquisition of Skype for video-calling last year (May 2011) for yet another $8.5 billion, Microsoft is trying to fill some of it's big holes in its technology portfolio, just like Nokia was trying to fill it's gaping hole in mobile operating systems by partnering with Microsoft.

Unfortunately both Microsoft and Nokia have essentially missed the boat on the mobile revolution and the sentiment is flat to negative on their long-term prospects.

So the shidduch (match) of Nokia and Microsoft seems like just another case of misery loves company.

Desperation makes for lonely bedfellows, and thus the announcement this week by Nokia that they are going to layoff 10,000 and close 3 plants by end of 2013 was really no surprise. 

Aside from the short-term stock pop from the news of the acquisition, what do you think is going to be in the cards for Microsoft if they don't get their own innovative juices back in flow? 

Can you just acquire innovation or at some point do you need to be that innovative company yourself once again?

Rhetorical question. 

Hopefully for Microsoft they can get their mojo back on--meaning rediscover their own innovative talents from within and not just try to acquire from without.

(Source Photo: here with attribution to Kidmissile)

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June 14, 2012

Accomplishing What?

What do you want to accomplish before you die?

Four university students in Canada developed a list of 100 things a few years ago and as of the publishing of their book on this called The Buried Life, they had accomplished 53 of them--including playing basketball with President Obama at the White House!

Also on their list was to "get in a fight"--and so a couple of them beat the h*ll out of each other. Uh, now you can cross that one off your list.

Number 100 on their list is "go to space"--now are they really going to make it there?  Maybe one call to CEO Elon Musk and they'll get on the next flight of the new SpaceX Dragon capsule. 

MTV made this into a reality TV show in 2010 and aired it for two seasons, and it was nominated for a number of awards.

The book came out in March 2012 and it hit #1 on the New York Times best seller list the very first week!

The premise of the book is pretty cool--they collected ten of thousands of entries on what people wanted to do before they died, chose the ones they thought best, and had an artist creatively portray these.

Some of the items in the book are things you'd expect from people in terms of becoming rich, powerful, famous, and so on.  Others are more intimate and from the heart like reconciling with estranged family members, forgiving those that have hurt them, understanding why bad things happened to them, and even finding true love.

What I find interesting is not so much even what people want to do with their lives, but how everyone is in a way (or actually many ways) imperfect and they seek to fill the voids in their hearts, souls, and lives.

Does creating a list of 100 things and checking off the list really mean anything or is it just a gimmick to get on TV, write a book, and earn some cash?

I think to me it's not how many things we accomplish, but what we are really trying to achieve--is it bragging rights and fulfillment of our mortal desires, or is it to get a deeper understanding of ourselves, improve who we are, and give back to others.

I don't have a list of a 100 things or even 10 things...I just want to live my life where I can look myself in the mirror in the morning for who I am as a husband, father, son, as a professional, and as a Jew.

I am not sure it is the big splashy things like the authors put down, including getting into the Guinness World Records that is all it's cracked up to be--but all the power to them.

My parents used to have a little sign hanging over the kitchen that said "It's nice to be important, but it's more important to be nice"---yes, a little corny and cliche, but the point is well taken about setting priorities for ourselves that we can truly be proud of--and those things don't necessarily make a list, a record, or get you an ovation.

Today, I read in the news about how Lance Armstrong, champion cyclist, may end up losing all 7 of his Tour de France titles for doping--just another example of what people are willing to do or give up of themselves to get what they want in life.

I say dream big, try your hardest, but don't get lost in lists of accomplishments and stardom--stay true to who you really are and want to be.

And like the picture shows, it's good not to take yourself too seriously.  ;-)

(Source Photo: Dannielle Blumenthal)

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June 13, 2012

Coolest Ping Pong Table


Here is the coolest ping pong table that I have ever seen. 

Art Deco table makes for quite an eye catching game.

Yes, they do need to fix the broken net, but I think that's because everyone loves to play on this table.

So did I tell you that at one time my dad was quite the ping pong player--although in those days I think they called it table tennis.

I doubt though they had a table that looked as cool as this.

Hope you enjoy!

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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June 12, 2012

In Search of a True Patriot

This morning I saw Jesse Ventura, former governor of Minnesota and professional wrestler, on Piers Morgan (CNN).

He was promoting his new book Democrips and ReBloodicans. 

He was comparing our two-party system to a bunch of L.A. street gangs!

On one hand, he sounded crazy—claiming our politicians were nothing but thugs --fighting each other to get and maintain street power, rather than doing the right thing for everyone in this country.

Yet, despite Ventura not being the most eloquent speaker, some of his craziness sounded spot on.

Politics has gotten way too political!

The politicians stick to their party lines—pointing fingers and denigrating the other side—for our country’s problems.  Each side claiming they can do better.

One side taxing and spending, the other side cutting both—both sides driving our countries finances over the financial cliff.

Dictators are driven by their desire to get and hold power as long as their military might and repression of the masses holds out. 

But democracy is supposed to be different—we are a nation that takes pride in looking at both sides of the equation and coming to a middle ground that makes the best sense for everyone.

What happened?

Each side has pushed things just a little too far and then farther—getting power and then abusing power for their aims, forgetting about compromise, and leaving the other side lying in wait for when they can pounce on their opponents and re-assume power to undue what the other has done and push ahead their agenda.

This is a vicious game of ping-pong, where a volley is never achieved, but rather each side treats every shot as their last.

Civility and political correctness has left the palace.

In its place, a desire to win power and keep power at all costs.

An infatuation with doing for themselves at the expense of others—all the while telling themselves, this is truly for the good of the country.

Or like they used to say on the TV show Hill Street Blues—“let’s do it to them, before they do it to us!”

A country cannot successfully govern, by doing and undoing or by looking out for only 1/2 of the constituents.

Some way must be found to restore leadership—where government is again recognized as by the people and for the people, where integrity is valued more than power, and where our country’s future prosperity and survival trumps a parties’ survival in the next election and their partisanship agendas.

The examples are almost too numerous to mention with our political parties locking horns while budget and tax showdowns loom, deficits continue to boom, government shutdowns are being groomed, healthcare reform is up for grabs, employment continues to sag, and we wax and wane between war and peace—now cyber and kinetic—in hot spots around the globe.

Civil war is such a strong term—and in the Civil War, this country saw the loss of more people than all the other wars we have been in combined. 

Again, we face a type of civil war, where one side is trying to beat the other rather than join forces in conquering our nation’s ills and building our capabilities.

The results can be a similar devastation where problems fester until they explode and lives are lost, not in one side picking up arms against the other, but because we self-destruct in our own greed and contempt.

Leadership bridges, not divides, from across the political spectrum and all our leaders are needed now more than ever.

Jesse you are a "crazy dog," but you say some things that are undeniable truth.

We need to look beyond the surface of unconventional people and hear the message that running politics like street gangs is a losing battle—but we can change rivalry to partnership if we see past the different colors, and instead focus on the red, white, and blue.

(Source Photo: Dannielle Blumenthal)

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June 11, 2012

Technology Forecasting Made Easy

Here is a really nice technology forecast visualization from Envisioning Technology.

It covers almost three decades from 2012 through 2040.

And includes an exhaustive list of technology categories for the following:

- Artificial Intelligence
- Internet
- Interfaces
- Sensors
- Ubiquitous Computing
- Robotics
- Biotechnology
- Materials
- Energy
- Space
- Geoengineering

Further, specific technologies are informed by their:

- Relative Importance--by bubble size
- Consumer Impact--by size of the node's outline
- Related Clusters--by a jagged edge

Additionally, what I really like about their online version is that when you hover a technology, you get a decent description of what it is.

Looking in the out-years, it was great to see cool innovations such as machine-augmented cognition, retinal screens, space-based solar power, programmable matter, and anti-aging drugs--so we'll be overall smarter, more connected, exist in a more energized and malleable society, and live long-enough to appreciate it all. ;-)
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June 10, 2012

A Technologist's Personal Rorschach Test

So I gave myself a little Rorschach test. 

This was from a outdoor mural at school that I really liked. 

I let my mind freely associate and had some fun too. 

I could've gone on with this, but wanted to keep it clean. 

Hope you like the mural and creativity. 

If you had to do this exercise, I'd be curious to see what you came up with.
 
Have a good week!

Andy

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The H2O Coat


Awesome coat called the Raincatch that catches/stores rainwater and purifies it for drinking.

Designed by students at the Copenhagen Institute of Interaction Design (CIID). 

The collar of the coat catches the rainwater. 

The water passes through a charcoal and chemical filtration system. 

Purified water is then stored around the hips of the coat where it can be distributed and easily carried. 

A straw is built in and provided for easy drinking. 

I like this for its functionality as survival gear and its practicality as a user-centric product.

One thing I would add is a place to put the Coca-Cola syrup to give it a little extra pick me up. ;-)

Very cool--good job!

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June 9, 2012

Living The Limits


Almost two decades ago, when working towards my MBA degree, I read the book, Beyond the Limits (1992) about how between growing world overpopulation and our disposition to living without regards to our limited resources, we were in danger of depletion and ultimately face an existential disaster. 

Now this theme continues with the movie, Surviving Progress (2012) warning that our unabated consumerism and overproduction is leaving in its wake diminished environmental resources and leading eventually to a collapse of our global ecosystem. 

In between the book and the movie, I have followed the warnings of well known and respected leaders, such as former Vice President, Al Gore on global warning, former Comptroller General, David Walker on our spiraling national debt, oil magnate, T. Boone Pickens on peak oil, and that is just to name a few. 

Yet, the warnings of our unsustainable living keep running up against our impressive technological progress--for example, oil and natural gas is being discovered and still plentiful, agricultural productivity keeps rising, and computers and automation allows us to continuously do more with less. 

So what are we to believe--are we on a unsustainable collision course with mother nature that threatens our very existence or is our innovative prowess and technological progress going to keep us ahead of the curve and out of any danger?

As a technologist, and someone who promotes innovation, entrepreneurship, hard work and sound supporting ethics underlying everything we do, I am a firm believer that we can make a difference. Yes, with G-d's blessings, it is possible to shape our destiny, so that we can continue to not only sustain ourselves, but also actually improve our standard of living.

On the other hand, I cannot help but notice a generally gluttonous lifestyle in our society--where people almost always seem to buying bigger and better homes, cars, and even now yachts and private planes, and where buying and throwing things out is a vicious and endless cycle, where we live for the moment, rather than plan ahead. 

Despite initiatives to reduce, reuse, and recycle, we are still very much a single use society (use and discard), where compulsive shopping and a "mine is bigger and nicer than yours" mind-set and motive prevails. 

Now as humankind plans for Earth's ultimate resource depletion, companies such as Planetary Resources  are researching and developing robotic spacecraft to mine asteroids to get water, extract raw materials, and find new sources of precious minerals, and government agencies like NASA are exploring orbiting space settlements as well as the permanent colonization of the moon and Mars. 

At the end of the day, the Earth--no matter how large and bountiful--is a finite resource and we should use innovation and technology to extend its use and at the same time reach out to find our next hospitable home. 

Watching two seasons of a Discovery television series called The Colony about how people in a simulation of a global catastrophe, survive--I saw that no matter how well they did for a number of weeks living off of existing resources where they were, eventually, they had to plan and creatively build their escape to a new sustainable living place. 

Unfortunately, this is not just TV fiction, but this is our reality--to thrive in our world today, but also to plan and build for the long-term--a new home for mankind.

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June 8, 2012

Video Chat TMI


This is a new video chat service from Airtime and the music and video make it look pretty good, but I have my sincere reservations. 

Airtime connects as an app from Facebook and according to Bloomberg BusinessWeek (11-17 June 2012), "users can then talk to their Facebook friends, search for someone with similar interests, or just hit the 'next' button to find a random chat partner."

While, I find the idea of randomly engaging online with someone intriguing, I also more find it more than a little scary not knowing who they really are--there are plenty of fraudsters, charlatans, and perverts out there that you would not want to be talking to. 

The not so funny thing is that the precursor to Airtime called Chatroulette--was truly, as the name implies, a gamble and many times a bad one at that, with some unscrupulous users availing themselves of the video to expose themselves online. 

Frankly, it seems that many people may be using these applications more as swingers to hook up, have a fling, and engage in flirtatious or even sexual behavior than for developing any sort of real meaningful relationships. 

Furthermore with Airtime, based I assume on people's Facebook profiles, "as two users converse, Airtime suggests interests and common friends they may have in common"--with these actually popping up on your screen!

Whatever happened to any sort of privacy and discretion in sharing and letting conversations and relationships evolve naturally and over time between people rather than forced and in your face!

To me even the concept of having to use video when chatting is over-rated! I think most people do not feel all that comfortable in front of the camera and are actually more at ease talking without being viewed every moment through a lens.  

I have seen cameras deployed for desktop computers that were hardly ever used. And even with Apple's Facetime application built right into the iPhone, I rarely ever see anyone actually using this--do you? 

I think this is a clear lesson with technology that just because we can do something, doesn't mean we should. 

We need to take into account people feelings and their comfort zone, especially when it comes to privacy, and not just put them in front of every camera and float their personal interests and friends randomly or regularly. 

"Discretion is the better part of valor" and it's time to appreciate technology and social media companies and applications that recognize this and roll out services that are respectful of people privacy, security, and right to have some control over their lives.

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June 5, 2012

SDLC On Target

I found this great white paper by PM Solutions (2003) called "Selecting a Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC) Methodology."

The paper describes and nicely diagrams out the various SDLC frameworks:

- Waterfall
- Incremental
- Iterative
- Spiral
- RAD
- Agile


It also provides a chart of the advantages and disadvantages of each framework. 

Finally, there is a simple decision cube (D3) based on time horizon, budget, and functionality for selecting an SDLC framework. 

This is a very useful and practical analysis for implementing SDLC, and it aligns closely with the guidance from the National Institute of Science and Technology (NIST) Special Publication (SP) 800-64, "Security Considerations in the Systems Development Life Cycle" Appendix E that states:

"The expected size and complexity of the system, the development schedule, and the anticipated length of a system's life may affect the choice of which SDLC model to use."

While NIST focuses on the time horizon and complexity versus the PM Solutions Decision Cube that uses time horizon, budget, and functionality, the notion of tailoring SDLC to the project is both consistent and valuable. 

Just one more resource that I found particularly good is the Department of Labor IT Project Management guidance (2002)--it is a best practice from the Federal CIO website.

I like how it integrates SDLC, IT Project Management, IT Capital Planning and Investment Control (CPIC), and security and privacy into a cohesive guide. 

It also establishes project "thresholds" to differentiate larger or more significant projects with greater impact from others and calls these out for "more intensive review."

Even though these these resources are around a decade old, to me they are classic (in a good sense) and remain relevant and useful to developing systems that are on target.

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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June 3, 2012

Raising The Bar On Cybersecurity



Good video by the The Washington Post (2 June 2012) on the importance and challenges of cybersecurity. 

There are 12 billion devices on the Internet today and this is projected to soar to 50 billion in the next decade.

Cybersecurity is paramount to protecting the vast amounts of critical infrastructure connected to the Internet.

There is a lot riding over the Internet--power, transportation, finance, commerce, defense, and more--and the vulnerabilities inherent in this is huge!

Some notable quotes from the video:

- "Spying, intrusions, and attacks on government and corporate networks occur every hour of every day."

- "Some sort of cyberwar is generally considered an inevitability."

- "Cyberwar although a scary terms--I think it is as scary as it sounds."

- "Right now the bar is so low, it doesn't take a government, it doesn't take organized crime to exploit this stuff--that's what's dangerous!"

We all have to do our part to raise the bar on cybersecurity--and let's do it--now, now, now.

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Celebrating Israel's Birthday

Today was the Israel Day Festival in Rockville, Maryland.

The Israel Scotts Tzofim Friends Caravan--are teenagers who are entering their senior year in high school--here they sing a modern day version of "Hallelujah."



Hora DC is an adult dance group--here performing the classic Fiddler on the Roof, "If I were a rich man."



If was a beautiful Sunday with lot's of spirited joy celebrating Israel's 64 birthday.  

And we hope and pray for many more--with peace and security for all.

(Source Videos: Andy Blumenthal)

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June 2, 2012

Superabled, Not Disabled


This is a video of South African sprinter and Olympic hopeful, Oscar Pistorius--a double amputee fitted with curved, carbon-fiber prosthetic "Cheetah Blades" that can "challenge the fastest sprinters in the world."

There was a fascinating article about this in the Wall Street Journal today (2-3 June 2012)--on how high-tech implants are being put in people's bodies and brains, changing them from disabled to "superabled."

The article explains how "the goals for many amputees is no longer to reach a 'natural' level of abilities, but to exceed it, using whatever cutting-edge technology is available."

And just like body implants are helping spur superhuman abilities, so too neural implants can stimulate brain activity to focus attention, faster learning, hone skills, and augment performance. 

Last September, Tim Hemmes, paralyzed from a motocycle accident, was able to use a brain implant to move a mechanical arm, just with his thoughts!

"Technology can give us brains and brawn" and those with disabilities and the elderly who have lost mental and physical capacities will be early adopters--"they have a lot to gain and are willing to face the risk inherent in new medical technology."

There are many ethical questions when it comes to human implants--especially when it comes to the possibility of people voluntarily substituting technology for healthy body parts--just to have the Steve Austin-like, Six Million Dollar Man, bionic capabilities. 

Another question is once we start replacing our body parts--our very selves--with technology augmentation, at what point do we stop being us?  

And at what point, do we potentially stop being human and become something else--half human, half machine--or even more machine than human?  

Like the mythical creature, the centaur, which was half man and half horse--it seems like humans have always wondered about what makes them who they are and ultimately what they might become if they try to co-exist or meld with something altogether different.

By combining technology into our humanity, we are becoming something different--maybe a super human, if we use it ethically and for the good. Or perhaps we may become something more malevolent, if we go on to abuse our superabled powers to dominate or otherwise harm those less souped-up than us.  

Only time will tell where technological implantation and human augmentation ultimately takes us--it holds both enormous promise that we need to leverage and frightening risks that must be carefully planned and managed.

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Which Five Do You Keep?

So my father used to teach me that the Ten Commandments were divided with the first five being between man and G-d (e.g. "thou shalt not take the name of the L-rd, thy G-d, in vain") and the second five being between man and man (e.g. "thou shalt not Kill").  
Note: The fifth one of "Honor they mother and father" is viewed as between man and G-d, since we honor our parents as partners with G-d in our creation and upbringing. 

My father said well that some people keep the first five and some the second, but very few keep both sets. 

I am aware of many examples of this from the "religious" Rabbis and Priests who sickeningly molest children to "unreligious" people who give charitably and do good deeds to others in countless of ways. 

I do not know why most people cannot be both faithful to G-d and good to other people--are these somehow mutually exclusive in people's minds? Is it somehow blasphemous to both worship G-d and genuinely respect and care for our fellow humans? 

Perhaps, some think that if they are close to G-d, then other people are sort of besides the point, while others believe that if they act kindly to their fellow "man", then they will be considered righteous in G-d's eyes anyway.

The funny thing is that both--the ones that follow the laws having to do with G-d and those having to do with other people--seem to think that they are the "truly" righteous ones.  

Today, I saw a an event that reminded me of this whole lesson and spiritual question, as follows:

A car pulls up in front of the house of worship and in the driving lane, just stops and double parks, even though, right there--and even closer yet to the house of worship--is an empty oversized space to just pull into. 

The driver gets out and his wife gets out on the other side.  

The car behind him beeps to let them know they are waiting to pass. 
 
The man throws his hand up in a gesture of "too bad" and proceeds to escort his wife into the house of worship--all the while leaving his car blocking the driveway and the car behind him. 

After about 5 minutes, the first driver finally comes back to move his car.  

The second driver--of the car that has been waiting--goes up to driver of the first car and asks why he just left his car in the driving lane and didn't even bother to pull over.

The first driver says that his wife can't walk well and he wanted to escort her into the house of worship, and so the other car could wait until he returned. 

The second driver is startled by this and says "but you saw I was behind you waiting and wanted to get in with my family to pray as well--why couldn't you either circle back around or pull into the empty spot right there at the entrance?"

The first driver says, "well, you were the only other car behind me."

By this time the second driver is clearly annoyed and says, "but I am a human being too!" 

He continues clearly amazed at the callousness of the first and says, "how is it that you go to the house of worship, but you don't care about another human being--how can you be so selfish?

The first driver raises his hand and flips it again indicating that he just didn't care --going full circle to how this event began when he first stopped his car--and then he simply says as a matter of fact and sort of sarcastically "good day" and just walks away. 

What an encounter with the first driver on his way to worship G-d, yet completely callous to his fellow human being waiting to do the same--he was following the first five commandments, but brushing aside the second five.  

I wish for the day that people could embrace both sets of commandments! So that faith and decency could coexist, rather than battle in the hearts and soul of humans. 

What a better world it could be...

(Source photo: here)

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June 1, 2012

We're In It Together


This is a cool vision by Tom Clancy of the "future soldier" from the Ghost Recon game series. 

The mixture of advanced weaponry, high-tech reconnaissance and surveillance, drones and robotics, future combat uniforms, and cloaking technology is just super.

If you have time and interest, there is another longer video here with footage that is particularly good starting at about the 3:40 marker. 

Like Star Trek paving the way for real-life advances in technology and space exploration, Clancy's future soldier will be another example of life imitating art.  

When we marry the vision and creativity of our entertainment industry, with the technical skills of our scientists and engineers, and the risk-taking of our entrepreneurs, we can do truly awesome things. 

"No one can do everything, but everyone can do something"--we're in it together! 

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