Showing posts with label Context. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Context. Show all posts

August 4, 2018

Things Look Different Up Close



So this was interesting. 

I was coming up the highway. 

In the distance, there looked like there was a large tractor-trailer heading towards me.

I had to take a double take, because this truck was on my side of the divider...Oh shit!

It was only as I got closer that I could see that the truck was really being towed in reverse by a tow truck. 

Yes, "seeing is believing!"

This is a lesson in life:

Things may look one way from a distance, and very different up close. 

Sometimes, my wife tells me:

"Andy, don't look too close!" lol

But the truth is that you may not really see what you heading towards until it's right in front of your eyes.

So it's important to look out over the horizon and study what is coming your way. 

But don't take your eye off the ball (or Mack Truck as it may be). 

Things can change your perspective the closer you get to it. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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July 19, 2018

Boiling A Frog

So sometimes you don't know that something is happening until it is too late. 

A colleague yesterday told me this great simile:

It's like when you put a frog in a pot of water and turn up the heat, the frog doesn't know what's happening until it's too late, and he ends up being boiled alive!

With better knowledge of the context, of course, you can have the foresight to act, to fight, to get out, whatever. 

Similarly with the frog, if you throw him into an already boiling pot of water, he immediately jumps out, and viola he's saved. 

It's really important to have good situational and political awareness. 

Not everyone out there is so innocent--even when they have a good act and pretend, "Who me?"

Many of them know how to work the system, so that the system works for them. 

G-d forbid, when you're in the way, they'll often turn up the heat. 

And if you don't realize what going on, you'll be the frog that's a not so tasty dinner. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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July 27, 2017

When You Need To BLUF

Most professional (and even personal) communications should start with...
________________________

BLUF (Bottom Line Up Front).

This means that you start with the ending--in mind, on paper, verbally, and in digital format. 

You provide the conclusion and/or recommendations right up front.

Rather than first wadding through all the details--context, analysis, considerations, assumptions, risks, etc. 

Let the reader know right away what it is you want. 

Generally, this is different than an abstract or summary that provides a synopsis and leading evidence for the argument put forward. 

Tell me what I need to know and get right to the point! ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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December 3, 2016

Dysfunction Is The Starting Point

A very smart speech today in synagogue by Rabbi Haim Ovadia. 

He connected to this week's reading from Genesis in the Torah.

It was a commentary about our forefathers and mothers and what the stories in the Bible teach us. 

As we know, these people while righteous and holy, were not perfect people or families. 

Thinking about these, some examples that come to mind about the many tests, challenges, and tragedies in their lives:

- Adam and Eve eating the forbidden apple in the Garden of Eden

- Noah getting drunk and his son, Ham, seeing his nakedness and telling his brothers

- Abraham and Sarah's doubting (i.e. laughing) that G-d would give them a child

- Isaac lying to Avimelech about Rivkah being his sister (similar to what Abraham said about Sarah)

 - Jacob buying the birthright and stealing the blessing from Esau

- Shimon and Levi killing the people of Shechem for Hamor raping their sister

- Joseph's brothers being jealous of him and throwing him in the pit and selling him into slavery

- Judah sleeping with Tamer, the wife of his firstborn 

And so on. 

Rabbi Ovadia said we should keep 4 things in mind about the Biblical figures and families to learn for our own:

1) Context - There is a context to what we do. We all have histories that involve difficulties, challenges, illness, abuse, PTSD, and so on.  The things we do and how we react later in life are anchored in this context. 

2) Dysfunction - Every family (and I would add person, organization, and institution) is dysfunctional.  There is no perfection out there (except G-d). Functional would mean like a computer, we input-process-output towards a certain function.  However, as people, we are not automatons, but instead work out our dysfunction through our striving to love, have relationships, learn and grow. 

3) Responsibility - Whatever our challenges and dysfunctions, we are responsible for what we do--our actions.  We can't just blame history or others.  Our role is to face up to our lot in life and take responsibility for what we do.  It our life and circumstances to make or break us. 

4) Communication - In dealing with life and it's challenges, communication is key to dealing with things. I would argue that communication is just a part of many critical success factors like trust, determination, hard work, emotional intelligence, being giving, integrity, etc.  But certainly, communication is a key aspect in how we work out our issues with others and try to build function from inherent dysfunction. 

The honestly of the Bible in telling us the flaws of it's heroes and heroines--our ancestors--is one of the things that make it such a source of wisdom for us as well as demonstrating the truthfulness of it being G-d given to us.

The bible doesn't sugarcoat who we are and what we have to deal with--it is the Book of G-d that is a roadmap for us to learn from and do good with in our own lives. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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July 27, 2016

How Great Are You?

INDISPENSABLE?

      Sometime, when you’re feeling important,
      
      Sometime, when your ego’s in bloom,
      
      Sometime, when you take it for granted,
      
      You’re the best qualified in the room.
      
      Sometime when you feel that your going,
      
      Would leave an unfillable hole,
      
      Just follow these simple instructions,
      
      And see how it humbles your soul.
      
      Take a bucket and fill it with water.
      
      Put your hand in it, up to the wrist;
      
      Pull it out; and the hole that’s remaining, 
      
      Is a measure of how you’ll be missed.
      
      You may splash all you please when you enter,
      
      You can stir up the water galore,
      
      But stop, and you’ll find in a minute,
      
      That it looks quite the same as before.
      
      The moral in this quaint example,
      
      Is just do the best that you can,
      
      Be proud of yourself, but remember,
      
      There’s no indispensable man.
            
      - Saxon White Kessinger

(Thank you to my daughter, Minna Blumenthal, for sharing this)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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June 9, 2015

See The World Through The Eyes Of Others

It's not only important what we think, but also what and how others see things. 

One the things, the folks that work with me frequently hear from me is "Let me put myself in the other person's shoes for a moment, and give you feedback on that."

We are what we are and not as our customers are, and while we may strive for excellence in customer service, our customers may have completely different notions of what that means.

For example, I may think a 24-hour turnaround on something is pretty good given everything on our plate, but when I imagine myself in the customer's shoes for a moment, I may change that expectation to "We need to get this done by noon today (or sooner)!"

People are different, our experiences, our cultures, our context and the way we interpret things. 

So when it comes to work or family or even social issues, being compassionate often means seeing the world through someone else's eyes. 

There was an interesting article in the New York Times called "Imaging The Lives Of Others" by psychologist, Paul Bloom. 

While he notes the importance to "behold the universe through the eyes of another," he also says how difficult this really is. 

If you haven't done something, how can you really imagine what it was like, let alone know what it was like for someone else to experience it?

Without the access to the particular significant life experience, the duration, the controls (so you can't just say stop like in an experiment), perhaps a person can never fully know what it's like. 

For example, if you haven't been through a devastating war, can you truly know what it's like to be in a foxhole and have the bullets whooshing by your head and the tanks rumbling over it?

Yes, we can imagine, but that is probably a far cry!

Yet, to really empathize with others, do right by them, and to make good leadership decisions, we most certainly need to at least try to see and experience the world the way others do. 

Thinking about the over 805 million hungry people in the world today, it is much more impactful to imagine myself hungry and starving, then just to say the mere fact that these poor people exist.

We can probably never know someone's else pain and suffering the way they do, but through our own experiences, extrapolation from them, and our imagination, we can at least try to elevate ourselves for a purely self-centric universe of one that is of billions (under one G-d), and who need our understanding, compassion, support, and help. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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September 15, 2014

Doctor In Context

I took this photo in the doctor's office. 

No, this is not my doctor, but a statue of one on the countertop.  

What's funny to me is how he looks in context of the bottles and anatomical models all around him.  

Either the doctor has shrunk or the other things are really huge.

My dad used to tell me that doctors only know what G-d tells them, so we should pray that G-d gives them the wisdom to help us. 

And my grandfather used to say in German that "G-d is my doctor."

Maybe that's why the image of the doctor is looking up--to get the guidance from the one above to help us. 

That's the intersection of medicine and faith--where truly big things can happen. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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October 19, 2013

What If They Can Read Our Redactions?

The New Yorker has a fascinating article about technology advances being made to un-redact classified text from government documents. 

Typically, classified material is redacted from disclosed documents with black bars that are technologically "burnt" into the document.

With the black bars, you are not supposed to be able to see/read what is behind it because of the sensitivity of it. 

But what if our adversaries have the technology to un-redact or un-burn and autocomplete the words behind those black lines and see what it actually says underneath?

Our secrets would be exposed!  Our sensitive assets put at jeopardy!

Already a Columbia University professor is working on a Declassification Engine that uses machine learning and natural language processing to determine semantic patterns that could give the ability "to predict content of redacted text" based on the words and context around them. 

In the case, declassified information in the document is used in aggregate to "piece together" or uncover the material that is blacked out. 

In another case prior, a doctoral candidate at Dublin City University in 2004, used "document-analysis technologies" to decrypt critical information related to 9/11. 

This was done by also using syntax or structure and estimating the size of the word blacked out and then using automation to run through dictionary words to see if it would fit along with another "dictionary-reading program" to filter the result set to the likely missing word(s). 

The point here is that with the right technology redacted text can be un-redacted. 

Will our adversaries (or even allies) soon be able to do this, or perhaps, someone out there has already cracked this nut and our secrets are revealed?

(Source Photo: here with attribution to Newspaper Club)
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October 14, 2013

Listening Beyond The Superficial

"I know you hear me, but are you listening to me?"

That's something one of my teachers used to say to the class back in yeshiva day school. 

The New York Times reports on a company that is pioneering the study of "Emotional Analytics."

Beyond Verbal is helping to "reach beyond the verbal" and listen for mood, attitude, and personality of the speaker. 

The point is that if you listen carefully, you can decode a person's mood--almost like a "human emotional genome."

Beyond Verbal can already identify "400 variations" of emotions not based on the words chosen, but rather based on the tone and frequency of use. 

For example, is the person telling you over and over again about a products problems--and are they getting annoyed that you aren't getting it!

Through a speech analytics engine that examines patterns of verbal use, we can classify whether a person is dissatisfied, escalating, and so on.

This can be extremely useful, for example, in call centers that service (perhaps some irate) customers.

Also, speech analytics could help us with uncovering deception from terrorists or moles in the government by detecting threatening or nervous emotions that the subjects are trying to hide. 

Potentially, this software could be helpful in our personal lives as well in terms of identifying the context and providing the E.I. (emotional intelligence) to understand what a person is r-e-a-l-l-y saying to us, rather than just perhaps the superficial words themselves. 

If we can not only hear someone else, but listen better and perceive more precisely what they are trying to tell us and what they are feeling, then we can problem-solve and resolve situations better and more quickly.

Software like this could definitely help keep me out of the doghouse at home. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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June 14, 2013

No Such Agency (NSA) Listening To No Such Information (NSI)

The National Security Agency (NSA) frequently referred to by the secretive surname of No Such Agency is at the forefront of our signals intelligence (SIGINT) and in protecting America--they are amazing!

Recently, there is a lot of controversy about the PRISM program for sifting through communications looking for terrorist contacts, plans, and imminent attacks to be foiled. 

Is this necessary for security or a violation of our privacy? 

Of course, we value our privacy and generally wish we had more. (For me growing up in the busy and crowded city that never slips, I craved a little more quiet and secluded life and that's how I ended up in the Washington D.C. suburbs).

Anyway, if your an average hard-working Joe or Jane, what do you fear about PRISM?

For me, if "they" are tracking calls or listening--this is what they hear:

- The occasional squabble with my loving wife (yes, we drive each other nuts sometimes).

- My teenage kids hanging up their phone on me, not wanting to hear my brilliant (in my own mind) parental advice and guidance.

- My elderly parents lecturing me and telling me that I should go to synagogue more often.

- The daily life transactions with the plumber, the cable service, and the credit card company. 

If your honest and loyal, and the system works fairly, the way it's supposed to, your communications are just some transmission packets travelling through cyberspace to carry out your life's goings on.

Then again, if you're crooked, a traitor, or planning to or have hurt someone, well then your up against some very powerful technology tools and (hopefully) your going to get caught and get what's coming to you.

The big concern then is not when the system works well and fairly, but when it's used corruptly, fraudulently, or for political ends. 

Then it's not what someone overhears you say or sees you do that's a real concern, but rather, with all the advanced electronics and technology, what can be made up about you to address personal or political gripes, grievances, or just settle a score.  

You don't have to be afraid (generally) of what you do honestly, instead you need to fear the dishonesty of those who can or are apt to misuse the technology for their own ends.

Then what you really did or said, can be taken out of context, exaggerated, edited, spliced, or otherwise doctored to something else entirely. 

This is why the integrity and ethical backbone of those who run the country and our vital institutions are of paramount importance.

With honesty, ethics, and justice--a surveillance system can greatly enhance national security. Without these things, they can be a tool of corruption. The best protection is not unplugging the system, but hooking in lots of internal and external controls to keep it honest.   ;-)

(Source Photo: here by LittleBirth)


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March 4, 2013

Seasaw, Yeah It's For Kids


There is an interesting new crowdsourcing application called Seesaw.

And like a seesaw goes up and down, you can take a picture and crowdsource decisions--thumbs up or down for what you should do.

Food, clothes, movies, more--I could imagine people even going so far as to use this for dating--Go out with them or not? Keep 'em or dump 'em?

While the possibility of having others chime in on your everyday life decisions is somewhat intriguing, social and fun...it also seems a little shallow and superficial.

Do you really need to ask your friends about everything you do or can you make simple day-to-day decisions yourself?

And when it comes to big decisions, perhaps you need more than a picture with a thumbs up or down to give the decision context, evaluate pros and cons, think through complex issues, and make a truly thoughtful decision--perhaps some genuine dialogue would be helpful here? 

Finally, many decisions in life come at the spur of a moment--should I or shouldn't I--and you don't have the benefit of saying hold on "let me take a picture and get some of my friends opinions on this"--life waits for no one and timing is often everything!

It is good to get other people's opinions (i.e. the proverbial "second opinion") as well as to do what my father used to tell me which is to "sleep on it," because things look different over night and in the morning.

But while you should consider what others think--in a meaningful way--in the end, you need to trust your inner self and take responsibility for your own decisions. ;-)

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February 29, 2012

Progressing From Data to Wisdom

I liked this explanation (not verbatim) by Dr. Jim Chen of data, information, knowledge, and wisdom.

- Data: This is an alphanumeric entity and/or symbol (ABC, 123, !@#...)

- Information: This is when entities are related/associated to each other and thereby derive meaning. (Information = Data + Meaning)

- Knowledge: This is information applied to context. (Knowledge = Data + Meaning + Context)

- Wisdom: This is knowledge applied to multiple contexts. (Wisdom = Data + Meaning + (Context x N cases)).

I'd like to end this blog with a short quote that I thought sort of sums it up:

"A man may be born to wealth, but wisdom comes only with length of days." - Anonymous
(Source Photo: here)

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October 16, 2009

Seeing things Differently with Augmented Reality

One of the most exciting emerging technologies out there is Augmented Reality (AR). While the term has been around since approximately 1990, the technology is only really beginning to take off now for consumer uses.

In augmented reality, you layer computer-generated information over real world physical environment. This computer generated imagery is seen through special eye wear such as contacts, glasses, monocles, or perhaps even projected as a 3-D image display in front off you.

With the overlay of computer information, important context can be added to everyday content that you are sensing. This takes place when names and other information are layered over people, places, and things to give them meaning and greater value to us.

Augmented reality is really a form of mashups, where information is combined (i.e. content aggregration) from multiple sources to create a higher order of information with enhanced end-user value.

In AR, multiple layers of information can be available and users can switch between them easily at the press of a button, swipe of a screen, or even a verbal command.

Fast Company, November 2009, provides some modern day examples of how this AR technology is being used:

Yelp’s iPhone App—“Let’s viewers point there phone down a street and get Yelp star ratings for merchants.”

Trulia for Android—“The real-estate search site user Layar’s Reality Browser to overlay listings on top of a Google phone’s camera view. Scan a neighborhood’s available properties and even connect to realtors.”

TAT’s Augmented ID— “Point your Android phone at a long-lost acquaintance for his Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube activity.”

Michael Zollner, an AR researcher, puts it this way: “We have a vast amount of data on the Web, but today we see it on a flat screen. It’s only a small step to see all of it superimposed on our lives.”

Maarteen Lens-FitzGerald, a cofounder of Layar, said: “As the technology improves, AR apps will be able to recognize faces and physical objects [i.e. facial and object recognition] and render detailed 3-D animation sequences.”

According to Fast Company, it will be like having “Terminator eyes,” that see everything, but with all the information about it in real time running over or alongside the image.

AR has been in use for fighter pilots and museum exhibits and trade shows for a number of years, but with the explosive growth of the data available on the Internet, mobile communication devices, and wireless technology, we now have a much greater capability to superimpose data on everything, everywhere.

The need to “get online” and “look things up” will soon be supplanted by the real time linkage of information and imagery. We will soon be walking around in a combined real and virtual reality, rather than coming home from the real world and sitting down at a computer to enter a virtual world. The demarcation will disappear to a great extent.

Augmented reality will bring us to a new level of efficiency and effectiveness in using information to act faster, smarter, and more decisively in all our daily activities personally and professionally and in matters of commerce and war.

With AR, we will never see things the same way again!


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