January 29, 2014

A Razor to Apple's Throat


I love Razer's Project Christine - a completely modular PC. 

There is a stand and you simply attach the components you want: Central Processing Units (CPU), Graphic Processing Unit (GPU), Power Supply Unit (PSU), Solid-State Drive (SSD) storage, and so on. 

By making the architecture open and plug and play--just jack in a new module-- and change out whatever you want, whenever you want. Obsolescence be gone. 

This is a challenge to pure standardization, and a way to make customization cost-effective.

The cooling is done with mineral oil that is pumped throughout from the bottom reservoir. 

At the top, you see a module for a command center for adding operating systems, adjusting configurations and settings, or monitoring performance. 

A subscription model is planned where for a annual fee, you can get the latest and greatest upgrades.


Project Christine PC is the epitome of simple, useful, scalable and beautiful.

Watch out Apple, you have a Razor at your throat--it's time to seriously up the innovation game. ;-)
Share/Save/Bookmark

January 28, 2014

The Movers and Shakers

For a long time, I've heard of "The movers and shakers" as the ones who get things done. 

But I think there is another and more accurate meaning to this phase.

And it is related to the old adage of "those who can do, and those who can't teach." 

Note, there is no disrespect intended to good, solid teachers here, as they have one of the most important jobs in society in educating and molding our children, but the point is that there are some that can only talk theory, but haven't actually done the job!

Similarly, in the organizations, movers and shakers are often not one and the same, but two different types of people.

We have those who are "the movers"--who actually get things done, who break logjams, who overcome bureaucracy, who solve problems, who make things better.

And then there are "the shakers," those who do more jumping up and down and waving to get attention for themselves, their egos, their resumes, and their bogus brands, but don't or can't actually deliver the goods--real results. 

The movers are the genuine, hardworking doers and carers of our organizations; the shakers are the Billie Big Mouth Bass showpeople. 

The movers work the problems everyday and make progress and it is wonderful to celebrate their hardwork and successes, but the shakers are the attention-grabbers, boasting more about what they do, instead of actually doing much of anything. 

Beware of those that talk a good game, but can't actually hit the ball--and the recognition and attention they are bathing in may actually just be a good cover like from a tanning salon and not from the real beach. ;-)

(Source Photo: here with attribution to RedHerring1up)
Share/Save/Bookmark

January 26, 2014

The Great Afterlife

I finished reading the bestseller Proof of Heaven by Eben Alexander M.D. -- and it was awesome. 

Alexander, trained in rational, scientific thinking and a practicing neurosurgeon was not a believer of consciousness (i.e. the soul) outside of the functioning of the brain itself until he ended up for 7 days in a coma himself.


His near death experience (NDE) was not only unbelievably vivid, but also, as he reiterates again and again, absolutely real ("more real that the house I sat in, more real than the logs burning in the fireplace")!


The key beautiful messages that I came away with:


What is the relationship between G-d and man? 

G-d loves us, unconditionally. 

- Our physical bodies and brains, with limited sensory organs, are filters that give us a kind of "amnesia" of the Divine


- Our personality, soul, spirit "continue to exist beyond the body"and is a "direct extension of the Divine."


What is the meaning of life (i.e. why are we here)?

- The universe is purposeful, and it "bring[s] beings into existence and allows them to participate in the glory of G-d."

- Evil exists in this world only to provide us the free will for growth to the Divine and ultimately for our ascendance in other dimensions. 


- There is "no need to fear the earthly world" and thus no need to be concerned or build ourselves up with "fame or wealth or conquest."


To return to the spiritual realm, "we must once again become like that realm" by showing love and compassion for others. 


"Other family" (i.e. angels) are "watching and looking out for us" and helping us navigate our time here on earth."


- "Our struggles and suffering" are eclipsed by the larger eternal beings we are.


What is the future world like?

- Injustice in this world is eclipsed by the "beauty and brilliance of what awaits us."

- The visible, physical world is but a "speck of dust" compared to the invisible, spiritual world that is "awash" in goodness, hope, and abundance.


- Time doesn't function the same in the spiritual world, "a moment can seem like a lifetime, and one or several lifetimes can seem like a moment."


- Our understanding of space is false; the "vastly grandeur universe isn't far away physically, but simply exists on a different frequency."


- We are not only part of the fabric of the universe, but also are "completely unified"with it, and are "intricately and irremovably connected" with "no real differentiation between 'me' and the world."


Having recently lost my mother, I found great solace in this book and its timeless message of purpose in our worldly lives, hope through a brighter future in the next world, and the immortality of our souls with our loving Father In Heaven. 


Thank you Dr. Alexander for sharing your experiences and these eternal truths with us. ;-)


(Source Photo: here and my first GIF)

Share/Save/Bookmark

January 25, 2014

Remodulate The Shields For Cyber Security


I really like the concept for Cyber Security by Shape Security.

They have an appliance called a ShapeShifter that uses polymorphism to constantly change a website's code in order to prevent scripted botnet attacks--even as the web pages themselves maintain their look and feel.  

In essence they make the site a moving target, rather than a sitting duck. 

This is like Star Trek's modulating shield frequencies that would prevent enemies from obtaining the frequency of the shield emitters so they could then modify their weapons to bypass the shield and get in a deadly attack. 

In real life, as hackers readily change their malware, attack vectors, and social engineering tactics, we need to be agile and adapt faster than the enemy to thwart them. 

Changing defense tactics has also been used by agencies like Homeland Security to alter screening methods and throw potential terrorists off from a routine that could be more easily overcome.

I think the future of IT Security really lies in the shapeshifter strategy, where the enemy can't easily penetrate our defenses, because we're moving so fast that they can't even find our vulnerabilities and design an effective attack before we change it and up our game again.  

And hence, the evil Borg will be vanquished... ;-)
Share/Save/Bookmark

I, U, Y Talk Like That

Already young children in pre-school learn that "Words have meaning, and words can hurt."

All through life, we refine our communication skills learning what works and what doesn't.

Here are three letter-words with which to beware:

- "I" (Use sparingly) - I is usually people's favorite word; they love to talk about themselves. I this. I that. I like. I hate. The problem is that "I" can also be selfish, egotistical, and narcissistic. Without tempering talking about I all the time, you run the very large risk of overdoing it.  All the I can easily end up boring other people to near death or simply make them want to run the other way to get some needed healthy attention for themselves.

- "U" (Use carefully) - U is most often used to criticize.  U should do this. U did something wrong. U are a blankety-blank. While it's also caring, loving, and empathetic to talk about U (i.e. taking a genuine interest in the other person), talking about U can easily go astray and lead to disapproval, denunciation, and censure. We should and need to talk about U, but more from the perspective of understanding U and how can I help U.

- "Y" (Use almost never) - Y is used to ask questions, but usually ends up being used judgmentally. Y did you do that? Sometimes we question honestly and with positive intentions to understand, but very often we end up using the response to evaluate their actions, and pronounce judgement on them. From all the interrogative questions (who, what, where, when, Y, and how), Y should be used the absolute least, if ever. 

 I, U, Y - are letter-words that can imply selfishness, criticism, and judgement.  

While, they can't exactly be banned from the alphabet or dictionary, they are dangerous words that can get you misunderstood, alienate others, and hurt people in the process, and therefore use them, but with extreme caution, please. ;-)

(Source Photo: here with attribution to id-iom)
Share/Save/Bookmark

January 24, 2014

Addictions R Us

I was having an really interesting conversation with a friend--okay, and it got a little deep. 

He said something fascinating to me--which is that everyone is addicted to something. 

Think about it--some are addicted to the hard stuff...drugs, alcohol, smoking.

Others are addicted to sex, work, shopping, exercise, even religion. 

In modern times, there are new addictions to technology, gaming, and social media.

My friend is smart and we discussed or alluded to a number of reasons for the addictive nature of all people. 

1) Meaning - Many people have a tough time dealing with the seemingly meaningless, mortal nature of their lives. Without a strong purpose and meaning, we can sort of float through every day looking for some anchor, stability, or rhythm. Addictions, for better or worse, can provide that habit or repetition compulsion. While not very meaningful itself, these addictions help people forget--temporarily, during their high or while they are being kept busy--that they are perhaps lost amidst it all. 

2) Pain - Everyone has pain--emotional, physical, mental--these cause stress on people and their ability to deal or cope can be stretched thin, and they turn to some sort of addiction as a "crutch" to help them get through the day. It reminds me of a very crude song that I overheard years ago, called "F*ck the pain away" (excuse the language here, please). Anyway, simply replace the first word, with "work, shop, drink, and so on and poof, you have opiates (i.e. pain relief) for the masses. 

3) Fear - People are afraid--afraid of living, afraid of dying--and addictions take us away from having the time to stop, think, and have to deal with our fears. If every minute, I am running around doing a million things--then I don't have the time to shut it all down and out, and deal with what's really going on inside. In fact, some people credit the Holy Sabbath day, as being beneficial to us to just stopping all that daily stuff at least for one day a week!

We are all human, and there is no one who is immune to looking for meaning, avoiding pain, and dealing with their fears. 

The question is do we just throw ourselves into something to keep going or do we take more of a Buddhist approach, accept that life is suffering and try to raise ourselves above it through healthy balance, contemplative meditation, compassion and thinking about others, doing good deeds, and so on. 

Keeping busy is good too--but going through life in a drug or otherwise induced fugue is not--then we've lost ourselves, which is maybe the point for our crazy world where addictions abound and we are all too happy to dive right in. ;-)

(Source Photo: here with attribution to Miles Cave)
Share/Save/Bookmark

January 23, 2014

From Memorization To Thinking

Our education system continues to suffer as we rank somewhere between 17th and 20th globally. 

This means that our economy will assuredly suffer in the future from the global competition that strangles us.

Some prominent experts in the field, like Walter Isaacson, say that innovation occurs at the intersection of arts and humanities meeting science and math--and I really like that. 

Personally, this inspires me to think about whether education reform is perhaps focused too much on the teachers, tests, and core curriculum, and less on changing the way we are approaching education in the first place. 

For as long as I can remember (i.e. even when I was in school way back when), we based our education on lots of memorization--multiplication tables, periodic tables, vocabulary, history, and much more. 

For those with great short term memory, you could do very well to memorize, spit it out, and forget it, so you can start all over again with the next great wave of facts and figures. 

The emphasis on memorization of basics, is important in getting a foundation of knowledge, but seems to me to come at the expense of critical thinking and problem solving skills. 

From my own experience and watching my kids in school, I often see boredom at raw facts, and excitement and self-satisfaction at figuring something out. 

Yet, too often students are asked to do rote memorization and test accordingly, rather than really think. 

You can't memorize innovation, but rather you need to be able to apply learning. 

In this day and age, where facts are but a Google search away, memorization is less important and real analytical, reasoning, problem solving, and communication skills (all anchored in solid core values) are more relevant to our national and personal success. 

Yet, have our school caught up with this?

Unfortunately, it seems most have not, and perhaps that is one reason that many of our preeminent innovators are dropouts--from Steve Jobs to Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Larry Ellison, Michael Dell, Henry Ford, Walt Disney, Richard Branson, Ted Turner, etc. 

Will we ever get away completely from memorizing the basics? Certainly not. Do we need to spend so much of K-12 education and even college years playing instant recall? What a waste!

The best experience that I remember from my younger daughter in school was her activities in the Ethics Bowl, where schools competed in analyzing ethically challenging situations and arguing the merits of the various sides. They learned to think and articulate their reasoning and conclusions and that is the best education that I can imagine. 

Until we stop using education techniques from the dinosaur age--memorizing species and trying to recall where the eggs are buried, I fear we are doomed to subpar educational performance--in a boring, memorizing, and non-thinking way. 

No wonder the kids want to develop the next great iPhone app and use their textbooks as a handy-dandy booster seat. ;-)

(Source Photo: here with attribution to Lansing Public Library)

Share/Save/Bookmark

January 21, 2014

Care To Be Curious?

Here's three topics for the curious of mind today:

- Are we technologically safer?  As we attempt to beef up IT security, we continue to be technologically insecure. Just this last week, BBC reported how a fridge was part of 100,000 devices used to send out 750,000 pieces of spam. Yes, a fridge, and there was also a television involved--sounds like the beginning of a bad joke, right? But this is our reality these days...Proofpoint, a cloud computing and security company said "Many of these devices are poorly protected at best, and consumers have virtually no way to detect or fix infections when they do occur."

- Is our economy healing or hurting? As unemployment fell from 7% to 6.7% last week--an impressive reduction--the overall labor force participation rate didn't rise, but rather sank to 62.8%--its lowest level in 35 years! And while, the Wall Street Journal explains that U.S. employment is simply not keeping up with population growth, the S&P 500 hit a new record high just last Wednesday. Meanwhile, the Fed continues to pour money into the economy, although at a slowing rate (expected to go down next week to only $65B a month), speculation is building whether we have another real bubble brewing, and this one of our own making, perhaps. 

- Is this the lead up to peace or war with Iran? As we continue to seek a long-term deal with Iran on their dangerous nuclear weapons foray, we read from Bret Stephens that Iranian President Rouhani said during his presidential campaign, "Saying 'Death to America" is easy...We need to express 'Death to America' with action." If we are getting a good deal that can truly lead to WMD disarmament of Iran, why did Rouhani tweet, "In #Geneva agreement world powers surrendered to Iranian nation's will." Curious, whether this is for political consumption in Iran or whether he sees the deal as just a stalling tactic leading to a breakout capability in nuclear weapons as well as a way to get some goodies in terms of sanctions relief for his country in the meantime.

What does little kitty cat say about these? ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
Share/Save/Bookmark

January 20, 2014

The Starbucks Playbook

I'm in Starbucks and this young lady is drawing one of Starbucks promo signs. 

This one was for the new Starbucks Caramel Flan which is a latte (coffee with a shot of expresso and frothy steamed milk) with whipped cream and generous topping of caramel.

In making the sign, the girl was nervous that she wouldn't do a good job because of her drawing skills, but she was actually doing pretty well.

I learned some interesting things from her that the big picture of the cup of coffee on the sign is actually a magnet--so that just snapped in place and was a big help.

Then as you can see on the left, she is a holding a playbook from Starbucks Corporate that has a miniature version of the sign that she is supposed to draw with instructions. 

So this is her guide and the same used by all the other Starbucks putting up this promo this week. 

From a marketing and branding perspective, this helps keep it tight in terms of the messaging, timing, and look and feel. 

Starbucks leaves nothing to chance with their coffee sales and this methodology of having each store draw the promo by hand but from a playbook makes it both authentic and professional. 

Nice job with the Caramel Flan sign! ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
Share/Save/Bookmark

January 19, 2014

We Can Fly


Totally awesome viral video.

Looks like 3 flying people. 

Really they are drones in the shape of human figures. 

If only we could really fly that way--wow we!  ;-)
Share/Save/Bookmark

Gaming to Get More Bricks and Mortar

Farhad Manjoo has an interesting piece in the Wall Street Journal on the gamification of the workplace. 

In office gamification, employees are treated like gamers--they are measured, given points, and recognized/rewarded for meeting objectives as if you are playing an arcade game or Angry Birds. 

The problem is that this is really nothing new and also not very motivating to the workforce. 

Already in the Bible the Egyptians oppressed the Israelites by giving them ever crushing quotas for gathering straw and building the great pyramids.

And if they didn't measure up, the Bible tells us that, "They made their lives bitter with harsh labor...the Egyptians worked them ruthlessly."(Deut. 1:14)

You see while measuring performance is a good and important part to managing and maturing processes and the workforce, tracking people in real life with plus ups for every good thing and minuses for every mistake or failure treats this whole thing as one big game, but it's not.

A mature adult workforce doesn't need points and bonus time for doing their jobs, and shouldn't be made to fear losing their jobs for not meeting their daily numbers.

Even Manjoo admits that he dreads working in a work environment where everything is measured and monitored to the nth-degree.

He says that even in a field like Journalism, he feels undue pressure to produce and that "every time I write a story that doesn't make the paper's most-popular list, I consider it a tiny failure. If I do that too many times in a row, I begin to wonder if I should look for a new line of work."

Now perhaps, many of you are saying, that if you can't perform at expectations, maybe you should be looking for another job, but the point is that performance measurement should be humane--working toward the long-term benefit of the company and the development of the employees--and not one miss and it's "Game Over!"

Gamification software, like Badgeville, that gives points for everything from creating a sales lead to responding to a lead and converting a lead to sales opportunities is nothing short of childish micromanagement.

Employees shouldn't treated like children working for points and prizes and titles like "Super Converter" or "Super Dealer" (like in the demo video), but rather should be treated as professionals, who work for the mission and based on an ethos of excellence, where they are committed to doing their best for the organization, and the organization is committed to developing them and making them a ever better and satisfied workforce--not making them feel like they are coming to a surveillance, tracking, and fear-inspired workplace. 

Can gamification have a place in creating some healthy workplace competition and fun? Sure, but when it's masquerading as a serious tool to engineer people to do their jobs and have a meaningful career, then someone in the C-suite has been playing Farmville a little too long. 

My father used to tell me, "You catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar," and employees will be far more motivated if they know you are working with them as a team to "get to the next level" rather than infantilizing and prodding them with ridiculous amounts of workplace surveillance to force them to collect more straw and build more pyramids. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
Share/Save/Bookmark

January 18, 2014

What Would MLK Say?

Bloomberg BusinessWeek writes about how Congress orders NASA to complete a testing tower for rocket engines at Stennis Space Center that is no longer needed, since the rockets themselves were cancelled. 

The price tag of this tower is $350M!

But not to worry because NASA caught in this muddle says they will maintain the tower in case it's needed in the future at a cost of just $840,000 more a year. 

Why does this happen?

Pork barrel politics, where the the Congressmen and -women (in this case of Mississippi) don't want to lose out on the federal spending, so they make deals whereby they get what they want and others what they want for their home states--even if the taxpayers end up getting little to nothing. 

Peggy Noonan writes in the Wall Street Journal that while public servants are "expected to be less selfish than the average Joe...they are [actually] the locus of selfishness."

She writes, "there isn't a staffer on the Hill who won't tell you 90% of members are driven by their own needs, wants, and interests, not America's."

Essentially what Noonan describes is a broken political system, where we elect individuals as politicians to represent us, but they take our vote of confidence and their elected office platform and instead use it to vote either for what they think should be done--not what their constituents think or want--or they work the system in order to make themselves look good and line up votes for their next run at office. 

Either way, we don't get representation of the people, for the people, with big picture strategic decisions for the future of the nation, but rather we get narrow thinking and voting driven by self-centered thinking of what's in it for me (WIIFM). 

Freedom is not free, especially when we make bad decisions to fund testing towers that are no longer needed or bridges to nowhere. 

How we fix this is by having politicians with a genuine vision of where we need to go, anchored in the thinking of the people they represent and a foundation of integrity.

The leader can create a shared vision by explaining why, what, and how and building a genuine consensus around it. 

Selfishness is not an inherent trait of politics--it can be replaced by selflessness when the greater good of the nation is placed above any one "I"--whether that be a person, party, state, or special interest. 

(Source Photo: here)
Share/Save/Bookmark

January 17, 2014

China's Dangerous Socioeconomic Malaise

Fascinating article in the Wall Street Journal today on China's "Left Behind Kids."

While we hear about China as the rising Asian economic powerhouse, we do not often contemplate the socioeconomic impact of what is occurring there on Chinese families. 

As China rises to economic superpower status, more than 250 million migrant workers pour from the poor rural parts of China to the cities to supply the  relatively cheap labor to keep manufacturing humming and the economy brimming with growth.

Those left behind are 61 million Chinese children, who are growing up without one or both parents. 

One in five Chinese children haven't seen their parent(s) for at least 3 months.

But laws in China prevent children from coming to the cities with their parents in order to stem the flow of migration from rural areas. 

Chinese parents are saying, "We'll go wherever we can get the highest pay,"

Children are saying, "What's the big deal of having no mother anyway? I can grow up without a mom."

So while smog and pollution is spoiling beautiful China cities and harming people's physical health, the greater concern is that children are missing out on the loving, bonding, caring, and guidance that comes with a regular parental presence and good sound parenting from them. 

Understanding that strong parent-child relationships are critical to the formation of mental, emotional, and spiritual health of the children, the numbers and severity of Chinese children that are missing out on this is of great concern. 

While some children may be okay under the care of able grandparents along with regular visits or calls by parents, many others children, who don't have this, could end up having serious mental and emotional problems.

Already "more than 70% of children in rural China show signs of mental health problems such as anxiety and depression."

And as is often the case, anxiety and depression turn into resentment and anger.

With tens of millions of left behind children being forced to fend for themselves and hundreds of millions of migrant parents living in "dormitories, tents, or bomb shelters" away from their families and homes, what we have here is a bonafide socioeconomic ticking time bomb. 

Political pundits often point to the concern of China's power elite that the people will rise up against them and the Communist Party,
but I think the far bigger concern is to those outside of the system altogether. 

In my mind, the destruction of the core family will ultimately result in a tsunami of frustration, anger, and a weakening of social values.

Moreover, this  could very well spillover and lead to a dangerous rise of militancy, where people do not want to lash out against their political system or leadership, but rather against everyone else who took the goods that left them economically richer, but poorer in just about every other way. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
Share/Save/Bookmark

January 15, 2014

Eulogy For My Beloved Mother, Gerda Blumenthal

We are here today to remember and honor my mother, Gerda Blumenthal, who passed away on Monday.  

My mother was my personal heroine, even as just two days earlier, a great hero of the Jewish people died as well--Ariel Sharon, a former Prime Minister of the State of Israel and a hero general who fought militarily to defend his people, but who also disengaged the State of Israel unilaterally from Gaza to make peace. 

Sharon’s role in history to secure the Jewish people came on the heels of the Holocaust where 6 million Jews were murdered – one of every three in the entire world!

To my mother, the holocaust was one of the defining moments in her life. She was just 5 years old, when the murderous Nazi secret police, the Gestapo, came up behind my mother and her father on the street in Germany, grabbed him and dragged him off to the concentration camps. My mother, a child, was left alone crying on the streets, until some neighbors found her and brought her home to her mother. Miraculously, her father was one of the few to actually be let out a number of weeks later, as he had already received visas for the family to come to America. He had lost 20-30 pounds in just those few weeks of brutal slave labor and beatings, but he and the family were free to come to this country and start anew. 

Like many of the immigrant families who were forced to flee persecution, my mother and her family arrived here penniless, and her father who didn't even know the language, worked as a tailor to try and support the family. My mother had wanted to pursue her education—and to be a nurse—but when she graduated high school, she was asked to immediately go to work to help the family earn a living in those difficult days. She did this dutifully and worked—mostly doing secretarial work, which was popular in those days—while raising my sister and I and taking care of my dad. My mom would put me on the school bus, rush off to work, and be home in time to make dinner for all of us. Mom was unwavering in her commitment to taking care of us. Mom taught me what family was, what it was to put family first, and what it was to work hard, very hard, always being there to take care of us, even when at times, it seemed like too much for any human being. 

My older sister and I are eight years apart. But there was another sibling, Susie, born between us. However, she died as a baby leaving my mother and father bereaved of their 2nd child still in the early years of their marriage. Despite this new challenge in their lives—and what seemed like another personal test—my mother carried on with my father to build the family, and I came along four years later.  I have always tried to make my mother and father proud of me, especially in light of the loss of their other child. 

My mother and father—were best friends, but like all loving couples, they also argued—but they always came back together again to make up and bond. And I learned well from them that in relationships, we can argue, but we can work things out—even though it’s not always easy to say I’m sorry or I was wrong, but we come back together because we are a family--we love each other and have that commitment. The loss of my mom is magnified, because of that deep love, but also because we are a small family that has always lived a hop, skip, and jump from each other—like one extended family. 

My mother and father put my sister and I through private Jewish school, all the years, and then through college and graduate school—so that I was able to get my MBA and my sister her PhD. Even in later years, she helped babysit for my children and was like a second mother to them, so that my wife, Dossy could get her PhD as well. She loved my daughters—Minna and Rebecca, and my niece, Yaffa, so much.  My mother and my father even moved here to Silver Spring in 2000—soon after we relocated here to work for the government—so they could be with us and the grandchildren—even though my mother really loved living in Riverdale, NY and the community and friends there, and would otherwise never have left there. 

I will never forget the endless sacrifices made for us, which contrasts to many other families in modern times, when people seem more focused on career, their own interests and happiness, and mired in the world of the Internet and social media. But my mom taught me that while we may want a lot of different things, we need to put our priorities in order and focus on what is really important—family, friends, and faith. 

Like Ariel Sharon who suffered a stroke eight years ago, my mother was diagnosed with the horrible disease of Parkinson’s—also eight years ago. My mother went from being the one who took care of everyone to where my father, in his own old age, and his own illness, had to take care of her. He did this with unbelievable courage and tirelessly, he did everything for her—everything! Even when we all thought she needed to go to the nursing home, he brought her home and cared for her himself for two years under extremely trying circumstances. Until this last April, when my mother was hospitalized again and was too ill to go home again. She went to the Hebrew Home In Rockville, and later because of her severe pain was put under hospice care. My mom unfortunately suffered horribly—more than we have ever seen anyone suffer. When she passed this week, I was horrified to lose my mother, as anyone would be, and at the same time, I was grateful to G-d that perhaps she now had some rest from the all the terrible illness and suffering and was finally at peace. 

She died on Monday almost immediately after the Rabbi said the final prayers with her, and so I hope that the prayers and good wishes of the Rabbi and all of us—her family and friends—are heard in heaven and usher her in as a righteous soul, loving wife, mother, and grandmother—and grant her everlasting peace and reward from the Almighty. 

Mom, we will always remember everything you have done for us. You taught us what a good traditional Jewish home and values are. Thank you for the love, care, and endless sacrifices. You will live on in the children and grandchildren and hopefully, our lives will be a merit for you. We love you always, and miss you. May G-d welcome you back, grant you peace, and bless you.

Share/Save/Bookmark

January 12, 2014

On Friends and Enemies

Over the weekend, I read/heard two great quotes about the nature of friends and enemies:

1) The first was from Peggy Noonan in the Wall Street Journal where she reminds us of a political rule that "Friends come and go, but enemies accumulate."  Really this applies in all of life, a few real friends may last over an entire lifetime, but most others are transient, such as in school, at work, or in a community, but when you leave that place or circumstance, the friendships often do not persist. However, enemies seem to last forever, where people never forget when they feel they've been wronged and these people may actually seek each other out and even join forces to get their contemplated revenge. The fight is not always fair or just, but people's feelings when they think they've been wronged, hang in the air, like the stench of decaying carcasses. Something to beware of. 

2) The second was from a martial arts movie called Ninja 2 where one of the characters says to a martial arts expert, whose wife was brutally murdered, "The man who seeks revenge should dig two graves." Upon which, the martial artist wittingly responds, "They'll need to dig a lot more than that," and in the movie, the Ninja exacted his revenge on the drug lord and his gang for the murder they committed. 

My impressions are that we should try to be good people and have a broad positive influence in the world. With some people, we will find true friendship--and very often, there is an almost unexplainable chemistry to this, where it just clicks--and it's as if we've known this person not only in this lifetime, but in prior lifetimes as well. In other cases, the friendships are more temporal based on shared circumstance, camaraderie, or even an alliance or sorts, and these really are not sustained when one or both parties move on. And that's okay, not every friendship is deep and forever. 

In terms of enemies, you know it when you have it. Again, chemistry may play a role or one person may have indeed wronged the other. Sometimes, people can learn from making a mistake, they can apologize, commit to do better in the future, and there can be forgiveness. In other circumstances, the blood between people is bad and won't get better, because there is scarcity, misunderstanding, bias, or even blind hatred. In these cases, it often seems as if no amount of communication, negotiation, or bending over backwards will resolve it. You can try--it's always worth a try--but be prepared to circle the wagons and defend yourself, if all else fails. 

Finally, a wrongful act can be so brutal and egregious that at times it seems that only a "joust to the death" will do, but revenge in the end, does not bring anybody back or undue the harm done. Yes, when justice is done, the world seems somehow righted and the fallen can be released from their painful throes and go on in peace, and maybe the evil aggressor will be prevented from hurting others in the future. In the end, the smell of peace is the sweetest of all, when we can live and let live. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
Share/Save/Bookmark

January 11, 2014

Touch Free, Just Use Your Head


Israel Innovation News is reporting a very simple but cool new technology for the disabled.

It enables them to "read, play games, search the web, and make calls without the need for touch."

Sesame Reader, from the Google App Store, "tracks your face and allows you to turn [eReader] pages with the movement of your head."

You can also dial a number or type of a keyboard by using movement of the head to control the cursor movement and by hovering over a button to "click it."

This helps people to function in a digital world, when otherwise they couldn't.

Hence, the name Sesame from Ali Baba's magic phrase "Open Sesame."

Now people can read, write, and interact with others online--even when they don't have use of their limbs because of neurological, muscular, and other structural defect, or if they simply want hands-free use.

Touchscreens, keyboards, and keypads are now accessible to anyone with the simple turn of the head--up, down, left, and right is all all it takes to navigate, touchless. ;-)
Share/Save/Bookmark

Work Life IMBALance

Mental, emotional, and physical health often feeds off of maintaining a good balance in life. 

Yet, the financial services industry has been notorious for making people work unearthly hours, but also paying them unG-dly sums of money, especially in end-of-year bonuses. 

I remember reading the other year that the average bonus at Goldman Sachs was something like $750,000!

The price people pay for this is work, work, and more work (and like in the film, Wall Street, often some very unscrupulous behavior as well).

Many people get apartments down by Wall Street, so when they stroll out of the office at 1 am (maybe that's a good night), they can get to their place and clock a few hours of sleep before it's back to the office--in record time. 

Does the wealth accumulation and perhaps early retirement make it worth it--I guess to some people it does. 

Today, the New York Times reported how financial firms like Bank of America (BOA) Merrill Lynch is perhaps seeing the ill effects of this misguided "human capital strategy."

Finally, they are now encouraging people to "take four days off a month" and we're taking about weekends. 

That still leaves you with 6 days a week of work and typically 90 hours per week in the office!

Anyway, this is what they call being "committed to making the work experience better."

This is coming off the heels of a 21-year old intern at BOA that died last Summer in the office "after working three consecutive nights" even though they attributed the death to epilepsy. 

Work is good and healthy, except when it's extreme and not. Work-a-holism is a disease and money is at the root cause. 

It's great to be committed to the organization, mission, people and to doing your best, but it's another to sacrifice your soul, health, family and friends, and other interests that make you a well-rounded person. 

Ambition is healthy, greed is deadly--and if you have to come up with three lemons to see that, then it may be too late. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
Share/Save/Bookmark

January 10, 2014

Disability Rights - To Life Or Death

I read today in the Wall Street Journal an editorial by Joni Eareckson Tada--which I couldn't have disagreed with more. 

Let me start by saying that I have the greatest respect for Ms. Tada who is herself a quadriplegic and has overcome unbelievable challenges to become a huge successful author, radio show host, and advocate for disabled people. 


Yet in the editorial, she rails against those with disabilities that choose death over life and the laws that would enable this. 


She says, "first it was assisted suicide," and now it's unlawful birth suits after a child was born with severe disabilities that could have been genetically screened for, and an upcoming Belgium law that may "legalize euthanasia for children with incurable diseases--who, with the support of their parents or guardians, ask to die."


Ms. Tada calls these out as some sort of incredible "double standards" vis a vis the "freedom and dignity that the ADA [Americans With Disabilities Act] championed"--she says that "instead of helping the disabled live full lives, new laws seek to help them die."


While I appreciate her sentiments, I cannot agree with them--not everyone is Ms. Tada who decided she wanted to live and was able and fortunate to do what she has done.


This is a free country and people deserve the right to decide for themselves, making an informed and a well-thought out decision and with their loved ones, if they are too young, old, or otherwise unable to make the decision anymore for themselves. 


Having seen the ravages of disability, especially with my own mother, who suffers from Parkinson's Disease and other ailments, I cannot believe that anyone would try to force life on someone who has endless pain and suffering and wishes only for their final peace. 


Ms Tada asks, "What type of society do we want?"  She goes on claiming that "if we are seeking a good society then we do well to defend the rights of the helpless-not nullify their rights," yet this is exactly what Tada is advocating by seeking to nullify their right to end their suffering. 


If it amazing that people will "put down" a sick dying animal to relieve it of it's suffering when it is beyond cure, but we don't show the same mercy to fellow human beings when they are in the clutches of death and torment.


There is most certainly a time when it is enough pain, enough disability, when there is no more hope, and the most decent human thing we can do is free the person from their intolerable suffering.


Life is a wonderful thing if it can be lived, but if it is a living hell, then we should be merciful and let people go to their final resting place without the anguish that only they can ever really understand.


(Source Photo: here with attribution to GizM ()17)

Share/Save/Bookmark

January 9, 2014

Watch Out For Organizational Psychopaths

Ever feel like this at work?

The knives are flying and you're the target--where's the next one going, the heart of head?

Harvard Business Review has a telling blog about bosses at work that are borderline psychopaths.

Hard to spot because of their "chameleon-like qualities," they are:

- "Self-serving"--basically they have what I call the selfish disorder, they want power, money, and status but don't really care about the organization, mission or people, just themselves!

- "Manipulative personalities"--they hide their agendas, but work over others with charm, favors, even pretend friendship to get what they want.

- Domineering--corporate psychopaths are bullies, who assert themselves over others; they are insecure and endlessly competitive and abuse the people that work for them rather than recognize and reward them. 

- Win-lose---they play corporate gamesmanship, appearing collegial enough, but really are always trying to get one up on their colleagues, staff, and even their bosses. 

-"Unburdened by the pangs of conscience"--they don't care what it takes to get what they want for themselves: they will lie, cheat, steal, and try to get rid of the competition (even if that is everyone that works for them or around them).   

Estimates are that "perhaps 3.9% of corporate professionals" have these psychopathic tendencies--With all the crazies out there, that seems on the low side. What do you think?

Thank G-d, however, that there are some good bosses out there--seek those people out who act like mensches, who elevate others and do not treat them like the enemy within--those people are true gems. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
Share/Save/Bookmark

January 8, 2014

Amazing Amazon

So Amazon should be renamed Amazing, because they are.

They are the best online retailer--love 'em!

SELECTION: Amazon has everything. 

PRICE: Amazon is reasonably priced.

SPEED: Amazon Prime gets you your goodies delivered in under 48 hours. 

RETURNS: Amazon takes returns easily; virtually no questions asked. 

Amazon is so customer focused that you can even email Jeff Bezos, the founder and CEO himself, at Jeff@Amazon.com. 

Aside from their highly successful retail operation, they have the Kindle tablets, Amazon Web Services (AWS) for cloud computing, Kiva Robots for warehouse operations, and more. 

So what's the secret of their success?

One thing, according to the Wall Street Journal, is their tough hiring practices. 

Amazon has "several hundred" interviewers called "Bar Raisers" that give candidates extremely thorough interviews.

Bar Raisers typically have conducted "dozens or hundreds of interviews and gained a reputation for asking tough questions and identifying candidates who go on to become stars."

Typically, it "takes five or six employees at least two hours each" to evaluate and vet an applicant. 

Amazon makes all this effort in recruiting to weed out people who are the wrong fit for the company. 

They believe that it's better to invest in a sophisticated recruiting process than to make costly hiring mistakes. 

While this certainly sounds like a well thought out and vigorous hiring process, the article makes little to no mention of performance measures showing that their hires really are better matches, have superior performance, or stay with the company longer. 

The one anecdote given was of a Bar Raiser who found a candidate for a programming job that "didn't know much about the specific programming language."

Barring some real statistics though, either you could conclude that Amazon's hiring process is truly superior or perhaps question why it takes them 5 to 6 interviews to do what other successful companies do in 1 or 2. 

Either way though, Amazon is a amazingly great company. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
Share/Save/Bookmark

January 7, 2014

Live Stress Free, Almost

As we all know, stress is a killer--so you want to minimize it (if you can)!

There is a great little piece from CareerCast on the most and least stressful jobs out there in 2014.

From least stressful--audiologist.

To most stressful--enlisted military.

Anyway, to avoid stress--keep calm like the picture says, but also consider jobs with the following attributes:

- Desk job

- High growth potential

- Fewer strict deadlines

- Less travel

- Greater congeniality 

- Non-hazardous

One question from the list of jobs...why be a taxi driver earning an average of almost $23,000 a year in one of the top 10 most stressful jobs, when you can be a hair stylist earning about the same and have the 2nd least stressful job out there? 

So trade in your driver's license and learn to give a great hairdo! ;-)

(Source Photo: Dannielle Blumenthal)
Share/Save/Bookmark

In The Capital, Scary Cold

So it was 3 degrees in Washington, D.C. today (and that's before wind chill). 

I don't ever remember it being this cold, ever!

Getting on the Metro this evening, this big guy came on wearing this scary hat.

But what was really unusual was that even while we were on the train for a while, he didn't take the scary hat off. 

I didn't know whether this guy was just still cold or whether we was a murderer or terrorist in waiting. 

After a while, I said to the guy, I have a blog and does he mind if I take a photo--and he was nice enough and said, "Go ahead."

So this is how he rode the Metro all the way home. 

Today was a scary cold day--because of the temperature for sure, but also because of this unbelievable hat. 

I was literally right in front of this guy--how do you think that felt? ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
Share/Save/Bookmark

January 5, 2014

Struggle Against Nature and Nurture

I started watching The Following on Netflix. 

If you haven't seen it, the show is a portrayal of a serial killer.

This criminal has a near cult like following of people who want to kill, like him, and they do. 

It is a frightening portrayal of people who murder, gruesomely.

They do it almost nonchalantly, like second nature. 

They have no remorse, quite the opposite, they are deeply committed to what they do (e.g. through stabbing, burning, choking, etc.)

And they connect with each other, and the main serial killer, in their brutal acts of murder. 

The show is deeply troubling in that there seems to be so many people out there who savor this, and that the authorities struggle to try to stop them. 

Last year, the Wall Street Journal explored the science behind violent criminals. 

They found in more than 100 studies that "about half of the variance in aggressive and anti-social behavior can be attributed to genetics."

The study of this is called neurocriminology.

When this predisposition of genetics is combined with "early child abuse," an individual is more prone to commit violent acts. 

This is the old, "nature and nurture," where our biological predisposition combined with our specific environmental factors, in a sense, make us who we are. 

Understanding these contributors can help to both predict behavior and recidivism, and very importantly help with early treatment by "making it possible to get ahead of the problem" through therapy, medication, and so on. 

People can be the worst type of animals, killing not only for food or because they are threatened, but actually for the joy of it.

The show is scary, but the reality is even more frightening as we battle heredity and environment. 

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
Share/Save/Bookmark

January 4, 2014

10 Ways To Improve Federal Technology

While it's good to improve government services through advances in information technology, we also need to do better with what we have, which is our own valuable IT human capital. 

In the Wall Street Journal today, the "health-site woes" are spurring a push for changes to federal technology, including the possibility of a "federal unit dedicated to big tech projects." 

Whether or not we carve our a separate big tech project unit, we can do so much to improve success in all our agencies by valuing our people and motivating them to succeed.

As democracy and capitalism have taught us, we need people to be free to innovate and reward them appropriately.

While the grass may look greener in Silicon Valley, our challenge is to utilize all our resources in whatever part of the country they reside, whether they be government or private sector workers.

Ultimately, like most things, this is a human challenge, and not just a technology issue. 

Hence, I developed the above comic strip to demonstrate 10 Ways to Improve Federal Technology, so we can all succeed together. ;-)

(Source Cartoon [click here to enlarge]: Andy Blumenthal)
Share/Save/Bookmark

January 3, 2014

The Happiness Meter

Ever realize that no matter how hard you strive for happiness, it almost always seems just as elusive. 

There are many explanations for this:

Of course, it could also be that just because you think something will make you happy, doesn't mean it will. Often, the fantasy does not live up to the reality, and so rather than achieve happiness, we end up disappointed. 

Another explanation, from economics, is the law of diminishing marginal utility that tells us that more of a good thing, does not make us incrementally happier, rather the benefit and satisfaction that we receive from each additional unit of consumption is lower.  Let's face it, the 5th mouthful of chocolate cream pie is not as satisfying at the first, second, or third. And at a certain point, you actually will want to puke! 

The Wall Street Journal had a brilliant piece on this that explained this from an evolutionary perspective--fitter organisms are more likely to survive and reproduce, so every time we make a positive decision in our life, rather than find happiness, our "happiness meter" resets to zero, forcing us to make the next positive move in our life to make us better, if not necessarily happier. In other words, keeping us unhappy, forces us into perpetual striving. 

So while happiness has been correlated with our genetic makeup, life events, and values (New York Times) or even exercise, altruism, and supportive relationships (CNN), real happiness comes from living a life of meaning, where we find satisfaction in the journey itself, and not rely only on the destination. 

For example, Buddhists understand that life is suffering and that we need to escape the hamster wheel of jealousy, aimless external desire, and quenchless ambition and instead seek to do good and find inner contentment. 

One colleague (ex-army) of mine used to say, "everyday that I am not in Iraq and Afghanistan is a good day" and perhaps we need to think in those terms too, as we all know things can always be worse, so we would do well to find happiness not just in what we have or achieve, but in thanksgiving for what we are spared as well.  ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
Share/Save/Bookmark

January 2, 2014

Looking Forward, Backwards

Farhad Manjoo argues in today's Wall Street Journal that "there's plenty" of innovation going on, despite the grumblings that their isn't.

His main argument is that "the smartphone and the tablet 'are' the next big things."

Manjoo tells us to "grow up" and calls us "spoiled children," because we are not satisfied with these and simple future enhancements of this. 

He would have us accept that there won't be "anything as groundbreaking in a generation." 

Well, looking back at past innovation and calling that as our current and future innovation is like looking back at our past successes and simply resting on our laurels as good enough.

Unfortunately, no business can rest on their past successes--they must constantly innovate to stay relevant in the marketplace and meet their growth targets for revenue, profit, market share, and customer satisfaction.

As they say in financial prospectuses, "past success is no guarantee of future success."

Similarly, as individuals we do not just settle for past success, but we strive everyday to make a contribution, to learn, and to grow as long as we have the strength to try.

When we stop striving, we may as well be heading downhill in the cycle of life, because as we all know, "if you are not moving forward, then you are moving backwards."

Life is not stagnant, and yesterdays innovations are not todays creative breakthroughs or tomorrows leaps forward.

The rate of innovation is no longer measured in generations in the 21st century--and for those who think it is, they would have us accept defeat in this highly global, competitive marketplace. 

While we should not be greedy, why are we so ready to say good enough, instead of really critiquing ourselves (e.g. calling a dry spell, a dry spell) and continuing the tough journey into the future. 

At least Manjoo cites incremental work in privacy, enterprise technologies such as cloud computing, and robotics as tech trends - so maybe there is still hope. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
Share/Save/Bookmark

January 1, 2014

Ushering In 2014

As we usher in 2014, I thought this amazing Fendi Jewel Watch for women was a great timekeeping way to capture the moment.

I took this photo in the Bellagio Hotel in Vegas. 

There was a huge advertisement hanging by the lobby, and it immediately caught my eye. 

I like the different colored stones for each hour around the dial, as well as the overall white diamond ring around the face. 

I found it at their website for $3,000 and it is an absolutely gorgeous timepiece when you first see it.

But it's interesting to me that while it catches my eye, the more I look it, I find that I start to tire of it, and it is not one of those truly timeless jewelry pieces.

Maybe an important lesson for the New Year is that we need to look closely and carefully to avoid expensive buyers remorse, because not everything that glitters is gold--in fact, this watch is stainless. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
Share/Save/Bookmark