Showing posts with label Environment. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Environment. Show all posts

May 23, 2019

Alligator Govie

So this was a little surprising. 

In the courtyard (next to the cafeteria) at work, there is a nice seating area open during the Spring/Summer seasons. 

Pretty trees, flowers, and a pond. 

In the pond, next to the water lilies, there was a what?

Alligator.  

Not a full alligator.

But someone put an alligator's head in to make things interesting. 

It's nice at work when people are normal and have a sense of humor. 

An Alligator Govie that's what it is. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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December 2, 2018

Triad of Determinants: Nature, Nurture, and Soul

Please see my new article in The Times of Israel called, "Nature, Nurture, and Soul."
We are not just what nature and nurture make us–but rather, there is a third leg of this triad of factors that make us who we are, and that third and most important element is that we each have a soul. The soul of each person guides us to choose between right and wrong, good and evil, and sacred and impure, and to not just give in to our weaknesses, which each person has.

Hope you enjoy the article! ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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January 20, 2017

Congrats @POTUS








May G-d bless the United States of America and our true friends and allies!

It doesn't matter whether you are Republican or Democrat, Black or White, Jew or Christian, Male or Female--we need to unite and move this country forward and be great again!

Strength, Security, Health, Economy, Jobs, Education, Environment, Space, Jobs, Freedom, and Human Rights.

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal via Fox News)
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August 4, 2016

America's Great Disappointment


So the Wall Street Journal asks today,"Why [Is] This Recovery Is So Lousy"?

They say that with Obama, "No president was ever better positioned to lead a strong recovery...no resources were spared...yet not once in the last seven years has annual economic growth ever reached [even] 3%."

But the news gets worse, in fact, "U.S. GDP grew a disappointing 1.2% in the second quarter...[and] economic growth is now tracking at a 1% rate in 2016...that makes for an average annual 2.1% rate since the end of the recession."

And that is after Obama's $836 billion stimulus and $3 trillion in Federal reserves injected into the economy!

The Great Recession may be the most disastrous economic results short of the Great Depression itself.

However, this is not the only reason Americas are disappointed with what they are getting from Washington (and we won't even talk about the candidates).

80% say we are heading in the wrong direction!  Let's repeat that again, 80% say we are heading in the wrong direction.

Harvard Business Review says it's not just the economy stupid, since we still [despite ourselves--with failing policies of enormous tax and spend and over-regulation] rank #5 on GDP per capita. 

Yet that doesn't translate into overall social progress for us.

Get this, the U.S. ranks 19th in social progress in the world--just one place above Slovena!

Why???

- We rank 26th on personal rights because of restrictions on freedoms like the right of assembly. 

- We rank 27th on personal safety because of high homicides and poor road safety.

- We rank 36th on environmental quality because of high greenhouse gases and poor water quality.

- We rank 40th on basic knowledge because of poor education and high dropout rates.

- We rank 68th on health and wellness because of suicides, obesity, cancer, and heart disease.

HBR points out that there may be individual reasons for each of these, but overall this is a bleak "troubling picture" and Trump isn't the one who painted it.

The sad fact is that one of the only things that the U.S. is ranking #1 in the world in is our national debt to everyone else...and this is being squandered. 

Think good and hard about the nation you are leaving your children and grandchildren...this is a horrible performance scorecard for America, the superpower!  ;-)

(Source of the amazing photo: Minna Blumenthal)
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July 9, 2016

Conflicts That Challenge Us

My wife told me something good today (first time ever, haha).  

There are three types of conflicts:

1) Between Man and Himself -- these are our internal conflicts or demons (fears, anxieties, guilt, compulsions, and evil impulses) that we must conquer. 

2) Between Man and Man -- these are conflicts we have with others and we must resolve them with either empathy, compromise, giving, and forgiveness or at the other end of the spectrum with fight or flight.

3) Between Man and His Environment -- these are conflicts that are man-made or natural in our surroundings and may involve scarcity, harsh or destructive conditions, and obstacles to overcome with scientific and engineering problem-solving. 

I would add a 4th type of conflict:

4) Between Man and G-d -- these are conflicts we have in trying to understand why we are here, what G-d wants from us, and "why bad things happen," and involve our relationship and reconciliation with and service to our maker. 

Basically, these four conflicts are more than enough to keep us busy day-in and -out for our entire lifetime, and either we resolve them and go to the afterworld, or perhaps we have to come back to do some more work on resolving them again. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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March 28, 2016

Hoverboard Dog Walking

This was a humorous site.

The guy has his dog on a leash and is "walking his dog," but he himself is not walking.

He's on his hoverboard and the dog is pulling him down the block and across the street. 

Apparently dogs need exercise, but people need convenience. 

Mankind is always trying to control his environment with technology, gadgets, and science.

So is this what "dominion over the earth" looks like in short? ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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January 26, 2016

Plastic Pigs

So you've probably heard about this mammoth island of plastic garbage in the Pacific Ocean.

It's between the West Coast and Hawaii. 

And it's called the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. 

Get this...

It's about twice the size of Texas.

Now researchers are predicting that by 2050, our oceans will hold more plastic than fish!

"More than 8 million tons of plastics end up entering our oceans each year." 

And we're dumping the equivalent of one garbage truck of plastic into the ocean every minute.  

Just 5% of plastic waste gets recycled. 

So far there is a 165 million tons of plastic trash in the ocean right now. 

The plastic pieces can survive hundreds of years. 

We are making a darn mess of this planet. 

The 5 cent surcharge for plastic bags is a joke in this respect. 

Maybe ISIS actually won't be the end of Western civilization, but plastic will be. 

Who's paying off whom to keep this plastic money wagon going to poison our planet?  ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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September 6, 2015

Beautiful Labor Day Weekend


Ok, here's my video today from The Shenandoah River along the Appalachian Trail at Harpers Ferry. 

Only I make one little mistake...see if you can pick up on it (everyone can make an oops once in a while--you just got to have a good laugh.)

Also, did you know there are 3 trillion trees in the world?

Sad though that number is almost half from the beginning of civilization and these days we are losing about 15 billion trees a year--that's crazy!

Anyway, I still love nature and G-d's beautiful creation and I give thanks to my maker. ;-)

(Source Video: Dannielle Blumenthal)
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March 22, 2015

10 Reasons In Just 1 Week To Fear Government Breakdown

When I saw this in the store, I knew it was a true sign of the times, as they say. 

When the government that is supposed to sustain order and usher in social and economic progress is dysfunctional and broken, instead we have:


"Chaos, Panic, [and] Disorder"


Here's some news highlights from just this last week:


SPREADING BASE OF WORLDWIDE TERRORISM


1) ISIS murdered 137 and wounded over 300 in suicide bombings at mosques in Yemen.


2) Al Qaeda / Islamic State killed 23 mostly European tourists and injured over 50 at attack on the National Bardo Museum in Tunisia.


3) Iraq's battle to take back Tikrit from ISIS slows as ISIS continues to hold territory in Iraq and Syria larger than many countries--this after the last U.S. troops left Iraq in 2011. 


AGGRESSIVE POWER AND LAND GRABS:


4) Russia annexes South Ossetia from Georgia, just a year after annexing Crimea from Ukraine.


5) China starts up the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) with support from key European Countries as well as Australia and South Korea, challenging American dominance via the International Monetary Fund (IMF)--this shortly after China surpasses America as the world largest economy.


PROLIFERATION OF WMD:


6) Iran says "Nuclear deal within reach," while their neighbors in the Middle East shutter and warn of impending nuclear arms race.


FORESAKING STALWART ALLIES AND MIDDLE EAST PEACE:


7) The Administration threatens to back United Nations against Israel, imposing a 2 state solution rather than a negotiated peace and security for the region. 


ECONOMIC MESS:


8) U.S. economic forecast by the Fed was downgraded to just 2.5%, despite years of near-zero interest rates that were supposed to spark growth, but instead has simply driven stocks into overdrive and set us up for another bursting of the financial bubble


HEALTHCARE SHAMBLES:


9) Upcoming Supreme Court decision on Obamacare could see 8 million people lose subsidies and ultimately their health insurance coverage.


ENVORNMENTAL CRISIS:


10) 2014 as the hottest year on record and 13 of the 14 hottest years are in the 21st century so far, this as even Chinese officials acknowledge looming fallout ahead in terms of climate change and disasters


If this is just one (more) week with the current breakdown of government,  those causing it all, as the sign states, can proclaim:


"My Work Here Is [Almost] Done."
 ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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August 17, 2014

Reflections

We did a little kayaking at Lake Needwood today.

I couldn't believe they open at 6:30 in the morning already to rent boats on a Sunday.

In the boathouse, there was a huge spider on the floor crawling around, and the boat attendant came with a thingamajig to grab it and throw it back in the lake.

As he took the spider away, he made sure to tell us that is was POISONOUS!

On the lake, I took this photo of the gorgeous trees and greenery and it's reflection on the water...a perfect mirror image.

Thank you G-d for the amazing world you have created and allow us to enjoy. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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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)
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January 1, 2013

A Healing Environment

We’ve all been in work environments that make us either feel good about coming to the office in the morning, and those which don’t.

For those that don’t -- is it the mundane and unsatisfying work? Unpredictable work hours and demands? Annoying co-workers? Bullying boss? 

Let’s face it—the environment we work in can make the difference between whether we enjoy a long happy career someplace or whether we want to run out the door screaming. 

At the extreme, I remember a colleague telling me how when they were temping in college they worked in some mind-numbing jobs for some awful companies and they literally lasted in some cases until noon before they couldn’t take it anymore. 

Factors aside from the people can make a person feel good or bad. 

In an interesting article in Fast Company (December 2012/January 2013) called “Spaces That Heal,” hospitals have found that the patient’s room itself can actually be designed to aid in bringing people back to good health.

Research shows that “the color, shape, layout, and accoutrements of a hospital room have a direct effect on health.”

Some design items in the hospital that aid recovery, for example, are:

- Sunnier and brighter spaces with big windows (unless you are having a migraine!)
- Exposure to “nature and art” (I choose nature—the greener, the better)
- Classical music (make mine high energy or pop)
- Colored walls (light blue is relaxing for me)
- Lot of clean circulating fresh air (I like the air conditioner on all year long--even Winter!)
- Presence of family members (well certain family members anyway) :-)

Additionally, rooms wired for smartphones, tablets, and computers and that keep patients busy and engaged are another big positive—I remember when I was in the hospital and my wife brought me a device so I could blog and be me, and I felt like a productive human being again.

New room design in hospitals will also be single rooms (yes, a little privacy and personal space when you’re not feeling well).
They will also have beds at an angle that “face both the window and the media wall”—the media wall is very cool where you can look at everything from digital photos of your kids to watching Netflix or being able to Skype.

Beds will be placed in line of sight of nursing stations for safe monitoring, and bathrooms will have dual accessibility from the patient’s room for doing your business, and from the hall for hospital staff to come and restock it or clean without waking a resting patient. 

The environment we recuperate in matters to how we recover and the environment we work in matters to how we stay healthy, happy, and productive. 

People are not machines, but thinking and feeling beings, and how they are treated physically, emotionally, and mentally all make a world of a difference to their success or failure—and to that of the organization that employs them. ;-)

(Source Photo: here with attribution to Be Live Hotels)

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December 22, 2012

Still An Innovation Nation


Yesterday, according to the Mayan calendar, we were to have seen the end of the world. Today professors like Robert J. Gordon in The Wall Street Journal (22-23 December 2012) unfortunately continue to spread doom and gloom. 

According to Gordon, "for more than a century, the U.S. economy grew robustly thanks to big inventions; those days are gone."


Gordon seems to think predominantly from 20/20 hindsight, seeing the innovations of the past -- such as the electric light bulb, running water and the jet airplane -- as the last major vestiges possible of human advancement. 


As Gordon states: "Only once would transport speeds be increased from the horse (6 miles per hour) to the Boeing 707 (550 mph).  Only once could our houses be replaced by running water and indoor plumbing. Only once could indoor temperatures, thanks to central heating and air conditioning, be converted from cold in winter and hot in summer to a uniform year-round climate of 68-72 degrees Fahrenheit."


Gordon’s pessimism is bad enough (“The future of American economic growth is dismal”) but his arrogance is even worse.


How sad that he cannot see past our momentary troubles and imagine better, greater things to come.


- Is 707 miles per hour really the fastest that humans can travel? I guess Gordon hasn't been following the land speed record in Scientific American (5 November 2012) that has an English project pushing the 1,000 mph barrier and already projecting hitting 1,600 mph or Virgin Galactic (just the beginning of our space journeys) reaching more than 4 times the speed of sound (>3,000 mph!).


- Is indoor plumbing really the last great innovation when it comes to water? Please don't tell that to almost a billion people worldwide who live without potable water. However, thanks to innovators such as Vestergaard-Frandsen, whose Lifestraw water purification tools "removes 99.9999% of bacteria through a superfine filtration process" for only about $6 each (Mashable), many others may soon have access to safe drinking water.


- Is central air is the end of the temperature innovation cycle?--You've got to be kidding me. In the context of global warming and the resulting "storms and other (weather) extremes," there are considerable challenges ahead of us to be met. Someone ought to tell Mr. Gordon that sustainable energies are coming online (solar, wind, wave, and geothermal) that can help stem global greenhouse gases thought to be a major cause. In fact, whole new "green" high-tech cities like Masdar City are being developed to operate with low environmental footprints. 


Gordon may think all major innovations have arrived, and probably thought the same before the Internet and smartphone were created. 


In his op-ed, Gordon calls on skeptics to “rebut” his innovative idea that robust innovation is over. But perhaps he is actually asking them for help. Because such pessimism and small thinking are a prison of his own making. Unfortunately, he is professionally considered an “educator.” But it’s lessons like this that our young people – facing one of the most economically challenging times in modern history - can do without. ;-)


(Source Photo: here with attribution to Paul Townsend)

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June 26, 2011

How Leaders Can Imitate Art

Mental Floss (July-August 2011) has an article on the awesome art of "Christo and Jeanne-Claude." Their pieces are large, imposing, and environmentally-based. Some examples are:

1) The Umbrella (1991)--Installed 3,100 umbrellas across a 12-mile stretch in California and an 18-mile stretch in Japan."

2) The Gates (2005)--Erected "7,503 steel gates, each with a giant rectangle of orange fabric flowing from it."

3) Surrounded Islands (1983)--"Surrounded 11 uninhabited islands in Biscayne Bay with 700,000 square yards of pink fabric."

4) Wrapped Reichstag (1995)--Wrapped the German parliament in "119,600 square yards of shimmering silver fabric."

What I like about their art is the duality of on one hand, magnitude of the projects--they are huge!--and on the other hand, the utter simplicity of it--such as using a single color fabric to just line up along, spread over, or surround something.

Further, I really like their use of contrasts whether it is the colors of the blue water and green islands with the pink ribbon or the lush green valley with the blue umbrellas--it is in every case dynamic and spell-binding.

Each work even in a microcosm would be beautiful, but when done on a massive scale like with the entire German Parliament building or on multiple continents simultaneously, it takes on an air of magic, almost like Houdini.

Jeanne-Claude passed away in 2009, but together she and Christo created "20 gargantuan works of art, and Christo carries on the "couples's 45 years of collaboration" with new works today.

To me, Christo and Jeanne-Claude are incredibly inspirational:

1) They were highly productive and developed a multitude of magnificent works of art.

2) They defined a sense of beauty in both urban and rural settings that combined the natural surroundings and augmented it with human interventions to complete the creative process.

3) They took on monumental tasks, "funded all the projects themselves," and would obsessively plan all the details to get it right.

4) The were truly collaborative--Christo was the artist and Jeanne-Claude his encouragement and manager, yet they considered each other "equal partners in the creative process."

Their work reminds me of floating in virtual reality like in Second Life, but in this case, it's the real thing. And it's incredibly important because it teaches us that we are partners in the creative process and can do enormously great things in simple and beautiful ways. Similarly, true leadership is about being one with our surroundings, at peace, and yet envisioning how to improve on it and make the good things, spectacular.

(Source Photos of Umbrella and Gates: Wikipedia, and of Islands and Reichstag: here)


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June 7, 2011

2048--And The World Will Be As One

John Lennon sang the song Imagine—envisioning a time when everyone will be at peace “and the world will be as one.”

Perusing the bookstore, I came across a relatively new book that came out last year called 2048 by J. Kirk Boyd, Executive Director of the 2048 Project at the U.C. Berkeley Law School that carries a vision of peace, unity and human rights similar to the song.

By 2048, Boyd envisions a world with an “agreement to live together”—marked by an International Bill of Rights with five key freedoms:

1) Freedom of Speech—includes freedoms of expression, media, assembly, and associations.

2) Freedom of Religion—the right to worship in your own way and separation of church and state.

3) Freedom from Want—everyone has a right to a useful and fairly paying job, a decent home, adequate medical care, and a good education.

4) Freedom from Fear—freedom from repression, enabled by an independent judiciary and the enforcement of the rule of law.

5) Freedom of the Environment—driven by preservation and sustainability for future generations.

I would see the freedoms in the U.S. Bill of Rights that are not explicitly mentioned here to be implicitly covered by the broad categories of Freedoms from Want and Fear.

For example, the right to bear arms and such could be covered under the Freedom of Want. Similarly, the guarantees to a speedy, public trial and not to be put in double jeopardy or unreasonably searched etc. could be covered under Freedom from Fear.

Boyd’s 2048 implementation of an International Bill of Rights carries forward the Declaration of Human Rights—that consists of 30 articles—by the General Assembly of the United Nations in 1948on it’s one hundred year anniversary—that has unfortunately not been fully realized yet.

In a time when so much oppression, repression, and global poverty still exist, I am awed by this vision and call for human rights throughout the world.

I like the clarity and simplicity of Boyd’s five freedoms. They can be easily understood and remembered.

The freedoms according to Boyd will enable us to focus together, think (and write) together, decide together, and move forward together.

This is a far different world than the one we live in today that is driven by scarcity, power and politics and that keep people in seemingly perpetual fighting mode.

What will it take to reach a world architecture that brings peace, prosperity, and dignity to all? A global catastrophe. A common enemy. A messianic fulfillment. Or is it possible, with G-d’s help, to move today—incrementally—through our own planning, reason and devices to live in peace as one humankind?


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September 19, 2010

The Printer’s Dilemma

There is a lot of interest these days in managed print solutions (MPS)—sharing printers and managing these centrally—for many reasons.

Some of the benefits are: higher printer use rates; reduction in printing; cost saving; and various environmental benefits.

Government Computer News (5 April 2010) has an article called “Printing Money” that states: managed printing is an obvious but overlooked way to cut costs, improve efficiency, and bolster security.”

But there are also a number of questions to consider:

- What’s the business model? Why are “printing companies” telling us to buy less printers and to print less? Do car companies tell us to buy less cars and drive less (maybe drive more fuel efficient vehicles, but drive less or buy less?) or do food companies advise us to buy less food or eat less (maybe eat healthier food, but less food)? To some vendors, the business model is simple, if we use their printers and cartridges—rather than a competitor’s—then even if we use less overall, the managed print vendor is getting more business, so for them, the business model makes sense.
- What's the cost model? Analysts claim agencies by moving to managed print solutions “could save at least 25 percent of their printing expenses” and vendors claim hundreds of thousands, if not millions in savings, and that is attractive. However, the cost of commodity printers, even the multifunction ones with fax/copy/scan functions, has come way down, and so has the print cartridges—although they are still too high priced—and we change them not all that often (I just changed one and I can barely remember the last time that I did). As an offset to cost savings, do we need to consider the potential impact to productivity and effectiveness as well as morale—even if the latter is just the “annoyance factor”?

- What’s the consumer market doing? When we look at the consumer market, which has in many analyst and consumer opinions jumped ahead of where we are technologically in the office environment, most people have a printer sitting right next to them in their home office—don’t you? I’d venture to say that many people even have separate printers for other family members with their own computers set ups, because cost and convenience (functional)-wise, it just makes sense.

- What’s the cultural/technological trend? Culturally and technologically, we are in the “information age,” most people in this country are “information workers,” and we are a fast-paced (and what’s becoming a faster and faster-paced) society where things like turn around time and convenience (e.g. “Just In Time inventory, overnight delivery, microwave dinners, etc.) are really important. Moreover, I ask myself is Generation Y, that is texting and Tweeting and Facebooking—here, there, and everywhere—going to be moving toward giving up there printers or in fact, wanting to print from wherever they are (using the cloud or other services) and get to their documents and information immediately?

- What’s the security impact? Understanding that printing to central printers is secure especially with access cards or pin numbers to get your print jobs, I ask whether in an age, where security and privacy of information (including corporate theft and identity theft) are huge issues, does having a printer close by make sense, especially when dealing with sensitive information like corporate strategy or “trade secrets,” mission security, personnel issues, or acquisition sensitive matters, and so on. Additionally, we can we still achieve the other security benefits of MPS—managing (securing, patching etc.) and monitoring printers and print jobs in a more decentralized model through the same or similar network management functions that we use for our other end user-devices (computers, servers, storage, etc.)

- What’s the environmental impact? There are lots of statistics about the carbon footprint from printing—and most I believe is from the paper, not the printers. So perhaps we can print smarter, not only with reducing printers, but also with ongoing education and sensitivity to our environment and the needs of future generations. It goes without saying, that we can and should cut down (significantly) on what and how much we print (and drive, and generally consume, etc.) in a resource constrained environment—planet Earth.

In the end, there are a lot of considerations in moving to managed print solutions and certainly, there is a valid and compelling case to moving to MPS, especially in terms of the potential cost-saving to the organization (and this is particularly important in tough economic environments, like now), but we should also weight others considerations, such as productivity offsets, cultural and technological trends, and overall security and environmental impacts, and come up with what’s best for our organizations.

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September 7, 2010

Enterprise Architecture Panel - Snowmaggedon and the End of the (Desktop) World: The Mobile Workforce


[Pictured (Left to Right): Andy Blumenthal, Chief Technology Officer, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; Ms. Doreen Cox, Chief Enterprise Architect, U.S. Customs and Border Protection; Mr. Rod Turk, Chief Information Security Officer, U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.]

Introduction:

Good afternoon. I'm Andy Blumenthal, the Chief Technology Officer at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). It's a great honor for me to be here with you today to talk about telework and how EA is shaping it's adoption.

Just coming out of the blazing hot summer, the blizzard this past February seems like ages ago. Yet this storm brought the federal workforce in D.C. to a halt for 6 days, costing more than $100 million in lost productivity per day. This was offset only by the 1/3 of the federal workforce which was teleworking.

Just in case you don't remember take a look at this:

I still remember Snowmaggedon because that was when we shoveled out the wrong car because the snow was so high we couldn't see which was ours.


More seriously though, telework benefits federal agencies in many ways:

1. Increases productivity
2. Enhances work-life balance and morale
3. Helps the environment by keeping cars off the road
4. Can save the taxpayer money by reducing the agency's footprint


Data from the Telework Research Network indicate that telework could save agencies and participants as much as $11 billion annually (on such things as real estate, electricity, absenteeism, and employee turnover) and that if eligible employees telecommuted just one day every other week, agencies would increase productivity by more than $2.3 billion per year (driven by employee wellness, quality of life, and morale).

According to OPM telework adoption is growing. As of 2008, telework increased 9% over the previous year and now slightly more than 5% of the federal workforce are teleworking.

Telework got a boost when the House and the Senate passed similar bills--in May and July respectively--to expand telework opportunities. The two chambers now must reconcile their versions before a final bill heads to President Obama for approval. The Telework Enhancement Act would make employees presumptively eligible and require that agencies establish telework policies, designate a telework managing officer, and incorporate telework into agency's continuity of operations plans.

Five years ago nobody would've thought that EA would inform the discussion on telework. EA was still primarily a compliance only mechanism and didn't have a real seat at the decision table. Now thanks to the efforts of all of you, it's strategic benefit is recognized, and
EA is playing a vital role in planning and governing strategic IT decisions such as in investing and implementing telework solutions for our agencies.


Our distinguished panelists here today will discuss how EA is informing the discussion of telework from both the policy, systems, and security perspectives.

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June 27, 2010

It’s About More Than Money

Profit is the typical motive of corporations around the world. However, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is becoming more a part of our consciousness as we recognize that life is much more about what we leave behind than how much money we make.

With oil gushing into the Gulf for the last two months now, and doing G-d knows what ultimate damage to our environment, we are reminded that our actions do matter and that we must put our ideals, values, and generosity first and foremost.

Certainly, some companies disregard social responsibility. For example, BP with their slogan of “Beyond Petroleum” and their logo of a helios—a lovely environmentally-friendly green and yellow sunflower—seems to have hidden the true extent of their unsound environmental and safety practices.

In contrast, other companies are getting it right when it comes to CSR. For example, eBay has launched a charitable program called “eBay Giving Works” in which “sellers can commit to donate a percentage of their listing final sale price to the nonprofit of their choice.” Additionally, “shoppers also can donate to a worthy nonprofit at eBay checkout.” According to eBay, more than $150 million has been donated already!

One organization on the eBay charity list is called Save A Child’s Heart (SACH) foundation. According to their website, this Israeli-based charity has performed lifesaving heart surgery on 2000 indigent children in 30 countries around the world and “every 29 hours, we save a child’s life.” They have been certified as Best in America by the Independent Charities of America. Their work is inspirational and the children they save is truly moving. And this is one of many good organizations around the world.

As much as I am repulsed by BP and other such organizations that seem to function with near-complete disregard for fundamental principles of human decency in the name of the “almighty dollar”, I applaud others such as eBay, SACH, and many more that are working to “give back” and do genuine good for people around the world.

Many years ago, when attending Jewish day school, I remember a teacher telling us that “one day when you are on your deathbed, you will look back at what you have done in your life— make sure it’s meaningful and noble (and more than just about money).” I believe this is a valuable lesson personally and professionally.

Perhaps the oil gushing out from the depths of the sea can be a metaphor for charitable giving that can gush out from the hearts of people and organizations. We can counter greed and destruction with selflessness and caring for others.


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June 12, 2010

Managing Change The Easy Way


We all know that change is not easy, even when it's necessary.

As human beings, we question change, fear change, and at times resist change.

Often, change is timely or even overdue, and is needed to remain fresh, competitive, and in sync with changes in the external and internal environment.

At other times, change could be conceived of for selfish, arbitrary, politically motivated, or poorly thought out reasons.

People often react to change negatively, saying things such as:

- “Everything is really fine, why are you rocking the boat?”

- “This will never work” or “We’ve already tried that and it didn’t work.”

- “This is just the pendulum swinging back the other way again.”

- “Thing are now going to be even worse than before.”

- “I’ll never do that!”

The key to dealing with change is not to dismiss people’s feelings, but to take the time to thoroughly understand them, to take input from them for change, and to explain what is changing (precisely), for whom, when, where, and why.

The more precise, timely and thorough the communications with people, the better people will be able to deal with change.

To successfully plan and implement change, we need people to be engaged and on-board rather than to ignore or subvert it.

Below is a nice “change model” From http://www.changecycle.com/changecycle.htm that helps explain the stages of change that people go through including loss, doubt, discomfort, discovery, understanding, and integration.

To me the keys to managing through these six stages of change are solid information, clear communications, and people working together.

The Change Cycle™ Model

(All of the text below is quoted)

Stage 1 – Loss to Safety

In Stage 1 you admit to yourself that regardless of whether or not you perceive the change to be good or 'bad" there will be a sense of loss of what "was."

Stage 2 – Doubt to Reality

In this stage, you doubt the facts, doubt your doubts and struggle to find information about the change that you believe is valid. Resentment, skepticism and blame cloud your thinking.

Stage 3 – Discomfort to Motivation

You will recognize Stage 3 by the discomfort it brings. The change and all it means has now become clear and starts to settle in. Frustration and lethargy rule until possibility takes over.

The Danger Zone

The Danger Zone represents the pivotal place where you make the choice either to move on to Stage 4 and discover the possibilities the change has presented or to choose fear and return to Stage 1.

Stage 4 – Discovery to Perspective

Stage 4 represents the "light at the end of the tunnel." Perspective, anticipation, and a willingness to make decisions give a new sense of control and hope. You are optimistic about a good outcome because you have choices.

Stage 5 - Understanding

In Stage 5, you understand the change and are more confident, think pragmatically, and your behavior is much more productive. Good thing.

Stage 6 - Integration

By this time, you have regained your ability and willingness to be flexible. You have insight into the ramifications, consequences and rewards of the change -- past, present, and future.


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February 8, 2010

From Planning to Practice

Real planning is hard work. I’m not talking about the traditional—get the management team together, offsite for a few hours or days and spell out a modified mission and vision statement and some basic goals and objectives—this is the typical approach. Rather, I am referring to thinking and planning about the future with a sense of urgency, realism, and genuine impact to the way we do our jobs.

In the traditional approach, the management team is focused on the planning session. They are engaged in the planning for a short duration, but when back in the office, they don’t go back in any meaningful way to either refer to or apply the plan in what they or their employees actually do. The plan in essence defaults to simply a paperwork exercise, an alignment mechanism, a check box for the next audit.

In contrast, in a comprehensive planning approach, the focus is not on the planning session itself, but on the existential threats and opportunities that we can envision that can impact on the organization and what we are going to do about it. We need to look at for example: What are our competitors doing? Are there new product innovations emerging? Are there social and economic trends that will affect how we do business? How is the political and regulatory environment changing? And so on. The important thing is to think through/ work through, the impact analysis and plan accordingly to meet these head-on.

This is similar to a SWOT analysis—where we evaluate our Strength, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats, but it differs in that it extends that analysis portion to story planning (my term), where the results of SWOT are used to imagine and create multifaceted stories or scenarios of what we anticipate will happen and then identify how we will capitalize on the new situation or counter any threats. In other words, we play out the scenario —similar to simulation and modeling—in a safe environment, and evaluate our best course of action, by seeing where the story goes, how the actors behave and react, and introducing new layers of complexity and subtext.

Harvard Business Review (HBR), Jan-Feb 2010, has an article called “Strategy Tools for a Shifting Landscape” by Michael Jacobides that states “in an age when nothing is constant, strategy should be defined by narrative—plots, subplots, and characters---rather than by maps, graphs, and numbers.”

The author proposes the use of “playscripts” (his term), a scenario-based approach for planning, in which—“a narrative that sets out the cast of characters in a business, the way in which they are connected, the rules they observe, the plots and subplots in which they are a part, and how companies create and retain value as the business and the cast changes.

While I too believe in using a qualitative type of planning to help think out and flesh out strategy, I do not agree that we should discard the quantitative and visual analysis—in fact, I think we should embrace it and expand upon it by integrating it into planning itself. This way we optimize the best from both quantitative and qualitative analysis.

While numbers, trends, graphics, and other visuals are important information elements in planning, they are even more potent when added to the “what if” scenarios in a more narrative type of planning. For example, based on recent accident statistics with the car accelerators (a quantifiable and graphical analysis), we may anticipate that a major foreign car company will be conducting a major recall and that the government will be conducting investigations into this company. How will we respond—perhaps, we will we increase our marketing emphasizing our own car safety record and increase production in anticipation of picking up sales from our competitor?

Aside from being robust and plausible, the article recommends that playscripts be:

· Imaginative—“exploring all the opportunities that exist.” I would also extend this to the other relevant element of SWOT and include envisioning possible threats as well.

· Outward-facing—“focus on the links a company has with other entities, the way it connects with them and how others perceive it in the market.” This is critical to take ourselves out of our insular environments and look outside at what is going on and how it will affect us. Of course, we cannot ignore the inner dynamics of our organization, but we must temper it with a realization that we function within a larger eco-system.

To me, the key to planning is to free the employees to explore what is happening in their environment and how they will behave. It is not to regurgitate their functions and what they are working on, but rather to see beyond themselves and their current capabilities and attitudes. Life today is not life tomorrow, and we had better be prepared with open minds, sharpened skills and a broad arsenal to deal with the future that is soon upon us.


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