June 30, 2017

It's Like Saving The Whole World

I saw this sign hanging prominently in a large local Baltimore hospital here (and it comes from the Talmud): 

"He who saves one life...It is as if he saves a whole world."

For doctors, nurses, and other medical practitioners, what greater purpose or joy in life than to save other human lives!

Each person is truly a whole world unto themselves...their thoughts, feelings, and their contributions!

Who knows what one single act of kindness or generosity from someone can have--what impacts down the line to one or even billions of others. 

Today, I have a friend that is undergoing a major operation in this hospital. 

My thoughts and prayers are with him. 

This is his third hospitalization in the last few weeks and it's time for the doctors--with G-d's help--to save his life.

I actually had something similar to this friend many years ago, but the technology wasn't there yet to diagnose it, and I had to have emergency surgery where they went in "exploratory" to find out what the heck was going on.

And thank G-d that they did--they literally saved my life at the time or I wouldn't be writing to you all today. 

I feel so grateful to G-d for his mercy to us and for giving us modern medicine and technology and all the wonderful people who work tirelessly to help all the sick people and to help save their very lives.

I am wishing the best of luck to my friend to come through this with a full and merciful healing.  ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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June 29, 2017

It's Not (Always) Easy

Sometimes, we see people--especially on social media these days--and they look "all that!"--so happy, so loved, so rich, so with everything--so it seems (superficially). 

But there is definitely another reality out there, and that is that everyone has problems:

- Family
- Health
- Finances
- Work
- School
- Conflict
- Spiritual

Like Helen Keller said: 
"I cried because I had no shoes until I met a man who had no feet."

I remember as a child, if I felt sad about something, my dad at times would remind me about the children in the hospital, and to think about how we can help others less fortunate--and he was right!

What I see in life is a lot of people trying, but also so many challenges, failures, and suffering along the way...unfortunately, it's part of the learning and growth equation, and in why we're here. 

In college, I always remember one (English) professor who taught me from Henry David Thoreau:
"Most men lead lives of quiet desperation."

Sometimes, in our solitude or when we speak quietly from our heart with our closest loved ones, we feel and express some of those deep feelings of hurt, pain, and suffering from our lives.  

Those experiences, memories, and feelings are not all that there is of us, but it is certainly a part of all of us--although maybe only the brave will admit theirs.

It's not shameful to feel, to cry, and to be human. 

It's certainly not what Facebook and Twitter are all about. 

But it's a genuine and critical part of us which recognizes as my dad also taught me that--life is not easy--and that we have to fight every day to do our best and to help others to do theirs. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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June 28, 2017

At The Doorstep...WMD

With a new threat again of a chemical weapons attack in Syria...

The U.S. is sending clear warnings to the Assad regime--Don't do it!

Generally, the threat of using weapons of mass destruction--chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear--have become all too blase!

- Syria uses chemical weapons on its own people. 

- Iraq used chemical weapons on Iran and the Kurds

- Terrorists used chemical weapons in Japan and have threatened similar in UK

- Russia threatens use of nukes over Crimea or in a conflict with NATO.

- North Korea threatens preemptive nuclear strike on the U.S. 

- Iran has threatened attacks on Israel over nukes.

- Biological weapons such as Anthrax have been used against the U.S. and bioterror has been threatened in India

This list is far from comprehensive--and how very commonplace this is becoming is exactly the problem!

It is one thing (already scary bad) to have weapons that can do the unthinkable, and it is quite another to actually use or threaten to use them in such blase fashion like taking out the garbage or something!

I would add that these days, we also need to add cyber attacks and EMPs to the threats of mass casualty and destructive events. 

If we don't ensure that cooler and more stable heads prevail at the notorious red buttons around the world, then the risk of someone eventually doing something very stupid and dangerous to millions--or even billions--of lives is no longer just in the realm of science fiction anymore, but becomes so very ominous and real a disastrous possibility. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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June 27, 2017

The Meaning of Silence

Is silence a good thing or a bad thing--what does it really mean?

On the plus or neutral side:

Silence can mean modesty and humility--you withhold speaking out of turn or having a big mouth; you recognize that you don't know everything and what you do know is not intended to put down or shame others. 

Silence can means secrets and privacy--you don't say everything; you treat information properly based on need to know and propriety of sharing. 

Silence can mean good situational judgement--that you know prudently when to let others have their say, or when your opinion isn't really welcome, or when it's best to just stay below the radar. 

Silence can mean you simply don't know--and it's something you need to listen and learn more about rather than speak; it's why we're told that we have two ears and one mouth.

Silence can mean that maybe you don't care about something--why get fired up or "waste your breath" on it when it's just not your thing.

When can it be a negative:

There was a sign in the local school window that silence means (wrongful) acceptance; that is also something I learned in in the Talmud in yeshiva; if you see something wrong and don't say or do something, you are (partially) responsible.

Silence can mean fear--perhaps you don't accept something, but you're afraid to speak truth or morality to power; you sit silently cowering, when you should stand up tall and speak out. 

Silence may also mean shame--you've done something wrong or don't want others to know something that could make you look bad or put you in jeopardy. 

Silence can mean you are hiding something--it can be that you don't trust or aren't trustful; silence at a time when you need to answer or respond can result in suspicion about why you are "holding back," instead of being forthcoming and truthful.

When to talk and when to remain silent? 

Certainly, "you have the right to remain silent."

We need to use words with care and intent--to always seek to help and not to hurt. 

Words are so potent--the mouth is perhaps the strongest part of the human body, just like the pen is mightier than the sword. 

That's why I pray that G-d put the "right words" in my mouth--to be constructive, positive, effective and impactful--to do good as much as possible with words and with silence. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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June 26, 2017

Shock Value Gets The Ball Rolling

There is definitely something to be said for shock value. 

When you do or say something that is S~H~O~C~K~I~N~G.

And it jolts the other person out of their daily stupor so that they really take notice. 

It's hard to stand out in a global population of over 7.2 billion people and counting. 

Everyone wants to be special, unique, have an impact, and make a difference. 

It's our answer (partially) for why we are here and why it matters.

Our life is a journey and it can be a log slog if we don't have a purpose and meaning in it all. 

We look to the One Above for guidance, meaning, love, and protection.

But we also have to look at ourselves in the mirror...what are we doing with our lives. 

Shock value doesn't mean real value...it's just the initial jolt to get noticed...like that purple and green spiked hair or those sparkly shoes you adorned. 

So you have to take the initial jolt and make it into deep impact--by touching not just a cord, but the nerves that run through. 

In Florida, there was a funny sign along the highway with that shock value that said something like this:

"Your Wife Is Hot So Call {X} To Fix Your A/C!"

What did you say about my wife? 

You know you're right, I do need to invest in better air conditioning! ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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June 25, 2017

When Evil Seems To Prevail

So there is this little Chinese restaurant--it sounds so cliche. 

But this one really is so small and bare that despite its name, which I don't even know, we call it "The Hole In the Wall."

This poor family with their children work behind the counter and kitchen serving up to the locals in the area. 

We know them from the neighborhood and they are always friendly and nice people just trying to make their way 

Well, over the weekend, this is what happened to their little hole in the wall. 

See the photo at the top!

I asked the lady, "What happened here?"

And she told me they had been broken into.

"That's terrible! Well, what was taken?"

"Just a little cash box, but there wasn't much in it," and she half smiles.

Like this is what they smashed their door and broke in for...a few measly bucks. 

I told her how sorry I was for her and her family.

The people with nothing break into the other people who have nothing to steal basically nothing. 

While so many of the gazillionaires are choking on their wads and wads of money lavishly spending on mansions, yachts, planes, cars, drugs, prostitutes, clothes, jewelry, and endless parties. 

Let the others starve...except let me give a little to start a foundation...it's a great tax shelter!

What type of world is this?

I've been sick the last few days and had the chance to watch a few movies related to this theme.

One was the Bitter Harvest about how Russia raped and pillaged Ukraine in the 1930s treating them as their breadbasket.

In the movie, Stalin says to take 90% of the food from the Ukrainian peasant farmers whose land they invaded and seized.

His henchman replies:  "But they'll starve to death."

To this Stalin responds, "Then takes everything!"

The movie well-portrayed the merciless killings and the people starving in the villages and the city streets. 

According to the postscript at the end of the movie 7 to 10 million Ukrainians perished.

Those were the days of great evil--Stalin, Hitler, Mussolini, Hideki Tojo, etc. 

Then another movie, The Birth Of A Nation, showing the horrors that the black people endured under slavery in this country.

The beatings, the rapes, the hangings, at one point, they even took a hammer and smashed the teeth out of the poor black man's face as he hung from the wall in the barn in order to force feed him.

The brutality was unbelievable. 

What type of world is this (again)?

G-d must watch this evil and want to smite mankind for the seemingly endless evil, but for his mercy and love the world endures another day. 

Our challenge in the face of all the freakin' evil out there is to do one good deed, say one good word, change the script of the evil doers...that's all you and I can really do.

Change the script...mend the broken glass of the poor restaurant owner...mend the broken world. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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June 24, 2017

Way Out Of Social Bounds

So on the 10th anniversary of the iPhone...

I want to say that the iPhone is probably one of the greatest inventions of all times...congratulations to Apple and especially to Steve Jobs!

I also want to say how far people have gone crazy in using these smartphones without any filters as to privacy or propriety. 

HERE IS A TRUE STORY THAT JUST HAPPENED :

We are in this building waiting for an elevator to come. 

A man comes around the corner speaking into his smartphone held at chest height with the speaker on blast!

He sees us, but apparently doesn't even think to pause the conversation or turn off the speaker and put the device to his ear.

Instead, we hear from the phone from what is apparently his immediate family member.


"That's right, it's a yeast infection!"

We are looking at each other like is this really happening or are we on Candid Camera or something.

And he respond still on with the speaker as we get on the elevator:


"A yeast infection, yeah, yeah, you better not let it get any worse."

Then from the phone:


"With these yeast infections, you know how it can be. I'll try to take care of it today,"

Him again, now as he's getting off the elevator:


"Well anyway, hope I'll be seeing you over later today."

My wife and I look at each other, and I blurt out after the elevator door closes:


"Yeah, yeah, I guess we'll be seeing you later today--with that yeast infection and all--hope it's not contagious!"


And we both start cracking up at how insane people are. 

While we can't (completely) help what people are over-hearing -and seeing through surveillance mechanisms on our smartphones, this guy with his phone, he didn't even flinch at the conversation he was having in the open on the speaker. 

It's a different day and age, and some people have no sense of boundaries anymore. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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June 23, 2017

Uber Overconfidence

As everyone knows, Uber is essentially--for now--a high-tech taxi company.

And high-tech tends to command high price.

But they are IMHO very overconfident of their position. 

And while I generally like taking Ubers, I would go so far to say that in many respects they are potential dead cab meat!

Why?

- Not because their leadership is in disarray and their founder and CEO was just forced to resign.

- Not because they have a disastrous corporate culture.

- Not because of their uber low or not profitable margins.

- Not because of the threat of autonomous driverless vehicles.

- Not because of the (alleged) stolen documents from Google.

- Not because Uber is (potentially) overvalued at nearly $70 billion (more than GM, Ford, or Honda)!

- Not because of its numerous competitors coming up from behind, including Lyft.

But a major reason is because:

They just gave you a not-so-hidden increase in price by tacking on a new tipping mechanism that will result in many people paying as much as a 20% hike to their overall fares.

Uber is now losing a sizable portion of their price point competitive advantage!

With the risks involved here, who could be so overconfident?
Perhaps, it's time to take a cab or hovercraft somewhere else. 

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

(All represents my own opinions)
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June 21, 2017

Diversity Necessitates Respect

So this was an interesting photo taken of a sticker hung in front/near the Capitol reflecting pool in Washington, D.C. 

It is one of the faces of the resistance, and while it's not Linda Sarsour, it reminds me of her--she is the one who garnered wide attention at the 2017 Women's March not long ago. 

Remember her rant of "Sisters and Brothers!"--whose sister is she anyway?

With her polarizing politics, support for Sharia Law and anti-Zionist rants and support for the BDS movement, she certainly is not mine. 

Note: An Israeli official even came out yesterday with like concerns about her. 

Here are some of Sarsour's alleged sayings about Sharia Law--or is this more of a complete embrace? 




While I greatly believe in diversity and strongly adhere to valuing and respecting all good people out there... 

There is something that feels wrong here. 

Generic images like the top photo with the traditional Muslim hair covering--again, I respect this.

It is overlaid with the American Flag--again nothing wrong with that--Jews wear yarmulkes with the flag too.

But look further now...underneath it states: 
"We The People  
are greater than fear"

Hmm...We the people--who is the "we" here?

Is this a group photo of Christians, Jews, Muslims, Atheists, etc.--so where is the inclusivity?

With Sarsour's insertion of a Sharia ideology into American politics, perhaps, there is a subtle--or not so subtle--attack on our greater American freedom and democracy going on here.

Sharia law is being spread around the globe by:

- Decree (think of the Mullahs in Iran)

- Terror (think ISIS and Al-Qaeda)

- Sympathy (think of the Palestinians)

- Mass immigration (think of the changing cultural face of Europe), and 

- Expropriating other people's causes (such as Democracy and freedom and so called justice with Linda Sarsour).

Everyone is entitled to their peaceful beliefs, especially when there is a ethos of  mutual respect and a truthful recognition and acceptance for everyone of "Live and let live!"

But when the bounds are trampled by those who want to see only "their way or the highway"...then we need to seriously fear--who are "We the people"--and what do they really want? ;-)

(Source top Photo: Andy Blumenthal and memes from Internet search)
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Left and Right Unite

So I saw on Facebook, an image of an old, wise, Native American Indian.

And over the image, it reads:


"The left wing and the right wing belong to the same bird."

That is pretty darn smart--and one of the best things I heard all week!

To many extremist people out there, they seem to have been forgetting this lately.

Also, the agitators don't seem to let up--does it matter if it's conspiracy theories or fake news--if it gets the bird in the net for clip-clip.

In an effort to "resist"--or perhaps utterly destroy the opposition--we have put politics above the National interest. 

Yes, politics matter--issues matter--people matter. 

But can the bird fly with only one wing?

Sure, we need to speak up when we see something wrong or that we don't agree with.

But we also need to discuss, negotiate, and compromise--for Pete's sake, work together to make the bird stronger and fly further and faster--rather than kill the bird itself. 

Our competitors and enemies have arrows pointed at and are shooting them at our American Eagle.

Will we give them the advantage as we self-destruct with loathing for one another? ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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June 20, 2017

Winning Attitude

I met this lady at the shopping outlets a few weeks ago. 

One of the awesome brand stores was running a sale with 70% off!

Check, check--not a gimmick--we race over with the crowd already forming lined up outside the doors. 

This salesperson was there to guide just a few people in at a time--I guess, so the mob wouldn't rip the joint to sale shreds!

This lady (pictured) had something awesome about her.

Working part time in retail, I'd imagine that it's not the job's salary and benefits that is perking her up or "getting her out of bed in the morning." 

Yet, she had the most unbelievably great attitude. 

She stopped to talk with us and tell us about her background studying and living in Israel during the year, and that she had a twin sister working in the same store for the Summer. 

Her energy and enthusiasm was inspirational and I would imagine could even be contagious to many who let themselves revel in it rather than resist it. 

As people waited on the line, this women offered them her umbrella to stay dry and cool. 

Waiting on line is not the most fun thing, even when it's for a 70% off sale, but this lady kept everyone smiling and sort of stress free with frequent updates and walking and talking up/down the line.

Listen, we all know people who do the same or similar jobs: one is grouchy, sullen, and is for all intensive purposes miserable all or most of the time; the other is generally smiling and happy to be there learning and contributing, and have the job.

What a difference between these 2 types of people!

And what a enormous contrast between the positive and negative impacts they have on others and on the organization. 

It's not just what you say and do, but how you go about doing it. 

Yes, we all have various challenges and problems in our lives, but how do you deal with it.

This doesn't mean you should be a phony baloney head--you need to be genuine and real to be credible and a high-functioning human being--and of course, everyone has bad days. 

But an overall winning attitude goes a long way in life and towards success--for yourself and how you can influence others. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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June 19, 2017

I Doth Fear

Innocent Shakespeare in the Park or violent assassination incitement of the President of the United States? 

Kathy Griffin holding up a severed head of the President.

Stephen Colbert's tirade and obscenities.

And the list goes on and on...

Is this resistance or are things perhaps going too far for political discourse? 

Whatever your views, does the rhetoric need to get any hotter or more violent in this country. 

Cooler heads and compromise need to prevail for anything positive to come from all this.

Is it not still possible to unite under the shared values of freedom, human rights, and democracy that we all presumably hold dear and use these to advance our common cause? 

At least twice now protesters have stormed the Shakespearean stage calling the incitement as an evil portrayal reminiscent of those like Nazi Propaganda Minister, Goebbels (may his name and memory be erased).

The other side pretends nothing is going on and says, but it's only Shakespeare. 

Demonstrating against the actors' nightly violent portraying (and perhaps undisguised wishing for) the killing of the President, the plays' protesters are themselves summarily dragged off by security.

Nothing seems to stop the shrill words, calls for violence, and violence itself. 

Just last week, we had the unreal and gross shooting of Congressman Whip, Steve Scalise, at an early morning baseball practice with his colleagues. 

For those who care to glimpse down the road, what happens from here as we seem to forget who we are as people and as a nation, and we let extremists take over the agenda.

I doth fear (a little Shakespeare myself here) that the problem with extremism and violence is that it can too easily beget more extremism and violence.

Incessant name-calling, an avalanche of punches by the media, hostility on college campuses towards free speech, SNL just poking fun (is this really so funny anymore), an inciting Shakespearean play, plus marches, protests, and then taking things too far.

Like the closing in a classic Shakespearean tragedy...should we all not fear how this will end? ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal) 
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June 18, 2017

Paper Navy Tiger

We spend $600 billion on defense and this is what we get?

In the middle of the night our U.S. Navy DESTROYER crashes with a ginormous container ship.

The commercial vessel (yes it's bigger, but it's a civilian ship) is lightly damaged, but the U.S. Navy BATTLESHIP (after having undergone a recent $21 million upgrade) has 7 dead, the captain injured, and it can barely make it back to its port except with tugboats for extensive repairs. 

WTF!

How does an battleship with the latest sensors and technology collide with a civilian ship--how did such a foreign vessel even get close to our navy ship let alone collide with it--was someone completely "asleep at the wheel?"

This is no joke!--this is our first line of defense in our ability to project force globally. 

What if this had been a terrorist ship laden to the hilt with high explosives or an Axis of Evil Iranian or North Korean fast attack craft or even a Russian or Chinese attack submarine--surprise!

Doesn't a battleship need to be ever-vigilant and -ready for battle? 

How can we fight sophisticated 21st century militaries with advanced ship-killer cruise missiles, torpedos, and mines, if we can't even avoid the essential sinking of one our own fighting ships in peacetime. 

Our brave men and women who take up the uniform to serve this great nation--and this country--DESERVE BETTER!

Does this paper navy ship with a punched hole in it represent a larger forgotten or war-weary military in dire need of modernization and genuine readiness to defend the beautiful and free America? 

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal via The Guardian)
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June 17, 2017

Happy Father's Day

So it's Shabbat and that's one of the wonderful times to look at old photos in the albums and boxes. 

Yes, this was before digital photography!

I came across this art that my daughters had given to my father and mother when they were still alive--I think it was plastered on their refrigerator for a while. 

This photo seemed to bridge the past, present, and future for me. 

My parents are gone now to Hashem--already 2 and 3 years--and I still can't believe it. 

At the annual Mother's Day and Father's Day--it's just another time of year to remember how much I miss them all year long. 

For me now, it is also a chance to be grateful for my lovely children that G-d has so gracefully blessed me and Dossy with. 

Smiles, hugs and kisses, love and caring for one another--this is what life is all about.

Father's Day to me is not about the gratefulness of my children to me, but rather of me to Hashem and them to be blessed to be a dad and have the chance to give back to such lovely children--to the next generation that greatly supersedes me and mine!

So I'm crunched in the middle in time between wonderful parents and beautiful children and as my dad would joke, it skipped a generation (hopefully, not really). ;-) 

(Source Photo: My Girls)
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June 16, 2017

It Takes A Village

I wanted to share some good tidbits about effective management, collaboration, and engagement that I heard this week at a Partnership for Public Service event.

It Takes A Village - No I don't mean the book by Hillary Clinton, but rather the idea that no one person is an island and no one can do everything themselves. Rather, we need the strengths and insights that others have to offer; we need teamwork; we need each other!

2-Way Communication - Traditionally, organizations communicate from the top-down or center to the periphery (depending how you look at it).  But that doesn't build buy-in and ownership. To do that, we need to have 2-way communication, people's active participation in the process, and genuine employee engagement.

Get Out Of The Way -  We (generally) don't need to tell people how to do their jobs, but rather develop the vision for what success looks like and then get out of the way of your managers and people. "Make managers manage and let managers manage" and similarly, I would say, hold people accountable but let people work and breath!

Things Change - While it's important to have consistency, momentum, and stay the course, you also need to be agile as the facts on the ground change.  "Disregard what's not working, and embrace what is." But you must stay open to new ideas and ways of doing things.

This is our world of work--our village--and either everyone helps and gets onboard the train or they risk getting run over by it. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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June 15, 2017

Aging Is A Process

This guy was a hoot on the Metro in Washington, D.C. 

His shirt says:

"With age comes oldness."

Ah, yeah!

When he was sitting, he had his arms crossed over his chest, and I thought it said:


"With age, comes baldness."

That too!

Getting old is not easy.

Being young is not easy either. 

But it's really how you handle yourself during every stage and turn in life that defines who you are and what you become as an person and a creation of G-d. 

You've got to get up and walk the dance through thick and thin...life bring old age and oldness...what's the alternative. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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June 14, 2017

I Met The Swamp And It Is Us

So with the election came promises (and hope to some) to "drain the swamp" in Washington, D.C. and beyond. 

That means redefining the size, scope, and purpose of federal government.

It also means reducing regulations that stifle American business and competitive advantage, placing restrictions on lobbying, and imposing term limits on Congress.

Presumably, it also means addressing mounds of fraud, waste and abuse in the system (many examples of each are out there).  

So here is a funny true story from when I was traveling recently...

A gentleman is riding with me in the elevator and he turns to me to make chit-chat. 

He says, "Good morning. Where you from?"

I smile and respond, "Washington, D.C.," and add proudly, "the nation's capital!"

He then asks, "What do you do there?"

Feeling a little perky that morning and with the elevator ride about to come to a stop at the lobby, I quickly blurt out, "Oh, cleaning up the swamp."

To which, the man responds with the sarcasm galore and probably a good dose of disdain, "Yeah right!" 

There was something so comical about this scene in which I sort of baited this guy and at the same time found the reaction that is all too likely throughout America.

Do people believe and are they committed that we really do the following:

- Change the status quo of big stumbling government

- Right the wrongs done by those who take advantage of the system, its power and big money

- Restrain the ginormous national debt that threatens to consume all of us

- Fairly and compassionately address the nation's priorities including those for national security, prosperity, and well-being

- Drain the swamp from the horrendous creatures that dwell and thrive therein

And the capital is not built on a preexisting swamp, but it did come and grow, man-made, dark and deep, as a result of the greed and fear that drives too many, far too far. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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June 13, 2017

Today Is 6/13

So today is 6/13.

Yes, check your calendar. 

It only comes once a year. 

613 is the mystical and holy number of commandments in the Torah. 

For more than 2 years (this is not a short-term phenomenon), my family and even some friends have been seeing an inexplicable number of 613 everywhere. 

Here is one from a stock I follow from the other week: Twitter was up exactly 6.13%...and I don't follow that many stocks. 

Just yesterday, another stock (that been doing terribly...it's a startup!) is down an enormous 61.3% since I started following it. 

And yet another major stock--of the largest company in Israel and the largest generic pharmaceutical company in the world--Teva--is down 16.03 year-to-date.

Nearly every day, we see an endless barrage of license plates, roads, train and plane schedules and physical or URL addresses, get purchase receipts or invoice totals, see number of posts, views, likes, or emails, and even the other day almost booked a hotel with the address....that's right and only 613!

I am a rational person...maybe almost to the extreme, and what I initially laughed off as a lark or someone's OCD thing, is beyond any reasonable explanation that I can fathom at this point.

I am left with faith that there is truly some message being sent from the One Above...the question is what is the meaning of the message?

I continue to hope and pray that the message is one of blessings and redemption for mankind...I hope you will join me in this prayer. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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June 12, 2017

The Knowable and Unknowable

So as we all do, I often come across challenging and perplexing issues or problems in life. 

And my nature is to try to understand them, solve them, fix them--is it survival or the challenge or both?

But then we come across some things that are just beyond our [mere mortal] understanding or ability to simply fix them. 

I remember as a youngster learning in Yeshiva about when it says in the Bible that G-d hardened Pharaoh's heart so that he continued to refuse to let the Jews go from their enslavement in Egypt.

And the classic mind-bending question is how could G-d harden his heart if Pharaoh retained free will which we all have to choose good or evil.

Did G-d harden his heart or did he have free will--which is it?  And if G-d hardened his heart, then how could Pharaoh and the Egyptians be punished for something they didn't fully control? 

One explanation is that by facing the punishing plagues, Pharoah was losing his free will to decide what to do with the Israelites, so by hardening his heart, G-d was actually restoring his free will to choose once again...interesting. 

Of course in life, there is also the philosophical dimensions of so many seeming contradictions such as the cliche about what happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object.

Which wins out if one is unstoppable and the other is unmovable?

No, I don't think these are just riddles, but the testing of the abilities of our human minds to understand further and further into the mysteries of G-d, creation, and the universe. 

So what do we do in life when confronted by things that are seemingly or really beyond our human capacities? 

- We ponder these weighty matters and sometimes we get frustrated and rip our little-left hair out or laugh at ourselves as to why we can't just get it.

- We look to understand the deeper spiritual meanings of these challenges in the context of our earthly lives. 

- We try to solve and fix what we can within the confines of our spaghetti brain matter and flesh and bone bodies. 

- At the end of the day, we acknowledge our human limitations, and look to the Heavens for answers or at least for Divine guidance and protection along the way.

While we cannot understand everything or always reach our destination that we set for ourselves that should never prevent us from trying our hardest and going as far as we can on our journeys--and letting the next person, and the next person pick up the torch and carry it forward. 

In the Jewish prayers, we say that the matters of the earth are for our exploration and striving, but the ultimate secrets of the Heaven are for G-d alone. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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June 11, 2017

The Cloud Pays Off

So for those of you who thought the cloud only pays if your a consumer of technology who is looking for scalability and flexible pricing models, think again. 

Bloomberg has an interesting article on how Adobe is growing their revenue by billions switching their apps to to the cloud. 

Instead of customers paying a one time purchase price for Creative Suite or Acrobat, now customers must pay for Creative Cloud or Document Cloud subscription fees that may sound small in the beginning, but really add up over time. 

And more than that, Adobe doesn't have to worry about wowing customers with the next upgrade in order to get them to make another purchase, because as long as their products are competitive, the customers will keep paying their subscriptions fees money month after money month.

What's better than making a sale to a customer?  Selling to them in a cloud subscription model that keeps paying and paying and paying. 

No wonder it's better to have your head and technology in the cloud--it's a true rainmaker! ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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June 10, 2017

Jerusalem - Happy 50 Years!

Just wanted to wish a very happy anniversary to Jerusalem.

It is the 50th year since the liberation and reunification of Jerusalem, the beautiful and eternal capital of the State of Israel. 

Today in synagogue we celebrated with a special kiddush. 

72 years since the holocaust, and Israel doth live!

In song and dance, in prayer and devotion, in doing good deeds and charity, we celebrate our survival and G-d's redemption and return of the Jewish people to his promised Holy Land. 

With still so much evil in the world--from brutal dictators, terrorists, human rights abusers, and bullies--it is always time to celebrate the freedom and democracy of America and Israel--who serve as a light unto the nations.

Surely as light can drive out darkness, those good people of faith and integrity can overcome the remnants of evil in this world. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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June 9, 2017

Drones Vs. Man

I took this photo of this man and drone in Florida. 

Look how close this machine is flying to his head!

Aside from the surveillance capabilities and offsetting privacy issues, these are bringing some dangerous fighting capabilities anywhere and everywhere.

Just today, I read about how the U.S. shot down an armed Syrian drone--presumably made and deployed by Iran!

I guess it's not proprietary technology anymore!

As drones and robots become better, faster, and cheaper and ubiquitous on the battlefield and on main street, who will be (relatively) safe anymore? 

Unless of course, my drones are stronger than your drones!

It's going to be a war of technology and machines more than ever before. 

Small ones like insects, swarms of them like engulfing locust, and large ones like Godzilla. 

What was once human flesh against a steel blade, arrow, and then bullet is now going to be an superfast artificially intelligent, armed to the hilt "man of steel" (and they don't miss) against just regular everyday people.

Don't hurt your hand punching that Robot in the face. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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June 8, 2017

Don't Defeat ISIS

Why are we trying to defeat ISIS?

Yesterday, they gave Axis of Evil Iran some payback. 

Iran, the #1 global sponsor of terrorism, got terrorized.

In a brazen attack on Iran's parliament and shrine, ISIS attacked these hardened targets.

Now, while all terrorism is terrible and should be condemned, isn't there an old saying:

"Fight fire with fire."

In this case, sadly but maybe the truth is the only way to fully defeat terrorism is by:

The only way to win the war on terror is to let terror fight terror!

No, we should not resort to such barbarism!

But as the world allegedly did in the Iran-Iraq war (and so many other conflicts), we armed both sides and let them go at it.

Similarly here, let ISIS and Iran's terrorists duke it out until they are both gone for good or hopefully they come to their senses and stop the madness once and for all!

Civilians are innocent and should never be targets, but the terrorists killing the terrorists is fair game.

Sure, carrots are preferable to a stick, but have any of the carrots worked at all or are we not at a global terrorism all time high after 16 years fighting the war on terror since 9/11.

Why wait until ISIS and/or Iran hits us again and again with terror wave after terror wave or eventually with unfathomable weapons of mass destruction?

Devil kill devil--and let peace and sanity reign supreme for the rest of the civilized world. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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June 7, 2017

How Much Can You Love Something?


Notice that the title of this blog is not how much can you love G-d or someone...

Those can be virtually infinite. 

I remember my dad was so devoted to G-d and his family. 

He used to say:

"I would go through fire for my family [and of course G-d]."

And we all knew from his daily actions that he meant it! 

But how about for things--how much do some people love their things?

I read today in the Wall Street Journal how David Rockefeller's estate of paintings, porcelain, and silver was slated to sell for $700 million!

That's a lot of prized possessions of [lovely] material things!

But even things that aren't so pricey are incredibly beloved to many people. 

In these photos, someone who must really love bowling has adorned their home and property with dozens of bowling bowls. 


Literally on the fence and in big piles as decoration in the yard all around the home. 

True, it's colorful, novel, and sort of interesting, but really you love bowling that much!

Yes, we are want to be comfortable with our special things especially when they provide good memories and sentimental feelings.

But whether a bowling bowl house or a Rockefeller estate, it's only truly worth something if there is G-d and loving people in it with you. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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June 6, 2017

Perception Is Reality

Sometimes, one person's clothing hook is another person's elephant trunk.

Or maybe it's the other way around that some creative person looked at an elephant and thought:

"Oh my that trunk of his would make a great clothing hook."

Life mimics art and art imitates life.

And that is flattery both ways. 

Either way perception is reality. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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June 5, 2017

What A Climb!

So I bought one these climbers--this one very colorful--to hang on one of my walls. 

I like the image of climbing and overcoming--with G-d's help--whatever obstacle is in our path.

It's not easy to climb and keep climbing, because the higher you go, the thinner the air, the more tired you get, and the further you have to fall!

But what I also realized about the image of the climber is that if you turn it on it's side, then the same person who is climbing...is now crawling. 

What at times in life can be a beautiful climb up, at other times can be any of us on all fours. 

There is no easy path straight up, although there is definitely one that can go straight down!

Sometimes, we are vertical--living and working hard trying to achieve something. 

And other times, we are horizontal--resting, asleep, or even in a hospital bed fighting for our lives just to survive another moment or day.

When we climb, we may literally be trying to conquer mountains.

But when you crawl, you may literally be on the ground begging for mercy.

Climbing and crawling are really not that far apart in terms about 90 degrees and how quickly change can happen and a person goes from an upward trajectory to a more devastating one. 

Some things to keep in mind...anchor your feet solidly and hold on to that rope tightly and even for dear life. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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June 4, 2017

The Excuses We Make

So on the way to the airport, I am talking with the Uber driver. 

"There is such a discrepancy between the rich and the poor here," I say.

"Yeah," she says, "When I drive and stop at the lights, there are many poor people that come up to the car looking for a handout."

She continues, "I usually have a few dollars here" pointing to the little cubby hole under the parking break. 

"But my friends make fun of me saying, they [the panhandlers] are just going to go out and buy a beer!"

Excuse #1 not to give poor people--they'll misuse our charity and buy alcohol, drugs, or prostitutes. 

The driver says, "But so what...if I were in their shoes, I'd buy a beer too."

I'm thinking, hey this is nice...she's fighting the bad inclination and her friends pressure and still wants to give--this is great!

Sure enough, we stop at a red light, and a really poor man starts walking up to the window to ask for help.

This person is dressed in dirty battered rags of an undershirt, and has sores on their arms and body.

The driver says, "Yeah, if I gave him, he'd probably just switch his shirt inside out later [as if the other side would be magically less dirty and ripped] and go home to his Rolls Royce!"

Wow, when excuse #1 doesn't hold...

Excuse #2--the poor people are just faking it...really they aren't poor, but rather they are fantastically rich and trying to pocket some more money for free.

It's like the evil inclination sitting on one shoulder telling us "don't give,"  even as the good inclination is sitting over our other shoulder beseeching us to have mercy and "give, give, give."

In this case, the evil inclination won out. 

I reached for my wallet and wanted to open my window, but honestly this person looked scary--dirty and maybe sick--I was afraid of this person. 

I hope G-d forgives me, because I feel it wasn't my evil inclination making excuses, but this time it was genuine for me. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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